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.

Mars Hill Church Dissolving "Soon"

Mars Hill Fellowship’s (the corporate name of the enterprise that was Mars Hill Church) president Kerry Dodd is looking for work. According to his Linked In page, Mars Hill Fellowship as an entity will dissolve “soon.” The end is near enough that he says he is “starting the search for his next endeavor where he can excel and make a difference.”  He describes his old difference making endeavor as:

A $30M, community-focused organization with 15 locations in five states, focused on enriching lives in the U.S., and around the world through digital media of biblical-based motivational talks. The organization recently launched 11 independent entities and is now dissolving.

“Biblical-based motivational talks?”
The current COO is Caleb Walters.
There is much unfinished business at the Entity, but it appears that the community-focused organization will soon leave its community in the dark.
Correction: Earlier I said that Frank Park was still Mark Driscoll’s assistant. Not so, according to good sources. He has moved on. I regret that I did not check that out before I printed it.

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.

Mars Hill Church Financial Update August 2014 – "The Most Trying Circumstances in Our Church's History"

The following August 2014 financial update was sent to members of the Mars Hill Church in Albuquerque, NM. Discussion to follow:
financialupdateaugust2014
This particular letter is specific to the Albuquerque church but gives information about the church as a whole. August giving was under budget:

During the month of August, we received $1,552, 817 and expenses were $2,222,274, so our net over expenses (loss) after depreciation and capitalizing assets was ($647,768). Our income target was $1,842,414 and we missed this target by almost 16%. The average giving per adult attendee per week dropped in August to $39.08 from $44.16 in July.

Reports from insiders are that September’s giving has been much worse church wide. According to this letter, Mars Hill’s CFO Kerry Dodd expects another loss in September. The memo projects some optimism that current giving will level out and return October to more positive territory but, according to my sources, giving is down again in September. Also, they will begin paying Sutton Turner’s severance in October. On the upside for Mars Hill, Albuquerque bucked the trend by coming in with higher than projected giving numbers.

LOCAL UPDATE – MARS HILL ALBUQUERQUE

–          Tithes were $104,120 which was 141% of the $73,757 budget for August.

This appears to be a more candid approach for Mars Hill and I suspect leaders at each campus received one regarding their location.