Two Mars Hill Universes: Repentant Pastor and the Christian Post

Over at the Repentant Pastor website yesterday, 18 former Mars Hill elders posted a letter of confession to Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. In the letter, the pastors confessed being complicit with an authoritarian structure which wronged Meyer and Petry for raising valid concerns. They wrote:

We now believe our decisions were invalid and wrong. The entire investigation and trial process was skewed by the implication that your termination was above reproach and for just cause. If there had been sin in your life that might have warranted a warning about possible disqualification from eldership, we should have patiently, carefully, and directly addressed it with you before the matter became so extremely escalated. By reporting our wrongheaded assessment to the church, we put doubt about your character in the minds of church members, though you had done nothing to warrant such embarrassment and scrutiny. By doing this, we misled the whole church, harmed your reputation, and damaged the unity of the body of Christ.

In this universe, the past with Mark Driscoll generates remorse and repentance.
At the Christian Post today, Alex Murashko focuses on Mars Hill Portland pastor Tim Smith and spokesman Justin Dean. Both Smith and Dean view the past with Mark Driscoll as something to celebrate. In this universe, both had praise for Driscoll and glossed over the investigation of charges and the reasons for his resignation.
When Petry and Meyer were fired, they didn’t get due process like Driscoll did. After they were fired by Driscoll, they were unfairly tried by their peers and found guilty of “displaying an unhealthy lack of trust in, and respect for, the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church.” Petry was considered disqualified and shunned and Meyer was put on probation.
When Mark Driscoll was the subject of a lengthy process of investigation and found guilty of abusing his leadership, he was allowed to resign voluntarily with severance rather than enter a restoration process.
In one universe, Tim Smith voted to find Petry and Meyer guilty and in another universe, Smith lauds Driscoll and fails to sign on to the letter of confession.

Mars Hill Church Elders Post Letter of Confession to Bent Meyer and Paul Petry

Pastors who voted to disqualify Paul Petry and Bent Meyer as elders have issued a statement of confession and repentance (UPDATE: the former website has been taken down. You can read it via the Wayback Machine). It begins:

Dear Paul and Bent, we want to publicly confess our sin against you regarding events that took place at Mars Hill Church back in 2007. We were wrong. We harmed you. You have lived with the pain of that for many years. As some of us have come to each of you privately, you have extended grace and forgiveness, and for that we thank you. Because our sin against you happened in a public way and with public consequences, we want to make our confession public as well with this letter.

More commentary to come but really it speaks for itself.
Note: The title has been changed twice to better reflect the actual events of 2007.

Mars Hill Tacoma to Become Independent Pending Bank Approval; Will The Leaders Open the Books?

According to this Tacoma News Tribune article, the Mars Hill location in Tacoma plans to pursue independent status. If the bank doesn’t approve them for a take over of the loan on the building, the congregation will seek a new location.
Lead pastor Bubba Jennings is supposed to meet with officials of the credit union which financed the building on November 18 to learn if the congregation can keep the building they meet in now.
Jennings told the congregation to keep attending and giving because the bank will evaluate those metrics in order to decide whether or not to transfer the note.
More of the same top down approach seems to be the order of the day. Jennings announced that he will tell the congregation what the new name of the church will be.
Tacoma becoming independent does not surprise me, but there are red flags for potential members in this announcement.
First, Jennings doesn’t know how much money the loan will be. He is talking about placing the congregation on the hook for a large amount of money to maintain their building without knowing the terms.  Second, there is only one fund to give money to now at Mars Hill – The General Fund. I would not give anything unless I thought it would go to the local branch. Current Mars Hill leaders have a track record of using the donations in questionable ways which should make potential donors skeptical of the claims that giving is needed to help locations become independent. Without full disclosure, how would anyone know that the donations are not going to pay executive pastors’ (Driscoll, Turner, and Bruskas) severance pay? In the past, church leaders have told the congregation that donations would go to Ethiopian and India church planters, yet very little money ended up there. Also, the leaders used a “Jesus Festival” to bring in dollars but no such festival was ever held.
Bottom line, unless current church leaders come glean on the Driscoll’s investigation, the Global Fund, Jesus Festival, year end giving campaigns, and pastors’ compensation and severance packages, I don’t think the current leaders have earned trust. Failing to address these issues is deliberate. Too many public calls have gone out to open the books for the leaders to say they are unaware of the need for disclosure.

Mark Driscoll's Reports to the Woodway, WA Police

When Mark Driscoll appeared at Robert Morris’ Gateway Conference on October 20, he told some stories involving harassment of his family. Specifically, he said that rocks had been thrown into his backyard one morning after he and his kids had spent the night in a tent. Then talked about a helicopter flying over head a few days later. Driscoll begins speaking about these matters at 3:20 into the clip.
At least one journalist, Dori Monson, initially reported that city officials of Driscoll’s home of Woodway, WA were unaware of any such attack. Although I have yet to hear it, I have been told that Monson has retracted that report. Given the police reports below, he did well to retract. While there is no evidence that the rock throwing report is related to Driscoll’s problems at Mars Hill Church, he did make the incident reports.
In order to clarify the record and with thanks to police officials there, I am posting the relevant and appropriately redacted police reports from the city of Woodway. Click the links below.
August 25, 2014 – The rocks flying incident
August 28, 2014 – KOMO-TV News effort to get an interview.
DriscollsignrecordingOn the KOMO-TV News report, see this post. In the KOMO report, there is a shot of a sign on the gate which indicates cameras are recording the activities. The police report includes nothing about a check of any surveillance footage.

Current Mars Hill Pastor Says Investigation Findings Showed Mark Driscoll Not Qualified as Elder

In an ongoing conversation on a previous post, current Mars Hill pastor Steve Tompkins, indicated that based on the Board of Elders’ investigation, Mark Driscoll is not currently qualified for the office of elder.

Speaking to former elder Zack Hubert, Tompkins commented on the findings of the Board of Elders report of their investigation into formal charges by 21 former elders and other private witnesses.

To my knowledge, Tompkins is the first current elder who has characterized the Board of Elders investigation as resulting in a finding of disqualification. The only statement from the Board of Elders indicated that Driscoll was asked to enter an elder directed restoration process. However, instead of following the counsel of the elders, Driscoll resigned.

The Board of Elders have not released a report, and since the investigation was not completed, there is some question about the existence of a report. There are many unanswered questions about the role of the BoE and BoAA in the manner in which Driscoll left the church.

Uncertainty of another kind surrounds Mars Hill Church. Reliable sources tell me dramatic changes are in store for the church. Campus locations are considering merger, independence, or closure. Options for reducing debt and spinning off locations into autonomous churches are being explored.

Mark Driscoll Gets Prophetic Word at Gateway Conference

At the Gateway Conference this past week, Mark Driscoll took the stage for the first time since he left Mars Hill Church. There he proclaimed that he was looking for some “wise counsel” even as he had avoided the wise counsel of his Mars Hill Church elders.
Another highlight of the conference was a prophetic word from Jimmy Evans about Driscoll. According to a tweet from conference attendee Ashley Greenwood, Evans proclaimed that Driscoll’s best days are ahead of him:

If you click the Instagram link in this tweet, you will come to a picture of Evans talking to a standing Driscoll in the front row of the crowd. According to Greenwood, Evans said:

You lead a great movement as a brother, you will lead a greater one as a father, your later years will surpass your younger.

The nice thing about prophetic claims is that they can be checked. If Evans is referring to Mars Hill Church as “the great movement as a brother,” then the claim is debatable given that Driscoll left the church in disarray and about to fragment. If Evans meant Acts 29 Network, then it obvious that the claim is wildly inflated in light of the network’s removal of Mars Hill due to Driscoll’s actions. In light of the facts, one could easily predict that his later years will surpass his younger.
Any port in the storm I guess. The apostolic crowd appears eager to incorporate Driscoll into their tribe.

Mars Hill Church: Where Does the Buck Stop?

Rumors of change at Mars Hill Church are blowing in the Seattle wind.
Since many of the pastors who called for change when Mark Driscoll was lead pastor have departed either through lay off or via resignation (see also this list*), it remains to be seen who will lead the charge for reform. For change to come, pastors who once defended the party line will now have to contradict their previous publicly held position. Social psychological research suggests that contradicting a previously held public position creates dissonance and is difficult. Will they have the courage to say they were wrong? Is there a narrative that makes their earlier inaction and defense of the Mars Hill way seem plausible?
Probably the most difficult task falls to Dave Bruskas and his fellow Board of Advisors and Accountability members. For instance, Bruskas has been a part of executive elder decisions involving the Result Source scheme to game the New York Time best seller list, and the rebranding of the Global Fund. He was present when Mark Driscoll staged his Strange Fire stunt (see for example 39 seconds into the clip) and then falsely tweeted that John MacArthur’s security team confiscated his books. As a part of the executive elder team, Bruskas has been involved in setting direction and tone for the church. There are bound to be questions about what he knew. Just a few come to mind: Why did Bruskas go along with all of the financial secrecy, including about executive salaries? Did Bruskas know that the BoAA did not actually investigate Dave Kraft’s charges against Mark Driscoll? If he did, then what kept him silent when the BoAA told the world that those charges were taken seriously?  Did Bruskas know about the Global Fund shenanigans? Whatever he knew and as complex as I am sure it is, shouldn’t he now come forward and let people know of his view of the BoAA’s actions?
The executive elders are responsible for the daily operation of the church and big decisions involving millions of dollars. Dave Bruskas is the remaining executive elder. The longer he waits to publicly explain his support for the decisions which have led to the current crisis, the more likely they will define him, now that Driscoll and Turner are gone. Unless Bruskas and the BoAA can offer a plausible explanation, Mars Hill members will be justified to assume that the buck stops with the men who have been in charge while the church has spiraled to the current state.
*(Not all on this list departed on terms of disagreement or dissent, but many did.)

Mars Hill Church: Some Unfinished Business for the Board of Advisors and Accountability

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.

Mark Driscoll: No, I Want That Other Wise Counsel

Last night Mark Driscoll was invited on stage at the Gateway Conference hosted by Robert Morris. He said several things which were amazing but there was one thing which seemed to put Mars Hill Church a great distance in the rear view mirror. At 2:59 into the clip, Driscoll said:

…for me I’m in a season of just uh healin’ up, praying. Uh, asking the Lord Jesus through wise counsel to show me any blindspots where I can grow.

Just over a week ago, his elders offered him some wise counsel. The wise counsel was a plan to help him with “blindspots” where he could grow. Instead of taking the wise counsel, he resigned.
Robert Morris told his crowd that he knew the whole story. However, he said this:

Uh here’s what I figure. We’ve got two choices. One is we could crucify him (pause). But since someone’s already been crucified (hollering)for him (applause, hollering). The other choice is we could restore him with a spirit of gentleness considering ourselves, lest we are also tempted (applause). It is very sad that in the church we’re the only army that shoots at our wounded.

Restoration is exactly what the Mars Hill elders said they had in mind. No crucifixion planned as far as I know. Perhaps Driscoll prefers a different kind of restoration.
“This isn’t the wise counsel you are looking for.”

Mark Driscoll Rocks the Gateway Conference

Didn’t take long.
At his Gateway Conference, Robert Morris invited Driscoll on stage for a brief talk. Video below.

Click here to read the transcript of the Morris and Driscoll.
Supply caption here.
Don’t know what to think about Driscoll’s stories. If true, I hope the rock throwers get the maximum penalty.