Becky Garrison: Mark Driscoll’s Revisionist History

The following is a guest post by Becky Garrison. Garrison is the author of seven books, including Roger Williams’ Little Book of Virtues, and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church. She has contributed to a range of outlets including The GuardianReligion DispatchesKilling the Buddha, and The Humanist.

Mark Driscoll’s Revisionist History
by Becky Garrison

Who founded Mars Hill Church? Seems like a simple question and one which Mark Driscoll should be able to answer. However, recently, it appears that Driscoll has crafted a narrative which eliminates at least two early figures from view. In his current sermon campaign titled “James: Jesus’ Bold Little Brother” (January 16, 2014), Driscoll used the illustration of the Apostle Paul submitting to the authority of James, Peter and John to exemplify Driscoll’s role in founding MHC:

When I felt called to plant, I went through a full assessment. Pastors oversaw me, a team interviewed me, a church sent me. An overseer had authority over me.

To Christianity Today in January, Driscoll said he planted Mars Hill and that he was the only pastor until there was 800 people in the church. Nowhere in these retellings does Driscoll reference the late Rev. Ken Hutcherson who pastored Antioch Church, the entity largely responsible for shepherding Mars Hill Church into existence. Also, by presenting himself as the founder of Mars Hill Church, Driscoll fails to mention Lief Moi or Mike Gunn, who were the other two co-founders of Mars Hill. These names have all but disappeared from Mars Hill’s website. Christian publishers continue to play into Driscoll’s myth-making by allowing Driscoll’s bio to now list him as the sole founder of Mars Hill Church (e.g., his bio at Harper Collins Christian).

This is not the first instance where Driscoll presented a revisionist history. The author of the Wenatchee the Hatchet blog points out how Driscoll incorrectly takes credit for founding The Paradox Theatre, an all-ages club in Seattle. On her blog, Wendy Alsup along with her husband cite numerous examples in Real Marriage where Driscoll presented a detailed history of his wife’s sexual sins while obscuring his own sexual history.

More recently, during the Malachi sermon series which ended on January 5, 2014, Driscoll claimed there was no children’s ministry when he started Mars Hill Church 17 years ago because they had no children present. This contradicts earlier commentary in his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Zondervan, 2006) were Driscoll said his co-founders were good fathers, and that the way they parented their children was a reason why he shared the idea of planting Mars Hill Church with them (page 54).
Also, as Mars Hill Church grew from a home church to a megachurch model with multiple campuses, their governance structure moved from Alexander Strauch’s model presented in Biblical Eldership (Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1995) that advocates for a plurality of shared leadership to Driscoll’s current  “prophet, priest and king” model. Executive elders Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas assume these respective roles as though by divine appointment. Executive Pastor Turner expounds on Driscoll’s metaphor of kingly gifts in Invest (Resurgence Publishing, 2013), Turner’s first book written to aid other executive pastors serving as administrators of megachurches. Nowhere in this conversation will one find references to the work of theologians John Frame or Cornelius Van Til, the men scholars credit with what is called “Tri-perspectivalism”, which in theory is a way of analyzing the effectiveness of church ministry in comparison to the attributes of “prophet, priest, and, king” embodied in Jesus Christ. Although using some of the same words and comparisons, a reader of Driscoll’s and Mars Hill’s materials would never get the idea that the terminology is not originally Driscoll’s. Nevertheless, his application is a deviation from and an extreme application of Frame’s theories.
Driscoll’s problems with rewriting have become well known. As documented in earlier postings, Driscoll’s books contain numerous acts of plagiarism and other citation errors. At Patheos, Warren Throckmorton provides a chart highlighting all instances of Driscolls’ use others’ work without proper attribution that has been documented so far.
According to an email statement issued by Harper Collins Christian, the parent company of Thomas Nelson, “We are aware of the issues that have been raised about Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage, and we are working with the authors to address them as efficiently and effectively as possible in all formats.” However, they refuse to discuss what steps, if any, they will take to compensate those authors whose work was used without their permission or even proper sourcing. Nav Press will not comment publicly about this issue any further while Crossway has yet to respond to email inquiries.

The Shrinking Best Seller
The one event scheduled in 2014 to promote Real Marriage, a #1 New York Times bestselling book for one week, generated almost no publicity outside of the Mars Hill Church PR machine. But not even their Valentine’s Day giveaway seemed to generate any significant social media buzz.

Despite over 12,000 average attendance at Mars Hill churches, the February 21-22 event to promote Real Marriage (which drew an overflow crowd of  2,000 people to the live event), only saw 180 individuals, groups and churches tap in nationwide through the simulcast, according to The Hub Bible Study Solutions, the group who hosted the event. At a cost of $40 for an individual ticket and reasonably priced simulcast fees, this conference is easily within many people’s budgets. So ticket prices did not appear to be a consideration in keeping people from coming to this event.

Along those lines, there’s been no response from Harper Collins Christian (was Thomas Nelson) regarding why they are no longer promoting one of their bestselling authors. Perhaps their time is being taken up having to revise the revisions.

Ugandan Scientist Who Chaired President Museveni's Anti-Homosexuality Committee Runs HIV Project Funded by CDC

UPDATE: I have updated the title of this post to reflect new information from the National Institutes of Health. According to NIH spokesperson, Renate Myles, the CDC funds the grant led by Jane Aceng, not the NIH. Myles wrote:

NIH does not fund this grant.  The grant referenced in your blog was awarded by the CDC.  Please correct your post since it is causing quite a bit of confusion.  NIH Reporter includes data files on research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). I would recommend that you contact the CDC to learn more about the grant and how it is structured.
All the best,
Renate Myles

The committee of Ugandan researchers and scientists who gave President Museveni cover (see their final report here) to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was chaired by Jane Ruth Aceng. Dr. Aceng is a pediatrician and Director of General Health Services at Uganda’s Ministry of Health. She also is a principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health, currently leading a project which addresses “HIV response” in Uganda. See below to see the three grants she has received since 2012.

I wonder if the CDC and NIH will evaluate such requests for funding differently now in light of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.  Dr. Aceng is supposed to be leading an effort to address HIV response and yet her failure to stand up to the President’s misuse of science will weaken her nation’s ability to reach vulnerable populations. It is also quite possible that straights will fear coming forward for testing and treatment because they may be afraid of questions about their sexuality. People from all over the ideological spectrum agree that the bill will harm Uganda’s efforts to address HIV/AIDS (e.g., UNAIDS, Harvard’s Ed Green).
At the least, I hope the NIH and CDC will take steps to secure project leaders who are actual leaders.
H/t Joe Amon

The Day After: Ugandan Television Examines the New Anti-Gay Law

NTV Uganda devoted multiple segments to coverage of the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Here is what the network posted on You Tube:
Entire signing ceremony (over 1 hour)
(H/t Box Turtle Bulletin)

The Day After: Tabloid Publishes List of 200 Top Homosexuals; Ssempa Offers Gay Rehab; Far Right Reacts

The Uganda rag, The Red Pepper, has published what it says is a list of 200 Top Homosexuals.
One problem with the story is the statement that first time offenders can be sentenced to 14 years. According to the copy of the bill I posted yesterday, first offenders may be sentenced to life in prison. For touching.
This action is disgusting. I pray it does not incite Ugandans to persecute these people.
In this NY Daily News article, a picture is posted of Martin Ssempa who is now offering “rehabilitation counseling” for gays.  Here is a similar picture from Twitter:

US exgay leader Darrell Foster congratulates Martin Ssempa.

American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer thinks putting gays in prison for life is a good thing.

Scott Lively says Africans don’t really mean what they legislate.

Seattle Times Reports on the Troubles of Mark Driscoll's Doctor John Catanzaro

Seattle Times health reporter Carol Ostrom filed a report today regarding suspended Seattle naturopath John Catanzaro. Regular readers here will recognize similar themes in this report but see some important new information as well.
The article leads with his suspension and notes that he has until March 14th to appeal. Originally, Catanzaro had 20 days to appeal but he filed a motion for an extension of time to prepare his appeal which was granted by a Seattle judge last week. According to Department of Health spokeswoman, Kelly Stowe, Catanzaro is not supposed to engage in the practice of naturopathic medicine while his license is suspended. However, according to his website, he appears to be continuing his practice.
The article also confirmed the reporting here and at Wartburg Watch that Catanzaro once claimed a relationship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, but in fact, has no relationship with the clinic and that DFCI has asked Catanzaro to stop using the name in his materials.
According to Ostrom’s reporting, Mark Driscoll praised Catanzaro’s treatments which led to others in the church to seek out his services. Some former MHC members have related to me that Driscoll has stated publicly that the IV vitamin treatments cost over $1,000 each.
The Times article also delves into Catanzaro’s fundraising methods a bit. As the Times notes, patients have set up accounts to solicit funds for their individual care. While this is permitted, the donations may not be tax deductible as IRS rules (see page 6) appear to disallow donations which are earmarked for one person’s care.