“Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.” Unknown link
I am sure that Bent groaned when he saw my title for this post. Bent, along with Paul Petry link, have admirably held their tongues for many years before speaking out about the circumstances surrounding their very public firing from Mars Hill. I have divided this post into three parts: the history, Bent's reasons for silence and Bent's views on suffering and purpose. We are grateful that Bent chose to publish his views on TWW.
Background of Bent Meyer's firing from Mars Hill by Mark Driscoll
Today's post is written by Bent Meyer, who, along with Paul Petry, was fired by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill in 2007. For a number of years, both of them maintained their silence. This was extraordinary, in light of the very public, verbal abuse (Dee's opinion) they suffered at the hands of Mark Driscoll. What was that abuse? One year ago, we wrote about it in a post: Fired Mars Hill Elder Breaks His Silence in which Bent Meyer spoke of his experience.That post was one of the most widely read posts in the history of TWW since Bent had remained silent until he wrote his post on TWW. There had been much interest expressed in the media and evangelical circles regarding the circumstances surrounding this action.
Mark Driscoll, years ago, claimed that he believed that churches should have "real elders" that could discipline, and even fire, the lead pastor link. Then, Driscoll appeared to turn his back on his expressed belief when he decided that he no longer wished for such rigid oversight. In that post we included this comment by The Seattle Times.
They questioned the bylaws' granting of indefinite terms to a select group of "executive elders," which currently includes Lead Pastor Jamie Munson, Preaching Pastor Mark Driscoll, and three others. Executive elders serve "indefinitely until resignation, death or replacement," according to the bylaws; they may also be removed by a vote of the church board of directors, including the executive elders. Driscoll is a former Seattle Times contributing Faith & Values columnist.
Some members also lamented the loss of Petry and Meyer, challenged their firings, and questioned whether dissent was being quashed and a "culture of fear and elitism" was being perpetuated…"
Bent Meyer and Paul Petry courageously, and quietly, took their concerns about this consolidation of power to Driscoll and other leaders. I bet that our readers can imagine just how well that went! For most of us, we took our abuse on the chin and got out of Dodge. Bent Meyer and Paul Petry had to endure a very public critique which was covered in the media. Over the years, a number of blogs, including TWW, picked up the story. We were shocked when we read about some of the things that Driscoll said.
Here is an example of what these two had to put up with. Mark Driscoll's bloviating was aimed at Bent and Paul.
Here are two other videos.
Please read Fired Mars Hill Elder Breaks His Silence to get a fuller picture of this sordid tale. It is also pertinent to the discussion at hand to understand that the Deb and I had no dog in this hunt. From afar, we observed, and listened to, Driscoll's statements. Long ago, we came to the same conclusion that Bent expressed in that post.
As to my motives, I want Mark’s best. In my opinion he is a very troubled man. He is caught in his own hell. The consequence, of course, is the influence he has on others, which is mixed.
Bent is a skilled counselor. We highly recommend him and link to his practice, Paradigm Counseling, on our blog roll. Deb and I commend Bent for the thoughtfulness and care he exhibited in dealing with what we consider to be abuse. Dee would not have been so quiet.
As Bent discusses his thoughts on suffering, please remember that he does so with a difficult life experience under his belt.
Bent explains his silence.
I was asked a long time ago, why I have not defended myself from the accusations Mark D. leveled at me during and well after my trial and dismissal as a pastor and director of Mars Hill Church. My place in the body of Christ was and is to employ the wisdom I have been given to participate with the broken to help with the possibility of their healing. This has required my own healing and growth first, to become an advocate for the wounded – thus, my silence.
MD charged me with four offenses, three of which were "found to be not credible" by the members of the MH "Elder Investigation Team." The only charge that stuck was, "An unhealthy mistrust of senior leadership." I absolutely admit to the charge, except for the "unhealthy" part. I have no knowledge of what, if anything, the church elders did to hold MD accountable for his false accusations or his violation of the ninth Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness…" — Exodus 20:16. However, after the by-laws of the church were changed, MD was no longer legally accountable to the elders anyway – which appears to be what he wanted.
A couple of months after I left the church, MD asked for a meeting with me for a "Shaking of the hand of fellowship." This sounded like an opportunity for MD to act out the appearance of reconciliation without substance, but I thought perhaps he may have come to some recognition or been confronted of his error. My hope was not realized, while my caution was.
I agreed to meet with MD, but only if a witness was present. At the meeting, MD made more unfounded accusations in the presence of my witness. I typed a transcript immediately after the meeting to contemporaneously record what had transpired. I gave both MD and the witness opportunity to correct any mistakes or misunderstandings. I was asked by the witness why I did nothing to refute MD's accusations, since the witness did not know me to be the way MD had described my character, manner or theological persuasion. My answer: "It wouldn't do any good. There is no one to listen. It is better to let MD talk and dig his own hole, with his own words." That has proven true. MD cannot escape what is heard and enters the public domain. Unfortunately, since Paul Petry's excommunication and my dismissal, many, perhaps all, of the staff at MHC have been made to sign binding non-disclosure agreements as provisions of employment. Thus, little of MD's behavior and attitudes, off mic, are likely to be exposed for some time.
Reports come to me fairly regularly that another staff member has been removed or jumped ship at MHC. It appears to be a revolving door. I attribute this as the consequence of the elders who once said they would take a stand and oppose the ratification of the new by-laws which MD proposed, and which were adopted seven years ago. Those new by-laws changed the church polity from peer elder rule to a hierarchy modeled after corporate structuring.
The elders at the time who had legal authority gave in to the demands and relinquished their authority. They were stripped of their authority as directors of the church, and became, technically, not elders at all. They became employees with no more authority than to parrot what comes down from the boss at top of the pyramid. The elders brought onto themselves the consequence of unbridled corporate management. Regarding trust – they read the same proposal regarding the by-laws I did. It was clear, then, that trust without accountability, was not in order. Accountability and parity needed to be preserved. Instead, intimidation prevailed.
Regarding my submission: It is not healthy in the long run to be stuck as a victim of another's harming. The journeyer must find a way out of a wood, lost, as an experienced survivor who has found meaning -operating with hope and purpose – rather than hopeless fatalism. Thus, my submission is an attempt to speak to some in your audience whom are part of the body that is drawn to heal the broken in an intimate costly way.
Further, some of the wounded will, perhaps, find a glimmer of hope beyond their affliction. There are people who will listen and walk with them. There are people who will invite the wounded to lean on their hope and resilience until hope, purpose and meaning are realized.
Further still, there are those who harm, that finally are arrested with realization of the harm they have done, but have no idea how to be different or how to face their shame. Those that employ shaming expose an enormous intolerance to face their own shame.
This becomes a question for all of us: Is there a community that will walk with them; vision with them and skill them to realize a life that lives out the fruit of the Spirit in person, generously (Gal. 5:22-23). I believe there is, but maybe they don't know it is there.
A difficult calling into suffering for a purpose
by Bent Meyer
I have not written for a long time, though the desire to communicate themes that have been brewing has been there, but not the right time.
I have been listening and thinking about the suffering experienced in my community. About, how God, for unfathomable reasons, which cannot be known without revelation, allows the entire range of evils to continue to exist. I think about the laments of scripture, in Psalms and elsewhere. My imagination is exhausted trying to join those in Hebrew 11 who suffered unimaginable torture. What did their survivors continue to experience? Consider, what is it like to live for most if not all of being sawn in half, before bleeding out? What is it to experience immolation or, crushed in exhaustion and your abdomen torn out by a lion, for the voyeuristic delight of population of onlookers – consider Polycarp. What do family member experience? How are their terrors experienced, confronted and resolved?
What is it to be tormented by a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system, an out of control flight or fight response system, brought about by, early attachment deficient or traumas of various kinds? What is it to live 24/7 in such a body?
What is it to love another deeply for the wholeness of personhood that was, while their personality is deteriorating, or significantly alter by injury, disease, or attempts to avert repeated trauma with unconscious adaptive processes that make a smaller and smaller world for them?
What is it to inhabit the body of one experiencing pervasive discrimination, from family, community, or culture that defines who one is; their capacity, trustworthiness, or desirability? What is it to have a mind normalize oppressive and discriminatory experience? What is it to experience oneself and neighbors limited by intentional or thoughtless accessibility to opportunity withheld?
What is it to be assaulted by spiritualized platitudes, in the midst of confusing pain, or notions of conformity to traditions that is portray as absolute and/or misinformed/eisegetic interpretations of texts to gain power and control over a population? What is it to be conflicted by fear of a Wrathful God, who has already declared a person kept and safe? What is it to feel condemned one declaring one is bound by unsubmissive sin, because they had a mind of their own, which is not the pastor's?
The task God has appointed for me and others, as best I can discern, is to journey with those that come into my circle of care from such environs. It is to listen, imagine, and enter into what is experienced inside their skin and mind, while simultaneously keeping myself in the world I discern to be real.
It is to be closely influenced by wise people to support or challenge my appraisal of reality. This is necessary, because I am affected by my own faulty notion and infected by the wounds of those I journey with.
I know some of my own anxiety and fear; the experience of panic in the context of short term abandonment, lost in the woods, heaving nausea, uncontrolled gyrations, impact, silence, warm blood dribbling from a wound, etc., these experiences and more create bridges of empathy to approach the experience of others. Yet, they are teachers of what I have not experienced. They allow me to vicariously learn. This is the price I pay; I am affected and altered by the experiences of those I am with. It is disorienting at times, thus the need for wise men and women to disclose my challenges, poverty, perceptions and my joined grief. Thus, I am taught and grow. More importantly I am held by a small community of kind and trusted people.
George Kunz speaks of many who come to serve at L' Arche, as Seattle community of active faith,
"they (helpers) will stay in our communities, because they have discovered that they are poor, that we all have a wound, that we are all vulnerable, that there is a broken part in each of us, .. that we all have masks and a system of protection, hiding our vulnerability,…that inside all of us, there is a place where anger hides, and fear, and depression, and maybe broken sexuality, a capacity to live and lock ourselves up into a world of dreams. That is the reality of all of us. We have a handicap. That's all of us… some it's more visible; others it's less. But the reality is there. We come to serve the poor. We discover, after a while, that we are the poor."[i]
Knowing my own poverty is the beginning of knowing others.
The task with those I journey is to enter their experience and how it shapes their world view and subsequent behavior, so together we can find a way to walk out of a wood lost, to become oriented to a journey of hope, meaningful relational experiences and constructive effect on others in the context of faith and mystery.
I am reminded of mystery Job was confronted with. He had no idea why the hardship and loss he experienced happened with such overwhelming fury. His community was of no help, yet God was right in His confidence in Job, he would never give up on his creator to find an illusitory god for comfort and an explanation. Job wrestled with God, blamed God, and pleaded with God. He wanted God to end his life, since the pain exceeded what he knew his limited to be. Ultimately he stopped and said, I don't know. I am a creature of dust and of your mercy! Even my best offerings are reduced to ashes. My eyes have seen this: you are beyond. You cannot be reduced to my capacity to know. I yield to you in every way.
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. God said earlier, ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Again God earlier said, ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; herefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
I don't know what specific purposes God has for suffering. Little is revealed, except for the possibility of learning, growth and community responsiveness as prescribed by Jesus, in the context of being dependent creatures of a mysterious God. Maybe this is what Satan was to learn from his bet with God (Job 1). God cannot be reduced to be taken in and defined by a created being. God can be known by self revelation, but not by reduction.
I think Paul picks this up in Ephesians 3:8–10:
"To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places."
There is some sort of revelator process in our suffering. There is purpose in suffering to learn and becoming a people of influence for good by doing no wrong to others, (Rom 13:8-10). Helpers represent something of God in healing, support, and promoting equity – summed up in love. Thus, creatures we know little about might learn something of resilient loyalty to the singular creator of all, even in overwhelming difficulty and pain. This gives me courage in my small attempt at joining Jesus in overcoming evil with love, as faulty as my love is in my own suffering and joining the suffering of others. There is purpose not yet revealed.
Many, who have submitted their life experience, are victims of great harm. Their anger is real. Their stories need to be heard and entered as one's own. The sorrow for some is being held in purposelessness as perpetual victims rather than survivors with hope and trust. They are not alone. There is a greater purpose, presently not revealed. There will be justice, partly now, fully then. Presently modeled after God's allowance to deal with the iniquities of David's lineage From 2 Sam. 7:14
"I will discipline him (the perpetrator) with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men…"
Yet, even the perpetrator is poor and likely has come out of a history of neglect and harm. Will there be compassion when the perpetrator falls and is alone in his nakedness? After all, those that are exposed are often only propped up by people that have not yet seen the king is naked. Will there be those that will heal the naked self stricken?
It's likely a good time to agree with Jesus; to explore and actively experience the many facets of loving God, who is cloaked in mystery and our suffering neighbor's as they and we journey life's short course, until fullness is known beyond the grave.
-  http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/polycarp-lightfoot.html
-  ESV Translation
[i] Kunz, George, (1998). The Paradox of Power and Weakness, New York, , SUNY Series
Lydia's Corner:Isaiah 37:1-38:22 Galatians 6:1-18 Psalm 65:1-13 Proverbs 23:24