Yesterday, Mark Driscoll announced a break from all pastoral responsibilities while charges against him are examined. During his announcement speech, Driscoll indicated that he would submit to the process outlined in the by-laws for the purpose of handling complaints against him. He said:
I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.
So what is that process?
According to the by-laws as revised in 2012, the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability form a committee called the Board of Overseers to examine the charges. See below:
Article 12 is inserted in the by-laws just for the purpose of providing a process for examining serious charges against Mark Driscoll (primary preaching and teaching pastor for the church). The charges must be serious enough, if true, to disqualify him from holding the office of elder. The charges lodged by the 21 named former pastors and 21 anonymous witnesses qualify. Driscoll has now confirmed that these charges will be handled according to the by-laws.
There is another document which relates to formal charges, Adopted in August 2013, that document relates to charges brought against any elder. It is not clear if the process outlined applies to Driscoll in the same way that Article 12 does. The wording of the August 2013 document does not appear to include the teaching and preaching pastor. If I am correct, then Article 12 is in effect in this situation.
The independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability are Board chair, Michael Van Skaik, and Larry Osborne. The by-laws allow those men to set their procedures for investigating the charges unless Driscoll’s employment contract with the church specifies otherwise. It is not at all clear what this means (i.e., Section 12.2). It is possible that there is something in Driscoll’s contract which would limit the Board of Overseers in some manner. Obviously, given that clause, this process is not as transparent as it may have first appeared.
Van Skaik and Osborne are the two members of the Board of Overseers because Paul Tripp and James MacDonald recently resigned from the BOAA. It is possible that the Board of Overseers could expand if one or two new men are appointed to the BOAA. The procedure for filling vacancies is as follows:
By majority vote, the BOAA can add new members. Assuming Driscoll takes no part in this process, the remaining members of the BOAA are Van Skaik, and Osborne (independent members) and Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas (executive elders). Three affirmative votes could add a member. If only three members (a quorum) were present for a vote, then only two members would need to agree.
Thus, at this time, Mark Driscoll’s fate is in the hands of two men who have already investigated charges against him and exonerated him.
In May 2013, former pastor Dave Kraft presented formal charges to the BOAA. At that time, Van Skaik and Osborne were on the board and would have been a part of the Board of Overseers. Michael Van Skaik commented on those charges in his recent response to Acts 29 Network’s action to remove Mars Hill Church from membership:
Be assured of this, the formal charges that were filed were serious, were taken seriously and were not dismissed by the board lightly. There is clear evidence that the attitudes and behaviors attributed to Mark in the charges are not a part and have not been a part of Mark’s life for some time now.
Our board’s decision is final regarding these charges, although will no doubt continue to be played out in the courts of public opinion.
According to Van Skaik, the decision is final.
Many of the charges filed by the 21 former pastors and 21 anonymous witnesses are similar to those presented by Kraft in 2013. Given the governance model and people in place, it is hard to imagine a different outcome this time around.
On the other hand, there is at least two differences now. One is that the current charges present many current (2010-2014) illustrations of actions that former elders believe disqualify Driscoll. The other difference is that the current charges are known to the Mars Hill congregation and the public at large. If the Board of Overseers finds that the charges are substantiated by witnesses, it will difficult to return a decision that rubber stamps their response to the Acts 29 Network.