Posted by Sutton Turner on March 14, 2016
Grieved and Saddened
I am deeply grieved and saddened along with my friends and former members of Mars Hill at the closing of our church. It was a ministry that grew me into a more godly man, husband, and father, and a church where I baptized a daughter. There are many questions former members still have. I understand their hurt and pain.
Since early 2014, I began a process of reaching out to people I hurt and who felt hurt related to my time at Mars Hill. I have met with my many fellow brothers and sisters. I believe all of these meetings have been healing and God glorifying. The process has been difficult, emotional, but well worth it. These discussions will forever remain private.
Nearly a year ago, I wrote a series of blog posts to help me heal as well as to bring clarity to others for their healing. I wrote about my involvement in Result Source and my involvement in Global. The history and culture of Mars Hill is one of both a lack of trust and transparency. Lack of transparency breeds distrust and distrust causes less transparency. It is a perpetual cycle that can exist within any organization or relationship.
As time has passed, I have watched the pursuit of legal actions by my brothers and sisters towards the Church and former leaders. I empathize with them and hurt with them. After recently being named in a legal proceeding, but having yet to be served, I have reached out to the plaintiffs directly. They were probably unaware I was willing to meet with them directly. I hope to meet with them, empathize with their hurt, pray with them, apologize to them, and clear up anything I can.
Which would, it seems inevitably, put him in a position to get served. The roughly three year stretch in which no one from executive leadership could be confirmed as having responded to correspondence from Brian Fahling and particularly Mark Driscoll's "we're not entirely sure who they are" seem to suggest that whatever Sutton Turner's willingness was to meet directly with those who are now plaintiffs may have been, there was a will that for whatever reason did not make a way.
I have been contacted by many news organizations to make a comment on the lawsuit. In the past two weeks, I have prayed. I have reached out to the plaintiffs directly to communicate my willingness to meet. And I continue to hope that Christ will walk us through this difficult but necessary process in a spirit of reconciliation.
Which, again, gets back to the matter of yet-to-be-served. If it is possible to confirm that direct contact attempts have been made on the part of the plaintiffs that would be quite a thing to confirm. It also does keep us coming back to the question of why, if it's been possible for Turner to reach out directly NOW, this didn't happen anywhere between 2013 and 2016 before the filing of the complaint? Not saying there couldn't be reasons, just keeping the question on the table.
Let me be very clear, I do not look at anyone involved with Mars Hill as my enemy, but brothers and sisters with whom I share a history of joyous God glorifying moments and also episodes of deep pain. Before I arrived at Mars Hill, many former members had been hurt and were in the healing process. On several occasions in my early executive elder meetings, I recommended meeting with those former members who were hurt during 2007. After being involved as a leader at Mars Hill, I will continue to take my own advice: to meet with people I have hurt by my actions.
I continue to pray that we will all grow from our experience at Mars Hill to be more like Jesus and less like this world.
— Sutton Turner
"I do not look at anyone involved with Mars Hill as my enemy, but brothers and sisters ... " that's more positive sounding wording than this set of statements from Driscoll in the wake of the filing of the RICO complaint:
“Unfortunately, false and malicious allegations continue to be made against me,” Driscoll said in an email to RNS Thursday (March 3). “I’m certain that the most recent examples are without any merit.”
“I remain focused and devoted to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, loving others, and praying for my enemies,” Driscoll said.
While Turner hasn't really admitted to anything in the recent statement, he hasn't denied anything, either, and he hasn't used a sweeping claim on the level of "false and malicious allegations" or about "praying for my enemies". Now last year Turner did have complaints about Tripp's lack of involvement in the Board, and he seemed to be of the opinion that the governance he introduced reduced problems in governance while the men who ended up on the BoAA were men who played some advisory role in the formulation of the post-2007 pre-2011 governance that Turner felt put Mars Hill in trouble. Larry Osborne had an advisory role on transforming Mars Hill into a multi-site in the 2006-2007 period and ended up on the BoAA. Michael Van Skaik was at one point a MH elder and was associated with a firm that MH consulted in the 2006-2007 period, so while Turner may have persuaded himself that the post-2011 governance avoided the kinds of conflicts of interest the BoAA admitted was somewhat endemic to pre-2011 governance at Mars Hill, it isn't clear that that problem, however extensive it was, was effectively remedied.
But then Van Skaik and Mark Driscoll seemed to have accounts of how and why Turner ended up in eldership that are difficult to reconcile.
UPDATE FROM THE BOAADear Mars Hill,
Earlier this month Pastor Sutton Turner informed our board of his intention to resign from his current staff and elder position. His personal decision is a sober acknowledgement that it would not be financially feasible for him to stay on staff as the church rightsizes itself, and secondly, not emotionally prudent to subject his family to what has been an ongoing season of personal attacks. We want to be clear: there are no disqualifying factors related to his decision.
Sutton put it this way: “Since 2007, Pastor Mark has impacted my life in a significant way. I am thankful to call him my brother, my pastor, and my friend. When I came to Mars Hill in 2011, my plan was to be here for a year, get theologically trained, and focus on the adoption of my son before entering back into the business world. Three and a half years later, I have been able to serve a church that I love as a staff member, but it is now time that I transition off of staff and return to the business world.”
By: Pastor Mark Driscoll
Posted: Nov 23, 2011
Earlier this year, the Turner family moved around the world just to be a part of Mars Hill Church. They’d been listening to the podcast for many years, and when the opportunity arose to join the ministry, Sutton left a lucrative job in the Middle East to use his gifts to serve the church. [emphasis added]
circa 4:33For those of you who don't know [the Turner family] they were podcasters that actually relocated back into the US. And Sutton had a business background as a graduate of Harvard Business School and was running $36 billion dollars a year of real estate with 1,600 employees internationally and then was listening to sermons, felt called to come and help Mars Hill Church and, you know Mars Hill Church, you know we need help. So we are very glad to have Sutton and as the complexity of the church increases we're very, very glad for his gifts and we want to thank the girls for joining us and your wife as well.
Assuming Turner was accurately quoted Turner's self-understanding was to get theological training before returning to the business world, while in Driscoll's account Turner was the right man at the right time because Mars Hill needed the help.
One of the shortcomings of Turner's account of what happened at Mars Hill was he claimed that many of the shortcomings of governance he observed had come about during the time when there was local elder rule.
Many of the mistakes, sins, and problems that created the culture occurred under a local elder-led board—including the ResultSource decision.
But had Turner looked carefully at the 2007 bylaws he would have seen that the leadership for major decisions was already centralized.
Mars Hill top brass has not been able to maintain a consistent account of Paul Tripp's involvement in the BoAA.
Turner seemed particularly stung by Tripp's comments that Turner was not helpful to Driscoll and not exactly cut out for the role he was given..
and-Critical-Information-for-the-Elders-of-Mars-Hill-Church.pdf from page 5 of 7
“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.
From behind the scenes on the BOAA Paul observed that “A statement that comes from somebody, through Sutton, to you guys, just changes dramatically.” He followed this by saying that he did not think Sutton intended to be consistently untruthful, but that regardless he does end up spinning things constantly out of fear.
Tripp's understanding, to the extent it was accurately quoted, suggested that Turner himself played a substantial role in creating a culture of fear within Mars Hill.
There's not necessarily a need to doubt Sutton Turner's sincerity even if there's more than a few people tempted to do just that. Sure, we could ask why on earth Turner never attempted to reach out directly to the people who the plaintiffs in the RICO suit anywhere between 2013 and 2016 if he was able to do it now. It remains to be confirmed, if possible, that the plaintiffs have, in fact, been contacted directly by Turner.
It's not the least bit hard to believe Turner hasn't been served yet. Actually finding out where someone is to serve them papers can be a time-consuming process. Not that you care to know how Wenatchee The Hatchet can know that because, hey, who cares what some blogger has to say, right? ;)
Turner's accounts of the history of Mars Hill raise almost as many questions as answers and it seems that there are things he convinced himself of about governance changes that don't hold up that well on a more careful examination of the actual governing documents in play in the history of Mars Hill. I suppose it's nice he didn't regard those who have filed the complaint as enemies and it was probably wise to not dismiss any of the allegations as if unread the way Driscoll seemed to in his response. For those who read the complaint what's remarkable about it is how much of its complaint case rests on things Driscoll and the leadership of Mars Hill explicitly admitted to years ago.
So evidently Sutton Turner has not been served any papers yet. Once served will he have to only be in contact with the plaintiffs by mediation of legal counsel? This might be an opportunity for the Christian press and secular press alike to help people understand how this kind of thing works. For all the Christians who would invoke 1 Corinthians 6 it might be worth remembering that Mars Hill leadership was totally all right with that cease and desist letter over trademark and logo concerns back in 2011, the same "season" in which Result Source was being lined up. I guess we'll get to find out what's different when leaders of the former Mars Hill are on the receiving end rather than the sending end of things.
We've been able to establish at some length here that Mars Hill leadership has not been able to provide a coherent single account of Turner's time at Mars Hill. It's not possible to present what Van Skaik quoted Turner as saying about himself at his 2014 resignation with any other narrative presented by any Mars Hill leaders about how and why Turner began to be at Mars Hill to begin with. So there's that problem. There's the problem that Sutton Turner's accounts of how and why governance changed at Mars Hill would suggest (along with the March 2014 statement of the BoAA) that conflicts of interest were reduced when several key parties in the upper echelons of Mars Hill leadership gained more formal power and influence within the governance of the organization. Larry Osborne went from an advisor in 2006-2007 to BoAA member moving forward from about 2013ish. Michael Van Skaik went from being associated with a consulting group that interacted with elders in 2007 to being on the BoAA. While Turner bristled at Paul Tripp's negative assessment of his time at Mars Hill Turner's not managed to produce any case for why Tripp's assessment could even be considered inaccurate.
Distrust does not CAUSE lack of transparency. When I stopped renewing my membership in the 2007 stage it was because I learned the real estate Mars Hill bought that became the Mars Hill HQ could NEVER be used for the grand vision Driscoll pumped in Confessions of a Reformission Rev ten years ago. I was furious about that because if an elder team could botch a $1.5 million capital campaign project that, had they properly researched zoning codes they would not have started, what ELSE could they hopelessly get wrong? Well, we've had a decade to find out. Turner's account of how and why he signed the contract with Result Source highlights a problem, that contract was in a sense literally selling out the welfare of Mars Hill Church as a non-profit to the interests of promoting Mark Driscoll's celebrity.
We've got the promotional plans for Real Marriage published here at Wenatchee The Hatchet. There's not really a whole lot of room for doubt that the Driscolls proposed a promotional approach in which the whole of Mars Hill and even Acts 29 and Resurgence were to become conduits through which Real Marriage would become a best-seller. If a lack of transparency were a euphemism for sacrificing the welfare and mission of a church as a non-profit corporation on the altar of promoting the celebrity of Mark Driscoll that should breed distrust and the only way distrust would then breed a lack of transparency is if someone were in some way committed to being dishonest or in denial about what the true nature of what was done was.
It may be worth keeping in mind that Sutton Turner shared a story in 2015 about how he resigned in the face of what he described as some kind of blackmail gambit. \
Posted by Sutton Turner on
If I would have known how messed up Mars Hill was in 2011, I would never have taken the executive pastor job. My wife’s friend often tells her that God doesn’t reveal everything to us because then we wouldn’t do what he wants us to. Sometimes when we count the cost, by the grace of God, we underestimate.
After my conversion, the Holy Spirit led me to repent to Marci for the sins I had committed against her and our family due to my idolatry. We sought the grace and mercy found only in Jesus and worked hard to reconcile and submit our marriage to Christ’s headship. Up until the fall of 2011, neither Marci nor I had shared a full, detailed account of my pre-salvation story with another person. In order to become an elder of Mars Hill Church, I submitted to an extensive process to ensure that I met the elder qualifications given by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Peter 5. The campus lead pastor and the other longtime Mars Hill pastors who were overseeing my eldership assessment assured me that the process would have strict confidentiality.
As part of this process, Marci and I had an interview with the pastor over pastoral care at our local campus. We honestly and openly discussed my past sins before coming to Christ in 2005. The pastor asked if we had communicated this information to anyone. I told him that I wanted to wait until my daughters (who were 7 and 12 at the time) were older, because I wanted to tell them first. My desire for confidentiality was not due to ungodly secrecy but rather appropriate privacy.
... Fast forward to the summer of 2014. As a church, Mars Hill had endured six months of intense scrutiny in the media. I had endured just as many months of media accusations and former church elders calling for my resignation. Twenty-one former Mars Hill elders had filed formal charges against my fellow executive elder. People outside of Mars Hill informed me that former Mars Hill elders were working to file formal charges against me also. I was told that a former lead pastor was approached to lead a group of people who hoped to force my resignation so that I “could not help Pastor Mark Driscoll.” That former lead pastor declined to participate.
A few days later, an anonymous mass text was sent out to current elders stating that I was not qualified to be an elder, among many other things. At the end of August 2014, I received a text from an anonymous phone number stating that one current elder and many former elders were discussing my pre-salvation sins. It also said that I was not qualified to be an elder and I needed to resign or this sensitive, private information would be shared to the public. Additionally, the week I was to announce my resignation to the church, an elder stated that he had my elder file in his possession, as he was asking for more severance.
The anonymous text could have been from just about anyone but given the way former staff and members were viewed with suspicion by people inside the leadership culture of Mars Hill it's hard to believe that anyone who could have had access to Turner's file would have had access below a top-tier level. This was a church culture in which being a convicted felon on your second marriage was not an obstacle to being a pastor at Mars Hill (as was easily established by the eldership at Mars Hill of James Noriega). What Turner could have done that was considered not bad enough to preclude eldership but bad enough to not want disclosed to the public may remain a mystery and maybe should remain a mystery. But the kind of information lockdown culture that existed at Mars Hill makes it hard to be sure why any former elders could have had access to the kind of information implied in Turner's account. What seems relatively safe to observe, in light of Turner's not-disclosed pre-conversion sins and the vetting process Noriega received was that Mars Hill leadership culture seemed to be at peace with fast-tracking people into fairly high levels of formal power and prestige in the organization without being very transparent about whether these guys should have been getting that level of power and influence.
Turner's assertion that lack of transparency breeds distrust and that distrust breeds lack of transparency only seems to work in a setting where people are fairly swiftly placed into positions of great power and influence without sufficiently demonstrating the competence or character to receive that kind of promotion.
Maybe some of you remember that one response to a survey sent out by Van Skaik went so far as to claim that Mark Driscoll needed to resign just for the having let Sutton Turner ever be a pastor at Mars Hill to begin with.
8. You can file this under "will never happen" but here is my feedback, specifically for the EE:
a) Mark should fire Sutton for abusing employees under him
b) Mark should then repent for 1. his pride 2. the cult of personality he has cultivated 3. his authoritarianism and 4. his decision to hire Sutton and embrace a business model for running the church that is absolutely foreign and antithetical to New Testament ecclesiology. He should then resign from eldership and leadership of the church until and unless people can honestly say he is "above reproach" without watching to see if their nose is growing.
c) Dave should take a sabbatical wherein he can contemplate why he so willingly and ably provided the glossy PR sheen to all of Mark's destructive and whiplash-like initiatives.
I believe God called Mark and blessed Mars Hill. But I also believe Mark has, increasingly over the past 6 or 7 years, told God "I'll take it from here". The veracity of his initial calling has no bearing on whether he runs the church today in a destructive way out of his flesh.
So for some people who used to work on staff at Mars Hill it looks like Turner ever having a leadership role within Mars Hill to begin with was symptomatic of problems that could ultimately prove fatal to the church.