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MESSAGES FROM THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE​

Response Timeline

Click Here for full pdf

Transparency is a high value at the Duluth Vineyard.  Our God requires it.  Jesus heals and brings to life our true selves, not the pretend selves we create to make ourselves look and feel good.  And, transparency is not our only value.  For example, the protection of victims, accountability, integrity and compassion are also important values.  Abiding by these values and constraints means we are not able to fully disclose certain details related to the misconduct allegations and our response, nor have we been apprised of certain details that, at this time, are known to GRACE or the Duluth Police Department. We are committed to factual and timely disclosure, to the extent we are legally allowed and that protects victim identity. If we discover errors in our reporting, we will be transparent, accept responsibility and correct any mistakes.

Last Updated: March 14, 2024

Oct. 6, 2022 - Jan. 31, 2023 Updates

On October 6, 2022, an individual (“Initial Reporter”) reported to the current Duluth Vineyard Youth Pastor (Clint Considine) that, approximately ten years ago when such individual was a high school student participating in Duluth Vineyard’s student ministries activities, an adult, volunteer leader (Jackson Gatlin) was having sex with a high school student participating in Duluth Vineyard’s student ministries activities and may have engaged in similar misconduct with other students (the “Initial Report”).  The Initial Report was based on contemporaneous statements made to the Initial Reporter.  The Initial Reporter said that they were not an eyewitness to the Initial Report.  At that time, the Initial Reporter was not in contact with any alleged victims.  The Initial Reporter did not tell (and has not told) the Duluth Vineyard the names of any alleged victims.  The Initial Report did not contain any allegation of wrongdoing against Michael Gatlin, Jackson Gatlin’s father and Senior Pastor.  The Initial Reporter originally stated that they heard from a potential witness that Brenda Gatlin (Jackson’s mother and former co-Senior Pastor) was made aware of misconduct at the time and had not taken the allegations seriously.  Later, the Initial Reporter said that they followed up with their source and the potential witness said that they were mistaken and did not have any reason to believe that Brenda knew at the time.

On October 11, 2022, Clint Considine brought the Initial Report to a member of Duluth Vineyard’s Senior Leadership Team (John Kliewer) pursuant to the Code of Sexual Conduct of Duluth Vineyard.  Because (a) Jackson Gatlin was then an employee of Duluth Vineyard in pastoral leadership, although he was an adult volunteer at the time of the alleged sexual misconduct, and (b) Jackson Gatlin was a relative of Duluth Vineyard’s Senior Pastor and President (Michael Gatlin) and Duluth Vineyard’s Vice President (Brenda Gatlin) in both cases as “relative” is defined in Duluth Vineyard’s Nepotism Policy, John Kliewer told Clint Considine that they were not going to tell Michael or Brenda about the Initial Report, but rather take it directly to the Duluth Vineyard Church Council (Board of Directors under Minnesota law).

Between October 12th and 16th, John Kliewer called four members of the Church Council (Ben Mork,  Ann LaCosse, Jerry Lieffring and Gerry Nierengarten) and delivered the Initial Report to them.  The Initial Report was not shared with the full Church Council, but only with these “independent Church Council members” as defined in Article V, Section 2 of the Church’s Bylaws in order to preserve the independence of any investigation of the Initial Report, to achieve the intent of the Nepotism Policy, and in keeping with the Audit Committee’s authority related to “the Church’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements and ethical standards” as stated in the Charter of the Audit Committee.

On October 17, 2022, Clint Considine and John Kliewer met with the independent Church Council members (Ben Mork,  Ann LaCosse, Jerry Lieffring and Gerry Nierengarten) and discussed the Initial Report with them.

  • The group prayed for the victims.
  • The independent Church Council members determined that a Duluth Vineyard investigation of the Initial Report, conducted and managed independently of Duluth Vineyard’s management and employees, was required.
  • The independent Church Council members discussed options for such an independent investigation, including retaining GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).
  • Numerous meetings of the independent Church Council members followed.

From October 13, 2022 to December 14, 2022, the four independent Church Council members (Ben Mork,  Ann LaCosse, Jerry Lieffring and Gerry Nierengarten), with the assistance of John Kliewer, spent time in prayer, researched best practices for responding to allegations of sexual abuse within churches, and consulted with legal and other experts.

  • On November 7, 2023, Ben Mork first met with representatives from GRACE.  In the ongoing discussion with GRACE, they said that they could not start an investigation until January 2023 at the earliest.

On November 9, 2022, although (from the limited information available and their looking at the statutes) it was unclear to the Special Committee, John Kliewer and Clint Considine whether a crime had been committed, nevertheless Clint Considine delivered the Initial Report to the police. A police investigator told Clint that there was little the police could do without the victims’ names.

On November 23, 2022, Ben Mork and Clint Considine interviewed the Initial Reporter to better understand the Initial Report and better assess the Initial Reporter’s credibility.  The Initial Reporter did not tell the Duluth Vineyard the names of the alleged victims.

In December 2022, the independent Church Council members received confirmation, through the Initial Reporter, that alleged victims related to the Initial Report had indicated their willingness to cooperate with an independent investigation and tell their stories to GRACE.  This was the chief factor in the Special Committee deciding that it was time to suspend Jackson Gatlin.

In December 2022, while continuing to pray for victims, the independent Church Council members started researching and discussing how they could help victims in practical ways.  For more information, click here to read the statement that resulted from this work.

On December 13, 2022, Brian Brinkert and Casey LaCore were told of the Initial Report so that they could help with pastoral care and the suspension of Jackson Gatlin.

On December 14, 2022, Robb Morgan of Vineyard USA was informed of the Initial Report and the independent Church Council members’ plans to respond.  Robb Morgan provided his advice and counsel.

On December 14, 2022, the Church Council met.  All seven members were present, including Michael Gatlin.  The Church Council formed the Special Committee, established its authority, and elected its members (Ben Mork,  Ann LaCosse, Jerry Lieffring and Gerry Nierengarten).  Because the Special Committee members are “independent” as defined in Duluth Vineyard’s Bylaws (Article V, Section 2 – not current employee or employed within last three years, no business relationship, no relative who is or was employee or business relationship), the Committee is a key element in guaranteeing the independence of the investigation.  The second key element was retaining an independent, non-agent firm to conduct a professional investigation.  Similarly, Duluth Vineyard’s financial statements are audited by an independent, non-agent accounting firm that is retained by and delivers their report to an independent Audit Committee.  This investigation of misconduct deserves at least the same level of independence, care and professionalism.  For more details, click here to see the meeting minutes.

On December 14, 2022, at the Church Council meeting, Michael Gatlin was told of the Initial Report and that Jackson Gatlin would be suspended.  Michael and Brenda were told that they must cooperate fully with the independent GRACE investigation.  The Church Council prayed for Michael.  For more details, click here for the letter to Michael & Brenda Gatlin.

On December 14, 2022, Jackson Gatlin was indefinitely suspended by the Special Committee.  During this suspension, Jackson was not permitted on Duluth Vineyard property or to have any contact with any other employees or participants (past or present) in the Duluth Vineyard community, unless specifically authorized.  Jackson was also told that he must cooperate fully with the independent GRACE investigation.  Brian Brinkert and John Kliewer met with Jackson and prayed for him.  Jerry Lieffring (member of the Special Committee) and Michele DeNoble (member of the Church Council) also met with Lindsey Gatlin (Jackson’s wife), informed her of the Initial Report, and prayed for her.  For more details, click here to see the suspension letter.

From December 14, 2022 to January 29, 2023, the Special Committee, with the assistance of John Kliewer, continued to spend time in prayer, researched and discussed best practices for responding to allegations of sexual abuse within churches, and planned the Church’s response to the Initial Report.  Due to their limited availability, the Special Committee also waited for GRACE to be able to start their investigation.  It is very sad that a company like GRACE is so busy.

  • Early January 2023, Michael Gatlin suggested that both he and the Special Committee could use The Leader’s Journey for advice and support.
  • On January 20, 2023, after being contacted by Gerry Nierengarten (member of the Special Committee), Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor of The Leader’s Journey met with the Special Committee, Michael Gatlin and John Kliewer to discuss the situation.  The Leader’s Journey requested a follow-up meeting with only the Special Committee.
  • On January 22, 2023, the Special Committee met with Jim Herrington and Trisha Taylor to discuss how The Leader’s Journey could help with pastoral care and communications advice and support.
  • On January 24, 2023, the Church Council approved the engagement of The Leader’s Journey.

On December 15, 2023, the Duluth Vineyard staff was told of the Initial Report and Jackson Gatlin’s suspension.  When asked about Jackson’s absence, staff responded with this statement:  “The Duluth Vineyard has suspended Jackson Gatlin during an independent investigation of misconduct. At present, the allegations against him involve conduct from several years ago. Please contact John Kliewer with any questions or concerns.”

On January 6, 2023, Brenda Gatlin sent a message to John Kliewer, Brian Brinkert, Casey LaCore and Michael Gatlin objecting to Duluth Vineyard’s response to the Initial Report.  In addition to her arguments and opinions, the message contains a number of false statements and mischaracterizations.  To read this message, click here.

On January 8, 2023, despite being directed in the December 14, 2023 letter not to discuss the investigation with anyone other than GRACE, the Church Council, Senior Leadership Team or Michael Gatlin, Brenda Gatlin confronted two junior staff members at the Duluth Vineyard worship service.  She discussed the investigation with them and tried to persuade them to her viewpoint in an attempt to influence the investigation.

On January 8, 2023, Brenda Gatlin, Michael Gatlin, John Kliewer, Brian Brinkert and Casey LaCore met to discuss Brenda Gatlin’s January 6th written message.  In the meeting, Brenda reiterated and emphasized her viewpoints in the January 6, 2023 written message.  She strongly objected to having GRACE conduct the investigation because of her belief that a GRACE investigation would be too hard on her and her son.  She attempted to use her spiritual and positional authority, insults and bullying behavior to influence the investigation and suspension.  Brenda denied trying to influence the investigation and suspension, had a hard time agreeing with the need for an independent investigation and never fully committed not to try to influence it, and threatened to not cooperate with GRACE.  Michael Gatlin mainly asked questions and did not object to Brenda’s behavior.

On January 10, 2023, Michael Gatlin acknowledged to the Duluth Vineyard staff that Brenda Gatlin had engaged in spiritual abuse and inappropriate behavior, including during the January 8, 2023 meeting.  The staff was given the opportunity to describe the impact this had upon them.

The week of January 16, 2023, Ben Mork (chair of the Special Committee) signed a contract with GRACE retaining them for the purpose of conducting an independent investigation and analysis into allegations of past sexual misconduct by Jackson Gatlin.  It was very important to the Special Committee to retain a firm that, because they are not the agent nor owe a duty to zealously represent the Committee (such as a law firm), could conduct a victim-centric investigation.  This contract includes the following important and valuable provisions:

  • Both parties understand and acknowledge that GRACE is not an agent of Duluth Vineyard but is operating with complete independence and autonomy in conducting the above-referenced Independent Investigation and Analysis.
  • GRACE shall investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by alleged offender, Jackson Gatlin, from approximately 10 years ago when he was a volunteer leader in Student Ministries at the Duluth Vineyard Church and If there have been any instances of sexual misconduct while Jackson Gatlin has been employed by Duluth Vineyard starting in 2017.
  • GRACE shall also Identify any failures related to Duluth Vineyard management, inadequate policies or cultural factors that may have contributed, including to what extent (if any) Duluth Vineyard management was aware of any allegations of sexual misconduct by Jackson Gatlin and how the church responded.
  • As part of the Final Report, GRACE shall provide recommendations based on its findings, analysis, best practices, Scriptural values, and SAMHSA’s Six Key Principles of Trauma-Informed Practice.

Actual names of alleged victims shall not appear in the Final Report.

Middle of January 2023, the Special Committee was told by GRACE that they were able to begin their investigation at the end of January or early February.  This was the chief factor in the Special Committee deciding that it was time to make the Initial Report public.

On January 13, 2023, while continuing to pray for victims, the Special Committee started discussing the initial draft of its Victim Advocacy Response statement.  For more information, click here to read the statement that resulted from this work.

On January 29, 2023, the Special Committee told the Duluth Vineyard Leadership Team about the Initial Report, the Special Committee, and the independent GRACE investigation.  Michael Gatlin delivered a statement and then left the meeting.  Trisha Taylor and Brian Brinkert also discussed the pastoral care response at this meeting.  Robb Morgan shared Vineyard USA’s perspective and support for the Duluth Vineyard.

On January 29, 2023, the Special Committee sent an email to members and attenders of the Duluth Vineyard informing them of the Initial Report, the Special Committee, and the independent GRACE investigation.  For more information, the text of this email is on the updates page of our website.  The message also included a few of the key principles guiding the Special Committee:

  • We will continually seek Jesus’ mind and will, through His Spirit and the Word of God, in all actions and decisions related to the allegations of misconduct.
  • As Jesus said the truth will set us free, we will diligently seek the truth related to the allegations of misconduct.
  • As Jesus was always on the side of the vulnerable and the wounded, in our response to the allegations of misconduct the safety and care of the alleged victims must always come first.

On January 30, 2023, local media began reporting on the Initial Report, the Special Committee, and the independent GRACE investigation.

On January 30, 2023, victims showed extraordinary courage and began to share their heartbreaking stories of abuse by Jackson Gatlin on social media.  This was the first time the Duluth Vineyard had the names of reporting victims.  These stories included allegations of sexual assault and went beyond the Initial Report.  On social media, a reporting victim and her mother said that Michael and Brenda Gatlin were told about Jackson Gatlin’s sexual abuse at the time and failed to act.

On January 31, 2023, now with the names of the victim’s who told their stories on social media, Clint Considine again delivered the Initial Report to the police and pointed the police to the social media posts discussing abuse by Jackson Gatlin.  Clint Considine also shared with the police the same contact list of potential witnesses that the Duluth Vineyard had given GRACE, including (with their permission) the name of the Initial Reporter.  The Duluth Police Department case number is 22014633.

Feb. 1, 2023 - Feb. 20, 2023 Updates

On February 1, 2023, the Special Committee reached out directly to a witness to clarify the allegation that Michael and Brenda Gatlin were told about Jackson Gatlin’s sexual abuse at the time and failed to act.

On February 1, 2023, Vineyard USA placed  Brenda Gatlin on a 30-day leave of absence.

On February 2, 2023, the Special Committee placed Michael Gatlin on an indefinite leave of absence.  The Special Committee’s decision to place Michael Gatlin on a leave of absence, rather than suspend him, was based on the relative strength of the allegations against him.  For more information, click here to read the letter confirming the leave of absence.

On February 3, 2023, the Special Committee sent an email to members and attenders of the Duluth Vineyard informing them that the Senior Pastor (Michael Gatlin) had been placed on a leave of absence.  For more information, the text of this email is on the updates page of our website.  The message also included the following statement from the Special Committee:

  • 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.

On February 5, 2023, the misconduct allegations against Jackson, Michael and Brenda Gatlin, the Special Committee, and the independent GRACE investigation were discussed at the Duluth Vineyard’s worship services.  Gerry Nierengarten (member of the Special Committee) and John Kliewer presented the factual background as a Q&A.  Jim Herrington of The Leader’s Journey and Brian Brinkert gave a talk on how to process this situation as followers of Jesus.  For more information, click here to watch the service.

On February 6, 2023, Ann LaCosse (member of the Special Committee) met with the Duluth Vineyard’s insurance carrier to discuss the Special Committee’s Victim Advocacy Response statement.  For more information, click here to read the statement.

On February 8, 2023, the Special Committee’s Victim Advocacy Response statement started to be shared with individual victims by the Duluth Vineyard pastoral staff.  For more information, click here to read the statement.

On February 9, 2023, the GRACE investigators toured the Duluth Vineyard’s Arrowhead facility and requested and received copies of documents.  The investigators are former police sex crimes investigators with extensive experience.

On or before February 9, 2023, the GRACE investigators requested an interview from Jackson Gatlin and he directed all questions to his attorney.

On February 10, 2023, Vineyard USA suspended Brenda Gatlin pending an investigation by Vineyard USA.

On February 10, 2023, the Special Committee sent a letter to Michael Gatlin confirming that he had been placed on a leave of absence.  While on leave he was not permitted upon Duluth Vineyard property or at Duluth Vineyard events without written authorization.  Beyond the Special Committee, Michael was directed not to discuss the allegations or the misconduct with any participants (past or present) in the Duluth Vineyard community.  Michael was also reminded that he must cooperate fully with both any law enforcement investigation and the Special Committee’s independent investigation.  For more information, click here to read the letter confirming the leave of absence.

On February 10, 2023, Ben Mork (chair of the Special Committee) emailed Jackson Gatlin to ask if he would meet with GRACE as requested by GRACE.  In Jackson’s response, he did not agree to cooperate with GRACE.  For more information, click here to read the email exchange.

On February 11, 2023, Michael Gatlin sent a text message to the Special Committee stating that he fully intended to abide by the parameters of his leave.

On February 11, 2023, Ben Mork (chair of the Special Committee) emailed Jackson Gatlin and told him that his failure or refusal to go through with the interview with GRACE, as previously directed and requested, may result in the termination of his employment with the Vineyard Duluth.  Jackson was asked to advise whether he would meet with GRACE as previously requested and directed.  Jackson did not so advise.  For more information, click here to read the email exchange.

On February 12, 2023, the Special Committee terminated Jackson Gatlin’s employment for his failure and refusal, as requested and directed, to meet with the GRACE investigators.  The Special Committee offered Jackson a $3,197 payment in exchange for a release of all his claims against the Duluth Vineyard.  Jackson did not accept this offer and no payment was made.  For more information, click here to read the notice of termination.

On February 12, 2023, VineyardKid’s hosted a training with First Witness and PAVSA at the Duluth Vineyard for staff and volunteers.

On February 13, 2023, GRACE asked John Kliewer to search Duluth Vineyard’s files and email accounts for a multipage complaint letter related to HLI (the “HLI Complaint”).  The 56 page complaint was found that day.  At the time it was made, the HLI Complaint went to both Michael and Brenda Gatlin.  The many allegations in the HLI Complaint include behavior constituting sexual harassment under Duluth Vineyard’s policies, harsh and unkind treatment, and spiritual abuse by Jackson Gatlin and spiritual abuse by Brenda Gatlin.  No record of any investigation or disciplinary action was found.  At the time these complaints originally surfaced, the Church Council was evaluating and deciding whether to continue the HLI program.  Neither Michael nor Brenda shared this pertinent information with the Church Council.

On February 15, 2023 the Church Council met.  Six members were present and Michael Gatlin was absent.  The Church Council clarified the authority of the Special Committee and revoked a temporary exemption to Duluth Vineyard’s Nepotism Policy that allowed Michael Gatlin to oversee Lindsey Gatlin.  The Church Council decided it would no longer approve any exceptions to the Nepotism Policy.  For more information, click here to read the Council resolutions and click here to read the Nepotism Policy.

  • Pursuant to Duluth Vineyard’s Nepotism Policy no exemptions to the policy will be made without the consent of the Church Council.  Jackson Gatlin was hired by Michael and Brenda Gatlin in March 2017 without an exception.  Later, on April 19, 2017, August 15, 2018 and August 21, 2019 the Church Council approved temporary (generally one year) Nepotism Policy exceptions for Brenda to oversee Jackson.  On February 9, 2022, the Church Council approved a one year Nepotism Policy exception for Michael to oversee Jackson.  These exceptions were presented or proposed to the Church Council by John Kliewer as Corporate Secretary for Michael Gatlin.

In Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer’s helpful book A Church Called TOV, they write:  “Toxicity will take root in a church’s culture when the congregation and leaders interact in toxic and dysfunctional ways, until the balance tips in the direction of toxicity. When a church’s culture becomes toxic, the challenge to resist becomes harder and harder. To resist a toxic culture-especially one that is famous for its ministries, its leaders, its impact -requires courage, hope, and perseverance. Never underestimate the power of culture.” and  “We, as the church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, have to do the hard work of speaking frankly about our sins and failings, repenting actively, and reconstructing a church culture rooted in truth, grace, and transparency.”

On February 17, 2023, the Special Committee requested and received information from HLI founding director Jenna Stepp concerning the HLI Complaint.

On February 17, 2023, GRACE informed the Special Committee that they had received other allegations of misconduct (not sexual) regarding Jackson (including in the HLI Complaint) that went beyond the scope of the investigation in Duluth Vineyard’s legal contract with GRACE.  GRACE did not want to assume the Special Committee would like them to investigate these other allegations and requested to amend the scope of their investigation.

On February 17, 2023, Ben Mork (chair of the Special Committee) emailed Michael Gatlin and directed him to submit a written statement to the Special Committee, no later than Sunday, February 19, 2023 at noon Central Time, detailing his response and the actions he took, if any, to the HLI Complaint.  The email also directed Michael to be interviewed and answer questions about this matter for the Special Committee or its agent.  This action was separate and apart from the GRACE investigation.  The Special Committee had determined that, if Michael had failed to respond to the HLI Complaint, it likely constituted a fireable offense and thus decided to conduct a separate limited investigation of the HLI Complaint, using Justin Terch of Terch & Associates to interview Michael.  For more information, click here to read the email.

On February 18, 2023, Michael Gatlin asked for access to his Duluth Vineyard google account to reconstruct his response to the HLI Complaint.  Due to the risk of evidence tampering, the Special Committee said no.  For more information, click here to read the email exchange.

On February 19, 2023, the noon deadline passed and Michael Gatlin had not provided the written statement that he was directed by the Special Committee to submit.  The Special Committee again directed Michael to provide a written statement detailing his response to the HLI Complaint and set a new deadline of no later than February 20, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. Central Time.  The Special Committee also advised Michael that failure to provide such a statement or to be interviewed may result in the termination of his employment with the Vineyard Duluth.  Such a termination would have also resulted in his automatic removal as Senior Pastor and President.  For more information, click here to read the letter to Michael (although the letter was sent on February 19, it was wrongly dated February 10).

  • Under Article VII (Officers) of Duluth Vineyard’s Bylaws, Senior Pastor is a corporate officer position, like President, Treasurer and Secretary.  Officers need not be employees.  Generally, removing someone from the officer position of Senior Pastor requires a vote of the Church Council, Senior Leadership Team and Congressional Members.  However, if the Senior Pastor is an employee, the Bylaws say that:  “Any officer whose employment is terminated by [Duluth Vineyard] for any reason shall be automatically removed from office.”

On February 19, 2023, the Special Committee expanded the scope of GRACE’s engagement to include the HLI Complaint, any similar spiritual abuse, and how the church responded, including Michael and Brenda Gatlin’s response.

Because they are independent and not the agent of the Duluth Vineyard, GRACE was not keeping the Special Committee informed of their interview requests.  However, based on indirect evidence (including statements made by Michael Gatlin) the Special Committee believes GRACE requested an interview of Michael Gatlin on or around February 19, 2023.

On February 20, 2023, Michael Gatlin resigned as Duluth Vineyard’s Senior Pastor.  That day the Special Committee, with a heavy heart, accepted his resignation.  Michael’s resignation preempted the Special Committee terminating him for insubordination, particularly his failure to provide a written statement as directed.  Because GRACE requested that his resignation letter not be shared (due to the possibility of it interfering with their investigation), the Special Committee did not make Michael’s resignation letter public at that time.  Now that GRACE’s investigation is complete and they have delivered their report, you can click here to read his resignation letter.  The Special Committee’s response to Michael’s resignation letter is on the updates page of our website and is dated May 8, 2023.

On February 20, 2023, the Special Committee terminated Brenda Gatlin’s limited joint employment.  Although at the time Brenda performed work for Vineyard USA as a Super Regional Leader and not for the Duluth Vineyard, she was paid by the Duluth Vineyard using funds provided by Vineyard USA.  In this limited sense, she was a joint employee.  Further, after her departure in 2021 to work for Vineyard USA, Brenda continued to be the corporate Vice President of the Duluth Vineyard.  Michael was the President and with his resignation Brenda would effectively become the acting President.  Under Article VII, Section 3.D. of Duluth Vineyard’s Bylaws, terminating Brenda’s employment automatically removed her as Vice President.  For more information, click here to read the notice of termination.

Feb. 22, 2023 - Mar. 14, 2024 Updates

On February 22, 2023, Gerry Nierengarten (member of the Special Committee) texted Michael Gatlin on behalf of the Special Committee to tell him that she was praying for him and that (1) his request for severance was being considered (no severance or other payment has been paid), (2) a time needed to be arranged for him to collect his personal items and return all Duluth Vineyard property, (3) he was directed not to attempt to sign onto the Duluth Vineyard computer network or to come onto any Duluth Vineyard property, and (4) that the Special Committee would likely make an announcement of his resignation before Sunday, February 26th.

On February 23, 2023, the Special Committee told the Duluth Vineyard Leadership Team that Michael Gatlin had resigned as Duluth Vineyard’s Senior Pastor.  Brian Brinkert and Steph Bremer also discussed the pastoral care response at this meeting.

On February 23, 2023, the Special Committee sent an email to members and attenders of the Duluth Vineyard informing them that Michael Gatlin had resigned as Duluth Vineyard’s Senior Pastor.  For more information, the text of this email is on the updates page of our website.  The message included the following statement from the Special Committee:

  • For all of us who love Michael and have benefited from his ministry as the Senior Pastor of the Duluth Vineyard, we remind you that more than one thing can be true at the same time. Michael is a gifted leader and God has used him in powerful ways. Michael has helped many of us experience the love and new life that Jesus brings. And, at the same time, Michael is human just like us. We all fall short. We need to be patient and wait for the fact finding to be complete, yet the allegations against Michael are serious.

On February 24, 2023, Brenda Gatlin resigned as Super Regional Leader of Vineyard USA with a resignation letter substantially similar to Michael Gatlin’s letter of resignation from the Duluth Vineyard.

On February 26, 2023, the resignation of Michael Gatlin as Duluth Vineyard’s Senior Pastor was discussed at the Duluth Vineyard’s worship services.  Gerry Nierengarten (member of the Special Committee) and John Kliewer presented the factual background as a Q&A.  Trisha Taylor of The Leader’s Journey and Steph Bremer gave a talk on how to process this situation as followers of Jesus.  For more information, click here to watch the service.

On February 28, 2023, the Special Committee started to use the framework for reconciliation in Psalm 85:10 to guide them.  For more information, click here for “The Meeting Place” by John Paul Lederach and click here for Truth Justice Mercy Peace by David Works.

March 28-29, 2023, the Special Committee and staff consulted with Robb Morgan, Managing Director, Vineyard USA during his visit to Duluth.

On May 4, 2023, the Duluth Police Department executed a search warrant at the Duluth Vineyard’s Arrowhead location.  The Duluth Vineyard cooperated fully.  The Special Committee’s statement at the time is on the updates page of our website.

May 9-10, 2023, the Special Committee and staff consulted with Danny Mercado, Regional Leader, Midwest North, John Elmer, Super Regional Leader, Vineyard USA, Robb Morgan, Managing Director, Vineyard USA and Jay Pathak, National Director, Vineyard USA during their visit to Duluth.

On May 15, 2023, the Special Committee put Michael and Brenda Gatlin under church discipline and laid out the start of a path for reconciliation and restoration.  Church discipline is divine authority delegated to the church by Jesus to maintain order through the correction of sinning church members for the good of those caught in sin, for the purity and unity of the church, and for the glory of God.  For more on church discipline, please see Matthew 18:15-20, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians 1:8-9 and 6:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, and Titus 3:10-11.  At this point, Michael and Brenda have not expressed or demonstrated a willingness to participate in the process of reconciliation and restoration the Special Committee described.  For more details, click here to see the church discipline letter sent to Michael and Brenda.

On May 22, 2023, the Special Committee put Jackson Gatlin under church discipline and laid out the start of a path for reconciliation and restoration.  Church discipline is divine authority delegated to the church by Jesus to maintain order through the correction of sinning church members for the good of those caught in sin, for the purity and unity of the church, and for the glory of God.  For more on church discipline, please see Matthew 18:15-20, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians 1:8-9 and 6:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, and Titus 3:10-11.  At this point, Jackson has not expressed or demonstrated a willingness to participate in the process of reconciliation and restoration the Special Committee described.  For more details, click here to see the church discipline letter sent to Jackson.

On June 4, 2023, Michael Gatlin emailed the Special Committee regarding church discipline.  In that email, Michael asked the Duluth Vineyard to officially remove him and Brenda Gatlin as members of the Duluth Vineyard.  They were removed as requested.  For more information, click here to read the email exchange.

On June 8, 2023, the Special Committee responded to issues raised by Michael Gatlin regarding Church Discipline.  For more information, click here to read the email exchange.

On August 22, 2023, officials from St. Louis County conducted a mandated reporter training for the Duluth Vineyard staff.

On September 10, 2023, the Duluth Vineyard began a series of talks on lament at our weekend services.  Pain, trauma and grief are not tame.  And, they’re vicious. Lament gives us permission to wrestle with our sorrow instead of rushing to the end.  Lament is how we bring our sorrow to God and process it.  All humans cry, but followers of Jesus lament.  In faith, we turn to God and ask:  Where are you/where were you? And, if you love me, then why?  And, as we invite God into that place, our hearts turn to trust, even praise.  For more, click here.

On September 20, 2023, Trisha Taylor and Elissa Lappenga of The Leader’s Journey began training our leaders to hold space for healing.  Everyone is in a different spot when it comes to processing the trauma of the last year.  Many are experiencing trauma and betrayal from the Gatlins’ behavior that they need to process further.  Many are experiencing trauma from losing the Gatlins.  They are loved and missed.  And, many are experiencing guilt and sorrow for their involvement in a church where the Gatlins could cause so much harm.  For those that need some help, the Vineyard is preparing our leaders to offer healing path opportunities.

On October 3, 2023, Jackson Gatlin was charged with criminal sexual conduct and taken into custody.  Five criminal complaints were filed against him.  To read the complaints, click here (contains graphic depictions of alleged sexual abuse).  Please also see the message from the Special Committee on October 3rd.

On November 20, 2023, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) sent the final report from their independent investigation to the Special Committee.  GRACE is a nationally recognized organization that works to address and prevent sexual abuse within Christian communities.  GRACE was retained by the Special Committee to conduct an independent investigation and analysis.  GRACE made findings related to sexual misconduct, cover up, abuse of pastoral or spiritual power, and emotional abuse. The accounts of abuse and harm described in the GRACE report are a representative sample of the reports that GRACE could corroborate.  Separate from the GRACE report, the Special Committee has heard dozens of personal testimonies during 2023 from people who bravely came forward with their experience of spiritual or emotional abuse by Michael, Brenda and Jackson Gatlin.  To read the full GRACE report, click here.  The Special Committee’s statement at the time is on the updates page of our website.

On November 27, 2023, the Duluth Vineyard hosted a training on understanding abuse in the church.  God loves and works through his church.  And abuse can happen anywhere, even at church.  We need to be able to recognize abuse in its many forms (sexual, emotional, spiritual, etc.) so that we can confront and prevent it.  In this learning opportunity, Trisha Taylor and Elissa Lappenga from The Leader’s Journey helped us understand what abuse is (and isn’t), how it happens and how to address it in order to make our churches, our families, and those we love places of safety and healing.

On December 7, 2023, Duluth Vineyard hosted a Lament and Repentance Service related to the abuse found in the GRACE report.  This service was an opportunity to bring our sorrow to God. We cried out and lamented the trauma and betrayal the Gatlins’ behavior has caused. We remembered and lamented the loss of the Gatlins as trusted leaders. And, we pressed into our collective guilt and sorrow for our involvement in a church where the Gatlins could cause so much harm. We shed tears, asked hard questions, and turned back to God in praise because God is our hope and we will cling to him.  To watch this special service, click here.  For our related sermon series on lament, click here.

On December 14, 2023, the Special Committee sent an updated church discipline letter to Michael and Brenda Gatlin.  Church discipline is divine authority delegated to the church by Jesus to maintain order through the correction of sinning church members for the good of those caught in sin, for the purity and unity of the church, and for the glory of God.  For more on church discipline, please see Matthew 18:15-20, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians 1:8-9 and 6:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, and Titus 3:10-11. For more details, click here to read the updated church discipline letter sent to Michael and Brenda. 

On December 14, 2023, the Special Committee sent an updated church discipline letter to Jackson Gatlin.  Church discipline is divine authority delegated to the church by Jesus to maintain order through the correction of sinning church members for the good of those caught in sin, for the purity and unity of the church, and for the glory of God.  For more on church discipline, please see Matthew 18:15-20, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians 1:8-9 and 6:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, and Titus 3:10-11.  For more details, click here to read the updated church discipline letter sent to Jackson.

On December 20, 2023, the Church Council met.  All six members were present.  With the receipt of the final GRACE report and their work providing independent oversight of the investigation complete, the Church Council disbanded the Special Committee.  As a committee of the Church Council, all the Special Committee’s authority was derived from the Church Council and continues with the Church Council, including the authority over church discipline.  The Church Council also appointed Ben Mork, former chair of the Special Committee, as the Church Council’s point person for church discipline related to the Gatlins.

On February 29, 2024, the Duluth Vineyard was making progress implementing the recommendations found in the GRACE report.  This process is being led by the Senior Leadership Team with oversight from the Church Council.  The implementation of recommendations A, B, D, H and J has been completed.  Of note, pursuant to recommendation H, Clint Considine (our outreach pastor and a social work student at UMD) has been identified as our point of responsibility to lead and oversee our trauma-informed approach.  The work on recommendations E and I is ongoing and expected to be completed within the next year.  The work on recommendations C, F, G and K is also ongoing, yet these recommendations are not expected to have a set completion date as much as to become an ongoing part of the fabric of the Duluth Vineyard.  We remain grateful for the expert recommendations within the GRACE report and intend to implement them all.  These changes will help make our community a safer place.  They will also help us establish a culture that is more resistant to abuse and toxicity. 

On March 14, 2024, the Church Council was continuing to pray that, through church discipline and a process of repentance, reconciliation and restoration, truth, mercy, justice and peace will meet as described in Psalm 85:10.  The church discipline against Michael, Brenda and Jackson Gatlin remained fully in place.  The process of reconciliation and restoration for Michael and Brenda was effectively stalled and the process for Jackson was awaiting completion of the criminal case against him.  We owe a duty to our community to keep them updated regarding the church discipline of our former senior pastors.

  • On January 31, 2024, Michael and Brenda submitted statements to the Church Council related to their response to certain allegations of misconduct made in 2019 regarding Jackson Gatlin and the HLI training program.
  • Michael and Brenda’s path to restoration continues to include participating in additional fact-finding to supplement the GRACE report, including being interviewed by GRACE or another independent investigator working on the Duluth Vineyard’s behalf.
  • None of the Gatlins have demonstrated meaningful repentance.  Similarly, they have not expressed any remorse for their actions or admitted any sin against our church or its people.
  • The Church Council has received reports that Michael and Brenda are violating Duluth Vineyard’s church discipline by attending services at a Vineyard church in Colorado.
  • The Church Council has also heard concerns that Michael and Brenda are praying for people at such church in Colorado.  The Church Council has directed those raising such concerns to voice them to the leadership of that church.  This local church in Colorado is also under the leadership of the National Director of Vineyard USA.
  • As is their right, the Vineyard church in Colorado that Michael and Brenda are attending has chosen not to support Duluth Vineyard’s church discipline.  Similarly, Vineyard USA is not supporting the particulars of Duluth Vineyard’s church discipline plan.

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LOCATION & SERVICE TIMES

In-Person Services:

Arrowhead – Sundays at 9am & 11am
1533 W Arrowhead Rd. Duluth, MN 55811

Eastside
3833 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55804


Online Services – Sundays at 9 & 11am


Lobby Hours:
Tuesday – Thursday 9am-1pm

Fruit of the Vine Hours:
Tuesday 6-8pm & Saturday 9:30-11:30am


(218) 525-3462 · [email protected]