Does Plagiarism Matter to Christians?

Judging by reaction to recent plagiarism cases, I don’t think plagiarism matters much to most Christians.

Of late, professor Aaron New has brought forward multiple clear examples of plagiarism involving Tim Clinton and the American Association of Christian Counseling. I have published most of them on this blog. The response has been interest from the Christian Post but other than that, a resounding yawn. The AACC’s response has been to blame interns and employees and buy software to find plagiarism before they publish it. Tim Clinton’s other organization, James Dobson’s Family Talk has removed articles with plagiarized material but without comment or apology.

Two days ago, Publisher’s Weekly first reported a settlement between Christine Caine and Carey Scott in a plagiarism case. Caine took some of Scott’s work and used it in a recent book. While Caine’s publisher settled with Scott, Caine has remained silent, without comment or apology. She hasn’t explained how Scott’s material ended up verbatim in her book and promotional material (see my post where I demonstrate Caine’s copying). Outside of a few familiar voices on social media, there is little pressure on Caine to explain herself or take responsibility for her actions. Her publisher has not responded to multiple requests for comment. Silence is the strategy.

Yesterday, World magazine’s Mindy Belz examined the tepid apology offered by author Anne Voskamp for plagiarism on Twitter. The apology for one instance of plagiarism (now deleted) was buried in a blog post in such way that it could easily be missed. She hasn’t had much else to say about it. But why should she, very few people seem to care.

And let’s not forget Mark Driscoll who was responsible for citation errors in several books. In 2013, Janet Mefferd first accused Driscoll of borrowing concepts from Peter Jones without appropriate citation. From there, I discovered additional problems in several of his books. Although Driscoll didn’t acknowledge wrongdoing, one of Driscoll’s publishers quietly corrected most of the problems over the course of a year. Today, Driscoll is back with a new book from Charisma publishing.

What is the Solution?

For her article, Belz spoke with publishing industry insiders. She reported that one answer was better plagiarism detection software. My answer is to hold authors to a high standard. They should do their own work. Fewer books would be published but given the repetitive nature of many books published by Christian publishers, that would be a good thing.

I suspect that part of the reason plagiarism is a mild sin among Christian writers and publishers is that enforcing the rules would require Christian authors to write their own material. Thus, ghostwriters and researchers would be out of work. Pretend experts and Christian celebrities would have to develop actual skills and find something novel and interesting to say without the help of paid experts and researchers.

As illustrated by the above situations, publishers aren’t regularly accountable to the public, nor do they require authors to be accountable. Scott had to go to court to get justice. She couldn’t count on Caine and her Christian publisher to do the right thing. Now that the situation is public, Caine isn’t talking. Although I don’t know what is in mind, her silence gives the appearance that she hopes her popularity will get her through this rough patch.

What has surprised me is that lack of response from Christians on social media to these cases. Only a very few members of the American Association of Christian Counselors have called for AACC leaders to be accountable. Very few evangelicals have directly appealed to Clinton, Caine, or Voskamp to take responsibility for their actions. Given the social media reaction, I suspect Christian publishers are content to ride out the few emails and calls they are getting in advance of the next book release. If many Christian consumers cared, they would go to the social media accounts of these authors and ask for answers.

As the Caine case demonstrates, plagiarism is actionable. However, in Christian circles it doesn’t appear to matter as much as it does elsewhere. Plagiarism leads to job loss or sanctions in the news room (e.g., here, here, here) and academia (e.g., here, here). When I contacted the Colson Center about Tim Clinton’s near verbatim use of a Chuck Colson op-ed in one of his articles, their response was to say nothing and let it go.

In academia, we will continue to enforce high standards of plagiarism. However, it is jarring to realize that our students will enter a world where plagiarism matters less when they work in media organizations which promote Christianity than in places which do not identify as Christian.

 

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Image: Warren Throckmorton

Dear AACC: Want to Avoid Plagiarism? Follow These Guidelines.

Two weeks ago, Jimmy Queen spokesman for American Association of Christian Counselors owner Tim Clinton told the Christian Post that Clinton has a “zero tolerance for plagiarism.”

Queen had to make that declaration because Dr. Aaron New and I have found some plagiarism in his articles and books (e.g., here). I have documented much of it on this blog. Queen blamed AACC interns and former employees for the infractions. He told CP that careless interns and employees took material from the work of other people, put Tim Clinton’s name on it and they didn’t realize the extent of it until Dr. New and I brought it to light.

If that is so, then there is a very easy way to avoid plagiarism. According to the CP article, AACC purchased software to detect plagiarism in their “mountains of content.” I have an easier method. Just follow these pointers.

First, do your own work.

Yes, that’s right. Write your own articles and books and when you quote someone else or want to use their ideas, look up the source and cite their work. I know it seems crazy and very time consuming, but it works. If Tim Clinton wants his name on something, then he should write it all himself. Sure, interns can track down sources, but as we have learned, they make lots of mistakes. If your name is on the byline, you’re responsible.

But what if someone else writes some of the article or book? That leads to the next guideline:

Give credit where credit is due.

If an intern writes something, put that person’s name on it. The AACC code of ethics discourages ghostwriter. The AACC code of ethics also requires authors to give credit to people in relation to the work they did. If an employee researches a topic and writes it up, give the person credit. Your name doesn’t have to be on everything.

Doing these two things would take care of a multitude of problems.

While we are at it, here is a sample of Clinton taking material from an edited book and putting it in one of the books he authored himself. If he says this is because of interns or employees, then the authorship of his books is open to question.

First, here is a section from his 2006 book Turn Your Life Around.

This appears to have been taken from a 2001 article by Michael Lyles in the Soul Care Bible. See below:

Just one more.

I call this writing a book by press release.

The highlighted parts all came from a Harvard press release which was reproduced by Science Daily. See below:

Elsewhere in the book more of the press release shows up but I feel like this demonstrates the point. The footnotes in the book point to an article in the AMA’s Journal which doesn’t contain any of this material. I am willing to believe an intern or employee goofed up on this. However, if true, that adds strength to my recommendation that preventing plagiarism is mainly about doing your own work.

In addition, any writer who wants to keep to the straight and narrow will profit from this list of 28 guidelines.

Mark Driscoll's New Blog: More Copied Material with No Quotes

Last week, reader Aaron New pointed out a couple of paragraphs in a blog post by fellow Patheos blogger Mark Driscoll which were nearly identical to material in a previously published book by Aubrey Malphurs. Using previously published material without citation is plagiarism.
Well, Professor New has found another copied paragraph. Driscoll’s paragraph is from part two of a series adapted from his book Doctrine with Gerry Breshears and is below:
Driscoll Lightfoot paragraph
Now compare Driscoll’s paragraph with this excerpt from How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot (copied material is underlined).
Lightfoot paragraph canon driscoll
Driscoll left out the Bible citations and rearranged a couple of words. Otherwise, this is lifted from Lightfoot. Taking into account last week’s incident and this one, it is hard to see how this could be accidental or some kind of coincidence. Some may protest that the amount of material is small. While true, the paragraphs are quotes with no quotation marks. This should be corrected and an apology immediately offered when it happens.
I contacted Driscoll’s co-author Gerry Breshears about the citations and he has not answered.
I have been able to consult a few individuals who did ghostwriting and research work for Mars Hill Church. Their descriptions provide insight into how some citations make it into published material and how some doesn’t. Much of the research for Doctrine was paid for by Mars Hill Church. Then Driscoll chose the information he needed and reworked it. Some passages obviously didn’t get reworked much and ended up in published works without citations. In all cases, so I was told, the citations were in the research. However, for some reason, either the author or an editor removed some citations. In any case, the beat goes on.
 

To follow along on social media, click the following links:

Facebook (blog posts and news)
Facebook (Getting Jefferson Right – history news)
Twitter

Reaction to the Monica Crowley Plagiarism Story (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Politico found multiple instances of plagiarism in Crowley’s PhD dissertation.
………….
Recently, Donald Trump named former Fox News talking head Monica Crowley to be his Director of Strategic Communications for the National Security Council. Then yesterday CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski published an expose of 50 instances of plagiarism in her 2012 book What the Bleep Just Happened Here? As disclosed in the CNN report, the transition team — who has another credibility problem on the team (Darrell Scott’s fake PhD) — came to Crowley’s defense:

Monica’s exceptional insight and thoughtful work on how to turn this country around is exactly why she will be serving in the Administration,” a statement from a transition spokesperson said. “HarperCollins—one of the largest and most respected publishers in the world—published her book which has become a national best-seller. Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.

Kaczynski’s research is impressive. There are long passages lifted from Wikipedia, Investopedia, and even her colleagues at the National Review. Comparing Crowley with Mark Driscoll’s plagiarism, I have to give an award to Crowley. Her plagiarism is extensive and involves numerous sources. Crowley has a PhD from Columbia and definitely should know better. On point, Bill Adair, professor at Duke University tweeted:


Because Crowley has academic training, I wonder if she had a ghostwriter involved who was simply sloppy. More broadly, I think the blame has to be spread out to anyone who was involved in writing and publishing the book, most notably her editors at HarperCollins.  The book acknowledgments section tells us who might also be able to explain what happened.
Crowley Ackn
National Review 
There are several ties to the National Review in this story which make it important for that publication to provide an official response. Crowley appears to have lifted work from writer Andrew McCarthy and editor Rich Lowry. Crowley’s “first-rate” editor Jessica Gavora has written for National Review and is the wife of NR columnist Jonah Goldberg. McCarthy already replied in a very charitable manner on Twitter:


At least her sources are “whip smart.”
One problem with plagiarism, especially this extensive, is that it perpetrates a fraud. Is Crowley really capable of great work or is she simply pretending? Daily Beast writer Brandy Zadrozny articulates this problem in her response to the Trump team statement.


Crowley has yet to comment (as far as I can determine) but barring some incredible explanation, these instances of plagiarism should disqualify her from the public trust, at least at present. Having said that, I would be surprised if the Trump team takes any principled action.

Citation Error in Sutton Turner's Book Invest? (UPDATED with reply from Mars Hill Church)

While Mark Driscoll has garnered much attention regarding his citation errors (e.g., plagiarism, factual errors, inadequate citations), Driscoll’s assistant and fellow executive elder may also need to do some correcting. In chapter four of his book, Invest, Turner lists differences between a job and a ministry:

  • If you want praise and recognition for what you do, it’s a job. If no one else besides Jesus needs to commend your work, it’s ministry.
  • If you do the job as long as it does not cut into other things (such as hobbies, family activities, etc.), it’s a job. If you are willing to make sacrifices in your personal schedule, it’s ministry.
  • If you compare your lot with others who have more free time, more money, and more possessions, it’s a job. If you pray for others rather than compete with them, it’s ministry.
  • If it bothers you when the phone rings on evenings and weekends, it’s a job. If you see random calls at odd hours as opportunities to serve with joy, it’s ministry.
  • If you want to quit because the work is too hard, the pressure is too great, or your performance is criticized, it’s a job. If you stick it out—until Jesus clearly tells you that it’s time to move on—it’s ministry.
  • If you use the church as a stepping-stone, a payday, or a gold star on your résumé, it’s a job. If you’re working for the church because you love Jesus and you want more people to meet him, get saved, and be transformed, then it’s ministry.
  • Turner, Sutton (2013-12-16). Invest: Your Gifts for His Mission (Kindle Location 673). Resurgence Publishing, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Compare Turner’s list in his 2013 book with this list from a 1999 sermon by Mickey Anders.

Someone has said there is a huge difference between having a job at church and having a ministry at church.
… If you are doing it because no one else will, it’s a job. If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry.
… If you’re doing it just well enough to get by, it’s a job. If you’re doing it to the best of your ability, it’s a ministry.
… If you’ll do it only so long as it doesn’t interfere with other activities, it’s a job. If you’re committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a ministry.
… It’s hard to get excited about a job. It’s almost impossible not to get excited about a ministry.
An average church is filled with people doing jobs. A great church is filled with people involved in ministry.
Dr. Mickey Anders,
Sermon: “The Beginning of Ministry,” First Christian Church, Pikeville, Kentucky January 24, 1999

There are other lists attributed to Anders and very nearly the same list also attributed to a Melody Blevins.  Anders was, until recently, affiliated with the South Elkhorn Christian Church in Lexington, KY. Many lists like this are printed without attribution and often add something to Anders list (although I have no way of knowing what was in Anders original list). Take this one for instance:

Is it a Job or a Ministry?
Some people have a job in the church. Others get involved in a ministry.
What’s The Difference?
If you’re doing it because no one else will, it’s a job.
If you’re doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry.
If you’ll do it so long as it doesn’t interfere with other activities it’s a job.
If you’re committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a ministry.
If you quit because no one praised or thanked you, it was a job.
If you stayed with it even though no one seems to notice, it’s a ministry.
It is hard to get excited about a job.
It is almost impossible not to be excited about a ministry.
If your concern is “success”, it’s a job.
If your concern is “faithfulness”, it’s a ministry.
An average church is filled with people doing jobs.
A great church is filled with people who are involved in ministries!

The list attributed to Melody Blevins has similar points:

A JOB OR A MINISTRY – by Melody Blevins
Some people have a JOB in the church; others involve themselves in a MINISTRY. What’s the difference? If you are doing it just because no one else will, it’s a JOB. If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a MINISTRY. If you quit because someone criticized you, it was a JOB. If you keep on serving, it’s a MINISTRY. If you’ll do it only so long as it does not interfere with your other activities, it’s a JOB. If you are committed to staying with it even when it means letting go of other things, it’s a MINISTRY. If you quit because no one praised you or thanked you, it is a JOB. If you stay with it even though nobody recognizes your efforts, it’s a MINISTRY. It’s hard to get excited about a JOB. It’s almost impossible not to be excited about a MINISTRY. If our concern is success, it’s a JOB. If our concern is faithfulness, it’s a MINISTRY. An average church is filled with people doing JOBS. A great and growing church is filled with people involved in MINISTRY. Where do we fit in? What about us? If God calls you to a MINISTRY, don’t treat it like a JOB. If you have a JOB, give it up and find a MINISTRY. God does not want us feeling stuck with a JOB, but excited and faithful to Him in MINISTRY.

The lists are not identical but they seem similar enough that attribution certainly would be appropriate. At least one reviewer of the book took the list to be original with Turner.
This list or construction might not be original with either Anders or Blevins, but the point is that it does not appear to be original with Turner. Various lists like this have gotten passed around the web since the early days. It didn’t take me long to find two possible authors but no one is cited in Invest. When in doubt, an author should footnote and describe where the material was discovered. An author can adapt material but this should be noted in a footnote.
I have asked Sutton Turner for comment and will report if he replies. Perhaps this is a rare coincidence. However, the Blevins/Anders lists clearly predate Invest, and unless another explanation is offered appear to be the basis for this section of Turner’s book.
UPDATE: Both Sutton Turner and Communications Director Justin Dean responded to my request for comment. Turner took the request seriously and replied that he would correct the problems identified when the book was reprinted. Justin Dean also wrote to say:

We are looking into the best way to cite this in the footnotes and will update the book upon reprint. I don’t have any other information about this right now but we will look into it and make any changes necessary.

His answer was in response to my question about the nature of the error. Did Turner use material he knew wasn’t his or was it an oversight? I am still not clear on this but I can say that it was refreshing to get a serious respectful reply.

Acts 29 Fallout: Information About the Mars Hill Church Partnership with Corban University and Western Seminary

Free lance writer Becky Garrison has been asking Mars Hill Church’s partners in education if there is any fallout relating Acts 29 Network’s removal of Mark Driscoll and the church from the organization’s membership. Western Seminary and Corban University are slated to offer classes at the church’s new Northrup Way location in Bellevue.
Western Seminary

Garrison emailed Derek Hiebert, the Seattle Teaching Site Director for Western Seminary inquiring about the status of their relationship with Mars Hill given the fact that Western Seminary partners with the Acts 29 Network. Here is his response.

Thank you for your inquiry and question about the nature of our relationship with Mars Hill and Acts 29.
Western Seminary is committed to providing gospel-centered graduate level training in the Seattle metro area.  Mars Hill acts as a partnered host organization providing facility and some of the logistics.  Western is leading and implementing the content, curriculum, programs and structure of our training, while Mars Hill provides the space for us to accomplish the training.  Western is excited to serve anyone and everyone in the Seattle area who desire to pursue theological and ministry training.  Western is not under the authority or structure of Mars Hill.  We are a separate and distinct organization here to serve Mars Hill and any other church, organization and person who wants to benefit from our ministry.
The nature of our partnership with both Mars Hill and Acts 29 is such that we will continue to serve both organizations.  As a graduate level training institution, there is not a conflict of interest with the way that we serve both Mars Hill and Acts 29.  Acts 29, as a separate organization, can decide the nature of their partnerships with churches and organizations.  We do not influence their jurisdiction on those matters, nor do they influence ours.
Hope this helps for clarity.  Please feel free to respond if you have more questions.  We want to ensure everyone understands our role, vision and purpose in the Seattle area.

When she inquired about their stance on plagiarism given that Driscoll has committed plagiarism in multiple books, his answer failed to address the fact that Driscoll is scheduled to teach a course during the Spring 2015 semester.

As a gospel-centered evangelical institution, our policy is not to practice or encourage plagiarism.  We maintain integrity within our walls when it comes to accurately citing sources we trust and with which we dialogue.
As an institution partnering with Mars Hill Church in order to serve the Seattle area with our training, we certainly do not condone plagiarism.  Whatever the incidents are concerning this, we pray and hope that Mars Hill Church, as a separate organization, will be able to deal internally with them from a biblical perspective according to the gospel.

According to the Mars Hill Schools page, Driscoll and other MH pastors plan to teach for Western Seminary at the Seattle site:

You’ll learn from our senior pastors and ministry leaders as well as seminary professors, all on-site at Mars Hill Church Bellevue.
“As a graduate of Western Seminary, I am very excited to host this top-notch theological program and to be in the classroom investing in students committed to serving Jesus’ mission through the local church.”
Pastor Mark Driscoll, Founding, Preaching & Vision Pastor, Mars Hill Church

Mr. Hiebert did not return my call to learn if Western had dealt internally with the Driscoll plagiarism issue.
Corban University
When Garrison asked Corban University about their current relationship with Mars Hill Church, she received this response from Steve Hunt, Vice President of Marketing for Corban University.

We, and others, are watching the events surrounding the Mars Hill ministry with interest as recent developments unfold. In November of 2013 we entered into an agreement to provide faculty for a Bible certificate at Mars Hills Schools, with the hope that many more people could benefit from deepening their understanding of the Word. That is still our hope and our commitment, and we are in dialog with all parties concerned to see if any developments will hinder our effort to carry out our mission ‘to educate Christians who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ.’

Driscoll is on the schedule to teach an apologetics course at Corban’s Seattle Mars Hill site.

Western wants to make sure people know that the two institutions are separate and Corban is “watching the events.” I suspect more announcements are coming and I will update this post if either school addresses the plagiarism issues.

Yet Another Citation Error in Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage

Pubishers have three options when plagiarism and/or errors are discovered. Such problems can be ignored, corrected or in extreme cases the book can be pulled from publication. In the case of David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies, there were so many errors that correction was not a viable option so the book was pulled by publisher Thomas Nelson. In the case of Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage, Thomas Nelson elected to correct the errors. I found several such errors in Real Marriage, most of which Thomas Nelson corrected (e.g., here).
An error I did not find was identified by Peter Lumpkins when Real Marriage was released in January 2012. I recently learned of this error and plan to add it to my grid of other problems.  In summary, Lumpkins discovered that Driscoll added a word to a quote as if the word was a part of the original quote. The quote was sourced properly but Driscoll added a word to make it more supportive of his premise.
 
On page 172 in Real Marriage, Driscoll says the following:
RealMarriageOSLongman
 
The lengthy quote is from Tremper Longman’s book on Song of Solomon and is footnoted. However, in Longman’s book, as Lumpkin demonstrates, the word “oral” is not a part of the quote.  Longman says: “Thus, this may be a subtle and tasteful allusion to the intimacies of sex.” (p. 195).
In another place in Real Marriage (p. 186), the same sentence is cited but the word “oral” is in brackets. This is a better practice but given that the word is unbracketed here, many readers would probably believe the the exact quote is as Driscoll presented it.
Lumpkins discovered another problem but it appears that the publisher corrected it. Go read his post for the details.

Acts 29 Network Removes Co-founder Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church From Membership (UPDATED)

In a stunning move, the Acts 29 Network leadership has removed network co-founder and Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll from the organization’s membership. I obtained a letter from several Acts 29 pastors which was sent to Driscoll and Mars Hill Church removing Driscoll and the church as members of the network, as well as calling on Driscoll to step down due to a pattern of complaints from Acts 29 pastors. Mark Driscoll was instrumental in founding the Acts 29 Network and has been president of the group. According to the letter, the information will soon be posted on the Acts 29 website. The letter is below:

Mark,
As the Board of Acts 29, we are grateful to God for the leadership, courage, and generosity of both you and Mars Hill in not only founding the network but also sustaining it through the transition to this board three years ago. The very act of giving away your authority over the network was one of humility and grace, and for that we are grateful.
Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior. In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming.
We now have to take another course of action. Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.
We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner. Again, we want you to know that we are eternally thankful for what you as a man and Mars Hill as a church have meant to our network. However, that cannot dissuade us from action. Instead, it gives added significance and importance to our decision.
We hope and pray that you see this decision as the action of men who love you deeply and want you to walk in the light—for your good, the good of your family, and the honor of your Savior. Shortly after sending this, we will be informing the members of Acts 29, your Board of Advisors and Accountability, and your elders, as well as putting out a public statement on the Acts 29 website. It brings us no joy to move forward in this direction, and we trust that the Lord will be at work in all of this.
In sorrow and with hope, The Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network
Matt Chandler
Darrin Patrick
Steve Timmis
Eric Mason
John Bryson
Bruce Wesley
Leonce Crump

All Mars Hill Church locations have been removed from the Acts 29 website. The news has been added to the organization’s website:

A Message from the Board of Acts 29 concerning Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church
It is with deep sorrow that the Acts 29 Network announces its decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership in the network. Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored. Matt Chandler Darrin Patrick Steve Timmis Eric Mason John Bryson Bruce Wesley Leonce Crump

According to the organization’s website, the network includes over 500 churches and focuses on church planting:

Over the last ten years Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 500 churches around the world. We want to allow a unifying, uncommon movement of God to happen through Acts 29. Centered on the Gospel, we desire to advance the mission of Jesus through obediently planting church-planting churches. It is our hope to see this leading to millions of lives changed by the power of the Spirit for the glory of God.

Acts 29 is not a model or a style. We have churches with live preaching and others with video-delivered sermons. We have independent church plants, replants, and existing churches that want to focus on planting new churches out of their existing congregations. Simply, we seek to be a movement of church-planting churches.

In 2005, when Driscoll headed the group, charges were filed against him by Ron Wheeler. Wheeler planted the first Acts 29 Network church in Mt. Vernon, WA and was an early protege of Driscoll’s. However, Wheeler later became disillusioned with his former mentor and asked Acts 29 to discipline Driscoll. Yesterday, Wheeler posted a lengthy open letter to Driscoll asking him to resign based on his experience with the Mars Hill pastor. The Acts 29 action comes on the heels of the resignations of Paul Tripp and James McDonald as members of the church governing board and a recent protest primarily by ex-members. Update: One of the Mars Hill ex-pastors who has been initiating mediation with the church, Kyle Firstenberg, had this reaction to Acts 29’s announcement.

I have been greatly discouraged with the response from the BOAA in the charges that both I and others have brought. Years have gone by with what appears as only damage control and not any clear act of love for Mark in holding him accountable as brothers in the faith should.

This action from Matt Chandler and the other members of the board of A29 is one of the most loving acts I have seen in leadership in the Church world in recent years.

I do believe that these men love Mark and Mars Hill just as I and countless others do. I agree with their findings and pray that Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskus would repent and step down. I believe this would be the most God honoring thing to do as it would show their love for Jesus and the Gospel is greater then their position, authority and influence.

Update 2: A group of 75 ex-members were set to present over 50 new charges against the executive elders of Mars Hill Church today, but have decided to delay their action in light of the removal of Mars Hill by Acts 29 Network. For the press release, click here. Update 3: Ron Wheeler, who pastored the first Acts 29 church plant in Mt. Vernon, WA, reacted to the Acts 29 decision:

To Matt Chandler and the Board of Acts 29: Thank you for finally taking a position. I know it’s not easy. I know there were existing relationships between members of the board and Driscoll, but ultimately you prioritized obedience and faithfulness to Christ, above friendships and allegiance to a founder. For this, you are to be commended. Not only did you recognize the credibility damage to the network due to the continuing association with Mark Driscoll, but more importantly, you recognized that the cause of Christ was truly more important than Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Acts29 or anything else. The message for all of us here – individual, organization, church, or otherwise- is that silent passivity in the face of obvious sin and destruction, only gives birth to more sin and destruction in the end. Integrity was well served today. Also, thank you for taking action that only an organization such as yours could take. There are thousands of hurting individuals, both inside and outside of Mars Hill, who lacked a voice or any kind of real influence in this situation. They feel like cogs in the machine as they desperately long to see the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability, Acts29, somebody… step up and take difficult action and call for true Biblical repentance.

UPDATE 4: Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability responds to the removal of the church from the Acts 29 Network. For all posts on Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, click the links.

Former Colleague Provides Evidence Mark Driscoll Plagiarized Material in Two Books

In 2004, Zondervan published The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out by Mark Driscoll. In 2006, they published Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church. In these books, among other things, Driscoll addressed the relationships between the Gospel, the church, and culture. In The Radical Reformission, he borrowed a graphic from a book edited by George Hunsberger which indicates a reciprocal relationship between the three spheres. In addition, he outlined how leaving out any one of the spheres could lead to a negative result.
For instance, if a ministry offers the Gospel to the culture but bypasses the church, a parachurch ministry results. If a mission involves the church and the Gospel without considering culture, the result is legalism or fundamentalism. If the church and culture are prominent but the Gospel is neglected, then liberalism results. Finally, the biblical approach is to give weight to culture, church and the Gospel.
Driscoll’s formula has been cited by other church planters and authors since then. However, according to a former close colleague, Ron Wheeler, Driscoll lifted those concepts from work Wheeler did while developing the first Acts29 Network church plant in Mt. Vernon, WA — The Gathering. Wheeler was in the room when the Acts29 Network was organized and spent much time with Driscoll in the early days of Mars Hill Church. From Wheeler, I obtained the following page taken from an   in-house church document. See especially the bottom of the page where the relationship between church, culture and the Gospel are outlined.
RonWheelerGospelCultureChurch
 
Compare this page with several pages (19-22) in Driscoll’s book The Radical Reformission (the material in Confessions is very similar):
ReformissionRev1a
Note that Driscoll credits Hunsberger for the image which Wheeler acknowledged elsewhere in the document came from various Gospel and Our Culture Network’s materials. However, there is no credit for Wheeler in this book or in Confessions of a Reformssion Rev, another Driscoll book which refers to Wheeler’s formula.
ReformissionRev2a
ReformissionRev3a
ReformissionRev4a
 
Wheeler told me that he began teaching this material in 2003 and that Mark Driscoll did not cite another source since he heard it from Wheeler. I have both books and I can find no reference to Wheeler. Wheeler added that Driscoll called him the night before the Radical Reformission book released to inform him the material was going to be in the book. Wheeler said:

As far as the phone conversation, Mark called and basically said “my book Radical Reformission is being released tomorrow and I don’t remember if I asked you or not, but I used your parachurch, fundamentalism and liberalism categories on the gospel/church/culture model. Thanks bro.

Looks like I will need to update my chart of other citation errors and plagiarism.
Wheeler added that he thinks Driscoll may have taken advantage of the fact that Wheeler was younger and a subordinate to Driscoll. Wheeler eventually brought charges against Driscoll to the board of the Acts29 Network regarding a pattern of abusive behavior he said he experienced with Driscoll. According to Wheeler, the board did not take his charges seriously. In fact, all of the board at the time may not have seen the charges. According to Wheeler, some of the board members later told him his letter was never seen by the board.
In any case, Wheeler told me that he is stepping forward now because he hopes his former mentor will take the public outcry seriously and move toward change. “After going to Mark and others, I hope the weight of all of these things I am bringing forward will cause Mark to listen and change,” Wheeler said.
I emailed Mars Hill Church early Wednesday and asked for comment or other response to these claims with no response.