Postcards from Phoenix: When Church Demands Obedience

In this third Postcard from Phoenix, former The Trinity Church member Tiffany Eneas reflects on the costs of conformity to the will of Mark Driscoll. One by one, church leaders, including Grace Driscoll, demanded that she cut ties with close friends until one day she realized what was happening.

Tiffany was slowly but surely being coerced by church leadership. She wanted to be a good church member and wanted to trust just authority. However, in a moment of clarity, she realized that her trust was being manipulated.

Monitoring social media and then rewarding and punishing people for their associations is disturbing behavior for the leadership of any organization. Alarm bells should go off when a pastor or pastor’s wife tells you that there are other church members you may not associate with as a condition of relationship.

Hi Warren,

It’s heating up in Phoenix, most days around 100 degrees, but that’s not what I mean. Things are getting very heated around these Trinity Church stories coming out. As my name gets associated with them, I’m starting to get nasty texts where I am getting cussed out and accused of lying and “getting in the way of God’s work” by Mark Driscoll’s most faithful followers. I had NO idea that a Christian believed that I had any power like that over Him. Maybe the teachings aren’t as good as I thought? Anyway, I digress.

I wanted to write to follow up on your last postcard from Luke! I felt like it was my turn to share when you spoke about “associating with non-approved people.” My story is not one of horror and abuse like many other faced, but I was definitely told who NOT to associate with. Let me tell you something about myself, NO ONE tells me what to do and women like that don’t fit well at a Mark Driscoll establishment.

I know I was unpopular with the Driscolls from the beginning. We had many incidents (these will be told later by my husband). I genuinely love people. I’m super relational with all sorts of people, from kids to the elderly. We walked into the church last June and I immediately made friends left and right. Maybe that was a threat to them in some way.

My friends (some pictured below) are all now “dangerous” somehow. I guess love, discernment and truth are dangerous attributes at TTC.

The Girls Picture

Looking back, things were incredible at the church until Trina Blatnik was no longer fellowshipping with us since her husband Dustin was fired from his position as worship pastor. (Dustin is also one of my husband’s and my best friends to this day, hopefully forever.) This was a MASSIVE blow to the church as a whole. From what I saw and heard from many, Dustin was the only staff member who was pastoral and relational. Everything else is extremely transactional, and it’s just my opinion, but he was the only glue holding things together biblically.

Then came Easter. The Driscolls and some of the pastors saw an earlier Instagram picture of me from a trip to San Diego with friends who are considered unsafe and untrustworthy by the Driscolls. One of the people in the picture was Trina Blatnik.

The Easter Picture

Then there was this picture above from Easter. After a week of constantly hearing about the staff gossiping about the picture but not having courage to speak to us, we were finally approached on Saturday at 1pm, the week after Easter by Pastor Eden Fine. He danced around the issue, so in true “assertive wife” fashion I asked, “Do you wanna talk about the Easter picture or what?” We were then told the Blatnik’s, especially Trina, was unsafe. My husband was questioned as a leader because he was “still allowing” me to fellowship with my friend, Trina. We were told if we wanted to be personal friends with Eden and his wife, this friendship had to cease.

Mind you I came from Good Shepherd Community Church in Oregon which has VERY respected, famous, pastors. I attended that church for over 25 years and I trust them with every fiber of my being to this day. If they told me something like this (which they NEVER would) I would totally trust my pastor. So I blindly trusted Eden. My husband kind of did.

The following week I had a one on one meeting with Mark’s wife, Grace. My husband had just resigned from security and lots of rumors were flying around about my family, AGAIN. We were meeting, so i thought, to discuss how to restore things between us. I knew things were off when we met in a room with two chairs pulled forward in front of a glass door with two security guards on the other side for protection. From me… I guess. This is actually laughable. I’m 5’2 and I only run if something wild is chasing me.

We had a conversation full of wonderful things like her “red flags about my family.” Then I talked about how her kids offended mine and the roller coaster of emotions they put my kids on frequently over the past year. Grace brought up her past hurts with friendships and randomly described how the security guard at Mars Hill helped take their church down…that was prophetic, maybe?

Then we got to the “friends talk.” Hers was much more bold than Eden’s. I was blatantly told the Chase family is not safe. Specifically, this meant the parents of Landon Chase (Landon is married to her daughter Ashley). This hit very close to home because my daughter happens to be dating Luke Chase, Landon’s brother. As we all now know, the Driscolls consider Ashley’s in-laws to be unwelcome at the church.

Next was Trina. My reaction: “I know better than to be friends with her. I’ve been told already.”

The “Girls Picture” above is from that trip to San Diego that came up a couple times in the meeting with Grace. This trip bothered her. These friendships bothered her. I did tell Grace the trip was awkward because Trina was no longer fellowshipping with the church, and we were all still grieving that, and it was weird as the rest of us were all highly involved at Trinity.

Side note. Grace does not follow me on Instagram and I never told her about this trip. We didn’t share stuff like that… how did she see the pictures?

The one that really hurt me to my core in that meeting with Grace was one of my dear friends, Mariya Kiforishin. She was dangerous as well? Pastor Brandon had eluded to this before, but I didn’t think I was not to associate with her. She and her whole family have served their butts off for years at the church and were even invited to both of the Driscoll kids weddings.

Grace said I should be cut off from her “for this season until her husband could lead their house better, it was best to not fellowship with her.”

I am going to be honest here. I was still brainwashed and in agreement at this point.

I let Grace know there was an event the next day and I had purchased tickets for Mariya and me. She advised against going and told me to give tickets to Mariya to attend with someone else. I needed a break, she said.

I complied. How embarrassing. Here is the email I sent to Grace telling her I went along with what she said to do.

The day after the event, I literally woke up and was like WHAT ARE YOU DOING, TIFFANY!? It was like a light came on and I realized what I had let happen to me. I totally believed the lies. This is cult behavior to manipulate people and friendships.

I have apologized to these women. These incredible friends. Thank you Lord, they are so gracious and our friendships are stronger now than ever. We ARE all strong women. And we are led by men who are godly leaders, secure enough to let us be who God made us.

I’m so sorry for you, Grace. No one can live in peace manipulating people’s moves to keep a “Kingdom” in order forever. I’m afraid you are the one with a husband not leading well. When you get tired, I think you may find a lot of women willing to truly love you and possibly even offer real friendship.

With gratitude for eyes opened to truth and true friendship,

Tiffany

 

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

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

Postcards from Phoenix: Who Suggested The Trinity Church Hire a Private Investigator?

Since I first wrote about Mark Driscoll’s “elderless church,” former staff and members from the Phoenix church have emailed and called with stories of their experiences there. Some tales have been told elsewhere, but others have not. Some feel like news stories and others feel like laments from old friends I have never met in person. I hear echoes of Seattle via the Southwest. Pain and confusion sounds the same whether it is from Seattle or Scottsdale.

I have decided to bring you some of these stories in a Postcards from Phoenix series. Some will be lengthy, some quite short. Some will be signed and some anonymous. All will involve experiences good, bad, and ugly with The Trinity Church.

The first one is complex in that it was triggered by a report from an anonymous witness to a recent spirited conversation between Grace Driscoll and another woman after women’s Bible study group. The argument was centered around a woman leaving the church amidst the current upheaval and controversies at The Trinity Church.

As a part of the argument, Grace Driscoll reportedly alleged that former director of security Chad Freese hired the private investigator who surveilled the Manuele family (see here and here for details). The implication was that the church shouldn’t be held responsible for this since Freese did it. This caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One, it demonstrates that recent news reporting is being followed widely in the church. Two, I wondered if there was any truth to the allegation that Chad Freese both instigated the hiring of the PI and then later complained about it.

And so, the first postcard comes from Chad Freese with receipts.

Dear Warren:

I would love to take a moment to provide some clarity on this situation. I am also hearing reports that members of the staff are trying to blame me for their reprehensible behavior. I find it laughable that anyone believes that a volunteer could wield so much power and authority when it is so clear that the staff walks on eggshells. However, I still feel inclined to set the record straight.

On March 27th, Pastor Mark’s Executive Assistant, John Welnick, relayed Pastor Mark’s “commanders intent” to return Angelo’s bark with a roar. Notice in the text exchange he says we were to give a “Disproportionate response” to Angelo. At least he said to be nice to the women and children.

On March 29th, Pastor Brandon asked for a private investigator and wanted as much info on Angelo as possible. Note my response at the bottom, I wanted input on how Pastors Mark and Brandon wanted me to proceed.

Keep in mind, my role as a volunteer was to provide recommendations, but they make the decisions. In fact, Pastor Mark has made it clear on many occasions that he is in charge and what he says goes.

On April 1st, the threat level was raised per information that Pastor Landon Chase was sharing with the team. Based on this new information I recommended to have the private investigator that had been previously suggested by Pastor Brandon Anderson follow Angelo due to false reports saying Angelo was going to attack the church. All of this turned out to be untrue, which sadly was a pattern. Later that night Brandon wanted professional eyes on Angelo and made a point to state how we “Can’t predict crazy.”

I have had people question why I was supporting the church in its defense and stance against Angelo as these events unfolded since now it appears I am supporting Angelo. I want to be clear that I was not picking sides in popularity contest; I just want the truth to be shared.

I was never close with Angelo, nor did I know him well. We sat at a table together at Real Men’s [men’s ministry] a few times, but that was the extent of our relationship. I owed it to the church to do my job as the volunteer director and provide the best support and advice I could based on limited information I was given. Nonetheless, I take full responsibility for my participation. I have offered my apologies to those I have wronged and asked for forgiveness. I have also repented to God for my complicity in this matter. While I had hoped that the staff would do the same, it has become apparent that we have different convictions.

The facts remain the same. The church did hire a company to track the Manuelle family and it was initially suggested as an option by Pastor Anderson. Ultimately, I resigned for a lot more reasons than just the Manuele situation. In fact, that is small in comparison to the rest. Those details will come later.

From sunny Phoenix,

Chad