In the weekly email to members, Mars Hill leaders provide an explanation about the recent sermon edits I first reported on May 19. The narrative is a similar to what the Mars Hill leaders told Christian Post recently.
Recent Sermon Edits
You may have questions about our video sermons and how they are produced and distributed each week. We wanted to provide some clarity on our process and specifically address concerns with the Acts Part 12 sermon that was edited.
It is standard operating procedure at Mars Hill to take the first two sermons that Pastor Mark Driscoll preaches each week and edit the best possible version of the message for distribution to the other Mars Hill locations and our online audience, partly because it is necessary to edit the sermon to conform to time restraints.
Pastor Mark not only submits to someone taking material out of his sermon, but he welcomes the process. This goes on each and every week and has been the standard procedure since we started recording our sermons many years ago. The weekly sermon editing process at Mars Hill is designed to provide the best content for all who watch and listen in a time-sensitive environment.
Recently, someone gained entry to a restricted, password-protected site to steal the original recording of a recent sermon, so they could compare the rough cut with the original material to determine what had been edited. In any case, we stand behind the sermon in its entirety as the content is helpful and orthodox.
There are good reasons to question this narrative. Current Mars Hill staff who cannot speak publicly for obvious reasons, and former Mars Hill volunteers and staff who served on the Media team have told me that the kind of edits done to the Acts 6:1-7 sermon are uncommon. Two individuals who once worked on the team spoke to me on the record.
First, Scott Shipp described his experience in audio editing. Scott worked on this team from 2005 to 2009. Shipp said:
I served on the Ballard productions team recording and editing the audio versions of the sermons from 2005-2009 (if I recall my dates right). We were instructed to never edit out any part of the middle of any sermon unless it was just a couple seconds and it was because of audio clipping, feedback, or some audio issue. When I heard that multiple minutes of a sermon were edited out it shocked me. Of course in the intervening five years they may have moved into more drastic editing, and as far as I know, all of the audio and video volunteers I knew there have left MHC now, but from my experience, this is unheard of.
Then Brian Jacobsen, a more recent member of the Media team, wrote:
Mars Hill’s response to Warren Throckmorton’s disclosure of the sermon video editing is troubling.
One of my responsibilities at Mars Hill was to preview the upcoming sermon early in the week to take note of some specific items. There was a group on the church’s private social network that was used for this sermon preview process. I think the group was named “Sermon Review”. We resigned from Mars Hill on Thursday, April 3, 2014, so the last time I previewed a sermon would have been on Sunday, March 30 or Monday, March 31.
I think it was sometime early this year that the Mars Hill Central production team changed the way they posted the preview video. Prior to that time, they tried to do some of the editing of the sermon video, with the various camera angles and what not, before posting it to the Sermon Review group. The change they made earlier this year was to post the raw footage from a single camera which was located higher up and toward the rear, with the camera set so you could see the entire stage and a lot of the congregation.
The clip of the deleted segment of sermon video that Warren Throckmorton made available on his blog looks just like a sermon preview video. I suspect the video that was posted in the Sermon Review group included this deleted segment and that it was the source of the clip obtained by Warren. Every Mars Hill church probably has a handful or more of the pastors and leaders in this Sermon Review group. My memory is that over 100 people were in this group and would have had access to this deleted sermon video clip.
Editing the sermon video and in some cases cutting out some content is normal. The production team has, at times, even combined video from different services in order to provide the best content. However, in the two and half years I was involved in previewing sermons, I don’t believe I have ever seen this extensive of a cut. This cut essentially removed an entire topic, which was Pastor Mark’s argument that Jesus made mistakes.
The final sermon video that was provided to the Mars Hill churches was 56:41 in length, which is a few minutes shorter than a typical Mark Driscoll sermon. His recent sermons have been 60 to 62 minutes. If they hadn’t cut out this segment, the sermon video would have been at about 62 minutes. Pastor Anthony Ianniciello was quoted as saying, “Partly because it is necessary to edit the sermon to conform to time restraints.” From these numbers, it appears the cut in this case was not necessary to conform to time restraints.
Finally, Wenatchee the Hatchet provides an account of a prior instance of redacted content which was related to embarrassing content rather than time constraints.