New Disclosures By Former MH Pastor/Elder Bent Meyer

August 28, 2014

The unfolding distortions of power, authority and obfuscation of factual information now seen at Mars Hill Church were identified by many going back to 2000. It was experienced by just a few then, since the church population was small and not enough instances of deception, bald-faced lying and hiding salient information had been exposed to determine a pattern.

In subsequent years there were statements made by Mark Driscoll in which he was aware of his need to be restrained and accountable to others locally. He would speak about structures implemented to maintain accountability. He would also complain. He feared the power those around him had to censure him and even dismiss him. He knew in those days restraint was real and he did not like it. There were long stretches of time that Mark was hedged in.

Mark Driscoll, however, maintained the power to frame the message and hide his behavior. His attitudes leaked constantly in his sermons. He isolated his victims from others. He held messaging jealously. As long as he could frame the communication, he could spin events, characterization of people, and his own actions to appear innocent through blame shifting.

The one being dismissed or characterized never had the same access to venues of communication. Mark held and kept the microphone.

Those of us who labored both behind the curtain and on the floor with congregants did see and experience Mark Driscoll’s behaviors and attitudes. Some of us spoke at various times to Mark about his behavior and language, but far too infrequently. We allowed an environment in which Mark could intimidate and insist on control of vision, and the means of building that vision. We allowed Mark to become progressively more outrageous and dysfunctional. When it was too much it was also too late to shift the inertia.

I for one, would ask for a meeting with Mark, knowing full well that I might enter his office like Nathan entering David’s chamber to confront him about Bathsheba. Nathan feared for his life. Well, I didn’t fear for my life, but I did for my livelihood.

When dismissed or fired, some believed fervently, as I did, that it was important to not complain in the public media. They sought instead opportunity to speak to peer authorities, who would address Mark’s character failures. The silence that subsequently followed from Acts 29 or other networks was vacuous: they appeared to be totally impotent in exercising, if it had ever crossed their mind, 1 Corinthians 6. The result? Those harmed were silenced, lonely, and wounded, not trusting their own ability to discern perpetrators of abuse from those that are kind guides. Far too many have today no trust for church servants/authorities. Still countless others will not darken the door of an organized church for fear of what they already have come to know.

The attitudes and behaviors Mark Driscoll exhibits, as well as those of too many of his staff, trickle down to community group leaders and into every crevice of the church. Great numbers of people come out with new accounts revealing abuse of power. Cash flow is an important fuel for Mark’s ambitions. The insistence, humiliating rants and threats associated with people’s giving practices are unbiblical. For people of the Book to not understand the principle of not being under compulsion to give related to amount or destination is appalling. Does anyone there read Corinthians?

By 2007, proposed new bylaws were presented to the elders, who at the time had real power to stop what we have now witnessed. The elders at the time, surrendered to threats, intimidation, and manipulation that I and Paul Petry resisted coming from Mark Driscoll’s office. Yes, threats, intimidation and manipulation happened to me. Some of the stories of members and former elders have now been disclosed for all to read. The chorus is large now and the patterns are clearer. The people who experienced Mark Driscoll’s violence were alone in the past, but not now.

What made Paul Petry’s and my dismissals different from others that happened afterwards? It happened to us both at the same time, in the same room, with the same people. We were witnesses together. Unbeknownst to either of us until much later, we each independently of the other wrote contemporaneous transcripts of the dialogue during that meeting – of the words spoken to us before they would evaporate from memory. Our quotations of the dialogue are almost verbatim. The others in the room were also witnesses. Some are now talking.

Our experience represents the testimony of two witnesses. Jamie Munson told me later that he and the other executive elders had learned a lesson: 1) never to fire two people at the same time, and, 2) the process of a trial would never happen again. Of course not, since the adopted new bylaws set in place, for the first time, “at will employment.”

The issue at the time related to the consequential nature of the proposed bylaw changes. The issues were technical, a little on the boring side at the time to read and think about. I remember some of the elders admitted not reading the proposal and wondering why I was making so much fuss. Two of them told me, “Just trust Mark.”

I diagrammed the reporting structure spelled out in the proposal and ran many scenarios to test them to see what ways abuses of power could happen. I discovered many. I talked about it, but I was not taken seriously. For my part, I had enough experience with Mark Driscoll to identify his mode of operating. The proposed bylaws would implement an organization that gave Mark near absolute reign.

None of the other elders appeared to have understood Mark’s feet of clay, except Paul Petry and me. To me a major power grab was happening, which stripped away the last vestige of accountability and real balance of authority to restrain Mark Driscoll from self-destruction and the church with him. In my estimation, this was not healthy for Mark, or anyone else associated with Mark. The emerging dilution of brilliance Mark spoke of possessing, he had actually come to believing. Mark was sliding ever more, headlong into foundational character erosion. His existing belief in his entitlement, grandiosity, exploitiveness, demeaning nature and rageful vengeance, were already present and needed consistent restraining by those around him.

Mark would talk about “accountability,” but that was to geographically distant people like John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, or Paul Tripp. To me that was less than credible, and not at all Biblical, since distance insulated Mark from being experienced in everyday life by those he would be accountable to. Mark again would have control of framing the message and blame shift without those distant knowing what was going on. Those close in proximity were marginalized. Those who saw and knew would have no voice. They would have no authority. They were under threat. They came to know they could be fired, for any reason or no reason at all, with no venue of appeal or redress. They would no longer be Biblical peers (elders), but were employees, hirelings. All power would be possessed in as few as three men and ultimately in Mark Driscoll alone.

Now it is clear, finally, my voice can be heard. If I had released the following source documents seven years ago, I would be dismissed as a “bitter” former employee out for revenge. I have held on to these documents hoping those left behind in Mars Hill leadership left would wake up and confront Mark Driscoll and correct the misstep of agreeing with the reorganization without accountability or balance. I also hoped those at the Acts 29 Network would pressure Mark to restore authority balance. I hoped other alliances would do the same. None have, with the recent exception of Acts 29 which recently ousted him from their association. I despaired of those associations as they did not handle I Corinthians 6 well. In their hands it would not work – not because St. Paul was wrong, but because the evangelical church leadership too often operates unbiblically when it comes to inter-church discipline.

I have had to change my assessment, since the Acts 29 announcement of not only their removal of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the network, but also their direct instruction to Mark that he seek professional (my word not theirs) help and surrender the microphone to someone else. This is an important move for the members of Mars Hill Church to recognize and insist on. To not take this seriously, exposes the likely reality that they are more enamored with their ears being tickled than really taking seriously the instructions regarding lying, abuse, intimidation, dereliction of fiduciary duty, hostility and slander directed toward fellow believers, freedom of people to associate and give via the dictates of their conscience, etc.

For everyone’s sake, Mark Driscoll needs to step away forever being in the post he now occupies. I say this because what ails Mark is very much like being addicted to opium or alcohol. Mark does not know how to handle communications honestly, simply because he cannot be honest with himself. Shame is too much for him to experience without employing minimization and denial. He cannot be in a position of power, since for him, it is an elixir to fuel his fantasies of grandiosity. He cannot be in a position which places him in authority, since his firm stance on entitlement will emerge again. In such an environment, everyone in his surroundings will be beneath him.

Having stated the above as background, I am releasing these documents to give historic context to patterns of abuse of power wrought by Mark Driscoll and those closely associated with him. You can examine them and see the workings of these moments in time. What happens on stage in the public setting is entirely different from the intrigue behind the curtain. Hopefully, for the reader, these documents will open up the curtain a bit. It is, of course, from my perspective and dated. It also reveals as much of my shortcomings as anyone else’s. I stand with all the others, soiled, and culpable for not firmly hedging Mark in for his good and the good of all. I stand with the others as one timid, and putting financial wellbeing over confronting Mark on many occasions in elder meetings with witnesses.

The other reason for releasing these documents is that many Acts 29 startups adopted the Mars Hill model bylaws and membership agreements wholesale as their own church governance documents. Both are profoundly flawed and do not follow a biblical pattern of leadership, authority, or freedoms to give generously without compulsion. They need to be examined and revised in line with biblical boundaries.

I have been confined by professional responsibilities and ethical restraints as a therapist to exercise caution related to my public communication, since I have had to consider the possibility that future clients might be current members or past members of MHC. In that context it is not ethically appropriate to influence or convolute my experience with theirs. Thus, publishing must consider the unintended consequence to clients who struggle with their conflict and their wellbeing, not mine.

The impingement has been very difficult in light of the continual refrain of abuse of power and control and the suffering of so many. I have consulted on the matter of disclosure as it relates to professional ethics and I have been told it is not unethical to tell my own story publicly, or to advocate for the marginalized. Thus I am now releasing the following material as a historical set of documents which others may analyze and come to their own conclusions.

I have been approached by many in the media for my account, but have held to the notion that my communication needs to be penned by my hand, not someone else’s. I have had too much reframing of my words and intentions to have it happen again for someone else’s agenda. What I write, I am responsible for.

Let it be known, the existence of a binding non-disclosure agreement did not exist in 2007. There was no demand or threat of legal consequences if I publish correspondence between myself and others or publish internal documents. Further note that Mark Driscoll said, in the presence of a witness, that he put no restraint on me publishing documents (see the transcript at the end of this set of documents, page 107). The restraint has been mine and in consideration for my profession and clients and keeping the resolution of these matters within the Christian community.

I have given this set of documents to Paul Petry to publish via “Joyful Exiles.” It makes sense to have my set of documents with Paul’s, since together a fuller picture can be discerned. I have been advised that there are many typos, grammatical errors and sentence constructions that are awkward or hard to understand. As embarrassing as it is to leave them as they are, in my mind it is not important, since changing them for my comfort would be to change history to avoid personal shame and embarrassment. With few exceptions, the documents are as they were.

I have obscured one executive elder’s email content from the documents. He added a non-disclosure paragraph at the end of each email. I will honor this. I have, however, provided the sense of the content in my own words. I have also obscured some salary information, since it has little import to the controversy the documents reveal.

Speaking of embarrassment, I regret one document that I wrote to gain a transfer of membership in good standing from Mars Hill (see page 101). Experience as a pastoral counselor provided a shift and discovery of what God has likely equipped me for over the course of my life to date. The experience introduced me to being a licensed therapist in the larger community, for which I am grateful. But I regret the casting of the letter I wrote for two reasons:

1. I wanted to leave MHC without complications, so I made statements that subsequently fed into what I came to know would be spun to obscure the real issues.
2. I did not want any more attacks on my character, which happened anyway.

I betrayed Paul and Jonna Petry. Their brutal, unjust excommunication was not resolved and was further obscured by my framing of the letter. The statements I made appeared to endorse the practices embedded in MHC, which would envelop the actions taken to scapegoat the Petrys as justifiable. This was done for my personal gain without regard for Paul and his family. It was plain wrong! Paul and I have long since resolved this and are good friends today.

Bent Meyer
Seattle, Washington

Ron Wheeler: Dear Mark Driscoll

Dear Mark Driscoll:

You were once one of my closest friends.

You were once my trusted mentor and benefactor.

You were once someone who preached the Gospel with a fierce and captivating passion and purity.

You were the one who inspired me to be a preacher – a church planter.

In 1996 I was working as a missionary in West Africa when my mom sent me a recording of you speaking at the Northwest Christian Education conference.  I was intrigued, captivated, and a bit disturbed by what I heard. You deconstructed my tidy neat little worldview and described the church as a mission outpost that exists between the gospel message and various cultures.  That message convinced me that I could be a missionary at home, and so I returned.

I started attending Mars Hill with my family, driving an hour each way from Mount Vernon down to Seattle.  Mars Hill was maybe a 100 people back then.  I played on the worship team sometimes and listened intently to the vision you cast… a vision built on the Core Values of “Meaning, Truth, Beauty, Community, and Mission”. Those core values were such an invigorating breath of fresh air:

I longed for deeper meaning than the trite, mainstream Christianity-lite I was experiencing.

I longed to hear Truth boldly proclaimed.

I longed to be able to express art in beautiful contagious inspiring ways.

I longed to be a part of genuine, committed, Christ-centered community.

And yes, I longed to be on this great mission of the Kingdom of God, together.

I bought in.

Many of us bought in.

I remember you and Grace coming up to my house and challenging me to transition the awkward college-age ministry thing we had, and to plant it as a church.  I remember your assurances that you would walk beside us, and I remember distinctly how Grace said that “As long as we continue to give God the glory for whatever happens, He will continue to glorify Himself through what is happening.” That resonated with me, and for many years you walked beside me faithfully.  We were your first church plant, and for awhile, there was even some discussion about our church going with the name Mars Hill North.

I listened closely as you preached the virtue of Biblical Eldership, where men proven to be of sound character, pastor the church together and hold each other accountable, a supposed safe-guard against any one person lacking accountability or taking over.

It fit perfectly with what I saw in Scripture and was what I was drawn to myself.

I remember Leif Moi doing that with you.

I remember Mike Gunn doing that with you.

And I remember how excited you were when you first identified Paul Petry and Bent Meyer as men who could do that exceptionally well:  “wise, older godly men, who would add a degree of credibility” were your words to me.

I also remember when my brother-in-law Brian Kirkman went through the eldership process.  Brian, known to me as one of the most faithful, loving, gracious, godly men I know, and yet I believed your lies and how you characterized him.  He was unjustly removed and the way the Kirkman family was treated foreshadowed the shunnings that would occur with the Petry’s, the Meyer’s, and others. I have since gone to Brian and Liz to confess my complicity in how they were treated. It was so incredibly unjust.

My other two brothers-in-law would become elders as well, though both have since left. My sisters all led worship at MH, and were involved in various ministries as well.The degree to which my family was involved with Mars Hill cannot be overstated.

They all fully bought in as well.

Soon I began traveling the nation with you, speaking at various conferences, seminars and events.  It was such an honor.   We became involved on the ground-floor of this new movement that was shaping the landscape of evangelical Christianity. We were on the board of Young Leader network together. We were on the Terra Nova project together. We were working with some pretty amazing people.  These were the early days when there was talk of the postmodern era, and the Emergent church started “emerging” and New Calvinism had yet to emerge as a thing.  It was heady stuff.  It was also dangerous, as some of it started wandering far from historical orthodox Christian belief and practice.

But then I listened as you slandered and maligned the men and women we worked with behind their backs -who though we didn’t agree with some of them theologically- were wonderful people, and never deserved to be spoken of, or treated the way you did.  People who I know would have considered you a friend and have no idea how you really felt about them.  I have personally tried to go back and apologize to people who were “kicked to the curb”, along the way, and yes, I do feel I was complicit to your actions; guilty by way of association and being silent.

For that, I could not be more sorry.

I remember one day you called and mentioned that your book Radical Reformission was coming out the next day.  You started talking about how excited you were and then in a roundabout way, mentioned that you had used the parachurch/fundamentalism/liberalism concepts I had developed off the gospel/church/culture model.  It took me a moment to realize that you were saying you had used those ideas in your book and hadn’t cited me, and were both thanking me and smoothing things over.  I was honestly flattered, but I also had this uncomfortable feeling that you knew what you had done was wrong. But at this point, what was I gonna do about it? Like most things, I just let it go.

Then you met Pastor David Nicholas.  Remember David Nicholas?  The “co-founder” of Acts29, who often has been written out of the Acts29 story.  The one who actually came up with the name Acts29 and already had a church planting system in place.  Soon we were flying back to Boca Raton Florida to figure out how we could work together with this seasoned older PCA pastor (Presbyterian Church of America), you with your connections to all these church planter candidates flying under-the-denominational-radar, and David with his years of experience, his connections (friends like Tim Keller and Amway founder Rich DeVos), and his very wealthy church resources.  I loved David, and he loved us. He was fatherly to us. He could barely relate to our strange Northwest culture, and yet he partnered with us out of a passionate commitment to church planting.

I remember during one of our conferences somewhere around 2002, sitting at the table with you there in Boca, when you interviewed Rich DeVos on how he structured his business model.  I remember soon thereafter when you started talking about how it wasn’t that important that you knew your people or led them yourself, but that you “led the people, who led the people, who led the people”.   Unlike the Chief Shepherd who knows all His sheep by name, knows their voice, and they, His, you distanced yourself from them.  In fact, I remember you bragging about how you had this back corridor between your office and the stage and you didn’t have to be interrupted by anyone before or after church.   I was so confused.  I bought in to the meaning, truth, beauty, mission thing.  I certainly didn’t buy into this.

I had always tried to read all the books you recommended, but soon they became less and less about theology or pastoral practice, and more and more about marketing, professionalism and big business.  (I also remember recommending John Piper’s book “Brothers We Are Not Professionals” back to you, but it wasn’t enthusiastically received.  If only.)

And then all hell broke loose.

In the fall of 2004, my then wife had an affair with another pastor on staff (who was also one of my closest friends).  Our church had serious problems as it was, many as a result of my failing to lead properly.  Many of the things at the church were shaped by your influence, and some of that influence I still recognize as inspired, Biblical, and even prophetic at times.  Again, it is hard to express how much you helped us.

Much of that influence however, was very unhealthy and systemically flawed.  It took me many years of distance and separation to truly gain objectivity and see just exactly how flawed. For instance, I was patterning my/our discipline process after what you were doing.  One of those situations was with a man in leadership named Dale.  I will always grieve over the heavy-handed way we dealt with Dale. Not only was it ungracious and unfair, it was hypocritical.  Again, something for which I’m profoundly sorry.

Add to all that, some significant personal weaknesses and sins of my own, and I/we needed serious help.   I asked you for that help, and in customary fashion, you dropped the hammer. When all of your recommendations on discipline weren’t followed, you came unglued.  You cursed me up one side and down the other.  You threatened and berated me.  I have never been spoken to the way you did to me then.  It was vicious and startling.  I was reeling and devastated from what I had just discovered with my wife and close friend.

Then you involved yourself in our Eldership in a most irresponsible and reckless manner.  In hindsight, it never should have gotten to that point, and I accept full responsibility for that, but what I needed was trustworthy, Biblical accountability, and instead I got slander, threats, and verbal abuse.  We had good elders who were caught between a pastor dealing with personal and familial sin, and an outside accountability that was reckless, irresponsible and ultimately had a destructive influence on a once unified eldership.  I know it all now. I’ve read the communication you had with the other elders behind my back.  Ugly, slanderous, defaming lies, Mark.  I thought you were my brother and you treated me like scum.

On March 17, 2005, I sent a letter of grievance to the Board of Acts29, asking them to address what I had come to realize over time, were serious character flaws of yours.   I made the case that Biblically you were unfit and disqualified as an Elder. A case based off long established patterns of pride, lack of self-control, sexually vulgar and slanderous speech, exaggeration that bordered on deception, gossip about others and confidentiality issues. An excerpt from that letter stated: “The fact that Mark is an incredibly talented leader and charismatic personality, cannot in any way substitute for the simple Biblical requirements of being Christ-like, much less the qualifications of being an Elder. I can make a Biblical case from Titus regarding his being overbearing, quick-tempered, self-controlled, upright, and holy, as well as 1 Timothy regarding being above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not quarrelsome, and a good reputation with outsiders.”

Not surprisingly, we got a response letter from the Board of Acts29 informing us that they would accept our resignation from Acts29, as we had made our continued participation in the network contingent upon their dealing with your issues.  Apparently, they lacked the fortitude and resolve to deal with your out-of-control behavior, and so became complicit themselves.  How the board of Acts29 abdicated their responsibility in this, is beyond my comprehension.  In addition, I was heartbroken as there were so many guys in the network that I loved.  Guys that I came to miss dearly over the next few painful, depressing years.  You asked me not to contact any of the guys and be “divisive”.  I never did, you know.  When I finally did just recently, I discovered that you had completely misrepresented what happened in my situation.  Thus, what I had seen you do to others, finally came full circle around to me.  It sucked. I didn’t like it at all.

The loss of those friendships, combined with the loss of my wife, my best friend,  and my church, led me into a few of the darkest years of my life.  A season I only survived due to the inexplicable buffer of God’s grace.

That wasn’t the only grievance letter that the Board of Acts29 received regarding you either.  Co-founder and Acts29 President David Nicholas sent one as well.  David was a mentor to you… he was your pastor I remember you saying.  Yet over time, Pastor Nicholas came to have grave misgivings about your character and conduct, personally brought it to you on multiple occasions, and finally wrote about them to the Board.  Yes, David was an imperfect, strong-willed, stubborn man sometimes, but he loved you.

David Nicholas is Not Anonymous.

David wanted the Board to come help our church work through this situation, but you wanted to do it your way. That added to the growing conflict between the two of you.  He had said that the Board would be coming to meet with our Elders during the Reformission conference, and then suddenly, somehow, you took over as President of Acts29.  I remember talking to David on the phone afterwards and him being stunned at what just happened.  You somehow had enough support to vote him off of the board.  Rick McKinley (a very good man) wanted nothing to do with any of this, and pulled out of the board and Acts29 altogether.  How you got the other guys to go along with that move, I’ll never know, but it foreshadowed a similar move that would happen with your own Eldership in 2007.

You consolidated power once more.

You chose to become pragmatic instead of principled.

You became opportunistic instead of obedient.

You mishandled sacred things.

You have abused theological positions as much as you have abused individual lives. You can’t run roughshod over people in the name of being “all about Jesus”.

For you, the ultimate endorsement was always driven by numbers, and we were like the Israelites of old who proclaimed to want a King like David, but were drawn to a King like Saul.  We all need to own up to the fact that we helped empower you to become what you have, through our willingness to eagerly endorse what you are, and you were more than happy to let us.  2 Timothy 4:3 describes a time when “people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” You had the right words.  You said the right things, and strangely, the right people kept endorsing you.

And yet your words rarely matched up to how you live:

You can’t preach Jesus and curse people.

You can’t preach Jesus and threaten people.

You can’t preach Jesus and be sexually vulgar.

You can’t preach Jesus and denigrate women.

You can’t preach Jesus and then shun people.

You can’t preach Jesus and give rich people special privileges.

You can’t preach Jesus and steal people’s material.

You can’t preach Jesus and approve the use of funds for your desires instead of the donor’s desire.

You can’t preach Jesus and cheat your way onto bestseller lists.

You can’t preach Jesus and then force your people to not compete with you in spreading the gospel.

You can’t preach Jesus and then force people to either stay silent or not be paid.

You can’t preach Jesus and seek to become the “greatest of these.”

You just can’t. You see that right?

It can’t be “do as I say, and not as I do” for a pastor.

We need to see you be like Jesus, more than we need to hear you say, “It’s all about Jesus.”

It really is this simple: to preach Jesus, you have to be like Jesus.

The final straw for me was this video you just released where you cited these anonymous detractors. To the masses watching, you may get away with “sounding sorry”, but to the hundreds…thousands even, who have been actually victimized, they need actual Biblical confession and repentance, the kind that is specific and identifies actual people and actual sins against them.  Evasive generalized statements only worsen the hurt.  Spin doctoring and ‘damage control” is just more of the same big-business marketing tactics that led to this systemic pattern of cancerous abuse in the first place.  Worse, it desensitizes and inoculates people to what real, genuine repentance looks and feels like.

So, why am I saying this to you now, Mark?

Why am I saying it like this, and after all this time?

Well, because you are unreachable through any other means. I’ve tried. Talk about being anonymous.  Who knows where you are, or where you live?   You have isolated yourself behind your ministry fortress and this is the only way to have a hearing.  I don’t even know if you’ll read this, but this is more about my being obedient to speak the truth of what I’ve experienced, and letting it be at that.

I’m also saying this because, like the apostle Paul, I know what it feels like to consider myself “the chief of sinners.”  I am firmly committed to the doctrine of total depravity, primarily because I know my own depraved self.  I know that it was only God’s kindness that led me to repentance. I have been brought low and learned to embrace having my own prideful ship dashed upon the rock of God’s discipline.

I don’t miss the man I once was.  I’m so, so very thankful for how God has refashioned and restored me.  Yes, I lost a lot, but I gained even more, and the only way that happens is through confession. True confession that abandons all justification, that repudiates all excuses, and embraces the revealing light of the Holy Spirit. I lost my marriage. I struggled with ugly patterns of sin and rebellion in my life.  I was lonely, depressed, confused, and stunned.  I flirted with temptation, and easily could have jumped off that cliff during those dark, lonely years, but somehow God preserved me.  Only God preserved me, that I know for sure.  It was terrible path, and yet it was exactly where God needed me, to do the long, painful work of surgery that my soul required. I remember you saying how you’ve never really had to suffer.  Well, perhaps this is that season.  It is a path I am begging you to embrace.  I hope and pray more than anything that you will not allow pride to have a stranglehold over your life.

You’ve destroyed people, Mark.  You’ve ruined people’s reputations.  Through your own perverse interpretation of “God’s grace,” you’ve cast people aside who you decided were not “on mission” spoke of “a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus.”  The pragmatism backfired. What you won them with, is what you won them too, and now there are thousands who have been hurt, and who have hurt others.  Beautifully, many of them are finding forgiveness and healing as they reconnect with each other and grow in grace.

Please Mark.  Just stop. Step down. Resign.  There was a brilliant post today on Dave Orrison’s blog Grace for my Heart that defined the difference between a narcissistic apology and a real apology. The center of the narcissistic apology is the offender saying “I am hurting because of this.” The real apology sees the victim in the center and says, “You are hurting because of this.”  The difference – and a critical one – is empathy.  As my wife so insightfully noted, “a narcissistic apology is when the apology itself is actually abusive.”  It’s extremely manipulative.

The real problem is that this isn’t about an apology, and that’s what so many just don’t seem to understand. An apology might be at the center of the issue, but it’s not the circumference of the issue. This ultimately is about confession and repentance… something unique to our faith.  It may initiate with an apology, but it MUST transition into deep, honest confession that ultimately bears long-term fruit as the changed life of repentance.

In an excerpt from an email you sent to our elders on 9/4/2004 regarding my situation, you said:  “Repentance will take time, even years. Confession is agreeing with God, and repenting is changing.”  Do you remember that?  Those are your own words, and they are spot on.  I know.   I went through the process and it did take years!  Longstanding patterns and habits must be refashioned. Repentance must be proven genuine and sincere through things like restitution and exoneration of people wronged.  All I’m asking you to do is to take your own advice.

Go to your brothers and sisters you have specifically offended and make it right.  There’s no other way.   If you do, I will gladly stand with you as a brother.  Anything else is simply too little, too late.  I believe that everything hinges on the integrity of your response to this crisis.

You could begin by exonerating Paul Petry, and Bent Meyer.  Refute that mockery of a trial and end their shunning.  I hurt over how you treated Leif Moi as well.  Such a loyal brother to you.

I once was afraid of what you might do to me if I spoke up.  I’ve come to the place where I care more about the truth being known, and healing and restoration beginning, than anything else.  The sharks are circling now, and it appears there are many who want only your destruction. I don’t. I want to see brokenness, humility, and change that I can support.

I love you and your family, and will be earnestly praying for you in all of this.

I have the same phone number and email. You know how to find me.

My name is Ron Wheeler.

I Am Not Anonymous.

https://ronwheelerjr.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/i-am-not-anonymous-2

 

Statement of Formal Charges and Issues by Pastor Dave Kraft

Introduction
Mark, as I have said earlier in an email to you, Susan and I…both feel great affection and admiration for you which makes what follows here that much more difficult to say, but must be said for the sake of the gospel, my own conscience and the future well-being of Mars Hill Church.

This document contains three main sections: formal charges, supporting materials, and issues. Formal charges are stated with confidence. Issues are questions being advanced for serious consideration, but not necessarily charges. The answers to those questions could possibly provide cause for additional charges or further evidence to establish the current charges.

Formal Charges
Per Article 12 of the Bylaws of Mars Hill Church, I hereby file formal charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll, the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church that, if investigated and found to be true, could disqualify him from his position as an elder in the Church, based on the biblical requirements of an elder. As such, it is my understanding that these charges shall be referred to the board of overseers.

I believe that Pastor Mark Driscoll has violated the following biblical qualifications of an elder as a result of an ongoing pattern of attitude and behavior.

Though he has not personally sinned against me in these ways, I have come to know of many such offenses against others and I am confident that if witnesses were interviewed (which I trust will happen), these charges would be thoroughly established.

I do not intend to stand as a lone witness, but believe these charges will be established by many witnesses, according to 1 Timothy 5:19 and Deuteronomy 19:15. I have already confirmed seven people who are willing to testify to these charges if given an opportunity to speak openly.

In the biblical passages cited here, a single instance might not be a disqualifier from eldership; but an established pattern of such behavior supported and substantiated by eyewitnesses would be. I believe that Pastor Mark has a long-standing pattern of violating these leadership qualities and has done so with dozens of individuals.

1. Self-controlled and disciplined (1 Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:8)
Self-control and disciplined are related and relevant to controlling one’s emotional impulses. The Greek for disciplined is enkrates, which BDAG describes as “pertaining to having one’s emotions, impulses, or desires under control, self-controlled, disciplined.”

a. Pastor Mark exhibits lack of self-control by his speech and by verbally assaulting others.

b. He also demonstrates lack of discipline with his words and the judgmental comments he makes, and has made, about his own elders and other leaders. This may be characterized as slander. Scripture condemns speaking slanderously, or “speaking evil,” of others (Romans 1:30, 3:8; cf. Titus 3:2).

If an elder – or anyone else – causes injury to others by speaking ill or evil of them to anyone, it should be regarded as slander. A single instance of slander might be confronted, repented of, forgiven, and reconciled. This does not necessarily disqualify an elder.

However, if there were a pattern of slander, we would have to ask: Is this elder self-controlled with his tongue? It is out of the abundance of the heart, after all, that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). The injury to others is serious. The pattern suggests something wrong, not only in the tongue, but in the heart of that elder.

2. Not domineering (1 Pet. 5:3): See examples from Sam Storms below, which I believe describe Pastor Mark’s leadership.

3. Not violent, but gentle (1 Tim. 3:3, Titus 1:7)

a. Pastor Mark exhibits anger and ungraceful ways of dealing with those with whom he disagrees and who disagree with him. He does this by (among other ways) putting people down.

b. I believe that the way Pastor Mark leads has created a culture of fear instead of a culture of candor and safety. People are afraid to ask questions or challenge ideas.

c. Pastor Sutton in a Full Council Elder’s meeting on January 15, 2013 indicated that we have a culture of fear. I believe that Pastor Mark is the source and perpetuator of these widespread fears.

d. Pastor Mark is verbally abusive to people who challenge him, disagree with him, or question him.

e. Pastor Mark uses words to demean, attack or disparage others.

f. I believe that few (including Mark himself) would characterize him as gentle. Some definitions for plektes, translated “not violent,” include “pugnacious person, bully” (BDAG), “striker; pugnacious person, bully, quarrelsome person (ANLEX), “a person who is pugnacious and demanding” (Louw-Nida). Merriam- Webster defines pugnacious as: “having a quarrelsome or combative nature.”

“The degrees of modes of violence that the word might express are numerous (bullying, verbal abuse, angry pushing, and shoving), and prohibition should be regarded as widely as possible” (Taken from Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus.)

It seems unlikely that one could establish a disqualifying charge of “violent” based on a single instance. The definitions clearly indicate a pattern of life, character traits that show up in various interactions with people. It’s the pattern that results in disqualification; while it may well be that no single instance would warrant a disqualifying charge.

4. Respectable (1 Tim. 3:2). I can no longer respect Pastor Mark Driscoll and submit to his leadership as a result of his persistent sinful behavior toward others. I believe we would discover that many other Mars Hill elders and leaders have also lost respect for Pastor Mark’s leadership.

5. Not arrogant (Titus 1:7). Pastor Mark has stated in public numerous times that he is guilty of pride. It is one thing to acknowledge sin, quite another to repent of sin and experience change through the power of the Holy Spirit.

6. Not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7). Many Mars Hill elders have witnessed this on numerous occasions.

Supporting Material
Sam Storms on Domineering
In his April 2011 lectures at Re:Train, Sam Storms provided a list of examples to illustrate what “domineering” might look like. The following are selected examples from his talk that I believe are an especially good description of way Pastor Mark has led over many years. The full list of Storms’ points are available on my web site here.

• A man can “domineer” or “lord it over” his flock by intimidating them into doing what he wants done by holding over their heads the prospect of loss of stature and position in the church.

• A pastor domineers whenever he uses the sheer force of his personality to overwhelm others and coerce their submission.

• A pastor domineers whenever he exploits the natural tendency people have to elevate their spiritual leaders above the average Christian. That is to say, many Christians mistakenly think that a pastor is closer to God and more in tune with the divine will. The pastor often takes advantage of this false belief to expand his power and influence.

• He domineers by building into people a greater loyalty to himself than to God. Or he makes it appear that not to support him is to work at cross-purposes with God.

• He domineers by short-circuiting due process, by shutting down dialogue and discussion prematurely, by not giving all concerned an opportunity to voice their opinion.

• He domineers by establishing an inviolable barrier between himself and the sheep. He either surrounds himself with staff who insulate him from contact with the people or withdraws from the daily affairs of the church in such a way that he is unavailable and unreachable. Related to the above is the practice of some in creating a governmental structure in which the senior pastor is accountable to no one, or if he is accountable it is only to a small group of very close friends… [Dave’s Note: My point here is not to question the motives of those friends or fellow elders, but to state that the creation of this governmental structure is an expression of Pastor Mark’s domineering.]

• He domineers by viewing the people as simply a means to the achieving of his own personal ends.

• Ministry is reduced to exploitation. The people exist to “serve his vision” rather than he and all the people together existing to serve the vision of the entire church.

• He domineers by making people feel unsafe and insecure should they desire to voice an objection to his proposals and policies.

Ed Stetzer Blogs
I believe that Ed Stetzer’s blog series on The Resurgence, “Considering (and Surviving) Unhealthy Christian Organizations” clearly describes the environment at Mars Hill Church. I believe this is due to Pastor Mark’s behavior and attitudes as demonstrated in the way he leads. These blogs are available here:
1. http://theresurgence.com/2012/09/19/considering-and-surviving-unhealthy-christian-organizations-part-1

2. http://theresurgence.com/2012/10/04/considering-and-surviving-unhealthy-christian-organizations-part-2

3. http://theresurgence.com/2012/10/18/considering-and-surviving-unhealthy-christian-organizations-part-3

Here are some main points from Ed’s blogs on The Resurgence that I think should make us sit up and take notice:

1. People often know of the glaring character problems of the leader, but no one can speak truth to power.

2. Many times, the leader gets a pass for the fruit of his/her leadership because of some overwhelming characteristic: preaching ability, intelligence, ability to woo others, or more.

3. People rationalize that the good they are experiencing is worth the abuse they are receiving.

4. The organization has to be willing to listen to its constructive critics.

5. The organization has to admit that sometimes unhealthy cultures come from unhealthy leaders.

I would encourage those considering an investigation to read these three posts by Ed Stetzer in their entirety.

Issues
1. Have the public statements made about elders who have recently left reflected the relevant truth of the matter, or have they covered up significant concerns? If the latter, has this been sinfully deceptive, possibly in the sense of telling a truth that hides a more significant concern?

2. Does the legal document these staff elders have been asked to sign upon exit amount to a “gag order” that perpetuates such a cover up?

3. Is Pastor Mark guilty of “slander” because of the way he’s spoken about John Piper, Tim Keller, John MacArthur and other Christian leaders in elder meetings?

4. Is it wise or foolish that Pastor Mark made a public statement calling into question President Obama’s belief in the Bible? Does Mark know for a fact that the President doesn’t believe the Bible?

5. When Mark has been confronted with personal sin by those he’s deeply hurt, has he expressed genuine repentance and sorrow, and sought their forgiveness?

6. With the exceptionally high amount of turnover in recent months at Mars Hill Church (especially among lead pastors and elders), should this be of concern that something is not right at the heart of who we are and the way we carry out ministry?

My bottom line desire in all of this is that the Holy Spirit would convict pastor Mark Driscoll of his sin and enable him to repent demonstrated by changed biblical behaviors and attitudes so that Mars Hill Church will have a healthier leadership and a healthier culture.

May 10, 2013

See the original copy of Dave Kraft’s charges HERE.

________________________________________________

Dave Kraft’s charges were summarily dismissed by the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BoAA), without an investigation.

TIMELINE

1999 – Meaning, Beauty, Truth, Community

VIDEO – Mars Hill Fellowship – Psalm 46

MARS HILL Timeline – 2001 – 2006

MARS HILL – Core Values, What We Believe
MARS HILL – Who We Are FAQs
MARS HILL Membership Covenant

MARS HILL Membership Certificate – The Petry Family

VIDEO – Mars Hill & Mark Driscoll in 2003

BYLAWS prior to 11-01-2007

FEBRUARY 2003

Founded by Lief Moi, The Paradox Theatre, home of all-ages concerts and events in Seattle’s University District, permanently closed its doors.

OCTOBER 19, 2004 

MEMORANDUM from Mark Driscoll to the MH Elders, re: Further details on the proposal to reorganize the elders
(As far back as 2004, Mark Driscoll was already proposing doing away with the plurality of elders with equal authority. As justification for establishing a hierarchy with himself as the “gatekeeper” or the so-called “first among equals” in authority, he stated: “Within the godhead we see Jesus doing the Father’s will and speaking the Father’s words in clear deference to the Father though they are equal and united as one.”)

AUGUST 2007

ELDERS’ Wives Meeting Teaching Notes re: The Testing of Our Faith – Jonna

SEPTEMBER 6, 2007

ELDERS’ Wives Invitation to Prayer 09-06-2007 – Jonna

SEPTEMBER 26, 2007 

COVER LETTER to Pastor Jamie Munson re: recommended edits
to proposed BYLAWS
– Paul

Suggested Edits to proposed MH Bylaws – Paul

BENT MEYER’S LETTER to Pastor Jamie Munson re: proposed BYLAWS

SEPTEMBER 30, 2007

EMAIL from Jamie Munson re: after hours “mandatory meeting”

AUDIO LINK to full final Nehemiah sermon, “Fathers & Fighting,” preached by Mark Driscoll that night.
AUDIO LINK to shortened clip with highlights of the “Fathers & Fighting” sermon. Immediately after preaching the sermon, Mark Driscoll walked off the stage and entered the secret “mandatory” meeting where Bent Meyer and Paul were fired and threatened.

OCTOBER 1, 2007 

EMAIL to the Executive Elders after the firing – Paul
EMAIL to the MH Elders after firing – Paul
YOUR ACCUSERS – Insider email received from Bill Clem, an Elder “friend”
EMAIL REPLY to Paul’s plea from the EXECUTIVE ELDERS/SCOTT THOMAS re: so-called request for trial & heading up “Elder Investigation Taskforce (EIT)”
(Scott Thomas was one of the executive elders in the room when Mark Driscoll fired & threatened Bent Meyer & Paul. In this email, Scott stated that he is the “Lead Mediator” and he is heading up the “Elder Investigation TaskForce” and, “This process is not a witch-hunt, but rather an exercise in the gospel…”)
OFFICIAL Termination letter from Jamie Munson
AUDIO LINK (MARK DRISCOLL bragging to Acts29 pastors and church planters that “there is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus” and that he fired two elders the night before – “the first time in the history of Mars Hill.”)

OCTOBER 2, 2007

IMPORTANT Message from the Lead Pastor
(Letter announcing firings of Paul & Bent posted to MH Members website)

OCTOBER 10, 2007

EMAIL from SCOTT THOMAS to Paul Petry: “your presence will not be necessary” at your TRIAL

OCTOBER 11, 2007

EMAIL from SCOTT THOMAS in response to a Member’s questions regarding the firings of Elders
(Scott Thomas assured the Member that, “A team of elders just concluded a conciliatory process with these two men.”)

OCTOBER 14, 2007

EMAIL letter to the Elders from DEACON ROB SMITH (Mars Hill deacon submits his letter on the day before Paul’s trial and pleads with elders for impartiality and a fair trial for Bent and Paul.)

STATEMENT for 10-15-2007 TRIAL – Paul

OCTOBER 16, 2007

STATEMENT from the Elders posted on MH Members’ website
(re: outcome of Paul’s “trial”)

OCTOBER 16, 2007

EMAIL from Zach Hubert restoring Paul to “full membership”

OCTOBER 25, 2007   

UPDATED Member Communication (Posted to MH Members website in an effort to quell the uproar)

MY CONFESSION and REQUEST for REDRESS of Grievances – Paul

OCTOBER 31, 2007 – November 2, 2007

REPLY email to Brad House
EMAIL EXCHANGE between Brad House and Paul

NOVEMBER 2, 2007

EMAIL Resigning MHC Membership – Paul
RESPONSE email from Mark to email resigning Membership
RESPONSE email from Jamie to email resigning Membership

NOVEMBER 4, 2007

MH MEMBERS’ Questions posted on MHC Website in response to “Ask the Elders Anything”  (Members were allowed to ask questions during a 72-hour window of time – then the website was permanently shut down.)

NOVEMBER 9, 2007 

ELDERS’ 142-Page Document in Response to Members’ Questions
(includes a four-page cover letter by Mark Driscoll)

NOVEMBER 18, 2007

JANET TU, The Seattle Times, Firing of Pastors Roils Mars Hill Church

DECEMBER 5, 2007

MH Church website forum – Jamie Munson “Update on Paul Petry”
(Post to members re: Paul’s “discipline” = shunning)

DECEMBER 15, 2007

MARS HILL MEMBERS publish their letter of resignation from Mars Hill Church (MH couple starts a BLOG, publish their letter of resignation as members of Mars Hill Church, and publicly call Mark Driscoll and the Elders to repentance.)

DECEMBER 23, 2007

EXECUTIVE ELDER, Scott Thomas, sent an email to former members who resigned and asked for reconciliation, redress of wrongs, and publicly called Mark Driscoll and the Elders to repentance. (Thomas demanded that they take down their blog before their concerns could be addressed and before any “reconciliation” could happen. They took down their blog. Nothing happened.)

JANUARY 11, 2008

BENT MEYER’S Letter to the MH Elders, Correcting Exaggerated Communication

JANUARY 26, 2008

APPEAL letter to Mark for retraction of Shunning & for Reconciliation
APPEAL letter to Jamie for retraction of Shunning & for Reconciliation

JANUARY 29, 2008 

Jamie’s first response to Paul’s appeal

JANUARY 30, 2008

Jamie’s second response to Paul’s appeal

FEBRUARY 4, 2008

LAST LETTER to Mark, Jamie, and the MH Elders – Paul

JANUARY 6, 2009

MOLLY WORTHEN, The New York Times, Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

MAY 15, 2009

JOHN PIPER Addresses Mark Driscoll/MacArthur Issue at Basics Conference, by Joel Taylor

MAY 6, 2010

JUSTIN TAYLOR, An Interview with Mark Driscoll on “Doctrine”
(Mark Driscoll: “We canceled out the membership of everyone in our church…we were willing to lose a lot of people.”)

JULY 14, 2011

BOBBY ROSS, JR., Christianity Today, Sex, Money…Pride? Why Pastors Are Stepping Down

JANUARY 1, 2012

CURRENT MHC Membership Covenant

JANUARY 23, 2012

MATTHEW PAUL TURNER, Mark Driscoll’s Church Discipline Contract: Looking For True Repentance at Mars Hill Church? Sign on the Dotted Line.

JANUARY 24, 2012

MATTHEW PAUL TURNER, Mark Driscoll’s ‘Gospel Shame’: The Truth About Discipline, Excommunication, and Cult-like Control at Mars Hill

JANUARY 26, 2012

MATTHEW PAUL TURNER, Spiritual Abuse Must Stop

JANUARY 29, 2012

BENT MEYER – Online Post – Fired Mars Hill Elder Breaks His Silence

FEBRUARY 2, 2012

RUTH GRAHAM, Slate, A Shunning In Seattle

FEBRUARY 12, 2012

Theology for Women, Andy & Wendy Alsup, Our Review of Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll
(“I haven’t mentioned Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill on this blog in the 4 years since I stepped back from leading women’s ministry there…In light of this, silence on these issues no longer seems the righteous choice.”)

FEBRUARY 17, 2012

TED OLSON, Christianity Today, Mars Hill Says It Released Leaders Over Church Discipline Cases

MARCH 7, 2012

DAVID KUPELIAN, World Net Daily, The Church of Sex

MARCH 9, 2012

BRENDAN KYLIE, The Seattle Stranger, A Mars Hill WikiLeaks, Of Sorts

MARCH 28, 2012

MARK DRISCOLL Steps Down from Gospel Coalition Council
MARK DRISCOLL Steps Down as Acts29 President (but remains as Director on three-member board)
MARK DRISCOLL: What is Next for Me

JUNE 18, 2012

AUDIO clip (posted by a former MH member, re: Mark Driscoll talking to a group of Acts 29 pastors and church planters on 10/01/2007, the day after Bent and Paul were fired.)

SEPTEMBER 27, 2012

RADIO Program Audio clip (Program host urges Mark Driscoll to repent.)

DECEMBER 10, 2012

UPDATE on Lief Moi (Newspaper article on Lief Moi “Coming Full Circle”)

JANUARY 9, 2013

New MHC location in historic old downtown church building announced (SEATTLE – Pastor Tim Gaydos recently shepherded his congregation into its new downtown location…)

JANUARY 12, 2013

The Seattle Times – Mars Hill’s Grand Opening Downtown: “Thank God for TiVo”
“Celebrating the grand opening of its new location in the historic First United Methodist Church building in downtown Seattle…Mars Hill posted on a Facebook page created for the event, ‘Thank God for TiVo and DVR.’”

JANUARY 14, 2013

Official PRESS RELEASE by Justin Dean, MHC Marketing & PR Director, announcing new MHC downtown location with Tim Gaydos as “lead pastor” (“This is an incredible opportunity to be a ministry hub for downtown Seattle as it will allow us to better serve the business men and women in our city, as well as the homeless and marginalized, as we’re closer to one of our ministry partners, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission,” says Tim Gaydos, lead pastor of the Downtown Seattle church.)

JANUARY 15, 2013

KOMO-TV News Video (Controversy erupts with MHC grand opening of new downtown location)

MARCH 14, 2013

TIM GAYDOS QUITS (Newspaper article: Pastor Unexpectedly Quits Mars Hill Church)

MAY 10, 2013

STATEMENT OF FORMAL CHARGES AND ISSUES submitted by Pastor Dave Kraft “Per Article 12 of the Bylaws of Mars Hill Church, I hereby file formal charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll…”

DECEMBER 4, 2013

PASTOR JEFF BETTGER – GONE (Jeff Bettger’s name removed from list of pastors on Mars Hill website)
“Having a mega church background for the last 16 years I have witnessed first hand the tyranny of injustice done in the name of God. Layoffs during Christmas, weeks after new children are born and first homes purchased. The use of tithe money to purchase books at retail cost in order to build a man’s platform and make the New York Times best seller lists. All with the name of God stamped on it, and self-justified because the rest of the business world has those kinds of practices. I am grieved for the state of a church that does not acknowledge and expose the sin of its leaders with love and humility but instead claims it is doing what’s best for the body of Christ…I am the chief of sinners in this way. I have held my cards close to my heart in order for self-preservation. I have been complicit by not speaking out boldly and allowing things to stay hidden. I do not need to do that anymore…” — Jeff Bettger, www.locustnhoney.com

MARCH 4, 2014

WARREN COLE SMITH, WORLD Magazine, Megachurches order staff to keep their mouths shut
Gag order? Two megachurches facing scrutiny for questionable behavior – Seattle’s Mars Hill Church and Charlotte’s Elevation Church – have something besides controversy in common…”

Former Mars Hill elder mentioned in the article, Dave Kraft, author of the book, Leaders Who Last (forward by Mark Driscoll), served on the “Elder Investigative Team” (E.I.T.) – a panel composed of four Mars Hill Elders appointed for the task – which investigated the “charges” against Bent and Paul. Dave Kraft eventually formally resigned his membership with Mars Hill and refused to sign what he referred to as a “gag order”.

APRIL 14, 2014

DANGEROUS HOPE – The Sham of the Mars Hill Board of (so-called) Accountability

JUNE 4, 2014

WENDY ALSUP, Practical Theology For Women, The Root of Bitterness at Mars Hill Church
“The bitter card has been used for years in Seattle against those with growing concerns about Mars Hill Church. I personally have feared speaking at times because of this common criticism and the shame of being possibly labeled a gossip or, worse yet, a contentious woman. A careful examination of Hebrews 12:15 has been helpful to me.”
http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2014/06/the-root-of-bitterness-at-mars-hill.html

JULY 16, 2014

STACIE SOLIE, Crosscut Seattle, Inside Mars Hill’s Massive Meltdown – How narcissism, misogyny and Mark Driscoll’s own troubled past led to the mega-church mass exodus his flock was too scared to talk about
“A recent outpouring of accounts by former church members of Mars Hill, Seattle’s own homegrown megachurch, are painting a picture, both fascinating and horrifying, of outrageous and psychologically damaging behavior that’s been happening inside the church for many years. There are emerging stories of sensational kangaroo courts and “sex demon” trials, like something out of the Salem witch hunts of the 1600s. Even more devastating to individual members are the ways in which they are shamed, taught to blame themselves and each other when they see problems, and to formally shun people who step out of favor with church leaders. Shunnings, both formal and informal, have caused the outcast to spend years in isolation, cut off from friends, sometimes suffering deep clinical depression, nightmares, disillusionment and shattered faith. New heartbreaking stories are emerging almost every week…”

AUGUST 4, 2014

LEAH MARIEANN KLETT, The Gospel Herald, James McDonald Resigns from Mars Hill Board, Mark Driscoll Apologizes for Vulgar Comments
“A mere two months following Pastor Paul Tripp’s resignation from the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) of the Seattle-based, Mark Driscoll-led Mars Hill Church, James McDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Fellowship in Chicago, has also resigned…controversy has surrounded Driscoll for the past year, including attacks on his ‘oppressive’ leadership style and accusations of plagiarism. Most recently, the Mars Hill pastor was forced to publicly apologize after vulgar comments he made…”

AUGUST 6, 2014

BRENDAN KYLIE, The Stranger, Why the Mars Hill Faithful Have Started to Question Mark – What Happened Over the Last Decade with Seattle’s Most Popular Church and Its Firebrand Pastor Mark Driscoll?

AUGUST 8, 2014

RUTH MOON, Christianity Today, Acts 29 Removes Mars Hill, Asks Mark Driscoll To Step Down and Seek Help
“Hoping that ‘the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored,’ the Acts 29 church planting network founded by Mark Driscoll has removed the Seattle pastor and his Mars Hill megachurch from membership…”

AUGUST 21, 2014

JOEL CONNELLY, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 21 former Mars Hill pastors lodge formal charges against Mark Driscoll
“Twenty-one former Mars Hill Church pastors have filed formal charges against Senior Pastor Mark Driscoll, alleging that he has engaged in a pattern of abusive and intimidating conduct and that he has not changed his domineering behavior.”

AUGUST 22, 2014

MICHAEL PAULSON, The New York Times, A Brash Style That Filled Pews, Until Followers Had Their Fill – Mark Driscoll Is Being Urged to Leave Mars Hill Church
“SEATTLE — Mark Driscoll has long been an evangelical bad boy, a gifted orator and charismatic leader who built one of the nation’s most influential megachurches despite, or perhaps fueled by, a foul mouth, a sharp temper and frank talk about sex. The church he founded, Mars Hill, enjoyed rapid growth in the Pacific Northwest…But now Mr. Driscoll’s empire appears to be imploding. He has been accused of creating a culture of fear at the church, of plagiarizing, of inappropriately using church funds and of consolidating power to such a degree that it has become difficult for anyone to challenge or even question him…”

AUGUST 22, 2014

MARS HILL Timeline – 08-22-2014 LETTER by the MH NOBLE NINE to BoA and ELDERS of MH
The August Declaration of the “NOBLE NINE” Elders to the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BoAA) regarding “Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church”

AUGUST 28, 2014

MORGAN LEE, Christianity Today, Nine Current Mars Hill Pastors Tell Mark Driscoll To Step Down from All Ministry
“Nine of Mars Hill Church’s 65 pastors, including the lead pastor of one of its 15 campuses, have called for Mark Driscoll to step down not for six weeks but for a full year, and for church elders to play a more prominent role in restoring the health of the Seattle megachurch. ‘It is time to take responsibility for our church, regardless of how much our current bylaws prevent us from exercising that authority,’ they wrote in a 4,000-word letter. ‘It grieves us that the only voice that has never been heard in all of this is the voice of the current elders.'”

AUGUST 29, 2014

JANET MEFFERD, The Janet Mefferd Show, The Driscoll Case: Now In the Jury’s Hands
“Something unexpected happened to me today. This morning, I received copies of a letter penned by nine Mars Hill pastors, outlining the latest revelations about Pastor Mark Driscoll. It started as all Mars Hill documents seem to begin: Expressing deep and abiding Christian love for Mark Driscoll and his willing accomplices. Then, of course, came the charges. Lies. Deceit. Lack of accountability. They even revealed that Paul Tripp — a recently resigned member of the Board of Advisors and Accountability — told them Mars Hill is ‘the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.’”

AUGUST 30, 2014

ALLISON MORROW, KING 5 News SEATTLE – Mars Hill co-founder grieved by controversy

Lief Moi remembers the idea of Mars Hill long before it was a church. It was meant to be a safe place for college students to ask tough questions about God and life. “Discuss theology openly and honestly,” Moi said. “If God is really in control of everything, why is everything the way it is?” While the young Mark Driscoll was a college pastor, he ran into Moi. The two hit it off immediately, and Driscoll soon joined Moi on his Christian radio show… Moi no longer attends Mars Hill, but hopes to return someday. He believes Driscoll must step down for the church to begin healing. Even still, he says, he loves his old friend. “God is bringing about the very change that is necessary for that to not continue,” Moi said. “My heart was there at the beginning and it will be there til the end.”

OCTOBER 17, 2014

ALISON MORROW, KING 5 News SEATTLE – First pastor fired at Mars Hill foresaw fallout
“Paul Petry was fired for ‘unhealthy distrust of spiritual authority.’ The first pastor ever fired by Mars Hill’s founder, Mark Driscoll, says he is saddened but not surprised by the news of Driscoll’s resignation…”

OCTOBER 29, 2014

MARK WOODS, Christian Today, Mars Hill pastor Steve Tompkins confesses sinful behaviour, asks forgiveness
“I am deeply sorry that so many people have experienced profound hurt over the years at Mars Hill. It breaks my heart that many continue to live with deep emotional and spiritual wounds, even long after leaving the church…But there is another – and related – area of great sin and blindness that I need to address. In fact, I would say I consider this to be the darkest, most destructive and most hurtful aspect of Mars Hill’s ministry culture by far. I call it the ‘ad hominem’ narrative… Dissenting voices were silenced through personal attacks rather than engagement with their arguments. What I have seen on multiple occasions is that when a leader raises an issue with Mars Hill or Mars Hill leadership, they themselves soon become the issue rather than the issue they raised. What they said, for example, is invalidated by how they said it, or because they did not follow proper procedure or protocol. Then, almost inevitably it is not long before they are gone from their position, their job, or the church itself. Often, their integrity was then slandered and their character maligned.”

NOVEMBER 2, 2014

CHRISTIANITY TODAY – Mars Hill Elders Letter of Confession
Seven Years Later: 18 Mars Hill Elders Issue Letter of Confession to Bent Meyer, Paul Petry, and the Church

“Dear Paul and Bent, we want to publicly confess our sin against you regarding events that took place at Mars Hill Church back in 2007. We were wrong. We harmed you. You have lived with the pain of that for many years. As some of us have come to each of you privately, you have extended grace and forgiveness, and for that we thank you. Because our sin against you happened in a public way and with public consequences, we want to make our confession public as well with this letter…”

NOVEMBER 3, 2014

WARREN COLE SMITH, WORLD Magazine – Mars Hill Church to dissolve – Local church sites assess options, while former elders repent
“Mars Hill Church, which as recently as January had more than 14,000 people attending Sunday morning worship services, will cease to exist organizationally by the end of the year…Many former leaders at Mars Hill say troubles began in the church as far back as 2007, when the church re-organized to centralize church governance power in the hands of Driscoll and a few of his close allies. Two men who were pastors at Mars Hill at that time, Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, protested the changes. The church ultimately fired them and took the unusual step of asking church members to shun the two men. This weekend, most of the elders who made the original decision to discipline Petry and Meyer in that manner repented of their actions and apologized…”

NOVEMBER 4, 2014

MARK WOODS, Christian Today, Mars Hill elders to sacked pastors: ‘We confess our sin against you’

“This instruction was given with the weight of all twenty-seven elders at the time. This disciplinary rejection led to great loss to your family in extreme financial hardship, sudden loss of long standing friendships, spiritual and emotional trauma to your family, and the public shaming of your character. We share responsibility for those losses due to our participation in the vote…Paul and Bent, we are sorry for our sinful behavior toward you, for harming you, and for bringing shame to Christ’s church. We hope that you will forgive us.”

NOVEMBER 5, 2014

The Legacy Institute Radio Show with host Carrie Abbott – MARS HILL Part 1

“How does such a vibrant church fall in such a big way? Paul Petry, former pastor at Mars Hill shares part of his story with Carrie.”

NOVEMBER 6, 2014

The Legacy Institute Radio Show with host Carrie Abbott – MARS HILL Part 2

“Paul Petry is one of many pastors who left Mars Hill in painful circumstances but started with Mars Hill with genuine excitement. What happened?”

DECEMBER 24, 2014

The Christmas Eve Letter: Brian Fahling, attorney for aggrieved former Mars Hill members, wrote a letter to Mars Hill attorney requesting mediation to address grievances in hopes that a lawsuit could be avoided.
“As I have expressed to you since our first conversation regarding this matter last spring, above all else, my clients’ desire to have their claims brought before a Christian mediator. And as I described to you in my email of December 16, there are a number of offenses they would like to bring to mediation, though they are aware that some of the concerns they have expressed and hope to address in mediation cannot be remedied through a lawsuit. I know of many other MH members, not just my clients, who wanted Mars Hill Leadership to mediate, or at least talk with them about very serious offenses. Every plea, though, was ignored; the only way your clients will even consider mediation, it appears, is if they perceive a sufficient threat from a RICO lawsuit. It should never have come to this, but that is what your clients have demanded.”

DECEMBER 24, 2014

JULIE ANN SMITH: Mark Driscoll’s New Website, New Image, and the Stuff He Forgot to Mention
“Mark Driscoll has published a brand new website. On the front page you can find blog articles, sermons, and a free e-book…As I read through the “About” page and the nauseating details that were chosen to highlight his accomplishments, I noticed some missing elements of his past years in ministry and thought it might be helpful to fill in some gaps.”

APRIL 15, 2015

MARK WOODS, Christian Today, Mark Driscoll shouldn’t appear at Hillsong conference, say campaigners
“A campaign aiming to persuade Hillsong to rescind its decision to have the disgraced former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle at its Europe conference has been launched with an online petition. Mark Driscoll resigned from the church he founded last year, following a string of revelations…”

AUGUST 10, 2015

MARK LIPTON, Mean Men, Strength in Numbers: Lessons from the Downfall of Mark Driscoll
“[W]hat brought him down was his arrogance and abusiveness, as well as those current and former followers who shouldered the risk of condemnation from others and stood together…The pattern of abusive behavior employed by mean men to get and retain power means that there will inevitably be a long line of victims in their wake. Alone, each victim may feel powerless, but together — as we saw with Driscoll…they can be a powerful force.”

NOVEMBER 12, 2015

JD HALL, Pulpit & Pen, Driscoll Resurfaces…to Speak at “Church Leadership” Conference
“Three notoriously bad pastors are joining forces to teach on leadership. Perry Noble, who called church members who want to go deep in the Word of God, “jackasses” and Stephen Furtick, who says that telling his church members what his salary is would be biblically wrong, will be joined by more-or-less fired (run off, forced out?) and disgraced former pastor, Mark Driscoll. The topic of the conference will be church leadership. Also, this is not The Onion. This is not satire. Pulpit & Pen doesn’t have the creative juices to make up fiction this unbelievable.” A notable appearance at the conference will be “Financial Peace” money guru, radio personality and best-selling author, Dave Ramsey.

DECEMBER 2015

SHAWN NELSON, Spiritual Abuse, Unspoken Crisis

Spiritual abuse is not a widely discussed topic. It occurs when a leader manipulates people to achieve selfish goals. Most abusers are unaware of the harm they inflict. Internal factors contributing to an abusive environment are: Christians wanting to trust their leaders; not wanting to be disloyal; not wanting to be a problem; and accommodating abuse because they become invested. A likely external factor in the rise of spiritual abuse is our culture‘s obsession with results and an insatiable ―thirst for more. There are two types of spiritually abusive leaders: insecure leaders use power to protect themselves; narcissistic leaders seek to accomplish some great cause for validation and self-worth. Narcissistic leaders are fueled by narcissistic followers who also find value from belonging to a great cause. Signs of an abusive system are: power-posturing; distorted loyalty; people are being used; unhealthy centrality of the pastor; an elitist attitude; inability to discuss concerns; and people being labeled as divisive for raising valid issues. Those trapped in abusive systems can either flee or fight. Throughout this booklet reference is made to recent events at Mars Hill Church.

FEBRUARY 20, 2016

BRANDY ZADROZNY, ABC News/The Daily Beast, Controversial Megachurch Pastor Mark Driscoll Finds a New Flock, He called women ‘penis homes’ and allegedly ruled his Seattle megachurch like a tyrant. Now, he’s resurfaced a thousand miles away.
“[A]s Driscoll’s star rose, he was dogged by allegations from church members and pastors as well as from outsiders — of bullying and spiritual abuse, misogyny and homophobia, plagiarism, and misuse of church funds, just to name a few. In 2014, after being asked to submit to a reconciliation plan proposed by the church board he organized, Driscoll quit. Now, barely a year later and 1,000 miles away, Driscoll is back. And though he may be fresh off an apology tour on the megachurch circuit and backed by a roster of celebrity pastors and online supporters, many of his original followers — a dozen of whom spoke to The Daily Beast, not counting at least one hundred others who have shared their stories online — are still wondering if Pastor Mark will ever address the damage he allegedly wreaked on the people at Mars Hill or the church he left in ruins…”

FEBRUARY 29, 2016

WARREN THROCKMORTON, The Behind the Scenes Mars Hill Global Maneuvers
“Recently, I acquired two memos which provide details about Mars Hill Global, a mysterious aspect of the demise of Mars Hill Church. From 2012 until mid-2014, Mars Hill Church marketed Mars Hill Global as a fund to help support church planters in India and Ethiopia. However, at least some insiders at Mars Hill knew that the donations given through the Global Fund were spent primarily on church planting expenses in the United States. One memo I posted in 2014 suggested that international projects would bring in lots of dollars which could in turn be used to fuel domestic expansion. Once I started asking questions about Mars Hill Global, changes began to happen on the Mars Hill website…”

FEBRUARY 29, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) Lawsuit Filed Against Former Leaders of Mars Hill Church; ECFA Named As Co-Conspirator
WARREN THROCKMORTON, “The long anticipated suit from a group of former members against former leaders of Mars Hill Church was filed today in the U.S District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle…The plaintiffs accuse defendants Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner of engaging in a continuing pattern of racketeering activity by soliciting, through the internet and the mail, contributions for designated purposes, and then fraudulently used significant portions of those designated contributions for other, unauthorized purposes. It was a pattern of racketeering activity that extended through a myriad of MHC projects, including the Global Fund…Driscoll and Turner engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity so deeply embedded, pervasive and continuous, that it was effectively institutionalized as a business practice, thereby corrupting the very mission Plaintiffs and other donors believed they were supporting.”

FEBRUARY 29, 2016

FULL TEXT of Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) Lawsuit – Complaint filed in the United States District Court
“I. SUMMARY OF FACTS AND CLAIMS, 1. Over the course of a number of years, RICO Defendants Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner, and their co-conspirators, defrauded plaintiffs Brian and Connie Jacobsen and Ryan and Arica Kildea, and thousands of other individuals who made financial contributions to Mars Hill Church…”

FEBRUARY 29, 2016

BRANDY ZADROZNY, ABC News/The Daily Beast, Lawsuit: Controversial Pastor Ran Megachurch Like a Crime Syndicate, New lawsuit seeks to find out what Mark Driscoll did with millions in tithes to Seattle’s now-shuttered Mars Hill megachurch.
“Just when controversial pastor Mark Driscoll was hoping to make a new start, former members of his old stomping grounds at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church have filed a lawsuit alleging Driscoll and his chief elder ran the now-shuttered megachurch like an organized crime syndicate, in which church members became unwitting participants. The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the Western District of Washington U.S. District Court in Seattle under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, a law originally created for prosecution of Mafia figures.”

MARCH 1, 2016

MARK WOODS, Christian Today, Mark Driscoll corrupted Mars Hill’s mission with ‘institutionalised racketeering’, says lawsuit
“Mark Driscoll and his chief elder Sutton Turner demonstrated a ‘pattern of racketeering activity’ in how they ran the now-closed Mars Hill Church (MHC), according to a lawsuit filed against them yesterday. Mars Hill, based in Seattle and formerly one of the largest US megachurches, was hit by waves of scandal leading to its closure at the end of 2014. Its pastor Mark Driscoll was found to have treated staff in a bullying and domineering fashion and to have made inappropriate social media posts. He was also accused of plagiarising parts of his books from other writers. In addition, the church was found to have artificially boosted the sales of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book on marriage in order to improve its position in the New York Times bestseller list, and is alleged to have used funds donated for missionary work in India and Ethiopia for other causes…Yesterday’s suit was filed under Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations [RICO] laws designed to tackle racketeering.”

MARCH 2, 2016

JACOB MCAULIFFE, NPR Station KJZZ, 91.5FM
PHOENIX – “At its height, his Mars Hill Church in Seattle had an average weekly attendance of more than 12,000 people, spread across several different campuses. The megachurch…fell apart when its leader, Mark Driscoll, resigned following allegations of emotional abuse and mismanagement of church funds. Now, a civil suit has been filed against him and another former church leader.”

MARCH 5, 2016

ALEX ROZIER, KING-5 News Exclusive Report, w/ VIDEO: People suing megachurch leader Mark Driscoll: ‘He’s a fraud.’
“The people who are suing former Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll are speaking out in their first interview since the suit was filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court…The lawsuit specifically mentions the global fund that the church set up to help church missions throughout the world. It says that by May 2014 the global fund was taking in about $300,000 monthly, but adds that at one point it appeared that only 5% of the funds were actually sent overseas. ‘The bottom line is that we were led to believe one thing and we trusted our leaders with what they were doing and he stole and lied. That’s the bottom line,’ Ryan Kildea said of Driscoll…Mark Driscoll did not return the calls from KING 5 News…”

MAY 31, 2016

JOEL CONNELLY, SEATTLEPI.COM, The return of Driscoll: A new church in Arizona and gigs on the road
“The ex-senior pastor at Seattle’s Mars Hill megachurch, which imploded in 2014, formally launches his new operation in Scottsdale, Arizona. Driscoll is still facing a RICO racketeering suit by former church members in Seattle. But he is preaching at evangelical conferences around the country…He was brought down, in Seattle, after a complaint by 21 Mars Hill pastors and worship leaders that Driscoll had bullied, intimidated and manipulated those who worked at the church. The charges were sustained, in a report never released by church elders…”

AUGUST 11, 2016

12News AZ – JOEL DANA Reports: Controversial Pastor Starts Scottsdale Church

“Not long ago, Pastor Mark Driscoll was a powerhouse among preachers. His Seattle-based Mars Hill megachurch had 15 branches in five states. All of that came crashing down on Driscoll amid allegations of bullying, misspending church funds and deceitful marketing practices. It would appear Driscoll is hoping Arizona brings redemption…”

APRIL 13, 2017

BRANDY ZADROZNY, ABC News/The Daily Beast, UPDATE: Controversial Megachurch Pastor Mark Driscoll Finds a New Flock – HE’S BAAAACK – He called women ‘penis homes’ and allegedly ruled his Seattle megachurch like a tyrant. Now, he’s resurfaced a thousand miles away.
“There’s a new church coming to Phoenix, Arizona. According to its website, the pastor, Mark Driscoll, is a “Jesus-following, mission-leading, church-serving, people-loving, Bible-preaching pastor…grateful to be a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody. While he may wish he were less recognizable these days, compound adjective-loving Mark Driscoll could hardly be called a nobody. Though there’s no mention of it on The Trinity Church’s shiny new website, Driscoll built and presided over Seattle’s controversial Mars Hill Church, and he is one of the most infamous and disruptive figures in the history of the evangelical mega-church movement.”

JUNE 7, 2021

CHRISTIANITY TODAY – New Series Podcast: The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

“When Mars Hill Church was planted in Seattle in 1996, few would have imagined where it would lead. But in the next 18 years, it would become one of the largest, fastest-growing, and most influential churches in the United States. Controversy plagued the church, though, due in no small part to the lightning-rod personality at its helm: Mark Driscoll. By 2014, the church had grown to 15,000 people in 15 locations. But before the year was over, the church collapsed. On January 1, 2015, Mars Hill was gone…” — Mike Cosper

 

RESOURCES

What is Spiritual Abuse? by Dr.Larry Crabb
Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why It Matters Today by Joseph H. Hellerman, Ph.D.
Joyful Exiles: Life in Christ on the Dangerous Edge of Things by James Houston
Chrysalis:The Hidden Journey in the Transformation of Faith by Alan Jamieson
The Leadership Paradox: A Challenge to Servant Leadership in a Power Hungry World by Denny Gunderson
Leading with Love  by Alexander Strauch
Biblical Eldership, by Alexander Strauch
Agape Leadership: Lessons in Spiritual Leadership from the Life of R.C. Chapman by Robert L. Peterson & Alexander Strauch
Authoritarianism in the Church by Steve Martin    
Recovering from Church Abuse by Len Hjalmarson 
Broken Hearts-Shattered Trust, by Dr. John K. Setser
Barb Orlowski, D.Min., Church Exiters, Ministering Restoration
Spiritual Abuse Recovery by Barb Orlowski, D.Min.
Pure Provender – Spiritual Abuse Recovery Resources
What Makes Narcissists Tick? Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by Kathleen Krajco
Question Mark? Why the Church Welcomes Bullies and How to Stop It, by Dr. Jim Henderson

Counselors in Seattle area who deal with issues of spiritual abuse:

Dr. Nancy Murphy, LMHC
Northwest Family Life
Sarah Groen-Colyn, Psychologist, Ph.D
Paradigm Counseling of Puget Sound
Jonna Petry, MA, LMHCA