James MacDonald Resigns from Mars Hill Board; Update on Paul Tripp's Resignation

As has been widely discussed on social media, Mars Hill Church announced in the weekly email to their congregation that James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Fellowship, resigned from the Board of Advisors and Accountability. The BOAA is Mars Hill Church’s governing board and is made of the executive elders (Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner, Dave Bruskas) and four men who are not members of Mars Hill (now just two — Larry Osborne and Michael Van Skaik). The email message also provided a confusing update on Paul Tripp who also resigned from the BOAA. In reaction to the emails, two current elders blasted the emails as being “spin” and demonstrating a lack of transparency.
The entire message is below (link to image):

“Upcoming Changes to the BOAA

Dr. Paul Tripp joined our Board of Advisors and Accountability in November 2013 and has been an immense help to our leaders over the past year. Dr. Tripp has extensive experience in discipleship and Biblical counseling. Earlier this month, we made the decision together to open the opportunity for him to work with greater focus on issues directly related to his expertise, namely the continued development of our community and redemption ministries.

Because simultaneously being a board member and a consultant does not allow for the required definition of “independence,” Dr. Tripp graciously submitted his resignation from the BOAA in early June, so that he can more extensively serve our church as a consultant. We are excited to continue this work with him, and are thankful for his continued support of Mars Hill Church.

Similarly, Pastor James MacDonald informed the board at the July meeting of his decision to transition from his current role on the board pending his replacement. Pastor James has been a great help in forming the current board’s direction, and we are very grateful for his time and wisdom over the last several years. About this transition he commented, “I have great love and affection for Mars Hill Church and I want to make clear this change is not because I am unhappy with Mark’s response to board accountability. On the contrary, I have found him to be exemplary in his current readiness to live under the BOAA oversight. I am not resigning because I doubt Mark’s sincerity in any way. I believe in Mark Driscoll and his heart to leverage difficult lessons in service to Christ and his church in the years ahead. I am excited to continue to support that trajectory as Mark’s friend, as I focus my efforts on Harvest Bible Fellowship.”

About these transitions, Pastor Mark shared, “I am thankful for the service of both Paul and James, two men I admire and respect. Their service on our board has been a blessing to me and Mars Hill Church in countless ways. The amount of hours they have given as volunteers is extraordinary, especially in light of their other ministry demands.”

Candidates are currently being interviewed to replace these open board positions. They will be submitted before the Full Council of Elders for their approval as soon as possible.”

Taking together this message and another one which was sent today to the full council of elders, the timing of the resignations is confusing. According to the above communication, a joint decision was made “earlier this month” (although the email is dated August 1, I assume “this month” means July) “to open the opportunity for him [Tripp] to work with greater focus on issues directly related to his expertise, namely the continued development of our community and redemption ministries.” Then the email discloses that Tripp “graciously submitted his resignation from the BOAA in early June” so he could work as a consultant for the church. This email makes it sound like he resigned a month before a decision was made to retain him as a consultant. 
Tripp’s decision to resign sparked concern in several of the former pastors who requested mediation with Mars Hill. Currently, a mediation group is holding meetings with former pastors and others who desire reconciliation with the executive elders. That group of elders were not informed of Tripp’s June resignation until this week.
Another point of confusion was the timing of James MacDonald’s resignation. According to the email above, MacDonald informed the BOAA of his decision to resign at the July 6 BOAA meeting. However, the full council of elders were told today in an email from Sutton Turner that MacDonald informed the BOAA board chairman “late this week” that he would like to step off the board. See the email below:
BOAAFullCouncilMacD
The email to the full council of elders also says MacDonald’s announcement was a “surprise to the Executive Elders.” It is unclear which email is correct.
In addition to concern among former elders, the announcements today also upset at least two current elders who spoke on condition of anonymity because they fear retaliation. One said, “Once again, just another sad example of trying to spin the truth into something more manageable, instead of just accepting reality.” Another current elder was more pointed, saying, “Time and time again I’ve seen Sutton lie to the church and not be willing to be transparent about what is going on. Our people deserve better. Sutton is a sad excuse for a pastor and should have never been put in this role.”  
While there may be an explanation for these discrepancies, these current elders believe they have been deceived about the reasons for the BOAA resignations.
 
 

A Prediction: Somebody in Seattle Will Say Something Before Sunday

I don’t often do this but I am going to predict that someone at Mars Hill Church will issue an apology or some kind of statement before the scheduled Mars Hill Church protest on Sunday. I know I could be wrong but I have seen a pattern where the church puts out statements on Friday. In some circles, this is seen as a way to have the last word on a story or to avoid excessive coverage since Friday is often a time of low media interest.
Several matters have garnered national media attention this week and I have a feeling we will hear something (perhaps about Paul Tripp’s resignation, the return of William Wallace II, the planned protest on Sunday, and/or the newest plagiarism incident).
Stay tuned…
 

Uganda’s Constitutional Court Strikes Down Anti-Homosexuality Bill

So says Reuters…

Amnesty International has more.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court today ruled that the Act was “null and void” as not enough representatives were in the room for the vote when it was passed by Parliament in December 2013.

Section 145 of Uganda’s Penal Code, which remains in force, continues to criminalize “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”.

Spokeswoman for Parliament Helen Kawesa told me, “Parliament will wait to receive the judgment in  its entirety and pronounce itself on the way forward.”

In essence, this is a procedural win but it is a reversal nonetheless.

For all prior coverage on Uganda’s efforts to enact the draconian law, click the link.

Former Colleague Provides Evidence Mark Driscoll Plagiarized Material in Two Books

In 2004, Zondervan published The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out by Mark Driscoll. In 2006, they published Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church. In these books, among other things, Driscoll addressed the relationships between the Gospel, the church, and culture. In The Radical Reformission, he borrowed a graphic from a book edited by George Hunsberger which indicates a reciprocal relationship between the three spheres. In addition, he outlined how leaving out any one of the spheres could lead to a negative result.
For instance, if a ministry offers the Gospel to the culture but bypasses the church, a parachurch ministry results. If a mission involves the church and the Gospel without considering culture, the result is legalism or fundamentalism. If the church and culture are prominent but the Gospel is neglected, then liberalism results. Finally, the biblical approach is to give weight to culture, church and the Gospel.
Driscoll’s formula has been cited by other church planters and authors since then. However, according to a former close colleague, Ron Wheeler, Driscoll lifted those concepts from work Wheeler did while developing the first Acts29 Network church plant in Mt. Vernon, WA — The Gathering. Wheeler was in the room when the Acts29 Network was organized and spent much time with Driscoll in the early days of Mars Hill Church. From Wheeler, I obtained the following page taken from an   in-house church document. See especially the bottom of the page where the relationship between church, culture and the Gospel are outlined.
RonWheelerGospelCultureChurch
 
Compare this page with several pages (19-22) in Driscoll’s book The Radical Reformission (the material in Confessions is very similar):
ReformissionRev1a
Note that Driscoll credits Hunsberger for the image which Wheeler acknowledged elsewhere in the document came from various Gospel and Our Culture Network’s materials. However, there is no credit for Wheeler in this book or in Confessions of a Reformssion Rev, another Driscoll book which refers to Wheeler’s formula.
ReformissionRev2a
ReformissionRev3a
ReformissionRev4a
 
Wheeler told me that he began teaching this material in 2003 and that Mark Driscoll did not cite another source since he heard it from Wheeler. I have both books and I can find no reference to Wheeler. Wheeler added that Driscoll called him the night before the Radical Reformission book released to inform him the material was going to be in the book. Wheeler said:

As far as the phone conversation, Mark called and basically said “my book Radical Reformission is being released tomorrow and I don’t remember if I asked you or not, but I used your parachurch, fundamentalism and liberalism categories on the gospel/church/culture model. Thanks bro.

Looks like I will need to update my chart of other citation errors and plagiarism.
Wheeler added that he thinks Driscoll may have taken advantage of the fact that Wheeler was younger and a subordinate to Driscoll. Wheeler eventually brought charges against Driscoll to the board of the Acts29 Network regarding a pattern of abusive behavior he said he experienced with Driscoll. According to Wheeler, the board did not take his charges seriously. In fact, all of the board at the time may not have seen the charges. According to Wheeler, some of the board members later told him his letter was never seen by the board.
In any case, Wheeler told me that he is stepping forward now because he hopes his former mentor will take the public outcry seriously and move toward change. “After going to Mark and others, I hope the weight of all of these things I am bringing forward will cause Mark to listen and change,” Wheeler said.
I emailed Mars Hill Church early Wednesday and asked for comment or other response to these claims with no response.