"We mute the realization of malevolence- which is too threatening to bear – by turning offenders into victims themselves and by describing their behavior as the result of forces beyond their control.” ― Anna C. Salter, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders link
FYI: I contacted FCC for their public statement on the matter. They have not returned my call. We are expecting the local NBC affiliate to run this story tomorrow evening. There may be newspaper coverage as well. Look for an interview with Amy Smith (wearing a beautiful scarf!) and a statement from Eagle.
Your kids are not safe in many churches even if they say they do background checks for those who work with children. This is a deceptive statement. You need to do your own background checks on pastors, church leaders, and all those who volunteer to help around the church in any fashion. Why? There are some churches who will not tell you that they have no trouble with *repentant* pedophiles having free reign in the church except in the children's area. Pedophiles can be found disguised as greeters, pastors, elders, deacons, ushers and the coffee cleanup lady. Pedophiles love churches since people are so trusting in that environment. Don't be fooled into thinking your children are safe.
Church safety statements say less than you think they do.
I am sure that before you put your kids in a church based Sunday school program, you look to see what safety measures are in place. For example, here is a statement found at Elevation Church's website regarding child safety in their eKIDZ program.
All eKidz volunteers pass a background check, and we employ an off-duty police officer as well as our own security team to ensure your child’s safety. We use a security tag system for child check-in and pick-up, and a paging system for parents/guardians in case we need to reach you during the worship experience.
However, for TWW readers, we know that Elevation Church has a convicted abuser of internet child sex abuse who served time in a federal prison for his activities. No, he just doesn't go to church where he is watched very, very closely. He is a greeter which means he has contact with families. He leads a Bible study. He is Stephen Furtick's declared hero and even got to sign autographs after a church service. He has been deemed *cured* by people who do not know any better.
We wrote a several posts about this. Here are the links for those who are new to our blog. It will draw some interesting parallels to the FCC.
- The Sins of Our Fathers: Elevation Church Needs to Know That Repentant Pedophiles Are Not Heroes
- What Steven Furtick Should Tell Elevation Church About Norm Vigue and Child Pornography
- Elevation Church Removes Video of Furtick on Stage Hugging Norm After Prison.
After writing these posts, I assumed that such situations were rare and chalked it up to the rather unusual goings on at Elevation Church. However, I was immediately proven wrong.
Fairfax Community Church's Care Director Eric Nickle is on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry.
Approximately 1 1/2 years ago, my husband and I, along with a number of other people, attended the baptism of Eagle at Fairfax Community Church. I was shocked when Eagle recently informed me about the issue with Eric Nickle. Amy Smith posted the documents proving that Nickle's has a criminal sex offender history: Convicted child sex offender listed as violent on VA state registry is "Care Director" pastor at Fairfax Community Church.
If you go to the Amy's blog and click on the links, you will find that Nickel is not only an offender but he is classified as a *violent* offender. Did you catch that?
What was his crime?
According to Watchkeep/official records:
Eric Nickle was convicted on October 13, 2000 for Indecent Liberties with a Child by Custodian. VA law code 18.2-370.1 is listed on Nickle's sex offender registry. His initial registration was on July 17, 2000 and renewed on July 20, 2015.
What does that mean? (see link at Amy's site.)
§ 18.2-370.1. Taking indecent liberties with child by person in custodial or supervisory relationship; penalties.
A. Any person 18 years of age or older who, except as provided in § 18.2-370, maintains a custodial or supervisory relationship over a child under the age of 18 and is not legally married to such child and such child is not emancipated who, with lascivious intent, knowingly and intentionally (i) proposes that any such child feel or fondle the sexual or genital parts of such person or that such person feel or handle the sexual or genital parts of the child; or (ii) proposes to such child the performance of an act of sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus or any act constituting an offense under § 18.2-361; or (iii) exposes his or her sexual or genital parts to such child; or (iv) proposes that any such child expose his or her sexual or genital parts to such person; or (v) proposes to the child that the child engage in sexual intercourse, sodomy or fondling of sexual or genital parts with another person; or (vi) sexually abuses the child as defined in subdivision 6 of §18.2-67.10 is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
B. Any person who is convicted of a second or subsequent violation of this section is guilty of a Class 5 felony, provided that (i) the offenses were not part of a common act, transaction or scheme; (ii) the accused was at liberty as defined in § 53.1-151 between each conviction; and (iii) it is admitted, or found by the jury or judge before whom the person is tried, that the accused was previously convicted of a violation of this section.
1982, c. 521; 1986, c. 503; 1991, c. 517; 2001, c. 840; 2005, c. 185; 2014, c. 794
What is Eric Nickle's position at Fairfax Community Church?
He is the Care Director. Yesterday, Fairfax removed the following page on Eric Nickle from their website. This may be due to the fact that the media has latched onto this story and will be doing a report of it tomorrow. We will keep you informed.
Amy, however, found the deleted page on web cache and we now have screen shots. Take a look at what he does and what he did when he first came to the church.
What in tarnation is Fairfax Community Church (as well as Elevation Church) doing by allowing a sex offender to greet people coming to the church??!! This is the easiest way to get to know the families with children. Also, by shaking hands and gabbing, Nickle is put in a position of trust by the church leaders and this causes both parents and children to believe he is a trustworthy individual.
He is the Care Director. My guess is that he is charge of the FCC Community Care progam.Take a look at the programs offered through this. The include recovery programs for children as well as adults.
At this link, you will find the Nickle is in charge of new small group formation.
At this link, you will find the Nickle is the contact person for the men's General Issue Group. He has an email at the church which might indicate that he is actually hired by the church: firstname.lastname@example.org. Note the topics for discussion in this group.
This group of men deal with a wide range of issues; anger, anxiety, chemical dependency/alcoholism, sexual issues, broken relationships, etc. We all have issues. During the group’s sharing time we discuss our victory, strength and hope with regards to own personal issues. We employ practical tools for life change based on Biblical truths and a community in Christ.
Eagle, former attendee of FCC, wrote about his concerns regarding Nickle.
Eagle wrote Why Does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry? He has two main concerns about Nickle being in a position of trust at FCC.
Pedophiles are at risk of re-offense.
Pedophilia is not just a *mistake.* It is a sexual dysfunction in which the individual finds sex with children preferable to adults. This is not something that "just goes away with prayer." For most afflicted with this dysfunction, it is a life-long struggle. Pedophiles carry out their deeds when no one is around to witness the offense. No one, except for Nickle, can truly know if he is safe. If he is truly repentant, he should understand that by engaging in this crime, he has forfeited his right to be trusted around children for the rest of his life.
Sovereign Grace Ministries
As you will read in Eagle's narrative, many people fleeing membership in a nearby SGM church tend to come to Fairfax Community Church. How do you think they will react when they find out about an sex offender in a position of trust whose background has not been disclosed to the church members?
Begin Eagle's narrative
The Cult Around the Corner
…In a Google review Fairfax Community Church is described as a place for healing for those injured by the cult around the corner. I have another question for Rod Stafford, Andy Gingrich and others in Fairfax Community Church leadership. What does this quote mean? What is the cult around the corner from Fairfax Community Church? If you live in the Washington, D.C. area let me spill the beans on a dirty little secret I first heard in 2006, 2007 when I attended McLean Bible Church.
I was speaking with a guy I knew whose family is Baptist. He explained to me that he went to a Catholic school for education. I asked him why didn’t he attended an evangelical Christian school? He said the other alternative is Covenant Life School. I was puzzled…why did he go to a Catholic one instead? He said it was extremely fundamentalist. Plus it was also referenced that Covenant Life Church was looked at as a cult by many Christians in the DC area as well as the affiliated churches in the same movement.
…The cult around the corner is none other than Sovereign Grace Fairfax. …. After all it was one of the churches involved in the largest lawsuit for allegedly covering up child sex abuse in United States history.
[Editor’s note: At this point, Eagle reviews the allegations of sex abuse at SGM Fairfax. Please take the time to read these stories if you have not done so. Warning: They are heart wrenching.]
How I Stumbled Upon the Information Regarding Eric Nickle
One night I was reading and researching about FCC. I had been through so much spiritually that I wanted to research where I was attending, especially if I was going to call FCC home. I had endured a false accusation from a Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington and I was also clinging and looking for a place to find support. It should also be noted that the false accusation was the darkest season in my life.
As I researched FCC and looked at Google/Yelp reviews I noticed a comment made by a mother who pointed out that Eric Nickle was on the Virginia Sex Offender registry and walked around freely. She was concerned about the children and families that were in his presence, I saw that and I was deeply disturbed. I realized that Fairfax Community Church was going to be the third evangelical Christian church I was involved with which struggled with how to handle the issue of dealing with a sex offender.
I raised it with Dee Parsons who checked it out Virginia Sex Offender registry and told me it was true. She was equally disturbed. A couple of days later I checked back at Google/Yelp reviews and I learned the comment was gone. Fairfax Community Church had erased the comment and I was puzzled and asked the question to myself…why isn’t Fairfax Community Church being transparent and open about this information?
Why is Fairfax Community Church hiding it? It is because of this incident that when I wrote this post describe how I run pastors and staff of churches I investigate through the local sex offender registry. Its a good way to check if the church is following the local laws and how transparent a church is.
This issue weighed on me deeply when I was at FCC. I watched Eric Nickel when I came and left and paid attention to whether or not there were children around. I was frightened because I was in a difficult situation myself as I was managing a false accusation from a member of a former Sovereign Grace church. In the course of time it felt like a burden to attend church, know this information and keep it to myself.
In my FCC small group I made the comment as to how the Southern Baptist Convention struggles with child sex abuse and another person who once was in the SBC said it isn’t that much of a problem. I sat there thinking if she knew how her own church struggled with this issue of how to handle a sex offender could she admit it? Or would it be another example of cognitive dissonance? In the course of time I eventually parted ways with Fairfax Community Church. There were a number of issues that weighed on me but I felt committed to my small group and when that ended I decided to walk away. This issue however still weighed on my soul, and its with that knowledge that I want to write openly about this topic for all the members and attendees of Fairfax Community Church who call this place their home. I need to get this off my chest.
Is this Wise? Especially for People who Migrate from Sovereign Grace Fairfax?
So now that you are aware of what happened at nearby Sovereign Grace Fairfax can you imagine being at FCC having formerly been at SG Fairfax and learning that the Care Director of FCC is on the Virginia Sex Offender registry? I mean can you imagine? You left Sovereign Grace Fairfax, you’ve been shunned and your entire community has cut you off and treats you as dead. You have left a church that was at the center of the largest lawsuit in evangelical history for covering up child sex abuse and was rocked to the core by child sex abuse problems.
Your trust has been damaged by your church experience and you find yourself at Fairfax Community Church which is one of the places people from Sovereign Grace Fairfax end up at. After your history when you learn that the Care Director Eric Nickle is on the sex offender registry is that going to help build your trust? Trust can be destroyed in a minute and take years to rebuild if it can be rebuilt at all. Churches not being transparent about issues like this do not help.
Then there is a second issue. What about the other families at Fairfax Community Church? Can you imagine being a parent and have children and learn this? Your children are incredibly precious. What is equally disturbing is the recidivism rates for sex offenders of children. They are high, while not as high as some believe; they can still be pretty high. What I also find disturbing about this is that Fairfax Community doesn’t seem to understand its place or role of what is happening in nearby churches.
How can a church effectively help or assist a person if they are unaware of what is happening in a church around the corner or the local area? Its easy to deal with sex trafficking and abuse in Asia through International Justice Mission; but what about if there are internal concerns in your congregation or the church down the street from you? Honestly I know there are some evangelicals that deeply struggle with discernment and good judgment. So the question stands why does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director that is on the Virginia Sex Offender registry?
End of Eagle's narrative
As a church member, what should you do?
1. Familiarize yourself on why pedophilia is different than sex between consenting adults.
One of the best websites is G.R.A.C.E (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.) This is run by Atty. Boz Tchvidjian who is a grandson of Billy Graham and a former prosecutor for crimes against children. Perhaps FCC would consider calling them in to help them learn how best to handle these situations?
2. Tell the church about the pedophile.
He lost his right to anonymity when he committed this crime. If he is repentant, he will be happy to allow his crime to be broadcast since knowledgeable people can encourage and monitor his behavior. If he doesn't want people to know, you need to ask, "Why? Could he be trying to hide his issue so that he can more easily engage the trust of families and their children?"
3. The church should remember to pray publicly for his victim and seek to support them if it is possible.
Why is it that the victim is never mentioned? There are many people who were molested as children. How do you think someone who has been abused feels when they see a pedophile held up as a trustworthy individual? Wade Burleson reached out to the Tom White's (Voice of the Martyrs) victims and was effective in attempt. We need more pastors who get it.
4. Ask your pastors why this is being kept a secret.
There is some pretty bizarre theology running around out there. Repentance does not mean a *cure.* Remember, Paul dealt with his thorn in his side for a lifetime. Nickle may struggle with this until the day that he dies. If your pastor becomes irritated with you, you need to figure out why he feels this way. It might be time to leave the church.
5. Stop being naively trusting.
Ask questions. Do you own search for names on the sex offender registry. If you find a name of someone who is in leadership in your church, report it to any and all who will listen. This is not gossip. The registry was invented to keep the public informed in order to keep children safe. It is meant to be discussed.
A challenge to all who are reading this post.
Will all of you who attend church do a sex offender registry search for all people who are in a position of trust in your church? I am not talking about just the kids' ministry. I am talking about pastors, elders, deacons, volunteer leaders, greeters, etc. If any of you find something, let TWW know. We will write a post on it and will hold your name in confidence if you wish.
I am beginning to become concerned. In the course of one month, we have found 2 sex offenders in two well known churches who hold positions of trust and admiration. This is dangerous. It is time for the church, and all of us pew sitters, to get serious about this increasingly visible problem.