Some have wondered why we have begun blogging about Mars Hill Church and the scandals that are plaguing senior leadership. We remain convinced that there is no accountability for the executive elders/pastors of Mars Hill, directly opposite of what they claim, and thereby the community of former leaders, members and lay people have taken to blogs and other media forums in order to bring accountability by telling of their stories and experiences. Our hope is to see full repentance and specific and detailed discussions of what has been going on (open transparency) from the senior leaders of Mars Hill Church.
There are many blogs now chronicling the infamous Seattle church. A lot of information has been released and unveiled. We have decided to start a weekly (or thereabouts) roundup of news surrounding Mars Hill as a way of centralizing some of the information and accounts. Here is our first attempt:
1) Easter 2014 happens at Mars Hill.
Bellevue campus pastor Thomas Hurst recapped Easter: “This past weekend was an amazing time spent together with our church family and community. This weekend between Good Friday and Easter the Lord brought 5,660 people to Mars Hill Church Bellevue. With 4 Easter services we were blessed to get to baptize 75 people!” Mars Hill Bellevue is where Mark Driscoll usually preaches live (he had not been seen preaching live for a few weeks).
Insider opinions from Mars Hill stated that the costs of Easter were massive and unnecessary. (Throckmorton tweeted on this topic as well). This should not be a surprise however because Mars Hill was the church that rented out Qwest Field (now “Century Link Field”) in 2011 to host Easter. The church reports indicated that 17,500 people in total showed up in 2011.
2) Warren Throckmorton writes detailed account of OC campus fiasco.
Former pastor Kyle Firstenberg has leaked emails and Throckmorton has obtained compelling evidence that Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner knew from the beginning that meeting in the Galaxy Theater was against the zoning codes of Orange County, California. Based on the evidence, they were warned about this situation continually by their staff in SoCal but held their ground wanting to cynically turn the situation into a “religious persecution” issue. Driscoll, in a video now scrubbed, exclaimed, “If we find out as well that it’s just somebody on a council somewhere that has an axe to grind against Christianity we will hold our ground.” In the mind of Mars Hill leaders, apparently red-state, Republican Orange County is a haven for persecuting believers in Christ.
Reportedly, members of Mars Hill asked about this entire situation during a vision breakfast recently. Sutton Turner responded, via email to members, stating that he hoped to address these issues personally and privately to the one (Kyle Firstenberg) making the charges. Firstenberg has, by his accounts, been sending formal charges to the Mars Hill Board of Accountability (which Turner is a part of) for a year and has heard nothing. The board has also accused Firstenberg (without mentioning his name) of making “false accusations”. But now, Turner wants to reconcile? I wonder when that correspondence will be sent to Firstenberg?
3) Popular Christian Author (and Portland guy) Donald Miller weighs in on Mars Hill OC situation.
“Recently, a controversial pastor in Seattle was confronted with accusing an Orange County City Council of religious discrimination for not allowing him to plant a church in their city. He beat the drums of war and promised his congregation, and the world, he’d stand his ground. One of his own pastors finally went public saying his boss always knew the building wasn’t zoned for a church, had been warned about it and was being manipulative to get his way…Not only this, but this kind of cultural manipulation takes needed attention and resources away from true Christian martyrs all over the world who are truly being oppressed for their faith. In China, Syria, Iraq and Iran, oppression against Christians is rampant. But in Orange County? Really? Aren’t you just flopping like a European soccer player?” -Donald Miller
4) A Major Christian publication hints at the controversy surrounding Mars Hill.
From “Christianity Today” in an article entitled “When Pastors Fall: Why Full and Public Repentance Matters”: “Yet, some pastors want to stop there, quoting verses that say you cannot touch the ‘anointed.’ They sometimes think that disagreeing with them is the same as disagreeing with the Lord. Such an attitude reflects an attitude that doesn’t take the rest of scripture seriously. Sin matters, and when that sin happens in the life of a public spiritual leader, the great damage can be done. The scriptural teaching takes that into account as well.”
5) Former member Rob Smith starts blog and releases email correspondence with Michael Van Skaik regarding general charges against Mark Driscoll.
Michael Van Skaik has been identified in public letters as the chairman on the Mars Hill Board of (so-called) accountability. He had an email correspondence with former member Rob Smith that Smith has released on his blog: “Musings From Under The Bus”. Smith alleges he was the victim of spiritual abuse, lies and character assassination at the hands of Driscoll.
His blog is named after one of Driscoll’s most famous statements regarding dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus to be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfTmgPhmlto
6) Wenatchee the Hatchet analyzes Forbes article and comments on Driscoll’s sermon in 2009 where he said he wouldn’t set up side companies for book sales.
“Since Driscoll explicitly said from the pulpit he had a goal of having one of his books ‘pop’ so that he could make enough money from book sales and royalties he’d generate enough money to work for Mars Hill free of charge it’s a bit mysterious how he, in the same sermon, described the process of a church leader having a company on the side having any even tangential association with shameful gain. So it would sound as though the Mark Driscoll of 2009 would have said the Mark Driscoll of 2011 was wrong to be setting up a side company for book royalties that let massive dollars get funneled in the general direction of Mark Driscoll and yet 2009 Driscoll expressed hope that one of his books would ‘pop’ and bring a financial boon great enough that he could preach at Mars Hill free. He also indicated a huge portion of his salary in 2009 was covered by income that he generated. So how much was that in 2009 and what is it now? That Mark Driscoll was able to buy a million-dollar home in Snohomish County in 2012 is beyond dispute. That the purchased house was transferred from Future Hope Revocable Living Trust to the Downs Family Revocable Living Trust with a Melanie J Thompson as ttee does not particularly change the facts on the ground–Mark and Grace Driscoll were able to use the Future Hope Revocable Living Trust financial instrument to purchase a house outside of King County in May 2012. This was the period during which Mark Driscoll was telling people from the pulpit they could step up their giving game and by June 2012 Driscoll was describing how there had been systemic deficits at every single Mars Hill campus. Despite the promise that the new model for the budget was going to remedy things by early 2013 Mark Driscoll was still conveying to members how they had narrowly avoided their own fiscal cliff.”
Of course, Driscoll does have side companies one of which is “On Mission, LLC” which owns “Real Marriage”.
7) Wendy Alsup comments on how two former Mars Hill leaders made things right with her on Easter week.
“This Easter week, two former leaders at Mars Hill Church made something right with me. Both demonstrated to me what the Apostle Paul called godly sorrow or repentance. On this very Good Friday, as we meditate on the death of Christ, I thought it appropriate to extend that meditation to what His death accomplished for us in the way of repairing with those we have sinned against, which is foundational to the redemption and healing His death brings for all mankind.”