Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Context for a Call for Reconciliation, part 1


Some readers (or all) may want to read almost everything at the following blog before proceeding to the body of this series:

The body of the unrevised first part begins below

I had decided over the last few months I wasn’t that interested in blogging about this topic but then the coverage kept happening. Then I got linked to by a Slate article in which the author and related editors clearly never bothered to read what I actually said in the blog post they linked to. Then I began to see the subject continue to come up in many of my favorite blogs. Then I began to realize that the subject was not going away and that the more I looked at how public discussion of the situation was going that things about it were starting to bother me. I also began to see Mars Hill members attacking the character and actions of Andrew on Facebook debates amongst people I actually know.
Then the “Call to Reconciliation” got published and I saw how it was worded. I have tried to be cautiously optimistic about it but I believe that in order for the “call” to be considered it has to be considered in context. By “in context” I do not mean the situations of Andrew or Lance, I mean the publicly observable pattern of how Mars Hill responds to criticism and specifically how advocates have chosen to broach the defense of Mars Hill as a subject recently and in the past. It is vital to be aware of this history so as to illustrate why people may feel cautious about meeting privately with Mars Hill leaders after having been hurt by specific decisions or policies at the church six years or six months ago. A central concern that has not yet been discussed that should be is the question of how “private” something private manages to stay. [more after the break]

For years I kept my privately expressed concerns about weaknesses in Mars Hill private. Then things went public and I realized that what I privately warned was likely to be a problem has, in fact, become a problem Mars Hill has had to publicly address even if only to say they don’t WANT to and WON’T publicly address those issues in any detail. I would like to promote an interest in discussions that lead to reconciliation but I think Mars Hill and its advocates need to be educated on some activity they may or may not know about. They also need to be aware of how some public statements made by specific people on record and anonymously leaked to bloggers may be coming across. So let me begin by referring to the Slate coverage written by Ruth Graham.

From Slate's February 10, 2012 article by Ruth Graham

Andrew (who asked that his last name not be used) told me in an email that he doesn’t remember signing the covenant, comparing it to a user agreement for iTunes.

We live in times in which people sign things without reading what they are agreeing to. As someone who read the by-laws from 2007, read the covenant, and had considered a lot of variables I think it may need to be said that people who sign things without knowing what they’ve agreed to might want to watch the South Park episode “Human Cent-I-Pad”. Or, if you just saw that I referenced a South Park episode and know what they’re alluding to, you don’t need to. I may not recall every single tiny little syllable of the membership contracts I signed at Mars Hill but I remember the gist of what they said.

... But Justin Dean, the church’s PR and marketing manager, agreed to answer my questions by email to tell the church’s side of the story.

One key element that was not clear in Andrew’s original account, Dean told me, was that the letter was intended to be read aloud, not posted online, and only to a “handful” of people. Instead, the group leader received unclear instructions and posted the letter online, a move Dean insists was not meant to hurt Andrew.

Furthermore, says Dean, only the approximately 15 members of Andrew’s small group, who met regularly and knew one another well, had access to the letter on the City. (Though Andrew was blocked from accessing the City, he says the letter was available to a slightly wider circle, including his fellow security volunteers.) “His case was not shared with the full church and had, until he posted it publicly online, only been known by a handful of people who were involved in his life and cared deeply about him,” Dean said. (Confusing social-media privacy settings strike again!) He added that Driscoll was not involved in the case at all. Mars Hill currently has 5,417 members and just nine ongoing church discipline cases.

Justin Dean went on record telling Slate that what was not clear in Andrew's original account is that the letter was intended to be read aloud, not posted online. Instead the group leader received "unclear instructions" and posted the letter online. The letter was available to the 15 members in Andrew's small group (the one he was in while still engaged or the one AFTER that or both?).

Now Dean has clarified that Andrew's account doesn't clarify the intentions of the letter. Well, why would it? He was blocked from The City at that point and couldn’t have had access to the letter himself. The only way Andrew would have known about the escalation letter was ... how did he find out? Well, let's consult Matthew Paul Turner's actual account of what Andrew related.

A week or so after that final communication with the Mars Hill pastor, Andrew learned via a phone call with a good friend (a member of Mars Hill Church) what exactly Pastor X meant when he said that Matthew 18 discipline would be “escalated.”

During the conversation, Andrew’s friend mentioned something about “A letter”.

“A letter?” said Andrew. “What letter? I know nothing about it.”
Andrew’s friend informed him that a letter addressed to Mars Hills members had been posted on The City, which is described on Mars Hills’ website as “Mars Hill Church’s online network. Rather than encouraging virtual community, the purpose of The City is to enhance actual relationships within the church…” Andrew described The City to be like “Facebook for Mars Hill members.”

Mars Hill had blocked Andrew’s access to The City. Andrew’s friend copy and pasted the letter (in its entirety) and emailed it to Andrew.

What can we observe from Matthew Paul Turner's summary of Andrew's account? Well, that Andrew learned through a phone call with a friend who was a member of Mars Hill church that a letter had been posted to The City. Andrew was blocked from The City and got his information about things being posted to The City second hand.
Now as to second hand accounts there's more to be considered but that waits for part 2

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