“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” John F. Kennedy
See the end of the post for an update-new letter from elders
Please keep me in your prayers. My mom is having some concerning problems and we will need to make some difficult decisions in the days to come. In the meantime, I still have to deal with the problems surrounding the renovation of my kitchen. I would not have started this had I known my mother would become ill. It is too late to stop now. The picture on this post is the dust on the second floor of my house where I am hiding out. I am going to do my level best to write some posts that might be of interest during this time. Please forgive my noted absence. I am trying to keep up but am failing miserably.
In the meantime, here is a piece of good news. It looks like vaccinations will begin in two weeks. My daughter received notice to expect her vaccine to occur in two weeks. She is truly a front line worker and it makes my husband and I very happy.
Highlands Community Church and Pastor Derek Nelson’s inappropriate sexual behavior.
A reader informed me of a serious situation at Highlands Community Church in Renton, Washington. One of their pastors, Derek Nelson was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with multiple adults. I had a number of questions that were not answered by the pastors and wrote A TWW Tutorial: How to Ask Intelligent Questions About What Happened to Victims at Highlands Community Church, WA
As my previous post indicated, I had some serious reservations about the lack of information given to the members of this church. I thought it might be helpful to educate readers about how to ask questions if this happened in their churches. It appears that my concerns were warranted. He was fired but that was just the beginning.
Highlands Community Church then fired lead pastor, Jesse Campbell, at the Renton campus for a DUI and other problematic behavior.
This was announced in the following letter to the church members.
Thank you for your continued prayers. As promised in the Family Meeting on October 22, the Elders have put together a detailed Frequently Asked Questions page to help answer the many questions that our church family has right now. You can view the FAQ here.
We encourage you to take time to read through this, and also to continue submitting any thoughts and questions you might have to the Elders.
We recognize that this is a challenging time for so many as we process all that has taken place, and deal with a whole range of emotions including pain and grief. As a church family we will be coming together for a special night of prayer and worship on Sunday, November 8, 6-7 pm in the Family Life Center at Highlands Renton.
If you are not able to attend in person, we will be making this available streaming online at highlandscc.org.
We encourage everyone who can make it to come and be part of this time of healing and hope, as we look ahead to what God has for us and continue as a church family helping people find and follow Jesus!
Here are some quotes from the first part of the FAQ. Hang on. More is coming in Part 2 of the letter.
What is the biblical disqualification for Jesse?
Not being above reproach, as described in 1 Timothy 3:2.
The Elder Board recently received detailed reporting from Jesse’s DUI that cited specific facts which differed significantly from what we were told initially when we met with Jesse.
These discrepancies indicated a level of dishonesty that left us with no choice but to conclude Jesse is not currently biblically qualified to serve as our pastor at Highlands.
These discrepancies include a significant difference in his state of intoxication and risk to the community including toxicology and level of speeding when he was pulled over. After the Elders met with Jesse and reviewed these facts, Jesse acknowledged his dishonesty, and submitted his resignation.
…Why did it take so long for the Board to take this action?The Board first saw the police report of Jesse’s DUI on 10/5/20. There was a clear disparity between what we saw in the report and that which Jesse had told us. The level of speeding and inebriation were far above what had been told to us, by Jesse. Within the week, the Board confronted Jesse. In hindsight, the Board should have done full due diligence immediately and requested the police report ourselves.
Apparently, there were some questions about the elders shirking their responsibilities. There is little question in my mind that there is an elder problem.
Why are the Elders apologizing?
As Elders, we personally apologize to the congregation for our lack of due diligence regarding this DUI matter from the beginning. We also recognize the damage inflicted upon our church because of our failure to make this public immediately. Looking back over time, this was a regrettably poor decision. We are committed to learning from this, and committed to making changes to our process. Specifically, any similar situations in the future will be handled with immediate transparency and independent verification of facts.
Why should we trust the Board of Elders and its decisions?
We acknowledge that trust has been broken between the Elders and some of the congregation. The Board is reevaluating our oversight, decision making, and communication processes.
Why aren’t any of the Elders being disqualified due to their oversights?
Our lack of due diligence in independently verifying facts is a lapse in judgment that we regret. However, it is not a failure of an elder qualification.
What specific measures will be taken by the Elder Board to increase accountability and strength of leadership moving forward?
The Board is looking for an outside ministry partner to evaluate and assess the current state of the Elder Board. Leadership and accountability will be critical factors in this assessment. Early next year, the Board will also be seeking new Elder candidate recommendations by the staff and congregation who meet the biblical qualifications listed in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Please be praying that God will raise up biblically qualified Elder candidates this coming year.
Take a look at the partial statement by the Elder Board just prior to firing Campbell. They stood behind him totally…until they didn’t. What a mess.
Jesse has referenced these struggles on several occasions from the pulpit, though not in great detail. Because there is some misinformation out there on this topic, we believe it is important to address this specifically now with a clear statement from the Board, rather than allow any further misinformation to spread. The Elder Board fully and unanimously stands behind Jesse as our Lead Pastor and have overseen the accountability measures Jesse has taken to be fully above reproach. Jesse has freely offered to share the additional details we are sharing with you now and is in complete support of the Elder board’s decision to share this statement with our church family.
Here is a link to the entire Elder Statement on August 17, 2020, when they were fully behind Campbell. I bet they wish they could eat these words. Do they not have anyone on the elder board who understands substance abuse?
HCC’s Executive Pastor Nick Delgado quit due to concerns about the leadership of the Elder Board and Jesse Campbell.
Delgado sounds like he was the only adult in the room. No wonder people were asking questions about the Elder Board. This is quite disturbing.
Why is Pastor Nick Dalgardno leaving Highlands?
Nick decided to leave staff and the Highlands Board. Nick has requested that we communicate that he has concern with Jesse’s leadership and specifically the Elder Board. The Elders are receiving his concerns, and will take them into careful consideration.
We appreciate Nick’s faithful service in the ministries of Highlands. We also love and appreciate the Dalgardno family and believe their future will be bright wherever God takes them. We are looking forward to seeing how God will use Nick in his future ministry opportunities.
Highlands Community Church finally did the right thing by hiring GRACE to investigate.
As most people who read TWW know, GRACE is the only organization I trust to get to the heart of the matter. They want the truth and will not mince words as they complete their investigation. There is little question in my mind that HCC is a church that is in crisis. The Elder Board bears much responsibility for this mess and it sure would be nice to see some of these men take personal inventory and start doing the right thing which is hard.
I believe that the church has hired legal help due to this statement in the following letter. I would not be surprised if the church faces litigation in the future.
We are not under any legal obligation to do this, but our desire is to take every measure possible to care for anyone impacted and prevent this from happening in the future.
|From: Highlands Community Church <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, November 13, 2020 11:01 AMWe encourage you to take time to read through this, and also to continue submitting any thoughts and questions you might have to the Elders. Highlands Family,The purpose of this message is to let you know that as a church we have begun working with an organization called GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Back in June, we shared about the immediate termination of Derek Nelson when Highlands leadership learned of his sexual misconduct committed against adults. Sexually inappropriate behavior in any form is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated at Highlands Community Church.We grieve with the victims and their families and continue to express our deep sorrow that the perpetrator in these instances was a staff member at Highlands. We continue to support the victims, including providing independent professional counseling. We likewise grieve and stand with all survivors of abuse and trauma of any kind. We are working with an outside organization that has the experience and professional qualifications to conduct an independent investigation and assessment. We are not under any legal obligation to do this, but our desire is to take every measure possible to care for anyone impacted and prevent this from happening in the future. Our hope is that the GRACE investigation and assessment will accomplish three things:· Provide an additional safe, independent avenue for any additional victims to come forward and experience healing. (If you are a victim or have relevant information, you can contact GRACE directly and confidentially, using the contact information provided below.)· Allow an outside organization (GRACE) to assess our organization and identify any vulnerabilities we might have so that we can put every defense possible in place to prevent this from happening in the future.· Continue restoring trust where it was broken, and move forward with unity and confidence as a church family into the bright future we believe that God has in store.Who is GRACE? GRACE stands for Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment. GRACE is the leading evangelical organization specializing in awareness, education, and investigations of sexual abuse handling by religious organizations.
GRACE’s team has extensive professional experience interviewing victims of abuse, perpetrators of abuse, and witnesses with relevant testimony. Their desire is to get to the truth of the matter so that compassion and assistance can be demonstrated to those who have been hurt and the institutional leaders can be equipped to make the necessary organizational changes that will create a safer community for the vulnerable and a less safe community for those who abuse.
GRACE’s investigative section includes multiple former abuse prosecutors as well as law enforcement with expertise in abuse and trauma. Each investigation will get a hand-picked team for maximum relevancy and effectiveness in finding the truth. If needed, the GRACE investigative team will include a multi-disciplined team of experts such as clergy and/or psychologists with expertise in the areas of trauma and abuse. Investigations are conducted based upon GRACE approved safeguarding best practice standards.
You can learn more about GRACE on their website: https://www.netgrace.org/
What will GRACE do as part of the investigation and assessment?
As part of the investigation and assessment, GRACE will listen to individuals who have relevant information, synthesize that data, and present the findings along with recommendations to Highlands leadership and to others at their professional determination. The findings and recommendations are based on GRACE’s decades of experience in investigations and utilizing best practices in the field. As investigators, GRACE is committed to follow the facts wherever they may lead. Being independent means that GRACE investigators are never directed or controlled by any person or institution, including the institution that requests the investigation and assessment.
How long will the investigation and assessment process take?
GRACE has begun their process of investigation and assessment as of November 4, 2020. GRACE has told us that on average the process takes between 6 and 12 months.
Who can I contact if I am a victim or I have relevant information to share?
We invite anyone who is a victim or who has relevant information to contact GRACE in confidence. The investigation and assessment is being led by Lee Ann James with GRACE, and she can be reached directly by email at email@example.com. Please be assured that any contact with GRACE would remain completely confidential.
What if I have questions for Highlands about the investigation and assessment?
If you would like to speak with someone who is part of Highlands staff about the investigation and assessment, we ask that you contact our Highlands staff liaison, Pastor Kerry Warren, who is coordinating with GRACE: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if I am in need of resources or care for unrelated abuse or trauma?
If you have experienced abuse or trauma of any kind in the past, we grieve with you and stand with you as a church. If you would benefit from care or a referral to professional counseling, please contact Pastor Barry Brenden at email@example.com.
If you prefer to contact a public organization, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center may be a helpful resource for you: https://www.kcsarc.org/contact.
Thank you for your prayers and steadfast faithfulness to God through a challenging season. Our desire is that He will receive all the glory and that our community and world will experience the hope and healing of Jesus.
Highlands Community Church Board of Elders
This is quite a story and I plan to continue to follow it. It may be as long as a year before we hear about the results of the investigation.
Update: I received this from a church member. It is from the elder about what they are doing regarding their evident problems.
I still think they should all resign.
From: Highlands Community Church <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, December 2, 2020 7:00 PM
Subject: An Update from the Elders | December 2, 2020
As an Elder Board we want to express our gratitude for your prayers and faithfulness to God during this season of challenges and transition. We are taking time to humbly seek the Lord’s will as we learn from these difficult experiences and look ahead to the future God would have us step into as a church family.
We as Elders acknowledge our responsibility for the hurt that has resulted from undetected sin and dysfunction. We apologize to you for this. In God’s power, we are determined to be more vigilant to prevent this in the future. In all of this, we ask for your prayers for us as Elders: for His guidance, for our humility, for wisdom, discernment, clarity, unity, strength, and perseverance in the work which God has called us to do for you – His church.
We know that you have many questions about what’s next for our church, and while this message won’t answer all of those questions, please know that as a Board we are committed to keeping you informed each step of the way. Going forward you will be able to access these updates at highlandscc.org/elders, under the “Highlands Family Updates” section.
Our faithful staff continues to lead us well. They have a Christ-centered plan in place for worship services and our other ministries through Christmas and early next year. We are blessed by an excellent preaching team who are faithfully teaching from the Word of God each Sunday.
We are proactively taking a number of steps as a Board to foster healing in our church.
To help guide us through these challenging times, we have engaged an outside Christian consulting group (Slingshot) that specializes in church leadership. Our elders and staff have had introductory meetings with the assigned consultant, who also serves as an elder in his own church. He is actively meeting with each Highlands elder and staff member to prayerfully assess our situation and recommend next steps for us. We are thankful for God’s provision of this assistance, and we’ll keep you posted on the process and recommendations. And thank you for the recommendations that YOU have provided – we are reviewing each one as we look to God for His guidance for our church’s future.
Additionally, we continue to work with GRACE staff as they proceed with their investigation and assessment (click here to view the full-length communication, we sent out previously about how we are working with GRACE). The GRACE staff have begun their process and are currently conducting interviews.
We likewise are spending additional time as a Board in prayer, working closely with our staff team, and engaging in conversation with our church family answering the many questions that have arisen over the past few months.
We are deeply grateful for our strong staff, lay leaders, and volunteer team members who continue to faithfully serve the Lord through this time. Together, let us continue steadfast in our mission to help people find and follow Jesus, bringing the hope and healing of the gospel to our broken world!
So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.
Grace and peace to you all,
The Board of Elders
Highlands Community Church