This section is updated every Sunday morning to give church security teams some things to think about as they prepare for weekend services. I wish your team the very best and hope you may find occasional things applicable to your operations.

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Church Security Integrity

Once again, my friend Alan Hughes has written piece worthy of passing on. Alan’s website is www.safeatchurch.info and I encourage you to add that site to your list of resources. Here is his blog which stands on its own without need of comment from me. Thank you Alan for allowing me to pass this on.

Church security member convicted for photos of minor

(by Alan Hughes)


From time to time I use current events to talk about what we do in the area of safety and security for churches and faith-based organizations (FBO). Sometimes it’s bad news, like the
death of a priest in Phoenix. Sometimes it’s good news, like the brave actions of a student at Seattle Pacific University in the face of a killer. Today it’s an incident that saddens me on many levels. 

Last week, 37 year old Duncan Hart Wilkie was convicted of possessing so-called “upskirt” photos of a minor that were taken without her knowledge. Wilkie took those pictures with his cell phone during events at Lifepoint Church in 2011. Wilkie, a member of the church security team, was crawling on the floor to take the pictures. His wife, who witnessed him crawling around, later checked his phone and found the photographs.

Mrs. Wilkie stated that she told 2 church leaders about the photos and that the church did nothing about it. Evidence introduced during the trial indicated that the leaders were notified, but nothing was done and neither the girl, nor her family, were notified. In fact, the young lady and her family were unaware until 2013 when the police became involved. 

Lifepoint Church, located in the Wilmington, DE area, released a statement that said, in part: “No one from Lifepoint’s leadership or staff had ever seen any evidence associated with this case until approached by law enforcement and were not called to testify at trial in this matter.”  Click here to view the full statement

Wilkie was sentenced to three years of probation with a suspended sentence of six to eight months. He will not have to register as a sex offender.

I don’t know who knew what and when they knew it. So please don’t take any of my talking points as passing judgement on Lifepoint or their actions. That said, I do have a few thoughts I’d like to share (you know that was coming):

  • If it’s suspicious for a stranger, it’s suspicious for anyone. I have no idea what sort of place Lifepoint Church is, but I’m going to say that crawling around on the floor near skirt wearing women with a cell phone in your hand isn’t a daily occurrence. So why weren’t bells and whistles going off? Most likely because Wilkie was a member of the security team, a position of trust, and so everyone presumed it was ok. Why? If it’s suspicious, challenge it, regardless of whether they are members, leadership or staff. 
  • There’s usually a pattern. As a police officer I made a lot of DUI arrests, but I didn’t pull people over and cuff them because they drifted over the center line once. Instead, you see the initial indicator and start observing. You look for more indicators and a pattern of bad driving that you’ll use in front of a jury months later to explain why you stopped the car. The same thing applies here. We may observe something that makes our spider sense tingle, but not necessarily enough to act on right away. Keep watching. This sort of thing is rarely a one-time event. Remember the military maxim: Once in happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. 
  • Own your junk. I’m not saying that Lifepoint Church covered anything up. I am saying that no church should cover activity like this up. If we’re worrying about our reputation more than doing what’s right, then we seriously need to rethink a lot of things. Anyone who has watched the news in the past 10 years knows the damage that can be done by cover-ups, willful ignorance and silence. That damage is far worse than if the leadership of those churches or schools had just owned their junk from the start. 
  • Think about who you represent. When I was in the Army, they drummed into our heads that when we were in foreign countries, we were ambassadors. We represented the United States and the Army. You may be serving a church or a FBO, but you are representing God. Victims, their families, church members and the general public will make judgments about God based on the actions you and your church take when it comes to a matter like this and those judgments can have eternal consequences. 

I can tell you that the church I serve at takes a proactive approach in situations like this. Pastoral staff and I are notified in a timely manner measured in minutes and hours, not weeks and months. If minors are involved, parents are notified in a timely manner as well. We won’t hesitate to have direct, sometimes difficult, conversations when it comes to conduct that can be potentially illegal, immoral or unethical. And we won’t sweep it under the rug. Ever.

What about your church? Have you dealt with something like this or even discussed it?