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.

 

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The “Noble Nine” pastors in the fiery furnace at Mars Hill Church. No wait! There are ten!

1-19-Martin-Luther-King-ftr

“You must do right because it’s right to do right…”
“I am 38 years old, but I am dead if I do not stand for justice…”
“You may lose your job…”

Powerful words of encourgement from a great preacher.

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“Ultimately you must do right because it’s right to do right. And you got to say ‘But if not…’
“You must love ultimately because it’s lovely to love.
“You must be just because it’s right to be just.
“You must be honest because it’s right to be honest.

“This is what this text is saying more than anything else. And finally, you must do it because it has gripped you so much that you are willing to die for it if necessary. And I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren’t fit to live.

“You may be 38 years old as I happen to be, and one day some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause–and you refuse to do it because you are afraid; you refuse to do it because you want to live longer; you’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you’re afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house, and so you refuse to take the stand.

“Well you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90! And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right, you died when you refused to stand up for truth, you died when you refused to stand up for justice. These boys stand before us today, and I thank God for them, for they had found something.

“The fiery furnace couldn’t stop them from believing. They said “Throw us into the fiery furnace.” But you know the interesting thing is, the Bible talks about a miracle. Because they had faith enough to say “But if not,” God was with them as an eternal companion.

“And this is what I want to say finally, that there is a reward if you do right for righteousness’ sake.

“It says that somehow that burning fiery furnace was transformed into an air-conditioned living room. Somebody looked in there and said ‘We put three in here, but now we see four!’ Don’t ever think you’re by yourself. Go on to jail if necessary but you’ll never go alone.

“Take a stand for that which is right, and the world may misunderstand you and criticize you, but you never go alone, for somewhere I read that ‘One with God is a majority,’ and God has a way of transforming a minority into a majority.

“Walk with him this morning and believe in him and do what is right and he’ll be with you even until the consummation of the ages. Yes, I’ve seen the lightning flash, I’ve heard the thunder roll, I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing trying to conquer my soul but I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on, he promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone; no, never alone, no, never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

“Where you’re going this morning, my friends, tell the world that you’re going with truth. You’re going with justice, you’re going with goodness, and you will have an eternal companionship. And the world will look at you and they won’t understand you, for your fiery furnace will be around you, but you’ll go on anyhow. But if not, I will not bow, and God grant that we will never bow before the gods of evil.”

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 5, 1967. The title, “But if Not”, comes from Daniel chapter 3, verse 18.

Abusive tactics forced the bylaws to be changed in 2007

 

 

Cast your vote

Recent events at Mars Hill Church show that dissent of any kind is not tolerated. Even questioning can get you removed as a member.

It therefore time for all members and ex-members to understand that the bylaws that were changed in 2007 were changed under that same threats and abusive coercion that we have all witnessed in recent days, most lately in the cases of Dalton Rohrback, Phil Poirier, and Phil Smidt, all of whom were terminated because they either questioned or could not agree with one thing or another.

The current bylaws allow for the Executive Elders to simply remove elders at will. This was not, however, the case in 2007 under the old bylaws. But the abusive tactics that we now see commonly used by Mars Hill Church executive elders used were used in 2007 to scare and coerce the men at the time to agree to change the bylaws.

How on earth could Mark Driscoll, who taught that he was one of a plurality of equal elders (and recruited elders on that basis) get the same elders to agree to give up the authority they had and give it all to the executive elders? It would seem to be an impossible task.

In order to change the bylaws, two thirds of the elders had to vote in favor of the change, and that would mean that two thirds would have to agree to bylaws that flew in the face of everything that Mark Driscoll had taught for years. They would vote against the form of church governance that the members had signed up for.

The way Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson pulled it off was crafty and certainly against the spirit of the bylaws. One might make a good case that the way it was done violated the bylaws themselves.

The set up was the ruthless firings of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer.

It is common knowledge at this stage of the game that they were primarily fired because they opposed the transfer of power from all of the elders to the executive elders. Petry and Meyer proposed that the Executive Elders be given power by the body of elders in a way that kept them accountable to the elders – certainly a sensible and more biblical approach to church governance, and one that Mark Driscoll taught with great power in the years prior to the 2007 bylaws change.

In 2007, most of the elders were young men. For many this was the best paying job they had ever had, and at the time they were well paid. Average salaries and benefits were rumored to be about $100k per year. As they watched Petry and Meyer get fired and humiliated for just questioning the bylaws, it was clear that their jobs would be on the line if they failed to fall in line with Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson’s wishes.

So twenty two elders voted to change the bylaws in the aftermath of watching two men get fired for resisting the changes. Actually, the truth is that the vote should be recorded as twenty one men voted for the changes, and one man, Lief Moi, voted against. According to Lief, Mark Driscoll wanted to present a unanimous vote to the church, so he demanded a second vote and Lief, who was terminated just months later, realized that his was a lost cause and changed his vote.

So, like so many twists of the truth that we members heard, we were told the vote was unanimous. It was true, but untrue. It was a half-truth.

In 2007, a change in bylaws required a two thirds majority vote. Before the firings of Pastors Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, when the total number of elders was twenty four, sixteen votes were needed to pass the vote. Nine elders could stop the change.

After the firings of the men, which was done in a massive hurry before the vote to change the bylaws, only fifteen votes were needed. It would still take eight votes to block.

So by firing the men ruthlessly, and demanding a unanimous vote, Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson pulled off two things. They removed two dissenting votes, and demonstrated what would happen to any elder that raised questions or appeared to oppose the change.

Some of us ex-members have spoken to at least twelve of the 24 men who voted on October 2007 to change the bylaws. Some have now stated that they felt shame about their vote, and felt undue pressure to vote against their conscience, while others say they were afraid, and others say that had their been reasonable dialog and discussions and the freedom to dissent they would not have voted the way they voted.

In other words, the way that the Executive Elders won the vote was not with reasonable due process that would certainly be expected in any civic and ethical environment, and we know now, based upon everything that we have seen, that the abusive environment caused the vote to be coerced.

Had Paul and Bent not been fired, they would have needed seven additional elders to vote against the bylaw change in order to keep the church elder run.

Without the abuse, 12 elders would have voted against the new bylaws. Mark Driscoll and his executives would have to give an account to the elders of the church. Instead, we have leadership that cannot be held to account, and hundreds of hurt members and staff have left.

The bylaw change was a violation of due process, and the Mars Hill Church BOAA should recognize this fact and acknowledge the immense damage that has been the result.

The current bylaws need to repealed and Paul Petry and Bent Meyer exonerated.