Almost six weeks ago, Mark Driscoll told his congregation:
I have requested a break for processing, healing, and growth for a minimum of six weeks while the leadership assigned by our bylaws conduct a thorough examination of accusations against me. I believe their review can best be performed without me being in the pulpit or the office, and they have agreed to this arrangement.
As it turns out, the leadership assigned by the by-laws (Board of Advisors and Accountability) formed a committee of elders (Board of Elders) to investigate accusations presented by 21 former elders and 21 witnesses. In addition, nine then current elders (eight of whom resigned or were laid off) made allegations against the executive elders and the chair of the BOAA, Michael Van Skaik. What is going on with these allegations?
Some are being investigated and apparently some are not.
After a slow start, the formal charges presented by the former elders are being investigated. I contacted many of the former elders and asked for comment; those who replied wanted to remain anonymous. Generally, they said the interviews were being conducted by the Board of Elders. Some interviews have yet to be scheduled but the pace of discussions has quickened in recent days. Given that there are interviews remaining, the investigation will not be completed by this Sunday, and probably not for another week or two. Thus, I doubt we will see Mark Driscoll in church on Sunday.
Some of the anonymous protected witnesses referred to by the 21 former Mars Hill pastors have dropped out of the process. Those I have spoken with tell me that the interviews did not feel safe. They were concerned about their identities being revealed to those outside the investigation process. Others felt that the process was a sham. Elevating Matt Rogers and Jon Phelps to the BOAA was viewed as stacking the deck in Driscoll’s favor since they are not perceived as being independent. One protected witness told me that the executive elders and BOAA have heard the charges in times past but did not take them seriously. This person believed the leadership is giving appearance of a serious investigation because the charges became public.
On the other hand, the letter written by nine then-current pastors has not been acted upon. In that letter, various allegations were lodged against Driscoll and other members of the executive elders and BOAA. In that letter, Paul Tripp was cited as saying that Mars Hill was “the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” However, despite the fact that the lead pastors told the congregation that the letter would be “taken seriously,” no further action, serious or otherwise, has been taken. In late August, the Mars Hill lead pastors told the congregation:
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.
Furthermore, Mark DeMoss, speaking on behalf of Mars Hill Church told Religion News Service that the letter would be handled in the same manner as the formal charges:
This letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Mark Driscoll will be processed in accordance with Article 12 of the church’s bylaws,” a statement provided by public relations firm head Mark DeMoss said. “This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete. In the meantime, it does not seem appropriate to comment on specific accusations before/while they are being formally reviewed as we don’t want to circumvent the process prescribed by the governing body of Mars Hill.”
However, according to former pastors I spoke with, none of the concerns or allegations have been investigated or addressed. They have not been contacted about the letter since their last days at the church. One told me that the lead pastors’ response might have been a “public relations” effort to change the subject. Despite promises from lead pastors and a church spokesman, nothing has happened on that front.
In response to my question about the status of the investigation, including the letter sent by the nine then-current elders, Justin Dean responded on behalf of Mars Hill Church:
As our Board of Elders shared in The Weekly on 9/12/14, we do not expect to have any updates on the review process until it is complete.
“While Pastor Mark continues to take a break to focus on his personal growth and family, our Board of Elders is conducting a formal review of allegations that have been presented against him. This board has completed many interviews already with more scheduled, but they also anticipate that this review will take a number of weeks to complete. Until such time as they issue their report, they do not anticipate commenting on the allegations while they are being reviewed. We want to be sensitive to the process and allow the board and the Holy Spirit to work. Earlier this week Pastor Alex Ghioni released a blog post that we hope provides more clarity on the process this board is taking. We encourage you to read that post here.”