Monday, April 24, 2017

on the Walsh/Robison interview with Mark Driscoll, part 4: Mars Hill government in crisis management mode in 2014 culminating in Mark Driscoll doing what he said he wouldn't do, leave


PART FOUR:  MARS HILL GOVERNANCE IN 2014 IN CRISIS MANAGEMENT MODE WITH DRISCOLL DOING PRECISELY WHAT HE INSISTED HE WOULDN’T

We’re up to the next part of Mark Driscoll’s 2017 account of what he regarded as an eight-year governance conflict.  This is the part where Driscoll said the following:

… So the governing board in authority over me invited us to continue and we prayed about it and talked about it as a family and felt like we heard from the Lord and I resigned. And left without -- didn't have an opportunity to say good-bye to the people so I want to let them know how much I love them and appreciate them and wish I would have had that opportunity.

It would seem that in the midst of the aforementioned eight-year governance war the board in authority over Mark Driscoll invited him and Grace to continue on at Mars Hill.  They prayed about it and talked about it as a family and somebody felt they heard from the Lord and so Mark Driscoll resigned.

Back in 2010 he had a list of reasons why he wasn’t going anywhere:


My heart is here. [emphasis  original] While I enjoy the opportunities for ministry that God grants outside of Mars Hill, were I allowed to only do one thing, I would easily and gladly choose to be an elder at Mars Hill, preaching God’s Word and shepherding God’s people. I have zero interest in doing anything other than being a pastor and have zero interest in being a pastor anywhere else.  [emphasis added] I am very content with where I am and what I am doing, and am very passionate about continuing to press forward together for more people worshiping Jesus more deeply.

Unlike the 2006-2007 period where Driscoll admitted he was tempted by lucrative offers to leave Mars Hill, by 2010 Driscoll was confident he wasn’t going anywhere.  Things were going so well that Mark Driscoll could joke that as he and Grace were working on a book about sex and marriage that the title was unsettled; Driscoll joked that a working title could be “Your Best Wife Now”.
 
 
 
That book, of course, would turn out to be Real Marriage, published in 2012.
Driscoll felt sufficiently confident he wasn’t going anywhere that even on October 26, 2013 when he first published “The Hardest Part of Ministry” at the Resurgence website, his litany of woe for his wife and children still culminated in a reaffirmation that he wasn’t going anywhere.
The hardest part of ministry
October 26, 2013
Mark Driscoll
The hardest part of ministry
Mark Driscoll   » Church Leadership Heart Culture Suffering 
When people learn that my concern for family safety is the most difficult part of my ministry, I usually get the follow up question: Why don’t you just quit and go do something else or go do ministry somewhere else?

Honestly, I’ve pondered that question myself on the darker days. I love my family. I love Jesus—and so does my family. I love our church—and so does my family. And I love our city—and so does my family. On average, we have seen 100 people get baptized every month for about the last five years. We are seeing lives change, and we find great joy in that. That said, I do all I can to care for my family and protect them, without being paranoid, and the truth is if I were not called to this line of work, I would quit.

Yes, sadly this question is all too easy for me to answer, so your prayers are appreciated. I just turned 43. Lord willing, we have decades of ministry left to go, and honestly if I think about it too much I get depressed and anxious. For those ministering in similar contexts, I’m earnestly praying for you and your families as well.
This was, paradoxically, the same Mark Driscoll who had in 2004 joked that:
Radical Reformission
ISBN 0-310-25659-3Mark Driscoll
Zondervan
Copyright 2004 by Mars Hill Church
page 14
... So I married Grace, began studying Scripture with the enthusiasm of a glutton at a buffet, and started preparing myself to become a pastor who does not go to jail for doing something stupid. To pay the bills, I edited the opinions section of the campus newspaper, writing inflammatory columns that led to debates, radio interviews, and even a few bomb threats--which was wonderful, because the only thing worse than dying is living a boring life. [emphasis added]
Possibly inflammatory columns Mark Driscoll wrote for his “On the Mark” column for The Evergreen can be read by consulting the archives for WSU.  The take-away was that when Driscoll looked back on his early 1990s op-ed career circa 2004 he fondly recalled that there were even a few bomb threats in response to things he wrote.  By 2013 things were different. Driscoll shared the troubles his family faced in the Seattle area without divulging that, in fact, the Driscolls had moved to Woodway in Snohomish county.  Though the Driscoll had already left Seattle proper they were still in the Puget Sound area and by all public accounts Driscoll seemed to indicate that he planned to stay there.
But Driscoll’s October 26, 2013 piece “The Hardest Part of Ministry” was still published a few weeks before Mark Driscoll’s fateful interview with Janet Mefferd in which she confronted him with charges of having plagiarized other authors in his published works. The extent to which Mark Driscoll avoids mentioning the extent of the plagiarism controversy that surrounded many of his published works, and the extent to which he avoids discussing the blowback from the revelation that Mars Hill contracted with Result Source to promote Real Marriage (which was itself involved as a subject in the plagiarism controversies), is the extent to which Mark Driscoll didn’t provide an answer to Randy Robison’s question as to why so many people would be so angry with Mark Driscoll.
But more significantly than just the issue of Mark Driscoll’s reputation was the credibility of the entire leadership culture of Mars Hill that saw fit to back the promotion of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book through the church.  The 2012 Real Marriage campaign was not simply a book but an integrated multi-media campaign that channeled all the resources of Mars Hill into the promotion of the Driscoll book. When a book that an entire church across at least a dozen campus sites in three states was expected to promote and make the foundation of teaching and preaching content for months became controversial because of an ongoing plagiarism scandal also became a controversial book because of how it was promoted, Mars Hill leadership felt obliged to make a public statement.
Ironically, when the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability responded publicly to news in WORLD magazine in 2014 that Mars Hill Church had contracted with Result Source to land a No. 1 spot for Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage, the BoAA wrote the following:
For many years Mars Hill Church was led by a board of Elders, most of whom were in a vocational relationship with the church and thus not able to provide optimal objectivity. To eliminate conflicts of interest and set the church’s future on the best possible model of governance, a Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) was established [emphasis added] to set compensation, conduct performance reviews, approve the annual budget, and hold the newly formed Executive Elders accountable in all areas of local church leadership. This model is consistent with the best practices for governance established in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability standards. Mars Hill Church joined and has been a member in good standing with the ECFA since September of 2012
This statement indicated that one of the aims in revising the governance of Mars Hill circa 2011-2012 was to eliminate conflicts of interest that existed prior to the 2011-2012 governance changes.  The BoAA of Mars Hill in 2014 took it as given that conflicts of interest existed in the governance structure of Mars Hill from the 2007 through 2011 period—at any rate that would seem like the plainest possible reading of the statement.  Who wrote the bylaws and constitution of Mars Hill for that period? To go by the “Stepping Up” video account Mark Driscoll gave, that person was him.
And the fact that Mars Hill contracted with Result Source at all and this to promote a book published by the president of Mars Hill raised a number of questions that have, as yet, not really gotten much by way of answers. Precisely what Conflict of Interest policy was eventually put in place at Mars Hill in the 2011-2015 period may remain unavailable.  That said, the bylaws from the 2012 period indicate the following about members of the Mars Hill BoAA:
Article 7
Section 7.15
Interested Parties.
Pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code and the Church's Conflict of Interest Policy, a contract or transaction between the Church and a member of the board of advisors & accountability is not automatically void or voidable simply because the member of the board of advisors & accountability has a financial interest in the contract or transaction. [emphasis added]
This would seem to indicate that a member of the BoAA would not be regarded as having a conflict of interest simply for having a financial interest in a contract or transaction conducted by the Church of which said member of the BoAA was an interested party.  The potential significance of this takes a bit of unpacking and in order to explain the possible significance of this clause for executive leadership at Mars Hill we need to look at the short career of one of the independent members of the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability.
It may be worth remembering now that when Paul Tripp resigned from the BoAA.  At the time of the resignation Mars Hill Church leadership informed Mars Hill members of the following:
Dr. Paul Tripp joined our Board of Advisors and Accountability in November 2013 and has been an immense help to our leaders over the past year. [emphasis added] Dr. Tripp has extensive experience in discipleship and biblical counseling. Earlier this month, we made the decision together to open the opportunity for him to work with greater focus on issues directly related to his expertise, namely the continued development of our community and redemption ministries. Because simultaneously being a board member and a consultant does not allow for the required definition of independence, Dr. Tripp graciously submitted his resignation from the BOAA in early June so that he can more extensively serve our church as a consultant. [emphasis added] We are excited to continue this work with him, and are thankful for his continued support of Mars Hill Church.
This might have meant that the nature of the relationship Tripp was allegedly about to enter into with Mars Hill Church would have meant an end to Tripp’s qualifying as an independent member of the Mars Hill BoAA (Article 7, section 7.2).  That would be on the assumption that such a relationship was definitely being undertaken, a matter to be established independently of the current historical survey.
However, Tripp’s own resignation announcement indicated that he resigned because he believed that the Mars Hill BoAA could not, as it was designed and implemented, ever be able to serve the purpose for which it was designed.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Mars Hill BoAA Statement
I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love the church of Jesus Christ. I love pastors. I love working with churches to help them form a leadership culture that is shaped by the same grace that is at the center of the message that they preach.

It's because of this love that I accepted the position on Mars Hill Church's BoAA. But it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church. [emphasis added]

Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs. Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected.

So, since I knew that I could not be the kind of help that I would like to be through the vehicle of the BoAA, I resigned from that position.

I would still love to see the leadership community of Mars Hill Church become itself a culture of grace and I am still willing to help, but not through the means of a board that will never be able  to do what it was designed to do. [emphasis added]
Now what reasons would Tripp have had for doubting that the BoAA could fulfill its role to keep executive eldership accountable?  One possibility is to consult the bylaws themselves. We’ve seen for instance, Article 7, section 7.15 establishing that granting a church conflict of interest policy, a contract or transaction between Mars Hill and a member of the BoAA would not automatically be void or voidable simply because a member of the BoAA had a financial interest in the contract or transition.  That kind of thing might turn out to have been against the rules for independent members of the BoAA to go by the MHC bylaws but it would not necessarily be against the rules for executive elders. Let’s consult Article 9 of the Mars Hill amended and restated bylaws for the section on officers, particularly the president:
Article 9
OFFICERS
Section 9.1
Election, Qualification.
The primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church shall serve as the president of the Church and shall have the authority to appoint other elders who are employed by the Church [emphasis added](or, if necessary to fill a vacancy while an individual completes the eldership process, a deacon) to fill other offices of the Church. The officers of the Church shall at a minimum include a president and a secretary. The president may also choose a chief operating officer, a chief financial officer, one or more vice presidents, a treasurer, one or more assistant secretaries and assistant treasurers and such other officers and agents as he shall deem necessary.  Any number of offices may be held by the same person, unless the Articles of Incorporation or these Bylaws otherwise provide. The office of president and secretary may not be held by the same person.
Section 9.3
Resignations
... If a member of the executive elder team resigns from his position as an officer of the Church, he will also be deemed to have resigned as a member of the executive elder team and the board of advisors & accountability. [emphasis added]
 
Section 9.5
President
The president shall be the chief executive officer of the Church and shall, subject to the provisions of these Bylaws, (i) have general and active management of the affairs of the Church and have general supervision of its officers, agents and employees [emphasis added]; (ii) in the absence of the chairman of the board, preside at all meetings of the full council of elders and the board of advisors & accountability; and (iii) perform those other duties incident to the office of the president and as from time to time may be assigned to him by the board of advisors & accountability.
So if back in 2008 Mark Driscoll told people that making Jamie Munson president of Mars Hill was the best thing he could have done because it meant he no longer had to deal with conflicts of interest, how did making Mark Driscoll (the preaching and teaching pastor of Mars Hill) eliminate conflicts of interest, exactly? Couldn’t it seem that the revised governance, by making the preaching and teaching pastor the president, have restored a formal conflict of interest that had allegedly been eliminated in the 2007 governance reform?  Now the clause stating that an executive elder resignation constitutes resignation from the BoAA might be why, once Driscoll resigned, he’s claimed that he had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.  Exactly what he was obliged not to disclose seems to have had nothing to do with talking about how and why he resigned since he spent a good chunk of 2015 in talks about how that happened.
But let’s look at a paragraph or two about the BoAA to see why Tripp may have had reason to conclude that the BoAA could not possibly play the role it was supposed to play:
Section 7.4
Duties of Members of the Board of Advisors & Accountability
The members of the board of advisors & accountability shall discharge their duties, in good faith, with ordinary care, and in a manner they reasonably believe to be in the best interest of the Church. The members of the board of advisors & accountability may in good faith rely on information, opinions, reports, or statements, including financial statements and other financial data, concerning the Church or another person that were prepared or presented by a variety of persons, including officers and employees of the Church, professional advisors or experts such as accountants or legal counsel. [emphasis added] A member of the board of advisors & accountability is not relying in good faith if such member has knowledge concerning a matter in question that renders reliance unwarranted. The members of the board of advisors & accountability are not deemed to have the duties of trustees of a trust with respect to the Church or with respect to any property held or administered by the Church, including property that may be subject to restrictions imposed by the donor or transferor of the property.
The bylaws could be construed as indicating that independent members of the BoAA may take in good faith information from staff and employees and executives of Mars Hill Church unless there were reason to believe doing so was unwarranted.   Could this not be taken to say that in essence independent members of the BoAA may take in good faith that anything and everything they hear about Mars Hill from the staff and executive leadership is true?  If that were the case how would it be possible for the independent members of the BoAA to ever hold the employees of Mars Hill Church accountable for anything at all? 
Let’s remember that when the BoAA made a statement about the problems of conflict of interest that their existence was apparently supposed to help solve it was to explain how at one point Mars Hill Church contracted with Result Source to promote Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage.  Yet according to Mars Hill leadership clarifying Tripp’s resignation from the BoAA in August 2014 Tripp resigned because he could not have a consulting relationship with Mars Hill while simultaneously being an independent member of the Mars Hill BoAA? 
So Tripp had to resign because he could not be an independent board member of the Mars Hill BoAA (according to Mars Hill) while Sutton Turner could sign a contract on behalf of Mars Hill with Result Source to promote Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage?  Well, if we go by Article 7, Section 7.15
“… a contract or transaction between the Church and a member of the board of advisors & accountability is not automatically void or voidable simply because the member of the board of advisors & accountability has a financial interest in the contract or transaction.”
Or at least it’s not automatically void or voidable if said member is an executive elder of Mars Hill or in some capacity employed by Mars Hill?  Or would the bylaws of Mars Hill have language that indicated that only independent members of the BoAA might have contracts or transactions voided by dint of having a financial interest in such a relationship?  To pose this question another way, could there have been reason to believe that there was a double standard regarding potential conflicts of interest between independent members of the MH BoAA on the one hand and executive leaders of Mars Hill who were also on the BoAA on the other? 
Whatever the case, Paul Tripp’s public statement made in 2014 made it clear that he did not believe the BoAA was capable of performing the task it was charged with.  Tripp wrote that an independent and distant board can’t hold leadership accountable in matters on which internal accountability would be necessary.  The reason this may turn out to have not been so “Captain Obvious” a statement may reside in the Mars Hill bylaws, particularly on the subject of the BoAA.  When we see in the bylaws from 2012 on that BoAA members were said to be able to take in good faith anything conveyed to them by staff, executive leadership, etc, then it makes more sense why someone like Tripp might conclude that an theoretically independent oversight board that, in practice, is entirely beholden to information conveyed to them by an executive leadership team will be incapable, by definition, of holding such a group accountable. 
So whether or not there was, as Mark Driscoll claimed this year, an eight-year long battle over governance, there’s no evidence that the conflict was about local elders wanting local leadership.  That, as we saw quite a ways back in this survey, was already covered by 2005 era bylaws.  What it turns out was a recurring source of tension in the Mars Hill leadership scene was persistent doubt as to how accountable Mark Driscoll was really being kept for his decisions and policies.  Bent Meyer was concerned in 2007 that a Mars Hill overly and overtly defined by Mark Driscoll could not survive if he ever left or suffered a health problem that put him out of the pulpit.  By 2014 Tripp’s resignation signaled at least one former member of the BoAA came to have fundamental doubts about the possibility that the BoAA could ever do what Mars Hill had been assured it was actually doing, holding executive leadership at Mars Hill accountable.  If, as Mars Hill reported to its congregations, Tripp’s resignation was because he could not maintain independent board membership in a contracted consulting relationship with Mars Hill, this implied in the wake of the Result Source controversy of March 2014 that there was not anything problematic about Mars Hill executive leadership contracting with Result Source to secure a No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list on behalf of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage other than the tactic being “unwise”.
An attender of Mars Hill circa 2014 could be forgiven for imagining that this seemed to demonstrate that there was a pretty big double standard at work for independent members of the BoAA and the executive elders who were also part of the BoAA.  Tripp couldn’t have a consultancy relationship with Mars Hill and be on the BoAA but Mark Driscoll could have his book promoted across all of Mars Hill with help from Result Source because Sutton Turner signed a contract? During 2014 Mars Hill attendance began to plummet as controversies mounted.  Finally, Mark Driscoll resigned, while members of the church awaited the results of what was at the time an ongoing investigation into Mark Driscoll’s fitness for ministry. 
Ironically, the2012 era of governance put Mark Driscoll back in the presidency, the very role that Mark Driscoll had indicated was why he had to deal with conflicts of interest back in 2008.  It’s never been clear why, if Driscoll’s having been president involved conflicts of interest, putting Driscoll back in the role of president of Mars Hill was no longer presenting any problems, whatever those problems might have been circa 2005-2007.  The very nature of Mark Driscoll’s resignation in 2014 seemed to demonstrate more powerfully than a simple statement from Paul Tripp ever could that the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability was fundamentally incapable of ever holding Mark Driscoll or other executive leadership within Mars Hill accountable. 
As for Driscoll’s resignation itself, we’ll see that within days of that resignation someone was willing to say for the record he had a role in suggesting that Driscoll resign.

 

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