Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Context for A Call for Reconciliation: Part 8

Part 8: Reconciliation can't come if only you get to control the terms

Mars Hill has stated it wants reconciliation to happen. I’d like to take that seriously and I sincerely hope it occurs. However, to want reconciliation only on one’s own terms is not possible. Asking former members to meet privately and not consider the media by now can’t work. I’ve demonstrated why. You can’t suppose at this point that even meeting in private will also automatically mean “off the record”.  [more after the jump]

You got past that point when Mars Hill members kept discussing why Andrew was an evil lying predator and a wolf on Facebook status debates in the last month or so. You got past that point when anonymous people in leadership approached New Reformation Press to indicate Andrew’s story was incomplete and probably deliberately misleading days before your PR director provided statements that tell us, so far, that Andrew’s story pretty much checks out except for the parts where he was misinformed by a Mars Hill member or a member who legitimately saw a letter posted to a huge demographic on The City. You must also be aware that public statements and testimony suggest by now that it is possible that Mars Hill and its advocates, not former members, who have the longer history of not keeping things private.  It could be that Mars Hill has a culture in which a lack of privacy and even misinformation can be rampant and this, paradoxically, among some of its advocates as well as among its critics.
Mars Hill, I would suggest you talk to your church, as a whole, about what respecting the privacy of parties involves actually means. You can’t keep it if your whole church has been blogging and tweeting and Facebooking it away in plain sight without realizing it. Whether it’s from members adding new information or perspective on the case of Andrew to defend you, or members leaking documents to Andrew because they’re upset by how you handled things, it’s looking like the problems in “unclear communication” are far from over and lay more on your side than Andrew’s.  It's a sad observation to make but a potentially necessary one.

If you’re willing to look past an urge to defend yourself you may discover that the call from so many people outside (and, apparently, some inside) your church walls is that your call for reconciliation must be predicated on your willingness to be accountable. Accountability that is private and only on your terms is not really accountability, is it?

If you can concede that pastors or staff had to be removed for overstepping spiritual authority you should be comfortable admitting something implied by headship, a teaching that has had a lot of traction within Mars Hill over the years. And what does the concept of headship indicate? As Mark Driscoll used to put it headship means that it’s your responsibility even if it isn’t your fault because you’re the leader. Leadership and authority means that you bear responsibility for those who overstepped spiritual authority in a way that necessitated their removal from leadership. You are not just responsible for the abuses of pastors you removed you are responsible for having appointed them to begin with. 
You may understandably choose not to discuss those former leaders publicly and I respect that, but privately you have to be willing to concede that names will get named and that given Mars Hill’s failure to keep private things private as a church culture people who meet with you may understandably want witnesses. You should be willing to agree to that.

Christians affirm that reconciliation between believers and God was obtained by Jesus at the Cross.  Reconciliation came at the price of Christ's blood.  The blood of Christ is not a small price for reconciliation. We as Christians affirm that we did not choose these terms of reconciliation.  By extension, reconciliation can happen, Mars Hill, but you may not be able to choose the terms by which it happens.  If you cling to closely to the terms on which you seek reconciliation you may demonstrate that reconciliation may not be what you're asking for.
Amid all this unbelievers have taken notice. For instance:

… The letter concludes in this way:

“Our desire is for reconciliation between us and you. This won’t mean we’ll always see eye to eye, but can and should talk face to face in a spirit of humility and grace. Please fill out this brief form so we can begin this process.”
If by “between us and you,” they meant “us and you and many members of our congregations and your close church friends”, then I believe you. But to be honest, given the track record that Mars Hill has for keeping church issues between the offending party and the church leadership, the impersonal delivery of such a call via the Internet rings hollow. [emphasis added]

Now might be a good time to consider what the observations of unbelievers say about us, wouldn't it?

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