Postcards from Phoenix: When Church Divides a Family

This is the second Postcard from Phoenix and it comes from former The Trinity Church worship staff member Luke Chase. Young Mr. Chase describes a difficult situation where he felt he had to choose between loyalty to his family and loyalty to The Trinity Church.

When a child is torn between loyalty to a pastor and loyalty to parents, the psychological dissonance is incredibly intense and disruptive. The pastor claims to speak for God, while your parents are, of course, your only parents. It is simply wrong for a pastor to usurp these relationships. If anything, church should attempt to build and rebuild family relationships.  It should be noted that Luke’s brother Landon is married to Mark Driscoll’s daughter, Ashley.

The other disturbing feature of Luke’s postcard is his description of how he felt he had to demonstrate loyalty to the church over his friends. He said his associations and friendships were monitored with angry confrontations from leaders when he associated with non-approved people. This is quite troubling and something that I am hearing from others at The Trinity Church. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this in another postcard or two.

 

Dear Warren:

I recently learned the reason why my family no longer attends The Trinity Church. As you now know, The Trinity Church is, until just recently, where I worked as a worship assistant, and acted as the interim worship director, and where my brother Landon is a pastor. My parents did not tell me the reasons they stopped attending in order to allow me to stay at the church so I could, as they said, “walk in my gifting.”

I had no idea why they stopped coming to church with us about 18 months ago. If something had happened they surely would have told me, right? I mean they never talked about the church, and for the most part I stopped talking to them about my work life. At the same time they went silent, I did too. I couldn’t tell them they had been deemed as “toxic” by the leadership, could I? Also, my 50+ hours work weeks resulted in us not having real conversations for far too long.

While I learned a lot and did have some buffer of protection from Pastor Dustin Blatnik who was my mentor and I consider to be a friend, my time on staff had its challenges. This problem was amplified once Pastor Dustin was let go and I was discouraged by the other pastors from continuing to associate with him.

The church leaders dictated who I was allowed to be friends with. There were some employees I was allowed to spend time with outside of work, probably because of their trust rating. Other employees I was told would be fired soon, and that if I were to hang out with them I might also be fired. Ironically a friend who respected my decision when I ultimately decided to resign and allowed me time to process on my schedule paid a price for being seen with me. He was seen hanging out with me the next week, and he was promptly fired and told that he was not a good fit.

On several occasions I was pulled into private rooms for disciplinary conversations. The infractions ranged from parking in the wrong lot to not being active with other workers when I had more important tasks to do. My supervisors Tyler Johnson, Galen Balenski, and even the campus Pastor Brandon Anderson resorted to cursing and intimidating me. Surprisingly enough, those motivational talks didn’t earn my trust or motivate me to please them more.

During my parent’s absence I had to listen to staff repeatedly tell me that my mom and dad were toxic. It struck me as odd since this is what is said of the other in-laws of the Driscoll kids and even of Pastor Brandon Anderson’s in-laws. In fact, their continued presence in my life was viewed as such a threat to my development as a REAL MAN that I was offered a pay raise simply for moving out of that “toxic” environment by Pastor Eden, Pastor Landon, and John Welnick. It was even implied that if I didn’t move out soon enough I could be fired. As a result I had to pretend like I agreed in order to save my job but in reality I would just day dream about getting out of the church.

An important note here is that my parents adopted me at 9 months old and have loved, parented and invested in me well to this day. They have led large growing integrity filled ministries in Seattle and Arizona for more than 15 years and clearly are not toxic people – I mean google their names and you will not find a bunch of dead bodies behind their bus! They love their kids and were willing to suffer in order to avoid causing any further division between them.

When I finally did ask them what happened I was angered to learn that Pastor Mark Driscoll yelled at and wounded my mom emotionally. My dad had tried to restore the relationship, but Pastor Mark did not feel like he had done anything wrong. It was after this incident that they were declared toxic in an attempt to explain why the church was no longer in fellowship with them.

That is when I resigned. When it became clear that the abuse I had experienced wasn’t an isolated thing that was normal in the workplace, but a pattern of behavior that I keep discovering goes far beyond what I first knew. While I love my brother and am sorry that I don’t get to see him as much now that we are not working together, I just couldn’t continue to work for an organization that required its employees to live in fear of being fired and was actively speaking poorly of my parents.

With sadness from Phoenix,

Luke Chase

 

Read all of the Postcards from Phoenix

For more on The Trinity Church, click here

For a summary of recent controversies surrounding The Trinity Church, click here