News

Menlo Church says worship leader fired over allegations he asked a teen for nude photos

Requests allegedly took place while leader worked at a different church in Oklahoma

Menlo Church, an evangelical Presbyterian faith community headquartered in Menlo Park, draws about 6,000 weekly congregants to its six Bay Area campuses. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

A worship leader at Menlo Church's Mountain View location was fired after allegations emerged that he solicited nude photos online from a teen boy while working at a church in Oklahoma several years before joining the staff of Menlo Church, according to statements from church leaders.

Menlo Church is a local evangelical Presbyterian faith community that attracts about 6,000 weekly congregants across six Bay Area campuses, and is headquartered in Menlo Park.

The announcement comes on the heels of another revelation in the church community as it grappled with news that its senior pastor, John Ortberg, had permitted his son to continue to work with youth for more than a year after learning that he was sexually attracted to children. Ortberg stepped down in early August last year.

Michael Bryce Jr., who led worship services at Menlo Church's Mountain View location, is alleged to have repeatedly solicited nude photos from a teenage boy online while working at a church in Oklahoma, according to a March 20 announcement authored by the church's Transitional Pastor John Crosby and Elder Board Chair David Kim. The alleged solicitations occurred several years before Bryce began work at Menlo Church and they said they have not received any reports indicating concerns with his actions while working at Menlo Church. Bryce was terminated from his position March 19.

On April 19, Crosby and Kim released a second announcement to the community detailing more information about the allegations and the steps church leaders took to respond.

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According to the statement, a young man had been following news stories about a prominent Christian leader's sexual misconduct, which had triggered "unexplained anger," so he began working with a therapist and, through that process, allegedly remembered receiving unwanted solicitations from Bryce. He contacted Menlo Church, and the church asked Bryce about the allegations.

Bryce, according to the church announcement, had "confirmed the solicitations but denied knowing he (the young man) was a minor at the time." As mandated reporters, the church then contacted law enforcement with the information, the statement said.

From there, the Oklahoma City Police Department conducted an investigation, according to the statement. Working with the District Attorney there, charges were not filed against Bryce because they were unable to confirm if the solicitation had occurred within the police department's jurisdiction. There was also was uncertainty about when the solicitations occurred, and it was not clear whether the young man was 16, 17 or 18 years old at the time the solicitations took place, according to the statement.

"Law enforcement’s decision to not file charges does not change Michael’s termination status with us," the announcement stated.

Menlo Church leaders plan to have a forensic specialist examine Bryce's work computer, they added.

"In Michael’s case, the past solicitations with a teen demonstrated poor judgement on his part, which was compounded by his withholding of this information when he was hired at Menlo Church. Neither action is consistent with our expectations of our staff," Crosby and Kim wrote.

People with concerns should contact their campus pastor or Zero Abuse, an outside party the church is working with, at [email protected]

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Kate Bradshaw writes for The Almanac, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Menlo Church says worship leader fired over allegations he asked a teen for nude photos

Requests allegedly took place while leader worked at a different church in Oklahoma

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 29, 2021, 9:00 am

A worship leader at Menlo Church's Mountain View location was fired after allegations emerged that he solicited nude photos online from a teen boy while working at a church in Oklahoma several years before joining the staff of Menlo Church, according to statements from church leaders.

Menlo Church is a local evangelical Presbyterian faith community that attracts about 6,000 weekly congregants across six Bay Area campuses, and is headquartered in Menlo Park.

The announcement comes on the heels of another revelation in the church community as it grappled with news that its senior pastor, John Ortberg, had permitted his son to continue to work with youth for more than a year after learning that he was sexually attracted to children. Ortberg stepped down in early August last year.

Michael Bryce Jr., who led worship services at Menlo Church's Mountain View location, is alleged to have repeatedly solicited nude photos from a teenage boy online while working at a church in Oklahoma, according to a March 20 announcement authored by the church's Transitional Pastor John Crosby and Elder Board Chair David Kim. The alleged solicitations occurred several years before Bryce began work at Menlo Church and they said they have not received any reports indicating concerns with his actions while working at Menlo Church. Bryce was terminated from his position March 19.

On April 19, Crosby and Kim released a second announcement to the community detailing more information about the allegations and the steps church leaders took to respond.

According to the statement, a young man had been following news stories about a prominent Christian leader's sexual misconduct, which had triggered "unexplained anger," so he began working with a therapist and, through that process, allegedly remembered receiving unwanted solicitations from Bryce. He contacted Menlo Church, and the church asked Bryce about the allegations.

Bryce, according to the church announcement, had "confirmed the solicitations but denied knowing he (the young man) was a minor at the time." As mandated reporters, the church then contacted law enforcement with the information, the statement said.

From there, the Oklahoma City Police Department conducted an investigation, according to the statement. Working with the District Attorney there, charges were not filed against Bryce because they were unable to confirm if the solicitation had occurred within the police department's jurisdiction. There was also was uncertainty about when the solicitations occurred, and it was not clear whether the young man was 16, 17 or 18 years old at the time the solicitations took place, according to the statement.

"Law enforcement’s decision to not file charges does not change Michael’s termination status with us," the announcement stated.

Menlo Church leaders plan to have a forensic specialist examine Bryce's work computer, they added.

"In Michael’s case, the past solicitations with a teen demonstrated poor judgement on his part, which was compounded by his withholding of this information when he was hired at Menlo Church. Neither action is consistent with our expectations of our staff," Crosby and Kim wrote.

People with concerns should contact their campus pastor or Zero Abuse, an outside party the church is working with, at [email protected]

Kate Bradshaw writes for The Almanac, a sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

Comments

Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Apr 29, 2021 at 9:09 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 9:09 am

Sadly, this is a troubled church. "Past solicitations with a teen" is more than "poor judgment." It's against the law. Minimizing the situation isn't helpful. Most churches are healthy, and finding a healthy church for your spiritual well being is wise.


Jessica Taylor
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Apr 29, 2021 at 10:10 am
Jessica Taylor, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 10:10 am

Is this the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park?

If so, this particular church has been a fixture in Menlo Park for decades with a huge congregation, multiple weddings on weekends, sponsorship of a men's recreational softball team, and an active adult singles group among other social activities.

As far as the alleged improprieties are concerned, the ostensible inclinations and ulterior motives of a trusted church official is most troubling regardless of any religious affiliation.



Green Gables
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2021 at 11:29 am
Green Gables, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 11:29 am

Menlo Church used to be called Menlo Park Presbyterian church, however, ever since Walt Gerber retired several years ago, it was was never the same. It use to be so great.


Hal M
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Apr 29, 2021 at 11:37 am
Hal M, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 11:37 am

It's a minor point, but I believe that the Menlo Church is no longer affiliated with the United Presbyterian Church in the USA and may no longer have "Presbyterian" as part of its name. I continue to have many friends in the church, and I wish them well as they deal with this situation.


Just Sayin'
Registered user
another community
on Apr 29, 2021 at 1:52 pm
Just Sayin', another community
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 1:52 pm

I attended the (former) MPPC quite regularly, and have been sad to see it change, too.
The final straw was the judgmental actions re John Ortberg. Since when do followers of Jesus Christ not forgive trespasses? I hope the church elders, in the cases of Ortberg, his son,
and Bryce, have taken the Christian path of forgiveness and also gone the extra step to make sure to reach out with remediation and care for these hurting souls; regardless of their (now) former affiliation with Menlo Church. Chances are high that Jesus will be much more lenient with your transgressions; unlikely that he'll cast you out.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2021 at 3:52 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 3:52 pm

Unfortunately, the woes that have befallen Menlo Church over the past decade or so have been very public. This has meant that the public are judging the church without any compassion or understanding. The church should be a vehicle for forgiveness, sanctuary and repentence. Instead, it is seen as washing dirty laundry in public. Those who know nothing should remain quiet on the subject rather than conjecture.

He who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Apr 29, 2021 at 4:40 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 4:40 pm

Sadly, pedophiles groom churches, and Christians (with the exception of the naive) are well aware of this. Churches are hospitals for sinners, not museums for Saints. Forgiveness is one of the teachings of Christianity, but you don't sweep pedophiles under the rug. Anyone who has ever dealt with it in their church will understand it's very trying. There are a lot of children in church, and they need to be protected. Those who have never dealt with this, or aren't in church on Sunday... anything further said would be inappropriate and against my better judgment.


Neighbor
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Apr 29, 2021 at 7:48 pm
Neighbor, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 7:48 pm

Of course church members can (and should) forgive. They also have a responsibility to hold those in leadership accountable; one doesn't preclude the other. Speaking to the most recent situation, it's hard to imagine any parent allowing contact between their child and someone who has solicited nude photos, or being comfortable in a church that has that person on their staff, so I agree with the decision made. I also feel for this minister, who has lost his livelihood and his ministry and has likely struggled for years with his own sense of right and wrong and how to manage things.


Lucy Wong
Registered user
Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2021 at 7:53 am
Lucy Wong, Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 7:53 am

• John Ortberg, had permitted his son to continue to work with youth for more than a year after learning that he was sexually attracted to children.

^ This was very poor judgement on the pastor's part if he was well aware of his son's inclinations.

• The church should be a vehicle for forgiveness, sanctuary and repentence.

^ Seeking forgiveness and repentance is the responsibility of the transgressor and the church should not provide sanctuary for those who willfully harm others, especially children.

• Forgiveness is one of the teachings of Christianity, but you don't sweep pedophiles under the rug.

^ Concurring as this indescretion amounts to a blatant breach of trust and child endangerment.


No charges?
Registered user
another community
on Apr 30, 2021 at 4:33 pm
No charges?, another community
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 4:33 pm

Something about this story isn't making sense. If he admitted to soliciting the nude photos - and if he really only did it once - then he should remember when he did it and there should be no question about the age of the teenager and the jurisdiction of where it occurred. A range of 16-18 years old is a long time. Is he claiming he remembers doing it but doesn't remember where he lived or when?

If there are questions over jurisdiction that likely indicates the time range covered his time in two states / two churches. Are those churches also informing their members in case there are more victims/witnesses who have info for law enforcement?


Game Over
Registered user
another community
on Apr 30, 2021 at 5:43 pm
Game Over, another community
Registered user
on Apr 30, 2021 at 5:43 pm

The growing acceptance of just about anything these days may eventually lead to the end of America as envisioned by our forefathers.

We are now a country without a moral or ethical compass.


Keyshaun Johnson
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on May 1, 2021 at 9:57 am
Keyshaun Johnson, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 9:57 am

* We are now a country without a moral or ethical compass.

^ That is because many of our so-called religious and political leaders today are sanctimonious.


malvina hopkins
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on May 1, 2021 at 12:14 pm
malvina hopkins, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 1, 2021 at 12:14 pm

Religious leaders and schoolteachers will always be held to a higher authority and rightfully so.

And if one cannot adhere to the expected guidelines, find another profession.


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