Saturday, December 21, 2013

Wendy Alsup addresses the Tyndale statement regarding Driscoll and plagiarism ...


... despite statements this week from Tyndale publishers, there is a great deal more that Pastor Mark Driscoll has not addressed concerning plagiarism. I am particularly concerned about references in Death by Love and Real Marriage to Dan Allender's material from Wounded Hearts, which was the primary resource used at Mars Hill in the early Grace Groups which addressed sexual abuse around 2002 - 2007. As I pointed out last year in Our Review of Real Marriage, Real Marriage talks of a time at Mars Hill when real people were involved with the Driscolls and horribly sinned against in the midst of Mark's angry season with his wife that he recounts in the book. The way the Driscolls treat Allender's book is tied to the way they treated the elder that organized the original groups dealing with sexual abuse in which Grace Driscoll first found her voice on the subject. They built upon both's work while erasing them from their church history. Recognizing the plagiarism is just a drop in an already overflowing bucket. [emphasis added] It will bless the ministry of Mars Hill to examine how that bucket got so full and what it's cost those around Mark who were cut off by him during this angry season.

There are even bigger issues of citation in Who Do You Think You Are? These three books are published through Thomas Nelson, not Tyndale which released a statement this week. I wrote Thomas Nelson a few times privately, hoping they would address this, but I have not heard anything from them over the last 2 weeks.

But, again, the plagiarism is just a drop in the bucket compared to the “throwing loyal friends under the bus” that Jared Wilson mentions in this article and that Mark himself jokes about during the same time he was destroying the reputation of elders that had stood beside him for years. Mark has thrown his elders, deacons, and assistants under the bus for years. It means little to the average reader until 1) either YOU have been run over by Mark's bus or 2) you watch other dear Christians run over, while you are powerless to ease their pain. [emphasis added]

I wasn't thrown under the bus personally. I thank God for that, for I can then point these things out without fighting my own personal bitterness against my own personal wounds. However, I live in a city full of casualties of Mark's bus. The sin against them is real. The need to publicly and privately repent and repair is real. And it is not gossip to draw public attention to it.


There are a few things that can be said about the Tyndale statement and one is that it is possible to misread the nature of what it says.

In the days following the interview, the talk show host posted on her blog further allegations of plagiarism against Pastor Driscoll, complete with screenshots of other books where she alleged he had committed plagiarism. She later removed all of those posts and issued a public apology.

She has not retracted the allegations and is convinced that Driscoll did plagiarize.  The public apology was for how she publicly broached the evidence she believed she found for plagiarism rather than privately contacting Tyndale.  Readers should avoid jumping to the conclusion that Mefferd apologized for alleging that Driscoll plagiarized.

In a December 11, 2013 article written by Ruth Graham at Slate, a week before the Tyndale statement, Mefferd had already made clear that she was not apologetic about the substance of her allegations.
“I stand by my allegations of insufficient sourcing, absolutely and unequivocally,” she said by email.
“His plagiarism is a very serious ethical and moral breach. Academics and journalists alike have lost their jobs over less than what Mark Driscoll has done.”

For those who read/heard the apology she was apologizing about the public tone of how she broached the topic rather than the substance of what her allegations were.  Does it seem almost Driscollian to apologize for tone while resolutely refusing to apologize for substance?  Wenatchee The Hatchet has begun to wonder ...


Back to the Tyndale statement, on the subject of the 1 & 2 Peter study guide

2.   In a separate issue unrelated to any Tyndale title, the radio host also made an allegation with regard to a study guide that was published in-house at Mars Hill. In this instance, Pastor Driscoll agrees that errors were made. He says: 

In recent weeks, it was brought to my attention that our 2009 Trial study guide on 1&2 Peter contained passages from an existing work for which no proper citation to the original work was provided. The error was unintentional, but serious nonetheless.  I take responsibility for all of this. In order to make things right, we’ve contacted the publisher of the works used in the study guide, offered an apology, and agreed to work with them to resolve any issues they had. Also, I personally contacted one of the editors of the work that was not rightly attributed. Thankfully, he and I have a longstanding relationship, which includes him teaching at Mars Hill and publishing a book with us through Resurgence. He’s a godly man who has been very gracious through all of this. I am deeply thankful for his acceptance of my apology, as I deeply grieve this mistake with a brother in Christ whom I appreciate very much.

Our Full Council of Elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability have all been thoroughly informed, as I am gladly under authority both internally at Mars Hill to a team of Elders, and to a formal leadership team from outside of Mars Hill.

We’ve removed the free PDF version of Trial from our website, and we are reviewing the rest of our self-published materials to ensure that no similar mistakes have been made elsewhere. We are also making changes to our content development process to avoid these mistakes in the future. In addition, we are working with all of our past publishers to review other books we have published. If other mistakes were made, we want to correct them as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, when we removed the Trial PDF from the Mars Hill website, we replaced it with a statement that claimed the book was never sold. That study guide was originally created for in-house small group use at Mars Hill so we gave it away at our church. We first believed we did not receive any revenue from this, but we later discovered that Trial was in fact previously sold on the Resurgence website and by Logos Software. To the best of our knowledge, total profits to Mars Hill from these sales are $236.35. We have corrected the previous statement on our website, and apologize for this error as well.

Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for. As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”

It's striking how differently this statement from Driscoll is in print compared to his usual sermons.  A lot of passive voice.  Precisely who made what mistakes was vaguely fielded by Mars Hill over here:
In the Downloads tab:
In 2009, Pastor Mark preached through 1 & 2 Peter in a sermon series called Trial. To help our small groups, a team of people including a research assistant, put together a free study guide that was produced in-house. About 5 years later it was brought to our attention that it contained some citation errors. We have discovered that during the editing process, content from other published sources were mistaken for research notes. These sentences were adapted instead of quoted directly. We are grateful this was brought to our attention, and we have removed that document from our website to correct the mistake. Additionally, we are examining all of our similar content as a
precautionary measure.

But as James Duncan has stated at Pajama Pages whoever produced the final publication knew enough to cite Athanasius without citing the author of the article who'd cited Athanasius along the way.


When this statement was made it apparently did not account for the existence of this:

... In the past year and a half the Executive Elders of the church have freed up more of my time and energy to grow in my study and communication of Scripture. This includes a Preaching and Theology branch being built for me under the leadership of Pastor AJ Hamilton. Our team has some amazingly gifted people in areas such as video, audio, lighting, set design, graphics, theming, promotions, and more. The team has become so skilled that they actually recently finished filming their first full-length film in Hollywood as a side project. And, if that were not enough, my friends at Logos Bible Software have loaded up my MacBook Pro with the best Bible study tools and books ever assembled in a software package. So, in addition to my personal library of perhaps 4,000-5,000 books, I now have even more books on my laptop, which enables me to work even during days of solitude or travel.

and, in the same paragraph:

... On top of all this, I have an amazing research assistant and friend from Docent Research Group named Justin Holcomb, who earned two M.A.'s from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and a Ph.D. in theological studies from Emory University. [emphasis added] He teaches courses in religious studies and sociology at the University of Virginia and at Reformed Theological Seminary, and he serves as the Director of Graduate Ministries at the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has been humble enough to do a great deal of research for me, which, along with the work of my helpful friend and editing assistant Deacon Crystal Griffin, allows me to produce content at a pace I would never have thought possible. [emphasis added] Between articles, blogs, books, and curriculum, I am now sending out literally thousands of pages of content a year, as well as preaching and teaching hundreds of hours of content a year. In short, I have been lavishly blessed, and I love my job as much as anyone could ever love a job. Admittedly, the hours are long and the work is hard, but I am doing exactly what God made me to do and placed in my heart among my deepest desires. ...

The paragraph eventually winds up to an end not with a period but with a colon:

... This all culminates in the Trial series on 1-2 Peter, which sets a new standard for all future preaching series. I have so benefited from the service of others that I wanted to do more than ever to help our people learn these amazing books of the Bible. So this Sunday we kick things off, and here is what you will get:
  • A free copy of the Trial curriculum book, which is also available online for free. This 200-page book includes my introductory articles on Peter, the books he wrote, and the role of parents in instructing their children. Included in the free book are dinner discussion questions I wrote to help parents teach 1-2 Peter to their own children. Pastor Brad House has also included the Community Group discussion questions for the entire series.
  • A free copy of a 12,000-word introduction and overview of 1-2 Peter compiled by my research assistant. This content is available only on The City, our password-protected social networking site. If you register for The City at one of our campuses during the series, you will get this special gift that will not be posted online for the general public.
  • Lastly, the children's ministry will also spend the next seven months studying 1-2 Peter, as we have also developed our own curriculum for them following the sermon series.
The above url is thoroughly dead now but the horse has left the stable.  It was simple for readers to connect the dots between the Mars Hill statement that a team of people worked on the Trial study guide and that this team, as credited by Mark Driscoll himself, included Justin Holcomb and Crystal Griffin. Maybe this will work? Maybe not.  Scrubbing has happened since the Mefferd allegations came down so if it works then maybe it works for a time. When Mars Hill stated that sentences were adapted instead of quoted directly there's a bit more that needs to be considered.  Consider the observations of James Duncan at Pajama Pages.  Presented for your consideration are some of Duncan's observations about the evidence Mefferd provided about the Trial study guide.


... The three paragraphs documented by Janet Mefferd are clearly plagiarism. The footnotes in Driscoll’s work also make it fabrication. At my school, we define fabrication as follows (emphasis added):
Fabrication is the intentional use of invented information or the falsification of research or other findings with the intent to deceive. Examples:
1. Citation of information not taken from the source indicated.
2. Listing sources in a bibliography not used in the academic exercise, unless directed by the instructor to list references consulted even if not cited.
3. Inventing data or source information for research or other academic exercise.
The in-text citations in the work Driscoll copied from
The in-text citations in the work Driscoll copied from

Not only did Driscoll copy the words, he manipulated the citations in the source material to make it appear as though he had done the research himself. By so doing, it shows that he understands the value of citations and research, but decided to deceive the reader into believing that he had done that work himself. Think about the effort it took to reformat those in-text citations and add them to his book as footnotes. Why not also footnote the original book? He did know how to use them.
The relocated and reformatted citations in Driscoll's book
The relocated and reformatted citations in Driscoll’s book

In soccer, a player can get a yellow card from a referee to warn for rough play or a bad tackle. Two yellows and the player is ejected from the game. A particularly egregious foul can be awarded a straight red. No warning. No doubts. Expelled.

With the manipulation of the footnotes, Driscoll has compounded his deception, and worked even harder to mask it. No yellow here. No warning. This is an easy call: Straight Red.

James Duncan's conclusion from the evidence made available by Mefferd was that the person who summarized the material without quoting it also had to have taken the effort to cite material researched in the secondary literature while presenting it as primary research. 

Now it's worth revisiting that Intervarsity Press publicly stated that the material in the study guide was not properly cited and that if it had been this would have been acceptable under Fair Use.

It is also worth nothing that Docent Group has stated that Holcomb provided ample documentation for proper citation of materials in the published study guide.  Warren Throckmorton has blogged a bit about this in the last few weeks.  See here and here. The publicly announced addition of Holcomb to Mars Hill was noted by Jared C. Wilson over at his blgo and by Driscoll.  Wilson's post from 2009 gets quoted and discussed here. So by the time MH PR seemed to implicitly blame other people besides Driscoll there was simply too much external testimony and primary testimony from MH itself to leave any doubt which parties were most likely involved in the assembly of the study guide for 1 & 2 Peter.  Docent Group has vouched for Holcomb and Throckmorton's research also seems to indicate Holcomb provided what was necessary for proper citation. 

So when Driscoll states "mistakes were made" and that he accepts responsibility for them the nature of the citation errors is not just a case of mistaken lack of attribution.  James Duncan's opinion, at least, suggests that fabrication of citation was also involved.   If Mars Hill wanted to take care to do things in a slow and appropriate way the implicit blame of a team of researchers for mistakes in the wake of Janet Mefferd's explicit allegation that Mark Driscoll plagiarized took the path of implicitly blaming other people for mistakes that Mefferd alleged were acts of plagiarism.  How, exactly, that is Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll taking responsibility could be explained further, couldn't it?

What the Tyndale statement highlights is that Mars Hill public statements and public relations have obfuscated rather than clarified things at a few points.  Throckmorton caught that Mars Hill altered a statement about the study guide over here.  Mars Hill public statements in the last month have muddied the waters rather than clarified things at several stages.  Even Driscoll himself has written that Mars Hill inaccurately stated the book was never sold. 


And it's generally true the books were not sold but given away and not just inside of Mars Hill.  In an article written by Nathan Finn in April 2012 a story gets shared about how the Trial study guide was also given to soldiers on deployment. Finn opens his piece sharing how he himself was a recipient of materials sent by Mars Hill Church.  Finn is no longer associated with Mars Hill Church but at the time he headed up the Mars Hill Church military ministry.

In fact I was one of the original recipients of resources sent out by Mars Hill’s Military Mission while I was deployed in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2008.

At that time, books like Vintage Jesus and Death by Love were sent along with several of Pastor Mark’s recorded sermon series burned on DVD . I remember the first time I received a box of resources: I was thrilled to hand them out to my fellow Marines. I broke open the DVDs and saw the immediate curiosity of the Marines in my unit.

...  It’s now 2012, four years later. These days, I work for Mars Hill Church, and I have the amazing privilege of leading our Military Ministry. 

... There is no way we will be able to know exactly how many people have been reached because of this ministry because the resources get shared so many times over, but you can be sure it is currently in the thousands. We just received a request for our resources from an officer in the Australian Royal Army. So not only are we reaching American military personnel but we are now reaching our allied forces.

While not a named person, Finn looks like he quotes from someone who was sent a copy of the Trial study guide, an army chaplain:

Here are some other examples of who and where we are shipping resources to and how God is using them:
While I was deployed to Mosul, Iraq with 3-8 CAV , Mars Hill’s Military Mission sent me many resources that helped me minister to my soldiers as their battalion chaplain. From the Vintage Jesus DVD  series, study booklets for the Trial sermon series [WtH, dead link, try here instead], and other books written by Mark Driscoll, the resources they sent us supplemented three weekly Bible studies, mentoring opportunities, and a tremendous spiritual renewal throughout our lower enlisted ranks, NCOs and officers. Mars Hill Military Mission made an incredible impact for the kingdom of God among the [Camp] Warhorse families during a difficult deployment.
—an Army chaplain in Iraq 

Whoever that army chaplain may have been, it turns out that the study booklet for the Trial sermon series had some citation errors. 

What is striking about the Tyndale statement and Driscoll's statement is not just what is said but what isn't said.  Removing the open letter mentioning Holcomb, House and Griffin as having roles in the assembly of the Trial booklet won't undo having implicitly blamed people who had identifiable and verifiable roles to play in the assembly of the study guide.  At this point the MH PR statement mentioning a team and a research assistant either implicitly blamed Holcomb, House and Griffin or permitted bloggers to conclude that these people were responsible for citation errors with, or rather than, Driscoll.  Brad House drafted study guide questions.  Crystal Griffin was credited with editing, and Holcomb was credited as a research assistant but the introduction to the guide has Mark Driscoll's name on it and Driscoll's alone. An apology to someone like D. A. Carson may be a good thing but what about apologies to those who were, as the internet has shown, implicitly but awkwardly blamed for what Driscoll has just recently publicly taken responsibility for?

The apology Driscoll has issued is, as another has said, a start.  But the apology was issued through Tyndale and Tyndale looks forward to continuing business with Driscoll.  Where is the corresponding apology published at Mars Hill Church's own web presence?  A concession of this magnitude on the part of Mark Driscoll seems like it should be big enough to show up on Pastor Mark TV.  Does it?  The statement was posted December 18, 2013.  What showed up in its wake at Pastor Mark TV?

Ah, of course, the mistakes single people make.   Because there's no reason to publicly share a link at Pastor Mark TV about the recognition that the Trial study guide had citation errors if you can recycle a bromide about the mistakes single people can make about marriage for the 18,000th time.

Conspicuously absent from the Tyndale statement or from Driscoll are questions that have been raised about some other books.  While Mefferd pulled all her materials dealing with alleged plagiarism in four books her references to Real Marriage linked to Wenatchee The Hatchet.  All that material is still here.

And on that subject ...