A pair of local pastors whose churches have ties to an Alabaster teacher arrested Jan. 4 and charged with four counts of sexually abusing children said Jan. 6 they were “shocked” by the arrest are doing whatever possible to support the victims.
Alabaster police arrested 49-year-old Alabaster resident Daniel M. Acker Jr. Jan. 4 and charged him with molesting a student in his Thompson Intermediate School fourth-grade classroom in 2009. The department added a fourth sexual abuse charge against Acker two days later.
According to Shelby County School System officials, Acker was also accused of abusing children in 1992, but a Shelby County grand jury did not indict him on the charges.
During the 1992 investigation, Acker was serving as a youth pastor at Alabaster’s Westwood Baptist Church. Westwood Baptist Church Executive Pastor Rick Swing said he was not with the church when Acker was attending or serving as a pastor at Westwood, but he said his church has taken steps over the years to protect children in the church.
“We value children. Since (1992), there have been many more protocols and awareness raised about things like this,” Swing said. “There are a lot more safety measures in place.”
Swing said the church’s “biggest concern” is for the victims of the alleged crimes. Both of Acker’s parents currently attend Westwood, and Swing said he would support both of them throughout the process.
“We want to support the Ackers, but we also know that justice must be served,” Swing said. “It’s a difficult position for us to be in as a church. We want to make sure we do the right thing.”
In a Jan. 5 interview, Montevallo resident Beverly Watson said the First Baptist Church of Pelham held spaghetti suppers to raise money for Acker after the 1992 allegations. Church Pastor Mike Shaw said Acker’s family members did hold a fundraiser in the church, but it was not a church-sanctioned event.
“In hindsight, I wish they would have found somewhere else to have it,” Shaw said. “I apologize to Beverly Watson, the victims and their families for allowing an event to be held in our facility which provided support for someone who used his position to prey on innocent children.”
Brian Erickson, the pastor of Alabaster First United Methodist Church, said some members of his congregation supported Acker during the 1992 allegations.
“Tonight I have talked to several folks in our church family who are feeling betrayed, having stood up for someone who turned out not to be who they thought he was,” Erickson said Jan. 5.
In a letter to his congregation, Erickson urged the church members to pray for the victims, Acker and his family and “all those in our community who have spent today in heartbroken disbelief.”
“As a pastor, I grieve that, yet again, it seems someone in a position to nurture children has used their authority to harm the most defenseless among us,” Erickson said. “Predators leave a seemingly endless trail of mistrust and suspicion in their wake.”