Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Issues Statement of Confession

James Noriega is a former pastor at Mars Hill Church. Today, he posted a public statement on his Facebook page which addressed his time at the church. It does not blame his colleagues or Mark Driscoll but disclosed his feelings about his own approach at the time.
Noriega’s statement is a reminder that there is more to the concerns about Mars Hill Church than the top leadership.

For the people I have sinned against in these ways or in other ways please forgive me; I so am sorry I hurt you. I hope and pray God heals you. Please message me and let me hear you out. Please don’t be afraid of me any longer. I understand if you are. I absolutely want healing for you; not more hurt. I do love you.

 

Mars Hill University District Pastor Drew Hensley Clarifies Position

Drew Hensley is one of the nine current pastors at Mars Hill Church that signed the letter calling for Mark Driscoll to step down and enter an elder directed restoration program. He also signed the letter yesterday from lead pastors and Board of Elders.  To clarify his position, he posted a note to the members of the University District group on Mars Hill Church’s City website. I want to note that I did not obtain this note from Rev. Hensley.

From Pastor Drew Hensley:
Mars Hill U-District Family,
I want you to know how much I love you and count it a great privilege to be your pastor. My desire has always been to point you toward Jesus and help you grow in him, better understand his love and grace, and share that with the community around you.
I never want you to feel confused, especially by any of my actions as your pastor. Last week a letter from myself and 8 other elders was sent to the full council of elders. That letter somehow leaked out to the media this week and curiously didn’t include the confidentiality statement that was originally at the top. Yesterday a letter came out to all of Mars Hill Church from the lead pastors. I signed that letter as well because the main purpose and intent of that letter was to explain that the original letter wasn’t intended to go public, which it wasn’t. Obviously it did, but that wasn’t the original intent. With that being said, that you for all of the encouragement that many of you have show over the last few days. Tears have not stopped shedding at the love you’ve always shown me and continue to show.
For clarity sake, I absolutely stand behind what I helped write in the original letter from the 9 elders. I believe it’s very important that your pastor stand behind what he says.
I love you all and am praying for you daily. I have been called to care for your souls and as long as Jesus allows me to do that I want to do so above reproach and out of a genuine love for the sheep and Jesus church.
Only by His Grace, Pastor Drew

I want to add that there was no confidentiality statement on the materials I obtained.

Mars Hill Church Leaders: Giving is Down Due to "Increase in Negative Media Attention"

Yesterday, Mars Hill executive elders also provided a financial update for members:

Financial Update
We praise Jesus for his grace and faithfulness in caring for Mars Hill Church for 18 years. In January 2014 the church was in the great financial shape. God continued to be faithful, through your gifts, to also help us end the fiscal year strong this past June. Thank you for your support and service, as many have learned about Jesus and countless lives have been changed by Jesus’ work through you.
It is your continued support that is needed now more than ever. While we were able to end the fiscal year strong, giving and attendance have declined significantly since January. Specifically, we have seen a substantial decrease in tithes and offerings these past two months, due to the increase in negative media attention surrounding our church.
We have done much this year to prepare for a decline in giving, such as two rounds of staffing reductions and the cancellation of various events and projects, but we now find ourselves in a tougher financial position than we expected. The drop in giving revenue has exceeded what we have been able to cut in expenses. This has required us to now consider further ways we can reduce expenses, such as additional staffing reductions. The reality is that just because we are a church does not mean we can defy economic gravity—we can only operate the ministries and programs our members and attenders provide the resources for. We simply cannot spend money we do not have; this is true for any church.
Please pray for your church as we make some tough, but needed, financial decisions. If you consider Mars Hill your church home, now is the time to pray, serve, and give. As we head into the Fall we need your support now more than ever, and we are trusting in Jesus to continue his good work through you and Mars Hill Church.
As always, you may can make a gift and manage your giving online at marshill.com/give.

Well, first of all, I would like to ask the executive elders if the budget was adjusted to allow the church to finish strong in June. Sources tell me that the budget had to be amended to reflect the lower giving. Second, there is finally an admission that giving and attendance are down. Two rounds of reductions have taken place.
The reason given is a window into the mindset of the leaders: “increase in negative media attention.” Thanks to their lead pastor, Mars Hill has always had negative media attention. However, now the decline is because that attention has increased, according to the executive elders. Could there be a reason for this season of increased negative media attention?
Hiring Mark DeMoss was certainly a nod to the need for help in the PR domain.  I will offer some additional pointers. To decrease negative media attention, follow these tips:
1. Don’t use church funds to manipulate literary best seller lists to make your pastor appear to be a best selling author.  In a related tip, don’t cover it up and threaten staff not to disclose this fact. Furthermore, when it is revealed, reduce the number of explanations from three to one that is accurate.
2. Advise the lead pastor to avoid offending people with vulgarities, name-calling and bullying.
3. Don’t spend dedicated funds meant for ministers in third world nations on nice facilities to expand the Mars Hill brand.
4. If you say you are raising money for a Jesus Festival, you should have a pretty big party.
5. Don’t ignore requests for information from media and members. When members want to see the bylaws or know where their money was spent, comply. When media ask for an accounting of how you spend money, disclose that information. Remember, it wasn’t your money and the information is in the public interest. Refusing to disclose looks like you are hiding something. It is not too late to follow this tip.
6. Don’t make technically correct, but misleading statements to the public and press. The press and the public are smart enough to see through that. Eventually even people who want to give you the benefit of the doubt will see through it.
7. Going forward, revamp the whole Board of Elders/BOAA thing. Most of the people who have been appointed to these positions are known vocal and financial supporters of Mark Driscoll. This will all come out soon. The verdict, if favorable to Driscoll, will invite another “increase in negative media attention.” For the sake of balance and fairness, you should appoint some of the nine elders who wrote you a letter to the group who will examine the charges against Rev. Driscoll. Another possibility is that everyone who has presided over the church during the season of increased negative media attention should step aside. The BOAA should change the bylaws to allow the current elders to elect new executives and get a fresh start. I suspect that would lead to a decrease in negative media attention.
I may think of some additional tips. I imagine that people who comment on this post will add some as well.
In short, be more transparent about what you are doing in the name of God. Mars Hill Church has become known for the mysteries it hides more so than for the mysteries of the Gospel it proclaims. This, brothers and sisters, should not be so.
 

Victoria Osteen: Don't do stuff for God (with more video spoofery)

(Scroll down for additional Osteen spoofs)
This is all over social media but in case you haven’t seen it, watch:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/00-6OyXVA0M[/youtube]
Others have added additional goofiness. For instance, Mark Driscoll might just lose it:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/m1RRKq89Qek[/youtube]
This one is almost too serious:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/NauXtlDLE7A[/youtube]
Osteen might cause a little ruckus at the office:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/8-p9IkLZ8IE[/youtube]
And (probably not) finally:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/jm4cJqh4ABg[/youtube]
All of a sudden I just feel like singing some worship music:
[youtube]http://youtu.be/y6Sxv-sUYtM[/youtube]
 
 

Mars Hill Church updates members on Paul Tripp and new additions to Board of Advisors and Accountability

Mars Hill Church posted an update on replacements for the BOAA. As I reported earlier, Matt Rogers is joining the board. In addition Jon Phelps will join the board. I will have more to say about the addition of Mr. Phelps later. In addition, the church was provided the Mars Hill take on Paul Tripps comments.

Update on Paul Tripp & The BOAA

As we have shared before, Paul Tripp recently resigned his membership from our Board of Advisors and Accountability. To the best of our knowledge at the time, this was due to his intent in helping Mars Hill as a paid consultant.

Paul later released a statement, adding additional comments that he did not believe the structure of the Board that he joined was healthy, and that we should add accountability from local members of the church. Paul’s concerns were not made known to the Board as a whole before he resigned; however, we agree there is wisdom in adding local members to this board and we were already in the process of doing just that.

We have now become aware of new comments and concerns that Paul Tripp has voiced about Pastor Mark and Pastor Sutton within the last week to a small group of current elders at Mars Hill. These elders then posted these comments as a letter in an unsecure place, and the letter has since been posted online by various critics and media sources.

Paul Tripp’s comments to our elders were never made directly to the Board of Advisors and Accountability, as we have minutes of these meetings. We are deeply disappointed that Paul did not bring these concerns to our full Board or to the Executive Elders directly.

The concerns brought forth by these elders and the comments from Paul Tripp have been heard and are being taken seriously. Their letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Pastor Mark, will be processed in accordance with our bylaws. This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete.

As for the Board of Advisors and Accountability we are pleased to announce that the vacancies created on the Board were filled with local members of our church who meet the ECFA guidelines for independence. Pastor Matt Rogers is a local Seattle business leader and has been serving as a volunteer elder at Mars Hill Church Bellevue. He will also serve as the Chairman of the Board of Elders which will provide increased accountability in areas of financial responsibility, staff and elder transitions and church culture. The other vacancy on the BOAA has been filled by John Phelps. John is a successful businessman and longtime member of Mars Hill. We are excited for these men to provide local perspective and accountability on our Board.

Phelps is well known as a longtime associate of Mark Driscoll’s and one of the more generous donors to Mars Hill. Independence in this case is a word with little meaning.

Mars Hill Church Leaders Respond to the Concerns and Critical Information Letter

Earlier this afternoon, current lead pastors and the newly formed Board of Elders (more about that later) sent a response to the congregation. The subject was the document released yesterday titled “Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church” and signed by nine current Mars Hill elders.

From Mars Hill Church:
Dear Mars Hill,
Yesterday, a private document and conversation between all the elders of Mars Hill Church was leaked to the media. Because we, your 16 lead pastors and the Board of Elders, love and care about you, we want to provide you with some information and context so that you can be in prayer for your church.
We know that this letter has raised concerns and questions that will be examined and taken very seriously.
Last week, some current elders brought forward their concerns about the integrity of Pastor Sutton Turner and Michael Van Skaik (our BoAA chairman) as well as Pastor Mark Driscoll. There was some discussion of these concerns privately, but then last week these elders brought forward their questions/concerns on our Full Council of Elders group on The City that remain unresolved. Unfortunately, in recent months it has been proven almost everything that goes on that City group is leaked publicly to online media. We simply do not know who is passing these private conversations along to the media, but the fact is, it keeps happening.
Your elders are deeply grieved over the manner in which this has happened. In particular, we are grieved because 1 Corinthians 6:1–8 gives us a very clear (and even stern) command that when we have grievances against one another, we are to work them out in such a way that non-believers are not invited into the discussion. This passage shows us that even in cases of serious wrong or disagreement, God wants us to exercise appropriate discretion. We are terribly sorry because this is incredibly distracting and harmful to the cause of the gospel. Please forgive us for our division and lack of unity. We know this hurts all of you deeply and we are eagerly working toward the unity that we have in Jesus.
We know that in recent months there have been questions, concerns, accusations, and charges brought against the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church. To address these allegations and concerns, a newly formed Board of Elders, made up of trusted lead pastors, has been appointed to examine these charges. These men have already met for many hours this week to begin this important process.
Regarding the letter, it is extremely regrettable that it has gone public, for four reasons:
Whoever is passing these documents along to the media is in clear, defiant violation of 1 Corinthians 6.
It puts what should be spoken of as “questions” or “concerns” or even “opinions” about Pastor Sutton and Michael van Skaik as “fact” in the mind of the watching world. There are important verses that speak to due process (Matt. 18:15–17), fact-checking (Prov. 18:17), and investigating claims before rendering judgement (Deut. 17:8–9).
It has caused harm to the body. “When one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26).
Those elders who wrote the document clearly stated that this conversation was for the elders of the church, not the general public.
Despite the way the letter was sent out, please know we take its contents very seriously and will be taking the appropriate actions to honor Jesus, address the allegations and concerns, and work toward becoming a healthy church.
If you haven’t yet seen the letter, you will more than likely see it online. Some of you, if you see the letter, will be unsure as to how to feel or respond. We would like to shepherd you away from some ungodly responses and toward some godly responses.
Please do not:
React in fear or anxiety. Even as Christians we may be tempted to give place to fear. Remember, no matter what does or doesn’t happen with our church, you will still be a Christian, you are still loved by Jesus, and you will still spend eternity in the loving presence of God. The words of Romans 8:35–39 are so valuable to us in a time like this.
Pronounce judgement before the time. We must allow God to bring to light everything that he wants to have brought to the light. Just because someone brings forward allegations and concerns about a leader does not mean we should presume guilt. Any and all allegations and charges must be treated seriously, with impartiality, and without jumping to conclusions. Your elders will seek to honor Jesus as we proceed forward.
Slander, gossip, or pick sides. Our “team” is Jesus, not one group of elders or another. We must control our tongues, including our “digital/online” tongues. “I said, ‘I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence’” (Ps. 39:1). Scripture has many warnings about engaging in controversies, quarrels and other’s disagreements because of the intense hurt that comes for all those involved.
Please do:
Pray. Pray that the elders will seek the Lord, be led by the Spirit, and proceed forward in confession, repentance, love, and godliness. Pray that the watching non-Christian world would not be given opportunity to discredit not only our church but the very gospel of Jesus. Pray that Jesus will be glorified through all of this.
Seek wisdom. The book of James speaks a lot about wisdom. James 3:17says, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Seek this type of wisdom from God.
Walk in godliness. Our prayer is that wisdom, love, truth, kindness, reasonableness, patience, and a myriad of other godly characteristics would be what marks all of our lives in the middle of continual, difficult, and challenging circumstances.
Trust. Mars Hill belongs to Jesus (Col. 1:18). Let us trust Jesus with our lives and his church.
We love you, Mars Hill, and we are here to love, serve, and care for you. At the end of the day, our only hope is in Jesus, and our only job is to point you to Jesus.
In Christ,
Your Lead Pastors and Board of Elders
Pastor Tim Birdwell
Pastor Ed Choi (Board of Elders)
Pastor David Fairchild
Pastor Aaron Gray (Board of Elders)
Pastor Bubba Jennings (Board of Elders)
Pastor Alex Ghioni (Board of Elders)
Pastor Matthias Haeusel
Pastor AJ Hamilton (Board of Elders)
Pastor Scott Harris
Pastor Drew Hensley
Pastor Thomas Hurst
Pastor Donovan Medina
Pastor Matt Rogers (Board of Elders)
Pastor Miles Rohde (Board of Elders)
Pastor Tim Smith (Board of Elders)
Pastor Matt Wallace
Pastor Ryan Williams
Pastor Seth Winterhalter

According to several current members, the Board of Elders listed above are slated to examine the charges against Mark Driscoll, and possibly now Sutton Turner and Michael Van Skaik. This newly constituted Board of Elders is not mentioned in the bylaws and appears to be a outside-the-bylaws creation of the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability. In a separate post, I will examine this move. From my reading of Article 12 of the bylaws, the independent members of the BOAA may develop procedures for investigating charges but they are charged with conducting the investigation.
I think the use of I Corinthians 6 is a stretch. That section of Paul’s letter refers to lawsuits not some nebulous “court of public opinion.”

Petition Calls On Mars Hill Church Leaders to Follow the Call of Nine Current Elders (UPDATED)

At change.org, former Mars Hill Church member Dave Lester has posted a petition calling on the remaining current elders to heed the advice contained in the letter posted yesterday written by nine of their peers.
When a person signs the petition, an email is delivered to a subset of the current elders which reads:

To:
Michael van Skaik, Chairman – Mars Hill Church Board
Thomas Hurst, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
Ed Choi, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
Donovan Mediina, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
Matthew Wallace, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
Seth Winterhalter, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
Bubba Jennings, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
David Fairchild, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
Tim Smith, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
Aaron Gray, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
Alex Ghioni, Pastor – Mars Hill Church
The nine elders at Mars Hill Church have stood up as men of God. These men were chosen by the rigorous Mars HIll Church elder process and proven men of character. They are moving to protect the flock and need to be heeded. Please listen and support these brave pastors calling for repentance and transparency among the Mars Hill Senior Leadership

Sincerely,

After being posted last evening, the petition has 118 172 signers. People referring to themselves as former and current members are signing on to the petition.

The letter released yesterday and signed by the nine current elders* is arguably the most internal resistance demonstrated since 2007 when Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired, shamed, and later shunned.  The petition urges support for the elders and the position outlined in their August 22nd letter.  The letter signers (with Twitter addresses and positions) are:

Pastor Dustin Kensrue (@dustinkensrue) – Director of Worship / Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Pastor Drew Hensley (@drewchensley) – Lead Pastor at Mars Hill U-District Pastor
Pastor Mark Dunford (@haudi_pardner) – Pastor at Mars Hill Portland;
Pastor Ryan Kearns (@Ryan_Kearns) – Director of Community Groups/Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Pastor Ryan Welsh (@pastorryanwelsh) – Pastor of Theology and Discipleship
Pastor Adam Ramsey (@adamramsey) –  Director of Student Ministry / Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Pastor Cliff Ellis (@Cliffellis) – Director of Biblical Living / Pastor at Mars Hill West Seattle
Pastor Gary Shavey (@shavedawg) – Pastor of Biblical Living at Mars Hill Bellevue
Pastor James Rose (@jnrose3) – Pastor at Mars Hill Ballard
 
*Even though one elder, Mark Dunford, was let go as an unpaid elder at Mars Hill Portland, I still refer to “nine current elders” because at the time the letter was sent, all nine were active as elders in the church. The other elders are employed by the church.

Seattle News Coverage of Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll Saga

After the release of the letter from nine current Mars Hill Church pastors, local Seattle news gave an account of the letter related fallout. One of the pastors, Mark Dunford, an unpaid elder, was relieved of his duties and then reported by the networks there. Below are the video accounts:

This is an amazing segment. The reporter located Driscoll’s “million dollar home” (it really did cost over a million dollars) and used the intercom to attempt to speak to Driscoll. Driscoll (it certainly sounded like Driscoll) answered, “Sorry, wrong address, I don’t know.” Eventually the police were called and the reporter left.
King5 also did a segment. Watch:

I’m not sure everything in these reports is factually spot on, but part of the reason for that is the way Mars Hill leaders have engaged questions of public interest. All the deflection and lack of transparency is backfiring with the church now becoming known for the mysteries they are hiding rather than ones they are supposed to be proclaiming.

Current Mars Hill Pastors Express Concerns About Issues Covered By ECFA Guidelines

In the letter released today by nine current Mars Hill pastors (actually one former pastor, and 8 current; one was let go today – more on that later today), the pastors referenced concerns about the handling of the Mars Hill Global Fund, among several other issues of transparency.

…there is no dearth of examples in the last two years of very questionable transparency and truth-telling, including the Mars Hill Global Fund, Result-Source, Strange Fire, ghost-writing/plagiarism, explanations for staff transition, the resignations of BOAA members, etc.

Knowing that current pastors question the church’s handling of the fund and the transparency surrounding several issues raises anew questions about the value of accreditation by the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability. The ECFA’s Guideline 5 states:

Every organization shall provide a copy of its current financial statements upon written request and shall provide other disclosures as the law may require. The financial statements required to comply with Standard 3 must be disclosed under this standard.

An organization must provide a report, upon written request, including financial information on any specific project for which it sought or is seeking gifts.

There is also Guideline 7.1, Truthfulness in Communications:

Current. An appeal for charitable gifts should only contain information that is specifically relevant to the purpose of the appeal. Using pictures, videos, descriptions, narratives, or other information from prior projects or events—which suggests a misleading relationship with the current appeal—is a violation of this standard. The prospective giver will assume that all of the information presented relates to the specific appeal. It is inappropriate to use “old” information in a current appeal simply because it might bring a “better” response from a giver.

And then:

Summary.  Questions about truthfulness in communication can best be answered by asking these questions:

  • “Will all of the text, photographs, videos, or other information included in this appeal lead the prospective donor to a current, complete, and accurate understanding of the facts surrounding the appeal?”

  • “Does this appeal communicate all of the information I would want to know if I were a prospective donor deciding whether or not to respond to the appeal?”

  • “Does this communication bear witness that we are trusting God to move in the hearts of our supporters, and we are not trying to manipulate their feelings by the way we portray our work or report its outcomes?”

The current pastors are not specific but include the Global Fund in their list of not very transparent, not very candid items. Clearly, people watching the Global videos in late 2012 through 2014 would have thought the money was going to Ethiopia and India since 22 of 25 pertained to mission work.
At least one former staffer has gone on record with questions about adherence to the guidelines, now we have current pastors expressing their lack of confidence in the public presentation of a variety of issues which are relevant to the ECFA guidelines. Perhaps the call for transparency should extend beyond Mars Hill Church.

Nine Current Mars Hill Church Elders Take a Bold Stand

In an August 22 letter to the Full Council of Elders at Mars Hill Church (click link for entire letter), nine current elders called on the church to change the governance and for Mark Driscoll to submit to a restoration plan. They also raised significant questions regarding the veracity of information which has come from the Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability.

They prefaced their concerns with a confession of deep concern for the church:

Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church

Grace and Peace

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:2
Fellow elders,

We love you, this church, and the people that Jesus has entrusted to our care.

Pastor Mark, we love you and have been immensely blessed under your preaching, and for that we are grateful.

Pastor Dave, we love you and we are thankful for the love you show to us and all those in your care, and also for your calm and clear-headed leadership in tough situations.

Pastor Sutton, we love you and are thankful that you care deeply for Mars Hill Church.

Additionally, we are thankful to the men of the BOAA for the time and energy they have given to love our church and our leaders well.

We are convicted that as we are all elders, pastors, shepherds, we equally share the responsibility for the care of the people God has entrusted to us. And it is because of this conviction and a love for the church that we are compelled to speak up. We are seriously concerned about the state of our church, especially the state our leadership at the highest levels and our continued lack of transparency in general. While the current bylaws greatly restrict our authority, we believe we must act like elders none-the-less. There is information in this letter that we believe to be important to the future of Mars Hill Church and our response to it may impact whether or not it will even have a future at all.

Come Into The Light
In John 3:21 we read this: “…whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Brothers, have we been a church that is characterized by coming towards and loving the light? Do we welcome the light, trusting God’s grace and mercy when our weaknesses and failures are exposed?

The media has been inundated, especially in the last two years and increasingly in the past six months, with controversies surrounding Mars Hill and Pastor Mark. While some of these accusations may be groundless or exaggerated, we believe that in many cases we have invited these controversies upon ourselves by not seeking the truth and not seeking to be in the light.

Where there is nothing to hide, there is no fear of being exposed. But, rather than seeking clarity, we have cloaked ourselves in non-disclosure agreements. We have become masters of spin in how we communicate the transition of a high volume of people off staff. We have taken refuge behind official statements that might not technically be lies on the surface, but in truth are deeply misleading.

At the retreat this week, Pastor Dave spoke about our church’s credibility problem. Brothers, this credibility problem is directly linked to the fact that we have not loved the light.

This is not the fault of one person, or even a just a small group of people. We all share in responsibility for this in one way or another, and we must all repent of it together, together calling for our church to step into the light.

Exposing The Darkness
It is out of a longing to come to the light that we began to look more deeply into certain issues when the answers that we were being given — answers that were being given to our people — continued to not add up. We sought clarity, which has been lacking. We do not believe that looking for answers, asking questions, and trying to discern the truth is a divisive or sinful thing. Rather, this is the responsibility we have as elders as we are called to lead our people and the church from a position of truth and love. To ask us not to do so would only be to further exasperate the “culture of fear” that we so desperately want to move away from.

We would like to share with you the following two examples, as they were both misrepresented this past week at our elder retreat before the Full Council of Elders. We are not inferring intent or motives, but rather we are attempting to call attention to discrepancies and to resolve them.

The two examples directly relate to public statements from the Board of Advisors and Accountability. For instance, were the 2013 charges presented by former pastor Dave Kraft actually investigated as the BOAA implied? Not according to these current elders.

According to the Mars Hill BOAA, charges brought against Mark Driscoll in 2013 were “taken seriously“:

Be assured of this, the formal charges that were filed were serious, were taken seriously and were not dismissed by the board lightly.

As the nine pastors ask, how is this possible when no witnesses were interviewed. From the letter:

BOAA/EE Statements Claim That We Had No Way to Interview Witnesses from Dave Kraft’s Formal Charges We have been repeatedly told that we could not hear from the witnesses mentioned in the document. This did not add up, since the document clearly states that there were seven individuals who were willing to testify when called upon, and Dave Kraft stated clearly that he hoped that they would be called upon. Through conversations separately with Dave Kraft and Michael Van Skaik, I (Dustin) finally got clarity on this on Tuesday morning at the elder retreat. The issue was not that the BOAA “could not” interview the witnesses, but rather that Michael Van Skaik “would not” open an investigation without Dave Kraft giving him the names first. This seems to be a completely unreasonable and unnecessary demand when the charges themselves reveal that the witnesses felt bullied and were afraid of the consequences of releasing their names outside of the protection of a formal investigation being opened. Mike Wilkerson, who helped prepare the charges for Dave, confirms that he recommended to Dave that the names of the witnesses be disclosed only after they were protected by a formal investigation process. Mike made this recommendation in part due to his perception of the danger and fear involved for the witnesses, and also because he had knowledge that a prior complaint had not been handled according to the complainant’s expectation of confidentiality, resulting in further harm to the complainant. Furthermore, this charge was not coming from an unknown critic, but rather Dave Kraft who is a respected former elder and Christian leader. Because of his reputation we should have been willing to give greater credence to his charges and want to hear them out.

Regardless of whether this was a wise or helpful decision by the BOAA, it is clearly misleading to state emphatically over and over that there was no way to talk to these people and hear their testimony, when clearly there was. This is no minor issue as we have been consistently misled about the keyreason the Kraft charges were handled the way they were. How can Van Skaik claim that “the formal charges that were filed were…taken seriously and were not dismissed by the board lightly,” when he would not even open the case to hear from the actual witnesses? Sending out letters to former employees in an effort to find these people or others who experienced similar situations seems to be a failed effort from the start, for the same reason that the 7 would not release their names unless as witnesses in an official investigation. Because of this refusal, it is misleading to claim that the charges were taken seriously when the witnesses were never even interviewed. Michael Van Skaik confirmed this week that no formal investigation was ever opened in response to Dave Kraft’s charges filed last year.

The BOAA told the world that the charges were taken seriously.
Also, was the Mars Hill BOAA aware that the Acts 29 Network board had concerns about pastor Driscoll? Yes, according to the current elders.

Public Statements Claim That There Was No Contact Between Mark/BOAA and A29 Board Prior To A29 Removing MH From Network We have been repeatedly told that no one from the A29 board talked to Mark or to our board prior to removing Mark from the network. This is only true if by “talk” you mean “told us beforehand that they were kicking us out,” and if you dismiss contact between individual board members with Mark and with each other. The impression created by these statements was one where it seemed that the A29 board had made their decision having had no communication with people close to Mark or with Mark himself, with no actual insight into the situation, and with no care for Mark or Mars Hill. The truth is that multiple members of both boards had been in direct contact with each other, and with Mark, exhorting and rebuking him over the course of months and years, and to say or imply otherwise is deeply misleading. Paul Tripp has confirmed that he specifically was in contact multiple times, while on the BOAA, with Matt Chandler, Steve Timmis, and Eric Mason about the state of Pastor Mark’s repentance. To be fair, when specifically pressed on the issue at the elder retreat, Van Skaik did admit that he was sure that some members of the two boards had been in contact with each other individually, and clarified that they had not met together as full boards. But this does not change the fact that we have not corrected our public statements and rhetoric, nor does it change the fact that Van Skaik would not have admitted this without being pressed into by Pastor Miles during our first session at the retreat. As a whole, MH’s communication surrounding this event is very misleading.

The BOAA said:

I am deeply saddened that the A29 board would make such a decisive and divisive conclusion without speaking directly to the board or Mark prior to their public announcement.

Sounds like the BOAA has some explaining to do. The letter also quotes Paul David Tripp as expressing great concern for the church but also delivering a somber assessment of the ability of the church to recover while the current leadership team is in place. Tripp calls Mars Hill “the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” Tripp also spells out his great concern for the church and believes reconciliation can come. He offered to take part in that process.

This letter was sent before Driscoll decided to take 6 weeks off under his own terms.

Religion News Service also released this letter. The write up there by Sarah Pulliam Bailey includes a response from Mark DeMoss, newly hired public relations expert:

This letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Mark Driscoll will be processed in accordance with Article 12 of the church’s bylaws,” a statement provided by public relations firm head Mark DeMoss said. “This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete. In the meantime, it does not seem appropriate to comment on specific accusations before/while they are being formally reviewed as we don’t want to circumvent the process prescribed by the governing body of Mars Hill.”

The elders are as follows:

Pastor Dustin Kensrue – Director of Worship / Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Pastor Drew Hensley – Lead Pastor at Mars Hill U-District Pastor
Mark Dunford – Pastor at Mars Hill Portland
Pastor Ryan Kearns – Director of Community Groups/Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Pastor Ryan Welsh – Pastor of Theology and Discipleship
Pastor Adam Ramsey – Director of Student Ministry / Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Pastor Cliff Ellis – Director of Biblical Living / Pastor at Mars Hill West Seattle
Pastor Gary Shavey – Pastor of Biblical Living at Mars Hill Bellevue
Pastor James Rose – Pastor at Mars Hill Ballard

I will have more on this story through the day.