Former Mars Hill Church deacon Rob Smith has created a GoFundMe account to fund legal action, if necessary, to address grievances against Mars Hill Church. The grievances primarily involve the Global Fund and non-disclosure clauses signed by former employees.
Despite many appeals to Mars Hill Church leadership to address several grievances, it now appears that it will be necessary to take legal action to see that these greivances are addressed. Donors, ex-members and members are preparing to pursue this alternative. This fund would be used to pay for the legal costs of such a pursuit.
Mars Hill Church has also used non-disclosure agreements to silence ex-employees with valid grievances. This fund would be used to defend any ex-employee that is sued by Mars Hill Church for violating the terms of their non-disclosure agreement.
Once all matters are settled, the balance of this fund, if any, will be shared between the advertised recipients of the Mars Hill Global Fund (Ethiopian and Indian pastors) and with Agathos International. That portion of any donor’s gift to this legal fund will be tax-deductible.
We are attempting to schedule a meeting with Mars Hill representatives in an effort to avoid litigation, and it appears that this meeting may take place.
According to Smith, the church has avoided questions regarding the Global Fund and how much was raised based on appeals to fund Ethiopian and Indian church planters. In contrast to claims from the church made just today, Global Fund appeals were made consistently to pay for outreach in Africa and India but most funds were spent on Mars Hill Church expansion.
UPDATE (6/3): In a surprising move, Mars Hill Ballard pastor Scott Harris alerted Phil Smidt that the church leaders had reversed themselves and will provide a severance for Smidt. No word about what Smidt will do with the $50k raised on his behalf.
As I write this, supporters of fired Mars Hill pastor Phil Smidt have raised nearly twice as much money as the established goal, almost $40k, in less than two days. Many donors were former Mars Hill leaders and members, a kind of Mars Hill church in exile. Initially, Mars Hill Ballard lead pastor Scott Harris, who dismissed Smidt, said the church was going to support the Smidts financially. As it turns out, Harris was inadvertently correct. A church is supporting the Smidts, but it is not the Mars Hill Church that Harris works for.
For several years, the threat of having no severance income or health insurance was used by Mars Hill executive elders to coerce departing elders and other staff into an agreement not to raise concerns about Mars Hill in public. Previously, I posted one version of the non-disclosure agreement. In it, all rights and grievances are signed away in order to maintain health insurance coverage and a source of income for a individually determined period of time. The employee also has to agree not to say anything negative about Mars Hill. Reportedly, Phil Smidt declined to sign this agreement and apparently was denied severance pay as a result.
The outpouring of support for Smidt may change business as usual for departing Mars Hill employees.
Now it is plausible that Mars Hill employees who are in the same position as Smidt may follow his example and decline to sign the NDA. Since they can reasonably predict that there will be a community of support for them, they may decide instead to speak out. Time will tell.
In the mean time, the Smidts can breathe a little easier and others who might soon be in his position can rethink their options.
Read all posts on Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll here.
UPDATE (6/3): In a surprising move, Mars Hill Ballard pastor Scott Harris alerted Phil Smidt that the church leaders had reversed themselves and will provide a severance for Smidt.
UPDATE (6/1): The goal has been accomplished.
In less than a day, the fund is now over half-way toward the goal of $20k. Many of those giving are former Mars Hill members and leaders. In a sense, there seems to be two Mars Hill churches, one that is run by the current executive elders and then another one in exile.
Without explanation, Mars Hill Ballard’s lead pastor Scott Harris asked popular biblical living pastor Phil Smidt to step down from his staff position. Then yesterday Harris thanked Smidt for his service and told the congregation that the church was still supporting Smidt financially. Tonight, there is reason to question that claim. Smidt’s friends have set up an account on Gofundme.com to help provide financial support and health insurance for the Smidt family over a three month period.
Another former Mars Hill elder, Jon Krombein, created the account because:
We love Pastor Phil Smidt and want to support him and his family in this time of transition since being fired from Mars Hill.
Apparently, the leadership of Mars Hill declined to give Smidt transitional support after abruptly dismissing him this week (an email I sent to lead pastor Scott Harris has not been answered). Sources say Smidt declined to sign the non-disclosure agreement.
Smidt’s departure comes amid other high profile staff changes (e.g., Mike Wilkerson) and dismissals of well loved lay leaders (e.g., Dalton Roraback and Phil Poirier). Roraback was dismissed for raising questions about the executive elders and Poirier was relieved of his position because he declined to sign a promise not to serve at a church in a 10 mile radius of any Mars Hill church.
Harris informed the church that Smidt was asked to step down “after many conversations along with much prayer and deliberation.” I have obtained the email that sources say came from Harris to various leaders at the church:
CG & RG Leaders:
I wanted to let you know about a transition on our Ballard elder team. After many conversations along with much prayer and deliberation I have decided to ask Phil Smidt to step down from staff and eldership, and today is his last day. Phil has been a valuable member of the Ballard leadership team, and has contributed greatly to the counseling and marriage ministries of our entire church.
We are very thankful for his many years of service. We will continue to support Phil financially and through prayer while he seeks what the Lord has next for him. Please join me in praying for him and his family as they make this transition.
We will do our best to keep you informed as we seek someone to take on the Biblical Living Pastor role. In the meantime, myself, Pastor Cliff Ellis, Ballard elders along with other leaders will be taking on this responsibility. We wanted to let you know about this transition as soon as we could so that you would be prepared to discuss this with your groups as necessary. If you have any questions, I along with any of the elders would be happy to discuss this further with you.