Former Mars Hill Church Worship Leader Luke Abrams to Current Members: Vote With Your Nickles and Noses

I have noted before that the current by-laws of Mars Hill Church do not give members voting privileges for anything at the church. However, on his Facebook page, another former Mars Hill leader is reminding current members that they can still have a voice. Former worship leader at Mars Hill, Luke Abrams, has joined other former leaders who have gone public with significant concerns about the current direction of Mars Hill. Abrams initially posted his thoughts on his private Facebook page, but they were quickly posted on several blogs, including this one. I contacted him to make sure he approved and he gave permission for his statement to posted more widely.
On March 23, Luke posted the following:

Hello friends.
I’ve been following closely the Mars Hill developments over the past few weeks, and continue to process many of the things I experienced and witnessed and participated in during my 16 years there. I’ve been hesitant to speak directly into many of these conversations, both because I don’t have it perfectly straight in my own head, and because, frankly, I’ve been afraid.
But I have decided that now is the time to speak.
I left Mars Hill in March 2013, not because I was frustrated, angry or hurt, but simply because my family and I moved to the UK for a really neat job opportunity and life experience. In the year since I left Mars Hill, I began to have questions, then concerns, and eventually, reluctant conclusions that many of the things I was taught and many aspects of the culture of Mars Hill were and are unhealthy.
In my years there, most of you know me from when I led worship with Team Strike Force (1997-2008). I also led community groups, participated in and led redemption groups, and worked behind the scenes to shepherd and serve leaders and volunteers. If you’re reading this I interacted with you in one or more of these things over the years.
So it’s really sad and challenging for me recognize and admit that there were and are serious problems at Mars Hill, because I not only went along with it complicitly, I actively participated. And while over the years I’ve had the chance to confess, repent of, and seek forgiveness for specific sins of my own, I’ve not done so for the hurt I caused while partnering with Mars Hill. I now see some of these sins, and welcome each of you to reach out to me to help me see more. The things that are clearest to me now is: (1) I routinely sacrificed friendships on the altar of growth, (2) I lived out and defended the early MH years teaching about marriage, which was domineering and forceful leadership, (3) I participated and led in a culture that took advantage of volunteers, using their time, energy, and talent without providing commensurate shepherding and care and (4) I sat by silently as people were treated in ways that robbed them of dignity.
In the past few weeks, scandals around the NYT best seller scheme have piled onto recent accusations of plagiarism. While these are for sure troubling, what weighs most on my mind is the culture of harshness and fear, the prioritization of growth over love, and the environment distinctly lacking in accountability that Mark has successfully built around himself.
There is much more I could write here, but I wanted to clarify my position with respect to Mars Hill. I am no longer a member at Mars Hill, and do not support or trust the leadership in place. I support Dave Kraft’s call for repentance with 20 other former elders. I support Bryan Zug’s call to peacefully evacuate Mars Hill.
But I know that many of you are in the middle, like I was for so many years. For me, I only saw two options – all in or all out. And it’s a nuanced and difficult situation – there are still many great people at Mars Hill. There is a lot of great teaching. Many of the CGs are healthy and loving. Many of the pastors there are doing their best to love, serve and care for the body. There is important work to do, and many more hurting people asking for help than there are people to help them. These are the things that kept me there for so long, even though I was often troubled by many aspects of the church.
I wish I had thought about it less black and white. I wish I had considered all aspects of my participation in Mars Hill and followed my conscience. So I appeal to the undecided to consider things such as:
1. Membership. If you’re a member, read through your membership covenant. Do you believe you can still, in good faith, live up to all aspects of the covenant, including being under spiritual authority of the pastors of Mars Hill? Do you believe that Mars Hill leadership has held up their end of the covenant, including meeting the biblical criteria of eldership, caring for you and seeking your growth, and setting an example? If no, you can resign your membership and still keep participating in Mars Hill in any way you like.
2. Attendance on Sundays. Even if you still listen to the sermons on podcast, attend your CG, and participate in other ways, you could stop going to Sunday service. Empty chairs will send a loud message to leadership.
3. Tithing. This is one of the loudest things you can say to leadership. If they can’t make budget they will be forced to listen to the voices. You can simply stop or reduce tithing while still participating in any other way you see fit. You can resume or increase your giving if and when you feel that your concerns have been addressed.
4. Service/volunteering. As Mark often mentions, Mars Hill relies on volunteers to keep the ship moving. I know this first hand, having volunteered ~20 hours/week for almost all of my 16 years there. If you serve in music, productions, hospitality, children’s ministry, redemption groups, or in any other capacity, consider pulling back or stopping altogether. Your service is the engine that drives the boat. If you’re not happy with where it’s going you are empowered to slow or stop its progress.
5. Community Groups. If your CG is a healthy, loving community, keep going. If, however, you are not free to peacefully but openly discuss your concerns, consider finding or starting a new CG (sponsored/sanctioned by MH or not)
6. Conferences and training. If you have a slot in Resurgence, are considering Mars Hill School, or any other training or leadership development event, consider cancelling. One because empty seats speak loudly, and for another if you have concerns about the leadership you may not want to learn how to be more like them.
7. Podcasts/vodcasts. If you subscribe, even if you don’t listen/watch, this is counted and referenced as evidence of God’s grace on Mars Hill. You can cancel your podcasts/vodcasts and send a message.
8. Books/music/merch. You can stop buying these things, and stop lending books to friends.
9. Official office or role. Are you an elder or a deacon? CG coach? Worship leader? Even if you stop serving your title continues for many months. Consider surrendering your title or office.
If you have already left or are leaving Mars Hill, that’s clear. If you’re happy and supportive of Mars Hill, that’s great and I’m glad to hear it. My experience was different, but Mars Hill is large and ever changing. Maybe things are better for you where you are in this season.
Many of you are in the middle and not quite sure what to do. I call for this more granular thinking to appeal to the middle. You don’t have to pick an extreme right now, you can simply think through each aspect of your participation and follow your conscience on how specifically you want to participate. Throwing the eject switch was too much for me when I was there, and I wish someone had encouraged me to think about it less black and white.
I think one of the distortions that Mark and the Exec Elders have bought into is that as long as there is a large and growing audience and healthy giving and service they have implicit support for where and how they’re leading. And there is frankly some truth to that, because as long as people are voting yes with their nickels and noses they are supported.
And Mars Hill has a sophisticated set of metrics they track, not just nickels and noses. The senior leadership team tracks all of the above things and more. I personally believe that Mark and the exec elders will only respond and repent when their scorecard turns red.
So if you’re on the fence, think about your noses and your nickles and all of the things you do that the leaders interpret as support. What do you want to say to them? You can’t get a face to face meeting with Mark, but you can talk to him loudly through how you participate.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I welcome any of your thoughts, and again invite you to reach out directly if you would like to talk about specific ways that I hurt you and/or participated actively or passively in your hurt.

According to former members, Luke Abrams and his band Team Strike Force were a big part of the Mars Hill culture. Luke’s music helped shape the appeal of Mars Hill and was a large draw to young people in Seattle. Now, when you go to the Mars Hill website, most references to Luke have been scrubbed. For instance, this once was a description of the song Passover (Google cache) which Abrams wrote with another former Mars Hill leader Jeff Bettger. Now, sometime after March 15, the page is missing.
Luke’s wife Jessica Abrams actually predated his public statements with a blog post where she discussed concerns she has become aware of since she left Mars Hill.
For all posts on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, click here.

Former Executive Pastor Repents for Culture of Fear at Mars Hill Church

Kyle Firstenberg was a long time member at Mars Hill in Seattle and former executive pastor at Mars Hill Orange County (CA). In the Mars Hill system, the executive pastor is responsible for the operations of a church. The counterpart at Mars Hill headquarters is Sutton Turner. Earlier this month, Firstenberg spoke with me about the Mars Hill non-disclosure agreement and, along with Dave Kraft, Firstenberg is leading the 20 former Mars Hill pastors who have requested mediation with Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill leadership. Previously, I spoke with Firstenberg about the culture of fear at Mars Hill but in a recent blog post, Firstenberg made the subject personal by taking some responsibility for helping to maintain it. Yesterday, Firstenberg wrote:

Throughout my life I have never been quick to repent of my sins. I have hidden some sin for years, and quite frankly have just started to see and experience what grace and forgiveness looks like. Shortly after starting employment at Mars Hill in 2006, I noticed that there was a culture of fear that I had never seen in the prior six years of attending Mars Hill. That fear I believe was the result of the leadership style of Mark Driscoll. You were a valuable asset on staff at Mars Hill if you were tough, a high producer, dedicated to the growth of the church, and equally dedicated to Mark Driscoll himself. If you are not those things, you live in constant fear of being discarded.
I personally thrived in that culture. Coming from law enforcement, it was easy for me to be tough, instill fear in others, produce results and be dedicated to Mark and the church. I wasn’t saved at Mars Hill, but learned almost all I know about theology from his preaching over the years.

While I was succeeding in that culture, I at the same time, am guilty of not loving people, using them as a means to an end, and discarding people who did not fit the mold of a Mars Hill Leader, ie Mark Driscoll. I judged other people who were gifted in different ways harshly. Pridefully, I felt as though I was better than them and that if you disagreed with Mark or the direction then you weren’t on board with us and could simply leave.

Firstenberg then describes his part in the culture of fear:

In my six years on staff at Mars Hill I sinned in numerous ways. Some that come to mind are:

  • I participated in the culture of fear and promoted it through my actions with others.
  • I have participated in firing staff who confessed sin that in retrospect should have been received with grace vs law.
  • I was involved in helping in the leadership of several church discipline cases where I now believe I sinned against members by not entering into that discipline with love but rather an objective to fix a problem.
  • I failed to follow up with staff and members who left the church believing that they were against us. I sinned against them by not loving them through the transition and giving them a voice for any sin that may have been done to them.
  • I wrongfully believed the lie that Jesus is not working in any other church and that He is only working in Mars Hill.
  • I justified the unrepentant sin that Mark was committing by the apparent fruit and growth of the church.
  • I did not call Mark out when I witnessed his sin as a fellow pastor should, because of the fear of losing my job.
  • I continually operated with a self-preservation mindset that influenced how I pastored and led others.

During past conversations, Firstenberg told me that he has brought his concerns to Mars Hill’s Board of Advisors and Accountability and to specific leaders involved at Mars Hill. However, to date, he has received no response from the church.
If my sources are correct, more former Mars Hill staff and pastors will be coming forward to present similar narratives over the coming days.

Mark Driscoll's Sermons Keep Disappearing

In recent weeks, many of Mark Driscoll’s sermons have disappeared from the Mars Hill Church website. On March 19, Wenatchee the Hatchet pointed out the disappearance of all preaching content before 2008.  Then on Saturday, WtH noted that the spiritual warfare series is now missing.
Some of these pages figure prominently in various controversies involving Driscoll. For instance, the page on Driscoll’s study guide on Peter is now missing. According to a message once posted on that page, the guide was to be returned to the site after plagiarized sections were properly sourced. Nothing is there now.
He once disclosed that he had the ability to visualize the sins of others in graphic detail. He claimed to get those visions from God. Those sermons are now missing.
During a 2007 sermon, Driscoll famously wished he could “go Old Testament” on a couple of elders. He also told the story about the fight trainer who kept his fighters in line by busting their noses. He did not disguise his anger at elders who disagreed with his direction during those messages. Those sermons are now gone.
On March 14, Driscoll issued a conciliatory sounding letter to his congregation. Now Mars Hill appears to be attempting to cover up some of the issues for which Driscoll claims to be sorry.
Many people have this material archived so I don’t know what Mars Hill Church hopes to accomplish. However, this does seem like standard operating procedure when troubling content comes to light. As I documented here, the scrubbers at Mars Hill have been busy for a long time.
As an aside, a week has come and gone since twenty former Mars Hill pastors asked Mars Hill leaders for mediation. No response has come.

Why is Charisma News Claiming Credit for an Article About Mark Driscoll Authored by Lyall Mercer? (UPDATED)

UPDATE (3/24): This is getting comical. Now Charisma News has changed the Mark Driscoll v. The Enemy Within article byline to Christian News Service. So far, the article has been written by four people/organizations (Bill Roberts, Russ Jones, Charisma News Staff, and now CNS). However, the real author, Lyall Mercer is still being obscured and the Christian News Service has removed the article from the CNS website.

(Back to the original post)
I have asked Charisma News this question three times with no answer. How ironic that in an article on plagiarism and Mark Driscoll, Charisma claims authorship for an article penned by someone else and which initially required payment to be published as a press release.
Here is a summary of the situation. Yesterday morning, Russ Jones at Christian News Service published  a press release submitted by Lyall Mercer, a public relationship consultant. Initially, it was not clear to me that the piece was a press release because Russ Jones’ name was provided at the beginning of the article, as if under his authorship. I was not alone in this assumption. Journalist Ruth Graham also thought so and tweeted this observation. When Mr. Jones became aware that readers misunderstood the nature of Mercer’s submission, he informed me that the piece was a paid press release and changed the byline to “admin.” He later removed the press release from his website (Google cache).
At some point yesterday after the press release was posted to CNS’s website, Charisma News copied the release, placed Bill Roberts name on it as a byline and published it on their website with a modified title. I then alerted Charisma that Bill Roberts was not the author and Charisma then changed the authorship to Russ Jones. When I informed them that Mercer, not Jones, was the author, Charisma changed the authorship to “Charisma News Staff.” Since then, Charisma has received much criticism on Twitter and in the comments section of the Mercer-authored article. Last evening, they removed the comments section but left the article intact, except for the addition of one vague reference to a “press release.”
To me, it is disappointing that Charisma would publish a complete press release under another writer’s byline. Press releases should be labeled as such so that readers can evaluate the credibility of the “news” in the release. In this case, if the article was properly labeled, readers would know that the author of the “article” cites himself as an expert and paid to have it originally published. The addition of the one reference to an unnamed, unsourced press release doesn’t sufficiently improve the situation (see screen capture comparing the CNS version with the Charisma version).
In this case, I know I have a good, working email since I received a reply to my earlier inquiry. I am open to being corrected and listening to an alternative narrative but at this point, knowing what I know, I can only assume that Charisma has the correct information and has simply decided to obscure the facts.

Who Wrote the Puff Piece on Mark Driscoll? (UPDATED)

It is a Friday afternoon mystery.
UPDATE3: Christian News Service removed the Lyall Mercer article from the CNS website.
On the other hand, Charisma “News Service” removed all comments and closed the section. Apparently, they really don’t want their readers to know the truth about that article. Honestly, I am pretty surprised about the decision to go with deception over truth.
UPDATE1: Some of the mystery is solved. Russ Jones at Christian News Service wrote with the following information about the article on his site:

This was a PAID news release by Australian-based Mercer PR sent out at 9:30am CST. The owners name is Lyall Mercer.

So apparently Bill Roberts simply took the news release, tweaked it ever so slightly and put his byline on it. The American Copy Editors Society’s book on plagiarism, Telling the Truth and Nothing But addresses this situation on page 12:

UPDATE2: Charisma News let me know that they have changed the byline to Russ Jones (now Charisma changed the byline to “Charisma News Staff“). As we now know, that’s closer but still not right. I think Charisma should just remove the article and apologize for it. At the least, they should change the by-line to Lyall Mercer so readers are aware of the self-serving nature of the piece.
(Original post resumes below)
Who really wrote this puff piece on how beleaguered Mark Driscoll is being attacked by “the enemy within” (AKA Janet Mefferd and the former members and leaders of Mars Hill Church).  Is it Bill Roberts or Russ Jones or did Lyall Mercer really write it?
First look at this Charisma News article.

Then take a look at this Christian New Service article.

Notice anything similar about them? As in they are essentially identical.
Journalist Ruth Graham first pointed this out on Twitter:


— Ruth Graham (@publicroad) March 21, 2014

I think the order was CNS first, then Charisma but maybe not. In any case, I wrote both places  to ask.  Whoever wrote it, it comes across as an advertisement for Lyall Mercer’s curious views on church PR. Remember pastors — who need to be pastors and not celebrities — that the first thing to do when people call you to accountability is to call the PR person to make sure your apologetic messaging will respond strategically to the nasty messengers who bring the facts.
Note to CharismaNews, it certainly isn’t news. A news story would have included commentary from Janet Mefferd and some of the former pastors and members who are going public with their concerns and experiences while at Mars Hill.
Probably the best thing for both places to do is to take the article down and start over with some real journalism.

Former Mars Hill Pastor Dave Kraft Explains Charges Against Mark Driscoll

Today on his blog, former Mars Hill Church Leadership pastor, Dave Kraft, explained more about his views on Mark Driscoll.
In May, 2013, Kraft filed formal charges against Driscoll with the Board of Advisors and Accountability. Many people provided evidence and personal experience to BOAA member Michael Van Skaik who chaired the committee assigned to investigate the charges. At least one witness tried to present evidence to the committee via face-to-face meetings but this offer to meet was refused with the explanation that testimony had to be presented in writing. Eventually, nothing was done and some of those who presented evidence received no response to the information submitted.
This background is important to help understand why so many former Mars Hill members and leaders are now going public. Many of them believe they have exhausted their private options to have their concerns heard. The current governance of Mars Hill gives only one avenue for grievances to be heard and that has been tried. The people cannot vote or officially raise items for discussion with leadership. The full council of elders cannot even call their own official meetings. All authority rests with the executive elders and four non-member supposedly independent members appointed by the BOAA. In that way, it is self-perpetuating with no input from any other entity. As Kraft notes in his post, many believe that a culture of fear has taken hold at Mars Hill.
For his part, Kraft outlined his concerns in today’s blog post:

I addressed these “concerns and issues” by filing “Formal Charges” in May of 2013, which I mentioned in my March 7 Blog Post
On September 19, 2013, I resigned my membership and Eldership, because I have serious questions about the ministry and leadership philosophy/practices of the Executive Elders of MHC, no longer trust them and, therefore, cannot submit to their authority.
Mark Driscoll’s sin(s) (for many of us who know him and have worked with him) are about clear violations of I Timothy 3, Titus 1 and I Peter 5.
1.  Not being self-controlled and disciplined
2.  Being domineering
3.  Being verbally violent
4.  Being arrogant
5.  Being quick-tempered
Now, no leader is perfect. All of us understand and agree with that and we are not demanding or expecting Mark Driscoll to be flawless. In the biblical passages cited above, a single instance might not be a disqualifier from eldership; but an established pattern of such behavior, supported and substantiated by eyewitnesses, would be. Such is the case with Mark. I believe (and so do many other former staff and elders) he has a long-standing pattern of consistently violating these leadership qualities and has done so with dozens of individuals with few, if any, signs of genuine repentance.

In his post, Kraft says that he is interested in the well being of Driscoll and Mars Hill. He also says that there are others who are interested in the controversy because they want to see Mars Hill decline. Kraft says:

There is a feeding frenzy in the media regarding Mars Hill Church. Those with something to say (and who are saying it) probably fit into two main camps.
1.  Those who want what’s best for MHC and its core leadership led by Mark Driscoll
2.  Those who would like to destroy both the church and its visionary and teaching pastor Mark Driscoll

In my opinion, if I am understanding him correctly, this is simplistic. I realize I could be wrong, but his option one sounds as though he believes the current leadership team should remain in place. If he means that, then I would disagree that there are only two options. I know numerous people who believe Driscoll should step down or go on sabbatical but at the same time have the best wishes and intentions for the church. They believe Driscoll’s removal or sabbatical would be best for both the church and Driscoll.
In any case, with this post, Kraft has pulled back the curtain a little more on the upheaval that has been roiling Mars Hill for months, if not years.

More Mars Hill Church Grievances: Former Member Calls For Evacuation

Something is up in Seattle.
Monday, twenty former pastors of Mars Hill Church sent a letter requesting mediation because they have tried going through channels and now want to bring in someone from the outside. On Facebook, former Mars Hill elder Rob Smith started a group to exonerate fired elders Bent Meyer and Paul Petry. Today, former long-time member Bryan Zug is calling for the evacuation of Mars Hill.
While the former pastors have been a bit vague about their concerns (preferring to wait to see whether or not Mars Hill responds), Zug is not quiet about his grievances. In fact, he calls on Mars Hill members to complain about at least four issues:

1. On May 15th 2013, in a 1:1 meeting at his office, Pastor Dave Bruskas confirmed to me that when a Pastor of Mars Hill’s downtown campus tried to gracefully resign, Pastor Mark Driscoll tried to force him to sign a non-compete clause for the city of Seattle and beyond.
The kind of culture that leads men to impose such demands begets a deep misunderstanding of sound Gospel Community principles laid out by the Bible.
While repentance of this specific incident may or may not have occurred, the culture that begat it is still bearing deadly fruit.
2. The ‘I am the Brand’ speech.
Before the exodus of the Mars Hill creative department a couple of years ago, Mark Driscoll gave a speech in the Ballard Paradox theater which is commonly referred to as the ‘I am the brand’ speech. In that speech he advocated that marketing and communication be centered on his personality, name, and brand (in lieu of the name of the great Shepherd himself).
While repentance of this specific incident may or may not have occurred, the culture that begat it is still bearing deadly fruit.
3. Spending upwards of ?$500k?, ?$600k?, ?$700k? of church funds and resources (money + volunteer hours + staff hours) to market the book Real Marriage, while profits of the book go to a very confusing matrix of private corporations that seem to be owned by Mark and Sutton (again, hugely confusing).
4. The huge MH salary of elders who, while employed full time for MH, create intellectual property (books and curriculum) that they own privately and gain profit from. I believe the salaries of the executive elders and any financial compensation to the BOAA need to be publicly available to former and current members of the church body – lest this thing Jim and Tammy Faye forward any longer. The cloudy confusing nature of this becomes unsupportable at some point.

Keep in mind, this is one person’s opinion although I should add that I have heard of the “I am the brand” speech and non-compete contract from multiple sources so what he says sounds consistent with other witnesses. I have asked Justin Dean, PR rep at Mars Hill, multiple questions with no answer so I don’t expect to hear anything from that source.
Apparently, these public complaints are coming at the end of a process that has been taking place for years without resolution.

Mark Driscoll and Instruction on Plagiarism at Corban University and Western Seminary.

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church are partnering with Corban University and Western Seminary to teach the Bible and related topics. You can hear Driscoll pitching the program on You Tube. He will be teaching in the school.
Driscoll’s publishers are now cleaning up multiple instances of plagiarism in his books. Although relatively minor, there are factual errors as well (see this chart for a comprehensive look the citation problems found to date). Driscoll has not yet addressed most of these problems.
Seems like an unlikely resume item for a college professor. These schools claim to care about such things.
Here is the introduction of Corban University’s academic honesty policy:

Corban University is committed to high academic standards and expects students to achieve these standards in a manner marked by integrity and honesty. Academic honesty is the hallmark of true personal integrity. Students’ academic work is evaluated on the assumption that the work presented is their own. Faculty and students are expected to identify departures from academic honesty.

Plagiarism is defined as follows:

Plagiarism: representing without giving credit the words, data, or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise. This includes submitting, in whole or part, pre-written term papers, or the research of another, including materials sold or distributed by commercial vendors.

Western Seminary also uses serious tones to describe plagiarism:

Plagiarism is defined as taking another’s ideas or words and presenting them as one’s own. The student must give proper credit to the source of ideas as well as direct quotations. (For further guidance, please see your professor.) All forms of cheating, including plagiarism, are considered extremely serious offenses.

Yes, for further guidance, please see your professor. And that, I submit, is where the problem is.  Students who get caught might want to keep that guideline in their back pocket.

Twenty Former Mars Hill Pastors Seek Mediation With Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church Leadership

(Scroll to the end for an update)

On Monday March 17, twenty former Mars Hill pastors sent a letter to the executive elders  and Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church with an invitation to enter into a process of mediation designed to lead to mutual repentance and reconciliation. According to former Mars Hill pastors Dave Kraft and Kyle Firstenberg, the pastors want to bring in specialists in conflict resolution to facilitate the process. As of this writing, no response to the letter has come from the Mars Hill leadership.

The executive elders are Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner & Dave Bruskas. The executive elders also sit on the  Board of Advisors and Accountability along with independent members Paul Tripp, Michael Van Skaik, James MacDonald, and Larry Osborne.

Kraft is former Pastor of Leadership Development at Mars Hill and Firstenberg was executive pastor at Mars Hill Orange County. In an interview, Kraft emphasized that he wants to lead the way in repentance by expressing remorse that he stood by while some Mars Hill members were being sinned against by the Mars Hill leadership. He said, “we didn’t step up to the plate when we should have.”

On Friday, Mark Driscoll released a statement of apology to the Mars Hill congregation. In it, he said the deal with ResultSource to artificially elevate the book Real Marriage, was wrong. He also pledged to make an attempt to repair damaged relationships. While the statement has had mixed responses from Mars Hill members, former and current, the pastors hope that the move is authentic.

Kraft said, “At this point, we hope for a positive response to our proposal sent on Monday, March 17.”

Why Mediation?

In recent days, both Kraft and Firstenberg have spoken publicly about their concerns. On March 9, Kraft disclosed that he had filed formal charges against Driscoll in May, 2013. On his website, Kraft indicated what he wanted to see happen:

1.  I would (as would countless other former leaders from MHC) like to see Pastor Mark Driscoll publicly acknowledge that he has seen the charges, that they are true and that he will take whatever time and attention is needed to intentionally deal with the charges, which may entail a short sabbatical from work to focus on this.

2.  I would like to see Pastor Mark publicly state that he is sorry, that he has sinned, that he will deal with his past sin and make himself accountable in so doing to an unbiased group of leaders who will hold his feet to the fire on this.

Driscoll may have been responding in part to these concerns with his recent apology. However, both Kraft and Firstenberg do not believe the apology addressed the issues which the former pastors have raised.

Also on March 9, Firstenberg disclosed that in 2013 he too contacted the Board of Advisors and Accountability with his experience at Mars Hill. To date, he has not received a reply from that board.

Now, Kraft and Firstsenberg have been joined by other former pastors who believe that Mars Hill should be responsive to ongoing and unfinished matters within their church.

UPDATE: As of Friday evening March 21, Mars Hill Church has not responded to the invitation to enter into mediation.

Related post:

The Seeds of Trouble: Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll and the 2007 Purge – In addition to concerns since, many unresolved issues remain from the 2007 disputes over governance.

For all posts on Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll, click here

State Department Briefing: Experts to Uganda?

Yesterday, the State Department covered several topics related to Uganda and the Anti-Homosexuality Act during the daily briefing. Here  some excerpts:

QUESTION: — about Uganda and your opinion of the high court legal challenge to the anti-homosexual act?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure. Well, just to reiterate, as we’ve said, the enactment of the homosexuality act was a step backward for Uganda. The law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda. It reflects poorly on the country’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.
As we said a week or a couple of weeks ago, this is – has caused us to take a look at our relationship, and there’s no question it has impacted our relationship. Now that the anti-homosexuality act has been enacted, we’re continuing to look closely at the implications of the new law, and where appropriate, we have adjusted some activities and engagements while we are doing that.
So let me give you an example: We currently fund or we have been funding the salary top-off, so additional salary to pay for – to help pay 18 health officials, senior health officials. That expired last month. That is something where we are no longer providing that top-off payment. Obviously, these are not individuals who are implementing – the worker bees, for lack of a better phrase. These are individuals at the top who are speaking on behalf of and implementing the policy. So that’s one example.
We’re also looking at our assistance programs to evaluate the ability of our implementing partners to carry them out effectively in a nondiscriminatory manner, and the legal implications of the act on our programs on the ground. So all of those pieces are pieces we’re evaluating.
QUESTION: So is it your assessment, then, that that is the total of your reaction, or you are continuing to review your assistance?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the way I would think about this is we’re taking a thoughtful, deliberate look at next steps in light in enactment of the law. So, some of those pieces are how to send the strongest message. Specifically, the topping off of the salaries of these health officials is one way.
But we’ve also been in touch, and have been for some time, with Ugandan LGBT activists since this legislation was actually first introduced in 2009. They’ve specifically asked that the United States not cut off aid to the Ugandan people. As I talked about a little bit last week, and as you know, Scott, a lot of the aid that we provide goes to ensure services for things like lifesaving health and medication for HIV/AIDS, to bring justice to those responsible for atrocities, like the LRA. So we want to make sure that actions we take don’t have a detrimental impact on the Ugandan people who need those health services, et cetera. So we’re all looking at all of that.

I didn’t realize that the U.S. government helped pay the salaries of Uganda’s health officials. At least one, Ruth Aceng, was the leading figure in the committee President Museveni convened prior to his decision to sign the anti-gay bill. Apparently, they will experience a pay cut.  The department does not want to harm people who get their medicine or other basic needs from our funding.
Consistent with reports from Secretary of State Kerry that experts might go to Uganda, the state department staffer promised to get more information of the specifics.

QUESTION: Last week, I know Secretary Kerry mentioned that the U.S. was sending experts to go —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and talk? Who are these experts and what were they – I mean, the law is enacted. Were there any —
MS. PSAKI: Well, my understanding is it’s health – in the pool of health experts, but I can check and see if that’s happening or who might be in that group and if that’s moved forward.
QUESTION: From the way – from what he said, it was experts to do with the law, I mean, in trying to refine ways of doing law, or did I misunderstand it?
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see —
MS. PSAKI: — and if that’s actually be implemented or is moving forward.

You can read the rest here.