Monday, April 24, 2017

on the Walsh/Robison interview with Mark Driscoll, part 3: Restrucring a church in the wake of a real estate investment gone south, a multisite Plan B, and a marriage that needed some work, revisiting the 2006-2007 re-org of Mars Hill

Randy: And this is the Pacific Northwest, this is not the Bible belt.

Mark: No. This is urban, single, young adults, all kinds of sexual issues, confusion, abuse, baggage and carry-ons -- so lots of stuff going on. We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. …
Mark Driscoll’s tossed off summary of Seattle people could be misconstrued as implying he didn’t have his own baggage that he brought with him into the ministry he had at Mars Hill. One of the central themes in Real Marriage was Mark Driscoll’s account of how he was upset at the lack of sex he was having with his wife:

Real Marriage: the truth about sex, friendship and life together
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Thomas Nelson
copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0
PAGES 9-10
Before long I was bitter against God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, since I had only slept with a couple of women I was in relationships with, I had been holy enough, and God owed me. [emphasis added] I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life. 

PAGES 14-15
Although I loved our people and my wife, this only added to my bitterness. I had a church filled with single women who were asking me how they could stop being sexually ravenous and wait for a Christian husband; then I'd go home to a wife whom I was not sexually enjoying. [emphasis added]

Is this not the same Mark Driscoll who wrote the following in Real Marriage?:

page 164

... As with many things in marriage, communication is key. When I came to the conclusion that the cure for a lot of my moodiness was having more frequent sex with my wife, I simply told her. Yes, it's that simple. [emphasis added] For years when I would endure depression, I tried to talk to Grace about it. Her natural inclination was to want to have long talks about our feelings toward each other, and I know that connecting with her like this is important. But sometimes I was just too frustrated and ended up blowing up and hurting her feelings.  The truth was I wanted to have more frequent sex with my wife, and we needed to discuss how that could happen.

A man who by his own account prescribed more sex with his wife to himself as the cure for his moodiness and depression  doesn't seem to be in a great place to talk about all those people in Seattle who had sexual issues.

Yet in spite of having shared at some length his hang ups and resentments surrounding his sex life with his wife in the 2012 book, when talking with Christian celebrities the “baggage and carry-ons” belonged to others?  Wasn’t one of the big revelations of Real Marriage that Grace had a history of having been abused herself? 

In any case, we can set those questions off to the side now that we’ve mentioned them, because what Driscoll described himself as doing in 2002 was to “blow it all up”, introduce some strategic chaos, and start all over again. 

In 2017 it is possible to look back on Mark Driscoll’s 2006 Confessions of a Reformission Rev as a kind of manifesto announcing how and why he was preparing another restructuring or Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It’s possible that with such a manifesto. seemingly spelling out in the final chapters of Driscoll’s 2006 book where he wanted to go, leadership would be on board with the proposed changes. For the most part Mars Hill elders were on board but there were stirrings of tension and trouble. 

One of the first troubles to emerge after Mars Hill bought what became its corporate headquarters building was that zoning and land use restrictions precluded the grand design for the second building in Ballard that Driscoll had announced in Confessions of a Reformission Rev.  The situation was described in 2007 by then Executive Pastor Jamie Munson:

Page 72/145 from Mars Hill: A miracle of Jesus
November 9, 2007
Section: Stewardship
Answers submitted by Pastor Jamie Munson 

Q: What is the status and future plans for the property M.H. owns just north of the Ballard campus?
We purchased the building on 50th with the intention of performing a massive renovation, and by connecting it with our Leary building, to create a large campus in the middle of the city. Since the 50th building dedication, our renovation plans were delayed by our attempt to obtain a change of use permit. During the permitting delay we were gifted a building in West Seattle and undertook renovating and opening that building as our next campus. [emphasis added]  At the time of these changes we communicated this to the members of the church openly and honestly as we wanted to be faithful to the stewardship and generosity of the body. 

Also, each quarter a letter is sent to members, along with their donor statement, urging faithful stewardship and giving updates to vision and building strategies. In addition, Pastor Mark wrote a lengthy letter that was sent to members electronically, and handed out at all campuses explaining the miashift to a multi-campus church before the West Seattle campus opened.  Due to the restrictions and expense of building a single large building in our city our focus has shifted from one large campus to becoming a multi-site church of smaller campuses.  Your elders feel this will enable a more effective and cost-efficient spread of the Gospel throughout Seattle and beyond.  It will still take capital campaigns and the purchasing of facilities but allows us to spread and grow more quickly as Jesus leads. [emphasis added]

We are leasing part of the 50th building to generate some revenue. We are also performing a minor renovation of portions of the building to alleviate our current office and production space needs.  This will eliminate the need for leasing office space for our use.  In addition the property provides some much needed parking relief for our Ballard campus and also needs such as storage.  An average church of our size functions with about 4 times as much square footage as we do with our Ballard campus.  Storage, meeting rooms, office space and parking are greatly needed and this property serves those with purposes in the mean time. Future development options are being considered as well but there are no firm plans for these.  This is further complicated as the city is considering further zoning changes and restrictions in industrial areas of the city.  Until this legislation is decided it hangs property owners up as the future possibilities of the property are unclear.  We are hanging on to the property and using it to the fullest extent possible in the mean time. 

Eventually that building was disposed of by way of deed in lieu of foreclosure. As it became clear the second Ballard building could not be used for its announced purpose Mars Hill leadership scrambled to develop the multi-site model as an alternative. 

This was not, however, the catalyst for what Mark Driscoll described as the “governance war”.  As we saw from Mike Gunn’s account of the earlier years of Mars Hill, the church had been multi-site before, with different pastors preaching at different campuses. What was about to transpire was a multi-site model in which Mark Driscoll was the preaching pastor whose sermons were piped into all the sites. Moreover, the 2005 bylaws that were in place already specified procedures reflecting a multi-site organization. Furthermore, the bylaws at hand provided for majority vote on significant decisions.  In Driscoll’s account in April 2017 the gist of the governance war was over “who is in charge and how things play out.”

When Driscoll described the early days of Mars Hill in a blog post in 2011 at Pastor Mark TV he wrote the following:

For the first five or six years of Mars Hill, I was the only paid pastor on staff and carried much of the ministry burden. I was doing all the premarital counseling and most of the pastoral work as the only pastor on staff.  [emphasis added] This went on for years due to pitiful giving and a ton of very rough new converts all the way until we had grown to about 800 people a Sunday. At one point I literally had over a few thousand people come in and out of my home for Bible studies, internships, counseling, and more. My phone rang off the hook, my email inbox overflowed, my energy levels and health took a nose dive, and I started becoming bitter and angry instead of loving and joyful. It got to the point where either something had to change or I was going to go ballistic and do something I really regretted.  [emphasis added, though note that back in 2011 the extent writings of William Wallace II were not back in the public record]

Through much prayer and study of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that I’d done a poor job of raising up leaders along with me to help care for his church. I was carrying the burden myself and was not doing a good job because it was too much. I needed to transition from caring for all the people to ensuring they were all cared for by raising up elders, deacons, and church members. This spurred me to make some dramatic changes to increase membership and train leaders

Now this account seems to forget everything Mark Driscoll had published in his 2006 book about how he reached out to Mike Gunn and Lief Moi to help him co-found Mars Hill.  Nevertheless, the later 2011 Driscoll account is still informative in a way, it told of how Mark Driscoll was basically running Mars Hill by himself and he wasn’t up to the task and needed elders to help.  This might imply that Mark Driscoll saw the history of Mars Hill Church as being a thing he ran by himself from day one. He could invite or recruit other men to help him run Mars Hill but, perhaps, in the end there was relatively little room to doubt whose baby this was.  So what could the governance conflict, given how we’ve been told there was one, have been about?

If we consult documents from the actual 2007 governance controversy at Mars Hill the controversy featured a pair of terminations, namely of former Mars Hill elders Bent Meyer and Paul Petry.  Formally this was conveyed by Jamie Munson.

Pastor Paul Petry - Grounds for immediate termination of employment
* Continual insubordination and submission to leadership and spiritual authority
* Refusal to Ministry Coaching Program
* Divisive within Mars Hill Student Ministry and undermining of Pastor Adam, Deacons and entire ministry
* Blame shifting to Proxy leadership for misbehavior of children
* Public accusation of Lead Pastor [Jamie Munson] regarding hiding the real bylaw document
* Not following protocol and process for making bylaw comments by contacting church attorney without permission
* Ongoing contentious spirit to leadership regarding changes and direction.

Pastor Bent Meyer - Grounds for Immediate Termination of Employment
* Total lack of trust for Executive leadership and insubordination
* Multiple unfounded accusations from Bent regarding abuse of power, power grabbing and motives of leadership
* Not following protocol and process for making bylaw  comments by contacting church attorney without permission
* Showing unhealthy family favoritism by establishing son Cameron as spokesman for Salts recap meeting
* No communication with elders regarding Cameron's sin and removal of grace group leadership

Some might conclude this is a political move to gain more support for the bylaws as Paul and bent were outspoken critics of the current direction. [emphasis added] This is not the case, the executive team wants to conduct itself in a way that is full of integrity, walking in the light, under full disclosure and in a decisive manner that best serves Jesus and His church through Mars Hill.  If the bylaws don't pass, so be it, we didn't want to wait on what we had determined were necessary and inevitable firings until after the bylaws had been voted into approval because that would have been deceptive. [emphasis added] We made the decision to terminate them now and give them the option to resign or undergo the full investigation. We have a higher value of being men of integrity than playing politics to swing a vote in our favor.

Meyer and Petry were objecting to bylaws that would consolidate the power to make strategic financial decisions and the purchase of real estate into the hands of an executive elder board that could range from three to five men.  Because of these objections Meyer and Petry were considered unfit to be in ministry at Mars Hill and were terminated from their staff positions in later 2007.

There are a number of things that need to be said about Mars Hill governance, concern about conflicts of interest and the role of the acting president of Mars Hill over its history but those may be best addressed later.

Part of the changes in governance involved a functional demotion of co-founding pastor Lief Moi. Although Mark Driscoll did not specify names in a Q&A he gave in February 2008 his lengthy description of how and why a man can’t do ministry with his best friend is worth quoting:

[starting about 36:30]
Q. How do you lead staff who are your best friends?
Do you want the honest answer or should I punt?
... You can't. ... you can't.

I hate to tell you that. ... Deep down in your gut you know if you're best friends and someone works for you that changes the relationship. Right? Because you can fire them. Of course you want to be friends with your elders and the people you work with. I mean, we're a church. I mean you wanna, you NEED to love the people you work with. But one of the hardest things, and only the lead guy gets this. Nobody else on staff even understands what I'm talking about. When you're the lead guy you wear multiple hats. Say it's someone who works with you and they're a good friend. You wear the "Hey, we're buddies" hat. We're friends. We go on vacation. We hang out. We do
dinner. We're friends.

But you also wear the "I'm your boss" hat "You need to do your job or I might have to fire you" hat, and you also wear the "I'm your pastor. I love you, care for you, and I'm looking out for your well-being" hat. Those three hats are in absolute collision. Because how do you fire your friend and then pastor them through it? Right? I mean that is very complicated. I love you, you're fired, can I pray for you? That is a very .. what are we doing? I think if you're going to have your best friends working with you they need to be somewhere else on the team but not under you or the friendship really needs to change.

And what happens is when people are your friend ... I don't think that many do this intentionally but they want you to wear whatever hat is at their best interest at the time. So they didn't do their job, they're falling down on their responsibility, and you talk to them and say, "Look, you're not getting this done." They put on the "hey buddy. Yeah, I've been kinda sick lately and my wife and I are going through a hard time." and they want the friend hat on. And as a friend you're like, "Oh, I'm so sorry, dude." But then you put your boss hat back on and you're like "Yeah, but we pay you and we need you to get the job done."

And then they want you to put the friend hat back on and keep sympathizing.
And you're totally conflicted. ...

I have very good friends in this church. I have elders that are very dear friends, but when you have to do their performance review, when you have to decide what their wage is, when you have to decide whether they get promoted, demoted or terminated it's impossible to do that because you can't wear all three hats at the same time.

First guy I fired, he was a dear friend. A godly man, no moral or doctrinal sin whatsoever, he just wasn't keeping up with what we needed him to do. And it wasn't `cause he didn't try and wasn't working hard. And he had a wonderful wife and a great family and to this day I think the world of this guy.  And if my sons grew up to be like him, I'd be proud. And I'm not critical of this man at all.

But I remember sitting down at that first termination. First I put on the friend hat. I said, "I love you, I appreciate you. I value you." Then I put on the boss hat, "I'm gonna have to let you go. Here's why." And then I put on the pastor hat, "How are you feeling? How are you doing?" And he was really gracious with me and he said, "This is just the weirdest conversation I've ever had." And I said, "Me too, `cause I'm not sure what hat I'm supposed to wear."

Does that make any sense? The best thing is if you have a best friend maybe the best thing to do is not have them work with you.  Or if they do have them work under someone else. And to also pursue good friendships with people outside of your church. Some of my dearest friends today are not at Mars Hill, they're also pastors of other churches. Darrin Patrick is here, Vice-President of Acts 29. I love him. He's a brother. He's the guy I call. ... He's a pastor to me, you know?  Matt Chandler is here. I count as a friend. By God's Grace, C. J. Mahaney, I count as a friend. ...

Jamie Munson is head of the elder board. Jamie Munson is executive pastor. He is legal president of the organization. And for me, to be honest, it was the most freeing, liberating thing I could have dreamed of because now I don't have all that conflict of interest. I can be friends with someone but I don't have to fire them, do their performance review, and decide how much they get paid. It's just too conflicting for me."  [emphasis added]

As we saw in Driscoll’s earlier reference to three kinds of people in an organization, sometimes there are people who are not rising in the organization and are not attached to people who are rising and for the organization to grow they have to be let go or left behind.  Driscoll also wrote in his 2006 book that you have to find out if you have the courage to “shoot your dogs”.  Perhaps the terminations of 2007 could be construed as an attempt on the part of Mars Hill leadership to proverbially shoot their dogs.

The most significant formal decision made in the 2007 period was to change the president of Mars Hill from Mark Driscoll to Jamie Munson, one of the earlier converts under Mark Driscoll’s preaching. Driscoll’s appointment of Munson as executive pastor and president of the organization was presented as liberating circa 2008; it meant that Mark Driscoll no longer had to deal with conflicts of interest.  Whether or not conflicts of interest were actually eliminated may be impossible to assess ten years later in 2017.  What we can establish, however, was that some pastors at Mars Hill had other concerns. Thanks to documents at Paul Petry’s website Joyful Exiles we have access to some documents from the 2007 period in which we can see what some of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer’s concerns were.

In September 2007 Bent Meyer wrote about his concerns that the authority of the Council of Elders was being eroded.  
page 19 of 110…
I am very concerned about eroding any more authority from the Council of Elders. I will speak to this in more detail during the upcoming elders meeting. I am also concerned that the more complicated the organized become, the more authoritarian in style and content communication becomes i.e. the Communications Directive….
Page 20 of 110

To date, governance has been structured on the assumption that Mark would outlive us all, yet the reality is that he will not outlive the organization. In fact, he made it clear that under the right pressure or discouragement he would bale [sic, emphasis added], which means the bylaw have to consider what would happen if the next lead pastor, had different doctrinal leanings and a different mission. To say, proper vetting would sort that out, is not sufficient. People change over time and the man would be following a dynamic promoter. This alone would put huge pressure on him to do what is necessary to draw crowds. The financial shock created by people leaving because Mark no longer preaches will drive MHC in directions that are potentially not wise or good. To say that is unlikely ignores the possibility that a bus or car has Marks name on the grill. [emphasis added]

Here in 2017 we can say definitively that Mark Driscoll has outlived the organization! 

Interestingly, when Mark Driscoll wrote about the termination and trial process later in 2007 he wrote the following:

From "A letter from Pastor Mark Driscoll"
November 8, 2007
page 3 of 145

At the same time I began receiving other lucrative job offers that would allow me to study, preach, and write without all of the administrative duties and burdens for which I am not sufficiently gifted to be responsible for. For the first time in my life, the thought of leaving Mars Hill sounded very relieving. Since I had given ten years of my life to the church and love the people desperately, it was obvious to me that something was deeply wrong that such offers would even be intriguing. … 

Although rank and file members couldn’t have known of Meyer’s email correspondence Mark Driscoll explicitly confirmed that offers to bail on Mars Hill by way of taking lucrative job offers had been made in the 2006-2007 season.

The irony of Meyer’s invocation of a possible bus or car with Mark’s name on the grill is hard to overstate in light of one of Mark Driscoll’s more notorious utterances from October 2007. Meyer’s warning may seem more prescient in 2017 than it might have been in 2007 when he warned that without Mark Driscoll’s persona to draw crowds the financial shock of a mass exodus could be damaging to the stability of Mars Hill. While Meyer’s invocation of a proverbial bus warned that a proverbial bus might run into Mark Driscoll, in the wake of the termination of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry Mark Driscoll would talk about a Mars Hill bus that would run down opposition.
October 1, 2007

... Too many guys spend too much time trying to move stiff-necked obstinate people. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and by God's grace it'll be a mountain by the time we're done. You either get on the bus or get run over by the bus (those are the options) but the bus ain't gonna stop. I'm just a, I'm just a guy who is like, "Look, we love ya but this is what we're doin'."

There's a few kind of people. There's people who get in the way of the bus.  They gotta get run over. There are people who want to take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off cuz they want to go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus (leaders and helpers and servants, they're awesome).  There's also sometimes nice people who just sit on the bus and shut up. They're not helping or hurting. Just let `em ride along. You know what I'm saying? But don't look at the nice people who 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 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 core. [emphasis added]

I'll tell you what, you don't just do this for church planting or replanting, you know what? I'm doing it right now. I'm doing 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. This will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. [emphasis added]

Note, if you would, the royal “we” in the last paragraph.  We’ll get back to that.

Meyer warned that assuming it would be unlikely that Mark Driscoll would voluntarily leave Mars Hill would be to forget that there might be a bus or a car grill with Mark’s name on it, so to speak.  It’s impossible to know whether or not Meyer’s email was one Mark Driscoll read but the juxtaposition, though it may not mean anything in the end, seems equally difficult to just ignore.  Mark Driscoll made a point of saying that people who wanted to take turns driving the bus needed to be thrown off the bus and that two guys were “under the bus” as of October 1, 2007.
Over what? 

What Driscoll told Walsh and Robison the conflict was about was:

… At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved [emphasis added], especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.

It is difficult, to put it delicately, to find any evidence in the twenty year history of what was once Mars Hill that there was ever a time in which the local eldership insisted on independent local governance over against central leadership at a formal level.  There may have been tensions from time to time between campuses and central over specific allocations, expenses and resource distributions but neither the 2005 era nor 2007 era bylaws of Mars Hill ever stipulated fully independent local church governance. 

If Mark Driscoll wished to indicate that the eight year conflict he says took place was in any way connected to the governance conflict that included the terminations and trials of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, that conflict was not made public in “the last year of Mars Hill”; it became a matter for public consideration in March 2012 by way of Paul Petry’s website Joyful Exiles.  Going public two years before World Magazine published word of Mars Hill using Result Source hardly counts as within “the last year” of Mars Hill Church existing as a publicly recognized entity. There’s no way Mark Driscoll could honestly say that the conflict related to the 2007 re-org of Mars Hill finally went public in 2014.

As for the nature of the conflict, Mark Driscoll’s own October 1, 2007 words about the “two guys” suggested he had reason to believe the decision to remove elders such as Meyer and Petry, for instance, was a unanimous and indisputable matter, thoroughly past tense.  The elders were not even in conflict about whether they, as a majority, agreed with the decision made to terminate the employment of Meyer and Petry. 

By 2014, however, many of the elders who presided over the trials of Meyer and Petry came to regret that decision and the entire trial and termination process. 

It’s worth pointing out that among those elders from the 2007 period who signed the letter of confession and repentance all four members of the Elder Investigation Taskforce signed the letter.  For those unfamiliar with the events of 2007 the EIT was tasked with investigating the charges that were made against Meyer and Petry. Procedurally it seemed as though what documentation there was established that the person who made the charges at a formal level was also the person who appointed the EIT, Jamie Munson.  If, as Driscoll claimed in a 2008 Q&A, appointing Munson as president of Mars Hill ensured that Mark Driscoll himself no longer had to deal with conflicts of interest this may or may not have been the case for Munson being able to make charges and appoint a taskforce to investigate the credibility of such charges.  Although the 2007 process found men concluding the charges were legitimate by 2014 a majority of those men concluded the entire process was sinful and wrong.

So if any or all of that were what Mark Driscoll claimed as the core of the now allegedly eight-year war over governance it wasn’t exactly a war, nor could it plausibly be said that it became public only in the last year of Mars Hill.  The controversy surrounding the termination of Meyer and Petry was reported by The Stranger the year it happened, in 2007 in an article called “Fired and Brimstone”.

Back in 2007 the common understanding was that Meyer and Petry were fired for not trusting the executive elders and Petry was accused of accusing the lead pastor (Munson) if hiding the real bylaws.  This seemed to imply, at the time, that it was Jamie Munson who was formulating the bylaws.  However, in a 2013 video Mark Driscoll seemed to state firmly that it was in fact he who rewrote the bylaws and constitution of Mars Hill during the 2007 period.  Originally reported by Warren Throckmorton, here is a transcript of what Driscoll said in a video called “Stepping Up”.  The video itself is no longer available.
transcript of Mark Driscoll statement in a video called "Stepping Up", discussed over at Warren
Throckmorton's blog:

I don’t know what the most courageous thing I’ve ever done is. I know the one thing that was one of the hardest was, the church was growing, it had exploded, it had grown to, I think, maybe six thousand. So it made it one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America in one of the least churched cities, and in a conversation one night it was just up in our bedroom on a couch we were visiting, Grace and I were talking about past relationships and just kind of a casual conversation and we’d been together at that point for maybe seventeen, eighteen years or something. [WtH, i.e. either 2005 or 2006] I mean we’d been together a while between dating and marriage. And she just explained to me a few occasions where she had been sexually assaulted, raped, and abused [prior to my meeting her, (WT's transcript differs from what is presented here and this is punctuation that WtH believes makes more sense of Driscoll's actual words)]. I just broke and I just started weeping, thinking that I had not known that about my wife, and she just said it matter of factly, like she was just reading the script of someone else’s life. And there was no emotion in her, and I could tell she didn’t even really understand what she had just explained. That sort of led to a season of me really getting to know her, and her getting to know her past, and us getting to know Jesus in a deeper way.

It was around that time I could just tell that she’s gonna need me available more.

Emotionally present more, we just had our 5th child. So the timing’s not great. We just decided to go multi-site in video, cause we had outgrown our location and everybody’s looking and all the critics are around and is this gonna make it? A couple of things combined at that season as well, overwork and stress and everything else. I fatigued my adrenal glands, I was in a bad place health-wise, was not sleeping. It was a pretty dark time for me, and I told Grace, “For me to recover, for you to recover, for us to build our friendship, I feel like we’re kind of at that watershed moment where our marriage is gonna get better or it’s gonna get colder, and you’ve really opened yourself up and I need to love and serve you better and pursue you more.”

I said so I got to change the church. I mean all the way down, I have to rewrite the Constitution, bi-laws, I got to let some people go. I have to put in place some hard performance reviews. I’ve got to be willing to lose a lot of relationships, endure criticism, preach less times, hand off more authority, and I said I don’t know if the church is going to make it and I don’t know if I’m going to make it.

I told Grace, I said “I’m going to give it one year, and if it doesn’t get fixed, I’m going to quit, because you’re more important to me than ministry, and I feel like if I quit right now, the church will probably die, and there’s all these thousands of people that met Jesus.” I said “So we’re either going to change it or I’m going to quit, but we’re not going to do this forever and you’re my priority,” and that led to everything that I feared, quite frankly. [emphasis added]

It was really brutal, and I couldn’t tell the story at the time of and here’s why- because Grace is really hurting, and I love her, and I’m broken, and we need to pull back and make some course corrections because it’s Grace’s story to tell, and she wasn’t ready at that point to tell that story, and I had no right to tell that story for her.

And so everybody got to speculate for years what the motive was, “oh he’s power hungry, he’s controlling, he wants to take over, he doesn’t love people, you know he’s just a bully.” And no, it’s actually he’s broken and his wife is hurting and the church is gonna probably literally kill him or put him in the hospital and his wife needs him right now, so he’s gotta make some adjustments. So, you know, by the grace of God, we weathered that storm. [emphasis added]

So by this account Mark Driscoll decided to rewrite the constitution and the bylaws and let some people go all so he could spend more time with his wife, Grace.  But apparently rewriting the constitution and bylaws of Mars Hill to spend more time with Grace did not entail decentralizing power away from a relatively small executive elder board of as many as five to as few as three men.  No, apparently it meant consolidating more formal power in the hands of a newer and smaller executive elder board in 2007. 

Back in 2007 Mark Driscoll wrote about the conflict in the following way:

from pages 3 through 5 of 145
One of the problems was that Mars Hill had essentially outgrown the wisdom of our team and needed outside counsel. The church had grown so fast that some of our elders and other leaders were simply falling behind and having trouble keeping up, which was understandable. To make matters worse, there was a growing disrespect among some elders who were jockeying for and abusing power. The illusion of unity our eldership had maintained over the years was kept in part by my tolerating some men who demanded more power, pay, control, and voice than their performance, character, or giftedness merited. While this was a very short list of men, as elders they had enough power to make life truly painful.
The consensus was that Mars Hill was poorly architected to be a multi-campus, multi-elder, multithousand person church. My administrative gifts had simply reached their capacity and the church needed to be re-organized so that campuses could be led by elder teams to ensure  that our people were best cared for, our doctrine best taught, and our mission best led. This meant that I needed to give up a great deal of power and trust other elders, deacons, and members to care for the church with the same passionate affection that I have for our people.

We interrupt this narrative to point out that the reason Mars Hill embraced the multi-site campus model was because the planned Ballard 2.0 campus announced by Driscoll in Confessions of a Reformission Rev turned out to be impossible. For those who were at Mars Hill in the 2004-2006 period the person Mark Driscoll credited with scouting what became the church corporate headquarters was Jamie Munson.  It could seem that, in the hindsight of 2017, the elder board of Mars Hill had thrown money into a real estate boondoggle;  nothing that Mark Driscoll had publicly announced to the world in his 2006 book as to the way the real estate would be used was looking like it could ever happen; and in the midst of formulating a plan B in the form of a multi-site multi-campus church the bylaws of the time had not accounted for such a possibility. 

There’s just one problem with this proposal, which is simply that the 2005 bylaws that already existed did have provision for local campus leadership board.  But for the moment let’s get back to Driscoll’s 2007 narrative:

The newly formed Executive Elder team began working on proposed new bylaws that would serve as the architecting document for a better Mars Hill. The big issue was empowering our campus pastors to lead elder teams. This would ensure the best care for the people at each campus by being accessible and able to make decisions quickly. [emphasis added] Simply, we could not care for our people across multiple campuses with one large and fast-growing elder team that had to meet to make decisions across campuses many of us had never even attended. So, the bylaws had to be rewritten to break the elders into teams with campus areas of oversight as well as accountability. As an aside, the rewriting of our governing bylaws is something we had done on other occasions throughout the history of Mars Hill, so this was not a new experience.

So if that’s really what was done how could that have led to an eight-year long governance battle behind the scenes?

For anyone who saw the 2005 bylaws a question arises, why on earth would the bylaws need to have been rewritten to empower campus pastors to lead local elder teams? After all, on page 137 of 145 of a document containing the old pre-2006 bylaws there’s explicit language concerning what would functionally be campus eldership:

Site Elder Teams – each site will have a team of elders to pastor and manage the details of the site

So, in fact, it would seem that site-based eldership was already accounted for in the old bylaws.  Between that phrase and Article V in the pre-2007 bylaws campus eldership would seem to have been covered. 

If, however, the problem with the architecture of Mars Hill was that some people felt that a full council of elders having a majority vote prior to the authorization of real estate acquisitions slowed down the ability of executive leadership to acquire real estate to deal with growth,  that would be a very different matter.  A full council of 24 odd elders who had to vote in a majority to approve real estate purchases could slow down attempts to scout out and purchase real estate for a burgeoning multisite model.

Whatever the case was, Driscoll continued to recount the 2007 conflict as follows:

Sadly, it was during the bylaw rewriting process that two of our elders, who curiously were among the least administratively gifted for that task, chose to fight in a sinful manner in an effort to defend their power and retain legal control of the entire church. [emphasis added]This included legal maneuvering involving contacting our attorney, which was a violation of policy, one elder who is no longer with us disobeying clear orders from senior leaders about not sharing sensitive working data with church members until the elders had arrived at  a decision, which has caused much dissension, and that same elder accusing Pastor Jamie Munson, who was the then new Lead Pastor of Mars Hill, of being a deceptive liar in an all-elder meeting with elder candidates present, despite having absolutely no evidence or grounds because it was a lie. This was heartbreaking for me since I have seen Pastor Jamie saved in our church, baptized in our church, married in our church, birth four children in our church, and rise up from an intern to the Lead Pastor in our church with great skill and humility that includes surrounding himself with godly gifted older men to complement his gifts.

How two of roughly two dozen elders could somehow retain legal control of the entire church patently defies comprehension.  We’ve seen from a short excerpt of Bent Meyer’s correspondence he was concerned that the power and authority of the Full Council of Elders not be eroded any further.  There is, as yet, no evidence that either Meyer or Petry even had legal control of the entire church or that either of them wanted entire legal control of the church.  We’ll come back to the question of who would eventually have managerial control of the whole of Mars Hill in due time.

Whether the policy against staff elders talking to the church attorney was explicitly forbidden or an informal expectation has never been very clear. It would seem the whole point of having an attorney available to begin with would be so that leadership could talk to said attorney. But more striking is Driscoll’s assertion that two elders who were least administratively gifted for “that task” of writing or rewriting bylaws were sinfully questioning leadership. 

But if, say, Paul Petry was involved in the drafting of the 2005 bylaws how on earth would his administrative gifts or lack thereof have suddenly become relevant to a 2007 bylaw revision process?  Wouldn’t knowing applicable state law be far more important in drafting bylaws for a non-profit organization than a nebulous lack of what Mark Driscoll described as “administrative” gifting?  In light of Mark Driscoll’s 2013 video claim that it was in fact he who rewrote the church constitution and the bylaws all of this material is largely moot anyway with respect to Munson--because if it was, in fact, Mark Driscoll who rewrote the Mars Hill constitution and bylaws he could have said so back in 2007 to clear up precisely why he believed what two elders allegedly did with respect to Munson was so out of line.   

Driscoll continued with:

To make matters worse, this former elder’s comments came after my more than one-hour lecture in that meeting based on a twenty-three-page document I gave the elders as a summary report about what I had learned from the other pastors I had met with in addition to months of researching Christian movements. I had just explained the cause of the pains we were experiencing as a leadership team as largely tied to our growing number of elders and campuses, as well as ways that my research indicated men commonly respond by sinfully seeking power, money, preference, control, and information as ways to exercise pride and fight for their interests over the interests of the team, church, and mission of Jesus Christ.

The elder who sinned was followed up with following the meeting by a rebuke from a fellow Executive Elder, but repentance was not forthcoming. To make matters worse, some vocal church members ran to that elder’s defense without knowing the facts, made demands upon the elders, acted in a manner that was not unifying or helpful, and even took their grievances public on the Ask Anything comment portion of our main website for my forthcoming preaching series. Of course, this was done under anonymous names to protect their image in the eyes of fellow church members while maligning the elders publicly. Some church members even began accusing the other elders of grabbing power and not caring for the best interests of our people, which is nothing short of a lie and contradictory in every way to the entire process we were undertaking. It broke my heart personally when amidst all of this, a member asked me on behalf of other members if the elders really loved our people. Now having given roughly half my life to planning for and leading Mars Hill Church, the questioning of my love and the love of our elders, some of whom even got saved in our church, for our people was devastating.

Today, I remain deeply grieved by and for one man, but am thrilled that what is best for Jesus and all of Mars Hill has been unanimously approved by our entire elder team because I do love Jesus and the people of Mars Hill. [emphasis added] Furthermore, my physical, mental, and spiritual health are at the best levels in all of my life. Now having joy and working in my gifting I am beginning to see what a dark and bitter place I once was in and deeply grieve having lived there for so long without clearly seeing my need for life change.

That was how Driscoll put things in 2007.  Here in 2017 there no longer is a Mars Hill Church.  Note that Driscoll was thrilled to report that “what is best for Jesus and all of Mars Hill has been unanimously approved by our entire elder team because I do love Jesus and the people of Mars Hill.” 

So how, exactly, was that the start of an eight year conflict within Mars Hill over governance? Cumulatively Mark Driscoll’s own testimony suggests that once two guys were off the bus and under the bus that there was no conflict, at least not in 2007.

In sum, whatever Mark Driscoll may now sincerely believe was the case about Mars Hill over the last ten years in the narrative he shared with Walsh and Robison in 2017 about an eight-years long governance battle, that narrative not only cannot be squared with outside testimony from other Mars Hill leaders from the past, it can’t even be squared with Mark Driscoll’s own previous testimony regarding the nature of governance conflicts in the past from the years in which conflict was known to have happened.  Since this is the same Mark Driscoll who went on record having told a reporter for Christianity Today in a 2012 that he and Grace were both virgins when they met each other in direct contradiction of what he explicitly said about them within the first dozen pages of his 2012 book Real Marriage, people may be forgiven if they think there is reason to wonder about the reliability of Mark Driscoll’s recollection of events.   

If things from 2007 seem impossible to correlate clearly with Mark Driscoll’s 2017 narrative to Walsh and Robison, things are not necessarily clearer on the subject of 2014 but that is a subject all its own.

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