Vineyard Church Youth Pastor in Jail, Charged with Sexual Misconduct

A former Duluth, Minnesota, youth pastor at The Vineyard Church has been sent to jail and charged with sexual misconduct with five young girls.

Jackson Michael Gatlin, 35, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with ten felony counts following five criminal complaints. He was placed at the Saint Louis County Jail on a $300,000 bond, per the Star Tribune.

Between 2007 and 2010, Gatlin sexually assaulted five girls, ranging from ages 11 and 16 years old. At the time, he was serving as a youth pastor at the Duluth Vineyard Church, where both his parents, Michael and Brenda Gatlin, served as the church’s lead pastor and senior pastor.

In October 2022, a former member of Jackson Gatlin’s youth group informed a member of the church’s leadership team about the former youth pastor’s sexual misconduct, resulting in an investigation one month later by the independent investigative organization, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE).

In late January 2023, the church made its second report to the Duluth police, CBN News. Meanwhile, the victims shared their stories about the abuse on social media, which the church reported to the police.

On Tuesday, the church issued a statement including a timeline of the alleged abuse.

“To the victims reporting crimes against Jackson, our hearts are broken by your pain. We pray that you experience comfort, healing, and peace. We thank you for the courage it took to tell your story, and we hope that the law enforcement process helps bring healing for you,” the statement posted to the church’s website reads.

“We are sorry that the Duluth Vineyard was the kind of place where this kind of behavior could happen. We apologize to the reporting victims and the Twin Ports community.”

The church also said they “are working to develop a culture that is more resistant to abuse and toxicity. Sexual abuse can happen anywhere.”

“This is not an excuse for it happening in the context of the Duluth Vineyard community. Rather, this is a call for change in our broader society as well,” the statement continued. 

According to the Star Tribune, the church said it cut all ties with Gatlin due to their refusal to cooperate with the investigation.

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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.

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