“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain
On 2/6/23, I posted Jackson Gatlin, the Youth Pastor of The Vineyard Church, Duluth, Accused of “Misconduct,” Is Suspended, Along With His Father and Lead Pastor, Michael Gatlin. I was concerned about the church’s response, apparently referring to the potential accusations as “misconduct.” As you will see, the church leaders responded quickly to deal with this matter appropriately.
On 2/10, I reported Vineyard USA Responds to Pastors About the Allegations of Sexual Abuse at Vineyard Duluth. Brenda Gatlin Has Been Placed on Leave. They requested help from GRACE. The leaders also spoke of concern for the victims.
On 2/15, I posted (a 1/2) Update on the Vineyard Church, Duluth. Jackson Gatlin Has Been Terminated, and the title speaks for itself. Jackson reportedly refused to talk to GRACE.
On 2/24, I posted (2/2) Update: The Vineyard Church Duluth Pastor, Michael Gatlin, Resigns and a Commenter Who Gets It, another title that speaks for itself. But, unfortunately, he also reportedly refused to talk with GRACE.
On 2/27, the following letter was published b Vineyard USA: Update Regarding Brenda & Michael Gatlin. (They both resigned.)
If you have information that would be relevant to the investigations, we encourage you to contact the Duluth Police Department and Emily Petrie (email@example.com) at GRACE, who are conducting an independent investigation with the Duluth Vineyard.
Learn about VUSA’s November 2022 initiative to assess and improve how we and our churches handle leadership misconduct, moral failings, restoration processes, and allegations of abuse and misconduct.
Brenda Gatlin has resigned as a Super Regional Leader for Vineyard USA, and Michael Gatlin has resigned as the Senior Pastor of the Duluth Vineyard, as well as his positions as a Trustee on the Vineyard USA Board, and on the Board of Vineyard Worship.
We have included a short video to describe the topline information regarding this update. We would encourage every Vineyard pastor to review this 2-minute video. A longer 27-minute video has been provided in support of the complex nature of the allegations, investigations, Vineyard USA’s role, and a pastoral & prophetic reflection. We encourage you to read all the information on this site before watching the longer video, as it provides valuable context.
Key Decisions and Timeline
- 01/29 – 01/30: Duluth Vineyard announces allegations against Jackson Gatlin
- 02/01: Brenda Gatlin placed on 30-day leave by VUSA
- 02/02: Michael Gatlin placed on 90-day leave from Board of Trustees by VUSA
- 02/05: Michael Gatlin put on indefinite leave by Duluth Vineyard
- 02/10: Brenda Gatlin suspended pending investigation by VUSA
- 02/13: Jackson Gatlin terminated by Duluth Vineyard and not allowed on Duluth Vineyard campus
- 02/20: Michael Gatlin resigned from Duluth Vineyard and not allowed on Duluth Vineyard campus
- 02/20: Brenda Gatlin removed from office of Vice President of Duluth Vineyard Board and not allowed on Duluth Vineyard campus
- 02/21: Michael Gatlin resigned from VUSA Board of Trustees, including his role as Vice President, and from the Vineyard Worship board
- 02/24: Brenda Gatlin resigned as Super Regional Leader at Vineyard USA
- 02/26: Duluth Vineyard services announced Michael’s resignation
Key Parties Involved
- Duluth Board Special Committee of the Church Council
The Special Committee is Ben Mork, Ann LaCosse, Jerry Lieffring, and Gerry Nierengarten and was appointed by the Board/Church Council. John Kliewer is serving as staff support for the Special Committee and liaison between the senior pastor and the Special Committee. The Special Committee is responsible for making decisions regarding Duluth, including all employment decisions. They know ‘all there is to know’ and will control the response to the investigation, including hiring and paying for GRACE services, and working with the Duluth PD.
- Vineyard USA, National Team, and Trustees
Vineyard USA (primarily Robb Morgan and Nicole Dill) have been involved in the situation to represent the National Team and create communication to Vineyard leaders and pastors. They have kept the National Team and Trustees informed periodically with important information.
- Duluth Police Department
Conducting a criminal investigation into Jackson Gatlin and/or Brenda and Michael Gatlin. No details on the investigation are currently known by Vineyard USA.
Conducting a third-party investigation that was established by Duluth Vineyard when allegations came forward initially around Jackson Gatlin, and later around Michael and Brenda Gatlin. The Duluth Police has asked them not to interview reporting victims during the criminal investigation, but they have reached out to interview other parties.
- External advice and counsel for Duluth Vineyard
Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor of The Leader’s Journey have had their services retained by the Duluth Vineyard at the request of Michael Gatlin and have been providing counsel and support for Duluth staff. Additionally, Duluth Vineyard has legal counsel.
- External advice and counsel for Vineyard USA
Guidepost Solutions has been conducting an institutional assessment for VUSA and has provided recommendations through this situation. Additionally, Vineyard USA has legal counsel and has sought the counsel of HR experts.
- Additional sources of care and pastoral supportAdditional information will be provided to interested parties upon request. To request this information, please fill out this form.
I wish every church responded like Vineyard with a timely, caring, and thorough response. They not only got GRACE involved but Guidpost as well. All of the above actions happened within 1 month.
They are also involved in providing other resources for care along with pastoral support for the victims. If anyone needs a timeline to show your church that may be experiencing such a situation, give them a copy of this timeline. It’s proof that it can be done.
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims at this time. I know they have a difficult road ahead, and I pray for healing and the peace that passes all understanding.
Well done, Vineyard USA! You are an example to the church at large by serving those who have been harmed. Frankly, I needed a story like this. Thank you.
Uffdah! And I guess the ole Vineyard has been humbled by the losing of a lot of money from the Anaheim location (basically that couple now owns that church). And when did sin change to “moral failings?”
None of this surprises me from my time in a Vineyard in Phoenix in the late 80’s. Most of the other commenters here appear to come from a background of SBC, or Neo-Calv turned, or 9 Marxist, or Fundamentalist churches. All of these have similar kinds of problems as is highlighted over and over whenever one of them is reported on here. But all churches do not have the exact same kinds of problems.
For instance, when I was attending the Vineyard, one of the worship team members kept showing up drunk on Sunday mornings. This was tolerated. I doubt it would be in any of your churches I mentioned. I have never gone to any of your kinds of churches nor would I have at any point. I saw the problem there about 40 years ago. Instead, I have attended churches with other problems.
I say this because some of the comments here appear to be unable to recognize these differences. Yet they do exist. Vineyard HQ is not SBC HQ or 9 Marxists HQ. The Church is bigger than the pond that each of us has swam in for our lifetime.
I know nothing about Vineyard churches.
But, I do wish I had the wherewithal to print the information about this and how the church handled it on enough coarse-grade sandpaper to fill the toilet paper dispensers in every men’s bathroom in every SBC affiliated church and building in existence so that even if the all-male leadership refused to read the story (and learn something), at least it would get their attention.
The all-male leadership of the SBC, to their credit, DID pay attention to the rumors of sexual abuse within their ranks, and voted to appoint an independent investigator to come in and look into the allegations. And they not only took action against those who were found to be guilty or complicit, they made the findings public rather than trying to conceal them. It is true that SOME in the SBC initially tried to cover it up, but the majority voted to do the right thing.
I agree with the thought that I wish Dee could post more like this.. and, to all the naysayers of TWW, I also am willing to post on good outcomes such as this…
That’s a picture.
“They not only got GRACE involved but Guidepost as well. All of the above actions happened within 1 month.”
Not a fan of Guidepost, however the timeline here is definitely moving in the right direction.
Perhaps the fact that Jeff Anderson Associates is just down the road helped move this along. Once his group is engaged, it’s big bucks and rightly so, for victims.
If churches think GRACE services are costly, maybe they ought to assess the punitive damages they will pay to victims via the work of Anderson Associates.
Bankruptcy anyone? Jeff believes putting a pedophile factory out of business is a good cause, according to his interviews. And he is personally Catholic.
“placed on 90-day leave from Board of Trustees by VUSA”
… and the wife now gone from post as regional rep in greater org, the Mothership.
So the overall org is taking action. This will have a ripple effect throughout the entire org and among all the tentacles of churches. In the right direction.
Kinda puts to shame most religious orgs with vast numbers of churches hiding and protecting predators. (Ex: the Houston Chronicle’s database.)
Kinda offers an alternative to the usual religious org way of handling predators in churches.
Kinda makes one curious about Vineyard.
They did so after decades of people like Christa Brown begging them to take action. But, unfortunately, they did not suddenly wake up and do the right thing. This has been a long and arduous journey, and they had to be embarrassed by the secular press to do what was right.
It would help if you thanked the many victims abused and ignored by the SBC. They are the ones who make a difference. In the meantime, the DOJ is investigating the SBC, another reason the leaders have to finally play nice.
Jeffrey J Chalmers,
If you have any suggestions, let me know. I’m always looking.
Exactly! And so much more.
Decades, DECADES…….. hundreds and hundreds of victims……. SBC elites knew, and did nothing to stop it. They protected the predators and condemned the victims. Even after the expose, some made nasty remarks about the victims and tried to keep the investigation hush hush.
It seems that the only mistake Vineyard Church, Duluth made was a poor word choice. It took less than a month after the allegations were made known to church leaders for the church to investigate the allegations, notify authorities, provide counseling, and dismiss the perpetrator and his protectors. They did not try to cover anything up.
On the other hand, 4 years after public, nation-wide exposure by secular media, the SBC is still wringing it’s hands and blowing a big chunk of tithes and offerings trying to figure out what to do. I believe, in their heart of hearts, to many (not all) SBCers are more concerned about their public image than past, or even future victims.
The SBC is still fumbling the ball. Vineyard got the touchdown and the field goal.
. . . did nothing for decade upon decade. They not only did nothing, they actually hid the abuse and let abusers get passed around the SBC churches!
To be cleat, you are unaware of reality!
When God’s Anointed Special Pets started doing it.
“Always use the proper Code Words: Relocation. Resettlement. Delousing.”
— Holocaust (seventies miniseries), Babi Yar scene
My Dear Wormwood,
I refer you to my previous epistle about redefining the Enemy’s words into our “diabolical meanings”.
Your Ravenously Affectionate Uncle,
So maybe set a precedent for the right path to take when leaders are predators?
What if all local churches handled church predators like this Vineyard church.
Just a thought.
Jimmy, you need to become more familiar with the chronology of SBC’s handling of sex abuse in its ranks. SBC leaders remained silent for years until the Houston Chronicle brought this shame to light in a series of articles … only then did the SBC elite start to deal with things. Those who have been following this development closely, wonder if they are dealing with it properly now.
Late in the 4th quarter, 3rd and long, and they still haven’t sent in the field goal unit!
Aw, Muff, you really don’t think expect “special teams” guys to ditch those high-end suits and silk ties for cleats and helmets, do ya???
Secular press. In this case, the truth tellers.
No. The Executive Committee makes no amends even for its own conduct documented in the Guidepost report & nor does it impose any consequence on those named. To the contrary, at the EC’s Feb 2023 meeting, it APPLAUDED former EC president Morris Chapman, who was named in the Guidepost report & who, for years, was responsible for stonewalling survivors, for turning a blind eye. It’s almost as if the Guidepost report never happened. Meanwhile, Frank Page still pastoring a church. Johnny Hunt still preaching. And on & on. Lots of talk. Lots of showmanship. Lots of institutional image-repair. But action? Not so much. Still waiting.
And other ole boys who protected those accused of abuse are still active in SBC life: Paige Patterson (Judge Pressler’s bud) has been instrumental in the formation of the Conservative Baptist Network … Al Mohler (C.J. Mahaney’s bud) is still President, Southern Seminary … Tom White (Anthony Moore’s bud) is still President, Cedarville University … etc. etc.
It should be clear by now that the SBC will not hold its elite accountable. There may be a few scapegoats of lesser stature tossed under the bus before this is over, but the big boys will remain unscathed. And the beat goes on.
Not until they piss off the wrong people.
And when they do, there’ll be an investigation, and the gavel will come down hard and heavy just like it did in the Catholic scandals.
The SBC elite have experienced lesser threats to their power, but this is a cloud that might not blow over. I wonder if DOJ has launched the SBC investiagion, or still in the queue?
I dunno guys ……..
The DOJ investigation is still ongoing, apparently. When their findings come to light, it could be a big deal….. who knows. But, as far as the SBC elites are concerned, I believe they think they’re back to business as usual. I don’t expect any noticeable changes, even if the DOJ finds something serious. I believe that both the concerns about sexual abuse and the worries about the secular exposure will soon just die down and fade away within the SBC ……. out of sight out of mind.
The Saddleback and it’s uppity woman is the big news in the SBC, now.
May it all come back and bite them.
If SBC beats the law on this, the cries of victims will be silenced except in the blogosphere.
Warren Throckmorton is changing the website he is using as he prepares to retire at the end of the current semester. The new website is now live and he has a satirical post up about wokeism in church. You can find it here: https://warrenthrockmorton.substack.com/p/how-to-be-an-un-woke-church
And it’s gonna’ come round’ and bite em’ big time.
That they placed that ‘uppity’ woman in the pulpit with a much higher priority than Chester the molester operating with virtual impunity in their enclaves.
And the CHRISTIAN Supreme Court will take care of those.
Noticed on the Twitter feed the highlighting of this TGC article and a proposed definition of a widely-used term:
“I propose the following definition of a missionary: A missionary is a qualified Christian sent out under the authority of a local church to an area of recognized need in order to pursue the work of the Great Commission.”
“Being a missionary assumes one is invested with the church’s authority to carry out the Great Commission. From the example of the early apostles, we know this work involves establishing local churches through evangelism, discipleship, and leadership development. If our work doesn’t contribute to that mission—even in a supporting role like Epaphroditus—then we can’t rightly be called missionaries.”
Is it me, or does it seem that the “local church“ as arguably an overarching authority as well as something that needs to be a focus – – in this case, of missionary work – – once again receives a particular priority? And wouldn’t that whole thing be manifested in a priority of “church planting“?
Why not simultaneously prioritize having a good, hard look at the history of what constitutes a so-called “local church” as far as having the legitimacy for being viewed with such a level of authority, as well as their associated “church plants” which may be run by young seminarians and / or trainees? Or perhaps, is a form of legitimacy something that would be intrinsically affirmed by some if they affiliate with a particular coalition, possibly one espousing certain “marks“ of a “healthy church“, at which point they become part of the approved authorities?
Plus, where is vetting at the level of “establishing local churches“ prioritized so as to affirm authority? It brings to mind 1 Cor. 4:1-2 — “So let a man regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. In this case, moreover, it is required in the stewards, that one shall be found faithful.”
It also brings to mind John the Baptist, as he seemed to go out to complete a mission as it were (cf. Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 4:5-6) that Scripture did not appear to record as having the imprimatur (sic) of the men appointed at leaders of the local assembly. (Also note that although those leaders did have a level of authority acceded to them per Matthew 23:2-3, their works appeared to be sufficiently vetted in the rest of the chapter and elsewhere.) Here is a noteworthy exchange concerning authority and John the Baptist:
“And of Him having come into the temple, teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him, saying, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave to You this authority?” And Jesus answering, said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I also will say to you by what authority I do these things. From where was the baptism of John? From heaven, or from men?”
“And they were reasoning with themselves, saying, “If we should say, ‘from heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we should say, ‘from men,’ we fear the multitude; for all hold John as a prophet.” And answering Jesus, they said “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
New Calvinists must control everything; they must control the messenger and the message. To them, local church = local pastors/elders = local reformed authority. New Calvinists don’t plant churches; they plant reformed theology. Missionary work under a direct calling by God, guidance by the Holy Spirit, and under the authority of Jesus only are foreign concepts to New Calvinists.
🙂 🙂 🙂
Thank you, Mr. Jesperson, for the link to Warren Throckmorton’s satirical post How to Be an Un-Woke Church….it’s well-written.