Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation: Part 4

Part 4:  Clarifications and Clarifications

As I documentted earlier this week from the clarifications from Mars Hill to Slate and on the Mars Hill website, sometimes clarifications need to be clarified.  New Reformation Press was informed that Andrew's case was part of a "confluence" of some kind. Whatever that is we don't necessarily ever need to find out but, along the way, Mars Hill attempts to clarify things seemed to need clarifying.
[more after the jump]

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/februaryweb-only/mars-hill-discipline.html

By contrast, the blog post says:
The church is made up of sinners, leadership included. The result is that sometimes things are handled poorly by leaders in a church discipline process and sometimes those who are under church discipline respond poorly. In such instances, it is the responsibility of the church leadership to protect our members, and when we hear of leaders overstepping their authority through the church discipline process we are quick to act to rectify the situation.

In both cases that have been brought to light, things did not go as they should have, and well before they were ever written about in a public setting by bloggers and journalists, Mars Hill leadership stepped in to investigate. As a result of those investigations, it was determined that the leaders involved had a pattern of overstepping their authority. As such, they were released and are no longer on paid staff or in formal leadership in any capacity at Mars Hill Church. Again, these actions were taken months ago, prior to any public exposure. … We're reviewing our current church discipline cases to make sure all our local leaders are operating within the spirit of love intended to be present in our existing policies.
 

The church also said that church discipline is rare at Mars Hill: "Out of 5,417 members, we currently have nine church discipline cases in process, which represents 0.17% of our members." Rarer still, the church said, are leaders overstepping their authority through church discipline. "By and large," the blog post said, "the process adheres to biblical standards, is healthy and loving, and results in restoration."
Update: Mars Hill's Justin Dean explains: "We want to clarify that there are many leaders involved in the discipline process and the vast majority did a Christ-honoring job of pastoring those people. The two leaders who we identified in the blog were removed because of overstepping their authority in cases unrelated to the Andrew and Lance cases. Our goal in mentioning them was to say that we protect our people and not our leaders." The church has updated its blog post and this article has been edited to reflect those comments.

Now I bring this coverage up (again) to point out that Mars Hill made a statement that initially seemed to mean that the two cases that went public were ones where things did not go as they should have. It was determined through an investigation that the leaders involved had a pattern of overstepping their authority. What this means is never explained, how the investigation came to this conclusion is even more opaque, and we get the assurance that months before anything happened by way of a media fire leaders who were considered to have a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority were removed. As Matthew Pitrucha asked in a comment on the Christianity Today article:


MATTHEW PITRUCHA (Registered User) February 25, 2012 3:10pm
In the article it was said, "It was determined that the leaders involved had a pattern of overstepping their authority." And, "The two leaders who we identified in the blog were removed because of overstepping their authority in cases unrelated to the Andrew and Lance cases. Our goal in mentioning them was to say that we protect our people and not our leaders." I must ask, are leaders not your people? Don't you also love and care for your leaders? Aren't the leaders also members who may also need discipline? Were the leaders given a chance to repent? If not, then why release them from their leadership position if they were not chastised and given the opportunity to repent? [emphasis added]

How would these leaders have been notified they were overstepping their spiritual authority? When they were fired? When they had done something wrong? Like what? If they became unqualified to be leaders was it over something new they did that made them unfit for ministry? Could it have been the long term effects of flaws that should have precluded them from ministry to begin with? What opportunities were leaders given to repent of overstepping spiritual authority? It’s been a while since I looked at the by-laws but I don’t remember there being any limit on spiritual discipline applicable to any pastor(s) within Mars Hill. How long was the investigation?

That a pastor or two dropped off the elder roster months ago does appear to be true. In fact I can name at least one ex-pastor who seemed to stop being an elder sometime in the last six months. The trouble with bringing up the removal of a staff person or leader who has nothing to do with the case of Andrew or Lance is that it merely invites more questions. It doesn’t take more than a few crawls with the WayBack Machine or a few comparisons of a few easily accessed public materials from Mars Hill to put together a few men who, as pastors, have been missing in action for a while. I don’t have an interest in revisiting things I’ve already blogged about so I’m leaving that subject at that.

In the update and clarification to Christianity Today Mars Hill's PR director Justin Dean explains that the two leaders who were identified in the blog were removed because of overstepping their authority in cases unrelated to Andrew and Lance. So this went from being a statement that would have been nice to have known about months ago when the controversy broke to something irrelevant to any public discourse about the actual cases of Andrew and Lance. It would however, seem relevant to a “confluence” alluded to in the anonymous clarification sent to Pat K at New Reformation Press.

More importantly, the pattern of information that is incomplete or misleading that has had to be corrected or clarified looks like it's not on Andrew's side, as an anonymous person who contacted New Reformation Press might have suggested. If anything it looks more and more from Mars Hill’s own public statements lack clarity about the facts of a confluence of situations more than anything Matthew Paul Turner related from Andrew. If Mars Hill, its members, and advocates, wish to discredit Andrew’s credibility they have not managed it. If they have wished to not speak publicly members have already been making anonymous remarks on blogs and comments on Facebook about Andrew’s conduct. Whether attacking him or sending him documents about the escalation of church discipline the lack of privacy and clear communication regarding Andrew’s case looks more like a problem that has originated within the Mars Hill orbit than with Andrew. Mars Hill leadership does not seem to be aware of or interested in discussing this as an issue in “A Call for Reconciliation”
Which, of course, must lead to the call itself

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