Petitioners Ask Hillsong to Reconsider Mark Driscoll Interview

Back in March, Brian Houston released a statement to me saying that Mark Driscoll would not speak at the Hillsong Conferences in London and Sydney but instead would be interviewed with his wife. While that move represents a diminished role at the conferences, the change is not good enough for UK resident Natalie Collins. She has started a petition asking Hillsong to remove Driscoll from the program.
The petition begins:

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.

With only 17 signers, the petition does not seem to be catching on rapidly.
Driscoll recently refurbished his website and renamed his non-profit entity, Mark Driscoll Ministries. Meanwhile, some former members have continued their fund raising efforts to bring a RICO lawsuit against Driscoll’s former church.

Update on the Lawsuit Against Mars Hill Church

Just a little while ago, an update appeared on the GoFundMe page designed to raise money for a lawsuit against Mars Hill Church.

This campaign has ended. 

You can still help by clicking on the following link:http://www.gofundme.com/MarsHillLawsuit

Thanks to all who participated.

Rob Smith

The new page begins:

It is time for Christians everywhere to stand up and say, “Enough!! We will no longer put up with pastors who reach for honor for themselves and who enrich themselves at the expense and harm of those they claim to be shepherding!” 

When leaders in the Church choose to stay silent, others must speak up. Paul’s mandate to Timothy regarding leaders who persist in certain sins (1 Timothy 5:19-20) must not be ignored by the Church. Most of those who were leaders at Mars Hill Church have chosen to remain silent.

Please help us discover and make clear the truth about what happened at Mars Hill Church by contributing to this fund for a RICO lawsuit against the former top leaders of Mars Hill.

The funds already raised have gone to the attorney who did preliminary work on the suit. Brian Fahling constructed the RICO action and presented the requests for mediation to the church.
The president of Mars Hill Church is now Kerry Dodd. Dodd has not replied to requests for comment regarding the church.
Information about the lawsuit can be found at https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2014/12/26/letter-the-legal-case-against-mars-hill-church/.
 

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson

In honor of our third president, I can suggest a worthy gift given to anyone in his name.
jeffersonbookcover
 
Written mostly to debunk David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies, the book stands on its own as an examination of Jefferson’s views on religion, the Bible, and slavery.
Barton spent a lot of time at the Faith Baptist Church telling the audience that the founders all followed Blackstone’s ideas that our government was based on the Bible. Thomas Jefferson wasn’t impressed with that argument as this letter to John Adams shows. Here’s just a bit that sounds like what David Barton would like us to do:

it is not only the sacred volumes they have thus interpolated, gutted, and falsified, but the works of others relating to them, and even the laws of the land. we have a curious instance of one of these pious frauds in the Laws of Alfred. he composed, you know, from the laws of the Heptarchy, a Digest for the government of the United kingdom, and in his preface to that work he tells us expressly the sources from which he drew it, to wit, the laws of Ina, of Offa & Aethelbert, (not naming the Pentateuch.) but his pious Interpolator, very awkwardly, premises to his work four chapters of Exodus (from the 20th to the 23d) as a part of the laws of the land; so that Alfred’s preface is made to stand in the body of the work. our judges too have lent a ready hand to further these frauds, and have been willing to lay the yoke of their own opinions on the necks of others; to extend the coercions of municipal law to the dogmas of their religion, by declaring that these make a part of the law of the land.

David Barton Again Says Bible Teaches HIV Vaccine Won't Be Discovered; Distorts Vaccine Research

David Barton continues to mislead his audiences about HIV research. Earlier this year, he told Charis Bible College students that a vaccine won’t be discovered for HIV because the Bible teaches HIV is the penalty for being gay. Then he misrepresented two separate studies on HIV vaccines to make it appear vaccine research had been halted due to lack of success.
Barton did the same thing again Saturday, April 11th at the Faith Baptist Church in Knightdale, NC. He told the audience the Bible teaches that no HIV vaccine will be found and then he misrepresented two studies so that he could seem right. Watch:

If Barton is right, then why don’t all gays get HIV? And why is HIV a straight disease in countries other than the United States?
What I wrote in early March is still true about Barton’s claims. At about 1:56 into the clip above, Barton shows a headline touting the discovery of a HIV vaccine. Then he says, “six weeks later” another article came out saying the vaccine didn’t work. However, what he doesn’t tell his audience is that he is deceiving them. The first headline was about one study and the second headline was about another study conducted four years later. To Faith Baptist Church, Barton said essentially the same thing as he said at Charis Bible College. What I wrote then about the claims applies to this speech:

…Barton said he might be wrong because of a 2009 article in Popular Science with the headline: “For the First Time Ever, An HIV Vaccine Shows Success in Trial.” This was taken from the New York Times and is a report about the RV 144 vaccine trials, also known as the “Thai Trials” because the six-year study was conducted in Thailand. According to the NIH News, the trials began in 2003 and demonstrated safety and modest effectiveness. Barton implies that this trial was halted; it was not.

In the video, Barton first showed the Popular Science headline and then said:

The headlines came out and said, for the first time ever an HIV vaccine shows success in trial. Oh my gosh, I guess there is, I guess I must have misinterpreted the Bible, cause the Bible’s true, and then six weeks later, they came out with this that says, NIH halts trial of HIV vaccine after it fails to work. The newspaper said it worked but none of the medical evidence said that it worked. So they still don’t have a cure.

The problem with Barton’s presentation is that the second headline didn’t come out “six weeks later.” Rather it came out four years later in 2013 and was about an entirely different attempt to create a vaccine.

The Yahoo News article Barton referred to (the second headline – NIH Halts Trial of HIV Vaccine After it Fails to Work) is only available via Internet Archives and is dated April 26, 2013. The Yahoo article linked to a NIH announcement that the HVTN 505 clinical trial had been halted. The HVTN 505 trial results had nothing to do with the earlier success of RV144. The RV144 trial was reported in 2009, the same year that the HVTN 505 started. The NIH has more on the HVTN 505 trial on the NIH website.

Barton got the time frame wrong and made it appear that the two headlines were related to each other.

Barton’s use of the headlines is extremely deceptive. In fact, progress continues to be made which builds upon the modestly successful vaccine already available. In fact, R144 vaccine does offer protection from HIV infection. An extension of the success of R144 is being conducted in South Africa now. 
It is hard to understand how Barton could make this mistake unless he either didn’t read the articles (just relied on the headlines but didn’t read the articles) or he is intentionally misleading people.

Experts Dispute David Barton's Claims About Translating for the Russian National Gymnastics Team

Earlier this week, David Barton told his Wallbuilders Live co-host Rick Green that he once was fluent in Russian, was asked to translate for the Russian National Gymnastics Team in 1976 and smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union “back in the day.”  Here is the audio followed by the transcript:

Transcript:

Barton: That’s right, and South Korea. South Korea, Nigeria, they’re sending missionaries to America like crazy. And of course, if I looked at the stats on America, yeah we’re number one in the world on violent crimes, yeah and promiscuity, sexuality yeah and out of wedlock births yeah and and lack of marriage yeah we need some missionaries here. We need somebody who can point us to the Bible and you’re right I mean that was started going years ago just based on the stats that South Korea and Nigeria were sending Christian missionaries to America to help get people in America back to the gospel. Which ya know it looks like we’re moved further away from that then where we were even a few years ago when we talked about it so maybe some of these kids’ll- and by the way it was kind of a déjà vu thing but ya know Dirk was saying that it started as a smuggling operation, that’s really where I got started with the Soviet bloc back when the Iron Curtain was up was…I spoke Russian, I was fluent in Russian and when the Russian uh gymnastics team came to America in 1976, I got to be translator for ‘em and do translating just so…the accounts of when we went to stores was a blast.
Green: Wait, wait stop wait. You speak Russian?
Barton: I don’t now, but I was at one time fluent in Russian and again translated for the Russian gymnastics team when they came to America, but at the same time we were working our tails off to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union and and had several trips that went there smuggling Bibles in, so
Green: I wish our show was on television so people could see my shocked face right now. You interpreted- you were- I had- I didn’t know any of this.
Barton: Yeah that’s back in the day, bro.
Green: Wow, that’s amazing! So this show was pretty cool for you then
Barton: Oh yeah, it it was because it was a reminiscent of all the smuggling time and how dangerous it was and you know the Soviet bloc and the guards at the borders and all the stuff that went on there, pretty amazing.

Rick Green was flabbergasted by the claims. I was skeptical when I first heard the claims, and now after several lengthy interviews with people involved in gymnastics and trampolining in the 1970s, I am even more skeptical. I also talked to the wife of the late Bill Basansky, Barton’s Russian teacher at Oral Roberts University. Yes, Barton took a Russian class, but that may be about as close as that story gets to being plausible.
Fluent in Russian and a Bible Smuggler?
Let me first take up Barton’s claims that he was fluent in Russian and that he smuggled Bibles. Yesterday, I spoke with Beatrice Basansky, the widow of beloved Oral Roberts University professor of modern languages, Bill Basansky. Mrs. Basansky, who is a Barton admirer, said Barton took a course in Russian from her husband. She did not know how well he did in the language. She said  with firm conviction that Barton did not help her husband with Bible smuggling. She told me that there were only two men who helped her husband smuggle Bibles into Russia and Barton was not one of them.
It is very hard to imagine that one course (or even two if it was Russian 101 and 102) could lead to fluency in any language, let alone Russian. Perhaps Barton doesn’t understand the meaning of the word fluency (just like he apparently doesn’t understand what verbatim means). On the smuggling claim, this information from Mrs. Basansky doesn’t prove Barton never smuggled Bibles into Russia, but he apparently didn’t do it with his Russian professor. There were other professors at ORU who had interest in evangelizing the Soviet bloc countries (e.g., Steve Durasoff, Keith Nordberg) and Barton might have gone with one of these teachers. In my view, the smuggling claim is relatively unremarkable compared to the claims that he was fluent in Russian and translated for the Russian Gymnastics Team.
Did Barton Translate for the Russian Gymnastics Team?
On the fantastic claim that Barton translated for the Russian Gymnastics Team, I spoke to two people who had knowledge of U.S. gymnastics and trampoline and tumbling events where Russians participated in 1976. I spoke at length with Ron Munn who worked for the Nissen Corporation. Nissen provided personnel and equipment for the Russian Gymnastics Team tours of the United States. I also corresponded with Leigh Hennessy Robson, who won an event in the World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships held at the Mabee Center at Oral Roberts University in July 1976. The importance of that event and Mrs. Robson’s participation will be clear shortly.
I found Munn through this blog post about the Nissen Corporation’s activities in the mid-1970s. He told me about several tours of the U.S. by the Russian Gymnastics Team through the 1970s but said there was only one in 1976. The Russian team was in Montreal from mid-July through early August for the Olympics. These Olympics featured Romania’s Nadia Comaneci, and Russia’s Olga Korbut and Nellie Kim. Later in 1976, the Russian team toured the U.S. for about 2 weeks in December. Munn supplied images from the program which I will provide at the end of the post. Munn spent time with the team, and even went dancing with Olga Korbut on one of the tour stops. He does not recall any outsiders working in translation with the team. The Russians brought their own interpreters which was customary for international sports teams (see this image, which is also below, for a picture of an interpreter in a program for the 1974 Russian Trampoline Gymnastics Team). Barton’s claim here seems extremely far fetched.
Perhaps Barton was thinking of the Russian Trampoline Team which competed in the World Trampoline Championship at Oral Roberts University in July 1976. In addition to his work on the Russian gymnastics tours, Munn was also at ORU as an announcer for the event as a part of his work with the Nissen Corporation. This company was founded by George Nissen who invented the modern trampoline and developed the sport internationally. Munn married one of Nissen’s daughters. I also corresponded with Leigh Hennessy Robson, a competitor for the United States who won two gold medals and a silver at the meet. Robson’s father, Jeff Hennessy, was the meet director. Leigh and her father are the only father-daughter pair to be inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
Leigh Robson said that the Russian team brought their own interpreters. She told me, “Rest assured, David Barton did not translate Russian at the 1976 World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships at ORU.” She said the Russians also brought their own security to monitor the team. Munn added that the Soviets were concerned about Russian athletes defecting so they kept them under constant watch. The idea of using American translators did not make sense to Munn or Robson.
After all is said and done, David Barton took Russian from a professor who smuggled Bibles.
I asked Barton for evidence yesterday via Twitter with no reply. If he has any evidence for this claim or for the claim that he played Division One basketball for Oral Roberts University, I would be interested in seeing it.
Thanks to Ron Munn, Leigh Robson and Beatrice Basansky for their time and interest.
Thanks to Ron Munn for these images from the 1976 Russian Gymnastics Team tour program.
1976GymnasticsTour2
 
Note the cities where the tour took place:
1976GymnasticsTour1
The Russian team out dancing in New Orleans. Olga Korbut and Ron Munn are on the right:
1976OlympicsMunn2
Munn also had a program from 1974 when the USSR Trampoline team did an exhibition at the Mabee Center at ORU. Note the picture of interpreter Maya Ermolaeva who accompanied the team.
1974TrampolineORUTranslator
 
Tovarishch Brian Williams poteryal rabotu iz-za etogo. Comrade Barton , chto vy dolzhny skazat’ sebe?

For the Sake of James Naismith, David Barton Should Come Clean About His Basketball Claims

During the NCAA tournament, David Barton’s son Tim did a tribute to James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. Watch:
[youtube]https://youtu.be/NLsz__v2of4[/youtube]
The information is largely accurate. Naismith was a ministerial candidate (along with other occupations) who believed he could reach more people via sports than the pulpit. He invented basketball to give young men something to do indoors when the weather was cold outside. It caught on.
I couldn’t escape the irony that Barton’s organization made a link to the NCAA basketball tournament not long after Barton claimed to play for Oral Roberts University’s record setting Division One team. According to ORU, Barton did not play for the team, nor did he accurately describe how the team practiced. I doubt James Naismith would approve.
James_Naismith_with_a_basketballYesterday, Barton claimed to be a translator for the Russian National Gymnastics Team in 1976. I will have more information on that claim in a separate post. At this post, I can say that there are several good reasons to be skeptical.
 

Under Investigation, Faith Christian Church Resigns from the ECFA

FaithCC picFaith Christian Church has voluntarily resigned membership from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
The ECFA was in the middle of an investigation of the church’s compliance with ECFA’s guidelines. By resigning, the church can escape that process.
I have asked the ECFA if they plan to issue a report and will report any response I receive.
If the past is a guide, I am not optimistic that the ECFA will publicly comment.

David Barton Says He Translated for the Russian National Gymnastics Team in 1976

I say prove it.
Today. Barton told co-host Rick Green that he was once fluent in Russian and translated for the Russian National Gymnastics Team in 1976. His fluency has left him now he says, but at one time he was called on to translate for Russian gymnasts.
Color me skeptical.
David Barton told Charis Bible College students that he played Division One basketball for Oral Roberts University. Oral Roberts University said no he didn’t. He has said many outrageous things and this adds to the list.
I hope some of his supporters will start to get a little nervous and call for some evidence. His claim to be a Division One basketball player was not contested by any of his allies or by anyone in the mainstream Christian press. However, ORU said it wasn’t true.
Barton graduated from Oral Roberts University in 1976. The Russian team was in Montreal from mid-July to early August for the Olympics.
Maybe this will be the one that will turn out to be accurate; we’ll see if Barton offers any evidence.

The Mars Hill Church Mailing List Was Being Distributed By…John Doe?

Not really, but that was the name given to register Churchleaderslist.com. You’ll remember that churchleaderslist.com was the website used to offer Mars Hill Church’s The Resurgence mailing list to the public. Churchleaderslist.com was pulled from the web and from twitter after it was learned that the list still belonged to Mars Hill Church. Craig Gross who purchased and used the list told Christianity Today that former Mars Hill Church spokesperson Justin Dean had sold him the list and then refunded the money after it became public knowledge that the list was still the property of Mars Hill Church.
After being offline for about a week, Justin Dean resurfaced and issued a vague apology about the mailing list. In his apology, he did not take churchleaderslist.com or say that he was responsible for offering the list to the public. I asked Dean several times if he was behind churchleaderslist.com from the beginning without any answer.
The identity of the registrant of churchleaderslist.com was hidden via privacy shield supplied by a Whoisproxy.com Ltd. This is a common manner of shielding addresses and phone numbers from the public. However, such shielding is not supposed to be done for unethical or illegal purposes. Last week, I wrote the privacy company about the matter. I was informed that the privacy shield would be removed which it was earlier today. Here is the registration information now:

Domain Name: churchleaderslist.com
Registry Domain ID: 1906809784_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.rrpproxy.net
Registrar URL: https://domains.google.com/
Updated Date: 2015-03-24T03:11:45.0Z
Creation Date: 2015-03-03T17:54:03.0Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2016-03-03T17:54:03.0Z
Registrar: Google Inc.
Registrar IANA ID: 895
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: registrar-abuse[at]google.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.877-237-6466
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
Registry Registrant ID: 
Registrant Name: John Doe
Registrant Organization: Doe
Registrant Street: 1234 Doe
Registrant City: Beverly Hills
Registrant State/Province: CA
Registrant Postal Code: 90210
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.7145551212
Registrant Phone Ext: 
Registrant Fax: 
Registrant Fax Ext: 
Registrant Email: domainguy99@gmail.com

John Doe? By law, information provided in the registration of a domain is supposed to be factual. However, I doubt John Doe residing at 1234 Doe in Beverly Hills is the real owner. According to a contact at Google, there is no additional underlying information available. A search of the domain history turns up nothing more of interest. From the beginning of March, when the domain was registered, the owner was protecting the identity of John Doe.
As it turns out, domainguy99@gmail.com may actually be a working email. A search for this email on Google reveals the email attached to a domain owned by Justin Dean since 2013 — churchcomm.com. If you place this address in the address line of your browser, you will be redirected to the website of Ministry Communicators Association, a non-profit founded by Dean. Dean has apparently changed the registration information since March 28 because one needs to go to the Google cache to find the domainguy99@gmail.com address.

Whois Record:
Domain Name: CHURCHCOMM.COM
Registry Domain ID: 1824012583_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.enom.com
Registrar URL: www.enom.com
Updated Date: 2014-07-30T00:16:13.00Z
Creation Date: 2013-08-28T15:39:00.00Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2015-08-28T15:39:47.00Z
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Registrar IANA ID: 48
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@enom.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.4252982646
Reseller: NAMECHEAP.COM
Domain Status: ok
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: DOMAIN GUY
Registrant Organization: DOMAIN GUY
Registrant Street: 123 DOMAIN WAY
Registrant City: DOMAIN
Registrant State/Province: IA
Registrant Postal Code: 50126
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.1234567
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: DOMAINGUY99@GMAIL.COM

Since Dean is also registrant for several Mars Hill Church websites (including marshill.com), this information does not prove that Dean operated on his own or that Mars Hill or former officer of Mars Hill wasn’t involved. According to the Church Leaders List website, several Christian leaders helped maintain the list. It is plausible to wonder about the possibility that others (either at the church or formerly with the church) were also involved in order to derive some benefit from the mailing list.
The practical significance of this is that Mars Hill continues to operate as a non-profit entity with even less transparency than before the church stopped having public services. Millions of dollars of assets are in play paid for by former members, some of whom were forced out because they asked too many questions. I asked the current president of Mars Hill Church, Kerry Dodd, for comment but have received no reply.