A year ago today, I reported that Paul Tripp resigned from the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability.
I was told the news by Steve Sarkisian, Vice President of Paul Tripp Ministries. Statements followed from Tripp and the Mars Hill BoAA.
That resignation raised many questions which persist. Tripp answered some of them in an interview with Mars Hill Church elders where he explained his resignation. Jointly with Religion News Service, I published the results of that interview on August 28.
Tripp told the nine then-current Mars Hill Church elders that Mars Hill was “without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” Tripp spoke by phone to the elders who called for Mark Driscoll to step away from the pulpit and enter a restoration plan.
All nine elders who were on the phone call were floored by the depth and clarity of the understanding that Paul had of the culture of Mars Hill and its leadership from his short time on the board.
Below are some samples from our conversation:
—– When asked about speculations that he might have resigned to protect the reputation of his ministry, Paul said this: “I am not worried at all at burning my integrity for the real deal, but I won’t burn it for something that’s not the real deal. I don’t think even now that there is the recognition of the depth of what Mars Hill Church and Mark is actually dealing with. This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” He continued on to communicate that Mars Hill’s leadership culture was not shaped by the same grace that it says it believes.
—– Paul informed us that at one point that during the time when he was setting up the reconciliation process, the EE, without asking the BOAA, met with their lawyers and added a slew of legal constraints to the process. Paul was emphatic in telling the EE that this was unacceptable, but they did not listen, and consequently hindered the process. Paul was disturbed that anything would be seen as more important in this process than being made right with man and with God. “If your response to reconciliation is ‘I want to cover my butt legally, then you’re not interested in reconciliation.’”
—– Contrary to what we have been told, Paul not only expressed his opinion that the BOAA structure was flawed, he attempted to present a 9 point plan on how to help it and was shut down before he finished point 2. He also said that “One of the problems with the BOAA is that they are getting their information from the people they are supposed to be holding accountable.” (emphasis in the original)
Driscoll did not follow his elders’ advice. Eventually, all those elders were either fired or resigned without seeing any change. However, they were vindicated in that the investigation of Driscoll recommended essentially the same plan as the August 22 letter: Driscoll should step out of the pulpit and enter an elder-directed restoration plan. Rather than enter that plan, Driscoll resigned. At the time, the elders lamented that Driscoll declined to follow their guidance; now Driscoll is saying God told him to resign.
I still don’t understand how God could lead the elders to advise Driscoll to enter a restoration plan and then audibly tell Driscoll not to do it. In hindsight, even former executive elder Dave Bruskas said about the resignation: “I don’t think that was the most redemptive outcome.”
Bruskas also counseled his Albuquerque flock to move forward. In one sense, I agree; in another, I think it is good to learn from the past to avoid making the same mistakes.
A year later Mark Driscoll is back in the news and on the comeback trail aided mightily by an assist from Hillsong’s pastor Brian Houston. Driscoll is in Phoenix with rumblings of a church plant in the works. In what ways will the Seattle past be prologue to the Phoenix future?