I think the Mars Hill Church’s elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability have forgotten something.
In August, nine elders wrote their peers and said, among other things:
At the retreat this week, Pastor Dave [Bruskas] spoke about our church’s credibility problem. Brothers, this credibility problem is directly linked to the fact that we have not loved the light.This is not the fault of one person, or even a just a small group of people. We all share in responsibility for this in one way or another, and we must all repent of it together, together calling for our church to step into the light.
One indication of stepping into the light would be to investigate the allegations against the Board of Advisors and Accountability raised in the elder’s letter. Mark DeMoss, speaking for the church, said those allegations would be “processed” in line with church bylaws. DeMoss told the Religion News Service in August:
This letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Mark Driscoll will be processed in accordance with Article 12 of the church’s bylaws,” a statement provided by public relations firm head Mark DeMoss said. “This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete. In the meantime, it does not seem appropriate to comment on specific accusations before/while they are being formally reviewed as we don’t want to circumvent the process prescribed by the governing body of Mars Hill.”
In the letter there are specific allegations against the BoAA. First, the elders claimed the BoAA was not truthful about the handling of the original charges against Mark Driscoll:
BOAA/EE Statements Claim That We Had No Way to Interview Witnesses from Dave Kraft’s Formal Charges
We have been repeatedly told that we could not hear from the witnesses mentioned in the document. This did not add up, since the document clearly states that there were seven individuals who were willing to testify when called upon, and Dave Kraft stated clearly that he hoped that they would be called upon. Through conversations separately with Dave Kraft and Michael Van Skaik, I (Dustin) finally got clarity on this on Tuesday morning at the elder retreat. The issue was not that the BOAA “could not”interview the witnesses, but rather that Michael Van Skaik “would not” open an investigation without Dave Kraft giving him the names first. This seems to be a completely unreasonable and unnecessary demand when the charges themselves reveal that the witnesses felt bullied and were afraid of the consequences of releasing their names outside of the protection of a formal investigation being opened. Mike Wilkerson, who helped prepare the charges for Dave, confirms that he recommended to Dave that the names of the witnesses be disclosed only after they were protected by a formal investigation process. Mike made this recommendation in part due to his perception of the danger and fear involved for the witnesses, and also because he had knowledge that a prior complaint had not been handled according to the complainant’s expectation of confidentiality, resulting in further harm to the complainant. Furthermore, this charge was not coming from an unknown critic, but rather Dave Kraft who is a respected former elder and Christian leader. Because of his reputation we should have been willing to give greater credence to his charges and want to hear them out. Regardless of whether this was a wise or helpful decision by the BOAA, it is clearly misleading to state emphatically over and over that there was no way to talk to these people and hear their testimony, when clearly there was.
This is no minor issue as we have been consistently misled about the key reason the Kraft charges were handled the way they were. How can Van Skaik claim that “the formal charges that were filed were…taken seriously and were not dismissed by the board lightly,” when he would not even open the case to hear from the actual witnesses? Sending out letters to former employees in an effort to find these people or others who experienced similar situations seems to be a failed effort from the start, for the same reason that the 7 would not release their names unless as witnesses in an official investigation. Because of this refusal, it is misleading to claim that the charges were taken seriously when the witnesses were never even interviewed. Michael Van Skaik confirmed this week that no formal investigation was ever opened in response to Dave Kraft’s charges filed last year.
Even though the BoAA said they took Dave Kraft’s charges seriously, they didn’t investigate them.
Another BoAA claim related to contact with the Acts 29 Network. From the nine elders we learned that, in contrast to the BoAA statement, there had been much contact between members of both boards and Mark Driscoll.
Public Statements Claim That There Was No Contact Between Mark/BOAA and A29 Board Prior To A29 Removing MH From Network
We have been repeatedly told that no one from the A29 board talked to Mark or to our board prior to removing Mark from the network. This is only true if by “talk” you mean “told us beforehand that they were kicking us out,” and if you dismiss contact between individual board members with Mark and with each other. The impression created by these statements was one where it seemed that the A29 board had made their decision having had no communication with people close to Mark or with Mark himself, with no actual insight into the situation, and with no care for Mark or Mars Hill. The truth is that multiple members of both boards had been in direct contact with each other, and with Mark, exhorting and rebuking him over the course of months and years, and to say or imply otherwise is deeply misleading. Paul Tripp has confirmed that he specifically was in contact multiple times, while on the BOAA, with Matt Chandler, Steve Timmis, and Eric Mason about the state of Pastor Mark’s repentance.
To be fair, when specifically pressed on the issue at the elder retreat, Van Skaik did admit that he was sure that some members of the two boards had been in contact with each other individually, and clarified that they had not met together as full boards. But this does not change the fact that we have not corrected our public statements and rhetoric, nor does it change the fact that Van Skaik would not have admitted this without being pressed into by Pastor Miles during our first session at the retreat. As a whole, MH’s communication surrounding this event is very misleading.
The elders then asserted that many other instances of questionable communication between the BoAA and the public.
An On-Going Pattern
Beyond these two examples, there is no dearth of examples in the last two years of very questionable transparency and truth-telling, including the Mars Hill Global Fund, Result-Source, Strange Fire, ghost-writing/plagiarism, explanations for staff transition, the resignations of BOAA members, etc. Even this Thursday we put out a statement claiming that Wilkerson’s formal charges were being “reviewed by the board and the elders.” This is misleading as it gives people the impression that the elders as a whole are able to take part in reviewing and adjudicating the case.
Currently, the BoAA is in charge of Mars Hill Church and the allegations in this letter may not be investigated unless the current Board of Elders take initiative or the BoAA act consistently with their title.