Sunday, August 26, 2012

Scott Thomas in executive leadership at The Journey, membership at Mars Hill, where Mars Hill ends and Acts 29 begins

Here's a few quotes from a sermon from July 22, 2012 that Thomas preached.

Well, good morning.  It's great to see you and be with you. My name is Scott Thomas, I'm the newest pastor at The Journey.  I oversee pastoral development, and so I oversee all of the different sites, the campus pastors, and such. And I also reach out to the church-planting, the missions, serve on the executive leadership team. And so I have quite a bit that we're doing and I'm glad to be here with you.

I most recently came from Seattle. We just moved here. In fact we just moved into our house on Monday this week. ... We came from Seattle where I served as President of the Acts 29 Network for the last six years. ... Also served as executive elder of Mars Hill Church. ... 

But what took place was Acts 29 was relocating down to Dallas. ... I sensed this was going to take place for about a year. 

Thomas explained that more and more of his time was spent in an executive, corporate-level set of decisions as opposed to being involved with local churches. "My heart is local churches" Thomas explained, and so when the Acts 29 move came up Scott Thomas took the opportunity to take a job at The Journey.

The problem with Scott Thomas taking a job at The Journey and preaching is that last we heard he's still a member of Mars Hill Church at the U-District, at least as of last week. Now if it happens you log on to The City and Scott Thomas isn't listed as member of Mars Hill that's fantastic.  That is as it should be because this is what the membership covenant states.

  • I will not function in leadership or as a member in another church family [emphasis added](Heb. 13:17).
  • I covenant to submit to discipline by God through his Holy Spirit, to follow biblical procedures for church discipline in my relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ, to submit to righteous discipline when approached biblically by brothers and sisters in Christ, and to submit to discipline by church leadership if the need should ever arise (Ps. 141:5; Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 2:5-8; Gal. 6:1-5 8; 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 1:9; 3:10-11; Heb. 12:5-11; Rev. 2:5-7, 14-25).

If Scott Thomas is still listed as a member of Mars Hill having preached a sermon at The Journey and announced that he's part of the executive leadership team at that Acts 29 member church then, well, Scott Thomas' membership needs to be rescinded.

If Chandler wants to differentiate and distant Acts 29 Network from Mars Hill that's a laudable goal.

If we take a gander at the names in leadership there's President Matt Chandler, Vice-President Darrin Patrick, Mark Driscoll as founder and board member, and then there's Bruce Wesley and John Bryson. Now there's just one Martian on the board.  That's a positive turn in the direction of differentiating Acts 29 from Mars Hill.

BUT if the former president of Acts 29 can go take a job in executive leadership at Darrin Patrick's church months after stepping down from leading Acts 29 while still having not resigned his membership at Mars Hill this means it doesn't much matter how many non-Martian leaders are on the board if a former MH elder can be dropped unceremoniously into executive leadership at an Acts 29 member church while still having not resigned his membership at Mars Hill.

Let's give Acts 29 at least some benefit of a doubt here and propose that the problem is that Scott Thomas appears to have violated his member covenant at Mars Hill.  He should have resigned his membership already. It's obvious you can't be a member at Mars Hill AND simultaneously be a Pastor of Pastoral Development at The Journey.  If you can, then, well, that's a problem too obvious to bother discussing.  As to why proposing that Scott Thomas violated his member covenant as the most plausible explanation to provide a benefit of a doubt to Acts 29 leaders, well, we'll get to that in a bit.

In April 2012 Matt Chandler told the Christian Post that Acts 29 has been so entwined with Mars Hill it was difficult to know where one stopped and the other began.  Scott Thomas becoming Pastor of Pastoral Development at The Journey, an Acts 29 member, presents the reality that if Scott Thomas is a pastor there having just stepped down from being a pastor at Mars Hill then there may not be any practical, significant distinction between Mars Hill, Acts 29, and associated members.

Again, if Scott Thomas as of right now is not listed as a member then the membership covenant means something in enforcement on the uppermost leadership class within MH.  Otherwise it doesn't mean much.  It may be a big deal when disciplining some guy like Andrew but if it isn't as serious for a Scott Thomas then there's a set of enforcement for the peons that is not the same as for the executive class.

Earlier this year Scott Thomas took the opportunity to write a piece on what church leaders can learn as pastors from the Penn State scandal:

Although pastors may have publicly or privately condemned Joe Paterno and the Penn State athletic department for its failure to report an alleged sexual crime (still under investigation), I am sad to say that some pastors should be fired for disqualifying patterns of life. Pastors must lean into the gospel and not hide behind their position. All pastors are guilty of sin. Only Jesus is free of sin. But Paul sets a standard, for those who hold a role as an elder — a list of qualifying patterns of life in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Pastors are held to a qualifying standard for their entire lives. The goal is to start well, fight well and end well. Unfortunately, many pastors only fulfill one of those goals. A lot start well. Many continue well. The statistics indicate that most pastors do not finish well. Paul said that he fought and he finished.

It takes a lifetime to build a legacy and it only takes one indiscretion to discredit 46 years of service. This forces us to lean constantly into the gospel of grace. If we lean into anything else, we will certainly fall.

It is true that it takes a lifetime to build up a legacy that can be damaged by a single indiscretion that discredits years of service.  This does necessitate leaning on the gospel of grace ... but admitting to even the possibility of having done something wrong or hiding behind a position can help, too.  Confession is not simply good for the soul, it can salvage the health of an institution whose reputation has been marred by corruption and a defense of image and brand over against a defense of truth and justice.

Take a review, if you would, of the correspondence that will be presented below.  Did Scott Thomas hide behind his position in this case?  Did Scott Thomas tell the truth about how the firings were conducted in 2007? Did he tell the truth about the nature of the process? A not-so-minor detail documented earlier in this blog is that when Scott Thomas responded to a church member he did so using his Acts 29 Network email.  Scott Thomas was an executive elder at Mars Hill and in leadership at Acts 29.  Consider how Scott Thomas conducted himself in the firing process, what he said to whom, and if these actions and words can be considered above reproach.

As supplemental background keep in mind that during October 2007 Tim Beltz was installed as an executive elder without having been able to qualify for the position under the by-laws that were supposed to still be in force at the time.  Consider, too, that it was during September-October 2007 the bid on Tabella was made and if JOnna Petry's testimony is reliable (and it seems to be to me) there were two executive elders in much of 2007.  If by October there were four executive elders in place during the firing this does not establish how many executive elders were in place when the bid on Tabella was made and there is not, as yet, evidence produced that the full council of elders was given 30 days notice of the purchase decision as would be required by the by-laws in force at the time.  So with those questions also in mind, consider Scott Thomas' conduct.  Consider for that matter Driscoll's words on October 1, 2007 and all subsequent correspondence between Driscoll and Munson with Petry regarding the interest in reconciliation.

Here's the audio clip of Driscoll from October 1, 2007 at both Joyful Exiles and Fighting For the Fath.

Here's the correspondence that is most pertinent to the question of whether Thomas was being truthful when he discussed the process of the 2007 firings.  At the end, of course, is a statement from Thomas about his departure from Acts 29. 

If Scott Thomas is now Pastor of Pastoral Development at The Journey and has been a member of Mars Hill at the U-District in the last few months then the boundary between Mars Hill and Acts 29 is permeable, but apparently permeable in one direction, the direction from which former MH executive elders can end up executive leaders in A29 churches but not necessarily the other way around.  It doesn't much matter that only one Mars Hill leader is on the Acts 29 board if this sort of thing can happen.  Apparently a guy like Scott Thomas, who isn't even a pastor at MH in any capacity now, can just step in a few months after resigning from Acts 29 leadership (and apparently from Mars Hill leadership, too) and then can just show up in executive leadership at The Journey.  Theoretically this was not possible at Mars Hill but that wouldn't account for the reality that Tim Beltz became an instant executive elder in October 2007.

While Andrew got to see what happens when the covenant is breached from the trenches, and while now former-pastor James Noriega got to find out what happens when a pastor stops being employed and was just on the Board of Directors,  Scott Thomas seems to have gotten what amounts to an executive privilege treatment and this after his conduct in the 2007 firings can be consulted by way of his correspondence, which anyone can go read at Joyful Exiles.  This should be troublesome to anyone who is aware of it.  If Chandler aims to figure out where Mars Hill ends and Acts 29 really begins Thomas' installation as a pastor at The Journey is one of the worst things that could have been allowed to happen to clarify the process of differentiating between Mars Hill and Acts 29.  Thomas' membership needs to be rescinded as of at least a month ago.

1 comment:

guatemexico said...

Hi --

I have been searching the internet for information related to a band - and potentially a pastor - who led music at a Mars Hill campus in Seattle. I am wondering if you might have any information about them. They, like other pastors, seem to have been disappeared by the church's official documents and archives, and it's very mysterious.

The band is called The Gentiles. If you have any information at all, I would greatly appreciate it!