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.

Advertisements

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

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

Why did the Acts 29 board fail to address Driscoll’s abuse in 2005?

man who made a monster

Members of the Act 29 board knew of Mark Driscoll’s abuse in 2005, but failed to address it. They share responsibility for the abusive environment that now exists at Mars Hill Church.

The very first Acts 29 church plant ran into some problems. The way Mark Driscoll handled these problems demonstrated his abusive ruthlessness to the men on the Acts 29 board.

In dealing with the problems, a pastor, Ron Wheeler, interacted with Mark Driscoll and experienced the abusive treatment that Driscoll has now become notorious for. Here is an excerpt from a letter Wheeler sent the Acts 29 board in 2005:

…was followed up the next day, with a phone call from Mark where he used the most obscene vulgar language that I can remember someone using with me.  The next day, he sent an email to the other elders, that I had no knowledge about until recently, that can only be defined as wildly inaccurate and slanderous.  The current leadership of The Gathering considers much of where things currently stand in leadership to be directly related to Mark’s influence and conduct in the process.

Over the past many years, I have identified and struggled with issues in Mark such as:  pride, speech (lack of self-control, sexually vulgar and slanderous, exaggeration that bordered on deception, gossip about others and confidential issues either about others to me, or about myself with others. Confidentiality issues carry legal implications for the church), and an impulsive/reactive spirit. It is because of the confidentiality and distortion of the facts, that I distrust individual communication with Mark, and need the involvement of the Board in these issues. My frustration is that I have never been silent with Mark or with anyone else about where I stand.  It is no secret to the past Acts29 leadership board that I have had frustration in many of these areas, and it ought to be noted by the existing board members that the two former board members have pulled out of leadership, one out of frustration with the conflict between Mark and David, one largely through dealing with conflict brought on by some of these same issues. This is now the second time that issues have gone on record with Mark regarding areas of character in speech and conduct.  The fact that Mark is an incredibly talented leader and speaker, cannot in any way substitute for the simple Biblical requirements of being Christ-like, much less the qualifications of being an Elder.  I can make a Biblical case from Titus regarding being overbearing, quick-tempered, self-controlled, upright, and holy, as well as 1 Timothy regarding above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not quarrelsome, and reputation with outsiders.  [emphasis added]

When I read this letter of appeal to the Acts 29 board, I felt sick. Ron Wheeler was describing my own experience with Mark Driscoll. When Mark Driscoll called me to tell me that I was under discipline for asking the elders for a fair trial for pastors Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, I experienced the most obscene and vulgar language that I have ever endured (in asking all the elders, Driscoll accused that I was trying to divide the elders – therefore I was “a divisive man” according to him). Mark Driscoll threatened me, demeaned me, said he would destroy me and my ministry and make sure I would never minister again.

This is what Ron Wheeler was describing to the Acts 29 board in his appeal for help. This is what countless other former members and elders have experienced.

Where were Acts 29 board members Ed Stetzer, Darin Patrick, Steve Tomkins and Chan Kilgore? Why did they not take action and deal with these issues in Mark Driscoll’s character? Why did they remain silent? Did they not care for those that were being abused so clearly?

Ed Stetzer claims that he never saw the letter from Ron Wheeler. If this is the case, one might wonder if Driscoll failed to deliver it to the board. If so, it is yet another example of hiding the truth, something else that Mark Driscoll has become notorious for amidst scandals that include plagiarism in seven of his books, deceptively manipulating sales of his last book to gain a NYT bestseller spot and changing the story three times in his attempt to excuse his actions.

Perhaps further investigation is warranted. But one thing for sure, even if Driscoll hid the letter above from them, Ed Stetzer and the rest of the Acts 29 board were aware of the abusive manner and style of Mark Driscoll, yet they failed to address these issues and continued to promote his leadership for years to come.

Will they ever speak up?

Do they realize the extent to which they have helped create what we are seeing today within Mars Hill Church?

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

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.
.
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
.
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.