Apparently few if any Mars Hill staff or volunteers take it upon themselves to date letters, which means it would be difficult to know for certain what date this letter made available via Dropbox was written. On the other hand, the vintage of this letter is clearly recent.
Given the statements in the letter by Mark and Melissa Dunford it becomes impossible to not discuss Tim Smith's role in the dismissal.
from page 5 of
So, where do the concerns about my marriage come out of all of this? On Thursday, September 4th, I received phone calls from elders associated to three different churches asking about the condition of my marriage. Those churches are Phoenix (Tim Birdwell), Ballard (Scott Harris) and Tacoma (Bubba Jennings). Each of the pastors in parentheses had direct conversations with Tim Smith about the apparent condition of my marriage and subsequently communicated that to several members and leaders of their respective churches. Tim Birdwell, in a phone conversation that I had with him thought it might have simply been his misinterpretation. While that is possible, I am concerned that three different churches had leaders contact me with the exact same concern. I directly confronted Tim Smith about this and he denied having led anyone to believe this, though he admitted that he had said that my wife and I were “going through some things in our marriage.” I had previously been told by someone at Mars Hill Portland that Tim had told him that my wife “hated Mars Hill and was a mess.” Both statements were reckless, characteristically unclear, unrelated to any decision to dismiss me, and slanderous.
While at the retreat, during our meeting with the Portland elders and Tim Birdwell, my wife and I had discussed concerns about margin in my schedule. I had recently completed a seminary paper on the subject and my wife and I were discussing the content of that paper. As a result, we proposed to the Portland elders that we now take the break that was initially promised us. We still didn’t feel rooted in Portland and wanted to take the time to do that going into the fall. That, and our clearly laid out concerns with the state of Mars Hill were the extent of any issues in our marriage. My wife and I have been married now for five years and we are in the healthiest, closest season of our marriage. That is what enables us to have such conversations. I am disgusted that after having been told that those conversations were “safe and private” that anything of that conversation left the confines of a discussion between elders. That it was used as a justification after the fact to help explain my dismissal is equally gross.
Actions such as this are nothing new to Mars Hill Church. When leaders have previously resigned, similar comments have been made. In fact, while at the Full Council meeting, an elder who left early having submitted his resignation Tuesday evening was presented in the same light. Those who were present for that meeting are aware that those statements were not an accurate reflection of his issues. That elder has since rescinded his resignation and will remain nameless here as a result. Still, the pattern is important. If I was to have been removed as a result of the condition of my marriage, Tim would have had biblical grounds to file formal charges. Given that it was made abundantly clear then, and today that I have not in any way disqualified myself, I am further frustrated by the insinuation.
Whether or not Tim Smith will opt to make any public statements or response is not yet known. Given that Wenatchee The Hatchet has already done some blogging on the history of Smith's role within Mars Hill, now seems as good a time as any to re-present those materials for public consideration.