A change.org appeal to the ECFA to remove its approval of Mars Hill Church.

GlobaL Fund 3

Join this Change.org petition to ECFA.

WE APPEAL TO THE ECFA to suspend its approval of the Financial Accountability and Transparency of Mars Hill Church.

Despite scandal after scandal, and repeated calls from Mars Hill elders, ex-elders, members and ex-members for transparency, Mars Hill Church refuses to open its books to answer questions raised by both members and donors.

Recently it seems that every month more evidence of financial deception is revealed, yet the ECFA continues to certify to donors that Mars Hill Church has met the ECFA requirements of transparency and accountability.

IN THE LIGHT OF of the calculated deception revealed in the appeal for donors to give to the Mars Hill Global Fund, renamed Mars Hill Global, and more recently Mars Hill Go, the fact that donors gave over $10 million for purposes that were deceptively pitched, leading donors to believe that the monies would be spent on oversees missions, especially in Ethiopia and India,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF the admission by Mars Hill Church that the preponderance of the money raised was simply added to the General Fund and used in the US,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF the memo where Mars Hill Church senior leadership laid out the intent and methodology to deceive donors, a memo with clear instruction to be vague about the exact amount of monies that were going to foreign missions, and clearly laying out that the amount needed to be merely a token amount not to exceed a relatively small amount in relation to the total monies projected to be raised (less than 5%) so as to deceive donors and potential member churches or placate critics,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF over 50 former elders calling for the leadership of Mars Hill Church to repent of failing to be transparent in its financial dealings,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF the dishonest and changing statements of Mars Hill Church regarding the Global Fund, impacting 6,000 donors, and regarding use of $210,000 of donor money to purchase 11,000 copies of Mark Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage” at retail price to deceptively manipulate the New York Times Bestseller list into believing that the book was in fact a bestseller,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF many other scandals, including the rumored exorbitant salaries of the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church, a million-dollar home being paid for in cash, substantial remodeling of the home being paid for in cash, and other scandals that keep circulating due to the lack of financial transparency and accountability,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF the massive turnover of elders, including over 60 in the last 24 months, as well as the resignation of Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) member Paul Tripp, who called Mars Hill Church “the most abusive and coercive church” he has “ever worked with”, along with the resignation of James MacDonald from the BOAA,

AND IN THE LIGHT OF 30 elders filing formal charges against Mark Driscoll along with an additional 21 elders willing to testify to corroborate those charges,

WE THEREFORE APPEAL TO THE ECFA to suspend its approval of the Financial Accountability and Transparency of Mars Hill Church.

Where is the credibility of ECFA?

 

no credibility

Will the ECFA* have any credibility left after staunchly standing by Mars Hill Church?

What are open and transparent ministries that pay the ECFA for its stamp of approval thinking as they see the ECFA continue to declare to donors that Mars Hill Church meets the transparency and accountability standards that ECFA supposedly requires?

What sort of financial scandal has to become public before the ECFA decides that it will no longer give its once esteemed stamp of approval to Mars Hill Church?

How is it possible that the Mars Hill Global Fund deception has been clear and obvious to many church members, ex-members, news reporters and bloggers, yet not to the ECFA? This includes the hasty repackaging of the Global Fund by MH leadership stating that the Global Fund was never a fund that was intended to fund overseas mission work in places like Ethiopia and India, but rather a fund that could be used for any purpose that the top leadership at Mars Hill Church desires, including the general fund.

The recently leaked memo about the Global Fund confirms the intent to deceive and withhold information from donors. Subsequent supportive figures and statements from the church demonstrate that church leaders intended to raise monies using the sympathetic African backdrop implying where the money would go – yet spent it locally, not on overseas missions as implied. It begs the question: is this sort of blatant deception and “cooking of books” enough for the ECFA to realize that its stamp of approval should be removed?

The 2012 and 2013 financial statements and the open admission by church leadership confirm that a preponderance of the money raised was spent in the US for local expenditures. The memo confirms the blatant intent to deceive donors. The memo reveals a calculated scheme by church leadership to “pull the wool over the eyes” of donors, as well as other churches considering joining the Mars Hill franchise, by using a trifling percentage of funds raised to be spent on the appearance of supporting overseas mission work.

The memo proposed limiting the amount earmarked for overseas missions to about $10k per month to buy the silence of critics (which is a pittance, a mere five percent or less of what was raised), and then using the lion’s share of the funds for whatever domestic spending church leadership desires – in effect co-mingling the Global Fund with the general fund to pay for salaries, real estate acquisition, etc. Yet the ECFA stands by its approval of Mars Hill Church.

In the light of this latest revelation of financial shenanigans at Mars Hill Church, will the ECFA choose to keep its stamp of blessing on the church, like it did despite knowing of the deception by church leadership using $210,000 of church funds to hire a company to “game” the system and buy books in a manner intended to deceive the New York Times bestseller list?  And, as that deception worked, deceive the public that Mark Driscoll was in fact an author that deserved to be listed among that elite number?

Add to that the plagiarism found in several of Mark Driscoll’s books, which of course is deceiving readers that the uncited work was the work of the author. And add to that the refusal to open up the books of the church to members, thus keeping hidden the allegedly exorbitant compensation packages of the Executive Elders or the exact amount of the overseas mission expenditures of the Global Fund.

The so-called Global Fund raised over $10million. Repeated pleas to donors were made via 20 or more videos utilizing backdrops of impoverished Ethiopian villages.  Church members were repeatedly solicited both online and from the pulpit to give over and above their tithes to help build churches globally. When it was discovered that hardly any of the money actually was spent on overseas missions, Mars Hill leaders came back saying the fund was actually “international givers” as opposed to an international fund.  

Then came the hasty removal of the Global Fund videos showing Mark Driscoll asking members in Seattle to give to the fund in addition to their normal giving, as well as videos showing executive elder, Sutton Turner, standing in front of a thatched hut in Ethiopia soliciting viewers for donations to the Global Fund.

Such blatant deception.

Such calculated exploitation of poor Africans.

Such intentional suckering of donors.

Yet the ECFA still creates the deceptive illusion that there is transparency and accountability of the finances at Mars Hill Church by putting the ECFA stamp of approval on the organization. If Mars Hill Church qualifies for ECFA approval, then ECFA approval is meaningless. Every church which bears the ECFA stamp of approval becomes suspect of financial shenanigans.

What does the ECFA stand for these days? Surely their approval is losing its value. Every organization that pays its annual dues to the ECFA should start wondering if those days are numbered. If Mars Hill Church is still being approved by the ECFA, what does this tell donors who have been trusting the ECFA as they ponder where and how to be good stewards of their giving?

* Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)

All of the Mars Hill Church senior leadership need to resign!

 

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How is it possible that the senior leadership at Mars Hill has not yet resigned?

It is no wonder that Paul Tripp, James MacDonald, and now Sutton Turner have resigned from the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church.

The more the truth comes out, the more it is clear that the senior leadership, the Executive Elders in particular,  knew about and actively participated in the planned deception of donors, members, and the New York Times Bestseller list.

First, the leaked memo which revealed that elders within the church were alarmed and warned that the scheme to use church monies to purchase 11,000 copies of Mark Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage, at $20 per copy (versus a wholesale price of $7), might attract the IRS because of the personal inurement of the author, and “muckrakers” who would see through the deception and draw public attention to it.

Keep in mind that it was at this time that the author of Real Marriage was able to pay for a home costing well over a million dollars in an exclusive, upscale suburb outside of Seattle. The home is fully paid for.

Everyone now knows that the contract with Result Source was intended to deceive the New York Times Bestseller list, and therefor intended to deceive the public that Mark Driscoll is a bestselling author.

Sadly, the three explanations that were given to church members now appear even more deceptive than they were at the time they were released. One must review them in light of the recently leaked internal memo warning the senior leadership of the shenanigans.

Second, the recently leaked memo that laid out the scheme to use global backdrops to trick donors to give to global missions but used the money for local Mars Hill expenditures brought a new wave of outrage and disgust. The deception is blatant and clearly calculated. The overt strategy was to raise millions for global missions, but to actually give as little as 1.5% to 2% of the money received to actual global missions, with almost all the money going to fund business as usual in the US. The memo specifically strategizes that the amount actually spent on global mission should not be made public, and that the outlay for global missions should be about $10,000 per month – a fraction of the total take. The recent financial reports of Mars Hill Church reflect this strategy was used, with not a single dissenting voice within senior leadership to call attention to the impropriety.

This means that the 6,000 donors who gave a total of over $10 million to global missions in recent years ended up giving well over $9.5million to fund Mars Hill Church in the U.S. and hardly any money to global missions.

The wording of the memo evidences an unconscionable breach of trust and a callous intent to deceive donors. Such a violation by church leaders brings disgrace upon the church and dishonor upon the name of Christ. “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” — Romans 2:24

In the light of these deceptions, why are the senior leaders still in office?

Given the speed of which eight of the “Noble Nine” elders who recently called for accountability from the BOAA and the Executive Elders were either fired or resigned, and given the large number of elders and employees who were fired for merely questioning senior leadership, surely now that the calculated deception of the senior leadership has been well established, they should follow the lead of Paul Tripp, James MacDonald, and Sutton Turner and tender their resignations.

As Mars Hill Bellevue Pastor Thomas Hurst stated just a month ago, “In the end there are only two outcomes I will continue to partake in – seeing our church faithfully rebuilt…from the top down, or turning off the lights and locking the doors…”

Mars Hill Global (non) Fund… really…there is nowhere to run.

Global Fund Confusion

Sutton Turner and Mark Driscoll have gone from soliciting funds from Mars Hill members for the Global Fund, to now saying there has been no Global Fund since 2009, and that “Mars Hill Global” refers only to donors that are global who give to the general fund.

Mars Hill Church has raised over $10 million through solicitations to donors to the Global Fund, and yet it is estimated that less than $350k of this went to Ethiopia or India, despite Mars Hill’s media blitz that employed videos showing scenes in Ethiopia and India to solicit donations to “Mars Hill Global.” Mars Hill Church has apologized for confusing donors, yet the confusion is a result of changes in their story of the fund itself.

Mars Hill Church has admitted that the preponderance of the money was spent on local campuses and within the general fund, and not on international outreach as was made clear in Mark Driscoll’s solicitations of 2012 (see the video below).

There is no doubt that the fund has existed as a restricted fund after 2009, and there is no doubt that Mars Driscoll pitched the fund as a “beyond your tithe” gift from members of Mars Hill Church in 2012. There is no doubt that Sutton Turner did the same in late 2013/early 2014 (Link).

That both Sutton Turner and Mark Driscoll have solicited Mars Hill Members to donate to Mars Hill Global as a fund that is separate from the general fund is without question.

Now they are saying that the fund either never existed or ceased to exist years ago, and that since 2009 “Global” merely meant donors around the world who follow Mars Hill online.

Mars Hill Church leaders, rather than admitting that they solicited donations for one purpose – a Global Fund for global outreach – and then spent the preponderance of the $10m raised on another purpose, the general fund for local campus expansion and other expenses like lucrative compensation packages for themselves, choose to now say that the fund was not a fund.

As mentioned, based upon their own statements, it is likely that less than $350k has been spent on Ethiopia and India, not much more than the $210k spent on another story that kept changing, the deceptive manipulating of the sales of Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage, to secure a New York Times Bestseller spot.

Mars Hill Church leadership is determined to stick to its new line, and is removing all recent solicitations from the web to the Mars Hill Global (link).  Why are they so anxious? Are they just embarrassed at the fact that they have been caught, or are they afraid of the consequences of being caught?

Either way, they have been caught.  Rather than rushing to spin the story, it would be so refreshing (and, sadly, surprising) if they would just admit the truth and seek forgiveness. Is that not what the gospel is all about?

THE CURRENT STORY LINE:

 “During fiscal years 2009-2014, over $10M dollars has been given to Mars Hill Church by the Mars Hill global family.” (link)

“WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GLOBAL FUND?

Since 2009, we have used the term ‘Global’ to help us distinguish between donors who attend our churches and donors around the world who follow us online.”

“During fiscal years 2009-2014, over $10M dollars has been given to Mars Hill Church by the Mars Hill global family.”  (link)

(emphasis added)

YET IN 2012 THE LINE FROM MARK DRISCOLL:

Mark Driscoll: “we want to start Mars Hill Tacoma, and up and around Bothell/Kirkland…In addition, I want to tell you some things that are going on with Mars Hill Global...we’ve been working in a partnership to help plant churches in India…support 23 church planters in India…in Ethiopia…we are now funding over a dozen church planters.” [Clearly presented as something in addition to local campus plants. “In addition” – this is what the Global Fund is pitched to support] (link)
(emphasis added)

AND IN 2014 THE SAME LINE FROM SUTTON TURNER:

Sutton Turner, “We encourage you to give above and beyond your tithe, to Mars Hill Global” (link)    
(emphasis added)