In the video Mark Driscoll released on Friday afternoon, he said that the task of Mars Hill leaders was complicated by the fact that so many people with complaints about the church were anonymous. Here are his exact words:
As well one of the things that has been complex is the fact that a lot of the people that we are dealing with in this season remain anonymous. And so we don’t know how to reconcile or how to work things out with people because we’re not entirely sure who they are. And so that has made things a little more complex and difficult as well.
I had two reactions to this claim. One, part of the reason that some have remained anonymous is because they have been afraid to identify themselves fully. Many of the former pastors and staff members felt forced to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to secure much needed severance income when they were terminated or quit at Mars Hill. In March, I posted a copy of one version of a Mars Hill non-disclosure agreement, supplied to me by former pastor Kyle Firstenberg. I have spoken to several former leaders who believed they would be sued by Mars Hill Church if they spoke out on the record. Since those leaders did make their concerns known when they left, they are only anonymous to the public, not to Mars Hill. Driscoll need only look to the policies practices of Mars Hill to understand why some people have been afraid.
Two, I have a hard time believing that there is a shortage of people who have made their identities known to Mars Hill leaders. I have interviewed over 50 former Mars Hill leaders and members who have made their concerns known to the executive elders with full identification. I have seen some of the formal charges and reviewed emails from executive elders and members where there is full identification of the former member’s identity. However, according to the former members, the leaders have not followed up on the issues.
One such former member is Bina E. She and her husband served in various leadership positions when they were at Mars Hill and as you will see, she identified herself to the leaders with no results. Bina E. said:
The comments about anonymous concerns are amazing to me. We wrote Mark [Driscoll] personally with our concerns in 2008– a gentle, truthful, heartfelt plea with our names on it. We received no response from him except from other pastors who said Mark was rocked by our letter, but that we burned our bridges with him. That was a sad thing to hear about the pastor who helped lead my husband to Christ and who married us. We also spoke directly with pastors, face to face, about our concerns before leaving– and when we left, we were dropped as friends by them after leaving; some more gradually and some more violently.
In 2012 or so, I received a Facebook friend request from Mark. This was surprising to me. I don’t know if Facebook randomly chooses names, or if an assistant did it(?) I didn’t accept the friend request, but instead responded with a message asking how he and his family were, telling him how we were, and saying that I am unwilling to be a Facebook “fan” but always willing to be a friend. As friends, we [my husband and I] were deeply concerned about what happened at Mars Hill and the direction it was going. I was quickly blocked. There are lots of us who spoke out quietly years ago, face to face, and with our names– Mars Hill knows our names. No one has ever reached out.
Finally, I’m disturbed that the statement about the reconciliation process being with a group of men? There is much reconciling to do with women. Also, there is much reconciling to do with non-elders– not the least of whom are former elders wives–Jonna, Joane, Tonya, Kathleen, etc. and kids. It’s such a strange process to me that only ex-elders are involved. I hope they address the many non-elders who raised these issues long ago.
I have heard similar stories from many former Mars Hill members. Some of those who are expressing problems have remained anonymous, it is true. However, there are numerous individuals who have contacted the leaders with no answer. Driscoll said the leaders would be willing to talk but gave little in the way of specifics about how to make that happen. One way to minimize the complexity is to simply start with the people who have already identified themselves.