Tuesday, September 09, 2014

MH Pastor Alex Ghioni on "Going Forward"--"all structure, bylaws and other systems in place at Mars Hill are being considered, but before major changes are addressed the accusations against Pastor Mark Driscoll must be resolved"


By: Pastor Alex Ghioni
Posted: Sep 09, 2014

Dear Church Family,

These are difficult days for our church, and I know many of you are frustrated and hurting. I love you very much and am grateful for the privilege to be one of the many men leading you through these times. I want to share with you some more of what is going on at our church, so that you are not in the dark.
We all know there are problems at Mars Hill. Our church is broken and needs healing and change. Behind the scenes, there is progress being made to help our church become godly and healthy. Let me share with you a few of the initiatives that are now in place.
The Board of Advisors and Accountability has established a Board of Elders (BoE) increasing involvement from the eldership in major decisions impacting Mars Hill Church.
This Board of Elders is comprised of seven Mars Hill Lead Pastors and one volunteer Pastor who serves as its chairman. The chairman is also one of the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability which provides a direct link between the two boards.
The charter organizes our work into three areas:
  1. Financial - Our church is in a financial crisis right now. Very difficult decisions are being made regarding the stewardship and allocation of our resources. The BoE will speak into these decisions from the perspective of front line pastors who are working to lead the ministry of a Mars Hill Church on the local level. Longer term, the BoE will meet with our auditors, review and vote on budgets and key financial policies. A final approval of budgets remains with the BoAA as is required to be in compliance with ECFA standards
Jon Phelps being on the BoAA "might" make a difference but at this point it's been clear that most of the scandals of the last year have been directly caused by the words and actions of members of the BoAA.  If the final approval still rests with the BoAA then gutting campus staff in financial hard times when a campus may want to keep staff around will keep happening like it probably happened this week.

  1. Elder Transitions - The BoE will receive, investigate, report and make recommendations to the BoAA on any charges brought against an elder in the church. They will also arbitrate in situations where the charges brought against an elder are contested. Very importantly, you should know the BoAA has approved a significant change where charges against an Executive Elder will be first investigated by the Board of Elders, followed by a decision from the independent members of the BoAA. This affords increased accountability of the Executive Elders with the rest of the eldership. I believe it is important for you to know this was a change that Pastor Mark, Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton initiated themselves as a sign of mutual submission and accountability. 
This could be interpreted as a concession that most of the scandals associated with Mars Hill in the last year have come about directly because of actions and words by members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability, specifically the executive elders of Mars Hill. 

There's the plagiarism scandal and at least half a dozen Driscoll books with citation issues that publishers have quietly either solved or considered grounds for removal of publications.  Even if it were a series of "maybe I made a mistake" that many mistakes in a row should cast doubt on Driscoll's writing career on the one hand and on the scrupulousness of all his editors on the other.

Then there's Result Source Inc, the company that secured a #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list.  The contract signed with Mars Hill has Sutton Turner's name on it.  And the invoices went to Mark Driscoll.

It's come to light that it seems the BoAA has not taken formal charges seriously enough to open up investigations when charges were made against Driscoll and when some kind of survey was done what was sent out by Michael Van Skaik may have come across more as a human resources policy change rather than an open attempt to verify the legitimacy of formal charges made against Mark Driscoll.   So that's a question regarding Van Skaik that has not exactly gotten a clear answer, while the controversies that have swirled around Driscoll and Turner have been relatively clear. 

If it would seem there's not much to be said about Dave Bruskas in all this, there's still the delicate problem of his having been with Mark Driscoll when Driscoll crashed The Strange Fire conference and Driscoll conveyed the general idea that his books were confiscated.

So that there needs to be some other board within Mars Hill governance that can act with theoretical independence from the Executive Elders and the Board of Advisors and Accountability (which still includes the EEs) is not too hard to spot.  But the tricky parts are that the elders that aren't executive elders look like they're still ultimately at-will employees of the executive elders.  And if you look at the roster of the Board of Elders some of them, particularly guys like A. J. Hamilton and Tim Smith, basically have nothing to show for their professional careers of much note that isn't a result of being in the Mars Hill Church cultural scene for fifteen years or so. 

And even if the BoE made a decision that an executive elder was no longer qualified the independent members of the BoAA could still potentially reject that decision and the buck stops there.  What is also possible is that if the BoE rejects the legitimacy of allegations the independent members of the BoAA never even have to consider taking charges seriously.  Let's keep in mind that Mark Driscoll told Tim Smith God gave him a dream about the two of them working together and Mark Driscoll paid for the music lessons that imbued Tim Smith was some musical competence.  Hamilton was Driscoll's intermediary on landlord-tenant issues for years. 

The accountability the BoE may provide will only be as good as the people on the board but also only as relevant as the formal power given to the board and if the BoAA independent members can trump the BoE then the BoE might as well be for show. 

  1. Culture at Mars Hill Church - Throughout this difficult season, much is coming to light about our church that we believe Jesus wants to change. The BoE has requested input from the entire eldership through their local church elder teams for recommendations of change. Nothing is “off the table” from bylaws to structure. Godliness and health from the ground-up is our aim. Given some time, and with much prayer and a commitment to put these goals into practice, we will see our church transform from what it has been, into a culture of love and grace. The BoE will monitor and compile an assessment of our church’s values and culture as a point of accountability that we are moving in a godly direction as a church. (Romans 15:5-6)
All structure, bylaws and other systems in place at Mars Hill are being considered, but before major changes are addressed the accusations against Pastor Mark Driscoll must be resolved.
  • There is a process – Each member of the BoE has been tasked with interviewing those who have made allegations, as well as Pastor Mark himself. We are committed to doing a conscientious and thorough examination of the issues, and then will present our findings to the independent members of the BoAA to act upon. Pastors Mark, Dave and Sutton are not involved in this process other than being interviewed. We are moving quickly, because we realize the serious nature of these allegations. We are also proceeding with caution, so that we carefully come to a just conclusion and godly course of action. We will follow the very clear standard given to us from 1 Timothy 5 in how we address charges against an elder. Some have questioned my, and other BoE members, impartiality in conducting this investigation. I want you to know that I and the other board members know that we will stand before the Lord and give an account for our service to His church. Ultimately His opinion of how we conducted ourselves in faithfulness to his word will be are our guide (1 Timothy 5:19-20, Matthew 18:15-17, Proverbs 18:17, Deuteronomy 17:8-9).
  • The process has begun - The members of the BoE have been assigned their interviews and have already begun having these conversations. We have had many hours of meetings together and interviews with the people involved.
  • The process will take time - We believe that these interviews will take several more weeks to complete after which a report and final conclusion will be provided by the independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability. Those members will be meeting with us during the process.
  • This process will be difficult - There are many emotions surrounding these interviews and we pray for peace for those interviewed, as well as wisdom and discernment for all those involved. The BoE is committed to conducting a thorough investigation. We will not shortcut this process to ensure we are able to come to a truthful and just conclusion
First of all, why would it be necessary to first address accusations against Mark Driscoll?  Which ones?  Which ones have the BoAA not recently addressed? 

Second of all, given how much the BoAA itself has been a generator of controversy and a public justifier of its existence and the actions and character of its membership the first priority would seem to be not Mark Driscoll as one atomized individual on the EE and the BoAA but both entities together and altogether.

Given that some of the concerns brought to light about the governance of Mars Hill involve doubts about the effectiveness of the BoAA itself through words that have come from Paul Tripp

The quote, "This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” would be hard to just skim over.  While Mars Hill leadership seems to make a few overtures toward recognizing that the sins of leaders have led Mars Hill down the path it currently faces what sins it's confessing to could be fleshed out at some point. 

When Tripp's statements about the problematic nature of the BoAA are considered it gives at least some reason to doubt that the first concern to get out of the way would be accusations that specifically address Mark Driscoll.  The crisis of trust and of governance implied within Tripp's statements about the Board of Advisors and Accountability, which includes the executive elders of Mars Hill, invite a reader to suggest that the crisis has to do with the very nature of the corporation that is known as Mars Hill Church.  Unless Driscoll as legal president and an executive elder didn't have a massive amount of administrative and organizational power (and possible ownership) of the corporation then it would not be necessary to treat accusations against Driscoll as of first importance. 

If the first concern in present set of crises is Mark Driscoll then that makes it all about Mark Driscoll.  After all, if the by-laws state that Jesus Christ is the Senior Pastor does Jesus have any comments recorded in the minutes ... or have the minutes been reduced to bullet points of basic ideas since 2007 in a way that would not leave room for Jesus (assuming Jesus showed up to the meetings) to say anything?  It is at this point the burden of proof is on the executive elders to explain why they keep referring to things they want to do as what Jesus wants for Mars Hill.

If nothing is off the table then the salaries, compensation and benefits of the executive elders should be on the table.  In a time when the executive leadership of Mars Hill is willing to gut 30 to 40 staff while avoiding any public discussion of executive elder salary that's not a small deal. 
How you can you help in this season?
  1. Pray for the BoE. I have accepted a position to serve on the Board of Elders with the blessing and cooperation of the elders here at Mars Hill Sammamish, as have my brothers serving with me from other Mars Hill churches. Pray that God would grant us wisdom and courage to follow wherever Jesus leads in this process. (James 1:5, 3:17)
  2. Please be patient and give this process a chance to work. We are already hard at work and believe that this is a sound biblical process that urges all of us to patiently and prayerfully wait for the committee’s recommendations. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
  3. Continue to serve, give, and love one another in Jesus' name and for his sake. Every person, every effort, every dollar invested now could be what helps us become a more godly and loving church in the future. Don’t faint. Don’t lose heart. Don’t become weary in doing good. Jesus will prevail. (Galatians 6:9, Romans 12:9-13)
  4. Please do not hash out disagreements on these matters in social media. My heart in making this request has nothing to do with how it makes Mars Hill look, it has everything to do with how it makes the gospel look to non-believers. When non-believers see us fighting amongst each other in such a public way it does not commend Christ to our cities. Please remember that your pastors want to talk to you and walk with you in this time and any disagreements you may have with other brothers and sisters are best when discussed in person.
I know there are examples like this from all over Mars Hill but I wanted to share a story from Sammamish: Last week in the foyer after one of our morning services a gentleman who serves faithfully at our church came up to speak with me. He me told me how sorry he was that our church is experiencing such pain right now. He went on to let me know that he and his family are planting their flag and intend to stay. He said that what he was most afraid of was leaving too soon and missing out on the great things God would do in and through Mars Hill Church. That conversation made me think about the day when Pastor Thomas asked me to consider becoming the lead pastor at the new Mars Hill Church in Sammamish. I felt inadequate and anxious. Almost everything inside me said there are easier directions to go, and safer places to land. After a while I realized that I was more afraid to miss what God might do in me and through me on that journey than I wanted to feel safe and adequate. I planted my flag and said yes to God. Thanks for letting me pastor you through this season (James 1:2-4, 2 Corinthians 12:10, Philippians 1:6).
Pastor Alex Ghioni, on behalf of the Board of Elders

Campus pastors have reasons to be concerned how things will go for them. After all, compensation at the campus level is contingent on the level of authority a staff person has (how many people do they command?) and the average weekly attendance per campus (how many bodies come in to hear Mark preach there?)  There is no indication that any comparable compensation schematic exists for the executive elders.

If you attend one of the Mars Hill campuses ask your lead and executive pastors how much they make.  they should be willing to tell you.  For the time being forget about Driscoll, focus on the corporation.  Focus on the activity of the church as a non-profit corporation with a corporate culture.  Who owns that corporation?  Who owns the real estate? 

Don't feel in a rush to give just because the leadership of Mars Hill is in a panic mode.  Depending on what money they get for selling the U-District real estate and the Mars Hill corporate HQ (the asking price is currently seven million or so) all the monies you might give now could go to ... well ... do you know where?  If you don't don't be in a rush to give.  After all, as Driscoll himself said for so many years the church isn't a place but a people.  And if you don't even know where your pastor lives or he lives behind gates and walls and won't even acknowledge that KOMO has found his house ... well ... it will make it tougher for him to come back and recycle something like "we even lie about our lying".


If it's all about Jesus then Driscoll could resign forever from Mars Hill and the church will go on because it has its real foundation ... unless it's real foundation is the personality and intellectual property of Mark Driscoll ... .

1 comment:

benden said...

Did you see this, posted to reddit before "Going Forward" was posted to the MH site?


Comparing the text of the reddit vs MH versions is very interesting. In particular note what's said about things being "on the table" in each version… frankly I suspect that no matter what they say, governance/bylaws are not on the table.

I speculate that the reddit version was sent from Ghioni to his local congregation, and then the EE team (possibly with PR help) edited/massaged it for the wider congregation.