Monday, August 20, 2012

A Jeremy Echols (or two?), Mars Hill, and what is on record

Now we've documented here at Wenatchee The Hatchet that a Jeremy Echols made a comment at earlier this year.  We have not documented in much detail that a Jeremy Echols was presented for elder candidacy, had been considered by Mars Hill elders as elder material for a few years, and was finally installed last year.  Echols is no longer listed as a pastor at Mars Hill.  Whether or not he is exactly the same man who commented about Moi no longer being an elder at Mars Hill is something we leave for readers to investigate and determine.  We can, however, present content that is publicly accessible, much of it presented by Mars Hill Church, to let readers investigate further.

Years ago at this blog the question of what happened to Mars Hill co-founding elder Lief Moi was brought up.  Years later after a bit of digging and no small amount of chance, this came to light.
comment posted by a Jeremy Echols at October 18, 2008 at 2:50 am

I'm going to let you read the comment yourself. It concerns former Mars Hill co-founding pastor Lief Moi. What may be of note is that years after this remark there was a Jeremy Echols who ended up being head coach of the north region community groups at the West Seattle campus.
May 18, 2011

Then ...
June 1, 2011
At this date one Jeremy Echols was presented for elder candidacy. In this video David Fairchild, pastor at the West Seattle campus mentions:

Jeremy has been in the elder candidacy process, pastor's process, gosh, I think they've had their eye on you for about three years and specifically about the last two years.  And, at no fault of his own, there's just been transition and things like that ... .It's been two years since the elders said `Yes, he should be an elder.' ...

So this established that roughly some time in 2008 Mars Hill elders had had their eye on Echols as pastor material. Fairchild invited people to speak into the process.  This was the opportunity, Fairchild said, to contact them if there was anything people were concerned with in his life.

On June 15, 2011 Jeremy Echols was installed as an elder at Mars Hill West Seattle.
June 15, 2011

On May 8, 2012 Echols tweeted the following:

Jeremy Echols?@jeremyechols

 At the Full Council of Elders meeting for Mars Hill Church...honored and privileged to be among these men

7:05 PM - 8 May 2012 via Path 2.0 · Embed this Tweet 

I'll discuss what the Full Council of Elders refers to in another blog entry.

By August 11, 2012 Jeremy Echols was not listed as a pastor in any capacity at Mars Hill.  He was at Mars Hill West Seattle

The last cached web page reference I could find to Jeremy Echols in some pastoral capacity was around June 14, 2012.  That was around the time Mark Driscoll gave a Church Update and explained that a lot of layoffs occurred not because anybody sinned but because Mars Hill had embraced a financial model that was not sustainable for the future.  

"If" the Jeremy Echols who commented at is the same man who was later installed as a Mars Hill elder and is no longer an elder we're willing to mention something in consideration of his case.  First and foremost the comment from 2008 makes reference to what "anyone" could find on The City.  This suggests that whatever happened with Moi was publicly announced within the church.  When thousands of people are notified of something the odds of it remaining undiscussed are low.  Secondly, it is probable that Echols was not aware of the full background of Moi's situation.  It's not clear how many in Mars Hill who in 2008 were notified that Moi was no longer an elder were also aware that Moi received a nearly 40 percent cut in his salary in later 2007.  Those who were given the 145 page document in the months after the firings of Meyer and Petry, however, were notified.  Those details are discussed below:

Now at another level "if" Echols were the same man who commented on Moi and eventually became a pastor there is another thing to be considered regarding his comment in 2008.  There are things that happened in 2011-2012 that may shed light on extenuating circumstances.  That's to say that the Andrew disciplinary case was one in which things got posted to The City due to what Mars Hill PR representative Justin Dean called unclear communication.  Echols may not have fully understood, perhaps, that what was announced about Moi inside The City was not intended to be shared outside that setting.  If Echols shared anyway this would not actually be an unusual occurrence except at the level of making specific claims about identifiable people and, possibly, using his real name. In 2008 The City was hardly more than a year old as a functioning entity and there may not have been a clear understanding on the part of anyone how best to secure or disseminate information regarding the removal or resignation of an elder. 

Whether or not what he commented at the wordpress blog was wise Echols, perhaps, should be commended for having the courage to say what he thought using his real name.  Not all Mars Hill advocates have done this.  An anonymous woman at a certain agnostic blog was willing to imply that "Andrew" gave his fiancee some kind of venereal disease due to his whoring around on her.  Because Andrew has been identified by name in several settings by people with the apparent goal of naming him I'm not going to list those places.  What I'm trying to get across here is an earlier point I made in the massive series "A Context for a Call for Reconciliation".  Andrew had to realize that by sharing his story he was going to risk the possibility of being identified.  The anonymous woman who implied he'd given his girlfriend a venereal disease did so in a way that precludes any comparable level of identification except that she seems to have close connections to leadership within Mars Hill. Conversely, while anonymous defenders of Mars Hill have cast many doubts on the character of Andrew their own character is not a given. 

More concerning, still, is the fact that things have come to light this year which suggest that not everyone who has been in the leadership of Mars Hill may be completely above reproach. Consider Scott Thomas' role in the firings of Meyer and Petry as documented at Joyful Exiles.  Consider that the wooodchipper anecdote has been excised from "The Man" since Wendy quoted from it at Practical Theology for Women is worth noting, over and over.  Consider the "under the bus" audio clip Chris Rosebrough at Fighting for the Faith broadcast in June this year. Consider the difference between Moi and Clem's salary and treatment (and for a broader context for that you may want to read through the real estate and Mars Hill series).  

While there's no condoning one Jeremy Echols' 2008 comment in terms of substance it may be understood if we consider the limits on what Mars Hill members in 2008 who may have been new could have known about Moi's situation.  Compared to anonymous character assasinations directed to and about Andrew in 2012 Echols may have spoken out of turn but he was at least man enough to say something without hiding behind the cloak of complete anonymity. 

I am not in a position to know whether the Echols who was paid staff and if he was laid off earlier this year or whether he was "de-eldered" or stepped down.  So far as is possible to discover he's employed and so that means, I hope, that his wife and daughter are able to be taken care of.  I have not documented these things with a certainty that the Echols who commented about Moi is the same one who once served as a pastor.  "If" he is, however, there are enough publicly accessible on the record documents that it seems important to discuss this particular case as it relates to Mars Hill as a church culture.  If in each cited case there's the same Echols across the line, Echols clearly seemed to believe what he said and did in 2008 was the right way to approach what he seemed to believe were attacks on Mars Hill as a church and on its leadership culture.  He was acting in good faith with what he considered to be the best information available.  If that turned out to not be the case it may not be Echols who is solely culpable but a church culture and particularly a church leadership culture that presented a truncated history of what had gone on and a culture in which not everyone had thought through or considered how, why and for what The City would be put to use.  After all, it would seem that if someone hadn't decided to post an announcement about Moi on The City to begin with Echols couldn't have referred to it. 

Here's hoping that the Echols family is financially stable and doing okay.  

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