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?

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2 thoughts on “Are Mars Hill Church elders elders in name only?

  1. Pingback: Mark Driscoll Stepping Down for 6 Weeks While Charges Investigated | Spiritual Sounding Board

  2. Once again a great parallel to the church we were tossed out of – for pointing out problems and asking questions. I so appreciate the scriptural basis for elders who “manage.” The same governance changes were made at our former church. Elders are no longer “managers” – that privilege goes to the senior pastor, his brother, the business manager and one or two others who are hand-selected. The “elders” have no say and no idea what is going on at the managerial level. Their role is to talk to people before baptisms, membership, etc. I do believe the senior pastor of our former church has more wisdom than Mark Driscoll. He has other people play the “bad guy” or bully so that he is always seen as a kind and loving “shepherd.” He will do everything he can to make himself appear innocent – often declaring that he doesn’t “make all the decisions around here.” Of course he doesn’t. His cronies have to agree to the bullying that he has them carry out. If Mark had other people play the bad guy and had simply stood back and “allowed” it, he wouldn’t be in this position.

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