Since Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner have been named as plaintiffs in a complaint this year it might be worth revisiting everything that was said about Sutton Turner as the "king" of Mars Hill. Even if we set aside concerns that the prophet/priest/king taxonomy formulated within Mars Hill seemed like little more than a Myers & Briggs Type Indicator but for church leaders ... there's something else to consider. Anybody remember what the Old Testament had to say about the appointment of kings in Israel? No? Shame on you for not reading Deuteronomy for the joy of it ...
14 “When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.
That would seem clear enough, whoever the appointed king is, he should not be a foreigner but one chosen from among the people. Even if some of us had ... to put it VERY NICELY, severe doubts about Munson's fitness to be the formal president of Mars Hill ... he did at least the homeboy qualification. Turner? He was brought in from literally another country.
What's kind of breath-taking is how obvious it was Sutton Turner was literally a fly-in from overseas. If Mars Hill was going to use the language of "king" and "kingly" gifts and insist that there was a scripturally defensible basis for there being a "king" the least they could have done was attempt consistency with their own jargon by sticking to leaders cultivated from within. A work night does not necessarily permit an exhaustive survey of what "could" be quoted ... but it's interesting how defensive Sutton Turner and Justin Dean turned out to be about Tripp's comments ...
as documented above when, if they'd just read the Bible and considered the prohibition against kings appointed from outside the people neither of these guys should have been entirely shocked that their respective tenures within Mars Hill ended as Mars Hill spiraled into death. Let's review, shall we, what got said about the challenges Turner faced assimilating into Mars Hill and the preparatory praise he got.
In April 2011, I joined Mars Hill as the General Manager and reported to the Executive Pastor. I had enjoyed the teaching via podcast from overseas since 2007. My family and I looked forward to attending and serving in the church that we had enjoyed from afar, a church that loved Jesus and preached the gospel. I looked forward to using my gifts and experience to further the mission of Jesus through the local church.
When I arrived at Mars Hill, the financial books were a mess. During my first week, I asked the finance director to bring me the financials. He said he could provide me with September 2010 because they were about to close out the books for October. Financial reporting was six months behind. I thought, “How do they know how they’re doing financially?!” The finance team handed me a bank statement. (If you are in finance or accounting, you just cringed as you read the last sentence.)
UPDATE FROM THE BOAA
Dear 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.”
In other words, in the BoAA account Turner was quoted as saying the plan was to show up, train for a bit in theology and then go back into the business world. Really? This was kind of second-hand although Turner may well have said precisely what he was quoted as saying. It's just that that account makes it seem as though Sutton Turner himself did not imagine he was going to end up being a "king".
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.
"GWOW" is most likely a shorthand for God's Work, Our Witness.
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.
Of course ... if you think about it all in light of Deuteronomy 17 why WOULD he have had any credibility? He was a complete outsider who was brought in as a hired hand rather than appointed from among the people.
Now compare Van Skaik's account of Turner describing his path to Mars Hill from earlier to Mark Driscoll's introductions for Sutton Turner.
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]
Pastor Sutton’s experience has already been a huge benefit. He has a degree from Harvard Business School, led multibillion-dollar organizations, and even worked as an executive pastor for a number of years at a large church in Texas. More importantly, he is a godly man with a delightful family.
By God’s grace, Mars Hill Church is in an amazing season of growth. With that comes significantly more complexities, however. We need help and we’ve been searching for a leader of Sutton’s caliber for awhile. God is faithful and brought the right man at the right time.
and from the letters announcing Jamie Munson's resignation
Pastor Dave and I both believe Pastor Scott is the best choice for this role in this season. Pastor Scott [Thomas] has been very clear in his love and commitment to Mars Hill and has said he will gladly serve wherever he is needed, which we deeply appreciate. Administratively, Pastor Jamie was our senior "king" and his departure requires very competent leadership to cover his many responsibilities. Thankfully, Pastor Jamie was a great leader and humble man. He surrounded himself with great people. This allows us to not have the kind of crisis that could otherwise ensue. Pastor Dave and I agree that Sutton Turner should function as our highest-ranking "king." Sutton is new to staff, but not to ministry. He is a former executive pastor of a large church. Educationally, he is a graduate of Texas A&M, the SMU Cox School of Business, and Harvard Business School. Professionally, he has recently served as the CEO of a company that has nearly 1,600 employees. Prior to that he served as the CEO of another company that under his leadership grew from 0 to 500 employees in the first year. He and his family moved to Seattle sensing a call to serve at Mars Hill, and we believe he is a gift from God to us for our future. He is currently well into the eldership process so be in prayer for that as well as his many duties at the church. [emphasis added]
So it would seem that while Turner was promoted with gusto by the top dogs at Mars Hill at his arrival subsequent documents reveal that he was not very warmly received and he found his role as #1 King to be problematic in terms of relating to people already in the culture. We know now that there was a practically catastrophic "season" of terminations and layoffs in the year and ahalf after Turner joined.
As we now know, Tripp ended up articulating a concern that Turner was not helpful for Driscoll:
“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.
So it would seem, in sum, that when mars Hill leadership was promoting its new "king" in Sutton Turner the leaders had managed to invoke a patina of plausibility for three types of leaders without having bothered to conduct themselves in the appointment of those leaders in a way that could be squared with the most basic instructions about how to NOT appoint them.
Sure, there were those in Mars HIll who believed that appointing leaders from inside led to conflicts of interest and problems ... but the irony we've noted here at Wenatchee The Hatchet was that as Turner redesigned the governance of Mars Hill it led to a Board that had a number of the same guys who played key advisory roles in the formulation of the 2007-era governance that Turner came to view as so problematic.
What neither Sutton Turner nor Justin Dean seemed able to realize ... perhaps because they were outsiders brought in to a culture they didn't understand, was that the guys who ended up on the BoAA became a "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" kind of board. Larry and Michael were still around and still ended up in advisory roles. So, ironically perhaps, Turner's redesigned board came to embody a board that Tripp said, by its very nature of being just outsiders who weren't part of the church Mars Hill itself any longer, could not do its job.
So ... well it might be said that not only was Turner an outsider who was made "king" over Mars Hill but that the board of advisors and accountability could be described as kings who ruled from a distance.