Men of Unclean Hands

Wash my hands

I believe that the secretive reconciliation attempt by 20 secretive elders and the Mars Hill Church executive elders will produce very little fruit. It has and will, however, produce more pain and angst in many of the most abused ex-members.

My dear wife and I can attest to this pain, and several others have contacted me expressing what I am about to say.

In what will be probably the hardest post to write, I want to say something that may be very difficult to hear.

Many of the men reaching out to seek reconciliation with Mark Driscoll and the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church do not have clean hands. The best agreement they can come to is that they will all change from being “angry young prophets” to become kinder and gentler, more like a “spiritual father.”

Any resolution that is more punitive in nature is one that they cannot demand without impugning themselves. They do not have clean hands.

Like I did seven years ago when appealing for a fair trial, I will simply point out both the biblical principle of justice and that which our society deems to be fair when it comes to the “clean hands doctrine.” Although we do not know the names of most of the 20 men seeking reconciliation with the Executive Elders, I presume several were men who rejected my advice seven years ago.

I also presume that several of these men still support the notion that I am simply bent on revenge and am a “one trick pony.” Despite the reality that these men do not think much of this messenger, I trust that perhaps God will assist them in their understanding.

Here is a definition of the “clean hands doctrine”:

The clean hands doctrine is a rule of law that someone asking the court for equitable relief must be innocent of wrongdoing or unfair conduct relating to the subject matter of his/her claim.

The sad truth is that most of the elders who are seeking redress from an unknown adjudicator (who knows why the BOAA isn’t addressing the issues at hand?) are themselves men who participated in the abuse. They are guilty themselves.

Even worse, they are in some ways guiltier than the Executive Elders. Any of the 20 men who were elders in 2007 (Dave Kraft was part of the 2007 Elder Investigation Taskforce) are the ones who gave the executive elders their power in the first place. These men chose to give up their role as overseers, legal directors of the church, and gave Mark Driscoll the power that he now wields.

If these men were not up to the task of governing the church, they should have resigned. Instead they voted to give up their authority to govern the church and protect the members. Instead of protecting the flock, they gave the flock whom they were called to lead a form of government that would turn abusive in the hands of a man like Mark Driscoll.

It sort of reminds me of the famous “How dare you!” sermon that Driscoll preached to the young men of Mars Hill Church.

The sermon blasted young single men who diddled with their girlfriends. The Christian fundamentalist world loved the sermon (even landed Driscoll an interview with James Dobson) while the young men in the pews were thinking, “Now wait a minute. You went the whole nine yards with several women, including your wife, and you are screaming at us about diddling?”

Mark lacked the moral authority to preach such a sermon in the way he did. Had he wept with remorse and openness from the pulpit, it would have been amazing. He could have appealed to the reality of his own sin and weakness, and used that as a platform to guide young men struggling with the same sin.

Instead he came across as a fundamentalist preacher, pointing out the sins of others. He did not have clean hands himself.

Now come twenty men. If you know who they are (I only know of a few) then take a look at the words they write: Blogs about “leadership” and “gospel centeredness,” and even posts in recent groups where hurting members are sharing their pain.  Lengthy words of counsel are coming from some of these very men.

I am sorry. This may sound harsh. But these men have been abusers themselves, and until they are broken by the abusive culture that they voted into place, and until they painfully and publicly articulate the abuse they are guilty of, they have no place acting like they are leaders and have something of value to say – even if it is of value.

For Dave Kraft to be quoting Jamie Munson at a time like this, tells me that he has no idea of the harm he has inflicted on us members by his role in carrying out Jamie Munson’s and Mark Driscoll’s abuse.

I and many other hurt members would value a single word of counsel from Bent Meyer or Paul Petry over a volume from Jamie Munson.

I have been trying to think of a good analogy to help the reader understand.

Consider a family that has a particularly gifted 12 year old. Everything that he does he seems to do well. He even seems to be a good leader and God appears to be blessing his gifts. He is part of a large family and decides that he wants to drive the family van (or could we say “bus”?). A handful of uncles argue that to give him the keys would be unwise, but their concerns are set aside (I could embellish the story, but I will spare the reader 🙂 ).

So the family members are driven in the bus by a talented 12 year old kid. Sadly, the kid starts to run over pedestrians that, in his immaturity, he deemed to have been in his way. While members of the family are uncomfortable, they understand that the pedestrians could have moved out of the path of the bus, and they were also becoming afraid of questioning the decision of the rest of the family, especially after seeing how the old uncles were treated.

Plus they were enjoying the ride.

Eventually the young driver lost control of the bus and plowed into a crowd of people.

In this scenario, the police should arrest everyone on that bus and bring them all to justice. If a child is killed by the bus accident and it turns out his father was one of the family in the bus encouraging the driver on, he would have no business being an accuser seeking justice, because he would have blood on his own hands.

Imagine other family members who were in the bus going to the victims and telling them that “it is all about Jesus”. That “now is the time to turn to Jesus”. Imagine them speaking to the wounded long words of how to deal with the pain and grief. It would all be salt on the wounds – even if what they said was true.

The only healing that that person could hope to offer would be a broken heart of remorse and grief, and a throwing of oneself prostrate before God and the wounded bodies under the bus begging for mercy and forgiveness.

Anything else would be total arrogance and a further harming of the abused.

The Board of Advisors and Accountability need to hear from victims, not perpetrators. They need to hear the charges and see the evidence, not seek out some “peace making” group to work out reconciliation between co-perpetrators of their sins.

The way that blood is removed from one’s hands is through open, forthright and full confession.

These men with blood on their hands who are writing one or two sentences of “repentance” among hundreds of pages of other good stuff need to get a biblical view of repentance. Are they hoping that they can quietly slink off and continue to be considered a shepherd? Most are not even saying anything at all – like a murderer escaping and moving to another state and changing his name. I am sorry, even if he becomes a model citizen, he is still a murderer and needs to face his crime.

Of the elders that in 2007 kicked out, humiliated, and called for a shunning of Paul Petry only Lief Moi, Dave Kraft and Zach Hubert have said something considered public. And their confessions are drowned out by the lengthy words of leadership and counseling advice that keeps rolling out of the mouths of some of these men.

To those of the 20 men that remain unrepentant yet are seeking reconciliation with Driscoll and his Executive Elders: Stop posting platitudes until you have openly repented . Stop talking about leadership until it is clear that you are broken over your role in the abuse.

Please just stop.

You will bring healing when you post long words about your sin and brokenness. Then you will be at the foot of the path to one day being in a position to lead others again. Men like Jeff Bettger and Kyle Firstenberg, who I believe are among the 20, have shown the way to lead. I applaud these men, and I encourage the remaining men to follow their example.

Or, I suppose you could secretly seek reconciliation with Mark Driscoll and his team, come to some agreement after which you all sing Kumbaya and dance down the road leaving very little healing of the abused in your wake.  You can scrub from your own resume and memory your role at Mars Hill Church, move elsewhere, and pretend to be a man who cared for the sheep.

Richard Harlemen recently posted the following in a blog where Mike Wilkerson, Jesse Winkler and James Noriega posted words of platitude. These were men who supported the abuse of Paul Petry and gave up their authority to govern the church by changing the bylaws:

“Managing bitterness and vengeance in your heart I can greatly respect. It’s a shame to me when people hide the truth in the guise of piety.”

As I stated, his comment came after postings from James Noriega, Jesse Winkler, and Mike Wilkerson, none of whom had yet spoken out in public about the abuse or their own role in it. In Mike Wilkerson’s case, he posted long posts about dealing with pain and conflict. They were good words, coming from a man who threw the church under the bus in 2007, and voted for the lynching of Paul Petry.

Men, healing comes from confession. Period. If you cannot do that and clean your own hands first, what do you hope to see in reconciliation with your co-abusers?

And until you publicly confess, for God’s sake, stay away from the wounded and bleeding.

 

Note: Since this article was written and posted online, former Mars Hill elder, Jesse Winkler, published his confession and apology at repentantpastor.com.

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5 thoughts on “Men of Unclean Hands

  1. “‘From the least to the greatest,
    all are greedy for gain;
    prophets and priests alike,
    all practice deceit.
    They dress the wound of my people
    as though it were not serious.
    ‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
    when there is no peace.
    Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
    No, they have no shame at all;
    they do not even know how to blush.
    So they will fall among the fallen;
    they will be brought down when I punish them,’
    says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 6:13-15)

    “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

    “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)

  2. While to some degree I get what you’re saying I think you’re operating on a lot of assumptions.
    – You admit that you don’t know which 20 are involved so how do you know that repentance hasn’t happened with a majority of them?
    – What for you constitutes public repentance? Do they need to start a blog? Do you personally need to hear it for it to be public?

    While they appear to be seeking reconciliation as a group of 20 it’s unfair (especially since you don’t even know who they are) to lump them all together and pronounce them all guilty of abuse. Should the men seeking reconciliation with leadership also seek reconciliation with those they’ve hurt? Of course. But in this case making sweeping statements about 20 largely unknown people is useless.

    There are a ton of blogs published every day that generalize, make assumptions, and otherwise make very uninformed opinions. While writing is a good way to process your thoughts, not everything needs to posted.

    • In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells the famous story of the Good Samaritan. In that parable, a priest and a Levite were walking when they came across a man who had been attacked, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road. They chose not to help him. Instead, they crossed the road and passed by on the other side.

      These two men were not guilty of attacking the man. They didn’t rob him. They didn’t beat him until he was half-dead. But after they passed by, they were not innocent anymore. They were guilty of leaving him there. Stripped. Beaten. Half dead. They were guilty of not loving their neighbor as they loved themselves. They did not do for others what they would most certainly want others to do for them. They broke a foundational command of God.

      In Jesus’ parable, it didn’t matter where the priest and the Levite were going. Maybe they were on a mission of reconciliation. Maybe they were headed to the temple to give a powerful sermon about grace and forgiveness. Maybe they had the most noble of tasks on their agenda that day. Maybe they could have been heard speaking incredible words of wisdom as they walked. All of that didn’t matter because they encountered a beaten and battered man who had suffered a terrible injustice. And they chose to walk away and do nothing.

      What would repentance look like for the priest and the Levite? How would we know that repentance has happened for them? They would need to turn around and go back to the injured man, and “do likewise” as Jesus commanded:

      “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” (Luke 10:33-35)

      And if the repentant priest or Levite had been part of the band of robbers that stripped and beat the man and left him half-dead in the first place, then they would need to do all the more.

      • It might also be worth noting that the men who passed by also had “the law” on their side, in the sense that if the injured man were dead, or currently “unclean” for any number of reasons, then coming into contact with him would also make them “unclean”, incapable of performing their duties, and not to mention possibly putting them in trouble with God (Leviticus 15:31, 17:16, 18:25, Numbers 19:11-13).

        So I would submit that it wasn’t just that they did not love, but that they also used legalism to rationalize their actions. That they twisted one command of God to make excuses for not satisfying another.

        As such, those two would also fight the idea that they needed to repent on the grounds that they were justified in their actions. They would, in the court of public opinion, make out those who are calling for reconciliation look like they were making unreasonable demands, or that they were spreading lies or half-truths. Or claim they were just bitter.

        Selfishness and hardheartedness is certainly bad enough, but when combined with just enough scriptural literacy to manipulate others, a religious leader becomes outright dangerous.

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