Mars Hill Church Final Distribution – Where Did the Money Go?

When Mars Hill Church closed, the by-laws required a final distribution of assets. Although the plan omitted some details, a dissolution plan was filed with the state of Washington and I assumed had been carried out by last June. Today current pastor of Doxa Church (once the Bellevue campus of MHC) Jeff Vanderstelt said the following about funds distributed from MHC. His comments were posted in the comment section of a Gospel Coalition article on Mars Hill Church. I wrote a reaction to that article yesterday. In response to a claim from another commenter about money paid to the MHC churches, Vanderstelt said:

The churches were given money to continue on if they signed a binding legal agreement not to talk about Mark Driscoll in a negative way. Do you see how that could be dangerous?
  • That is actually not the truth. Churches were not given money if they signed a binding legal agreement. Where did you get that information from?

There was no “hush money”. I stepped in to restart a church from the Bellevue campus and we did not receive the money you are referring to. Neither did any of the other churches. What are you basing your conclusion on Roger? And what revisionist history are you referring to?

I wrote Vanderstelt to ask if his church received money as set forth in the MHC distribution plan. He answered by saying he had made comments on the Gospel Coalition article and that I should read those. I wrote back to ask if his church received the 22.18% which was designated as part of the plan.
As he said, Vanderstelt clarified his earlier statements on the Gospel Coalition website:

Roger – Each church did receive some “start-up/seed” money because MH had money in their accounts that had to be distributed as directed by their 501 c3 guidelines. It was not hush money however. I was not required to sign anything or agree to silence in order to receive those funds. Also, they weren’t that substantial (as some seem to believe) when you take into account the lease payment we assumed in stepping into the Bellevue campus. For us, it amounted to about 2-3 months of operating expenses. You are correct in that I can’t speak for the other pastors so I will not. I’m only representing what I know and what I’ve experienced.

According to the dissolution plan, Doxa was to get 22.18% of what MHC had to distribute after debts and liabilities were paid. I hope Vanderstelt will clarify if this “seed money” was all they received. Mars Hill owned lots of equipment and property and sold it all off. Did Doxa and the other churches receive those funds according to the plan filed with the state? I hope Vanderstelt will address this point. If the churches didn’t get anything else, then significant questions may be raised about how the rest of the assets were distributed.
The plan states:

Distribution of Assets.
The Corporation hereby resolves that after payment of the Corporation’s debts and liabilities, or provision made therefore, including without limitation the establishment of reserves as set forth in paragraph 4 herein, Kerry Dodd or Caleb Walters (either, the “Authorized Officer”) shall distribute all of the remaining property of the Corporation as follows: (a) first, any assets held by the Corporation upon condition requiring return, transfer, or conveyance, which condition occurs by reason of the dissolution, shall be returned, transferred, or conveyed in accordance with such requirements; and (b) second, any remaining assets of the Corporation shall be transferred or conveyed to specific churches (each a “Church”, and collectively, the “Churches”) identified in Exhibit A that provide ministry services and have a similar lawful purpose as the Corporation in the percentages indicated in the attached Exhibit A.

One of the liabilities could have been Mark Driscoll’s severance pay. The church never addressed this matter. If all concerned really want to move on, they should come clean on the distribution of assets at the end of the church. As Vanderstelt said, the churches got seed money, but it sounds like from his comment that Doxa Church didn’t get anything else, or in other words, 22.18% of nothing. Is that possible? If that is the case, a final public accounting is all the more necessary for MHC to cease being a stumbling block in Seattle and surrounding area. As a non-profit, MHC has a responsibility to donors and the public to account for those funds. One of the factors that led to the downfall of MHC was a lack of transparency with donor funds. It would be tragic if the legacy churches continue that trend.
Read the Mars Hill Dissolution Plan
Exhibit A:
MHC dist plan churches

May 31, 1787 In Constitutional Convention – Were the Founders Influenced by the Hebrew Republic?

Journal Federal Cons LogoMay 31, 1787
On this day in Convention, the delegates voted to make the legislature bicameral. Although there was some disagreement, they also agreed that one body should consist of representatives elected by the people. As to the Senate, the delegates could not decide how to comprise that branch. Madison recorded that “a chasm [was] left in this part of the plan.” They also agreed that either house could introduce legislation.
I find the delegate’s discussion relevant to a claim made often by David Barton and more recently by American University historian Daniel Dreisbach. Speaking recently on Barton’s Wallbuilders Live program, Dreisbach claimed that the founders were influenced by the “Hebrew Republic” of Moses. Rick Green is the host to which Dreisbach responded:

The Origins Of Our Republic
And you mentioned that earlier even the idea of a republic or a representative government, where did they draw from in the Bible on those types of things?
Well, this is interesting. So one thing we can say about the Founding generation is that they were all Republicans. They wanted to create a political system that was Republican in nature.
Now, Republicanism always meant two things to the Founders. It meant government by consent of the governed and it meant representative government. They drew on diverse traditions including the ancients, the Romans for example.
The one example that I think they come back to time and time again is the example of the Hebrew Republic. What they read about in the Books of Moses. You remember the children of Israel crossed over the Red Sea and all the responsibilities of government fall on the shoulders of Moses. And his father in law Jethro comes to him and says, “Moses you’re going to need some help in governing this tribe, these children of Israel.” And so Moses with divine providence begins to flesh out a form of government.
Now, Americans in the 18th Century read about this government in the books of Moses and in the books of Judges and Joshua and they see in that a model of Republican government. And they want to emulate that in their own system.

In Search of Biblical Principles

In addition to a search for David Barton’s biblical principles in “every clause” of the Constitution, another reason I am reading the entire Convention debate this summer is to look for evidence that the framers “came back to” the example of Moses “time and time again.”
In the discussion and debate of May 31, Moses wasn’t mentioned. The British government was invoked as a negative example (“The maxims taken from the British constitution were often fallacious when applied to our situation, which was extremely different.” Elbridge Gerry).
I was interested to learn that one of the most orthodox Christian of the founders – Roger Sherman of CT – didn’t want the people to vote for their representatives. Sherman said:

Mr. SHERMAN  opposed the election by the people, insisting that it ought to be by the State Legislatures. The people, he said, immediately, should have as little to do as may be about the government. They want information, and are constantly liable to be misled.

In any case, this debate surrounding the legislature and republican government didn’t invoke the Bible one time.
Read all of the posts in this Constitutional Convention series here.

Reflections on TGC's Life After Mars Hill Church

DriscollBuildingToday, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra posted a reflection on Mars Hill Church two years later. I started twice to write an article like this but didn’t get an answer back from some of those former pastors Zylstra quoted. I must still be associated with the opposition.
Overall, I think Zylstra did a fine job of weaving together a recognizable picture of Mars Hill Church. However, I don’t think this is the last word on the subject. Several more of these kind of articles will need to be written. Probably the whole situation requires a book.
For now, I will add some comments to aspects of the article. I’ll quote Zylstra and then comment.

Slow Train Coming

Then, in a few breathtaking months, the whole thing collapsed. Founder and lead pastor Mark Driscoll’s bent toward the provocative, which was part of his draw, increasingly came under fire, fanned by a series of controversies.

The collapse was a slow motion ride of over a year. There were multiple controversies and turning points but much of what became controversial was the exposure of a pattern of leadership which had taken place over many years. In the last year, many on the inside decided they had tried everything an insider could do. Those people started to talk, organize, and give witness to what they had experienced.

PDCSD – Post Dysfunctional Church Stress Disorder

The collapse of Mars Hill released a tidal wave of hurt, disillusioned people. Many quit Mars Hill; some quit church or Christianity altogether. Hundreds limped into other area churches, asking about church bylaws and pastoral pay structures before even introducing themselves.

A valuable aspect of this article is the documentation of troubled ex-Mars Hill people careening into new churches with church related PTSD.  The church’s structure wasn’t the reason for the problems at Mars Hill but in the last days, the drama was played out on the stage Mark Driscoll and his oversight board had created. No wonder ex-members were wary of how other churches do things.

Your Pastor is Not Your Father

“The biggest fear was that I was going to walk away,” he said. “The thing that hurt the most, that they couldn’t believe, was that Mark would leave them. The feeling that they lost their pastor was a hard blow.”
That’s because “Mark called us his kids,” said Huck, for whom Driscoll was a father figure. “He up and left his kids. That’s the hard part we’re still dealing with. I don’t need a public apology, but it would be nice to be acknowledged. It’s like your dad left and started a new family, and you’re here with your brothers and sisters. And you’re just confused.”

In one of my early interviews on Mars Hill Church, a former leader told me, “Mark recruited all these guys with daddy issues.” While there was much more to the demise of MHC, a fantasy about the role of pastor was a key feature. Driscoll cultivated a paternalistic stance with the congregation. At least some of those people longed for what they imagined a father figure would be, and Driscoll delivered. Even when Driscoll was harsh and outrageous, many excused the actions as a sign of paternal boldness. After all, “father knows best.”
Hopefully, the MHC affair will disabuse Christians of the wish for the pastor-father. Your pastor is not your dad. He or she is a person who can play the role of a shepherd regarding matters of faith but beware of the pastor who wants to be your father.

The Fall Out

No one took a survey, but by most estimates, about half of the former Mars Hill congregants stayed with their campus. Of those who left, most seem to have landed in different area churches. (Two were planted from the Bellevue exodus.)

I think instead of guessing, it would be valuable to do a survey. I doubt that most have landed in area churches. No doubt some have, but I don’t assume that most people have moved on and are still in church.

Well Taught or Well Conditioned?

But even though they’re wounded and unsettled, the Mars Hill diaspora has one enormous advantage: They’ve been well taught.

I hope that’s true but there are many ex-members who I am pretty sure will dispute this.

Mars Hill Church Was Where Jesus Hung Out

One unintentional and subtle message of Mars Hill was, “If you want to be part of what Jesus is doing in our city, then you should be here,” Sinnett said. “When we got out of that ethos and into the church-planting realm, I was blown away by the million things Jesus was doing in the city which were unnamed and unbranded but just as spectacular.”

No, I think this message was intentional and obvious. Perhaps Zylstra was being kind, but a consistent theme I heard from former Mars Hill leaders was that MHC was the best church, really the only church where it was all being done correctly.

We’re Sorry Now

“To a man, every one of them has struggled with what role of complicity they’ve had in the whole thing,” Fairchild said. “That has been very good for us. I have learned the difference between intent and impact—you can have good intentions, but that doesn’t always translate into helpful, gracious impact.”
The elders from Bellevue and Sammamish “truly repented of their participation in any of the sin,” Vanderstelt said. “There was a deep godly sorrow, a genuine repentance, a real desire to walk out the fruit of repentance.”

Apparently, the Mars Hill financial distributions are over.
What is missing in this article is the testimonies of all of the healing that Mark Driscoll has said has taken place. Phoenix is happening but it seems obvious that Seattle still has issues.
For much more on Mars Hill Church, see this link.

Today May 30 in Constitutional Convention: Three Branches of Government

May 30, 1787
The delegates debated the need for three branches of government and postponed a decision on representation. Delaware’s delegates had been instructed not to change the current arrangement which gave small states the same representation as large states. Many delegates wanted to change representation to be based on population but did not want to lose Delaware so early in the Convention. This matter was postponed.
The delegates did agree that the new government needed executive, judicial and legislative branches. At this point, no rationale was offered.
Read all of the posts in this Constitutional Convention series here.

May 29 Constitutional Convention – The Randolph Plan and the Pinckney Plan

Journal Federal Cons LogoMay 29, 1787
The Convention wasted little time considering substantial changes to the Articles of Confederation. After seating John Dickinson (DE) and Elbridge Gerry (MA) and passing some additional rules, plans of government were introduced for consideration by Edmund Randolph and Charles Pinckney.
Randolph’s plan began with a set of goals:

The character of such a government ought to secure, first, against foreign invasion ; secondly, against dissensions between members of the Union, or seditions in particular States; thirdly, to procure to the several States various blessings of which an isolated situation was incapable; fourthly, it should be able to defend itself against encroachment; and fifthly, to be paramount to the State Constitutions. (p. 59).

Randolph first listed the problems in the Articles of Confederation:

2. In speaking of the defects of the Confederation, he professed a high respect for its authors, and considered them as having done all that patriots could do, in the then infancy of the science of constitutions, and of confederacies; when the inefficiency of requisitions was unknown— no commercial discord had arisen among any States —no rebellion bad appeared, as in Massachusetts — foreign debts had not become urgent— the havoc of paper-money had not been foreseen — treaties had not been violated— and perhaps nothing better could be obtained, from the jealousy of the States with regard to their sovereignty.
He then proceeded to enumerate the defects:—-First, that the Confederation produced no security against foreign invasion; Congress not being permitted to prevent a war, nor to support it by their own authority. Of this he cited many examples; most of which tended to shew, that they could not cause infractions of treaties, or of the law of nations to be punished; that particular States might by their conduct provoke war without control ; and that, neither militia nor drafts being fit for defence on such occasions, enlistments only could be successful, and these could not be executed without money.
Secondly, that the Federal Government could not check the quarrel between the States, nor a rebellion in any, not having constitutional power nor means to impose according to the exigency.
Thirdly, that there were many advantages which the United States might acquire, which were not attainable under the Confederation— such as a productive impost— counteraction of the commercial regulations of other nations — pushing of commerce ad libitum, &c, &c.
Fourthly, that the Federal Government could not defend itself against encroachments from the States.
Fifthly, that it was not even paramount to the State Constitutions, ratified as it was in many of the States.
3. He next reviewed the danger of our situation and appealed to the sense of the best friends of the United States— to the prospect of anarchy from the laxity of government every where — and to other considerations.

In presenting the case for a new governing document, Randolph referred to practical problems without resorting to religious justification or the Declaration of Independence. Christian nation advocates often view the Attestation clause of the Constitution as incorporating the religious language of the Declaration into the Constitution. The starting point for these delegates was the Articles and the problems with the current government.

The Pinckney Plan

After Randolph’s plan was presented, Charles Pinckney moved to introduce his plan. Madison records:

Mr. Charles Pinckney laid before the House the draft of a federal government which he had prepared, to be agreed upon between the free and independent States of America.
Ordered, that the said draft be referred to the Committee of the Whole appointed to consider the state of the American Union.

Pinckney’s plan was referred to committee and not referred to until later. However, it apparently had influence because much of it made it into the finished product. The story of what was in Pinckney’s original plan is beyond the scope of this post. For more on the contents and debates by historians about what was in the original plan consult the most ambitious record of the Convention, that of Yale historian Max Ferrand.
Ferrand brought together notes made by other delegates in addition to Madison. This record may be examined online in several formats (e.g., also here). In that record, a speech planned by Pinckney but probably not delivered, is included. Pinckney later had it published as a part of his support for the Constitution’s ratification. In this speech found in Appendix A of Ferrand’s Records, Pinckney lays out his rationale for the plan he presented to the delegates on May 29. He gives very little information about the sources for his work but below are some hints:

Upon this principle, however abused, the parliament of Great Britain is formed, and it has been universally adopted by the States in the formation of their Legislatures. It would be impolitic in us, to deem that unjust, which is a certain and beneficial truth. The abuse of this equality, has been censured as one of the most dangerous corruptions of the English Constitution; and I hope we shall not incautiously contract a disease that has been consuming them. (p. 109)
Montesquieu, who had very maturely considered the nature of a confederated Government, gives the preference to the Lycian, which was formed upon this model. The assigning to each State its due importance in the federal Councils, at once removes three of the most glaring defects and inconveniences of the present Confederation. (p. 109)
No possibility of precipitately adopting improper measures ought to be admitted, and such checks should be imposed, as we find, from experience, have been useful in other governments. In the Parliament of Great Britain, as well as in most, and the best instituted legislatures in the States, we find, not only two Branches, but in some, a Council of Revision, consisting of their executive, and principal officers of government. This, I consider as an improvement in legislation, and have therefore incorporated it as a part of the system. (p. 110)
Under the British Government, notwithstanding we early and warmly resisted their other attacks, no objection was ever made to the negative of the King. (p. 113)
It is the anarchy, if we may use the term, or rather worse than anarchy of a pure democracy, which I fear. Where the laws lose their respect, and the Magistrates their authority; where no permanent security is given to the property and privileges of the Citizens; and no measures pursued, but such as suit the temporary interest and convenience of the prevailing parties, I cannot figure to myself a Government more truly degrading; and yet such has been the fate of all the antient, and probably will be, of all the modern Republics. The progress has been regular, from order to licentiousness; from licentiousness to anarchy, and from thence to despotism. If we review the ancient Confederacies of Greece, we shall find that each of them in their turn, became a prey to the turbulence of their members; who, refusing to obey the Federal Head, and upon all occasions insulting, and opposing its authority, afforded an opportunity to foreign powers, to interfere and subvert them. There is not an example in history, of a Confederacy’s being enslaved or ruined by the invasions of the supreme authority, nor is it scarcely possible, for depending for support and maintenance upon the members, it will always be in their power to check and prevent injuring them. The Helvetic and Belgic Confederacies, which, if we except the Gryson league, are the only Governments that can be called Republics in Europe, have the same vices with the ancients. The too great and dangerous influence of the parts — an influence, that will sooner or later subject them to the same fate. In short, from their example, and from our own experience, there can be no truth more evident than this, that, unless our Government is consolidated, as far as is practicable, by retrenching the State authorities, and concentering as much force and vigor in the Union, as are adequate to its exigencies, we shall soon be a divided, and consequently an unhappy people. (p. 115)
I trust no Government will ever again be adopted in this Country, whose Alteration cannot be effected but by the assent of all its Members. The hazardous situation the United Netherlands are frequently placed in on this account, as well as our own mortifying experience, are sufficient to warn us from a danger which has already nearly proved fatal. (p. 121)
The next Article l provides for the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus — the Trial by Jury in all cases, Criminal as well as Civil — the Freedom of the Press, and the prevention of Religious Tests, as qualifications to Offices of Trust or Emolument: The three first essential in Free Governments; the last, a provision the world will expect from you, in the establishment of a System founded on Republican Principles, and in an age so liberal and enlightened as the present. (p. 122)

In addition to these specific influences, Pinckney appealed generally to the problems encountered while trying to make the Article of Confederation work. The founders learned from experience that something else was needed.
Near the end of Pinckney’s explanations, he mentions religion. He advises the elimination of religious tests for holding office (many states had these), as a provision expected by the world in a liberal and enlightened age. If Charles Pinckney wished to establish a Constitution with biblical principles in every clause, he certainly didn’t do a very good job.

David  Barton’s Deuteronomy Citizenship Claim

David Barton frequently claims that the citizenship requirement of Article II of the Constitution came from Deuteronomy’s requirement that a Jewish king be a Jew. Pinckney opines in favor of a citizenship requirement but doesn’t mention the Bible as a basis.

The Federal Government should also possess the exclusive right of declaring on what terms the privileges of citizenship and naturalization should be extended to foreigners. At present the citizens of one State, are entitled to the privileges of citizens in every State. Hence it follows, that a foreigner, as soon as he is admitted to the rights of citizenship in one, becomes entitled to them in all. The States differed widely in their regulations on this subject. I have known it already productive of inconveniences, and think they must increase. The younger States will hold out every temptation to foreigners, by making the admission to office less difficult in their Governments, than the older. — I believe in some States, the residence which will enable a foreigner to hold any office, will not in others intitle him to a vote. To render this power generally useful it must be placed in the Union, where alone it can be equally exercised. (p. 120)

With two plans before the Convention, the delegates then adjourned.
Madison’s notes with a version of Pinckney’s plan added by the editor.