Following allegations of sexual misconduct, the Elders of Highlands Church have accepted the April 25 resignation of Senior Pastor Les Hughey, effective immediately, and announced Pastor Bob Wade as interim senior pastor.
History of Allegations
Les Hughey approached the Elders of Highlands Church the week of April 16th after being contacted by a California newspaper regarding a forthcoming story detailing allegations of sexual misconduct occurring over four decades ago. The information provided to the Elders was summed up in the statement given to the newspaper and delivered by Les at Highlands during Sunday morning services on April 22nd regarding sexual sin he had committed while serving as an intern at a church in Modesto, CA.
Upon reading the news report published in the media on Saturday, April 21, which contained allegations of sexual abuse, and upon meeting with Les Sunday morning, the Elders immediately placed him on an indefinite leave of absence to allow time to investigate and carefully consider the steps to prudently move forward.
On Monday morning, April 23rd, the Elder Board became aware of additional allegations about incidents that occurred more than two decades ago while Les was a Youth Pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church.
Biblical Reasons for Resignation
The Elders have sought God’s Word to be our ultimate guide for making decisions and developing an action plan for moving forward, and accepted Les Hughey’s resignation based on biblical principles.
1 Timothy 3:1-7 outlines the qualifications of an elder:
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
Based on theses verses, particularly the mandate that an elder or pastor (overseer) must be above reproach and must have a good reputation with those outside the church, the Elders determined Les is no longer qualified to serve as an overseer and Elder. This was made clear following his admission that he engaged in inappropriate and sinful sexual activity with women while he was married, failed to properly resolve the matter consistent with biblical requirements, and subsequently failed to disclose the past behavior when applying for future positions where such behavior was relevant to the position.
Pastor Hughey’s resignation does not end the responsibility of Highlands Church. Highlands will continue with a third-party investigation, following the biblical guidance of Matthew 18:15-16:
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
Verse 16 tells us that every charge is to be established. Les has been accused, which requires an investigation to “establish every charge.” Highlands Church is committed to doing what is right. We believe it is the Church’s obligation to lead in any realm related to justice for and protection of any person who has been harmed.
At this time, we have received no reports of sexual abuse by Les Hughey during his time at Highlands Church. Furthermore, we have received no additional reports of current staff members or volunteers engaging in sexual abuse at Highlands Church.
Our church will not tolerate abuse of any kind, and ensuring the health and safety of members, particularly our children and youth, is of paramount importance. All allegations of sexual abuse or assault should be reported to criminal and child protection authorities, regardless of the passage of time.
Highlands is completely committed to providing counseling and spiritual care to any impacted by past abuse. We recognize the critical importance of treating sexual abuse seriously and its victims with compassion. We intend to speak with transparency and to honor Christ in the way we care for any who have experienced abuse, and encourage anyone with information or a need to speak with someone to reach out to us at .
Highlands Church has retained attorney Kimberlee Norris, sexual abuse expert and founder of MinistrySafe, to investigate past events and assess our child protection policies and protocols.
Ms. Norris is an experienced attorney that regularly represents victims of abuse in court as a victims advocate. Her expertise well positions her to discover any areas of concern and provide guidance should evidence of abuse taking place or having taken place at Highlands Church be revealed.
Additionally, Ms. Norris and the MinistrySafe team will work to confirm that Highlands Church is exercising best practices to ensure the safety of our children and youth.
MinistrySafe is a leader in the industry and provides state-of-the-art tools and training “to protect children and those who serve them.” After identifying patterns from hundreds of child sexual abuse cases, Ms. Norris and her MinistrySafe co-founder Gregory Love created a five-part safety system tailored to meet the specific needs of churches, camps, ministries and other organizations. The system includes:
- Sexual abuse awareness training, which provides the foundation for the safety system by replacing misconceptions and misinformation with facts, because “you can’t address a risk you don’t understand;”
- A skillful screening process to help discern if an applicant or volunteer has the wrong motive for wanting to work with children;
- Policies and procedures to minimize or eliminate the risks normally inherent in children’s programming;
- Background checks, which are important even though less than 10 percent of abusers will have criminal records to check; and
- Monitoring and oversight, providing checks and balances once the safety system is in place.
If you would like to contact Highlands or have questions, please email us at .
If you would like to contact our Minister of Women, please contact Pam Phillips at .
To contact MinistrySafe directly with any information you wish to report, you may do so confidentially using this web form.
The previous statements released by the elders are available in PDF form at the links below: