WeLoveMarsHill.com Is Online With Stories From Former Mars Hill Members

A new site — WeLoveMarsHill.com — with testimonies of those who once called Mars Hill their church home is now online.

These are stories by people who once went to MHC. People are often hurt from their experience at the church and we hope to provide a platform for healing and change.
This site gives a voice to those who have been hurt, damaged, abused, neglected, shunned, or rejected by Mark Driscoll and other elders at Mars Hill Church.

There are four stories now with more from the exiles to come.

Question for the Leaders of Mars Hill Church: Where Did the Global Fund Go?

In my prior posts on Mars Hill Global, I have established that in 2011 Mars Hill leaders reworked Mars Hill Global into a means of raising revenue and that nearly $2.3 million was donated toward the Mars Hill Global Fund in the fiscal year from July 2o12 to June 2013.
From the Mars Hill Church 2013 Annual Report:

According to a presentation at a recent Mars Hill vision breakfast, giving to Mars Hill Global remains robust. For instance, in December 2013, just over $340k was given to Mars Hill Global.

Prior to  May 2014, donors could designate gifts to the Mars Hill Global Fund which was distinct from the Mars Hill General Fund. However, sometime in May, the Global Fund disappeared. Now, donations for all purposes have to be given to the Mars Hill General Fund since the option to designate money to the Mars Hill Global Fund is no longer available. One wonders where the Global Fund went in the midst of the fiscal year.
As noted above, Mars Hill reported 2013 giving to the Global Fund but did not report disbursements from that fund. Here is the 2013 statement of income and expenses for the church from the Annual Report.

There is nothing here about Global Fund disbursements. Almost $2.3 million came in. Where did it all go?
The 2013 Annual Report has a whole page on Mars Hill Global activities (click the link to see the page) so some funds must have been spent. The “Church planting and partnerships” line item seems to be the most plausible place to look but disbursements from that line are quite modest.
In contrast to the current Mars Hill Global web page, there is no mention of the United States on the 2013 Annual Report Global page. Along with the accomplishments, the report presents the purposes for Mars Hill Global:

As noted, the focus is decidedly international and appears to be the international mission outreach for the church. Donors would naturally believe that their funds were going for international purposes.
After the recent changes to Mars Hill’s giving webpage, it is clearer that funds given for global outreach now go to the General Fund. There is no Global Fund option. Those who want to give to Mars Hill’s work in Ethiopia or India must hope that some of their donations will go to those ends, but there are no guarantees. However, prior to May of this year, donors could give to a specific Global Fund. According to guidelines of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, funds designated for the Global Fund should be allocated to global outreach. However, Mars Hill has declined to respond to requests to provide an accounting. Also, while the ECFA informed a correspondent recently that the watchdog group was “in communication” with Mars Hill, the ECFA has not responded to my inquiries.
Sources within Mars Hill have consistently informed me that the church uses very little of the Mars Hill Global money for work in Ethiopia and India, reportedly less than 5%. This may or may not be true, but at present, there is no independent way to know. The only leaders at Mars Hill who can speak to those claims are the Executive Elders (Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner) and the Board of Advisors and Accountability (independent members Michael Van Skaik, James McDonald, Paul Tripp, and Larry Osborne).  However, at present, they are not talking.

Sam Kutesa to Preside over UN General Assembly?

In other news…
Kutesa has been appointed as General Assembly president to begin June 11. The question mark in my title is because it is incredible to think that anyone from Uganda could stand for such a position at the UN and even more incredible that it is Kutesa.
Kutesa has long had a reputation for corruption and had to step down from leadership in Uganda’s majority political party due to a corruption investigation. He was also singled out for a travel ban to the U.S. over those same corruption charges.
The main focus of this petition to the UN is Kutesa’s role in defending the Ugandan government over the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
In my opinion, political appointments such as this should go to people who have a solid positive reputation for advancing human rights and standing against corruption in governance.

Mars Hill Church Reverses Decision, Provides Severance for Fired Pastor

This just in regarding former Mars Hill Ballard pastor Phil Smidt from Jon Krombein and Josh Moore:

W… O… W… To arrive at total amount of donations of $50K in the span of a few days is incredible. Thank you all for all of your continued generosity.
There is even more grace that we need to tell you all about!
At 6pm tonight Scott Harris, Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Ballard, contacted Phil and notified him that Mars Hill had reversed its position and has elected to give the Smidt family the severance offered previously – but this time without conditions. Phil accepted this offer at 7pm. Please continue to pray for the Smidts as they continue to determine how to steward this outrageous outpouring of God’s grace. Because the Smidts need has been so generously met by everyone, we will be closing this site tonight. If Phil had received an unconditional severance to begin with, there never would have been an opportunity for so many people to reach out and let the Smidt’s know how much they are loved. Thank you for supporting our friends.
In the near future, the Smidts will be posting here to more personally communicate out their gratitude to everyone. If you have any questions in the meantime, please continue to contact Jon or Josh through the methods published below.
Josh & Jon

What an interesting situation. Clearly, many former and current Mars Hill members did not approve of the decision to withhold severance and voted with their donations. However, now over $50k has been raised. It will take some wisdom to decide how to proceed.
More broadly, if this decision represents a change at Mars Hill, then perhaps the executive elders could make right their treatment of other dismissed elders who could use some of this love. There are other elders dismissed by Mars Hill who are in need of help.

The Phil Smidt Fund Doubles the Goal: Will the Non-Disclosure Agreement Threat Lose Power at Mars Hill Church? UPDATED

UPDATE (6/3): In a surprising move, Mars Hill Ballard pastor Scott Harris alerted Phil Smidt that the church leaders had reversed themselves and will provide a severance for Smidt. No word about what Smidt will do with the $50k raised on his behalf.
As I write this, supporters of fired Mars Hill pastor Phil Smidt have raised nearly twice as much money as the established goal, almost $40k, in less than two days.  Many donors were former Mars Hill leaders and members, a kind of Mars Hill church in exile. Initially, Mars Hill Ballard lead pastor Scott Harris, who dismissed Smidt, said the church was going to support the Smidts financially. As it turns out, Harris was inadvertently correct. A church is supporting the Smidts, but it is not the Mars Hill Church that Harris works for.
For several years, the threat of having no severance income or health insurance was used by Mars Hill executive elders to coerce departing elders and other staff into an agreement not to raise concerns about Mars Hill in public. Previously, I posted one version of the non-disclosure agreement. In it, all rights and grievances are signed away in order to maintain health insurance coverage and a source of income for a individually determined period of time. The employee also has to agree not to say anything negative about Mars Hill. Reportedly, Phil Smidt declined to sign this agreement and apparently was denied severance pay as a result.
The outpouring of support for Smidt may change business as usual for departing Mars Hill employees.
Now it is plausible that Mars Hill employees who are in the same position as Smidt may follow his example and decline to sign the NDA. Since they can reasonably predict that there will be a community of support for them, they may decide instead to speak out. Time will tell.
In the mean time, the Smidts can breathe a little easier and others who might soon be in his position can rethink their options.
Read all posts on Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll here.