10/11/1962 – 09/22/2022
10/11/1962 – 09/22/2022
CHRISTIANITY TODAY Bonus Episode: Everything is Still Falling Apart
Building an institution on celebrity power, charisma, and a spirit of grandiosity attracts a lot of people, money and a certain kind of cachet for everyone involved. It helps them all to feel like they’re part of something that’s big — a movement providing a sense of meaning and purpose. But too often, these movements crumble, and those inside are crushed by the process. — Mike Cosper
CHRISTIANITY TODAY – The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill: Podcast Series
In this Episode 7 of the series, you will be able to hear a brief and concise history of perhaps the most calamitous event that occurred at Mars Hill which created massive turmoil, resulted in 1,000 church members leaving, and set the church on a destructive course that eventually led to its collapse. Hear the stories directly from some of the men and women who were there.
Church planting isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires a tenacity few pastors can fully anticipate when they set out. Healthy planting demands not only clarity of mission and relentless work, but practical partnership, wise counsel, and responsive governance to the changing needs that come with growth. From the church’s beginning, Mars Hill leadership committed to all of these—a vision of Jesus as senior pastor with elders serving with “one vote each.” But somewhere along the line, the vision shifted. Absolutism and a muscular, aggressive form of governance took hold, a campaign led by Mark Driscoll in the name of church growth.
In this episode of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, host Mike Cosper pulls back the curtain to expose the inner workings of church governance at Mars Hill. Guided by careful research and hundreds of hours of interviews, Cosper plots out a story of church growth corrupted by power. Discover a Mark Driscoll you may never have met—a young church planter with a vision for Seattle and for the world. Watch what happens when the friction between accountability and speed causes church planting efforts to combust. And see how prioritizing “reaching people for Jesus” can mask spiritual abuse without the proper checks and balances.
— Mike Cosper
CHRISTIANITY TODAY – The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill: Podcast Series
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
The TIMELINE has been updated.
For all those who care about the Church, the Bride of Christ, and believe Mark Driscoll should truly acknowledge and repent before he is given another platform, please consider writing Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston of Hillsong Church with your concerns and signing the petition. It might be easier to ignore this and not care, it’s all been so disheartening, but what does love demand? The most loving gracious acts call us to acknowledge ourselves, our weakness and our great need for the love and forgiveness of the Savior – and this includes owning our wrongdoing toward others and working to make things right. — Jonna Petry
CHRISTIAN TODAY – By Mark Woods
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 about his leadership style, which was said to be bullying and coercive. The church, which had grown to be one of the largest congregations in the US, folded at the end of last year, with its different campuses either closing, merging or becoming independent. It is facing a possible racketeering lawsuit arising from allegations that it misused funds given for church-planting work.
Hillsong’s invitation to Driscoll to take part in its conference at London’s O2 Arena (July 22-24) pre-dated his resignation from Mars Hill, and he will be interviewed by Hillsong founder Brian Houston rather than delivering a platform speech.
However, the petition says that allowing the invitation to stand is “both disappointing and of great concern to many across the UK and internationally”…
…While it says that people can be restored and forgiven, the petition says that Driscoll has not repented of the damage he has done to many former Mars Hill members and leaders. “It has been only six months since Mark Driscoll resigned and to give him such a platform as the O2 arena does not represent the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness, but that of cheap grace,” it says. Hillsong is “both endorsing and legitimising Mark’s messages about women and ignoring the concerns being repeated by many across the US and UK about his abusive behaviour, which has been corroborated by ex-members and ex-leaders of Mars Hill Church”.
Link to article HERE.
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.
On September 30th 2007, you were both terminated from your employment as pastors at Mars Hill Church. Your status as elders of the church was suspended, according to the church’s bylaws at the time, pending an investigation of your qualification for eldership. It’s hard to imagine just how disorienting and painful this experience must have been for you. That night, Bent, you called Mike Wilkerson, your direct supervisor, to let him know that you’d been terminated. Within hours, Paul, you emailed all of the elders to notify us of what had happened to you that night. We had the opportunity and the responsibility to intervene, to care, to listen to you, and to make sure that any harmful treatment against you was corrected. Instead, we allowed the process of your investigation and trial to continue unimpeded and we participated in it. By failing to intervene and by participating in that process without protest, we implied to the members of Mars Hill Church, to each other, and to you and your families that your termination was above reproach. We stood by as it happened, and that was wrong.
We now believe that you were grievously sinned against in that termination. We believe that the termination meeting’s content and tone was abrupt, one sided, and threatening. Hearing each of you recount your experiences of this meeting is shocking and sad. By failing to intervene, we enabled a growing trend of misuses and abuses of power and authority that would be feared and tolerated by the rest of the church’s eldership. We now understand that these sorts of overpowering actions against elders were some of the very concerns that you had each expressed regarding some of the pending proposed changes to the bylaws. It is tragic that you were proved right by your own experiences. The harm permitted by our failure to protect you has had a devastating and lasting impact on you, your families, Mars Hill Church, and the watching world.
Paul, On October 15, 2007, all twenty-three elders at the time—including most of us signers of this letter—voted that you were in violation of the biblical qualifications of eldership. The alleged violations included a “lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority”. All but two of the elders then voted to remove you from eldership based on these perceived violations.
We now believe our decisions were invalid and wrong. The entire investigation and trial process was skewed by the implication that your termination was above reproach and for just cause. If there had been sin in your life that might have warranted a warning about possible disqualification from eldership, we should have patiently, carefully, and directly addressed it with you before the matter became so extremely escalated. By reporting our wrongheaded assessment to the church, we put doubt about your character in the minds of church members, though you had done nothing to warrant such embarrassment and scrutiny. By doing this, we misled the whole church, harmed your reputation, and damaged the unity of the body of Christ.
Bent, On October 29, 2007, all twenty-three elders at the time—including most of us signers of this letter—agreed that you were guilty of “displaying an unhealthy lack of trust in, and respect for, the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church”. We also unanimously approved that, based on your repentance, you would remain an elder of the church on probation.
Bent, we were wrong to have called you guilty of lacking trust and respect for the senior leadership of the church when you had good reasons for challenging the church’s senior leadership. We were wrong to have insisted that you repent of this lacking trust as a condition of your continued eldership, because it was not sinful on your part in the first place.
Bent and Paul, you each had every right as an elder to openly express your strong concerns about the bylaws and to influence our thinking so that we might have made the most informed decision possible. You also had good reason to contact the church’s attorney about those bylaws. These were not sinful acts of mistrust on your part, but reasonable acts of due diligence. We needed to learn from you at that time and we should have trusted you and respected your spiritual authority as elders of the church to educate us about potential problems with those bylaws. Instead, we silenced your voices through our complicity in your terminations and our decisions to remove Paul as an elder and keep Bent on probation instead of examining the issues more closely.
Paul, On December 5th, 2007 those of us who were elders at the time voted to instruct the members of Mars Hill Church to treat you as an unrepentant believer under church discipline after you had resigned your membership from the church. This treatment was to have included “rejection and disassociation” in the hope that you would “come to an acknowledgment of [your] sin and repent.” 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.
A church disciplinary act of this magnitude is extreme. It’s perhaps the most powerful that can be enacted upon a pastor. We now think that motion was hasty and harmful. We should have challenged the motion rather than approving it. Instead, we used our voting power as elders in a way that resulted in further harm to you. Further, we brought disrepute on the Church and its responsibility to exercise church discipline in a godly, loving and redemptive way. We failed to love you as a fellow elder and brother in Christ.
Confessing our sins against you has been a process that has taken us some time. We have engaged in self-examination, challenged our memories of what happened by reviewing the documents and interviewing one another, and spent time listening to you and your wives tell your heartbreaking stories. Many of us have met personally with each of you over the years to confess our sin and to seek forgiveness for our sinful actions and inaction. We don’t intend to convey by this letter that we are the only elders or former elders who’ve come to similar conclusions, and we hope that in time, the others will join us in public confession. Our desire is to clear the reproach from your names.
We hope that our confession also brings healing to the many past and present members of Mars Hill Church whose hearts were broken for you and your families as a result of our sin. As part of our commitment to walk in repentance, we invite anyone who has been impacted by our sins against you to contact any of us so we can continue to walk in repentance by listening, confessing, and asking for forgiveness.
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. May the peace and grace of our Lord heal our hearts.
Mars Hill Elders as of October, 2007
Additional Mars Hill Elders as of December 5th, 2007
LINK to the letter: HERE
Steve Tompkins served as an executive elder of Mars Hill Church, Executive Director of the Acts29 network, lead pastor of the Mars Hill Shoreline campus, and just before the collapse of Mars Hill served as the Director of Mars Hill Schools, a partnership between Western Seminary (Portland OR) and Corban University (Salem OR). Steve wrote the following letter on October 27, 2014, which he emailed directly to many former members of Mars Hill Church.
Dear Former Members and Attenders of Mars Hill Church, especially those of you for whom I have had shepherding responsibility at Mars Hill Shoreline:
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.
I also realize that in my role as an elder, including as Lead Pastor at Shoreline, I share responsibility and complicity in some of the ways you have been hurt, disappointed, and sinned against at Mars Hill. For me this has been an ongoing process in which the depth of conviction and realization of my own sin seems to grow almost daily as does my sorrow over how people have been hurt. This has especially been so as I have had opportunity to sit down and hear people’s stories directly. My purpose in this letter is to share some of the ways my perspective has changed, to confess my sin, to spell out my ongoing process of repentance, and perhaps – should God allow – play some role in his work of healing.
Let me tell you a bit about the journey bringing me to write this letter. Eight or nine months ago as I was reflecting on Revelation 2-3 (the letters to the seven churches), I began to feel that Jesus was placing Mars Hill under discipline and calling us to repent. Over the course of these past months this text of scripture, especially the first and last letters (those to Ephesus and Laodicea), have consistently formed the paradigm through which I have come to view events, attitudes, and decisions at Mars Hill.
In these letters we see Jesus walking among his churches. He knows what is happening. He speaks his words of commendation as well as rebuke. He calls the churches to have ears to hear. He calls them to repent, and puts them on a timeline of his choosing. If they prove to have ears to hear, choose to humble themselves, confess their sins and repent, then the corporate outcome is joy and fruitfulness. If however, they fail to repent then the consequences are serious and severe, including the removal of the lampstand of his presence and his light. What strikes me as significant is that our sovereign King places the outcome in the hands of the church itself. This has profound implications.
First of all it means that what has been happening at Mars Hill is the work of Jesus in our midst. It means that the root of the problem is not satanic opposition or attack, nor is it social media or vocal online critics, nor is it the members or attenders of the church (past or present). Nor is it elders, deacons, staff and leaders who have called for change from within. In fact the root of the problem has been the leadership of the church who have been blindly committed to maintaining the status quo as if we simply need to push through what has so frequently been referred to as a “difficult season.”
All such attempts at crisis management and damage control are futile, foolish, and in fact create more harm since they are the polar opposite of repentance. I am convinced that Jesus is bringing his word of rebuke to the leadership (including me) through the Spirit. This is his word of loving discipline. In Rev 3:19 Jesus says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” I personally must have ears to hear and a heart to respond.
I have been at Mars Hill for over 12 years, on full time staff for more than 11, a pastor for 10, and served as Lead Pastor of MH Shoreline for more than eight years. Jesus’ call to repentance therefore is spoken to me as much as anyone at Mars Hill, for I have helped to build and perpetuate the culture of this church. Through sins both of commission and omission at various times I have been complicit. Recognizing this, I have been seeking over the last eight months to respond diligently and humbly. I have been asking Jesus to reveal my sin and show me where we have gone wrong as a church. He has proven faithful, progressively removing blinders and exposing my own MH-specific blind spots. He has been giving me new eyes and I now look back on my years at MH very differently. I see my sin in ways that previously I simply did not. It has been simultaneously painful and good.
For example, if the leadership and ministry culture at Mars Hill has been marked by arrogance (and it has), then I am coming to see how I have been marked by that same arrogance, and how I was blind to it, both in others and in myself. I now see how my own sin of arrogance within our arrogant culture therefore went unrecognized and unchallenged. In saying this, I am in no way blaming my sin on others or on the culture. On the contrary, my sin is my own sin which I freely confess. That is what I am now seeing with painful clarity.
The same is true with the sin of domineering leadership. In fact, if you mix ministry arrogance together with top-down domineering leadership along with idolatry of church growth and numbers, then inevitably you create a ministry culture where many end up hurt, burned out, feeling used. I see this now, and I see how I helped to build such a culture. In fact, I am now beginning to see how my own idolatry of performance and ministry “success” played so well at Mars Hill. Again, I do not blame my sin on others or our culture. Rather, I am now seeing how I contributed to the hurt of faithful and trusting members, attenders and leaders. Please forgive me.
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.
Ad hominem is the Latin term for a tactic used when facing off with an opponent over an issue, whereby one seeks to win by attacking and discrediting their opponent rather that honestly debating the issue at hand. In one form or another, ad hominem narrative (which can sound very reasonable, especially because it can contain elements of truth), has been consistently used for years to discredit voices of dissent and to silence accusation of wrongdoing and sin.
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.
Resorting to ad hominem narrative as a response to conflict is horrible and devastating in the extreme. Ad hominem narrative is essentially to defend one’s own righteousness rather than to trust the righteousness of Another. It never confesses or takes responsibility for sin. It is inconsistent with humility. It resists repentance at any cost. It is therefore antithetical to the gospel. Sadly, I confess that I bought into this narrative in many ways and for too long. I trusted our leadership and sincerely believed their words. I sincerely led others to believe their words. Perhaps our leadership believed their own words, but this consistent narrative over the years became woven into the core of the culture of the church. It is profoundly dark and ugly. I see that now, but for a long time I was blind to it. I am so sorry.
I have frequently chosen, when things get hard, to put my head down with my eyes forward, and simply to work hard. As a result I have had almost no rear view mirror, which I now realize contributed to my blindness. There are so many things I frankly did not see.
Looking back prayerfully however, I now realize there were also a few situations where I did see but did not speak up or stand up when I should have. My silence in those situations was sinful and cowardly. In our coercive culture of fear I gave in to fear of man. I am so sorry. Please forgive me. May God have mercy on us. With blind Bartimaeus I continue to call out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (see Mark 10:46-52). May God bring true repentance, redemption and healing to me, the church, and indeed all of us.
Some may wonder why I have stayed at Mars Hill if indeed these are my convictions. The answer is quite simple and brings me back to Revelation 2-3 where Jesus calls – not just individuals – but entire churches to repentance. And if Jesus is calling Mars Hill to repent, then it is incumbent upon the elders to lead the way as those who must give an account. Therefore, I must repent as an elder in the office of elder taking responsibility for my sin as an elder. I must also seek to lead repentance and call others – especially among the elders – to join me every chance I get. This is what I am doing within Mars Hill as Jesus graciously continues opening my eyes.
In addition, I have felt conviction before Jesus that I need to apologize and repent personally, face to face when possible, to former members, leaders and staff. I have therefore been revisiting situations that are years old as well as recent. I have been seeing them with new eyes and coming face-to-face with my own sin. This includes, for example, the events in 2007 ensuing from the (what I now believe to be the unjust and unfair) firing of pastors Paul Petry and Bent Meyer. I was involved in the subsequent events which included the official investigation process, the trial conducted by the elders, and the official shunning of the Petry family which followed.
These events were profoundly devastating and damaging to both the Petry and Meyer families. I deeply regret my actions. I sinned against them through my participation as an elder, and desire to publicly redress these wrongs. I have recently reached out and apologized, repenting to them and seeking the beginning of reconciliation. From them I have received only grace and forgiveness. I am so grateful and humbled.
In many ways I feel like I am late to the table, but I am grateful to be here now. I have been reaching out to and meeting with a number of other former members, leaders, and staff as part of this ongoing process. God’s grace has been profoundly present each time. Recently, I had the chance to stand on the stage at MH Shoreline, shoulder to shoulder with my fellow elders in front of gathered members as we each expressed our own repentance. I therefore intend to continue as an elder at Mars Hill as long as the process of repentance continues moving forward, and as long as there is hope for a more biblical and healthy plurality of elders to arise.
In light of Mark Driscoll’s resignation I believe this is a crucial time, representing an opportunity to truthfully acknowledge the destructive elements of the legacy of Mars Hill’s leadership. Leaders need to confess sin specifically, taking full responsibility. Apologies need to be given in person where possible. Now is the time for genuine open-hearted face-to-face repentance. I would love to see healing come to thousands of former and present members, attenders and leaders so that we can all embrace a more healthy and joyful future. We have hope for this through him alone who is our loving and risen Savior. For this reason I intend to continue down this road inviting others to join me. It is because this is so important that I have decided to put my thoughts in writing at this time. I intend to personally send this letter to as many people as I can. I freely give you permission to forward this to other former members and attenders of Mars Hill.
Brothers and sisters, I humbly ask your forgiveness for my sin in my role as a Mars Hill elder. I am deeply sorry for your suffering, and pray that Jesus will grant emotional, spiritual, and relational healing. I do realize that this letter represents a blanket confession, which in and of itself is inadequate.
I do realize that confession and repentance needs to be specific and personal. So, I want you to know that I am not simply asking for blanket forgiveness from a distance as if that will result in the healing grace you need and long for. I do hope to reach out personally to as many as I can, but please know that you are welcome to contact me directly, or through someone you trust (just drop me a line on Facebook). I would be happy to speak with you or meet with you as soon as our schedules allow.
October 27, 2014
“There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus…”
— Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll
Audio clip HERE.
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.