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After arrest of Rock Church pastor, former member talks about charges taken out against him years earlier

Police arrested John Blanchard on prostitution charges in October. A former church member says an encounter with him in 2018 led her to file charges against him.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — When news broke about Pastor John Blanchard's arrest in Chesterfield County, Jenna Sellers says she felt overwhelmed. 

Sellers was a member of Rock Church in Virginia Beach where she worked as the assistant to Blanchard and his wife, Robin. Both are senior pastors at the church.

The charges against Blanchard in Chesterfield County are related to prostitution. Investigators said they arrested the 51-year-old in late October after he tried to arrange to have sex with someone whom he thought was underage. Police said 16 other people attempted to make similar arrangements. Officers took all of them into custody as part of the police department's two-day sting operation.

During Sellers time at Rock Church, which started in 2011, she worked in a number of roles. She said at some point, she noticed what she described as unusual behavior from Blanchard, behavior that included randomly showing up at her home with gifts for her and her family. 

Sellers said in 2018, Blanchard offered to come to her home to help her work on the church's website. Blanchard outlined that, as well as what she says happened after Blanchard's arrival, in court documents filed in Virginia Beach in 2019, the year she took out charges against him.

Sellers said she had a pain in her shoulder the day Blanchard came to her home to help her with the website and was going to go upstairs to get medicine for it. She said that's when Blanchard offered to rub her shoulders. Sellers said she told him "no," but he was persistent.

"I'm thinking, 'This is bizarre. What is going on with Pastor John? Does he not think this is wrong?'" said Sellers, clasping her hands together as she shared the recollection Wednesday. "Then, he made a move on me and he totally disregarded my 'no' and did really inappropriate things to me."

The charges Sellers took out against Blanchard in 2019 were for sexual assault. Blanchard was acquitted of those charges.

"He ended up being found not guilty, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen," said Sellers. "It did happen to me. Church leadership knew and decided not to remove him from his position."

Sellers said it didn't take long for her to receive backlash from church leaders.

"They [members] were forbidden from speaking with me. I lost an entire support system," she said. "Every single one of my friends that I spent the last eight years with... I had to walk away from."

Sellers said she felt it was important for her to tell her story, In the wake Blanchard's arrest out of Chesterfield County, Sellers said she was tired of holding back.

In response to the charges and allegations Sellers brought against him, Blanchard filed a civil case against her in Virginia Beach Circuit Court. Blanchard said the allegations she made were false. He has a similar civil case against another church member for defamation.

Rock Church said on Facebook Wednesday that Bishop Anne Gimenez and Blanchard's wife would lead the church for the time being, in light of the situation in Chesterfield County. The post later was taken down. The church's Facebook page, itself, then was unavailable.