DULUTH - The leader of Vineyard Church resigned last week, telling church officials he was unwilling to cooperate with the investigations of alleged abuses committed by his son, a former assistant pastor at the church.
Michael Gatlin, senior pastor for the past 25 years, according to his LinkedIn account, and his wife, Brenda Gatlin, who works for Vineyard USA, have been accused of knowing about, but not acting on, the allegations that surfaced earlier this month. She has been suspended, the national organization said in a post on its website.
In early February, church members said in a video posted to YouTube that officials from Vineyard went to local law enforcement after receiving anonymous reports of the assistant pastor's misconduct — an investigation that had stalled until victims came forward on social media. The Duluth Police Department confirmed at the time that it was looking into the allegations and encouraged anyone with a similar experience to call 911 to file a report or to call 218-726-1931, the helpline for Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA).
One former church member said on Facebook that she was sexually assaulted by the assistant pastor in 2007 when she was 16 years old. She said she went to his mother, but her claims were ignored.
The Star Tribune generally does not name the accused until they have been charged.
An in-house special committee and the national organization Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment are also investigating.
In his resignation, Gatlin said he was unable to cooperate with the investigation, according to the church.
"As part of his employment, Michael had been repeatedly directed to cooperate fully with both any law enforcement investigation and our independent organization," Vineyard said in a message to members. "Immediately prior to Michael's resignation, we directed him to provide a statement to the special committee detailing his response and the actions he took, if any, to certain allegations regarding [his son]."
Gatlin never provided the statement — despite seemingly knowing that not responding by a designated deadline could cause the loss of his job. Vineyard is in the process of developing a plan to find his replacement. Meanwhile, it has a senior leadership team in place to perform his pastoral duties.
Gatlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.