Mark Dunford was one of the nine elders who called on Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll to submit to an elder directed restoration plan. Dunford was relieved of his status as an elder at Mars Hill Portland by Tim Smith, lead pastor at Mars Hill’s Portland franchise. It has been assumed that Dunford was relieved of his elder status (he was an unpaid elder) due to his participation in the letter. Now, the rest of the story from his vantage point is available in a statement he just released with his wife and linked to on Facebook (full statement is at this link).
According to Dunford, he was informed of no problems with his status until after the nine elders sent their letter to the Full Council of Elders on August 22. The reaction of the Portland elders surprised him.
Several of them said that they felt “personally betrayed” by me. It was called “immature.” It was even called a “coup d’etat.” Unlike a coup d’etat however, our aim was to restore the leader currently in place, not permanently remove him. Sunday morning was awkward at best, and of course, that is the morning where Mark Driscoll stepped aside for six weeks. This, after the Executive Elders (of which he is one) added three additional members to the board that would adjudicate his charges and having created/restored the Board of Elders to investigate those charges. I want to be clear that the elders themselves are not involved with selecting who would serve on those boards. Again, it was the EE who made those decisions.
Regarding his dismissal, it came from the local elders at Portland:
On Wednesday, August 27th, I was called to a meeting with Portland Elder Tim Smith and a second Portland elder (who has asked not to have his name used). Tim made it clear that the Portland elders felt betrayed and were unwilling to work with me. In his words, he was able to “choose his team,” and was thus able to dismiss me. He made it clear that I had not disqualified myself and therefore, there were no formal charges. They simply did not trust me.
According to Dunford, rumors were spread that the reason for the dismissal related to his marriage. In this letter, Dunford make it clear that the rumors are false but unfortunately not uncommon in relationship to people who leave the church. Such rumors and insinuations have been used about others to give cover for dismissal. You can read the whole unfortunate experience in his statement.
Like Dustin Kensrue’s resignation letter, this statement pulls back the curtain for stakeholders to get a glimpse of the inner workings from the perspective of one former insider. There is much pertaining to the inside perspective on what externally was portrayed differently.
Full text of Mark Dunford’s statement.