RICO Lawsuit Filed Against Former Leaders of Mars Hill Church; ECFA Named As Co-Conspirator

marshillglobalannualreportclipThe long anticipated suit from a group of former members against former leaders of Mars Hill Church was filed today in the U.S District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. Attorney Brian Fahling filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs Brian and Connie Jacobsen and Ryan and Arica Kildea.
The plaintiffs accuse defendants Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner of engaging in

a continuing pattern of racketeering activity by soliciting, through the internet and the mail, contributions for designated purposes, and then fraudulently used significant portions of those designated contributions for other, unauthorized purposes. It was a pattern of racketeering activity that extended through a myriad of MHC projects, including the Global Fund, the Campus Fund, the Jesus Festival, and the promotion of Driscoll’s book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (“Real Marriage”).

In a statement, the attorney filing the suit, Brian Fahling said:

A church is not simply a building and programs. Mars Hill Church was a community of individuals—non-member attendees who considered MHC to be their church home, members, elders and pastors—who worked together in pursuit of a common mission—to make disciples and plant churches in the name of Jesus. Needless to say, the four groups are interdependent and the church cannot function without each of them. However, Driscoll and Turner engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity so deeply embedded, pervasive and continuous, that it was effectively institutionalized as a business practice, thereby corrupting the very mission Plaintiffs and other donors believed they were supporting.

On the Global Fund, just today I posted two formerly undisclosed memos on Mars Hill Church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability’s decision to keep secret how the church spent funds on missions (Global Fund) and salaries.
It is interesting to see ECFA named as a co-conspirator in the suit. The memo disclosed earlier today indicates that Dan Busby approved the moves of Mars Hill Church to address the Global Fund and apparently had no problem with the lack of transparency. In contrast, Busby and the ECFA took a turn toward transparency by removing Gospel for Asia from membership in October of 2015.
While it is a sad day to see these matters come to civil court, perhaps this will lead to a settlement and closure.
Read the lawsuit by clicking the link.

The Behind the Scenes Mars Hill Global Maneuvers

Over a year after the last service was held at Mars Hill Church, there are still stories to be told.
Recently, I acquired two memos which provide details about Mars Hill Global, a mysterious aspect of the demise of Mars Hill Church. From 2012 until mid-2014, Mars Hill Church marketed Mars Hill Global as a fund to help support church planters in India and Ethiopia. However, at least some insiders at Mars Hill knew that the donations given through the Global Fund were spent primarily on church planting expenses in the United States. One memo I posted in 2014 suggested that international projects would bring in lots of dollars which could in turn be used to fuel domestic expansion.
Once I started asking questions about Mars Hill Global, changes began to happen on the Mars Hill website. Because initially the changes were unexplained, I made a video documenting at least one of the major changes. This was in response to claims from Mars Hill’s leaders that the Global Fund was not really a fund but a source of funds from donors who were not part of Mars Hill’s churches. As I demonstrate, this explanation seemed problematic at the time since Mars Hill members could either give to the general fund which was unrestricted or to the Global Fund which was presented to the church after 2012 as a fund to spread the Gospel outside of the U.S., especially in India and Ethiopia.
An accounting of how Global Fund donations were spent has been an ongoing desire of many former Mars Hill members. In addition to wondering how the funds from church liquidation have been spent, former members still want to know how much money went to international mission efforts (see this petition).
The first of the two memos I have acquired on the subject was sent in June 2014. It was addressed to the lead pastors of the 15 locations and summarized the Board of Advisors and Accountability’s response to questions about Mars Hill Global which I began raising in May. In this we learn that Mars Hill Church leaders worked with Dan Busby of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability to change the messaging surrounding Mars Hill Global. According to this memo, Busby approved the decision to keep private the details about how much was actually spent on missions. Click on each thumbnail below to read the memo.

For now, I would like to pull out one important section:
MHC Memo GFund
In this memo, the BOAA and the ECFA specifically rejected transparency. While I have reason to believe that the decision was not unanimous among the executive elders (Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas) and BOAA, it is stunning that Mars Hill’s leaders withheld that information. As a non-profit accountable to the public and a church accountable to those who gave the money, this information should have been disclosed. However, for some reason, the information appears to be considered classified also by those currently wrapping up Mars Hill’s affairs. After he left Mars Hill, Sutton Turner planned to release the information but was warned by Mars Hill lawyers not to.
Looking back, one of the executive elders, Dave Bruskas told me in an email that he thinks more disclosure was warranted. Bruskas said:

In hindsight, I think itemizing money spent on domestic church planting, international church planting and relief efforts would have been helpful for donors and the general public.  I also think aggregating salaries in the separate line items of local church staffing costs and central staffing costs (including executive salaries) rather than lumping all compensation into a single category of “Personnel Costs” would have given donors and the general public a better picture of how donations were being spent.

The other memo, sent in early July, provides some insight into how much money was given via the the Global designation.

In this memo, the figure of $3-million for Mars Hill Global was projected for fiscal year 2015 based on comparable giving in FY 2014. For most of FY 2014 (July 2013-June 2014), donors had the option of designating Global Fund via the drop down menu. In the image above taken from the first memo, the Mars Hill BOAA decided not to reveal how much it cost to support 40 Ethiopia church planters. However, this can estimated since it was known that Mars Hill partnered with New Covenant Foundation which suggests $170/month/church planter. Mars Hill supporter 40 such families which leads to $81,600 if the support was full. They also supported Indian missionaries and did some translation work.*
These memos confirm much of what was speculation in 2014. Where I disagree with the thrust of this memo is the only mistake was to leave Global Fund on the Giving Page drop down menu. As I documented repeatedly in 2014, Mars Hill marketed Mars Hill Global as the way Mars Hill Church did missions. I don’t read that in these memos.
*Keep in mind, these are estimates since Mars Hill’s leaders both before and after the church closed failed to disclose the exact figures. The memos provide a bit more confirmation that the estimates are close.

Glenn Beck at Ted Cruz Rallies: George Washington's Don Quixote Out, Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket In

Last week Michael Calderone pointed out that Glenn Beck was not truthful when he told Ted Cruz rally audiences in Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada that the copy of Don Quixote Beck displayed was the copy George Washington purchased on the day the Constitution was signed. In fact, that copy of Don Quixote, along with a Spanish edition, is owned by Mount Vernon’s library. Beck’s book was given by George Washington as a gift to friend Tobias Lear.
Furthermore, I discovered that Beck’s depiction of George Washington’s diary entry on the day he signed the Constitution was blatantly false.  Since then, I have found nine different recorded events where Beck told the entire false narrative involving the book and the diary entry.
As Breitbart News pointed out, Beck admitted to Huffington Post that he misled Cruz’s audiences about the book (but not the diary entry), but he did not admit it to his own readers. Instead, Beck took a defensive stance on his own website and accused HuffPo of sloppy journalism and lack of research.
Without comment or apology to the many people he misled on the campaign trail, Beck has switched gears and speeches. Now instead of displaying his copy of George Washington’s Don Quixote, he brought out the “Golden Ticket” from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Watch:
golden ticketIn other speeches over the weekend, he brought out a personal letter from President Reagan to his daughter Patti. Reagan hoped to talk his daughter into improving their relationship. Beck says Patti Davis sold the letter for drug money. He apparently picked it up at auction. At least that is his current story.
It is beyond me how Beck can claim to love truth while offering up such a hoax and how Ted Cruz can look the other way.

Donald Trump: Unintended Consequence of Fear Mongering

Like a extra piece of chocolate cake, politics is a tempting distraction for me. I vote and I have worked as a local volunteer in a few campaigns over the years but I mainly watch. Like many, I have lots of opinions and I think I am right. I also indulge in a fair amount of Monday morning quarterbacking but know full well that I am frequently wrong.
I felt that way reading this New York Times article on the GOP’s desperate attempt to stop Donald Trump. The article read a little like the beginning of the end of the GOP I’ve known it.  Donald Trump’s nomination would fracture the party, or at least accentuate all the existing fractures. Trump certainly has the angry vote but I don’t think that is enough to win in November, at least I hope it isn’t.
As I have watched this primary season, I have been developing the feeling that Trump is the unintended consequence of seven years of fear mongering fueled by the religious right and social conservatives. Perhaps I think that because I pay more attention to those groups than I do to other groups. However, I think there might be something to what I am thinking since Donald Trump is leading among evangelicals. Ted Cruz’s efforts to get evangelicals by holding all the right Christian positions isn’t resonating with enough evangelicals to win that group. Trump’s angry promises to fix everything that is broken is winning with social conservatives who are fed up politicians who constantly tell us what is wrong with the democrats but never seem to do anything about it.
Evangelical leaders have been angrily attacking everything Obama does for seven years. For instance, David Barton tells his faithful that Obama hasn’t prosecuted any pornography cases when clearly that claim is false. Far right pundits like Glenn Beck have spent many hours telling religious audiences that we are on the precipice, and that the Constitution is “hanging by a thread.” Ministers tell their flocks that the end times are coming because the nation is on the brink of bringing God’s wrath. Here are a very few examples of the thousands I could give:

In all of the fervor to oppose Barack Obama and the left, I believe evangelical leaders have whipped their audiences into a frenzy of fear and anger. Since many of these evangelical leaders seem enamored with political power, they view the government as the source of the problems. Consistently, they also view a political change as the source of our salvation. The political sphere replaces religion and the simple Gospel as the way and mission of the church. However, since the religious right often blames politicians for the evil, the people aren’t looking for a politician, no matter how well that politician checks off the right stances on social issues. They are mad as hell at politicians and want some other messiah.
Enter Donald Trump.
Trump also plays to the fears of people, religious and non-religious, who have been scared to death by the presence of illegal immigrants. Evangelicals are divided over this with many wanting a path to legal status while others want a mass deportation, as do Trump and Cruz. Those evangelicals who are afraid of immigration are flocking to Trump since he brings the total package of fear mongering to the table.
There is, of course, no way Donald Trump can do most of what he promises. He isn’t going to build a wall, or deport 11 million illegal immigrants, or fix healthcare by simply “removing the lines” around state borders, or bring back companies from overseas or force employees to say Merry Christmas. He isn’t going to make Christianity stronger or save us.
If Trump get the GOP nomination, I suspect millions of Republicans will stay home or vote third party. The Democrat president with continue similar policies as we have now and if the Congress stays about the same, a familiar gridlock will continue. I hope that evangelicals will somehow find some religious leaders who can learn to be in the world but not of it. To me, that means pursuing the mission that only the church can do and on temporal matters seek to work cordially with those leaders we say we pray for on Sunday but demonize the rest of the week.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits. James Madison, 1785