From the Past: The Mars Hill Church Board of Elders Wanted Mark Driscoll Out of Ministry

James MacDonald (left); Mark Driscoll (right)

In 2014 during the final days of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, 21 former elders of the church lodged charges of pastoral misconduct against Mark Driscoll. In line with church bylaws*, a committee of elders investigated those charges by interviewing numerous church members and related witnesses. A report of that investigation was never released to the church or public. Instead, the Board of Elders provided results to a decision making board at Mars Hill called the Board of Overseers.* This was communicated in a conference call and via a brief summary.

Recently, an anonymous source provided me with a summary of these results which were intended to be shared with members after Driscoll resigned. I checked this summary with several sources who were at Mars Hill at the time who confirmed the accuracy of information in the report. These sources were in a position to know if the material was true. I have also seen information shared with various members of the Board of Overseers which make it clear that the Board of Elders did not want Driscoll to be in a teaching or administrative role at Mars Hill without first going through a restoration process.

As you will see when you read the summary, the elders recommended to the Board of Overseers that Mark Driscoll be removed from ministry pending his participation in a plan of restoration. The BoAA (the ruling board of Mars Hill)* did not accept this recommendation in full. At the time, this board acknowledged that Driscoll was guilty of many of the charges, but they did not believe him to be disqualified from ministry. As we now see from this report, the investigating elders disagreed. They believed he should not continue without first being restored.

Instead of entering a plan of restoration, Driscoll resigned. He later started a church in the Phoenix, AZ area. Despite the verdict of his elder board, Driscoll continues in the pulpit to this day.

Here is the summary of Board of Elders investigation. This was a version of results which was intended to go to members of the church.

Members of Mars Hill Church,

This report is given to you from the Board of Elders with permission from the Board of Overseers.* These two boards are working together for the good of Mars Hill Church.

Below are the findings and recommendations from the Board of Elders and our investigation into the charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll. Though Mark has resigned from his role of pastor and elder we believe these findings should be explained to the people Jesus has entrusted to us. In this matter we stand before God, Christ Jesus and the elect angels (1 Timothy 5:21) to give an account.

Summary of BoE Findings

Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

1 Timothy 5:19-20 says, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”

We conducted an examination of the charges against Mark by interviewing more than 40 eyewitnesses and Mark himself. The charges below we find to be true are supported by testimony of those currently close to Mark, and was not limited to the former staff and elders who signed the formal charges. Based on eyewitness testimony and our own direct experiences we find the following allegations of sin in Mark to be true:

Quick-tempered, including harsh speech
Domineering in his leadership of the elders and staff

While no members of the Board of Elders expect Mark Driscoll to be perfect, the scriptures hold those who serve in the office of elder to a high standard of character and godliness. Throughout the history of Mars Hill Church, Mark has demonstrated these patterns of sin. Former elders have shared their concerns on this with Mark privately, and friends and advisors outside the church have shared this feedback with him as well. On many occasions Mark has acknowledged these sins himself. Sadly we see Mark continuing in these patterns to the present day.

It is with a heavy heart that we believe the church should follow 1 Timothy 5:20 which says that an elder persisting in sin should be rebuked before the body. It is our prayer that through the church following scripture, and the work of the Holy Spirit, Mark can more clearly see his sin, repent and be reconciled with those whom he has sinned against.

It was our recommendation to the Board of Overseers that Mark be rebuked for his sin and a restoration process be developed to shepherd Mark towards godliness. This process would have involved:

Removal from eldership and all church leadership for reflection, repentance, and healing

Repentance and reconciliation with those who have been sinned against

A team of pastors and counselors inside and outside of Mars Hill that would care for Mark throughout the process

Loving restoration of Mark to ministry and leadership when the above pastors unanimously agree that Mark is in a place of repentance and godliness

All of the members of this board love Mark Driscoll deeply. We hoped to see him restored and are grieved that Mark chose to leave before we were able to walk alongside him through this process.

Repentance as Leaders
As we walked through this investigation the Holy Spirit impressed upon us that we too have been sinful and that He is calling us to confession and repentance of our own sins. Before God we confess: we are guilty of arrogance, being quick-tempered, we have led in a domineering manner.

It is our hope to lovingly lead the church in a season of reflection, confession, and repentance. May the love of Jesus Christ we show towards one another and his redemption of our brokenness be what Mars Hill Church is known for in the future. Glory be to Jesus Christ!

Board of Elders
Ed Choi
Alex Ghioni
Aaron Gray
AJ Hamilton
Bubba Jennings
Miles Rohde
Tim Smith

Winners of Mars Hill Church trivia contests might recognize some of this as being similar to a statement read to congregations by elders shortly after Driscoll resigned in October 2014. It was during a church service after Driscoll’s resignation that elders revealed Driscoll resigned instead of entering a restoration plan. However, at that time, the elders were silent about whether or not Driscoll was disqualified. The more complete statement above indicates that the Board of Elders wanted Driscoll to move out of eldership and leadership (in contrast to this report last year).

Of course, none of this changes the past. However, for historical purposes, it does provide a bit more clarity to the narrative. The Board of Elders conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with over 40 witnesses and came to the conclusions you read above. Although there were hints, it was never clear if the group of elders who did the investigation considered Driscoll to be disqualified pending restoration. Apparently, they did.

*The Board of Overseers was a subcommittee of the Board of Advisors and Accountability. The BoAA included people who were not members of Mars Hill and those who were officers, including Mark Driscoll and Dave Bruskas and was the final decision making body for the church. However, according to the bylaws, only the independent members of the BoAA could investigate any formal charges against Mark Driscoll. In this case, the Board of Overseers (Michael Van Skaik, Larry Osborne, Matt Rogers, Jon Phelps) assigned the task of investigating the charges to the ad hoc Board of Elders listed above. Thus, when the Board of Elders completed their work, they presented the report to the Board of Overseers who were a part of the BoAA.

8 thoughts on “From the Past: The Mars Hill Church Board of Elders Wanted Mark Driscoll Out of Ministry”

  1. So, all the stuff about plagiarism, abuse, dark innuendos about some horrible sins and it comes down to him supposedly having a short temper and talking back roughly? They destroy a church over that?
    It sounds like they needed some mature leadership.

  2. So, shorn of religious-speak, Mark Driscoll was found to be hurtful, divisive, arrogant, and unfit to pastor Mars Hill Church, until he resigned from all his leadership posts, underwent a period of reflection (and probably anger management classes), apologized to those he had hurt, and resumed his duties only under the scrutiny of a group of people who could remove him again, if he went back to his previous behavior. Instead of agreeing, he resigned, and is now lead pastor of a church he started in Arizona.

    This sort of bad behavior (of various kinds), followed by an attempt at discipline by what is supposed (I think?) to be a governing body of an independent church, followed by the pastor’s resignation and going elsewhere to start a new church, seems to be standard operating procedure for celebrity–and not so celebrated–preachers with a fundamentalist bent. Even Ted Haggard has gone back to preaching, as have Jimmy Swaggart, Tullian Tchividjian, and a host of others over the years. What makes churchgoers fill the pews of these (not very) “reformed” pastors? Is it the lure of their fame, or a belief that they should be forgiven, or what?

  3. It’s an ironic reality that “pastors” who preach the loudest about the supposed necessity for others to submit their “godly” authority, are the very ones who will cut and run if submission is ever required of them…

    1. True in this case. Submitting to authority was a big value at MHC until the leaders had to submit to elder authority.

      1. To me the only good thing about this was this statement that came out: “As we walked through this investigation the Holy Spirit impressed upon us that we too have been sinful and that He is calling us to confession and repentance of our own sins. Before God we confess: we are guilty of arrogance, being quick-tempered, we have led in a domineering manner.” This was a true confession.

        According to the doctrine that you teach: psychology, Driscoll has always been a narcissist and should have never been given any kind of platform anywhere near Christians. This is because this is an innate trait and not something that is learned. I believe that this and the other Dark Triad traits are innate, so there exists no real chance of repentance for these people. We must be educated about their existence and a shrewd Christian will watch out for them and avoid such people at all costs. We are told to “not even eat with such people.”

        Beyond that, confession needs to be followed up with repentance, which is simply changing the course that you are on. I wonder how many of these men who wrote the confession you quoted have followed it up with true acts of repentance? How many just went right back to another abusive church environment and eagerly participated in it according to how much authority that they got given? Oh, and no one should be applauded for a true confession. This is just basic morality like choosing each day to not take a gun and go kill your enemy or the target of your jealousy. A moral Christian confesses daily and does make attempts to change those things he realizes are wrong inside. Immoral “Christians” are not Christians at all according to Jesus Christ.

        1. You raise some good points here. “Driscoll has always been a narcissist and should have never been given any kind of platform..”

          So I wonder what a community structure would look like where the Driscoll’s of the world never get within ten feet of a pulpit, microphone, camera or leadership/authority position of any kind.

  4. Back in 2014 during the melt down, after Aaron Gray (then my Shoreline Mars Hill lead pastor) and the other investigating elder/pastors promised the congregation the results of their investigation, yet never produced them, I confronted him in a letter. Although I requested his response, it never came. Resignation was not even an option for Mark Driscoll according to the Mars Hill bylaws, which stated resignation was only an option to members in good standing and not under discipline. Excuses made in explanation for his resignation clearly made reference to his guilt on biblical grounds for his disqualification as a pastor, yet the conclusion by the boards was that he was not disqualified?!? Mark Driscoll today leads a Arizona congregation as a lead pastor, still receives from some recognition as a gifted preacher, and is undoubtably enriching himself, yet remains biblically disqualified to do so. If you support this man, shame on you, better to run away. Thankfully God sees all.

  5. How much courage does it take to release this six years later?

    Not much.
    The elders were apparently afraid of hurting feelings and getting their hush money than they were rightfully exposing Mark’s rampant sin.

Comments are closed.