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.