Correction: Mark Driscoll Did Get a Severance and At Least Once Wore a Bulletproof Vest

I bet that title has never been typed before in the history of the world.

In part two of my interview with former Mars Hill Church executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas, I asked both gentlemen if Mark Driscoll received a payout when he left Mars Hill Church, and I asked if Driscoll ever wore a bulletproof vest in the pulpit as he recently claimed. About the payout, Sutton said he doubted it because he didn’t think there was sufficient funds available to do so, and both fellows said they never saw Driscoll sport a bulletproof garment.

Well, around here, when news breaks, we fix it. We have corrections.

The Vest

Sutton Turner posted a clarification at his blog that I want to point you to. Go read the whole post, but here’s the money quote on the vest:

However, I have spoken with a former staff member who was with Mark when he purchased a bulletproof vest in 2008. This same staff member observed Mark wearing the vest once while preaching that same year.

Turner and Bruskas stand by their recollection that they never saw him wear one.

The Severance

On the severance, Sutton was informed by former Mars Hill staff that indeed Driscoll was paid a handsome sum after fleeing the scene.

However, I have come to learn from previous Mars Hill staff members that Mark received twelve months’ worth of severance following the sale of real estate in Ballard less than the purchase price of the server managing his content in 2015.

At the time, he was earning in the neighborhood of $650k/year. Even though Mars Hill paid for much of the research used in Driscoll’s books, he owned the rights to it. Apparently, whatever a server cost in 2015 was deducted and away he went.

So there you have it. I want to thank Sutton for quickly coming forward with these corrections. I regret it took me so long to get this post up.

The interviews with former Mars Hill Church executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas are available here: Part One; Part Two

The “15 years of Blogging Series” is available here: 15 Years of Blogging

See also this post from Wenatchee the Hatchet (I love that name) on Sutton’s correction and a whole lot more from Mr. Hatchet.

Blog Theme: Mars Hill Church – Interview with Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas, Part Two

In this concluding video, former Mars Hill Church executive elders Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas talk about incidents not discussed publicly before. They also describe more personally their feelings about their actions at the church and their hopes for the future.

In this portion of the interview, we cover Mars Hill Global Fund, how public relations were handled at the church, their perspective on Mark Driscoll’s leadership style, James MacDonald’s and Paul Tripp’s resignation, being evicted from the Acts 29 Network, the findings of the investigation of formal charges against Driscoll, his resignation and move to Phoenix. They also weigh in on whether or not they ever saw Driscoll wear a bulletproof vest. There’s a special Easter egg for those interested in James MacDonald.

For those who are interested in Mars Hill because you lived it, or because you want to know how to prevent it, these are important discussions. Here is part two.

CORRECTION (8/20/20): In this interview, Sutton says he doesn’t believe there was enough money to pay Mark Driscoll a severance, and he never saw Driscoll wear a bulletproof vest. After this interview, former Mars Hill staff approached Sutton with new information to correct those points. Please see this post for the details. In short, the staffer said there was a substantial severance and Driscoll wore a vest once in 2008.

Watch part one here.

For all posts on Mars Hill Church, click here.

For all posts on Mark Driscoll, click here.

For all posts on Mars Hill Global Fund, click here.

To watch all interviews reflecting on 15 years of blogging, click here.

Blog Theme: Mars Hill Church – Interview with Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner, Part One

In the category of unlikely interviews, this one is near the top of the list. Today, I publish the first part of an interview with Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas. Turner, Bruskas and Mark Driscoll made up the three executive elders of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Driscoll was also the president of the corporation and clearly in charge. Turner was the financial guy and Bruskas occupied the number two spot. Given amount of leaked information I was reporting on Mars Hill, I imagine I was public enemy number one for this trio in 2014.

Nonetheless, after the church closed, neither Turner nor Bruskas were hostile when I contacted them. Over the years, they have talked more about how they have reached out to Mars Hill people and tried to mend fences. I don’t know all about it, but I don’t need to.

I do know that they have a perspective that I never was able to get while I reported on Mars Hill. Almost everything they have told me vindicated the reporting I did. But with that out of the way, I wanted to know how it was to try to function in what Paul Tripp called, “…without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” They did not evade their own responsibility as you will hear.

So I hope you will hear them out in both parts of the interview (part two coming Thursday). In part one, we discuss Dave Kraft’s first charges, the Strange Fire Conference, “big brother” James MacDonald, the Janet Mefferd interview, the Result Source Bestseller scheme, Driscoll’s content management system and Driscoll as “The Brand.”:

For all posts on Mars Hill Church, click here.

For all posts on Mark Driscoll, click here.

To watch all interviews reflecting on 15 years of blogging, click here.

Coming This Week: An Unlikely Conversation with Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner

On Tuesday (7/28) and Thursday (7/30) of this week, I will publish parts one and two respectively of an interview with former Mars Hill Church executive elders Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner. Sutton and Dave were the executive elders in charge of Mars Hill along with Mark Driscoll.

Six years ago, such a conversation could not be imagined. I was writing several times a week about Mars Hill Church. Exactly six years ago, I examined media coverage of Mars Hill’s critics and their finances. On July 30, 2014 I reported that noted biblical counselor Paul Tripp resigned from the church’s Board of Advisor’s and Accountability. As Turner and Bruskas describe in our interview, the following month of August in 2014 was a terrible month for the church.

Recently, Sutton and Dave approached me with a desire to set some things straight. The result is this interview where we examine key events from 2013 through October 2014 culminating in a discussion of Mark Driscoll’s resignation. We also take on a few residual issues relating to the church.

Here are some excerpts of part one:

In part one, we discuss John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference, James MacDonald as Mark’s big brother, the Janet Mefferd Interview where she accused Mark Driscoll of plagiarism, Mars Hill’s content management system, Mark Driscoll as “The Brand,” and the Result Source New York Times Bestseller List scandal. Watch for this on Tuesday, July 28.

To watch all interviews reflecting on 15 years of blogging, click here.

RICO Lawsuit Filed Against Former Leaders of Mars Hill Church; ECFA Named As Co-Conspirator

marshillglobalannualreportclipThe long anticipated suit from a group of former members against former leaders of Mars Hill Church was filed today in the U.S District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. Attorney Brian Fahling filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs Brian and Connie Jacobsen and Ryan and Arica Kildea.
The plaintiffs accuse defendants Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner of engaging in

a continuing pattern of racketeering activity by soliciting, through the internet and the mail, contributions for designated purposes, and then fraudulently used significant portions of those designated contributions for other, unauthorized purposes. It was a pattern of racketeering activity that extended through a myriad of MHC projects, including the Global Fund, the Campus Fund, the Jesus Festival, and the promotion of Driscoll’s book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (“Real Marriage”).

In a statement, the attorney filing the suit, Brian Fahling said:

A church is not simply a building and programs. Mars Hill Church was a community of individuals—non-member attendees who considered MHC to be their church home, members, elders and pastors—who worked together in pursuit of a common mission—to make disciples and plant churches in the name of Jesus. Needless to say, the four groups are interdependent and the church cannot function without each of them. However, Driscoll and Turner engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity so deeply embedded, pervasive and continuous, that it was effectively institutionalized as a business practice, thereby corrupting the very mission Plaintiffs and other donors believed they were supporting.

On the Global Fund, just today I posted two formerly undisclosed memos on Mars Hill Church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability’s decision to keep secret how the church spent funds on missions (Global Fund) and salaries.
It is interesting to see ECFA named as a co-conspirator in the suit. The memo disclosed earlier today indicates that Dan Busby approved the moves of Mars Hill Church to address the Global Fund and apparently had no problem with the lack of transparency. In contrast, Busby and the ECFA took a turn toward transparency by removing Gospel for Asia from membership in October of 2015.
While it is a sad day to see these matters come to civil court, perhaps this will lead to a settlement and closure.
Read the lawsuit by clicking the link.

The Behind the Scenes Mars Hill Global Maneuvers

Over a year after the last service was held at Mars Hill Church, there are still stories to be told.
Recently, I acquired two memos which provide details about Mars Hill Global, a mysterious aspect of the demise of Mars Hill Church. From 2012 until mid-2014, Mars Hill Church marketed Mars Hill Global as a fund to help support church planters in India and Ethiopia. However, at least some insiders at Mars Hill knew that the donations given through the Global Fund were spent primarily on church planting expenses in the United States. One memo I posted in 2014 suggested that international projects would bring in lots of dollars which could in turn be used to fuel domestic expansion.
Once I started asking questions about Mars Hill Global, changes began to happen on the Mars Hill website. Because initially the changes were unexplained, I made a video documenting at least one of the major changes. This was in response to claims from Mars Hill’s leaders that the Global Fund was not really a fund but a source of funds from donors who were not part of Mars Hill’s churches. As I demonstrate, this explanation seemed problematic at the time since Mars Hill members could either give to the general fund which was unrestricted or to the Global Fund which was presented to the church after 2012 as a fund to spread the Gospel outside of the U.S., especially in India and Ethiopia.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4EFX3-RXyg[/youtube]
An accounting of how Global Fund donations were spent has been an ongoing desire of many former Mars Hill members. In addition to wondering how the funds from church liquidation have been spent, former members still want to know how much money went to international mission efforts (see this petition).
The first of the two memos I have acquired on the subject was sent in June 2014. It was addressed to the lead pastors of the 15 locations and summarized the Board of Advisors and Accountability’s response to questions about Mars Hill Global which I began raising in May. In this we learn that Mars Hill Church leaders worked with Dan Busby of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability to change the messaging surrounding Mars Hill Global. According to this memo, Busby approved the decision to keep private the details about how much was actually spent on missions. Click on each thumbnail below to read the memo.

For now, I would like to pull out one important section:
MHC Memo GFund
In this memo, the BOAA and the ECFA specifically rejected transparency. While I have reason to believe that the decision was not unanimous among the executive elders (Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas) and BOAA, it is stunning that Mars Hill’s leaders withheld that information. As a non-profit accountable to the public and a church accountable to those who gave the money, this information should have been disclosed. However, for some reason, the information appears to be considered classified also by those currently wrapping up Mars Hill’s affairs. After he left Mars Hill, Sutton Turner planned to release the information but was warned by Mars Hill lawyers not to.
Looking back, one of the executive elders, Dave Bruskas told me in an email that he thinks more disclosure was warranted. Bruskas said:

In hindsight, I think itemizing money spent on domestic church planting, international church planting and relief efforts would have been helpful for donors and the general public.  I also think aggregating salaries in the separate line items of local church staffing costs and central staffing costs (including executive salaries) rather than lumping all compensation into a single category of “Personnel Costs” would have given donors and the general public a better picture of how donations were being spent.

The other memo, sent in early July, provides some insight into how much money was given via the the Global designation.

In this memo, the figure of $3-million for Mars Hill Global was projected for fiscal year 2015 based on comparable giving in FY 2014. For most of FY 2014 (July 2013-June 2014), donors had the option of designating Global Fund via the drop down menu. In the image above taken from the first memo, the Mars Hill BOAA decided not to reveal how much it cost to support 40 Ethiopia church planters. However, this can estimated since it was known that Mars Hill partnered with New Covenant Foundation which suggests $170/month/church planter. Mars Hill supporter 40 such families which leads to $81,600 if the support was full. They also supported Indian missionaries and did some translation work.*
These memos confirm much of what was speculation in 2014. Where I disagree with the thrust of this memo is the only mistake was to leave Global Fund on the Giving Page drop down menu. As I documented repeatedly in 2014, Mars Hill marketed Mars Hill Global as the way Mars Hill Church did missions. I don’t read that in these memos.
 
*Keep in mind, these are estimates since Mars Hill’s leaders both before and after the church closed failed to disclose the exact figures. The memos provide a bit more confirmation that the estimates are close.

Sutton Turner Confesses Some Mars Hill Sins

One of the last three executive elders to serve at Mars Hill Church, Sutton Turner has taken a different route in his public reflection about his experience at Mars Hill than the soft-spoken Dave Bruskas and the main event Mark Driscoll. Bruskas spoke to his Albuquerque church in a closed meeting (here, here, and here) and to my knowledge has not blogged or addressed the media since he left Mars Hill. Driscoll on the other hand has remained aloof from social media, isn’t doing interviews but has spoken in a series of large venues.
Today, Turner posted a confession of sorts on his blog. He begins:

I am writing this post to help other leaders like me. I pray that someone—even just one person—can be spared the consequences of his/her own mistakes by paying careful attention to mine beforehand. I also pray that my public confession of sin and admission of mistakes will further enhance opportunity for reconciliation and restoration among those with whom I have experienced conflict.
Early on in my time at Mars Hill, I unfortunately operated in a sinful way that was consistent with the existing church culture that had grown and been cultivated since the early years of the church. Instead of being an agent of change for good, I simply reinforced negative sinful behavior.  (I am responsible for my own actions, and do not blame my actions on the culture.) I am so thankful for the kindness of God that has led me to repentance, the grace of Jesus that forgave my sin, and the love of brothers who exhorted me during those necessary times of growth. Somewhere between 2012 and 2013, with the help of Pastor Dave Bruskas and others, change began to take root in my heart. These lessons continue to bear fruit in my life as the Holy Spirit grows me to become more like Jesus. I do look back on 2011 and 2012 with a lot of regret, but I’m also very thankful for the Holy Spirit and his ability to grow us all to be more like Jesus.

In light of Dan Kellogg’s and John Lindell’s dismissal of Mars Hill problems, Turner’s disclosure that he operated in a “a sinful way that was consistent with the existing church culture that had grown and been cultivated since the early years of the church” is worth noting. Turner does not mention Driscoll, but everybody knows who was in charge of the church from the beginning. Turner does not mention Driscoll as a help in overcoming that culture, but instead credits Dave Bruskas and unnamed others.
I know there are several people I have interviewed who would encourage Turner to add 2013 at least, and probably 2014 to his list of dates which should be regret-worthy. Having said that, I think Turner’s approach here has much to recommend it. He then reflects on forgiveness which, because of the way he started his post, doesn’t come across so self-serving as does Mark Driscoll’s two recent sermons on the subject.
I recognize that those who served at Mars Hill and former members will have varying reactions to Turner’s reflections. Inasmuch as bitterness remains, I hope the parties can reconcile.
Looking forward to the next segments.

Who Runs Mars Hill Church? An Update

When Mars Hill Church closed the doors for the last service, the corporation Mars Hill Church did not cease. However, it has never been clear who remained in charge of the organization on a day to day basis. By by-law, the church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability has the power to create a plan of dissolution but the church has not disclosed who remained on that board. While I don’t know all involved in that capacity, I do know now who is the president of the church. Also, one person often speculated to still be involved is not.

According to documents filed last week in the King County court house, Chief Financial Officer Kerry Dodd is referred to as the president of the corporation. Dodd was hired by Sutton Turner early in Turner’s tenure as executive pastor. According to a 2012 memo to fellow executive elders, Turner considered Dodd to be a capable CFO. As president of Mars Hill, he signed documents recently in the sale of the Mars Hill Ballard building to Quest church.

The other update involves former executive pastor Dave Bruskas. Yesterday, Bruskas informed me via email that he resigned all of his roles and duties at Mars Hill Church, including his corporate role, on December 31, 2014. Under the Mars Hill bylaws, executive pastors have a position on the BoAA. As of the end of last year, there were no publicly named executive pastors.
At the time of the last service, remaining BoAA members were Matt Rogers, Larry Osborne, Michael VanSkaik, and Jon Phelps.

Who runs Mars Hill has become relevant again due to the ongoing questions surrounding the use of Mars Hill email lists by a shadowy group/individual doing business as “Church Leaders List.” After xxxchurch director Craig Gross purchased what former Mars Hill public relations spokesperson Justin Dean called The Resurgence mailing list, Church Leaders List essentially left public view by shutting down its website and twitter account. Now there are concerns that Mars Hill had not sold the list to anyone, raising questions about how Church Leaders List secured it. Efforts to get comment from the attorney who is responsible for selling The Resurgence assets have not yielded direct comment. No one from Mars Hill Church has offered comment as well.

Meanwhile, Justin Dean’s website has gone into maintenance mode and is unavailable; his twitter account has been removed.

Craig Gross summarized his involvement and what he believes about the situation in a new post today.

Corporate Changes for Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll

For those keeping up on the corporate side of Mars Hill, Becky Garrison and Wenatchee the Hatchet are on top of the matter.
Garrison reports that Dave Bruskas is now the president of Mars Hill Church and Caleb Walters is the Secretary.
WtH reports on changes with Driscoll’s LLCs.
It is not clear who is making day to day decisions at Mars Hill. The church will no longer hold services but property still must be sold with a final distribution of assets to come. By bylaw, the Board of Advisors and Accountability has the power to guide these matters. As president, Bruskas functions as the CEO and by bylaw has the responsibility to run the organization.

Mars Hill Church Executive Elder Dave Bruskas on the Future of Mars Hill Albuquerque, Bible Teaching and Communication

This is the next several minutes of Dave Bruskas’ talk to the members’ meeting at Mars Hill Albuquerque (soon to be North Church). In this clip, Bruskas reminisces about opening the church building as a Mars Hill replant, and then describes his hope for the church going forward.
In doing so, he makes some hard-to-miss references to problems at Mars Hill. First he says one sermon per week and a discussion of that sermon (I assume he meant in community groups) isn’t enough. I always thought Mars Hill had lots of content online and elsewhere, but Bruskas wants to provide more. Also, he is going to improve communication and governance. The church will be elder led (in contrast to Mars Hill) and there will be better communication. He lamented that the pastors, including himself, often learned about the church online (you’re welcome).
Listen in (mostly audio with some quotes pulled out, be patient, they will come).

While this all sounds like an improvement, I still want to learn why it took the scandals and revelations of the last year to bring these changes about. I would like to hear more about why Rev. Bruskas did not activate these changes while the #2 man at Mars Hill Church. Perhaps, he feared for his job, but it would be good to know if he felt the same thing the other elders did who put their jobs and ministries on the line to make the changes now evident.