Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Dave Kraft: Full Council of Elders Should Decide When Mark Driscoll Returns

On Friday, I asked a dozen former Mars Hill pastors and Mars Hill Church for comment on the current investigation of formal charges against Mark Driscoll. Sunday marked the end of Driscoll’s sixth week of absence from the pulpit. I found that investigation of the formal charges is underway but that the allegations offered by nine pastors (then current, now former) in a separate letter have not been reviewed.
One of those former pastors, Dave Kraft, was unable to comment on Friday but today provided a statement that sums up his view of the situation thus far.

I have been interviewed by Pastors Miles Rhode and Matt Rogers. It was cordial and not adversarial in any way. I strongly encouraged them to interview Paul Tripp and Matt Chandler to find out what these two men know and understand what led them to their position that MD has not truly repented and has disqualified himself for leadership.
I believe it will be hard for the “Investigative Group” to not fall into the trap of “evidentiary bias” and they honestly may not be open to “handle the truth” (Jack Nicholson’s line “A Few Good Men.”) The “Investigative Group”  (in my opinion) may not really  be non-partisan and neutral which an investigative team needs to be for the daunting task before them.
I think the best thing that Mark Driscoll can do for his own health, the health of MHC and for the honor of Jesus’ church is to voluntarily step down for a minimum of six months and let the full council of Elders decide if and when he returns. During the six months, he should:
1.  Get some serious counseling from Paul Tripp or Garrett Higbee
2.  Arrange multiplied dozens of reconciliation meetings with people who believe Mark hurt and harmed them
3.  Set in motion a revision of current MHC bylaws
4.  Spend time with his family and with the Lord Jesus in deep and genuine soul searching
5.  Form a small accountability group with men who are not afraid to confront and challenge him: older, seasoned and courageous leaders…not “yes” men with a vested interest in being nice to him.

As I noted on Friday, some of the protected witnesses have dropped out of the process because they lack trust in the integrity of the process. Clearly, Kraft decided to enter the process although he has some concerns. I think the suggestion to interview Tripp and Chandler has merit.
As these interviews wrap up, the next step is the production of a report to be sent to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. The BOAA could exonerate Driscoll, rebuke him, exonerate on some charges and rebuke on others, or find him disqualified for the office of elder which would lead to his removal as pastor at Mars Hill Church.

Former Pastor: Mars Hill Church Has Entered Mediation Process with Twenty Former Pastors

On March 17, Dave Kraft and Kyle Firstenberg sent a letter to Mars Hill’s executive elders requesting mediation on behalf of themselves and 18 other former pastors. Yesterday, Dave Kraft posted an update on the process on his blog. After describing the process, Kraft wrote:

I am glad to report that the process described above is now underway. A reputable professional team, experienced in matters of significant conflict in churches, has been retained by the BOAA. This team is doing initial interviews and getting the lay of the land regarding what has transpired over the last seven years or so at Mars Hill Church. This will be a long process, so patience will be the need of the hour. Once the team has done its initial round of interviews, recommendations will be given to the BOAA as to next steps.

So the news part of this post is that Mars Hill leaders have entered into talks with twenty former pastors with a mediation team.
Kraft says he is cautiously optimistic. However, in my opinion, it is fair to point out that events of recent weeks strain optimism. Mars Hill continues to dismiss staff when they question leadership or decline to sign a non-compete clause. Instead of transparency, Mars Hill leaders stealthily change information on their website without explanation. Reasonable requests for accountability are ignored, and Mark Driscoll preached recently that the cycle that has been taking place is normal and biblical. In other words, some of the same issues the pastors wanted to talk about seem to remain the same.
Kraft acknowledges in his post that the process may not work out. However, the fact that the executive elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability have entered the process seems to recognize that there is conflict which must be addressed.
 

Two Weeks: No Answer from Mars Hill Leaders to 20 Former Mars Hill Pastors Who Want Mediation

Two weeks ago, twenty former Mars Hill pastors, led by Dave Kraft and Kyle Firstenberg requested mediation with the Board of Advisors and Accountability of Mars Hill Church. As of this writing, no answer has come from the BOAA.
Ten days later, the BOAA issued a letter to Mars Hill leaders saying the board was “hungry for reconciliation” but did not mention the initiative by the 20 pastors. Two weeks later, the BOAA is apparently not hungry enough to address the people who are calling for a response.
There are nearly 170 members of a group calling for the exoneration of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. There are over 50 members of a similar group calling for repentance. No members have described contacts from the BOAA. Recently, a website was launched with four former pastors including co-founder Lief Moi, expressing sorrow over their actions while at Mars Hill. These gentlemen also seem hungry for reconciliation. Many of these individuals have sought reconciliation privately with no response to their efforts. See especially, Kyle Firstenberg’s information.
I have asked Mars Hill communications director Justin Dean for MHC’s side of this matter with no response.
 

Former Mars Hill Pastors Repent at New Website

A new website devoted to repentance among former Mars Hill leaders has opened up at Repentantpastor.com. Repentant Pastor is about:

We built this site to provide a safe place in which we can confess our sin and share the stories and experiences we had while serving and attending Mars Hill Church. Our hope is to bring about repentance for ourselves and reconciliation with people whom we have hurt. If you are one of those people please connect with us personally through email. You can also comment on the posts. Each one of the people who has written in the confessions section has an email address at this url. The email addresses are firstname.lastname@repentantpastor.com Thank you for reading our confessions, letters, stories, and apologies.
Each of these posts are confessions from Mars Hill leaders and members who agree that the culture of Mars Hill has many problems, and that more could have been done by each of us to challenge those problematic attitudes and behaviors. In staying at Mars Hill, we were complicit in those structures, and problems whether we employed them or not. We recognize and confess that Mars Hill has hurt many people within the Mars Hill community, as well as those outside the community including those who don’t believe Mars Hill’s religious beliefs, and we want to acknowledge the hurt we may have caused. We humbly ask your forgiveness. These are our individual confessions, letters, stories, and apologies.

With posts all dated today (3/29/14), former Mars Hill Orance County executive pastor Kyle Firstenberg, former Leadership Pastor Dave Kraft, former Mars Hill Everett Pastor Scott Mitchell, and Mars Hill co-founder Lief Moi have provided a powerful call to re-examine events in Mars Hill’s history.  In particular, the change in bylaws and firing of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry take center stage.
On March 17, twenty former Mars Hill pastors approached the Board of Advisors and Accountability with a request for mediation. Thus far, no direct response to this call and those who made it has come.
Firstenberg’s official charges are stunning and can be read here.

Former Mars Hill Pastors Speak Out About Elder Firings and Changes in Mars Hill Bylaws

A little while ago, former Mars Hill Church Leadership Pastor Dave Kraft released a statement on his Facebook page which accepted responsibility for his part in the firings of Paul Petry, Bent Meyer and Lief Moi. Saying that the elders were “unfairly terminated,” Kraft expressed remorse for being “in the group that saw to it that they left.”
Then today on his blog, Kyle Firstenberg also expressed remorse because he shunned the fired elders as he was instructed by Driscoll. Firstenberg also provided his perceptions of the bylaws changes dating back to about 2007 when more power was placed in the hands of the executive elders. Eventually, the Board of Advisors and Accountability was created with the purported purpose to provide outside accountability. Firstenberg described a video call where Driscoll discussed the changes. After some push back from elders, according to Firstenberg, Driscoll shut down discussion:

Mark’s response was simply, I don’t give a shit what you guys think. I brought this in front of you guys trying to be nice and make you feel like you are involved in this decision. I don’t even need to get your permission to do this; the last change to the Bylaws gives me permission to do what I want and we are doing this. It doesn’t matter what you say.
With that, the change was made with little protest because if you want to keep your job you don’t cross Mark. My push back is simply, if Mark can make statements like that in front of the people who are his peers as elders/pastors and the people who he has put in place to hold him accountable to begin with, then what makes us think that he would submit himself to a group of people who are outside of the church?

I have heard other Mars Hill pastors describe this meeting with very nearly the same language. If Mars Hill Church would like to dispute this account, I would be happy to post their account.
This is a powerful vindication of the three elders and one which the Mars Hill BOAA has not publicly addressed. I have noted before that the controversy/firings of these men, and other events from about 2007 onward are reverberating today. Mars Hill BOAA has abundant evidence of the issues but has still not contacted these men, preferring instead to talk about some vague reconciliation hunger.
 

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.
 

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

A Former Mars Hill Pastor Speaks Out and Why Others Are Afraid: The Mars Hill Church Non-Disclosure Agreement

On Tuesday, Warren Cole Smith posted a brief note at World Magazine about the policy of Mars Hill Church to require staff to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to maintain their severance pay and health insurance. And then on Friday, Smith posted a copy of an agreement given to him by a former Mars Hill staffer.
I also have a copy of an agreement given to me by former pastor Kyle Firstenberg. Firstenberg was executive pastor at Mars Hill Orange County until about a year and a half ago. You can read more about the situation in Orange County at Wenatchee the Hatchet’s blog.
Firstenberg also provided me with a letter he wrote to Mars Hill regarding his experience as a pastor in Orange County. Given what he is saying in his letter, I can understand why Mars Hill leaders want departing staff to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Often non-disclosure agreements are signed in the business/tech world to protect proprietary information from leaking out. In this case, the main reason appears to be to keep departing staff from candidly describing their bad experiences.
Reading the NDA, it appears to me that MHC leaders hope to use fear of legal action and loss of severance pay to keep former staff quiet. Some who have been watching the Mars Hill saga unfold have asked me privately why few have been aware of the incredible tensions, discord and significant staff turnover at MHC. Furthermore, I have been amazed at how fearful staffers have been to discuss their experiences. I think both of these observations relate to the fear that the massive engine that MHC is will come down on individuals who have relatively few resources to defend themselves.
According to the statement from the Board of Advisors and Accountability, numerous staff transitions have been acrimonious and they have made changes to “detrimental management patterns.” According to Firstenberg, no sustained effort has been made to address his concerns. And according to Dave Kraft, the statement involving him is inaccurate and ignores the totality of his claims and concerns. The BOAA statement also defends the use of the non-disclosure agreement which really causes me to wonder if the “detrimental management patterns” have truly been addressed.
I asked Firstenberg for his reactions to the BOAA statement. He began by questioning whether or not Mark Driscoll and other executive elders have really faced the implications of the massive staff discord and turnover over the last 2-3 years. Firstenberg: “How have they “owned” their part?” According to Firstenberg, “There has been no response or repentance from those leaders, in fact no response at all from this accountability group to the very elders that they have sinned against. How is that owning their part?”
Regarding the effort to address concerns of staff, Firstenberg asked, “Why was Pastor Dave the only pastor that supposedly received a response from the BOAA? What about the other pastors who wrote in. I know of at least two others including myself who never heard anything back.”
Finally, Firstenberg pointed to the BOAA’s defense of the executive elders (“We deeply appreciate their endurance through false accusation, their submission to authority, and their humility where regrettable decisions from the past have come to light.”) and asked,  “What has been owned” by this statement?
As an observer, I am puzzled by the way MHC is governed. If the BOAA is a governing body, then it seems like a conflict of interest to have all three of the executive elders (Driscoll, Turner and Bruskas) as members. This seems especially relevant since numerous former staff are leveling serious and significant charges and the decision making board investigating those charges include those who are being charged. Given the reactions of former MHC pastors (Firstenberg told me that nearly all of the branch executive pastors who were in place two years are now gone), it seems that the BOAA has not come close to addressing the depth of the matter.
Read all posts on Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll here.

Former Mars Hill Pastor Dave Kraft Speaks Out About His Relationship with the Church

UPDATE: Another former Mars Hill leader, Jeff Bettger, speaks out publicly in support of Dave Kraft.
Dave Kraft is a former pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He left Mars Hill under difficult circumstances and is now speaking out about his experience there. This morning Kraft responds to the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability statement made on Friday regarding his relationship with MHC.
A taste:

Now, in response to the article posted by the BOAA on Friday, March 7, let me say this:
I am doing much more than “disagreeing with policy.”
This is an understatement to end all understatements. I am taking issue with attitudes and actions that I believe are in clear violation of I Timothy 3, Titus 1 and I Peter 5 and may be grounds for church discipline or outright removal.
What I addressed in my “Formal Charges” on May 10, 2013 is very serious and was taken seriously by the BOAA. I was told by the chairman of the BOAA that although (in the BOAA’s mind) the charges were not serious enough for immediate removal from leadership for Mark, they could be depending on how he responded to the charges and what he did going forward.

Over the next week, I will have more from former Mars Hill staff in response to the BOAA statement. I have never seen anything quite like what is going on now with many former staff coming forward with stories of truly disappointing experiencing at the church.
UPDATE: Another former Mars Hill leader, Jeff Bettger, speaks out publicly in support of Dave Kraft.