Thursday, August 25, 2016

Seattle Times' Nina Shapiro report on RICO suit, dismissal without prejudice of suit against former MH pastors Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/judge-dismisses-racketeering-lawsuit-against-former-mars-hill-pastor/
Short version, suit dismissed without prejudice.  Sanctions were not granted as the judge concluded the suit was not frivolous

http://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/files/2016/08/Court-Order-MTD.pdf

http://investyourgifts.com/judges-ruling/

Of some note from the dismissal, a few excerpts:
 ...
 The court finds that Plaintiffs have not acted in bad faith, recklessly, or with an improper purpose. Accordingly, in light of the court’s duty to carefully exercise its inherent powers, the court declines to impose the drastic sanctions Defendants seek.
...
Mr. Turner’s allegations about Plaintiffs’ behavior in filing this case, apparently adopted by Mr. Driscoll (see Driscoll Mot. at 3), are conclusory at best and do not demonstrate that Plaintiffs have acted improperly. Merely filing a complaint alleging RICO violations for Defendants’ part in the alleged misuse of Plaintiffs’ donations to MHC does not constitute bad-faith conduct, even if the allegations case Defendants in an unfavorable light. (See Turner Mot. at 9-10.) In addition, Plaintiffs’ complaint is not frivolous on its face (see generally Compl.), and there is no evidence other than Defendants’ conclusory allegations that Plaintiffs filed this suit merely to harass and disparage Defendants  ...

and ...

Simply put, Plaintiffs have done nothing to "defile the very temple of justice." Haeger, 813 F.3d at 1244 (internal quotations and alterations omitted) (quoting Chambers, 501 U.S. at 46). Plaintiffs have not committed any acts that indicate bad faith, recklessness, or an improper purpose. They have not misled the court or Defendants; destroyed evidence; disobeyed a court order; willfully abused the judicial process

Dismissal without prejudice means that, in principle, another case could be filed.  Whether one will be in the future remains to be seen. 

Sutton Turner's statement today about how back in 2012 he wanted to meet with former Mars Hill people from the 2007 crisis and was denied permission reminds me of something, one of those pious bromides one Mark Driscoll tweeted earlier this year.

https://twitter.com/PastorMark/status/702989451111170048
Forgiveness takes one person. Reconciliation takes two.
2:52 PM - 25 Feb 2016


http://investyourgifts.com/dismissed-whats-next/
Posted by Sutton Turner on August 25, 2016
...
Many staff heard me say during my tenure, “It is a miracle this church still exists.” Jesus was saving people and growing the church in spite of issues with organizational structure, dissension within the staff, and dissension with former members. A 2007 bylaw change had split the church. The issues that led to that bylaw change and its implementation heavily impacted the culture of Mars Hill. In 2012, I asked permission to meet with those directly affected by the events of 2007; permission was denied. Those events in 2007 had unfortunately begun the cycle of distrust and a lack of transparency. One fed upon the other to build an unhealthy culture. [emphasis added]

So by Sutton Turner's account, he asked permission of someone to meet with those directly effected by the 2007 re-org and its fallout and permission was denied.  Whoever denied Sutton Turner that permission must have regarded reconciliation as a precious thing.  Then again ...

https://twitter.com/PastorMark/status/346423376484638721
Forgiveness is a gift to your offender...and to yourself, freeing you up to move on with your life.
5:25 PM - 16 Jun 2013


The thought some people may have now is that it's time to "move on".  Well, there's a problem that could be in that approach:

For those who don't already know, in the spring of 2012 Paul Petry put up a website called Joyful Exiles that includes, among other things, an audio clip of something Mark Driscoll said about casting a vision and moving on in later 2007.  It's worth quoting extensively to provide some context for Sutton Turner's statements from earlier today about how he asked permission but permission was denied.  Who would deny Turner permission from the Mars Hill leadership to meet with former people from Mars Hill?  Well, whether or not we can answer that question beyond a shadow of a doubt we can get some sense of what one leader of Mars Hill from the 2007 days had to say to church leaders about moving forward in vision:

https://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/preaching-paul_edits1.mp3
Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission; and if people don’t sign up, you move on.  You move on. There are people that are gonna to die in the wilderness and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is. [emphasis added]

Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. (pause) I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (laughs) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.

You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop.  And I’m just a—I’m just a guy who is like, “Look, we love ya, but, this is what we’re doing.” There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus.

They gotta get run over. There are people who wanna take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off (laughs). ‘Cuz they wanna go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus, leaders and helpers and servants, they’re awesome.

There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying?  But, don’t look at the nice people that are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.”
There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying?  But, don’t look at the nice people that are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.”
They’re never going to.  At the very most you’ll give ’em a job to do and they’ll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that hasn’t been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader.  And, so they’re never going to lead.

You need to gather a whole new court. I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting. I’m doin’ it right now. I’m doin’ it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus.

Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they’re unemployed. I mean (pause) you—this will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I've read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul put someone in the woodchipper, y'know?

Because they shall know how Christ-like ye are when you put them in that proverbial woodchipper and ... move on.

And now here we are in 2016 and Mars Hill is inactive but not yet completely dissolved as a company.  Expiration date is listed as the end of this calendar year, basically.

If just moving on was such a great-looking strategy to Mars Hill leadership in 2007 how is that a RICO suit came about in 2016?  Is that really a compelling case that "move on" works in a case like Mars Hill? 

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