CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — A judge ruled Wednesday that a church pastor from Virginia Beach who is facing prostitution charges can travel outside the state of Virginia.
Chesterfield County police arrested John Blanchard on Oct. 29 as part of an operation they conducted. They said Blanchard and 16 other people tried to arrange a sexual meeting with someone whom they thought was underage.
Blanchard, 51, is a senior pastor at Rock Church International in Virginia Beach. He faces a felony charge of Solicitation of Prostitution as well as a charge of Use of a Vehicle to Promote Prostitution.
Blanchard bonded out of jail on Oct. 30 Initially, a condition of his bond stipulated he couldn't leave the state. At a hearing on Nov. 15, his lawyer asked a judge to consider removing the stipulation because Blanchard's position with the church requires him to travel outside of Virginia. The Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office objected, based on the nature of the charges.
The judge set a hearing for Nov. 17 to consider arguments from the prosecution as well as the defense. He agreed to the drop the restriction, but said that Blanchard only can travel outside of the state for work purposes. Blanchard also has to let the church know when and where he travels.
The judge's decision allows Blanchard to continue working/serving at Rock Church locations other than the one in Virginia Beach from which he "stepped back" from his duties after his arrest.
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.