Postcards from Phoenix: Who Suggested The Trinity Church Hire a Private Investigator?

Since I first wrote about Mark Driscoll’s “elderless church,” former staff and members from the Phoenix church have emailed and called with stories of their experiences there. Some tales have been told elsewhere, but others have not. Some feel like news stories and others feel like laments from old friends I have never met in person. I hear echoes of Seattle via the Southwest. Pain and confusion sounds the same whether it is from Seattle or Scottsdale.

I have decided to bring you some of these stories in a Postcards from Phoenix series. Some will be lengthy, some quite short. Some will be signed and some anonymous. All will involve experiences good, bad, and ugly with The Trinity Church.

The first one is complex in that it was triggered by a report from an anonymous witness to a recent spirited conversation between Grace Driscoll and another woman after women’s Bible study group. The argument was centered around a woman leaving the church amidst the current upheaval and controversies at The Trinity Church.

As a part of the argument, Grace Driscoll reportedly alleged that former director of security Chad Freese hired the private investigator who surveilled the Manuele family (see here and here for details). The implication was that the church shouldn’t be held responsible for this since Freese did it. This caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One, it demonstrates that recent news reporting is being followed widely in the church. Two, I wondered if there was any truth to the allegation that Chad Freese both instigated the hiring of the PI and then later complained about it.

And so, the first postcard comes from Chad Freese with receipts.

Dear Warren:

I would love to take a moment to provide some clarity on this situation. I am also hearing reports that members of the staff are trying to blame me for their reprehensible behavior. I find it laughable that anyone believes that a volunteer could wield so much power and authority when it is so clear that the staff walks on eggshells. However, I still feel inclined to set the record straight.

On March 27th, Pastor Mark’s Executive Assistant, John Welnick, relayed Pastor Mark’s “commanders intent” to return Angelo’s bark with a roar. Notice in the text exchange he says we were to give a “Disproportionate response” to Angelo. At least he said to be nice to the women and children.

On March 29th, Pastor Brandon asked for a private investigator and wanted as much info on Angelo as possible. Note my response at the bottom, I wanted input on how Pastors Mark and Brandon wanted me to proceed.

Keep in mind, my role as a volunteer was to provide recommendations, but they make the decisions. In fact, Pastor Mark has made it clear on many occasions that he is in charge and what he says goes.

On April 1st, the threat level was raised per information that Pastor Landon Chase was sharing with the team. Based on this new information I recommended to have the private investigator that had been previously suggested by Pastor Brandon Anderson follow Angelo due to false reports saying Angelo was going to attack the church. All of this turned out to be untrue, which sadly was a pattern. Later that night Brandon wanted professional eyes on Angelo and made a point to state how we “Can’t predict crazy.”

I have had people question why I was supporting the church in its defense and stance against Angelo as these events unfolded since now it appears I am supporting Angelo. I want to be clear that I was not picking sides in popularity contest; I just want the truth to be shared.

I was never close with Angelo, nor did I know him well. We sat at a table together at Real Men’s [men’s ministry] a few times, but that was the extent of our relationship. I owed it to the church to do my job as the volunteer director and provide the best support and advice I could based on limited information I was given. Nonetheless, I take full responsibility for my participation. I have offered my apologies to those I have wronged and asked for forgiveness. I have also repented to God for my complicity in this matter. While I had hoped that the staff would do the same, it has become apparent that we have different convictions.

The facts remain the same. The church did hire a company to track the Manuelle family and it was initially suggested as an option by Pastor Anderson. Ultimately, I resigned for a lot more reasons than just the Manuele situation. In fact, that is small in comparison to the rest. Those details will come later.

From sunny Phoenix,



24 thoughts on “Postcards from Phoenix: Who Suggested The Trinity Church Hire a Private Investigator?”

  1. These guys exist somewhere on a spectrum between Scientology and Branch Davidians. But because their stated theology is more-or-less orthodox, the larger church just kind of shrugs. Mark Driscoll is going to kill someone one of these days. Not at all a good situation.

  2. Call me cynical, but this response cannot possibly be about a kiss between two teenagers. Especially when the Driscoll daughter is two years older than the Manuele son; I’m not buying it for a minute. Yet everyone seems to accept this explanation. I think either something far worse (?) happened and the daughter was the aggressor or it is just overt racism.

    1. I can believe it was started by a kiss. Driscoll is definitely the controlling type who would over-react to it and then have things quickly escalate from there.

      I do agree with you that people are incorrectly jumping to the conclusion that it was the 15 yr-old that initiated things while not even bothering to ask about the 17 yr-olds involvement. However, again, I suspect Driscoll would be the type to deliberately shift any blame away from his family and onto someone else’s.

  3. And the evidence just keeps leaking out, like nothing has changed in Mars Hill 2.0. Someone this pathological simply cannot understand why he cannot control everyone around him. It really is true that sin makes you stupid.

  4. And the evidence just keeps leaking out, like nothing has changed in Mars Hill 2.0. Someone this pathological simply cannot understand why he cannot control everyone around him. It really is true that sin makes you stupid.

  5. Wow. Maybe I’m missing something, but when is it ever normal, let alone proper for a Christian church to hire and use a PI to do surveillance on someone? Sounds like stuff from a spy novel. This is one dysfunctional church with a sociopath running it!

    1. What? You mean to say Jesus didn’t hire Private Investigators to surveil and control others? Next you’re gonna tell me Jesus never used NDAs and never hosted a single event on “Real Men.”

    2. Nope, this is the kind of thing the Gold Standard of Cults, Scientology, does to people.

      This is my perfectly secular reason for being out on the sidewalk.

    3. Elron Hubbard and David Miscavage made use of LOYAL PIs doing surveillance on their Enemies Real and Imagined.
      “Just like Scientology, Except CHRISTIANT(M)!”

  6. I wonder how long it will take for Driscoll to modify the NDAs to now specify that all online communications must be deleted. Or at the very least explicitly covered by the NDA.

    1. It’s not an enforceable NDA without consideration and mutual acceptance. I don’t see consideration (and no, not going to help with what that means) and I don’t see a signature from anyone who has the authority to legally bind Trinity Church.

      OH YEAH…the minors who signed these pieces of paper should know that these pieces of paper are invalid because they are not old enough to make contracts, even if there was consideration and mutual acceptance.

      Also, it appears the only punishment the document pretending to be an NDA puts on people is that they will get tossed out of Mark Driscoll’s cult. That’s not a punishment, it’s a blessing.

      1. Not technically enforceable, but you can get away with a lot of “enforcement” if you’re willing to hire PIs to hire and bully people.

      1. Ugh. Strikes me as unbearably lame.

        Also, “Real Men”? I’d be too embarrassed to join such a group.

        1. I know, right? Utterly cringeworthy.

          Honestly, a name like that would be a red flag to me right off the bat.

  7. I appreciate Mr, Freese’s candor — his willingness to abide by the rules of full disclosure. If I correctly understand the context and implications of the message traffic shown here, what he has shown us is an object lesson in a normal human’s susceptibility, when serving in a supportive role for an authoritative boss, to play along in a process of institutionalizing abuse.

    1. Well said. It’s a temple for Mark Driscoll to worship himself and his own self-serving needs.

      1. Remember Douggie ESQUIRE of Vision Forum?
        (Before he went down in a scandal Keeboarping his Commander’s Handmaid?)
        Cosplayer but wouldn’t admit to it?
        Including Cosplaying General Patton?

        Wish I could have rung in the REAL George Patton on him.

        Would have gotten spectactular – the Real Thing meets the Poser.

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