AUGUST 17, 2020

Church Family, in the days since the recent termination of Pastor Derek Nelson, our Pastoral leadership team has appropriately fielded a number of questions related to accountability and the role of the Elders in ensuring our staff team is above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2). As part of this, Pastor Jesse Campbell has been approached with questions related to the struggles with alcohol he experienced in relation to his son Aiden’s death, and the accountability measures which are in place.

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. Please read the full statement from the Elders below:

Highlands Family,

The evening of Friday January 18th, 2019, Jesse was pulled over for a moving infraction. The police officer asked Jesse to submit to a breathalyzer test which came up positive. At the first possible opportunity and by his own initiative, Jesse contacted the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Highlands Community Church Elder Board.

The Board Leadership team met initially with Jesse and his wife at their home where he openly and thoroughly confessed to drinking alcohol while snowboarding the prior evening, and subsequently getting pulled over. Jesse was alone when the infraction occurred. Although Jesse was initially charged with a DUI, the charges were dismissed.

The following Tuesday, the Board Leadership team met again with Jesse to pray for God’s continued guidance and to discuss how to best engage the counsel of the broader Elder Board. At this meeting, a communication plan was drafted that included the Highlands Staff Lead Team and full Elder Board. Jesse was also directed to seek professional counseling for recovery and healing.

The following day, Jesse met with his Lead Team, followed by the full Elder Board. At that meeting, Jesse confessed to driving under the influence of alcohol, the implications of this sin affecting the body of Christ and the pain it has caused his family. Jesse was fully and proactively transparent with us and answered all our questions without hesitation. Jesse also sought our advice as a Board to determine a course of accountability.

Because Jesse proactively confessed his sin, the Elders confirmed the decision to allow Jesse to seek help and to heal with a focus on restoration. Additionally, the Elder Board affirmed the decision to engage with Jesse on specific accountability measures.

Within a few weeks, Jesse notified the Elder Board that he had his first meeting with a counselor. The following week, The Elder Board received a letter from Jesse’s counselor, confirming his engagement in counseling.

The Elder Board also met without Jesse to discuss the steps to be taken for accountability, confirmed the decisions to date and requested a formal Performance Improvement Plan be put in place.

This plan included:

  • The requirements of Jesse’s role as Lead Pastor to remain Elder qualified.
  • The expectations for ongoing accountability to designated members of the Elder Board.
  • The requirement for Jesse to engage in a professional counseling relationship to seek healing and engaging in subsequent evaluations confirming ongoing patterns of behavior consistent with established performance expectations.

Jesse volunteered before the Elders multiple times to share these details with the congregation from the pulpit. Because Jesse is directly accountable to the Elder Board, the Board deemed this to be unnecessary.

Through this counseling program, Jesse met with multiple licensed professionals certified in addiction. His mental health diagnosis in each of these independent evaluations has consistently indicated that he suffers from PTSD following his son’s death and not from alcoholism. The incident in which Jesse was to be charged with a DUI was directly attributed, by the authority of certified counselors, to his grief over his son’s death.

Jesse submitted himself to rigorous treatment with a full disclosure agreement before the Elder Board and has passed his numerous intensive accountability measures with flying colors. He is repentant from this sin in his life.

Because Jesse proactively confessed his past sin and willingly put himself under spiritual discipline, the choice was left to the Elders as to whether or not this would disqualify Jesse from the pastorate. Looking to the Scriptures as our authority, and seeing Jesse’s proactive confession and repentance, the board unanimously supported Jesse as the Lead Pastor of Highlands Community Church and still do so today.

A biblical question arises given the recent termination of Derek Nelson and public rebuke on the grounds of 1 Timothy 5. Why was Jesse not likewise publicly rebuked by the Elders?

1 Timothy 5:19-21 reads:

“Don’t accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. Publicly rebuke those who sin, so that the rest will be afraid. I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing out of favoritism.”

In Jesse’s case, no one had to confront him on his sin; Jesse contacted the Elder Board Leadership as soon as physically possible.

Because Jesse proactively testified against himself, Matthew 18:15-17 or 1 Timothy 5:19-20 does not apply in this situation.

Jesse continues today to walk in repentance and receive counseling as an added measure of accountability.

As a Board, we fully and unanimously support Jesse as our Lead Pastor and ask that you join us in praying for him as God uses Jesse to lead Highlands to a bright future helping people find and follow Jesus.

We encourage you to reach out to the Elders with any further questions, using the question submission form at highlandscc.org/elders.

Thank you,

Glenn Joslin
Board Chairman
On behalf of the Highlands Community Church Board of Elders