“A strong and capable leader can stand on their own two feet. A wimpy puppet of a leader needs to have their father, their father-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, sister, nursemaid, paid ‘yes’ people, etc. prop him up. That’s fine if he is a baby, but not fine when he is a grown man. If he is capable of leading a company without the help of nepotism, then his workers will respect him and naturally get motivated to support him as a leader.” – Strong by Kailin Gow
I have a number of interesting stories dealing with the SBC’s NAMB. However, this blog exists to tell stories of victims, and I just heard about this over the weekend. There are some brave victims in Duluth, and my prayers are with them. Their stories must be told.
Jackson Gatlin, the young adult pastor under head pastor/daddy Michael Gatlin of Vineyard Duluth, is credibly accused of “misconduct.”
I want to thank a reader who asked me to look into this situation. I found myself getting irritated by the verbiage used by the church. What in the world is misconduct? Just about anything. According to Merriam-Webster:
mismanagement especially of governmental or military responsibilities
: intentional wrongdoingspecifically : deliberate violation of a law or standard especially by a government official : MALFEASANCE
a: improper behavior
: a penalty (as in ice hockey) for improper behavior or abusive language (as toward an official)
Given the fact that this was reported to the police, my guess is that it had something to do with sexual misconduct. The Christian Post recently wrote Vineyard Church suspends young adult pastor, son of senior pastor over allegations of misconduct.
Jackson Gatlin, the young adult and online community pastor at The Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota, where his father, Michael Gatlin, serves as senior pastor, has been suspended as the church and local police conduct an investigation into allegations of misconduct “from several years ago.”
…A statement released by the multi-campus church on Sunday did not state the nature of the misconduct, but a woman who identified herself as a victim alleged on social media that she was sexually assaulted by Jackson Gatlin.
Now we are getting to the matter. This “misconduct” had to do with allegations of sexual assault. From the get-go, I suspect the church of attempting to downplay this matter, which caused me to ask, Why?”
Let’s take a look at how this developed, chronologically, because there is some genuine concern regarding the actions, or lack thereof, of the lead pastor, Michael Gatlin.
January 29, 2023: Our Response to Allegations of Misconduct.
From this point forward, pay attention to the dates. The following takes place over the course of about seven days.
The church posted the above letter on its website using the squirrely, nonspecific language of “misconduct.” At this time, Jackson Gatlinis was removed from his position.
Our community is responding to allegations of misconduct against one of our pastoral assistants, Jackson Gatlin. At present, the allegations against him involve conduct from several years ago. We have contracted with a company called Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) to conduct an independent investigation. One of our values is transparency, yet we are not going to say anything more about the allegations at this time because we need to protect the ongoing investigation and any victims. Accountability and integrity are also key values. When the investigation is complete, we expect to have more to say and we will say it. In the meantime, let us assure you that the safety and security of our church community is critically important to us and we have policies and procedures in place to protect them. The Duluth Vineyard has suspended Jackson Gatlin during this investigation.
However, the following part of this letter is interesting and hints at the accusation to come.
Next, let us share how we are addressing the fact that Jackson Gatlin is the son of our Senior Pastor, Michael Gatlin. In keeping with our Nepotism Policy and best practices, the investigation and employment decisions related to Jackson Gatlin are overseen independently from Michael and Brenda Gatlin. Our Church Council (the legal board of directors) has created a Special Committee made up of independent members (none of them work for the Duluth Vineyard or are related to any employees).
February 3, 2023: Michael Gatlin, Jackson’s daddy, is placed on an LOA from his head pastor position link.
The week prior to 2/3/2023, victims started coming forward by name. The church leadership was now able to get the police to open a criminal investigation. Apparently, local police will not take an anonymous complaint seriously.
February 3, 2023
We hope that you were able to read our message from January 29th concerning allegations of misconduct against one of our pastoral assistants (Jackson Gatlin) and how the resulting investigation and employment decisions related to Jackson Gatlin are being overseen by an independent Special Committee of our Church Council. Since then, we have also placed our Senior Pastor (Michael Gatlin) on a leave of absence.
This is a fast evolving situation, particularly with regard to law enforcement involvement. The first reports that the Special Committee received were anonymous and, when we took those reports to the police, we were told by the police that they could not start an investigation without victims’ names. That changed this week when victims began identifying themselves on social media. So, we reported this matter to the police again this week and there is now an ongoing criminal investigation.
We encourage all reports of criminal activities to be reported to law enforcement. Please do so by calling 911. We have also contracted with a company called Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) to conduct an independent investigation. If you have information that may be relevant to their investigation, please contact GRACE by emailing Emily Petrie at firstname.lastname@example.org
We want to say to all survivors of abuse that we hear you and believe you. It is never your fault. And, you are not alone. We are praying for you and we call our community to a time of prayer and lament. As Jesus was always on the side of the vulnerable and the wounded, in our response to abuse the safety and care of survivors must always come first.
With the love of Christ,
The Special Committee of the Church Council (Ben Mork, Ann LaCosse, Jerry Lieffring and Gerry Nierengarten)
February 5, 2023: This video of part of the Sunday service is released.
At this point, TWW regulars are beginning to get suspicious about the goings on at the church. As you watch the video, you will hear them using the word “misconduct” to describe their concerns. It makes me think the lawyers are now involved and helping everyone to carefully word things.
The brave victims are claiming that Michael and Brenda Gatlin were told about the allegations regarding their son and blamed the victims and families.
I found the following comments on the Facebook page of Duluth Vineyard. There are more.
I need to make a statement about this.The pain and suffering my daughter has experienced in her life due to this man’s actions are inexcusable.Honestly I am exhausted and tired of hearing about his poor parents and his poor wife. I’m exhausted from people caring more about the church and not about the victims.THEY KNEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I Told Brenda what he did to my daughter!!! !!!!!!!!!Another victims mother messaged me tonight. She too went to Mike and Brenda and like me they placed blame on her family also.Do you realize that we are at 9 victims now.??? My daughter is physically and emotionally exhausted.
Thank you to my amazing friends who have poured out so much love and support on my family at this time. I honestly couldn’t have made it through the last few days without you. Thank you for loving me and Rissa. We need you guys. Tanner is the voice of wisdom and strength. My goodness do I have an amazing son. He has stood fiercely by Rissas side. He is so honorable — with Myrissa Overfors and 5 othersWhat’s sickening about all this, is that the senior pastors were made aware multiple times of each situation, and they did nothing about it.I’m sickened at the fact I grew up with this individual at youth group, and I’m sickened that a senior pastor could know what’s going on, and ignore it. Regardless if the individual in question is the son. This should have been handled after the first incident, not after multiple victims have come forward confessing to incidents that happened several years ago.
Some thoughts for the victims.
We are so sorry for what happened to you, and we believe you. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during these difficult days as more and more information is released.
- If any victims wish to tell their stories, we will print them. This blog is here for victims in any way we can be of help—contact email@example.com.
- Make sure the church releases the entire GRACE report when it is finished. Some churches are hiding the full report from their members and will only give them “summaries.”
- GRACE is a friend to victims. So be at peace as you tell your story to them when the time comes. You will feel loved and supported.
- I do not believe pastors should hire family members to work for them. Even supervising a family member as a volunteer can lead to problems. Here is an example of how it can go wrong. John Ortberg Resigns from Menlo Church.
- Vineyard should be careful to support the victims and be careful not discuss how much support the church is giving to the alleged perp and his father.
- If Michael Gatlin was aware of any accusations which he did not report to the police, he should be fired immediately. There should be no discussion of “restoration,” which is so prevalent in these cases. He should be stripped of any credentials.
- If Brenda Gatlin was notified by victims of abuse and did not report it, then she should be disciplined by the Vineyard leaders and asked to find another church if they will take her.
- If found guilty, Jackson should not be allowed to attend Vineyard Duluth if victims are still present. He should be stripped of all pastoral credentials.
- Trauma-informed counseling should be provided at Duluth Vineyard’s expense.