Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tripp's resignation in light of public statements about board roles and membership in assessing formal charges against Mark Driscoll

Something that Paul Tripp's recently announced resignation from the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability highlights is his statement that he did not believe the BoAA could do what it was designed to do. 
It's because of this love that I accepted the position on Mars Hill Church's BoAA. But it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church.

Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs. Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected.

To get some sense of what Tripp was referring to, we might have to go consult the by-laws of Mars Hill Church.  Fortunately, Warren Throckmorton has published those.

First of all, noting that as civil membership in the corporation known as Mars Hill Church is concerned, since 2012 at least (with the amended by-laws published by Throckmorton) only elders are members of Mars Hill Church.  All other members should be considered more in terms of a spiritual status that has no bearing on voting rights and the like.  It is also worth noting that eldership is established at the discretion of the executive elders.  The executive elders have absolute and sole discretion regarding the removal of any man from eldership at Mars Hill (Article 5, section 5.7). So we're looking at a Mars Hill where all the members of Mars Hill look to  be the elders and the elders remain elders at the discretion of the executive elder board.  This could be construed as the members being at will members given the decisions of the executive elders.  This alone might suggest Tripp has had some reason to believe that an external board would not be able to do the work an internal board could do ... and that would be assuming that an internal board would even be able to wield any countervailing influence on the executive elders at all if the executive elder board reserves to itself sole and absolute discretion about the removal of elders as civil members of Mars Hill Church.

Now for Article 12 of those bylaws, which outline the Board of Overseers and its role in assessing any formal charge and/or accusation made against the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church (that is, Mars Hill).
pages 18-19
Article 12
Board of Overseers

Section 12.1. Constitution. In the event that a formal charge and/or accusation is made against the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church that, if investigated and found to be true, would disqualify him from his position as an elder in the Church based on the Biblical requirements of an elder, the board of elders shall refer the charge and/or accusation to the board of overseers. The board of overseers shall have authority to investigate any such charge and/or accusation. If the board of overseers determines that the charge and/or accusation is true, the board of overseers can vote to rebuke the primary preaching and teaching pastor or, if warranted, remove the primary preaching and teaching pastor as an elder of the Church (in which case he shall automatically be removed as a member of the board of elders and his employment with the Church shall be terminated for cause under the terms and condition set forth in any employment agreement entered into between the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church and the Church)

Section 12.2. Composition. The Board of Overseers shall consist of five (5) members; one (1) non-paid elder serving on the board of elders, one (1) member of the executive elder team (who is not the primary preaching and teaching pastor) and three (3) non-Church members selected by the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church and approved by the board of elders.  Each member of the board of overseers must agree with the Church doctrinal statement and must have an impeccable reputation for honesty, character, and judgment. Except as otherwise provided in any employment agreement entered into between the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church and the Church, the board of overseers shall be responsible for establishing its procedure for conducting the investigation and rendering a decision.

Since Tripp's resignation the BoAA currently consists of Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, Sutton Turner, Michael Van Skaik, and Larry Osborne.  So there are two non-Church members on the BoAA right now.  Does there need to be a third?  MacDonald would have previously had that role, wouldn't he?  As for one member of the executive elder team who isn't the primary preaching and teaching pastor, that's covered by either Bruskas or Turner, whichever of the two is not a non-paid elder.  Which gets to a question, which non-paid elder of Mars Hill serves on the Board of Overseers?  In the past this could have been answered pretty clearly because it was shared with the world that Jamie Munson had resigned from paid eldership and was a non-paid elder.  He was formerly listed back in 2012 as one of those who would assess formal charges made against Driscoll.  Because of the significant revisions and redactions made on the Governance page by Mars Hill Wenatchee The Hatchet is in the somewhat awkward position of having to requote from Wenatchee The Hatchet's earlier research.  Then again, someone on behalf of Driscoll is recycling a bunch of his Spiritual Warfare stuff this last month while he's technically still supposed to be on that sabbatical from social media.  Wenatchee The Hatchet having no such sabbatical can proceed .... :

June 29, 2013, WtH posted the following:

Last year, before it was scrubbed away, the Mars Hill Church Governance page included the following. Keep in mind that none of this may even apply any longer.  Nevertheless, since it was available for about half of 2012, it can be considered as a hypothetical from last year.

In the event that a formal charge and/or accusation is made against Pastor Mark that, if investigated and found to be true, would disqualify him from his position as an elder in Mars Hill Church, a group of five men consisting of both elders within Mars Hill Church and Christian leaders outside of Mars Hill Church, will investigate the charge or accusation and determine if it is true. This group currently consists of Jamie Munson, Dave Bruskas, James MacDonald, Darrin Patrick, and Larry Osborne. If the charge or accusation is found to be true, this group can rebuke Pastor Mark or, if warranted, remove him as an elder at Mars Hill Church. If Pastor Mark is removed as an elder, he automatically ceases to serve on the Board of Elders, on the Executive Elder Team, and as president of Mars Hill Church.”

Clearly MacDonald just left the BoAA and Darrin Patrick seems to have gone from such a group as the Board of Advisors and Accountability or the Board of Overseers for a while.  The old line up makes sense of what the by-laws require.  The newer line-up has some open-ended questions aobut which elder on the BoAA is an non-paid elder at Mars Hill, for instance. 

At this point it remains to be seen what formal charges have ever been made against Mark Driscoll.

Did this count?

Sort of ... it seems.

To compare what was stated by Mars Hill in earlier 2012 compared to 2013 go here.

Now as reported by Warren Throckmorton on March 26, 2014 Michael Van Skaik issued a letter explaining that formal charges had been made in the past.

Dear Mars Hill Leaders,

I wanted to take the opportunity to give you, the current leaders of Mars Hill Church, an update as to the status of some of what we’ve been working on as a board over the course of the past year. Thank you for all that you do. We know it is extra difficult right now, but good fruit is coming out of these trials!

On May 10, 2013, a now former elder filed formal charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll and other leaders at Mars Hill. While stating that he had not personally been sinned against by Pastor Mark, he had at least seven unnamed witnesses who would testify to the offenses and hurts he claimed, which if found to be substantiated, could result in disqualification. We requested the names of the witnesses to exercise Matthew 5:23-25, but he refused to disclose them. While the issues cited as evidence from these charges came from anonymous sources, the issues all revolved around the theme of mistreatment of fellow leaders and staff. As the governing body responsible for the accountability of Mars Hill’s senior leaders, the Board took these charges extremely seriously.

In an effort to substantiate the validity of the anonymous charges, we immediately sent out over one hundred letters to former elders and staff at Mars Hill Church from the previous two years, inviting their feedback and perspectives regarding their time on staff at the church, particularly their interactions with Pastor Mark and the Executive Elders. We received eighteen responses. While some were very positive, every response was read and reread, looking for anything that would disqualify Pastor Mark and any other Mars Hill leaders from serving, or that would require further investigation. Additionally, the Board looked for repetitive patterns that may also lead to potential disqualification. After a thorough review, the charges were determined to be non-disqualifying. However, the Executive Elders were individually and corporately given corrective direction by the Board. Those corrective actions have been followed and have been bearing fruit over the last seven months. We have been very encouraged to see the Executive Elders learn, grow, and repent where needed. [emphasis added]

However, we are hungry for reconciliation and are continually grieved that many offenses and hurts are still unresolved. We want to seek out and hear the hurts in a biblical manner. A Board-approved reconciliation process is currently underway and is being overseen by Dr. Paul Tripp who flew to Seattle and recently spent a day with the Executive Elders. He has also been in conversation with a person who is very capable of facilitating these reconciliations. Additionally, each of the Executive Elders has taken the initiative to reach out to people with whom they may need to reconcile. Our prayer is that as a church we can learn from this experience as we continue to grow in love and grace.

You need to know that I and the other Board members have witnessed the Holy Spirit’s work in Pastors Mark, Dave and Sutton as they’ve grieved deeply over the hurts and sorrows that they’ve been the source of. Their hearts yearn for repentance and reconciliation with those that have been hurt and offended.

By God’s grace, the reconciliation process will continue to move forward one person at a time.

Michael Van Skaik
Board of Advisors and Accountability

Precisely what was in the more than 100 letters that were sent out never got an explanation.  Wenatchee The Hatchet was given a post-employment follow-up survey that invited feedback about positive and negative experiences and that got discussed in a blog post over here.  According to Van Skaik, after a thorough review the charges were found to be non-disqualifying.

Now that Kraft's formal charges have been made available it's actually not at all difficult to see why the Board of Advisors and Accountability would consider the charges to be non-disqualifying because no evidence for any of the charges, such as they were, was ever provided by Kraft.  Now if Kraft had gone so far as to say there was an ethical objection to be made about the use of Result Source that might have been something, but Kraft wasn't that specific.  It's not that the concerns were not (or are not) serious, as made by Kraft, as that the concerns were not really worded in a way that the Board of Advisors and Accountability could have found anything all that specific to assess--at the very least, had Kraft anchored the formal charges to something specific more could have been, in theory assessed.  Then again, readers may no doubt already be ready to comment that gag orders might preclude anyone from adding more details to flesh out Kraft's formal charges.  Point noted. 

Van Skaik's explanation quoted above withstanding is there any indication Driscoll has reached out to Petry or Meyer? Not on vacation, of course, but at other times?

If Mars Hill could clarify who the non-paid Mars Hill elder who is on the BoAA these days actually is that would be helpful.  Without doubt Justin Dean could clear that one up but if Tripp in his resignation has stated he does not believe that the BoAA (which appears to be called the Board of Overseers in the amended by-laws) isn't capable of doing the job it is formally supposed to do then there may be some room for debate as to whether it matters if there is currently a non-paid Mars Hill elder on the BoAA. 

Considering that of the members of the BoAA Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, Sutton Turner and the lately former BoAA member James MacDonald were crashing Strange Fire while Driscoll was sharing on social media how security confiscated his books, Tripp may have had some reason to doubt that the BoAA was capable of doing the job set out for it.

For a review of what was probably the first statement by the Board of Advisors and Accountability:

One of the things that has not yet been addressed is whether formal charges would be accepted by Mars Hill's BoAA from only inside of Mars Hill or outside.  As there are reports of formal charges being formulated by a former member (and at this point does any regular reader of this blog even need to ask who?) it remains to be seen whether the Mars Hill BoAA would take any formal charges made by former members or outsiders seriously to begin with.  It's possible, but it is a matter that could be clarified by the BoAA, if they wish, at a suitable time. Meanwhile, Tripp seems to have publicly expressed a vote of no-confidence in the BoAA and Acts 29 seems to have said they leaned on the BoAA to no avail while two of five members of the BoAA claim A29 hadn't really contacted them (the two) or Driscoll.  It remains to be seen what may happen next.

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