Top Ten Posts in 2015

The ten top posts during 2015 are as follows with the most popular first:
1. Open Letter to Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church – This was posted on November 2, 2014 but remained popular throughout 2015. Driscoll recently joined Jimmy Evans as a director to form The Trinity Church in Phoenix.
2. Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists – This story about David Jeremiah’s questionable tactics from a former insider was a scoop but not one which stuck to Jeremiah like  a similar scandal did to Mark Driscoll.
3. Hillsong’s Brian Houston Interviewed Mark and Grace Driscoll After All (VIDEO) (AUDIO) – First, he said he would interview Driscoll, then he said he wouldn’t, then Brian Houston aired an interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll. It was great theatre but didn’t draw good reviews from former Mars Hill leavers.
4. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited – This post from 2009 is one of the most popular articles in the history of the blog. In it, I demonstrate a key mistake in a journal article often used to link homosexuality and child abuse.
5. Southern Baptists Say Enough to Perry Noble and NewSpring Church – I am surprised that this post got so much attention.
6. Gospel for Asia Faces Allegations of Misconduct; GFA Board Investigation Found No Wrongdoing – The GFA story received the most attention from me this year.
7. Pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Says Church Reaction to Hiring Tullian Tchividjian is “Overwhelmingly Positive” – I briefly covered Tullian Tchividjian’s comeback as a development minister at a PCA church in FL.
8. A Few Thoughts on The Village Church Controversy – Village Church’s leadership apologized for their response to a young woman who sought a divorce from her husband who had admitted having child porn.
9. Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Issues Statement On Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong 2015 Conference – Mark Driscoll’s return to the spotlight garnered much reader attention.
10. Gospel for Asia’s K.P. Yohannan and the Ring Kissing Ritual – While the financial scandals were of interest to readers, this article ranked higher than the money problems.
To fully capture activity on the blog, one should consider the Gospel for Asia scandals (Patheos considered my coverage as a part of one of their top ten Evangelical stories of 2015).
It has been a good year and I thank my readers and those who support the blog with their comments and regular visits.

Brian Houston Publishes Interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll

Apparently, the interview was placed on Houston’s website on July 28.


It has been posted at Vimeo (see the end of the post)
This is old news to those who followed the story when the video was shown at the Sydney conference. I have good audio for the interview, but the video has more people paying attention.
A transcript of the interview is here (not flawless but a good effort).
At the same time as the video has been posted, Driscoll announced that he has moved to Phoenix.
Houston has done Driscoll a huge favor with this interview. It will be interesting to see if Driscoll plants a church in a city where Hillsong has a significant presence. In fact, Hillsong purchased a building Mars Hill once considered for the Phoenix expansion. Mars Hill launched Mars Hill Phoenix in 2014 which later became Phoenix Bible Church later that year.
[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/134722998[/vimeo]

Hillsong Protest Planned Over Mark Driscoll's Conference Interview

Even the last protest was small, it garnered wide coverage in Australia. Given the fact that most Australian reporters seemed to think Brian Houston had agreed not to feature Mark Driscoll during the recent conference in Sydney, the media may turn out for this event in a similar manner.  Here is the event description:

Please bring protest signs. We will be protesting peacefully! 

Under enormous pressure from pro women groups and others, Hillsong senior pastor Brian Houston was very deceptive about cancelling an interview with misogynist and abuser Mark Driscoll at Hillsong Conference. We demand that Brian Houston publicly fully admit his intentional deceit and publicly apologise both for his deceit as well as for giving a gigantic platform to abusive power monger Mark Driscoll.

The event will take place at Hillsong Melbourne on Sunday (in Australia, Saturday here).
In October, Brian Houston is coming to Seattle.
 
 

Hillsong Church Campaigners Feel Betrayed by Brian Houston's Interview with Mark & Grace Driscoll; London Protest Planned

Earlier this month, Brian Houston, pastor of Hillsong Church, appeared to respond to the protests and petitions about Mark Driscoll’s appearance at the church’s 2015 conferences.  He issued a statement which sounded like Driscoll would not have a presence at the Hillsong conference, underway now in Sydney Australia. Houston said (full statement here):

After personal interaction with Mark Driscoll today, we have agreed that he will no longer be coming to Australia or the UK to attend Hillsong Conference. It is my hope that Mark and I will be able to speak in person in the coming weeks to discuss some of the issues that have been raised, what – if anything – he has learned, and for me to understand better how he is progressing in both his personal and professional life.

The teachings of Christ are based on love and forgiveness, and I will not write off Mark as a person simply because of the things that people have said about him, a small minority of people signing a petition or statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised.

However, I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference, particularly as this 30 minute interview was only a small part of this five day event. It was clear to me that Mark’s attendance had the potential to divert attention from the real purpose of Hillsong Conference, which is to see people leave encouraged in their own spiritual journey.

However, as I reported last night, Driscoll and his wife did appear via a pre-recorded video interview with Brian Houston. Video and audio are available in that prior post. The controversy surrounding Driscoll was big news in Australia prior to the conference. A protest at the church and a petition against the appearance seemed to trigger interest among Australian media. The people behind the protest and petition now feel betrayed by Houston’s decision and reached out with the following statements.
The leader of the Hillsong protest, Benjamin Wheeler issued this statement:

Today Brian Houston made Christianity look really bad. After having very much led everyone to believe he was cancelling Mr. Driscoll’s appearance at Hillsong Conference, and thereby escaping the gigantic pressure and negative repercussions and protests at the conference, Mr. Houston went ahead with a videotaped interview anyway, thereby in some weasely, conniving way sticking to the letter of what he’d said although clearly intentionally he blatantly lied. This is one if the more outrageous things I’ve seen from a very powerful Christian pastor. It leads me to disbelieve anything he might ever say in the future, and more generally to more thoroughly than ever find Christianity unattractive. How are we to believe anything Brian has said with regards his own supposed innocence and integrity with regards his own paedophile father and Hillsong founding pastor Frank Houston, if this is how he operates? My experience with so many Hillsong parishioners at Hillsong Church while protesting Driscoll over these last months has been that one after another they have said to me “Well, I trust Brian Houston to do the right thing.” Today Mr. Houston has clearly betrayed the trust of both church insiders and outsiders, and if Christians both inside and outside Hillsong don’t publicly call him to a higher standard than this, then they are absolutely complicit in his outrageous deception.

The organizer of the Change.org petition, Natalie Collins is now planning a protest at the London conference. She stated:

It is deeply disappointing, but perhaps not particularly surprising that Brian Houston used semantics rather than honesty to calm protestors and critics of Mark Driscoll’s involvement with the Hillsong Conference.  As a result of Mark Driscoll’s pre-recorded interview with Brian Houston yesterday, I have begun organising a protest which will take place at the Hillsong Europe Conference in London.  The petition and all the work being done to challenge Mark Driscoll’s ongoing lack of repentance comes from a place of wanting to stand in solidarity and unity with the many people whose lives he ruined. A protest will be organised and delivered to stand with those Driscoll (and now by extension, Hillsong also) has hurt and continues to hurt.

At the Change.org petition, Collins provides more details about the planned protest.

Please feel free to continue to share and sign this petition. Over the next couple of weeks I will be planning a protest at the Hillsong Europe Conference in London. It takes place on 22nd – 24th July at the O2. If you would like to join me, please email: befreeuk@gmail.com

 

Hillsong's Brian Houston Interviewed Mark and Grace Driscoll After All (VIDEO) (AUDIO)

Update: Campaigners against Driscoll’s appearance have expressed betrayal via statements about the interview.
Just a little while ago, Brian Houston showed a taped interview of Mark and Grace Driscoll at the conference in Australia. I have some video below. The source of the video stalled out near the end, so this is not the complete interview.
Despite the fact that Houston told the world Driscoll would not attend the conference, he brought him to the conference via video anyway. At that time, Houston said:

However, I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference, particularly as this 30 minute interview was only a small part of this five day event.

I couldn’t understand all of it (update: there is better quality audio available below) but it seems Driscoll strikes many of the same themes of persecution but also at times seemed more contrite than in past public appearances.
At one point, Driscoll said those who have reached out in love have been those outside of his tribe. This seems like a real slap at his elders who reached out to him with a plan of restoration. However, as we now know, Driscoll resigned rather than respond favorably to his elders.
Houston asked the Driscolls when they were converted and Driscoll described his call to the ministry saying God told him to marry Grace and plant churches.
He said he wouldn’t now advise any 25 year old to do what he did then. He said he wasn’t ready.
Driscoll again spoke of the problems his family has experienced.
Driscoll said he hoped not to be a divisive figure in the future. He acknowledged anger. However, as far as I can tell, he did not indicate any plans to meet with anyone specifically.
The problem with this is that Driscoll said he wants not to be a divisive figure but he hasn’t reached out to the people where there is division. If one wants to be a person of peace, that person should try to make peace.
Houston has given Driscoll quite a PR gift with this interview.
My understanding is that Driscoll’s plans will soon come into focus. After initially signaling a move to Phoenix, it appears there might be a new plan. He said in the interview that he doesn’t know what he is going to do next.
Houston urged the Driscolls to heal and make amends with others.
This video is difficult to hear but some of it can be understood. I suspect Hillsong will post it soon. I have now received audio of the interview which is much better.


Those campaigning against Driscoll’s appearance at the conference have issued statements. See those here.

Hillsong Cancels Mark Driscoll's Appearance at June Conference – Full Statement and Analysis

According the Sydney Morning Herald, Brian Houston announced that Mark Driscoll would no longer attend the Sydney conference later this month.
Brian Houston’s statement in full:

Statement from Pastor Brian Houston, Hillsong Church
June 2015
After personal interaction with Mark Driscoll today, we have agreed that he will no longer be coming to Australia or the UK to attend Hillsong Conference. It is my hope that Mark and I will be able to speak in person in the coming weeks to discuss some of the issues that have been raised, what – if anything – he has learned, and for me to understand better how he is progressing in both his personal and professional life.
The teachings of Christ are based on love and forgiveness, and I will not write off Mark as a person simply because of the things that people have said about him, a small minority of people signing a petition or statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised.
However, I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference, particularly as this 30 minute interview was only a small part of this five day event. It was clear to me that Mark’s attendance had the potential to divert attention from the real purpose of Hillsong Conference, which is to see people leave encouraged in their own spiritual journey.
Clearly Mark has held some views and made some statements that cannot be defended. One or two of the more outrageous things he is purported to have said, I have heard for the first time through the media exposure over the past week.

Driscoll’s picture is still on the conference website.
Houston does not emerge from this mess without suffering damage to his public image. It is beyond clear that this move was done to save face and was a reaction to the negative publicity. His statement seems full of contradiction. He will not write off Driscoll, he says, because of statements he made many years ago or a petition, but those are the exact reasons for the bad publicity in Australia.
He refers to the “outrageous things” Driscoll said as things Driscoll was “purported to have said.” However, earlier in the statement, Houston said  he wouldn’t write Driscoll off due to “statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised.” If Rev. Houston is not even sure Driscoll made these outrageous statements, how does Houston know Driscoll has “repeatedly apologized” for them? All of this is very easy to verify and we now know that Houston and Driscoll talked. Are we to believe he didn’t ask Driscoll about it?
Video:

If he did say that? That is a stunning lack of homework Rev. Houston.

Australian News Report: Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston to Review Decision to Host Mark Driscoll

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Brian Houston told an Australian television station that he would review the decision to host Mark Driscoll later this month at the Hillsong Conference in Sydney. It is Sunday morning in Sydney and Houston said he would talk to Driscoll later on Sunday to determine the next move.
From the Sunrise television show:


Stay tuned…
 

Hillsong's Brian Houston On His Desire to Interview Mark Driscoll: Did He Really Say Those Things?

Not sure how long the statement has been there (update: apparently it was posted today) but it is dated June, 2015 and is revealing. Hillsong’s pastor Brian Houston reveals he doesn’t know Mark Driscoll very well but wants to ask him some questions in this high profile interview. Building on his earlier statement made to this blog, Houston said today:

Personal statement from Pastor Brian Houston – Re: Mark Driscoll
June 2015
Let me be clear about one thing. Mark Driscoll and I stand poles apart on women, their place in society, and their role in the Church.
Hillsong Church has a long history of involving women in every area of church life both on and off the platform, and my own wife Bobbie is my co-Senior Pastor.
I think our leadership styles and relationship with staff and key people have also been vastly different.
So why am I using our platform to interview Mark? We come from different backgrounds, theological positions, and church expressions. I genuinely want to know! Did he really say those things? Does he believe those things? Does he have any regrets? Has he been misrepresented? What has he learned and what can we all learn? And where to from here?
I have met Mark just twice. Before his very public resignation from Mars Hill Church, a mutual friend introduced us over a cup of coffee in Seattle. We talked about life, ministry, and his previous exposure to Australia. The second time, I was standing in line at Starbucks in California bleary eyed and jet lagged when another customer in the line said hi. It was Mark Driscoll and his daughter.
A lot has been said. There’s lessons to be learned. I’m looking forward to asking the questions and hearing from Mark directly. Will we agree afterwards or agree to disagree? Time will tell. I doubt we will agree on everything, but everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard.
Mark will not be speaking at the conference. It’s an open interview with Mark and his wife Grace. Let’s see what he has to say.
Blessings,
Brian

I think it is head scratcher that Brian Houston implies Mark Driscoll hasn’t had a chance to be heard. I wonder if Rev. Houston will then give the former Mars Hill folks some time and space to be heard.
The rationale is curious given the size and prominence of the conference in Australia. Most hosts do the exploration of these matters before a conference rather than live during it. Houston appears to be distancing himself from Driscoll even as he gives him an incredible platform to shape his comeback in the way he desires.
The statement may have been in response to this report on the Australian Broadcasting Network. Houston’s response to Driscoll’s views on gender appear to relate to this report.

Petitioners Ask Hillsong to Reconsider Mark Driscoll Interview

Back in March, Brian Houston released a statement to me saying that Mark Driscoll would not speak at the Hillsong Conferences in London and Sydney but instead would be interviewed with his wife. While that move represents a diminished role at the conferences, the change is not good enough for UK resident Natalie Collins. She has started a petition asking Hillsong to remove Driscoll from the program.
The petition begins:

This is both disappointing and of great concern to many across the UK and internationally.  Mark Driscoll resigned from leadership after many leaders and other within his church raised issues about unethical and abusive behaviour including:

  • Ex-leaders of Mars Hill Church repenting of their collusion with Mark Driscoll
  • Ex-members of Mars Hill reporting they have experienced spiritual abuse from Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, including controlling and manipulative behaviour
  • Evidence of plagiarism in at least one book he has written
  • Misuse of tithes by Mars Hill Church
  • Unethical actions taken to ensure Grace and Mark Driscoll’s book was featured on a bestselling book list
  • Mark Driscoll’s public statements against women in leadership over the last two decades which have greatly undermined the Gospel message of women as leaders, evangelists and full members of the Body of Christ.

With only 17 signers, the petition does not seem to be catching on rapidly.
Driscoll recently refurbished his website and renamed his non-profit entity, Mark Driscoll Ministries. Meanwhile, some former members have continued their fund raising efforts to bring a RICO lawsuit against Driscoll’s former church.

Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Issues Statement On Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong 2015 Conference

I just received this information from Mark DeMoss via email:

Statement by Brian Houston on Mark Driscoll at Hillsong 2015 Conference 
March 2015 
For years, Hillsong has invited pastors and Christian leaders from around the world to speak at our annual conferences in Sydney, Australia and London, England. Well in advance of his resignation as senior pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, we invited Mark Driscoll to be one of our speakers this summer. Rather than having Mark preach or teach, I am excited about interviewing Mark and his wife, Grace from our main platform during our Hillsong Conference 2015.
I am looking forward to having this opportunity to speak openly with the Driscolls about life and ministry, as well as recent events and lessons they’ve learned through personal and ministry trials during the past year. My aim is to have an in-depth conversation that gives insight into their hearts.
Mark has been candid about mistakes he has made, and if we can, through our conference, help others through his life experiences, we think that will prove valuable.

This exclusive statement comes from Brian Houston in response to my post last week noting that Mark Driscoll was slated to speak at the conferences. Instead of having a speaking position, he will be interviewed by Houston.
The description of Driscoll on the conference websites (Sydney, Europe) has not changed to reflect this news or the dissolution of Mars Hill Church.  The description lists him as “founding pastor” rather than co-founder of the former Mars Hill Church.
Discuss.