Les Hughey, the founder of Highlands Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, has been placed on leave as the megachurch investigates accusations recently made by four women who say that he took sexual advantage of them when they were teenagers.
Hughey responded to the accusations, published in The Modesto Bee, on Saturday by admitting that inappropriate relationships did take place in the past, but insisted that they were of a consensual nature.
“Over 40 years ago, as a church intern in California, I sinned and harmed the most important relationships in my life. I was unfaithful to my God, my wife, and the ministry, and was rightly removed from that church. I engaged in consensual relations with fellow college-aged staff,” began Hughey’s confession.
“With God’s help, my wife’s forgiveness, and discipline and counseling from church authority, I sincerely repented and we put our lives back in order. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to undo what happened, so I instead accept and live with the consequences, even now so many years later.
“My family and the authority over me at my church are aware of this history. I thank God for his forgiveness and grace.”
The Arizona Republic reported that Highlands Church has since placed Hughey on leave while it looks into the accusations.
“Because the allegations are from more than 40 years ago, it will take some time to get a clear picture,” said Doug Milligan, a Highlands Church official. “We are concerned about the well-being of all people affected by these events.”
As The Modesto Bee reported, four women have accused Hughey of sexual abuse that they say happened more than 40 years ago at Modesto’s First Baptist Church. They say he was serving as a youth pastor, who was also married at the time, and that it was not consensual.