“Trust is gained slowly and lost quickly.” -Mark Driscoll in numerous sermons.
I have mostly refrained from writing a lot about the Mars Hill controversy in the past several months but events from this weekend have brought me (reluctantly) back to the topic.
As the Seattle area knows by now, Mars Hill’s Bellevue campus was met by protests this past Sunday (As a note, I did not attend the protest). Former members of Mars Hill, Christians from other churches, and non-believers congregated to protest the megachurch that has been engulfed in scandals over the past year. Central to the controversy was Mark Driscoll’s recent claim that people who have been hurt and sinned against by the church are “largely anonymous” (http://marshill.com/2014/07/21/the-weekly-7-21-14). The theme of the protest was “we are not anonymous”.
Here is some news coverage of the event:
Late yesterday, after the protest, the pastor of the Mars Hill Bellevue campus released a message on the City (Mars Hill’s very own social media site). I’m going to respond to that message from Pastor Matt Rogers paragraph by paragraph:
Rogers: “This past Sunday outside our building about 60 professing Christians led a protest, left a bit of trash, and slandered good men. Inside the building our church family worshipped Jesus. Let that image be what defines us. Others will cast aspersions, but we will worship Jesus.”
Me: First of all, not everyone who attended the protest is a professing Christian. I have a friend (Andrew Lamb) who attended that used to be a Mars Hill member and is now an agnostic. Yes, most of the people in the protest believe in Jesus but his tone seems to suggest a question of their true belief. Then, he makes an accusation about leaving trash. This is incredibly vague though. What trash was left specifically? How does he know the trash was from the protestors and not someone else who was walking through downtown Bellevue that day? If protestors left trash, they should apologize and admit to it but the statement was non-specific so we don’t know what Mr. Rogers was referring too.
Finally, he makes the claim about “slandered good men”. Assuming this means Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner, and others, does the “slander” definition include: confronting abuses by leadership, pointing out unethical practices (the Resultsource contract http://www.worldmag.com/2014/03/unreal_sales_for_driscoll_s_real_marriage), bringing evidence of plagiarism into the light (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/08/01/former-colleague-provides-evidence-mark-driscoll-plagiarized-material-in-two-books/), and denouncing a misogynistic document written by Driscoll (as William Wallace II) which was “Pussified Nation” (http://www.wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/2014/07/pussified-nation-page-1.html)?
Rogers: “We cannot let fear rule our church. We must choose love. Choosing fear would lead us to attack those who are attacking us. Instead we will choose to love them by praying for them. Choosing fear will drive us to anger and bitterness which will spill out in how we talk about them, engage with them and eventually even with each other. Choosing love will be our witness to all the outsiders watching us right now that we forgive just as God in Christ forgave us. By refusing to give into fear we will commend Christ to our city.”
Me: What is there to be afraid of? Ironically, this entire message on the City seems to indicate that the Mars Hill leadership is afraid of the protestors, bloggers, media and other people who have been speaking out. When someone asks a hard question or confronts sin, this isn’t something to be afraid of but to discuss with the individual bringing the issue to the surface. Actually, most of the time, this is a loving thing to do. I will assume that Mr. Rogers and I agree that, in a lot of cases, confronting sin and injustice is a very loving thing to do. Driscoll has made a career teaching on sins of “omission and commission” and calling out sin as being a loving thing to do.
I’m glad Mr. Rogers is apparently forgiving the protestors. Besides allegedly littering and slandering “good men” (IE pointing out what the “good men” have been up to the past several years), are there other offenses that were committed against Mr. Rogers and his congregation?
Rogers: “Choosing fear shapes how we interact with each other as well. Choosing fear leads to second guessing and distrusting the statements of our leaders. Choosing fear leads to not standing up for the truth and the honor of good men because of what might come our way. Choosing love will enable us to show grace toward one another, to trust the Spirit at work in one another, and encourage each other to do the same.”
Me: The critical aspect of this comment is in regard to the “second guessing” and “distrusting the statements of our leaders”. This is why Mars Hill leadership is paralyzed with fear. I’ll just say this…when there are leaders who demonstrably lie, release half-truths regarding situations and engage in half-cocked PR spin, people should have every reason to second guess the leaders. If leaders refuse to tell the truth and be transparent and honest, they should be questioned.
Sutton Turner, the chief operating officer of Mars Hill, has released contradictory and discrepant messages regarding the latest Board of Accountability Advisors resignations (Paul Tripp and James MacDonald have both resigned). Warren Throckmorton comments on those statements here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/08/02/james-macdonald-resigns-from-mars-hill-board-update-on-paul-tripps-resignation/
Mark Driscoll has commented that the people who have been hurt by Mars Hill and have made accusations against the leadership are “largely anonymous”. This statement is baloney and has been effectively discredited. Dave Kraft (http://davekraft.squarespace.com/posts/2014/3/8/do-you-swear-to-tell-the-truth-the-whole-truth-and-nothing-b.html) has been public about his accusations as has Kyle Firstenberg (http://sinrepentancegraceforgiveness.blogspot.com/2014/03/my-official-charges-against-mark.html). Paul Petry and his family have long called on Mars Hill leadership to repent and address sins: http://joyfulexiles.com/. Other leaders have been public as well: http://repentantpastor.com/. Furthermore, outside of the leadership sphere, members and attenders of Mars Hill have been public with their stories on http://welovemarshill.com/ where they put first and last name. All of these stories pre-date Driscoll’s 7-21-2014 video update.
Subsequently, the senior leadership has refused to disclose where Mars Hill Global Funds have gone even though this fund was heavily advertised as supporting church planting in Ethiopia and India. The leadership has engaged in a sloppily PR cover-up in trying to explain the numerous inaccurate and blatantly false statements that have been released in regard to the Global Fund. (See more here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/07/14/mars-hill-member-wants-accounting-of-global-fund-donations/)
These are just a few examples but in the past year, numerous examples of inaccurate or untruthful statements made by senior leadership of Mars Hill have been unveiled. If a person has repeatedly lied about various people and situations (and there is quite a bit of empirical evidence to back this up), why should they now be trusted?
Rogers: “Trust is a choice. At some point you simply have to choose to trust someone or not trust them. Extending trust to another Christian is trusting the Holy Spirit at work in them. Trusting a fellow Christian means that when there is sin the Spirit will bring repentance. Trusting a fellow Christian means trusting that they will be more like Jesus tomorrow than they are today. I don’t want to live with a heart filled with cynicism and fear. I simply don’t know how to love others when my heart filled with cynicism and fear.”
Me: I agree Mr. Rogers. No one wants to or should “live with a heart filled with cynicism and fear”. Again, it is not cynical to confront or bring into the light abuses of leadership, unethical fraud, or numerous erroneous statements.
Rogers: “As elders we should have done more to communicate with you. By not saying more clearly that much of what you read online is slander, half-truths and gossip we left you in a place of wondering what is true. When this recent storm began a few months ago I looked into all of it because I had a responsibility to as an elder. What I have consistently seen is a pattern of repentance when sin was present, growth when errors were made, and patience when the accusations were false.”
Me: Mars Hill has been attempting to discredit the media and bloggers this year by saying that the articles are full of half-truths and gossip. Notice how Mr. Rogers never states what the half-truths are. What are the erroneous statements in blog articles? What has Warren Throckmorton or Wenatchee the Hatchet or others published that have been false? If there are indeed “half-truths”, why doesn’t Mars Hill correct the record?
In my blog articles on Mars Hill, if I have made any erroneous or untrue comments, the PR department is welcome to contact me and I will correct my comments on this blog.
Now, to the repentance issue. Has Mark Driscoll been quick to repent? He released a weekly video on 7/21/2014 after months and months of people coming forward with stories. Driscoll said he was “lamenting” (he was never clear about what he was lamenting) and he said he should have been more “sympathetic” toward men without saying how he should have been.
When the Resultsource contract story broke in March, he did offer this open letter: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/mark-driscoll-posts-open-letter-apology
I wonder if World Magazine had never broken the Resultsource contract scandal, would Driscoll have voluntarily apologized and stated this was a wrong strategy on his own initiative without being confronted by the release of the contract?
Speaking of slander and gossip, there was that crashing of the “Strange Fire” event by Driscoll and others. Driscoll proclaimed on Twitter that security had confiscated his books. A video released later showed that Driscoll actually offered his books to security. Was Driscoll trying to slander another ministry? (Source: http://www.christianpost.com/buzzvine/mark-driscoll-crashes-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-conference-photos-106976/)
Roger: “Let me say very clearly that Pastor Mark, Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton are honorable and trustworthy men. I count it a privilege to serve with them not because I have anything to gain, simply because it is true.”
Me: The exhaustive record, at least in the case of Driscoll and Turner, says otherwise.
Roger: “I am asking all of us to choose to live in a way that is joyful and trusting vs cynical and fearful.”
Me: One can be joyful and walking with the Lord when asking questions and confronting leadership about numerous unaddressed wrongs.
Roger: “Meanwhile, others will remind us of our sin, but we will worship the Savior who died for our sins. Others will try to turn us against one other, but we will worship Jesus who gave His life so we could be one with Him. Others will try to keep us living in a past from which we have repented and changed, but we will worship Jesus who makes it possible for us to have a new beginning.”
Me: I would love to hear from Driscoll or Turner how they specifically have changed. What has specifically changed about the Mars Hill organization? What specifically is Driscoll lamenting? How has he been transformed through the “storm” this year?
Look, I’m sure Matt Rogers is a decent guy. This blog article in no way is meant to disparage him but to challenge and question his points. I continually pray and hope that the Mars Hill leadership would engage in repentance the people they have hurt and seek reconciliation.