Violating bylaws not new!


In 2007 Mars Hill leadership violated the bylaws in the month before rapidly changing them without reasonable discussion or dialog. Even though members were required to agree to and live by the bylaws, the leadership failed to discuss new bylaw changes with the members and purposefully kept the new bylaws from the members. One of the charges against Paul Petry was that he discussed the bylaws with a deacon.

Now we find out that the executive elders failed to adhere to their own bylaws in the month prior to the the rapid rewriting of the bylaws. Was this and other violations a factor in needing to change the bylaws in such haste? Was the secret and sudden change in bylaws in 2007 an attempt to remove accountability and hide such violations?

The bylaws of Mars Hill church, prior to the adoption of new bylaws and the firings of Pastors Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, contained a clause which required advance notice and full disclosure to the full counsel of elders before any major decisions were made requiring a vote of the executive elders. This was to allow for review and a brief period for advice and consent from the full council of elders.

Sometime before the elder trials of 2007, a huge major decision was made by at least one or all of the Executive Elders to purchase a downtown Seattle property, the former Tabella nightclub, for almost $4 million. The purchase was kept secret. It came to the attention of members of the full council of elders in late September 2007 only after a Sunday church service when church member asked some questions regarding the real estate deal. The member had questions after reading a story about the deal that was reported in the newspaper.
Apparently, one or more of the executive elders made the decision to purchase a $4 million property which previously housed a strip club without ever disclosing their intent to do so to the members of the church, or to the the full council of elders – in violation of Article VII, Section B, of the church bylaws.
SECTION B – To ensure that there is full disclosure to all elders, proper notice of all proposals requiring a vote of the full council of elders or the executive elders shall be provided to all the elders at least 30 days in advance, unless a credible emergency exists. Detailed minutes and voting record of each executive elder team meeting, as well as all other elder team meetings where a vote is taken (e.g., departmental, site, ad hoc) shall be published and disseminated to the elders, with records kept on file. The following information shall also be provided to every elder:
+ Annual financial statements from CPA review
+ Annual salaries and benefits list
+ In-house prepared quarterly financial statements
+ Quarterly church-wide tithing/giving report
It was only by inadvertence that the purchase was discovered. The Stranger became aware of the details of the secret multi-million dollar purchase before the church elders were made aware. And just days after the full council of elders became aware, two of its elder members were fired, and a month later the church bylaws were changed which completely changed the governance structure of the church.

Mars Hill Church “Board of Advisors and Accountability” – You’re Fired!

You are fired

The Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church need to be fired for simply failing to do their job.

Here is the reality. Twenty elders filed charges against Mark Driscoll. Hundreds of former members and employees are able to do the same and the BOAA knows it. The Executive Elders are bumbling along trying to control embarrassing scandal after embarrassing scandal.

The list of disqualifying sins that Mark Driscoll and the Executive Elders have been accused of committing is long. It would be longer if one looks at what disqualified Paul Petry or Phil Smidt. In case the BOAA is unaware of what the leadership of Mars Hill Church has been accused of, here is a partial list:

  •           Unfair trial of Paul Petry – leading to a shunning order (still in effect)
  •           Changing the bylaws without due process
  •            Failure to adhere the bylaws when purchasing real estate
  •            Breaking of local city ordinances when leasing real estate
  •           Abusive treatment of scores of employees
  •           Lying to church members
  •           Threatening church members
  •           Rewriting the story of the who founded the church
  •           Numerous accounts of plagiarism
  •           Misuse of church funds to buy spot on the NYT  Bestseller list
  •           Manipulating Sales to by a spot in the NYT Bestseller list
  •           Three inconsistent explanations of how the result-source contract was entered into.
  •           Withholding severance pay from employees refusing to sign onerous NDA’s
  •           Onerous NDA’s
  •           Requirements existing employees to sign non-compete agreements
  •           Misuse of the pulpit – using the pulpit to further abuse members
  •           Lack of transparency
  •           Slander of ex-members
  •           Misrepresentation to donors giving to the so-called “Mars Hill Global Fund”

The bylaws make it clear that they are to look at the evidence when a charge is made, and then act. I refer to section 7.6 (page 9) in which they are instructed to make a decision of some sort if they determine that the lead pastor has engaged in conduct that would disqualify him to serve as an elder.

So why the hell is the BOAA hiring outside parties to begin a lengthy and hidden process of reconciliation? Did the twenty elders file a request for reconciliation, or did they file charges against Mark Driscoll? Why are the BOAA not doing their duty?

Why not just follow the bylaws (even though they clearly should be repealed) and do their job. Are they not conceding their incompetence by failing to do their duty per the bylaws?

If they are not willing to adhere to their own  bylaws they ought to be fired. After all, just disagreeing with the new “vision statement” of the church is enough to disqualify an elder and get him fired. So if they do not agree with the bylaws under which they serve, they ought to be disqualified and a new and capable board be found.

If Phil Smidt and Phil Piorier were fired for disagreeing with the new vision statement, the BOAA should be fired for disregarding their own bylaws!

The Trial of Paul Petry – Part 4 (and why it was unjust)

No hearsay

Paul Petry was not allowed to have any witnesses at his trial to rebut hearsay evidence. The use of hearsay was used to find him guilty of at least one charge. Who knows what other charges were presented with hearsay evidence alone.

Hearsay in not allowed in a trial for several reasons:

  1. It is one-sided testimony presented by someone other than the witness.
  2. It does not allow for cross-examination of the witness, where additional facts, context, and accuracy may change the impact of what is being said.
  3. It allows the bearer of the hearsay to undermine the witness without cross-examination, and can tarnish the reputation of the witness’s future testimony.

One of the most fundamental elements of charging a person with wrongdoing, reiterated in Scripture when the charges are against an elder, is that there needs to be witnesses to the wrongdoing.

This principal is emphasized in both Old Testament law and in New Testament teaching.

I Tim 5:19 “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.”

Paul Petry was charged with the sharing of sensitive documents with a church member. I was alleged to be that member.  The document that was alleged to have been shared with me was the proposed new bylaws that were voted in on October 2007

Dave Kraft, who himself filed charges against Mark Driscoll in 2013, apparently without witnesses and now leads (in some capacity) the band of 20 men who are currently attempting to seek reconciliation with Mark Driscoll, was on the Elder Investigation Taskforce (EIT) that investigatedf the charges against Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. He served in the EIT along with with elders Steve Tompkins, Gary Shavey and the leader, Scott Thomas.

Before the trial of Paul Petry I appealed to Dave Kraft, who was my executive coach at the time, that if the elders were going to charge Paul with the serious offence of sharing the proposed bylaws with a member, and seeing that I was the alleged member to whom Paul apparently shared the document, then they needed to call me in as a witness. I said I was available and willing. I also stressed numerous times that it was not be fair if Paul Petry, now having to defend himself against this offense should not be given the right to call any witness that he needed in his defense.

Once I realized that despite my appeal to Dave Kraft failed, and that Scott Thomas was planning to use my comments as hearsay at the trial, I appealed to all the elders that they needed to allow witnesses, and that failure to allow witnesses or the use of hearsay would result in an unfair trial and therefore a verdict that would not be respected.

Click to access mars-hill-rob-smith-email-to-elders-10-14-2007.pdf

While this may be obvious and clear to the average person, it was not clear to the 24 elders who tried Paul Petry. These men, who had presented themselves as men above reproach with the ability to teach the flock, were so determined to nail Paul Petry at his trial that they not only ignored a basic biblical teaching about the need for witnesses when charging a person with wrongdoing, especially an elder, but the ignored a principle that is so obvious that even the secular world makes this a priority at any trial.

Hearsay is untrustworthy and therefore inadmissible.

Furthermore, the Bible says that one man’s story sound really convincing, until the second witness shows up. Proverbs 18:17 “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.”

Why is this relevant in the trial of Paul Petry?

When Scott Thomas, while determining whether there was enough credible evidence to charge Paul with disqualifying sins against the church, discovered that I as a member was aware of the proposed changes to the bylaws. He called me and asked me if Paul Petry had discussed the proposed changes with me. I confirmed that he had.

Scott Thomas seemed delighted. It was as if he had found what he needed to justify the firing and removal of Paul as an elder.

Because of the way he responded, I reached out to various elders offering my testimony at the trial. I appealed to Dave Kraft, Tim Quiring, James Harleman and others in person. I also appealed to all the elders as mentioned above.

I was ignored and basically told not to intrude.

Why, you may ask, was my direct testimony that important? Well, let me explain.

The hearsay testimony of Scott Thomas was inaccurate and incomplete. It painted a false picture. Despite this it was used to extract a guilty verdict.

While it was true that Paul had discussed the new bylaws with me, he reached out to me to discuss a particular section of the bylaws with me. It was the section, ironically, that had to do with the rights of a member under discipline. Little did Paul know that less than a month later he would be facing church discipline without any rights.

Paul knew that I had strongly objected to elder Phil Schmit and James Noriega in earlier weeks when they were using the bylaws to warn a member that they could remove him as a member. They said that any two consenting elders could simply decide such a fate.  In one of the most abusive conversations I have ever experienced, elders Schmit and Noriega argued with me over this terrible bylaw. (For the record, James Noriega has subsequently confessed and asked forgiveness for the way he treated me, and I have forgiven him). When I challenged them that this was unbiblical, they pulled out a copy of the bylaws and had me read the bylaw.

I was stunned at the fact that a Mars Hill Church member has no rights whatsoever, and could be thrown out the church by two consenting elders. (Also for the record, Phil Schmit has asked the member in this instance for forgiveness for the abuse).  The fact that after 6 years both elders have asked forgiveness for their anger and abuse demonstrates the folly of the bylaw in the first place… but I digress.

As a result of knowing that I strongly objected to the existing bylaws which gave the members no ability to defend themselves against such action, and knowing that several times in my five year history as an older trusted member of Mars Hill Church I had come alongside members who seemed to be mistreated as a result of this policy, Paul met with me to ask me what kind of rights I thought a member should have. He included my suggestions in his discussion with Jamie Munson.

Click to access elders-by-laws-revised-draft-by-pastor-paul-petry-9-25-2007.pdf

See page 13

The hearsay, which implied that I was privy to the new bylaws as a result of Paul’s actions, was simply wrong. I had seen the new bylaws in Phil Schmit’s office prior to discussing them with Paul.

As a result of the time I had with Phil Schmit and James Noriaga, I had been exposed to the new bylaws. Had hearsay not been used, and Paul been able to question me as a witness, the truth would have come out.

I had two meetings with these men. The first was when I heard about the bylaws that allowed any two elders to kick out a member of the church if they jointly agreed (which is still in the current bylaws) and the second was when Noriega called me back to “aggressively chew me out” for arguing with them about the bylaws in the first meeting.

Noriega was late for the meeting. Perhaps he and Schmit needed to confer before they dressed me down at the second meeting. But nonetheless, I waited for 15 minutes for the two elders to meet with me.

Well, guess what was on the chair next to where I was sitting? A copy of the proposed new bylaws. I did not realize at first that they were new, but as I read them that fact became clear. I did not get as far in my reading to get to the section reflecting that members have no rights, but I did see enough to know that the ecclesiology of Mars Hill Church would be forever changed.

So, while it was true that Paul Petry discussed the new bylaws with me, had I been called in as a witness, the jury would have heard that I first saw the new bylaws in Phil Schmit’s office, and that I had discussed the ecclesiology change with not only Paul Petry, but also elders Tim Quiring, Dave Kraft, James Harleman,  James Noriega and Phil Schmit.

Sadly, because I was not allowed to be a witness, hearsay was presented that led the jury to believe a one-sided version of the truth, and Paul was found guilty.

Interestingly, after the trial, but before the vote to change the bylaws, I also discussed the bylaw change with Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson. I am not sure why it was so offensive for Paul Petry to discuss this confidential document with a man who was a deacon and chosen to enter the elder process, when it was fine for all these other elders to do so. Unless of course it was a witch hunt intended to nail Paul Petry. In fact, wouldn’t it be sensible to discuss bylaw changes with the members of the church?

Hearsay allows the bearer of the hearsay to undermine the witness without cross-examination, and can tarnish the reputation of the witness’s future testimony.

What the hearsay also did was allow those making their case to characterize the absent witness. Even though I was deemed qualified to be a deacon, and had been approved (based upon my character presumably) to start the elder process, Mark Driscoll presented me as “the biggest trouble maker in Mars Hill Church’s history.

So this poor writer went from being a qualified deacon and placed on the elder “track” (thus Dave Kraft becoming my coach) to becoming the worst trouble maker in Mars Hill Church’s history in one fell swoop. At the trial my name was slandered and my ministry attacked through the use of hearsay. Had any fair and godly elder been present, they would have objected to this slander that was used to collaborate the hearsay. Had I been a witness, I would have gladly born testimony to all the facts that actually occurred, and I would have had an opportunity to object to the slander.

Paul Petry’s trail was unfair because of the use of hearsay. He should be exonerated.