"This [Mars Hill] is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with."
Where to begin??? Before we get into the latest news regarding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, please allow me a moment of reflection. It was six years ago that Dee and I began conducting internet research on Christian trends. Dee had been suggesting to me for several years that she and I should start a blog. My biggest concern about embarking on such an endeavor was simply that I didn't believe there would be enough Christian news to discuss on a regular basis. What in the world would we write about several times a week?
We finally took the plunge in March 2009 and launched The Wartburg Watch. Since that time we have been covering Christian trends and news stories that have peeked our interest. As empty nesters, we voluntarily keep up with what is going on in Christianity and blog about it.
Mark Driscoll came onto our radar screen even before we started blogging. He was garnering quite a following in our area, as he conducted boot camps and made appearances at conferences and the local seminary. He was even scheduled to do a 'Song of Solomon' event at a Raleigh church in early June 2009, but it was suddenly and mysteriously postponed and never rescheduled. We have chalked it up to divine providence.
Since that time, Mark Driscoll has not only reached the pinnacle of Christendom but has fallen from grace. Much has happened this week following his announcement last Sunday that he was taking a six-week leave of absence. Events are swiftly unfolding, and this post is our best attempt to keep you up-to-date on all things Driscoll.
Let's start with this report aired last evening by KOMO 4 News.
In case you haven't heard, nine current Mars Hill church elders published a letter last Friday, August 22, calling for significant changes in the church structure. According to a Religious News Service post,
The letter, distributed just two days before Driscoll stepped down for at least six weeks, was posted on an internal church network and provided to Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor who has been blogging updates about Mars Hill, who then provided the letter to Religion News Service.
The names of those nine brave Mars Hill leaders who dared to challenge Driscoll are featured in the screen shot below (sorry about the large print).
In his excellent post, Warren Throckmorton includes excerpts from the letter along with his commentary. He begins his assessment as follows:
nine current elders called on the church to change the governance and for Mark Driscoll to submit to a restoration plan. They also raised significant questions regarding the veracity of information which has come from the Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability.
The letter indicates that the charges brought against Mark Driscoll to the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) last year were not taken as seriously as the BOAA had claimed. According to Throckmorton, no one was interviewed. Not only that, these current elders indicate that the Mars Hill BOAA was aware that Acts 29 had concerns about Mark Driscoll, even though he claims he was never contacted by them.
But it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church.
Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs. Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected.
So, since I knew that I could not be the kind of help that I would like to be through the vehicle of the BoAA, I resigned from that position.
I would still love to see the leadership community of Mars Hill Church become itself a culture of grace and I am still willing to help, but not through the means of a board that will never be able to do what it was designed to do.
And therein lies one of the major flaws on Mark's Hill (err Mars Hill). Once the Mars Hill by-laws were changed, despite protests from Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, Mark Driscoll became King of the Hill. That was in 2007. In seven short years, major cracks in Mars Hill's foundation are being exposed for all the world to see. Here is an excerpt from the August 22 letter:
All nine elders who were on the phone call were floored by the depth and clarity of the understanding that Paul had of the culture of Mars Hill and its leadership from his short time on the board. Below are some samples from our conversation:
When asked about speculations that he might have resigned to protect the reputation of his ministry, Paul said this: “I am not worried at all at burning my integrity for the real deal, but I won’t burn it for something that’s not the real deal. I don’t think even now that there is the recognition of the depth of what Mars Hill Church and Mark is actually dealing with. This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with." He continued on to communicate that Mars Hill’s leadership culture was not shaped by the same grace that it says it believes.
Please take the time to read the entire letter which was written by those who are the most knowledgeable about the internal conflict. As indicated in the previous video, one of the nine pastors has just been terminated for "rebellious behavior against the church". And apparently that's how it's done at Mars Hill. Here is how the news broke yesterday on King 5 News.
According to the King 5 News report,
One of the pastors who signed the letter, Pastor Mark Dunford, was terminated on August 27, five days after the letter was submitted, sources tell KING 5. Dunford was an unpaid lay pastor at Mars Hill Portland.
Sources tell KING 5 the reason for his termination was "rebellion against the church."
Here is another report that aired on King 5 News.
On another note, one of the pastors Driscoll fired back in 2007 – Bent Meyer – broke his silence here at TWW. We couldn't believe our eyes when he commented back in 2012 under one of our Driscoll posts. It was so profound that I immediately wrote a post highlighting it — Fired Mars Hill Elder Breaks His Silence.
Well, Bent is speaking out once again. Yesterday Joyful Exiles, a website hosted by Paul Petry's wife Jonna, published a fascinating post — New Disclosures by Former MH Pastor/Elder Bent Meyer. In it, Bent links to some documentation that I have not yet had the chance to read since it has just come to my attention. Obviously, your humble blog queens will have much more to discuss… And to think that at one time I didn't think there would be enough to write about on a regular basis. We cannot emphasize enough our tremendous respect for Bent Meyer and Paul Petry as well as their families. They put their reputations and livelihoods on the line and have suffered for the last seven years as a result.
Finally, Janet Mefferd, the Christian broadcaster who brought plagiarism charges against Mark Driscoll during an interview, has written an excellent article entitled The Driscoll Case: Now in the Jury's Hands. She recounts what happened during that fateful interview and afterwards in case you're not aware of what happened.
Janet Mefferd's post struck such a chord with us that we are featuring the portion we especially appreciated below.
I’m all for grace and forgiveness, but let’s not be foolish here. Mark Driscoll shouldn’t be a pastor. And we didn’t need all these scandals from the last nine months to figure that out. Because the truth is that any intelligent Christian with the ability to read and understand the Bible could have and should have discerned who this man was years ago and abandoned ship.
Pick your moment of revelation: Should it have been when Mark Driscoll claimed that God called him to be a pastor in a “weird charismatic moment?” How about when Donald Miller dubbed him “the cussing pastor?” Or maybe when he started having “pornovisions” or angrily screamed, “How dare you? Who the (blank) do you think you are?” at his church members? How about when he referenced the “pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus” that would result from people not getting on board with his “vision?” The pile that “by God’s grace … will be a mountain by the time we’re done?” Or the Elephant Room 2 debacle — might that have been a good time to abandon support for Pastor Mark and his cult of personality?
I simply don’t get it. Why didn’t the entire membership of Mars Hill get up and head for the exits at any of those points? Why didn’t his Christian fans unfollow him on social media, stop reading him, stop watching him and stop listening to him?
More significantly: Why didn’t any of Driscoll’s Big Name enablers — and you know who you are — look past his doctrinal statement to the man’s obvious character, ponder I Timothy 3 for a nanosecond, and think, “Hmm. Something’s off here?” And assuming some of them did have that thought at some point, why didn’t they get up and head for the exits before recommending this man to anybody in the church at large? And why didn’t any of them stand up months ago and apologize to the church for previously endorsing this man?
Why didn’t the Christian publishing world, the Christian big names, the Mars Hill membership and the church at large head for the church/social media/conference exits when they found out Mark Driscoll plagiarized a number of his books? Was that just … all right with you guys?
Why have so many Christians — in so many different pockets of the church, for so long — defended him, enabled him, oozed gushy love statements about him and continued to prop him up, against all evidence, against clear biblical admonitions and against all common sense?
Some did it, I am sure, because they value money more than ethics. Some did it because they value coolness more than godliness. Some did it because they value being part of the Evangelical Club more than being godly men. Some probably were clueless. And some just value celebrity over everything.
But I think the real reason it’s happened is because much of the church today has just stopped caring what the Lord thinks.
We know He is holy and that He admonishes us to pursue godliness, as new creatures in Jesus Christ. We know that. We know He doesn’t approve of lying, stealing, hypocrisy, cussing, fraud or spiritual abuse. Not just “doesn’t approve.” The Lord hates it. It’s sin.
We also know that the ministry is supposed to be a high and holy calling. The Bible is crystal clear about the qualifications for ministers of the gospel, and they’re sobering to consider. Read I Timothy 3. Read Titus 1. Read I Corinthians 5. Do you believe those verses there? Given what he’s done, do you believe Mark Driscoll is “above reproach?” That he has a “good reputation with those outside the church?” That the church should tolerate an ungodly, unrepentant pastor? Would any of us tolerate this sort of behavior in a pastor of a 100-member church? If not, why the different standard for Driscoll? Is he above the Bible? If not, why is he still in the ministry?
You know why, and so do I. Because he’s famous and has a big audience. And after all, the show must go on, baby!
Or must it?
I firmly believe Mark Driscoll will not leave Mars Hill Church. He regards it as his crowning achievement (unbiblical ecclesiology notwithstanding). He’s dug in, he’s resisted all calls to true repentance, he’s stacked the deck, he’s hired the PR firm. And he’s counting on a core group of ignorant non-discerners and celebrity-worshipers to keep him going and help him rise from the ashes of scandal. He’ll probably get it, too.
That’s why, Mars Hill friends, I am appealing now to you. Those of you who are true Christians, who understand the Word of God, who love the Lord Jesus, who have kept hoping in vain for change at the top for so long — it’s now your move.
Everything you ever needed to know about Mark Driscoll that would help you make a decision about how to think about him and his ministry is patently obvious and exhaustively documented. You don’t need one more bombshell letter or insider document to tell you what you already know. You don’t need me or anyone else to expose anything more about this man. You know who he is. You know how he’s reacted. And I assume you know what the Lord thinks about the high calling of the ministry.
If your disqualified pastor won’t hit the exits, then you need to do it.
And if you decide not to hit the exits, then you’ll have to accept the consequences.
Because while I have cared deeply about telling the truth regarding this story and about standing with those who have been hurt, there is nothing left to say anymore. It’s all been said.
So that is why I have to say, “I’m done.” And that’s why I am praying that, by God’s grace, so are you.
No doubt there will be much more to discuss next week; however, this is our feeble attempt to get you up to speed over the holiday weekend. Happy Labor Day everyone!
Lydia's Corner: Zechariah 2:1-3:10 Revelation 13:1-18 Psalm 141:1-10 Proverbs 30:18-20