FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Pastor Jesse Campbell’s Transition
Why is Jesse’s time on staff ending?
Jesse has disqualified himself as an elder, which is a requirement to be a pastor at Highlands.
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.
Was Jesse’s transition mutual? If Jesse had not resigned, would he have been fired?
It is mutual in that Jesse has acknowledged the sin of dishonesty and provided the Elders his resignation. This occurred while the Board was in the process of determining that he was not currently elder qualified. The Elder Board did vote for his removal, and he would have been dismissed as Lead Pastor if the Elders had not received 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.
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.
Is Jesse’s transition related to Nick’s transition?
No. We determined that Jesse was no longer elder qualified, based upon what the Board had seen and heard first-hand.
Why couldn’t Highlands keep Jesse on staff and assist him in overcoming the disqualifications?
We considered other roles for Jesse at Highlands, but concluded it wasn’t in the church’s, nor in Jesse’s best interests.
What is Highlands going to do to help Jesse and his family?
Highlands will do all that we can to support Jesse and his family during this period of transition. Matters of employment severance are confidential.
We have communicated to Jesse that we desire to be instrumental in learning from each other going forward.
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.
Who is going to be the lead pastor now?
In the short term before hiring a new lead pastor, Kerry Warren is overseeing the staff. Nate Edmondson is overseeing the preaching calendar and worship services. Going forward we will need to weigh the wisdom of bringing on an interim lead pastor vs. going directly to hiring a replacement. More communication will be forthcoming regarding the lead pastor search.
What is the impact on Highlands Kent and its pastor, Nate Edmondson?
Our current strategy for our Kent location has not changed, and we have two Kent specific gatherings coming up which will be announced soon. However, there will be some short-term impacts. Increased demand for Nate to preach will clearly decrease his time to engage with Highlands Kent specifically for the near term—please be patient as many staff stretch to do extra duty. Since Kentridge High School has been closed for an indefinite time due to Covid19 and we have yet to find an acceptable replacement facility, this allows some flexibility right now for Pastor Nate.
Pastor Nick Dalgardno’s Transition
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.
How can I show care, love, and appreciation for Nick and his family?
We encourage you to reach out to Nick and Johannah personally and express your gratitude for their years of faithful ministry at Highlands, which has had eternal impact in helping people find and follow Jesus. If you send a note or card to the church, we will ensure that they receive it.
How will we be celebrating Nick’s 17 years on staff, serving as a Student Ministries Pastor, Elder Board Member, and most recently as Executive Pastor?
We have planned a time to celebrate and honor Nick as a staff, and are also working on creative ways to celebrate and thank Nick for his service as a church family. More information will be coming soon on how you can be part of that.
Who will be hired as Executive Pastor of Ministries to fill Nick’s role?
We do not plan to hire this position until the new Lead Pastor is in place. In the interim, Kerry Warren will be stepping in to cover the responsibilities of this position.
Why are we inviting an outside independent investigation of the allegations against Derek Nelson, and why now?
We initially did our own informal investigation immediately after the victims stepped forward and everything pointed to the fact that the sexually inappropriate behavior committed by Derek was confined to these adult victims. Although there have not been any additional victims who have come forward, over the last several months there have been concerns shared by those who had second hand information, that we want to follow up on. Because we want to be absolutely sure that all who were affected by Derek’s behavior receive our full support and outside counseling help, we asked for this independent, professionally qualified assistance. Additionally, this investigation and review of our process is part of ensuring that our organization does everything possible to prevent this from happening in the future.
Were we legally obligated to do an investigation?
No, we are doing so because we believe it is the right thing to do.
What organization is conducting the investigation?
We are entering into a partnership with an organization called GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the 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.
How will GRACE go about conducting their investigation?
Their activities will include reviewing documents, interviewing people, and following up on leads turned up during this process.
As part of the investigation, GRACE will listen to individuals who have relevant information, synthesize that data, and transparently present the findings along with their recommendations. 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.
How long will the investigation take?
It varies depending on circumstances, but typically a GRACE investigation takes between 6 and 12 months.
How can I learn more about GRACE?
You can learn more about GRACE on their website: https://www.netgrace.org/
What is the process for evaluating Elder Board members?
Annually, the congregation is asked to evaluate all Elders, including lay and staff Elders, according to the biblical qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. 2.
What is the Board going to do to protect against similar staff issues in the future?
The Board is undertaking a process of improving our communications, transparency and accountability among staff and Board members. As mentioned previously, 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.
How can people be praying for and supporting the Highlands staff and elders during this challenging season?
The load on those serving on the Elder Board and the staff has been heavy. Pray for a) discernment for the staff and Board to be working on the right things in the right ways, b) wisdom from God to navigate difficult decisions, c) protection of our own health and d) God’s will for the body of Highlands.
Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. – Romans 12:12
How can the church body step up and help?
Right now, we ask for your continued prayers for our church family. We also encourage you to participate in the elder nomination and evaluation process. Additionally, look for new opportunities to minister in this season and join in wholeheartedly with the work that the Lord has called us to collectively do to glorify Him. You can find many opportunities to serve at highlandscc.org/serve, and our staff is here to help you get connected with a team. Our mission and vision has not changed - to help people find and follow Jesus, bringing the hope and healing of the gospel to our broken world. This is a season of new beginnings and opportunity for many to be part of this mission and vision in new ways.