Tag Archives: Mars Hill Church

To the Manufacturers of Mark Driscoll

A friend posted this Monday article from The Daily Beast on my Facebook page. It begins:

“Just when controversial pastor Mark Driscoll was hoping to make a new start, former members of his old stomping grounds at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church have filed a lawsuit alleging Driscoll and his chief elder ran the now-shuttered megachurch like an organized crime syndicate, in which church members became unwitting participants.

“The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the Western District of Washington U.S. District Court in Seattle under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law originally created for prosecution of Mafia figures.

“Former members have been threatening to file such a lawsuit for months to find out just where the members’ tithes—some $30 million yearly, according to church reports—actually went.”

I don’t know whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act really applies in this case, and I have no idea if pursuing that particular approach is a good idea — although of course someone needs to answer for the $30 million annually and any misappropriation of funds.

My reaction to the article, posted on Facebook, was aimed at those who helped Driscoll become a celebrity and a monster:

“He said Reformed things with boldness and strong emotions. That was enough to hide a multitude of sins. And while his influence and income increased, we were told that the mainline churches were dead, but it was purer, holier Driscoll who was dead inside. Sure, people don’t want to go to those old churches with their old facades and old ways, but the rotten wood was found inside new buildings in Seattle.”

 

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Let’s use hindsight to help us anticipate abuses of religious authority

Time’s the revelator

– Gillian Welch

Sometimes a simplistic, clichéd saying wallops me with its inescapable truth: Time really changes things.

Radio talk-show host Janet Mefferd’s confrontation with former Pastor Mark Driscoll back in November 2013 looks very, very different now.

Mefferd confronted Driscoll about some apparently plagiarized sections in one of his books.

Shortly after the confrontation, Driscoll wrote on a blog:

Case-builders collect information like stones to throw at somebody—just waiting for the right opportunity to impugn and attack someone’s character and integrity. If you’re a case-builder, you’ve decided that someone is your enemy and then justify sinful slander as righteous aggression.

Ruth Graham, writing for Slate, commented on that same blog post:

Though he didn’t mention Mefferd by name, it is hard not to see her in the section on ‘Slander/Libel’.

Mefferd was forced to backtrack and apologize, yet she told Graham she stuck to her original assessment of Driscoll’s plagiarism.

Yet as time passed, and as Warren Throckmorton and others reported on new developments and new evidence in the plagiarism allegations, Mefferd was vindicated.

And then a few more questions about Driscoll’s ethics and leadership popped up. It was like a slow start in a pot of oil and kernels, just a few random pops.

Then suddenly the popcorn was overflowing.

Now Driscoll has resigned, 21 former pastors have filed an official complaint, and some former elders and pastors are starting new churches.

Was Driscoll able to keep questionable ethics and bullying leadership because of his strong personality?

Was anyone with comparable influence able to see this coming?

Will anyone observe the fallout and decide to become more skeptical of ministers and ministries?

Darling, remember when you come to me
I’m the pretender and I, what I’m supposed to be
But who could know if I’m a traitor
Time’s the Revelator

– from “Revelator” by Gillian Welch

Also see:

Mars Hill Bellevue Pastor Thomas Hurst Resigns (Nov. 2) by Warren Throckmorton

Using Mark Driscoll and Robert Morris to Teach the Fallacy of False Dilemma (Oct. 23) by CFB

Updated Nov. 3 to clarify the Mefferd-Driscoll confrontation took place in November 2013.

As Mark Driscoll resigned, no one mentioned ethical concerns

“Pastor Mark has never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy.” — Mars Hill Board of Overseers

“Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry.” — Pastor Mark Driscoll

I cannot believe the audacity of Mars Hill Church. Maybe a leader really does say everything about an organization.

In the above quotations from Pastor Mark Driscoll’s letter of resignation and the Board of Overseers’ response, the reader is reassured Driscoll has done nothing immoral, illegal, or heretical.

The implication, which I’ll say more about later, seems to be that Driscoll is leaving just because he was mean a few times.

But common sense should indicate much more is at stake here.

Driscoll was unethical, and ethical concerns should bother anyone as much as immorality, illegality, and heresy.

Nothing in the letters mentioned Driscoll’s unethical plagiarism as defined in the Chicago Manual of Style, or the MLA Handbook, or the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

As a writer, Driscoll should not be considered trustworthy. Compare his behavior, as a man with a bachelors degree in communications, with these old ethical guidelines.

‘We’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives’ — and yet sometimes distancing oneself is ethical

Today I un-friend-ed my Facebook connection Kirk Nesset, an English professor at Allegheny College and a well-known figure among academic writing programs.

Nesset is facing federal child pornography charges, which I learned about after Sandra Beasley, an award-winning poet, blogged her dismay with Nesset’s admitted behavior.

Beasley says:

As I write this, [Nesset and I] share 710 “friends” on Facebook, which essentially represents our overlap in the writing community. Many of those writers are parents who unhesitatingly post snapshots of their kids in various stages of dress. They deserve to know, and so I will link to this on Facebook.

She admirably has taken responsibility for her possible role in exposing anyone to risk. Compare that to the apparent irresponsibility of Sovereign Grace Ministries founder C.J. Mahaney and his own brother-in-law when another man’s sexual abuse of children was revealed.

Beasley goes on to write:

There’s been anxiety and anger in our community as of late because of transgressions–some alleged, some confirmed–of one writer against another, with accusations that a cloak of protective silence has come down around the perpetrator due to his or her popularity and/or influence. I’ve stayed out of it. That choice, I realize with some embarrassment, is a luxury of not knowing any of the parties involved. I have no such luxury here. I have implicitly endorsed Kirk by making friendly introductions over the years; I have offered explicit endorsements by sending students his way.

What an outstanding confession. I mean, of course Beasley had nothing to do with Nesset’s extremely harmful behavior. Yet she realizes that even unwittingly placing someone in harm’s way obligates her to speak out.

Compare Beasley’s approach to that of Pastor Mark Driscoll, the self-anointed moral authority who has verbally and emotionally abused people, in a sense becoming harm himself.

I noticed in comments on Warren Throckmorton’s blog people who were saying, in various forms, forgiveness is one thing, but trust and respect are other matters. Similarly, Beasley quotes former Sen. Bob Kerry, who recently told a reporter, “We’re not the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives, and there’s a tendency to think we are.”

That, to me, is not the biggest issue when numerous other lives are damaged by an influential person. To me, the biggest issue is, as Beasley says, “a cloak of protective silence has come down around the perpetrator due to his or her popularity and/or influence.” She’s making a broad comment here, not referring specifically to Nesset, but she is explaining a tendency within social groups and professional groups to give leaders and high-profile banner-carriers special privilege.

With that in mind, I think this is one of Beasley’s most important points:

The eccentric good-ness of this writing community has seen me through many a dark night.

We owe it to each other to shepherd that goodness, and that means recognizing when something has gone very wrong.

U2 says what some former Mars Hill Church members need to hear from Mark Driscoll

“I thought I heard the captain’s voice / It’s hard to listen while you preach.”

— U2, from “Every Breaking Wave”

The captain’s voice might be God’s voice. The narrator reflects on a time when he thought he was hearing from God. Then the narrator laments preaching more than listening.

Bono and The Edge share songwriting credits on all the lyrics for the new album, Songs of Innocence, on which “Every Breaking Wave” appears.

For those who left Mars Hill Church, and for those who stayed, and for Mark Driscoll

The song isn’t part of the brand-new album, but the lyrics say everything about where the human race is right now and especially about the controversial culture within the Mars Hill Church organization as led by Mark Driscoll.

That’s because “ordinary love” is a great goal, and when people strive to become more meaningful than ordinary love, they somehow become worse as humans beings.

Ordinary love needs to be the baseline, the ground, the default, the aspiration. Don’t tell me you have something more until you’ve proven you understand this.

Mark Driscoll past rebukes Mark Driscoll future, gives grounds for his own dismissal from Mars Hill Church ministry

On March 27, 2011, Pastor Mark Driscoll preached a sermon at the Mars Hill Church Ballard campus in Seattle.

I had searched “Mark Driscoll” and the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 17, after thinking about Jesus’ warning in the first two verses: And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. It’s also worth noting the slightly different wording in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18, verse 6, which adds a shade of meaning, essentially implying that “little ones” are any believers in Jesus.

The following excerpt of the sermon, which on its own merits is quite good, is striking in light of the recent formal complaint filed by 21 former pastors in Driscoll’s organization.

Number Two, how are you leading others into temptation? This may even be, in light of the context, of controversy and conflict, you compelling them toward raging, anger, escalation. You could do this through gossip, through antagonizing, through goading them on, leading them toward temptation. Now, they are responsible for their sin, but you are responsible for your participation in the temptation…. Sin should not come through you. Don’t be an agent of the devil, leading others toward temptation to sin.

Compare some of what Driscoll said there with the list of offenses in the formal charges. I mean, if Driscoll-past isn’t rebuking Driscoll-future, then maybe I can’t understand plain old American English.

For broader context, watch a 7-minute video excerpt of the sermon here:

Dealing With Your Sin Luke 17:1-10 from jway242003 on GodTube.

Also see:
“When your pastor is worse than ‘worldly’ — what’s Mars Hill Church to do?”
“Is the Mars Hill Church board lying for Pastor Mark Driscoll? Or just using weasel words”
“Pastor Mark Driscoll teaches you how to slander!”