Update on the Lawsuit Against Mars Hill Church

Just a little while ago, an update appeared on the GoFundMe page designed to raise money for a lawsuit against Mars Hill Church.

This campaign has ended. 

You can still help by clicking on the following link:http://www.gofundme.com/MarsHillLawsuit

Thanks to all who participated.

Rob Smith

The new page begins:

It is time for Christians everywhere to stand up and say, “Enough!! We will no longer put up with pastors who reach for honor for themselves and who enrich themselves at the expense and harm of those they claim to be shepherding!” 

When leaders in the Church choose to stay silent, others must speak up. Paul’s mandate to Timothy regarding leaders who persist in certain sins (1 Timothy 5:19-20) must not be ignored by the Church. Most of those who were leaders at Mars Hill Church have chosen to remain silent.

Please help us discover and make clear the truth about what happened at Mars Hill Church by contributing to this fund for a RICO lawsuit against the former top leaders of Mars Hill.

The funds already raised have gone to the attorney who did preliminary work on the suit. Brian Fahling constructed the RICO action and presented the requests for mediation to the church.
The president of Mars Hill Church is now Kerry Dodd. Dodd has not replied to requests for comment regarding the church.
Information about the lawsuit can be found at https://www.wthrockmorton.com/2014/12/26/letter-the-legal-case-against-mars-hill-church/.
 

Former Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church May Face RICO Lawsuit

According to former Mars Hill deacon Rob Smith and Seattle attorney Brian Fahling, a lawsuit is being prepared with Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner, David Bruskas, and Jamie Munson named as defendants. The suit may not be filed until later this week or early next week. Those bringing the suit have alerted Mars Hill Church leaders and hope to engage in talks which could serve to prevent the suit from going forward.
A civil RICO claim (see link for statutory basis of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations suit) must allege an injury to the plaintiffs. In this case, plaintiffs donated funds for specific purposes based on church leaders’ representations. The funds were then diverted to other purposes. In addition, plaintiffs believe that funds from the general fund were used fraudulently to scam the New York Times best-seller list for Mark Driscoll’s self-inurement.
As has been documented here, Mars Hill leaders solicited donations for various specific purposes (e.g., Jesus Festival, international misions). However, those funds were often used for other purposes (e.g., establishing Mars Hill video locations) via Mars Hill Church. The suit will allege a pattern of activities occurring over at least four years. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability may also be named in a separate action.
Smith, who has raised numerous concerns about Mars Hill, recorded a You Tube video to promote a legal fund for the suit. The rationale is provided on the fundraising site:

Mars Hill Church, according to Paul Tripp who recently served on their Board of Advisors and Accountability, “is without a doubt the most abusive, coercive ministry culture” he has ever been involved with.
Because of the abuse of both people and money, it is essential that the dissolution of the church be delayed until the abuse can be clearly articulated by the church leadership, and repentance and restitution be made.
At this point, only a just legal action will stop the dissolution of the church. A legal team has been hired and the delay of the dissolution will be sought so that true repentance and restitution can occur.
Please support this effort.
As this year has unfolded, we have seen the widespread abuse of people, and of money.
Mark Driscoll, who built his image calling men to take personal responsibility for their actions, rather than take responsibility himself for his part in the abusive culture, resigned and left the church. He failed to address the abuse that Paul Tripp spoke of. He failed to address the hundreds of shunned and abused members, ex-members and donors.
The remaining leadership, rather than dealing head-on with the abuse, has continued to make decisions behind closed doors and simply ignored the multiple requests of members, ex-members and donors to deal with the abuse.
Rather than be transparent about the misuse of the finances of Mars Hill and the widespread abuse of people, they have chosen to hastily dissolve the corporation, and is promising whatever cash is left over to the individual campuses of Mars Hill Church.
The lead pastors of each of these campuses, rather than raising their voices for transparency and closure for the hurting ex-members, many of whom were under their care, are saying nothing. The word in the street is that they will lose their part of the “spoils” if they rock the boat. So they appear to have no interest in bringing healing to the members that their campus has harmed, or to the hurting members and ex-members from other campuses.
These “pastors” are not even calling for the public shunning of Paul Petry to be lifted. This is continued cruelty that has lasted over 7 years. Paul Petry represents many other members and families that were wrongly disciplined or ex-communicated.
At this stage of the game, without legal action being taken, Mars Hill Church will dissolve and the assets, including money, will be distributed in back-room deals that members and donors are excluded from. The many members, ex-members and donors who feel defrauded and abused will not see a just resolution to their wounds.
It is in the interest of transparency and healing that the dissolution be stopped. It will prove to be the righteous course of action. It will allow leadership that has particpated in the shocking level of abuse to clear their consciences, speak the truth, do the right thing, and be forgiven.
It will be a wonderful testimony to all. To simply dissolve will permanently harm all who are seeking healing and closure.
Please support this fund.

From my vantage point, it would be to the advantage of Ethiopian and Indian pastors if the dissolution of the church could be stalled to allow Mars Hill more time to disclose how much money should go to them. The Global Fund brought in millions and an investigation would help clarify how much money should be funneled to those who were used to raise the funds which ultimately were used to support Mars Hill’s expansion.

Ex-Members Group Delays New Charges Against Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church Executive Elders

In a press release, ex-Mars Hill deacon Rob Smith said a group of 75 ex-members and leaders at Mars Hill today were prepared to ask the Mars Hill Church elders to consider new charges against the executive elders of Mars Hill Church. However, in light of the action by the Acts 29 Network to remove Driscoll and the church as members, the group has decided to wait.

Charges Against Mark Driscoll and Church Executives Delayed After Ouster from Acts 29
August 8, 2014
Seattle, WA – In the light of the announcement today by the Acts 29 Board removing Mars Hill Church and Pastor Mark Driscoll from its membership, and calling for his removal as pastor, a group of over 75 members and ex-members have chosen to delay the filing of 53 new charges against the pastor and his Executive Elders.
Spokesman for the group of 75 members and ex-members bringing formal charges, Rob Smith, said, “It is with a mix of sadness and relief to see that Acts 29 has taken these actions. We hope and pray that the call for Mark Driscoll to step down from ministry is heeded. We would therefore rather wait and withdraw our plans to file new charges if he steps down, or file them in due course if he chooses to ignore the call of the Acts 29 board. We are in prayer for Mark and his family. We pray that he will find comfort, restoration, and hope in the Christ that he loves. We are committed to love him well and stand ready to support him and his family through these difficult days. We echo the call of the Acts 29 board.”
One of the charges that was to be filed today is that the current bylaws were passed in a sinful and unlawful manner that violated both the text and spirit of the 2006 bylaws under which the new bylaws were passed. If found to be true, the church’s current bylaws may be deemed invalid and repealed.
Smith called on the church’s current leadership to examine the manner in which the current bylaws were passed, and to take the bold move to declare them invalid and reinstate the 2006 bylaws that govern the church by “a plurality of equal elders. A return to a classically Reformed church governance model, preached and taught so well by Pastor Mark Driscoll, will serve the future of Mars Hill Church well.”
Smith also called for “an end to the order given to the Mars Hill Church members to shun Pastor Paul Petry, and for a complete exoneration of both Pastor Paul Petry and Pastor Bent Meyer for their valiant attempts to protect the church in 2007.”
The church has frequently been in the news lately, rocked by various scandals involving it’s coarse-tongued, “tough-guy” persona pastor, including allegations of plagiarism, libel, using church funds to manipulate sales of his sex book onto the New York Times bestseller list, posting vulgar online rants demeaning to women under an assumed name, and most recently the revelation that solicited donations to the church’s global fund for missions to Africa and India were misappropriated and spent on acquisitions of real estate in Spokane and Everett, Washington.
Last week, church members, ex-members, and members of the community showed up for a protest in front of the church’s main campus after Driscoll declared in a video to church members that he wanted to “reconcile” with people he has “hurt” but was unable to do so because “they remain anonymous.” The video sparked the startup of a Facebook group called “Dear Pastor Mark: We Are Not Anonymous” and large signs carried by protesters at last week’s demonstration repeated the theme.

See the announcement about the removal of Mars Hill Church from Acts 29 Network here, and all posts on Mars Hill Church, click the link.
 

Mars Hill Church Demonstration Tells Leaders We Are Not Anonymous

MarsDemoPhotoI spoke earlier this afternoon with Rob Smith who told me that 100-125 people participated in the demonstration* outside of Mars Hill Bellevue this morning.  According to Smith, the church sent out coffee and donuts but otherwise did not engage with the demonstrators formally   and a woman offered the demonstrators welcome packets. After Mark Driscoll told the congregation that people expressing concerns about Mars Hill were doing so anonymously, the participants wanted to correct that impression.
Smith said several current Mars Hill Church members participated in the event. Smith said they wanted to work for church change from within. Mars Hill members have no ability to vote or influence church actions.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a blog post on the event.


King5 has a report.
*News reports say between 50-65 showed up. Smith said 100-125 because some people left early and some came later. I heard from others there that the number was more like 80.

Ex-Mars Hill Group Plans Demonstration at the Church on August 3

Calling it a “We Are Not Anonymous Protest,” a group of ex-Mars Hill members plans to assemble outside of Mars Hill Church next Sunday. Created by Rob Smith, the event is intended to respond to Mark Driscoll’s claim that many ex-Mars Hill members have been complaining anonymously. Recently, a Facebook group dedicated to countering Driscoll’s claim has grown to over 400 members.
The group has launched a crowdfunding page at GoFundMe.com with the following description:

This campaign is to be able to purchase placards, moving billboards and other expenses related to a peaceful protest on Sunday, August 3rd.  Any monies left over will go to Bent Meyer and Paul Petry as a beginning token of affection to them and the first fruits of restitution for the ordeal that they were put through in 2007.

Given the statements of Mark Driscoll that he wants reconciliation, it is astounding that Mars Hill leaders have not reached out to Petry and Meyer.

Another Former Mars Hill Member Starts a Post-Mars Hill Blog

Rob Smith once attended Mars Hill Church and was a deacon who was on track to become an elder. In 2007, he strongly protested the approach used in dismissing Pastors Bent Meyer and Paul Petry from the church. Smith is the person behind the Facebook group REPEAL THE BYLAWS – EXONERATE PASTORS PETRY & MEYER. He is now also writing about his experiences at Mars Hill at his new blog Musings From Under The Bus (referring to the pile of dead bodies Mark Driscoll famously proclaimed were under the Mars Hill bus).
One post describes how Smith attempted to personally contact Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability Chair Michael Van Skaik regarding formal charges filed by Dave Kraft in 2013. However, Van Skaik insisted that Smith submit his information in writing. Smith wanted to meet face to face with Van Skaik to discuss his experience. According to an exchange of communication between Smith and Van Skaik reproduced on the blog, Van Skaik refused to meet with Smith to discuss the matter.
Smith specifically focuses on church shunning:

My family and I have experienced the impact of having been shunned by our church family. This blog is intended to be a forum for processing, healing, and calling for Christians to understand the harm done to people through the harsh practice of shunning. It is also a forum to understand how to pursue justice and mercy in dealing with those who are victims of shunning, or those who have been the perpetrators of shunning.

I am about to teach a section on ostracism in social psychology. There are significant consequences psychologically from ostracism which might also be experienced by those who are ostracized from their church.