SOMETHING ON THE CITY
... The week before Christmas, Andrew’s community group leader sent him another text message: What’s your schedule like on Wednesday? Another meeting was to be planned, this time with one of Mars Hills family/counseling pastors as well as Andrew’s new community group leader.
Andrew admits that, by this time, he was exhausted. The thought of one more meeting overwhelmed his already very full brain. “But I took some time to pray, and decided that I needed to meet with them and hear what they had to say.”
On the evening of December 18, Andrew met with the pastor and small group leader. It was during this meeting that Andrew first learned that he was being “brought under church discipline.” Despite it feeling like he’d been going through church discipline for a little more than a month, he didn’t say much. He did a lot of listening.
This part of the story has been so widely blogged about it hardly merits further discussion. It merits mention for those who may have actually never heard of these events. Even though I have referred to it set that aside, particularly if you already know the details.
January 24, 2012
A week or so after that final communication with the Mars Hill pastor, Andrew learned via a phone call with a good friend (a member of Mars Hill Church) what exactly Pastor X meant when he said that Matthew 18 discipline would be “escalated.”
During the conversation, Andrew’s friend mentioned something about “A letter”.
“A letter?” said Andrew. “What letter? I know nothing about it.”
Andrew’s friend informed him that a letter addressed to Mars Hills members had been posted on The City, which is described on Mars Hills’ website as “Mars Hill Church’s online network. Rather than encouraging virtual community, the purpose of The City is to enhance actual relationships within the church…” Andrew described The City to be like “Facebook for Mars Hill members.”
Mars Hill had blocked Andrew’s access to The City. Andrew’s friend copy and pasted the letter (in its entirety) and emailed it to Andrew.
The following is the content of the letter in its entirety.
Again, these points have been blogged about and discussed extensively already. There are, however, important things to note here. We are not told exactly how many people on The City were notified of Andrew’s “escalated” discipline through the letter. What Matthew Paul Turner relates is information conveyed to Andrew by someone who was still a member in what I take to be the latest weeks of 2011 or the earliest weeks of 2012. Many people concluded the entire church or at least the entire Mars Hill Ballard campus must have been notified about Andrew’s case. Given that Andrew was engaged to a pastor’s daughter and that pastor would have been well-known, people who jump to the conclusion that “everyone” on The City got the message probably don’t understand how The City works. The reason I know how it works is because, though I rarely used it even when I was a Mars Hill member, I was able to use it.
What I can recall about The City, which was getting developed and ramped up when I was attending less and less consistently, is that it was an invitation only network. You didn’t have to be an actual member of Mars Hill to make use of it, but you couldn’t even access it to begin with unless someone invited you on and, obviously, the most common way that happened was through membership. But if you did join The City and had no campus affiliation you wouldn’t actually have access to much of anything.
A critical advantage The City was thought to have, as some elders seemed to present it, was that The City was ideal for top down communication in which none of the explosions of the old Midrash, the php forums that Mars Hill used to host, were likely to happen. For those who don’t know, when the firings of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were leaked to the press back in 2007 (The Stranger and The Seattle Times) the leaks happened by way of someone who was probably still a member; had access to the old member forums and contact information; and assembled a press release. Contrary to the conspiracy theories of some members, disgruntled former members in 2007 got barred from the forums and didn’t t have access. As in 2012 so it was in 2007, the most dangerous source of leaks was not an exiled outsider but a disgruntled insider. It needs to be stressed that Andrew found out about the escalation letter because an upset Mars Hill member with access to The City leaked information to Andrew.
This is also significant as a variable to consider for how and why Andrew’s story might be construed as incomplete or misleading. There may be a lot Andrew didn’t tell Matthew Paul Turner but it’s important to establish again that some of the inaccuracies may be based on inaccuracies conveyed to Andrew from a Mars Hill member, not just from Andrew. Andrew may have misunderstood what he was told and Matthew Paul Turner may have misunderstood what he was told. The Mars Hill member who contacted Andrew may have been lazy or at least imprecise. That set of variables I’ve just outlined brings us to a blog entry…