VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Rock Church International said in a Facebook post Wednesday that one of its senior pastors would be stepping away from his duties temporarily after his arrest on charges related to prostitution.
Chesterfield County police said John Blanchard was one of 17 people whom officers arrested as part of a two-day operation. Investigators said they communicated with Blanchard and the others on social media as part of the operation. Police said all 17 arranged to meet with 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.
Blanchard is one of two senior pastors at Rock Church in Virginia Beach.
According to its website, he and the other senior pastor, Robin Blanchard, "received their ministerial training while serving under Bishops John & Anne Gimenez for over twenty years in full-time ministry."
The website goes on to say, "Coming from a background in atheism and a dysfunctional childhood, John's heart is to reach a generation with a message of hope through the healing and delivering power of Jesus Christ."
Monday, we reached out to the church through its Facebook. We received a response from Bishop Anne Gimenez that said: "At this time we do not have enough information to make a comment!"
On Wednesday, the church posted that Blanchard would be stepping down from ministerial duties at this time.
By late Wednesday afternoon, the entirety of the Rock Church in Virginia Beach 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.
Screenshots of the post are below: