The son of the senior pastor at The Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota has been suspended as an investigation is conducted for the misconduct allegations from a number of years ago.
On Sunday, January 29, The Vineyard Church released a statement advising its congregation and the public of the issue. It does not specify what sort of misconduct was made, but a woman who accused Gatlin identifies as a victim of sexual assault.
Myrissa Overfors, the victim, took to Facebook to share what this issue has been for her, and that she is working with investigators and other victims that have made the same accusations as herself.
"The past day has been a battle. Most of you’ve seen that the Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota and their lead youth pastor, Jackson Gatlin, is under an investigation for sexual misconduct. I myself was assaulted by him as well. It was of a sexual nature. And the rest of the details will remain private.
I am currently working with their investigators and I think this may be a long battle for his other victims and me. Send us all positive thoughts and prayers if you believe in the upcoming months. I'm sure we all will need it. If you have been a victim of this predator, you’re not alone."
The church has contacted Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) to conduct an independent investigation.
The Duluth Police Department is also assisting in the investigation.
"One of our values is transparency, yet we are not going to say anything more about the allegations at this time because we need to protect the ongoing investigation and any victims. Accountability and integrity are also key values," says the statement. "When the investigation is complete, we expect to have more to say and we will say it. In the meantime, let us assure you that the safety and security of our church community is critically important to us and we have policies and procedures in place to protect them. The Duluth Vineyard has suspended Jackson Gatlin during this investigation."
Despite the accusations against Gatlin, because he is the son of the senior pastor, Michael Gatlin, the church ensures that each party will remain independent. Michael Gatlin will continue his work with the church throughout the investigation process.
The Church Council (the legal board of directors) has created a Special Committee made of third-party individuals—none of them work for The Duluth Vineyard or have any relation to any employees. The Special Committee consists of Ben Mork (chair), Ann LaCosse, Jerry Lieffring, and Gerry Nierengarten.
John Kliewer, the designated support staff for the committee, will act as a liaison between the senior pastor and the Special Committee.
Since his son is at the centre of this investigation, Michael Gatlin assured the church members that he will not be leading the investigation.
"I have complete confidence in the team involved: the members of the special committee, who are tasked with overseeing this process; our church council, our senior leadership team, our staff and our leaders. I also have complete confidence in the Lord to lead us in this difficult time," says senior pastor Gatlin.