Are celebrity Christian authors and their publishers good men, or are they a den of thieves?

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As we begin to see more significant signs of the moral bankruptcy of the Evangelical Industrial Complex (as Warren Cole Smith coined it in his excellent book “A Lover’s quarrel with the Evangelical Church”), we will begin to find out which players are good men who have made mistakes they regret and are willing to name and repent of, and which players are money-changers in the temple who need to be exposed for who they are.

Trying to determine whether a celebrity author, or head of an Evangelical organization, is a good Christian who has done something they wish they had not is not as difficult as one might think.  The Bible is quite clear about how we will know His disciples. Several verses come to mind. They have to do with repentance, obedience, and walking in the light. We will determine the hearts of these men and the organizations they lead by how they react to increasing exposure of the corruption that is being exposed. Those that are being defensive and using counter-attacks, especially the ad hominem attacks used so effectively by Mars Hill Church against its critics, are showing their hearts. Surely those who love Jesus and his church first, and desire that the world see a good testimony from within the church, will be quick to be transparent about their sins.

Sin happens, and those that understand the gospel are not afraid to confess it, ask for forgiveness, and walk in newness of life. The church, made up of sinners who have been forgiven, will forgive these men and their organizations, and the evangelical church will be better for it. Those who love themselves and their organizations first (and perhaps who love the money they are making through their devious shenanigans) will not quickly confess their sins. They will attack the inquirer. They will attempt to discredit the people who are asking questions or who are exposing the sin in the camp. This is what we are currently seeing as we witness more and more of the willingness of Christian publishers to violate basic moral principles in order to secure more sales. Plagiarism is excused and minimized. The world has a higher standard when it comes to dealing with plagiarism.

Sales of books are deceptively manipulated by “Christian” publishers. Everybody sees the moral failure of deceptively trying to manipulate a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. So-called Christian authors and publishers are not only lying to the New York Times, but also to the readers who believe the book is of greater value than it actually is. This is both lying and stealing. Continuing to hawk a book for years after discovering that it is based upon a fabricated story is also a violation of the eighth and ninth commandments. This is obvious to anybody. This is a new day for the Evangelical Church. Is Jesus is wondering what happened to his “House of Prayer”?  Will He clean out a den of thieves, unwilling to purge the sin out their own camps, or will he see sinful leaders rush to the cross of forgiveness and walk in the blessed freedom that confession and repentance brings? Thieves, or good men needing forgiveness? We shall see.

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ECFA President Dan Busby warns bloggers that making comments angers God.

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After Mars Hill Church members turned to the internet having exhausted all other attempts to dialog with Mars Hill Church leadership, and after Paul Tripp characterized Mars Hill Church as the “most abusive and coercive church” he had every worked with, and after numerous elders filed charges against Mark Driscoll and called for financial transparency (all in vain), guess what the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was doing?

ECFA was warning that those who criticize the church will anger God.

According to Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), blogging about your local church prevents people from getting to see God.

There is a new wild card today. Until recently, churches did not have to contend with hate websites, scathing blog posts, nasty comments on reader forums, online petitions, or spoof social media accounts. All such attacks on churches and their leaders may be based on scanty facts and occur using code names to hide true identities.

Churches are often left without any positive way to respond to incorrect perceptions—especially in the blogosphere. Attackers generally say they want more transparency, but the more information a church provides, the more it is attacked. This is as close to an unresolvable grievance in God’s work as I can imagine.

Those who make derogatory comments about churches and their leaders apparently haven’t learned what it means to anger God. Want to anger God? Get in the way of people who want to see Him. Want to anger God?”  Link

So while former elders of the church call for financial transparency, ECFA pulls out the “God will be angry at you bloggers” card. To the last day of the existence of Mars Hill Church, ECFA continued to certify the church for its integrity, accountability and transparency while former members, elders, and donors were crying out for answers that were not forthcoming because of the church’s determination to avoid transparency – the very thing that ECFA assured donors they would get.

Dan Busby seems to suggest that all internet bloggers and commenters are haters filled with nasty comments. This even though his own comments were from someone’s blog. Busby gives no indication that bloggers and commenters may have good motives and have been perhaps calling for the type of accountability that ECFA is supposed to certify.

Some of the former members of Mars Hill Church have sought to have financial questions answered, but have been thwarted on every attempt. They have tried to meet in private, only to be rebuffed. They have appealed to ECFA via private letter and via petitions, only to be rebuffed. They have appealed using the internet, not only to be rebuffed, but now warned by Dan Busby that to do so will anger God. Watch out, you pesky bloggers, God will get you!

Sadly, the last resort is to appeal to the civil court. It appears that this is the only vehicle that is left hold the leaders of Mars Hill Church accountable – something that their ECFA certification assured its members and donors of.  Given the brazen lack of accountability that Mars Hill Church leaders have portrayed, one begins to wonder who ECFA is protecting, the donor, or the defiant leaders of Mars Hill Church?

It seems that Dan Busby has gone a long way toward holding bloggers accountable, putting a heavy burden on their backs while failing to hold churches that are not transparent and who abuse their members and donors accountable. Will ECFA slowly lose its credibility, accountability and transparency in the process?

[This is same post as the last one, but with a picture that did not look like God – for our brothers and sisters who felt the other post’s depiction of an angry Moses appeared too similar to a picture of God – a potential violation of the 2nd commandment]

ECFA President Dan Busby warns bloggers that making comments angers God.

Angry God

After Mars Hill Church members turned to the internet having exhausted all other attempts to dialog with Mars Hill Church leadership, and after Paul Tripp characterized Mars Hill Church as the “most abusive and coercive church” he had every worked with, and after numerous elders filed charges against Mark Driscoll and called for financial transparency (all in vain), guess what the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was doing?

ECFA was warning that those who criticize the church will anger God.

According to Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), blogging about your local church prevents people from getting to see God.

There is a new wild card today. Until recently, churches did not have to contend with hate websites, scathing blog posts, nasty comments on reader forums, online petitions, or spoof social media accounts. All such attacks on churches and their leaders may be based on scanty facts and occur using code names to hide true identities.

Churches are often left without any positive way to respond to incorrect perceptions—especially in the blogosphere. Attackers generally say they want more transparency, but the more information a church provides, the more it is attacked. This is as close to an unresolvable grievance in God’s work as I can imagine.

Those who make derogatory comments about churches and their leaders apparently haven’t learned what it means to anger God. Want to anger God? Get in the way of people who want to see Him. Want to anger God?”  Link

So while former elders of the church call for financial transparency, ECFA pulls out the “God will be angry at you bloggers” card. To the last day of the existence of Mars Hill Church, ECFA continued to certify the church for its integrity, accountability and transparency while former members, elders, and donors were crying out for answers that were not forthcoming because of the church’s determination to avoid transparency – the very thing that ECFA assured donors they would get.

Dan Busby seems to suggest that all internet bloggers and commenters are haters filled with nasty comments. This even though his own comments were from someone’s blog. Busby gives no indication that bloggers and commenters may have good motives and have been perhaps calling for the type of accountability that ECFA is supposed to certify.

Some of the former members of Mars Hill Church have sought to have financial questions answered, but have been thwarted on every attempt. They have tried to meet in private, only to be rebuffed. They have appealed to ECFA via private letter and via petitions, only to be rebuffed. They have appealed using the internet, not only to be rebuffed, but now warned by Dan Busby that to do so will anger God. Watch out, you pesky bloggers, God will get you!

Sadly, the last resort is to appeal to the civil court. It appears that this is the only vehicle that is left hold the leaders of Mars Hill Church accountable – something that their ECFA certification assured its members and donors of.  Given the brazen lack of accountability that Mars Hill Church leaders have portrayed, one begins to wonder who ECFA is protecting, the donor, or the defiant leaders of Mars Hill Church?

It seems that Dan Busby has gone a long way toward holding bloggers accountable, putting a heavy burden on their backs while failing to hold churches that are not transparent and who abuse their members and donors accountable. Will ECFA slowly lose its credibility, accountability and transparency in the process?

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The ECFA has purged their web-site of Mark Driscoll, but still certifies the integrity of Mars Hill Church.

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The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability is still giving its stamp of approval to Mars Hill Church. They correctly show the lead pastor as being Dave Bruskas.

Mark Driscoll has been purged from the ECFA website. There is not a single reference to him. Nothing.

Until recently Driscoll was highly featured in their advertising. An attempt to go to the WayBack Machine to see when the change occurred was blocked. It appears that the ECFA uses robot.txt to block its history to the public.

So some time recently, Mark Driscoll was purged in a similar way to the way that Mars Hill Church would purge any reference about or sermons and writings of departing (and sometimes shunned) pastors such as Lief Moi and Mike Gunn, both co-founders of Mars Hill Church.

But despite the decision to purge Mark Driscoll from its website and advertising, and despite the reality that former Mars Hill board member Paul Tripp has called Mars Hill Churchthe most abusive and coercive churchhe has ever worked with, and despite the numerous financial scandals, the ECFA continues to certify Mars Hill Church’s adherence to transparency, integrity, and accountability.

One might ask why a church would need the ECFA certification, an entity that we now know bases their certification of a church on seemingly little information plus a few statements from the staff of that church. Surely, if a church was doing a good job being transparent with its donors, the ECFA certification might seem rather unnecessary. We now know that it is somewhat meaningless, or, perish the thought, even an indication that the church the ECFA certifies needs the certification in order to overcome its lack of transparency. So that when a donor asks questions, rather than be transparent, the church can merely point to their ECFA certification. This was how Mars Hill Church leadership has repeatedly used the certification.

The ECFA itself has been very non-transparent and slow to communicate with the public about its removal of Mark Driscoll and its continued certification of Mars Hill Church. This despite the church collapsing in a stunning and spectacular way largely due to financial pressure. They have been so slow that one has to ask whether the ECFA was trying to protect Mars Hill Church and not the donors to Mars Hill Church?

When one sees that the ECFA certifies other churches with similar financial non-transparency, like Stephen Furtick’s Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel, one has to wonder what sort of transparency the ECFA is certifying. Both of these churches have been added in the last 14 months, and both have had significant financial scandals prior to their certification where lack of transparency was a factor in the scandal.

Mars Hill Church members, former members, and donors are crying out for financial transparency. Mars Hill Church leadership continues to ignore them, while the ECFA continues to certify the church.

It would appear that the ECFA itself has lost its integrity. What was once a badge of excellence appears to have become a part of the problematic “Evangelical Industrial Complex” that we Evangelicals are now contending with. Rather than the ECFA certification leading to a donor feeling confident about an organization, it now seems that the certification will cause a donor to doubt and wonder.

“I am Spartacus!” Let us stand together to end the Mars Hill Church abuse redemptively.

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In a pivotal moment in the movie Spartacus, all the slaves stood up one by one, and each declared that they were Spartacus.  It is time for members, ex-members and donors of Mars Hill Church to rise and call for a just and righteous dissolution of the church.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8h_v_our_Q

We need to band together for one last time! Please support the legal fund effort to cover upcoming legal fees that will be incurred in an attempt to prevent Mars Hill Church in its determination to rush to dissolve and disburse its assets without justly addressing the many grievances expressed and the massive call for transparency.

A week after the leader of the “most abusive and coercive church” that former Board member Paul Tripp “had ever worked with,” declared that he could not reconcile with people who have been hurt because they “remain anonymous.” on a beautiful sunny August 3, 2014, former members of Mars Hill Church stood up to say,We are not anonymous!”

Had there been a single voice, the protest would have had no effect. Because of the many voices, the abuse Paul Tripp referenced has been exposed and Mark Driscoll has resigned in an apparent effort to avoid the proposed verdict of the Board of Elders.

The current Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) have decided to dissolve the corporation called Mars Hill Church, sell all of its assets (of which the net value is over $20million), and whatever is left after dissolution will be given to the campuses that will survive the crash and continue as “new” churches – none of which are allowed to be branded “Mars Hill Church” in any way.

The dissolution date is set for December 31, 2014.

In planning to end the church, the BOAA has shown no inclination to take action to correct many of the wrongs that members, ex-members, and donors have called to be addressed.

This includes

  • Disclosing to donors exactly how the Global Fund monies raised were spent.
  • Full disclosure of the compensation for Executive Elders.
  • Ending the shunning of Paul Petry and his family.
  • Acknowledging the shunning and the emotional and psychological mistreatment of hundreds of families.
  • Being transparent about the current liquidation of assets.
  • Expressing repentance and providing restitution to the many harmed members and ex-members of the church.
  • Fully investigating and being transparent about the use of church assets and money to inure its own lead pastor and possibly other executives.

Should the church dissolve without addressing these and other issues, the many who have been harmed will have unresolved wounding and harm for many years to come. It is repentance and restitution that brings healing, not burying the truth by dissolving and running.

The countless efforts to encourage the BOAA to respond to the grievances of its members, former members, and donors continue to be ignored. Even most of the current elders of the church have no idea what is happening, especially as millions of dollars is created  and dissipated through the selling of church assets.

Members of the BOAA who have stood by and have been accused by sitting elders of the church for being deceptive, are now dividing the spoils of the church that crumbled under their corrupt and incompetent watch. It is time for good and godly men and women to stand up and say with me with loud voice:

I AM SPARTACUS ! 

We will do this together as we go to the only venue that the BOAA cannot ignore, the civil court. Please consider standing up and supporting the legal costs that will be incurred. The GoFundMe fund has been created to cover these costs.

Our prayer and hope is that the leadership of Mars Hill Church will come to the table and settle matters as members of the body of Christ. Despite the overwhelming body of evidence supporting Paul Tripp’s claim of abuse, the loud call for redress of grievances, and constant plea for financial transparency, they have not allowed any form of reasonable discourse to occur.

Thank God that we live in a country where the civil courts create a just and civil environment where all the facts are laid out in the open through the discovery process, and an independent jury, made up of peers of the church, are able to see the truth and render a binding decision.

If this is the only way to obtain transparency and closure, then the process will be of great value and bring healing to many. If the BOAA remains defiant and non-repentant, the process will bring rebuke.

Please pray that the better path to reconciliation and repentance is chosen in the last days of the church. Please consider supporting the effort to see this happen.

Let us stand together.

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The Mars Hill Global Fund. Surely it would be easier just to tell the truth?

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Wow, it seems that every explanation that we get from Mars Hill Church to clarify the Global Fund just raises more questions.

Perhaps the current members of Mars Hill Church as well as the ECFA have got the story figured out in their heads, but for the rest of us who no longer have an emotional stake in keeping up the façade, the stories are getting more and more confusing and contradictory. The spin is almost laughable.

At least Mars Hill Church admitted that New York Times Bestseller List deception was wrong. Yes it took three attempts to say so, and yes, we still do not have sufficient transparency to believe that Mark Driscoll did not personally profit from the infamous misuse of $210,000 of church funds to purchase his book at retail price in a way that deceived the New York Times bestsellers list into believing that the book was a best seller.

But at least in the third attempt to explain it to the church Mark Drsicoll admitted that it was wrong.  Once Driscoll came out and stated that it was wrong the matter settled down and we found it in our heart to accept the painful truth.

He was sorry, and the church no longer had to spin various stories to make the actions acceptable or excusable. The moral wrongness of what was done certainly has long-term consequences, but at least the story from Mars Hill Church finally matched the obvious facts, and true confession was heard and accepted by all.

It was simply wrong, and everyone was relieved when Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church finally, after two attempts to say otherwise, admitted the sin.

But with the Global Fund, it seems that Mars Hill Church is determined to keep re-spinning and explaining the truth in an endless volume of contradictory statements.

The more they say, the more obvious it is that they are trying as hard as they can to run from what seemes like an elaborate and obvious deception of donors. The facts seem to point to a deliberate attempt to deceive both members and non-members into believing that they were donating to supporting missionaries and church planters in Ethiopia, India and other foreign missions.

The deceptive strategy is clearly laid out in the leaked memo that appears to have set the ground rules for the “sleeping giant” of income sources – Mars Hill Global (link).

The strategy was simple. Attract people who want to support foreign missions, and lead them to believe that their money was supporting foreign missions by funding a few missionaries and benevolence projects. The token amount was to be kept from the public and would be about $10k per month.

“of the money that comes into the Global Fund, designate a fixed percentage for highly visible, marketable projects such as mission trips, orphan care, support for pastors and missionaries in the third world, etc… This percentage should be flexible (not a tithe), and not communicated to the public.

The Global Fund could be beneficial in a number of ways, besides the obvious gain of increased funding:
For a relatively low cost (e,g, $10K/month), supporting a few missionaries and benevolence projects would serve to deflect criticism , increase goodwill….”

We know that this was followed through and the Global Fund was pitched by Mark Driscoll to church members (link) and to potential online listeners. We also know that 6,000 donors gave to the fund (link) .

We also know that over $10m was raised, and that a preponderance of the money was put into the general fund for local church use and not international or benevolence projects. The 2013 audited financial statements show the amount in that year was $233,000, which included Mars Hill Church’s reduced commitment to Acts 29 (link). That number represents a mere pittance of the over $3m raised in the same fiscal year for the Global Fund.

Then comes Mars Hill Church telling us that the Global Fund, into which they admit 6,000 members and no-members gave money, is not and never was a “fund”, but was in fact merely non-member global donors. This despite the fact that local members were repeatedly urged by Mark Driscoll to support the fund (Mars Hill Church tried to remove the videos of Mark Driscoll asking the congregation to give to the Global Fund in addition to their tithes to the church) and that one could give to the fund online in a designated area (link).

Lets say that again. Mars Hill Church admitted that over 6,000 people gave over $10m to the Global Fund, which they then say never was a fund (link). It was just global donors giving to the general fund (link) despite repeated appeals to members to give to the fund, which is is not and never was a fund.

Huh?

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Then comes Mars Hill Everett in June of 2014 thanking the Global Fund for helping them buy their building (link).  Wait a minute, we are being told the Fund does not exist, but for some reason, a year after the the building was acquired, the Fund is being thanked right after the Global Fund scandal broke? Yet the Fund, we are led to believe, does not exist.

And we are told that over $10m dollars was donated to the Fund that doesn’t exist, and a preponderance of the non-existent Fund was spent locally through the General Fund.

Along comes Mars Hill Tacoma in August 2014, also hastening to the quieten the criticism of where the Global Fund monies went. They do not thank the General Fund into which Justin Dean, spokesman for Mars Hill Church, says all the Global Fund donors’ money went, but the Global Fund, which supposedly does not exist (link).

These campuses are thanking a Fund that Justin Dean says does not exist.

This is getting exhausting.   SURELY IT WOULD BE SIMPLER TO JUST TELL THE TRUTH?

Can the Mars Hill Church senior leadership not learn from Mark Driscoll’s eventual confession of sinfully misusing church funds to deceive the New York Times bestseller lists? He finally said he was sorry and that it would not happen again. He asked that the designation “NYT Bestselling Author” not be used in reference to himself, and he demonstrated a contrite heart.

Justin Dean, please end the agonizing spin and contradicting statements, and admit that the strategy to raise millions of dollars exploiting poor Africans and Indians while only directing thousands of millions of dollars raised was wrong. It was sinful. It needs to be repented of.

Only then can the story begin to go away and forgiveness and a redemptive way forward be found.

Why is ECFA certifying churches without requiring the same public disclosure as non-churches?

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The fact that the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) approves churches as easily as it does other 501(c)3 groups should be a matter of grave concern to the evangelical church that the ECFA serves.

If the ECFA is going to maintain its integrity it will have to change its method of approving churches.

While I totally understand and agree with the position that churches should not be regulated by the government in any way or required by the government to be burdened with the same disclosure requirements as other 501(c)3 not for profit organizations, I do not understand the why and the how behind the ability of the ECFA to actually certify churches without requiring at least the same information that is available to the public on a standard I-990 form.

The argument, with which I strongly agree, that the government has no business regulating the church in any capacity because of the first amendment, should not mean that Christian groups like ECFA should not regulate or require information from the churches it certifies.

The freedom we are afforded here in the United Stated to keep the government out of our religious lives is a right, not a privilege. It therefore carries a risk that we as American citizens are willing to bear. That risk is that a certain number of charlatans will use this right to exploit people, especially their donors.

We are willing to bear this risk because this risk is a smaller risk than the risk of allowing the government to regulate how we exercise our religion. So we as citizens are left to navigate the risks without government intrusion.

Scoundrels and charlatans therefore have less to dodge as they are able to hide behind the first amendment as they try to get away with hoodwinking people to give money to support their “church” or special “Fund” in a manner that they may not get away with if they were not a church.

As we all know, such charlatans are able to have audited books every year, yet still hide basic information from the people that support them. Audits report numbers broadly, not specifically, so that a donor or church member cannot see specific expenditures, especially the salaries of the top dogs or whether a particular “fund” has been spent as promoted.

This is what frustrates many members and donors to Mars Hill Church.

Historically, Mars Hill Church has said they have open books, which meant a member could get a copy of the audited financial statements. To get more information risks the donor or member being branded as a troublemaker, unless of course that member is a large donor, in which case more information is carefully parsed out.

In the last two years Mars Hill Church, as its income and its executive salaries has soared, has now added the fact that they are certified by the ECFA and are therefore meeting the ECFA standards of accountability and transparency. This is intended to assure donors that Mars Hill Church adheres to the highest of ethical and biblical standards.

ECFA, by its very title, is telling members and donors that Mars Hill Church is being biblical in its transparency and accountability.

The problem is that a normal non-church 501(c)3 has to provide a lot of basic  information via the government-required I-990 form while a church does not. In so doing a lot more information is available to the ECFA when certifying a non-church. There is a substantial amount of information that the ECFA has as it considers certifying a non-church 501(c)3. As a result the ECFA’s approval is helpful and meaningful. Most Christian 501(c)3’s desire this approval.

Thus the ECFA has earned a good reputation as it let donors know that the total information provided to it via the audited financial statements, the I-990, and the statements from the organization is quantitatively sufficient to warrant the ECFA’s blessing.

But the ECFA, some two or so years ago, decided to add churches to the type of organizations that it would certify. Yet despite the fact that information that is available to both the ECFA and the general public for most 501(c)3’s is not available in the case of churches unless a particular church chooses to make the information public, the ECFA failed to require much higher level of standard to ensure that donors were protected and informed.

This begs two questions. The first is why churches need the ECFA approval in the first place, and the second is why the ECFA is so actively pursuing churches to certify.

Churches ought to walk in the light. There should be no secrets or even the ability to hide information from members. So why would a church decide that it needs to be certified by the ECFA unless it has become a church driven by the need to broaden its donor base?

Surely a church with open transparency would hardly benefit from the ECFA seal of approval. If a church were not open with their books, as increasingly independent mega-churches seem to be, then a seal of approval from the ECFA would be a sure way to seem transparent, whether a church was or not.

From the ECFA’s perspective, adding churches without requiring at the very least the type of information that a standard I-990 would provide would be an easy source of revenue for the ECFA. Under the current requirements, church do not have to do much more than provide an audited set of financial statements, plus an assurance that they use some matrix in determining executive salaries.

So churches that are notorious for stubbornly refusing to be open to its members, such as Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church, Steve Furtick’s Elevation Church in Charlotte, and James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago can have minimum transparency, hidden executive salaries where the pastors live in million dollars homes, and yet also have the ECFA approval.

Basic information that non-church 501(c)3 organizations are required to provide via the I-990 form can easily be hidden by a church wishing to keep such information private.

Executive salaries over $100,000 per year are required to be disclosed for all non-church 501(c)3’s on the I-990 form. Certain specific expenditures are required to be disclosed, as well as disproportionate sources of income. The ECFA, as well as a curious donor or potential donor can find out a lot of basic information as he or she evaluates the organization.

In the case of churches certified by the ECFA, however, such basic transparency is not required and therefore easily avoided. The ECFA knows this, yet they fail to address the flaws in their certification process that allow accountability and transparency to accompany such certification.

Even the ECFA does not know basic information such as the executive salaries of the churches they certify.

Churches like Mars Hill Church may choose to pay the top dogs through a third party rather than out of the normal payroll accounts of the church. Like many corporations, they will outsource that function to a company that charges a single amount for all the top dogs. In this way even the accountants within the church will not necessarily know the specific salaries of the top earners within the church.

How it would work, as an example, would be as follows. For the sake of example let us use the rumored earnings that have been bantered around within Mars Hill Church circles. Many have suggested that Mark Driscoll earns about $1,200,000 per year and his two co executives Dave Bruskas and the recently departed Sutton Turner each earned about $400,000 per year. Rather than pay them directly from the same payroll account as the other employees, Mars Hill Church could pay them using an outsource payroll company, who then merely bills Mars Hill Church $2,000,000 over the year, plus their fees. So the bookkeepers would get a monthly bill for executive salaries of about $170,000.00 per month.

Even those doing the bookkeeping would have no idea who earns what, so the executives are protected from busybodies and naysayers (perhaps a good thing) but they are also able to hide specific earnings from everybody, even the auditors or the ECFA (not so good).

The ECFA knows that churches therefore are able to avoid transparency, yet they are aggressively signing up churches without addressing the reality that by doing so without requiring the same disclosure that the I-990 requires of all other 501(c)3 groups, they are rendering their certification meaningless.

Surely the ECFA knew this would need to be addressed. The fact that they have either willfully moved forward despite this obvious outcome, or have been blindsided by this reality, both show that perhaps it is the ECFA that needs to be scrutinized for letting the donor down by either its choice or its lack of wisdom.

Both reasons are highly problematic should cause grave concern to the evangelical church that the ECFA serves.

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

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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)

The big E’s on the Mars Hill org-chart

Big E on the eye chart 1

Everyone has now seen the memo that Sutton Turner wrote to his fellow executive elders, whom we shall refer to as the big E’s on the org-chart. (link)

While Turner’s memo discloses many troubling issues, including a transparent look at what was actually happening behind the scenes versus what was reported to the church congregation and the public – which I am sure will be further analyzed in other and future blogs – the big E on the org-chart was missed.

Most noticeable is how Turner is very critical of employees who used church resources for their personal benefit. He is not critical, however, of the biggest E on the org-chart, Mark Driscoll, who used $220,000 of church monies to deceptively buy himself a spot on the New York Times bestseller list and used substantial church resources to promote his book, Real Marriage.

Turner repeatedly mentions the cash flow burden of promoting Real Marriage, but he mentions this because of the heavy cost to Mars Hill Church and not out of concern that the promotion of Driscoll’s book was wholesale use of church resources to personally benefit Mark Driscoll.

The Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) insisted that “all monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign.”  (link)

Given the fact that the “Noble Nine” elders who called for Mark Driscoll to step down also accused the BOAA of being misleading (especially board chairman Michael van Skaik) (link) and of being non-transparent, one has to examine the BOAA’s statement very carefully.

The BOAA stated that “all monies from the sale of Pastor Marks’ books at Mars Hill Bookstores have always gone to the church…” The church bookstores? The bookstores are in each campus and of course the sale of those books would go to the campus. But the books bought by the Result Source contract were not sold through the Mars Hill bookstores. Furthermore, the books at the bookstore would have been purchased wholesale, and any royalties would be a part of the cost.

The royalties of the book actually go into various trusts. The BOAA did not say that trusts received the royalties from the sale of the books. What they said was that Mark Driscoll himself did not profit from books sold at the church or through the Real Marriage contract. According to the Noble Nine elders, the BOAA has proven to be less than transparent. The BOAA statement is technically correct because the trust, On Mission, LLC, got the royalties and not Mark Driscoll himself. (link)

Any Real Marriage book sales not through the Mars Hill bookstores or through the Real Marriage campaign would likely profit Mark Driscoll. Yet according to Sutton Turner’s memo, the church was bearing the heavy cost of promoting Driscoll’s book,Real Marriage, while the copyright is not in the church’s name and it is likely that Driscoll owns the intellectual property rights as well.

Mark Driscoll said “Mars Hill gets half of all the royalties…[of] the books that I publish.” (link) 

So church resources being used for the personal benefit of the lead pastor – the big E on the org chart – is acceptable? But it is not acceptable for anyone else to use church resources for their personal benefit?

Big E on the eye chart 5