Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Phoenix Preacher: Matt Chandler to take over Acts29
Recently, I sensed that not all was well in Acts 29. As my concerns grew, I recently resumed the presidency of Acts 29 to work directly with our network captains, most influential pastors, and staff. It seemed to me that some of our relationships, board size and structure, communication, systems, and such were not as effective as we needed, which is to be expected to some degree in a large, complex, fast-growing entrepreneurial network such as ours.

... Together, we decided, in light of all the complexity we’re facing, that the best thing for Acts 29 going forward would be for Matt Chandler to assume the presidency, move the network offices to Dallas, and select his Acts 29 staff.

From Mark Driscoll's announcement that he's no longer president of Acts29

On February 6, 2012 Driscoll explained that Scott Thomas urged him to resume presidency of Acts29

Dear Acts 29 Members,

This letter is intended to provide some clarity about where we are, and Lord willing, where we are going. I hope you find it encouraging, compelling, and unifying.

Under the leadership of Pastor Scott Thomas we just completed our most amazing year of God’s grace yet. In the US alone we are now over 400 churches! This is a wonderful gift of God. I want to sincerely and personally thank Pastor Scott for juggling so many duties so graciously.
With Pastor Scott’s encouragement and the board approval, this means I am resuming the presidency of Acts 29. I want to invest every resource and relationship at my disposal to serve our church planters. Consider this primarily the “Prophet” board. This board is not closed and other men may join it in years to come. This board will be meeting soon in California, long before our annual retreat, so that we have a clear battle plan for the next season of Acts 29.

Regarding Scott Thomas:

Scott Thomas is taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas. Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29. He is excited about what God has next for him.

from Matt Chandler's letter regarding leadership changes, posted at Phoenix Preacher

As longtime readers of this blog (all twenty of them?) may recall, I've made no secret that I think Mars Hill has had a persistent problem of committing to meteoric growth that inevitably exceeds the competence of its infrastructure and communication resources.  I can actually take the recent announcement partly seriously.  I have had a mainly positive impression of Chandler so far and Driscoll's attentions were probably already so divided that his role as president was probably pro forma and vistion casting. To put it the other way, I'm not aware there's anything Driscoll or Thomas could do that Chandler couldn't do equally well and it may be this stuff has glacially been taking place.

It might also be a very beneficial thing for men so connected to Mars Hill to pull back a teensy bit from Acts29.  Given the imcompetence with which Mars Hill has seemed to handle some controversy closer to home withdrawing to get things organized locally is probably what they badly need.  We were assured a month ago that the church was reviewing its disciplinary process.

Still ... Scott Thomas told Matt Chandler he felt like God has released him from leading Acts29 just this last weekend?  That would be, what, this last March 24th weekend?  The weekend after Paul Petry publicly documented his firing at the hands of the Mars Hill executive elders (including Scott Thomas) in 2007 over here?:

Fascinating.  You know Driscoll sorta bores me right now.  He's recycling the same old marriage shtick he's had for a decade.  Now guys like Scott Thomas and James Noriega and Jamie Munson, on the other hand, they are more interesting lately.  You see Mars Hill isn't just about Mark Driscoll, after all.  There are a lot of other people who have played significant roles in the history of the church.  As Driscoll put it,

Celebrate the fact that Pastor Jamie is Mars Hill 1.0. He is exactly why Mars Hill exists. A lost young person meets Jesus and grows to be a godly leader, spouse, and parent who loves and leads well by the grace of God with humility and passion. He has given us every day of his life since he was 19 years of age. Mars Hill does not exist as a church of more than maybe a few hundred without God’s grace through Pastor Jamie. If a book were written about what God is doing among us, at least one whole chapter would be devoted to telling the story of God’s grace in Pastor Jamie’s life.

Write the book if you will but if you forget the part where Munson said smarmily in 2002, "There are righteous poor in America, I just don't think there are very many of them." people won't know how much Munson has grown in the last ten years.  That was progress from the week before when Munson said, flatly, there were no righteous poor in America.  I wondered if Mike Gunn or someone else talked to Munson privately about that remark.

Driscoll is right, though.  Munson is a must for anyone attempting to understand and appreciate the history of Mars Hill. If Mars Hill does not exist as a church of more than maybe a few hundred people without God's grace through Pastor Jamie then clearly this guy played a role that, arguably, was at least as significant as that of Driscoll himself, right? Munson's got a book on leadership in the works

I'm also working on writing a leadership book.

So clearly Munson is confident enough in his leadership skills to feel he's at a place to write a book.  Right now I look forward to a Munson book on leadership about as much as I look forward to a Driscoll book on marriage.   Driscoll proudly informed the world last year that Munson stepped down and was above reproach. 

It remains to be seen in light of the documents published at Joyful Exiles whether or not everyone will look at Munson's conduct and agree with Driscoll that it was above reproach. Munson, of course, had a substantial role as the one who leveled accusations against Petry and Meyer.  Was deciding that the firing of Petry and Meyer was necessary and inevitable above reproach?  Was voting through a set of bylaws with no appeals process for disciplined members above reproach?

The meta-irony amidst all this bustle in 2012 is the following--right now Mars Hill is desperately attempting damage control on the scandal that erupted around its approach to church discipline with Andrew. Mars Hill is feverishly trying to call for reconciliation in private and avoid further public discussion of the problem.  Yet Mars Hill leadership planted the seed of this problem back in 2007 when its executive leadership (spearheaded by Driscoll and Munson) decided to fire Paul Petry rather than heed his advice about the by-laws including (among many other things) an appeals process for members under discipline.  They not only fired him, they required that church members shun him. Did they incorporate an appeals process into the bylaws?  No, of course not.

After all the bloated bloviation from the executive elders about how sinfully sinful Paul Petry was for objecting to the bylaws; and how grieved they were that Petry wouldn't repent back in 2007; 2012 comes along and Andrewgate happened.  Petry, seeing that the same problems are rampant in Mars Hill nearly five years after he got fired, publicly documents what happened to him online and the roles Mark Driscoll and Scott Thomas played in that.  Mere days after that happens Scott Thomas tells Matt Chandler he feels the Lord has released him from leading Acts29.  Mark Driscoll announced this week that with all the complexities facing them at Acts29 now is the perfect time to step down as president a mere two months into the job that he told us Scott Thomas asked him to take up again back on February 6.

Ah, but of course.


The Goat's Opinion said...

I'm glad this is happening. I go to an A29 church. I'll be more at ease with it when it is not merely a conduit for Mars Hill books and teaching. Having said that . . .
the statements by Matt Chandler about learning about Act 29's budget and how to legally move from Seattle to Dallas indicate that these changes are very recent and not planned over a period of time. You kind of have to wonder why.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea how Acts29 is structured corporately, but having a board of pastors, I have to speculate as to whether Driscoll has been found unqualified and was removed. Leaving though a charge of "unqualified" for MHC elders to pursue if they so chose (which would never happen). I speculate the same regarding TGC.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I honestly don't know how recent the decision has actually been, The Goat's Opinion. They make it sound like it's a recent decision based on earlier discussion, which could totally be true. But I suggest here that the news may be less about Chandler or Driscoll than Scott Thomas. Maybe the Acts 29 is a recent move, maybe it isn't but given the documents establishing Scott Thomas's role in the firings of 2007 that seems more like the big reveal to me, for what that's worth.

Anonymous, I don't know if either Acts 29 or the Gospel Coalition brought a charge that Driscoll was unqualified. Going by public statements from TGC members in the wake of Elephant Room 2 and the Brierley interview my impression is less that Driscoll was found unqualified than that Driscoll chose to back out to focus on growing Mars Hill as an official explanation. The unofficial explanation may be that Driscoll does not take it well when people can demonstrably cast doubt on his competency as a theologian, historian, Bible scholar, or observer of Christian cultures he is not himself a part of. D. A. Carson's correction of Driscoll about British evangelicalism was warm and gentle but if you're a Mark Driscoll you could feel even that was a brass knuckled punch to the nose. If we're going to speculate mine is that Driscoll decided he'd rather pull out now before any real questions about his pastoral work even comes up. That way if the questions do come up he's not in a position to have to have external accountability that he doesn't want. Piper's gearing up to announce his own replacement. It wouldn't be a lot of work for Driscoll to just decide that replacement isn't a John Piper and that he's learned all he can from the Reformed tribe and open up relations with T. D. Jakes.