Sunday, June 08, 2014

MH Ballard communicates re elder recent elder transitions

It appears that recently Mars Hill Ballard Pastor Scott Harris has conveyed some information to Mars Hill Ballard regarding transitions in eldership there.

Pastor Scott Harris
From Pastor Scott Harris: Hello Mars Hill Ballard Family,
Today during all three services we are announcing a few changes with our elder team here at Mars Hill Ballard. I’m sharing them with you here as well, in case you are not able to make it to church today. Four godly, Jesus-loving men are leaving our Ballard elder team, and I invite you to celebrate with me the many years of faithful service and sacrifice that these men have given to the church. I know that we may not agree on everything, but these men do love this church very much. None of these changes are easy for any of us and I ask for your grace and mercy as we seek to learn from them.

Phil Smidt
Many of you know about Phil’s transition already, as this was shared with our Community Group and Redemption Group leaders last week. After many conversations along with much prayer and deliberation I decided to ask Phil to step down from staff and eldership. Phil has been a valuable member of the Ballard leadership team, and has contributed greatly to the counseling and marriage ministries of our entire church. We are very thankful for his many years of service and continue to pray for him and his family as we do care for them deeply. In the interim, Pastor Cliff Ellis will be taking some of the leadership load in our Biblical Living area as we look for a long term pastor to fill that position. 
Aaron Mead
Aaron, one of our volunteer pastors, has submitted his resignation this week. Aaron has served faithfully in Biblical Living and as a Redemption Group leader, teacher and coach. We are so thankful for his service and very sad to see him go. If you are able, please thank Aaron and his family for their service and bless them in any way that you can. They are going through many changes and we would ask that you pray for the Mead’s as they seek what the Lord has next for them.
Matt Repucci
Matt is another one of our volunteer pastors, and he has also submitted his resignation this week. Matt has been a faithful leader in our prayer ministry and community groups. Again, this is another sad and sudden change for us. Matt is a good man and he along with his family will be missed greatly. Matt let me know that he loves the church and wants the best for Mars Hill. Please join me in thanking Matt and his family for their service and pray for them as well, as they seek what is best for their family.
Zach Bolen
Zach, our Worship Pastor, has submitted his resignation this weekend as well. Zach has served for many years, and has been a tremendous part of shaping worship and music at all Mars Hill churches. While I am tremendously sad to see him go, we honor him today for all his hard work and sacrifice, and thank him for everything that he has done for this church. We don’t know what is next for Zach, but we hope to be able to support him and help him transition off of staff well as we work with him over the next few weeks.

From Pastor Zach Bolen
Mars Hill Family,
This past week I resigned from my role as the Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Ballard. It was always my intention and the intention of the leaders at Mars Hill to communicate this transition to you in a timely manner.  Unfortunately, many of you, who my family and I dearly love, were made aware of my resignation through outside sources online.  We love you, we love the leaders of this church, and the information being shared online before I could communicate that to you has not only been harmful but also very unhelpful. Mars Hill you deserved to find out about my resignation from me and your leaders, it was never anyone else’s information to share.  As we process information, it is important that we remember the only thing that can truly guide our conscience in a way that is safe and right is the Holy Spirit and the word of God.  Please do not assume that because I have resigned from my role that I wish harm upon Mars Hill or it’s leaders.  I do not.  Again I’m sorry that you did not find out about this resignation from me and the leaders of Mars Hill first.  I invite you to join my family and I in praying for Jesus to be glorified in and through His church.
Pastor Zack Bolen

I am saddened that some of you may be hearing about these difficult communications from other sources and I hope that you can see my heart as we try to communicate well to you about these changes in the midst of them.
Family, I want you to know that these changes are hard for us and we are very saddened by them. I know that they are painful and sad for you as well and if you have any questions you can come to me or any of the other elders. We don’t take this lightly, but we are seeking to learn and grow in love with every change. This is especially challenging with the sadness of these changes coupled with seeing many people get baptized and hearing some great stories of lives changed through the work of the Holy Spirit here at Mars Hill. God is being very gracious to this church, and I believe he will continue to be for many years to come.  I hope that you are encouraged by God’s work in changed lives, even amid today’s sad news, and especially on the heels of a sad week for our SPU community. Now is not the time to retreat, but the time to step up and be a part of helping continue to grow this church. We need elders, we need deacons, we need church members, CG leaders, RG leaders, children’s ministry volunteers, and more. As you pray for our church, please pray and ask how Jesus wants you and your family to be a part of it. There is much work to be done.
May the Lord bless you and keep you today.
Pastor Scott

Scott Harris (who would appear to have said he directly asked Phil Smidt to step down (and here it's worth noting that other bloggers and journalists will want to remember to actually spell the names of these people accurately)) doesn't seem to offer any explanation of any kind for why Phil Smidt was asked to step down. 

What might be of importance to Mars Hill Church as a whole is whether or not Phil Smidt's brother-in-law, Jamie Munson, is still a pastor at Mars Hill Church or not.  Munson is verifiably no longer associated with the Storyville Coffee company owned by Jon and Esther Phelps but since Mark Driscoll said in 2011 that the plan was for Jamie Munson to be a pastor at Mars Hill indefinitely whether that has turned out to be the case in the wake of Smidt's resignation remains to be seen.  Munson seems to have long since stopped having a role as someone who would consider any formal charges made against Mark Driscoll.  Just because Munson has stopped being listed as a Mars Hill pastor in public webpages does not mean he couldn't be a member of Mars Hill internally.

The old announcement from 2011 about Munson stepping down would have been here:

Once again Mars Hill Church is scrubbing away documents that just about anyone who reads English could have consulted for years.  Driscoll was pretty clear at the time that his hope was Jamie Munson would remain a pastor at Mars Hill Church indefinitely and was welcome to come back to formal staff activity when he chose.  Perhaps others have already documented the material statements.  In the last three months it's been kind of amazing how much Mars Hill Church has withdrawn or erased.  The important announcement regarding the resignation of former executive elder Jamie Munson has evidently become another such case.

But this may have to suffice for reviewing the announcement about Munson's resignation from the time it was announced.

Aaron Mead's resignation is presented as a brief narrative in which no explanation for the action is given.  While it appears Scott Harris explained that he asked Smidt to resign Mead seems to have resigned and Harris seems to have not addressed what (if any) reason may have been given for the resignation.

What is striking about the Matt Repucci resignation is that it wasn't that long ago there was word that Repucci was an elder candidate as recently as August 2013. It does not just so happen Wenatchee The Hatchet had a blog post about that particular person that may be pertinent to recent announcements.  Repucci was a candidate so recently that to resign in June 2014 meant he wasn't even a pastor at Mars Hill Ballard for even a single year.

The Zach Bolen resignation announcement was, clearly, accompanied with concern that the resignation seemed to be scooped via Warren Throckmorton before there was even internal communication of this announcement/plan to Mars Hill Church at Ballard.

What is striking about the material above that seems largely attributed to Harris is that there is no explanation of why any of these decisions were made.  Bolen has apparently provided some kind of statement that he does not wish any harm to Mars Hill.  In a resignation announcement from a pastor in a church setting the more customary thing to be expected would be a set of positive reasons for why something is being done.  If someone has been planning for years to eventually plant a church in a given region, and an opportunity to do so emerges, then it's normal to expect the pastor to share with the church the reason for a pending departure.  If someone takes a sabbatical that gets announced.  What is strange is when five resignations happen in short order at a single campus and the lead pastor announces that he essentially required the first person to resign in some fashion and that the other four voluntarily resigned for reasons that never get explained, anywhere, at all in the formal announcement.

If now is not the time for retreat (whatever that means) why not address exactly why no less than five men at one Mars Hill campus tendered their resignations?  The announcement quoted above explains who did what when and where but it's not really news unless we finally get a why.  That is, of course, something the resigning men can share at their discretion in whatever manner they may choose.  But it's striking how scrupulously the announcement from Scott Harris avoids any attempt to explain what the reasons for the resignations were. 

And it's striking that the resignation announcements about Jamie Munson have also been wiped out.  If Munson has also departed then this could raise the number from five to six men who have in some way resigned from eldership at Mars Hill Church.

It's worth noting that Phil Smidt's role in the trials of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer would be worth addressing at some point.  Smidt and is brother-in-law Jamie Munson did not exactly have entirely minor or insignificant roles in the termination, trial, and post-trial correspondence of Paul Petry.

Finally, while Bolen is certainly entitled to believe that the sharing of information outside of Mars Hill in the way that it was "has not only been harmful but also very unhelpful", there's no explanation provided for how or even why it would be harmful or very unhelpful, much like Scott Harris merely announced five resignations without explaining the reasons for any of them, even in the case in which it was explicitly stated that Phil Smidt was asked to resign.  Why? 

Seven years ago the pruning season was initiated by executive elders.  Now it's looking as though a new season of pruning is happening in which men are (mostly) voluntarily leaving or in some cases are asked to leave for reasons that upper level leadership at Mars Hill Church seems eager to avoid even mentioning.

1 comment:

Adam Wygle said...

From my conversations with parties involved, Phil and Bent have quite recently worked things out.