Acts 6 teaches true leadership. Leadership was chosen by the “brothers and sisters”, not from the top down.

leadership

Stephen was chosen for his leadership role by the entire church. The apostles merely blessed what the whole church decided.

It’s worth taking a closer look at the leadership style of the apostles.

 “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said…” (Acts 6:1-2a)

The apostles had a problem to solve, so they took it straight to….tada!….all the disciples. All the Christians. The whole church. And it was not a small number of people: Acts 4:4 says that there were about 5,000 believers.

 “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2a-4)

Look at that! The apostles included the women in the process just as much as the men! The apostles trusted that the body of believers had enough discernment to make decisions about church matters. Here they are being trusted to identify and choose their own leaders. The apostles trusted the whole church so much that they committed ahead of time to go with whomever the group decided: You choose the men and we’ll go with them.

 “This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:5-6)

Having heard the apostles’ proposal – not their edict – and giving it some consideration, the body of believers was pleased with the idea and decided to do what the apostles proposed. And they chose seven men. And they presented them to the apostles. The apostles didn’t choose the men and then present them to the body. How opposite to how things work in elder-dominated churches!

And the apostles kept their word and blessed the men that the body had chosen.

How different the experience of church might be if this process played out more often.

Shaun Smith

Dear Mr. Driscoll: Religious leaders killed Stephen.

Pharisees

Mr. Driscoll,

Stephen was killed because he brought charges against religious leaders.

He brought charges that discredited not just one minister, but an entire group of ministers – the Sanhedrin. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Stephen “attacked” the ministers with charges that they could not even tolerate hearing. And so, instead of responding to the charges he brought, they chose to destroy the accuser.

They were men who were supposed to be trustworthy. They were religious leaders, tasked with shepherding the flock of Israel. Their ministry was to run a religious court system, ensuring justice in Israel. Yet they were the men who killed Jesus.

Stephen’s charge to them: “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

How utterly insulted the Sanhedrin must have felt. Who was this Stephen guy anyway, and how dare he speak so boldly – so arrogantly! – to men of such high authority! And he brought enormous charges: he said they killed the Righteous One!

“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” (Acts 7:57-58)

The religious leaders couldn’t handle the charges Stephen brought. They were enraged by them. They responded by destroying the accuser, but they didn’t stop there. They instigated persecution against all Christians in Jerusalem. It’s as if they thought, “We have to root out this threat to our ministry, this threat to all of Israel! We have to squash these troublemakers! Who are these people to believe and speak such blasphemy, such falsehood? We must put a stop to it! We must make an example of them, to send a message to everyone in Jerusalem: if you roll with the wrong pack, you will pay!”

So terrible persecution spread across Jerusalem. Fear was put into the hearts of every Christian. Fear that if they spoke the truth, they would be targeted. Fear that if they seemed sympathetic to that troublemaker Stephen, and if they seemed critical of the Sanhedrin, they too would be killed.

And so the church was ravaged by religious wolves who couldn’t stand to hear criticism of their ministers.

Shaun Smith

Do shepherds also come in packs?

a pack of leaders

As we become more and more exposed to the systematic abuse of members, staff and elders who raise questions at Mars Hill Church, coupled with scandal after scandal that clearly cause question raising, one must wonder about the many factors that helped create the environment that has allowed the current mess.

There is no doubt that other national leaders who have had a relationship with Mark Driscoll have seen what questioning members have seen. There are many men who could have played a role in tempering Mark Driscoll’s rush to un-accountability. But I think a good place to start is to look within the ranks of Acts 29.

Acts 29 was birthed out of Spanish River Church in Florida when its late leader, David Nicolas, met Mark Driscoll and proposed to start Acts 29. Spanish River Church had a church planting heart, having had a history of launching many church plants prior to the founding of Acts 29. It also had several members who were able to financially back a national movement of church plants.

In 2005, in a move very similar to the 2007 manipulative firings of Pastors Petry and Meyer and radically changing the bylaws of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll succeeded to get David Nicolas ousted from the board of the very organization he help co-found, and Driscoll himself installed as the president.

The manner in which this was done has been the source of rumors of Mark Driscoll’s callous cruelty toward people. Witness to this were men like Ed Stetzer, Darrin Patrick, Rick McKinley, Steve Tomkins and others. Other men like Tim Keller and John Piper would have surely heard and seen Mark Driscoll in action, yet they said nothing.

Furthermore, these men continued to speak with Mark Driscoll at conferences and create organizations that named Mark Driscoll in a way that authenticated his ministry style. They shared the podium and limelight at Acts 29 boot-camps and other venues repeatedly. Their very presence on the same stage led the public to believe they were endorsing Driscoll – and by their actions they were.

Some of these men, including Piper and CJ Mahaney (now embroiled in his own mess), were called upon by Paul Petry when he unsuccessfully reached out for help after his world was turned upside down by Driscoll’s ruthlessness.  Not a word from these men. I personally reached out to Gerry Breashears, who simply did and said nothing. Some, like Josh Harris, continued to heap praise on Driscoll

http://www.joshharris.com/2007/11/learning_from_mark_driscoll.php

Others went on Driscoll’s defense. Several writers at the Gospel Coalition, even when mildly rebuking Driscoll for this or that, still heaped praises on him and his ministry. Anthony Bradley came out of the woodwork harshly rebuking Rachel Held Evans for her words condemning Driscoll’s comments about effeminate worship leaders. Apparently, Bradley failed to see how publicly rebuking Evans for publicly rebuking Driscoll was at the very least doing exactly what Bradley accused her of doing.

http://www.worldmag.com/2011/07/libel_is_not_love

Maybe the gentlemen’s agreement among these men is that you do not rebuke one of your own. Is this why these men who have known of the aggressive and abusive style of Driscoll are quick to rebuke others, but hardly have opened their mouths when it comes to Mark Driscoll?

It is long known that many Acts 29 pastors were beginning to question and distance themselves from Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll in particular. So when Driscoll tried his takeover of Acts 29 in 2012, there was finally sufficient backlash to remove Driscoll as president and move the headquarters out of Mars Hill Church to Texas.

All this was well and good. But where were the truthful statements about the transition? All we got was flowery statements. If Matt Chandler knew about the abusive ways of Mark Driscoll, why has he not spoken up?  Chandler shared the stage with Driscoll at Resurgence 2013. His presence continued to endorse Driscoll’s leadership style. Chandler’s continued silence and his association with Driscoll’s Resurgence organization, if not implying Chandler’s approval of Driscoll, is troubling.

The national leaders of Acts 29, as well the leaders in the Gospel Coalition have now increasingly distanced themselves from Mark Driscoll. But they have done so in a way that has not warned the church of his abuse. It is only recently that Acts 29 has followed the actions of the Gospel Coalition, scrubbing references to Driscoll from their websites. So why not tell us why?

It is my opinion that these men have failed the church by their silence. They are continuing to fail the church with their continued silence. Members are being hurt, yet we hear nothing from these men.

I appeal to them, even as lowly members are increasingly speaking out, to walk in the light and tell the truth to the church.

After all, are you shepherds meant to protect the sheep, or the pack of shepherds?

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

wolves-in-shepherds-clothing1

Mark Driscoll is warning his congregation that wolves are attacking Mars Hill Church.

The wolves apparently are attacking the community groups in particular and the church in general, according to Driscoll.

In his recent sermons, Driscoll has been preparing the church to handle these attacks, including sermons warning the church of such attacks claiming they are akin to the stoning of Stephen (apparently the Apostle Paul was an example of an alpha-wolf before his conversion) (sermon of May 25th), sermons talking about Jesus making mistakes but not sinning (http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=276_1402705603), and a sermon in which members are encouraged not to look at the internet, which Driscoll warned is “all shenanigans” (sermon of June 8 2014).

A shenanigan is a “deceitful trickster”.

Of course, prior to Driscoll’s sermon of March 25th, had you searched for sermons about wolves attacking the church being preached from Acts 7, you would have come up empty-handed. Driscoll is plowing new ground. One might wonder why he did not wait for Acts 20 where Paul (the so-called “alpha” wolf of Driscoll’s Acts 7 sermon) is warning the church about wolves:

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw disciples after them”.

The Book of Acts does talk about savage wolves (not sure where Driscoll gets the term “alpha wolf” from – unless it is a part of triperspectival hierarchy among the wolves) and Paul makes it very clear how they draw disciples to follow them: They distort the truth.

Driscoll is making a case to the church that attacks are either happening or are immanent, and that the attackers are wolves plus a few really bad alpha-wolves. In Acts 20, the only verse in Acts that actually warns about wolves says that they will attack by distorting truth.

So perhaps the best way to identify these wolves, particularly the alpha wolves, is to hone in on who is distorting truth.

While we are pondering the warning it is worth reminding ourselves of the scandals the poor church is currently dealing with. These scandals are unrelated to any outside “attacks” against Mars Hill Church and have clearly been caused within the church itself (where Paul in Acts 20 suggests that the wolves will likely come from).

The scandals all seem to relate to some level of truth distortion. This is more than a little disturbing if in fact this is the main weapon that the wolves choose to employ when attacking the sheep.

Here some the scandals the church is scrambling to deal with:

  • Over 42 elders/pastors resigned in the last two years, as well over 100 church employees, most of whom were required to sign an agreement not to speak anything negative about the church or forfeit severance pay. So the Executive Elders are asking them to hide any negative truth about the church or be punished.
  • Multiple accounts of plagiarism in the writings of Mark Driscoll have come to light. Plagiarism distorts the truth about the authorship of what is written.
  • Complete scrubbing and re-writing the history of Mars Hill Church have become evident. Mars Hill Church and Resurgence websites have taken Mars Hill Church founders Lief Moi and Mike Gunn out of the picture altogether, and they now state that Mark Driscoll was the founder of the church – another distortion, seemingly intended to highlight Driscoll and take credit away from the other founders.
  • Deceptively using church funds to coordinate the mass-purchase of 11,000 copies of “Real Marriage” within one week and using an outside company to manipulate book sales resulting in a NYT Bestseller status created a recent scandal. Such deception sounds like a distortion of the truth to me.
  • Once the NYT bestseller scandal was discovered (after two years), Mars Hill Church leadership gave three different explanations. The first explanation was that it was a commonly used method and was employed to reach more people for Jesus. Then “outside counsel” was blamed (we were never told whose counsel it was) – the implication being that even Sutton Turner was new and merely signed what was put in front of him. Lastly, an admission that it was wrong to do and would not be done again. At least three changing versions of the story were put out for public consumption. Even if we assume one of the three is correct, it means that the other two are distortions of the truth.
  • Removing members that are asking question seeking the truth has become commonplace. It seems, as happened after the trials of Petry and Meyer in 2007, that members seeking the truth are not given answers, but are viewed as trouble makers and their membership revoked or suspended. Could refusing to answer questions from members, such as asking for a truthful breakdown of the NYT misuse of church funds, or asking for a list of the salaries of the elders, including the Executive Elders (rumors range from $350k to $1,2m per year) be a way of hiding or distorting the truth? Rather than answering questions seeking the truth, the questions are not answered and the questioners silenced. The Executive Elders would rather keep the truth regarding financial transparency hidden.
  • Then of course, there were the trials of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer themselves. It has become clear to many that the trials were either a power-grab or a means to cover flagrant violations of the then existing bylaws, such as the purchase of the downtown Tabella nightclub without proper notice to the elders, which the elders found out about via an article in The Stranger newspaper.  The current church leaders continue to distort the truth about the trials and the motivations for changing the bylaws. While the truth is slowly becoming clear, the facts are not coming from the Executive Elders. They seem to want to keep these matters in the dark and distorted.

So if wolves attacking the church do so by distorting the truth, it would seem that the church is protected by the truth.  Those that are seeking the truth are most likely then protecting the church from wolves who persist in distorting the truth.

As the above scandals continue to rock the church, many members who have formerly been quiet have risen and are blogging (as I am) or joining their voices in a number of amazing Facebook groups and other forums.  Hundreds of posts and stories with thousands of participating comments have occurred in the last ninety days.

Members are telling their stories. They are stories of abuse, shunning and heavy-handed treatment. They are each member’s account of the truth. Some are told in righteous anger, others in ways that are more tender and kind. Each reflecting a truthful perspective by a member who felt harmed by the current manner in which Mars Hill Church leadership devalues and discards its members.

They are stories of members who have been thrown under the Mars Hill Bus, something Driscoll claimed would keep happening, and in time “by God’s grace”, the pile of bodies would become a mountain http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/preaching-paul_edits1.mp3

It is now clear that the Executive Elders have a staff member who “joined” the Facebook Group “REPEAL THE BYLAWS – EXONERATE PETRY AND MEYER” to see what is being said. At the same time, Driscoll is suggesting that members avoid the internet.

Wolves use avoidance or distortion of the truth to deceive the sheep.

Are former members who are finding their voices together and reaching out to each other in truth “wolves” for seeking and speaking the truth? Or are the real wolves those who have tried to silence them and distort the truth? Is a reporter asking reasonable questions about these scandals really a wolf seeking to distort the truth, or are the men who refuse to answer truthfully flirting with wolf-like behavior themselves?

It seems that the safest way to protect oneself from the wolves that may attack is to have as much truth as possible. Walk in the light. Be open and honest. Answer questions quickly and honestly. Do not avoid or shun people, but listen and share the truth with them.

If the key characteristic of a wolf is that he distorts the truth, then Mars Hill Leadership ought to seriously pray about how it may be viewed by many of the sheep that have been thrown under the bus in the last several years.

The truth always prevails. The truth will root out the wolves and protect the sheep. True elders walk in truth and transparency and have sheep that do not stray.

And if a sheep does stray, a good shepherd leaves the fold to find the one who is lost – not revel that the sheep is “under the bus.”

Men of Unclean Hands

Wash my hands

I believe that the secretive reconciliation attempt by 20 secretive elders and the Mars Hill Church executive elders will produce very little fruit. It has and will, however, produce more pain and angst in many of the most abused ex-members.

My dear wife and I can attest to this pain, and several others have contacted me expressing what I am about to say.

In what will be probably the hardest post to write, I want to say something that may be very difficult to hear.

Many of the men reaching out to seek reconciliation with Mark Driscoll and the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church do not have clean hands. The best agreement they can come to is that they will all change from being “angry young prophets” to become kinder and gentler, more like a “spiritual father.”

Any resolution that is more punitive in nature is one that they cannot demand without impugning themselves. They do not have clean hands.

Like I did seven years ago when appealing for a fair trial, I will simply point out both the biblical principle of justice and that which our society deems to be fair when it comes to the “clean hands doctrine.” Although we do not know the names of most of the 20 men seeking reconciliation with the Executive Elders, I presume several were men who rejected my advice seven years ago.

I also presume that several of these men still support the notion that I am simply bent on revenge and am a “one trick pony.” Despite the reality that these men do not think much of this messenger, I trust that perhaps God will assist them in their understanding.

Here is a definition of the “clean hands doctrine”:

The clean hands doctrine is a rule of law that someone asking the court for equitable relief must be innocent of wrongdoing or unfair conduct relating to the subject matter of his/her claim.

The sad truth is that most of the elders who are seeking redress from an unknown adjudicator (who knows why the BOAA isn’t addressing the issues at hand?) are themselves men who participated in the abuse. They are guilty themselves.

Even worse, they are in some ways guiltier than the Executive Elders. Any of the 20 men who were elders in 2007 (Dave Kraft was part of the 2007 Elder Investigation Taskforce) are the ones who gave the executive elders their power in the first place. These men chose to give up their role as overseers, legal directors of the church, and gave Mark Driscoll the power that he now wields.

If these men were not up to the task of governing the church, they should have resigned. Instead they voted to give up their authority to govern the church and protect the members. Instead of protecting the flock, they gave the flock whom they were called to lead a form of government that would turn abusive in the hands of a man like Mark Driscoll.

It sort of reminds me of the famous “How dare you!” sermon that Driscoll preached to the young men of Mars Hill Church.

The sermon blasted young single men who diddled with their girlfriends. The Christian fundamentalist world loved the sermon (even landed Driscoll an interview with James Dobson) while the young men in the pews were thinking, “Now wait a minute. You went the whole nine yards with several women, including your wife, and you are screaming at us about diddling?”

Mark lacked the moral authority to preach such a sermon in the way he did. Had he wept with remorse and openness from the pulpit, it would have been amazing. He could have appealed to the reality of his own sin and weakness, and used that as a platform to guide young men struggling with the same sin.

Instead he came across as a fundamentalist preacher, pointing out the sins of others. He did not have clean hands himself.

Now come twenty men. If you know who they are (I only know of a few) then take a look at the words they write: Blogs about “leadership” and “gospel centeredness,” and even posts in recent groups where hurting members are sharing their pain.  Lengthy words of counsel are coming from some of these very men.

I am sorry. This may sound harsh. But these men have been abusers themselves, and until they are broken by the abusive culture that they voted into place, and until they painfully and publicly articulate the abuse they are guilty of, they have no place acting like they are leaders and have something of value to say – even if it is of value.

For Dave Kraft to be quoting Jamie Munson at a time like this, tells me that he has no idea of the harm he has inflicted on us members by his role in carrying out Jamie Munson’s and Mark Driscoll’s abuse.

I and many other hurt members would value a single word of counsel from Bent Meyer or Paul Petry over a volume from Jamie Munson.

I have been trying to think of a good analogy to help the reader understand.

Consider a family that has a particularly gifted 12 year old. Everything that he does he seems to do well. He even seems to be a good leader and God appears to be blessing his gifts. He is part of a large family and decides that he wants to drive the family van (or could we say “bus”?). A handful of uncles argue that to give him the keys would be unwise, but their concerns are set aside (I could embellish the story, but I will spare the reader 🙂 ).

So the family members are driven in the bus by a talented 12 year old kid. Sadly, the kid starts to run over pedestrians that, in his immaturity, he deemed to have been in his way. While members of the family are uncomfortable, they understand that the pedestrians could have moved out of the path of the bus, and they were also becoming afraid of questioning the decision of the rest of the family, especially after seeing how the old uncles were treated.

Plus they were enjoying the ride.

Eventually the young driver lost control of the bus and plowed into a crowd of people.

In this scenario, the police should arrest everyone on that bus and bring them all to justice. If a child is killed by the bus accident and it turns out his father was one of the family in the bus encouraging the driver on, he would have no business being an accuser seeking justice, because he would have blood on his own hands.

Imagine other family members who were in the bus going to the victims and telling them that “it is all about Jesus”. That “now is the time to turn to Jesus”. Imagine them speaking to the wounded long words of how to deal with the pain and grief. It would all be salt on the wounds – even if what they said was true.

The only healing that that person could hope to offer would be a broken heart of remorse and grief, and a throwing of oneself prostrate before God and the wounded bodies under the bus begging for mercy and forgiveness.

Anything else would be total arrogance and a further harming of the abused.

The Board of Advisors and Accountability need to hear from victims, not perpetrators. They need to hear the charges and see the evidence, not seek out some “peace making” group to work out reconciliation between co-perpetrators of their sins.

The way that blood is removed from one’s hands is through open, forthright and full confession.

These men with blood on their hands who are writing one or two sentences of “repentance” among hundreds of pages of other good stuff need to get a biblical view of repentance. Are they hoping that they can quietly slink off and continue to be considered a shepherd? Most are not even saying anything at all – like a murderer escaping and moving to another state and changing his name. I am sorry, even if he becomes a model citizen, he is still a murderer and needs to face his crime.

Of the elders that in 2007 kicked out, humiliated, and called for a shunning of Paul Petry only Lief Moi, Dave Kraft and Zach Hubert have said something considered public. And their confessions are drowned out by the lengthy words of leadership and counseling advice that keeps rolling out of the mouths of some of these men.

To those of the 20 men that remain unrepentant yet are seeking reconciliation with Driscoll and his Executive Elders: Stop posting platitudes until you have openly repented . Stop talking about leadership until it is clear that you are broken over your role in the abuse.

Please just stop.

You will bring healing when you post long words about your sin and brokenness. Then you will be at the foot of the path to one day being in a position to lead others again. Men like Jeff Bettger and Kyle Firstenberg, who I believe are among the 20, have shown the way to lead. I applaud these men, and I encourage the remaining men to follow their example.

Or, I suppose you could secretly seek reconciliation with Mark Driscoll and his team, come to some agreement after which you all sing Kumbaya and dance down the road leaving very little healing of the abused in your wake.  You can scrub from your own resume and memory your role at Mars Hill Church, move elsewhere, and pretend to be a man who cared for the sheep.

Richard Harlemen recently posted the following in a blog where Mike Wilkerson, Jesse Winkler and James Noriega posted words of platitude. These were men who supported the abuse of Paul Petry and gave up their authority to govern the church by changing the bylaws:

“Managing bitterness and vengeance in your heart I can greatly respect. It’s a shame to me when people hide the truth in the guise of piety.”

As I stated, his comment came after postings from James Noriega, Jesse Winkler, and Mike Wilkerson, none of whom had yet spoken out in public about the abuse or their own role in it. In Mike Wilkerson’s case, he posted long posts about dealing with pain and conflict. They were good words, coming from a man who threw the church under the bus in 2007, and voted for the lynching of Paul Petry.

Men, healing comes from confession. Period. If you cannot do that and clean your own hands first, what do you hope to see in reconciliation with your co-abusers?

And until you publicly confess, for God’s sake, stay away from the wounded and bleeding.

 

Note: Since this article was written and posted online, former Mars Hill elder, Jesse Winkler, published his confession and apology at repentantpastor.com.

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.

Violating bylaws not new!

Tabella

In 2007 Mars Hill leadership violated the bylaws in the month before rapidly changing them without reasonable discussion or dialog. Even though members were required to agree to and live by the bylaws, the leadership failed to discuss new bylaw changes with the members and purposefully kept the new bylaws from the members. One of the charges against Paul Petry was that he discussed the bylaws with a deacon.

Now we find out that the executive elders failed to adhere to their own bylaws in the month prior to the the rapid rewriting of the bylaws. Was this and other violations a factor in needing to change the bylaws in such haste? Was the secret and sudden change in bylaws in 2007 an attempt to remove accountability and hide such violations?

The bylaws of Mars Hill church, prior to the adoption of new bylaws and the firings of Pastors Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, contained a clause which required advance notice and full disclosure to the full counsel of elders before any major decisions were made requiring a vote of the executive elders. This was to allow for review and a brief period for advice and consent from the full council of elders.

Sometime before the elder trials of 2007, a huge major decision was made by at least one or all of the Executive Elders to purchase a downtown Seattle property, the former Tabella nightclub, for almost $4 million. The purchase was kept secret. It came to the attention of members of the full council of elders in late September 2007 only after a Sunday church service when church member asked some questions regarding the real estate deal. The member had questions after reading a story about the deal that was reported in the newspaper.  http://slog.thestranger.com/2007/09/tabella_being_sold
Apparently, one or more of the executive elders made the decision to purchase a $4 million property which previously housed a strip club without ever disclosing their intent to do so to the members of the church, or to the the full council of elders – in violation of Article VII, Section B, of the church bylaws.
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ARTICLE VII
SECTION B – To ensure that there is full disclosure to all elders, proper notice of all proposals requiring a vote of the full council of elders or the executive elders shall be provided to all the elders at least 30 days in advance, unless a credible emergency exists. Detailed minutes and voting record of each executive elder team meeting, as well as all other elder team meetings where a vote is taken (e.g., departmental, site, ad hoc) shall be published and disseminated to the elders, with records kept on file. The following information shall also be provided to every elder:
 
+ Annual financial statements from CPA review
+ Annual salaries and benefits list
+ In-house prepared quarterly financial statements
+ Quarterly church-wide tithing/giving report
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It was only by inadvertence that the purchase was discovered. The Stranger became aware of the details of the secret multi-million dollar purchase before the church elders were made aware. And just days after the full council of elders became aware, two of its elder members were fired, and a month later the church bylaws were changed which completely changed the governance structure of the church.

Mars Hill Church “Board of Advisors and Accountability” – You’re Fired!

You are fired

The Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church need to be fired for simply failing to do their job.

Here is the reality. Twenty elders filed charges against Mark Driscoll. Hundreds of former members and employees are able to do the same and the BOAA knows it. The Executive Elders are bumbling along trying to control embarrassing scandal after embarrassing scandal.

The list of disqualifying sins that Mark Driscoll and the Executive Elders have been accused of committing is long. It would be longer if one looks at what disqualified Paul Petry or Phil Smidt. In case the BOAA is unaware of what the leadership of Mars Hill Church has been accused of, here is a partial list:

  •           Unfair trial of Paul Petry – leading to a shunning order (still in effect)
  •           Changing the bylaws without due process
  •            Failure to adhere the bylaws when purchasing real estate
  •            Breaking of local city ordinances when leasing real estate
  •           Abusive treatment of scores of employees
  •           Lying to church members
  •           Threatening church members
  •           Rewriting the story of the who founded the church
  •           Numerous accounts of plagiarism
  •           Misuse of church funds to buy spot on the NYT  Bestseller list
  •           Manipulating Sales to by a spot in the NYT Bestseller list
  •           Three inconsistent explanations of how the result-source contract was entered into.
  •           Withholding severance pay from employees refusing to sign onerous NDA’s
  •           Onerous NDA’s
  •           Requirements existing employees to sign non-compete agreements
  •           Misuse of the pulpit – using the pulpit to further abuse members
  •           Lack of transparency
  •           Slander of ex-members
  •           Misrepresentation to donors giving to the so-called “Mars Hill Global Fund”

The bylaws make it clear that they are to look at the evidence when a charge is made, and then act. I refer to section 7.6 (page 9) in which they are instructed to make a decision of some sort if they determine that the lead pastor has engaged in conduct that would disqualify him to serve as an elder.

So why the hell is the BOAA hiring outside parties to begin a lengthy and hidden process of reconciliation? Did the twenty elders file a request for reconciliation, or did they file charges against Mark Driscoll? Why are the BOAA not doing their duty?

Why not just follow the bylaws (even though they clearly should be repealed) and do their job. Are they not conceding their incompetence by failing to do their duty per the bylaws?

If they are not willing to adhere to their own  bylaws they ought to be fired. After all, just disagreeing with the new “vision statement” of the church is enough to disqualify an elder and get him fired. So if they do not agree with the bylaws under which they serve, they ought to be disqualified and a new and capable board be found.

If Phil Smidt and Phil Piorier were fired for disagreeing with the new vision statement, the BOAA should be fired for disregarding their own bylaws!

The Trial of Paul Petry – Part 4 (and why it was unjust)

No hearsay

Paul Petry was not allowed to have any witnesses at his trial to rebut hearsay evidence. The use of hearsay was used to find him guilty of at least one charge. Who knows what other charges were presented with hearsay evidence alone.

Hearsay in not allowed in a trial for several reasons:

  1. It is one-sided testimony presented by someone other than the witness.
  2. It does not allow for cross-examination of the witness, where additional facts, context, and accuracy may change the impact of what is being said.
  3. It allows the bearer of the hearsay to undermine the witness without cross-examination, and can tarnish the reputation of the witness’s future testimony.

One of the most fundamental elements of charging a person with wrongdoing, reiterated in Scripture when the charges are against an elder, is that there needs to be witnesses to the wrongdoing.

This principal is emphasized in both Old Testament law and in New Testament teaching.

I Tim 5:19 “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.”

Paul Petry was charged with the sharing of sensitive documents with a church member. I was alleged to be that member.  The document that was alleged to have been shared with me was the proposed new bylaws that were voted in on October 2007

Dave Kraft, who himself filed charges against Mark Driscoll in 2013, apparently without witnesses and now leads (in some capacity) the band of 20 men who are currently attempting to seek reconciliation with Mark Driscoll, was on the Elder Investigation Taskforce (EIT) that investigatedf the charges against Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. He served in the EIT along with with elders Steve Tompkins, Gary Shavey and the leader, Scott Thomas.

Before the trial of Paul Petry I appealed to Dave Kraft, who was my executive coach at the time, that if the elders were going to charge Paul with the serious offence of sharing the proposed bylaws with a member, and seeing that I was the alleged member to whom Paul apparently shared the document, then they needed to call me in as a witness. I said I was available and willing. I also stressed numerous times that it was not be fair if Paul Petry, now having to defend himself against this offense should not be given the right to call any witness that he needed in his defense.

Once I realized that despite my appeal to Dave Kraft failed, and that Scott Thomas was planning to use my comments as hearsay at the trial, I appealed to all the elders that they needed to allow witnesses, and that failure to allow witnesses or the use of hearsay would result in an unfair trial and therefore a verdict that would not be respected. http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/mars-hill-rob-smith-email-to-elders-10-14-2007.pdf

While this may be obvious and clear to the average person, it was not clear to the 24 elders who tried Paul Petry. These men, who had presented themselves as men above reproach with the ability to teach the flock, were so determined to nail Paul Petry at his trial that they not only ignored a basic biblical teaching about the need for witnesses when charging a person with wrongdoing, especially an elder, but the ignored a principle that is so obvious that even the secular world makes this a priority at any trial.

Hearsay is untrustworthy and therefore inadmissible.

Furthermore, the Bible says that one man’s story sound really convincing, until the second witness shows up. Proverbs 18:17 “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.”

Why is this relevant in the trial of Paul Petry?

When Scott Thomas, while determining whether there was enough credible evidence to charge Paul with disqualifying sins against the church, discovered that I as a member was aware of the proposed changes to the bylaws. He called me and asked me if Paul Petry had discussed the proposed changes with me. I confirmed that he had.

Scott Thomas seemed delighted. It was as if he had found what he needed to justify the firing and removal of Paul as an elder.

Because of the way he responded, I reached out to various elders offering my testimony at the trial. I appealed to Dave Kraft, Tim Quiring, James Harleman and others in person. I also appealed to all the elders as mentioned above.

I was ignored and basically told not to intrude.

Why, you may ask, was my direct testimony that important? Well, let me explain.

The hearsay testimony of Scott Thomas was inaccurate and incomplete. It painted a false picture. Despite this it was used to extract a guilty verdict.

While it was true that Paul had discussed the new bylaws with me, he reached out to me to discuss a particular section of the bylaws with me. It was the section, ironically, that had to do with the rights of a member under discipline. Little did Paul know that less than a month later he would be facing church discipline without any rights.

Paul knew that I had strongly objected to elder Phil Schmit and James Noriega in earlier weeks when they were using the bylaws to warn a member that they could remove him as a member. They said that any two consenting elders could simply decide such a fate.  In one of the most abusive conversations I have ever experienced, elders Schmit and Noriega argued with me over this terrible bylaw. (For the record, James Noriega has subsequently confessed and asked forgiveness for the way he treated me, and I have forgiven him). When I challenged them that this was unbiblical, they pulled out a copy of the bylaws and had me read the bylaw.

I was stunned at the fact that a Mars Hill Church member has no rights whatsoever, and could be thrown out the church by two consenting elders. (Also for the record, Phil Schmit has asked the member in this instance for forgiveness for the abuse).  The fact that after 6 years both elders have asked forgiveness for their anger and abuse demonstrates the folly of the bylaw in the first place… but I digress.

As a result of knowing that I strongly objected to the existing bylaws which gave the members no ability to defend themselves against such action, and knowing that several times in my five year history as an older trusted member of Mars Hill Church I had come alongside members who seemed to be mistreated as a result of this policy, Paul met with me to ask me what kind of rights I thought a member should have. He included my suggestions in his discussion with Jamie Munson.

http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/elders-by-laws-revised-draft-by-pastor-paul-petry-9-25-2007.pdf See page 13

The hearsay, which implied that I was privy to the new bylaws as a result of Paul’s actions, was simply wrong. I had seen the new bylaws in Phil Schmit’s office prior to discussing them with Paul.

As a result of the time I had with Phil Schmit and James Noriaga, I had been exposed to the new bylaws. Had hearsay not been used, and Paul been able to question me as a witness, the truth would have come out.

I had two meetings with these men. The first was when I heard about the bylaws that allowed any two elders to kick out a member of the church if they jointly agreed (which is still in the current bylaws) and the second was when Noriega called me back to “aggressively chew me out” for arguing with them about the bylaws in the first meeting.

Noriega was late for the meeting. Perhaps he and Schmit needed to confer before they dressed me down at the second meeting. But nonetheless, I waited for 15 minutes for the two elders to meet with me.

Well, guess what was on the chair next to where I was sitting? A copy of the proposed new bylaws. I did not realize at first that they were new, but as I read them that fact became clear. I did not get as far in my reading to get to the section reflecting that members have no rights, but I did see enough to know that the ecclesiology of Mars Hill Church would be forever changed.

So, while it was true that Paul Petry discussed the new bylaws with me, had I been called in as a witness, the jury would have heard that I first saw the new bylaws in Phil Schmit’s office, and that I had discussed the ecclesiology change with not only Paul Petry, but also elders Tim Quiring, Dave Kraft, James Harleman,  James Noriega and Phil Schmit.

Sadly, because I was not allowed to be a witness, hearsay was presented that led the jury to believe a one-sided version of the truth, and Paul was found guilty.

Interestingly, after the trial, but before the vote to change the bylaws, I also discussed the bylaw change with Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson. I am not sure why it was so offensive for Paul Petry to discuss this confidential document with a man who was a deacon and chosen to enter the elder process, when it was fine for all these other elders to do so. Unless of course it was a witch hunt intended to nail Paul Petry. In fact, wouldn’t it be sensible to discuss bylaw changes with the members of the church?

Hearsay allows the bearer of the hearsay to undermine the witness without cross-examination, and can tarnish the reputation of the witness’s future testimony.

What the hearsay also did was allow those making their case to characterize the absent witness. Even though I was deemed qualified to be a deacon, and had been approved (based upon my character presumably) to start the elder process, Mark Driscoll presented me as “the biggest trouble maker in Mars Hill Church’s history.

So this poor writer went from being a qualified deacon and placed on the elder “track” (thus Dave Kraft becoming my coach) to becoming the worst trouble maker in Mars Hill Church’s history in one fell swoop. At the trial my name was slandered and my ministry attacked through the use of hearsay. Had any fair and godly elder been present, they would have objected to this slander that was used to collaborate the hearsay. Had I been a witness, I would have gladly born testimony to all the facts that actually occurred, and I would have had an opportunity to object to the slander.

Paul Petry’s trail was unfair because of the use of hearsay. He should be exonerated.

Profit, priest and king

The King of Id

Mars Hill Church’s “triperspectival” version of leadership was challenged by ousted and shunned pastor Paul Petry. Rather prophetic, I would say.
 
Everyone seems to be surprised by Sutton Turner referring to himself as “King” yet the terminology has been used by the leadership of Mars Hill Church for years. It has only been recently that the Mars Hill leadership web page no longer mentions Driscoll as “the prophet” or Bruskas as “the priest” (possibly because Driscoll now envisions himself referred to as “Father.” Father Mark?). But the Mars Hill web page still states that Sutton Turner is “kingly.”
 
Anybody who has been paying attention should not be surprised by the titles bestowed on the three executive elders – the result of hierarchical teaching that started infecting leadership prior to 2007, and which Pastor Paul addressed in his 10/25/2007 “scathing letter” to the elders just five days before they voted to pass the new bylaws which stripped them of all legal authority and permanently changed the entire governance of the church:
 
My greatest sins, however, are not what I have said and done but what I have failed to say and do. I failed to speak up to confront and resist the abusive spiritual authority and false teaching about authority that has infected the hearts and imaginations of Pastor Mark, the Executive Elders, and other elders who have bought into it, even though several of you have privately expressed grave reservations – namely, the “domineering over” (1Peter 5:2) which has grown increasingly worse, which is clearly forbidden of elders who are called to serve like Christ, laying down their lives for the sheep.

The sins I am accused of, “disrespecting and distrusting spiritual authority and improperly handling confidential information,” are they not the sins Mark and the EE team are guilty of because they assume some spiritual preeminence they do not have – not delegated by our by-laws, nor by God Himself? Have they not “distrusted and disrespected” the shared leadership biblical eldership model that is clear from Scripture and that is functionally laid out in our current by-laws? Have they not failed to be open, honest, forthright and willing to hear dissenting opinions about their “confidential” plans to lead this flock, but have instead worked with a heavy hand in secret, taking matters into their own hands to get the control and power they want and believe they should have?

I sinned by failing to speak up months ago when the false doctrine/teaching of “Prophets, Priests, and Kings” was embraced and adhered to as if it were Scripture and utilized to further justify a false/sick authoritarian leadership model. Did not the embracing of this false teaching set into motion a whole string of sinful behaviors, starting with elevating or subjugating and valuing elders based on gifting? Does the Scripture make these value distinctions? My understanding of 1 Corinthians chapters 1-4 clearly negates this teaching and commands us to end all such boasting.
 
Does not God put the body together as He determines, commanding us to consider others better than ourselves? And, can “one part of the body say to another part, I don’t need you?” (1Corinthians chapters 12 and 13) Is what is currently being referred to as a “kingly” gifting, as though this grants someone more authority and more importance/value than other giftings, not simply referred to as those having gifts of administration according to1Corinnthians 12:28?

This church started out with a clear commitment to biblical eldership. Where is that commitment now? Is not the way the new EE team was installed, the way it operates, and the new proposed by-laws, a clear shift away from a biblical model of authority and leadership to a corporate/militaristic model where power is centralized, autonomous, and authority is not to be questioned? Are we now to follow a leadership model that more closely aligns with “the divine rite of kings?”