The Blog at Patheos is “410 Gone”

I hope to have more to say about it soon but for now, I can report that I am blogging here now at wthrockmorton.com.  Patheos leadership informed me yesterday that my blog no longer fit their “strategic objectives.” Since I don’t know what those are, I can’t say how I didn’t fit them.

In any case, thanks to friend J.D. Smith, the blog was quickly migrated with the content to this ad free site. The downside is that I have been unable as yet to find out from Patheos how to get my comments moved along with the posts.

What a strange turn of events. Patheos was at the center of the Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia stories and now they host Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan. All of the those Patheos links about Mars Hill and GFA are now erased. The content is here and archived elsewhere but admittedly, it will be harder to find.

 

Mark Driscoll Gets His Charisma On

Mark Driscoll is getting us ready for a big announcement. Check it out:

His next big book could be part of the fun. According to Christian Market Weekly, Driscoll is signing with Charisma:

Pastor Mark Driscoll is returning to publishing by signing with Charisma House. His new book, Spirit-Filled Jesus, will release in October 2018.

No doubt the Jesus-loving, Youtube-filming, Charisma-publishing Driscoll brand will be big. Even though the trail of busted stuff in Seattle is still there, it is easy enough in the big Evangelical circus to pitch your tent somewhere else and start a new show in a new season.
A resurgence of Driscoll branding is probably coming at about the right time. I have noticed in my little corner of the Christian world less awareness of him and the Mars Hill history. Just this year I asked a class of undergrads how many had heard of him and not one hand went up. That had never happened before and is a problem for The Brand.
For those coming late to this party, there are several links to get you started.

More Articles on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

Wenatchee the Hatchet. – This blogger has followed Mars Hill Church for many years and has a wealth of information and detail about church history and various players who have been associated with the church over the years.
Mars Hill Church Blog Summary – This link will lead to all blog posts about Mars Hill Church. My posts started in late 2013 after Mark Driscoll’s disastrous interview with Janet Mefferd.
Daily Beast – This link leads to my series of articles at The Daily Beast on Mars Hill Church. For those wanting a quick summary on Mark Driscoll’s plan to place his book Real Marriage on the New York Times bestseller list, this is a good place to start. Also, these article provide a summary of the fall of Mars Hill Church.

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

In 2017, the following ten posts received the most page views:
10. K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music (2017)
9. Former Newsping Pastor Perry Noble Incorporates Second Change Church (2017)
8. American College of Pediatricians v. American Academy of Pediatrics: Who Leads and Who Follows? (2011)
7. After the Demise of Mars Hill Church Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations (2017)
6. IRS and Postal Service Agents on Scene at Benny Hinn’s Office (2017)
5. Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church (2017)
4. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
3. Former CFO at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists (2015)
2. What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF (2017)
and the #1 post is:

  1. Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church (2014)

 
Some past posts have aged well. The 2009 post regarding child abuse and non-heterosexuality has been in the top ten nearly every year since 2009.counseling image 2 Readers continue to be interested in Mars Hill Church and various players surrounding the demise of that church.
Although the page views don’t show it, the story that continues to be covered here and almost nowhere else is the Gospel for Asia saga. The target of federal scrutiny and two RICO lawsuits in the U.S., GFA has also initiated and been involved in various legal actions in India. Although the scope of the GFA empire dwarfs other organizations I have examined, it continues to fly along under the radar.
For a profile of my work and the role blogging has played in it, see this lengthy article by Jon Ward in Yahoo News earlier this month.

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After the Demise of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations

Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014
Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014

If her article at the Washington Post today is any indication, columnist Kirsten Powers is more than a little peeved at my blog host Patheos for taking in Pastor Mark Driscoll as a blogger. In the piece, Powers smartly summarized Driscoll’s history of misogynous utterances and then opined:

Any outlet that promotes him as a respectable teacher is as complicit in our culture’s misogyny as other abusers’ enablers.
But what do I know? I’m just a woman.

As her article shows, Powers knows a lot. But she might not know how much cash one can pull in even with a reputation as a purveyor of toxic masculinity. Stay with me, I am about to show you.

Mark Driscoll Ministries

According to the 2014 and 2015 IRS 990 forms required to be filed by nonprofit organizations, Mark Driscoll Ministries pulled in $1,132,009 from November 2014 to December 2016 (figure comes from adding all donations and speaking fees).
MDM 2015 front page 990
Of course, it takes money to run a “ministries” (why is one guy’s ministry called ministries?) so he didn’t get all of that million, but most of the donations went to his compensation, moving expenses, and housing allowance. His new church got $25,000. I wonder how many donors thought they were helping to plant that church with their donations.
Former Mars Hill Church members: you might be interested to know that much of current content of Mark Driscoll Ministries website was paid for by your charitable giving. Just recently on the Patheos blog, his posts have been recycled from his books and the Resurgence website. Mars Hill fundsMDM patheos disclaimer paid Docent Research Group and a team of people at Mars Hill to provide the research for the content of the books. These materials have been recycled and keep on giving Driscoll returns on your investment.
So don’t worry about Driscoll. After he resigned from Mars Hill Church rather than comply with his elders’ recommendations in October 2014, his brand seems to have recovered well. Now all he has to worry about is people who remember things and write about them in the Washington Post and of all places Patheos.

Mark Driscoll's New Blog: More Copied Material with No Quotes

Last week, reader Aaron New pointed out a couple of paragraphs in a blog post by fellow Patheos blogger Mark Driscoll which were nearly identical to material in a previously published book by Aubrey Malphurs. Using previously published material without citation is plagiarism.
Well, Professor New has found another copied paragraph. Driscoll’s paragraph is from part two of a series adapted from his book Doctrine with Gerry Breshears and is below:
Driscoll Lightfoot paragraph
Now compare Driscoll’s paragraph with this excerpt from How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot (copied material is underlined).
Lightfoot paragraph canon driscoll
Driscoll left out the Bible citations and rearranged a couple of words. Otherwise, this is lifted from Lightfoot. Taking into account last week’s incident and this one, it is hard to see how this could be accidental or some kind of coincidence. Some may protest that the amount of material is small. While true, the paragraphs are quotes with no quotation marks. This should be corrected and an apology immediately offered when it happens.
I contacted Driscoll’s co-author Gerry Breshears about the citations and he has not answered.
I have been able to consult a few individuals who did ghostwriting and research work for Mars Hill Church. Their descriptions provide insight into how some citations make it into published material and how some doesn’t. Much of the research for Doctrine was paid for by Mars Hill Church. Then Driscoll chose the information he needed and reworked it. Some passages obviously didn’t get reworked much and ended up in published works without citations. In all cases, so I was told, the citations were in the research. However, for some reason, either the author or an editor removed some citations. In any case, the beat goes on.
 

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Footnotes Missing from Fellow Blogger Mark Driscoll's Latest Post

After my post yesterday about Fellow Patheos Blogger Pastor Mark Driscoll’s citation issues, reader and college prof Aaron New sent along an example of another problem in Driscoll’s most recent Patheos blog post.
The post, “What is the Bible? Answering 4 Common Questions About the Bible: Part 1,” largely comes from his book with Gerry Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. To his credit, Driscoll alerted readers to that fact at the end of the post.
More troubling is the lack of quotes and citation for the following section. From yesterday’s post:
Driscoll Blog Post 100417
Now take a look at a book first published in 1997 (2nd edition in 2009) written by Aubrey Malphurs and titled, Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don’t Teach Pastors in Seminary.  On page 190 of that book, Malphurs provides the following description of the Bible. The portion of interest begins in the third full sentence of the paragraph below.
Malphus book 1997 2009
The passages are nearly identical. Even though the facts are commonly known, the order, wording, and presentation of those facts are nearly the same in both places. The Driscoll and Breshears book has a 2010 copyright date; Malphurs’ book shows two copyright dates, 1997 and 2009. Most of the Malphurs’ material is also in the Doctrine book, but a couple of the copied sentences are only in the Patheos blog post.
Readers, I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. I report, you decide. Just to make it clear, below is the Patheos blog post passage with the identical material underlined. What is not underlined is only slightly reworded. Only a very few additional words were added.
Driscoll compared to Malphurs
There may be more instances like this. I only examined two paragraphs in the Patheos blog. I think some explanation should be forthcoming for why the water that was under the bridge is now gushing forth in this new season.

A Citation Error by Fellow Blogger Mark Driscoll Is a Blast from the Past

Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014
Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014

After reading the most recent post by my Fellow Patheos Blogger Pastor Mark Driscoll™ last night, a frequent reader of my blog informed me that the new post recycles lots of material from Driscoll’s book on doctrine. Indeed, there are several paragraphs in his Patheos post on evil in Las Vegas which first appeared in his book with Gerry Breshears titled Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe.  For instance, Driscoll wrote in his post:

The Bible uses a constellation of images to explain sin as everything from rebellion to folly, self-abuse, madness, treason, death, hatred, spiritual adultery, missing the mark, wandering from the path, idolatry, insanity, irrationality, pride, selfishness, blindness, deafness, a hard heart, a stiff neck, delusion, unreasonableness, and self-worship. Sin and evil are not rational or reasonable.

In his Doctrine book, he introduces a section on sin with the same paragraph:
Driscoll Doctrine Sin

To Recycle or Not?

Recycling previously published material without citation is somewhat controversial in the world of writers. Journalist Jonah Lehrer had his career sidetracked over it. I discovered lots of it in Fellow Patheos Blogger Mark Driscoll’s™ books. However, in this case, I doubt many people will care that he is recycling previously published material at his new blog.
On the other hand, his co-author might care. Unless Gerry Breshears was not really very involved or just lent his name, the material claimed now by Driscoll might have been written by Breshears. Having a co-author is one reason why authors should cite the original source for recycled material.

Deja Vu All Over Again*

However, the same reader alerted me to something else I hadn’t seen before. It appears I found another “citation error” (some would call it plagiarism) in Doctrine (see this image for other such citation errors). On pages 149-150 of the 2010 book (see the page image here), Driscoll and Breshears wrote:

To help you understand sin, in general, and your sin, in particular, we will examine eight aspects of sin that the Old Testament teaches us.
1) Sin in the Old Testament is first a relational breach. This is painfully clear in Genesis 2–3 where, because of their sin, our first parents are separated from God and one another; they hide from God and one another, fear God, blame one another, and seek to cover their sin and shame while living their life apart from God.
2) Sin in the Old Testament is a social matter because shalom has been vandalized. This is evidenced by the litany of murder, perversion, drunkenness, the continual evil that precipitated the flood, and human attempts at an Edenic-like society without any regard for God that spring forth in Genesis 4–11.
3) Sin in the Old Testament is a covenantal rebellion against God and his authority. This is witnessed perhaps most clearly in Exodus 32 to 34, where following God’s liberation of his people, they dishonor, disregard, and disobey him by worshiping idols while God is giving them the Ten Commandments through their leader Moses.
4) Sin in the Old Testament is a legal transgression that results in guilt that necessitates punishment. One clear example is found in Deuteronomy 32, where in worshipful song Moses recollects some of the most treasonous behavior of God’s people and the price that had to be paid for justice to be maintained.
5) Sin in the Old Testament results in ritual uncleanness, pollution, and filth, marked by the use of words such as “filth,” “defiled,” “unclean,” and “whore.”18 Importantly, this defilement happens both to sinners and victims; we defile ourselves by our own sin and are defiled by others when they sin against us.
6) Sin in the Old Testament includes emotional pain such as shame and disgrace.19 This is first seen in Genesis 3, where our first parents sin and then hide in shame and disgrace, whereas prior to their sin they “were not ashamed.”20
7) Sin in the Old Testament is spoken of in historical terms as an accumulating burden whereby sin is piled up from one generation to the next.21 In this way, sin only worsens over time as people invent new ways to do evil more effectively.
8) Sin in the Old Testament is spoken of with the finality of death.22 Sin is deadly, and ends only in death. This is because when we sin and prefer created things to our creator God, we stop ruling over creation and are ruled by it so that in the end we lose and the dust wins.23
(The footnotes go to Bible verses not human authors as you can see in the page image)

Now read the same eight aspects written by Christopher Wright in a 2008 book about the atonement (Scroll down to Chapter Four “Atonement in the Old Testament” and read the first four pages of that chapter – See the page images for the relevant parts of Wright’s chapter here as well: one, two)

The eight aspects of sin described by Wright ended up in Driscoll’s book without citation. The explanations were gently reworded but reflect the same classification and meaning as Wright’s two years earlier. Some of the same key words, phrases, and Bible passages also remain used as Wright did, e.g., Adam and Eve, shalom, Exodus 32-34, shame and disgrace, accumulating burden, etc.  (See also this side by side comparison.)
It was as if I was transported back to 2014.
 
*”Deja vu all over again” is often attributed to Yogi Berra.
 

Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan: Welcome to Patheos!

Allow me to be among the first to welcome Mark Driscoll and K.P. Yohannan to Patheos!
Mark Driscoll announced his new blog today via the Patheos Evangelical Facebook page. Watch:

Judging from a couple of tweets I have seen (for instance here), he must have announced on Twitter too. I wouldn’t know it since he blocked me a long time ago after I wrote a few articles about him and his former church.

Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014
Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014

We are now practically neighbors!
K.P. Yohannan isn’t as well known as Driscoll in the U.S. but he is the Most Reverend Eminence in India.
Pope KP2It will be interesting to see if Yohannan blogs about his organization’s legal troubles and trial preparations.  It will give readers a couple of different perspectives to read about it there and here.
Having Yohannan and Driscoll in the family makes me wonder when David Barton and Eric Metaxas plan to join up.
Kumbaya!

Mars Hill Church Final Distribution – Where Did the Money Go?

When Mars Hill Church closed, the by-laws required a final distribution of assets. Although the plan omitted some details, a dissolution plan was filed with the state of Washington and I assumed had been carried out by last June. Today current pastor of Doxa Church (once the Bellevue campus of MHC) Jeff Vanderstelt said the following about funds distributed from MHC. His comments were posted in the comment section of a Gospel Coalition article on Mars Hill Church. I wrote a reaction to that article yesterday. In response to a claim from another commenter about money paid to the MHC churches, Vanderstelt said:

The churches were given money to continue on if they signed a binding legal agreement not to talk about Mark Driscoll in a negative way. Do you see how that could be dangerous?
  • That is actually not the truth. Churches were not given money if they signed a binding legal agreement. Where did you get that information from?

There was no “hush money”. I stepped in to restart a church from the Bellevue campus and we did not receive the money you are referring to. Neither did any of the other churches. What are you basing your conclusion on Roger? And what revisionist history are you referring to?

I wrote Vanderstelt to ask if his church received money as set forth in the MHC distribution plan. He answered by saying he had made comments on the Gospel Coalition article and that I should read those. I wrote back to ask if his church received the 22.18% which was designated as part of the plan.
As he said, Vanderstelt clarified his earlier statements on the Gospel Coalition website:

Roger – Each church did receive some “start-up/seed” money because MH had money in their accounts that had to be distributed as directed by their 501 c3 guidelines. It was not hush money however. I was not required to sign anything or agree to silence in order to receive those funds. Also, they weren’t that substantial (as some seem to believe) when you take into account the lease payment we assumed in stepping into the Bellevue campus. For us, it amounted to about 2-3 months of operating expenses. You are correct in that I can’t speak for the other pastors so I will not. I’m only representing what I know and what I’ve experienced.

According to the dissolution plan, Doxa was to get 22.18% of what MHC had to distribute after debts and liabilities were paid. I hope Vanderstelt will clarify if this “seed money” was all they received. Mars Hill owned lots of equipment and property and sold it all off. Did Doxa and the other churches receive those funds according to the plan filed with the state? I hope Vanderstelt will address this point. If the churches didn’t get anything else, then significant questions may be raised about how the rest of the assets were distributed.
The plan states:

Distribution of Assets.
The Corporation hereby resolves that after payment of the Corporation’s debts and liabilities, or provision made therefore, including without limitation the establishment of reserves as set forth in paragraph 4 herein, Kerry Dodd or Caleb Walters (either, the “Authorized Officer”) shall distribute all of the remaining property of the Corporation as follows: (a) first, any assets held by the Corporation upon condition requiring return, transfer, or conveyance, which condition occurs by reason of the dissolution, shall be returned, transferred, or conveyed in accordance with such requirements; and (b) second, any remaining assets of the Corporation shall be transferred or conveyed to specific churches (each a “Church”, and collectively, the “Churches”) identified in Exhibit A that provide ministry services and have a similar lawful purpose as the Corporation in the percentages indicated in the attached Exhibit A.

One of the liabilities could have been Mark Driscoll’s severance pay. The church never addressed this matter. If all concerned really want to move on, they should come clean on the distribution of assets at the end of the church. As Vanderstelt said, the churches got seed money, but it sounds like from his comment that Doxa Church didn’t get anything else, or in other words, 22.18% of nothing. Is that possible? If that is the case, a final public accounting is all the more necessary for MHC to cease being a stumbling block in Seattle and surrounding area. As a non-profit, MHC has a responsibility to donors and the public to account for those funds. One of the factors that led to the downfall of MHC was a lack of transparency with donor funds. It would be tragic if the legacy churches continue that trend.
Read the Mars Hill Dissolution Plan
Exhibit A:
MHC dist plan churches
 

Reflections on TGC's Life After Mars Hill Church

DriscollBuildingToday, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra posted a reflection on Mars Hill Church two years later. I started twice to write an article like this but didn’t get an answer back from some of those former pastors Zylstra quoted. I must still be associated with the opposition.
Overall, I think Zylstra did a fine job of weaving together a recognizable picture of Mars Hill Church. However, I don’t think this is the last word on the subject. Several more of these kind of articles will need to be written. Probably the whole situation requires a book.
For now, I will add some comments to aspects of the article. I’ll quote Zylstra and then comment.

Slow Train Coming

Then, in a few breathtaking months, the whole thing collapsed. Founder and lead pastor Mark Driscoll’s bent toward the provocative, which was part of his draw, increasingly came under fire, fanned by a series of controversies.

The collapse was a slow motion ride of over a year. There were multiple controversies and turning points but much of what became controversial was the exposure of a pattern of leadership which had taken place over many years. In the last year, many on the inside decided they had tried everything an insider could do. Those people started to talk, organize, and give witness to what they had experienced.

PDCSD – Post Dysfunctional Church Stress Disorder

The collapse of Mars Hill released a tidal wave of hurt, disillusioned people. Many quit Mars Hill; some quit church or Christianity altogether. Hundreds limped into other area churches, asking about church bylaws and pastoral pay structures before even introducing themselves.

A valuable aspect of this article is the documentation of troubled ex-Mars Hill people careening into new churches with church related PTSD.  The church’s structure wasn’t the reason for the problems at Mars Hill but in the last days, the drama was played out on the stage Mark Driscoll and his oversight board had created. No wonder ex-members were wary of how other churches do things.

Your Pastor is Not Your Father

“The biggest fear was that I was going to walk away,” he said. “The thing that hurt the most, that they couldn’t believe, was that Mark would leave them. The feeling that they lost their pastor was a hard blow.”
That’s because “Mark called us his kids,” said Huck, for whom Driscoll was a father figure. “He up and left his kids. That’s the hard part we’re still dealing with. I don’t need a public apology, but it would be nice to be acknowledged. It’s like your dad left and started a new family, and you’re here with your brothers and sisters. And you’re just confused.”

In one of my early interviews on Mars Hill Church, a former leader told me, “Mark recruited all these guys with daddy issues.” While there was much more to the demise of MHC, a fantasy about the role of pastor was a key feature. Driscoll cultivated a paternalistic stance with the congregation. At least some of those people longed for what they imagined a father figure would be, and Driscoll delivered. Even when Driscoll was harsh and outrageous, many excused the actions as a sign of paternal boldness. After all, “father knows best.”
Hopefully, the MHC affair will disabuse Christians of the wish for the pastor-father. Your pastor is not your dad. He or she is a person who can play the role of a shepherd regarding matters of faith but beware of the pastor who wants to be your father.

The Fall Out

No one took a survey, but by most estimates, about half of the former Mars Hill congregants stayed with their campus. Of those who left, most seem to have landed in different area churches. (Two were planted from the Bellevue exodus.)

I think instead of guessing, it would be valuable to do a survey. I doubt that most have landed in area churches. No doubt some have, but I don’t assume that most people have moved on and are still in church.

Well Taught or Well Conditioned?

But even though they’re wounded and unsettled, the Mars Hill diaspora has one enormous advantage: They’ve been well taught.

I hope that’s true but there are many ex-members who I am pretty sure will dispute this.

Mars Hill Church Was Where Jesus Hung Out

One unintentional and subtle message of Mars Hill was, “If you want to be part of what Jesus is doing in our city, then you should be here,” Sinnett said. “When we got out of that ethos and into the church-planting realm, I was blown away by the million things Jesus was doing in the city which were unnamed and unbranded but just as spectacular.”

No, I think this message was intentional and obvious. Perhaps Zylstra was being kind, but a consistent theme I heard from former Mars Hill leaders was that MHC was the best church, really the only church where it was all being done correctly.

We’re Sorry Now

“To a man, every one of them has struggled with what role of complicity they’ve had in the whole thing,” Fairchild said. “That has been very good for us. I have learned the difference between intent and impact—you can have good intentions, but that doesn’t always translate into helpful, gracious impact.”
The elders from Bellevue and Sammamish “truly repented of their participation in any of the sin,” Vanderstelt said. “There was a deep godly sorrow, a genuine repentance, a real desire to walk out the fruit of repentance.”

Apparently, the Mars Hill financial distributions are over.
What is missing in this article is the testimonies of all of the healing that Mark Driscoll has said has taken place. Phoenix is happening but it seems obvious that Seattle still has issues.
 
For much more on Mars Hill Church, see this link.