Today’s post is an analysis of Fairfax Community Church’s second statement on Eric Nickle. Its an analysis on some spin that has been given amidst the “A Better $tory” campaign. It also examines the following question…has FCC placed pressure on the local media not to report this story, and my question to Rod Stafford and Loretta Cooper is the following..is that how Jesus would operate?
“Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies; history has no place for them.”
“Whether people care enough about local news to pay for it is, sadly, an entirely different question than whether our democracy requires a strong watchdog function at the local level to ensure safeguards against abuse, chicanery, and outright dishonesty”
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community“
Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV
On Saturday August 1, 2015 SNAP held a protest outside Fairfax Community Church (FCC) and distributed leaflets letting it be known that FCC had employed a violent sex offender in a position of trust as a Care Director. The statement below was given by Loretta Cooper wife of Kyle Cooper who is employed at Fairfax Community Church. If you want to read more background on the story you can read so here. This is my analysis of the statement below. I transcribed the statement and will be writing in red to separate what I am going to state vs. what FCC has said. In short order what is written below would be good spin and something I would expect to see more from the Richard Nixon Whitehouse than a church that claims to preach “The Gopsel.” Start of analysis:
August 1, 2015
We believe in Redemption
One thing I find very irritating about this is that FCC is claiming they believe in redemption thus implying other Christians like myself and others do not believe in redemption. I believe in redemption to but sometimes redemption has consequences, and it doesn’t mean forgive and forget. I believe in redemption but to place a known and violent sex offender in a position of trust is not only reckless but its dangerous. I am not saying Eric Nickle doesn’t have a place at FCC I am saying its just not in his current position. If he just worked with men I wouldn’t mind as much but that is not what is occurring here. He has more free reign than what FCC is admitting.
Fairfax Community Church is focused on redemption and restoration both for the abused and the abuser. The popular narrative of our culture is that one cannot be committed to both. We believe that there are no either/or decisions when it comes to the Gospel and to broken people. Jesus stands with all who are broken. So does Fairfax Community Church.
I believe in redemption and restoration for the abuser as well. The question is how do you define restoration? If a physician loses his medical license for negligence and malpractice does restoration mean he will get his license back? If a drunk driver who killed a family in a mini-van accident serves his time, does that mean he will get his drivers license back? Rod Stafford Jesus cares about broken people and he also cares about honesty. The problem is that FCC was caught being dishonest and hiding this information from the congregation. Jesus does stand with the broken but Jesus had far more insight and knowledge into people than you do Rod Stafford. Jesus was the seminary he knowingly choose the man who betrayed him knowing what was going to transpire. Rod you are not Jesus and you don’t have that access to knowledge. Again I want to be crystal clear I am not questioning the faith of Eric Nickle I am questioning the wisdom of having him in the position he is in.
Fairfax Community Church has hosted a variety of 12 step support groups including eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, pornography and recovery for victims of sexual abuse.
Just off the cuff can I recommend FCC develop a 12 step program for churches addicted to church growth?
We are not naïve. We know recidivism rates among sexual offenders are extraordinarily high. We also know that without recovery programs, options open to men and women are extremely limited: reoffend or commit suicide. We support programs not only because we believe in redemption, but because we care about the victims.
Oh Rod, but you are indeed naïve. I am not opposed to treatment programs for sex offenders what I am questioning is the wisdom of having a person in a position of trust. Also why the black and white thinking….is that part of the problem of dualism, an either or mindset? Why must it be framed as either reoffend or commit suicide? Me and others who are concerned want neither as we don’t want to see a sex offender commit suicide. However we are also concerned that by putting him in a position of trust, and having him greet, and having access to critical information that you are putting him in a situation where you could set him up to re-offend. That’s part of the problem Rod Stafford. Part of this is also love, because if you love Eric you would put him in a situation where he’s not compromised or liable to re-offend. That’s good for FCC, that’s good for you Rod Stafford and that is good for Eric Nickle in the end.
The Facts about Eric Nickle
- Eric began attending a men’s support group at Fairfax Community Church in 2003 immediately after being released from the Fairfax County Detention Center.
- Eric completed the terms of his probation in January 2011 and remains in full compliance with state and county requirements for ex offenders.
- At no time in the past 15 years has Eric reoffended.
- Eric’s responsibilities at the church are limited to computer support, providing logistical support for the food pantry and overseeing adult’s men’s recovery programs.
- At the time of Eric’s employment we mutually established a series of limitations on Eric’s physical boundaries in our facility. At no time does he have access to children or to children’s classrooms.
Wow…I am disappointed that there is so much spin here. I have one question Rod or Loretta…how do you know for absolute certainty that Eric Nickle has not re-offended? Sometimes it takes years, and years before the truth gets to the surface. Victims are intimidated, threatened or bullied and live in fear. From my understanding the victim usually knows the abuser and that makes it harder for that person to speak out. What troubles me is the absolute certainty that is exhibited here. I would love to know why FCC can claim with such certainty that Eric Nickle has not re-offended. For his sake, and others I honestly hope that is the case but how can that be said with such certainty? What makes me wonder about the first part is the last bullet which I know from my own personal involvement in FCC to be an outright lie. Eric walked around freely. He greeted at the door, he gave out assignments at Group Link, he prayed with people near the base of the cross with families nearby in the dark. And as for access to the children’s classroom the sex addiction program has met there a few times. Yes it was after hours, yes there were no children around. I didn’t think anything of it until I learned the information that I did. For a person who can be sexually attracted to children is that a way to entertain fantasy? Kind of like in a similar manner for a guy focused on purity who says they are not reading Playboy, Hustler, etc… but instead reading Maxim? Did the sexual addiction group meet in the children’s classroom for that reason? When I read this I was so disappointed in my former church. Honestly I had hoped you guys would be better than what I read here.
Eric’s history has never been a ‘secret’. Our staff and lay leadership and those directly interacting with Eric and have always been aware of his history. The success of the 12 step programs is rooted in the ability of all participants to work out their challenges in anonymity.
If Eric’s story is not a secret than why has it been hidden for years? Why has FCC scrubbed and tried to hide information on the internet? I know what I saw, and I ran it by Dee Parsons who confirmed the information in 2013 or so. Then I noticed it was gone and I ran it again by Dee Parsons who noticed it was gone also. Why the lack of transparency? Is that how Jesus would operate? Why are people behind the scenes who volunteered leaving a comment here and there saying, “I was never told…” Here’s what happened I would suggest. FCC gave Eric Nickle more leeway than not and probably thinking this would not be an issue. Then it erupted in the early stages of a $16 million dollar expansion called “A Better $tory” and this information threatened the church growth plan. After all what can you do when people bolt who have committed money to the project? So FCC was caught with its pants down, and now its doing some “Gospel Centered Dishonesty.” I just want to shake my head in shame and disgust to think this was the church I got baptized in. What a crying shame….
We support the goals of advocacy groups that seek to protect our children and provide safe places to worship. We feel confident we have acted in accordance with demands of the law, common sense and the Gospel.
I think I explained myself clearly.
Is Fairfax Community Church Trying to Pressure the DC Media to not Report the Story?
There is something very interesting about shady and corrupt churches and its this issue. They place pressure and try and intimidate behind the scenes. Here’s how its played out in the past in a couple of other situations. In Raleigh, North Carolina one of the main Baptist Churches Providence Baptist covered up a sex abuse situation. The Raleigh News and Observer was supposed to do a story on the situation. In time the story was dropped and what happened is that outside pressure by advertisers on the News and Observer killed the story. Then a couple of months ago there was a budding story in Dallas involving Matt Chandler’s The Village Church. The Dallas Morning News was going to break the story on Karen Hinkley. It was to be on the front page of the Sunday morning paper. Karen was disciplined by The Village Church for annulling her marriage to her husband who was sexually attracted to children and addicted to child pornography. The Dallas Morning news was scheduled to break it, then it contacted The Village Church for a statement and the story suddenly went cold. Probably what happened is that pressure was placed on the Dallas Morning News and they caved. That led Amy Smith to break the story instead, and Dee Parsons to write the heck out of it.
So here we are and FCC was caught with its hand in the cookie jar. Word behind the scenes is that as the television media got wind of the situation they wanted to report it. Word from Amy Smith is that one of the television reporters for a local station allegedly claimed that he has never been in a situation where he was placed under intense pressure to not to go ahead with this story by FCC. So my question is this…is that how Jesus would act? Is that part of the Gospel Loretta Cooper? Is that ethical Rod Stafford? When Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount did Jesus, say “If you have any questions deal with my press spokesman Loretta…” Is that part of the Gospel Rod? I must have missed it if I did. Oh by the way Loretta Cooper when you see Kyle Cooper you need to tell Kyle to respond to his email from the congregation. I emailed him when I was deeply involved and he wouldn’t respond. That is not how a pastor should interact with the sheep. If FCC is not going to be a church and instead a business well it’s not good customer service to ignore the client. I could never have done that in the business realm. My client would have been upset if I ignored their emails or contacts. So that’s something that needs to be addressed.
Wow…well I was so dismayed when I read this letter that Loretta Cooper gave to Amy Smith. The spin reflects someone who is a master of spin. Someone has spent time working on Capital Hill, and I see a statement more reflective of that than anything else. All I wanted from my former church is honesty. Honesty, honesty, honesty…why is honesty such a lonely word? Why is honesty so hard to find? So with that I will let Billy Joel sing my lament about the lack of honesty in this letter.