Van Rue once served at Bayside Church where Mark Driscoll returned to the stage yesterday at the Thrive 2015 Leadership Conference. Rue also attended Mars Hill Church when he moved to Seattle in 2004. Rue was one of many former Mars Hill Church members who was saddened by reports of Driscoll’s speech at Thrive. He wrote this open letter to Bayside’s pastor Ray Johnson and the conference organizers and sent it along to me.
I have heard from numerous former Mars Hill members who feel betrayed by church leaders who have not checked out the full story of Mars Hill’s history before offering to stand in the place of Mars Hill’s elders.
Dear Pastor Ray Johnston, the Leaders of the Thrive Conference, and the Elders of Bayside Church:
You probably don’t remember but I attended Bayside from the time of the Golf Course Club House until just after the first building was complete. I had helped start many ministries in the early days including Homeless & Community Outreach and Prayer that still joyfully continue. I fondly remember your friendship, enthusiastic encouragement and generous support in many ways but especially in helping the poor and homeless. Shortly after we moved to Seattle in 2004 we attended Mars Hill Church.
Many of us former heartfelt attenders, leaders, pastors and elders of Mars Hills were shocked and dismayed to learn that not only was Mark Driscoll given a pulpit at the Thrive Conference yesterday, he was given an endorsement of a return to ministry by Pastor Ray Johnston.
If you recall Dr. Paul Tripp comments he said that, “Mars Hill was the most abusive coercive ministry culture that I have I ever been involved with”. Mark was not allowed to return to the pulpit after an investigation by the Elders because of his repeated and unrepentant abuse. Mark was offered a counseling program yet he sadly choose resignation over a plan of being gracefully restored.
There were shocking theological, governance and relational issues deep beneath the surface of Mars Hill from the very beginning. Mark Driscoll holds to very non-Orthodox Trinitarian views that he falsely veils under John Frame’s Triperspectivalism, but has nothing of the same core. He uses this to claim he is “The Prophet” eerily similar to Joseph Smith to exert utter and absolute control over Mars Hill, not only of the governance but the lives of those who attend there, and even to claim divine revelation. Mark even horrifically claims his frequent pornographic and lurid dreams are direct revelations from God, this has spilled out into sermons so dark and shameful their content can’t even be repeated here. Mars Hill conducted bizarre, non-biblical and occultic “Demon Trials” that were used to utterly shame and destroy innocent people to the point it even led to broken families and divorce. Some Pastors were fired for simply sharing or asking for a copy of the then hugely secret by-laws. Pastors and Elders were required to give a deep confessions during their approval process, only to be threated later that those recorded confessions would be openly shared to ensure their silence or utter compliance as required. His Misogynistic Complementarianism was so extreme he once publically called an Elders wife a “whore” for simply asking a question and many woman were shamed terribly for simply being overweight. Entire families were cruelly shunned for simply asking questions that were taken as threats to authority, and even singles were excommunicated without appeal for dating without permission. Many people here are enduring years of counselling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at their own expense while Mark still collects a paycheck of just under $1 million a year. Even from a purely secular management perspective, Mark operated with such utter malevolence that it would disqualify him to run an 18th century penal colony. That the Church as a whole tolerated this lurid serial cruelty for so long brings shame to the love and purity of Christ Jesus, and his heartfelt longing that we engage in loving respectful relationships. Mark and Mars Hill have distorted Christ’s character to the entire world, who has watched in horror the spectacle of our shameful silence.
Although Mark is a good orator and his teaching seems whole on the surface, its hidden foundation is strongly counter to exegetical Christian doctrine and sound biblical teaching. His praxeology has clearly proceeded from his theology and as a result he’s treated the beloved people of God with utter contempt.
We long to see Mark repent, to forgive, to see him restored. But his so called and rare public apologies have been so vague on careful reading it’s not clear he has apologized for anything. At this time not one of the hundreds of people he has cruelly abused or verbally assaulted can say that Mark came to anyone to say he is sorry. Mark has recently claimed by some sources that he is exempt from Matt 5:24 from some direct revelation from God (“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”). Restoration is impossible without true and biblical repentance which Mark has steadily refused, and was evidenced at Thrive with his continued shifting of blame.
We must protest strongly anyone who gives this man a microphone in which in his hands has proven to be a weapon of great harm to the Holy Bride of Jesus Christ, his cherished and loved Church for which he shed his own blood. Unless Mark biblically repents he will be judged by God in the jungle of his own Guyana. The unknown question is how many people he will take there with him? That answer lies in part to the pulpits and endorsements he receives from Ray Johnston and Bayside Church, and Brian Houston and Hillsong Church, and others that lustily crave the attention he brings. It is shameful to us that Mark Driscoll has played the victim to Bayside and Thrive before he has truly apologized and repented to his many victims at Mars Hill and Seattle. The Word of God is very clear on this matter.
We urge you to publically call on Mark to repent and return, to seek counselling, and biblical restoration here in Seattle before Mark is allowed to speak again there or anywhere. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” Acts 3:19.
We have had for some time in concert with local churches a plan to facilitate both biblical healing, counselling and restoration if Mark demonstrates any true repentance and is willing to seek out and address the hundreds he has wounded. True repentance done first before God will always lead to asking forgiveness before men. Even this prior week many people here after many previous attempts had reached out to Mark again to only receive stunning and utter silence. Even when it’s biblically Mark’s call to cross the room first he has rebuffed those victims who have reached out to him in love and forgiveness.
In Christ Jesus our Lord we earnestly pray for Truth, Wisdom, Discernment, Courage and Restoration in these truly horrific matters. We long in all our hearts for the day of Mark’s true repentance and his restoration, just like Christ has forgiven our sins and restored us fully, we believe that he will do the same for Mark. Yet until Mark truly repents we must stand as Ezekiel’s Watchman on the Wall (33:1-33) who will sound the trumpet of warning to save God’s beloved people. That trumpet now blows.
Van Y Rue
Rev. Driscoll has never responded to any effort to get comment or his side of the story. However, if he wishes to respond to Mr. Rue or provide his perspective, I certainly will provide the same openness to comment here.