June 11, 2020
Highlands Family, we have some difficult news to share with you today regarding the termination of Derek Nelson’s employment at Highlands and the circumstances surrounding his termination. Please watch the video above as Lead Pastor Jesse Campbell and Chairman of the Elder Board Glenn Joslin share a statement from Highlands.
Within the last two weeks, Highlands leadership was made aware of accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior committed by Derek Nelson against multiple adults. The very minute we were approached with this information, we took action. The accusations have been investigated and confirmed to be accurate, including by Derek’s own admission. Immediately upon confirmation that the accusations were true, Derek Nelson’s employment at Highlands was terminated.
As a church and as an organization, we will not tolerate sexually inappropriate behavior committed by staff.
We grieve for the adult victims, and recognize their courage in coming forward. Please join us in praying for them. We will be doing everything we can to provide them with ongoing care and support, including professional counseling independent from Highlands.
We also recognize that Derek and his family will have a difficult and painful road ahead. We are heartbroken for them. We are likewise coming alongside them, and providing them with independent professional counseling, and all the support and care that we can. Please pray with us, for each of them. For Derek, we pray specifically that spiritual restoration would one day be possible. Because we love Derek and his family- the hurt runs deep.
We additionally recognize that you, as part of our church, will be impacted to varying degrees by this difficult news. Derek’s actions have caused broken trust, that will take time to heal. We are here for you, as you process this news and as you grieve. Our prayer for you, is that his sinful actions in the midst of otherwise fruitful ministry would not stain your view of God’s holy and perfect Word. There is hope and healing for all, found only in Jesus.
At Derek’s request, we have agreed to share the following message that he has written to our church family:
“I was recently confronted about some choices and hidden sin in my life that went unchecked that I have since confessed to, and take responsibility for. I am embarrassed and ashamed. Because of these choices, and my lack of accountability and the biblical qualifications for my position, I will no longer be part of the staff at Highlands.” Derek went on to say: “Words can’t express my heart for this church and the people who have shaped my life and that I’ve served with. Highlands has been my home and family and has a beautiful future. I am devastated, and incredibly sorry for my sin. I ask for your forgiveness for not being above reproach. I covet your prayers for me and my family as I focus on clinging to the hope and healing that is only found in God’s Word and rebuilding trust in relationships I’ve damaged because of this. I pray by His grace, I will personally experience the depths of God’s love and redeeming work over time in my life moving forward and see God use this painful season for His glory.” - Derek Nelson
As you process all of this in the coming days, you will likely have some additional questions. In order to protect the adult victims, we are limited in what details we can share. However, we are making an FAQ section available below, which should address some of the questions that you have. In addition, we welcome you to submit any questions to our Elder board, using the form on the elder’s page of our website. For the protection of the victims, Derek’s family, and the church, we ask that you not share this information outside the church community or on social media.
Highlands Family- once again we ask that you join us in praying for all involved, first and foremost for the victims and those who have been impacted and hurt. Pray also for the hearts of those who may hear this news and call their faith into question. Even in the midst of this trial, we believe that God will build His Church and that the gates of hell will not stand against it. We love you Highlands Family.
Chairman of the Elders
Are we aware of any victims who were minors?
No. The victims who have come forward were adults when the sexually inappropriate behavior occurred. There have been no allegations or suspicions of inappropriate behavior against minors and at this point we have no reason to think that Derek ever acted inappropriately with minors.
How is Highlands caring for the victims?
We are doing everything we can to advocate and care for the victims who have come forward, including providing professional counseling independent of Highlands.
How is Highlands caring for the Nelson family?
We are heartbroken for the Nelson family and recognize the difficult road ahead. We are coming alongside them, to provide them with independent professional counseling, and all the support and care that we can. Please pray with us, for each of them.
Who can I speak with about this, as I process my own grief?
We encourage you to speak with any of our staff team that you know, or call the church at 425-255-4751 so that we can connect you with someone from our pastoral team. We are here for you and desire to care for your heart as you process a range of emotions.
Who can I share this information with?
This is a matter that impacts our church family and we ask that it stay within our church community. While we are committed to transparency within our community, for the protection of the victims, Derek’s family, and the protection of our church, we would ask that you refrain from sharing about this publicly, particularly on social media.
Should I reach out to Derek?
The Elders of Highlands will be caring for Derek and his family. If you feel deeply compelled to reach out to Derek, please do so with grace and honesty.
What will happen to Derek’s former position on staff? (Executive Pastor of Ministries and Leadership Development)
The current short-term plan is that Derek’s former responsibilities will be divided among the staff.
How can I ask additional questions?
We invite everyone who has additional questions on this matter to submit those to our board of Elders, using the contact form on our elders page: highlandscc.org/elders.