Mars Hill Church – What would Nelson Mandela do?

 

mandela - forgiveness

I had strong reactions from both “camps” after my post calling for everyone to rise up and support our wounded brothers and sisters from Mars Hill Church – a church “reeling” in crisis and pain.

Those calling for Mark’s resignation and an end to the shunning of Paul Petry and his family were stunned by my call. There are still so many unanswered questions and such a distrust for the remaining leadership, which I share. Most spent a large part of the day yesterday making their case for continued resistance.

Then there are the members who are staunch Mark Driscoll supporters who are equally stunned. “How dare I you even think of showing up to gloat – do you not even have a heart?” Within 20 minutes of posting a call for a massive show of support on the FaceBook site, Let us Encourage one another – Mark Driscoll, I was removed and banned. I have been a member of that group since the day it started.

It seems that if we cannot learn lessons from what Jesus would have done, perhaps we can learn lessons by asking, “What would Nelson Mandela do?”

Nelson Mandela forgave his prison guards. I forgive the elders of Mars Hill Church, who have ignored and rebuffed me for seven years, and who watched Mark Driscoll withdraw the support of Mars Hill Church to the orphans and widows that they had committed to in 2007.

Nelson Mandela forgave his enemies. I forgive Mark Driscoll, who slandered my name and who slandered my organization’s care of orphans in such a way that the support from both Mars Hill Church and the broader community of my orphan care vanished, leaving me with debt and a struggle to care for our orphans, orphans who loved and looked up to Mars Hill Church.

Nelson Mandela went back into a white dominated economy and society that had harshly discriminated against minorities, and said to both blacks and whites in South Africa “We need each other. It is time to forgive and create a new South Africa.” I am willing to go back to Mars Hill Church and encourage a thousand hurt ex-members to join me.

Mars Hill Church, we need each other and I am willing to put the past behind me and put my effort and influence toward seeing Mars Hill Church rise up and become a healthy and safe church, where sinners like me, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore, can see Jesus ready to save me, full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Yes, Seattle, it is all about Jesus.

Change.org: Mars Hill Elders (and ex-Elders) REPEAL THE BYLAWS – For the Gospel’s sake!

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Mr. van Skaik…”TEAR DOWN THE BYLAWS”

The survival of Mars Hill Church needs a clear declaration by the elders at Mars Hill Church that the 2007 bylaws are invalid. They were coerced into existence by and for a man has now left Mars Hill Church, and the current bylaws, crafted to allow that man to run amuck without accountability, are not only meaningless without that man, but are confusing, inappropriate and harmful to the church.

Join me and sign this petition to the elders of Mars Hill Church.

With regard to my involvement in the saga of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church I was once called a “one-trick pony”. If it because of my incessant call to repeal the 2007 bylaws then that characterization is totally accurate.

The 2007 bylaws are like the Berlin Wall. The bylaws led to the collapse of Mark Driscoll’s ministry and the crippling of Mars Hill Church.

“Elders of Mars Hill Church: TEAR DOWN THE 2007 AND SUBSEQUENT BYLAWS!”

The 2007 bylaws are meaningless. We have seen behind the curtain and all that is left are the tatters of the so-called Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) under whose watch this calamity has occurred.

By rising up and exercising their biblical role, the elders must simply tear up the ever-changing and useless bylaws that the beleaguered BOAA has to now interpret to figure out a way forward, and revert to the 2006 bylaws, which although might need adjustment, are sound and give the elders equal authority to rule the church.

For months, Mike Wilkerson and Scott Thomas have been telling me that they are working on a document signed by a majority of the elders who were coerced under duress into unlawfully changing the bylaws in 2007. They intend to acknowledge that they were coerced and that they wish to exonerate Pastor Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, whose ruthless and firings and subsequent trial were the tools used to carry out that coercion.

I am not sure why we have not seen that statement, but I can tell you that a vast majority of the elders at that time attest to the grave mistake of not following their conscience during those events.  We know, from none other than former BOAA member Paul Tripp, that Mark Driscoll led and created a church that was “the most abusive and coercive” church that Tripp had ever worked with.

Not only are the current bylaws rather useless now, as they were designed to prop up, protect, and reward Mark Driscoll, but they are invalid because they were abusively coerced into existence.

Nothing will help create the governance required and action needed to save Mars Hill Church from total collapse than the elders rising up and reinstating the rightful bylaws of the church.

By declaring the 2007 and subsequent bylaws as invalid the following benefits can occur:

  1. The actions of the BOAA and the reigning Executive elders can be immediately stopped.
  2. Six-figure severance packages for men who are millionaires can be stopped – at least until a full analysis of the finances can be assessed and members and donors be assured that no personal inurement has taken place. (This would prevent a court injunction to that end which is quite probable at this stage. It might also placate a growing crowd that is calling for the Attorney General of the State of Washington from starting its own investigation).
  3. The elders can not only exonerate Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, but all shunned elders and members. These men got it right, and need to be exonerated.
  4. All previous elders ought to be implored to return and be immediately reinstated to help Mars Hill Church recover. Some will be willing and they are sorely needed.
  5. The Noble Nine should be asked to be the Executive Elders (under the 2006 bylaws).
  6. An advisory council should be put together of local pastors to provide counsel and their protective hearts as Mars Hill Church rises from the ashes. I am sure there are many more, but these are some that would I would invite onto that council.
    1. Bill van der Merwe (Pastor – WestGate Chapel, Edmonds)
      Pastor Bill knows how to minister to the shunned and hurting.
    2. Rose Madrid-Swetman (Pastor – Vineyard Community Church, Shoreline
      Pastor Rose has actively cared about the crisis at Mars Hill Church.
      (don’t get your knickers in a knot.. even complimentarians recognize that Israel needed Debra at a time of crisis.)
    3. Dean Hellekson (Pastor – Redeemer Church, Lynnwood)
      Pastor Dean has had a lot of bruised ex-members come to his church and he knows how to minister to them.
    4. Pastor Dave Kraft
    5. Pastor Mike Howerton (Pastor – OverLake Christian Church)
      Pastor Mike knows the journey of a church from the ashes.
    6. Pastor Sam Ford (Pastor – Restoration Road, Sonohomish)
      Pastor Sam knows the details well, and deeply cares to see restoration.
    7. Pastor Alec Rowlands (Pastor – WestGate Chapel, Edmonds)
      Pastor Alec preaches Jesus and has led a mega-church for enough years to offer solid help and guidance.
    8. Pastor Wes Johnson (Pastor – Bethel Baptist Church, Everett)
      Pastor Wes loves the ordinary person and faithfully served in a downtown Everett church for decades.

Join me and call for the 2007 bylaws to be repealed (link to petition).

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” – My prayer for the elders at Mars Hill Church.

father forgive them

Mark Driscoll has resigned and nobody is happy.

Seven years ago there were twenty four elders who were responsible for ruling Mars Hill Church. As is now common knowledge, Mark Driscoll fired Paul Petry and Bent Meyer in a coercive move that enabled him to force the remaining elders to vote in new bylaws that consolidated power in Mark Driscoll.

By abdicating their biblical responsibility they laid the groundwork for all that has happened at Mars Hill Church.

Those 22 elders who voted to remove biblical accountability from Mark Driscoll created the environment that has led to the tragedy of the situation we now see at Mars Hill Church.

Despite all the emotion, the anger, the grief, and heartbreak of this journey, it is time to pray the prayer of Jesus and forgive these men for their incompetence and abandonment of their duties.

“Father, I forgive the elders of 2007, for they did not know what they were doing.”

I do forgive them, and sadly, I do believe that they had no idea what they were doing.

Then there is the current leadership.

18 months ago, Dave Kraft filed credible charges against Mark Driscoll. Michael van Skaik essentially ignored any reasonable due process in looking into the charges and a statement was issued that basically told the church that nothing he discovered disqualified Mark Driscoll from ministry.

At that time the church appeared to be strong. Had Mark Driscoll either resigned or been suspended at that time, the church would have been impacted, but it was in a good condition to weather the severe impact of Mark Driscoll’s departure. It would have been tough, but the church was in a strong position to survive it.

Instead, under the leadership of Michael van Skaik, James MacDonald, Paul Tripp, and Larry Osborne, the charges against Mark Driscoll have escalated.

Scandal after scandal emerged. Charges of plagiarism first trickled in, then showed up in multiple books. Stories of abuse and bullying began to be told. Lots of stories of abuse and bullying. Then the Result Source scandal rocked the church. Then the Global Fund scandal and the accompanying spin to explain the deceit. The sad story of the treatment of Pastor Ron Wheeler. Add to that the William Wallace II rants.

Than came Mark Driscoll lying to the camera saying he would reconcile, but said that those with whom he should reconcile “remained anonymous.”

21 former elders filed credible and serious charges against Mark Driscoll. Acts 29 threw him out of the organization he co-founded. And, nine current elders called for his suspension and filed new charges against him.

The church, under the watch of the Board of Advisors and Accountability, has been crippled by the abusive leadership of Mark Driscoll. Under the watchful eye of the BOAA, hundreds, then thousands of members leave. Elders are fired. The stories they tell are stunning in their combined voice against the abusive leadership of Mark Driscoll and the awful culture of Mars Hill Church.

Mars Hill Church falls to its knees as these men lead. Hundreds call for Mark Driscoll to be suspended and to be removed from being able to continue his abuse.

These men had opportunity after opportunity to remove Mark Driscoll. Yet they wait until the church is in shatters, and then they deliver the results of their investigation into the multiple charges against the pastor of the church that Paul Tripp said was the most abusive and coercive church he had ever worked with.

They declare that he is still fit for ministry.

As angry as I feel emotionally at these incompetent and pathetic men, I am choosing to forgive them.

“Father, I forgive the Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Mars Hill Church…. What would Jesus do?

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Jesus left the ninety nine sheep to seek and find the lost sheep.

I believe that in the aftermath of the news of the departure of Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church, and in the light of the crippling condition of the church he has walked away from, that Jesus would encourage true shepherds and caring people to leave the one and return to tend to the ninety nine sheep that are scattered and bleeding in the fold.

It is time to rebuild the crumbling walls.

It has been seven years.

Today is the anniversary of the trial of Paul Petry. The decay that we see today began when the men and women of Mars Hill Church failed to do the right thing.

I am calling the thousands of Mars Hill members who left bleeding and hurting to set aside your pain and rise up to rebuild the crumbling walls of Mars Hill Church.

I am calling on current members who have been waiting for the BOAA to do the right thing NOT to leave in dusgust, but to stay to rebuild the walls of the broken church.

I am calling to every man and woman who has heart for the hurting, to pray and support the changes needed to see Mars Hill Church rise up and demonstrate the true power of being all about Jesus.

If is all about Jesus, we need to show up on Sunday.

If it all about Jesus, we need to cry to the Lord to lift up our hurting brothers and sisters reeling from the tragic events of the last several months.

If it all about Jesus, we need to be like Nehemiah. He left the comforts of his home and position, and returned to the mess of broken Jerusalem, and with brave men and women he worked to rebuild the city.

If you have ever loved Mars Hill Church, as I have, I would urge that you join me to support a hurting church.

I urge every elder that was fired or who has resigned to show up on Sunday.  I urge every member that left wounded, or left in disgust, or just left out of sheer weariness, to set aside your deep wounds and hurting heart, and reach out to those who may even still despise you.

I beg you to leave the comforts of your new church and rush back into the ruins. People are hurting. Even people who may despise you are hurting.

Set aside your pain, your anger, your theological differences, and your comfort.

Mars Hill Church needs you. Mars Hill Church needs me.

This Sunday we can be like the Pharisees and avoid tending to the wounded man who had been beaten on the road to Jericho. Or we can see the wounded and beaten Mars Hill members and leaders and roll up our sleeves and tend to their wounds, risking the blood and gore of their torn bodies, and bind their wounds with care.

I will be attending Mars Hill Church on Sunday.

It is my prayer that I am not the only bruised and wounded soldier limping back to be an encouragement to a church filled with stunned and hurting members.

And remember, the good Samaritan paid the innkeeper to tend to the wounded man, and left extra money in case more was needed. So on Sunday, I will bring my checkbook with me.

——

Seven years ago the Seattle Times headline was “Firing of pastors roils Mars Hill Church”, yesterday it was “Mars Hill Church reeling as Pastor Mark Driscoll quits”

It is my hope and prayer that the next headline will be “Mars Hill Church rises as its walls are rebuilt.”

The Mars Hill Global Fund. Surely it would be easier just to tell the truth?

Whiplash 2

Wow, it seems that every explanation that we get from Mars Hill Church to clarify the Global Fund just raises more questions.

Perhaps the current members of Mars Hill Church as well as the ECFA have got the story figured out in their heads, but for the rest of us who no longer have an emotional stake in keeping up the façade, the stories are getting more and more confusing and contradictory. The spin is almost laughable.

At least Mars Hill Church admitted that New York Times Bestseller List deception was wrong. Yes it took three attempts to say so, and yes, we still do not have sufficient transparency to believe that Mark Driscoll did not personally profit from the infamous misuse of $210,000 of church funds to purchase his book at retail price in a way that deceived the New York Times bestsellers list into believing that the book was a best seller.

But at least in the third attempt to explain it to the church Mark Drsicoll admitted that it was wrong.  Once Driscoll came out and stated that it was wrong the matter settled down and we found it in our heart to accept the painful truth.

He was sorry, and the church no longer had to spin various stories to make the actions acceptable or excusable. The moral wrongness of what was done certainly has long-term consequences, but at least the story from Mars Hill Church finally matched the obvious facts, and true confession was heard and accepted by all.

It was simply wrong, and everyone was relieved when Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church finally, after two attempts to say otherwise, admitted the sin.

But with the Global Fund, it seems that Mars Hill Church is determined to keep re-spinning and explaining the truth in an endless volume of contradictory statements.

The more they say, the more obvious it is that they are trying as hard as they can to run from what seemes like an elaborate and obvious deception of donors. The facts seem to point to a deliberate attempt to deceive both members and non-members into believing that they were donating to supporting missionaries and church planters in Ethiopia, India and other foreign missions.

The deceptive strategy is clearly laid out in the leaked memo that appears to have set the ground rules for the “sleeping giant” of income sources – Mars Hill Global (link).

The strategy was simple. Attract people who want to support foreign missions, and lead them to believe that their money was supporting foreign missions by funding a few missionaries and benevolence projects. The token amount was to be kept from the public and would be about $10k per month.

“of the money that comes into the Global Fund, designate a fixed percentage for highly visible, marketable projects such as mission trips, orphan care, support for pastors and missionaries in the third world, etc… This percentage should be flexible (not a tithe), and not communicated to the public.

The Global Fund could be beneficial in a number of ways, besides the obvious gain of increased funding:
For a relatively low cost (e,g, $10K/month), supporting a few missionaries and benevolence projects would serve to deflect criticism , increase goodwill….”

We know that this was followed through and the Global Fund was pitched by Mark Driscoll to church members (link) and to potential online listeners. We also know that 6,000 donors gave to the fund (link) .

We also know that over $10m was raised, and that a preponderance of the money was put into the general fund for local church use and not international or benevolence projects. The 2013 audited financial statements show the amount in that year was $233,000, which included Mars Hill Church’s reduced commitment to Acts 29 (link). That number represents a mere pittance of the over $3m raised in the same fiscal year for the Global Fund.

Then comes Mars Hill Church telling us that the Global Fund, into which they admit 6,000 members and no-members gave money, is not and never was a “fund”, but was in fact merely non-member global donors. This despite the fact that local members were repeatedly urged by Mark Driscoll to support the fund (Mars Hill Church tried to remove the videos of Mark Driscoll asking the congregation to give to the Global Fund in addition to their tithes to the church) and that one could give to the fund online in a designated area (link).

Lets say that again. Mars Hill Church admitted that over 6,000 people gave over $10m to the Global Fund, which they then say never was a fund (link). It was just global donors giving to the general fund (link) despite repeated appeals to members to give to the fund, which is is not and never was a fund.

Huh?

Huh 1

Then comes Mars Hill Everett in June of 2014 thanking the Global Fund for helping them buy their building (link).  Wait a minute, we are being told the Fund does not exist, but for some reason, a year after the the building was acquired, the Fund is being thanked right after the Global Fund scandal broke? Yet the Fund, we are led to believe, does not exist.

And we are told that over $10m dollars was donated to the Fund that doesn’t exist, and a preponderance of the non-existent Fund was spent locally through the General Fund.

Along comes Mars Hill Tacoma in August 2014, also hastening to the quieten the criticism of where the Global Fund monies went. They do not thank the General Fund into which Justin Dean, spokesman for Mars Hill Church, says all the Global Fund donors’ money went, but the Global Fund, which supposedly does not exist (link).

These campuses are thanking a Fund that Justin Dean says does not exist.

This is getting exhausting.   SURELY IT WOULD BE SIMPLER TO JUST TELL THE TRUTH?

Can the Mars Hill Church senior leadership not learn from Mark Driscoll’s eventual confession of sinfully misusing church funds to deceive the New York Times bestseller lists? He finally said he was sorry and that it would not happen again. He asked that the designation “NYT Bestselling Author” not be used in reference to himself, and he demonstrated a contrite heart.

Justin Dean, please end the agonizing spin and contradicting statements, and admit that the strategy to raise millions of dollars exploiting poor Africans and Indians while only directing thousands of millions of dollars raised was wrong. It was sinful. It needs to be repented of.

Only then can the story begin to go away and forgiveness and a redemptive way forward be found.

Why is ECFA certifying churches without requiring the same public disclosure as non-churches?

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The fact that the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) approves churches as easily as it does other 501(c)3 groups should be a matter of grave concern to the evangelical church that the ECFA serves.

If the ECFA is going to maintain its integrity it will have to change its method of approving churches.

While I totally understand and agree with the position that churches should not be regulated by the government in any way or required by the government to be burdened with the same disclosure requirements as other 501(c)3 not for profit organizations, I do not understand the why and the how behind the ability of the ECFA to actually certify churches without requiring at least the same information that is available to the public on a standard I-990 form.

The argument, with which I strongly agree, that the government has no business regulating the church in any capacity because of the first amendment, should not mean that Christian groups like ECFA should not regulate or require information from the churches it certifies.

The freedom we are afforded here in the United Stated to keep the government out of our religious lives is a right, not a privilege. It therefore carries a risk that we as American citizens are willing to bear. That risk is that a certain number of charlatans will use this right to exploit people, especially their donors.

We are willing to bear this risk because this risk is a smaller risk than the risk of allowing the government to regulate how we exercise our religion. So we as citizens are left to navigate the risks without government intrusion.

Scoundrels and charlatans therefore have less to dodge as they are able to hide behind the first amendment as they try to get away with hoodwinking people to give money to support their “church” or special “Fund” in a manner that they may not get away with if they were not a church.

As we all know, such charlatans are able to have audited books every year, yet still hide basic information from the people that support them. Audits report numbers broadly, not specifically, so that a donor or church member cannot see specific expenditures, especially the salaries of the top dogs or whether a particular “fund” has been spent as promoted.

This is what frustrates many members and donors to Mars Hill Church.

Historically, Mars Hill Church has said they have open books, which meant a member could get a copy of the audited financial statements. To get more information risks the donor or member being branded as a troublemaker, unless of course that member is a large donor, in which case more information is carefully parsed out.

In the last two years Mars Hill Church, as its income and its executive salaries has soared, has now added the fact that they are certified by the ECFA and are therefore meeting the ECFA standards of accountability and transparency. This is intended to assure donors that Mars Hill Church adheres to the highest of ethical and biblical standards.

ECFA, by its very title, is telling members and donors that Mars Hill Church is being biblical in its transparency and accountability.

The problem is that a normal non-church 501(c)3 has to provide a lot of basic  information via the government-required I-990 form while a church does not. In so doing a lot more information is available to the ECFA when certifying a non-church. There is a substantial amount of information that the ECFA has as it considers certifying a non-church 501(c)3. As a result the ECFA’s approval is helpful and meaningful. Most Christian 501(c)3’s desire this approval.

Thus the ECFA has earned a good reputation as it let donors know that the total information provided to it via the audited financial statements, the I-990, and the statements from the organization is quantitatively sufficient to warrant the ECFA’s blessing.

But the ECFA, some two or so years ago, decided to add churches to the type of organizations that it would certify. Yet despite the fact that information that is available to both the ECFA and the general public for most 501(c)3’s is not available in the case of churches unless a particular church chooses to make the information public, the ECFA failed to require much higher level of standard to ensure that donors were protected and informed.

This begs two questions. The first is why churches need the ECFA approval in the first place, and the second is why the ECFA is so actively pursuing churches to certify.

Churches ought to walk in the light. There should be no secrets or even the ability to hide information from members. So why would a church decide that it needs to be certified by the ECFA unless it has become a church driven by the need to broaden its donor base?

Surely a church with open transparency would hardly benefit from the ECFA seal of approval. If a church were not open with their books, as increasingly independent mega-churches seem to be, then a seal of approval from the ECFA would be a sure way to seem transparent, whether a church was or not.

From the ECFA’s perspective, adding churches without requiring at the very least the type of information that a standard I-990 would provide would be an easy source of revenue for the ECFA. Under the current requirements, church do not have to do much more than provide an audited set of financial statements, plus an assurance that they use some matrix in determining executive salaries.

So churches that are notorious for stubbornly refusing to be open to its members, such as Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church, Steve Furtick’s Elevation Church in Charlotte, and James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago can have minimum transparency, hidden executive salaries where the pastors live in million dollars homes, and yet also have the ECFA approval.

Basic information that non-church 501(c)3 organizations are required to provide via the I-990 form can easily be hidden by a church wishing to keep such information private.

Executive salaries over $100,000 per year are required to be disclosed for all non-church 501(c)3’s on the I-990 form. Certain specific expenditures are required to be disclosed, as well as disproportionate sources of income. The ECFA, as well as a curious donor or potential donor can find out a lot of basic information as he or she evaluates the organization.

In the case of churches certified by the ECFA, however, such basic transparency is not required and therefore easily avoided. The ECFA knows this, yet they fail to address the flaws in their certification process that allow accountability and transparency to accompany such certification.

Even the ECFA does not know basic information such as the executive salaries of the churches they certify.

Churches like Mars Hill Church may choose to pay the top dogs through a third party rather than out of the normal payroll accounts of the church. Like many corporations, they will outsource that function to a company that charges a single amount for all the top dogs. In this way even the accountants within the church will not necessarily know the specific salaries of the top earners within the church.

How it would work, as an example, would be as follows. For the sake of example let us use the rumored earnings that have been bantered around within Mars Hill Church circles. Many have suggested that Mark Driscoll earns about $1,200,000 per year and his two co executives Dave Bruskas and the recently departed Sutton Turner each earned about $400,000 per year. Rather than pay them directly from the same payroll account as the other employees, Mars Hill Church could pay them using an outsource payroll company, who then merely bills Mars Hill Church $2,000,000 over the year, plus their fees. So the bookkeepers would get a monthly bill for executive salaries of about $170,000.00 per month.

Even those doing the bookkeeping would have no idea who earns what, so the executives are protected from busybodies and naysayers (perhaps a good thing) but they are also able to hide specific earnings from everybody, even the auditors or the ECFA (not so good).

The ECFA knows that churches therefore are able to avoid transparency, yet they are aggressively signing up churches without addressing the reality that by doing so without requiring the same disclosure that the I-990 requires of all other 501(c)3 groups, they are rendering their certification meaningless.

Surely the ECFA knew this would need to be addressed. The fact that they have either willfully moved forward despite this obvious outcome, or have been blindsided by this reality, both show that perhaps it is the ECFA that needs to be scrutinized for letting the donor down by either its choice or its lack of wisdom.

Both reasons are highly problematic should cause grave concern to the evangelical church that the ECFA serves.

A change.org appeal to the ECFA to remove its approval of Mars Hill Church.

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Join this Change.org petition to ECFA.

WE APPEAL TO THE ECFA to suspend its approval of the Financial Accountability and Transparency of Mars Hill Church.

Despite scandal after scandal, and repeated calls from Mars Hill elders, ex-elders, members and ex-members for transparency, Mars Hill Church refuses to open its books to answer questions raised by both members and donors.

Recently it seems that every month more evidence of financial deception is revealed, yet the ECFA continues to certify to donors that Mars Hill Church has met the ECFA requirements of transparency and accountability.

IN THE LIGHT OF of the calculated deception revealed in the appeal for donors to give to the Mars Hill Global Fund, renamed Mars Hill Global, and more recently Mars Hill Go, the fact that donors gave over $10 million for purposes that were deceptively pitched, leading donors to believe that the monies would be spent on oversees missions, especially in Ethiopia and India,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF the admission by Mars Hill Church that the preponderance of the money raised was simply added to the General Fund and used in the US,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF the memo where Mars Hill Church senior leadership laid out the intent and methodology to deceive donors, a memo with clear instruction to be vague about the exact amount of monies that were going to foreign missions, and clearly laying out that the amount needed to be merely a token amount not to exceed a relatively small amount in relation to the total monies projected to be raised (less than 5%) so as to deceive donors and potential member churches or placate critics,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF over 50 former elders calling for the leadership of Mars Hill Church to repent of failing to be transparent in its financial dealings,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF the dishonest and changing statements of Mars Hill Church regarding the Global Fund, impacting 6,000 donors, and regarding use of $210,000 of donor money to purchase 11,000 copies of Mark Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage” at retail price to deceptively manipulate the New York Times Bestseller list into believing that the book was in fact a bestseller,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF many other scandals, including the rumored exorbitant salaries of the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church, a million-dollar home being paid for in cash, substantial remodeling of the home being paid for in cash, and other scandals that keep circulating due to the lack of financial transparency and accountability,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF the massive turnover of elders, including over 60 in the last 24 months, as well as the resignation of Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) member Paul Tripp, who called Mars Hill Church “the most abusive and coercive church” he has “ever worked with”, along with the resignation of James MacDonald from the BOAA,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF 30 elders filing formal charges against Mark Driscoll along with an additional 21 elders willing to testify to corroborate those charges,

WE THEREFORE APPEAL TO THE ECFA to suspend its approval of the Financial Accountability and Transparency of Mars Hill Church.

Where is the credibility of ECFA?

 

no credibility

Will the ECFA* have any credibility left after staunchly standing by Mars Hill Church?

What are open and transparent ministries that pay the ECFA for its stamp of approval thinking as they see the ECFA continue to declare to donors that Mars Hill Church meets the transparency and accountability standards that ECFA supposedly requires?

What sort of financial scandal has to become public before the ECFA decides that it will no longer give its once esteemed stamp of approval to Mars Hill Church?

How is it possible that the Mars Hill Global Fund deception has been clear and obvious to many church members, ex-members, news reporters and bloggers, yet not to the ECFA? This includes the hasty repackaging of the Global Fund by MH leadership stating that the Global Fund was never a fund that was intended to fund overseas mission work in places like Ethiopia and India, but rather a fund that could be used for any purpose that the top leadership at Mars Hill Church desires, including the general fund.

The recently leaked memo about the Global Fund confirms the intent to deceive and withhold information from donors. Subsequent supportive figures and statements from the church demonstrate that church leaders intended to raise monies using the sympathetic African backdrop implying where the money would go – yet spent it locally, not on overseas missions as implied. It begs the question: is this sort of blatant deception and “cooking of books” enough for the ECFA to realize that its stamp of approval should be removed?

The 2012 and 2013 financial statements and the open admission by church leadership confirm that a preponderance of the money raised was spent in the US for local expenditures. The memo confirms the blatant intent to deceive donors. The memo reveals a calculated scheme by church leadership to “pull the wool over the eyes” of donors, as well as other churches considering joining the Mars Hill franchise, by using a trifling percentage of funds raised to be spent on the appearance of supporting overseas mission work.

The memo proposed limiting the amount earmarked for overseas missions to about $10k per month to buy the silence of critics (which is a pittance, a mere five percent or less of what was raised), and then using the lion’s share of the funds for whatever domestic spending church leadership desires – in effect co-mingling the Global Fund with the general fund to pay for salaries, real estate acquisition, etc. Yet the ECFA stands by its approval of Mars Hill Church.

In the light of this latest revelation of financial shenanigans at Mars Hill Church, will the ECFA choose to keep its stamp of blessing on the church, like it did despite knowing of the deception by church leadership using $210,000 of church funds to hire a company to “game” the system and buy books in a manner intended to deceive the New York Times bestseller list?  And, as that deception worked, deceive the public that Mark Driscoll was in fact an author that deserved to be listed among that elite number?

Add to that the plagiarism found in several of Mark Driscoll’s books, which of course is deceiving readers that the uncited work was the work of the author. And add to that the refusal to open up the books of the church to members, thus keeping hidden the allegedly exorbitant compensation packages of the Executive Elders or the exact amount of the overseas mission expenditures of the Global Fund.

The so-called Global Fund raised over $10million. Repeated pleas to donors were made via 20 or more videos utilizing backdrops of impoverished Ethiopian villages.  Church members were repeatedly solicited both online and from the pulpit to give over and above their tithes to help build churches globally. When it was discovered that hardly any of the money actually was spent on overseas missions, Mars Hill leaders came back saying the fund was actually “international givers” as opposed to an international fund.  

Then came the hasty removal of the Global Fund videos showing Mark Driscoll asking members in Seattle to give to the fund in addition to their normal giving, as well as videos showing executive elder, Sutton Turner, standing in front of a thatched hut in Ethiopia soliciting viewers for donations to the Global Fund.

Such blatant deception.

Such calculated exploitation of poor Africans.

Such intentional suckering of donors.

Yet the ECFA still creates the deceptive illusion that there is transparency and accountability of the finances at Mars Hill Church by putting the ECFA stamp of approval on the organization. If Mars Hill Church qualifies for ECFA approval, then ECFA approval is meaningless. Every church which bears the ECFA stamp of approval becomes suspect of financial shenanigans.

What does the ECFA stand for these days? Surely their approval is losing its value. Every organization that pays its annual dues to the ECFA should start wondering if those days are numbered. If Mars Hill Church is still being approved by the ECFA, what does this tell donors who have been trusting the ECFA as they ponder where and how to be good stewards of their giving?

* Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)

All of the Mars Hill Church senior leadership need to resign!

 

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How is it possible that the senior leadership at Mars Hill has not yet resigned?

It is no wonder that Paul Tripp, James MacDonald, and now Sutton Turner have resigned from the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church.

The more the truth comes out, the more it is clear that the senior leadership, the Executive Elders in particular,  knew about and actively participated in the planned deception of donors, members, and the New York Times Bestseller list.

First, the leaked memo which revealed that elders within the church were alarmed and warned that the scheme to use church monies to purchase 11,000 copies of Mark Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage, at $20 per copy (versus a wholesale price of $7), might attract the IRS because of the personal inurement of the author, and “muckrakers” who would see through the deception and draw public attention to it.

Keep in mind that it was at this time that the author of Real Marriage was able to pay for a home costing well over a million dollars in an exclusive, upscale suburb outside of Seattle. The home is fully paid for.

Everyone now knows that the contract with Result Source was intended to deceive the New York Times Bestseller list, and therefor intended to deceive the public that Mark Driscoll is a bestselling author.

Sadly, the three explanations that were given to church members now appear even more deceptive than they were at the time they were released. One must review them in light of the recently leaked internal memo warning the senior leadership of the shenanigans.

Second, the recently leaked memo that laid out the scheme to use global backdrops to trick donors to give to global missions but used the money for local Mars Hill expenditures brought a new wave of outrage and disgust. The deception is blatant and clearly calculated. The overt strategy was to raise millions for global missions, but to actually give as little as 1.5% to 2% of the money received to actual global missions, with almost all the money going to fund business as usual in the US. The memo specifically strategizes that the amount actually spent on global mission should not be made public, and that the outlay for global missions should be about $10,000 per month – a fraction of the total take. The recent financial reports of Mars Hill Church reflect this strategy was used, with not a single dissenting voice within senior leadership to call attention to the impropriety.

This means that the 6,000 donors who gave a total of over $10 million to global missions in recent years ended up giving well over $9.5million to fund Mars Hill Church in the U.S. and hardly any money to global missions.

The wording of the memo evidences an unconscionable breach of trust and a callous intent to deceive donors. Such a violation by church leaders brings disgrace upon the church and dishonor upon the name of Christ. “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” — Romans 2:24

In the light of these deceptions, why are the senior leaders still in office?

Given the speed of which eight of the “Noble Nine” elders who recently called for accountability from the BOAA and the Executive Elders were either fired or resigned, and given the large number of elders and employees who were fired for merely questioning senior leadership, surely now that the calculated deception of the senior leadership has been well established, they should follow the lead of Paul Tripp, James MacDonald, and Sutton Turner and tender their resignations.

As Mars Hill Bellevue Pastor Thomas Hurst stated just a month ago, “In the end there are only two outcomes I will continue to partake in – seeing our church faithfully rebuilt…from the top down, or turning off the lights and locking the doors…”

GoFindMe – who and where are the “little people” laid off from Mars Hill Church?

Generous giving

I notice that there was no scramble to set up a GoFundMe campaign for any of the 30 to 40 employees of Mars Hill Church that recently got laid off from their jobs.

There has been no GoFundMe fund for restitution to Paul Petry or Bent Meyer for the pain of their firings and loss of income because of the slander that was used to discredit them.

There was no GoFundMe set up for the loss of income supporting the Agathos orphans when Mars Hill Church cut off support after Mark Driscoll threatened to destroy that ministry after the 2007 trials.

As heartwarming as it was to see many of us put together $105,000 for the four former elders (link, link), I note that there are clear biblical guidelines for who the church should raise money for. I hate to see so many lose their jobs at Mars Hill Church in the wake of the numerous scandals that have resulted from the actions of the elders and leadership of Mars Hill Church over the years that is recently coming to light.

It would be fantastic to generously help all who have been plunged into crisis as a result.

As we look at how to help going forward, and before I lay out some biblical guidelines, I must say that I love the generosity displayed to the handful of former elders, and, as an immigrant to the USA I am always amazed at the generosity of Americans to almost any crisis. I see this regularly around the fire where several brothers that meet weekly will rise up and support fellow brothers that are struggling financially. It is true Christian charity at work.

Having said that, there are clear biblical guidelines for the church when providing financial assistance to those in need both outside the local church and for members within the church. We are clearly told who we should give to.

FIRST, give to the orphan and the widow.

This is the most basic directive regarding our Christian charity. Without question or hesitation it should be to the orphan and the widow.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  — James 1:27

Note that we are not to give to all orphans and widows, but only to those that are in distress.

SECOND, give to those in crisis.

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.  Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. — 1 Corinthians 16:1-4

The Apostle Paul’s collection for the Jerusalem church occupies significant portions of his letters (1 Cor 16:1–4; 2 Cor 8:1–9:15; Rom 15:14–32). He was willing to put time, effort, and risk into collecting money for the church in Jerusalem which was in crisis. When there is a crisis, it is totally appropriate and biblical to raise money for those in crisis, and to risk one’s life to make sure the money gets into the hands of those in crisis and meets their critical needs.

This was the first time we hear of weekly giving in the church. It was not to support the local church, but to support the poor brothers and sisters in crisis in Jerusalem.

THIRD, give to support the widow in your church.

Paul addresses supporting the needy widow in 1 Timothy 5. He teaches that even truly needy widows in the church must first look to their own families before the church kicks in. This is not to be mean, but to be biblical. The first order on God’s civil structure is the family. Therefore the family of the hurting widow should be writing the check and caring for their own widows.

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. — I Timothy 5:3-11a

This list of which widows should receive help can seem quite harsh. Imagine if you were the widow who had lost her husband and was struggling. Some friends of yours go to Timothy and the other elders and suggest a GoFundMe campaign for your plight. Timothy, while moved with compassion at your loss, remembers the words of the fatherly Paul, and asks you about your family. You have family who are able to take care of you, and the GoFundMe idea is scrapped, allowing your own family to enjoy caring for you.

FOURTH, give to the poor.

Numerous passages talk about being generous to the poor. This should be the core of a person’s generosity. The bible verses to this end are too numerous to quote. While it is clear that every member of society should be productive, and the man who will not work should not be rewarded, generous care for the poor should be the hallmark of every church and every Christian’s budget. This should be Generosity 101 in the giving curriculum of every Christian church.

FIFTH, give generously.

There is no biblical injunction against simply being generous to anyone. God lavishes gifts on his children, even though we do not deserve it. We can give gifts out of love. We can give gifts out of thanks. There is no biblical prohibition to an individual from giving gifts to whomever he pleases.

SIXTH, give when restitution is required.

When Zacchaeus was convicted of his sin, he paid back to his victims fourfold. Biblical law always had restitution in mind where the actions of the offender had impacted the victim financially. To fail to do this permanently robs the victim of that which is rightfully his. That is why, when slander is exposed, in most cases there is financial recompense as the slander robbed the victim of his name and therefore his ability to earn.

IN SUMMARY THEN….

  1. Give to the orphan and widow in their distress.
  2. Give to those in deep crisis.
  3. Give to the widow in your church. a. Only to those that are in need and have no family to support them through their crisis. b. Only to those that are known for good works c. Only to those that have cared for her own relatives. d. Only to those who have been faithful to their own husband. e. Only to those well known for her own good deeds. f.  Only if she is not young (over 60) and not capable of working or finding a husband.
  4. Give to the poor.
  5. Give generously.
  6. Give when restitution requires it.