A worship leader at Menlo Church's Mountain View location was fired after allegations emerged that he solicited nude photos online from a teen boy while working at a church in Oklahoma several years before joining the staff of Menlo Church, according to statements from church leaders.
Menlo Church is a local evangelical Presbyterian faith community that attracts about 6,000 weekly congregants across six Bay Area campuses, and is headquartered in Menlo Park.
The announcement comes on the heels of another revelation in the church community as it grappled with news that its senior pastor, John Ortberg, had permitted his son to continue to work with youth for more than a year after learning that he was sexually attracted to children. Ortberg stepped down in early August last year.
Michael Bryce Jr., who led worship services at Menlo Church's Mountain View location, is alleged to have repeatedly solicited nude photos from a teenage boy online while working at a church in Oklahoma, according to a March 20 announcement authored by the church's Transitional Pastor John Crosby and Elder Board Chair David Kim. The alleged solicitations occurred several years before Bryce began work at Menlo Church and they said they have not received any reports indicating concerns with his actions while working at Menlo Church. Bryce was terminated from his position March 19.
On April 19, Crosby and Kim released a second announcement to the community detailing more information about the allegations and the steps church leaders took to respond.
According to the statement, a young man had been following news stories about a prominent Christian leader's sexual misconduct, which had triggered "unexplained anger," so he began working with a therapist and, through that process, allegedly remembered receiving unwanted solicitations from Bryce. He contacted Menlo Church, and the church asked Bryce about the allegations.
Bryce, according to the church announcement, had "confirmed the solicitations but denied knowing he (the young man) was a minor at the time." As mandated reporters, the church then contacted law enforcement with the information, the statement said.
From there, the Oklahoma City Police Department conducted an investigation, according to the statement. Working with the District Attorney there, charges were not filed against Bryce because they were unable to confirm if the solicitation had occurred within the police department's jurisdiction. There was also was uncertainty about when the solicitations occurred, and it was not clear whether the young man was 16, 17 or 18 years old at the time the solicitations took place, according to the statement.
"Law enforcement’s decision to not file charges does not change Michael’s termination status with us," the announcement stated.
Menlo Church leaders plan to have a forensic specialist examine Bryce's work computer, they added.
"In Michael’s case, the past solicitations with a teen demonstrated poor judgement on his part, which was compounded by his withholding of this information when he was hired at Menlo Church. Neither action is consistent with our expectations of our staff," Crosby and Kim wrote.
People with concerns should contact their campus pastor or Zero Abuse, an outside party the church is working with, at [email protected]