Mars Hill Church – Déjà vu?

On no not again

Seven years ago 22 elders lacked the character and leadership skills to stand up and stop bad mistakes from being made. As a result the by-laws were changed to reflect a form of church goverance that not only flew in the face of everything the church believed and had been taught, but set in motion the destruction of Mark Driscoll’s ministry, reputation, and the church he claimed he loved.

Now we are facing a similar daunting situation. Sadly, it appears that once again the church is left with leaders who seem to be unable to lead with courage, strength and openness.

Despite telling the church how much they are loved, and promising to be more open with members, news and information from Warren Throckmorton or Wenatchee the Hatchett’s posts is more reliable and far more credible than the updates coming from Dave Bruskas and his leadership team.

In order to get the information that is needed to know how to pray, how to give, and how to move forward with their lives, members and donors learn more of value from the comments section of Throckmorton’s and Wenatchee the Hatchett’s posts than they do the flaccid leadership of the church.

Take the current financial picture for example.

We have learned that several campuses are for sale. Where did we learn this? From social media.

We have heard that Mark Driscoll had a recommended salary and benefit package that was at least $850,000 per year, not counting perks. Where did we hear this? From social media.

We have heard of a million-dollar home being purchased in a gated compound and placed in a trust that listed the same address as Mars Hill Church. Who told us this? Social media.

We have heard that Mars Hill Church does not own the rights to the sermons and intellectual property its members and donors paid for. We have heard of a scandalous severance package for Mark Driscoll, the man who fired elders without severance unless they signed restrictive non-disclosure agreements. Where did we hear of all this? Social media.

Through social media, we donors and members are hearing that the current leadership is considering filing for bankruptcy. How can this be the case? How insulting that we are not given the exact picture of the condition of the church!

Does the current leadership not love the church enough to shoot straight with its members and donors?  How can any of us pray about our giving if we are kept in the dark? Yet, the leadership warns us not to read reports in the social media.

I could go on.

Sadly, what we have not heard, even via social media, is a call for a heartfelt attempt to make matters right with Paul Petry, Bent Meyer and Lief Moi. No attempt to say we are deeply sorry. No rumors of reconciliation, restitution, or restoration.

Mars Hill Church needs men like those men right now. They had the foresight and backbone to do the right thing seven years ago. These men are sorely needed at this time. Mars Hill Church needs leaders that have the clarity and conviction to lead the church back to a solid footing.

Many of us leaders and former leaders would roll up our sleeves and help if called upon.

In my case, my emails to Dave Bruskas remain unanswered.  Paul Petry’s phone (the same number since 2007) has not rung.

Sadly, unless something changes, we will see weak men repeat the mistakes of the elders of 2007, and fail to stand up and lead in full transparency and open reconciliation with the real men who were thrown out years ago, but who have what it takes to help Mars Hill Church recover in the wake of Mark Driscoll’s departure.

 

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

Global Fund Confusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CURRENT STORY LINE:

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

“WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GLOBAL FUND?

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

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

(emphasis added)

YET IN 2012 THE LINE FROM MARK DRISCOLL:

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

AND IN 2014 THE SAME LINE FROM SUTTON TURNER:

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

Mark Driscoll, in this learning season, learn to tell the truth.

mark-Driscoll-learning-season

There is nothing that has marked this season of Mars Hill Church leadership more than its determination to hide the truth. Any sign therefore of genuine learning and growth would be demonstrated by a keen willingness to be truthful.

From hearsay presented in convicting Paul Petry in the show trial used to create fear and pressure when forcing the new bylaws on an unwilling church in 2007, to statements made in Mark Driscoll’s 30 minute speech made to members this week, avoiding the truth seems to be what Mars Hill Leadership has learned to do well in this season. Most of the scandals of the last six years have included some level of deception or truth avoidance.

My last conversation with Mark Driscoll was on August 18, 2009. It was after The Seattle Times published a front page article about a ferry that my company was building for Lake Victoria in East Africa (link). Toward the end of the article, the reporter wrote the following:

Smith split from Mars Hill Church in Seattle two years ago after he opposed a change in bylaws and crackdown on dissenters. Starting new churches was the focus, not helping the poor, he said.

The statement was true, although it did seem a little out of place. If you pick up the article from sources other than the Seattle Times, that line is removed. It is as if the reporter added the comment for readers in Seattle.

Well, I had two reactions to this statement. The first was an email from a dear friend warning me never to say something negative about the church in a public forum. This impacted me quite significantly although, as most would know, the statement was not made by me – it was made by the reporter.

The second reaction was from Mark Driscoll. My previous conversation with him had included him berating me as “the worst trouble maker in Mars Hill’s history” and his threat to destroy me and make sure that I could never be in ministry again (along with words that only a “cussing” pastor would use). A week earlier I was well on my way to becoming an elder under then Pastor James Harleman, and was coaching the community group leaders for the new Wedgwood campus. I had suddenly become a pariah for suggesting that Paul Petry and Bent Meyer needed to have a fair trial (link).

On the Monday morning after the article ran, I received repeated calls from an “unknown” number. Typically I ignore these calls, as I get calls from all over the world because of my work in Africa. It was clear that the caller was not giving up so I answered.

It was Mark Driscoll.

He said that he had been contacted by the Seattle Times reporter and was asked for his side of the story. He proposed that we have a truce and neither of us talk about or tell our side of the story. The conversation was shortened when I asked Driscoll, “Why don’t we just both walk in the light?” After an awkward pause he said goodbye and the conversation ended.

Why tell this story now?

Well, it shows the same pattern as we are seeing now. “Let’s not tell the truth” is what I was hearing. Let’s just agree to hide parts of the truth. This is what we have seen in almost every scandal.

But the rest of the story here needs to be told. I was interviewed by both the reporter that wrote the article, and by one other reporter that at the time was the religion reporter. I asked both reporters if it was true that the Seattle Times was calling Mars Hill Church for their side of the story. I was told that in fact exactly the opposite had occurred. They had been contacted by either Driscoll himself or by Mars Hill (my memory is fading) offering his side of the story.

Mark Driscoll had simply lied to me.

I filed this away. But of course it made me that much more wary and guarded. This man who had threatened to destroy me, destroy my ministry, and make sure that I could never minister again was willing to flat out lie to me as well. It gave his threat to destroy me credibility. It played a role in my long silence following the incident as I was responsible to both investors in my ferry business and donors in my work with African orphans. It helps me be patient with others that are afraid to speak out.

So now we listen to Mark Driscoll talking about this being a “season of learning” for him (link).

While telling us this, he tells the members the following (link):

As well one of the things that has been complex is the fact that a lot of the people that we are dealing with in this season remain anonymous. And so we don’t know how to reconcile or how to work things out with people because we’re not entirely sure who they are. And so that has made things a little more complex and difficult as well.

My reaction to this, as well as the reaction of many ex-members (reflected in comments in the “Repeal the bylaws” and “Mars Hill Reconnect” groups of Facebook), was that his statement conveys more dishonesty and deception.

As demonstrated in the call that I received in 2009, Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church do know the names of the hundreds of members that are bleeding. They know the names of those that they view as those with whom they should reconcile, or at least work things out with. This statement is intended to show a willingness to do the right thing, when in fact Mars Hill Church has shown no such willingness.

In fact, they are unwilling to attempt reconciliation and are showing no signs of trying to work things out.

There are many other statements made by Mark Driscoll in his 30 minute video that are also deceptive. But perhaps others will point them out.

I ask the reader, especially the current leadership and current members the following: Is it possible that the lesson during this season of learning is that of simply learning to tell the truth?

And I still have the same phone number as I had in 2009. Reconciliation and working things out are quite possible. After all, is it not true that “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with the other”?

More lies from Mars Hill Church leadership.

The truth please

To say that someone has lied is using very strong language.  Since the deceitful and coercive way that Mark Driscoll and former executive elder, Jamie Munson, along with former elders Tim Belz and Scott Thomas, changed the bylaws in 2007,  it seems that being deceitful is something that occurs with routine frequency at Mars Hill Church.

Mars Hill Church leaders seem to lie whenever a scandal hits the news. In almost every case there is no repentance at first. Eventually, if the stories they tell do not stick, they finally offer a statement that shifts blame but states that the events that led to the scandal were not good but some outsiders fault, or that there are regrets that people are hurt and an assurance that God is at work in the hearts of the leaders.

Why keep pointing out the lies, you might ask? What axe is there to grind? The answer is simple. There are hurting people, including the still shunned Petry family, that are bleeding emotionally and spiritually because of the abuse they received at the hands of the Mars Hill Church culture. Injustice leaves a wound that simply does not heal until repentance and restitution occur.

I find no joy in digging up the discipline case that hit the news in early 2012.

The attached article in Christianity Today recaps the basic story (link). A young man named Andrew sinned against his fiancé, felt convicted and confessed. Confession was not good enough for his leaders and he was given hurdles he had to jump to “prove” his repentance – which was never good enough. Eventually, after being asked to document and share his entire sexual history with Mars Hill leaders, he had the sense to walk away from such treatment and leave the church.

He was then publicly shunned. I happen to know the young man, and his story is similar to many of us who have been shunned. The sudden isolation, the immediate lack of community, not knowing where you stand with all of your close friends, is humiliating, isolating and very painful. It is also not biblical if you have repented of your sins as this young man had.

You may ask, what has this to do with Mars Hill Church and lies?

Well, the headline of the Christianity Today article is the lie. “Mars Hill Says It Released Leaders Over Church Discipline Cases”.  The initial implication was that two leaders got fired over the handling of this particular case. Mars Hill Church stated that the men were fired before the story broke, again implying that they were engaged as soon as they saw the abuse and immediately fired the elders responsible.

I remember the story, and I actually felt deep sorrow for the abused young man. I also, however, felt sorry for the elders who were merely patterning themselves after what they were learning from Mark Driscoll’s abusive style. They themselves have now been ruthlessly fired rather than taught a better way.

Well, I have since met the young man, and met with three of the elders and community group leaders involved. It is they who were quick to tell me that Mars Hill simply lied in their statement regarding elders being fired. The truth is that nobody was fired as a result of the case that hit the news.

So why the lie from Mars Hill Church? My guess is that it is because it is what they thought needed to be said to settle down the raucous in the press.

The lie shifted blame to two elders that overstepped their authority and therefore were fired. So the fault was not the leaders of Mars Hill Church, it was these two rogue elders who were immediately terminated. Problem solved. (Side note: remember two elders getting fired in 2007?) (Link)

The sad part is not just that Mars Hill lied in that two elders were not fired as a result of this particular abusive episode, but that Mars Hill Church scrambled to fabricate a story to pacify the questioning and criticism, but did not scramble to make things right with the young man.

So Mars Hill Church actually recognized that two elders overstepped their authority (euphemism for “were abusive to a member”) and failed reach out to the abused members and put things right.

This is the pattern. The leaders lie to explain and deflect responsibility. Even when it is clear people are hurting, there is no addressing the hurt bodies that have been thrown through the wood-chipper and left under the bus. Here is Mark Driscoll delighting in the fact that, “by God’s grace, there will be a mountain of bodies under the bus” (link)

On final note… in this particular case, Mars Hill statements also progressed and changed. It seems that if the first “story” is not effective, Mars Hill will make further statements that are contradictory to the earlier statements. We have seen this lately with the three differing statements relating to the deception and misspending of church finds to manipulate book sales in trying to secure a Bestseller spot on the New York Times list.

We have also seen it in the various attempts to explain away the fund that Mars Hill leaders had been heavily soliciting donations for with clear implications that the fund was to be used for international outreach (with solicitations all set in an impoverished Ethiopian village). As it has become clear that a minuscule amount of the millions raised actually want to international outreach (maybe $300k), the story went from Global Fund including the U.S. plants and campuses, to the fund not actually existing and Global actually meaning global donors.

The retelling of the story is so obvious and non-believable to anyone paying attention, that I commented that it appears that they are being outwitted somehow (link).

It is my prayer that the level of lies and corruption within the leadership forces the remaining members and elders to bring the changes that are needed to ensure that Mars Hill Church recovers from its current implosion and troubles.

MHC Pastors to hurting members – “quit social media and agree to be defrauded and abused.”

Agree to your suffering - says MHC

If you have been abused by Mars Hill Church leadership, one of the key pastors is suggesting that it is biblical to agree to be “defrauded” than to take public action to prevent such abuse.

Pastor David Fairchild, lead pastor of Mars Hill Church’s west Seattle campus, uses Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 6 about Christians settling disputes through secular lawsuits as the basis for his argument that “Paul would rather have us suffer wrong and be defrauded than air our grievances before a technological tribunal. I’m sure this teaching was most difficult to receive by those who felt they were wronged.” (From Fairchild’s facebook page)

So even though your life may in turmoil as a result of being abused by the leadership, one of the lead pastors of the abusive church is saying that although it is tough to accept, it is better to suffer this wrong than to air the grievance on social media (of course, he airs his view about this on social media!)

In a similar way, churches will thwart and hide sexual abuse by arguing that it should be handled in a quiet manner more akin to Matthew 18 versus taking the matter to law enforcement. Some churches (Mars Hill Church included at times) have encouraged abused wives to stay in the marriage despite the abuse – claiming that such is the bible’s teaching on the matter.

Pastor Brad House, after Paul Petry had been ruthlessly fired, unfairly tried, and badly mistreated (as has been clearly documented in many places), argued that it was Petry’s duty to respond in a godly way and in so doing “pour coals on our heads” and that “mistreatment” by himself and the other elders was no justification for Petry acting in a defensive way (link).

So both pastors David Fairchild and Brad House are arguing that people who have suffered abuse at the hands of the leadership of Mars Hill Church, where they both have or had a key role, should act in such a way as to pour coals on “our” heads. They should simply agree to the abuse.

I cannot imagine that the Apostle Paul was teaching that an abusive pastor should reach out to the members of his own church and suggest that to defend oneself from the abuse is ungodly and that the abused member should “pour coals on the abusive pastor’s head” by being quiet and kind.

What a distortion of the teaching.

Romans 12: 19 & 20: Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD”

Those of us who are arguing that Mars Hill Church leadership is corrupt, dishonest, deceptive and abusive do not view Mars Hill Church or its leaders as enemies. We view them as sinful brothers who have refused to allow anything resembling a Matthew 18 form of dealing with sin and dispute to occur.

Were Brad House and David Fairchild, in suggesting verses referring to lawsuits and enemies, representing the position of the Mars Hill Church leadership?

We prefer a different verse.

Proverbs  27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”

From a personal point of view, if I were the only member thrown under the bus, I would consider simply being defrauded and seek specific opportunities to be kind to my abusers, and in so doing pour coals on their heads. But what kind of man would I be to stand by and watch others get systematically abused?

I am saddened that pastors like David Fairchild and Brad House are willing to allow the abuse to go on and then tell the abused member to be defrauded and act in a way that pours coal on their own heads.

Their perspective is callous and abusive. It protects the abusers and not the sheep that these pastors are supposed to care for and protect.