Posted by Sutton Turner on July 8, 2016
Mars Hill RICO: Hail Mary Failed – Plaintiffs Agree to Dismiss
I am very thankful that this civil RICO litigation will soon be over as the Plaintiffs have asked the court to dismiss the case since they failed to serve me. The Plaintiffs along with other parties and their counsel have threatened many people beside myself with this lawsuit since early 2014. Brian Fahling, Plaintiff’s counsel, first presented this RICO strategy to a group of former Mars Hill members as a way to stop the implementation of a new email retention policy. As time wore on, these former members wanted to hurt Mark Driscoll and control the dissolution of Mars Hill Church. As I stated previously, if they wanted information, reconciliation, and answers, they would have met with me in March or April of 2016. A civil RICO claim cannot be filed against an institution (Mars Hill Church) or a single person (Mark Driscoll). A civil RICO claim requires at least two defendants. Agreeing to meet with me and reconcile would mean abandoning their RICO litigation against Mark Driscoll or at least severely alter their strategy.
Plaintiffs solicited people to join the lawsuit and communicated it would take $250k to go through with the litigation. However, when they filed the lawsuit they only had raised less than $30,000 and the last gift given before the lawsuit was filed was seven months prior (July 2015). Of the $39k given to support the lawsuit to date, only 4% was given by named people, the rest was matching (by whom we don’t know), anonymous, or a family member of the Jacobsens. Filing the lawsuit was a failed Hail Mary attempt by the Jacobsens, Kildeas, and Brian Fahling that has significantly hurt and defamed me.
Today, all of the responses had to be into the Judge for his decision in this case. In the plaintiff’s response, they agreed to a dismissal of the case. They had 90 days to serve me in the litigation. They state they did not have enough money to serve me. They did have enough money to create a 42-page document containing false allegations that were not attested to under oath. They would like a dismissal without prejudice, which allows them to keep the door open to future litigation against me.
As back and forth statements go, it's not clear why Turner wasn't responsive in the previous two years about requests for mediation.
The current statement by Turner could be read as indicating people wanted to hurt the dissolution of Mars Hill Church. Well, who is to say for certain anyone actually knew that Mark Driscoll would resign and that the board would decide to dissolve the corporation back in 2014? This narrative could mistakenly presume upon knowledge imputed back to "then" that was impossible to have. Given what Mark Driscoll shared with Brian Houston in last year's videotape interview, it seems Driscoll agreed to a restoration plan proposed by the Mars Hill board; then Mark Driscoll claimed to hear "a trap has been set" stated; and resigned within a 48-hour period of claiming to have heard a voice. So if we assume for the sake of discussion all that transpired not even the Board of Advisors and Accountability could have anticipated that Mark Driscoll was going to resign or that they would decide to dissolve the corporation.
Whether Driscoll's counsel will opt to write a comparably lengthy response remains to be seen. So far they have seemed content to piggyback on the lengthier statements made by Turner's counsel.
What's a bit surprising coming from Turner is the extent to which in his defense of his own reputation he seems to have displayed no concern for the reputation of his predecessor Jamie Munson. The cumulative narrative presented by Turner and those who have endorsed his account of events was that Mars Hill was in some sense on the edge of a fiscal cliff until he rescued it. But Mark Driscoll, when commenting on the voluntary resignation of former Mars Hill president Jamie Munson, said that Munson was above reproach as he always had been. Turner could not even imply that the fiscal health of Mars Hill Church was in dire straits upon his arrival at Mars Hill without casting reproach on Munson. Munson, obviously, was never named as a plaintiff and while it's possible to have some understanding that Turner feels his reputation has been damaged he admitted himself that he signed the agreement with Result Source to promote Real Marriage, for instance.
A number of statements made by the plaintiff's counsel reference not merely things reported "in the media" but statements made by Turner himself through access to mass media and social media tools available within the orbit of Mars Hill's media presence. One of the things that has come up repeatedly in the history of this blog is that quoting leaders of Mars Hill Church accurately and in context can tend to make them look bad. Precisely why robots.txt got introduced to Mars Hill associated websites cannot be confirmed definitively but it seems that the speed with which Mars Hill was purging content that they had previously distributed for the world to read was impressive. Back in 2012 Mars Hill was advising Matthew Paul Turner to listen to Mark Driscoll's 2008 spiritual warfare seminar lectures and in 2014 within about a week after Wenatchee The Hatchet began quoting the content it was taken down from the Mars Hill sites. When alternative avenues for direct citation and audio access were consulted those, too, got taken down. It's a shame that Mark Driscoll, for someone still eager to be present in mass and social media, should have any troubles at all permitting people to have access to what he shared for the record.
Turner's blogging can make it seem as if he thinks all of these proceedings have been about him rather than the former co-founder of the church. That the Result Source agreement and the promotion of Real Marriage as the basis for an integrated campaign at Mars Hill introduced practices that, while technically legal were of dubious ethics; and that the book Real Marriage itself ended up with a second printing and observable amendations to citation and sourcing; can lead a person to reasonably infer that the promotion of the book, even regardless of the formal agreement which Mars Hill Church had with Result Source, could be taken as having sacrificed the credibility and reputation of the church on the altar of Mark Driscoll's celebrity. To the extent that Sutton Turner personally signed the agreement with Result Source he will have to live with the reality that he was the individual who voluntarily and literally signed off on that arrangement.
One of the ironies of 2015 and 2016 is that when Sutton Turner has attempted to clarify his thinking and express frustration with what he considered to be the problems in Tripp's perspective he seems to reinforce rather than refute a quote attributed to Tripp that said that Turner played to Mark Driscoll's
When asked about speculations that he might have resigned to protect the reputation of his ministry, Paul said this: “I am not worried at all at burning my integrity for the real deal, but I won’t burn it for something that’s not the real deal. I don’t think even now that there is the recognition of the depth of what Mars Hill Church and Mark is actually dealing with. This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” He continued on to communicate that Mars Hill’s leadership culture was not shaped by the same grace that it says it believes.
“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.
Paul acknowledged some level of Mark acknowledging wrong and making some progress. But, he also feels that if Mark clearly saw the depths of his sin and the damage it had caused, he wouldn’t even be able to preach because he would be so overcome with life-changing grief. “What happens with leaders often in these situations is that they give you one paragraph of acknowledgement of wrong, and 6 paragraphs of how they are a victim. If I’m counselling an adulterous man, and he sits in front of me and all he talks about is his wife, I know that man is far from confession and repentance. Because once he sees his sin it is devastating and you cry out for God... You think about your future, you don’t think about how to manage it. Until you get to that level of brokenness, what you do is manage a crisis, instead of dealing with the deep personal sin at the bottom of the crisis.”
Turner would eventually resign, and by one account it was because Mars Hill could not afford to keep him on staff and by another account Turner explained that he was in essence blackmailed to resign or face the public disclosure of something about his pre-conversion activities that was paradoxically not bad enough to preclude him from being consider elder material at Mars Hill to begin with but was bad enough that resignation seemed the better of the two choices.
Considering that Mars Hill eldership included a man with four felonies and a second marriage who still ended up in eldership it's difficult to know what Turner could have done in his pre-conversion days he wouldn't want known, and it's not necessary to know. We've documented at substantial length here at Wenatchee The Hatchet that Mars Hill leaders and leadership culture have given people reasons to doubt that some of the men who were given substantial amounts of power had the wisdom or qualification to wield that power. Even Turner's own accounts about Jamie Munson's era of leadership functionally cast aspersions on the governance that either Munson and/or Driscoll drafted and the alleged lack of financial controls and policies that were functionally in place by the time Sutton Turner arrived. The trouble has been that it's impossible to know if this account is credible beyond all shadow of a doubt, and if it is a credible account then Turner spent a bit of 2015 throwing Jamie Munson's reputation retroactively under the bus.
If the Result Source plan was formulated under the Munson presidency of Mars Hill then the irony of Turner's signature is always going to be that he signed his name off on something he objected to. Whether or not a civil RICO suit happened Turner has to live with that. It may be a sign of how broken the leadership culture of Mars Hill was that anyone in that culture thought Result Source would be a good idea to begin with, not just that Sutton Turner decided to sign off on it regardless of matters of personal conscience. Jacques Ellul's writings on propaganda mentioned that:
PROPAGANDA: THE FORMATION OF MEN'S ATTITUDES
Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 1965 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
For action makes propaganda's effect irreversible. He who acts in obedience to propaganda must believe in that propaganda because of his past action. He is obliged to receive from it his justification and authority, without which his action will seem to him absurd or unjust, which would be intolerable. He is obliged to continue to advance in the direction indicated by propaganda, for action demands more action. ...
... often he has commmitted an act reprehensible by traditional moral standards and has disturbed a certain order; he needs a justification for this to prove that it was just. Thus he is caught up in a movement that develops until it totally occupies the breadth of his conscience. Propaganda now masters him completely--and we must bear in mind that any propaganda that does not lead to this kind of participation is mere child's play.
and it's worth noting that about two years ago someone who was once in the leadership scene at Mars Hill looked back and wrote (among many other things):
I used to joke that my title should be “Minister of Propaganda”.
There's a long-form case to be made that the real minister of propaganda wasn't Anderson but ultimately Mark Driscoll himself.
If there is an observation we've kept hammering away at here at Wenatchee The Hatchet in 2016 it's that church leaders of the sort Mark Driscoll has been are not ultimately pastors in any historically plausible sense of the term. Mark Driscoll does, however, fit the description of a propagandist. Sutton Turner may or may not realize that Driscoll can be considered a propagandist. Whether the RICO suit is dismissed with or without prejudice remains to be seen. For some time it simply did not seem likely there would even be a RICO filing. Perhaps those who ended up named in the suit never figured the thing would be done, either. If that were the case then what happens when the thing you figured would never happen anyway actually happens?
Meanwhile, there seem to be no signs from the Driscoll wing of things that there's anything to even talk about.
the law office of Brian Fahling
December 24, 2014
Frey Buck P.S.
1200 Fifth Avenue, Ste. 1900
Seattle, WA 98101
Re: Jacobsen, et al. v. Driscoll, et al.
As I have expressed to you since our first conversation regarding this matter last spring, above all else, my clients’ desire to have their claims brought before a Christian mediator. And as I described to you in my email of December 16, there are a number of offenses they would like to bring to mediation, though they are aware that some of the concerns they have expressed and hope to address in mediation cannot be remedied through a lawsuit. I know of many other MH members, not just my clients, who wanted Mars Hill Leadership to mediate, or at least talk with them about very serious offenses. Every plea, though, was ignored; the only way your clients will even consider mediation, it appears, is if they perceive a sufficient threat from a RICO lawsuit. It should never have come to this, but that is what your clients have demanded.”
To the extent that Turner is wiling to keep bringing up the claim that there's been a threat of a suit of some kind for two years, it can be asked (again) why Turner and others leaders at Mars Hill declined to agree to mediation.
That Turner seems to be trying to turn over several new leaves need not be in doubt. The challenge he's going to face is that in this era in the United States where there is not as yet a right to be forgotten, there are things he's done and said he will have to live with, even regardless of the RICO complaint.
There will, inevitably, be those who would say that people need to get over themselves and move on. America as a whole doesn't seem like it's really a society that has managed to "move on" from the Civil War, though, has it? I have my doubts, to put it mildly, that there's such a thing as "moving on". You can work out ways to potentially integrate what has happened to you or what's happened to others into your sense of self but there are things that you don't just "move on" from. There are deadbeat dads who discover they can't just "move on" from their kids or their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends. There are mothers who can't just "move on" once they become mothers to children whose fathers either aren't around or may be around a present danger.
As has been discussed here earlier this year, to the extent that former MH members felt it was necessary to take a legal action this is an option that is not only not in contradiction with Mark Driscoll's pulpit preaching on the options of Christians to litigate when they believe crimes have been committed, a RICO suit could be considered a potentially for-the-record affirmation that those who sat under Mark Driscoll's preaching about how, yes, Christians can in fact sue for justice if they believe crimes have been committed, would be consistent with the Bible as he preached it.
1 Corinthians 6:1-11
March 26, 2006
If a crime is committed, call the proper authorities. If a sin is committed, they won't come. [emphasis added] If you call 911, "They gossiped! Come over right now!" they'll be like, "They what?" "It says in Proverbs gossip is bad. They totally gossiped. Hurry!" They're not coming, right? You're on you're own. You're totally on your own, right, and you can't file a suit because of adultery or fornication or porn addiction or drunkenness, because those are not crimes. Those are sins, right? So a lot of things only fit in the church because we deal with sins. Other things fit in the courts because they're crimes.
You need to see a distinction between sins and crimes. You call the cops if it's a crime. You call a mediator or an arbitrator or the church if it's a sin. And you've got to distinguish those.
Also, this does not give the church to cover up crimes. [emphasis added] I mean, it's shocking that I need to say that, but some churches do say, "Well, if a Christian did it, then we'll deal with it, and we're not gonna notify the authorities." Because then they could continue to do it. They can move to another parish. They can quit their job, go to work elsewhere, adn there's more victims. It's not just about covering Christians; it's about protecting victims. God is a God of justice; he doesn't just want us to cover crimes. And I've seen some churches--in the name of protecting their own--actually harbor sexual offenders, rapists, pedophiles, that in no way should be protected. They should be handed over to the proper authorities, because their victims need help.
... I think what Paul is talking about is first trying to work it out, and last resort--if absolutely necessary--you end up in secular court. We'll deal with some qualifiers for that in my next point, but there may be a point where you and another alleged Christian go into business. They rip you off. They take advantage of you. They steal from you. They do something that's illegal. You have the right to seek legal recourse. [emphasis added] This does not mean that if a non-Christian sues a Christian that you can't defend yourself. ...
So from the standpoint of considering what Driscoll preached a decade ago, a RICO complaint not only wouldn't be in contradiction with his teaching on what 1 Corinthians 6 does and doesn't mean, it could be interpreted as taking that teaching seriously. That Turner ended up named as a co-defendant wouldn't necessarily have changed what Driscoll had said a decade earlier about how Christians may avail themselves of legal action when they believe a crime has been committed.
For those who don't remember what Mark Driscoll said back in July 2014, he addressed the fact that because he had made himself a public figure things weren't quite the same for him as it would be for private citizens:
...They have that same freedom, and so, and so others are free to, to say things as well. And being a bit of a public figure I don't have the same, try to get this right, protection sometimes as a private citizen, because I've made myself a public figure. So that's just sort of a blessing and the complexity of the great opportunity that God has given me as a Bible teacher and a pastor, especially in an age of technology, which I praise God for.
It remains to be seen what further developments there are. Had the parties themselves not made a point of sharing news about it ... it would seem that at the moment it's not even considered news by even Christian news outlets to go by recent search engine results.
For those not already familiar with Mark Driscoll's history of jokes, it's strange to look back on what he had to say when introducing 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 [WtH, for that go here]. 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.
So Driscoll's account in 2011 was that when the opportunity arose to join the ministry at Mars Hill Sutton Turner relocated himself and his family to serve the church. Driscoll also stated that Mars Hill had been searching for a leader of Sutton Turner's caliber for a while. So Turner seems to have been looking for an opportunity and by Mark Driscoll's account "we" had been looking for someone like Turner for a while. It was presented as a perfect fit, that doesn't seem to fit the "just a year for some theological training to head back into the business world", does it?
Of course by now the video is dead so you can't go just listen to the audio for yourself, which is why for the moment the transcript of what was said may just have to suffice:
For 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. Thank you guys for making the move and making the sacrifice. ...
He was also in his past executive pastor at a very large church and so his gifts are very necessary in this season, because if I do the accounting I'll be doing prison ministry from the inside. ... We really need Sutton's gifts in this season and God brought the right man at the right time with the right gifts and the right family and the right attitude and the right heart. ... We are very thankful to have you.
Now, sure, `twas all in jest--now that a complaint has been filed Mark Driscoll's history of joking from the pulpit about how if he was left in charge of the accounting he'd end up doing prison ministry from the inside doesn't seem like a suitable joke any longer.
However the RICO complaint plays out and whether the case is dismissed with or without prejudice it doesn't seem implausible to propose at this point that on the broad topic of how money was accounted for and spent within what was once called Mars Hill, some people have come around to the belief that it long ago stopped being a matter for jokes about guys doing prison ministry from the inside.