Acts 29 Network Removes Co-founder Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church From Membership (UPDATED)

In a stunning move, the Acts 29 Network leadership has removed network co-founder and Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll from the organization’s membership. I obtained a letter from several Acts 29 pastors which was sent to Driscoll and Mars Hill Church removing Driscoll and the church as members of the network, as well as calling on Driscoll to step down due to a pattern of complaints from Acts 29 pastors. Mark Driscoll was instrumental in founding the Acts 29 Network and has been president of the group. According to the letter, the information will soon be posted on the Acts 29 website. The letter is below:

Mark,

As the Board of Acts 29, we are grateful to God for the leadership, courage, and generosity of both you and Mars Hill in not only founding the network but also sustaining it through the transition to this board three years ago. The very act of giving away your authority over the network was one of humility and grace, and for that we are grateful.

Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior. In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming.

We now have to take another course of action. Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.

We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner. Again, we want you to know that we are eternally thankful for what you as a man and Mars Hill as a church have meant to our network. However, that cannot dissuade us from action. Instead, it gives added significance and importance to our decision.

We hope and pray that you see this decision as the action of men who love you deeply and want you to walk in the light—for your good, the good of your family, and the honor of your Savior. Shortly after sending this, we will be informing the members of Acts 29, your Board of Advisors and Accountability, and your elders, as well as putting out a public statement on the Acts 29 website. It brings us no joy to move forward in this direction, and we trust that the Lord will be at work in all of this.

In sorrow and with hope, The Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network

Matt Chandler
Darrin Patrick
Steve Timmis
Eric Mason
John Bryson
Bruce Wesley
Leonce Crump

All Mars Hill Church locations have been removed from the Acts 29 website. The news has been added to the organization’s website:

A Message from the Board of Acts 29 concerning Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

It is with deep sorrow that the Acts 29 Network announces its decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership in the network. Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.

Matt Chandler Darrin Patrick Steve Timmis Eric Mason John Bryson Bruce Wesley Leonce Crump

According to the organization’s website, the network includes over 500 churches and focuses on church planting:

Over the last ten years Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 500 churches around the world. We want to allow a unifying, uncommon movement of God to happen through Acts 29. Centered on the Gospel, we desire to advance the mission of Jesus through obediently planting church-planting churches. It is our hope to see this leading to millions of lives changed by the power of the Spirit for the glory of God.

Acts 29 is not a model or a style. We have churches with live preaching and others with video-delivered sermons. We have independent church plants, replants, and existing churches that want to focus on planting new churches out of their existing congregations. Simply, we seek to be a movement of church-planting churches.

In 2005, when Driscoll headed the group, charges were filed against him by Ron Wheeler. Wheeler planted the first Acts 29 Network church in Mt. Vernon, WA and was an early protege of Driscoll’s. However, Wheeler later became disillusioned with his former mentor and asked Acts 29 to discipline Driscoll. Yesterday, Wheeler posted a lengthy open letter to Driscoll asking him to resign based on his experience with the Mars Hill pastor. The Acts 29 action comes on the heels of the resignations of Paul Tripp and James McDonald as members of the church governing board and a recent protest primarily by ex-members. Update: One of the Mars Hill ex-pastors who has been initiating mediation with the church, Kyle Firstenberg, had this reaction to Acts 29’s announcement.

I have been greatly discouraged with the response from the BOAA in the charges that both I and others have brought. Years have gone by with what appears as only damage control and not any clear act of love for Mark in holding him accountable as brothers in the faith should.

This action from Matt Chandler and the other members of the board of A29 is one of the most loving acts I have seen in leadership in the Church world in recent years.

I do believe that these men love Mark and Mars Hill just as I and countless others do. I agree with their findings and pray that Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskus would repent and step down. I believe this would be the most God honoring thing to do as it would show their love for Jesus and the Gospel is greater then their position, authority and influence.

Update 2: A group of 75 ex-members were set to present over 50 new charges against the executive elders of Mars Hill Church today, but have decided to delay their action in light of the removal of Mars Hill by Acts 29 Network. For the press release, click here. Update 3: Ron Wheeler, who pastored the first Acts 29 church plant in Mt. Vernon, WA, reacted to the Acts 29 decision:

To Matt Chandler and the Board of Acts 29: Thank you for finally taking a position. I know it’s not easy. I know there were existing relationships between members of the board and Driscoll, but ultimately you prioritized obedience and faithfulness to Christ, above friendships and allegiance to a founder. For this, you are to be commended. Not only did you recognize the credibility damage to the network due to the continuing association with Mark Driscoll, but more importantly, you recognized that the cause of Christ was truly more important than Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Acts29 or anything else. The message for all of us here – individual, organization, church, or otherwise- is that silent passivity in the face of obvious sin and destruction, only gives birth to more sin and destruction in the end. Integrity was well served today. Also, thank you for taking action that only an organization such as yours could take. There are thousands of hurting individuals, both inside and outside of Mars Hill, who lacked a voice or any kind of real influence in this situation. They feel like cogs in the machine as they desperately long to see the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability, Acts29, somebody… step up and take difficult action and call for true Biblical repentance.

UPDATE 4: Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability responds to the removal of the church from the Acts 29 Network. For all posts on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, click the links.

UPDATE 5: 2/7/2020 – One of the signers above Steve Timmis has been removed as CEO of the Acts 29 Network for about the same reasons as Driscoll was removed. How about that?

Acts 29 Pioneer Ron Wheeler Sends Open Letter to Mark Driscoll, Asks Him to Resign

Ron Wheeler planted the first Acts 29 church in Mt. Vernon, WA. Wheeler was a regular companion of Mark Driscoll in the early days of Mars Hill Church.  Now, Ron Wheeler has posted an open letter to Driscoll which documents his perspective on the early days of Mars Hill Church, Acts 29 Network and culminates with a plea that Driscoll resign as pastor of Mars Hill Church.
Wheeler begins:

Dear Mark Driscoll:
You were once one of my closest friends.
You were once my trusted mentor and benefactor.
You were once someone who preached the Gospel with a fierce and captivating passion and purity.
You were the one who inspired me to be a preacher… a church planter.

then crescendos:

You’ve destroyed people, Mark.  You’ve ruined people’s reputations.  Through your own perverse interpretation of “God’s grace”, you’ve cast people aside who you decided were not “on mission” spoke of “a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus.”  The pragmatism backfired. What you won them with, is what you won them too, and now there are thousands who have been hurt, and who have hurt others.  Beautifully, many of them are finding forgiveness and healing as they reconnect with each other and grow in grace.
Please Mark.  Just stop. Step down. Resign.  There was a brilliant post today on Dave Orrison’s blog Grace for my Heart that defined the difference between a narcissistic apology and a real apology. The center of the narcissistic apology is the offender saying “I am hurting because of this.” The real apology sees the victim in the center and says, “You are hurting because of this.”  The difference – and a critical one – is empathy.  As my wife so insightfully noted, “a narcissistic apology is when the apology itself is actually abusive.”  It’s extremely manipulative.

and then ends:

I love you and your family, and will be earnestly praying for you in all of this.
I have the same phone number and email. You know how to find me.
My name is Ron Wheeler.
I Am Not Anonymous.

No matter where you stand on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, if you are interested in the developments there and in the larger church planting movement, this post by Wheeler is must reading.

The Storm at Mars Hill Church: Mark Driscoll Explains It All

Apparently for a series titled Men Stepping Up, Mark Driscoll explains what happened in 2006-2007 and why the by-laws had to be changed and why good men had to be sacrificed. Watch:
(Note: predictably, the video has been made private. See the transcript below for what Driscoll said).
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgl6QmHrXEo[/youtube]
Transcript:

I don’t know what the most courageous thing I’ve ever done is. I know the one thing that was one of the hardest was, the church was growing, it had exploded, it had grown to, I think, maybe six thousand. So it made it one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America in one of the least churched cities, and in a conversation one night it was just up in our bedroom on a couch we were visiting, Grace and I were talking about past relationships and just kind of a casual conversation and we’d been together at that point for maybe seventeen, eighteen years or something. I mean we’d been together a while between dating and marriage. And she just explained to me a few occasions where she had been sexually assaulted, raped, and abused. Prior to my meeting her I just broke and I just started weeping, thinking that I had not known that about my wife, and she just said it matter of factly, like she was just reading the script of someone else’s life. And there was no emotion in her, and I could tell she didn’t even really understand what she had just explained. That sort of led to a season of me really getting to know her, and her getting to know her past, and us getting to know Jesus in a deeper way.
It was around that time I could just tell that she’s gonna need me available more. Emotionally present more, we just had our 5th child. So the timing’s not great. We just decided to go multi-site in video, cause we had outgrown our location and everybody’s looking and all the critics are around and is this gonna make it? A couple of things combined at that season as well, overwork and stress and everything else. I fatigued my adrenal glands, I was in a bad place health-wise, was not sleeping. It was a pretty dark time for me, and I told Grace, “For me to recover, for you to recover, for us to build our friendship, I feel like we’re kind of at that watershed moment where our marriage is gonna get better or it’s gonna get colder, and you’ve really opened yourself up and I need to love and serve you better and pursue you more.”
I said so I got to change the church. I mean all the way down, I have to rewrite the Constitution, bi-laws, I got to let some people go. I have to put in place some hard performance reviews. I’ve got to be willing to lose a lot of relationships, endure criticism, preach less times, hand off more authority, and I said I don’t know if the church is going to make it and I don’t know if I’m going to make it.
I told Grace, I said “I’m going to give it one year, and if it doesn’t get fixed, I’m going to quit, because you’re more important to me than ministry, and I feel like if I quit right now, the church will probably die, and there’s all these thousands of people that met Jesus.” I said “So we’re either going to change it or I’m going to quit, but we’re not going to do this forever and you’re my priority,” and that led to everything that I feared, quite frankly.
It was really brutal, and I couldn’t tell the story at the time of and here’s why- because Grace is really hurting, and I love her, and I’m broken, and we need to pull back and make some course corrections because it’s Grace’s story to tell, and she wasn’t ready at that point to tell that story, and I had no right to tell that story for her.
And so everybody got to speculate for years what the motive was, “oh he’s power hungry, he’s controlling, he wants to take over, he doesn’t love people, you know he’s just a bully.” And no, it’s actually he’s broken and his wife is hurting and the church is gonna probably literally kill him or put him in the hospital and his wife needs him right now, so he’s gotta make some adjustments. So, you know, by the grace of God, we weathered that storm.

This is a similar narrative to the one he tells in Real Marriage on pages 16-18(1):

As Grace began working on her root issues, I hit the wall physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I had been working way too many hours a week for more than a decade as the church exploded and became one of the largest and fastest growing in the nation, in one of the least-churched cities. I wrote books and spoke at conferences, traveling to make extra income so Grace could stay home with our children.
My pay was still low, we had nothing in savings, and we accrued a bit of debt— in a city where the cost of living was high. I preached as many as seven times a Sunday for more than an hour each time, year in and year out, nearly every week of the year, until my adrenal glands and thyroid fatigued, and I finally came to the end of myself in my midthirties. I was breaking, and it seemed there was no help, relief, or sympathy. My veneer of tough, self-reliant husband without any needs was gone. I really needed my wife in ways I had never told her and she was surprised to hear. I needed a new life. I did not need a new job, but a new plan for that job . I also needed a new marriage, but wanted to have a new marriage with the same spouse. So we cleaned up the church, lost around one thousand people due to changes amid intense criticism, laid off a lot of people (many of whom were great), and decided everything would change or we would walk. I refused to die from stress or destroy my marriage and family for the sake of “religious” people and outgrown organizational systems. I found a good doctor and did what I was told to rebuild my health.

I am not unsympathetic to Driscoll. While adrenal gland fatigue is not a real diagnosis, he obviously was burned out and needed time off. He needed some family leave time. I don’t know if he asked for time off or not but in hindsight, he should have had a sabbatical. Perhaps the situation now would be different if he had. Perhaps it’s not too late to take that advice now.
What is striking about this narrative is the self-focus. Instead of “men stepping up” perhaps this video should be named “men stepping on” others. The implication is that the damage to others (culture of fear, lay-offs, firings, shunnings, the pile of dead bodies under the Mars Hill bus) was necessary because Mark and Grace Driscoll needed time to repair themselves and their marriage. Driscoll wasn’t a bully; that infernal church was going to kill him so he had to act first and “make some adjustments.” But praise be, the Driscolls weathered the storm.
Or did they? Given recent events, I would disagree with Driscoll on that. It seems more accurate now to say that the storm was postponed and the “adjustments” refuse to be adjusted. A significant number of people who have been raising issues about Mars Hill point back to the 2006-2007 years when the church went from an elder led church to the corporate model in place today as the source of current unrest. The storm continues.
(1)Driscoll, Mark; Driscoll, Grace (2012-01-03). Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (pp. 16-17). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

NARTH Gets a Makeover

For many reasons, this “live” video is hilarious. Despite the cheese, this is not from the Onion.
[youtube]http://youtu.be/MkIYLUAItno[/youtube]
Apparently hoping to attract more straight men and lesbians, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’s new spokeswoman (the NARTH girl) breathlessly announces the formation of a new organization which looks about like the old organization.  NARTH becomes the NARTH Institute and the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (see NARTH’s made over website and the Alliance’s unfinished website).
An examination of the conference schedule an organization board members indicates that the Alliance is really NARTH in new clothes.
In March 2012, NARTH was notified that the organization’s tax exempt status was revoked due to failures to file necessary paperwork (990 forms). They claimed they would get it back but have not done so. They are calling membership dues “donations” so perhaps this new organization will file to become a charity in order to solicit tax deductible donations. I can see nothing on either website which claims a tax deduction so buyer beware.
In any case, there appears to be nothing new under the sun or at NARTH. The name is new but the empty promises appear to be the same.

Shorter Ann Coulter: Screw Africa (and everybody else 'cept 'merica)

Subtitle: Screw the Great Commission too.
Coulter rants in Human Events today about Dr. Kent Brantly, the doctor with the Ebola virus flown to the United States for treatment:

There’s little danger of an Ebola plague breaking loose from the treatment of these two Americans at the Emory University Hospital. But why do we have to deal with this at all?

Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? The very first “risk factor” listed by the Mayo Clinic for Ebola — an incurable disease with a 90 percent fatality rate — is: “Travel to Africa.”

Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?

It gets worse. Coulter spews:

Which explains why American Christians go on “mission trips” to disease-ridden cesspools. They’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots. So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream. America is the most consequential nation on Earth, and in desperate need of God at the moment. If America falls, it will be a thousand years of darkness for the entire planet.Not only that, but it’s our country. Your country is like your family. We’re supposed to take care of our own first. The same Bible that commands us to “go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel” also says: ”For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’”

Theological genius that she is, Coulter counters a command of Jesus with a completely compatible injunction from Deuteronomy. False dilemma much?

Without any awareness of the irony, Coulter ends:

There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.

Yes, Ann, there is reason for annoyance at your “Christian” narcissism.

Does Membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability Benefit Donors?

The mission statement of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability is “Enhancing Trust in Christ-Centered Churches and Ministries.” A primary means of pursuing their mission is through promotion of their seven standards of stewardship.

The ECFA website states that the standards are “are fundamental to operating with integrity.” The ECFA tells the public that organizations who voluntarily agree to adhere to the standards “must comply with all of the standards, all of the time.”

But what happens when an ECFA member does not adhere to “all of the standards, all of the time?” What does the ECFA do to alert the public when non-compliance is discovered? The disappointing answer for donors is that the ECFA may do nothing to alert the public when an organization is or was out of compliance. In contrast to former years when the ECFA publicly suspended organizations, now the ECFA conducts a private review if there is concern over compliance with standards. Michael Martin, Director of Legal Services and Legal Counsel for the EFCA told me, “When standards-related issues are under review with respect to a particular member, ECFA does not comment on our review.”

I have written numerous emails and left phone messages with the ECFA regarding the Mars Hill Global Fund since May, 2014. I am aware that former members of Mars Hill Church have also contacted ECFA about the use of donations to the Mars Hill Global Fund from 2012-2014. In response to one of those former member emails, Michael Martin replied:

We are aware of the issues you mention and are in communication with leaders of Mars Hill concerning matters which relate to ECFA standards.

True to his word, the ECFA did not comment from May until July 25 when the organization released a statement to World Magazine:

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) conducted a review of Mars Hill Global and issued a statement that read, in part, “The Church has gone the second mile to address use of any funds if they were not used consistently with donor intent. This commitment, which ECFA will periodically verify, demonstrates the integrity of Pastor Mark Driscoll and Pastor Sutton Turner.”

In other words, trust us, we will let you know. However, the problem for prospective donors is no one let them know. This statement is very close to an admission that the church did not comply with ECFA guidelines “all of the time” (“The Church has gone the second mile to address use of any funds if they were not used consistently with donor intent“). About donations to the Global Fund between 2012-2014, the church had already acknowledged that the “preponderance of expenses related to church plants and replants in the U.S” which was a change from their 2013 Annual Report when they reported that Global Fund money went to mission efforts in India and Ethiopia. There was no report of money spent on U.S. church plants. Yet, donors would not have known that if not for those outside of Mars Hill Church and the ECFA writing about it. Mars Hill Church is still misleading people about how they portrayed Mars Hill Global and has certainly done their part to keep this information out of public view by scrubbing video evidence. Apparently, the ECFA also believes that these matters should be handled secretly without potential donors knowing what is going on.
The ECFA touts their standards as “fundamental to operating with integrity.” They are good standards. However, if the public does not know that an organization has not or is not following them, then how can that integrity be assessed?

In recent years, the ECFA has removed very few organizations from membership due to violations. Most former members have either voluntarily given up their membership or merged with other organizations.
In the old days, it seems to me that donors had more of an advocate with the ECFA. For instance, witness this response from then ECFA president Paul Nelson to criticism received in 1997 when the ECFA suspended Gospel Rescue Mission (a homeless mission?!) for using generic fundraising letters (a more minor offense than re-routing mission money, in my view):

The ECFA, Mr. Nelson said, does not want to punish member organizations, which by joining are voluntarily submitting to accountability. “By the same token we must call attention to the issues when a violation has occurred, and that’s what we’ve done in this case,” he said. “Our whole approach is not to be adversarial to the membership but to take disciplinary steps when we have to, which is what we felt we had to do. Now we’re prepared to work with them, if they are prepared to work with us.”

At the time, the ECFA seemed to take a more diligent approach to their public role. Nelson added:

The standards have not changed, Mr. Nelson said, and the suspension is a reminder that ECFA intends to be vigilant. “I think it does send a clear message-that if there are practices going on, and if those practices are widespread, that are borderline, or are moving in and out of compliance-that ECFA is serious about truthfulness in communications.”

As an evangelical donors to evangelical causes, this research into Mars Hill Global and the ECFA has been surprising and disappointing. More so than ever, if I have doubt about an organization, I will check that organization’s ECFA status but that will be only the beginning. I now know that an organization could be out of compliance even if accredited. Worse yet, the accrediting group could know an organization is out of compliance and never make it known. I will use the ECFA standards, but realize I will have to explore compliance on my own with the organization. I will have to ask for reports of how money is used (apparently the ECFA is not going to require this report from Mars Hill Church regarding their Global Fund) and not assume that accreditation means the organization has been or is in compliance with the guidelines.

Unfortunate, but good to know.

For more on Mars Hill Global, click the link.

For a donor-centered watchdog organization, see Ministry Watch.

Former Mars Hill Church Staffer Speaks Out

Earlier today, I posted volunteer pastor Matt Rogers’ note in response to the Mars Hill Church demonstration. Not long after I received Rogers’ commentary, I received the following email. Clearly Rogers likes where he is and thinks people should just trust their leaders.  The following person left Mars Hill within the last two years and is not yet comfortable being named in print. However, I have verification of the person’s identity. It is hard to believe that Mr. Rogers and this person are talking about the same place, but they are.

Hi Warren,
As a former employee, I experienced firsthand the culture of fear, destruction and lives affected on many levels.  When I see people defending Mark Driscoll on Facebook, when I see the manipulation and regurgitation, my heart breaks.  I desire for people’s eyes to be opened – to think for themselves and take an honest look at what is being presented and said.  I don’t want others to go through the same abuse that I and others went through.  If something I can share with you, whether new information or perhaps filling in some blanks, can help spare heartache for others down the road – that would be amazing.
Thank you for your time.  I look forward to connecting.
Sincerely,

One is saying trust me, the other is saying the trust was broken.
The turnover at Mars Hill over the past two years is far greater than for most non-profits. The average turnover rate is about 15%. As I noted previously, over 40 elders have left since late 2011. There are about 60 elders so the rate is quite high compared to non-profits.

Trust Me: Mars Hill Church Pastor to Congregation About Sunday's Demonstration

Matt Rogers is a volunteer pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue. Bellevue is where the ex-member demonstration was held on Sunday morning. I have obtained a copy of a response to the demonstration which is attributed to Rev. Rogers and posted on The City, Mars Hill’s private church discussion and media center. Other than the title, I am going to post this reply without comment. I am interested to hear reader reactions.

From Pastor Matt Rogers:
This past Sunday outside our building about 60 professing Christians led a protest, left a bit of trash, and slandered good men. Inside the building our church family worshipped Jesus. Let that image be what defines us. Others will cast aspersions, but we will worship Jesus.

We cannot let fear rule our church. We must choose love. Choosing fear would lead us to attack those who are attacking us. Instead we will choose to love them by praying for them. Choosing fear will drive us to anger and bitterness which will spill out in how we talk about them, engage with them and eventually even with each other. Choosing love will be our witness to all the outsiders watching us right now that we forgive just as God in Christ forgave us. By refusing to give into fear we will commend Christ to our city.

Choosing fear shapes how we interact with each other as well. Choosing fear leads to second guessing and distrusting the statements of our leaders. Choosing fear leads to not standing up for the truth and the honor of good men because of what might come our way. Choosing love will enable us to show grace toward one another, to trust the Spirit at work in one another, and encourage each other to do the same.

Trust is a choice. At some point you simply have to choose to trust someone or not trust them. Extending trust to another Christian is trusting the Holy Spirit at work in them. Trusting a fellow Christian means that when there is sin the Spirit will bring repentance. Trusting a fellow Christian means trusting that they will be more like Jesus tomorrow than they are today. I don’t want to live with a heart filled with cynicism and fear. I simply don’t know how to love others when my heart filled with cynicism and fear.

As elders we should have done more to communicate with you. By not saying more clearly that much of what you read online is slander, half-truths and gossip we left you in a place of wondering what is true. When this recent storm began a few months ago I looked into all of it because I had a responsibility to as an elder. What I have consistently seen is a pattern of repentance when sin was present, growth when errors were made, and patience when the accusations were false.

Let me say very clearly that Pastor Mark, Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton are honorable and trustworthy men. I count it a privilege to serve with them not because I have anything to gain, simply because it is true.

I am asking all of us to choose to live in a way that is joyful and trusting vs cynical and fearful.

Meanwhile, others will remind us of our sin, but we will worship the Savior who died for our sins. Others will try to turn us against one other, but we will worship Jesus who gave His life so we could be one with Him. Others will try to keep us living in a past from which we have repented and changed, but we will worship Jesus who makes it possible for us to have a new beginning.

Mars Hill Church Demonstration Tells Leaders We Are Not Anonymous

MarsDemoPhotoI spoke earlier this afternoon with Rob Smith who told me that 100-125 people participated in the demonstration* outside of Mars Hill Bellevue this morning.  According to Smith, the church sent out coffee and donuts but otherwise did not engage with the demonstrators formally   and a woman offered the demonstrators welcome packets.

After Mark Driscoll told the congregation that people expressing concerns about Mars Hill were doing so anonymously, the participants wanted to correct that impression.

Smith said several current Mars Hill Church members participated in the event. Smith said they wanted to work for church change from within. Mars Hill members have no ability to vote or influence church actions.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a blog post on the event.


King5 has a report.

*News reports say between 50-65 showed up. Smith said 100-125 because some people left early and some came later. I heard from others there that the number was more like 80.

Mark Driscoll Issues Apology for Pussified Nation Comments; Is This Just the Beginning?

Late yesterday, Christianity Today was provided a copy of the apology Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll issued about his comments as William Wallace II on the Mars Hill Church discussion group Midrash in 2000. I have the entire apology in full from an email sent to members:
DriscollWmWaApology
This is a good start. However, I think this apology and Christianity Today go a bit beyond what Driscoll does in his Confessions book.  From the CT article:

In his 2006 book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, Driscoll acknowledged and apologized that he posted to the forum under the pseudonym in response to postings from “emerging-church-type feminists and liberals.”

“I went on the site and posted as William Wallace II, after the great Scottish man portrayed in the movie Braveheart, and attacked those who were posting. It got insane,” he said in the book. “This season was messy and I sinned and cussed a lot, but God somehow drew a straight line with my crooked Philistine stick. I had a good mission, but some of my tactics were born out of anger and burnout, and I did a lot of harm and damage while attracting a lot of attention.”

In that book he refers to the discussion group as him “raging like a madman” but he does not apologize for the thread. The section CT cites where Driscoll admits to sinning and cussing is on the next page and seems to be a general disclosure rather than an apology for the “pussified nation” thread. The CT article puts them together as if they occurred in close proximity in the book.

Here is the section of the book where he discusses the discussion group:
ConfessionsWilliamWallace
In the book, Driscoll’s disclosure that he was frequently angry was mixed in with positive descriptions of the results he claimed with the men in his church and occurred on the next page. At times, it is hard to tell if he is confessing or advocating the harsh tactics.

While the apology is commendable, Driscoll has more to do. Stories of former members (e.g., We Love Mars Hill) and leaders (e.g., Kyle Firstenberg, Repentant Pastor) are plentiful. I have conducted numerous interviews with former Mars Hill pastors and ex-members and they often disclose instances of similar crude language and intimidation in public settings more recently. For instance, one ex-pastor told me that Driscoll once publicly pressured a colleague who didn’t like to swear to use crude language in the meeting. According to that pastor, Driscoll later apologized. However, others in the room were uncomfortable and have not heard anything from Driscoll.

Several former ministers indicated that Driscoll publicly asked their wives about their favorite sexual position. One ex-pastor told me that mediation should theoretically include the wives of the ex-pastors because they experienced a similar culture of fear and intimidation as did the pastors. However, he added, “there’s no way I’m letting them [Driscoll and Sutton Turner] get close to my wife. That would not be safe for her and just setting her up for potential further abuse.” 

I have been told worse stories by multiple sources, but I just can’t bring myself to disclose them due to their offensive and graphic nature.
While disturbing, I include these anecdotes because I have heard them from several sources reporting independently. I also believe they illustrate the concerns which repeatedly surface and why some feel strong enough about Driscoll to engage in a protest tomorrow at the church. For instance, former deacon Rob Smith disclosed that Driscoll used vulgar language with him and threatened his ministry when Smith crossed Driscoll in 2007.

“It was the worst conversation I’ve ever had with any human being on earth,” Smith remembers. “He was vile, he was vulgar, he threatened me with obscene language, said that he would destroy me, destroy my career, and make sure I never ministered again. I was shocked that a man of the cloth would speak that way to someone who worked with him for years. I went from a man of decent character to the worst troublemaker in Mars Hill history for simply asking that someone else have a fair trial.” (From The Stranger)

Another distinctive feature of the many conversations I have had with former Mars Hill folk is their desire to experience reconciliation with their pastors. They have sought public avenues because they say they care about their pastor and want to see healing. They have sought to bring their concerns privately to those in leadership without being heard.  When Driscoll says in his statement that he hopes those he has “offended and disappointed will forgive” him, I think he will find many ready to do just that — if he asks them in person.