“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 <email@example.com>
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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: email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 <email@example.com>
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
“There is little question in my mind that there is an elder problem.” (Dee)
Indeed, but not only at HCC. Elder-ineptness is reaching pandemic proportions in the American church. We are in a spiritual leadership crisis.
Wherever Jesus is not Lord, there is a spiritual leadership crisis, which emerges & evidences as grab (power), grime (vice), and greed (money). Evil.
Wish I had said this.
The authority of Jesus is waning in the American church … His influence is becoming less and less.
Dee, you will remain in my prayers throughout all that is going on in your life.
Then it is not the Church, the Elect, the Bride of Christ.
Is it wrong to engage in a fake “church”? Idolatry?
Are these telltale signs that Jesus is not Lord in community/fellowship?
– membership covenants to an institution
– CSA w/o consequences
– DV w/o consequences (@ninaburleigh connects DV & D terrorism)
– tithe contracts
– hierarchical leadership
What is a deplorable deal-breaker? What is an overlook-able?
Since this blog touches on many of these topics in various ways, perhaps a theme is: When “church” is not Church & better to run fast the other direction (as in shake the dust off the sandals & scram, get out of Dodge, w/o passing Go & collecting $200).
I’m relieved that they are investigating. However, churches with Super Elder Power can never get the balance right: how much to keep confidential, how much to say. They put the alleged transgressor first, and rarely face the hard questions of how to identify and safeguard victims.
A DUI plus lying is a different type of case from alleged abuse. It’s illuminating that they described that in a letter. If he posed no risk to the congregation, they could have let him go quietly, right away, with minimal explanation.
The delay followed by a letter suggests poor management, as well as a need to seek resolution through drama.
Because the institution is the transgressor. Branding.
They (Dear Leader, Elders, institution) have baited & switched from Jesus brand to their Dear Leader/Institution (man made, man centered, brick & mortar) Brand.
When I was a young man just heading out on my own, my father gave me this advice: “Son, if you ever get on a bus and find out it is going the wrong way, get off at the first stop.” We never rode the bus, so I pondered his words and came to understand what he meant. That bit of wisdom saved me from venturing down wrong roads in life, including in the church! I got off at the first stop many times in “church” … which was not ‘the’ Church. Churchgoers would do well to study Scripture to see what Church is … they may just find out that the one they are going to doesn’t compare to the genuine one.
When the Main Thing is not the main thing. For example, New Calvinism … theology and old dead men are worshiped more than Jesus.
Feel free to say it whenever you want to 🙂
Praying for your mother … and protection from COVID for your husband and daughter … and for you.
Yes. With Bible in hand. Thx, Max.
So far as I know, Lutheranism (LCMS and ELCA) DOES NOT have this level of sordid drama.
Why do the independents seem to really go off the train tracks so to speak?
No group is immune from problems, but history and lineage matter.
Essentially, all non-Denonminational churchs have descended from Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism has unique vulnerabilities to sexual misconduct, and organizational chaos.
“What is the biblical disqualification for Jesse?
Not being above reproach, as described in 1 Timothy 3:2.”
“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.”
And then there’s this:
“We are blessed by the Lord with a number of men that meet the biblical qualifications to be an elder. Although there are many responsibilities of an elder described in Scripture, some elders are called out to focus on governing, which we call the Board of Elders. The Scriptures, Holy Spirit, our Statement of Faith and our Bylaws are the primary means of guidance for the Board, where all decisions are made in unanimity. An annual process of review and appointment of Board members is conducted with those new to the Board serving for one year as an Elder Candidate to assure that they are fully up-to-speed and qualified before stepping in to the Board.”
“All elders who are on HCC’s staff have the primary responsibility for managing. Some staff elders also serve on the Board of Elders to assure that we are well connected, which requires them to be intensive in both managing and governing. Overall, all elders are responsible for the shepherding of the congregation which includes both ruling and teaching (1 Timothy 5:17).”
Yet if the following link has any correspondence to reality, what is written concerning the bylaws is noteworthy:
“Article IV Board of Elders
Section A – Membership
The Board of Elders is composed of those members of the church who satisfy the qualifications of Scripture for eldership and are appointed to serve in that capacity (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
“Section B – Qualifications
The qualifications for appointment to the Board of Elders are based on those set forth in the New Testament in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 5:17-20, and Titus 1:5-9. Additionally, an elder shall be 18 years of age or older, a member of Highands Community Church (HCC) for at least one year, and active in HCC ministry for at least one year.”
They are all signs that men have made themselves more important than Jesus. I think it’s just the age old problem of humans thinking they are moreish than everyone else and that gives them the right to control others.
That’s why I think these churches with all these rules and regulations are not about “theology” like they claim. They are about themselves and God is just a tool to get the power, money, and control they crave.
It’s excellent when any group avoids drama and schism. I would point out that WELS exists, though, and it is as oppressive as any group out there.
Thank you. The toilet upstairs sprung a leak. I got a plumber out. He didn’t put the top on properly. This morning I bumped against the top and it crashed to the floor, splitting in two. I started laughing.
It’s my belief that the elders should be disqualified. That statement *standing beside Jesse* is embarrassing. I’m of the opinion they should beg Nick Delgado to come back. He was the only one with some common sense.
During my 70+ years of doing church in America, I have met very few elders/deacons who were truly qualified for those positions. IMO, the criteria for selecting church leaders in many churches are based on things not listed as Biblical qualifications. Men are frequently chosen based on their popularity in church, wealth, how prominent they are in the community, and if they will serve as yes-men to the pastor. Few are above reproach, filled with the Spirit, able to teach, not quarrelsome, have their own house in order. They are disqualified before God, even if the church qualifies them.
“Sometimes, you just have to bow to the absurd.”
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, TNG episode “Up tje long ladder”
I’ve known preachers who would make a sermon out of that, with 3 points and Scripture.
Just as I laughed at those shallow sermons! Glad you can still work up a chuckle after this week, Dee.
I have just updated the post to include a note from the Elder Board on 12/2/20. You can find it at the end of the post. I think they should all resign. All the training in the world will not help the lack of common sense.
I just received this information from a member.
There was also a worship leader who was fired for sexual misconduct a few years ago. Nathaniel Tally
Talk about a total mess!!
At which point, why is anyone surprised by all the stories of “Can You Top This?” Church CORRUPTION?
But completely understandable if their basic life position is Clericalism, i.e.
“Clergy Is LOOOOORD and GAWD!”
And why do they have to find a Chapter-and-Verse “Biblical Reason”?
THEY CAN’T SEE CORRUPTION UNLESS THERE’S AN EXACT CHAPTER-AND-VERSE?
Tell the plumber, “I’m so sorry. I meant to request the non-fragile upgrade toilet. Somebody might want to sit on it sometime.” 😉
Laughing is better than crying! In the midst of a bathroom reno myself. Not as dramatic as a kitchen redo by any means.
In times like these, it’s good to double check that your head is still attached to your shoulders and as James put it, let patience have its perfect work.
Re: the update:
the citation of Gal 6 at the end kind of begs the question of whether the Elder board was “doing good” prior to the discovery of these problems.
It seems to me that a “governing board” of ruling elders ought first to be ruling over itself and the employees, since those people are in a position to do the most harm to the congregation.
A bit of language about “leadership” in the EB’s communications. Not much about “servanthood.” Presumably the ruling elders regard themselves to be leading the flock, whose function is to serve the EB’s agendas.
Don’t stress about the ‘blog; care for your Mom and your household — and yourself. We’ll still be here when the crisis is past, and Heaven knows there will be no shortage of things to write about.
From the updated elders’ letter “We as Elders acknowledge our responsibility for the hurt that has resulted from undetected sin and dysfunction.”
It is a true elder’s responsibility to detect sin and dysfunction in the church while it is occurring and to promptly deal with it, rather than report on it to members after bumbling their way through it.
“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”
Those traits come with a call from God for genuine elders … He looks for Spirit-led believers who are humble, wise, and discerning and then taps them to serve the Kingdom as leaders. You can’t make these men what they are not … HCC needs to pray for new elders who are qualified for that sacred office.
HCC is not a spiritually healthy church. There is a systemic problem there … accountability floats up … something greatly amiss with the elder board and/or underlying belief and practice of the church.
Is this a New Calvinist church? Antinomian behavior by leaders characterizes many of these churches.
It is so sad to see what is happening in my church family. I don’t know how much longer my family can support the lack of transparency and integrity being shown by these men that are supposed to lead as shepherds. A few things to fill-in some of your information.
Jesse Campbell’s DUI occurred in January of 2019, during his first year on staff. He and the elders covered this up until Jesse bumped into a former congregant while getting his breathalyzer recalibrated. The elders never sought out the toxicology report. You can find his court records online.
Jesse was fired for this, but he struggled to lead and he never seemed interested in pastoring. Yes, there are a few people he connected with, but overall, he was hired because a group of people liked his stage presence. He seemed most interested in being a celebrity pastor and the elders and his supporters seemed to want that for him as well. He needs a break from ministry, but I’m not sure he is cut out for it. We do not understand why the Elders have chosen to remain silent on the many other reasons for firing him.
Nick deserves a lot of credit for standing up to Jesse and the elders. There was another pastor who resigned before him because he found out the elders were covering up Jesse’s DUI and he wanted an independent investigation into Derek Nelson’s sexual abuse and the church leaders refused. Jesse and Glenn Joslin, the chair of the elder board called a meeting after he was gone to discredit this pastor and made some alarming claims about him that we now know are false.
My church refuses to take care of the abuse victims financially. It is appalling. The sexual abuser and DUI liar got plenty of financial support, it appears.
The chair of the elder board when Jesse was hired, Ernie Antin, resigned last year, reportedly because of how poorly the DUI and other issues were handled. The elders didn’t tell anyone that he had resigned and they left the church quietly. the chair of the search team that hired Jesse resigned last year as well. We don’t know why. Recently, BR Dunk, a newer elder, handpicked by Jesse left the board. They haven’t shared any reason for that either.
Derek Nelson groomed teenage males and assaulted them once they were adults. why do they call it sexually inappropriate behavior when it is clearly sexual abuse? This isn’t the behavior of a church working towards transparency.
In the end, the elders should all resign. Two of them have been around for 40 or so years and this is the result of their leadership. It is funny and sad watching them defend themselves. This situation is so so messed up.
Genuine elders … those called by God … do not need to be trained. He has watched them for years and determined their faithfulness equipped and qualified them for service in the Kingdom. This is where churches get it wrong … often the men they elevate to elder boards are not the ones God had in mind. If a church chooses leaders by vote or leaving it in the hands of other elders, rather than prayerfully seeking God’s will, they will get it wrong every time.
Here is some information which might help. In many states, it is illegal for a member of the clergy to have sex with members of the congregation. These laws are styled after those of counselors who can lose their licenses and go to prison for having sex with a client-regardless of age. Many of us believe that it is abusive of the pastor who uses his power differential to coerce members to grant sexual favors, regardless of age/. Chexck the laws in your state.
I started blogging when I observed a former church mishandle a sex abuse situation. An SEBTS student molested a large number of teen boys. The church refused to provide counseling. I think it is due to the suggestion of lawyers who believe that doing so might be an admission of guilt, etc. That usually means $$$$$.
I think it would be wise for any of the victims to seek the advice of attorneys. GRACE will dig up the information that may need. I would be happy to provide the names of a few attorneys who understand this sort of litigation.
Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to be of assistance . It is my opinion that the elders mishandled this situation(s) and that all of them should step down.
I am with you. Training can provide specific knowledge but not train matters of the heart.
You sure nailed that one!!
Just as point of fact: allegations of sexual abuse go all the way back to the founders of the LCMS. ANY group will have some off the rails.
Love the “get off the bus” statements!
I continue to ponder this: I believe the purpose of the Jewish nation, elect of God, was to take the news of His mercy and His love to the nations. Instead they formed a closed ranks in it for the bucks and the prestige group, and in a.d.70 that system was ended. Yes, the group continues on but clearly not under the banner of “chosen people.” I believe that went to the Church, which was tasked with that ministry of reconciliation, taking the news of His mercy and His love to the nations. Instead we have divided into fiefdoms and made it about the bucks and the prestige.
I continue to wonder if this covid19 thing could be our a.d.70 Can we turn it around and be obedient to Jesus and avert the fall of the institutional church, or has our building burned to the ground? Are we trying to continue on while no longer the “chosen people?”
What should we do if that is the case?
Like many other people, I am cynical about the Highlands Community Church “Elders”…they seem to have a formulaic answer for almost everything.
Dee: Some of the other TWW commenters did a much better job of expressing my thoughts and feelings on the circumstances faced by you and your family. There are times when laughing is the only thing one can do in the moment….the rest – the tears, the anger, the pain, etc. – usually seems to follow later.
Here’s my question: setting aside the character of individual leaders (which is probably the most important criteria for assessing any church leader – maybe ANY leader), what is the most healthy system of church government? What is the best system to support the good leaders and weed out the bad leaders while assuring the church as a whole is equipped for ministry?
Here’s thoughts I’ve had: 1) formal accountability structures for everyone in leadership 2) an understanding among leadership that they are not directly commissioned to serve by Christ himself but indirectly commissioned by him through…the denomination, the congregation, etc… So, they are directly accountable to the commissioners. 3) An understanding among leadership that they’re there to equip the church for ministry, not do ALL the ministry themselves
Seems to me that healthy church government shouldn’t be all that different from healthy government for *any* non-profit or membership-based organization, whether religious or secular. I think the core of the governing structure needs to be that nobody is above reproach, or has inherent unquestionable authority. And when you *do* have some inherent authority in an office, there need to be significant checks that can devolve pretty easily to the membership. Financial transparency is another absolute requirement, IMHO – and I think this could largely be dealt with here in the US if religious non-profits weren’t exempted from the requirement to fill out IRS Form 990s with the same information that other non-profits are required to.
I’m not involved in religious organizations since I’m an atheist, but from what I’ve seen similar issues get raised at all sorts of organizations, whether religious or secular. At the core of things, humans are in charge, and humans are going go do human stuff – meaning that they might abuse their power, control things to their own benefit, cover things up “for the good of the cause”, and so on – so it’s best to acknowledge that at the very outset. I think religious organizations run into extra problems because folks can always point to this or that bible verse and claim “authority” – but just because it’s in a religious book doesn’t mean that it makes good sense to govern that way. Like, maybe lean on human reasoning, rather than trying to find scriptural justification for every step along the path that you’re trying to take.
Beliefs drive corruption, regardless of governance structure. Three sure problems are inerrancy, literalism, and insistence that everybody but that group is going to Hell.
We’ve got enough training, knowledge, and intellect in the church … we need understanding, discernment, and wisdom. There’s a vast difference. The Kingdom of God requires the latter of its leaders. Few of those serving on elder/deacon boards are equipped/gifted for the job … their churches are accidents waiting to happen … they will be caught unaware.
A great big BINGO! on that one.
It’s long over due.
The law really needs to be changed so that ‘churches’ are no longer exempt from Form 990.
I’ve advocated this for years.
IMO, the same governance used in the New Testament church … congregational polity, not elder rule.
Then he wasn’t a pastor in the true sense of the word.
Actors would have no stage if they didn’t have an audience willing to buy tickets to the show. A touch of charisma + gift of gab + bag of gimmicks does not equal anointing from God to preach or pastor a church.
Then HCC needs to take this misleading statement off your website: “We are blessed by the Lord with a number of men that meet the biblical qualifications to be an elder … intensive in both managing and governing.”
Something else to consider that folks are discussing on Twitter…A full psychological profile done of the prospective leaders prior to final hire.
Let’s not forget that despite those elders described above, there are many churches and thousands of elders and deacons that take their calling seriously and are doing a good job. I have to remind myself that this blog focuses on those churches and organizations that a rife with abuse. Many that I have known over the years have been loving, dedicated and have had a high degree of integrity.
Just like my friend who is a policeman says, no one calls the police when things are going well so what we see is usually the dark side of society.
Doesn’t Chuck DeGroat do this in his denomination?
Indeed! It’s unfortunate that those who don’t – who are appointed by men, not God – are casting a shadow on the American church. A lost world is just looking for a reason to say “See, there’s nothing to it!” … the counterfeit church and the illegitimate authority within it continue to yield plenty of reasons for them to mock.
Seriously, current pastors at this church need to volunteer for this too.
Fun fact: family lawyers sometimes advise clients to volunteer for a psychological evaluation while simultaneously demanding a psych eval for the opposing side. This signals the judge that the lawyer making the demand has confidence in their client’s sanity. It also happens to be even-handed.
Whew! We sure could have used that during the height of the Driscoll era which released a band of Driscollites into American pulpits.
Psychological evaluations for seminarians have been going on for decades. Some churches and denoms pretend they don’t exist, or are of the devil, or stand in the way of the Spirit, or make some other lame excuse.
In the news:
“former Hammond resident claims in a federal lawsuit she was repeatedly raped as a young student more than four decades ago by the son of the then-president of the First Baptist Church of Hammond and Hyles-Anderson College. Nanette Miles, who agreed to be named publicly for this article, said then-youth director David Hyles, who was son of then-President Jack Hyles, called her into his office in September 1976 when she was 13…”
“The lawsuit is just the latest in a history of civil and criminal accusations of sexual abuse of underage girls by officials at the church, which was founded in 1887. Joy Ryder, who now runs a support group for sex abuse victims, filed her own federal lawsuit earlier this year claiming David Hyles repeatedly raped her as a teenage girl in the late 1970s.”
“By filing this case as a class action, Nanette and her attorneys hope to give survivors of sexual abuse a voice and legal mechanism to hold leaders at First Baptist and other Independent Fundamental Baptist churches accountable for perpetrating and covering up horrific acts of child sex abuse for decades”
Nov. 2020, Hyles Anderson College grad, and kin (by marriage) to the Hyles/Schaaps, in trouble in New Jersey:
Thank you for bringing so much to light, even though it is sometimes depressing.
Unless God comes down, points at a guy, and says “I appoint this man!”, then a pastor is appointed by a congregation or denomination or…himself.
Hi everyone. I am the person who forwarded Dee the various emails about the events. I have attended HCC with my family on and off for over a decade, and pretty regularly recently.
twisted, I did not know many of the behind-the-scenes details you shared, including why and that the two elders you mentioned resigned, though thinking back I have not seen them or their families around recently (obviously though some of that is COVID keeping people more separate). While I don’t know for sure the identity of the resigned pastor you mentioned, but I think I have a good guess.
Thank you for sharing this. It is definitely very hard news. I knew at least on some level the two elders and both Pastor Delgardno and Pastor Nelson, which makes it even harder.
The letter from the elders is disturbingly formulaic and corporate-sounding. In fact the whole thing stinks of corporate political CYA apology “we grieve with you”-eze. Somehow I don’t think the Lord had 21st century corporations in mind as the template for His Bride.
So the pastors and elders are the wrong-doers and the experts are brought in, paid with the congregation’s tithes and offerings. Tithes and offering which are given sacrificially, by going without extra-curricular lessons for the children, nice vacations, newer cars, and so much else, at least that’s the way it was in our family. Give to the Lord so the worship pastor can buy the newest sound system and robotic lights, expensive cameras that the staff can take home and use but not the congregation. Give to the building fund so the staff can have luxurious work digs while the family is crammed into a small house. Give up going out to eat and having more than one family car so the pastor can hire his son-in-law. Give to the Lord so that when the pastor is caught behaving like a false shepherd he and much of the staff can be paid off and given large severance packages in exchange for NDA. All that and more happened with us. Now I give directly to people who need it, when we and Lord decide to do so.
What’s that course that parishioners pay $$$ for where a guy comes around to all the churches to get people sacrificing & tithing? Hear tell, that guy has made a lot of money, too, with his church program that church members pay for so they can also learn to pay for their church.
Kinda nice how the Holy Spirit gives (no $$$ involved) the 18 gifts to the faithful so we can function as the Body of Christ (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4) with no overhead, no financial course, no church debt.
Sending out missionaries? Yes, the Early Church did that.
Supporting needy orphans & widows? They did that, too.
Buildings & budgets & pastors’ private planes? Not so much.
Who’s grieving? What are they talking about?
Jesus didn’t “grieve” over the $$$ changers in the temple.
He also didn’t “heal” predators.
Church talk: grieving over crime, healing criminals.
The expenditures you list are to finance the Christian Industrial Complex (CIC), not the Kingdom of God. What American churchgoers need to realize is that very little which goes on in the CIC is not the Church at all, yet we blindly support it with our tithes and offerings.
And we don’t need to drag the Bridegroom into this mess either! To drop the precious name of Jesus into this evil mixture, to call on His name in the midst of gross sin, to beseech the King of Heaven to bail out ‘our’ church, is blasphemy. Repentance by HCC members for focusing on stage performers, rather than Christ, is in order here. I wish I could say that HCC and countless other failed ministers and ministries reported on TWW are atypical, but (IMO) these sins occur in many communities across America … one or more churches with leaders doing things in the dark. We’ve lost our way.
Which comes across like a past POTUS who stared into the TV camera and told Americans “I feel your pain” while living a life of hell. Are the HCC elders openly repenting with the members, praying with the members, weeping with the members, seeking God with the members? Are they in sackcloth and ashes or in the boardroom?
Yeah, that’s the way it is now. At one time, American churches and churchgoers were a more holy lot (I’m an old guy – I’ve known folks like that). They lingered at the altar in prayer to seek God’s will about pastors/elders and stayed there until they knew that they knew. When they appointed a man, they knew He was God’s appointee. We got over that approach years ago in much of the church. Instead of agonizing in prayer for God to move, we now vote for church leaders like we do politicians.
Jesus becomes a bound familiar spirit, carrying out the Sorcerer’s will.
Both PA Dutch folk tradition and Manly Wade Wellman’s Appalachian weird fiction are full of conjure-men and witch-men and Hexen using their familiar spirits as their Enforcers. Especially using the threat of their Magick and casting Hexes to extort money and goods from others.
“There’s a sucker born every minute” and Christians are the easiest of Easy Marks.
“I go chop you Dolla!
I make you money disappear!
Four-one-Nine just a game —
You be the Mugu, I BE THE MASTA!”
— Nigerian pop song about a con man
“Chop you Dolla” = literally “Eat your Money”
“Four-one-Nine” = Internet scam (which Nigeria became famous for)
“Mugu” = FOOL, in the sense of an Easy Mark
But they HAVE to keep up with the Furticks and the Copelands!
Gigachurch: When Megachurch is too small for Pastor’s Ego.
I am so sorry your family went through that. Family sacrifice should yield something more than a church sound system.
On the other hand, I am finally appreciating the fact that our church waited until early this year to replace an HVAC system from the 1970s. We are still doing Zoom worship or socially distanced outdoor gatherings. It’s unclear when anybody will enjoy the new HVAC, but at least we won’t have any burst pipes.
Perhaps “deferred maintenance” should be high on a list of qualities to look for when seeking a new church.
Thank you, Friend. You are always so kind.
Actually, this is a pretty ideal time to be doing significant maintenance like that. If they’re not having gatherings then they can just do the work without having to make sure that it’s ready for church on Sunday.
Dee: All the training in the world won’t help lack of common sense
>> Or in the words of Ron White, “You can’t fix stupid”
One summer I attended a 45-minute service where the AC was not working. There were two deafeningly loud swamp coolers in the worship area. They were turned off just as the service began, and we were just about “slain” by the time the recessional hymn started.
Forrest Gump’s mom (played by Sally Field) said pretty much the same…
People, what have you done
Locked Him in His golden cage
Made Him bend to your religion
Him resurrected from the grave
From the grave
— Jethro Tull 1971 —
God’s people need to gather and praise Him for deliverance ‘after’ we have been delivered from this plague.
Nor can a training program equip someone to be a spiritual leader. That equipping comes from the Lord for those who are truly called to the sacred offices of pastor and elder. Wisdom comes with the job for real-deal church leaders. For the vast majority which are in such positions (who men choose, rather than God), the best we can hope for is common sense.
I agree but would add that toxic churches actively work against common sense, from the time a baby boy is born until he has his fourth scandal and needs a new hotel ballroom and book tour.
In secular economics and administration, not only wealth is to be destroyed, but personality. They copied this from churches that had gained a high profile somehow. To be a “wounded healer” is a sought badge of dishonour and a literally selling point.
Inerrancy of what? We need the text, in order to have meaning. Without meaning, the text killeth!
But all these abusers and crazies claim to be “Called by The LOOOOOORD!”, not Worldly Fleshly So-Called “Training”. They claim they were trained by The Holy Spirit the instant they Said the Words at the Altar Call. The SPIRIT, Not the Flesh!
Max, these Anointed Idiots and Holy Predators use your exact words to justify themselves! They quote the exact same verses! They not only Talk the Talk, they sound identical! So who’s who?
More like a Race to the Bottom.
Can’t remember where I read this, but:
“The French have an expression that translates as ‘longing for the gutter’. There are those for whom longing for the gutter is their goal in life. Once we called them ‘degenerates’. Now we call them CELEBRITIES.”
But after year after year of watching and experiencing “the dog returning to its vomit, the sow returning to her mire, and the burnt fool’s bandaged finger going right back into the fire”, the urge to just Choke the Stupid out of them all gets overwhelming.
If that older HVAC from the 1970s was a non-recirculating type, you may have taken a step backwards in the Age of COVID. Today’s HVACs are all recirculating, recycling the air (and any introduced viral load) over and over and over.
The Bible mentions the practice of slavery. We still have people claiming that this means God endorses or even requires slavery. There’s a verse or two about striking children, and proper roles for women. There’s always, always a verse, and if you point out contradictions, or differences between ancient times and today, you’re Denying Holy God.
Right now we have Christians saying that the Bible forbids them to wear masks. They all have a verse. The verse commands them not to think.
Headless Unicorn Guy,
It’s an excellent point, but I don’t know any group more vigilant about covid than our denom in our region. I’m confident that the new system will clean the air and admit outside air.
One of the first covid cases in the area happened in our denom. Churches went out of their way to trace all contacts, alert the public, and shut the churches voluntarily, well before emergency regulations from the government or the denom itself.
It feels strange to keep donating to a church I only see from the outside, but the church does have ministries and expenses. We are looking toward the future.
Headless Unicorn Guy,
I have been watching for statements either coming out of, or about Pastor MacArthur. His statements/behavior makes my blood boil..
Founders of the Southern Baptist Convention included slave-holding pastors and deacons. They believed that sovereign God endorsed slavery and was on their side in the Civil War until early Confederate victories turned to defeat. After the War, the SBC distanced itself from the Founder’s theology – Calvinism – and remained distinctly non-Calvinist in belief and practice until New Calvinism headed them back to their theological roots. It took the SBC 150 years to confess and repent of their racial sins … by approving a resolution to that effect at their annual conference in 1995. While the new reformers may condemn slavery, they have essentially put their women into bondage with the “beauty of complementarity.” Yep, you can twist Scripture to defend just about anything in an effort to support aberrant theology and the rotten treatment of others.
And the real stinker is how “pious” these twisters of scripture can be, and how they can “bully” their opposition…
Also, they can almost make saints their champions…. some of the account of General “Stonewall” Jackson make him out to be some Old Testament hero! It is actually kind of “spooky”… I read that Virginia Military Institute has finally remove his statue from a prominent position on campus…
“Jackson … became one of the most devout Calvinists of his time. His faith was inflexible and total … Jackson viewed human bondage with typical simplicity. God had established slavery for reasons man could not and should not challenge.”
That makes General Jackson a type example of the original Southern Baptist position “God Wills Slavery”. I’m surprised Doug Wilson doesn’t quote him in his pro-slavery book.
I understand there’s a near-identical position in Islam, an application of “I’n’shal’lah”. I do not know how widespread it is within Islam (probably highest among Salafi & Wahabi), but it’s definitely there.
Ever notice how “GOD WILLS SLAVERY” is only taught by the slave owners, slave traders, and their wanna-bes like that Jerk with the Kirk in Moscow ID? i.e. Those who Hold the Whip or Want to Hold the Whip?
Rule of thumb: The more Pious they are, the more Corrupt they are.
That holds for ANY type of The Righteous, no matter what their belief system.
Oh, and “twisters of scripture” is a meaningless term. Every one of these A-holes claims the OTHER guy is the one “twisting scripture” while they are simply and faithfully quoting “The Plain Meaning of SCRIPTURE(TM) — IT IS WRITTEN!”
I read through the linked post, sometimes feeling anger, sometimes feeling a breaking heart….sometimes alternating between emotions so rapidly it was difficult to discern which emotion was dominant.
I wondered if, for the most part, I was feeling the same emotions as the writer….
And then I wondered if God would have felt the same.
That is a great question….. and I wonder what G$d thinks of JohnyMac playing the persecution card on his church being told by the evil state that they should not have in person services?
I’m sure that SBC Founders loved the man.
“Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.” (Philippians 2:3 Phillips)
Have you heard the latest? Yesterday JMAC preached that the vaccine was “only about the money” (because the virus is a hoax). This guy had an interesting response about JMAC and his money: https://twitter.com/MurrayFullerton/status/1335797914250039297
Like keeping churches open during the worst public health crisis in 100 years is not about the money? (churches have proven to be the source of many COVID localized outbreaks across the U.S.)
Fifteen million COVID cases in the U.S. and 280,000 deaths is a hoax?! While the recent SCOTUS decision defended religious liberty, it wasn’t meant to liberate hoaxers in American churches in relation to public health.
Fake news is spreading like a virus in many churches thanks to “pastors” who refuse to obey government mandates to control the pandemic. “You ain’t going to tell me what to do” have been the dying words of many fools throughout history.
Jeffrey J Chalmers,
With so many (like MacArthur) claiming to be God’s mouthpiece, ya’ gotta’ wonder, if any of em’ really are…
My answer to your question is a meme. And while I am opting (for many reasons) not to provide the link to where I originally saw the meme, I am providing the information needed to find one like it.
Search for: GODZILLA FACEPALM
The meme words are: “When Godzilla gives you the facepalm, you know the fail is epic.”
General Jackson was a very rigid man, but he was known as a man of his word.
And then there was Stonewall’s aide and chaplain Dabney.
Dabney was considered a hardcore racist even by 19th Century Confederate standards.
Assume No until proven otherwise. Only way to be safe.
Yep, Pastor Dabney aggressively defended the “righteousness” of slavery. While one might defend the practice of slavery as the culture of that day – nothing more – the church shouldn’t forget mean-spirited clergy in the South who tossed love aside to support racial sin. Some in that part of the world still do!
California is pretty much closed for business due to COVID … except God’s mouthpiece in Los Angeles:
Arrogance can kill you!
Out here in Southern Cali, one of the Calvary Chapel big guns (Jack Hibbs) claims that the Covid-19 vaccine is ‘Conditioning’ Americans to receive ‘The Mark of the Beast’.
First of all, Calvary Chapel (and the Rapture Ready Crowd in general) have been pointing fingers at “The Mark of The Beast” after “The Mark of The Beast” after “The Mark of The Beast” for some 50 years in my experience. During my time in-county, Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist was a major cottage industry among Christians, dominating the AM airwaves.I found out the hard way that you can only live in ” THIS IS IT!!!!! Any minute now… Any minute now… Any minute now…” pressure cooker for only so long before total meltdown. You either kill yourself, go crazy, or run away and never look back.
Headless Unicorn Guy,
P.S. Here’s a tongue-in-cheek Pin-the-Tail-on-The Antichrist that was making the rounds about a year ago. Considering the political affiliation of the Calvary Chapel pastor (it’s in the title of the link), this version of The Mark is a real kicker:
Yeah, I saw that, and like HUG, my first thought was, Again?
Remember when it was credit cards? Then credit cards again when chips were added?
I think they’ve lost their platform for accurate prophecy a long time ago…
HCC has been our church home for 30+ years, and we have been crushed by the handling of this. It is extremely difficult when your questions to the elders are met with derision and dismissal. Although we have not “left” yet, we are definitely looking. It’s hard when you’ve been actively plugged in for as many years as we have.
I wish I could say that the church is doing right by Nick and the other victims, but they are not. Everything about this debacle is heartbreaking, and it is hard to see that now we recognize the “hmmm…interesting” as red flags. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say.
It is my fervent hope that HCC can pull it together, but I suspect it’s a pipe dream.
My guess is you have have it figured out. Also, thank you for sharing this with TWW in the beginning.
We’ve been holding on, but last night Jesse’s video on his website put us over the edge and after many years, we’ve decided to leave. Not because we are missing Jesse and want him back, but because the comments revealed how messed up our church really is. The elders didn’t have the guts to talk about all the horrible things Jesse did during his tenure, and consequently Jesse is now looking for other work and will probably find it because people think he’s the victim. I feel bad for whatever church hires him. If you want to watch go to http://www.jessecampbellministries.com.
The Christian post did an article about highlands. Sad.
Apparently highlands appeared in the Christian Post. Is this the same church?
Yes- it is trhe same church.
I read it. I believe that all of the elders must resign.
As someone who has grown up in this church, and served in ministries along side Derek, I have been INCREDIBLY disappointed with how the has been handled. We have not officially left, as we were holding out hope, but I have less faith HCC will be able to pull this together.
I have emailed my concerns and questions to the elders multiple times and received disappointing responses. If what has been said about Derek is true (via the “rumor mill”) the elders not being clear about the victims being men is not acceptable. There could be countless victims out there, and most parents don’t think to check on their son’s. They assume it was a female victim.
Interested in seeing how this resolves via GRACE. Will be watching for more HCC people in the comments.
PLEASE keep pushing!! If enough people push, perhaps there will be change. We keep asking questions and pushing, and although I doubt very much that we know tons, we do know more than has been shared. I will not stay silent! I would be happy to chat in person…not sure how we can connect though.