Posted on September 22, 2014 | By Joel Connelly
A Watergate-style question hangs over internal investigation of misconduct accusations brought by 21 former Mars Hill Church elders against Senior Pastor Mark Driscoll.
“What did Driscoll know and when did he know it?”, Warren Throckmorton, a college professor who has long probed the Seattle-based mega church, asked on Patheos.
The question revolves around hiring a marketing company called ResultsSource, using church money, to artificially boost sales of Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage” and land it a place on The New York Times bestseller list.
In their complaint, the ex-elders allege:
“May 2104 — Mark told elders that he was not aware of the ResultSource agreement but had chosen to admit knowledge of it for the sake of the team in his letter to the church, and that others had made the decision to work with ResultsSource.
“He claimed that another elder and Mark’s publishers made the decision to work with ResultSource without his knowledge. He insinuated that he had learned about the ResultSource agreement only after the story broke on World magazine.”
So we've established based on public records that Mark and Grace Driscoll set up the financial instrument Future Hope Revocable Living Trust on or by February 7 2011. This was the financial instrument that was used to buy a house for $1,055,888.00 in May 2012. Along the way Mars Hill Church, by way of a contract signed by Sutton Turner in October 2011, made arrangements to ensure that a #1 spot for the book Real Marriage was secured on the NYT best-seller list. This #1 spot that was won for Driscoll by the aforementioned arrangement may or may not have been parlayed into a shift from Thomas Nelson to Tyndale a few years on. That's a matter for some continued discussion and investigation.
By 2013 it transpired that Mark Driscoll was accused by Janet Mefferd of plagiarism on the air. Mefferd was the first to raise the question of possible (or actual) copyright infringement on the air but she noted that Wenatchee The Hatchet had already done a back-to-back comparison of Grace Driscoll's chapter 7 of Real Marriage to chapter 9 of Dan Allender's The Wounded Heart and found a striking overlap of phrases and concepts without any credit given to Allender's work in the first printing of the Driscoll book by the Driscolls, and this in spite of the ease with which it could be established that Grace mentioned Allender as a favorite author circa 2000 and that Mark Driscoll commended Allender's work circa 2006.
By now we already know that Real Marriage became controversial both for the plagiarism controversy as well as the Result Source Inc controversy.
As Warren Throckmorton would establish over the last year there were a number of "citation errors" across Real Marriage that were not restricted to just the work of Dan Allender.
For a list of direct links dealing with just Real Marriage at Throckmorton's blog:
So that's a lot of stuff that could have been cited adequately the first time around. When Driscoll was confronted by Mefferd on the air one of his responses with respect to A Call to Resurgence was "Maybe I made a mistake." Yet perusing Throckmorton's research the citation problems or factual errors in the 2013 pale in comparison to things from the 2012 book. Even if we grant for sake of discussion that maybe Mark Driscoll made a mistake in every single citation problem documented by Throckmorton and others (to say nothing of the fact that chapter 7 is credited to Grace Driscoll, which might necessitate asking whether she wrote what was credited to her or whether the recycling of Allender's concepts may have been imported by way of a recycling of material from Death By Love)--for that matter the fact that by Mark Driscoll's account Death By Love was pretty much done as far back as 2006 hasn't really been a big part of the public discourse about his books, has it?
But having noted all that, if the mistakes and oversights in citation and factual accuracy weren't those of Mark and Grace Driscoll then the editors at Thomas Nelson would bear responsibility and to date very few people are discussing what the plagiarism controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll should have told us about its potential message about the Christian publishing industry at large, that rampant plagiarism that would kill the writing careers of secular writers seems to be okay in Christian publishing, and that sales rigging of the sort that can be tolerated (if barely) for celebrities outside Christian culture seem to also be popular within Christian publishing. If anything we're looking at a bigger question, whether or not (if we assume Mark Driscoll didn't intentionally plagiarize across half a dozen books) the Christian publishing industry has reached a state of corruption and laziness that raises a question about why anyone should buy mainstream Christian published material if this is the stuff that has erupted around Mark Driscoll's books?
And there's still that question, how much did Mark Driscoll know and when did he know it? Does a person set up a financial instrument that will be used to buy a roughly one-million dollar house more than a year later if there's no optimism about the prospects of having a book "pop"? What would that optimism be based on?
And even if we set aside the questions about Result Source Inc and the plagiarism controversy the startling thing is that the narrative within Real Marriage raises at least one question about a nightmare incident that may or may not have been chronologically shifted between a Driscoll book from 2006 and a Driscoll book from 2012.