On Friday, I asked a dozen former Mars Hill pastors and Mars Hill Church for comment on the current investigation of formal charges against Mark Driscoll. Sunday marked the end of Driscoll’s sixth week of absence from the pulpit. I found that investigation of the formal charges is underway but that the allegations offered by nine pastors (then current, now former) in a separate letter have not been reviewed.
One of those former pastors, Dave Kraft, was unable to comment on Friday but today provided a statement that sums up his view of the situation thus far.
I have been interviewed by Pastors Miles Rhode and Matt Rogers. It was cordial and not adversarial in any way. I strongly encouraged them to interview Paul Tripp and Matt Chandler to find out what these two men know and understand what led them to their position that MD has not truly repented and has disqualified himself for leadership.
I believe it will be hard for the “Investigative Group” to not fall into the trap of “evidentiary bias” and they honestly may not be open to “handle the truth” (Jack Nicholson’s line “A Few Good Men.”) The “Investigative Group” (in my opinion) may not really be non-partisan and neutral which an investigative team needs to be for the daunting task before them.
I think the best thing that Mark Driscoll can do for his own health, the health of MHC and for the honor of Jesus’ church is to voluntarily step down for a minimum of six months and let the full council of Elders decide if and when he returns. During the six months, he should:
1. Get some serious counseling from Paul Tripp or Garrett Higbee
2. Arrange multiplied dozens of reconciliation meetings with people who believe Mark hurt and harmed them
3. Set in motion a revision of current MHC bylaws
4. Spend time with his family and with the Lord Jesus in deep and genuine soul searching
5. Form a small accountability group with men who are not afraid to confront and challenge him: older, seasoned and courageous leaders…not “yes” men with a vested interest in being nice to him.
As I noted on Friday, some of the protected witnesses have dropped out of the process because they lack trust in the integrity of the process. Clearly, Kraft decided to enter the process although he has some concerns. I think the suggestion to interview Tripp and Chandler has merit.
As these interviews wrap up, the next step is the production of a report to be sent to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. The BOAA could exonerate Driscoll, rebuke him, exonerate on some charges and rebuke on others, or find him disqualified for the office of elder which would lead to his removal as pastor at Mars Hill Church.
On March 17, Dave Kraft and Kyle Firstenberg sent a letter to Mars Hill’s executive elders requesting mediation on behalf of themselves and 18 other former pastors. Yesterday, Dave Kraft posted an update on the process on his blog. After describing the process, Kraft wrote:
I am glad to report that the process described above is now underway. A reputable professional team, experienced in matters of significant conflict in churches, has been retained by the BOAA. This team is doing initial interviews and getting the lay of the land regarding what has transpired over the last seven years or so at Mars Hill Church. This will be a long process, so patience will be the need of the hour. Once the team has done its initial round of interviews, recommendations will be given to the BOAA as to next steps.
So the news part of this post is that Mars Hill leaders have entered into talks with twenty former pastors with a mediation team.
Kraft says he is cautiously optimistic. However, in my opinion, it is fair to point out that events of recent weeks strain optimism. Mars Hill continues to dismiss staff when they question leadership or decline to sign a non-compete clause. Instead of transparency, Mars Hill leaders stealthily change information on their website without explanation. Reasonable requests for accountability are ignored, and Mark Driscoll preached recently that the cycle that has been taking place is normal and biblical. In other words, some of the same issues the pastors wanted to talk about seem to remain the same.
Kraft acknowledges in his post that the process may not work out. However, the fact that the executive elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability have entered the process seems to recognize that there is conflict which must be addressed.
Two weeks ago, twenty former Mars Hill pastors, led by Dave Kraft and Kyle Firstenberg requested mediation with the Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church. As of this writing, no answer has come from the BOAA.
Ten days later, the BOAA issued a letter to Mars Hill leaders saying the board was “hungry for reconciliation” but did not mention the initiative by the 20 pastors. Two weeks later, the BOAA is apparently not hungry enough to address the people who are calling for a response.
There are nearly 170 members of a group calling for the exoneration of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. There are over 50 members of a similar group calling for repentance. No members have described contacts from the BOAA. Recently, a website was launched with four former pastors including co-founder Lief Moi, expressing sorrow over their actions while at Mars Hill. These gentlemen also seem hungry for reconciliation. Many of these individuals have sought reconciliation privately with no response to their efforts. See especially, Kyle Firstenberg’s information.
I have asked Mars Hill communications director Justin Dean for MHC’s side of this matter with no response.
A new website devoted to repentance among former Mars Hill leaders has opened up at Repentantpastor.com. Repentant Pastor is about:
We built this site to provide a safe place in which we can confess our sin and share the stories and experiences we had while serving and attending Mars Hill Church. Our hope is to bring about repentance for ourselves and reconciliation with people whom we have hurt. If you are one of those people please connect with us personally through email. You can also comment on the posts. Each one of the people who has written in the confessions section has an email address at this url. The email addresses are email@example.com Thank you for reading our confessions, letters, stories, and apologies.
Each of these posts are confessions from Mars Hill leaders and members who agree that the culture of Mars Hill has many problems, and that more could have been done by each of us to challenge those problematic attitudes and behaviors. In staying at Mars Hill, we were complicit in those structures, and problems whether we employed them or not. We recognize and confess that Mars Hill has hurt many people within the Mars Hill community, as well as those outside the community including those who don’t believe Mars Hill’s religious beliefs, and we want to acknowledge the hurt we may have caused. We humbly ask your forgiveness. These are our individual confessions, letters, stories, and apologies.
With posts all dated today (3/29/14), former Mars Hill Orance County executive pastor Kyle Firstenberg, former Leadership Pastor Dave Kraft, former Mars Hill Everett Pastor Scott Mitchell, and Mars Hill co-founder Lief Moi have provided a powerful call to re-examine events in Mars Hill’s history. In particular, the change in bylaws and firing of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry take center stage.
On March 17, twenty former Mars Hill pastors approached the Board of Advisors and Accountability with a request for mediation. Thus far, no direct response to this call and those who made it has come.
Firstenberg’s official charges are stunning and can be read here.
A little while ago, former Mars Hill Church Leadership Pastor Dave Kraft released a statement on his Facebook page which accepted responsibility for his part in the firings of Paul Petry, Bent Meyer and Lief Moi. Saying that the elders were “unfairly terminated,” Kraft expressed remorse for being “in the group that saw to it that they left.”
Then today on his blog, Kyle Firstenberg also expressed remorse because he shunned the fired elders as he was instructed by Driscoll. Firstenberg also provided his perceptions of the bylaws changes dating back to about 2007 when more power was placed in the hands of the executive elders. Eventually, the Board of Advisors and Accountability was created with the purported purpose to provide outside accountability. Firstenberg described a video call where Driscoll discussed the changes. After some push back from elders, according to Firstenberg, Driscoll shut down discussion:
Mark’s response was simply, I don’t give a shit what you guys think. I brought this in front of you guys trying to be nice and make you feel like you are involved in this decision. I don’t even need to get your permission to do this; the last change to the Bylaws gives me permission to do what I want and we are doing this. It doesn’t matter what you say.
With that, the change was made with little protest because if you want to keep your job you don’t cross Mark. My push back is simply, if Mark can make statements like that in front of the people who are his peers as elders/pastors and the people who he has put in place to hold him accountable to begin with, then what makes us think that he would submit himself to a group of people who are outside of the church?
I have heard other Mars Hill pastors describe this meeting with very nearly the same language. If Mars Hill Church would like to dispute this account, I would be happy to post their account.
This is a powerful vindication of the three elders and one which the Mars Hill BOAA has not publicly addressed. I have noted before that the controversy/firings of these men, and other events from about 2007 onward are reverberating today. Mars Hill BOAA has abundant evidence of the issues but has still not contacted these men, preferring instead to talk about some vague reconciliation hunger.