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.

Mars Hill Church disses both the 99% and the 1% and points to the fund that they claim does not exist!

We are the 99 percent 2

Despite belittling 99% of the petitioners, Mars Hill Church leadership responded hastily to the petition these people participated in over the past week (link).

In a post to members, Mars Hill Church leadership has made some things quite clear, and also added to the confusion that they have already admitted.

As we strive to communicate the vision of Mars Hill Church, there has been an outside petition asking questions of Mars Hill. However, of the nearly 400 signers, only four have ever given to Mars Hill Global. We sent letters this past week to over 6000 Global donors giving them the option to designate their funds solely for international work if they wish. We received many replies of encouragement, as well as a few people who asked to change their designation, and we have gladly made those changes.

Here is what is clear:

It is clear that this issue is a serious one.

Deceptively raising money for a non-existent Global Fund is a violation of ECFA standards, and, like using church funds to deceptively purchase a spot on the NYT bestseller list, is something that is clearly immoral. Despite belittling the petition, it certainly got the Executive Elders’ attention..

It is clear that Mars Hill Leaders can provide exact numbers when it serves their purpose. They spent time and effort to go through the list of petitioners to show that only 1% gave to Mars Hill Global.

It is clear that the leadership failed to respond to the request of the 4 donors to Mars Hill Global as well as the remaining 99% who were members, ex-members and friends. The petitioners asked what was actually spent on international mission. They were quick to spend time researching how many actually gave to the fund called Mars Hill Global, yet simply ignored the donors’ request. Four petitioners gave to Mars Hill Global… but I thought Mars Hill Global were the global donors out there. Ah….. so there is a fund – despite the latest explanation that there is no fund.

It is clear that the leadership appears to imply that the petition is of lesser value because “only” four of the petitioners have ever given to Mars Hill Global.  This disregards the 1% that actually gave to the fund, and disregards the 99% that were members, ex-members and friends, many, if not most, of whom gave to the general fund.

It is clear based upon this communication that the Global Fund did exist recently and that donors to the fund are seen as such. This flies in the face of the recent spin from Sutton Turner that Mars Hill Global is not a fund but is in fact global donors to the General Fund. If Mars Hill Global is simply global donors giving to the general fund, and if that includes everyone, including Mars Hill members (as Turner stated), then it seems that they would not say that four of the petitioners gave to Mars Hill Global. Based upon the latest explanation from Turner, the four would be global donors to the general fund, as he claims that since 2009 the Global Fund has not existed. So it appears that Mars Hill Global does exist as there is data available to identify four donors to the fund who made up 1% of the petitioners asking Mars Hill to make clear how much Global Fund money was actually spent on international outreach.

It is clear that the 99%, made up of members, former members and friends did not give to Mars Hill Global – a fund that supposedly does not exist. Obviously the fund does exist as four of the petitioners were identified as having given to it.

It is clear that in 2010 Mars Hill Global was listed as a restricted fund in footnote 5 of the abridged version of the Annual Financial Statements.

 

Report Showing Global Fund restricted in 2010

It is clear in this video that the fund exists (link).

It is clear that in 2014 almost all promotions for giving “to” Mars Hill Global was set in an African setting, deceptively implying that the fund was intended to go toward international church planting (link).

It is clear that a preponderance of the money that was raised in that fund went to U.S. Mars Hill church plants and not to Ethiopia or India as implied.

It is clear that Mars Hill leadership does not want to tell donors how much of the Global Fund money was spent on Ethiopia and India. Are they embarrassed about how little that amount was, perhaps?

Was it more than the $210,000 spent on deceptively buying a spot on the NYT Bestseller list?

Was it less that the annual salaries of any one of the Executive Elders?

Now that it is clear that there is a fund in to which at least 6000 donors gave, four of which petitioned Mars Hill Church, will the leadership now simply respect the 1% that donated to the fund and answer their question?

We are the 99 percent 4

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.

We promise to tell the truth, some of the truth, but not the whole truth…

Ten Commandment--9

Mars Hill Church leadership has admitted to confusing donors about the Global Fund and Mars Hill Global.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/07/01/major-mars-hill-global-admission-and-offer-to-direct-donations-to-international-missions/

After admitting fault in confusing donors on Mars Hill Global, the leadership proceeded to tell some of the truth, but clearly avoided telling donors what they wanted to know.

Donors were told that $22.48 million was spent on church planting in the US, India and Ethiopia. Donors are also told that over $10 million was donated by the Mars Hill Global family.

Donors are not told how much of the over $10 million that Mars Hill received through the deceptively marketed “fund” actually was spent on Ethiopia and India.

Also, the current story is that the global “fund”, which is now called Mars Hill Global, is and always was simply the global donors. Yet clearly local Mars Hill members have been pitched to give over and above their tithe to the fund. So it appears that the fund did exist, and that it was a specific fund as this video clearly points out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4EFX3-RXyg

So after saying that Mars Hill Global is all the people who are throughout the world listening in and supporting the church, and that their money, given to the Global Fund, was simply placed into the general fund of the church, Mars Hill leaders are now including the members of Mars Hill Church in Mars Hill Global.

Now everyone, including local church members, are and have always been a part of Mars Hill Global. So the story has changed once more. The Global Fund, a designated fund prior to Sutton Turner’s arrival at Mars Hill Church, morphed from meaning a fund to meaning the global Mars Hill community of podcasters and supporters out there, and has now morphed again to include members as well.

Everyone is now Mars Hill Global.

Clearly the confusion that the leadership of Mars Hill Church refers to is the blatant implication that monies received through the Global Fund were to be used for international purposes as I pointed out in my last post. https://musingsfromunderthebus.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/while-ecfa-looks-away-mars-hills-deceptively-marketed-global-fund-is-certainly-getting-the-attention-of-everyone-else/

If in fact the money has always gone into the general fund of the church (even though designated by the auditors as restricted in earlier years), then why not ask donors to merely help support the church? The confusion seems to have been borne out of deception.

But more troubling, is that the leadership simply will not tell donors how much money was spent in Ethiopia and India. It would be an easy question to answer from a pure accounting point of view. But I suspect that it is a very hard question to answer because the numbers would show the level of exploitive marketing in attracting donors to give.

I say this because Mars Hill leaders say the following:

In 2009-11 over 80% of funds given by the Mars Hill global family went to Acts 29 church planting and funds were consistently spent in India for church planting in each of those years. In 2012- 2014 expenditures for church planting efforts in India and Ethiopia were increased with the preponderance of expenses related to church plants and replants in the U.S. [emphasis added]

Donors are told that the preponderance of the money received via the Global Fund was spent on plants and replants in the U.S. Preponderance could mean 70% or 80%. So even though 95% of the solicitations to give appear to be pitching an Ethiopian setting, the preponderance of the money was spent in the U.S.

Of course, other ex-members or employees might have some idea of the actual percentage spent in Ethiopia and India, but let’s examine what the leadership says.

They tell donors that funds going to India and Ethiopia have been consistent over the years, with an increase in 2012 to 2014.

Well, what I learned as a member of Mars Hill while travelling with certain Acts 29 leaders in Africa, was that the Indian pastors were given a monthly stipend to assist them. If my memory serves me correctly, it was about $75 per month per pastor.

So if Mars Hill is being consistent, which they claim, then prior to 2012 they supported no more than 33 Indian pastors at a cost of about $2,475 per month. In 2012, Sutton Turner attracted Mars Hill to support Ethiopian pastors, and 40 evangelists are being supported. To be consistent, they would also get a monthly stipend. So perhaps from 2012 t0 2014 the total Indian and Ethiopian ministers being supported totaled 73, which at $100 per month amounts to $7,300 per month.

Under this consistency, the total amount spent from 2009 to 2014 would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $350,000.  This amounts 0.35% of $10 million.

It is no wonder it is so hard for the truth to be told. Given the “confusing” but otherwise blatant implication that donors are giving to the poor, needy Africans in Ethiopia, it would be a shocking truth to discover that after the preponderance of money spent locally buying U.S. buildings and paying U.S. salaries, the remainder that went to India and Ethiopia was less than 1%.

Some donors might be encouraged that the amount that was consistently given probably exceeded the $210,000 spent on the similarly deceptive manipulation of the NYT bestseller listing. Of course, it pales when compared to the salaries of the Executive Elders that were paid out of the same fund into which Global donors gifts were directed….

So sorry for the confusion, folks.

Persecuting truth-seekers…Persecuting Jesus. (The conversion of Saul in Acts 9)

ConversionStPaul

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest…” (Acts 9:1)

Saul was on a mission. He passionately believed in church as he knew it: a highly organized system, very biblically based, with a strong focus on the future coming of a messiah. You could say that Saul’s church pointed to the messiah.

But when Jesus showed up on the scene, he shook that highly organized system to its core. He said things that were earth-shattering. He challenged the church leaders about almost everything. He repeatedly told them that they had things all wrong. They had added tradition upon tradition, law upon law, program upon program – completely losing sight of what God had actually said. And on top of that, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah.

The church pointed to the messiah, but when the Messiah came and dwelt among them, they didn’t recognize him. In fact, they despised him. Saw him as an enemy. A terrible threat.

The church leaders hated how right Jesus was all the time. Over and over they were left speechless and fuming, unable to respond to the charges he brought against them without losing face in front of the crowds. And they were quickly losing credibility. They grew more and more angry with Jesus, to the point of plotting to kill him. And they succeeded.

But Jesus had followers. The truth that he had shared grew and spread, and more and more people came to see that he was the Messiah that the prophets had foretold long ago. He was the one Israel was waiting for. More and more of the flock began to hear the voice of the true shepherd. And now they were living different lives. No longer were they bringing sacrifices to the priests. No longer were they coming to the synagogue to hear the Rabbis preach. They were teaching that Jesus fulfilled the law, and that the Temple would end up being destroyed. And they were holding their own meetings! And they called one another “brother” and “sister” – no one was called Rabbi or Teacher, not even the leaders. It was radical!

It was trouble!

The church leaders – the wolves – were of course nervous and angry. They thought killing Jesus would solve everything. But now the problem was growing and multiplying. So they tried to kill the apostles, but they somehow always managed to slip out of their grip. Finally they killed Stephen, a disciple of Jesus.

After they killed Stephen, the wolves started persecuting all the believers. The people scattered. They ran for their lives. But the persecution was only fuel for the fire, because the scattered ones took the truth wherever they went. They spread the word. They talked. Maybe they wrote. And more and more people came to faith in Jesus. More and more people walked away from life – and church – as they knew it. They too started doing things differently.

The threat to the church was growing.

Saul oversaw the stoning of Stephen. It was part of his mission. Threats to the church must be eliminated. And eliminating threats was Saul’s forte. He was bloodthirsty. And here he is breathing out murderous threats against those troublemaking followers of Jesus.

And he went to the high priest. The high priest was a man who was supposed to be deeply trustworthy. He was to handle the most sacred of tasks: seeking forgiveness for all of Israel’s sins, keeping peace between God and Israel. And it is this man that Saul seeks out. With murder in his heart and on his lips he seeks an alliance with the very man who is supposed to cleanse Israel of all sin.

“..and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2)

Murderous Saul asks the high priest of Israel to give him written permission to round up the followers of Jesus. The high priest, after all, pointed the way to God. He had to eliminate these people who were rocking the boat, who were spreading this heresy that Jesus himself was the Way. How can a person be the way to God? No! The way to God was through systems, structure, law, rituals, programs. Not a person.

Besides, the high priest knew that the messiah was supposed to be a glorious king. Not this humble carpenter with calloused hands and a face that didn’t stand out in a crowd. No, the Son of Man would sparkle. He’d be a rock star. He’d be rich and powerful. He’d have big money and great power at his disposal, and he’d use his might to fix all of Israel’s problems. He’d rally the troops, declare a holy war, and he’d win. He’d make Israel mighty and powerful!

The real messiah wouldn’t live such a humble life as Jesus lived, and then die young. This the high priest knew for sure. This Jesus guy was a fraud. A false prophet. And his followers were continuing to spread his false teachings. They had to be stopped. Israel had to be protected from going off track. The flock had to be protected from going astray following this dead guy who clearly was not the messiah.

And these followers of Jesus who claimed that he had risen from the dead – that everything he had said was true – they were pure trouble. They had to be eliminated.  Wiped out. The high priest was sure of it.

“As he [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'” (Acts 9:3-4)

Saul believed he was fighting for God. He thought he was persecuting those who were trying to lead the church astray. He thought God would be pleased with him. He thought he was on mission. So imagine his surprise when the voice from heaven says, “Why do you persecute me?”

When you attack truth-tellers and truth-seekers, you attack the one who said, “The truth shall set you free.”

When you shun people for asking reasonable questions about things that the Body of Christ has a right to know, you are shunning Jesus.

When you fire someone for proposing that the church is heading in an unbiblical direction, you are firing Jesus.

When you threaten to destroy someone just because he pleads with church leaders to treat one another with impartiality and fairness, you threaten to destroy Jesus.

And Jesus takes it very personally.

The church is the bride of Christ. All of us who follow him are his bride. We are one Body. And we are one with him. And when any of us is treated unjustly, Jesus responds like a protective husband. It doesn’t matter who is doing the attacking – it can be the high priest of Israel himself!

So here Jesus confronts Saul on the road to Damascus. And Saul is confused about whose voice is coming out of the cloud. He thought he was fighting for God, killing off threats to the church, but this voice from the cloud sounded an awful lot like what you would expect God to sound like.

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.

“‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'” (Acts 9:5-6)

Jesus!? But…he was supposed to be dead! You mean those truth-telling troublemakers were right? What! Jesus is alive? Saul’s mind must have been racing.

He must have been shaken to the core. So much of what he thought was right and true…wasn’t.

“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” (Acts 9:7-9)

Saul needed some time to grasp what was going on. Jesus had confronted him with the truth, and Saul was floored. Maybe his mind was racing with possible ways to deny what he had just experienced, to erase what had just happened. But the blindness! It was undeniable proof that Saul’s mission was terribly off track.

Saul was stuck. Like an animal caught in a trap, just laying there panting.

“In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’

“‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.

“The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.'” (Acts 9:10-12)

Saul, like any church leader, was a man of prayer. He had likely prayed countless prayers in his lifetime. And here he is calling out to God for answers, for help. And God answered him with a vision of a certain man. A man who would help him to see clearly again. And God tells Ananias: it’s you who will open Saul’s eyes.

“‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.'” (Acts 9:13-14)

Ananias is scared. He’s heard reports about Saul’s violence and the abuse he’s put so many Christians through. And he knows that Saul is backed by the authority of the highest spiritual leaders in Israel. This is not someone that Ananias wants to encounter. And it’s certainly not someone that he wants to help.

“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'” (Acts 9:15-16)

But God assures Ananias that he has chosen Saul to preach the gospel to many people. He would be God’s tool to spread the news of Jesus – that he is the Messiah, that he died and rose from the dead, that he is Kind of kings, and he will change the world. All the broken ways of men – all the corrupted systems, the tainted priesthoods, the oppressive kingdoms – will fade away. And in its place will be the kingdom of heaven. And it’s here now! It’s in the heart of every true believer! It’s in our midst when we fellowship in spirit and in truth!

And Saul would suffer. Jesus offers forgiveness and an amazing fresh start; a truly new life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to suffer, especially if we have sinned against God and his true followers like Saul did.

There is no cheap grace with God. You really want to repent? Great! But you still need to face the real-world fruit of your sin. And you may need to go through a great deal of suffering as you work to undo the damage you’ve done.

Saul would go on to become an incredible stone in the foundation of Christianity. He would author most of the New Testament. But despite being an amazing teacher, church planter, and a highly gifted writer, God did not give Saul a large salary, a beachfront house and a pampered life with lots of bling. No! Despite his great talent, God had in mind that Saul would suffer greatly, that he would work a blue collar job to pay his own way, and that his ministry would not last very long.

“Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” (Acts 9:17-19)

Saul’s eyes were opened. He could see again, physically. And he was forever changed. He would see for the first time spiritually. He would repent. And he would embrace God’s plan for him with his whole heart – suffering and all. And the new life he would lead, the new ministry he would devote himself to, would leave an incredible legacy for us all.

A legacy worth dying for.

Shaun Smith

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.

The Trial of Paul Petry – Part 3 (and why it was unjust)

Determining the charges against Paul Petry and Bent Meyer

The charges against Mark Driscoll, deemed to be non-disqualifying, were far more serious than the petty charges leveled against Paul Petry. Yet they cost him his job, his eldership and a shunning order.

The charges against Paul Petry were petty or simply made up, and pale in comparison to the non-disqualifying charges against Mark Driscoll by Dave Kraft and other former elders of Mars Hill Church.

The BOAA of Mars Hill Church recently determined that the serious charges leveled at Mars Driscoll were not serious enough to disqualify him from leadership. Instead they are standing “unreservedly behind Pastors Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas as the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church.” They further suggest that there were false accusations leveled against the three men. http://www.christianpost.com/news/charges-against-mark-driscoll-and-mars-hill-church-executive-elders-non-disqualifying-says-advisory-board-116924/

The charges against Paul Petry were trivial and hardly even sin, let alone a charge. Here are some of the charges leveled at Paul Petry, for which his career was upended and ultimately a shunning order issued when he failed to repent of these “sins” (joyfulexiles.com).

  1. He shared a confidential document with a member. The document was the proposed bylaws, and the member was none other than me. More on this later
  2. He violated elder protocol in that he spoke to the church attorney without permission.  Never mind that there was, according to the bylaws, no higher authority than that of elder. Only under the new bylaws did some elders have authority over other elders.
  3. He wasn’t submissive to leadership. Again, the elders were the highest authority.

These were grievous sins that got Paul Petry fired, removed as elder and shunned.  Despite Jamie Munson affirming that there were no sexual or moral sins included in the charges against Petry.

Compare Paul Petry’s sins to those that have been leveled against Mark Driscoll:

  1. Not being self-controlled and disciplined
  2. Being domineering
  3. Being verbally violent
  4. Being arrogant
  5. Being quick-tempered
  6. Leading Mars Hill with a culture of pride, fear, and intimidation.
  7. Preaching grace from the stage but don’t extend that same grace to the staff you lead.
  8. Developing a culture where sin is not tolerated, therefore it is not confessed.
  9. Leading the staff in bitterness and rage for years because of your unforgiven sin that Grace committed against you. (This was very obvious in the abusive tone during staff meetings and trainings for several years, leading to demoralization and fear.)
  10. A thirst and ambition to see the church grow have coming at the cost of the very pastors and leaders that God has put in Driscoll’s care.
  11. Lying: There is not honesty in why key leaders are leaving the church. It is always spun to be a politically correct “calling” vs the truth of why they are leaving.
  12. Ignoring the fact that one member of the EE, Pastor Sutton, has been breaking the law and tarnishing the name of Jesus to unbelievers, thus disqualifying him from being a pastor of Mars Hill Church.
  13. Using threats and intimidation tactics to produce results.
  14. Preaching a requirement for living a balanced life of God, Family, Ministry, but requiring staff to work 70+ hours a week, neglecting the very things you preached about.
  15. Forcing anyone who needs to get a severance package when leaving to sign a gag order, preventing them from being able to speak about why they left Mars Hill.

http://davekraft.squarespace.com/posts/2014/3/21/dave-kraft-mars-hill-church-and-mark-driscoll.html

http://sinrepentancegraceforgiveness.blogspot.com/2014/03/my-official-charges-against-mark.html

The formal charges leveled against Mark Driscoll, charges that appear far more severe and articulated than those against Paul Petry, were deemed non-disqualifying by the BOAA. Add to those charges the concurrent scandals that resulted in the BOAA in standing unreservedly behind Mark Driscoll after paying “close attention to the accusations”.

http://marshill.com/2014/03/07/a-note-from-our-board-of-advisors-accountability

I remind the reader of some of the scandals:

  1. Using church money to deceptively buy a spot on the NYT Bestseller list.
  2. Numerous counts of plagiarism in several of Mark Driccoll’s books.
  3. Misleading and incomplete statements to the church on these matters.
  4. Claiming in numerous places that Mark Driscoll was the founder of the church and other re-writing of the history of the church.
  5. Conducting leadership in such a way that over 100 employees and over 1000 members have left since the beginning of 2012.

Contrast these with charges that were totally silly and invalid. Paul Petry have every right as elder to seek counsel regarding the new bylaws from whomever he thought prudent, including advice from the church lawyer and a member who was a deacon and chosen to become an elder. To accuse him of violating some hastily trumped up “elder protocol” (that required no discussion amongst the elders about the proposed bylaws) is hardly a sin.

If the charges against Mark Driscoll have been deemed to be non-disqualifying, how it possible that Mark Driscoll and his Executive Elders at the time found the petty charges against Paul Petry to be grievous and disqualifying?

The trial was a farce and Paul Petry should be exonerated and the shunning order lifted immediately!

The Trial of Paul Petry – Part 2 (and why it was unjust)

not-fidos-day

The trial of Paul Petry was conducted without impartiality. Therefor it was unbiblical and unjust.

The most significant charge to elders from the apostle Paul is the charge to be impartial. In other words, if you are going to put someone in trial, in order for a fair outcome there needs to be impartiality.

While this seems quite obvious, my strong email appeal to the twenty four elders before the trial was rejected. I also personally appealed to Scott Thomas, Tim Quiring, and Dave Kraft, as well as the man who would become “Lead Pastor” under the yet to be approved proposed bylaws, Jamie Munson.

Jamie Munson, who is now co-president of Storyville Coffee, told me that I was trying to bring in worldly thinking, and pointed out that I was not a lawyer. When I said it does not take a lawyer to interpret the old bylaws, he responded with the notorious Mark Driscoll line of rebuke, “You are pissing me off”.

The reason for my appeal was that in the trial of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, the accusers were also the prosecutors, and they were also on the jury. Impartiality was therefore impossible.  I found that stunning, which is why I appealed to all the elders the day before the unfair trial.

http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/mars-hill-rob-smith-email-to-elders-10-14-2007.pdf

The most impassioned charge to elders in the Bible happens to be when Paul talk about the process of dealing with a charge against another elders. In Timothy 5:19-21 “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.  I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality.”

The call for impartiality is clear and to emphasize its importance, Paul made the charge in the presence of God, Christ Jesus, and His chosen angels.

The leadership of Mars Hill Church, under Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson, ignored this charge, and placed me under discipline for appealing to the elders to please be impartial.

This is yet another reason why the verdict should be thrown out, Paul Petry exonerated, and the shunning ended.

The Trial of Paul Petry – Part 1 (and why it was unjust)

 

man_walking_away-1

On the day before the trial of Paul Petry I learned a few startling facts about how the elders were planning to conduct the trial. I was concerned so I thought I would reach out to the elders and appeal to them.

Here is the email I sent them: http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/mars-hill-rob-smith-email-to-elders-10-14-2007.pdf

The subject line was : Please hold a fair and impartial trial – from Rob Smith

I included my name as most of the elders knew me, or at least knew who I was. I was not a stranger, and although I had several minor skirmishes with both Mark Driscoll and some of the other elders my reputation at Mars Hill was decent. Decent enough to be on the elder track – something that I did not actively seek out.

My skirmishes were almost always over how the elders treated members that they were trying to correct. I will review on or two of those on a future post. They were warning signs of Mars Hill Church moving in a bad direction. The reason for the skirmish would consistently be the elders or Mark Driscoll kicking back against my concerns. Usually the reaction was not kind.

But we always landed on our feet as brothers and I certainly did not feel rejected or humiliated. A part of that was probably my temperament, and a part was me realizing that the men I were interacting with were young at the post of being an elder and needed time to mature.

So I added my name to the title page in the hopes that they would at least read the email before the trial.

It did have some positive effect. Mark Driscoll told me that while they could not accept what appeared to be good counsel because the email was sent in arrogance, they did change their minds with regard to allowing Paul Petry to attend his own trial.

The trial was on October 15th, 2007. Note that my email appeal was sent on October 14th, one day before. Up until the evening of October 14th, Paul Petry was not invited to his own trial.

On the evening of October 14th, with the schedule of the trial less than 24 hours away, Paul was called by Scott Thomas who informed him that they had changed their minds and he was expected at his own trial.

In other words, Paul Petry, who had hardly slept for several days, was given less than 24 hours to prepare for his own trial.

While the right to a fair trial is embedded in our constitution as a part of a just and fair society, the right to prepare for a defense is also just as fair and just.

Paul Petry did not know what the charges were, and was given less than 24 hours to prepare to defend himself.

That is the first reason that the verdict should be discarded and subsequent shunning ended. We will look at more on the next post.
END THE SHUNNING!