CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — A pastor from Rock Church International in Virginia Beach appeared in Chesterfield County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Monday on charges related to prostitution.
Police in Chesterfield County said they arrested John Blanchard and 16 other people in a two-day operation at the end of October.
Investigators said they communicated with Blanchard and the others on social media as part of the operation and that all 17 people arranged to meet someone whom they thought was underage to have sex. When Blanchard and the others showed up, officers arrested them.
Blanchard, 51, faces a felony charge of Solicitation of Prostitution as well as a charge of Use of a Vehicle to Promote Prostitution.
Police arrested Blanchard on Oct. 29. He bonded out on Oct. 30.
Blanchard's lawyer asked that the judge consider changing the conditions of Blanchard's bond which stipulate he cannot leave the state. The lawyer said there is church business outside of the Virginia and that Blanchard travels for his job.
Prosecutors objected to the defense's request, based on the nature of the charges. The judge said another hearing was needed to consider whether the conditions of the bond should be changed. The judge set a hearing for Nov. 17.
The judge asked Blanchard to "maintain good behavior" until Blanchard's trial which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 6, 2022.
Blanchard is one of two senior pastors at Rock Church in Virginia Beach.
On Nov. 1, when word of his arrest began to circulate, we reached out to the church. Bishop Anne Gimenez initially responded in a Facebook message: "At this time we do not have enough information to make a comment!"
On Nov. 3, the church posted on its Facebook page that Blanchard would be stepping down from ministerial duties. By late afternoon, the church's Facebook page had been taken down.
The post, before deleted, said, in part:
Pastor Blanchard has voluntarily stepped back as lead pastor and from all his ministerial duties until this present situation is totally resolved. During this season, Bishop Anne Gimenez will be stepping in as Lead Pastor and sharing the pulpit with Pastor Robin Blanchard.