Jesus left the 99 sheep and pursued the one – while Mars Hill Church assures the 99 and ignores the one.

lost sheep 1

With both Mars Hill Church and Acts 29, the terms “shepherd”, “chief shepherd”, “pastor” and “elder” are spoken of with frequency. Within the strong DNA of both organizations is the prevalent expectation that the members submit to the shepherds or elders. The last line of the Mars Hill Church membership covenant states:

I understand that this covenant obligates me to the members of Mars Hill and is an acknowledgment of my submission to the elders of the church. I accept the responsibility to notify Mars Hill leadership if at any time I can no longer commit to this covenant, or if I have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding Mars Hill Church.    (link1) [emphasis added]

This is not just a Mars Hill Church requirement, but also is characteristic of Acts 29 churches. The Village Church (Matt Chandler’s church – President of Acts 29) states it this way:

I covenant…to submit to the elders and other appointed leaders of the church and diligently strive for unity and peace within the church.   (link2)  [emphasis added]

These shepherds desire submission from the flock, but when they are questioned by a sheep, they frequently react in such a way that the sheep is then forced out of the flock. When this causes the flock to be flustered, all the attention then is focused on making the flock comfortable, while the lone sheep that has left the flock is abandoned, or worse, slandered and isolated.

This isolation comes in the form of shunning, whether formal (as in Mars Hill Church’s call to shun Paul Petry – now concluding its seventh year) – or informal, as many members of both Mars Hill Church and many Acts 29 former church members have experienced.

This is in stark contrast to what Jesus taught.

 If any of you has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won’t you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go look for the lost sheep until you find it? And when you find it, you will be so glad that you will put it on your shoulder and carry it home. Then you will call in your friends and neighbors and say, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found my lost sheep.” — Luke 15:4-6

While hundreds of abused ex-members are crying out, Mars Hill Church leaders are doing all they can to assure the members of the church that this “season” will pass, while ignoring the sheep that have left, injured, strayed, or been abandoned. They are ignoring the lost sheep.

Mark Driscoll, who is claiming that his “angry young prophet” days are over and now his “older spiritual father” days lie ahead, has said that he is reaching out to the sheep he has hurt. There is no evidence that he has or is doing this. In my personal case, my requests to speak with Mark Driscoll get nowhere, and BOAA chairman Michael van Skaik has refused to talk to me, despite my willingness to drive from Seattle to Bend, Oregon to see him.

Countless other hurt sheep have had the same experience.

Elders who knew me well, despite the evidence that I and my family were harmed and slandered, have simply ignored our pain, and in some cases actively spurned us. I say this not to draw attention to Merle’s and my pain, but to point out that this is the experience of most families who have been harmed through the shunning and “discipline” process at Mars Hill and other Acts 29 churches.

Rather than pursue the lost sheep and genuinely try to find reconciliation, the individual sheep is isolated through shunning, slandered through one-sided half-truths, while the perpetrators of the abuse are surrounded with love and affirmation. The remaining sheep are called to submit to these “shepherds” or face similar discipline. They are told to “trust” the shepherds and not the stories that come from the lost sheep via social media – the only means the shepherds have left the lost sheep in their effort to cry out.

There has been no reasonable attempt by Mark Driscoll to reconcile with Bent Meyer, Lief Moi or Paul Petry, not to mention many equally hurt ex-members, staff and leaders from Mars Hill Church. Michael van Skaik has been charged by his own elders of not being truthful about reaching out to victims of abuse. Sadly, the DNA of Mars Hill Church is to keep the hurting bodies “under the bus” and refuse to seek them out as Jesus sought out the one sheep that was missing.

Perhaps the shepherds at Mars Hill Church, and those at churches that carry the Acts 29 DNA, should stop emphasizing submission to the elders, and start emphasizing the true role of a shepherd – a good shepherd. That role is not to lord over the sheep, but to tend to the sheep.

Especially the one sheep who has left the flock in pain.

baby lamb

The “Noble Nine” pastors in the fiery furnace at Mars Hill Church. No wait! There are ten!

1-19-Martin-Luther-King-ftr

“You must do right because it’s right to do right…”
“I am 38 years old, but I am dead if I do not stand for justice…”
“You may lose your job…”

Powerful words of encourgement from a great preacher.

three-men-in-fiery-furnace-39474-tablet

“Ultimately you must do right because it’s right to do right. And you got to say ‘But if not…’
“You must love ultimately because it’s lovely to love.
“You must be just because it’s right to be just.
“You must be honest because it’s right to be honest.

“This is what this text is saying more than anything else. And finally, you must do it because it has gripped you so much that you are willing to die for it if necessary. And I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

“You may be 38 years old as I happen to be, and one day some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause–and you refuse to do it because you are afraid; you refuse to do it because you want to live longer; you’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you’re afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house, and so you refuse to take the stand.

“Well you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90! And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice. These boys stand before us today, and I thank God for them, for they had found something.

“The fiery furnace couldn’t stop them from believing. They said “Throw us into the fiery furnace.” But you know the interesting thing is, the Bible talks about a miracle. Because they had faith enough to say “But if not,” God was with them as an eternal companion.

“And this is what I want to say finally, that there is a reward if you do right for righteousness’ sake.

“It says that somehow that burning fiery furnace was transformed into an air-conditioned living room. Somebody looked in there and said ‘We put three in here, but now we see four!’ Don’t ever think you’re by yourself. Go on to jail if necessary but you’ll never go alone.

“Take a stand for that which is right, and the world may misunderstand you and criticize you, but you never go alone, for somewhere I read that ‘One with God is a majority,’ and God has a way of transforming a minority into a majority.

“Walk with him this morning and believe in him and do what is right and he’ll be with you even until the consummation of the ages. Yes, I’ve seen the lightning flash, I’ve heard the thunder roll, I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing trying to conquer my soul but I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on, he promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone; no, never alone, no, never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

“Where you’re going this morning, my friends, tell the world that you’re going with truth. You’re going with justice, you’re going with goodness, and you will have an eternal companionship. And the world will look at you and they won’t understand you, for your fiery furnace will be around you, but you’ll go on anyhow. But if not, I will not bow, and God grant that we will never bow before the gods of evil.”

____________________________________________________________________________

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 5, 1967. The title, “But if Not”, comes from Daniel chapter 3, verse 18.

Seriously?

Seriously 1

It seems that we have heard the word “seriously” a lot from the leadership of Mars Hill Church.

Seriously :

Adverb

  1. in a solemn or considered manner. “the doctor looked seriously at him”
  2. with earnest intent; not lightly or superficially.

First it was Michael van Skaik, whose integrity has been seriously challenged (along with Sutton Turner), who told us that the charges against Mark Driscoll had been taken seriously, the matter decided once and for all. He along with Sutton are been charged by nine pastors with being deceptive (i.e. lying).

Then we have repeatedly been told that the BOAA takes matters seriously, and of course they also cleared Mark Driscoll. No charge rose to the level of “disqualification.” Their decision was final. After all, they tried very hard to find witnesses, and only a handful spoke up, and these were mostly good reports. (Of course, this deceptive statement has now been challenged by the “noble nine” pastors).

Now we have the next level of seriously motivated men. These men are elders and pastors who are taking everything seriously, especially the seriousness of the leaks at Mars Hill Church. These leaks are very serious!

After all, unlike the numerous and well established sins of Marl Driscoll, and unlike the deception of Sutton Turner and Michael van Skaik, the leaks “tarnish” the gospel. Therefore they must be taken seriously. Very seriously.

Of course, we have already looked at the Mars Hill leadership’s understanding of the word “yearn”, where Michael van Skaik said that he and the BOAA “yearned for reconciliation.” (Of course, neither he nor they had actually tried to reconcile with any offended ex-member that we know of.) Just saying these words make them to be true.

Kind of like the name-it-and-claim it gospel. If we say we are serious, or if we say that we yearn, it makes it so.

Seriously?

It would appear that the Mars Hill leadership took charges against Pastor Mark Dunford’s role in the actions of the “noble nine” seriously. He was removed from office on Tuesday, just days after his “serious” actions. Surely if the clearly established charges against Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Michael van Skaik are taken as seriously, we should see action very soon.

A last thought. How about considering that those who are telling everyone about the repeated and well-documented sins of the Mars Hill leadership, collaborated by Acts 29 and men like Paul Tripp, are taking 1 Timothy 5:24 & 25 seriously:

“The sins of some people are obvious, leading them to judgment. The sins of others follow them there.  In the same way, good actions are obvious, and those that are not cannot remain hidden.”

…and take 1 Timothy 5:20 very seriously:

“Those who sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. “

…the word “all” comes from the Greek word meaning “all…everyone…” (using social media if necessary).

Furrowed brow 2

An open letter to Mark Driscoll re: understanding repentance – from Gus

he-is-sorry

Dear Mark Driscoll,

You don’t seem to understand repentance.

1. Repentance is not “I’m sorry that some of the things I said led people to attack me and that now I have to eat crow.” Repentance is being sorry for your actions, not for those actions’ consequences that now come back to bite you.

2. Repentance is also specific: you don’t repent of “some of the things that I may have said or done”. If you maligned someone in a public setting (like Meyer and Petry), it could mean using the same setting and declaring: “In 2007, I said such and such. I now understand this was wrong. I retract those words and want to ask the people concerned for forgiveness. Also, we excommunicated this person and shunned that family. That was wrong.” It would also mean asking the victims for forgiveness – which they would be free to grant or not – by acknowledging the wrongness of your actions and their hurt in direct communication.

3. Forgiveness can only be asked for, but never demanded. It’s the essence of forgiveness that it can only be voluntary, not coerced. The victims don’t HAVE to forgive when you ask them for forgiveness, even if I am sure most would forgive if they had the impression that repentance was genuine.

4. You can never ask all the people you hurt for forgiveness – there are just too many of them, many have never spoken up in public, and in some cases maybe did not even realise at the time just how badly you were treating someone. But you can at least try to reach the people hurt the worst and most publicly in person. That would still be quite a number.

5. Repentance is hard work – six weeks just will not be enough time..

6. It’s also not about “vengeance”, about your enemies forcing you to step down. But if you are really sorry for what you DID, and not only for the fact that your actions have come back to haunt you, you may come to the conclusion that in the light of your past behaviour and actions stepping down remains the only alternative to continuing a highly damaged “career” and – let’s for now call it that – “ministry”.

7. In all of the present situation, I feel really sorry for your family, your wife and his kids. It’s no fun for kids to discover that their parent is not only not perfect, but a lot less than very good.

8. I feel a lot less sorry for you than for your family. As the saying goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!””, and while you were under the illusion that you were the chef in that kitchen, you stoked the fire and turned up the heat quite a lot.

9. You should really seek professional – not nouthetic – help for your anger issues

(Thanks for Gus who posted this on Wartburg Watch  Link )

Four offended men who have not heard from Mark Driscoll.

discernment 1

Mark Driscoll wants to forget the past. But, as this excellent blog post clearly details disqualifying sins against four men in the past, Mark Driscoll has made no attempt of any kind to reach out to the four men sinned against.

Dr. E.S.Williams does an excellent job outlining the disqualifying behavior that has never been addressed by Mark Driscoll. Surely, in order to press forward, the past sins should be named and attempts to reconcile be hastily sought after.

Here is a link to “A Dearth of Discernment”.

What Mark Driscoll actually said on Sunday

Deaf translation

To fully understand what Mark Driscoll was saying, you must read this! This blog post saved me a lot of time. It is excellent and worth the read. Thanks to this excellent interpreter for the following article! Note… I did not write this piece.. please see the link below for the source 🙂

Translating Mark Driscoll

Translating Mark Driscoll

This morning I watched the 17 minute videoed announcement from Mark Driscoll this weekend that he is stepping down as Pastor of Mars Hill for a minimum of six weeks. You can watch the video and read the transcript here.

 

Within the announcement Mark speaks of the “court of public opinion” not being useful in addressing issues in a Biblical manner and suggests online conversations, like this blog for instance, are unhelpful. I can see that everyone having OPINIONS can be problematic, but without the courageous tenacity of bloggers across the internet raising the issues, Mark Driscoll would not have taken the very necessary and welcome step that he has.  So I’m not going to apologise for adding the OPINIONS in the public space and as I would suggest that his denigration of the “court of public opinion” is a tactic to silence the hurting, and as a book we Christians honour states, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

 

I have recently begun working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. I am facilitating a Respect accredited programme with men who have chosen to be violent and abusive to their partners.  And if there is one thing that perpetrators are “gifted” in, it is avoiding responsibility and manipulating people’s views of them.  I would suggest that some of what we see in Mark’s announcement uses those same tactics, whether intentionally or not, whether orchestrated by a PR plan or by the man himself.  I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting Mark is perpetrator of domestic abuse, but that his words and actions mirror those of abusers.

 

During the announcement Mark was emotional, at points he seemed very close to tears. It is interesting to note that domestic abuse perpetrators who visibly show remorse change at about the same rate as those who don’t.  In our wider context of power based masculinity, men crying, or being close to tears brings out a specific response for many.  That act of vulnerability in a society that states the only appropriate emotions for men are humour and anger can change perceptions of an offender in an instant.  I’m not for one minute suggesting they were “crocodile tears” but that we must be careful to not equate an emotionally remorseful delivery as a litmus test for repentance.

 

This is my translation of some parts of the announcement:

 

“When a small group of us started what would become Mars Hill Church in 1996, we could not have dreamed it would be what it is today. Thousands upon thousands of people have become Christians as the gospel of Jesus Christ has proven powerful over and over. Every day, it seems, I hear of someone whose life has been transformed by the power of the Word of God taught in this place and modeled by so many who call this their church home.”

I’m going to start by reminding you of all the 1000s of people my ministry has saved from hell, so that when I get to my bad choices, we’re all feeling that is insignificant compared to all the people I have helped. So many people’s lives have been transformed by my teaching of God’s Word and you all living out my teaching.

 

“Today, we are blessed with lead pastors who love Jesus and the people He gave His life for. These men faithfully serve the Mars Hill family.”

Though there are 21 ex-leaders of the our church who are publically stating that I have behaved in horrendous ways and were either sacked or left due to their strong convictions, the current leaders are supportive of me.

 

“While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good.”

I am a 43 year old grown up, but I am going to describe myself as “young” in order to suggest that my young-ness mitigates the bad choices I have made. I would also like to remind you that I have done good things and not actually say that I have done bad things, but just things that are “not so good”.

 

“I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for.”

I would like to remind you all of the powerful man I am and the many successes I have had in my career so far, but that I also want you to know that I am humble local church pastor, even though I have intentionally and ruthlessly built a large megachurch over the last 18 or so years.”

 

“It is because of my deep love for the local church in general, and Mars Hill Church in particular, that it grieves me to see anything come against it or threaten to harm it. It also grieves me greatly when something I say or do results in controversy and publicity none of you signed up for when you decided to be a part of this church family.”

I get upset when my choices, actions and words result in people challenging me. I am so totally uninterested in the people I have hurt that I’m not even going to mention their hurt in my announcement.  I don’t want to accept the consequences of my actions as the leader of a large church which I am paid large amounts of money to lead and rather than say this, I am going to make it about the peripheral hurt of the church family, which I am actually responsible for not those who have challenged me.

 

“Over the years, as I have grown and as the Lord has been molding and pruning me, I have, on many occasions, shared with you some of the lessons I’ve been learning. Some of these have been painful, and some I’ve been slow to learn. I’ve acknowledged and confessed many of my sins, shortcomings and missteps, and God has been more than faithful with His forgiveness. Most of our Mars Hill family has been forgiving as well, and for that I’m grateful and blessed. By God’s grace, I want to always be humble and teachable.”

I would like to remind you all of the times I have said sorry for what I did over the years. The fact that at no point have I actually changed my behaviour is something I’m going to try and ensure you don’t think about by making it all about the ways I’ve learned.  I’d like to also remind you that before God I am forgiven.  Rather than mention how much I appreciate and value all those who have tried to stop it coming to this point, I’m going to validate all those who collude with my behaviours by honouring those who keep forgiving me.  Although I have proven that over the last 18 years of ministry that I am not willing to be taught and am not humble, I am going to say that I am both of those things.

 

“A central theme in my personal walk with Jesus in recent times has been to follow the Apostle Paul’s charge to Believers in Romans 12:8: If possible, so far is it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip or anything else not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and I am deeply sorry for the times I have not done my part to living peaceably with all men.”

By quoting Scripture I can reduce my ongoing hurtful behaviour to the term “not living peaceably with all men”. I am going to use the term “my part” so as to suggest that it is not all my fault, but that it is a reciprocal thing where both I and every other person involved are partly to blame for the hurt I have caused.

 

“I want to thank those who have come directly to an Elder, lead pastor or me to tell us of an offense they are carrying. This allows us to deal with it head-on between the two affected parties, rather than in a court of public opinion and public media. I believe God is honored by this approach—the approach He prescribed for us in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures.”

All those who have used public spaces to challenge me are wrong and dishonour God and only those who have come to me and the leadership of the church are right and honour God. I am going to use the term “offense they are carrying” so as to avoid saying that I had hurt people.  The fact that when people tried to come to me I refused to listen, sacking them, threatening them and destroying their lives and livelihoods is of absolutely no relevance.  God is not honoured by anyone who publically holds me to account.  I am going to mention the first bit of Matthew 18 where Jesus tells us to approach other Christians who we have been hurt by, but I am going to conveniently ignore the bit Jesus says that’s someone who fails to listen should be treated like a non-believer.

 

“Others have chosen to air their grievances with me or this church in a more public forum. As is often the case, some of what is said it true, some is partly true, and some is completely untrue. Lately, the number of accusations, combined with their public nature, makes it much more difficult to know how to respond appropriately. Indeed, many times we have chosen not to respond at all, which probably raises even more questions in some people’s minds, and I understand that.”

I am going to use the term “air their grievances” rather than talk about people being hurt. I am going to talk about truth, half-truths and lies without distinguishing between them so that I subtly cast aspersions on all that everyone has accused me of.  I am going to talk about “the number of accusations” increasing which makes the issues external to me, rather than about my own choices and hurtful actions.  I am going to reinforce my criticism of people holding me to account publically, but will use it neutral language like “public nature” to hide that.  I am going to mention that we haven’t addressed the issues, acknowledge that is problematic but continue doing it.

 

“In other cases, some have publicly brought up issues that were long ago addressed and resolved, adding to the understandable confusion many of you may be experiencing recently. For example, nearly 15 years ago I wrote some things on a Mars Hill discussion board on our website using a pseudonym. I quickly realized what I wrote and how I did it was wrong. We removed the entire section of the website a few months later and I addressed it publicly in a book I wrote six years later—calling it what it was: wrong.”

The only accusation I am going to address during my announcement is the one that relates to historical actions. I am going to manipulate the facts to suggest that a book I wrote six years later dealt with what I had done, when in actual fact, that book mentioned that I thought it was funny how I had a man turn up at my house to challenge me; that I talk of things “going crazy”.  I’m not going to mention that at no point in the book do I actually own or apologise for my misogynistic, homophobic behaviours and attitudes.  I am also not going to mention that for the past almost 15 years I have continued to use similar language and ideology in my preaching and writing.  I am going to use language that distances me from my actions by saying “what I wrote and how I did it was wrong” rather than saying “I was wrong and I have hurt people”.

 

“I have taken full responsibility for those actions and will forever be ashamed by what I did, even as a 29 year-old preacher. What I did in this case back in 2000 is indefensible. It is also forgiven; and thank God, I’m not the man I was back then. I have learned hard lessons from this situation, as I have from other situations where I have done wrong things and God has had to deal with me.”

I am going to talk of taking full responsibility for something while still using language that distances me from my choices and actions. When talking about what I did I will mention the age I was in order to justify it as related to being young (like I did earlier in my announcement).  Although at 29 years old I had been an adult for over ten years, I will suggest my age made me immature, though I was a married father entrusted with the leadership of a church.   I will remind everyone that this happened in 2000, keeping people focused on the historical accusations and not the current ones. I will talk about learning hard lessons which will allow me to suggest I have changed, when the way I have behaved and the choices I have made since then have continued to hurt many people.

 

“Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church. (In fact, it would not be healthy for any church.)”

I will again talk about the consequences of my actions using language which distances me from any responsibility by talking of what “storm clouds seems to be” doing. I will talk of how unhealthy this would be and subtly place myself as a victim.  I will then restart talking of Mars Hill Church as the main victim of the issues, keeping my audience feeling like they are the centre of this and their interests and hurts are cared about while continuing to completely ignore the hurt and pain of the people I have hurt throughout my ministry.

 

“Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am sorry for. In recent years, I have sought to apologize to people I have knowingly offended in any way. I’m grateful that God has honored many of these encounters and granted true reconciliation and restoration.”

I will start addressing criticisms by saying that some have been unfair. I will not use language which states that my critics are right, but will instead say “I am deserving of” some criticisms.  This sounds like I’m taking responsibility, but subtly avoids doing so.  I will use the term “past actions” to suggest that this isn’t related to my ongoing behaviour, thereby subtly connecting it to my previous comments on my actions in 2000.  I talk of seeking to apologise to people even though those who have been hurt report being shunned and destroyed by me.  I will talk about God honouring these encounters without specifics.

 

“But I’m particularly sorry that any of my past actions or decisions have brought distraction to the mission of Mars Hill Church, and therefore, to those who call this their church home. Part of this is no doubt a function of the media age we live in—anyone can write anything, anywhere, anytime. As a public figure, I recognize and accept this, even if I don’t like it; for this is one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in a media age—the same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the globe can also be used by anyone around the globe to criticize, attack or slander.”

The first time that I start a sentence with “I am sorry” it is related to the impact on the church community which yet again reinforces to the audience that their feelings are validated, but the actual victims of my offences are not mentioned. I make my sorry focused on the mission of Mars Hill, reminding everyone that is the priority, not the reality of the people who have been hurt.  I will then yet again criticise people who have publically challenged me and place myself as the victim by talking of myself as a “public figure”.  This makes the situation more about my position than my choices and actions.  That I have used media channels to criticise and attack is irrelevant, and I will suggest my detractors are “criticizing, attacking and slandering” without actually stating that is what those who challenge me are doing.

 

“However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent I have any control over it.”

After spending time being negative about my detractors I will now talk about my fault. Yet I won’t take responsibility for any of it, I will just accept partial fault, which essentially means the other people involved are also at fault.  Essentially I am blaming everyone else while using the language of responsibility.  I will talk of God redeeming me to remind everyone that God is okay with me, having previously inferred that others have dishonoured God by challenging me.  I will use the term “avoid such conflict” which essentially distances me from fault and focuses the issues as conflict based rather than founded in power and abuse.

 

“There is a well-documented list of past actions and decisions I have admitted were wrong, sought forgiveness, and apologized for to those I hurt or offended. I will not review them here, as it is my prayer we can, together as a church, move on as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13—But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

I will talk about admitting I am wrong when what I have done previously is apologise but continue to do the same things over and over. I quote Philippians and use the word “forget”; this infers that forgetting is the option for the church community.  That forgiveness and forgetting are not in any way related and that forgetting is impossible when we have been hurt badly is something I want to avoid people being aware of.

 

“These are serious times we are living in and people all around us are dying every hour without Jesus. It is this reality that drives me and motivates me to keep learning God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to His people so that together, we can continue to reach people with the saving grace and love and mercy of Jesus. I hope that regardless of whatever else is swirling around us, we never lose this perspective on why Mars Hill exists in the first place – Jesus loves people and people need Jesus.”

I will now spend time explaining how people’s souls are at risk of burning in hell and that in comparison these issues that have been raised are really not a big deal. I will talk about my purpose and call and will talk of the current issues that have resulted from my actions and choices as “swirling around us” yet again distancing myself from being the instigator of the issues.

 

“I realize the vast majority of you just want to come to church and hear God’s Word taught. You want to feed your families spiritually just as you feed them physically, and Mars Hill should be a safe place to do just that. As your pastor, I want that for you more than anything. All of our lead pastors want that for those under their care as well.”

I will keep the audience supportive of me by yet again talking about them as the primary victims in the situation. I will talk about the consequences of my choices and actions in a way that acknowledges the struggles of people are going through without taking responsibility for them.

 

“I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.”

I will not mention that one of the accusations against me relate to changing the bylaws of the church to make it very difficult for the church to hold me to account. I will talk of inviting the process even though it has taken enormous public pressure to essentially force me to take action.  Book shops are withdrawing my books from sale, I am being removed from church networks and others and although there have been issues throughout my entire ministry, I have shut down all criticism to the point of changing church bylaws and sacking employees, yet I will state that this is a process that I have invited.  I will again reinforce that challenging me publically is wrong.  I mention that a report will be presented, but I haven’t mentioned who that report will be presented to, and I have called it a “report on the process” not inferring whether the outcomes will be made public.

 

As a general rule, I will respond to little if any criticism of me in the media, on social media, blogs, open letters, etc. Conducting church business and biblical conflict resolution through media channels is not healthy and is more likely to prove unproductive at best, and destructive and dishonoring to the Lord at worst.

I will now categorically state that media channels are unproductive, destructive and dishonouring to God. That without these media channels I would be able to continue behaving in hurtful and damaging ways without any accountability or negative consequences.  This places anyone who comments publically about what I have said as unproductive, destructive and dishonouring God.  The hurt I have caused people should be compounded further by me attempting to silence and denigrate their attempts to heal.

 

“I have asked our Board of Advisors and Accountability to strengthen our board by adding members to it, and they are in the process of doing so with local members being our first choice.”

We will strengthen the board of advisors and accountability by inviting people who are still in the church and have stood by me throughout all that I have done. Anyone who has had the courage to challenge me has talked of how they were sacked or abused by me.  By saying this I yet again focus on my audience, enabling them to feel they are being given power to change things and trusted with that.

 

“I have agreed to postpone the publication of my next book until a future season, to be determined.”

Bookshops have removed my books from sale and due to the current climate I would probably not sell many books if I did publish my book, plus I am no longer able to pay a PR company to unethically get my books onto bestseller lists.

 

“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men. I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing.”

I will talk of meeting with a professional team of mature Christians but will not mention any of their names. The fact I haven’t taken an extended break in 18 years will be used as an opportunity to be applauded for my commitment rather than concern that I have not had a healthy work life balance.

 

“As I look forward to the future—and I do look forward to it—I believe the Lord has shown me I am to do two things with the rest of my life: love my family, and teach the Bible. I deeply love my family and our church family and am seeking the Lord for how to have a godly and loving future that is not just sustainable but fruitful.”

I will now talk about my family which reminds everyone I am a human being with good priorities. I will establish that I plan to continue teaching the Bible for the rest of my life which suggests I will continue be seeking to influence and lead people.

 

“Finally, I want to say to our Mars Hill family—past and present, I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for the times I have been angry, short, or insensitive. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”

Having spent over 15 minutes talking I will finally say that I am sorry, not to those I have direct hurt, but to my church family. I talk about inviting criticism rather than behaving abusively and focus on the actions of the commentators rather than my own actions.

 

“God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day. The gospel is powerfully at work in me, your pastor, thanks to the faithfulness of our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ, and the best thing for us each to do is look to Him and point others to Him. Thank you Mars Hill. I love you.”

I talk of “falling short” and doing things “I am not very proud of” yet still do not quantify that in terms of identifying what I have actually done. I make this last section about what God is doing in me and still do not mention anything about the people I have damaged who are no longer in Mars Hill church.  After this I am given a standing ovation by the church and my wife and children all come onto the platform to embrace me.  This reminds the audience that there are children involved in any decisions made about me.  The image of them embracing me will be used on the Mars Hill website alongside my statement.

Are Mars Hill Church elders elders in name only?

Puppet 2

The ruthless firing and unfair trial of Paul Petry, which in 2007 was used to bully and coerce twenty two shocked and mostly young elders into passing new bylaws without due process, is the most clear example of the current charge of bullying that has been brought against Mark Driscoll by twenty one former elders, along with an additional twenty one unidentified elders that will testify as witnesses as needed (link).

This act of bullying, and the resultant bylaws, ushered in the current era of Mars Hill Church governance whereby Mark Driscoll’s own elders cannot hold him to account. In fact, subsequent “rules” call for an elder to submit a letter of resignation before he can even bring charges against Mark Driscoll.

Mark Driscoll, prior to the bullying in of new bylaws, taught that the elders were men who had equal authority in the church. These elders were men who went through a rigorous evaluation, including the fact that they managed their own household well. This is a biblical standard as well as one called for in the bylaws of Mars Hill Church:

1 Tim 3:4 and 5:  He must manage his own family well and have children who are submissive and respectful in every way. For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?

Elders are to take care of the church, and that care is similar to managing one’s household. This implies that the elder has the authority to carry out such management or care.  Some elders rule better than others, and the ones that rule well are worthy of double honor.

Elders rule.

So how on earth do the men who are called elders under the current by-laws actually rule? The current bylaws do not allow the office of elder to rule the church, even though this is what Mars Hill Church was taught, and is implied, even recently by Mark Driscoll in his statement made on Sunday, August 24, 2014.

Driscoll made a point that the bylaws which spell out the process for dealing with his discipline were approved by the entire eldership:

I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me (link) (emphasis added).

If Driscoll was talking about the 2007 bylaws, then he is not telling the truth. The Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) did not exist under the bylaws that were passed by his bullying in 2007. After the 2007 bylaws were changed, subsequent bylaws did not need the elders’ vote in order to be changed.

In fact, the bylaws that were passed that included the BOAA are mentioned in the charges brought by the twenty one former elders. Here is the 7th charge they brought against Mark Driscoll:

7 . May 8, 2012—In a meeting of the Full Council convened to vote on the slate of nominees for the new board of advisors and accountability, Mark was explaining to the elders that under the newly revised bylaws, the Full Council would have the right to review any changes by the board. One elder corrected Mark with his own understanding that the new bylaws, in fact, allow the board to make decisions without running it by the Full Council. Mark’s response to that elder was bullying, with some elders present recalling language to the effect of: “I don’t give a sh-t what you think. I’m trying to be nice to you guys by asking your opinion. In reality, we don’t need your vote to make this decision. This is what we’re doing…”  (link)

As the reader can see, Mark Driscoll did not need or ask for the bylaws that created the BOAA to be voted upon by the full council of elders. Driscoll not only did not need them, but he rubbed this fact in the face of his elders. Driscoll simply did not “give a sh-t” about their opinion. This is the charge against him – for crying out loud!

What Mark Driscoll was really doing was showing the church (and the current men who are elders in name only) that the bylaws that neutered the elders in 2007 were passed overwhelmingly by the then twenty two elders in 2007. Many of them are among those that have now brought charges against Driscoll. He was not referring to the bylaws that set forth the process of dealing with the current charges.

This shows that Mark Driscoll sees the significance of that 2007 vote. Almost any observer of the current mess traces it back to that vote. Even The Stranger has correctly noted that the bylaw changes of 2007 are at the root of the current problems (link).

Almost every time Driscoll speaks, he reinforces the “need” for the change in the bylaws that occurred in 2007. Over the years he has told different stories as to what motivated the change, the last being that he did it for his wife, Grace (link). Perhaps some other blogger can go through the multiple reasons given over the years.

At the end of the day, Mark Driscoll may apologize and say he is sorry, for this and that, but he will not repent of bullying the 2007 bylaws into place.These bylaws removed his accountability to the elders of the church. His bullying included harming, shaming, shunning and slandering Paul Petry. Yet Driscoll will not repent of that act. By repenting he would have to admit that the entire bullying episode occurred so that he could change the bylaws without due process.

The bylaws that were put in place in 2007 are illegitimate because they were passed only because of the bullying tactics of Mark Driscoll and then lead Pastor Jamie Munson.  Due process was thrown out the window. A future post will go through this in more detail.

Asking the elders to vote-- 20 out 24 were highly paid eldersAsking elders to vote after firing two elders for merely questioning

Suffice it to say that under the current bylaws there are men who are called elders, yet these “elders” have no ability to rule the church as elders.

However, this does not mean that they are not elders in the biblical sense. They have been called by God to be elders, and have passed the test of character that the bylaws call for. All they lack is the ability (if the bylaws are legitimate) to actually function elders. They cannot manage the church as they manage their homes.

But they are elders.

They should rise up and fulfil the role that God has called them to, and declare the 2007 bylaws that were passed through bullying and coercion to be unlawful and therefore unenforceable. They need to conduct their eldership duties under the bylaws that preceded the 2007 bylaws as they were properly and lawfully deliberated and voted upon without duress and bullying tactics.

The charges against Mark Driscoll should be reviewed and adjudicated by the elders of the church as per the legitimate bylaws. The current bylaws, which call for the lead pastor to be tried by a hand-picked sham of a board, which cannot be impartial, should be repealed.

While this is clear to almost everyone, even secular journalists, the question is whether this is clear to the current men of character who have answered the call to manage the church.

Or are these men elders in name only?

Where are the “Real Men” at Mars Hill Church?

Real Men

Mark Driscoll and Acts 29 are reputed to teach men to stand up and be men. One of the recent conferences to give Mark Driscoll the boot was a conference aptly called “Act Like Men”. Who better, in their opinion, to have as a featured speaker than the “dude of dudes”, Pastor Mark Driscoll?

Listen to the call… (link)

Mark Driscoll has been removed as a speaker. The remaining men that will encourage men to “Act Like Men” include “manly men” like the current leader of Acts 29, Matt Chandler, and recently departed Mars Hill Church “Board of Advisors and Accountability” (BOAA) member, James McDonald. These real men both have strong historic ties to Mars Hill Church.

Both have distanced themselves from Mars Hill Church in the last week or two.

Matt Chandler, who, along with the Acts 29 board, has known for years about the abuse and sinful behavior of the leadership of Mars Hill Church, has finally developed enough of a backbone to stand up, “act like a man” and be counted.

About 105 men, all called to be “elders/pastors” at Mars Hill Church (45 left recently and 60 are still elders) all are well aware of the abusive practices and sins that have hurt so many at Mars Hill Church. What are these “manly men” doing? Except for a handful, they are failing to speak out against the abuse. They remain silent. They fail to “act like men.” Real men anyway.

Now comes the Mars Hill BOAA, forced to deal with the reality that Acts 29 has finally taken action. The BOAA now admits that there have been “unhealthy culture issues” that have been a part of Mars Hill Church for “way too long”.

Given this knowledge, what are the “manly men” on the Board of Advisors and Accountability doing? These strong men, who are speaking at conferences instructing how men can learn to “Act Like Men” slink off and fail to stand up and address the abuses that they are well aware of.

The manly James McDonald is gone. No words to correct the unhealthy culture that he has known about. Just an excuse and a solid affirmation that the leadership that caused the pain to be “exemplary in …. current readiness”.  He said he was staying on the board until his replacement could be found. Yet the response to Acts 29 only listed Michael Van Skaik and Larry Osborne on the BOAA. McDonald is gone (link). And the BOAA response fails to address the wounded. It chides Acts 29 for failing to speak to Osborne first.

Paul Tripp, another “manly man” (so we are led to believe), is gone. Tripp resigned from the BOAA sometime before we all found out about it.  Tripp publically admitted that the BOAA cannot do what it is designed to do (thank you….. seems like the whole world sees that except for the remaining members of the BOAA) but he has failed to address the fact the culture within Mars Hill Church has been unhealthy for years.

Matt Chandler and the board of Acts 29 knew of significant abuse within Mars Hill Church for years, yet only after Ron Wheeler wrote his letter (link) and the disgusting comments by Driscoll written under a false name on the church’s formerly public online forum were published, did Acts 29 finally do what they should have done years ago. Rather than speaking out years ago to protect the sheep, they were seemingly moved (thank God) to at least protect themselves.

Which brings me back to the question of the 105 elders and former elders that are or have been leaders in the most ”manly” church in the nation. How come they cannot be men when it counts? Are they going to follow the example of Acts 29, and not speak out for years to come? Will they continue waiting until association is so repugnant that they are forced to speak out?

Or will they stand up and be the real men that they claim to be?

Are there any men left at Mars Hill Church?

Real Man