Jared Olivetti loses ordination following RPCNA investigation and trial

Jared Olivetti, the former pastor of the Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, accused of mishandling child sexual abuse in his congregation, has defrocked following an ecclesiastical investigation and trial.

With the move, Olivetti’s ordination and elder status are revoked, meaning he is prohibited from exercising the powers or duties of the office anywhere in the denomination. He was also suspended from “Church membership privileges”, including participation in sacraments such as Communion.

According to a notification sent Friday to the presbyteries of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America, Olivetti did not attend his trial or the reading of the verdict. The decision, handed down by investigators from the denomination’s national governing body, was unanimous.

Read the IndyStar survey:A boy sexually assaulted up to 15 children. His pastor relative protected him.

IndyStar has received and authenticated a copy of this ad and has contacted Olivetti for comment.

Olivetti and the Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church 2020 Council of Elders were the subject of an IndyStar survey released late last year which revealed they had failed to act urgently to respond to a boy’s inappropriate behavior and sexual offenses at church.

The abuser is a relative of Olivetti. Rather than recuse himself immediately, IndyStar discovered that Olivetti had taken advantage of his leadership position to interfere with the church’s response.

Olivetti’s ecclesiastical trial was preceded by two inquiries within the denomination – the first at the presbytery, or regional level, and the second at the synod, or national level.

IndyStar has reached out to representatives of the Great Lakes and Gulf Synod and Presbytery, the regional body overseeing Immanuel, for comment.

In the announcement, members of the Synod’s judicial commission echoed words they intended to say directly to Olivetti, had he attended: “May God have mercy on you, not only because your sin is real, but because the mercy of Christ is great.”

“We do not send a report”

Olivetti was suspended by denomination in January and he and fellow seniors Keith Magill, Ben Larson and David Carr resigned a little over a week later.

Church records indicate the sexual abuse, which involved eight children from multiple families within the congregation, occurred on and off church property between spring 2019 and March 2020.

In addition to Olivetti’s obvious conflict of interest, several people close to the situation told IndyStar that church elders chose to publicly downplay the nature of the incidents and protect their pastor from the children of the congregation.

Last summer, the attacker was convicted on what are believed to be multiple charges of child molestation. (IndyStar does not list Olivetti’s relationship to the boy to avoid directly identifying him. IndyStar does not identify juvenile offenders unless they are charged as adults.)

During a July 2020 meeting, Olivetti told the pastor of a nearby church that he and his council of elders would hide the allegations from higher denominational authorities.

“We’re not sending a report,” Olivetti said during the chat, an audio recording of which was obtained by IndyStar. “It won’t be in our regular session minutes. It will be in another (recording).”

The church’s first investigation found that Olivetti had used “undue, excessive or improper” influence to shape the church’s response; that church leaders committed a series of failures “to protect and ensure the safety” of those in their care; that the elders did not recuse Olivetti from all discussions and decisions despite the impression that he had been recused.

Learn more:5 things to know about the West Lafayette church child sex abuse scandal

Complaints by RPCNA members triggered the Second Judicial Commission, which oversaw the trial. The synod commission found Olivetti guilty on several counts, including failing to conduct himself “in a manner above reproach … resulting in distrust and disunity within the church” and failing to not having protected and maintained a good reputation, “threatening dishonor in the name of Jesus Christ, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church and himself.

What happens next?

“Interested persons” who wish to file a complaint or appeal to the synod can do so within 30 days, according to the announcement of the verdict.

The findings – removal from office and suspension of privileges of membership – will remain in effect indefinitely, or until “penance and further obedience on his part have shown him worthy of the exercise of these privileges, and until this Court restores his ordination,” according to the announcement.

Charges were dropped against former Immanuel alumni Nate Pfeiffer and Zachary Blackwood, who resigned from their posts following the presbytery-level investigation last year.

Other members of the former council of elders – Magill, Carr and Larson – still face charges, although the exact nature of those charges remains largely unknown. Their trial is expected to take place later this month.

Report Child Abuse to Indiana Authorities

Indiana law requires any adult who suspects a child is being abused or neglected to report those suspicions to law enforcement or the Indiana Department of Children’s Services. Reports can be made anonymously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the DCS hotline: 1-800-800-5556.

You can reach IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.

Elna M. Lemons