Thank you Wartburg Watch! You nailed it!

It takes a village 1

Wartburg Watch is spot on!

If you have an interest in seeing the damaging “shepherding” movement within the neo-Reformed groups like Acts 29 get the whipping it deserves, you must read this excellent piece: Lessons Learned From The Village Church and Matt Chandler on Membership, Abuse and Repentance – by Wartburg Watch.

Rather than write a blog saying essentially the same thing, let me highlight a few of the many excellent observations and lessons pointed out by Dee Parsons.

  • The threat of a lawsuit should not interfere with an apology; in fact, it could stop a lawsuit in its tracks. If I were the leadership of Mars Hill Church I would be taking copious notes! (link…. at 32 second mark)
  • Matt Chandler’s apology meant the world to victims of church abuse. He did not apologize to anonymous victims. He apologized specifically. Take note, Mars Hill leadership.
  • Victims should not have to seek out media and lawyers to be heard. To this day, despite trying since early 2013, senior Mars Hill leaders have refused to speak to me and many other victims, members and donors. Arrogant leaders staunchly refuse to engage their victims, then they criticize them when they eventually turn to media and lawyers.
  • Matt Chandler provides a template for other pastors and churches to follow. Perhaps that fact that Matt Chandler is being honored for reflecting a repentant heart, as is, to a lesser degree, Sutton Turner, the only talking ex-Executive Elder or member of the Mars Hill Board, will encourage other leaders to follow Matt Chandler’s example.
  • A failure for the plurality of elders concept. As one who has always respected the “plurality of elders” form of church governance, I am equally convinced that it should be the sheep that pick the elders and affirm them with regularity, and not the elders themselves. Self-appointed (often young) so-called “elders” who then appoint the rest of the elder team ultimately view the sheep as irrelevant. Eventually the sheep speak with their pocket books and feet.
  • Reports of Acts 29 churches promoting harsh discipline. As my part in the Mars Hill Church abuse story became more visible, I have had members of Acts 29 churches across the country send in stories of abuse. It is sad, and there is no doubt that there needs to be a frank discussion and understanding of the reality that Mark Driscoll’s form of leadership is deeply ingrained within the thinking of many Acts 29 churches. It is critical for the sake of avoiding abuse as well as the sake of the gospel that Acts 29 discuss this openly and honestly. The younger the “assessed” church planter, the deeper I would look. 1 Timothy 5:22 should not be disregarded because a talented youngster passed a Myers-Briggs test.
  • Since when is it biblical to not do the right thing because an attorney says a lawsuit is possible? This is the mother of all questions of these so-called Pastors who refuse to the right thing. Perhaps this has been the biggest obstacle that led to Mars Hill Church leadership allowing the church to collapse rather than to do the right thing. It is not only sad, but it is a reflection of the character of the players. Simply, we are being told that repentance cannot take place because lawyers are being obeyed rather than the Word of God.

Thank you Wartburg Watch. Thank you for caring for those that you do not know. Thank you for listening to me in 2012 and caring. I remember sitting with Dee eating Cheetos outside Cracker Barrel in rural North Carolina and being amazed to see you tear up as a total stranger told you of what his family went through at the hands of Mark Driscoll and his leadership. You have acted like true shepherds. Thank you.

You have been giants in drawing attention to the abuse that is rampant within so many neo-Reformed churches. I had to think of you and chuckle when I saw this cartoon.

it takes a village 2

Mars Hill Church: True religion does not abandon orphans and widows in their distress.

Marc Fulmer with childAgathos Internationaln Logo

This post has taken a long time to write. There are many reasons for it and I trust that each reader will understand as they read it.

In February of 2007, Mark Driscoll preached a sermon about Boaz, who he referred to as the “Dude of dudes.” Toward the end of the sermon, called “Redeeming Ruth – God’s hand in our luck,” at 58 minutes into the sermon, he says the following:

58:48 to 1:04:50.. and I will tell you in conclusion of a Boaz kind of guy who’s doing a Boaz kind of work…and I will give him some, some backup today. His name is Rob Smith. Working with him is a man named Marc Fulmer [pictured above]…they are both members of this church. Rob was a guy who grew up between Africa and the United States of America – he’s been a member of this church for a long time with his family – many of you know him – he’s a great guy – I love him – he’s a dear friend – and he saw the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, in Africa…knowing that about 20% of people are HIV positive and that there are eleven million orphans…and many widows in Africa. And so he devised a plan sort of taking the gleaning principle of Leviticus and Deuteronomy and Ruth saying “we need to have a farm that produces a harvest that is an ongoing source of food and life…and on that farm we need two things…we need an orphanage and a church. The church to be the church and love people and raise them and to teach them sexual chastity and raise kids to love Jesus so that this epidemic stops…and also an orphanage so that these kids are loved and have a roof over their head and food in their stomach…and a mother and father figure in their life – that being the pastor as well as these widows. We move in widows and orphans…and we care for widows and orphans because that’s the heart of God…and we do that as the church on a self-sustaining farm sort of taking many of the principles from a book like Ruth. So he started this organization – go to Agathos Foundation.org – or grab paperwork on the way out – and he’s got this concept called “One Church One Village” where a church in the US partners with a church in the village to get a farm…to plant a church…and to open an orphanage…and money goes from us who have the wherewithal, like Boaz, to help…out in the field.

So Mars Hill…we’ve done this in the past…you probably don’t know this…some years ago you all purchased a large piece of land in India that now has on orphanage with 100 kids on it and you purchased the land. So this is kinda what we do… So in Africa we partnered and we have an orphanage there that now has – I think it is – 32 kids and 140 people in Mars Hill give monthly to help support them. What am I saying? Do your part with the people in your life, give to your church, beyond that have a global heart for widows, orphans, the poor and those in need…

I am going to ask you to support some widows and orphans in Africa, We have an orphanage, we have a village…members of Mars Hill have actually moved there to take care of widows and orphans.

My involvement in the last year of standing up and speaking out against the well-documented abuses at Mars Hill Church was never about revenge or getting even. It was not about me or Agathos Foundation, which was the orphan care ministry Mark Driscoll referenced in the above 2007 sermon, which I founded in 2002 and which also was the year Merle and I became members of Mars Hill Church.

For six years after leaving Mars Hill Church I had no public voice. My open engagement in the story began in December of 2013 when I began to hear of the repeated abuse of others at Mars Hill Church. This includes standing up for many men who still will have nothing to do with me. This is partially because of slanderous attacks leveled against me and Agathos after I appealed to the elders to conduct a fair trial for Paul Petry in 2007.

As some are aware, the result of me pleading for a fair trial and arguing for due deliberation when changing bylaws was that Mark Driscoll, in an abusive and vile manner, threatened to destroy me and my ministry. He threatened to make sure that I could never be in ministry again.

In December 2007, Merle and I quietly left Mars Hill Church.

This was not due to the kindness of the elders (who told us we could not leave because we were under “church discipline”). It was because of a backfire in strategy by then executive pastors Jamie Munson and Scott Thomas, who handled my “discipline case.” They did not want us to leave. In attempting to keep us from leaving they recruited the largest donor to Agathos (who was also a large donor to Mars Hill Church) to encourage us to stay. When that donor eventually supported our decision to leave peaceably, Jamie Munson was in a pickle. He could continue the stance that we could not leave because we were under discipline and offend the large donor, or he could let us leave in peace and not offend the donor. So we were “allowed” to leave in good standing. The full story of the endless meetings that got us to that point is a post for another day.

You will want to hear that story.

But despite leaving peaceably – we had crossed a line. To use Mark Driscoll’s oft spoken words, we had “pissed him off.” For merely appealing to Mark Driscoll and a small handful of the lead elders, including the recently repentant Pastor James Harleman (one of my dearest friends at the time), the attacks on my character began. And the attacks on Agathos began.

A little background about Agathos.

In 2002, Agathos began as a ministry to rescue orphans in Africa during the peak of the “out-of-control” HIV/AIDS crisis. Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church were highly supportive of the ministry and gave Agathos favored exposure within the church and throughout Acts 29.

Over time, as we worked we grew from a young start-up ministry learning from our experiences and our mistakes. In early 2007, Agathos proposed a “One Church One Village” model of linking an American Church with an African Church in the rescue and care of orphans. The commitment of the US church was to raise $625,000 over six years for the orphan village it had “adopted”, and the commitment of the African church was to be the hands and feet on the ground caring for orphans in distress.

The first two American churches that committed to this was Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and The Vine Church in Redmond, Washington.  Mars Hill Church committed itself to Kwethu Village in South Africa, along with its 32 children and their caretakers, some of whom were young widows who themselves were impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis. The Vine Church, led by Pastor Jesse Winkler, committed themselves to a new orphan village to be constructed just south of Ndola, Zambia.

Within weeks of the agreement, Mars Hill Church took over The Vine, and Jesse Winkler became the lead pastor for Mars Hill Bellevue. We were all excited as Mars Hill Ballard took over the relationship with the South African village under Kabyn Vikesland and Mars Hill Bellevue took over the relationship with the new proposed Zambian village. The future for Agathos looked bright, as discussion with executive elder Scott Thomas included plans to have each campus support an orphan village, and each Acts 29 church encouraged to do the same.

The vision for 1,000 orphan villages to be supported seemed possible. It was so encouraging. Agathos was now five years old and many Mars Hill members had been to Africa to visit the children rescued, and many more threw their support behind Agathos. This was usually by committing to $25 per month.

This all happened in August 2007 – one month before the infamous trial of Paul Petry.

When Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired, I heard that they were going to be put on trial. Many were asking questions, and it became clear that they were not going to receive a fair and impartial trial. The charges against them were unclear and seemed trivial. They were not going to be allowed to attend their own trials so that they could defend themselves. Their accusers were also members of the jury that would convict them. No witnesses were allowed.

It was clear that the trials would occur in such a way as to have long term bad consequences for the church. So I wrote a private email to the elders pleading for a fair trial. It was not written to defend Paul Petry or Bent Meyer. It was written to protect Mars Hill Church from the long term consequences of an unfair trial. I wrote that an “unfair trial would leave a shadow that would not easily go away”.

I was told that I had sinfully “inserted” myself, and that what I had written was written in “pride” and therefore disregarded. I was told that I should have gone to only one elder, (James Harleman), and that by going to all the elders I was actually trying to cause division among the elders. I was therefore placed under church discipline for being “divisive.”

The elders that dealt with my “case” were James Harleman, Dave Kraft, and Tim Reber. All have since repented of their role in the treatment of Paul Petry. None have addressed their role in my discipline, or their passivity in what followed regarding Agathos.

The last meeting that I had at Mars Hill Church was after both the trial and the changing of the bylaws. At the meeting was Jamie Munson, Scott Thomas, James Harleman, a man who for now will remain unnamed who was a major donor to both Agathos and Mars Hill Church, and the unflappable Will Hofman who supported me as a witness to the discipline process I was placed under by church leaders.

After Jamie Munson and Scott Thomas agreed with the donor that Merle and I should be free to leave the church peaceably, I raised the question about the continued support of Agathos. After all, the “One Church One Village” effort was led by members of the respective Mars Hill campuses. I had little to do with it. The support was widespread throughout Mars Hill Church.

When I asked the question there was a stunned silence for a minute. Jamie Munson then looked at the donor and asked “What do we do about Agathos?”

“We continue to support Agathos!” came the reply.

Scott Thomas, who at the time was the head of Acts 29 and very active in both the trial of Paul Petry and the changing of the bylaws, looked directly at me and said emphatically, “We will never abandon our orphans!” As he said that he brought his hands together and interlocked his fingers.

Intertwined hands 1

It was heartwarming.

Little did these men know that Mark Driscoll had threatened to destroy Agathos, along with threatening to destroy me and any future ministry endeavor.

So the infamous ad hominem attacks began. They had begun earlier at the trial of Paul Petry. It was me who Paul Petry sought out to discuss the “church discipline” wording in the proposed bylaws. This was one of the charges brought against Paul Petry. He allegedly had “violated elder protocol” by allowing a lowly member to see the proposed bylaws. Imagine that! The wording Paul Petry proposed on the rights of a member under discipline was actually written by me.

I had been approved to be an elder of Mars Hill Church. I was the pastor in charge of community groups for the new Mars Hill Wedgwood Campus. I had faithfully served Agathos and Mars Hill Church as a member for the previous five years. Yet it was a crime against the church for Paul Petry to consult with me regarding the new bylaws.

So at the trial of Paul Petry the attacks began. “You have no idea who Rob Smith is…”, stated Mark Driscoll at Paul Petry’s trial, “You do not know him like I know him..”, he continued. “He is the biggest troublemaker in Mars Hill’s history!” And so the attacks began.

And so did the attacks on Agathos. I hear them still today.

Little matter that I had just been approved to be an elder. Little matter that James Harleman had offered me a paid position as an elder at Wedgwood starting in 2008 if I would accept the position. Little matter that hundreds of members were supporting our orphans in Africa, and many could witness the ministry first hand.

None of that mattered.

Not a single elder stood up to ask how I could have been vetted for eldership one week, and be “the biggest troublemaker in Mars Hill’s history” the next. How was it that in February I was a man like Boaz, dude of dudes, and now ten months Iater I was pariah? No elder cared to ask.

Within a few months most of the members of Mars Hill Church withdrew their support of orphans under our care. The emails we received were similarly written. “We have been led by God to support another ministry.” Almost all of them pointed to God’s “leading.” It certainly looked like they had been coached on what to say.

At that time, although I led Agathos, I was not taking a salary from Agathos. We hunkered down and prepared ourselves for the impact of Mark Driscoll’s threat. It came swiftly and with great effect.

In February 2008, less than two months after his promise not to abandon “our” orphans, we received a letter from Scott Thomas. Mars Hill Church was ending its relationship to Agathos. What I did not know, was that Jamie Munson and Scott Thomas had called Marc Fulmer, who leads Agathos to this day, and threatened to pull support unless I resigned from Agathos and Mars Hill Church took it over and re-branded the ministry as a Mars Hill ministry. They proposed to keep Marc – but I had to go. Marc turned the “offer” down and we received the letter from Scott Thomas shortly thereafter.

Letter from Scott Thomas 1

So Agathos lost about 85% of its support.

I recently ran into Scott Thomas and asked him about his promise to never abandon “our orphans.” He was no longer at Mars Hill Church and was himself suffering a level of abuse from the Mars Hill Church leadership. He appealed that he had no say in the matter. He said that his hands were tied.

I recently had coffee with a staunch Mark Driscoll supporter who has chided any criticism of Mark Driscoll and strongly challenged me for every apparent infraction of the last year, yet at the same time vigorously excused or defended every one of Driscoll’s “mistakes.” The supporter said some awful things about me and Agathos, particularly its “misuse” of funds. I asked where he got such information. He had no idea. He had simply accepted the rumors. Rumors that circulated after the trial of Paul Petry. I also have recently spoken to another ministry leader involved in orphan care in Africa. She was warned not to work with Agathos. She came to me in sorrow that she walked away from a relationship with Agathos after that Mars Hill warning.

Ad hominem attacks.

I am sure that there may never be a full recovery when one’s name has been intentionally slandered. That is why God takes such seriously. It is similar to theft. The stealing of a man’s good name has severe consequences, some of which are almost impossible to overcome. That is why it is an awful sin against someone.

Agathos has survived and our children have done well. But it was not easy.

For several years we put ourselves under a good ministry called Pilgrim Africa. This action removed our orphans from the slander we were enduring and we encouraged our remaining supporters to support Pilgrim. In 2009, Agathos then closed its doors and Kwethu Village continued under Pilgrim.

In 2014, Agathos was reborn as Agathos International.

There were two reasons for this. First was that while Pilgrim willingly supported our orphan village in South Africa from 2009 to 2014, their ministry is focused in Uganda, so Kwethu Village was somewhat outside their scope. The second reason was a strong sense that Agathos had always had a broader ministry to the broken and poor in the communities we served. and we felt the need to reemerge and serve that purpose.

So after seven years since leaving Mars Hill Church, Agathos is once again supporting Kwethu Village. Some of the orphans that were rescued by Agathos through the early support of Mars Hill members are now entering university. The stories are amazing! New orphans are being accepted as the village grows.

Because of the intent behind the early vision of Agathos, the monthly support costs are strikingly low. Most support comes from local activity in the village. It is wonderful. Local support and local economic activity pays for most of the costs of the care of the the village.

I encourage readers to consider supporting Kwethu Village with a monthly contribution. We are looking to raise a total of $3,000 per month for the village. As you see the precious lives of children in distress being impacted and stabilized, you will agree that this is a great value for so little per month.

Please consider becoming a monthly supporter of our orphans. The fruit of your support will be eternal.

Agathos International is also committed to creating economic life for the broken in the areas that God has placed us. So we are working to address poverty both in the countries in Africa where we have impacted orphans and the poor, as well as in the U.S. where we are beginning to call successful businessmen and businesswomen to engage the issue of poverty through our “Freedom, Wealth, and Poverty” events that we host in the greater Seattle area.

Agathos is run on a voluntary basis with no salaries being paid on the U.S. side. This allows over 95% of what we receive to go into program. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Agathos Internationaln Logo

Rob Smith

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?

God 1

The log in the Mars Hill Church defender’s eye!

 

 

 

Mark Driscoll log in the eye

I received this comment after the Hyenas and Lions post from a few days ago. This is the type of accusation that one gets when one stands up for justice. I have had many caring people who have written similar appeals to me. What they do not realise that their appeals contain deep accusations and implications that probably has not occurred to these writers.

So for those of you who have been the target of such, I will post my thoughts. Here is the comment from Diane:

Just get over it, already!

It seems no matter what is said, or done, it’s never enough for those of you who feel either yourself or others have been hurt and/or mistreated. Guess what? Welcome to living in a fallen world. Move on. Do something positive for the Kingdom. God sees and knows all, he is big enough to bring about His plan, His discipline. He can and will make all things right, in HIS time.

You are tearing down and prejudging the pastors who will be leading these churches before they’ve even begun. It will never be enough for the likes of you who seek the destruction of those who have been affiliated with Mars Hill. You set yourself up as judge and jury and seem to think only you know what should be done to bring all to account. As John Piper has said, (paraphrased) God is doing a thousand things in situations where you can only see, maybe three. I find the whole anti-Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill movement to be hypocritical and self-serving. You are acting no better than what you accuse them of.

These pastors have wives and families you are affecting. They love Jesus, they are pursuing what God has placed on their hearts to do; to love their flock and lead them. Your words are caustic and judgmental and you set yourself up as God. You will be held accountable for your words and actions as much as Mark Driscoll, his.

You are so deep into trying to get even, you can’t see anything good coming from all this. God is able to bring good from all things.

Let God do his work, in his time and in his way.

Find something productive, God-honoring, loving and kind to do and be a part of.

You will never find the satisfaction you are looking for concerning this. No matter what transpires, it will never be enough or what you deem right.

Bitterness will/does rule in your heart. And, the world will see, and think there is no difference.
Is there?

Philippians 4:8 English Standard Version (ESV)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Here is my response to Diane:

Diane, lets start with the verse you quoted.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

So we are encouraged to 1) seek truth, 2) be honorable, 3) seek justice, 4) pursue that which is lovely, 5) do that which is commendable, 6) seek excellence, and finally 7) think about that which is worthy of praise.

You quoted this verse after making the following accusations and assumptions:

Accusation #1: Regardless of what is said or done, it is never going to be enough for those of us who feel mistreated or hurt.

This is an assumption that you cannot prove. If you had been paying attention, when Mark Driscoll resigned I called for us all to return to Mars Hill Church and participate in bringing healing. This was highly criticized by many (on both sides) and shortly thereafter we were told that the church would dissolve. There is much that needs to said and done that has not been said and done. For a church that has been identified as the most abusive and coercive in recent history, very little has been said by the leaders (including the pastors of each campus) and almost nothing to identify the abuse and to address it with repentance and restitution.

Accusation #2: I am tearing down and prejudging the pastors who will be leading these churches before they have even begun.

I am certainly not prejudging these men, and they are not leading churches that are “yet to begin.” They are churches that are currently a part of Mars Hill Church and the pastors are the very men who participated in creating the most abusive of churches in recent history. I am able to judge their past actions and call them to account. I have known several of the men for years. At what point am I able to judge their character and call them to action? You are judging mine and you do not know me from a bar of soap. If in fact they are about to attempt to bury the sins that they were complicit in and “move on,” and God withhold His blessing for such, then it is an act of kindness to call them to a different path. Don’t forget that “faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kiss of an enemy is death.”

Accusation #3: I seek the destruction of those affiliated with Mars Hill Church

Wow, that is quite a strong accusation. For it to be true I would be seeking my own destruction, because I am affiliated with Mars Hill Church, as are many of my friends. Some who have left and have been destroyed are people whom I am assisting in one way or another, including financial or emotional support. Some of those participated in the slander and abuse of me and my ministry. I harbor no bitterness toward these men, and have withheld stories of their abuse because it would further harm them. In more than one case I have chosen to not pursue them as they are vulnerable, weak, and struggling in the aftermath of their abuse (both given and received). Some of the details of abuse would add credibility to a lawsuit, yet I choose not to use the details as they would harm people, even though they would make a civil case more solid. I am not a heartless man. I am a man who seeks justice, mercy, and humility.

Accusation #4: I set myself up as judge and jury and seem to think that only I know what should be done to bring all to account.

First, you have no way of knowing what I think. I am wired in a certain way, and would have likely made a very good attorney for either the prosecution or defense as I do have a strong sense of what is right or wrong. That does motivate my thinking, and it may be because I was raised in a home where Philippians 4:8 was frequently meditated upon. I think the more one lives in God’s word, the better sense of knowing what is right is likely. However, If you read the email that I sent the elders calling for a fair trial for Paul Petry in 2007, you will see that I do not set myself up as judge and jury. It is probably more fair to say that I set myself up as an advocate – seeking to present my case to a judge and jury. In the current matters, seeing that dialog with the leadership has been vigorously opposed by Mars Hill’s leadership (including the pastors that are currently pastoring the eleven campuses) the judge and jury has become the larger church through social media. You are a part of that process in your engagement here. In fact, you are acting more of either a judge or a juror in your comments than I have, which is a reaction to my advocacy. Since I and others have been calling for an redress of the many grievances that have become apparent, thousands have become judge and jurors, with many voting with their feet and leaving Mars Hill Church.

Accusation #5: I am a part of an ‘anti-Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll” movement.

Calling out for a just response to the abuse emanating from Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll is exactly the opposite of being anti the church or the man. I am absolutely for Mars Hill Church and for Mark Driscoll. The leaders of Mars Hill Church have decimated their own church rather than deal with the abuse. Mark Driscoll, rather than put things right and take responsibility for his actions, abandoned Mars Hill Church like an abusive father does his children. These men are anti-Mars Hill. And some of these men are continuing to “pastor” the same church with new names. They are not for Mars Hill Church. They want nothing to do with Mars Hill Church.

Accusation #6: Such a movement is hypocritical and self-serving.

If seeking justice for those who have been shunned and falsely accused through slander and libel is hypocritical, then so be it. If asking for transparency from a church that has received millions of dollars of my and other members’ and former members’ donations is hypocritical, then so be it. Sadly, you just made the accusation without saying how those of us who you are accusing are being hypocritical.

Accusation #7: I am acting no better than what I accuse them (the lead pastors) of.

My post was one of questions, not accusations. Will they act like hyenas and stay quiet about the questions of abuse and fraud, or will they stand up like lions and insist on closure for the members and former members of the church? I think I am acting better than these men, as I am willing to risk my comfort and reputation to stand up for what I believe to be honorable, truthful, just, and worthy of our attention. These men do not seem to be willing, thus my post which was written in an attempt to prick their conscience.

Accusation #8: I have set myself up as God and my words are caustic and judgmental.

One of the things that has been characteristic of this struggle has been that those of us advocating for justice have been truthful and clear. Mars Hill leadership, including the men you say are pursuing what God has put on their hearts, have been either silent or non-truthful when they speak. Many have pointed out the spin and the lack of information that we have received. Often the words are by people who do not even identify themselves (as in your case). Those of us that are advocating are doing so with clarity and in the open. We can stand behind everything we say and are willing to be corrected. When truth hurts, as it sometimes does, I can understand that truth may seem to be caustic to those who do not want to hear truth.

Accusation #9: I am trying to get even.

This a repeated accusation, even from the 21 elders that brought charges against Mark Driscoll. What an unfair accusation as you have no way to prove it even if it were true. If I were trying to get even I would have done so years ago. The abuse I and my dear wife and family suffered occurred years ago. I had moved on until I heard about the repeated abuse of many members and ex-elders last December. To stand up to stop abuse and to call for accountability has nothing to do with getting even.

Accusation #10: I cannot see anything good coming from all this.

How do you know what I see? I see an immense amount of good coming from all of this. God is good and I truly believe that “all things work together for good those that are in Christ Jesus”. Much good will occur as the evangelical church begins to fully process how a leading mega-church can say in January that 2014 will be “our best year ever,” and then the entire church is gone in disgrace less than twelve months later. It is most heartening to see James MacDonald quit the Mars Hill BOAA and hastily run back to his own church and very publicly put matters right with the elders he threw under the bus a year earlier. The days of domineering leadership are over. We have only just begun to see the good that will come from all of this. The various campus pastors are all promising their members better accountability. That is good. If they have the courage to call for full transparency before December 31, that will also be good.

Accusation #11: I will never find the satisfaction I am looking for in this matter.

As an advocate, the satisfaction that I am looking for may allude me. I seek justice and transparency. As long as the existing elders are prepared to continue to bury the truth the odds of justice occurring is diminished. However, I must say that there has been a lot of satisfaction already. 15 of the 22 elders who treated Paul Petry and Bent Meyer with such disdain seven years ago have confessed their sin and sought forgiveness. I believe we will see most of the remaining men do the same. It will be a moment of deep satisfaction when I hear that Bubba Jennings (lead pastor of MHC Tacoma), Tim Smith (lead pastor of MHC Portland), A.J. Hamilton, Jamie Munson, Tim Belz, Tim Quiring, and Bill Clem see the depth of their sin against Mars Hill Church and the men they placed on trial and finally confess their sin.

Accusation #12: Bitterness rules in my heart.

I certainly do not feel bitter. This is something that totally unprovable and a frequently used “sin” to throw at people when you do not have an actual sin in mind. It is even more frequently used against people who are seeking for a wrong to be made right. Seeking justice for another does not make the advocate bitter. What a pathetic accusation to use when someone is seeking to defend those that have been hurt.

I am sure I could analyze more – but the main point here is that your call to me is full of accusations, most unfounded and impossible to even defend. The abuse and sin within the Mars Hill camp is clear. Have you written a single word calling for their sin to be dealt with as you are doing with me?

Please do not feel like I am condemning you. I am not. You have taken the time to reach out and I do appreciate you doing so.

You have said God will make all things right in His time. I totally agree. I also am aware that God will frequently use His servants to accomplish making things right. I hope to be one of those servants.

Satan is known as an accuser. He also uses people to carry out his ends.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Rob Smith

Mars Hill Church’s Justin Dean – Straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

camel

 KING 5 News report by Alison Morrow spotlighted former members calling for ex-members to return to Mars Hill Church to work together as brothers and sisters now that Mark Driscoll has left our church.

Justin Dean quickly responded.

Did he acknowledge the wide spread abuse of Mark Driscoll or the victims themselves, including the members mentioned in the report? Did he respond to the call to be reconciled and move forward with ex-members who left due to Driscoll’s abuse? Did he warmly accept the ex-members back with brotherly love?

No.

In a series of phone calls to Alison Morrow, Justin Dean challenged the reporter’s facts as to whether I was ever an elder. He stated that I was never more than just a member.

At a time of crisis and a time of opportunity to reconcile with ex-members willing to return to the church, he “strained at gnats while swallowing camels.”

Of course, being a member at Mars Hill Church has historically meant that you are among the least. Paul Petry was charged with disqualifying sin and endured a humiliating trial for discussing the bylaw changes with a lowly member. That member was me. Talking to a member like me cost Paul Petry his job.

What kind of elder would deign to discuss such matters with a member? He failed to realize how little being a member meant, and thanks to Justin Dean, we are being reminded again of the insignificance of the member. Rob Smith, he assured Alison Morrow, was nothing more than a member. A mere member.

Alison Morrow added this to her report:

Editor’s note: After this story aired, Mars Hill told KING 5 that Rob Smith was never an elder or pastor at Mars Hill. According to Smith, he was asked to serve as the pastor of community groups for Wedgwood campus, a position he accepted and started two weeks before he was placed under church discipline for asking that another pastor have a fair trial. Soon after, Smith left the church.

After the 2007 bylaw change, even being an elder meant very little. Once those bylaws were changed, an elder could be dismissed by an arbitrary decision of the Executive Elders. An elder was nothing more than an “at will” employee of the church.

So according to Justin Dean, Rob Smith was nothing more than a member – the lowest in the social order caste at the church: A person who had no say, no relevance other than to obey the rules, be a faithful giver of time and money, and submit to the elders, who, after 2007, themselves had to submit to Mark Driscoll and the revolving door of cohorts he handpicked to carry out his abuse.

So just for the record, I will correct Justin Dean, who along with most of the current leadership of Mars Hill Church, were not at Mars Hill Church in 2007 when my wife and I last attended.

Merle (my dear wife of 36 years) and I joined the church in August of 2002.

In December of 2002 I founded a ministry called Agathos that began to care for orphans in South Africa. The work of Agathos continues to this day (link).

In 2003, Mars Hill Church began to send members to the orphan village on short-term mission trips. There are relationships between members that participated and the children (some now adults) that we cared for.

In 2005, Mark Driscoll endorsed an Agathos Initiative called “One Church One Village” and I began to talk about this at Acts 29 conferences.

In 2005/6, my dear wife began to counsel women at the church 25 hours a week as a volunteer, and she was made a deacon.

In 2005 through 2007, Agathos hosted Acts 29 boot camps in South Africa and Zambia with Acts 29 pastors. Included in that number was co-founder of Mars Hill Church, Mike Gunn, and current lead pastor of the Mars Hill West Seattle campus, David Fairchild.

In 2006, I was made a deacon. I had no duties and the title was because of the orphan care and African pastoral care I was involved in through Agathos and Acts 29 in Africa. Mars Hill Church founder, Lief Moi, was a factor in this decision. Lief Moi was an avid and faithful supporter of Agathos.

In 2007, as Mars Hill Church became multi-campus focused, Mars Hill Church decided that the Ballard campus would commit to be the One Church One Village connection with Kwethu Village in South Africa. This meant that within the campus, $625,000 would be raised to support the village over a six-year period. Over one hundred members got involved in awareness and support. Kabyn Vykesland, now ministering to troubled youth in St. Louis, led the effort.

The Vine church in Redmond also committed to raise $625,000 to a One Church One Village relationship under the pastoral leadership of Jesse Winkler, now a pastor in San Diego, California. As some may know, The Vine Church became Mars Hill Bellevue in late 2007, and was therefore the second campus to embrace One Church One Village. Pastor Jesse became a Mars Hill pastor shortly before the trial of Paul Petry.

In mid 2007, a new campus was formed in Wedgwood, in northeast Seattle, under the leadership of James Harleman, currently a pastor at Refuge Church. Pastor James asked me to take the role of “Pastor of Community Groups” at the Mars Hill Wedgwood campus, a position that I accepted. All the other pastors of community groups were elders, and I was asked to become an elder, which I agreed to. Pastor Dave Kraft, a Mars Hill elder, began to coach me weekly through Ministry Coaching, Inc., a business entity that was coaching the elders and chaired by the current chairman of the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accoutability (BoAA), Michael van Skaik. Upon my introduction to the church in my new capacity, Brad House, the lead pastor of community groups, stumbled when introducing me as I was a pastor but was a couple of weeks away from completing the elder candidacy process. He called me something that those attending at the time still chuckle at. He introduced me as “Super Deacon Rob Smith.”

I attended elder coaching along with other elder candidates Tim Gaydos, Jon Krombein, Cliff Low, and Kerry Michaelis. They all became official elders immediately after the 2007 bylaws were passed.

So I was pastor of community groups and acting in that capacity, and was approved to the elder track, when everything hit the fan exactly seven years ago.

It hit the fan for me because I realized that Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, who had been fired and falsely charged with sins against the church, were not going to get a fair trial. I sent a private email to the elders appealing for a fair trial.

For that I was placed under church discipline. That process was most interesting, but thanks to a major donor in the church, I was spared the final humiliation of leaving the church with a bad standing.

Merle and I left the church in good standing, although Mark Driscoll, in the process, threatened to destroy me, Agathos, and ensure that I would never be able to be in ministry again.

At my last meeting, Jamie Munson and Scott Thomas assured me that they would not abandon the orphans that were being supported by Agathos through the One Church One Village commitment.

Three months later, Scott Thomas sent me a letter ending the Mars Hill Church/Agathos relationship.

So, I trust that this clear laying out of the facts makes Justin Dean happy.

I am most willing to describe in detail the painful and scandalous way that Merle and I were treated after being placed under discipline. It involves Mars Hill Church trying to get the largest donor to Agathos to influence our decision to leave.  This donor is a friend and a major member of the Lucas Group. If Dean would like me to get into those details, I will do so. It is quite a story.

If any reader would like to learn more about Agathos, here is a link. If any reader is inclined to support Agathos, here is the link to do so.

So Justin Dean, meet Super Deacon Rob Smith, More than a lowly member, more than a deacon – but less than an elder, but without a doubt a pastor.

Currently at Mars Hill Church there is the full Council of Elders, the Board of Elders, the Board of Overseers, the Board of Advisors and Accountability, and of course, the Executive Elders. Quite confusing. I am not sure where Super Deacon would fall within these lofty-named groups. But whatever that title means, it is not as belittling a title as “just a member.”

I suggest that rather than strain at gnats, we tackle the camels that have strangled the church we love, and work together. This will take humility and strength of character, something even a lowly member can reflect without even having a title as deacon, pastor, or elder.

Mark Driscoll and his two executives do not trust the elders of Mars Hill Church

broken trust

[UPDATE: Within minutes of this post from Musings – coincidently, Mars Hill Church posted their bylaws on their website. This is a change – hopefully for the positive (link).]

The elders of Mars Hill Church cannot see their own bylaws, according to the latest departing elder, Pastor Dustin Kensrue (link).  As it now turns out, the bylaws of a church that handles millions of dollars can be simply rewritten by the three executive elders at will – without church members or elders even knowing about it.

How can anyone be held accountable if they can simply rewrite the bylaws at will?

This is beyond a joke.

Here is how it happened.

  • The entire membership was betrayed in 2007 with a rogue change in the bylaws. The church that we joined, because it had a plurality of elders (i.e.: a safe church) and had given millions of dollars to and countless hours of effort toward, changed its bylaws in a coercive and despicable way.
  • The new bylaws became repeatedly changed despite church members being required to agree with them. As the bylaws changed, members were not notified and the bylaws become increasingly hard to find.
  • The current bylaws are now withheld from the elders of the church. So who is responsible, and who reports to whom? How is the church governed?

Mars Hill Church has members who are expected to agree with the bylaws, but the bylaws have become as secretive as the lucrative salaries being paid to the three Executive Elders. The last bylaws we did see (link) show that members are “members” in name only. Under the terms of the 2012 bylaws, the only “actual” legal members of the church were the elders. Church members were defined as “members only in a spiritual and theological sense,” but not actually members in a civil sense.

In classic Orwellian doublespeak, members are not actually members, except for the purpose of giving their dollars and time to the actual members (the elders) to spend as they choose.

It would appear that there are now new bylaws where the elders at Mars Hill Church are not actually elders from any Reformed point of view. They have no say in how the church is run and have no right to see the bylaws or to change them.

Because the bylaws are hidden from almost everyone now, this raises serious questions. Questions like the following:

– Who actually owns the property that the church keeps buying with the members’ (non) donations?

– How does the money get spent? What happened to the money that was raised for the Jesus Festival?

– While employees are getting laid off, are the Executive Elders still getting their full salaries?

– What are the cash reserves of the church?

– Who decides to buy new property?

– Who owns the church properties if the church locks its doors?

None of these questions are likely to be answered under the present bylaws, because the Executive Elders are the only actual members of the church. Non-members, who think they are members, and non-elders who think they are elders, have no right to information like this.

And the ECFA continues to endorse the financial accountability of Mars Hill Church.

Yup!! That is what I was thinking too.

Radically change the bylaws…they represent a “deft grab for power.” — Dustin Kensrue

power 1

Pastor Dustin Kensrue, in his letter of resignation from Mars Hill Church, says that the Mars Hill Church “bylaws need to be radically changed…” (link)

These bylaws were changed to consolidate power in 2007, following the ruthless firing and “trials” of  two elders – part of a manipulative scheme to coerce young elders to vote for the change or lose their jobs. There is broad consensus and substantial evidence that this was essentially a power grab by Mark Driscoll and his designated “lead pastor” Jamie Munson.

Dustin Kensrue had the courage to say what many of us have been saying for years:  That there was a theological shift that reflects “a deliberate and deft grab for power.”

This shift happened in 2007. Up until 2007, the elders were the highest authority in the church. The church was ruled by a plurality of elders who had an equal vote in all church matters. The executive elders were delegated limited authority by the full council of elders and were completely accountable to these elders.

Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson, in a 145-page document defending the new bylaws (after many members complained and ultimately over 1000 members left the church) accused Paul Petry and Bent Meyer of “jockeying for power.” This is fascinating, as after Driscoll argued that he was giving up power, even though he had no more power than any other elder, ended by saying that “it has…been absolutely amazing to see all but one of those men humble themselves and give up what is best for them [power] to do what is best for Jesus and our entire church.”

So for opposing the bylaw changes, Mark Driscoll accused Paul Petry and Bent Meyer of  jockeying for power. What these men were opposing was what Driscoll was amazed at by his own words, that the elders were giving up their power.  Driscoll said he was giving up power in the new bylaws – bylaws that gave him more power and totally stripped the elders of any power whatsoever and then he told us that he is amazed that the elders gave up power. So everyone was giving up power with the new bylaws  – according to Mark Driscoll. The wordsmithing is subtle and Pastor Kensrue hit the nail on the head. The Executive Elders made a deft grab for power.

The end result was that the new 2007 bylaws ended up leading to a situation wherein Mark Driscoll and his two executives, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas, have all the power and the elders at large have no power.

Pastor Kensrue is correct. There was as theological shift that reflected a deliberate and deft grab for power. Sadly, it was significantly misrepresented to the members in a 145-page document full of half-truths and untruths (link).

In defending the firings of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer in 2007, Mark Driscoll, along with the pliant elders at the time, stated the following:

– To make matters worse, there was a growing disrespect among some elders who were jockeying for and abusing power.

– The illusion of unity our eldership had maintained over the years was kept in part by my tolerating some men who demanded more power

– This meant that I needed to give up a great deal of power and trust other elders, deacons, and members to care for the church with the same passionate affection that I have for our people.

– To begin this process I had to go first and divest myself of a great deal of power.

– Sadly, it was during the bylaw rewriting process that two of our elders…chose to fight in a sinful manner in an effort to defend their power and retain legal control of the entire church.

– …my research indicated men commonly respond by sinfully seeking power, money, preference, control, and information as ways to exercise pride and fight for their interests over the interests of the team, church, and mission of Jesus Christ.

– … some church members even began accusing the other elders of grabbing power and not caring for the best interests of our people, which is nothing short of a lie and contradictory in every way to the entire process we were undertaking

– It has been painful to see a few men whom I loved and trained as elders become sinful, proud, divisive, accusatory, mistrusting, power hungry, and unrepentant.

– It has, however, been absolutely amazing to see all but one of those men humble themselves and give up what is best for them [power] to do what is best for Jesus and our entire church.

– There are two groups of elders that are giving up “civil authority” (not biblical authority) in the adoption of the new bylaws. The first is the Full Council of Elders which consists of every elder from every campus.

. What actually happens in a system like that is that fewer and fewer people continue to get power because with so many elders you can’t get anything done and as a result the red tape increases, bureaucracy ensues and shortcuts begin to be developed so that things can actually happen.

In specific Pastor Mark is giving up the most individual authority and power. Previous to these organizational changes he was the Lead Pastor, Preaching Pastor, Head of the Elder Board and the President of the non-profit corporation. With these changes the only current role he holds of those previously held is Preaching Pastor. The intention is to not hoard power but rather share it so that many elders and many leaders can hold positions of influence based on their individual gifts and callings.

Pastor Mark has stepped down on his own initiative as lead pastor as an example for us all. He has less power and has more accountable systems around him. There is a growing sense of health among the elders as we wrestled with the Bylaws and the recent investigations. The new bylaws provide less chance of an individual elder or a small group of elders thwarting the mission of the church.

The 145-page document is a masterpiece of obfuscation and spin-doctoring. Simply put, the 2007 bylaws are at the root of the current problems facing Mars Hill Church, where brutal leaders cannot be stopped by qualified elders who have been called to serve, protect and rule the church. It is simply a recipe for corruption and abuse. Or as Bent Meyer prophetically noted in 2007, they are “a formula for mischief.”

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?

Who is outwitting Mars Hill Leadership?

devil made me do it 5

2 Cor 2:10 -11 warns that Satan can outwit the church. Mars Hill Church has not only failed to reconcile with the many members abusively thrown under the bus over the years, but after almost seven years they are still shunning Paul Petry.

They are also seemingly hapless in their attempts to deal with the current scandals, choosing to cover up and hide the truth rather than “man-up” and be accountable.

This was demonstrated again yesterday in their attempt to remove videos posted on YouTube where in 2012 Mark Driscoll clearly asked the members of Mars Hill Church to consider giving to the Global Fund or Mars Hill Global (link).

If you are following the scandal, the new spin from Sutton Turner is that since 2009 Mars Hill Global was not in fact a fund, but was global donors that were giving to the general fund. Most of the organization’s solicitations for designated donations were made through the videos with an Ethiopian backdrop, clearly implying that the funds would be used for international outreach. Rather than admit the truth, that only a very small percentage of the money went to Africa and India, Mars Hill Church leaders are trying to re-spin the story.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been focused on exonerating Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, and demanding a repeal of the 2007 bylaws that were changed in an improper manner.

It would seem, based upon understanding the Apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 2, that it would be in the interest of Mars Hill Church to reconcile with Paul Petry and stop the almost seven years of shunning. Being too harsh with members invites Satan to outplay you.

The scripture passage is referencing the punishment of the man who was thrown out of the church in 1 Corinthians 5 for gross sin. Apparently he had repented, but the Corinthian church had not yet ended the punishment. Paul exhorts them that failure to forgive would cause Satan to outwit them.

2 Corinthians 2: 7 -11 “so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ,  so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”

There are two warnings. The first is that failure to affirm love and forgiveness will cause the victim to be overwhelmed with excessive sorrow. I can identify with that warning. The second is that failure to forgive and affirm the member will mean that Satan can take advantage of the church or, as some translations say, outwit the church.

The Apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Cor 2 applied to a case where the punishment was completely warranted but simply went on for too long.  In Paul Petry’s case, it is well documented that his show trial was a farce and merely a way of getting rid of a reasoned voice opposing the awful changes in the bylaws. Seven years of shunning is excessive by any reasonable measure. The Apostle Paul’s warning is particularly relevant in this case.

How much more then, if Paul Petry’s shunning is undeserved, will Satan be in a position to outwit Mars Hill Church leadership? They ought to take heed. We are seeing the consequence playing out before our very eyes.

More than one casual observer has expressed surprise at the seeming gaffs by Mars Hill Church leadership in reacting after being exposed for deceit and spin relating to the many scandals that they are facing. Historically Mars Hill has had excellent PR skills. But not recently. Are they being outwitted?

It seems obvious to the average Christian that to simply tell the truth is by far the easiest and most righteous thing to do when caught in a lie. Members will forgive a genuine plea for forgiveness. This is not happening at Mars Hill Church, where instead every scandal is addressed by new spin and explanation.

Three changing explanations for the shameful spending of $210,000 of church money to deceptively manipulate sales to ensure a spot on the NYT Bestsellers’ list. Apologies and conflicting stories to explain how the global fund spent a “preponderate” percentage of  money in the US and not in Ethiopia and India, while concurrently saying that the fund has not existed since 2009. The more appropriate word should be a “preposterous” amount.

How can there be only four donors to the fund that petitioned MH and ECFA for answers in a recent change.org petition (link), while at the same time the fund hasn’t existed since 2009? How can six thousand total donors to the fund be contacted to explain the matter and at the same time the fund doesn’t exist?  (link)

Does the Mars Hill Leadership think that we donors, members and ex-members are fools? Do they think that their shifting explanations will outwit us?

Or is it the Mars Hill leadership that is being unwittingly outwitted (2 Cor 2:10)?

Changing the story is a form of lying. Mars Hill keeps changing the story. This is disturbing as truth telling is being avoided in favor of cover-up. This is foolish and certainly a possible demonstration of the leadership being outwitted. It seems that the attempts to correct the scandals are being so badly spun that anyone who is paying attention can see it.

Why can they not be forthright and open?

Members are asking how much of the Global Fund money was spent on international outreach. Instead of answering the question, and despite clear evidence that the solicitation was for the Global Fund and in addition to normal giving, Mars Hill has chosen to say that there is no Global Fund, and that since 2009 it refers to global donors. Abundant evidence exists to show that this is simply not true. Donor receipts after 2009 reflect their donations to the Global Fund.

By refusing to be truthful, the leadership is playing a game where they are just hurting themselves. This is the warning of 1 Cor 2:10.

A reminder to the reader to some of the sad scandals that all reflect failure to be truthful or a desire to hide the truth.

– Purging the history of who founded Mars Hill Church.
– Plagiarism in multiple books authored by Mark Driscoll.
– Deceptively manipulating sales of “Real Marriage” to ensure a New York Times Bestseller title.
– Requiring gag-orders from departing employees in order to get severance pay – thus attempting to silence truth-tellers.
– Requiring an employee that files a charge against Mark Driscoll to submit their resignation first.
– Repeatedly soliciting Global Fund money using an African backdrop implying the funds were to be used for International Outreach.
– Removing and purging the names of members who helped build the church, including founders Lief Moi and Mike Gunn.
– Removing hundreds of sermons and other content from accessibility to members and the general public.

But before these recent examples, let me talk about the mother of all deceptions.

For years Mark Driscoll preached that he was one of a plurality of elders of equal authority. He preached that this was the biblical pattern for church leadership. He said he could get fired by his elders. This made Mars Hill members like myself feel secure and safe.

Little did we know that Mark Driscoll, while preaching this with great frequency and fervor, was reverse engineering a plan to change this form of governance and accountability. While preaching this line, and getting the support of our tithes, offerings, and volunteered effort as a result, he and former executive elder Jamie Munson rewrote the bylaws to usher in a church governance structure that was the antithesis to what Mark Driscoll was concurrently preaching.

Then, in an effort to ward off opposition at the elder level, they accused Bent Meyer and Paul Petry of opposing the new bylaws because they wanted to grab power. After ruthlessly firing the men and subjecting them to a show trial full of hearsay and pettiness, they told the church that the men demanded power.

As unsettled members were trying to understand what had happened, every member covenant was torn up, and a seemingly healthy church of over 1,600 members and over 3000 attenders was shut down and Mars Hill Church was “replanted”. Over 1,000 members did not join the replant.

Our church was deceptively taken from us.

Mark Driscoll told an interviewer that he lost over 1,000 members because he raised the bar for membership by publishing his book – “Doctrine”. Yet the truth was that the only change was the new bylaws that consolidated power in Mark Driscoll’s hands (link). So few ex-members were signing up for the replant that attendees were recruited to become members more fervently than the local fitness club tries to sign you up.

In addition, Bent Meyer was found to be not guilty on all counts but one. Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson were his accusers. The outcome of the trial of Bent Meyer clearly demonstrated that the accusations were false. In other words, they were lies.

The seeds of deceit in 2007 have born the fruit of repeated deceit since then as we are all seeing.

For Mars Hill Church to survive and recover from its current implosion, the deceitful and coercive changing of the bylaws and the shameful treatment of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer and their families will have to be dealt with. If the 2 Cor 2:10 warning means anything, it seems to warn that even subsequent confession and apologies will not thwart the injustice of failing to affirm love for the brother whose punishment has become harsh.

So confession and repentance must, for the sake of Mars Hill Church, start with the unjust treatment of Paul Petry. It also needs to be a full attempt at learning to tell the truth and transparently walking in the light on all matters.

True reconciliation and fellowship will be the result. It will involve forgiveness and restoration, and despite the pain of the process will bring true joy and freedom. It will be “all about Jesus” in a way that Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church has not experienced in some time.

The alternative is to continue to walk in the dark, continue to shun not only Paul Petry, but the many bodies under the bus, and we fail to realize that the consequence of this is to allow Satan to continue to outwit.

He is an angel of darkness and the source of spin, deceit and lies.

Satan is defeated by the walking in the light.