No Institute on the Constitution Club at Logan High School

Recently, the Institute on the Constitution used a video of an unidentified teacher to claim they had established another American club in a public school. (See below)

More recently, the IOTC posted a better produced video of the same teacher (an intervention specialist at Logan High School) and a student discussing how easy it is to start an American club in the public school.

As it turns out, the claim is false. The high school in question is Logan (OH) High School and there is no American Club at this school.
On Friday, I spoke with Jim Robinson, principal at Logan High School. He had not heard of the club and told me that no clubs by that name or with the themes of the American club had applied to be recognized at the school.
This false claim is not the first time the IOTC falsely claimed to have an American Club at an institution. In May 2014, the IOTC said an American Club had been formed at Calvin College. The college administration flatly denied that claim:

Bob Crow, Dean of Student Development, informed me that the Institute on the Constitution’s Director Michael Peroutka met with a small group of students when he visited campus. However, about an American Club, Crow said, “I can confirm that no such student organization exists at Calvin College.” Furthermore, given the affiliation of Mr. Peroutka with the neo-Confederate League of the South, Mr. Crow said, “it is unimaginable that such a group could exist here.”

Peroutka and the IOTC are using the American Club concept to raise “a money bomb.”

Prospective donors should know that there is no evidence that IOTC is a non-profit organization which means donations are not deductible. Furthermore, it is hard to know how donations could help establish American Clubs since it costs nothing to establish one in a school.
And in this case, there is no club.

More Specifics About Changes at Mars Hill Church: Localized Governance, Financial Clarity, Culture Change

Lone executive elder Dave Bruskas gets more specific about changes in the works at Mars Hill Church in this message on The City (and the website):
MarsHill Weekly101414
 
The full statement is here:

From Pastor David Bruskas:
Mars Hill,
While most of the recent attention surrounding our church has been focused on accusations against Pastor Mark, I along with your Lead Pastors, are painfully aware that we have an unhealthy culture in our church, and many of us have contributed. We love you very much Mars Hill, and it is our deep desire to begin a new chapter focused on new values. We ask for forgiveness from those who have been hurt by this church because of the culture we contributed to. We wish to move forward together knowing that we are a broken and repentant church in need of a forgiveness and restoration that only Jesus provides.
We are determined to honor the past work that Jesus has done through this church and those that have labored with us, while correcting and setting a new course for the future where he can be most glorified as we move ourselves out of the way.
During this time of transition, we have enacted a previously established plan in which I have committed to fulfill the role of interim Preaching Pastor, doing so as one of many voices on Sundays along with your Lead Pastors. However, I will not be functioning as a remaining Executive Elder, or even as a “first among equals”, but I will be working to facilitate decisions among many leaders.
As we work through needed changes, your Lead Pastors and I have committed to focus on three areas during this transition: localized governance, financial clarity, and cultural change. We will communicate with increasing detail in these three areas in the weeks to come.
Localized Governance
Going forward we intend to pursue a more localized governance and oversight model in our churches. As we move toward a new structure there is no desire to consider a continuation of the current model of leadership, including the Executive Elder roles and the Board of Advisors and Accountability. We are currently not considering an option where I would take over in Pastor Mark’s previous role. We intend to provide more self-determining freedom to our local churches in a way that empowers local leaders to direct the future of their churches.
Financial Clarity
In mid-November we will be releasing our 10th annual independent audit of our financial statements from this past fiscal year. This had been delayed as the auditors awaited the conclusion of the investigation into the allegations against Pastor Mark. We will be posting them to our website at marshill.com/stewardship and our desire is to continue providing better financial clarity going forward. Our hope and anticipation is that we will receive a good report. But if that isn’t the case, we will work openly and diligently to correct any problems.
Culture Change
We want to be leaders who are humble, repentant, accountable to you and each other, and who communicate openly and regularly to our members. We want to be known not only for preaching the truth, but also for living it out by loving others well. As the Board of Elders continue to glean the lessons learned during this season, we are confident this will lead to greater church health through deep cultural change. Please pray for us. Jesus is our Senior Pastor. He loves you dearly and we as your elders desire to serve you better. We need his gospel and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to become Jesus’ faithful under shepherds.
How You Can Participate
As we work towards a new future together in service to Jesus, we are still called to be the people of God in every arena of life. This means that it will be more important than ever that each one of us that calls Mars Hill Church home continues to operate in faithfulness through serving God’s people, giving generously to God’s work, and loving one another well.
We need your patience and prayers as we seek to live out our commitment to these areas of significant change in our church. Sunday we will again gather with our churches and worship, open the Bible and hear about Jesus and what he has done on our behalf.
Pastor Dave Bruskas

Bruskas indicated that the structure would not include the executive elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability but he was less than clear about his own status. From reading material from people who supported the old paradigm, I am aware that some Mars Hill members don’t want change. However, for those who do want change and to help bring along the entire group, it seems that even more openness is going to be required. For instance, the status of Mark Driscoll’s termination is still unclear. Did the Board of Elders find him to be disqualified? If so, then why did the BoAA lighten the verdict in such a way to allow Driscoll to resign with benefits? So many church members have taken sides over the past few months, it would be healing for them and others to know the facts.

Mark Driscoll Gets Prophetic Word at Gateway Conference

At the Gateway Conference this past week, Mark Driscoll took the stage for the first time since he left Mars Hill Church. There he proclaimed that he was looking for some “wise counsel” even as he had avoided the wise counsel of his Mars Hill Church elders.
Another highlight of the conference was a prophetic word from Jimmy Evans about Driscoll. According to a tweet from conference attendee Ashley Greenwood, Evans proclaimed that Driscoll’s best days are ahead of him:


If you click the Instagram link in this tweet, you will come to a picture of Evans talking to a standing Driscoll in the front row of the crowd. According to Greenwood, Evans said:

You lead a great movement as a brother, you will lead a greater one as a father, your later years will surpass your younger.

DriscollPropheEvans
The nice thing about prophetic claims is that they can be checked. If Evans is referring to Mars Hill Church as “the great movement as a brother,” then the claim is debatable given that Driscoll left the church in disarray and about to fragment. If Evans meant Acts 29 Network, then it obvious that the claim is wildly inflated in light of the network’s removal of Mars Hill due to Driscoll’s actions. In light of the facts, one could easily predict that his later years will surpass his younger.
Any port in the storm I guess. The apostolic crowd appears eager to incorporate Driscoll into their tribe.

Beginning Again at Mars Hill Church?

David Fairchild is lead pastor at the West Seattle location of Mars Hill Church. He posted a note to his congregation that somebody who is in charge of the website thought should be read by the rest of the Mars Hill community. While I am not interested in criticizing for the sake of being critical, I must confess that after the hopeful feedback from members yesterday, this communication seemed more like old school than change.
You can read it and draw your own conclusions. However, I surely wouldn’t bring up giving to this congregation unless there was some information provided first. Fairchild says:

3) GIVE. This is a sensitive subject during such a tumultuous time. But if we’re going to have a future church that is healthy and reproducible, the whole church needs to worship through giving. I know many have held their giving until the end of this investigation, but I want to encourage you to begin again. We’ll need a strong foundation to discern how to move forward. We want to make decisions that are based on accurate giving data which reflects where we truly are. Giving is an act of worship and good for our own soul.

Based on the outrage that hit my inbox today, this did not go over well.
I mainly post this to follow up on yesterday’s hopeful post about change. Apparently, we aren’t going to get a substantial statement as a follow up to the pastors’ meeting described by members earlier in the week.
 

Mars Hill Church: Where Does the Buck Stop?

Rumors of change at Mars Hill Church are blowing in the Seattle wind.
Since many of the pastors who called for change when Mark Driscoll was lead pastor have departed either through lay off or via resignation (see also this list*), it remains to be seen who will lead the charge for reform. For change to come, pastors who once defended the party line will now have to contradict their previous publicly held position. Social psychological research suggests that contradicting a previously held public position creates dissonance and is difficult. Will they have the courage to say they were wrong? Is there a narrative that makes their earlier inaction and defense of the Mars Hill way seem plausible?
Probably the most difficult task falls to Dave Bruskas and his fellow Board of Advisors and Accountability members. For instance, Bruskas has been a part of executive elder decisions involving the Result Source scheme to game the New York Time best seller list, and the rebranding of the Global Fund. He was present when Mark Driscoll staged his Strange Fire stunt (see for example 39 seconds into the clip) and then falsely tweeted that John MacArthur’s security team confiscated his books. As a part of the executive elder team, Bruskas has been involved in setting direction and tone for the church. There are bound to be questions about what he knew. Just a few come to mind: Why did Bruskas go along with all of the financial secrecy, including about executive salaries? Did Bruskas know that the BoAA did not actually investigate Dave Kraft’s charges against Mark Driscoll? If he did, then what kept him silent when the BoAA told the world that those charges were taken seriously?  Did Bruskas know about the Global Fund shenanigans? Whatever he knew and as complex as I am sure it is, shouldn’t he now come forward and let people know of his view of the BoAA’s actions?
The executive elders are responsible for the daily operation of the church and big decisions involving millions of dollars. Dave Bruskas is the remaining executive elder. The longer he waits to publicly explain his support for the decisions which have led to the current crisis, the more likely they will define him, now that Driscoll and Turner are gone. Unless Bruskas and the BoAA can offer a plausible explanation, Mars Hill members will be justified to assume that the buck stops with the men who have been in charge while the church has spiraled to the current state.
*(Not all on this list departed on terms of disagreement or dissent, but many did.)
 

Former Mars Hill Pastors Start Redeemer Church in Seattle

Ryan Welsh and Gary Shavey today announced the launch of Redeemer Church in the Eastside of Seattle. Welsh and Shavey were members of the group of nine Mars Hill Church pastors that called for Mark Driscoll to step down and enter an elder directed restoration plan.

You can learn more about the effort on their Facebook page. They are holding an informational meeting on Sunday, November 2nd at Seattle Revival Center in Newcastle, WA from 4:00-5:30 pm.
I wish them well in this new endeavor.

 

Are Changes Coming to Mars Hill Church?

Within the past two days, some members are being assured by the Mars Hill Church elders that greater transparency is coming to the church. One intriguing claim is that the Board of Advisors and Accountability is soon to be dissolved. An announcement to that effect is planned to come out soon, perhaps today. According to the members who related this to me, pastors are talking openly about this without restriction.
In addition, plans are in the works to open Mars Hill’s financial records. Perhaps, the public will get a look at the real Global Fund situation. Maybe the members will at last learn how tithes and offerings have been and are being used. I suspect there will be a multitude of questions which various stakeholders will ask.
A suggestion. Don’t gloss over the issues which have been raised. For instance, where the public has been misled in the past, correct the record. Calculate how much funding should go to Ethiopian and Indian mission work, and provide that level of funding.
If this isn’t the case, believe me, I will be back to correct any false impressions created here.
I hope I soon get to write some stories of redemption and repair.
 

Mars Hill Church: Some Unfinished Business for the Board of Advisors and Accountability

I think the Mars Hill Church’s elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability have forgotten something.
In August, nine elders wrote their peers and said, among other things:

At the retreat this week, Pastor Dave [Bruskas] 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.

One indication of stepping into the light would be to investigate the allegations against the Board of Advisors and Accountability raised in the elder’s letter.  Mark DeMoss, speaking for the church, said those allegations would be “processed” in line with church bylaws. DeMoss told the Religion News Service in August:

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.”

In the letter there are specific allegations against the BoAA. First, the elders claimed the BoAA was not truthful about the handling of the original charges against Mark Driscoll:

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 key reason 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.

Even though the BoAA said they took Dave Kraft’s charges seriously, they didn’t investigate them.
Another BoAA claim related to contact with the Acts 29 Network. From the nine elders we learned that, in contrast to the BoAA statement, there had been much contact between members of both boards and Mark Driscoll.

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 elders then asserted that many other instances of questionable communication between the BoAA and the public.

An On-Going Pattern
Beyond these two examples, 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. Even this Thursday we put out a statement claiming that Wilkerson’s formal charges were being “reviewed by the board and the elders.” This is misleading as it gives people the impression that the elders as a whole are able to take part in reviewing and adjudicating the case.

Currently, the BoAA is in charge of Mars Hill Church and the allegations in this letter may not be investigated unless the current Board of Elders take initiative or the BoAA act consistently with their title.

Barton and Barna: If We Don't Do Something We Didn't Do Before, We're Doomed

And so it begins. The hype for George Barna and David Barton’s new book, U-Turn will be familiar to anyone who is aware of the Christian nationalist pitch. Charisma “News” has the story, which is really an ad for the book:

The United States became a unique, prosperous and admired nation because of its faith in God and the willingness of the people to abide by God’s standards and principles. Over time, however, the urge to glorify oneself rather than God has seriously eroded the strength and potential of the nation.
Based on shocking new research and compelling interviews, FrontLine’s newly released book, U-Turn, combines George Barna’s and David Barton’s unique insights and cultural analysis to demonstrate the moral and spiritual underpinnings that made the United States great, its decline over the past forty years and a detailed road map for the future.

How can America right the ship?

“Unless we invite God to be at the center of our process and operate in strict accordance with His principles, we are doomed to continue our downward slide,” Barna and Barton write. “Because He has proven Himself to be a merciful ruler, though, if we will humble ourselves before Him, there is hope. U-Turn will describe the radical action Americans must take in partnership with God to restore the nation.”

There is nothing new about this. This is the same Christian nationalist doctrine Barton has pushed for decades. Unless we do something we didn’t do before — make Christian doctrine the “center of our process” — then we are doomed as a nation. This simplistic prescription is based on a tendentious reading of history which is nothing new for Barton. For instance, Barton says the Constitution quotes the Bible verbatim. This, of course, is not true but is consistent with the faulty reading of history Barton wants us to believe. If he can get us to believe we once had the evangelical God at the “center of our process” and once self-consciously operated “in strict accordance with His principles,” then Barton has leverage to press these concepts today as political objectives.
When it comes to Barton’s status as an historian, Charisma probably hopes that the public has a short memory. The Charisma News piece neglects to mention The Jefferson Lies which was pulled from publication by Thomas Nelson in 2012.

Mark Driscoll: No, I Want That Other Wise Counsel

Last night Mark Driscoll was invited on stage at the Gateway Conference hosted by Robert Morris. He said several things which were amazing but there was one thing which seemed to put Mars Hill Church a great distance in the rear view mirror. At 2:59 into the clip, Driscoll said:

…for me I’m in a season of just uh healin’ up, praying. Uh, asking the Lord Jesus through wise counsel to show me any blindspots where I can grow.

Just over a week ago, his elders offered him some wise counsel. The wise counsel was a plan to help him with “blindspots” where he could grow. Instead of taking the wise counsel, he resigned.
Robert Morris told his crowd that he knew the whole story. However, he said this:

Uh here’s what I figure. We’ve got two choices. One is we could crucify him (pause). But since someone’s already been crucified (hollering)for him (applause, hollering). The other choice is we could restore him with a spirit of gentleness considering ourselves, lest we are also tempted (applause). It is very sad that in the church we’re the only army that shoots at our wounded.

Restoration is exactly what the Mars Hill elders said they had in mind. No crucifixion planned as far as I know. Perhaps Driscoll prefers a different kind of restoration.
“This isn’t the wise counsel you are looking for.”
[youtube]http://youtu.be/2ZVtuOIrrDg[/youtube]