Thursday, November 06, 2014

some implications the recent letter of the 18 may have about the leadership legacy of Jamie Munson now that Mars Hill is dying

Dear Paul and Bent, we want to publicly confess our sin against you regarding events that took place at Mars Hill Church back in 2007. We were wrong. We harmed you. You have lived with the pain of that for many years. As some of us have come to each of you privately, you have extended grace and forgiveness, and for that we thank you. Because our sin against you happened in a public way and with public consequences, we want to make our confession public as well with this letter.
On September 30th 2007, you were both terminated from your employment as pastors at Mars Hill Church. Your status as elders of the church was suspended, according to the church’s bylaws at the time, pending an investigation of your qualification for eldership. It’s hard to imagine just how disorienting and painful this experience must have been for you. That night, Bent, you called Mike Wilkerson, your direct supervisor, to let him know that you’d been terminated. Within hours, Paul, you emailed all of the elders to notify us of what had happened to you that night. We had the opportunity and the responsibility to intervene, to care, to listen to you, and to make sure that any harmful treatment against you was corrected. Instead, we allowed the process of your investigation and trial to continue unimpeded and we participated in it. By failing to intervene and by participating in that process without protest, we implied to the members of Mars Hill Church, to each other, and to you and your families that your termination was above reproach. We stood by as it happened, and that was wrong.

There's something interesting about this letter of public apology, that at no point does the letter make mention of the bylaws over which Meyer and Petry got fired.  Sure, various stories were given as to why the firings took place and Munson might even still believe to this day that they weren't politically motivated and were still "necessary and inevitable" but at this point with the entire EIT of 2007 and a dozen-ish former elders publicly declaring that what was done to Meyer and Petry was wrong and that it was done in a wrong way, it matters quite a bit that Munson formulated the grounds for dismissal around a general theme, that Petry and Meyer distrusted spiritual authority.  That's rather abstract though, isn't it?  It might be accurate to say Munson believed Petry and Meyer distrusted the judgment and character of the executive elders. 

Well, let's see what Munson's legacy was.  By later 2011 Sutton Turner seemed to consider Jamie Munson to be mainly "checked out" and was so alarmed about the financial cliff Mars Hill was about to topple over under Munson's leadership he apparently issued a memo mentioning it. Munson's resignation was presented in later 2011 as a time where Driscoll mentioned that Munson was above reproach yet Turner's memo seemed to consider Munson's engagement and the competence of Mars Hill financial staff all around to be null. 

And now that Mars Hill Church is a dying corporation who, exactly, has any reason to be sure that the corporations Munson works with are going to go anywhere?  He's never started any companies of note, has he?  Storyville was a project that seems more the work of Jon Phelps and Munson only had a five percent ownership in that.  In practical terms he may have had an actual managerial role or he may have been window-dressing.  We can't know for sure.

What we can know for sure was that under Munson's tenure as legal president of Mars Hill the church was running systemic deficits at every single campus.

Driscoll said that Mars Hill had a financial model that wasn't good for its long term future before 2012 but this had changed.

Evidently not, seeing as the church has been dissolved.  If Munson's no longer at Storyville and the only other corporation of any note that he had a leadership role in (Mars Hill) is now dead in the water what future does Munson think he'll have as a leadership consultant?  Might he start some companies?  When have any companies he's started gotten off the ground?  A side company to manage royalties from books he wrote?  Well ... in light of the controversies surrounding the authorship and content of Driscoll's books we don't even know if Jamie Munson wrote any of the books with his name attached to them.  How do we know those weren't ghostwritten for him by staff at Mars Hill over the years?  Did Munson write his books himself or were they ghostwritten?  That's something Mars Hill is unlikely to open the books on at this point. 

But as Mars Hill dies and as Munson's role within the corporation has been scrubbed it will matter that Mars Hill died precisely because Munson was its legal president from later 2007 to later 2011.  Four years is not really all that long a time to bring a corporation the size of Mars Hill to the brink of financial ruin in its 18 year history, is it?  If we're to believe Sutton Turner's memo as a type of evidence it was Turner and not Munson whose efforts saved Mars Hill from the brink of fiscal collapse.

Actually ... Mars Hill opting to sell The City around 2008 to save itself from a fiscal cliff was another potential incident, which raises the specter of whether Zack Hubert was ever compensated for developing The City or whether under Munson's rule Hubert's work was treated as some kind of work-for-hire.  There's no evidence amidst the Generous Campaign preaching and speaking that Hubert ever saw a penny from the sale of The City. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet can't remember any Munson sermons.  Munson never seemed to preach and one of the only things Munson said that lodged in the memory was something from about the Dead Men sessions.  Munson once said something like, "There aren't any righteous poor in America."  About a week later Munson modified the statement to something more like, "There are righteous poor in America, I just don't think there are very many of them."  Attenders of Dead Men might be able to establish whether Munson said such a thing. Wenatchee the Hatchet may have misremembered.

And to date, while all four members of the EIT have repudiated the nature and substance of the process they were involved in, Munson hasn't said a word.  Munson can blog things like "Own it and Move On" as much as he likes, he hasn't seemed to own anything of 2007 and if he has, he now has to testify against the public witness and retraction of the EIT and a majority of the elders who voted in 2007.

If Munson plans to be a consultant on leadership then he might need to consider the reality that at this stage the most publicly accessible example of his leadership legacy is over at Joyful Exiles. Mars Hill is dead due to fiscal implosion and the EIT that Munson put in place to oversee the trials of Petry and Meyer have this week publicly repudiated the process and its results.  Munson, meanwhile, seems to have said nothing and may well believe to this day that what he did was the right thing.  If a tree is known by its fruit, though, what are we to make of the death of the corporation of Mars Hill and the public recanting of 2007 elders as indicators of the health of Munson's leadership style for corporations?  Did Munson oversea a few site launches at Storyville?  Well, great, it's easy to launch a few new sites in an already established franchise.  Has Munson started a company from scratch that has done something productive?  Not yet and it remains to be seen if he can do that. 

We've never been told why Munson resigned in 2011 but if Munson resigned because managing Mars Hill was stressful and if it was tough for a small executive team to handle everything whose fault was that?  Well, who drafted by-laws in 2007 that consolidated leadership even more into a small coterie of executive elders?  Depending on who you ask and when, it was Mark (by Driscoll's 2013 account in "Stepping Up") or, during the 2007 period, Jamie Munson.  It may be that if Jamie Munson found the stress of managing Mars Hill too much to handle (if that was even the case) then Munson only had himself to blame, since it was his brilliance and competence that got him and Mars Hill Church to that point, after all.

In the face of Mars Hill dying and a majority of 2007 elders publicly apologizing for their votes against Petry and Meyer it can look as though Munson's 2007 claim that Meyer and Petry had a sinful distrust of spiritual authority (i.e. Munson's leadership) may be true if we include a caveat that the death of Mars Hill suggests that Munson's basic competence for leading Mars Hill is now retroactively in question.  After all, if Munson was above reproach and set Mars Hill on a good path from 2007 on why is the corporation dying again?  Why was Turner in some kind of panic mode in March 2012 over the financial health of Mars Hill again?  Didn't Driscoll credit Munson with finding the building that became the corporate HQ that is on sale now?  $1.5 million.  If anything it can seem as though Meyer and Petry were wise to question Munson's competence and financial acumen and the consolidation of power into a shrunken executive branch.  That's the executive branch whose leadership helped steer the corporation to its miserable death.

For those who might consider Munson as a leadership consultant, take heed of an old Latin phrase ... caveat emptor.

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