Monday, September 15, 2014

The BoE members part 5: Pastor AJ Hamilton

Pastor AJ Hamilton (Board of Elders)
Our contact person at MHC was Associate pastor A.J. Hamilton, actually one of the ruling elders of the church and generally considered Mark Driscoll’s right-hand man. I quickly learned that if wanted to know anything or find anything or anyone, you asked A.J.

We met A.J. at the reception area of the churches front entrance. He was a very unassuming person, humbly dressed and obviously juggling several things all at once, greeting people, answering questions, and now, greeting Susie and me as well as giving us a guided tour of the churches Ballard campus.

A.J. took us around the facility, showing us their state-of-the-art production systems, multiple studios and their live broadcast capabilities. It was quite impressive. All during our tour, we could hear and/or watch Driscoll as he preached in the church auditorium.

As our tour of the church concluded, we confirmed lunch plans with Pastor A.J. and then decided to shoot some video for drop ins for the DVD part of the project. Helping us with this was Kyle, head of security for Mars Hill. He was extremely kind and very helpful during our entire stay at Mars Hill.

Over at City of God blog Wenatchee's blogging associate Dan had an observation about how it seemed that Mars Hill Church had a Social Gospel of its own, notwithstanding the convention that "Social gospel" is usually defined in progressive/left terms.  Mars Hill does have a kind of social gospel and in some sense Hamilton's story highlights by proposition and narrative some of the concern in that social gospel.
Uploaded Oct 18, 2009
about 0:41

I'm AJ Hamilton. I've been a pastor here for about three years and whenever I'm asked what my testimony is I find I have to tell it in a context of my parents' testimony and so I'll tell you about my mom. And I didn't make it through the first one very well so I doubt I'll make it on this one, too.
My mom in her early 20s was, didn't not know the Lord, was running with a bad crowd and one day she was hanging out with a guy who had given her a joint that was laced with a date rape drug and he proceeded to rape her and she knew immediately that she had conceived. So when she went home to her family and she told that she was pregnant by rape many of them demanded that she have an abortion and this would have been her second.

But Jesus, seeing this messed up situation, reached down into my mom's life and gave her a ton of grace, saved her, showed her that this child was a blessing, and she kept the child. And that child is me. A really cool thing happened about two years later, a really godly man came into our lives and looked at a woman with a child out of wedlock by rape and married her and adopted me. I grew up in a Christian home so I knew very early that Jesus had saved me and could see a lot of grace, His grace, in my life. In `99 I was still a teenager I got married to my lovely wife and my dad was my best man and last month Crystal and I just celebrated ten years of marriage.  ...

about 3:28
The man who raped my mom, what he intended for evil God intended for good. On my way, I'm going to Albuquerque to be the executive pastor  at a campus down there, and on our way down we were driving through California and I get to visit with my folks.

Hamilton has shuffled around a bit in leadership roles in the last ten years but he's been serving at Mars Hill full-time since 2001.
AJ Hamilton is the Lead Pastor at Mars Hill Church's Downtown Seattle location. He and Crystal, his wife of over 14 years, have 5 wonderful children. He has served Mars Hill full-time since 2001.

Of note is Hamilton's description of beginning to serve as Mark Driscoll's executive assistant.

In 2005 I received the incredible offer to become Pastor Mark Driscoll’s executive assistant. I had been on staff at Mars Hill Church for four years already, serving in a variety of roles, so I had insight into nearly every aspect of church leadership up to that point. But it was nothing compared to the next season of serving Pastor Mark and seeing where God was taking this church.

Prior to becoming Pastor Mark’s assistant, my interaction with him had been limited, so I had no idea what would be most helpful to him. Instead of tossing me into the position to figure it out as I went, Pastor Mark prepared a document for me without which I would not have had a smooth transition into my new role or been helpful to him as his assistant.

What Pastor Mark handed me was a sixty-five-page document. He detailed his spiritual gifts; professional resume; priorities in his life, home, and work; his personal workflow techniques; church growth articles; homework for me in order to grow in my understanding of assisting in general; and the first iteration of a job description. In addition to explaining his ministry, he explained what would be my ministry.

Unlike some who write material published at Mars Hill websites Hamilton at least knows what an actual paragraph break is.  Informally Hamilton was known as the go-between on behalf of Driscoll and his tenants circa 2006-2008.

POSTSCRIPT 09-16-2014

It has been informally suggested among former Mars Hill members that one of the tasks given to Hamilton was to find and ensure the elimination of or non-publication of "Pussified Nation".  Whatever efforts Hamilton took were clearly not worth anything in light of something called The WayBack Machine and a few anonymous members.  It also amounted to nothing that Mars Hill Church introduced robots.txt to prevent web crawls by The WayBack Machine seeing as "Pussified Nation" and other writings of William Wallace II are available for reading here and elsewhere.  The account of Hamilton's role is available to read at The Stranger

Liam McPherson, who left Mars Hill in 2005—and, for what it’s worth, used to live in Driscoll’s basement—says he and a few others kept digital and physical copies of the comments on Midrash long after the church shut it down in an institutional attempt to scrub Driscoll’s rants off the internet. (Driscoll admitted to being “William Wallace II” in his 2006 book Confessions of a Reformission Rev.) A few years after he left, McPherson says, a Driscoll assistant named AJ Hamilton called him up and asked him to destroy the documents. “He seemed to think they’d be embarrassing to Mark,” McPherson says. (Hamilton has not responded to a request for comment sent via Facebook.)
At the time, McPherson told Hamilton that if Driscoll wanted something from him, Driscoll should be the one making the phone call. “Mark confuses being male or masculine with being macho,” McPherson says. “This ‘you’re going to submit to me or else’ attitude.”
What’s the “or else”?

“Getting kicked out of the church,” McPherson says, “and implying he could beat people up like William Wallace II” did.

McPherson says he saw plenty of heated arguments at Mars Hill but never heard of Driscoll actually fighting anyone. But Driscoll doesn’t disabuse anyone of the notion that he might. In one section of Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev, he writes about one man who was so outraged by the William Wallace II posts that “he actually showed up at my house to fight me one night around 3 am.” (What Driscoll leaves out, McPherson says, is that Driscoll wouldn’t open the door and called the police instead.)

“The Mark I knew was a pretty humble guy, one of the first guys to set up chairs at a meeting, always about giving credit to other people,” McPherson says. “At some point, Mark started believing his own press, that he was the most important part of the church. I go by what the Bible says, and he’s disqualified himself biblically.” McPherson points me toward 1 Timothy 3:7: A pastor “must have a good reputation among outsiders.” Driscoll, he says, “definitely does not.”

Another task/process Hammilton was involved in was during Scott Thomas' correspondence with Joshua Wall

Thomas was corresponding with Wall to ensure any public discussion or disclosure of concerns about the nature of the 2007 termination/trial were not made known. 

Hamilton was described by Scott Thomas in 2007 as follows:

Pastor AJ and his team may continue to address your unbiblical conduct in a formal manner. I
would have gladly spoken to you about your concerns. You assumed (according to your blog)
an elder of MH would not listen to you. Your presumption, public railings and allegations without
proper handling of this is sinful.

I am cc'ing Pastor AJ, Pastor Scott Golike and Bent Meyer as accountability for this discussion
and as your spiritual overseers.

No comments: