Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church

DriscollBuildingFounder of the now-closed Mars Hill Church in Seattle Mark Driscoll showed up on the Life Today Show with Randy Robison and Sheila Walsh last Thursday with a surprising revelation about the end of Mars Hill Church. According to Driscoll, the church folded and he resigned as the culmination of eight years of a struggle with elders over power.
To fully appreciate the new revelation, you should watch the show here.  You can read the transcript of the entire show here. Here is a taste:

Mark: At 22 we graduated; 25 we started a Bible study trying to reach primarily young 2 college-educated singles in what was at the time among the nation’s least churched cities. In the early years we were broke and we didn’t have kids and I was working a job and didn’t think it would amount to anything. Eventually, in God’s grace, God did some remarkable things through some wonderful people. We saw about 10,000 people baptized. We saw the church grow to 15,000 on a typical Sunday. We saw 15 locations in five states, just kind of superseded all expectations.
Randy: And this is the Pacific Northwest, this is not the Bible belt.
Mark: No. This is urban, single, young adults, all kinds of sexual issues, confusion, abuse, baggage and carry-ons — so lots of stuff going on. We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved, especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.
So the governing board in authority over me invited us to continue and we prayed about it and talked about it as a family and felt like we heard from the Lord and I resigned. And left without — didn’t have an opportunity to say good-bye to the people so I want to let them know how much I love them and appreciate them and wish I would have had that opportunity. We took some time off just to heal up. I signed a non-disclosure agreement so you’re not going to talk about it, which was fair and reasonable and I agree with. And just decided to spend time as a family to heal up, to meet with wise counsel, to learn what we could learn and to see what the Lord had for the next season of our life.

What Was the Problem at Mars Hill Church?
It is stunning to listen to Driscoll toss his former elders under the bus. While he may not have known all of his elders, I don’t recall any of them, in my many conversations with them, advocating independence for the video locations. In fact, I contacted several of them who were around during those years and none remember any movement or rumblings in favor of separating from the Mars Hill mothership. One told me he felt sure that if the issue had been raised by an elder, then that person would have been fired on the spot. Mark Dunford, who served at the Portland and Ballard locations, provided a statement regarding Driscoll’s claim:

I spent time at both the Ballard and Portland churches, though only 4 months of that was at Portland. I knew of zero conversations at either location that discussed any sort of desire to separate from Mars Hill as a whole. There were official contingency plans that spoke of the churches becoming independent if Driscoll were unable or unwilling to continue in his role. But, to the best of my knowledge those were initiated from higher levels of church leadership (above the local church level). To my knowledge none of the local churches had any intention of separating from the whole.

In fact, it was the then-current elders of Mars Hill who extended an offer of reconciliation and restoration to Driscoll after an investigation of charges filed by former elders found that Driscoll should step down from preaching and come under the care of his elders.  Driscoll’s account sounds like the “67 elders” wanted power and engaged in a struggle over eight years to get it.
I can understand why Driscoll wouldn’t want to remember this, but the struggle at Mars Hill did not relate to elders wanting power. Remember what MHC Board of Accountability member Paul Tripp said about Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church?

This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.

If the elders of Mars Hill Church wanted anything, it was for Driscoll to address this problem.
Non-Disclosure Agreement
Perhaps Driscoll did sign a non-disclosure agreement, but who could enforce it now? Mars Hill Church has ended and filed a dissolution plan with the state of Washington (click here to see it). Mars Hill Church used NDAs to threaten former employees but there is no one left to enforce them.
In fairness, Walsh and Robison could now have former MHC elders and their wives on to talk about “tough times” and how to survive an “abusive, coercive ministry culture.”
See also Wartburg Watch on this video. Click here for all posts on Mars Hill Church.

Mark Driscoll's Recycling Ministry

This came in the mail:
Driscoll Set Free Book
This is a recycled version of the Set Free to Live Free Campaign financed by Mars Hill Church in 2013. Naturally, Driscoll kept his intellectual property but apparently he got all of the other materials produced by the church (study guide written by church staff) and purchased by the church from Docent Research (the 75,000 word academic research brief) as well. Note that the beneficiary of these donations is Mark Driscoll Ministries and not The Trinity Church.
Hey, recycling does lead to more green.

The Franklin Prayer Myth that Refuses to Die: The Liberty Counsel Edition

photo-1469081790383-8a72f16ecb98_optI have come to believe that some historical myths will never die.
In this Liberty Counsel edition, Mat Staver and Matt Barber reinforce their mutual misunderstanding of this story, making the delegates to the Constitutional Convention prayer warriors. As I have documented previously, Franklin proposed daily prayers but the Convention delegates did not vote favorably on his motion. In fact, daily prayers were not thought necessary by most of the delegates.
Staver and Barber began by celebrating a recent federal appeals court decision allowing a Texas school board to open in student-led prayer. Then at 3:43, a female speaker said:

You know America was founded on prayer and prayer has been a common practice since the very beginning and I guess yo know Mat it reinforces what we do at Liberty Counsel to stand for these rights and stand for that privilege of prayer.
Mat Staver: Prayer, like I said, predated the First Amendment. How did it begin in our country as it results in these kind of meetings? It began with Benjamin Franklin during the early Constitutional Conventions. During those Constitutional Conventions where they were debating after the revolution what to do, what kind of form of government are we going to have. We had one view, we had another view, different states had, you know, the Virginia proposal, or this proposal or that proposal and they had as many opinions yes as they did no, so it started to fall apart. At that point in time, Franklin stood up and he has this famous speech where he talks about, ‘unless God builds the house, we’re not going to be any better off than the builders at Babel and that God governs in the affairs of men and have we now forgotten our most powerful friend or do we think we no longer need him. And he implored everyone from that point on to every time they deliberate, to begin their deliberations with prayer. They did. They had a long prayer, not just a short little 60 second, two minute prayer, but a long prayer meeting that was a turning point that ultimately brought America’s founding together and ultimately the United States Constitution and later the Bill of Rights which is the First Amendment and that’s why the Supreme Court said prayer’s been with us since the very beginning, the foundation of who we are. It cannot be unconstitutional, it was people who started prayer who later drafted the First Amendment and then continued to pray.

Matt Barber then quoted Franklin’s speech at the Convention. He then asked Staver, “How long did they pray Mat?” Staver said, “It took up several hours. It wasn’t just a little prayer, bless this meal and walk away.” Barber then said what happened doesn’t fit the narrative of the left.
What Really Happened?
In fact, what happened doesn’t fit Mat Staver’s narrative. Franklin did in fact make a motion asking for prayers before meetings, but his motion was never voted on. The Convention adjourned without any prayers. Only a few delegates wanted to vote in favor of Franklin’s motion. To address the facts, I am going to reproduce a portion of a prior post on this subject. In essence, Staver and Barber are calling James Madison a liar.
Madison recorded what happened next.

Mr. SHERMAN seconded the motion.
Mr. HAMILTON & several others expressed their apprehensions that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the convention, it might at this late day, 1.64 bring on it some disagreeable animadversions. & 2.65 lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the Convention, had suggested this measure. It was answered by Docr F. Mr. SHERMAN & others, that the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission-that the rejection of such a proposition would expose the Convention to more unpleasant animadversions than the adoption of it: and that the alarm out of doors that might be excited for the state of things within, would at least be as likely to do good as ill.
Mr. WILLIAMSON, observed that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The Convention had no funds.
Mr. RANDOLPH proposed in order to give a favorable aspect to ye measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on 66 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence; & thenceforward prayers be used 67 in yr Convention every morning. Dr. FRANKn. 2nd this motion. After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing the 68matter by adjourn; the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.
[Note 15: 15 In the Franklin MS. the following note is added:–“The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.”] (emphasis added)

In short order, two motions hit the floor. Franklin moved for daily prayers with a second by Roger Sherman. Then Edmund Randolph suggested a sermon followed by prayers. Franklin seconded that motion. Neither motion was voted on and the Convention adjourned. In fact, Franklin later noted that “The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.” While I am sure at least some of the founders took God seriously, this story isn’t a good one to offer as evidence.
Staver and Barber also push the idea that the prayers turned the Convention toward compromise.
Well, first there were no prayer meetings so that is a problem for that narrative.
Second, the Convention didn’t come back after the July 4th recess all prayed up and ready to compromise. On July 10, George Washington wrote Alexander Hamilton (who left the convention after the recess) and said:

I thank you for your Communication of the 3d. When I refer you to the State of the Councils which prevailed at the period you left this City—and add, that they are now, if possible, in a worse train than ever; you will find but little ground on which the hope of a good establishment, can be formed. In a word, I almost dispair of seeing a favourable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.

The disputations continued even after Franklin’s motion. It was not until mid-July, with the threat of dissolution hanging over their heads, that the delegates reached a compromise. Even then, four delegates left the convention in protest (John Mercer, Caleb Strong, John Lansing, Luther Marton) and three delegates didn’t sign the Constitution  because it lacked a bill of rights (George Mason, Edmund Randolph, Elbridge Gerry). In the end, only 39 of the 55 delegates signed the document. The more parsimonious explanation for the consensus is that those with strong disagreement left the Convention.
Prayers before government meetings is a tradition and may continue to survive court challenges. However, the Franklin prayer myth isn’t necessary to defend such prayers. Staver and Barber should correct the record with their listeners so that error isn’t multiplied.
 
See also this post on Franklin’s prayer proposal.
 
 

Why Is David Barton Better Than Amy Robertson?

Last night, Amy Robertson resigned as incoming principal of Pittsburg (KS) High School amid revelations that her graduate degrees came from a unaccredited diploma mill. After she was hired, the high school newspaper staff researched Robertson’s claims that she had a master’s degree and a doctorate from Corllins University, an unaccredited entity which gives degrees in exchange for life experience and a fee. Now she isn’t going to be principal at PHS.

Enter David Barton
Almost seven months ago, David Barton posted a video in which he claimed to have an earned doctorate. He ridiculed “progressives” for saying he didn’t have the degree. Although he didn’t say where he earned it, I quickly discovered it came from Life Christian University, a diploma mill in Florida. Barton didn’t even have to attend the school. The president of the “school” confirmed that Barton was given a doctorate without taking any classes. The day after I identified the degree as coming from Life Christian University, Barton took the video off of his You Tube and Facebook pages.
Since then, Barton has not commented or replied to Facebook questions about the doctorate claim. Apparently, Barton’s supporters don’t care.

Moral High Ground
There is something profoundly disturbing about a public school system getting it right and the evangelical celebrity complex getting it so wrong. Here we have a public school district, you know a school evangelicals-against-common-core love to hate, acting with integrity. However, those who support Barton, such as Glenn Beck, don’t hold him accountable for his academic fraud.

Shouldn’t Barton come forward, admit he tried to pass off a diploma mill doctorate as earned, and apologize? As it stands, David Barton is chairman of the Board at Mercury One and will get to be the head of Glenn Beck’s history museum while Amy Robertson is now looking for another job.
In the case of Amy Robertson, public high school students possessed the moral and intellectual integrity to seek the truth while Christian media have done little (here’s a notable exception) to dig into the subject of Christian celebrities and academic fraud.

I bet Amy Robertson wishes she was a Christian celebrity.

Pittsburg (KS) High School Student Paper Exposes False Credentials; Principal Resigns

Through a twitter user, I recently learned about the Pittsburg (KS) High School newspaper staff who uncovered diploma mill degrees in the resume of a newly hired principal, Amy Robertson. Ms. Robertson was hired by the Pittsburg School District to fill a principal position beginning next school year. She claimed to have a master’s and doctorate from Corllins University. However, the high school newspaper staff investigated that claim and reported to the school community that Corllins is not accredited by a reputable accrediting body. Furthermore, the school appears to be a diploma mill.

The investigative talent displayed by these young journalists is impressive. Their tenacity is even more impressive. The school board discounted their research, said the article was inaccurate, and fully supported Ms. Robertson. Even the local newspaper editor claimed the article was inaccurate (a charge he later recanted.)

However, last night, the Pittsburg school board accepted the resignation of Ms. Robertson and Superintendent Destry Brown pledged to go to the school and thank the students for their hard work. Apparently, somebody checked a little closer and found that the student journalists were correct about Corllins University.

Watch the school board accept Ms. Robertson’s resignation. At the end of the video, a parent stands and asks the school board to acknowledge the hard and accurate work of the student journalists. I hope Mr. Brown made good on his promise to go visit the student’s and thank them personally.

Sources:
District Hires New Principal – The Pittsburg High School newspaper which details the concerns about Ms. Robertson’s degrees.

Brown Refutes Claims in School Paper – The local paper took issue with the students’ research and reported that the school board supported the new principal. Even as late as last night, the editor of the local paper said the article was wrong. Then, to his credit, he offered a mea culpa.

Board Accepts Resignation of Dr. Amy Robertson Amid Questions about Her Credentials – The superintendent walks back his previous confident assurances that the credentials were acceptable.

Free honorary degreeIt seems pretty obvious to me from the Corllins University website that it is a diploma mill. You can even get a free honorary degree with the purchase of another degree.  It is not accredited by any body recognized by CHEA or the Department of Education. The accrediting bodies mentioned on one of Corllins’ website appear to be made up. Neither have a working website.

To the journalists at Pittsburg High School, I say congratulations and good work.

The Washington Post has a really nice write up of this story just out today.
Now when will someone hold David Barton accountable for his claim of an earned doctorate?

New Study: Prenatal Exposure to Progesterone May Influence Adult Sexual Orientation

image003The causes of sexual attraction continue to be of significant interest. This study will focus attention on prenatal factors, far outside of an individual’s control. These findings may also direct attention to the administration of Progesterone.

PRESS RELEASE
Progesterone and bisexuality: Is there a link?
Giving progesterone to prevent miscarriage could influence baby’s sexual orientation in later life
Heidelberg | New York, 3 April 2017
Bisexuality is quite common among men and women whose mothers received additional doses of the sex hormone progesterone while pregnant. This is one of the findings of a study led by June Reinisch, Director Emerita of The Kinsey Institute in the US, published in Springer’s journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. The study tracked the sexual development of 34 Danes whose mothers were treated with the hormone to prevent miscarriage.
According to the research team, progesterone appears to be an underappreciated factor influencing the normal development of variations in human sexuality and psychosexuality. The findings warrant further investigation given that little is known about the effects on offspring of natural variations in levels of maternal progesterone and that progesterone is widely used to treat pregnancy complications.
Men and women all naturally produce the sex hormone progesterone. It is involved in women’s menstrual cycles, and helps to maintain pregnancies and development of the fetus. It plays a role in neural development and the production of other sex hormones as well as steroid hormones that help to regulate stress responses, inflammation, and metabolism in the body. Physicians often prescribe progesterone and its bio-versions to support the fertilization process, to prevent miscarriages or premature births, or to increase babies’ birth weights.
The 34 participants in the study were drawn from the Copenhagen Perinatal Cohort, which comprises information collected from virtually all children born between 1959 and 1961 at the university hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 17 men and 17 women were selected because their mothers exclusively received the progesterone lutocyclin to prevent a miscarriage. These men and women were compared with a carefully selected control group who were not exposed prenatally to lutocyclin or any other hormone medication, but who otherwise matched the study participants based on 14 relevant physical, medical, and socioeconomic factors. The participants were all in their mid-20s when asked about their sexual orientation, self-identification, attraction to each sex, and sexual history using questionnaires and a structured interview with a psychologist.
It was found that men and women whose mothers were treated with progesterone were significantly less likely to describe themselves as heterosexual. One in every five (20.6 percent) of the progesterone- exposed participants labeled themselves as other than heterosexual. Compared to the untreated group, the chances were greater that by their mid-20s they had already engaged in some form of same-sex sexual behavior (in up to 24.2 percent of cases), and that they were attracted to the same (29.4 percent) or to both sexes (17.6 percent). Both exposed males and females also had higher scores related to attraction to men.
“Progesterone exposure was found to be related to increased non-heterosexual self-identification, attraction to the same or both sexes, and same-sex sexual behavior,” says Reinisch. “The findings highlight the likelihood that prenatal exposure to progesterone may have a long-term influence on behavior related to sexuality in humans.”
The research team believes further studies on the offspring of women medically treated with progesterone and other progestogens during their pregnancies as well as studies examining the effects of natural variation in prenatal progesterone levels are warranted to provide more insight into the role that this hormone plays in the development of human behavior.
Reference: Reinisch, J.M. et al. (2017). Prenatal Exposure to Progesterone Affects Sexual Orientation in Humans, Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI: 10.1007/s10508-016-0923-z

I Will Be on Moody Radio's Up for Debate Program at Noon to Discuss Repeal of the Johnson Amendment

At noon, I will be on the Moody Radio Network program Up for Debate with Julie Roy to discuss the repeal of the Johnson Amendment. Repeal would allow churches to endorse political candidates. I don’t believe this is a good idea.
 
Opposing me will be Erik Stanley of Alliance Defending Freedom. You can listen online here: https://www.moodyradio.org/upfordebate
As background, see my post opposing church endorsements of political candidates.