Mars Hill Church Leaders Respond to the Concerns and Critical Information Letter

Earlier this afternoon, current lead pastors and the newly formed Board of Elders (more about that later) sent a response to the congregation. The subject was the document released yesterday titled “Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church” and signed by nine current Mars Hill elders.

From Mars Hill Church:
Dear Mars Hill,
Yesterday, a private document and conversation between all the elders of Mars Hill Church was leaked to the media. Because we, your 16 lead pastors and the Board of Elders, love and care about you, we want to provide you with some information and context so that you can be in prayer for your church.
We know that this letter has raised concerns and questions that will be examined and taken very seriously.
Last week, some current elders brought forward their concerns about the integrity of Pastor Sutton Turner and Michael Van Skaik (our BoAA chairman) as well as Pastor Mark Driscoll. There was some discussion of these concerns privately, but then last week these elders brought forward their questions/concerns on our Full Council of Elders group on The City that remain unresolved. Unfortunately, in recent months it has been proven almost everything that goes on that City group is leaked publicly to online media. We simply do not know who is passing these private conversations along to the media, but the fact is, it keeps happening.
Your elders are deeply grieved over the manner in which this has happened. In particular, we are grieved because 1 Corinthians 6:1–8 gives us a very clear (and even stern) command that when we have grievances against one another, we are to work them out in such a way that non-believers are not invited into the discussion. This passage shows us that even in cases of serious wrong or disagreement, God wants us to exercise appropriate discretion. We are terribly sorry because this is incredibly distracting and harmful to the cause of the gospel. Please forgive us for our division and lack of unity. We know this hurts all of you deeply and we are eagerly working toward the unity that we have in Jesus.
We know that in recent months there have been questions, concerns, accusations, and charges brought against the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church. To address these allegations and concerns, a newly formed Board of Elders, made up of trusted lead pastors, has been appointed to examine these charges. These men have already met for many hours this week to begin this important process.
Regarding the letter, it is extremely regrettable that it has gone public, for four reasons:
Whoever is passing these documents along to the media is in clear, defiant violation of 1 Corinthians 6.
It puts what should be spoken of as “questions” or “concerns” or even “opinions” about Pastor Sutton and Michael van Skaik as “fact” in the mind of the watching world. There are important verses that speak to due process (Matt. 18:15–17), fact-checking (Prov. 18:17), and investigating claims before rendering judgement (Deut. 17:8–9).
It has caused harm to the body. “When one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26).
Those elders who wrote the document clearly stated that this conversation was for the elders of the church, not the general public.
Despite the way the letter was sent out, please know we take its contents very seriously and will be taking the appropriate actions to honor Jesus, address the allegations and concerns, and work toward becoming a healthy church.
If you haven’t yet seen the letter, you will more than likely see it online. Some of you, if you see the letter, will be unsure as to how to feel or respond. We would like to shepherd you away from some ungodly responses and toward some godly responses.
Please do not:
React in fear or anxiety. Even as Christians we may be tempted to give place to fear. Remember, no matter what does or doesn’t happen with our church, you will still be a Christian, you are still loved by Jesus, and you will still spend eternity in the loving presence of God. The words of Romans 8:35–39 are so valuable to us in a time like this.
Pronounce judgement before the time. We must allow God to bring to light everything that he wants to have brought to the light. Just because someone brings forward allegations and concerns about a leader does not mean we should presume guilt. Any and all allegations and charges must be treated seriously, with impartiality, and without jumping to conclusions. Your elders will seek to honor Jesus as we proceed forward.
Slander, gossip, or pick sides. Our “team” is Jesus, not one group of elders or another. We must control our tongues, including our “digital/online” tongues. “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence’” (Ps. 39:1). Scripture has many warnings about engaging in controversies, quarrels and other’s disagreements because of the intense hurt that comes for all those involved.
Please do:
Pray. Pray that the elders will seek the Lord, be led by the Spirit, and proceed forward in confession, repentance, love, and godliness. Pray that the watching non-Christian world would not be given opportunity to discredit not only our church but the very gospel of Jesus. Pray that Jesus will be glorified through all of this.
Seek wisdom. The book of James speaks a lot about wisdom. James 3:17says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Seek this type of wisdom from God.
Walk in godliness. Our prayer is that wisdom, love, truth, kindness, reasonableness, patience, and a myriad of other godly characteristics would be what marks all of our lives in the middle of continual, difficult, and challenging circumstances.
Trust. Mars Hill belongs to Jesus (Col. 1:18). Let us trust Jesus with our lives and his church.
We love you, Mars Hill, and we are here to love, serve, and care for you. At the end of the day, our only hope is in Jesus, and our only job is to point you to Jesus.
In Christ,
Your Lead Pastors and Board of Elders
Pastor Tim Birdwell
Pastor Ed Choi (Board of Elders)
Pastor David Fairchild
Pastor Aaron Gray (Board of Elders)
Pastor Bubba Jennings (Board of Elders)
Pastor Alex Ghioni (Board of Elders)
Pastor Matthias Haeusel
Pastor AJ Hamilton (Board of Elders)
Pastor Scott Harris
Pastor Drew Hensley
Pastor Thomas Hurst
Pastor Donovan Medina
Pastor Matt Rogers (Board of Elders)
Pastor Miles Rohde (Board of Elders)
Pastor Tim Smith (Board of Elders)
Pastor Matt Wallace
Pastor Ryan Williams
Pastor Seth Winterhalter

According to several current members, the Board of Elders listed above are slated to examine the charges against Mark Driscoll, and possibly now Sutton Turner and Michael Van Skaik. This newly constituted Board of Elders is not mentioned in the bylaws and appears to be a outside-the-bylaws creation of the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability. In a separate post, I will examine this move. From my reading of Article 12 of the bylaws, the independent members of the BOAA may develop procedures for investigating charges but they are charged with conducting the investigation.
I think the use of I Corinthians 6 is a stretch. That section of Paul’s letter refers to lawsuits not some nebulous “court of public opinion.”