Did Rev. Mark Booker of Park Street Church Receive Two Master’s Degrees from Oxford? Does Truth Still Matter to Christian Leaders?

Park Street Church 2014

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”  -C. S. Lewis


Why this post? I have received several emails from folks who are visiting or attending Oxford. The information that they share is consistent with that in the following post. Many of you are probably aware of my recent postings on Robert Morris. Today, I learned from Todd Wilhelm, who writes at TWW from time to time, that even Robert Morris claimed a “doctorate.” Apparently, believable diplomas matter in some circles.

Truthfulness matters to me as it does to many Christians. After all, we follow the One who is the Truth. We are told to pursue our calling diligently. I worked as an evening supervisor at a nursing agency while I pursued my MBA. At the same time, my husband was finishing his Internal Medicine residency so he could pursue a fellowship in Cardiology. Those years were challenging but fruitful. I could not imagine someone making the case that an undergraduate business degree is the equivalent of my MBA. For the lawyers out there, what did you think of the character in the Suits TV series who functioned as a lawyer but wasn’t?

Recently, some of us posted our degrees on Twitter to prove a point. It took my husband 10 minutes to find my diploma, dust it off, and take a picture. I put it here for Mark Booker. If I can do it, he can and should do it as well—unless there is a reason he can’t or won’t. My friends have an idea of what that might be. So, it’s time to show me the money!



Jerry: “Show me the money!
Rod: “Jerry, you got yell so that I can hear you.”
Jerry:  (screaming) “Show me the money! Show me the money!”
Jerry Maguire (1996)

Jerry, the sports agent representing Rod Tidwell in the movie Jerry Maguire, could talk and talk with the best of them. However, for football wide receiver Rod Tidwell, he did not want any more talk. Rod wanted Jerry to get him a new financial contract. “Show me the money!” meant stop talking fluff and produce actual proof.

For the past six months, I have been asking for actual proof of senior minister Mark Booker of Park Street Church’s academic credentials from the University of Oxford. I’ve written about it multiple times. I even called once and left a sweet and gentle phone message requesting documentation (No, he did not return my call).  

Many of us are not looking for words and explanations, just the most basic documentation. Mark Booker, I call upon you to take photographs of your two University of Oxford Master’s certificates/diplomas and openly release your full academic transcripts from Oxford.  

Two Masters Degrees from Oxford?

According to Booker’s 2020 CV, given to the congregation when he was a candidate, Mark claimed two master’s degrees from Oxford. Here is a screenshot of his CV.

Falsely Accused?

On December 30, 2023, Mark Booker wrote a letter to the church saying that he was being falsely accused:

“Second, I want to share with you that there has been a sustained resistance movement to my serving as Senior Minister for several years. Most recently, among other things, there has been a troubling accusation that my academic credentials are insufficient and that I intentionally misled the search committee and the congregation about my credentials during my candidacy.  When I first heard from the Moderator in late October about this baseless attack, I was deeply saddened and, quite honestly, exasperated. The Moderator and I raised this issue with the Board of Elders in November to ensure that they were aware of it, and the Board of Elders was also troubled that this attack was being pursued. They provided counsel to me and received a letter from my academic advisor confirming the nature and rigor of my studies and a report from the chair of the Senior Minister Search Committee attesting that they had no concern about my academic credentials. Nevertheless, a threat has been made that unless I resign, the group will publish the false accusations.”

Now, I don’t know what kind of mental state he was in to write such a depressing end-of-year letter to his church. (As an aside, that was the first I heard that something was wrong at PSC. Someone sent me the email and asked if I thought something was wrong with the pastor. I became concerned, and that’s when I started “calling around, ” and here I am six months later.)

Putting that oddity aside, it is also confusing why anyone would think his two master’s degrees from Oxford are insufficient. Why is he so defensive about this? His two master’s degrees in theology, if he has them, are indeed equal to a typical three-year Master of Divinity degree. So why would Mark tell the congregation that he has letters defending the sufficiency of his two master’s degrees? Why would he need letters from others to say that his two master’s degrees are sufficiently equal? As I ponder this, it doesn’t add up.

Alternative Explanation?

There is a simple, alternative explanation for why Mark wrote this letter but failed to offer documentary proof of his degrees. The issue may be that his “Master of Arts” degree, which was reported to have been conferred in 2003, is actually an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. What’s the difference? It is standard academic understanding that a bachelor’s is considered an undergraduate degree, whereas a master’s or doctorate is regarded as a graduate-level degree. There are different requirements in terms of how many pages and the difficulty of reading a student has to process for a given course, the use of original languages in the course, and the degree of knowledge between the undergraduate and graduate, which is tested with different degrees of rigor. These would be the key differences between theology courses in a bachelor’s program versus a master’s level.

Could it be that Mark is refusing to provide documentation of photographs of his diplomas or the release of his Oxford transcripts because one of those master’s degrees does not match what he claimed on his CV? Is one of his so-called “master’s” really a “bachelor’s”?  

The Matter of Equivalence

Mark has already indicated that he has compiled letters of support, which I imagine argue that his bachelor of arts is equivalent to the same level of rigor in a Master of Divinity degree. As I’ve talked with several academics, there is serious doubt that you can make a slam-dunk case that these are equivalent. Importantly, Oxford does not say they are equivalent. Oxford graduates cannot go around with their bachelor’s degree and tell everyone it is equivalent to everyone else’s master’s. That would be a bit ridiculous, defying common sense. Suppose someone with an Oxford bachelor’s in theology visited Duke Divinity School, UNC’s Department of Religion, or Harvard Divinity School. In that case, I’m told they would be laughed out of town if they claimed their bachelor’s was equivalent to a master’s at any of these places.

Most importantly, if Mark believed they were equivalent, why did he not simply say he had a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from Oxford? Why would he alter it on his curricula vitae if he believed there was equivalence? The logical answer is that he knows it would not be recognized as equivalent. So, he would then have been motivated to alter it to qualify himself for a position he desperately desired.

If he had not changed his reported academic education, he would not have been eligible to apply to PSC since the senior minister position required a minimum degree with three years of master-level training. Most people were expecting a Ph.D.-level pastor at Park Street. Having a senior minister with only an M.Div was a step-down. However, it would have been unthinkable to accept a candidate with a oneyear master’s degree and a two-year undergraduate degree in theology. On its face, it would have been dismissed by many congregants, especially those with graduate-level seminary degrees.

Real Pastors Lead with Honesty

For the sake of argument, let’s grant the fairy-tale idea that Mark’s bachelor’s degree is equivalent. Is there still a serious problem?

Yes, there is a serious problem. If he switched his actual BA to an MA on his resume, then ordinary people might call this deception or lying. Everyone knows it is a major deception to change educational degrees on your resume. This is truth-telling 101 when it comes to job applications. It is true in secular employment; at the very least, I thought it was true in the church.

If a potential pastor candidate believes that their education is equivalent but doesn’t meet the expected bona fides, then the candidate would transparently tell the search committee the exact nature of the degree, why he believes it is equivalent, and with open hands, let go of the role if the search committee concludes differently. A faithful, open-handed pastor should joyfully approach that position transparently. Good church people will discern the call if the Lord is calling to this particular church, even if the degrees are not what was expected. However, cleverness and deception become necessary if one jealously longs for a title or salary that he would otherwise be unable to apply for.

Doesn’t everyone spin their CV in their favor? Tailoring one’s CV to a specific job to emphasize certain qualifications is certainly an understandable and accepted practice. This is smart, not deceptive. However, can one alter an educational degree because one has concluded it is equivalent in one’s fairy-tale world? That’s called lying and may also merit a visit with a psychiatrist.  

Show me the money

Will Mark Booker openly provide us with simple documentation of his Oxford education, including:

1) Pictures of his two master’s certificates/diplomas from the University of Oxford?
and

2) Complete transcripts of all his coursework?

 

If he does, this would be a good sign. It would show honesty, transparency, and real open-handedness. If his response is silence or obfuscation, then even those without bachelor’s degrees will know what he is doing.

To the elders and the 43% who are still inexplicably in denial of facts: You need to do the right thing by getting verification of his academic degree certificates and providing them to the rest of us looking on at this mess. If he has been telling the truth, then you should be able to show it. You can defend him by sending out verified documentation that would put this matter to rest.  

If he is lying, we should all expect lots of WORDS, letters of support from friends, claims of equivalence, and vicinage council whitewash, but no pictures of Oxford diplomas or transcripts.  

Come on, Mark Booker: Show me the money!

(PS If Mark Booker produces his stated diplomas, I will post them at TWW, gladly.)


Comments

Did Rev. Mark Booker of Park Street Church Receive Two Master’s Degrees from Oxford? Does Truth Still Matter to Christian Leaders? — 94 Comments

  1. All Oxford Bachelor’s degrees can be called Master’s degrees upon the payment of a small sum to the University. This is well known in the academic world on both sides of the Atlantic. There is some reason Ive forgotten for people residing in England to do so I think having to do with entitling one to vote on certain professorships but few do, and it is regarded as ridiculous to claim it is equivalent to a separate masters program. Many American B.A.s do the undergraduate BA at Oxford because it is more concentrated in the subject than an American BA with a major in a subject, and one says in academia that one has done a “second BA” at Oxford or Cambridge and it is generally accepted as equivalent to an MA <<IF One Goes On to do a PhD." This gentleman has not done so. He should have said in his CV that he got a 2nd BA at Oxford, footnoted that it is generally accepted as the equivalent of a US MA, and went on to do an actual postgraduate Masters degree program at Oxford as well. But he did not –I surmise that he paid the 25£ to get the right to call his BA an MA, and peddled his perfectly honorable and impressive 2nd BA under the new label.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  2. Samuel Edward Schulman, 2 years at Oxford w 0 degree, PhD Yale.:
    All Oxford Bachelor’s degrees can be called Master’s degrees upon the payment of a small sum to the University. This is well known in the academic world on both sides of the Atlantic. There is some reason Ive forgotten for people residing in England to do so I think having to do with entitling one to vote on certain professorships but few do, and it is regarded as ridiculous to claim it is equivalent to a separate masters program.Many American B.A.sdo the undergraduate BA at Oxford because it is more concentrated in the subject than an American BA with a major in a subject, and one says in academia that one has done a “second BA” at Oxford or Cambridge and it is generally accepted as equivalent to an MA <<IF One Goes On to do a PhD.” This gentleman has not done so. He should have said in his CV that he got a 2nd BA at Oxford, footnoted that it is generally accepted as the equivalent of a US MA, and went on to do an actual postgraduate Masters degree program at Oxford as well. But he did not –I surmise that he paid the 25£ to get the right to call his BA an MA, and peddled his perfectly honorable and impressive 2nd BAunder the new label.

    IOW, if he was honest and upfront and indicated as such in his CV, he might have still been considered for the job (albeit with much less of a chance)

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  3. I went to a community college my first two years simply because it was closer. I still have my Associates of Science diploma from that community college. My BS in mathematics is hanging on our bedroom wall (I want to put it in a folder, but hubby wants it in a frame.)……

    I still have copies of all of my transcripts in a file…..

    If Booker had those diplomas, he could use them to verify his education claims. Even if he ‘misplaced’ the diplomas, he might be able to get copies. And, it’s not that much of a problem to get copies of transcripts.
    Booker could easily erase all doubts and put the matter to rest. What doesn’t he?….Hmmmmmm.

    Come on….. how many of us could get, or ever have gotten a job requiring a college degree without showing our credentials?

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  4. The truth does NOT matter to the majority of Christian Leaders, i.e. Robert Morris, Gateway Elders, Southern Baptist Convention Leaders, etc. How sad is that.

    Call Oxford. Tell them you are doing a background check and you want to confirm Mark Booker’s degrees. Or let me call if you want me to, as I’m a Recruiter.
    Mark would never know you checked up on him.

    Did Robert Morris even go to college? He is so narcissistic, I’m surprised he doesn’t ask people to call him Dr. Morris.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  5. With all due respect, why should he provide you with anything? If he has satisfied the requests from his board of elders and his denominational bosses — why should he provide an internet gadfly with anything? I’d tell you to shove off…but maybe I’m missing something.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  6. Fred Wolterstorff:
    With all due respect, why should he provide you with anything? If he has satisfied the requests from his board of elders and his denominational bosses — why should he provide an internet gadfly with anything? I’d tell you to shove off…but maybe I’m missing something.

    Because many people believe that telling the truth is important for people of faith.

    Also – I’d gladly side with an internet gadfly who reports truth (and admits when she is wrong, which she has done in the past) over someone who stubbornly refuses to provide his academic credentials and is in the company of disgraced leaders like Ravi Zacharias and now Robert Morris.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  7. Fred Wolterstorff,

    My man, you’re definitely missing something. Firstly, politely conversation. Calling Dee an “internet gadfly” is bad manners. Not to mention quite funny as it makes you look foolish. Anyone who has been reading TWW any length of time knows Dee’s ego isn’t wrapped up in this blog. Call her any name you like she’ll probably just laugh. Equally important, name calling is what abusers do my friend. It’s a form of gaslighting.

    The second thing you’re missing is the whole point of this blog- to expose abuse in the church so that ordinary people no longer get taken in. Many of us are tired of the half answers and non answers given by so called learned and ordained clergy who think their positions of authority give them a pass to lie to us all.

    Many of us are asking the same question- what’s the big deal here for Mr Booker? Can’t produce evidence of his degrees. Why not?

    And for the record, I am among those who think college degrees are a very poor way to prove spiritual qualification. Lying about them however 100% disqualifies someone.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  8. Fred Wolterstorff: hy should he provide you with anything?

    I would assume you are new at this game, so I shall be nice. I am writing on behalf of over 50% of his congregation, which he doesn’t respond to either. Secondly, this church, back when it was a little more congenial yet still orthodox, meant a great deal to me, and it breaks my heart to see what is going on. This is not the bastion of evangelicalism in New England that it once was, but it could be once again.

    As for telling me to shove off, it doesn’t work that way. I am like a bad cold in the summer. I hang on and on.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  9. First someone mentioned calling Oxford. However Oxford won’t (and probably can’t legally) reveal that information without the consent of the student. The proper procedure would be for him to request a “Digital degree confirmation letters”. Who can see could just be someone that everyone agrees is trusted (I’m not sure whether it can be set to be world readable) https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/graduation/certificates Note this is better than a photocopy of something he might not have (getting the physical certificate isn’t or at least wasn’t automatic at Oxford even if you have completed the degree) and which could be faked.

    Second he does not have an Oxford ‘diploma’ because at Oxford a diploma is something associated with non-degree continuing education, not with a bachelor’s degree.

    I note the following from Wycliffe Hall (wayback machine, 2004)
    “Under arrangements inherited from the medieval foundation of the university, on payment of a small fee, an Oxford MA is awarded to successful BA students 7 years after matriculation (that is, 4 years after a theology degree has been completed).”
    http://web.archive.org/web/20040427150637/http://www.wycliffe.ox.ac.uk/prospective/undergrad.html
    (Booker wasn’t at Wycliffe but it gives an idea of what he might have seen while browsing.)

    Third, his representation of his first Oxford degree is impossible; he probably has a first class theology bachelor of arts degree at Oxford but the M.A. is just an M.A. and not associated with a field or a class (not to mention it is automatic post B.A. after the waiting period and the payment of what is now a small fee). It is the type of error that could initially be an honest mistake (someone tells him it is ok to merge the two that way, possibly even as a prank, and no one for a while tells him otherwise); a person concerned for the truth would immediately correct the cv and apologize.

    Fourth, what I noted is that none of his degrees include any education on being a pastor (e.g., clinical pastoral education). Students at Oxford studying for the ministry take different courses. Using the wayback machine http://web.archive.org/web/20041011163312/http://www.wycliffe.ox.ac.uk:80/prospective/courses.html The degree at that time would likely be a Bachelor of Theology OR do the BA he did followed by a two year course for a Oxford Diploma in Ministry for Theology Graduates (despite the name the latter isn’t an Oxford University diploma but something the theological colleges do separate from the university).

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  10. BTW Socrates apparently accepted the role of gadfly at least according to Plato. From the Apology 30e

    “For if you put me to death, you will not easily find another, who, to use a rather absurd figure, attaches himself to the city as a gadfly to a horse, which, though large and well bred, is sluggish on account of his size and needs to be aroused by stinging. I think the god fastened me upon the city in some such capacity, and I go about arousing”

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  11. Every country has some differences in thir degree and post graduate programmes. But, even taking this into account the report suggests CV inflation. It is simple to produce your qualifications, and if asked I can provide certified copies (a copy witnessed by a JP who has sighted the original) plus the original.I can also provide transcripts of my grades. If I can do it, so should he.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  12. I’ve heard that he does not have any of his diplomas in his church study. Why does Booker keep his diplomas out of sight? Why does he always say that he “studied at Oxford” but he seems to never explain what degrees he received? There is also something about him being in two doctoral programs but then dropping out eventually? He does seem to be hiding something important.

    We are not even sure if he has the converted BA to MA. I would not assume it has been awarded unless he shows the documentation for it.

    Samuel Edward Schulman, 2 years at Oxford w 0 degree, PhD Yale.: one says in academia that one has done a “second BA” at Oxford or Cambridge and it is generally accepted as equivalent to an MA <<IF One Goes On to do a PhD."

    This is interesting, Samuel. Can you explain this in more detail on why listing it as a MA is acceptable if one receives a phd? Why does doing the phd change the acceptability of describing it as a masters? How does the phd change it?

    Also, I have to differ with you that this nomenclature is well known in academia on both sides of the Atlantic. Only certain Oxford people seem to know about it, and only those with a phd seem to have converted their BA into MAs. I’ve know very few people in academics in the US who know anything about this topic.

    Booker tricked almost all of us, and the people I know took it on face value that his MA was equivalent to a typical masters at Harvard, Fuller, or Gordon-Conwell.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  13. As an UK citizen and Oxford graduate a few years before Mark, the only slight error made was not to show his MA with (Oxon) in brackets afterwards. Technically he doesn’t have a BA from Oxford any more. Oxford and Cambridge were founded in the 11th – 13th centuries and were the only British universities until the 19th century, they have refused to update their practices for younger institutions.
    When I graduated I didn’t receive a certificate I had to apply for one at a later date and I don’t have a transcript.
    In the UK it is widely accepted that all undergraduate programmes are not equal in difficultly and those at Oxford and Cambridge are some of the most difficult in the UK. In the UK where you studied can count as much to employers as the grade you got when there.
    Undergraduate degrees at Oxford are split in 2 parts, the first year may be skipped by those already holding a degree, but he will have studied the same second and third year subjects as UK students writing 2-3 eassays a week during term and examined for his entire degree in a set of written exams held in a single fortnight after 2 years of study.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  14. Jon,

    I’m aware that’s arrogant position by Oxford, in the uk graduates of other universities tend to roll their eyes at the Oxford / Cambridge MA. – and on election day here today where it’s very likely that the UK will elect its 6th straight Oxford graduate as prime minister there are rightly questions about elitism in public life.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  15. Jon:
    As an UK citizen and Oxford graduate a few years before Mark, the only slight error made was not to show his MA with (Oxon) in brackets afterwards. Technically he doesn’t have a BA from Oxford any more. Oxford and Cambridge were founded in the 11th – 13th centuries and were the only British universities until the 19th century, they have refused to update their practices for younger institutions.

    When I graduated I didn’t receive a certificate I had to apply for one at a later date and I don’t have a transcript.

    In the UK it is widely accepted that all undergraduate programmes are not equal in difficultly and those at Oxford and Cambridge are some of the most difficult in the UK.

    All very interesting & relevant info.

    And all stuff that Mark Booker ought to have clarified by adding the appropriate (Oxon) designation in his CV in the first place. And since he didn’t bother, it’s especially something he ought to have clarified in his “I’m the victim here” late Dec 2023 letter to the congregation.

    He’s good at DARVO, tho. I’ll give him that.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  16. Jon:
    As an UK citizen and Oxford graduate a few years before Mark, the only slight error made was not to show his MA with (Oxon) in brackets afterwards…

    When I graduated I didn’t receive a certificate I had to apply for one at a later date and I don’t have a transcript.

    Again goes to show that the Vicinage Council didn’t even try to do a real investigation.

    They said in their final report that the CCCC’s Credentials Committee would have received Mark’s transcripts. They didn’t even know that Mark may not even have an Oxford transcript for his MA (Oxon) “Oxford Master’s” degree.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  17. From the university website –
    “The MSt degree is awarded on the basis of two short essays, a written examination, and a dissertation in Trinity term. These assessments may require a demonstration of linguistic competence according to your field of study. There may be an oral examination (viva voce) on your dissertation topic and wider knowledge of your field of study.” (It is a 9 month course)

    There doesn’t seem to be a course “Master of Arts Theology”, certainly not a 2 year one.

    And as for having an “M.A.”, the following is from Wikipedia- “In the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, Bachelors of Arts are promoted to the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts (MA) on application after six or seven years as members of the university, including years as an undergraduate. It is an academic rank indicating seniority and not an additional postgraduate qualification. Within these three universities there are in fact no postgraduate degrees which result in the postnominals ‘MA’.[1] No further examination or study is required for this promotion and it is equivalent to undergraduate degrees awarded by other universities.”
    (Which would raise the question does he have a B.A.)
    There are 2 year courses in Applied Theology available

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  18. Fact check: the universities of St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen were founded in the 1400s, Edinburgh in the 1500s.. Marischal College was founded in 1593 and was merged into Aberdeen in 1860. Oxford and Cambridge were in the 1200s. We’re actually quite an educated bunch north of Hadrian’s Wall.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  19. Lowlandseer:
    Fact check:the universities of St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen were founded in the 1400s, Edinburgh in the 1500s.. Marischal College was founded in 1593 and was merged into Aberdeen in 1860. Oxford and Cambridge were in the 1200s. We’re actually quite an educated bunch north of Hadrian’s Wall.

    Apologies, I should have said English university rather than British.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  20. Lowlandseer:
    From the university website –
    “The MSt degree is awarded on the basis of two short essays, a written examination, and a dissertation in Trinity term. These assessments may require a demonstration of linguistic competence according to your field of study. There may be an oral examination (viva voce) on your dissertation topic and wider knowledge of your field of study.” (It is a 9 month course)

    There doesn’t seem to be a course “Master of Arts Theology”, certainly not a 2 year one.

    And as for having an “M.A.”, the following is from Wikipedia- “In the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, Bachelors of Arts are promoted to the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts (MA) on application after six or seven years as members of the university, including years as an undergraduate. It is an academic rank indicating seniority and not an additional postgraduate qualification. Within these three universities there are in fact no postgraduate degrees which result in the postnominals ‘MA’.[1] No further examination or study is required for this promotion and it is equivalent to undergraduate degrees awarded by other universities.”
    (Which would raise the question does he have a B.A.)
    There are2 year courses in Applied Theology available

    There is a 3 year in BA in Theology which gets a no additional study upgrade to an MA (Oxon) in Theology a few years later.
    https://www.theology.ox.ac.uk/ba-theology-and-religion – this has changed from a course called Theology in my day.

    As per this webpage from one of the Oxford colleges. If you already have a first degree you can skip the first year of a BA and start with the second year of the three year course
    https://www.magd.ox.ac.uk/considering-magdalen/undergraduate-study/second-ba/

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  21. Watcher: I have to differ with you that this nomenclature is well known in academia on both sides of the Atlantic. Only certain Oxford people seem to know about it, and only those with a phd seem to have converted their BA into MAs. I’ve know very few people in academics in the US who know anything about this topic.
    Booker tricked almost all of us, and the people I know took it on face value that his MA was equivalent to a typical masters at Harvard, Fuller, or Gordon-Conwell.

    My husband asked around in some of the academic circles around here. No one knew.

    I’m beginning to think that Booker’s credentials were accepted on face value and that part of the problem is that some church leaders might have some dried egg on their faces. Did the “Let’s find us a pastor” brigade do their job as expected? This is Boston not some small town and one trips over first class academia on even a short walk.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  22. His high school was Air Academy High School, Colorado Springs (archives Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph 22 May 1994, page 87). He was class president and had a slew of scholarships; he also played football. I note it also lists him as going to Rhodes College so this isn’t likely a case of another person with the same name.

    Repeating what I found back in February. I used the wayback machine to see what Oxford’s theology department was stating in 2003:
    ***
    https://web.archive.org/web/20030818182134/http://www.theology.ox.ac.uk/pg/pgcourse.shtml
    “Another option for those who have already been awarded a first degree (in whatever subject) is to study the undergraduate Theology course as a ‘Senior Status’ student, completing the course in two years rather than the normal three. Although from the perspective of Oxford this is an undergradate[sic] course, potential students should note that the degree which eventually results from the course is an MA.”
    ***
    (this was up until at least 2006)

    This could very well mislead students. I could see one honestly putting down what he did on their CV after reading that though most would have corrected it after having the issue pointed out.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  23. Lowlandseer: “In the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Dublin, Bachelors of Arts are promoted to the degree of Master of Arts or Master in Arts (MA) on application after six or seven years as members of the university, including years as an undergraduate. It is an academic rank indicating seniority and not an additional postgraduate qualification.

    Thank you.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  24. Erp: t though most would have corrected it after having the issue pointed out.

    This is the salient point of this discussion. Why won’t he? It is truly bizarre. In 2015, I took apart the resume of Ravi Zacharias. At the end of the post, I said, “If he’s lying about this, what else is he lying about?” That proved to be the understatement of the decade.

    If Booker will not be truthful about this, where else is he fudging the truth? I am truly concerned.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  25. dee: As for telling me to shove off …

    I thought of the following quote recently during a famous debate (you may have seen it on TV) … it also applies to the criticism you always get from loyal followers when their bad-boy pastor is exposed, when the facts are in, after undeniable truth is placed on the table:

    “When the debate is lost, insults become the loser’s tool.” (Socrates)

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  26. My guess is that Mark is embarrassed that he got exposed for not correctly attributing how his MA was earned. You’ll never see the degree because it’ll show the BA that matriculated to a MA after paying a fee.

    A commenter in another thread alleges that Mark actually failed out of his PhD program.

    dee: “If he’s lying about this, what else is he lying about?” That proved to be the understatement of the decade.

    As far as we know, Mark is only emotionally and spiritually abusive to some of his staff. However, would a man who conducts himself like this be limited to these behaviors? It’s not known at the moment, and I don’t want to suggest that Mark must be doing other things. I fear that one day there may be other stories that come out about him, especially if he has the carte blanche given to him by the elders.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  27. dee: I’m beginning to think that Booker’s credentials were accepted on face value and that part of the problem is that some church leaders might have some dried egg on their faces. Did the “Let’s find us a pastor” brigade do their job as expected? This is Boston not some small town and one trips over first class academia on even a short walk.

    I think this is spot on as it explains the obsurdity of not producing evidence. Because the evidence will not only implicate Mark but many of the current leaders who don’t want to risk having yet another reason for the congregation to not trust them. Did anyone bring up the credentials issue at the “listening” sessions?

    I also find it obnoxious that on the website of this mens “prayer” gathering, Mark’s academic experience at Oxford is stated rather vaugely. https://www.thursdaymensbreakfast.org/speakers Have some integrity – Just take the language out!

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  28. Observant Outsider: My guess is that Mark is embarrassed that he got exposed for not correctly attributing how his MA was earned. You’ll never see the degree because it’ll show the BA that matriculated to a MA after paying a fee.

    A commenter in another thread alleges that Mark actually failed out of his PhD program.

    Or perhaps other things interfered.

    From the link above at about the time he was studying at Oxford for his Master of Studies:

    “The purpose of the Master of Studies degree is to offer specialist postgraduate education in Theology for able students, possibly including an element of scholarly research and writing, which may constitute an introduction to a future research degree. ”
    and
    “Students who plan to apply for transfer to the M.Litt or D.Phil. are advised that a dissertation is required for this transfer in Biblical subjects. ”

    His dissertation “The use of the fear of the Lord in Paul and background of the Jewish Wisdom Tradition” seems the right prep for going on.

    In addition the description of the M.Litt and D.phil degrees has:

    “Applicants are admitted as Probationer Research Students in the first instance, and are normally expected to pass the M.St. (Research) as a first year probationary examination. Subject to satisfactory performance in this examination and a suitable research proposal, they are admitted to M.Litt. or D.Phil. status at the beginning of their second year. In exceptional cases where candidates are exempted from the M.St. (Research), an alternative first year probationary test is required.

    The M.St. (Research) is a course designed especially for the needs of those going on to research degrees. It is taken in one year (twelve months) and consists of three units, of which two will normally be comprised of smaller research papers and one will always be a dissertation of up to 15,000 words. ”

    So if admitted as a probationer to one of the higher degrees and didn’t go on after the first year, he still gets an Master of Studies assuming he did the work. I would think a ‘with distinction” would imply that he was free to continue. However he didn’t or dropped out later. Note that valid non-academic reasons might have caused this such as illness in the family requiring him to return to the US, lack of funds, realization that academic study wasn’t what he wanted to do. Or perhaps he intended the M.Stud. in the first place.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  29. So, I notice in PSC’s latest e-news that the elders voted in May to form a bylaws committee.

    Did anyone in the congregation know that this was happening? This sounds really quite ominous, and something that’s unlikely to get the kind of attention that resigning pastors do.

    Shouldn’t the congregation have voted on this, and also elect the people on the bylaws committee?

    Members of the PSC bylaws committee are: David Rix (chair), Evan Burham, Julie Halvorsen, Sarah Schaffer Raux (Geoff Raux’s wife), Jim Bruce (consultant) and Herman Smith (consultant).

    FWIW, I stayed away from PSC in 2017 because I was convinced that PSC violated their bylaws in the way Jeff Schuliger got shoved. It seemed to me that the bylaws meant whatever the leaders wanted them to mean.

    Seems like you’d need another Special Meeting to discuss the elders’ decision to form this bylaws committee.

    When does it end?

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  30. If memory serves me well, it was Mark’s behavior as pastor that first attracted attention. He began to rule with an iron glove, dismissing former, presumably godly (I don’t know anyone involved on a personal basis and therfore am left to lean on other’s affirmation when it comes to character) leaders and consolidate power by marshaling the election of pro- Mark elders. Simultaneously, he led, tacitly or publicly, or a mixture of both, for the expulsion of members who began to all questions about his actions. Now, he refuses to answer simple questions regarding an objective and easily verifiable data set, his resume. Perhaps he thinks providing copies of his resume dignifies or lends credence to his “opposition” and believes that he can outlast any siege assault on his qualifications. Perhaps he can. But I believe the better, more humble way (are there any humble pastors of “significant” churches anymore) would be to publicly provide the proof being asked about, proof that he supposedly provided to get the job in the first place, and then privately meet with any members of the congregation who wish to do so to discuss this or anything else they wish without fear of reprisal from himself or the elders. Sadly, I’m not going to hold my breath on this happening.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  31. It is time to stop beating a dead horse when it comes to Mr Booker’s academic qualifications. The REAL issue is that Mr Booker has demonstrated, time and time again, that he has such severe charatological faults that render him Biblically unqualified to serve as an elder; that, on the other hand, he has the character faults of a reprobate.

    It is Mr Booker’s job to demonstrate that he is qualified to serve as Senior Minister, not the job of his detractors to prove the converse. At this time, it is considered routine for someone in a high position to make his or her CV publicly available, at least on LinkedIn, but that can be on the organization’s web site. For over six months, numerous current and former members of Park Street Church have asked Mr Booker to do this. He has chosen not to comply. The only logical conclusion one can make is that Mr Booker is NOT QUALIFIED to serve as Senior Minister, that he does not have the relevant academic and work experience, OR that his relevant academic and/or work experience is tainted to the point that it demonstrates that he is UNQUALIFIED.

    There is enough evidence that leads one to conclude that his ordination by the ANCA was likely in error. At that time, the ANCA did not require candidates for ordination to undergo a psycho-social evaluation conducted by a team of experts familiar with the ministry and familiar with mental health disorders / traits that are known to be problematic for ministers. One must question whether Mr Booker would pass such an evaluation, especially now, if the third party organization was aware of what’s going on at Park Street Church. It appears that the ANCA was unfamiliar with the peculiarities of Oxford (and Cambridge) theology degrees–that these colleges routinely issue courtesy upgrades of Bachelor’s Degrees to Master’s Degrees. With that, it is time to drop the Rev. from Mr Booker’s name.

    The Bible does not require that ministers undergo academic training in order to become an elder. The qualifications for Elder are charatological. Mr Booker has demonstrated, through his behavior, that he is not Biblically qualified to serve as a minister; that he is actually a reprobate and MUST be shunned. The Park Street Five, Rev. Dr. Balboni, Rev. Perkins, Rev. Morrison, Dr Knight, etc. have given ample evidence demonstrating that Mr Booker is of bad character, that he is a reprobate. Why Park Street Church lay leadership refuses to deal with Mr Booker in an appropriate manner–termination with no severance package–is beyond my understanding.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  32. Burwell Stark: He began to rule with an iron glove, dismissing former, presumably godly (I don’t know anyone involved on a personal basis and therfore am left to lean on other’s affirmation when it comes to character) leaders and consolidate power by marshaling the election of pro- Mark elders.

    In the Bible there is no such thing as The Rights of Man (Thomas Paine).
    So is it any wonder that some ‘churches’ are ruled by an autocrat as a mini-dictatorship?

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  33. Max: “Robert Morris claimed a “doctorate.””

    Only those with earned doctorates have a right to claim such titles. It is not appropriate to use Dr. Morris for honorary degrees.

    If it’s a ManaGAWD, always assume the Doctorate is Fake until proven otherwise.
    Because it almost always is.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  34. Fred Wolterstorff: masters

    Fred,
    The point is that there is a belief that he misrepresented himself to the search committee, which, as an HR person myself, I can tell you it would be grounds for immediate termination in most organizations. The issue is more to do with the use of deception to get the job, less whether or not Mark could have reasonably close to the same qualifications. Since this information is coming from within PSC, it is not just an issue for the bloggers here. It’s an issue being raised from within the congregation. After speaking with someone familiar with the Oxford system and the MDiv degrees here in the states, (also formally part of the leadership at PSC, but but whose name I cannot divulge) this was the synopsis I was given of the argument. It’s a long one:
    _______________________________
    His CV lists two master’s degrees, but the first of them is what Americans would call a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology degree at Oxford.  At Oxford or Cambridge, they are very clear that “Master of Arts” is NOT a traditional MA degree as most of the world knows it. It is sometime called “a mark of seniority,” or a “status,” or a “rank.”  If you want to know his degree was, it was a Bachelor of Arts, Theology.

    Basically, because he had matriculated about 6.5 years earlier, and because he applied for this change in status, and because he paid a 10 pound fee (or so), and because he was willing to attend another graduation ceremony (or was officially excused), he acquired the status of “Master of Arts.” He earned this Bachelor of Arts degree, with all the courses taught at the undergraduate level, in just two years rather than the usual three years in England, because he had earned another Bachelor’s degree earlier (at Rhodes College in the USA).

    The second Master of Studies, Theology, was an actual graduate level degree which required one year to earn. He may have had one or two “taught courses,” such as we are used to, but in Britain they favor mostly research courses at the graduate level where the student teaches himself or herself through reading required books and articles and writes a major paper or dissertation. The grading is based on the quality of what he or she writes.
     
    It’s concerning that no one has verified that they have actually seen either of his degrees including that Master of Arts document, to confirm the dates, etc., or to confirm that he actually got that before his application to Park Street (not that it matters because, as I say, it is NOT what Americans and even most British think of when they hear Master of Arts). I have no idea why with all the debating about this issue he has chosen not to just take a couple of photos and post them, or for that matter, provided a copy of his transcript.

    He has claimed to have a near equivalent of the MDiv. He cannot have that since two of those years were courses at the undergraduate level. This matters, as I learned. I took first year Greek and first year Hebrew at Harvard. When I went to Gordon-Conwell, I decided to retake Greek because I had taken it four years earlier. The Greek at Gordon-Conwell, taught at a graduate level, was much more demanding and covered much more grammar, vocabulary, and actual translation. I did not take Hebrew over, because it was my last course at Harvard, but I soon learned that the students at Gordon-Conwell, who used the exact same textbook, covered more chapters and learned more grammar, etc.
     
    This comparison does not matter, since the concern is not about the quality of his education. It is good enough. The concern is with his possibly intentionally misleading the Search Committee, and misleading all the rest of PSC, and continuing his misleading claims in that letter he wrote to the congregation in late December.

    Really, all he needed to say was that he forgot to tell the search committee that the Master of Arts at Oxford is similar to what Americans would call a Bachelor of Arts. It did not require any more education, any more courses, any more exams than what he did at the undergraduate level to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree. The Master of Studies degree on his CV was a graduate level Master’s degree like we understand it.

    Oxford is very clear that in their usage “Master of Arts” is not a degree. They offer many different Masters degrees, as anyone can find online, but they have never offered a “Masters of Arts” degree. What he earned was a Bachelor of Arts degree. The “Master of Arts” designation is an honorary status that means that he can vote in university elections. Oxford is clear that if a graduate lists this, they are not supposed add a subject area (like computer science or theology), because you cannot get the Master of Arts in a subject. Graduates are also not supposed to mention a “First” because even the worst students, or even a janitor who never was a student can be granted this honorary status and no one gets a better status  (a “First”) than anyone else. A “First” implies that the student or individual earned a 70% or better grade. But there is no grading for their “Master of Arts” status since there were no exams and no papers on which a grade could be computed. If the graduate wants to inform an employer of his subject area and the fact that he did very well, which Mark did (in England they do not have grade inflation like we do, a 70% is comparable to “cum laude” in America, if not “magna cum laude.” So he did well, but in his CV he mislead all Americans and 60% of all Brits! 

    The problem for Mark is not a poor education. He had a great education. The problem is his character/morals. He failed at a crucial point when, supposedly, he was eager to discern, as PSC was, that the Lord was calling him to Park Street. But if the Lord wanted to call him, he would not have needed a deception to make it happen.
    ___________________________________

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  35. Fred Wolterstorff:
    With all due respect, why should he provide you with anything? If he has satisfied the requests from his board of elders and his denominational bosses — why should he provide an internet gadfly with anything? I’d tell you to shove off…but maybe I’m missing something.

    Also Fred,
    The MDiv degree gives considerably more courses in pastoral care, working with your leadership team, church administration, etc. Marks leadership skills are so poor that we’re having to send him to management training, which the elder board has stated publicly. We shouldn’t have to be sending our senior minister out for management training. That’s something he should’ve had from the get-go. You also have seen what has happened to our ministry team. It’s been completely decimated. That many ministers, Fred, cannot be wrong, and remember, these people established trust over decades with us in some cases. We know and love these people, but we’ve only known Mark a bit over three years. The math is not in his favor. I hope you’ll take the petitioners arguments more seriously and dig deeper. Pray, too, that God will give you a discerning heart and an objective eye. There’s a whole lot of evidence showing how biblically unqualified Mark is. The degree issue, is only one of many, many issues.

    What I believe we’ve seen is basically a hostile church takeover. Mark wants to run the church how he wants to run the church, doesn’t care about our congregational structure nor the opinion of the congregation and apparently his ministry staff. he pushed out our ministry staff, and is putting his friends and acquaintances in key positions without following Church protocol, as was the case of the Missions Treasurer. A former missions committee member posted a testimony about what happened, and I believe it was included in one of the blog posts, but if you’d like to see it, I’m happy to post it again. In fact, I did post it in the last blog about PSC, but I don’t believe Dee has approved it yet since I only posted it last night.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  36. Elizabeth Klein:
    So, I notice in PSC’s latest e-news that the elders voted in May to form a bylaws committee.

    Did anyone in the congregation know that this was happening? This sounds really quite ominous, and something that’s unlikely to get the kind of attention that resigning pastors do.

    Shouldn’t the congregation have voted on this, and also elect the people on the bylaws committee?

    Members of the PSC bylaws committee are: David Rix (chair), Evan Burham, Julie Halvorsen, Sarah Schaffer Raux (Geoff Raux’s wife), Jim Bruce (consultant) and Herman Smith (consultant).

    Definitely feels like an after-the-fact disclosure
    “Oh, by the way, we decided to start this 2 months ago”

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  37. “Our Christian systems must ask, who is our master?

    We will always protect what or whom we serve. Our thinking is that whatever we do to preserve what reigns in our life is good. We are preserving what we love.

    How do we know what we love?

    We know we love our systems over God, when victims of abuse come forward to speak truth are seen as the enemy — and removing or silencing or crushing them is labelled good because we have protected what we SAY is God’s — blind to the fact that doing so looks nothing like Him.”

    – Diane Langberg, PhD
    ________________________

    Watch the new PSC bylaws committee.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  38. Susan Lane:

    The problem for Mark is not a poor education. He had a great education. The problem is his character/morals. He failed at a crucial point when, supposedly, he was eager to discern, as PSC was, that the Lord was calling him to Park Street. But if the Lord wanted to call him, he would not have needed a deception to make it happen.
    ___________________________________

    This is the crux of the issue, perfectly stated. Susan, you have great eloquence & grace for someone so personally mistreated by this regime.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  39. Anne Boleyn,

    Morris attended two colleges, East Texas Baptist University and Criswell College, but never graduated from either.

    Surprisingly, outside of one mention in a Bible version sold at Gateway, Morris never insisted on being called “Dr.” Unlike the late Bill Weber (founding pastor of Prestonwood) who insisted on such even though his doctorate was also honorary. (For those who may wonder, Jack Graham’s doctorate is an earned one.)

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  40. Elizabeth Klein: So, I notice in PSC’s latest e-news that the elders voted in May to form a bylaws committee.

    Did anyone in the congregation know that this was happening? This sounds really quite ominous, and something that’s unlikely to get the kind of attention that resigning pastors do.

    What does the church constitution say about changing the bylaws?
    Although churches get special treatment in many areas of the law, I believe that as a state-recognized nonprofit, they legally have to abide by their bylaws.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  41. I am concern to about any by-law change to. Mark/loyal followers want to make it so the congregation can not question any bofe decision. That is my guess on why it is happening. I am still baffled that no one has look at all that has happened and found all by-laws that have not been followed. This information needs to be to the attorney general office for a formal investigation.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  42. Janiceg:
    I am concern to about any by-law change to. Mark/loyal followers want to make it so the congregation can not question any bofe decision. That is my guess on why it is happening. I am stillbaffled that no one has look at all that has happened and found all by-laws that have not been followed. This information needs to be to the attorney general office for a formal investigation.

    Hi Janiceg
    —-and I also wish to ask Dee— this question:

    Is this kind of corporate misconduct a legal issue which the Attorney General of Massachusetts is officially authorized to or responsible for investigate and regulate?

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  43. dee,

    I am indeed new here, I stumbled on your site after the Robert Morris story (which was quite incredible).

    Thanks for going easy on me. I guess I just see the PSC as an internal squabble and the diplomas something for the board of elders to adjudicate. I guess I have some sympathy for Mark. From what I’ve picked up, PSC needed a change of course and there’s always resistance to change. BUT, I have not followed this story closely and he could be in the wrong.

    Anyways, thanks for your work.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  44. Elizabeth Klein:
    So, I notice in PSC’s latest e-news that the elders voted in May to form a bylaws committee.

    Did anyone in the congregation know that this was happening? This sounds really quite ominous, and something that’s unlikely to get the kind of attention that resigning pastors do.

    Shouldn’t the congregation have voted on this, and also elect the people on the bylaws committee?

    Members of the PSC bylaws committee are: David Rix (chair), Evan Burham, Julie Halvorsen, Sarah Schaffer Raux (Geoff Raux’s wife), Jim Bruce (consultant) and Herman Smith (consultant).

    FWIW, I stayed away from PSC in 2017 because I was convinced that PSC violated their bylaws in the way Jeff Schuliger got shoved. It seemed to me that the bylaws meant whatever the leaders wanted them to mean.

    Seems like you’d need another Special Meeting to discuss the elders’ decision to form this bylaws committee.

    When does it end?

    Why are revision suggestions supposed to be emailed to this committee
    when Article VIII of the current bylaws instructs that proposed amendments should be provided to the clerk:

    ARTICLE VIII: AMENDMENTS
    These Bylaws may be amended at any Annual or Special Meeting by a two-thirds vote of the members present and voting. Proposed amendments, submitted in writing over the signatures of twelve members of the church, shall be provided to the clerk at least sixty days before the meeting at which the matter will be considered and be published in the notice of such meetings.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  45. Fred Wolterstorff: I stumbled on your site after the Robert Morris story (which was quite incredible).

    Keep coming back! I stumbled onto this site several years ago and have followed several “incredible” stories of abusive ministers and ministries posted here. TWW exists because the American church is in “incredible” condition … fortunately, there are several “incredible” commenters here who love the Lord Jesus enough to speak into the mess.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  46. Fred Wolterstorff:
    dee,

    I am indeed new here, I stumbled on your site after the Robert Morris story (which was quite incredible).

    Thanks for going easy on me. I guess I just see the PSC as an internal squabble and the diplomas something for the board of elders to adjudicate. I guess I have some sympathy for Mark. From what I’ve picked up, PSC needed a change of course and there’s always resistance to change. BUT, I have not followed this story closely and he could be in the wrong.

    Anyways, thanks for your work.

    Fred, I really appreciate your response here.

    There is so much going on here at PSC besides some sort of internal conflict/squabble, and so much more than even this most recent blogpost about PSC at TWW. I think Dee has written 10? or so blogposts on TWW about PSC, beginning in late January 2024. It’s really worth checking all of them out.

    IMO, PSC is showing classic signs of spiritual abuse. I’ve read several books this year on spiritual abuse, out of concern for what’s going on at PSC (I was a member there for 20 years, 1997-2017). I highly recommend Michael Kruger’s book Bully Pulpit. When I read that book, I saw PSC leaders’ behavior on practically every page.

    This PSC mess isn’t about just Mark Booker vs. Michael Balboni.

    Newly resigned elder Leslie Liu said (in Christianity Today) that allegations of spiritual abuse by Mark Booker should have been properly investigated after receiving 3-4 complaints.

    Five PSC ministers besides Michael Balboni have risked their vocations and financial security by speaking out (3 of whom — Ray Kam, Julian Linnell and Damian Long, have recently resigned, without any call lined up).

    The petitioners, who’d legitimately called for a Special Meeting under PSC’s bylaws, were ignored and sidelined for 8+ months.

    VOCA Center consultants were brought in, under the assumption that Mark Booker only had management issues (not sinful, abuse of authority issues). Staff ministers were interviewed by VOCA, even though there was no job protection at all for The Five who’d spoken out about concerns with Mark Booker & PSC leadership — so how accurate do you think the VOCA data would be? Plus, unlike orgs such as GRACE (netgrace.org), VOCA admitted that they were not even doing an investigation into spiritual abuse, and their final report was kept confidential from the congregation.

    There has been an alarming uptick in secretive, executive sessions of PSC elders, which was the original impetus for the PSC Petitioners, even before Michael Balboni was fired. Lots of decisions were already being made without the knowledge & approval of the congregation (how is this congregational polity?). Meanwhile, PSC’s personnel committee has been going rogue & making decisions on their own, really without the oversight of the elders, in violation of PSC’s current bylaws.

    FWIW, abuse of PSC’s bylaws is what I sensed as a red flag in PSC’s church government back in 2017, and part of why I left & didn’t come back. Which is why this new (pro-Mark) bylaws committee formed by the elders this past May concerns me.

    Anyway, do go and read Dee’s past TWW posts on PSC, if it interests you.

    I believe that spiritual abuse (abuse of spiritual authority) is a big problem in American evangelicalism in general, and at PSC in particular.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  47. christine:
    mle bire,

    Thank goodness there are people at Park Street who actually care enough about the bylaws to read them – if only the current Elders were among them.

    My concern isn’t that the bylaws aren’t being read by PSC elders, but rather, that the bylaws are casually being manipulated by all of PSC leadership.

    Whatever PSC leaders want = what PSC’s bylaws mean.

    And now this new PSC bylaws committee not only enables the bylaws to be interpreted in whatever way Mark deems as convenient, but may even rewrite the bylaws.

    I hope I’m wrong here, but what’s to stop this from happening? The bylaws committee is stacked with Mark loyalists.

    Long quote from Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church by Michael J. Kruger —

    __________________

    “An abusive pastor’s first step is to build a strong coalition of allies who can speak up for him, defend him, and even go an the offensive against the victims…

    Most abusive pastors have been doing this for years, forging relationships on the leadership board in case a situation like this might arise… As soon as accusations come to light, the behind-the-scenes networking begins as he weaves his own narrative…

    By the time the victims tell their story to a committee, the abusive pastor has already turned most of the elders against them.

    … In a number of cases I studied, it was not unusual for procedural issues to become so central that the abuse itself was nearly forgotten…

    … Time and again, abusive pastors argue that they are victims of a conspiratorial plot against them as their enemies have colluded to smear their good name…

    Some churches and organizations develop an environment where anyone who speaks negatively about the leader will be accused of slander… Their aggressive posture creates a ministry culture where people live in fear; if they ever speak up, they will be castigated, charged, or fired…

    Now, one might wonder what it means if there is an ecclesiastical investigation and the abusive pastor is acquitted. Does that suddenly make the original charges slanderous?

    Not at all. We already noted how difficult it can be to convict a pastor of spiritual abuse. All the odds are stacked against it…

    … The reason abuse victims are often scared to come forward is because they’ve seen what happens to those who do…

    The abusive passtor might attack THE WAY THE VICTIMS ARE HANDLING THE CONFLICT. He might weave a narrative that paints the victims as unforgiving, angry, hard-hearted, and unwilling to reconcile, all while painting himself as a peacemaker who has reached out with an olive branch that has been repeatedly rejected.

    … Here is where the church needs to be very careful. Because of what the victim has been through, it is often the case that ‘the victim appears uncooperative, mistrusting, fearful, angry and hard-hearted.’

    Meanwhile, the abusive leader, at least outwardly, often appears to be cooperative and conciliatory… Indeed, ‘He seems to get it and is working hard to change.’ The danger here is that it can begin to look like the abuser is the good guy and the victim is the bad guy.

    … In other words, the abusive leader is happy to offer an olive branch as long as he never has to admit any real wrongdoing… This allows him to look like the better man who’s wanting to reconcile, while never owning the deep damage he’s done…”
    __________________________________

    Read this with all the elders’ narratives and actions in mind.

    With the Vicinage Council’s final report in mind.

    With the 3 most recent pastoral resignations (and many other PSC “bodies behind the bus”) in mind.

    With Mark & the elders’ “processing sessions” in mind.

    And with this new bylaws committee in mind…

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  48. mle bire: Definitely feels like an after-the-fact disclosure
    “Oh, by the way, we decided to start this 2 months ago”

    Guys,
    During our annual meeting, there was an argument over some of the bylaws that the petitioners wanted to change, and Brian Lacey raised the issue that the bylaws had been put together very carefully and that they should be reviewed altogether, that we shouldn’t be making a decision during the annual meeting to change a bylaw. He was very emotional about it, and although I have a lot of respect for him, I completely did not agree. I think we have the right to raise the issue as to whether or not the bylaw needs to change, and then to work out the details of the bylaw afterward. His attitude was that if you change it bylaw, there are so many processes and potential things that are connected to that bylaw that would have to change behind the scenes that we’re not aware of and it requires a committee to go over it. My point being that if the congregation deems a bylaw a problem, especially something that is an immediate problem, we can identify that at the annual meeting, address what we think the issue is, and then go to committees on the finer details. The bottom line is the congregation has the right to review the actions and decisions of the SM and the Elder Board and any part of the governance, including the bylaws. Brian Lacey putting the Kabash on changing anything at the annual meeting was taking that power away from the congregation. I don’t think that was his intent, but he was also very emotional.

    He was also upset that people were getting very angry at Jason Abraham for shutting people down from speaking with very poor excuses, or if they even just had something negative to say about Mark or the BoE, but he wasn’t recognizing that Jason Abraham was behaving very unprofessionally and unobjectively in his role as a moderator. That was the case, in the special meeting as well, from my understanding. JA needs to be disciplined for this, and truly, the congregation should be allowed to say that we need to have a different person running the next special meeting, but the elder board refuses to acknowledge that Jason did any wrong in spite of many, many complaints about him. It’s not Jason‘s job to be Mark’s personal pitbull. It’s Jason‘s job to represent the elder board in as unbiased and objective fashion as possible to mediate disputes between the leadership and the congregation. He very much did the opposite and just antagonized the whole situation, galvanizing himself with Mark.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  49. Guys,
    During our annual meeting, there was an argument over some of the bylaws that the petitioners wanted to change, and Brian Lacey raised the issue that the bylaws had been put together very carefully and that they should be reviewed altogether, that we shouldn’t be making a decision during the annual meeting to change a bylaw. He was very emotional about it, and although I have a lot of respect for him, I completely did not agree. I think we have the right to raise the issue as to whether or not the bylaw needs to change, and then to work out the details of the bylaw afterward. His attitude was that if you change it bylaw, there are so many processes and potential things that are connected to that bylaw that would have to change behind the scenes that we’re not aware of and it requires a committee to go over it. My point being that if the congregation deems a bylaw a problem, especially something that is an immediate problem, we can identify that at the annual meeting, address what we think the issue is, and then go to committees on the finer details. The bottom line is the congregation has the right to review the actions and decisions of the SM and the Elder Board and any part of the governance, including the bylaws. Brian Lacey putting the Kabash on changing anything at the annual meeting was taking that power away from the congregation. I don’t think that was his intent, but he was also very emotional.

    He was also upset that people were getting very angry at Jason Abraham for shutting people down from speaking with very poor excuses, or if they even just had something negative to say about Mark or the BoE, but he wasn’t recognizing that Jason Abraham was behaving very unprofessionally and unobjectively in his role as a moderator. That was the case, in the special meeting as well, from my understanding. JA needs to be disciplined for this, and truly, the congregation should be allowed to say that we need to have a different person running the next special meeting, but the elder board refuses to acknowledge that Jason did any wrong in spite of many, many complaints about him. It’s not Jason‘s job to be Mark’s personal pitbull. It’s Jason‘s job to represent the elder board in as unbiased and objective fashion as possible to mediate disputes between the leadership and the congregation. He very much did the opposite and just antagonized the whole situation, galvanizing himself with Mark.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  50. “…the elder board refuses to acknowledge that Jason did any wrong in spite of many, many complaints about him. It’s not Jason‘s job to be Mark’s personal pitbull. It’s Jason‘s job to represent the elder board in as unbiased and objective fashion as possible to mediate disputes between the leadership and the congregation. He very much did the opposite and just antagonized the whole situation, galvanizing himself with Mark.”

    Compare the way David Rix handled annual meetings versus the way Jason handles them. David certainly dealt with plenty of contentious arguments, especially during the senior minister search, and we stuck him through the fire on that, but he never behaved unprofessionally and always fielded congregant concerns with care and dignity. I’m not saying I agreed with him on everything nor do I agree with everything he’s ever done, but at least I trusted him to behave as objectively as possible, and to give an honest answer or to get me one if he didn’t know it.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  51. Susan Lane: Compare the way David Rix handled annual meetings versus the way Jason handles them. David certainly dealt with plenty of contentious arguments, especially during the senior minister search, and we stuck him through the fire on that, but he never behaved unprofessionally and always fielded congregant concerns with care and dignity. I’m not saying I agreed with him on everything nor do I agree with everything he’s ever done, but at least I trusted him to behave as objectively as possible, and to give an honest answer or to get me one if he didn’t know it.

    I agree that Jason is a bully (you know this first-hand!) and David is more diplomatic. However, David has been aiding and abetting Mark since he started. Remember that during the special meeting he tried to cast blame on Gordon. I’m sorry but I just don’t trust any of these people at this point. They all seem so fake to me.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

  52. Observant Outsider,

    I was not at the special meeting because I have not been allowed on the premises since I stood up at the Easter services and spoke. I apologize for the rudeness of David Rix. He had absolutely no right to criticize Gordon just to save face for this abomination of a senior minister that they brought in and are now trying to defend in spite of the congregation speaking out against him. Pride is one of the deadly sins for a reason, and you can see how much destruction it can cause. Park Street is a shadow of what it once was thanks to the current leadership.

    Perfect example: The petitioners have been so patient, and so kind about trying to work through the process, and so many times, the elder board has put them off, and now they haven’t even given them the dignity of a response to their last petition. Many of the people who has stayed in leadership with Mark have changed, and not for the better. They’re not the same people that we knew. They’re clearly under the influence of something very ugly. It’s sad to watch, but I know I feel helpless to change it. We can only pray that God would help them see the light.

      (Reply & quote selected text)  (Reply to this comment)

Leave a comment - Click here for our commenting rules

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *