Friday, August 08, 2014

on apologies and what was apologized for, Jonathan Merritt accepting an apology for A without considering that there might be reason for MD to apologize for B instead.

First, a prelude:

This was an internal communication to The City posted by Mark Driscoll in the wake of the on-air incident in which Janet Mefferd accused him of plagiarism.  The text, for those who can't see the image:

From Pastor Mark Driscoll:
Dear Mars Hill Church,
In light of some recent controversy that you may or may not be aware of, I wanted to communicate with you, our church family. Earning and keeping the trust of people in our church that I love and have given my adult life to matters very much to me. It has taken us some time to provide a statement, and it was because we wanted to do the right thing, in the right way, with the right heart, and that required time. [emphasis added]
For those who have been patient and prayerful, thank you. I am genuinely grateful for the grace I receive from the people I am honored to teach the Bible to week in and week out.
I am sorry for any concern this may have caused some of you. Because this matters greatly, it has also weighed on me heavily.
Lastly, I would encourage you to not feel any need to defend me. Our job is not to win arguments but to win people to Jesus Christ.
A full statement on the matter from my publisher and me is posted online.
A nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody,
–Pastor Mark

A reader may ask why on earth all of that is a prelude to discussing this week's post by Jonathan Merritt about accepting Mark Driscoll's apology regarding ... William Wallace II.  It's important to establish exactly what Mark Driscoll said to Mars Hill members regarding the plagiarism scandal and what he didn't in December 2013.  It is also important to note that he linked to a Tyndale press release regarding the subject which was chiefly about A Call to Resurgence and secondarily about the Trial study guide.
dated December 18, 2013

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.”

Again, a reader will understandably wonder why this is pertinent to Merritt's recent post.  It's relevant because it has begun to seem to Wenatchee The Hatchet that Merritt compiled enough coverage to shed some light on the December 18, 2013 statement made by Driscoll on behalf of Mars Hill Church handling the specific case of the Trial study guide.  Note that Driscoll said the mistakes were unintentional but serious nonetheless.  At no point is there mention of who made the mistakes or why. 

Now, as for the apology by Mark Driscoll that Merritt accepts, the apology was published over at CT, in pieces, at least:

Merritt's post is over here:

So Jonathan Merrit accepts Driscoll's apology about William Wallace II.  There have been a couple of rather broad statements presented to the public speaking generally about things that may have been published to The City.  One of the most famous apologies issued by Driscoll (regarding Result Source) in 2014 was published on The City and was not, in fact, a public apology at all until bloggers Throckmorton and Turner ran with it and it was subsequently read, as best WtH understands all of this, AS A PUBLIC APOLOGY.  There's a pile of stuff within Merritt's own coverage from late 2013 that suggests that if there is an apology to be issued by Mark Driscoll on behalf of Mars Hill there might be another one that is due.

Let's go back to the coverage Merrit did of the plagiarism situation and specifically about the Trial study guide. Remember the following paragraph from the old MH downloads section for 1 & 2 Peter?

Bear in mind now that Mark Driscoll's statement, "It has taken us some time to provide a statement, and it was because we wanted to do the right thing, in the right way, with the right heart, and that required time." was on December 18, 2013

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 and was never sold. 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.
So it was a team that worked on the study guide and that team included a research assistant.  For some reason it was thought necessary to mention a research assistant. 

Merritt mentioned the following:
- See more at:[]

Elsewhere on the Mars Hill web site, Driscoll’s research assistant is named as Justin Holcomb of Docent Research Group. “[Justin] 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…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,” the site states. It is unclear whether Holcomb is the “research assistant” referenced in the statement. - See more at:[]

By now it's been established that the books were, in fact,  sold.

Then we get to something Merrit wrote "It is unclear whether Holcomb is the "research assistant."  Unclear!?  Seriously? Let's at least try to refresh everyone's memories here.  Even if someone opted not to speak on record (which would be understandable) it did not take a rocket scientist to fact check who the research assistant might be. 

As for the purported discovery that content from other published sources were mistaken for research notes, James Duncan at Pajama Pages covered that.
see also Collin Garbarino at:

Things did get cleared up a bit more by Andy Crouch at:

[Driscoll] forthrightly credited two researchers: Justin Holcomb, who worked for an outside research firm called the Docent Group, and Crystal Griffin, a deacon at Mars Hill. (Glenn Lucke, founder of the Docent Group, told me his firm's records show that Holcomb provided Mars Hill all the documentation needed to properly cite the IVP commentary.) With their help, he told his congregation, "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."

So why were their names not on the final work?

and why were their roles only alluded to by MH PR for a time in the wake of Mefferd's on-air accusation that Mark Driscoll was a plagiarist before the materials got scrubbed?  Why was it that only Mark Driscoll's name was on that introduction to that study guide and then when it turned out the finished product had plagiarism why were the roles of other people even brought up?  Wasn't this the same Mark Driscoll who said headship for men across all levels entailed being responsible even if something wasn't directly your fault?  "including a research assistant" could only have plausibly referred to a single person.

Mark Driscoll wrote the following:
... 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. ...

... 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.

Of course MH scrubbed the url clean but I quoted enough of the material that it some of its substance is preserved, and mentioned that MH introduced robots.txt to prevent WayBack captures for some sites.  The point is that anyone who bothered to read the primary sources before Mars Hill scrubbed them and then threw in robots.txt to preclude WayBack Machine captures could figure out that Mark Driscoll mentioned Brad House, Crystal Griffin, and Justin Holcomb as his great team of helps for research and pastoral activity and that everything culminated in the Trial study guide.

Jared Wilson also documented Holcomb's arrival at MH and linked to Mark talking about Holcomb as a new research assistant.

Merritt didn't seem to catch that the gist of MH PR between the time Mefferd made her accusation that Mark Driscoll was a plagiarist and the December 18, 2013 Tyndale press released was to admit there were "citation errors" and explain that in spite of Mark Driscoll's name being the only one on the finished product of the introduction that there was this research team, including a research assistant.  That's a pretty passive-aggressive way for anonymous Mars Hill PR to blame the research assistance for what was pretty clearly a case of plagiarism by Driscoll.  Intervarsity Press went so far as to issue a statement that the materials were not used in a way that was congruent with Fair Use and Driscoll apparently went to an editor and smoothed things over.  In the wake of all that the passive aggressive blaming of a research assistant and the rest of Driscoll's formerly publicly credited research team has not been apologized for to this day.

How Merritt failed to connect the dots within his own research is staggering.  Merritt can choose to accept an apology on the part of Mark Driscoll for things written in character as William Wallace II.  But why should Mark Driscoll have felt any need to apologize for that when he could have, by now, issued a public apology for the way his PR crew anonymously and retroactively mentioned the "research assistant", whom anyone at Mars Hill could have swiftly discerned was Justin Holcomb, as even potentially having some role in what turned out to be plagiarism under the name of just Mark Driscoll?  IVP went so far as to say that the material appropriated could not be considered as within Fair Use guidelines.  A church as a corporation that can passively shift blame for the plagiarism of its legal president and preaching and vision pastor on a research assistant is ridiculous.

If Driscoll can bother with a public apology for anything he said under the pen name William Wallace, how about a public apology for the conduct of his PR crew when they decided that they'd mention the research team that was so easily verified as consisting of specific people Mark Driscoll named in his own online publishing activity? 

If Mark Driscoll wants to apologize that's great but it would be better if he apologized to specific people about specific things rather than generally expressing a general regret at how he tended to conduct himself using a pen name fourteen years ago.  For Merritt's part, he collected nearly all the evidence of a smoking gun in which Mars Hill PR tried to shift blame on Driscoll's plagiarized content on his research team.  If Merritt wants to accept Mark Driscoll's apology for having ever written under the pen name William Wallace II he certainly can, but as things done by Mars Hill go, Merritt had the proof that Mars Hill was trying to shift some of the blame for Mark Driscoll's plagiarism in the introduction to the Trial study guide on the research team.  Mars Hill has long since scrubbed its web pages of the public identifications Driscoll made.  If Driscoll wants to make a show of good faith apologizing to specific people in public statements for the way anonymous Mars Hill PR tried to pass the buck could be an encouraging show of good faith in the midst of all the other controversies brewing.