The executive pastor of Main Street Church is facing multiple child pornography charges.
Johannes (John) Vermeer was arrested a week and a half ago and had his first court appearance March 29, facing four child porn charges.
The 58-year-old faces one count each of possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography from May 1, 2010. He also faces the same charges with an offence date of March 17, 2015.
The Progress learned that senior pastor Shawn Vandop informed the congregation about the charges at both services on Sunday at the downtown Chilliwack church. Vandop confirmed that Monday, stating that members of the congregation met the news with “shock.”
“It’s not something that we want to hear or want to deal with but we live in a broken and messy world with a lot of pain,” he said, adding that right from the beginning of the investigation, church staff were co-operative.
“We actually reported this to police when we heard there was this activity on the computer system,” Vandop said.
Once they were able to, Vandop felt it best to inform everyone in the church rather than let rumours fester. He added that it was important they make it clear Vermeer is no longer an employee of the church in case there was any perception of risk to kids as they offer many programs for youth.
“No child in our care is impacted by this situation,” he said. “That’s really important.”
Vermeer was in the news in 2011 when the congregation of Promontory Community Church first purchased the Liquidation World building at Main Street and Princess Avenue in 2011. In 2013, the downtown ministry was named Main Street Church while Promontory one was renamed Hillside Community Church.
In 2014, the two churches came together under one roof at the ever-expanding location on Main Street.
Vermeer has served as executive pastor – an administrative role – for the church since 2009.
Vermeer was a member of the city’s downtown core task force and was elected to the 2011/2012 Downtown Business Improvement Association board.
Vermeer is also an executive committee member of the B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (BCMB), but as of March 29, 2018, his profile photo and bio are no longer on the www.bcmb.org website.
A Google-cached version of that bio page gives his background at Main Street, stating he has an extensive background in business and post-secondary education. He and his wife Anita have been married for 39 years and have two grown daughters.
When contacted Monday, BCMB director of resource ministries Denis Federau said Vermeer contacted them the day after his arrest to resign from the board.
“Our concern is first and foremost for anybody that is involved,” Federau said. “We are glad that the police are investigating and we have full confidence in the courts’ proceedings.”
Asked if Vermeer would be supported by BCMB or would the organization clean its hands of him, Federau said the former.
“No, we don’t clean our hands,” he said. “What we want to do is continue to support him and his wife by prayer. We are a religious organization so we want to support him emotionally spiritually.
“We want to step out of the way and let the process take place and get to the truth.”
Vermeer is next due in court April 17 at 9 a.m.