Former Mars Hill Pastor Dave Kraft Explains Charges Against Mark Driscoll

Today on his blog, former Mars Hill Church Leadership pastor, Dave Kraft, explained more about his views on Mark Driscoll.
In May, 2013, Kraft filed formal charges against Driscoll with the Board of Advisors and Accountability. Many people provided evidence and personal experience to BOAA member Michael Van Skaik who chaired the committee assigned to investigate the charges. At least one witness tried to present evidence to the committee via face-to-face meetings but this offer to meet was refused with the explanation that testimony had to be presented in writing. Eventually, nothing was done and some of those who presented evidence received no response to the information submitted.
This background is important to help understand why so many former Mars Hill members and leaders are now going public. Many of them believe they have exhausted their private options to have their concerns heard. The current governance of Mars Hill gives only one avenue for grievances to be heard and that has been tried. The people cannot vote or officially raise items for discussion with leadership. The full council of elders cannot even call their own official meetings. All authority rests with the executive elders and four non-member supposedly independent members appointed by the BOAA. In that way, it is self-perpetuating with no input from any other entity. As Kraft notes in his post, many believe that a culture of fear has taken hold at Mars Hill.
For his part, Kraft outlined his concerns in today’s blog post:

I addressed these “concerns and issues” by filing “Formal Charges” in May of 2013, which I mentioned in my March 7 Blog Post
On September 19, 2013, I resigned my membership and Eldership, because I have serious questions about the ministry and leadership philosophy/practices of the Executive Elders of MHC, no longer trust them and, therefore, cannot submit to their authority.
Mark Driscoll’s sin(s) (for many of us who know him and have worked with him) are about clear violations of I Timothy 3, Titus 1 and I Peter 5.
1.  Not being self-controlled and disciplined
2.  Being domineering
3.  Being verbally violent
4.  Being arrogant
5.  Being quick-tempered
Now, no leader is perfect. All of us understand and agree with that and we are not demanding or expecting Mark Driscoll to be flawless. In the biblical passages cited above, a single instance might not be a disqualifier from eldership; but an established pattern of such behavior, supported and substantiated by eyewitnesses, would be. Such is the case with Mark. I believe (and so do many other former staff and elders) he has a long-standing pattern of consistently violating these leadership qualities and has done so with dozens of individuals with few, if any, signs of genuine repentance.

In his post, Kraft says that he is interested in the well being of Driscoll and Mars Hill. He also says that there are others who are interested in the controversy because they want to see Mars Hill decline. Kraft says:

There is a feeding frenzy in the media regarding Mars Hill Church. Those with something to say (and who are saying it) probably fit into two main camps.
1.  Those who want what’s best for MHC and its core leadership led by Mark Driscoll
2.  Those who would like to destroy both the church and its visionary and teaching pastor Mark Driscoll

In my opinion, if I am understanding him correctly, this is simplistic. I realize I could be wrong, but his option one sounds as though he believes the current leadership team should remain in place. If he means that, then I would disagree that there are only two options. I know numerous people who believe Driscoll should step down or go on sabbatical but at the same time have the best wishes and intentions for the church. They believe Driscoll’s removal or sabbatical would be best for both the church and Driscoll.
In any case, with this post, Kraft has pulled back the curtain a little more on the upheaval that has been roiling Mars Hill for months, if not years.
 

More Mars Hill Church Grievances: Former Member Calls For Evacuation

Something is up in Seattle.
Monday, twenty former pastors of Mars Hill Church sent a letter requesting mediation because they have tried going through channels and now want to bring in someone from the outside. On Facebook, former Mars Hill elder Rob Smith started a group to exonerate fired elders Bent Meyer and Paul Petry. Today, former long-time member Bryan Zug is calling for the evacuation of Mars Hill.
While the former pastors have been a bit vague about their concerns (preferring to wait to see whether or not Mars Hill responds), Zug is not quiet about his grievances. In fact, he calls on Mars Hill members to complain about at least four issues:

1. On May 15th 2013, in a 1:1 meeting at his office, Pastor Dave Bruskas confirmed to me that when a Pastor of Mars Hill’s downtown campus tried to gracefully resign, Pastor Mark Driscoll tried to force him to sign a non-compete clause for the city of Seattle and beyond.
The kind of culture that leads men to impose such demands begets a deep misunderstanding of sound Gospel Community principles laid out by the Bible.
While repentance of this specific incident may or may not have occurred, the culture that begat it is still bearing deadly fruit.
2. The ‘I am the Brand’ speech.
Before the exodus of the Mars Hill creative department a couple of years ago, Mark Driscoll gave a speech in the Ballard Paradox theater which is commonly referred to as the ‘I am the brand’ speech. In that speech he advocated that marketing and communication be centered on his personality, name, and brand (in lieu of the name of the great Shepherd himself).
While repentance of this specific incident may or may not have occurred, the culture that begat it is still bearing deadly fruit.
3. Spending upwards of ?$500k?, ?$600k?, ?$700k? of church funds and resources (money + volunteer hours + staff hours) to market the book Real Marriage, while profits of the book go to a very confusing matrix of private corporations that seem to be owned by Mark and Sutton (again, hugely confusing).
4. The huge MH salary of elders who, while employed full time for MH, create intellectual property (books and curriculum) that they own privately and gain profit from. I believe the salaries of the executive elders and any financial compensation to the BOAA need to be publicly available to former and current members of the church body – lest this thing Jim and Tammy Faye forward any longer. The cloudy confusing nature of this becomes unsupportable at some point.

Keep in mind, this is one person’s opinion although I should add that I have heard of the “I am the brand” speech and non-compete contract from multiple sources so what he says sounds consistent with other witnesses. I have asked Justin Dean, PR rep at Mars Hill, multiple questions with no answer so I don’t expect to hear anything from that source.
Apparently, these public complaints are coming at the end of a process that has been taking place for years without resolution.

Mark Driscoll and Instruction on Plagiarism at Corban University and Western Seminary.

Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church are partnering with Corban University and Western Seminary to teach the Bible and related topics. You can hear Driscoll pitching the program on You Tube. He will be teaching in the school.
Driscoll’s publishers are now cleaning up multiple instances of plagiarism in his books. Although relatively minor, there are factual errors as well (see this chart for a comprehensive look the citation problems found to date). Driscoll has not yet addressed most of these problems.
Seems like an unlikely resume item for a college professor. These schools claim to care about such things.
Here is the introduction of Corban University’s academic honesty policy:

Corban University is committed to high academic standards and expects students to achieve these standards in a manner marked by integrity and honesty. Academic honesty is the hallmark of true personal integrity. Students’ academic work is evaluated on the assumption that the work presented is their own. Faculty and students are expected to identify departures from academic honesty.

Plagiarism is defined as follows:

Plagiarism: representing without giving credit the words, data, or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise. This includes submitting, in whole or part, pre-written term papers, or the research of another, including materials sold or distributed by commercial vendors.

Western Seminary also uses serious tones to describe plagiarism:

Plagiarism is defined as taking another’s ideas or words and presenting them as one’s own. The student must give proper credit to the source of ideas as well as direct quotations. (For further guidance, please see your professor.) All forms of cheating, including plagiarism, are considered extremely serious offenses.

Yes, for further guidance, please see your professor. And that, I submit, is where the problem is.  Students who get caught might want to keep that guideline in their back pocket.
 

Twenty Former Mars Hill Pastors Seek Mediation With Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church Leadership

(Scroll to the end for an update)
 
On Monday March 17, twenty former Mars Hill pastors sent a letter to the executive elders  and Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church with an invitation to enter into a process of mediation designed to lead to mutual repentance and reconciliation. According to former Mars Hill pastors Dave Kraft and Kyle Firstenberg, the pastors want to bring in specialists in conflict resolution to facilitate the process.
As of this writing, no response to the letter has come from the Mars Hill leadership.
The executive elders are Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner & Dave Bruskas. The executive elders also sit on the  Board of Advisors and Accountability along with independent members Paul Tripp, Michael Van Skaik, James MacDonald, and Larry Osborne.
Kraft is former Pastor of Leadership Development at Mars Hill and Firstenberg was executive pastor at Mars Hill Orange County. In an interview, Kraft emphasized that he wants to lead the way in repentance by expressing remorse that he stood by while some Mars Hill members were being sinned against by the Mars Hill leadership. He said, “we didn’t step up to the plate when we should have.”
On Friday, Mark Driscoll released a statement of apology to the Mars Hill congregation. In it, he said the deal with ResultSource to artificially elevate the book Real Marriage, was wrong. He also pledged to make an attempt to repair damaged relationships. While the statement has had mixed responses from Mars Hill members, former and current, the pastors hope that the move is authentic.
Kraft said, “At this point, we hope for a positive response to our proposal sent on Monday, March 17.”
Why Mediation?
In recent days, both Kraft and Firstenberg have spoken publicly about their concerns. On March 9, Kraft disclosed that he had filed formal charges against Driscoll in May, 2013. On his website, Kraft indicated what he wanted to see happen:

1.  I would (as would countless other former leaders from MHC) like to see Pastor Mark Driscoll publicly acknowledge that he has seen the charges, that they are true and that he will take whatever time and attention is needed to intentionally deal with the charges, which may entail a short sabbatical from work to focus on this.
2.  I would like to see Pastor Mark publicly state that he is sorry, that he has sinned, that he will deal with his past sin and make himself accountable in so doing to an unbiased group of leaders who will hold his feet to the fire on this.

Driscoll may have been responding in part to these concerns with his recent apology. However, both Kraft and Firstenberg do not believe the apology addressed the issues which the former pastors have raised.
Also on March 9, Firstenberg disclosed that in 2013 he too contacted the Board of Advisors and Accountability with his experience at Mars Hill. To date, he has not received a reply from that board.
Now, Kraft and Firstsenberg have been joined by other former pastors who believe that Mars Hill should be responsive to ongoing and unfinished matters within their church.
UPDATE: As of Friday evening March 21, Mars Hill Church has not responded to the invitation to enter into mediation.
 
Related post:
The Seeds of Trouble: Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll and the 2007 Purge – In addition to concerns since, many unresolved issues remain from the 2007 disputes over governance.
For all posts on Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll, click here

Where Did ResultSource Go?

ResultSource  is the company Mars Hill Church hired to manipulate the various best seller lists on behalf of Mark Driscoll. Tonight if you go to Resultsource.com you won’t find success stories beckoning clients to sign up for ResultSource’s services. Instead, you see this:

Once upon a time, one could read about bestseller campaigns:

Bestseller Campaigns

ResultSource works with thought leaders to maximize their full potential. You know that having a New York Times bestseller isn’t your final destination. But it’s an important achievement – and a door to even greater opportunity that only the “key of credibility” can open.

Thanks to ResultSource that “key to credibility” has been tarnished.
It is interesting to note that CEO Kevin Small’s Linked In (Google cache) and Twitter accounts are no longer available. Also, the ResultSource phone number now goes to an answering machine with no mention of the company name or business. Perhaps ResultSource is just revamping the website and the absence means nothing. However, in light of the unfavorable scrutiny RSI has been getting, it is reasonable to wonder if the company is about to reinvent itself.
 

Mark Driscoll's Apology: Some Reactions

Last Friday, Mark Driscoll addressed the Mars Hill congregation about some of the recent controversies involving him. In his letter, which can be viewed here, he addressed the scheme to elevate his book Real Marriage to #1 on the New York Times best seller list, among other issues.
Reaction on social media has ranged from skepticism to uncritical praise. Some reactions (for example this one) contain skepticism along with hope that repentance and reconciliation result from the effort. I certainly hope for a good resolution as well and wish only the best for all concerned.
Reading the apology, I have some reactions.
The pledge to stay off social media seems odd since he has a media team to do most of that for him.
Where was the mention of plagiarism? Surely, the extent of this problem should have been addressed. Driscoll noted in the letter that he planned to teach courses at Corban University and Western Seminary.  I would think those institutions would investigate the matter further. According to Driscoll himself, plagiarism is a serious matter and one which could lead to discipline at his Resurgence training center. There was no mention of this in the letter.
Regarding the New York Times best seller controversy, I am curious about when Driscoll developed the conviction that the scheme was wrong. Was it before or after the World Magazine article?  Spokesperson Justin Dean initially described the scheme as an “investment” and an “opportunity.” Surely, Driscoll had some input into that statement. Then the Board of Advisors and Accountability called it common but “unwise.” Finally, in this letter, Driscoll said he saw the ResultSource scheme as a way to enhance sales. Now, he says, he sees it as “manipulating a book sales reporting system.”  Since the contract signed by his employee Sutton Turner makes it very clear that the scheme was designed to manipulate the book sales reporting system, I don’t understand what Driscoll means. Is he saying he didn’t read/understand the contract? Is he saying he was deceived by his staff or board, but now he sees the light? The three statements with their discrepancies arouse skepticism and raise as many questions as they answer.
I wonder when Driscoll is going to acknowledge the revisionist history he has promoted. He has purged his bio of the designation #1 best selling author but he continues to refer to himself as the “founding pastor” of Mars Hill. It is well established that he founded the church with Lief Moi and Mike Gunn but this information has been removed from the Mars Hill website. As a sign of change, I would expect to see the facts restored and former elders and staff exonerated.
Driscoll describes his team as unified but in the same letter admits that there has been significant staff turnover. The latter admission is an understatement as most of the branch pastors have left in the last couple of years. If anything, the staff situation seems to depict a different picture.
Driscoll lauds the Board of Advisors and Accountability as a blessing. Those who left MHC over the shift to the BOAA as the ruling body certainly wouldn’t agree. That difference could be chalked up to doctrinal disagreements. However, leaving those differences aside, it is hard to sell the BOAA as a vehicle of “true accountability.” According to the MHC by-laws,* Driscoll is the president of Mars Hill and his elders serve at the pleasure of the three executive elders (the executive elders can remove elders at any time; Driscoll can remove church officers at any time).
Four independent board members also serve but they can be removed from the BOAA by a simple majority vote. This only requires that the three executive elders and one other independent board member agree. There is no broader accountability by the full council of elders. They cannot even call a meeting without the BOAA doing so. The people don’t have voting privileges, and the elders can’t meet unless the BOAA convenes them. The authority is concentrated in a very small group of people who perpetuate their position. The full council of elders get one chance every year to vote down the full slate of elders but Driscoll himself cannot be removed from the BOAA unless it is determined by the independent members of the BOAA that he has disqualified himself as an elder.
I find the situation interesting as just one case of how some evangelicals organize themselves around a central figure. I am open to new information and really hope and pray for a good resolution to the concerns raised by former Mars Hill members as well as those who count themselves supporters of the church.  Mars Hill Church has offered itself as a model of how to do church and so it should be expected that observers will ask questions and offer critiques.
 
* the by-laws can be changed at any time by the BOAA. It may be that a newer set exists since the document could be changed without notice.
 

Publisher Corrects More Plagiarism in Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage

In January, I pointed out that a section of Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll seemed quite similar to a passage from Leland Ryken’s book Worldly Saints (as well as a couple of other sources). As it turns out, the publisher, Harper Collins Christian, has now corrected the section in question by quoting and footnoting the section of Ryken’s book I identified. Nearly all of the problems I identified have been addressed (although a couple of problems remain, see below) in the Google version of Real Marriage. See the earlier post for the details.
I have the entire section with before and after images side-by-side here. To illustrate, here is a short section from page 115 of Real Marriage (see this link for the entire two page section):

Unfortunately, the publisher did not correct the factual errors in this section. As I pointed out in my January post, it was probably Benedict who rolled in the thorns, not Jerome. The bigger problem is Driscoll’s misreading of the legend of Francis of Assisi. Driscoll’s version claims:

Saint Francis made women out of snow and then caressed them in order to quiet the lust that burned in him.

As I point out in another post, the legend of Francis and his snow family is an old one which in the original doesn’t sound like this R-rated version. Driscoll’s paraphrase departs significantly from his probable sources and from the original story. It is surprising that the publisher didn’t correct these factual problems along with adding the footnotes.
Harper Collins Christian continues to vindicate the allegations of plagiarism by quoting and footnoting the original sources. Tyndale, we’re looking at you now.

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Mark Driscoll's 2007 Apology

Yesterday, I reported that Mark Driscoll addressed his church regarding some of the controversies swirling around him. The tone of the letter posted on The City (Mars Hill’s private online community) was conciliatory but to some long time Mars Hill observers, disappointingly familiar. One can find similar themes in a November 11, 2007 sermon titled, The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Humility. In the earlier sermon, Driscoll acknowledged, at times with more candor, some of the same things he told Mars Hill yesterday that he had just realized within the last two years. In 2007, Driscoll preached:

We’re calling tonight’s sermon “The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Humility”. And I will start by saying I have no right to teach on this subject. I know many of you are probably thinking, “Pastor Mark is teaching us on humility. That’s funny.” I guess Brittany Spears will come in and do a parenting seminar at Mars Hill as well since we’re at it.
It comes up in the book and so I need to preach it. But let me say this, that in all honesty, having reflected on this, I believe that humility is the great omission and failure in my 11 years of preaching. I believe that this is my greatest oversight, both in my example and in my instruction. I therefore do not claim to be humble. I do not claim to have been humble. I’m convicted of my pride and I am a man who is by God’s grace pursuing humility. And so in many ways, this is a sermon that I’m preaching at myself. This is a sermon that you’re welcome to listen in on as I preach to myself. But I truly believe that were there one thing I could do over in the history of Mars Hill, it would be in my attitude and in my actions and in my words, to not only emphasize sound doctrine and courage and strength and commitment and conviction, but to add in addition to that, humility as a virtue.
And so I’ll start by [asking] your forgiveness and sincerely acknowledging that this has been a great failure.
Furthermore, I apologize and repent publically to you, the church, for whom I am responsible for much pride in the history of my ministry that some of you have poorly imitated. And for that, I’m deeply sorry. And thirdly, to say that I am not a humble man. But as result of study, I’m a man who is acknowledging his pride and pursuing humility by God’s grace.
I would have been someone up until very recently who would have said, “Well, I know my tone was bad and my tactics were bad and my attitude was bad and my actions were bad, but my objective was good, so” – the ends justify the means.
Paul would say, “No. It’s the motive and the method and the mission.” They all count. You can’t pursue a good thing in a bad way and expect God to be well pleased. That in addition to a good cause, you must have the humility to go about it in a good way.
Here’s the bottom line. Your name really doesn’t matter that much. My name really doesn’t matter that much. Our name, Mars Hill Church, really doesn’t matter that much. The name of Jesus, that matters. That matters, because Jesus is wonderful. Jesus is good. And Jesus is loving and gracious and merciful and kind. And Jesus is sinless and Jesus is God who became a man who lived humbly and allowed us to murder him, and he rose in victory to give us new life. And he has been exalted and he is worthy of our speaking of his name honorably, gladly and humbly and continually.
You will be miserable if you live for the glory of your own name. I will be miserable if I live for the glory of my own name. We will be miserable if we live for the glory of the name of our church or our ministry or our organization or our mission. Above all of that must be the name of Jesus, which means that the right answer to every question is this – “What will exalt the name of Jesus? What will make Jesus look good, because Jesus is good?”
Now I tell you this in great sorrow because I have not told you this enough and I have not demonstrated it well. I have failed you in that regard.
In conclusion, I apologize for my failure to both exemplify humility and to emphasize it in my instruction. Furthermore, I am exceedingly glad that Jesus is our God. And in that, I find much hope for our future.
I love you guys, and I believe that this issue of humility is the defining issue for the next season of our church. The question is not, “Will we grow?” The question is, “Will we grow in humility?” I pray that we do.

When one compares this sermon to the letter from yesterday, it appears that he acknowledged more and and apologized for more in 2007. It also seems as though the issues haven’t changed that much in seven years.

Mark Driscoll Addresses Mars Hill Church About Best Seller Scheme, Church Discord, Anger Issues

In a message to the Mars Hill Church congregation via the Mars Hill social media website, Mark Driscoll expressed regret over using ResultSource to move his book Real Marriage to #1 on the NYTs best seller list. He says he has asked his publisher no longer to use the designation of New York Times best selling author. He pledged to stay off social media for the remainder of the year and plans to cut back on travel in order to concentrate more on Mars Hill and his family.
Driscoll says he has had meetings with those who have been harmed by Mars Hill and wants to have more. He lauds the Board of Advisors and Accountability* but admits that the transition from the elder led church to the current regime was not always handled well. He claims that in the early days of Mars Hill, he was an angry young prophet and said he was sorry and now wants to be more of a spiritual father.
The statement was conciliatory in tone but did not address the plagiarism controversy, the pastors who were fired in 2007 or charges which were addressed to Mars Hill governing board in 2013. The social media pledge seems a bit hollow since Driscoll has a team that tweets for him anyway.
My reaction to the ResultSource disclosure is mixed. On one hand, I think it is commendable that Driscoll will cease referring to the NYT best seller list. However, on the other hand, it is hard to believe that he didn’t know what he was getting into when the church signed on with ResultSource. This is the third reaction from Driscoll/Mars Hill to the ResultSource scheme. First, Justin Dean told World Magazine that the RSI-Mars Hill relationship was an “investment” and an “opportunity.” Then the Board of Advisors and Accountability said the scheme was “unwise.” Now Driscoll says he first saw it as a way to maximize book sales, but now sees it as manipulative and “wrong.” The vacillation about whether gaming the system is a good opportunity, unwise or wrong is confusing and won’t do much to convince people that Mars Hill and Driscoll can be candid.
In 2007, Driscoll preached a sermon with similar themes.
Read the entire letter here or here.
 
 
 
*the governing body of Mars Hill made up of four outside pastors/advisors, and the three executive elders (Driscoll, Sutton Turner, and Dave Bruskas).

Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability: Buying Place on Best Seller Lists Violates Standards

On Wednesday, Ruth Graham, writing in The Atlantic, quoted the president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability Dan Busby as saying that schemes such as the one which resulted in Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage showing up on various best seller lists are “unethical and deceptive.” Since the whole thing took place before Mars Hill became a member of ECFA, there will be no consequences of the scandal with that group (even though MHC and Driscoll benefited from the contract after the church became an ECFA member).
I contacted Busby for elaboration on his assessment and he added some detail to his comments regarding the relationship between churches and products created by organization leaders. Busby told me in an email:

It is unethical and deceptive for ECFA-accredited churches (and other organizations) to:
a.   make efforts to mask the method of procuring products authored or developed by an organization’s leader in order to improve product ratings, and/or
b.   procure products authored or developed by an organization’s leader at a higher price than otherwise available for the sake of improving product ratings, even if there is a valid ministry purpose for paying the higher price.

Busby pointed to a ECFA Advisory Opinion on the subject which is as follows:

Product Procurement

Overview.  The leaders of many ECFA members author or develop various intellectual properties, including books.  Royalties received by these leaders for intellectual properties owned by the ECFA member should be considered as one of the elements of compensation when the organization’s governing body determines compensation for the leaders.
Additionally, the organization’s governing body should ensure that the organization is not involved in unethical and deceptive practices relating to the procurement of products authored or developed by its leaders.  The appropriate avenues with which to procure products should be reviewed against the backdrop of ECFA’s Standards 1, 4, and 6.
Standard 1 – Biblical truths and practices.  “Every member shall subscribe to a written statement of faith clearly affirming a commitment to the evangelical Christian faith, or shall otherwise demonstrate such commitment and shall operate in accordance with biblical truths and practices.”
In several of his letters, the Apostle Paul stresses the importance of being beyond reproach and behaving in such a way as to avoid even the appearance of wrong-doing. He tells us that we need to be circumspect to those outside the Church. The reason Paul most often gives is that we must not give Satan any opportunity to destroy the reputation of Christ. Arguably, and in an eternal sense, it may be true that the business of ministries and churches is of concern to God and not to others judging from the outside. However, Scripture is also very clear about our need to be open, honest, and above reproach as we wrestle with the issues of life before Christ’s return. As the Apostle Paul said, “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21).
Standard 4 – Use of Resources.  “Every member shall exercise the appropriate management and controls necessary to provide reasonable assurance that all of the member’s operations are carried out and resources are used in a responsible manner and in conformity with applicable laws and regulations, such conformity taking into account biblical mandates.”
The use of resources in a responsible manner includes managing resources in a God-honoring way. An organization that has expended assets in an unwise manner may diminish its own Christian witness.
Standard 6 – Compensation-Setting and Related-party transactions. Every organization shall set compensation of its top leader and address related-party transactions in a manner that demonstrates integrity and propriety in conformity with ECFA’s Policy for Excellence in Compensation-Setting and Related-Party Transactions.”
Analysis. In reviewing these Standards and their related commentaries against certain methods in which products may be procured, the ECFA Board, Standards Committee, and Staff found the following:
A potential conflict of interest arises when an organization’s leader decides the organization will promote or purchase books authored by the leader, with the leader receiving royalties on the books.  This risk of a conflict-of-interest is heightened when, in relation to products authored or developed by leaders of ECFA members, (a) products are purchased at a higher price than is required and/or (2) there is an effort to mask the method of procuring products in order to improve product rating.
ECFA members must avoid an actual conflict-of-interest by utilizing the related-party transaction process outlined in ECFA’s Policy for Excellence in Related-Party Transactions when purchasing products authored by an organization’s leader.
If an organization pays a higher price than required for procuring products authored or developed by leaders of an ECFA member, there must be a valid ministry purpose for paying the higher price.  Otherwise, the excess expenditure of funds is for a non-ministry purpose.
Where an organization attempts to mask the method of procurement from organizations that determine product ratings, ECFA believes such practices are not in accord with biblical truths and practices.
ECFA’s Positions.  It is unethical and deceptive for a member organization to:

  1. make efforts to mask the method of procuring products authored or developed by an organization’s leader in order to improve product ratings, and/or
  2. procure products authored or developed by an organization’s leader at a higher price than otherwise available for the sake of improving product ratings, even if there is a valid ministry purpose for paying the higher price.

This opinion clearly applies to the RSI-Mars Hill partnership. The method of moving the books was masked in order to fool those who make up the best seller lists and books were purchased at retail price in order for them to count for purposes of the “improving product ratings.” I appreciate the ECFA guidance on this matter and hope that it informs practice in the evangelical community.
Initially Mars Hill Church called the scheme an “investment” and “opportunity” but then changed direction a bit calling the contract “unwise.” I wonder if the church or maybe even Driscoll himself will ever step up and agree with the ECFA.
 
To see all posts on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, click here.