Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Matt B Redmond: Some Thoughts at the Dissolution of Mars Hill


There are good reasons to rejoice and celebrate. Driscoll had no business being a pastor. Mars Hill was an abusive ministry (Paul Tripp’s words) bordering on a cult. I can only assume the fear and oppression that once prevailed no longer does. There is a lot to rejoice about.

As Wenatchee The Hatchet has documented and discussed in the last week, back in early 2008 Mark Driscoll declared that it was "a demonic lie" to suggest the executive elders didn't love people in the period when the 2007 firings happened.  But why would anyone get the impression that the executive elders at Mars Hill Church might not love people?  Oh, right, because the executive elders did this thing where Meyer and Petry fired, run through kangaroo courts, and then Petry was shunned, which the vast majority of elders presiding over said kangaroo court process have lately publicly admitted was wrong a mere two days ago.


Yes, it was overdue.  Yes, seven years ago they should have conducted themselves differently.  Then again, in Ps 51 we see "against you alone I have sinned" even though David sinned against many, many people.  Spurgeon said this was the toughest part of the psalm and it's tough because David seems to write as though he sinned ONLY against the Lord in spite of having taken a man's wife, had the man killed, and used and abused royal power and privilege to get all these things done.  But perhaps it could be said that even in the midst of contrition and repentance David still showed that sin is deep in the heart before it erupts into action and that repenting from sin is messy.  IF that was so with David it may be so with the men who signed their names on the recent letter.

We'll just have to see.

Redmond also writes:

Here’s the thing, I’ve known about these charges for years. And I believed the stories. I believed the stories because I had pastored at an Acts 29 church and so much rang true from what I saw in my experience there.

Am I supposed to believe the leadership board of Acts 29 didn’t know these things? How is that even possible? The consolidation of power and “the bodies under the bus” comments were not exactly secrets.

They either knew and didn’t care or just couldn’t believe the stories were true.

Considering that Scott Thomas was an executive elder and part of the leadership culture of Acts 29 in 2007 it seems virtually impossible Acts 29 leadership didn't know something was up.  Unless Thomas withheld information ... but Scott Thomas and Acts 29 would have to clear that up.  Considering that Scott Thomas headed the EIT he may have a LOT to answer for both for his time at Mars Hill and in leadership of Acts 29.  After all, with Acts 29 history Ron Wheeler has mentioned:


That wasn’t the only grievance letter that the Board of Acts29 received regarding you either.  Co-founder and Acts29 President David Nicholas sent one as well.  David was a mentor to you… he was your pastor I remember you saying.  Yet over time, Pastor Nicholas came to have grave misgivings about your character and conduct, personally brought it to you on multiple occasions, and finally wrote about them to the Board.  Yes, David was an imperfect, strong-willed, stubborn man sometimes, but he loved you.

David Nicholas is Not Anonymous.

David wanted the Board to come help our church work through this situation, but you wanted to do it your way. That added to the growing conflict between the two of you.  He had said that the Board would be coming to meet with our Elders during the Reformission conference, and then suddenly, somehow, you took over as President of Acts29.  I remember talking to David on the phone afterwards and him being stunned at what just happened.  You somehow had enough support to vote him off of the board.  Rick McKinley (a very good man) wanted nothing to do with any of this, and pulled out of the board and Acts29 altogether.  How you got the other guys to go along with that move, I’ll never know, but it foreshadowed a similar move that would happen with your own Eldership in 2007.

Who was in Acts 29 leadership circa 2004-2006 that could illuminate what happened?  Who might have the David Nicholas letter Ron Wheeler alludes to?  Part of setting things right with respect to what happened in 2007 may not just involve what happened in Mars Hill Church but how things may have played out in Acts 29 even before 2007 happened.  If someone actually has the letter from David Nicholas that Ron Wheeler references, please (if you would) make it available. 

Meanwhile, for some reason the Christian Post ran a piece with prominent quotations from Tim Smith and Justin Dean.  Justin Dean's track record handling PR for Mars Hill has been a trainwreck from start to finish.  Whether it was telling Slate that Andrew's disciplinary situation went on The City due to unclear communication; telling the public Mars Hill was partnering with Lifelong AIDs Alliance when forms hadn't been filled out; or explaining that Mars Hill was going to outbid whatever Sound Transit paid to get the International Paper Building, Justin Dean's general career handling PR at Mars Hill was highlighted by examples of or defenses that hinged upon incompetence.  As for Tim Smith, well, he wouldn't be where he is today without the active investment (financial and relational) of Mark Driscoll so it's not a big surprise Tim Smith feels reluctant to address anything about the investigation the report for which should still be made available to members of Mars Hill.  After all, if the investigation actually prompted Driscoll to resign it seems all the more important that members, who are seeing the corporation dissolved and dismantled before their eyes, have some idea what on earth transpired.

And since the "DNA" spreads out to Acts 29 and its history there's far more unanswered questions left in the ether here.  Smith and Dean sound excited and hopeful but there's as yet no reason to be hopeful.  The corporation is dissolving and there's no indication as yet Tim Smith or the other campus pastors have the ability to keep the spin-offs going.  Given how many problems have been brought to light in the leadership culture of Mars Hill in the last few years it's not entirely clear yet that any of these campuses will or should survive unless a massive transparency project is undertaken.

Redmond's right, the impact of Mars Hill and its rise and fall are far-reaching.  The thing we should be least in a rush to do (which plenty have already done) is use this situation as an occasion to talk about lessons learned.  If we'd ever learned those lessons to begin with this whole morass wouldn't have happened, would it?  Talking about lessons learned tends to be nothing more than code for the soap boxes we were just going to jump on to anyway if the church that was dying was some other church.

No comments: