Postcards from Phoenix: When Family Ties are Tested

In an earlier postcard, we heard from a young man who felt his family loyalties were tested by his employment at The Trinity Church. He felt he had to choose between his parents and loyalty to the leadership of the church. He chose his parents.

In this Postcard from Phoenix, Jolie Monea describes a similar situation. She feels estranged from her daughter (married to Zac Driscoll) because Jolie maintains relationships with people who have left The Trinity Church and have expressed their views publicly.

Church should not divide families. In fact, it seems like one of those red flags Julie describes when a church influences members to cut off family members when they aren’t sufficiently loyal or deferential to the leaders. I hope that the upshot of this situation is a restoration of family relationships and that all can get into a church which facilitates family ties rather than weakens them.

Warren-

I have been thinking about writing out my story for a while now but every time I sit down to organize my words, I am flooded with memories both good and bad from the last 8 years.  This postcard gives me the opportunity to pull back the curtain a little bit and look at my time at Mars Hill and Trinity.  Although there are many example’s I could give I am just going to recount one experience for this postcard.  Hopefully it will help me begin to untangle all the other things I have experienced and witnessed over the years. I also hope it will shine some light on the bigger issue of the continued patterns of abuse that happened behind the scenes at Mars Hill and are now happening a bit more openly at Trinity.

It would probably help for context to give a little background.  Our family began attending Mars Hill at the end of 2012 during a difficult season for us.  Our kids weren’t connecting at the church we had been attending and our marriage was struggling.  Eventually we made the decision to transition, as a family, to Mars Hill Bellevue and Shoreline.  We quickly got connected and began serving.  Our children also attended the same school as the Driscoll kids and became fast friends.  We cherished the friends we met at Mars Hill and loved serving as a family.  We enjoyed the music and the preaching, but the shift and transformation that God had made in our family was what we were most thankful for during this time.

So, when Mark stepped down and we realized that they would be moving we began to pray about making the move with them.  Fast forward to God bringing us to Arizona the summer of 2015.  It was never our intention to be employed by the church or even to have any large role in their ministry.  We simply felt called to move and be supportive of people that we considered friends.  Although, I was never employed by the church, I spent countless hours volunteering with the creative team and women’s ministry.  My husband volunteered with managing the offerings and my children volunteered in kid’s ministry.  As a family, Trinity was like our second home.  As time went on, I became more involved in leadership with women’s ministry, even to the point of doing some writing and a small amount of teaching.  One of our older daughters became part time staff in the children’s ministries department, and our younger two daughters became Junior interns.

Looking back over the years, there were many things that gave us pause. However, because of our close ties with the Driscoll family we ignored many red flags.  During the summer of 2020, God began to open our eyes wider to these red flags. One big concern was the fact that there are no local elders. That same summer I made the decision to follow an opportunity to attend and lead in women’s ministry at another local church where a close friend was teaching a class.  Although, this is a story for another time, I bring it up because it is when I first noticed a definite shift in how I was treated at Trinity especially by Mark’s wife, Grace.  We also started noticing a slight change in how our families interacted.

By December of 2020, there were just too many red flags that my husband, myself and our two younger daughters were seeing to continue serving and attending Trinity.  We told our older daughter, who was and is on staff, a few of our main concerns and decided to quietly leave with our younger two girls and start attending the church I had been getting involved with over the past fall.  All of this seemed fairly simple to us.  Our intention was to express some concerns but not to cause any sort of a vocal problem.  You might be thinking to yourself, no big deal, people switch churches all the time.  It is true people feel called to switch churches for many different reasons, and it’s not a big deal.  In my ignorance of how much the situation had escalated, I thought we could make the quiet transition without too much of an issue.

Before I share the event in February that lead to this postcard, I need to give you a critical piece of the puzzle.  Our daughter has been in a relationship with one of the Driscoll’s sons for the past seven years, and they were married this past March.  During the months of January and February, I had been in the church parking lot on several occasions to pick up my daughter or drop wedding related things off.  I never ventured past the parking lot, but I also never got the impression that I wasn’t welcome.  A dear friend of mine hosted a bridal shower that Grace, her girls and many other Trinity people and staff attended.  It was clear at this time that there was tension, but at no time was I told that I was considered “unsafe” or a problem.
The only message we received after leaving Trinity was a simple text from Mark letting us know that he approved of our new church.  So, when I decided to go to Trinity on a Wednesday morning two weeks before the wedding, I had no idea what would come next.   The flower girl for the wedding is the daughter of a close friend of mine.  Since my friend was a table lead for women’s ministry, her daughter attended kid’s ministry, and my daughter worked on Wednesdays, it was the perfect opportunity for the flower girl to try on her dress so we could all see it.

My plan was to bring the dress and meet them at church early so I would not disrupt anything going on in women’s ministry that morning.  I thought maybe I would get the chance to say hello to a few friends but leave before things got started.  I think most people would describe me as non-conflict oriented and harmless, but for some reason that morning I was viewed as a threat.  I met my friend and daughter in the parking lot and began walking towards the main building to use the bathroom.  I started noticing that I was being watched.  I dismissed it as people being surprised to see me.  As soon as I walked in the door, I was asked by campus pastor Brandon Anderson to step outside so he could talk to me.  It might be important to note here that I have known Brandon’s family since I was in high school.  We attended the same church growing up and I had dated his cousin.  I genuinely thought Brandon wanted to catch up and see how we were doing at our new church.  I was completely taken off guard when he was dismissive and rude.  He asked why I was there and how long I planned on staying.  I let him know I was only there for the flower girl to try on her dress and maybe say hello to a few people.  It was at that point that he told me it would be better if I left because they were taping, and he didn’t want a problem.  I was completely shocked and speechless, trying to figure out what was happening.  I went back inside, made sure the dress fit, hugged my friend and said good-bye to my daughter.  It was at that point I noticed John Welnick (Mark’s assistant) watching me during these interactions.  As I walked out the door, completely rattled, I noticed John follow me out and watch me walk to my car and drive off campus.  I quickly called my husband to tell him what had happened.  By the time I returned home I was in tears and confused on many levels. Questions were flooding my thoughts. Why had I been asked to leave?  Why didn’t anyone stop it or say something? What had I done that was so offensive?

Later, one of my older daughter’s saw my face and knew something was wrong.  As I relayed the story, she texted her sister on Trinity church staff to find out what had happened and was met with an unwillingness to discuss the situation.  Moments later my husband received a phone call from our future son-in-law to inform him that there had been a situation.  He informed my husband that they were just taking precautions since they didn’t know why I was at church.  My husband questioned the church by-line of “opening our Bibles to learn and our lives to love” if they were going to only allow certain people to attend on a Wednesday morning or even be on the church campus.  He then said that he would like both John and Brandon to call him with an explanation and apology.  No phone call was made by John, however, Brandon did call a day later with a confusing explanation of it being a mistake because he was stressed and overwhelmed. At that point, he did offer an apology.  My husband questioned why I would be considered a threat or problem, and he received no explanation.

Two weeks later at the wedding the shift in how people from Trinity treated us was almost comical.  Hugs and “we love you and your family” coming from everyone including the Driscolls. It felt completely fake and done for show.  Again, there was no mention of us being unsafe or dangerous people.  I have asked for an explanation on what I could have possibly done that lead to me being asked to leave campus and have still not received any valid reason to why I was asked to leave.

Since then, I have taken the time to invite people into our home, listen to their stories of hurt and abuse and do my best to love them and stand with them.  Because of our choice to publicly stand with the hurting and open up our home to people, our home is now considered unsafe by The Trinity Church. Just for being seen with a person who left the church, I was told I was unsafe by one of the Driscolls. This has had a damaging effect on our relationship with our daughter and son-in-law. Now they seem unwilling to come to our home or even meet with us at this point.  Unfortunately, this has also had an effect on their relationship with our 5 other daughters.  I still struggle to understand how opening our home to love people and walk in obedience to Jesus leads to this type of treatment.  I want to be the type of person that walks alongside people in love and stands up for truth especially in cases of abuse and hurt. I believe this is the role of the local church and in turn our role as the body of Christ.   I believe forgiveness is essential, but I don’t believe that means we stay silent about injustice.  Sadly, in listening to people share their stories we also learned of the hurtful and untrue things that Mark and Grace have been telling people about us over the years-also a story for another time.  Pulling back the curtain to see that the teaching (although not always biblically based) doesn’t match the personal life or true character of Mark and Grace.

Although, I have much to still untangle and share about the past eight years, I think it’s these true stories of people’s experiences that show the character, exclusivity and pattern of abuse that begin to paint a picture of a toxic church culture instead of a loving church culture.  I hope others will also have the courage to come forward and share their experiences.  Together we help others feel heard and less alone.  I heard a couple of comments from the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast from Daniel Silliman and Kate Shellnut that really resonated with me.  “The silence [to victims] feels like church wide consent” Kate Shellnut took it a bit further with a quote from Ted Olsen, “When someone does something wrong that hurts, when you find out that people knew and didn’t say anything that hurts worse.”

I am aware that sharing this story, continuing to stand with others, and continuing to share more parts of my story will invite criticism and further family conflict.  However, it is important to me to stand up to bullies, focus on what God is asking of me, and trust Him to work the rest out.  My heart and prayers are for healing and restoration for those that are hurt and broken.  I desire for people to learn the truth and understand that this is not how a healthy Jesus centered church treats people.  My hope is for people to move forward in a healthy church that shines the light and love of Jesus to those in and outside of the Church.  The Church should be a place where people feel loved and welcomed, not controlled, abused and shunned.  We are to be the example of supernatural unity and what it looks like to truly love our neighbor.  There should be no difference between what happens behind closed doors and what is preached from the pulpit.

I would also like to take this opportunity to ask a few questions of all those that have said we should be quiet; that calling out the “flaws” of pastors isn’t biblical.  Is it Christ-like to stand with the hurting?  Is it Christ-like to call out religious abuse?  Would you come forward and speak against physical abuse or abuse against a woman or child?  I want to be clear that I believe it is biblical and Christ-like to forgive, love, pray for and call out abusive behavior in the church. We are to shine light in the darkness.  We are to stand with and love the broken and hurting.  No one should have to show their bruises to prove that they’ve been abused.  Psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse are just as damaging as physical abuse.  This type of abuse from the church causes deep soul damage.  The Church should not be silent on these issues especially when it is happening at the hands of those in leadership.  When we are honest about what happens in the church and don’t cover up abuse but instead stand up for the hurting, we send a powerful message to the world.  We are all broken people in need of a Savior and together with Jesus we can find healing that leads to a life filled with hope, love and unity.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35

Sincerely,

Jolie

Click here to read all of the Postcards from Phoenix

 

A Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Speaks Out About Mark Driscoll

Andrew Lisi was involved at Mars Hill Church from December 2011 to March, 2014. During that time, he was an Executive Pastor, Community Groups Pastor and Biblical Living Pastor at three different campus churches (Downtown, U-District and West Seatte). When Andrew resigned, allegations of pastoral abuse and wrongdoing had started to surface against lead pastor Mark Driscoll.

Andrew recently reached out to me with a letter of concern he wrote to the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church at the time of his resignation (Dave Bruskas, Sutton Turner, and Mark Driscoll). The letter expressed many of his reasons for leaving. He contacted me in response to the recent reports from former members of The Trinity Church in Phoenix. Andrew sees The Trinity Church reports as history repeating itself. He also hopes to raise awareness about the fact that the investigating board of elders at Mars Hill declared Mark Driscoll to be disqualified from ministry in 2014. Driscoll first agreed to undergo a restoration process but abruptly quit before he started it.

As I read these documents, I am struck by how prophetic Andrew was. I have to remind myself that he is writing in March, months before the church closed down. He saw what was coming and in a way what is happening now.

Several months later, he sent the letter directly to Mark Driscoll with the following cover email:

Pastor Mark,

I wish this was an e-mail under different circumstances. But, I do hope this e-mail and the attached document get to you directly. First, here’s why I’m writing. There are two specific incidents in there I think have personally been involved in regarding your leadership and have as examples of sin against me. The first is the “son-in-law” episode during the LP [Lead Pastor] residency back in May 2013. The second is the Real Marriage/ResultSource stuff. I invite you to read my letter to see the details.

Since I resigned from being on staff and from being an elder at Mars 5 months ago, I have thought long and hard, prayed, and sought counsel as to whether or not I should reach you directly. I never came to a solid conclusion until recently. I decided to trust the Holy Spirit and my gut that’s telling me that the best way to honor you as a brother in Christ and to seek reconciliation is to try to reach you directly.

You might think that I am just now bringing these things up, but that is not a case. Attached you will find the grievance letter I submitted to the Executive Elders and HR when I resigned in March. All of the local elders at West Seattle read it and discussed it with me. I had brief discussions with Pastor Dave and shared it with Bonnie Heather. Much of what is brought up in there has to deal directly with you and while I wanted it to get in your hands then, I’m sure it was never read by you. Perhaps you never received it. While I would add some nuance and deal with the few typos, what I am sending to you is the letter I submitted on March 21, 2014.

I do hope you will read this letter. I expect you will be tempted to get defensive or perhaps dismissive because I was at Mars for a short period of time and we never had a lot of personal interaction. I simply ask that you submit to the Holy Spirit’s fruit of patience and self-control and delay judgment until you’ve read it completely.

Please know that I long to see Jesus glorified in all of this and your joy in Him to be made complete. If you want to address my two examples and would like to talk to me, I will put my number below. Additionally, I am willing to come to Seattle to talk in person.

Your brother in Christ,

Andrew

The letter is too long to place in the blog post so I have a link to it here:

Read Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Andrew Lisi’s Resignation Letter

I want to pick out just a couple of elements to highlight.

After examining several reasons he decided to leave Mars Hill (many of them involving Mark Driscoll’s leadership), Andrew anticipated various rationalizations for Driscoll’s actions from staff who remained at Mars Hill. One frequently heard rationalization was that Driscoll’s platform brings people in to get saved. Andrew wrote:

I can listen to Pastor Mark’s teaching and even seek to be obedient to what he says. I believe he is an extremely gifted and talented preacher and communicator who gets the gospel out there, calls people to repentance and to turn to Jesus and they do! He has great insight into the human condition and the culture around us. There’s so much about what he says I agree with; but I refuse to do as he does because he doesn’t practice what he preaches. It’s all public. It’s about platform. It’s about influence. It’s about being seen by others. The claim is it’s for the sake of the gospel, but the platform and being seen (Pastor Mark, #1 Best Seller, Founding, Preaching, Vision Pastor, 3rd Fastest Growing Church) is like a megaphone with the name Jesus spoken in plain voice.

And then later in his letter, Andrew looks at the growth of Mars Hill realistically. While they were baptizing people, many were coming from other churches. That echoes what is happening at The Trinity Church. Driscoll’s enterprise grew rapidly when many churches were closed during the pandemic and Driscoll stayed open in defiance of mitigation efforts.

The argument from success is overplayed. The argument is “we are baptizing a ton of people.” In this I say – Amen! I am so thrilled to see people get saved and be baptized. But does it tell the full story? 50 churches, 50,000 people. Phoenix was planted with over 600 people on launch day and over 1,700 when Mark preached live. To what end? The majority were most likely Christians from other churches who were gone the next week. On launch day, with 668 adults and 75 children present (743 total), 10 people were baptized. To knock the small church of 75 people who has one baptism, is to point the finger back on ourselves. First, I implore Pastor Mark to stop taking tactless hacks at small churches and consider them lesser because we are “bigger, stronger, faster, better” and have “a ton of baptisms.” Many small churches are just as missional as Mars Hill and God is choosing to use them in a different way. Second, many Christians from those small churches and other larger churches are just transferring to the new, cool church in town. Third, Mars Hill is not seeing the non-Christians come out in droves to be saved. By ratio, we are seeing the same kind of fruit as many small churches.

Another common one for excusing his actions was “Mark is making progress.” Andrew wrote:

…a general disposition of repentance is severely missing with Pastor Mark. “Progress” is downplaying the issue “But you don’t know Mark at all, Andrew” is what I’m told. That’s right. I don’t have any kind of personal relationship with him. I know this may just get dismissed because of that. However, I think that just feeds the problem. It’s not that I don’t know Mark; it’s also that he doesn’t make himself known. He does not pursue more opportunities to walk in the light with his elders, the men entrusted to lead the mission at the local level. He may very well be a leader in repentance in his home and with his family, perhaps even those closest to him. But I know enough to know that we expect more from those who become members of our church than we do Mark. Some leaders in the church I have talked to say they “see progress” and that’s enough for them, but as I see it, it’s like an abused woman saying, “well he’s only hit me three times this year instead of like five last year – that’s progress.” I fear that because of his savvy way of communicating, forceful language, and bully tactics (name calling, caricaturing, etc.) along with success in ministry Mark got a free pass for his actions long ago and those who knew him then say “he’s so much better than 10 years ago!” When it’s the kind of progress an abusive boyfriend makes, I’m not telling the girl “well that’s great, I’m sure it will get better.” I’m saying, “get out and get out fast.”

Near the end, Andrew recommended.

I believe Mars Hill is at a crossroads and Pastor Mark has to make a decision. Our church and the people live under a false sense of security because we see more money coming in, more churches being established, higher attendance numbers, and people getting saved. But I don’t think it’s only the Holy Spirit working through us; rather, it’s God working despite us. He is patient, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. TThe church has only existed for just over 17 years. That span of time is often just a paragraph in the bible. So, perhaps it can stay this way for decades. I saw God answer the prayer of men being raised up in leadership at West Seattle, but I don’t know for what purpose. Maybe the growth will continue. But the growth we see is a false sense of security. The massive staff turnover and resignation from elders shows that “you reap what you sow.” The labor is in vain. Mars Hill has boasted “the only constant at Mars Hill is change” for at least as long as I’ve lived here. I want that to be true, but it’s not, at least not where it matters most. The call is not merely for a further resurgence forward, but a call to repentance now and it begins with the Founding, Preaching & Vision Pastor, the President of the Board of Elders: Pastor Mark. I recommend Pastor Mark take a sabbatical (not a summer vacation) and entrust Jesus’ church to others and the Holy Spirit. What can be lost by that? I believe that will set a trajectory that will work all the way down in such powerful ways through Sutton & Dave, the LPs, XPs, other staff and elders, leaders in the church, members, attendees, and even many outside the church to God’s glory. This is what I long for and I know I don’t have to be here in order to witness it. I will rejoice wherever the Lord leads as I hear about repentance in Mark for his leadership and a greater desire for him to walk in the light with his brothers and elders and I will be filled with sorrow if that day never comes.

Eventually, Driscoll did take time off and in August 2014, formal charges were filed with the church against him by 21 former elders. After they were thoroughly investigated, the board of elders who did the investigation recommended that Driscoll be disqualified until he could be restored by the elders. Another decision making body at the church – the Board of Overseers (outside advisors) – didn’t want to do that. While these two boards were deliberating, Driscoll resigned.

Andrew Lisi wasn’t around for that. He was gone by then but he had seen the trouble coming and issued a warning. His letter stands as a warning today. Who will heed it?

Podcastalooza: Three podcasts I can recommend today

Steve Hassan – Freedom of Mind

First, let me introduce Steve Hassan’s interview with me regarding Christian nationalism, mind control groups, the Trump years, and, at the end, The Trinity Church in Phoenix. Hassan crafted a blog around the interview which you can read here. A warning to my readers who support Donald Trump, Steve wrote a book called the Cult of Trump about QAnon and Trump’s followers who can see no wrong in anything Trump does. By discussing people who can’t see Trump critically, I am not implying that everyone who supports some of Trump’s policy ideas is in a cult.

Veterans of the Culture War Podcast

Second, I appear today on the Veterans of the Culture War podcast hosted by Zach Malm and Dave Lester. Both men were formerly associated with Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Here is their tweet about the podcast:

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – Christianity Today

Third, today is the beginning of Christianity Today’s podcast series, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” You can hear the first episode “Who Killed Mars Hill?” here.

I like where Mike Cosper is going with this. Rather than tell the whole story of Mars Hill, he focuses on why fallen celebrity pastors keep getting a platform among evangelicals. He hopes to understand better why certain types of people gravitate toward the role of pastor and why Christians keep accepting them.

Mike and guest Ed Stetzer establish the epidemic of celebrity pastors who fall from their perch for various reasons. Stetzer seems to float the possibility that gifted people are elevated to celebrity status before their character can catch up. As I listened, I framed this question to myself: Does pastoring in a megachurch create narcissism or are narcissists attracted to leading a such a church?

The Different Stories of the End of Mars Hill

There is a helpful section near the end where Cosper interviews former elders Aaron Gray and Tim Smith about the investigation of the formal charges in 2014. Driscoll has told people that God told him there was a trap set for him and that he was released from Mars Hill. Gray said he has never understood what that meant. Smith said Driscoll told him that Driscoll came to believe the Board of Elders who investigated the charges against him wanted to gather dirt to force him out. Instead of restoring him, according to Driscoll, they wanted to take over the church from him. Smith seemed dumbfounded by that suspiciousness.

Dave Bruskas, who witnessed the entire process, responded that there was no such “trap.” The plan was for Driscoll to submit to his elders, as he always preached a pastor should do, and return to the role of pastor at Mars Hill.

I will have more to say about future episodes but I will end this post by saying it was a nice touch to have Mars Hill Band King’s Kaleidescope provide the theme song and I liked the choice of Pedro the Lion for a closing song.

Does Anything Sound Familiar Here?

In recent weeks, former members of The Trinity Church have come forward with various stories of being surveiled and being subjected to loyalty tests. Recently, the church threatened legal action against former members. These are concerning tactics and have brought some comparisons to Scientology.

I thought of that comparison when reading this article in Daily Beast about Scientology and surveillance of a former member. Check out this description of “Fair Game” from the article:

“For decades, Scientology has been known to hire private investigators to surveil and harass former members and other people it considers enemies. It even has a name for the policy, which founder L. Ron Hubbard called ‘Fair Game.’ Hubbard said that people identified as targets for ‘Fair Game’ could be ‘tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed,'” said the report. “Critics of Scientology’s tax-exempt status have long pointed to the church’s ‘Fair Game’ policy and use of private investigators as a prime example of the way that the organization is misusing its favored status with the government, and largesse from taxpayers. Remini often decries that Scientology not only harasses and surveils former members, but that it does it with tax-free funds.”

While the allegations from former members don’t include the term “Fair Game,” they do include similar sounding tactics. Chad Freese, former director of security said this about internal deliberations at The Trinity Church:

In another Angelo security meeting, you [Mark Driscoll] and Brandon discussed how you had tripled your litigation fund to approximately $10 million. You said something along the lines of

If Angelo crosses me, I will just bankrupt him and bleed him dry in court. It is a numbers game. I guarantee you he runs out of money before I do.

You followed that up with, “In fact, that goes for anyone.” You continued to talk horribly about Angelo and said,

Hell, he’s a broke-ass dad that could not financially take care of his son. He only tithes $25 per month. He doesn’t have much money so bankrupting him will be easy.

The rest of Freese’s document describes surveillance of a family and regular monitoring of members’ social media postings.

I invite readers to draw your own conclusions.

 

Faithtalk 1360 Radio Puts Fox in Charge of Investigating Crime at the Henhouse

Mark Driscoll and his religious business The Trinity Church has a show on Salem Broadcasting Network. In essence, it is a replay of him speaking to his congregation.

Some of the former members and staff of The Trinity Church are bothered that their former pastor is promoted by this show and so they wrote to Salem Broadcasting’s affiliate Faithtalk 1360 in Phoenix to complain. They were represented by Chad Freese who was director of security at the Driscoll church until he quit a few weeks ago.

This in itself is noteworthy because The Trinity Church exiles are following a similar pattern as the former Mars Hill Church members who felt harmed by their experience at the Seattle church. However, what I want to focus on is the reply of Marc Lucas Local Ministry Director at the station. Chad gave me the following email reply:

Hi Chad,
We at FaithTalk 1360 have been investigating the claims filed against Mark Driscoll.  We are working closely with Dunham Agency to review the information against Mark Driscoll.  We appreciate your email to the radio station.

Thanks,
Marc Lucas

While it sounds good that the claims are being investigated, check out who is doing the investigating. Lucas says “The Dunham Agency” is working with them. In this story, the claims and former members are in the henhouse, and the Dunham Agency is the fox who is in charge of investigating a mysterious disappearance of some chickens.

One of Mark Driscoll’s long time associates and damage control guru — Randal Taylor — just happens to work for the Dunham Agency. Taylor is also on the board of both Real Faith and The Trinity Church.

Prior to joining Dunham, Taylor worked with Driscoll and Mars Hill Church on video production and public relations messaging. According to former Mars Hill elders I spoke with, Taylor was involved in crafting the videos of Driscoll attempting to do damage control as Mars Hill slipped into crisis mode throughout 2014 (e.g., the “anonymous” video). Gradually, he became a trusted advisor for Driscoll.

Thus, Taylor was involved in damage control at the former church and may be involved in the same activity now. While I can’t prove this (since nobody sees financial statements at The Trinity Church), it is quite possible that The Trinity Church and Real Faith are clients of the Dunham Agency. I asked Marc Lucas about the conflict interest but heard no reply from him.

(Well, scratch the above because it appears the Dunham & Company is a “partner” with Mark Driscoll. In other words, they work or worked for him getting his Real Faith rebrand off the ground.) Watch:

The fix is in.

In any case, if the radio stations maintains this stance, it is clear they have no intention of taking the listener and former member complaints seriously. To my way of thinking, dismissing these concerns would be a mistake. I suspect these complaints could escalate and find more supporters, especially from the Northwest.

UPDATE: Here is another indication of Dunham’s work for Driscoll.

And Driscoll’s testimonial…

 

Mark Driscoll: The Trinity What?

Far be it from me to tell Mark Driscoll how to run his religious businesses.  But I have to say if I was a tither or someone who gave an offering to The Trinity Church, I would feel a bit slighted.

Take for instance the production studio recently purchased by The Trinity Church religious business. That nonprofit paid $740,000 for a nifty studio to serve as an office for his other religious nonprofit business, Real Faith.  I’m not a megachurch pastor, but $740,000 is a lot of coin. But The Trinity Church had that laying around and Driscoll used it (since he alone decides those kind of things) to get himself a studio.

But you know what? He didn’t even give the givers at The Trinity Church a shout out. Witness this June 3rd email to his supporter list.

Real Faith “has acquired a studio space.” No tip of the cap to The Trinity Church. Just a passive voice.

He says here on June 3rd that God “just put something in front of us [Real Faith].” Strange. The Trinity Church bought the space back in March. Former director of security Chad Freese told me that Real Faith director and Driscoll’s oldest daughter Ashley Chase told the former owner that none of the old furniture would be needed since she had already ordered new everything for the space. I wonder who paid for that? And why is Driscoll still fund raising as if he just “acquired” it?

So many questions. It probably is all legal and such, but I can’t escape the impression that The Trinity Church functions as the warm up act for The Real Faith, which is The Real Show. What kind of sweet deal do you have to have to have your church shell out $750,000 in tithes and offerings so you can have a custom studio for you to run your other religious business and not give them any credit?

Postcards from Phoenix: When Church Demands Obedience

In this third Postcard from Phoenix, former The Trinity Church member Tiffany Eneas reflects on the costs of conformity to the will of Mark Driscoll. One by one, church leaders, including Grace Driscoll, demanded that she cut ties with close friends until one day she realized what was happening.

Tiffany was slowly but surely being coerced by church leadership. She wanted to be a good church member and wanted to trust just authority. However, in a moment of clarity, she realized that her trust was being manipulated.

Monitoring social media and then rewarding and punishing people for their associations is disturbing behavior for the leadership of any organization. Alarm bells should go off when a pastor or pastor’s wife tells you that there are other church members you may not associate with as a condition of relationship.

Hi Warren,

It’s heating up in Phoenix, most days around 100 degrees, but that’s not what I mean. Things are getting very heated around these Trinity Church stories coming out. As my name gets associated with them, I’m starting to get nasty texts where I am getting cussed out and accused of lying and “getting in the way of God’s work” by Mark Driscoll’s most faithful followers. I had NO idea that a Christian believed that I had any power like that over Him. Maybe the teachings aren’t as good as I thought? Anyway, I digress.

I wanted to write to follow up on your last postcard from Luke! I felt like it was my turn to share when you spoke about “associating with non-approved people.” My story is not one of horror and abuse like many other faced, but I was definitely told who NOT to associate with. Let me tell you something about myself, NO ONE tells me what to do and women like that don’t fit well at a Mark Driscoll establishment.

I know I was unpopular with the Driscolls from the beginning. We had many incidents (these will be told later by my husband). I genuinely love people. I’m super relational with all sorts of people, from kids to the elderly. We walked into the church last June and I immediately made friends left and right. Maybe that was a threat to them in some way.

My friends (some pictured below) are all now “dangerous” somehow. I guess love, discernment and truth are dangerous attributes at TTC.

The Girls Picture

Looking back, things were incredible at the church until Trina Blatnik was no longer fellowshipping with us since her husband Dustin was fired from his position as worship pastor. (Dustin is also one of my husband’s and my best friends to this day, hopefully forever.) This was a MASSIVE blow to the church as a whole. From what I saw and heard from many, Dustin was the only staff member who was pastoral and relational. Everything else is extremely transactional, and it’s just my opinion, but he was the only glue holding things together biblically.

Then came Easter. The Driscolls and some of the pastors saw an earlier Instagram picture of me from a trip to San Diego with friends who are considered unsafe and untrustworthy by the Driscolls. One of the people in the picture was Trina Blatnik.

The Easter Picture

Then there was this picture above from Easter. After a week of constantly hearing about the staff gossiping about the picture but not having courage to speak to us, we were finally approached on Saturday at 1pm, the week after Easter by Pastor Eden Fine. He danced around the issue, so in true “assertive wife” fashion I asked, “Do you wanna talk about the Easter picture or what?” We were then told the Blatnik’s, especially Trina, was unsafe. My husband was questioned as a leader because he was “still allowing” me to fellowship with my friend, Trina. We were told if we wanted to be personal friends with Eden and his wife, this friendship had to cease.

Mind you I came from Good Shepherd Community Church in Oregon which has VERY respected, famous, pastors. I attended that church for over 25 years and I trust them with every fiber of my being to this day. If they told me something like this (which they NEVER would) I would totally trust my pastor. So I blindly trusted Eden. My husband kind of did.

The following week I had a one on one meeting with Mark’s wife, Grace. My husband had just resigned from security and lots of rumors were flying around about my family, AGAIN. We were meeting, so i thought, to discuss how to restore things between us. I knew things were off when we met in a room with two chairs pulled forward in front of a glass door with two security guards on the other side for protection. From me… I guess. This is actually laughable. I’m 5’2 and I only run if something wild is chasing me.

We had a conversation full of wonderful things like her “red flags about my family.” Then I talked about how her kids offended mine and the roller coaster of emotions they put my kids on frequently over the past year. Grace brought up her past hurts with friendships and randomly described how the security guard at Mars Hill helped take their church down…that was prophetic, maybe?

Then we got to the “friends talk.” Hers was much more bold than Eden’s. I was blatantly told the Chase family is not safe. Specifically, this meant the parents of Landon Chase (Landon is married to her daughter Ashley). This hit very close to home because my daughter happens to be dating Luke Chase, Landon’s brother. As we all now know, the Driscolls consider Ashley’s in-laws to be unwelcome at the church.

Next was Trina. My reaction: “I know better than to be friends with her. I’ve been told already.”

The “Girls Picture” above is from that trip to San Diego that came up a couple times in the meeting with Grace. This trip bothered her. These friendships bothered her. I did tell Grace the trip was awkward because Trina was no longer fellowshipping with the church, and we were all still grieving that, and it was weird as the rest of us were all highly involved at Trinity.

Side note. Grace does not follow me on Instagram and I never told her about this trip. We didn’t share stuff like that… how did she see the pictures?

The one that really hurt me to my core in that meeting with Grace was one of my dear friends, Mariya Kiforishin. She was dangerous as well? Pastor Brandon had eluded to this before, but I didn’t think I was not to associate with her. She and her whole family have served their butts off for years at the church and were even invited to both of the Driscoll kids weddings.

Grace said I should be cut off from her “for this season until her husband could lead their house better, it was best to not fellowship with her.”

I am going to be honest here. I was still brainwashed and in agreement at this point.

I let Grace know there was an event the next day and I had purchased tickets for Mariya and me. She advised against going and told me to give tickets to Mariya to attend with someone else. I needed a break, she said.

I complied. How embarrassing. Here is the email I sent to Grace telling her I went along with what she said to do.

The day after the event, I literally woke up and was like WHAT ARE YOU DOING, TIFFANY!? It was like a light came on and I realized what I had let happen to me. I totally believed the lies. This is cult behavior to manipulate people and friendships.

I have apologized to these women. These incredible friends. Thank you Lord, they are so gracious and our friendships are stronger now than ever. We ARE all strong women. And we are led by men who are godly leaders, secure enough to let us be who God made us.

I’m so sorry for you, Grace. No one can live in peace manipulating people’s moves to keep a “Kingdom” in order forever. I’m afraid you are the one with a husband not leading well. When you get tired, I think you may find a lot of women willing to truly love you and possibly even offer real friendship.

With gratitude for eyes opened to truth and true friendship,

Tiffany

 

Read all of the Postcards from Phoenix

For more on The Trinity Church, click here

For a summary of recent controversies surrounding The Trinity Church, click here

Postcards from Phoenix: When Church Divides a Family

This is the second Postcard from Phoenix and it comes from former The Trinity Church worship staff member Luke Chase. Young Mr. Chase describes a difficult situation where he felt he had to choose between loyalty to his family and loyalty to The Trinity Church.

When a child is torn between loyalty to a pastor and loyalty to parents, the psychological dissonance is incredibly intense and disruptive. The pastor claims to speak for God, while your parents are, of course, your only parents. It is simply wrong for a pastor to usurp these relationships. If anything, church should attempt to build and rebuild family relationships.  It should be noted that Luke’s brother Landon is married to Mark Driscoll’s daughter, Ashley.

The other disturbing feature of Luke’s postcard is his description of how he felt he had to demonstrate loyalty to the church over his friends. He said his associations and friendships were monitored with angry confrontations from leaders when he associated with non-approved people. This is quite troubling and something that I am hearing from others at The Trinity Church. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this in another postcard or two.

 

Dear Warren:

I recently learned the reason why my family no longer attends The Trinity Church. As you now know, The Trinity Church is, until just recently, where I worked as a worship assistant, and acted as the interim worship director, and where my brother Landon is a pastor. My parents did not tell me the reasons they stopped attending in order to allow me to stay at the church so I could, as they said, “walk in my gifting.”

I had no idea why they stopped coming to church with us about 18 months ago. If something had happened they surely would have told me, right? I mean they never talked about the church, and for the most part I stopped talking to them about my work life. At the same time they went silent, I did too. I couldn’t tell them they had been deemed as “toxic” by the leadership, could I? Also, my 50+ hours work weeks resulted in us not having real conversations for far too long.

While I learned a lot and did have some buffer of protection from Pastor Dustin Blatnik who was my mentor and I consider to be a friend, my time on staff had its challenges. This problem was amplified once Pastor Dustin was let go and I was discouraged by the other pastors from continuing to associate with him.

The church leaders dictated who I was allowed to be friends with. There were some employees I was allowed to spend time with outside of work, probably because of their trust rating. Other employees I was told would be fired soon, and that if I were to hang out with them I might also be fired. Ironically a friend who respected my decision when I ultimately decided to resign and allowed me time to process on my schedule paid a price for being seen with me. He was seen hanging out with me the next week, and he was promptly fired and told that he was not a good fit.

On several occasions I was pulled into private rooms for disciplinary conversations. The infractions ranged from parking in the wrong lot to not being active with other workers when I had more important tasks to do. My supervisors Tyler Johnson, Galen Balenski, and even the campus Pastor Brandon Anderson resorted to cursing and intimidating me. Surprisingly enough, those motivational talks didn’t earn my trust or motivate me to please them more.

During my parent’s absence I had to listen to staff repeatedly tell me that my mom and dad were toxic. It struck me as odd since this is what is said of the other in-laws of the Driscoll kids and even of Pastor Brandon Anderson’s in-laws. In fact, their continued presence in my life was viewed as such a threat to my development as a REAL MAN that I was offered a pay raise simply for moving out of that “toxic” environment by Pastor Eden, Pastor Landon, and John Welnick. It was even implied that if I didn’t move out soon enough I could be fired. As a result I had to pretend like I agreed in order to save my job but in reality I would just day dream about getting out of the church.

An important note here is that my parents adopted me at 9 months old and have loved, parented and invested in me well to this day. They have led large growing integrity filled ministries in Seattle and Arizona for more than 15 years and clearly are not toxic people – I mean google their names and you will not find a bunch of dead bodies behind their bus! They love their kids and were willing to suffer in order to avoid causing any further division between them.

When I finally did ask them what happened I was angered to learn that Pastor Mark Driscoll yelled at and wounded my mom emotionally. My dad had tried to restore the relationship, but Pastor Mark did not feel like he had done anything wrong. It was after this incident that they were declared toxic in an attempt to explain why the church was no longer in fellowship with them.

That is when I resigned. When it became clear that the abuse I had experienced wasn’t an isolated thing that was normal in the workplace, but a pattern of behavior that I keep discovering goes far beyond what I first knew. While I love my brother and am sorry that I don’t get to see him as much now that we are not working together, I just couldn’t continue to work for an organization that required its employees to live in fear of being fired and was actively speaking poorly of my parents.

With sadness from Phoenix,

Luke Chase

 

Read all of the Postcards from Phoenix

For more on The Trinity Church, click here

For a summary of recent controversies surrounding The Trinity Church, click here

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Church: The Podcast

Mike Cosper and Christianity Today are launching a timely podcast series titled “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.

Here is the teaser:


I look forward to hearing what Mike has put together. I was interviewed for the series and I know others who provided insight to it. Mike also has first hand experience at the church. This series comes at a time when Mark Driscoll and his current church in Phoenix is in the news. Some of the same issues are being raised by former staff and members of The Trinity Church as were raised during 2007-2014 by Mars Hill Church members and staff.

Although not a podcast, a companion series in real time is my Postcards from Phoenix series underway on the blog.

I urge you to subscribe to the podcast and listen along.

This second teaser came out June 7.

Postcards from Phoenix: Who Suggested The Trinity Church Hire a Private Investigator?

Since I first wrote about Mark Driscoll’s “elderless church,” former staff and members from the Phoenix church have emailed and called with stories of their experiences there. Some tales have been told elsewhere, but others have not. Some feel like news stories and others feel like laments from old friends I have never met in person. I hear echoes of Seattle via the Southwest. Pain and confusion sounds the same whether it is from Seattle or Scottsdale.

I have decided to bring you some of these stories in a Postcards from Phoenix series. Some will be lengthy, some quite short. Some will be signed and some anonymous. All will involve experiences good, bad, and ugly with The Trinity Church.

The first one is complex in that it was triggered by a report from an anonymous witness to a recent spirited conversation between Grace Driscoll and another woman after women’s Bible study group. The argument was centered around a woman leaving the church amidst the current upheaval and controversies at The Trinity Church.

As a part of the argument, Grace Driscoll reportedly alleged that former director of security Chad Freese hired the private investigator who surveilled the Manuele family (see here and here for details). The implication was that the church shouldn’t be held responsible for this since Freese did it. This caught my attention for a couple of reasons. One, it demonstrates that recent news reporting is being followed widely in the church. Two, I wondered if there was any truth to the allegation that Chad Freese both instigated the hiring of the PI and then later complained about it.

And so, the first postcard comes from Chad Freese with receipts.

Dear Warren:

I would love to take a moment to provide some clarity on this situation. I am also hearing reports that members of the staff are trying to blame me for their reprehensible behavior. I find it laughable that anyone believes that a volunteer could wield so much power and authority when it is so clear that the staff walks on eggshells. However, I still feel inclined to set the record straight.

On March 27th, Pastor Mark’s Executive Assistant, John Welnick, relayed Pastor Mark’s “commanders intent” to return Angelo’s bark with a roar. Notice in the text exchange he says we were to give a “Disproportionate response” to Angelo. At least he said to be nice to the women and children.

On March 29th, Pastor Brandon asked for a private investigator and wanted as much info on Angelo as possible. Note my response at the bottom, I wanted input on how Pastors Mark and Brandon wanted me to proceed.

Keep in mind, my role as a volunteer was to provide recommendations, but they make the decisions. In fact, Pastor Mark has made it clear on many occasions that he is in charge and what he says goes.

On April 1st, the threat level was raised per information that Pastor Landon Chase was sharing with the team. Based on this new information I recommended to have the private investigator that had been previously suggested by Pastor Brandon Anderson follow Angelo due to false reports saying Angelo was going to attack the church. All of this turned out to be untrue, which sadly was a pattern. Later that night Brandon wanted professional eyes on Angelo and made a point to state how we “Can’t predict crazy.”

I have had people question why I was supporting the church in its defense and stance against Angelo as these events unfolded since now it appears I am supporting Angelo. I want to be clear that I was not picking sides in popularity contest; I just want the truth to be shared.

I was never close with Angelo, nor did I know him well. We sat at a table together at Real Men’s [men’s ministry] a few times, but that was the extent of our relationship. I owed it to the church to do my job as the volunteer director and provide the best support and advice I could based on limited information I was given. Nonetheless, I take full responsibility for my participation. I have offered my apologies to those I have wronged and asked for forgiveness. I have also repented to God for my complicity in this matter. While I had hoped that the staff would do the same, it has become apparent that we have different convictions.

The facts remain the same. The church did hire a company to track the Manuelle family and it was initially suggested as an option by Pastor Anderson. Ultimately, I resigned for a lot more reasons than just the Manuele situation. In fact, that is small in comparison to the rest. Those details will come later.

From sunny Phoenix,

Chad