Saturday, March 08, 2014

Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability statement, some observations

Before we get to the news of the day we should consult the news of the past.
Paul Tripp
Michael Van Skaik
James MacDonald
Larry Osborne
Mark Driscoll
Dave Bruskas
Sutton Turner

Let's take a short trip to see who these people are. Mark Driscoll is a founder and the president of Mars Hill Church. Dave Bruskas is the vice-president, and Sutton Turner is the secretary and treasurer (at least these are their respective roles for now).  James MacDonald is a friend of Mark Driscoll's who has been said to have the spiritual gift of real estate acquisition.  Larry Osborne is someone Driscoll has name-dropped for years who played a role in the 2007 re-org.  Paul Tripp's affiliation with CCEF would mean he's got a history with an organization that's directly credited by biblical living pastors with training and resources.  I.e. we could not that there's a business history that's been mutually helpful in the Tripp/MH history.  Finally, there's Michael Van Skaik. 

The Compensation Committee consists of at least three members of the Board of Elders chosen from among the nonpaid elders serving on the board. The members of the committee are appointed by the Board of Elders. Currently, the following elders serve on the Compensation Committee: Michael Van Skaik (Chairman), Will Little, and Jamie Munson.

In the 2012 governance document (much more on this elsewhere) Van Skaik was listed as a Mars Hill elder on the Compensation Committee, the chairman, in fact.  So while Van Skaik may look like he's not an elder now and may not even have a profile on The City it would be highly inaccurate to say he has had no significant history within eldership at Mars Hill.  You can't have served on the Compensation Committee as chairman and not have had at least a nominally significant role. 

Now, with all that out of the way, let's get to the news of the day.
By Board of Advisors & Accountability
March 7, 2014

Mars Hill Church and Pastor Mark Driscoll have always been passionate about teaching the Bible and spreading the gospel by making disciples and planting churches. Immense growth in the size and complexity of the church has highlighted areas for, and has resulted in, several improvements.
This statement has been developed by the Board of Advisors and Accountability to update the members and friends of Mars Hill Church on the changes that have been made, and areas where we believe this church has learned and grown:

Not much to see there.  We just know the names of the people who are on the board, most likely.  It's not impossible that Jon Phelps could be on the board in some capacity but as yet confirmation of any members of the board that are not publicly listed has not materialized. I.e. we have to consider chiefly the publicly listed names.

Changes to Governance

For many years Mars Hill Church was led by a board of Elders, most of whom were in a vocational relationship with the church and thus not able to provide optimal objectivity. To eliminate conflicts of interest and set the church’s future on the best possible model of governance, a Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) was established to set compensation, conduct performance reviews, approve the annual budget, and hold the newly formed Executive Elders accountable in all areas of local church leadership. This model is consistent with the best practices for governance established in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability standards. Mars Hill Church joined and has been a member in good standing with the ECFA since September of 2012.

Mark Driscoll often touted a line attributed to Chuck Smith that you don't call the trained, rather you train the called.  So it was popular to draw on Mars Hill 1.0 types like Jamie Munson to be part of leadership because outsiders wouldn't necessarily know the community they were supposed to be serving.  Kind of.  Eliminating conflicts of interest simply invites the question what the previous conflicts of interest were.  What were they, since the BOAA current statement is worded in a way that presupposes conflicts of interest simply existed, had to be eliminated, and that this necessitated changes in governance?  Didn't Mark Driscoll at one point say that putting Jamie Munson in charge as legal president of Mars Hill saved him the trouble of conflicts of interest back in 2008?

"Jamie Munson is head of the elder board. Jamie Munson is executive pastor. He is legal president of the organization. And for me, to be honest, it was the most freeing, liberating thing I could have dreamed of because now I don't have all that conflict of interest. I can be friends with someone but I don't have to fire them, do their performance review, and decide how much they get paid. It's just too conflicting for me." 
So, yes, Driscoll did say that Munson being in charged freed Mark Driscoll from "all that conflict of interest". Mark Driscoll said that having Munson as head of the elder board, as executive pastor, and as legal president of Mars Hill was the most freeing, liberating thing Mark Driscoll could have done.  Because now he didn't have all that conflict of interest.  So how and why did Mark Driscoll become legal president again if the reason he hand the reins over to Jamie Munson, by his account, was that Mark didn't have to deal with conflicts of interest? 

So you see, dear reader, there's apparently a thread of history here where Mars Hill leadership refers to having fix problems of conflict of interest without necessarily defining what those conflicts of interest were.  More distressing is that a corporation like Mars Hill Church (or, more properly, its leadership) can't seem to quite grasp the significance of public statements about having to resolve conflicts of interest to begin with.  If you're publicly admitting in any fashion there have been conflicts of interest aren't you inviting doubt about the fiduciary responsibility of the corporation altogether? Even if we take at face value that the conflicts of interest got fixed there's still the unanswered question of what those conflicts of interest were.  The only observable change in the executive elder board in the last four years seems to have been that Jamie Munson was out after Sutton Turner arrived and Sutton Turner took over the "kingly gifts" role, which turned out to have evolved from legal president of the organization to its secretary and treasurer.  Munson drafted bylaws in 2007, it seems, that made himself legal president of Mars Hill. 
And to step back to "setting compensation", Michael Van Skaik had that role on the Compensation Committee when he was an elder at Mars Hill Church in 2012.  It looks like he may still have that role but in a different formal way.

The BOAA moves on to former staff.

Former Staff

In a 2 year period ending in the fall of 2013, Mars Hill Church endured significant turnover of key staff members that made many wonderful contributions to the development of Mars Hill Church during their tenure. A number of these staff transitions were acrimonious. Pastor Mark and the other executive Elders own their part in any discord that could have been avoided with a better process or a more patient interaction.

During the Spring of 2013 the BOAA mandated that a thorough review be conducted with all former staff from that period, soliciting their feedback so that no needed lessons for a healthier future would be neglected. In the summer of 2013 the BOAA reviewed that report, and needed corrections to policy and detrimental management patterns had been made. A former staff elder, Dave Kraft, whose disagreements with Mars Hill policies have recently been made public, had previously communicated with the BOAA numerous times that he was satisfied with the steps we have taken to address his concerns.

The BOAA supports the policy of requiring staff to commit their signatures to a mutual agreement, such as a separation agreement, that private matters of the church learned during a season of employment not be divulged outside the organization. We have seen this practice as wise for stewarding the resources entrusted to the church while engaging in common human resources practices.

A number of staff transitions were acrimonious?  The executive elders own their part in any discord that could have been avoided?  Let's bear in mind that way back in 2007 when Bent Meyer and Paul Petry got fired executive pastor and lead pastor Jamie Munson stated in correspondence that the firings were necessary and inevitable. Owning a part in discord that could have been avoided is moot if firings were considered necessary and inevitable.  In any event, simply owning to a part in any discord invites readers to suppose that the number of acrimonious staff transitions were as acrimonious as the BOAA says they were because of the role members of the executive elder team (i.e. maybe half the BOAA itself at this point) played in those transitions. 

Which seems to means nothing at all unless names are named. 

And so they do get to Dave Kraft, whose role in the EIT of 2007 has been partly discussed elsewhere.  Dave Kraft is welcome to speak on record at any point now that the BOAA has stated emphatically he repeatedly informed the BOAA he was satisfied with the steps they took to address his concerns, whatever they were.  But who has said Dave Kraft ever expressed any concerns again?  So far, in public, just the BOAA. 

The BOAA proceeds to the news of the week, not so much the cumulative evidence of citation errors and even plagiarism in seven of Mark Driscoll's published books, but the news that Result Source was contracted with by Mars Hill Church.

Result Source
In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list. While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again. The true cost of this endeavor was much less than what has been reported, and to be clear, all of the books purchased through this campaign have been given away or sold through normal channels. All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign.

Unsurprisingly, the Board of Advisors and Accountability for Mars Hill Church states that it was outside counsel that advised the Mars Hill marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book back in 2011.  Who was on the marketing team at that point? There are not many clues left these days as to who may have had what role in 2011. Possibly someone who was director of PR and Media Relations?  Or would it have been someone else.    Wenatchee The Hatchet, for instance, managed to dredge up that Nick Bogardus had a role as Director of PR & Media Relations from 2009 to 2011:

Nick Bogardus' Experience 

Lead Pastor            
Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
June 2011July 2013 (2 years 2 months) Orange County, California Area
• Founded and led a church that grew from four people to more than 500 in two years.
• Led and developed a team of staff and dozens of volunteer leaders.
• Doubled congregational giving and community involvement.
• Launched regional theological training center.
• Developed and implemented a six-month training curriculum for young leaders.

Director PR & Media Relations

Mars Hill Church

Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
20092011 (2 years) Seattle, WA
• Represented PR for one of the most visible church leaders and church movements in America.

• Increased both the quality and quantity of media coverage. Effectively garnered coverage in outlets such as CNN, ABC, USA Today, The Washington Post, Loveline, Relevant, and the Seattle Times.

• Conducted interviews as a spokesman on camera and by phone with USA Today, the Seattle Times, and major local TV affiliates in Seattle (market 12).

• Developed and implemented the organization’s strategic communication plan. Identified key messages and produced both external and internal communications.

• Led content management team for the church and its affiliate ministries, the Resurgence and Acts 29. Combined, the sites have an audience of 700,000 visitors per month and more than 600,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

POSTSCRIPT 03.08.2014 10.09PM
[Since MH OC was getting a ramp up campaign as early as March 2011

There's little to no chance Bogardus was going to have had any involvement in anything to do with Real Marriage.  Driscoll wouldn't have announced the informational meeting in March 2011 unless a lot was already worked out about who was heading over there, which means Bogardus was likely preparing to transition into being the pastor at Orange County possibly as early as December 2010.  Wenatchee The Hatchet was part of a campus transition years ago and knows enough about what that process could involve that Bogardus can basically be ruled out if he was mentioned with an OC connection as early as March 2011]

That's a for instance.  There was an old blog post on the BAJI group done last year that featured a variety of people who were with Mars Hill through about late 2012 over here.  But in the wake of the plagiarism controversy of late 2012 it would be a challenge to find the people who would have been involved in the intra-MH campaign to get Real Marriage on to the NYT best-seller list and those people may have thoroughly covered their tracks.

Well, consider uncovering them if only because it's become apparent the Board of Advisors and Accountability seems to be implying that the Result Source advice was given by an outsider yet was followed anyway.

Now, to get back to this statement, "All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign."

If  Mark Driscoll did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at Mars Hill Church or through the Result Source marketing campaign how on earth was he getting enough money to feel confident enough to buy a million-dollar home in Woodway?  Was he able to do that with a housing allowance?  Was he able to do that because he had an annual salary big enough to pay for a million-dollar home in Woodway that was bought by the Driscolls in May 2012?  If Mark Driscoll did not profit from the sale of Real Marriage then where did the money come from to buy that house?  Wenatchee The Hatchet has had a pdf copy of the deed of trust for the Driscoll's Snohomish County home for some time now.  That's the thing about government records, accessible to the public. 

The point is not the precise address, the point is that if what the BOAA insists upon is true then it becomes all the more pertinent that at some point the BOAA clarify how the president of Mars Hill Church could afford to pay for a home in Snohomish County that cost about a million bucks if he wasn't profiting in any fashion from his NYT bestseller (and let's note the BOAA hasn't even touched upon the multiple cases of citation error aka plagiarism).

But let's face it, On Mission LLC spells out in its articles what its function is.
This was e-filed January 28, 2011 at 1:44pm
ID# 20111058965
doc# 2011058965

According to the articles of organization

Article I
The name of the Limited Liability Company is On Mission, LLC

Article II
The term for which this Limited Liability Company is to exist is 50 years
Article III
The Limited Liability Company is organized for profit and the nature of its business or purposes is:

A. To manage book royalties, printing and publishing and all related and derivative activities and
B. To engage in any lawful act or activities for which corporations may be organized under the Colorado Limited Liability Company Act.

discussed further here.

So if Mark Driscoll did not profit from the sale of Real Marriage what's the point of the On Mission LLC he set up in January 2011?  It's explicitly stated as organized for profit, to manage book royalties, printing, publishing and all related and derivative activities and to engage in any lawful act, etc.

Who started On Mission LLC?

Article V
The Limited Liability Company is to be managed by managers who shall serve as managers until the first annual meeting of the members of the Limited Liability Company or until its successor is elected and qualified. The manager of the Limited Liability Company shall also be a member of the Limited Liability Company. the name and mailing address of the manager and organizer of the Limited Liability Company is as follows:

Name Address
Mark Driscoll

4570 Hilton Parkway, Ste 203
Colorado Springs, CO 80907

Down on page 6 in Article VIII we see contributions from Mark Driscoll ($125) and On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust ($375). 

The registered agent is V William Moritz at the same address listed for Mark Driscoll in the earlier article.
Since at some point in life Wenatchee The Hatchet worked with planned giving officers ... perhaps an estate planning aside might be helpful here.  On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust suggests that at least one link to defining what a charitable remainder unitrust even is could be helpful.

For reasons not known to Wenatchee The Hatchet, the first actual IRS google result is a 1998 article about how charitable remainder unitrusts were used for self-dealing,

What connection, if any, could exist between On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust and Future Hope Revocable Living Trust, which was the financial instrument Mark and Grace Driscoll were listed as trustees for when they purchased a house in Snohomish County, is something others can dig into. 

All that to say, if Mark Driscoll did not profit from the sale of Real Marriage what was the point of setting up the On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust, On Mission LLC, Lasting Legacy LLC, and OMCRU Investments LLC? That last one lists as its member the On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust, from the look of it.  So if all the money made by Real Marriage didn't go to Mark Driscoll but went to Mars Hill Church how did Mark and Grace Driscoll afford to buy the roughly million-dollar house in Woodway, again?  A pastor can get a sizable housing allowance, perhaps, but

To correct a statement in a recent article, Pastor Sutton Turner was the General Manager, not the Executive Pastor or Executive Elder as reported, at the time he signed with the referenced agreement with Result Source. In the time since this campaign we have established a new Executive Elder team, new Board of Advisors and Accountability, as well as a new marketing team.

Be patient here, we're about to revisit some old posts.  You see it doesn't just so happen Wenatchee The Hatchet documented what Sutton Turner was presenting about himself on his LinkedIn profile a couple of years ago.  The BOAA can say they're correcting a recent statement about what Turner's role was.  The implication seems to be that people were misrepresenting information about Turner.  Okay, so did Turner have to say about himself back in 2012?  It does not just so happen Wenatchee The Hatchet documented just that back in 2012.
POSTSCRIPT: 04/14/2012
Executive Pastor
Mars Hill Church
Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
April 2011– Present (1 year 1 month)Seattle, Washington

Sutton currently serves Mars Hill Church as Executive Elder and Executive Pastor. Mars Hill is a 15,000+ multi-site church with 14 current churches across the states of Washington, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. Mars Hill has planted over 400 churches through its and trains disciples through As Executive Pastor, Sutton oversees all centralized functions for all Mars Hill Churches and Acts 29.

The LinkedIn profile has since been edited into the following that you can read today:

Executive Pastor & Executive Elder
Mars Hill Church 
Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
April 2011 – Present (3 years) seattle, washington

Sutton currently serves Mars Hill Church as Executive Elder and Executive Pastor. Mars Hill is a multi-site church with 14 current churches across the states of Washington, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. Mars Hill has planted over 400 churches through its and trains disciples through As Executive Pastor, Sutton oversees all centralized functions for all 14 Mars Hill Churches,, Mars Hill Global, Mars Hill Network, Resurgence Books, and Resurgence Conference, all external Campaigns, as well as serving Pastor Mark Driscoll as his Executive Pastor.

April 2011 thru November 2011 he served as General Manager before becoming an elder.

Sutton Turner may have rectified the error about what the exact nature of his role was up through November 2011 but it's looking like it's nobody's fault but his for getting that misinformation out there for unwitting journalists and fact-checkers to mess up in the first place.

The BOAA simply cannot pin the blame on any outsider when one of its own members, Sutton Turner himself, could have written things down accurately in his own LinkedIn profile the first time around. If the BOAA of Mars Hill was intending to correct an inaccurate statement let the record show it's a statement Turner himself originally made at his own LinkedIn profile. 

Stewardship and Accountability

We take stewardship at Mars Hill very seriously, and thus we pay very close attention when accusations are made claiming that we are mishandling the money received by our congregations’ tithes and gifts. We voluntarily undergo an annual external audit, and public disclosure of our audited financial statements is part of our commitment to accountability. Much more information is available online: [WtH--the amount of revision and purging to the Governance document over 2012 to 2013 is vast enough to warrant separate discussion, here. You can't even begin to imagine how drastically the Governance page has changed in the last two years if you haven't kept tabs on it]

The BOAA stands unreservedly behind Pastors Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas as the Executive Elders of Mars Hill Church. We deeply appreciate their endurance through false accusation, their submission to authority, and their humility where regrettable decisions from the past have come to light. We are thankful to God for His grace, which is evident in all that he allows for our good and his glory. We are confident that God is preparing Pastor Mark and the ministry of Mars Hill Church for a great harvest of souls in the days ahead.

 - Mars Hill Church Board of Advisors and Accountability

So now that the BOAA has assured everyone the Result Source idea was suggested by someone not at Mars Hill who was that person?  And what were the reasons MH executive leadership decided the thing would be okay to try?  At this point whatever Sutton Turner was describing himself as may be moot seeing as he signed the contract.  The buying of a book onto the NYT bestseller list is simply one facet of the book Real Marriage that has been controversial.  The other was, obviously, the uncredited appropriation by Grace Driscoll of material published by Dan Allender back in 1990.  That matter has been sort of rectified but the BOAA has not addressed a single point regarding plagiarism on the part of Mark Driscoll.  The Tyndale press release only covered two books, the book A Call to Resurgence and the Trial study guide from the 1 & 2 Peter series. The BOAA has not addressed, for instance, that the MH public response to Janet Mefferd's allegation and evidence that materials were used and not adequately cited in the study guide was to begin talking about how the book was assembled with the help of a team of people that included a research assistant.  Whose idea was it to passive-aggressively blame the assistants? 

The BOAA can feel free to explain what the false accusations have been.  It can't be that Sutton Turner was Executive Pastor at Mars Hill Church any time between April 2011 and November 2011 because none other than Sutton Turner himself was making that claim in his LinkedIn profile for some time. 

The BOAA is confident that God is preparing Pastor Mark and the ministry of Mars Hill Church for a great harvest of souls in the days ahead.  What humility, if any, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas and John Sutton Turner have displayed in the last few months in the wake of controversy about plagiarism in Mark Driscoll's books (seven according to Warren Throckmorton's research) and buying a place on the NYT bestseller list, has yet to be demonstrated.  For that matter, merely asserting false accusations have been made is not the same as establishing that Mark Driscoll and Grace Driscoll did NOT make use of the work of Dan Allender without proper citation.  Pulling the Trial study guide and apologizing for citation errors doesn't sound like a response to a false accusation at all.  Amending the acknowledgments in Real Marriage to admit that Dan Allender even exists and that his work was formative on Mark and Grace Driscoll's life and ministry isn't a response to a false accusation.  These don't look like cases where executive leadership in Mars Hill is patiently enduring false accusations; these look like cases where people are trying to quietly avoid admitting the magnitude of the mistakes that were made.

And nobody on the BOAA breaks out of the pseudo-anonymous corporate speak to even mention the word Mark Driscoll utters from the pulpit repeatedly in discussing the words and actions of other people, sin.  We're probably never going to see anyone on the BOAA, which features the executive elders the group is defending, ever concede that any of them could have sinned, for real. Mistakes were made and owned but at the end of the day everything is either defended or blame is deferred to outsiders, if this BOAA statement is meant to be the first, final, and only word about the controversies surrounding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill.

Meanwhile, the people who once publicly boasted with pride in their roles in promoting the book couldn't burn bridges fast enough. It looks like Warren Throckmorton has been noting that now Mark Driscoll's biography has been scrubbed of any reference to his being a best-selling author. When the cumulative evidence that Mark Driscoll has plagiarized and published factually untrue statements comes in; when the evidence surfaces that his NYT bestseller was bought on to the list; and when his naturopath gets a license suspended under allegations of hoodwinking cancer patients what does the BOAA do?  It stands by the executive elders who are members of the BOAA themselves as if they are heroes enduring false accusations, without refuting any misinformation that wasn't presented to the public by one of the executive elders themselves and who is himself a member of the BOAA. 

A Board of Advisors and Accountability that only responds to waves of public controversy and mounting evidence of some significant problems in Driscoll's published works by having its own members generically justify their actions, claim they are enduring false accusations, and finally commend themselves on their humility and endurance while assuring themselves of divine favor can call itself what it likes.  It is not at all clear right now that in any of their recent words these people have shown themselves to be a Board of Advisors and Accountability in anything but name.

POSTSCRIPT 03.08.2014

It's been noted via comment that the BOAA indicated Driscoll did not profit from sales of the book within the subheading dealing with Result Source, which was not to say Driscoll has not profited from sales of the book in contexts besides Mars Hill Church or the RSI agreement.  A useful observation.  Which gets to this.
On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust
Address information
1411 NW 50th St Seattle WA

Asset Amount $464,340 (464.3 thousand)
Income Amount nA
Form 990 Revenue Amount NA

There's not much more but this listing may be a start.

POSTSCRIPT II 03.08.2014

James Ducan at Pajama Pages has broached the subject of whether what Mark Driscoll has done in the Real Marriage case can be interpreted as inurement.  What is striking about Mark Driscoll's books since about Radical Reformission is that the copyright in the books has been owned or co-owned by Mark Driscoll and not Mars Hill Church as a corporation, generally.  The most notable exception was the Trial study guide.

Additionally, Warren Throckmorton notes that there has been a shift in wording and position from what Mars Hill's Justin Dean said earlier in the week and what the BOAA published yesterday.

Back when Andrew Lamb's disciplinary situation made headlines MH indicated that it had released staff over some issues and then clarified that they hadn't, really.  Justin Dean made a statement that MH had some kind of connection to Lifelong AIDS Alliance that the organization stated did not exist.  Justin Dean more recently was on hand to explain things about that attempt by Mars Hill to make a bid on already-purchased real estate in Bellevue that Sound Transit bought.  If Justin Dean's job is to handle PR on behalf of MH his track record in handling public controversy is ... baffling.