Why did the Acts 29 board fail to address Driscoll’s abuse in 2005?

man who made a monster

Members of the Act 29 board knew of Mark Driscoll’s abuse in 2005, but failed to address it. They share responsibility for the abusive environment that now exists at Mars Hill Church.

The very first Acts 29 church plant ran into some problems. The way Mark Driscoll handled these problems demonstrated his abusive ruthlessness to the men on the Acts 29 board.

In dealing with the problems, a pastor, Ron Wheeler, interacted with Mark Driscoll and experienced the abusive treatment that Driscoll has now become notorious for. Here is an excerpt from a letter Wheeler sent the Acts 29 board in 2005:

…was followed up the next day, with a phone call from Mark where he used the most obscene vulgar language that I can remember someone using with me.  The next day, he sent an email to the other elders, that I had no knowledge about until recently, that can only be defined as wildly inaccurate and slanderous.  The current leadership of The Gathering considers much of where things currently stand in leadership to be directly related to Mark’s influence and conduct in the process.

Over the past many years, I have identified and struggled with issues in Mark such as:  pride, speech (lack of self-control, sexually vulgar and slanderous, exaggeration that bordered on deception, gossip about others and confidential issues either about others to me, or about myself with others. Confidentiality issues carry legal implications for the church), and an impulsive/reactive spirit. It is because of the confidentiality and distortion of the facts, that I distrust individual communication with Mark, and need the involvement of the Board in these issues. My frustration is that I have never been silent with Mark or with anyone else about where I stand.  It is no secret to the past Acts29 leadership board that I have had frustration in many of these areas, and it ought to be noted by the existing board members that the two former board members have pulled out of leadership, one out of frustration with the conflict between Mark and David, one largely through dealing with conflict brought on by some of these same issues. This is now the second time that issues have gone on record with Mark regarding areas of character in speech and conduct.  The fact that Mark is an incredibly talented leader and speaker, cannot in any way substitute for the simple Biblical requirements of being Christ-like, much less the qualifications of being an Elder.  I can make a Biblical case from Titus regarding being overbearing, quick-tempered, self-controlled, upright, and holy, as well as 1 Timothy regarding above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not quarrelsome, and reputation with outsiders.  [emphasis added]

When I read this letter of appeal to the Acts 29 board, I felt sick. Ron Wheeler was describing my own experience with Mark Driscoll. When Mark Driscoll called me to tell me that I was under discipline for asking the elders for a fair trial for pastors Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, I experienced the most obscene and vulgar language that I have ever endured (in asking all the elders, Driscoll accused that I was trying to divide the elders – therefore I was “a divisive man” according to him). Mark Driscoll threatened me, demeaned me, said he would destroy me and my ministry and make sure I would never minister again.

This is what Ron Wheeler was describing to the Acts 29 board in his appeal for help. This is what countless other former members and elders have experienced.

Where were Acts 29 board members Ed Stetzer, Darin Patrick, Steve Tomkins and Chan Kilgore? Why did they not take action and deal with these issues in Mark Driscoll’s character? Why did they remain silent? Did they not care for those that were being abused so clearly?

Ed Stetzer claims that he never saw the letter from Ron Wheeler. If this is the case, one might wonder if Driscoll failed to deliver it to the board. If so, it is yet another example of hiding the truth, something else that Mark Driscoll has become notorious for amidst scandals that include plagiarism in seven of his books, deceptively manipulating sales of his last book to gain a NYT bestseller spot and changing the story three times in his attempt to excuse his actions.

Perhaps further investigation is warranted. But one thing for sure, even if Driscoll hid the letter above from them, Ed Stetzer and the rest of the Acts 29 board were aware of the abusive manner and style of Mark Driscoll, yet they failed to address these issues and continued to promote his leadership for years to come.

Will they ever speak up?

Do they realize the extent to which they have helped create what we are seeing today within Mars Hill Church?

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9 thoughts on “Why did the Acts 29 board fail to address Driscoll’s abuse in 2005?

  1. MARk drIScoHILL hides behind his shortened pulpit. His ministry is based on performance, not the gospel, and as he personally told me (prior to me failing two boot camps and being banned from a 3rd), “Point at Jesus and you’ll get a church,” I give a corollary: “Point at yourself and you won’t get Jesus.”

  2. This may not be the only Acts 29 pastor who had problems with Driscoll if our email is to be believed. We have been sitting on another story because of the pain involved.

    • Dee, there are several stories that I have held back because of the pain involved, or because the story may be significant, but I do not want to harm recovering elders (even some were that abusive) as they try to rebuild their careers. But the overall picture of abuse, and the men who failed to speak up, is becoming clearer and clearer.

  3. “When Mark Driscoll called me to tell me that I was under discipline for asking the elders for a fair trial….Mark Driscoll threatened me, demeaned me, said he would destroy me and my ministry and make sure I would never minister again.”

    Ok, I think I’ve got it figured out.

    Wolf: someone who promotes fairness, justice, and mercy.
    Shepherd: someone who destroys those who promote fairness, justice, and mercy.
    Sheep: someone who silently submits to unfair, unjust, or unmerciful treatment.

  4. The description of Driscoll’s behavior, especially in conjunction with his dynamic charisma in the eyes of those who would follow him, could just as easily serve as a case study for narcissistic personality disorder. To wit: http://www.sjsu.edu/people/joanna.fanos/courses/psyc190spring14/s1/DSM-V%20Narcissistic%20&%20Borderline%20Personality%20Disorder.pdf

    If (and I stress “if”) Driscoll actually does suffer from NPD then it’s a virtual certainty that his historical pattern of behavior will continue unless and until he receives professional help, and even that will only address the issue to any degree if he seeks such help willingly. I only bring up this possibility to point out that going to Driscoll, or anyone under his thrall, directly is unlikely to bring about any appreciable change whatever. To address this matter, one would necessarily need to seek out others who possess some leverage over him (assuming such individuals exist) who could persuade him to undergo voluntary treatment. Of course, knowing what Driscoll has stated repeatedly over the years regarding psychiatry, it’s unlikely to happen without a giant crash for him personally, and even then there are no guarantees that he would seek appropriate counsel.

    He has set up his insular little (but still growing) fiefdom quite effectively, and consistently works toward surrounding himself only with those who are easily cowed and bent to his demands. The best one can hope for is that people outside his inner circle begin to see his behavior for what it clearly is and remove themselves. The history of Mars Hill, as well as the greater Neo-Reformed movement, offers little hope of any mass exodus without a significant scandal, and even then there are few reasons to expect a full reversal of his behavior or loss of power and influence.

  5. Pingback: About Mark |

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