With nearly 700 signers, Natalie Collins’ petition asking Hillsong to remove Mark Driscoll from the schedule of Hillsong’s London conference has taken off. However, Hillsong does not appear to be swayed by the action. In response to my request for comment about the petition, Hillsong spokesman Mark DeMoss replied:
Hillsong is aware of the petition. The whole point of keeping Mark (and Grace) Driscoll on the conference program is so Brian Houston can interview them about events of the past year.
Demoss, who once handled some PR duties for Driscoll and the former Mars Hill Church, added, “I don’t think that is ‘cheap grace,’ but rather, a thoughtful approach to challenging circumstances. I think it would be fair for the petitioners to judge this appearance after it takes place, but advance judgment seems premature and a bit unfair, in my view.”
Concerns expressed by Collins include:
This is both disappointing and of great concern to many across the UK and internationally. Mark Driscoll resigned from leadership after many leaders and other within his church raised issues about unethical and abusive behaviour including:
Ex-leaders of Mars Hill Church repenting of their collusion with Mark Driscoll
Ex-members of Mars Hill reporting they have experienced spiritual abuse from Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, including controlling and manipulative behaviour
Evidence of plagiarism in at least one book he has written
Misuse of tithes by Mars Hill Church
Unethical actions taken to ensure Grace and Mark Driscoll’s book was featured on a bestselling book list
Mark Driscoll’s public statements against women in leadership over the last two decades which have greatly undermined the Gospel message of women as leaders, evangelists and full members of the Body of Christ
For her part, Natalie Collins will continue to promote the petition, telling me that the statement is “disappointing” but that she plans to continue pressing the petition with Hillsong.
UPDATE: Ms. Collins added a fuller statement later in the afternoon:
Hillsong’s response is disappointing. I appreciate they have “downgraded” Mark Driscoll’s contribution from a keynote speech to an interview alongside his wife Grace, however as Christians our focus should be on the broken hearted and the powerless, yet Hillsong have chosen to broadcast Driscoll’s voice. None of those he has hurt will have their voice heard. Clearly he has not made any significant progress in changing his behaviour, or he would have chosen to reject the Hillsong opportunity. As it is, he is continuing to use power in a way that further damages those he has hurt and Hillsong are legitimising and colluding with this. Some of those signing the petition are people who have been directly impacted by Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill and if this petition can offer an opportunity to people who have been damaged and silenced, then it is making a difference. Hopefully Hillsong may reconsider, and if they do not, we may choose to peacefully protest at the conference itself.