This is a recording of Mark Driscoll speaking at Grace City Church in Wenatchee, WA in February, 2016.
“Spiritual wolves are men or women with authority and/or influence within a church, ministry, Christian group or organization who use that authority and/or influence for the primary purpose of advancing their own selfish desires and agendas by exerting destructive control over those under their care, attacking anyone who questions them and doing anything necessary to maintain their profitable and influential positions or advance to greater ones. Further, spiritual wolves are false prophets/teachers because they justify every selfish act through an appeal to a self-proclaimed, “god-given” authority and/or to Scripture and through the teaching influence of their words and deeds lead weak people away from loving and following Jesus by creating disciples to themselves who will do their will, which means promoting their success and defending their actions. Through both subtle and overt abuse and disobedience to God’s Word, spiritual wolves bring disrepute to the Name of Jesus and to His Body the Church. While advancing themselves, they stand in the way of sinners and emasculate the work of the Church in its task of carrying out the Great Commission. In all of this, they refuse righteous accountability and Godly leadership. When caught and unable to escape the consequences of their actions, spiritual wolves will lie, blame others and even appear to display deep repentance, but all of this is a sham designed to save themselves and re-establish their former positions. No matter how great their public success and no matter how “godly”, powerful and “fruitful” it appears, these men and women are not servants of the Lord. The true, evil fruit of their lives will be visible in the damaged people closest to them and the mauled victims of their predation. Spiritual wolves are either conscious or unconscious servants of Satan and without true repentance, which includes humble restitution and the willingness to follow instead of lead, they are lost forever.”
Luck, Coleman. Day of the Wolf: Unmasking and Confronting Wolves in the Church (p. 280). The Sandstar Group. Kindle Edition.
In early May I received a comment on a blog article I had published in 2016. The subject of the article was Mark Driscoll. I mentioned that Driscoll spoke at Grace City Church in Wenatchee, WA, and was good friends with Josh McPherson, the senior pastor at Grace City Church.
I spent a few of my formative years in Wenatchee attending a small Christian college that was connected to a Charismatic church called Bethesda Christian Center. It was the first of three bad experiences I had in churches. The other two were Sovereign Grace Church of Gilbert, AZ (they have now changed their name to the nondescript “Center Church”) and United Christian Church of Dubai. (The senior pastor is John Folmar, a former assistant pastor of Mark Dever.) Though my experiences at these churches were negative, I did make some good friends at each church and I learned things that have proven helpful to my blogging. As CJ Mahaney would say, “I was well served.”
All this to say that I still know some people living in Wenatchee and some of them attend Grace City Church. Thus my interest in writing the article in 2016 of Mark Driscoll speaking there.
Below is the comment I received last month from Richard Roberts.
Apparently, Art Azurdia is fairly well known in the Northwest, but I must admit I had never heard of him.
Ten days after I received the comment from Richard Roberts I received an email from a journalist who resides in Wenatchee. He had come across the same article Roberts had commented on and was interested in obtaining more information from me about Driscoll, McPherson, and Grace City Church. Below is a copy of the email I received.
I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it seemed more than just a coincidence that I received these two communications so close together, so I started looking into Art Azurdia. I quickly found out that one of the women Azurdia abused was Katie Roberts, the wife of Richard Roberts. Richard Roberts is the pastor of Emerald Bible Fellowship in Eugene, OR. While researching this story Julie Roys published a podcast interview of Katie Roberts titled, “My Abuser is Returning to Ministry” that can be heard here.
Richard and I exchanged several emails. He informed me that he knew of only the two women whom Art Azurdia had abused, one, of course being his wife, Katie. But I have read that there were others Azurdia spiritually abused and bullied in Christ Community Church.
The comment below from “notabarbie” was written by a woman who was abused by Art Azurdia while a member of Christ Community Church. Notabarbie writes a blog by the same name. After being abused by Azurdia she walked away from Christianity and is now an atheist.[Note from the editor: I have been informed that I was incorrect in statements in the two paragraphs above. Specifically, the second woman who was abused sexually was not from Christ Community Church in Fairfield, CA. I have changed the paragraphs to correct my error.]
Richard Roberts told me that when Azurdia’s bullying and manipulation came to light at Christ Community Church “he left that church to take the professor’s position at Western Seminary. The church chose to dissolve, which shows what kind of “shepherd” he actually was.”
I came across an interesting blog article from 2005. The author was a fan of Art Azurdia. (Personally, I don’t get the attraction to Azurdia. In my opinion, his actions behind the pulpit are freakish and if you can get by those, his actual message is not earth-shaking. But more on that later.)
In the first of two comments made by “one of Art’s closest friends,” he expresses his displeasure to David about using the term “pissed off.” Art’s “closest friend” claims David is disrespecting Art, further, he finds his tone “inconsistent.” This good friend of Art has “served in ministry with him since the beginning of Christ Community Church.” Based on Azurdia’s spiritual and sexual abuse of numerous church members, coupled with this nut who is offended by David’s article, is it any wonder the church folded when Azurdia left?
By the way, David changed the “pissed off” to “bummed.” Good on him, but I’m kind of “pissed off” that he caved into the request of this narcissistic nut.
Art’s closest friend then transitions to his second language – Christianese! He tells David that it is very obvious to “us” that Art has been “called by the Spirit of God” to Western Seminary. Not so fast, close friend of Art. Hindsight being 20/20 it seems to me that Azurdia may have been called by a spirit, but I don’t think it was the Spirit of God. But wait, “the Sovereign God we serve has made a decision to move Art to Portland.”
Yeah, no. I don’t think so. I think your close friend, Art was choosing to do what he has likely done all his life – create a huge mess, and then when the chickens come home to roost he cuts bait and runs.
There were then some comments by Danny and his friend Rick, followed by another comment by Art’s closest friend.
“We are bummed as well, until we take into account that our Sovereign Lord is the One who has orchestrated all the events leading to the decision for Art to relocate to Portland, and for CCC to come to an end.”
“We are now in a position to do more for the sake of the Gospel.”
“We have been given an incredible opportunity because of the way God has superintended our circumstances.”
“This is not a demise, it is a commencement. I hope you will celebrate with us.”
Them there are some fancy words, closest friend of Art. Did you write them yourself, or did you transcribe them from the elegant and polished speech of your hypocritical hero? Shucks, who cares? Let’s celebrate!
I would think Art’s closest friend who has been with him since he started at CCC would know the truth about Art Azurdia’s abusive behavior towards church members. Yet, in my opinion, he lies about the reason Azurdia was fleeing to Western Seminary and has the nerve to chastise David for using the term “pissed off.” What is a weightier matter – covering up abuse or using the term “pissed off?”
I did a little investigating and found the email address for “Art’s closest friend.” I sent the following email to him, not expecting a reply and I did not receive one.
So, after a smoothly delivered yet insincere and incomplete apology Azurdia moved from Christ Community Church in Fairfield, CA to Western Seminary in Portland, OR. Leaving behind numerous victims of abuse who attempted to put their lives back together, with varying degrees of success.
Soon after beginning his work as a professor at Western Seminary, Azurdia planted Trinity Church which eventually met at the chapel on the campus of Western Seminary. Azurdia implemented signed church membership contracts modeled after Mark Dever’s 9Marx plan.
I will take this occasion to once again speak out against such signed contracts. They are implemented to protect church leadership and I have yet to see a pastor face church discipline under one of these contracts.
Here is a statement on Art Azurdia from Trinity Church of Portland. They did the right thing in removing him from all pastoral ministry at their church but they stopped short of excommunicating him. I am unsure as to why. Perhaps since Azurdia had already fled the church they saw no point in further church discipline, or perhaps the cease and desist letter from Azurdia’s lawyer caused them to refrain from further action, or perhaps they were simply giving the pastor preferential treatment.
This comment from Richard Roberts would seem to indicate that the letter from Azurdia’s lawyer prevented them from taking further action. Whatever the case, I believe it’s safe to say that Azurdia was not acting in the spirit of the membership contract he had required all would-be members to sign.
“Trinity’s elders were so unconvinced of his contrition and so wary of his manipulative capabilities that they did not allow him to address the church that week. So, he lawyered up, sent a cease and desist letter to threaten any public statements from Trinity about him, and left the church and posted his own “confession” online. In that letter he claimed to care about people and to respond to any who contacted him. None of the people I know who tried to reach him at the email listed in that letter ever heard from him.”
Bob Schilling was correct, as we can see from the following screenshot:
Here are two brief clips of the “brilliant expositor,” Art Azurdia speaking at the Shepherds Conference. The first one he thanks John MacArthur for the honor of speaking at the conference. The second shows his absurd “hocus-pocus” hand gestures, complete with a little jump! Who thinks this guy was a great preacher? I find his actions distract from his message, but perhaps that is his intent. Knowing what we do now, we can see the absolute hypocrisy of his words.
While checking into some of Azurdia’s sermons I came across this series on the Song of Solomon. It consisted of 13 sermons spanning a 10 month time period. Does this raise a red flag for anyone but me? It seems bordering on the excessive, but I’m no Mark Driscoll.
I wanted to make it clear that Art Azurdia is, in my opinion, a wolf that should never be back in ministry of any kind. Again I quote from my communications with Richard Roberts, who does a good job in describing Azurdia:
“The reality is that Azurdia did considerably more damage than my wife and I’s statements in 2018 could convey. In fact, it was much more than we actually understood at the time. Azurdia was a carbon copy of Ravi Zacharias. It’s like there is a sexual abuse manual for spiritual wolves. He is a master manipulator, a true wolf in shepherd’s clothing, who spent years grooming my wife. She ended up deluded about many things, not merely about sexual things, because of his deceitful Scripture-twisting, gaslighting, fear-mongering, flattery, and the like. She is now, by God’s grace, free from his delusions and his grip, and is standing strong again by walking in the light.”
He has never repented for what he did to my wife. He has not repented of his sexual abuse of her, his abuse of spiritual authority, or the way that he treated Trinity. Now he is teaching a young adults class at Grace City Church and is on staff there to lead 18-24 year olds, women included. It’s a disaster in the making because Grace City’s leadership refuses to listen to those whom Azurdia has harmed, taking it upon themselves to grant him authority.
Dee also called Grace City Church. She was unable to speak to a live person but did leave a message, asking them to call her. They never returned her call. A few days after her call the screenshot below, showing Art Azurdia as a faculty member at Vector Academy and Mark Driscoll, Douglas Wilson and Wayne Grudem as guest lecturers was removed from their website. I do not have any reason to believe that they have removed Art Azurdia from their faculty; more likely they are embarrassed by the negative publicity their hiring of Azurdia has generated.
Finally, I leave you with this quote from “Let Us Prey – The Plague of Narcissist Pastors and What We Can Do About It.”
“Christians are often eager to assume the best of others, to trust leaders, and to quickly seek reconciliation when there have been conflicts and problems. These commitments are often spiritual strengths, but narcissistic leaders can find a longer leash in some religious settings than they would find in other contexts. Narcissists are unlikely to change unless they have gotten into trouble, have received significant consequences, and are facing robust accountability that leads to a rigorous multi-year treatment plan. There is often a small window of time when initial interventions can have any chance of efficacy, namely when the narcissist is in a vulnerable position and their supporting cast had agreed changes are needed. But many narcissistic pastors are resourceful, charismatic, and talented enough to find ways of temporarily glossing tensions in their own congregations, or if the problems are serious enough, able to locate a new congregation that will give them a fresh start with few probing questions about their prior difficulties.”