"…we are now asking you [Mark Driscoll] to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction."
Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network
At long last someone has finally told Mark Driscoll NO! The Acts 29 Board has cut Driscoll and Mars Hill loose from its church planting network, which at last count included around 500 churches.
Warren Throckmorton, who has been doing exhaustive research and reporting on all things Driscoll, was one of the first to publish the news. He begins his post — Acts 29 Network Removes Co-Founder Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from Membership — as follows:
In a stunning move, the Acts 29 Network leadership has removed network co-founder and Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll from the organization’s membership. I obtained a letter from several Acts 29 pastors which was sent to Driscoll and Mars Hill Church removing Driscoll and the church as members of the network, as well as calling on Driscoll to step down due to a pattern of complaints from Acts 29 pastors. Mark Driscoll was instrumental in founding the Acts 29 Network and has been president of the group.
Throckmorton then reveals the contents of the letter that Mark Driscoll received from the Acts 29 Board (see below).
As the Board of Acts 29, we are grateful to God for the leadership, courage, and generosity of both you and Mars Hill in not only founding the network but also sustaining it through the transition to this board three years ago. The very act of giving away your authority over the network was one of humility and grace, and for that we are grateful.
Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior.
In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming. We now have to take another course of action.
Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.
We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner. Again, we want you to know that we are eternally thankful for what you as a man and Mars Hill as a church have meant to our network. However, that cannot dissuade us from action. Instead, it gives added significance and importance to our decision. We hope and pray that you see this decision as the action of men who love you deeply and want you to walk in the light—for your good, the good of your family, and the honor of your Savior.
Shortly after sending this, we will be informing the members of Acts 29, your Board of Advisors and Accountability, and your elders, as well as putting out a public statement on the Acts 29 website. It brings us no joy to move forward in this direction, and we trust that the Lord will be at work in all of this.
In sorrow and with hope,
The Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network
According to Throckmorton's informational piece, ALL Mars Hill locations have been removed from the Acts 29 Network.
Other news sources such as Christianity Today and The Washington Post have published articles on this most recent development involving Mark Driscoll. No doubt much more will be written about this bold move by the Acts 29 Board in the coming days and weeks. We will keep you informed of any developments.
Earlier today we were contacted by Rob Smith, who sent us the following news release:
Charges Against Mark Driscoll and Church Executives Delayed After Ouster from Acts29
By: Rob Smith August 8, 2014
Seattle, WA – In the light of the announcement today by the Acts 29 Board removing Mars Hill Church and Pastor Mark Driscoll from its membership, and calling for his removal as pastor, a group of over 75 members and ex-members have chosen to delay the filing of 53 new charges against the pastor and his Executive Elders.
Spokesman for the group of 75 members and ex-members bringing formal charges, Rob Smith, said, “It is with a mix of sadness and relief to see that Acts 29 has taken these actions. We hope and pray that the call for Mark Driscoll to step down from ministry is heeded. We would therefore rather wait and withdraw our plans to file new charges if he steps down, or file them in due course if he chooses to ignore the call of the Acts 29 board. We are in prayer for Mark and his family. We pray that he will find comfort, restoration, and hope in the Christ that he loves. We are committed to love him well and stand ready to support him and his family through these difficult days. We echo the call of the Acts 29 board.”
One of the charges that was to be filed today is that the current bylaws were passed in a sinful and unlawful manner that violated both the text and spirit of the 2006 bylaws under which the new bylaws were passed. If found to be true, the church’s current bylaws may be deemed invalid and repealed.
Smith called on the church’s current leadership to examine the manner in which the current bylaws were passed, and to take the bold move to declare them invalid and reinstate the 2006 bylaws that govern the church by “a plurality of equal elders. A return to a classically Reformed church governance model, preached and taught so well by Pastor Mark Driscoll, will serve the future of Mars Hill Church well.”
Smith also called for “an end to the order given to the Mars Hill Church members to shun Pastor Paul Petry, and for a complete exoneration of both Pastor Paul Petry and Pastor Bent Meyer for their valiant attempts to protect the church in 2007.”
The church has frequently been in the news lately, rocked by various scandals involving it’s coarse- tongued, “tough-guy” persona pastor, including allegations of plagiarism, libel, using church funds to manipulate sales of his sex book onto the New York Times bestseller list, posting vulgar online rants demeaning to women under an assumed name, and most recently the revelation that solicited donations to the church’s global fund for missions to Africa and India were misappropriated and spent on acquisitions of real estate in Spokane and Everett, Washington.
Last week, church members, ex-members, and members of the community showed up for a protest in front of the church’s main campus after Driscoll declared in a video to church members that he wanted to “reconcile” with people he has “hurt” but was unable to do so because “they remain anonymous.” The video sparked the startup of a Facebook group called “Dear Pastor Mark: We Are Not Anonymous” and large signs carried by protesters at last week’s demonstration repeated the theme.
And last but not least, Ron Wheeler — a protégé of Driscoll during the early years of Mars Hill — wrote a personal letter to Mark entitled I. Am. Not. Anomymous. Here are what we consider to be the highlights.
Dear Mark Driscoll:
You were once one of my closest friends.
You were once my trusted mentor and benefactor.
You were once someone who preached the Gospel with a fierce and captivating passion and purity.
You were the one who inspired me to be a preacher… a church planter.
In 1996 I was working as a missionary in West Africa when my mom sent me a recording of you speaking at the Northwest Christian Education conference. I was intrigued, captivated, and a bit disturbed by what I heard. You deconstructed my tidy neat little worldview and described the church as a mission outpost that exists between the gospel message and various cultures. That message convinced me that I could be a missionary at home, and so I returned.
I started attending Mars Hill with my family, driving an hour each way from Mount Vernon down to Seattle. Mars Hill was maybe a 100 people back then. I played on the worship team sometimes and listened intently to the vision you cast… a vision built on the Core Values of “Meaning, Truth, Beauty, Community, and Mission”. Those core values were such an invigorating breath of fresh air:
I longed for deeper meaning than the trite, mainstream Christianity-lite I was experiencing.
I longed to hear Truth boldly proclaimed.
I longed to be able to express art in beautiful contagious inspiring ways.
I longed to be a part of genuine, committed, Christ-centered community.
and yes, I longed to be on this great mission of the Kingdom of God, together.
I bought in.
Many of us bought in.
With regard to church leadership, Ron wrote:
I listened closely as you preached the virtue of Biblical Eldership, where men proven to be of sound character, pastor the church together and hold each other accountable, a supposed safe-guard against any one person lacking accountability or taking over.
It fit perfectly with what I saw in Scripture and was what I was drawn to myself.
I remember Leif Moi doing that with you.
I remember Mike Gunn doing that with you.
And I remember how excited you were when you first identified Paul Petry and Bent Meyer as men who could do that exceptionally well… “wise, older godly men, who would add a degree of credibility” were your words to me.
No doubt Mark Driscoll and this protégé (Ron) had a close relationship, as Wheeler explains:
Soon I began traveling the nation with you, speaking at various conferences, seminars and events. It was such an honor. We became involved on the ground-floor of this new movement that was shaping the landscape of evangelical Christianity. We were on the board of Young Leader network together. We were on the Terra Nova project together. We were working with some pretty amazing people. These were the early days when there was talk of the postmodern era, and the Emergent church started “emerging” and New Calvinism had yet to emerge as a thing. It was heady stuff. It was also dangerous, as some of it started wandering far from historical orthodox Christian belief and practice.
But then I listened as you slandered and maligned the men and women we worked with behind their backs -who though we didn’t agree with some of them theologically- were wonderful people, and never deserved to be spoken of, or treated the way you did. People who I know would have considered you a friend and have no idea how you really felt about them. I have personally tried to go back and apologize to people who were “kicked to the curb”, along the way, and yes, I do feel I was complicit to your actions; guilty by way of association and being silent.
For that, I could not be more sorry.
When Radical Reformission was about to be released back in 2006, Wheeler explains that Driscoll included concepts he (Ron Wheeler) had developed without giving him proper credit. He said that at the time he was both flattered and uncomfortable, knowing that what Driscoll had done was wrong.
Wheeler goes on to explain how Mark Driscoll met PCA Pastor David Nicholas, who had already been developing a church planting system and with whom the name Acts29 originated. Nicholas partnered with Driscoll and helped fund his church planting efforts. Nicholas was friends with Tim Keller and was connected to Amway founder Rich DeVos, who spent a good deal of time in Florida. I was shocked to read the following portion of Ron's testimony:
I remember during one of our conferences somewhere around 2002, sitting at the table with you there in Boca, when you interviewed Rich DeVos on how he structured his business model. I remember soon thereafter when you started talking about how it wasn’t that important that you knew your people or led them yourself, but that you “led the people, who led the people, who led the people”. Unlike the Chief Shepherd who knows all His sheep by name, knows their voice, and they, His, you distanced yourself from them. In fact, I remember you bragging about how you had this back corridor between your office and the stage and you didn’t have to be interrupted by anyone before or after church. I was so confused. I bought in to the meaning, truth, beauty, mission thing. I certainly didn’t buy into this.
I had always tried to read all the books you recommended, but soon they became less and less about theology or pastoral practice, and more and more about marketing, professionalism and big business.
No wonder Driscoll attempted to use a business model to build God's church. The remainder of Ron's testimony is incredible, so please take the time to read all of it. (link)
Ron ends with these powerful words:
In an excerpt from an email you sent to our elders on 9/4/2004 regarding my situation, you said: “Repentance will take time, even years. Confession is agreeing with God, and repenting is changing.” Do you remember that? Those are your own words, and they are spot on. I know. I went through the process and it DID take years! Longstanding patterns and habits must be refashioned. Repentance must be proven genuine and sincere through things like restitution and exoneration of people wronged. All I’m asking you to do is to take your own advice.
Go to your brothers and sisters you have specifically offended and make it right. There’s no other way. If you do, I will gladly stand with you as a brother. Anything else is simply too little, too late. I believe that everything hinges on the integrity of your response to this crisis.
You could begin by exonerating Paul Petry, and Bent Meyer. Refute that mockery of a trial and end their shunning. I hurt over how you treated Leif Moi as well. Such a loyal brother to you.
I once was afraid of what you might do to me if I spoke up. I’ve come to the place where I care more about the truth being known, and healing and restoration beginning, than anything else. The sharks are circling now, and it appears there are many who want only your destruction. I don’t. I want to see brokenness, humility, and change that I can support.
I love you and your family, and will be earnestly praying for you in all of this.
I have the same phone number and email. You know how to find me.
My name is Ron Wheeler.
I Am Not Anonymous.
Dee and I were deeply troubled by Mark Driscoll before we ever started blogging, and we are relieved that the Acts 29 Board has finally done the right thing. We wish Matt Chandler and the other Acts 29 board members Godspeed as they strive to move beyond this rift with the co-founder of the Acts 29 Network.
In case you'd like to read about the history of Acts 29, I put together a post a while back because I was curious about how this church planting network got started. It's called Is Acts 29: Planting or Decimating Churches?
Lydia's Corner: Nahum 1:1-3:19 Revelation 8:1-13 Psalm 136:1-26 Proverbs 30:7-9