Dave Bruskas and Mark Driscoll to Mars Hill Church Elders in May 2012: We Really Need Your Help

The following post by Dave Bruskas and Mark Driscoll was made to Mars Hill Church’s internal website The City and also sent via email to staff and elders on May 25, 2012. This memo contrasts with the reality of compensation for the executive elders, apparently unknown to the lead pastors and members at the time.
This memo should be read along with the memo Sutton Turner sent to Mark Driscoll and Dave Bruskas in March of 2012 where Turner said the church was in serious financial trouble due to poor planning and lack of financial transparency. Also recall that the church paid ResultSource over $200,000 in late 2011 and early 2012 to get Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage on the New York Times best-seller list. Another relevant fact is that the church solicited $6.4 million from the congregation at the end of 2011 in order to help launch four new church plants in January 2012, the same month that Real Marriage was released. The executive elders told the people that in addition to launching the churches, Mars Hill planned to use that money to develop an animated children’s video series. Like the Jesus Festival, the series was never animated.
BruskasmemoMay2012
The full text of the memo is reproduced below.

We Really Need Your Help
From Pastor David Bruskas:
From Pastor Dave:
As the final days of putting together a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 are here, some Lead Pastors are wrestling with the reality of letting a few good people go at the local church level. And some of you have had recent conversations with your Lead Pastor regarding upcoming transitions that have been painful. I understand firsthand how hard it is to let a productive staff member go whom your church loves. I also know how hard it is for the people who have been served well to let staff go without a fight. So that makes Lead Pastors twice as vulnerable. They must face the disappointment of the departing staff member and the disappointment of the church. And much like I would expect any good leader to do, many Lead Pastors are fighting hard to keep staff and avoid cuts creatively and boldly. But we need to let go of that fight at this point. Here are a couple of reasons why.
First, we have, in reality, a single budget for all of our 14 churches. So this means for every cent in exceptions that once church receives above the $10 per adult compensation and ministry operation allotment, another church loses the same amount. So the only way for one church to win is for another church to lose. Second, the cost numbers per adult that Pastor Sutton and the Finance Team have given for targets aren’t arbitrary nor merely guidelines. They are hard targets that have been carefully researched and must be met. And if we don’t live within our means, we won’t just face the loss of future expansion opportunities, we will have to scale back our current ministry services significantly. And in the most dire circumstances, shut down a few of our churches. As of today, we are paying extra fees in financing the costs of existing buildings because of our unattractive financial condition to potential lenders. This must change for us even to be good stewards of what we already have.
A couple of final thoughts. First, we know this isn’t your fault, but the result of past decisions and practices. And while we will provide you a new and helpful global narrative soon to communicate this really tough news to our members, to be critical of the past means that we have to say things publicly that might hurt good leaders with great intentions who served Mars Hill well. Some of whom are still faithfully serving along side us today. And that to us seems like a losing proposition. We also know that this process has had some starts and stops along with some conflicting information. Please forgive us for that. We are continually receiving new financial information that has caused some hiccups along the way.
Second, these are decisions the Executive Elders are making in unity. We have spent countless hours discussing together both the state of our finances and our present staffing model through face to face meetings, emails, texts and phone calls. We have worked through each of your staff rosters in an attitude of prayer thinking through every angle we could imagine to keep as many people as possible. We grieve the fact that this cut is deep and results in letting go of some very good people who are performing well and helping the church. We have done the same thing with our central team reducing our costs 40%. It is super painful and we are very sympathetic towards you, your team and your church.
And more than anything, we hurt for those who have lost jobs. We would request that you abide by our spending targets per person. Please respect these decisions by not coming to us individually in the hope that they may be changed. Pastor Sutton and I are happy to clarify anything that is confusing. But we can’t devote any more time to hearing appeals.
We love you all very much and appreciate your devotion to Jesus and His church in this tough season. We do feel loved and supported by you and hope you feel the same from your Executive Elders.
From Pastor Mark:
These are tough seasons. Personally we love our staff. Pastorally we are concerned for our staff. Practically we grieve for our staff. Professionally we don’t have a choice but to reduce our staff. We simply have to live within our means. If we reduce staff now we can provide lead time for people to find an option while receiving severance. Had we not done this we would have had to reduce staff without severance this summer. We know this is hard but it is better than the alternative. The various leaders making these decisions across four states have prayed and labored over these tough calls. Your Exec Elders have cut first and deepest. Central is reduced 40% and working double time. We are vacating our offices reducing our staff and in contact nearly every hour every day pulling together and seeking Jesus’ wisdom. Your Executive Pastor Sutton is up at 4am everyday praying for our church. Now is a time for everyone to pray and love a lot. Lastly, without being improper we’ve frankly been through tougher times and deeper cuts before. After 15 years i can say this is not the worst storm we’ve weathered. We will get through it together by Gods grace. Trust me on this fact.

This memo illustrates why transparency is needed now. Dave Bruskas is the remaining executive and presumably is the one responsible for the current decision not to release information on the Global Fund, severance packages and the Driscoll investigation report. In 2012, the executive elders had gotten raises while telling the staff that they had cut “first and deepest.” What were the cuts? In Driscoll’s case, he cut his salary for several months from $503,077 to $480,769. While some people were losing their jobs, Driscoll cut his half million dollar salary by 4.4% on an annualized basis. Then, less than three months later, Sutton Turner recommended that the church raise Driscoll’s pay by nearly $150,000. Clearly, the first cut was not the deepest.
 
Turnerrecom650August2012
 
Year after year, Mars Hill members have been asked to give sacrificially above and beyond tithes to the Global Fund and various year-end financial drives (Turner called them “Hail Mary” efforts) with no knowledge of the financial moves being made by leadership. As the church winds down, secrecy still appears to be the norm at the church with members being asked to give until the end while the leaders have decided not to disclose the Driscoll investigation, a full accounting of the Global Fund, or the commitment of the church to executive severances.
The current remaining elders have an opportunity to step up and walk in the light as they were asked to do by the nine former pastors who took a stand for disclosure and transparency. Time is slipping away and it remains to be seen what that legacy will be.

Should Historians Read Providence in Historical Events?

In a word, no.
Although I am sure about what I think, providence is an issue of importance to religious historians. To explore the issue, Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition published a helpful post yesterday on the subject which teases out some of the issues and players.
He examines the views of six historians which believe Christian historians should describe God’s hand in human events and those who don’t.
If you enjoy the history posts here, you will want to read the entire post.
For what it’s worth, I am in the Carl Trueman-John Fea camp.
Today, Taylor follows up with more from David Bebbington and others on how the Christian historian should write for a secular audience.  Since I don’t believe the Christian historian is omniscient and can tell what God is doing, I don’t think the writing is much different when providing an accurate historical narrative.
I really appreciate this series because it brings attention to some of the issues at stake with David Barton’s fractured history. Barton writes as if he understands the providence of God and claims that historical facts validate his view. However, to get to his position, he takes history hostage and tortures it until the hostage supports his religious view of the events.  Having a providential mindset in advance of the facts can easily set up the historian to find what he wants to find, or more accurately, what he believes he needs to find in order for his religion to seem true to his audience. In my belief system, God does not need that kind of help from me.
 
 

Pop Quiz: When You Buy a Goat from World Vision, Who Gets the Goat? UPDATED

Pop quiz, gentle readers.
When you donate money to buy a goat from the World Vision catalog, who gets that goat?
Answer in the comments section; base your answer on the screen capture of this online page from the World Vision website.
If you provide any more information about this appeal, please provide your source.
wvwebsitegoats
 
More to come this afternoon…
UPDATE:
I asked World Vision for an answer to this question. Amy Parodi, spokeswoman for the organization, told me:

When people purchase a goat from the World Vision gift catalog, their donation goes into a pool of money designated to purchase livestock and related agricultural projects, including goats.  Those animals are then distributed to families participating in World Vision animal husbandry programs in a variety of countries around the world.
We use the slightly broader categories because it’s nearly impossible to encourage the exact number of donations to match the exact need for specific animals in our programs, but it’s still critical that we honor our donors’ intentions with their gifts.
The “related agricultural projects” I mentioned above are efforts that help families care for the animals they’ve been given.  Providing watering sources, farming assistance, famine relief and other essentials help families truly benefit from their livestock.
If people want to give to a general fund, the World Vision catalog has an item called “Where Most Needed.”  These donations are placed into programs – in any country and within any sector of World Vision’s work – that are partially funded and need more resources to be fully operational.

I appreciate this answer. The one on the website is less clear than this.

We promise to honor your generosity and use your donation in the most effective way possible. The needs shown in this catalog reflect World Vision projects at the time of writing and the suggested donation amounts are based on periodic surveys of the countries we serve. Each item is representative of the gift category in which it appears and donations will be used to provide assistance where it is needed most within that category or to address a similar need.

The multiplying effect from grants and donated goods may change throughout the year on identical or similar offers due to variations in the start and end dates of donor grants and our programs.

Givewell.org calls an approach like this a donor illusion. Although I might not go that far, I can understand how some could be disillusioned when they thought they were buying an animal for a family. Many people I have spoken with believe that is what the promotion promises and that the fine print should be a bigger part of the promotion.
I am not saying the money goes into questionable places. I believe it is necessary to support the efforts with education and training. I do wonder how many animals are requested versus how many are purchased. And I wonder how much the Christmas push to purchase an animal raises as compared to how much is spent to purchase animals.  However, I do know that some people get animals and that much of the money does go into assisting needy people.
So if you thought you were buying an animal for a needy child/family, now you know some of the rest of the story.
Additional information:
You can also give nativity animals according to the print catalog. While I understand the explanation given by Ms. Parodi, I wonder if it is pushing it to ask, “What better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than to share those same animals so that families can prosper?”
NativityanimalsWV

The David Barton Cover Up: More on Gregg Frazer’s Critique of David Barton’s America’s Godly Heritage

On Monday, I wrote about a time in 2012 when David Barton was confronted by evangelical historians. I linked to a devastating critique of Barton’s America’s Godly Heritage by Gregg Frazer, professor of history at The Master’s College.  Much of the critique is helpful even if one has not seen Barton’s DVD because Frazer includes enough of the context to make the critiques clear. However, there is one section which might not be as clear as the others. To help readers use the critique well, I want to provide some additional context.

Specifically, I refer to this section of Frazer’s critique:

Barton’s claims about the percentage of quotes directly from the Bible or based on the Bible or from “men who used the Bible to write their conclusions” are gross misrepresentations that are too confusing and complex to explain briefly here. A few comments will have to suffice. First, his percentages are blown out of proportion. He notes that a study found the Bible to have the highest percentage of citations (34%) and he claims that another 60% came from “men who used the Bible to write their conclusions”; consequently, he claims that “94% of the quotes of the Founders were based on the Bible.” First, neither the 60% number nor the 94% number come from the study – Barton made those up. Second, the study is careful to note that “reprinted sermons accounted for almost three-fourths of the biblical citations, making this nonsermon source of biblical citations roughly as important as the Classical or Common Law categories [10%].” Most importantly, while Barton appeals to this study during his discussion of the framing of the Constitution, the study says that during the debate on the U.S. Constitution, “the Bible’s prominence disappears” and “(t)he debate surrounding the adoption of the Constitution was fought out mainly in the context of Montesquieu, Blackstone, the English Whigs, and major writers of the Enlightenment.” Even at that, the percentages are misleading in and of themselves, as misapplication and misinterpretations of passages (abuse of the Bible) are counted the same as proper use. Satan quotes the Bible (e.g. Luke 3:10-11) too, but that does not indicate any righteousness or interest in promoting Christianity on his part.

The study in question was conducted by Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman, both then at the University of Houston. Frazer is correct in his criticisms but there is more that can be said about Barton’s misuse of the study. For that additional information, please see my prior post on how the Institute on the Constitution mimics Barton’s errors and then this post by Jim Allison and Tom Peters.

This is a case where Barton cites the study improperly, and then fails to cite all of the relevant sections of the study. Barton’s main argument is that the founders used the Bible as a foundation for our form of government. However, Lutz and Hyneman demonstrate that the Federalist defenders of the Constitution did not refer to the Bible once in their writings.  On page 194 of the study, Lutz charts the analysis of the citations in the Federalist and Antifederalist papers.

LutzHyneman

Note that the Bible was not cited at all by the Federalists. It was those who opposed various aspects of the Constitution, the Antifederalists, who cited the Bible.  While Lutz and Hyneman are fair in their research, Barton spins and omits relevant information to twist their argument beyond recognition.

The title of this post begins by calling attention to what I call “the David Barton cover up.” Religious right leaders know about the many critiques from Christian academics but those leaders choose to ignore them. David Barton’s fractured history is apparently too important to challenge. Major organizations (e.g., Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Liberty University, Gateway Church) and individuals (e.g., David Lane, Glenn Beck, Sen. Ted Cruz) are aware of the findings of numerous conservative Christian historians. However, the work of these scholars does not matter. Countless state and federal legislators have been led astray which has consequences for the state of our political process.

These organizations and leaders are responsible as are Christian media sources who fail to ask these leaders hard questions; it remains to be seen if they will ever do the right thing.

 

Mars Hill Bellevue Elders Will Remain in Place for Six Months Past Soma Transition

Yesterday, we heard from Jeff Vanderstelt about his move to Bellevue. Today we hear from Jason Skelton, pastor at Bellevue (now being referred to as “Eastside church”). Probably, the most interesting aspect of the communication is that the elders are committed to stay in place for six months. Vanderstelt said in his letter that the elders were willing to resign, but apparently that is not how it will happen. Somehow they will be assessed but the goal is to affirm each other (either oddly worded or an odd process of assessment).

From Pastor Jason Skelton:
Eastside Family,
Last month, we shared a schedule of Interest Meetings for the new Eastside church. The purpose of these meetings is to create a focused time to talk through vision, planning, and execution in specific ministry areas. We need your feedback and wisdom to set up God-honoring and people-loving ministries at our new church. In our last meeting, we had the opportunity to share with you information regarding location, describe what financial transparency will look like in the future, and share a draft of our bylaws for the new church. We had over 100 people attend and are grateful for your support.
In our Interest Meeting this Sunday, December 7th, we’ll be focusing on community groups and discipleship. Jeff Vanderstelt, whom we have presented as a candidate for our new Lead Teaching Pastor, will be with us talking through his vision for community and discipleship. If you’re interested in what community groups will look like, or have questions and feedback on how we can improve our discipleship going forward, please join us this Sunday at 12:30p. Jeff will also be preaching at all of our services on December 7th (8:30a, 10:30a, and 4:00p).
If you’re more interested in other aspects of ministry, we will also have Interest Meetings upcoming for the following:
December 9, 5-8p – Potluck dinner at the Sammamish church building (anyone is welcome)
Thursday December 11, 11:45am – 1:00pm – Lunch in the Redmond area (anyone is welcome, more details coming soon)
December 14, 12:30p – Interest Meetings, on the topic of Sunday Volunteer Teams and service opportunities
December 21, 12:30p – Interest Meetings, on the topic of Ministries (Counseling, Kids, Students, etc.)
Lastly, we would also encourage you to read through Jeff’s recent post regarding the prayerful consideration of his move to serve at this new Eastside church. We had the opportunity to share this information at our Interest Meeting last Sunday but felt that it was important to also present it publicly, from Jeff. We hope to have clarity on this decision by December 14th, making an announcement no later than December 21st.
We present Jeff to serve as one of your elders because we believe that he can lead us as we all follow Jesus together to become a healthy church. We are praying for great unity about this decision across the church family, and that with one voice we would be able to affirm Jeff into the new role this month. Along with Jeff the elders from Bellevue and Sammamish will partner in ministry and submit to a new assessment of our qualifications for eldership. We have committed that we will serve together over the next six months, with the goal that we would all be able to affirm one another’s qualification and calling to the role of elder in the new church moving forward. That process will include opportunities for the congregation to provide feedback as we serve and worship together.
We are here because we love you, and because we want to be here. There is much joy in serving God’s people, and to serve you here has proven this to be abundantly true.
In Christ,
Pastor Jason

Via email, I am hearing from Bellevue members who are considering a move but are hoping that the church will release information regarding the Global Fund and the overall financial picture. Former members who might consider a move back to Bellevue if the current elders step down will probably be disappointed with this note, after being somewhat encouraged yesterday.

Research for Mark Driscoll's Delayed Book — The Problem with Christianity — Available to the Masses

This is an interesting development.
The research which formed the foundation for Mark Driscoll’s now postponed book, The Problem with Christianity has now been made available for free download on the Mars Hill Church website.
The way the description of the research report closes makes me wonder if Driscoll is going to release his book:

Our hope is this valuable research can be helpful for you as you prepare content such as sermons, books, or blog posts.

When he took his six week “focus break,” Driscoll said he had agreed to postpone the publication of the book until a future “season.”
Now someone else might turn it into a book first.
I have to give some unknown decision maker at Mars Hill kudos. The research for the book cost Mars Hill Church six figures and now the members and the rest of us can read it.
 

Soma's Jeff Vanderstelt Answers Some Questions Regarding Mars Hill Bellevue Transition

Last week, I asked Nick Laparra several questions about the transition from Mars Hill Bellevue to Bellevue Soma (or Soma Bellvue). Laparra just emailed to say that many of those questions have been answered in an open letter, which I am reproducing here. Jeff Vanderstelt, the Soma pastor tapped to possibly take on the preaching duties at Bellevue, wrote on the Soma website:

In light of the recent announcement that I am considering replanting a new church out of Mars Hill Bellevue which will cease to exist on December 31, 2014, it seemed wise and helpful to further introduce myself.
I have been in pastoral ministry for nearly 25 years and have a passion to see Jesus at work through the church, which is His body, in every sphere of life. I believe God has called me to cast this vision for the church as well as equip the church to fulfill it. I believe the church is much more than an event on Sunday or a group of leaders who run programs for people to attend. The church is God’s people, saved by God’s power, filled by God’s presence, for His purposes in all of life. And the leaders God gives to the church exist to serve and equip the church to live this out everyday of the week.
I began as a pastor in student ministry equipping students for everyday life. I then joined Bill Clem, who planted Doxa Church in West Seattle, which was part of the Acts 29 Network. The elders of Doxa sent me out to plant Soma in Tacoma where we were assessed and Soma Tacoma became part of the Acts 29 Network. For the past 10 years, I have been equipping all ages as part of Soma Tacoma’s leadership team. In the past, I served in the role of Vice President for Acts 29 and more recently as part of the Acts 29 Board over the Northwest. Presently, I have stepped away from board leadership and moved to an advisory role.
The Biblical letter to the church in Ephesus significantly shaped Soma’s vision with Ephesians 1:22-23 leading us to our ‘Soma’ name: “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body [Greek: soma], the fullness of him who fills all in all.” We believe God wants to fill Tacoma, and every place for that matter, with the presence of Jesus through His body [soma] the church so that every man, woman, and child has a daily encounter with Jesus. We knew this could not happen through large group gatherings only, so we trained our people to live in community, on mission, in smaller groups called missional communities. As a missional community people learn together how to love one another like family, serve Jesus by serving others, and share Jesus verbally to others with the hope that they also would come to love and follow Jesus. It is not just an inward facing group but one that deliberately faces outward to a neighborhood or specific group of people who don’t yet know the love of Jesus personally.
As we equipped people to live on mission together, based upon God’s Word, out of love for Jesus and empowered by his Spirit, more groups were started and the church continued to grow. Eventually we found ourselves helping other leaders around the country and the world to plant new churches or transition existing ones to greater faithfulness to Jesus’ mission. This led to the beginning of the Soma Family of Churches in 2010. The Soma Family is a group of independently governed churches committed to a common vision of seeing Jesus work through His body in every place and every day through missional communities. We share similar doctrinal distinctives as well as common convictions regarding equipping the church for mission. We also believe every church should be led and governed locally by a plurality of elders who humbly lead and serve by example amongst their community. Though we are not legally bound to one another, we commit relationally to love one another like family.
Many have asked why I would consider replanting a church in Bellevue, especially in light of the brokenness and pain that has taken place in the existing church. The answer I have continued to share is that I really love Jesus and His church, and my heart is deeply broken over what has taken place. Everything in my flesh tells me to run the other way. However, Jesus has led Jayne, my wife of 22 years, our children, our local elders (many of whom have been praying for Mars Hill for years), and over 60 leaders from our church to see this as our brothers and sisters whom Jesus died for and whom we are called to love. We are all in agreement on this. Jesus has clearly directed us through his word (Romans 15:1-13 and Isaiah 61), through dreams, and through many wise counselors to seriously consider replanting a new church. One of my responses to a leader from Bellevue who incredulously asked why I would ever consider coming was this, “When God calls you to do something you just know. You just know! And when you know, you have to obey or you will not be able to sleep at night.”
Part of our ongoing process of discernment involved our local Soma Tacoma elders spending a night in prayer and waiting to receive counsel, concerns, and key questions from God that they in turn presented before Jayne and me. I had informed them that I would not consider this if they did not unanimously affirm it. They returned with over 30 very specific questions and concerns, some of which we answered in our next meeting together. A key question, among many, during this time was whether I truly had a heart for the people there. In response I shared that I wept over these brothers and sisters every time I prayed for the church there, “Yes, I have a huge heart for these people! And I don’t know how to explain it apart from God’s work in me.”
Many other questions and concerns could only be addressed by the Bellevue elders. So Jayne and I, along with two Soma elders, met with the elders from Bellevue. During that time the rest of the questions and concerns were addressed. One of the key points of clarification was that this new church be a genuine replant – a new start – with new vision, methodology, different staffing if needed, and a willingness from all the elders to resign if necessary. I also shared that I would want this new church plant to eventually become part of the Soma Family of Churches, which we all agreed could not happen immediately. These elders have humbly agreed to all these points. They want to do whatever is needed to see the people of the church shepherded and led well moving forward. We also made it clear that I would not be considered a part of Mars Hill in any way. In light of all that has transpired, we agreed that since many people have been deeply hurt, there is still a need for ongoing repentance, reconciliation, and restoration.
Since that meeting, we met with over 60 of our leaders from Soma Tacoma who affirmed God’s call to consider this new ministry. I also met with other leaders from the Mars Hill Bellevue and Sammamish churches, interacted with members of the body during their family meeting on November 23rd, and shared my story and vision for a new church during the 4 PM gathering.
As we continue in this process of discernment I am making myself available to members of the Bellevue and Sammamish churches, as well as Soma Tacoma. I also intend to meet with the greater Eastside pastors and leaders as well as receive ongoing counsel from leaders from around the country. We are not planning on making this decision in isolation or without the support and affirmation of the Bellevue and Sammamish church families. We hope to have clarity on this decision by December 14th, making an announcement no later than December 21st.
In everything we do moving forward, I want us to operate with dependency on the Spirit, openness and transparency, mutual submission, and with a constant posture of humility. As a result, I hope this leads to a new church that partners with other churches and other leaders in the community. In this new church, Jesus must be the only man lifted up, and I trust that as He is, by the grace of God, healing, reconciliation, and restoration will take place.
Please pray for us as we consider this together. And if the Lord should so lead us to replant a new church, pray for healing, for wisdom for establishing a new leadership culture, and above all else that we keep Jesus at the top of the org chart and humbly serve Him well on the Eastside.

Dreams?
Vanderstelt said the Bellevue elders were willing to resign but did not say if they intend to, and, to my knowledge, they haven’t.
My question about transparency was not addressed directly. I noted to Laparra that the amount of money spent on missions, and the disposition of Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner is unknown to the members who are being asked to give money. Members don’t know if their money is going to help start the new Soma church or if it is going to pay severances. I asked if Soma would require more transparency at Mars Hill Bellevue. Other the word “transparency”being used, there is nothing specific in this letter. In my opinion, every day this information remains hidden is a day that the new boss seems a little more like the old boss.
I suspect this letter will sound very Mars Hillsy to many. That may or may not mean anything problematic but as one who did not know the language before a year ago, I can recognize it here. I do think this line must have been written with Mark Driscoll in mind: ” In this new church, Jesus must be the only man lifted up, and I trust that as He is, by the grace of God, healing, reconciliation, and restoration will take place.”
 

Historian Scott Culpepper: When the Church Spreads Propaganda

Dr. Scott Culpepper currently serves as associate professor of history at Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA. His Ph.D. is from Baylor University and he has a M.Div. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Culpepper is the author of Francis Johnson and the English Separatist Influence: The Bishop of Brownism’s Life, Ministry, and Controversies (Mercer University Press, 2011). When he read my post earlier today, he had the following reaction:

Two very disturbing realities are revealed in Warren‘s piece. First, while the people in the pews may still be operating out of ignorance, evangelical and Republican leaders can no longer hide behind that defense. They know Barton’s methods are unethical and they simply do not care because he furthers their agenda. Which makes one rightfully question if an agenda that rests on so little integrity is really worth furthering.
Second and perhaps more frightening, the article reveals a reluctance on the part of evangelical Christian scholars who know better to press these issues because of their fear that the evangelical constituency will retaliate in defense of Barton. Once again, I have to ask if such a constituency is really worth appeasing. I experienced some of this timidity personally at the Conference on Faith and History this fall and have no doubt that Warren knows whereof he speaks. These are sad times when the body of Christ has effectively become an arm of the Ministry of Propaganda.

Scott has had some experience with pressure to overlook Barton’s historical mischief. Appreciate his thoughts here and hope other Christian historians will continue to expose the cover up.

The Great Confrontation of 2012: David Barton and the Evangelical Historians

In August 2012, Thomas Nelson (now part of Harper Collins Christian) pulled David Barton‘s book The Jefferson Lies from publication. This rare move by Thomas Nelson took place in the midst of efforts by several people to confront Barton with his errors. While I cannot tell the whole story (in part because I don’t know it and in part because the main players are not willing to discuss it completely), I can provide a little more insight into the situation. The door was opened to this by a footnote on David Barton’s website and other vague references to a series of meetings that took place in 2012. The footnote is on the page where Barton claims to explain false quotes from his first book. Barton says this:

Although many people, including several respected academics, have told David that they admire his honesty and transparency, others have attempted to use this practice against him. For instance, in a recent critique of David’s work, Professor Gregg Frazer of The Master’s College writes:

“Having been confronted over the use of false quotes, Barton was forced to acknowledge their illegitimacy in some way on his website. There, he describes them as “unconfirmed” – as if there is some doubt about their legitimacy. In a computer age with search capabilities, we know that these quotes are false – the fact that they are listed as “unconfirmed” reflects a stubborn attempt to hold onto them and to suggest to followers that they might be true. That is made worse by the fact that under these “unconfirmed” quotes are paragraphs maintaining that the bogus quote is something that the person might have said.” 2

What an interesting reward for trying to be honest and transparent.

Barton’s claim to be “honest and transparent” requires much more attention, but for the purpose of this post, let me move on to Barton’s description of the source of Gregg Frazer’s words. In the footnote, Barton explains the source of Frazer’s quote:

From a hostile written review of David Barton and WallBuilders written by Gregg Frazer at the request of Jay Richards. That written critique was subsequently passed on to David Barton on August 13, 2012, by the Rev. James Robison, to whom Jay Richards had distributed it. 

After Jay Richards read my book with Michael Coulter, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third Presidenthe asked ten Christian historians to read both The Jefferson Lies, and then our book. Richards wanted to get expert opinions on the facts in each book. He also asked Gregg Frazer to review Barton’s DVD, America’s Godly Heritage (which is still for sale on Barton’s website).

With Frazer’s permission, the complete review of America’s Godly Heritage is now available here.

As is clear from an examination of the paper, Frazer did not look at each one of the quotes in Barton’s first book. He specifically examined the DVD series America’s Godly Heritage. Even though the DVD is still for sale, Frazer found faulty quotes in it.

As Barton says in his footnote, this paper was presented to Barton by James Robison surrounding the time when his book was pulled by Thomas Nelson (August 2012). Robison is an apostolic elder at Gateway Church and host of the television show Life Today. As this footnote reveals, Robison was in on the confrontation as was Richards and the Christian historians. While I don’t know specifics, some met with Barton at his ranch where he rejected their advice and counsel. Furthermore, Barton met with at least one leader at the Family Research Council in August 2o12. In that meeting, Barton’s errors were confronted with promises from Barton to provide corrected material. However, nothing happened on Barton’s end until the Family Research Council was confronted by numerous Christian historians in the Spring of 2013.

Despite numerous clear factual errors, FRC continues to have Barton involved in their presentations to pastors. As Politico documented in 2013 (Sen. Ted Cruz defends Barton in this article), Barton has been accepted back into the good graces of the political arm of the Christian right (e.g., this apologetics conference).

The awareness of Barton’s systematic distortion of the nation’s founding is well known at the highest levels of the Christian political right and yet many such groups continue to promote Barton as an exemplary historian.  Because the Christian right is aware of the problems but continues to feature Barton as an historian, the “great confrontation of 2012” has turned into the “great cover-up of the present.”

Gregg Frazer’s review of America’s Godly Heritage is a devastating critique of this popular DVD program. It has been read by high level decision makers on the Christian right and ignored. I urge readers to read it and pass it around. I intend to give it more attention by focusing on various highlights in upcoming posts. Here is a follow up post on Frazer’s review.