Monday, November 16, 2015

reviewing the recommendations of Mars Hill staff past for Sutton Turner in the present reinforces a narrative in which Munson's presidency seems to have played a role in bringing Mars Hill to the brink of financial ruin, surveying the statements

I reported directly to Sutton for about three years. During this time, Sutton lead us through the most difficult situations I have encountered in my professional career. [emphasis added] Sutton was a consummate professional through thick and thin and maintained an unwavering ability to make decisions in the heat of the battle. To me, Sutton was more than a dependable boss, he became a business mentor to me and a dear friend to my family. He will be a pivotal asset to any organization, and a blessing to their staff.

Caleb Walters, Chief Operating Officier, Mars Hill Church

paragraphing is supplied for the following:
I wholeheartedly give Sutton Turner the highest recommendation possible. Sutton and I worked together in the non-profit world where his business expertise truly turned that organization around. When Sutton came in April 2011, the organization was in severe financial crisis—at risk of shutting its doors within a matter of months. The financial habit for years was spending on credit throughout the entire year and depending on the huge financial EOY gifts by supporters and donors. Sutton was brought in and made several immediate and difficult changes that needed to be made, at the expense of his popularity rating. This is one of the most valuable of Sutton’s qualities: his ability to do the best (and right) thing for the good of the whole regardless of public opinion. He’s sees the forest through the trees, unlike most others. In less than three years at the helm (April 2011–Jan. 2014), Sutton led the organization from a place of financial desperation to the healthiest place in its almost two decades of existence. [emphasis added]  

Another one of Sutton’s fiscal successes was within one year he doubled the FYE gifts/funds from the donor base (June 2013 vs. June 2014). This is just one example of his acute business sense: seeing the possibility for growth, putting the right team together, and pursuing the end goal. Sutton is one of the most skilled leaders I have ever had the privilege of working with. He is a humble, but driven man who knows his strengths and his weaknesses. This is so important because he is very good at surrounding himself with people who support him well. He never allows ego to get in the way of his or the organization’s success. I was Sutton’s Account Manager, thus making him my “client” because he would funnel requests through me which I would then see through to completion amidst the other teams (i.e. video, design, finance, etc.).

Sutton always had a clear idea of what he wanted but he also knew that others had valuable input and subject matter expert suggestions. I will always appreciate how empowering Sutton was to everyone around him, especially as the CEO. Sutton has a unique way of connecting with his staff. His communication style is motivating, clear, strong, and sincere. He has a desire to make sure that his team is solid, informed, and unified. Again, I could not more highly recommend Sutton Turner. His last day was a sad one for me—I know his first day at your company would be one of the best decisions you could make.

Courtney Cherest, Executive Content Editor, Mars Hill Church

John Sutton Turner is a focused and determined executive that has served our organization well for the last three years. He is a strategic thinker who understands the big picture, and has proven himself to be firm in making difficult decisions for the benefit of the organization. He turned our organization around from a place of financial duress when he first joined, to bring it to a place of financial robustness [emphasis added] and expansion to 15 different locations in multiple states in three years' time. He is an expert financial and operational executive, adept at providing projections and analysis necessary for rapid growth. John is also skilled in building a team and infrastructure necessary to support a growing organization, and in finding the right people for the right roles and overseeing their work. He built strong teams in human resources, IT, media and communications, and creative departments, all the while overseeing property development in multiple locations as our organization expanded to15 locations. John's capacity to effectively lead an organization through challenges to strengthen it and chart a clear course for success, would be an asset to any organization that desires growth and expansion under strong direction. I recommend John for your consideration without any reservation. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.

paragraphing supplied:

John Sutton Turner is an exceptionally gifted leader. I had the pleasure of working downstream from Sutton at a non-profit. When he arrived the organization was in the midst of crippling financial crisis that threatened the existence of the institution. Immediately, Sutton began making the difficult moves needed to ensure long term financial viability. Within a short period of time not only had the crisis been avoided but the organization received the highest financial accreditation in the industry. [emphasis added] Additionally, under his leadership assets and total revenue grew year over year while liabilities and expenses decreased even as other similar organizations continued to suffer the effects of the economic downturn.

Another of Sutton’s skills is defining systems, measuring processes, analyzing available data and using that to improve processes and control the future of the system providing for long term success. It was the implementation of these principles that saved our organization and brought us back from the brink of disaster. Sutton possesses exemplary managerial and delegation practices that people at all levels of the organization can benefit from. Though my role was downstream from him, he was always approachable, willing to help and took seriously his mentor role that the position automatically bestowed on him. I do not know that there is a man in the business world that I have learned more from than John Sutton Turner. I am still heavily involved in the organization he led and it was a very sad day when he resigned from the board of directors. His presence, leadership and inspiration to all will be greatly missed. It is with full confidence that I recommend him for any senior level executive position. I would be honored to work in any company that he was the CEO of.

Jim Tinsley, Deacon and Volunteer Leader

Sutton is a natural leader with a wealth of experience and expertise. He has exceptional strengths in business development, real estate negotiations, and business planning. I had the privilege to serve directly under his leadership for nearly three years and am thankful for the personal and professional development he invested in me, and the knowledge and wisdom I picked up by observing him. He is a gifted business leader, and a trustworthy, respectable man. Within a short period of time he transformed the operations of our organization, rescuing us from imminent financial turmoil.  [emphasis added] He provided high impact organizational leadership that we had been lacking for years. Sutton was instrumental in helping us engage in fruitful and impactful relationships and partnerships that have reshaped our priorities and values. I would welcome any opportunity to work with Sutton again, and hope our paths cross again in the future.

Sutton is one of the most gifted and talented leaders I have ever worked with. I reported directly to him as an Executive Director and then worked closely with him as the Senior Leader at one of our largest sites. Sutton was instrumental in turning our organization around from both a leadership and financial standpoint. [emphasis added] His business acumen raised the bar for everyone associated with him. He has the ability to recruit and develop key leaders while holding a clear vision for the future. He will make the difficult decision with the utmost care and consideration for all stakeholders. It has been a great joy and pleasure to know and work with Sutton. He will be a positive and influential addition to any team he leads. He has my highest recommendation.

That is, to be sure, a whole lot of quotations.
Executive Elders
Current Financial Situation
Saturday, March 17, 2012
After being at Mars Hill for 10 months and in my current role for 3 months, I now have a picture of a very broken and fundamentally financially unsustainable organization. I am sorry that I have not been able to really see the financial picture of the organization until just this week. So many distractions with A29, Real Marriage, GWOW, distractions with Churches, my Eldership, and a very incompetent staff when I arrived has kept me from not seeing the picture. But now I see the organization very clearly and we have some difficult decisions to make.

One of the greatest and most harmful events was Pastor Jamie resigning and leaving me in this job as General Manager/Executive Elder. From early June until he resigned in August, he had basically checked out. So I had less than 6 weeks as General Manager before becoming #1 King without being an Elder. Then finally in November, I was made an Executive Pastor without have any creditability with the staff. This single fact hindered my ability to really even understand the organization or the people, much less see the problems as they had existed for a long time.

“Sutton is fundamentally unhelpful for Mark. Sutton plays to all of Mark’s weaknesses and none of Mark’s strengths.” He pleaded with them saying that what Mark needs in an Executive Pastor is a “55 year-old seasoned godly man who watches over Mark’s soul as he administrates the church, and who can pull Mark into a room and say ‘you can’t do that in a meeting’ and you need to call another meeting and ask for forgiveness from the people you just spoke to. He doesn’t need a man who is his trigger man.” He made it clear that Sutton lacks the emotional and spiritual maturity to be where he is at in leadership.

Not all statements made about Turner by leaders at Mars Hill have quite synced up to the degree the recommendations do.  To read about that ... go here.

Now consider all those accounts in connection to the September 6, 2011 announcement that Jamie Munson was resigning from presidency of Mars Hill, given by Mark Driscoll.

I am writing this letter to provide my perspective on Pastor Jamie’s transition as well as directives for how to respond and proceed. In seasons like this we need the elders, staff, and church to trust the senior leadership of Mars Hill. To help nourish that trust, Pastor Jamie and I are posting our letters together to demonstrate our unity and friendship while keeping no secrets and simply telling the truth. At his recent annual review, Pastor Jamie was given high performance marks and asked to return in his current role of Executive Pastor at Mars Hill Church. After a season of prayerful consideration, he informed his review team that he felt God was calling him to pursue a new ministry and business venture. He was again invited to continue in his current role on staff at Mars Hill Church, or move into another role in the organization. With great affection for the church, he has since come to the conclusion that the time has come for his transition off of paid staff. I want to make it emphatically clear: there is no disqualifying sin or error of any kind in Pastor Jamie’s life. This is in no way connected to anything negative. He is, by God’s grace, "above reproach," as he always has been. [emphasis added] I also want to stress that there is no relational friction between Pastor Jamie and myself. In the days leading up to his decision, my children were at his house playing and vice versa, as has been the case for years. Our wives, Crystal and Grace, were in contact as friends as they always are. Jamie remains one of my nearest and dearest friends, a brother in every sense of the word, and personally I assure you we had no conflict and are as close as we’ve ever been. For example, on our recent family vacation I missed him and simply called him so I could check in on my friend. I deeply enjoy Jamie and intend to remain close friends with him and his family, as do Grace and our children. Nothing has changed personally in our relationship. Jamie is the same godly, humble, helpful, enjoyable man of God he’s always been. In this, we’ve both shed a few tears and are committed to our ongoing friendship. Here is what I am asking from you. Please pray for the Munson family. Please pursue the Munson family. Bomb them with love and affection. Make sure that Crystal and the wonderful Munson kids feel the embrace of Jesus through the affection of Mars Hill. If you are their friends, keep being their friends. I have known Crystal since she was in college before she and Jamie met. She is wonderful. We adore and enjoy her. She is as committed to our church and the mission of Jesus as anyone at Mars Hill. Let’s ensure that in this season of transition her friendships and community remain stable, steady, and supportive. Correct any gossip or rumor you hear that is negative and untrue.  [emphasis added] ...

So it would seem in 2015 more than half a dozen people have praised Sutton Turner for having the courage to make difficult decisions that turned Mars Hill culture around from the brink of fiscal and organizational ruin.  It's impossible to avoid the question of Jamie Munson's leadership as president of the organization since 2007.  Now if someone would like to contest the accuracy of the accounts quoted they're welcome to take up their own platform and say something, but the cumulative praise for Turner seems unable to avoid the sticky question of whether or not, under Jamie Munson's presidency, there was competent fiscal management.

It would seem that in addition to a chorus of witnesses praising Sutton Turner's fiscal competence in contrast to the earlier dispensation, there has in the last 14 months emerged another group testimony regarding the old leadership scene.

We've surveyed that earlier in the month, the topic of how the majority of the men who were elders at Mars Hill during 2007 and were connected to the terminations and trials of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry have publicly apologized for their roles--there's a whole lot of guys who were involved in the trials following Jamie Munson's letter announcing termination that have since considered the process sinful and harmful. 

So if those who worked closely with Turner have publicly testified he saved Mars Hill from slipping into fiscal and organizational ruin (which was where Mars Hill was at the end of Munson's presidential reign); and if a majority of the elders who were at Mars Hill in 2007 have since publicly repented and recanted the legitimacy of the firings and trials, then on what basis could a Mark Driscoll say Jamie Munson was always above reproach? 

Now that Mars Hill has been dissolving throughout 2015 it may be Sutton Turner saved Mars Hill from the brink of financial ruin but once the controversies surrounding Mark Driscoll's intellectual property and some of the means used to promote it erupted from 2013-2014 there may have been only so much Turner could do to keep things steady.

Driscoll's glowing praise of Munson in public, in light of the cumulative testimonies quoted above, now seems impossible to square with what people have stated the reality was for Mars Hill's financial state in 2011.

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