Desperation is like stealing from the Mafia: you stand a good chance of attracting the wrong attention.-Douglas Horton link
Late last week there was explosion of activity within and without Mars Hill. It is the opinion of TWW that a lawsuit is inevitable. The Deebs also believe that it is justified. (Yes, we do know what the Bible says.) We also adamantly state that all of this could have been prevented by humble men and women who should have been in positions of influence in this church. Humility, unfortunately has been replaced by another word that starts with "hu" and that is hubris. Bombastic arrogance is not a quality that is found in the New Testament.
We are going to assume that our readers are aware of the issues of plagiarism, the purchase of a New York Times bestseller position and Driscoll's decision to leave social media for awhile. He can hide but social media will continue to find him. Mars Hill has more holes than Swiss cheese. Yet, it is high time that the repetitive Mars Hill narrative sees the light of day.
So, onto the developments.
Email Destruction to Commence at Mars Hill
On April 2, Dr Warren Throckmorton posted Megachurch Methods: Mars Hill Email Retention Policy.
As of this Friday,(ed. 4/4) emails and church related documents may only be stored for 90 days before being deleted. Also, staff must delete any Mars Hill related documents from personal computers or other storage.
If you visit Dr Throckmorton's site, you can see the actual wording of this new policy. This jumped out at me.
Thank you for helping us improve our stewardship and reduce the risk of storing old emails unnecessarily.
It seems that there is quite a lot of scrubbing going on Mars Hill these days. Some sermons, once available online, are disappearing at the blink of an eye. Now why would Driscoll scrub sermons?
Does anyone find the statement about "improving our stewardship" by deleting old emails a bit weird? Are they saying that email deletion is now in the category of stewardship just like tithing? That one I can do!
Why is it "risky" to store old emails? What in the world is in those emails? Also, why start deleting at this particular juncture? Do these guys realize just how suspicious this all looks? Is Mars Hill trying to hide something? How stupid is it to do this while they are under the microscope? Maybe they should all wear bracelets with WWJD: "What would Jesus delete?"
It seems like just about everyone except certain Neo-Calvinist leaders, current Mars Hill employees and Mars Hill members believe that Driscoll is in real trouble. This lengthy article, written by Valerie Tarico, a former evangelical and a critic of abusive behavior by churches, opines that Mark Driscoll's empire is crumbling.
Members who decide to leave are pushed to debrief with leaders, knowing full well that disagreements may be framed as rebellion against not only Driscoll but against God. Simultaneously, they are expected to abstain from talking with other members about the issues that have become deal-breakers. Membership materials frame audible dissent as divisiveness, creating a more subtle, psychological version of Firstenberg’s gag order. Those who leave often simply disappear.
When church leaders go, they too tend to disappear abruptly, and questions are met with a pious smokescreen. Per Firstenberg, a departure typically is described as God having called the disappeared leader elsewhere, which helps to explain why it has taken years for things to reach a boiling point. That four former pastors—including one co-founder—have now banded together to expose their concerns to the congregation and general public speaks volumes about their depth of frustration and conviction. Given the combined years they poured into the Mars Hill franchise, it may say something also about their sense of loss.
The Repentant Pastors
A group of former Mars Hill pastors started a website in which they movingly confess their participation in the hurt caused by Mars Hill.
We acknowledge the hurts that Mars Hill Church has caused. These are our individual confessions, stories, letters and apologies.
This was a particularly interesting development. TWW contends that Mark Driscoll should have humbled himself and asked for forgiveness a long time ago. We also believe that had he done so, Mars Hill would not be where it is today. We believe he should take a clue from his former pastors.
When we read this website, we knew that Mark Driscoll was in deep trouble. These men know where the "bodies thrown under the bus" are buried and they are now telling the truth, starting with themselves.
REPEAL THE BYLAWS – EXONERATE PASTORS PETRY & MEYER
Here is how the founders describe themselves. It is well worth the read.
Welcome! The people here are mostly former Elders, Deacons, Members and attendees of Mars Hill Church who do not feel that MH and its leadership are living up to the standards set forth by the Bible and are actively abusing their authority. We endeavor to bring sin into the light in hopes that those who have been sinned against or have seen others sinned against would understand that they are not alone. Many of us also feel that we have sinned by turning a blind eye to the sin in front of us.
We are not looking to destroy a church for the sake of destroying a church. While some of us may have some theological differences with MHC, we overall agree with the core theology that MHC has preached from the pulpit since inception. In short, that Jesus is Lord, died for our sins, and that there is no hope apart from him. We feel that MHC has diluted this core theology with their sins.
The sins we are here to bring into the light include:
* The firing and subsequent shunning of Pastors Paul Petry and Bent Meyer in 2007 for protesting the drafting of new bylaws that concentrated power in a few individuals and in practice have limited the accountability of Mark Driscoll as well as others. These bylaws stand in stark contrast to what has been preached from the pulpit and they are responsible for allowing much of the sin that has followed. For this reason they must be repealed.
* The ends-justify-the-means attitude of church leadership that promoted numerical growth over spiritual growth and has resulted in building a mansion upon the sand around the personality of one individual.
* The mistreatment and abuse of church staff. This includes, but is certainly not limited to poor planning on the leadership's part that have resulted in frequent cycles of layoff-rehire-layoff as well as forcing laid off employees to sign non-disclosure and non-compete agreements in order to receive severance packages.
* Ordering at least one pastor to break multiple government laws for a period of months in order to falsely claim "religious discrimination."
* The misuse of hundreds of thousands of dollars in church money to pay a marketing company to cheat the system and get Mark and Grace Driscoll's book on the New York Times best seller list.
* The theft of many authors work in the form of plagiarism in multiple books authored by Mark Driscoll.
* The revision of the church's history in its publications and on its website that leaves out the work of many people in order to make others look better.
We are hoping and praying for the repentance of everyone involved in these sins and a return of Mars Hill to a sustainable Biblical model. We believe that true repentance would include bringing these sins into the light by naming them as well as making demonstrable actions to reconcile with those who have been sinned against.
We do not believe that these sins are an "internal matter" and that bringing it out publicly will harm the reputation of Jesus or his church. Public repentance can only bring glory to Jesus. With this public repentance we are also hoping that the thousands who have been discarded, sinned against, and lied to would find peace.
The accusations in this statement are made by those who know Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll very well. TWW believes that Mark Driscoll should have contacted the folks on this website as quickly as possible. Instead, from what we can tell, it has been very silent. In fact, the "let's scrub our emails" mandate came out well after this Facebook page began. Coincidence? We think not.
Bent Meyer calls for Mark Driscoll to step down.
Last week, in a post at TWW, Bent Meyer: How to Prepare for and Handle Your Meeting With Mark Driscoll, Bent, a recipient of "The Wrath of Mark" had this to say:
There is expected behavior. He must resign from all positions that provide him with power and control. Because he employs power and control to shame others and his future, he must not be allowed to avail himself of it.
Make the following perfectly clear. He must remove himself from all public and leadership influence immediately. Others must deal with an orderly succession process.
This is startling. Bent is saying that Driscoll needs to step down. If he is saying this, others are as well. This spells trouble for Driscoll.
Mars Hill receives a visit from the lawyer, gets a preservation letter and gets to learn all about RICO.
On Friday, Dr Warren Throckmorton posted Text of Letter From Former Mars Hill Members to Mars Hill Church Asking to Delay Email Deletion
Yesterday, World Magazine reported that 16 former Mars Hill members hired an attorney to send a letter to Mars Hill Church demanding that the church stop the implementation of the new email deletion policy. The attorney, Brian Fahling, requested that Mars Hill preserve the stored data in anticipation of litigation
Here is a link to the letter purportedly presented to Mars Hill. The letter clearly states its purpose.
Re: Anticipated litigation: RICO, Fraud, Conspiracy, Libel, Slander, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress- Data Preservation Request
In other words, get ready…. we are fixin' to sue you.
What is RICO? This is something we didn't see coming. Think… evangelical Mafia. According to Wikipedia:
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually commit the crime personally.
This letter of preservation, which was presented by the attorney to Mars Hill, actually has some standing if this case should go to trial. Courts apparently frown on individuals or companies who destroy documents after being informed that there is a possibility of a lawsuit. Once again, we wonder why Mars Hill was planning on destroying the emails? If they should choose to disregard the letter from the attorney (a foolhardy course of action IMO) why? They will be shooting themselves in the foot.
TWW believes a lawsuit is inevitable unless Mark Driscoll steps down from his pastorate with no expectation of returning to the pulpit. Frankly, it is not such a bad solution. Driscoll, unlike many of the men he fired, has plenty of money and a really, really great house. Our guess, however, is that Driscoll will not go silently into the night. He is too much of a fan of cage fighting. If he chooses to fight, he will cause further damage to the church.
Also, the T4G conference is occurring this week. We think it is about time that this gathering of supposed Christian leaders begins to figure out how they have contributed to the development of the Christian celebrity network. Without them (John Piper, etc.) Mark Driscoll would not have had so many devotees to excuse his antics.
Lydia's Corner: Ezekiel 1:1-3:15 Hebrews 3:1-19 Psalm 104:1-23 Proverbs 26:24-26