Mark Driscoll deserves a fair trial. Those who have accused Mark Driscoll deserve a fair trial. The members of Mars Hlll Church deserve a fair trial.
Sadly, a fair trial for Mark Driscoll is not likely. There is no impartiality, and the jury will not hear from the witnesses themselves.
If you do not like the term “trial”, let me say that Mark Driscoll will not have the charges against him deliberated fairly.
Exacty seven years and seven days ago, before the lynching of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer in 2007, I implored the “elders” at the time for a fair trial for the men. I had no idea whether the two men were guilty of the charges against them, but I was certain that unless they received a fair trial, the verdict would haunt Mars Hill Church for years. Such has been the case (link).
I argued, in 2007, that the trial must be impartial, and that the evidence must be fairly heard by the jury directly from the witnesses. Sadly, it appears that neither will be true as the supposedly “independent” members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) adjudicate the charges against Mark Driscoll.
In the case of Paul Petry, the failure to have a fair hearing harmed him, and sadly harmed the verdict and in the long run it harmed the church. Its impact is as fresh today as it was seven years ago. At Paul Petry’s trial it was not in Mars Driscoll’s interest to conduct a fair trial.
In the case of the current charges against Mark Driscoll, exactly seven years after the trial of Paul Petry, an unfair hearing or trial will hurt the accusers, and of course, hurt the verdict.
A verdict from an unfair trial simply does not stick. If the verdict cannot be trusted, it will further harm the already beleaguered members of Mars Hill Church. The reputation of the BOAA will sink even lower than it is at present, and more members will leave the church discouraged and disillusioned.
While it seems obvious to anyone who desires to truthfully adjudicate accusations against anyone, let me go through why those deciding the matter must be impartial, and why the testimony of the witnesses is critical.
The people who are going to adjudicate the charges must be impartial. This is not only common sense, but also required by one of the most impassioned instructions from the Apostle Paul to Timothy when giving instructions regarding how to deal with charges against an elder.
Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. (1 Timothy 5:19-21)
If you are the largest donor to Mars Hill Church (by far) and have invested millions of dollars helping brand Mark Driscoll, helped him brand “Reverse Engineering,” and your contributions have been a significant part in developing his ministry, then you cannot be impartial in your judgment. A man of integrity would simply have to recuse himself.
If you were involved on the board of a company hired to coach Mars Hill elders over a period of years for fees that accumulatively added up to several hundred thousand dollars, then you cannot be impartial. A man of integrity would simply have to recuse himself.
If you have been accused of misleading (lying) and failing to be transparent to the church members, or if you have cleared earlier charges against Mark Driscoll without a thorough investigation and have shown a continued unwillingness to take previous charges seriously, you cannot be impartial. A man of integrity would simply have to recuse himself.
If you have accused those bringing charges against Mark Driscoll of slandering and falsely accusing “good men,” then you are demonstrating that you have made your mind up already. You cannot be impartial. A man of integrity would simply have to recuse himself.
I could go on, but it is clear that only one man on the BOAA can actually be impartial in adjudicating the charges against Mark Driscoll, and that appears to be Larry Osborne. But the total lack of transparency, the secret behind-the-scenes meetings and financial arrangements, leave even Osborne’s objectivity open to question. There must not be even a hint of impropriety. A man of integrity would have to recuse himself.
In processing charges, hearsay is not credible. The bible calls for witnesses, and their testimony must be heard. A fair process will go out of its way to hear from any witness in person. This allows the accused and the accusers the opportunity to question the witness. This allows the testimony the witness brings to be tested and to be put into context.
Paul Petry was charged with discussing the proposed bylaws of 2007 with a member. Apparently sharing proposed new bylaws with a member is a sin. I happened to be member that Paul Petry shared the document with. He wanted to review the section regarding the discipline of a member. The proposed bylaws gave the members no rights, and Paul wanted my opinion on proposals to the bylaws – namely to propose an appeals process for any church member who may have been treated unfairly or falsely accused. No such process existed at the time. After discussing the matter, Paul proposed changes that I had suggested (link – see page 13).
Despite asking to appear at the trial as a witness by asking the members of the Elder Investigation Team, I was not asked to appear as a witness. They knew that Paul had talked to me, but they never questioned me other than to ask if Paul talked to me. I implored one of the members, Dave Kraft, to allow me to speak for myself and to allow cross-examination of my testimony. This request was denied, and Paul was found guilty of sharing the proposed bylaws with me.
Mark Driscoll set up the hearsay. According to two elders that were at the trial, Driscoll said “Rob Smith is the biggest trouble maker in the history of the church!” he told the elders and others Driscoll had stacked the gallery with at Paul’s trial. “Did you know that he has been kicked out of 4 churches before?”
Neither statement by Driscoll was true. I was a deacon and had been approved to be an elder. The rest of the elders-to-be that were being processed at the time were at the trial. But what Mark Driscoll said was hearsay, and had I been at the trial I would have borne witness to the truth. I have never been thrown out of a church, and I would have challenged the charge that I was a trouble maker.
Furthermore, I had already seen the bylaws prior to my visit from Paul Petry. They were left on a side table in the office of one of the other elders earlier in the week when I had discussed an unrelated matter with that elder. Had I been a witness, the truth would have been clear, and the accuser, Mark Driscoll, would have been shown to have been untruthful.
If the process of adjudicating the numerous charges against Mark Driscoll is adjudicated by the current members of the BOAA, there will be no impartiality.
If the current process does not allow witnesses to appear before the BOAA in person, there will be hearsay.
The verdict will be invalid. It simply will not stand. Whether Mark Driscoll’s sins do or do not disqualify him to be an elder, no one will take the verdict seriously. And, like the previous show trials of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, the lack of due process and biblical safeguards will lead to a result that will carry unforeseen consequences that will haunt the church for years.