Updated 6/3/14 8:30AM Folks: Mars Hill is running scared. From Warren Throckmorton's site
At 6pm tonight Scott Harris, Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Ballard, contacted Phil and notified him that Mars Hill had reversed its position and has elected to give the Smidt family the severance offered previously – but this time without conditions. Phil accepted this offer at 7pm. Please continue to pray for the Smidts as they continue to determine how to steward this outrageous outpouring of God’s grace. Because the Smidts need has been so generously met by everyone, we will be closing this site tonight. If Phil had received an unconditional severance to begin with, there never would have been an opportunity for so many people to reach out and let the Smidt’s know how much they are loved. Thank you for supporting our friends.
Dee wants to know: Is Harris a King as well? Too many kings can spoil the broth.
This past couple of weeks has been crazy. Grant Layman confessed he had been told about the abuse and chose not to tell the authorities. CJ Mahaney and Josh Harris "stepped down" voluntarily, thus saith The Gospel Coalition. Meanwhile Tullian Tchividjian was booted off The Gospel Coalition website, ostensibly due to his "not gospel enough™" view on sanctification. TT also said he had confronted TGC about their statement of support for CJ Mahaney a year ago. TGC reportedly blocked a number of Twitter users who used #IStandWithSGMVictims and Joe Carter gave a demonstration on "how to argue like Jesus" in the Twitterverse. This wrapped up the week in which TGC demonstrated that they neither represent the gospel™ nor are they a true coalition.
Thankfully, Dr Warren Throckmorton at Patheos was keeping a close eye on the increasing number of explosions at Mars Hill Church. You all remember Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, don't you? Driscoll was the darling of the Neo-Calvinists. Interestingly, TGC, besides kicking Tullian to the curb only retains one article that mentions Mark Driscoll (as of this morning in their search engine on site.) Somehow TGC quietly backed away from Driscoll but saw fit to boot Tullian in a most public way. There must be a gospel™ statement in all of this but I'll leave that to my theological betters to figure out.
TWW is grateful for Dr Warren Throckmorton. He has kept the heat on, patiently documenting the growing mess at Mars Hill. The following post is a synopsis of the growing scandal as outlined by Dr Throckmorton. It is the opinion of TWW that Mars Hill is rapidly losing ground and, if the following reports are true, Mars Hill and their self designated brand icon-Mark Driscoll, will become known as "that really weird group in Seattle."
1. Just plain creepy: the leaders of Mars Hill actually think they are prophets, priests and kings.
In a post Who at Mars Hill Church Authorized Church Funds to Buy a Place for Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage on the NYT Best Seller List?, Dr Throckmorton presents an invoice authorizing church funds to pay for Driscoll's ill fated flirtation with the NYT Best Seller list. Guess what? Mark Driscoll had nothing to do with it!
…members asked pastors Thomas Hurst and Jason Skelton to name who was responsible for the decision to spend church money on the promotion of the Driscoll's’ book. According to sources in the meeting, Hurst and Skelton told those present that Driscoll said he was not involved because he had removed himself from the decision. Hurst added that Sutton Turner, who signed the contract (read it here), was new on the job and simply signed papers put in front of him. However, according to the sources, no person was singled out as being responsible for the RSI agreement.
Sutton Turner is the executive pastor of Mars Hill Did you also know that he is the (or is it "a") King of Mars Hill? We wrote a post about this "teaching of Priest (or is he the Prophet…) Driscoll here.
This letter, allegedly composed by Turner and published in the above referenced post, was sent to a Mars Hill member who left the church over the "buy your way to number one on the NYT best seller list, maybe by using church funds," says it all.
As I thought and prayed about your letter this morning, please know that we realize the Results Source decision was a wrong decision and poor stewardship. I am sorry as your Pastor that I failed you. Please accept my apology, I am very sorry.
I pray that I have learned from this and the godly authority that I am under has helped me and will help me in the future.
Please forgive me for my poor stewardship, I take that very seriously as a King.
…Sutton Turner Executive Elder & Executive Pastor
King? Do people actually buy this codswallop?
2. The "Shut up and tithe to the prophet, priest and king (and maybe a talking donkey or two) and don't ask questions" teaching.
There has been a rather persistent rumor that certain pastors within the upper echelon of Mars Hill are paid salaries ranging from $600,000-$900,000. Yes, that is annually. In another post Forced Out for Asking Questions: Dalton Roraback’s Mars Hill Church Story, Throckmorton outlines what happened to a long time member of Mars Hill who wanted to get answers to his questions on issues regarding money and Mars Hill. He was also concerned about a well known elder who was forced to resign because he would not sign a noncompete clause in a contract. That will be described shortly.
Until recently, Dalton Roraback was a coach at Mars Hill Church. Coaches provide mentoring to Community Group leaders. Community Groups provide the context for relationship building and alignment within Mars Hill.
Elder Phil Poirier at MH Everett has been removed (“disqualified”) for refusing to sign the new “Unity of Mission” contract. They are all being required to get permission from the BOAA before being allowed to participate in any church within a ten mile radius of an existing Mars Hill location
Roraback also reported that he spoke with various members of the leadership team at Mars Hill who were allegedly fearful for their jobs.
Some also admitted if they spoke up they would get a visit from Sutton(ed. note: remember him? The King!) or another Executive Elder and they would be accused of not being ‘on mission’ or not being ‘all in’, and when that happens…it means you are done as an Elder at Mars Hill.
Roraback also indicated that Mars Hill was (and is) experiencing serious membership and monetary problems.
People are fleeing Mars Hill by the droves every week. Tithing is down. The church is in emergency mode.
There was to be a leadership meeting at Mars Hill. I don't know if that meeting included the prophet, priest and king or perhaps a talking donkey. All questions were to be entertained. Yeah, right! Here is what Roraback alleges happened next.
I have two questions that I’d like to humbly and respectfully submit in advance as I imagine it will require some research ahead of time.
1. What are the salaries of the Executive Elders? And if we are not allowed to know this, why not?
2. At least once a year, the On Mission CRUT must distribute a percentage of its assets to what is termed the “non-charitable beneficiary”. Since this is tied directly to the Real Marriage finances, who is the beneficiary of this CRUT? I would imagine much of the backlash against Mars Hill could be deflated if it could be shown that this was paid out to Mars Hill, instead of an individual or individuals who benefit directly.”
Guess what? His question were not answered. What a shocker…
So they refused to answer these questions, and it did not sit well with many in the room.
Twice during this same meeting, the elder leading this meeting labeled everyone who is speaking out against Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill as people who ‘only want to hurt the gospel, the church, and Mark Driscoll’. I called him out on that in front of everyone saying that was a misrepresentation of godly people with valid concerns, but at the end of the meeting he made the characterization again. I’ve heard now from two different people that elders and leaders are visiting Community Groups personally and labeling anyone who speaks out on these concerns as ‘divisive’ and ‘only wanting to tear down the church’. In other words, wolves. Couple that with one of the latest sermons entitled ‘Empowered by the Spirit to Face Wolves,” and you get the picture.
Guess who was asked to step down from his position? Oh, they did say he could still attend Mars Hill (I think they need the money these days) and that they might consider him for his position again in a few years…He resigned from the church.
3. In the "picture is worth a thousand words" division, the winner is the rather impressive demonstration of the range of the Mars Hill non-compete clause. Lawyers: we await your input!
In Megachurch Methods: Pastor Fired Because He Wouldn’t Sign Non-Compete Clause, Dr Throckmorton posted the Mars Hill "Unity of Mission" clause. Read this masterpiece of Bible gymnastics.
6. Unity of Mission
An Agreement between each member of the Full-Council of Elders, Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church.
As Pastors, we commit together that we will serve the best interests of our Savior Jesus Christ, and our church, Mars Hill Church. If and when any of us feel led to serve the Lord somewhere other than at one of the church locations of Mars Hill Church, we will submit our opportunity to one another and our Executive Elders first in accordance with Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
Together this day, we commit that our next church ministry will not be within ten miles of any location of Mars Hill Church, except with the express consent of the local pastors of the nearest church, the sending church, if different, and the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church . We are, as Ephesians 4:3 says, “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We care about the church, the testimony of our church, and the dear people who attend our church.
We would not want our actions to cause confusion or harm by making the people of Mars Hill question our love for the Lord, the purity of our church, or their decision to worship Christ here.
We acknowledge that as we adhere to this commitment, the Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability will commit to do everything within their power to offer and support a church plant outside of the radius stated here.
That radius is 10 miles from ANY Mars Hill church! Guess what happens if you don't buy their gospel™ interpretation?
Phil Poirier, (was) a former elder at Mars Hill’s Everett franchise. Poirier was the pastor over community groups but was removed from his volunteer position when he declined to sign an annual review.
Here is a picture of the area encompassed by this non compete. This was posted at Dr Throckmorton's blog. Apparently it was completed by Chris Roseborough of Christian Pirate Radio. (Go Chris!) This map does not include church satellites in Oregon, California, Arizona and New Mexico.
4. Mars Hill's lead pastor (or is it king?) Ryan Williams responds to the apparent outcry with the very gospelly "check your hearts if you don't like it."
In Dr Throckmorton's post Mars Hill Everett Lead Pastor Comments about Departure of Elder Forced Out Over Non-Compete Clause, we get an inside look at the pressure that King Williams missive brought to bear on members who are in leadership. Love the "transitioning" word. It must be the new "winsome." Note, also, the application of the "bitter" word. When the word bitter is applied to you, you are about to be had. Run!
From Pastor Ryan Williams:
I want to inform you of a leadership transition in the CG Director role here at Mars Hill Church Everett.
Phil Poirier will be transitioning from the CG Director role here at Mars Hill Everett and will be replaced by Pastor Jeff Gwin.
Phil has also transitioned from the elder team. The last few months have been very difficult across the church and especially in community group ministry. Due to Phil’s personal convictions he felt that he could no longer be fully unified with the elder team. There was no sin on Phil’s behalf that have caused his disqualification in any way. As an elder there is a level of unity and trust that must be shared and Phil was no longer able to commit to that level of trust and unity.
We will have our scheduled CG leader sync next Sunday, June 1st following the 12:30pm service. Please make this a priority.
Pastor Jeff and I will be leading the sync and we will be asking each of you to check your hearts and commitment to the people you currently lead. If any of you do not have a commitment to the mission of Mars Hill Church, submission to leadership, a love for your groups and cannot lead with a clear conscience I ask that you would reach out to me before the sync and step away from CG leadership.
I love you all very much and am deeply grieved by the transitions that have occurred. In these times there is the temptation to only focus inwardly and to become bitter over situations you do not have all the information on. I challenge you to lift you eyes, and to focus on the people the Lord has given you to care for, and to focus on Jesus’ mission in your neighborhood. We have baptized over 60 people in less than 4 months here at Mars Hill Everett, people are meeting Jesus almost weekly and lives are being transformed. This is not the time to be so focused on ourselves that we forget the needs of our people.
You are loved and cared for by your elders,
On the mission of the King
Dee has one question. Who is the King in this letter? Turner? Driscoll? Turner's letter earlier in the post capitalizes the word King and he is referring to himself…. (Good night! Is this stuff ever weird. Do people give money to these guys?)
5. Finally, the sleeping giant, ECFA, awakens.
In 2009, TWW wrote ECFA: YOU CAN TRUST THE ECFA SEAL OF APPROVAL… We learned that this organization has limited ways in which they can intervene in a member church's financial dealings. At the time, we were a bit disappointed. However, it appears that they do have some authority to ask questions of Mars Hill which may be playing a bit of a game with donations.
Dr Throckmorton's post Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in Communication with Mars Hill Church reviews the matter. Another post, Website Changes: Donations to Mars Hill Global Are Now Donations to Mars Hill Church General Fund spells out the underlying issue. Apparently, those contributing to Mars Hill Global Fund believed that their money was being directed to missions outside of the United States. Dr Throckmorton raised some questions and a subtle change as made on the Mars Hill website.
Previously, I have raised questions about where Mars Hill Global funds go. Church sources have told me on condition of anonymity that very little of the money designated as Mars Hill Global donations (nearly $2.3 million from July 2012 to June 2013) are disbursed to international missions. In recent days, someone at Mars Hill has directed changes to the website to make it clearer that donations to Mars Hill Global are also spent in the United States.
Dr Throckmorton made it clear that funds designated for overseas may have been being spent on Mars Hill local. (You know, the castle where the kings reside.) It appears that ECFA might be interested in this switcheroo.
Recently, Michael Martin, Legal Counsel and Director of Member Services told a questioner via email:
"We are aware of the issues you mention and are in communication with leaders of Mars Hill concerning matters which relate to ECFA standards."
6. Is Mars Hill about to enter mediation with 20 former pastors? Warning: that number is expected to climb.
In another post, Mars Hill Leaders May Enter Mediation with Group of 20 Former Pastors, Dr Throckmorton reveals that Kyle Firstenburg announced:
An outside company has been hired to mediate the issues at hand. I am hopeful that all sides can be heard, sin can be repented of and that an entire culture can be changed.
Although I am hopeful, a good place to start on the MH side would be to stop firing Godly pastors who have unanswered questions. As long as they continue to sin against others, I will continue to bring that sin into the light.
TWW hopes that these former pastors truly get an impartial mediation group. We were informed that the church is paying for this mediation. It is our experience that these organizations will sometimes bias towards those who pay the bills. We hope that will not be the case in this instance.
7. The ROFL Revelation Award
Dr Throckmorton has been investigating Mark Driscoll sermon edits. Apparently, the video/audio that you see on the website may have deleted some potentially controversial statements. Noting the history of citation errors with some of Driscoll's publications, I do not find this particularly shocking. The statements may have been made by someone else anyway….Driscoll probably needs to hire a full time editor or two to keep him out of trouble in any event. However, in Dr Throckmorton's post Another Reason to Question Mars Hill Church’s Official Explanation of Mark Driscoll’s Sermon Edits
I have obtained notes preparing franchise campuses for weekly church services. These notes list the duration of the sermon and an outline of Driscoll’s sermon points. The duration listed in the notes for May 18 is about six minutes longer than the edited version of this sermon.
Note the BOOKS TO PUSH category! This during a church service! Talk about the money changers in the Temple….Good night!
8. The Winner of the Godly Response Category: Another Pastor Gets Fired and Former Members Leap Into Action.
In the post, Another Mars Hill Church Pastor Fired, Reportedly for Questioning Executive Elders (UPDATED), Dr Throckmorton reports
the Smidts were one of the first families to attend Mars Hill Church. Phil’s wife is the sister of former executive elder Jamie Munson. Munson is still an elder at Mars Hill and Co-President of Storyville Coffee in Seattle.
He reports that Scott Harris (King???) from the Ballard campus sent the following.
CG & RG Leaders:
I wanted to let you know about a transition on our Ballard elder team. After many conversations along with much prayer and deliberation I have decided to ask Phil Smidt to step down from staff and eldership, and today is his last day. Phil has been a valuable member of the Ballard leadership team, and has contributed greatly to the counseling and marriage ministries of our entire church.
We are very thankful for his many years of service. We will continue to support Phil financially and through prayer while he seeks what the Lord has next for him. Please join me in praying for him and his family as they make this transition.
Liar, liar, pants on fire…. Mars Hill did not support him financially. It appears one must sign a nondisclosure agreement in order to receive support and Smidt was having none of it.
For several years, the threat of having no severance income or health insurance was used by Mars Hill executive elders to coerce departing elders and other staff into an agreement not to raise concerns about Mars Hill in public. Previously, I posted one version of the non-disclosure agreement. In it, all rights and grievances are signed away in order to maintain health insurance coverage and a source of income for a individually determined period of time. The employee also has to agree not to say anything negative about Mars Hill. Reportedly, Phil Smidt declined to sign this agreement and apparently was denied severance pay as a result.
Vindictive? Christian? You decide.
An awesome group of folks decided to give the Smidts what the church would not. From Dr Throckmorton:
As I write this, supporters of fired Mars Hill pastor Phil Smidt have raised nearly twice as much money as the established goal, almost $40k, in less than two days. Many donors were former Mars Hill leaders and members, a kind of Mars Hill church in exile.
Here is a link to that fund. Dee and Deb were so moved by this show of support that we contributed to that fund today. What a way to end this synopsis.
TWW believes that Mars Hill and its Kings, Profits and Priests along with the talking donkeys, are in deep, deep trouble. We thank Dr Warren Throckmorton for his comprehensive coverage of these events. To read all of his posts on Mars Hill, click on this link.
We leave you with this question. Where have all the Mars Hill pastors gone?
Update: With special thanks to Albuquerque Blue
Lydia's Corner: Ezekiel 45:13-46:24 1 Peter 1:13-2:10 Psalm 119:33-48 Proverbs 28:11