Friday, January 25, 2013

A Confluence of Situations: Andrew Lamb's disciplinary case at Mars Hill, part 12


As to at least one possible claim that Noriega was terminated there’s one embedded within this thread at Mars Hill Refuge

If Noriega was fired in September 2011 this would go a long way to explain why Patrick Kyle’s anonymous friend on staff at Mars Hill could legitimately say that Andrew’s story was at best incomplete and most likely deliberately misleading.  I, however, read Matthew Paul Turner’s account of the story and theorized that ambiguities and oversights were probably done on purpose not necessarily to deliberately mislead but to protect some measure of anonymity for the other parties involved in the “confluence of situations” harmed by Andrew’s actions.

Mars Hill stated that it was not going to discuss details out of a concern to protect the privacy of people involved.  They did suspend all of the campus blogs and blog archives. Mars Hill also scrubbed away all references to the spouses or offspring of pastors and staff throughout Mars Hill.  That’s a significant effort to preserve the privacy of the Noriega family.  But the trouble was that the Mars Hill culture of profligate use of social media and of writing extensively about one’s story of redemption and grace for the world to read meant that all of the efforts of Mars Hill to preserve the privacy of the Noriega family were ultimately for nothing.  The Noriegas had blogged and tweeted enough information to establish that there was a boy named Andrew dating the daughter. 

The connection between Andrew and the Noriega family was a time-consuming project but ultimately not a particularly difficult one.  As I wrote at the beginning of this investigation Mars Hill as a culture prizes two things--social media savvy and stories of redemption and life transformation. Mars Hill members and leaders in particular seem unable to resist sharing stories of redemption and change. Some might call this a sanctified, Christian variation of the bootstrap myth. If Noriega was fired the firing was done in a way that was strictly in-house.  Unlike Andrew’s disciplinary case there was probably no unclear communication and if Noriega was fired things were kept low profile. 


How James Noriega went from being referenced by Driscoll in sermons in 2006 and 2007 to co-leading Redemption Groups in 2009 to vanishing out of eldership in late 2011 is not a story I see any need to expand upon much more than I have elsewhere in this blog. I have documented Noriega’s affection for Puritans, Ed Welch, and views of human nature that antedate psychology as we know it. I have also documented Pastor Mike Wilkerson’s observation that one of the incentives for developing Redemption Group content was to ensure recovery groups had a theology that matched what was taught from the pulpit. 

In other words, there’s little reason to doubt that Redemption Group content was tailored, in part, to not contradict the theology of Mark Driscoll regarding habitual sin, addiction, and so on.  Wilkerson and Noriega were able to put together content that met with Driscoll’s approval.  Driscoll asked Wilkerson to write the Redemption Group book. Noriega’s role was in pioneering the mixed small groups that became the prototype for Redemption Groups.  Then in late 2011 Noriega was fired … or maybe resigned under pressure.  The blog entries of James Noriega’s wife imply that her husband was fired rather than resigned and that the MH PR statements in February 2012 were, in her estimation, untruthful about important things. 

Now it’s important to stress at this point that the Mars Hill public response has been to say the staff who were let go were let go over things that had nothing to do with Andrew’s case.  It is possible that if James Noriega was fired and Andrew was engaged to his stepdaughter/daughter that the firing had nothing to do with Andrew’s disciplinary case.  Noriega was, by December 18, 2011, not even a pastor at Mars Hill.  So in that respect Andrew’s story conveyed through Matthew Paul Turner “can” be considered inaccurate or misleading.  Andrew was engaged to a pastor’s daughter but by the time his discipline case was escalated and he’d withdrawn from Mars Hill his prospective father-in-law had not actually been a pastor at Mars Hill in any capacity for a few months.  But to say that James Noriega was a person with no connection to the disciplinary case of Andrew Lamb is wildly inaccurate, to put things nicely.  And if Noriega’s termination was actually connected in some way to how he dealt with Andrew then saying otherwise would be a lie.