Thursday, March 29, 2012

Scott Thomas' departure from Acts 29 in light of his role in the 2007 MH firings

Scott Thomas was one of the recipients of this email from Paul Petry asking why he was fired.
Munson explained in this email that he, Mark Driscoll, Bubba Jennings, and Scott Thomas held a brief meeting with Bent Meyer and Paul Petry. They were given the option to resign or be fired. Munson explained that if they chose to be fired an elder investigative task force consisting of Scott Thomas, Gary Shavey, Dave Kraft and Steve Tompkins would be assembled. 

Munson wrote he was grieved for the men and would contact them the next day to see if they were repentant and would choose to resign rather than go through the firing process. 

This was the email in which Munson stated that this was not a political move.  Even if the bylaws did not get approved it had been determined the firings of Petry and Meyer were "necessary and inevitable". Munson sent the following to Petry:

There's no indication Munson urged Petry to resign rather than go through the firing process.  Meanwhile, Scott Thomas wrote the following:

Scott Thomas informed Petry "This is not a witch hunt."  He also wrote, "For some reason, unknown clearly at this time, we are to undergo a painful pruning of the eldership to achieve more Christ-like fruit in our lives."

Munson informed Paul Petry that a task force headed by Scott Thomas would be conducting the investigation on 10/02/2007:

Munson formally announced the firings of Petry and Meyer.  Munson stated that the firings were not based on any sexual or moral impropriety. No discussion of the firings was permitted on the members forums and speculation and gossip was discouraged.

On 10/10/2007 Scott Thomas explained that the trial date had been moved to 10/15/2007.  Vote would be by a show of hands. Thomas declared that all four members of the EIT had adequately heard Petry's response to the charges and that Petry's presence at his trial would not be necessary.

Sometimes in life you have these strange moments of dumb luck.  Someobody happens to know someone who never got rid of an email Scott Thomas sent to a member about the firings. That someone managed to get said email to some blogger of no particular significance. On 10/12/2007 Scott Thomas replied to a member enquiry.  The member enquiry read as follows and was sent 10/10/2007:

I read Pastor Jamie's announcement last week with some sadness and confusion. I understand the need for courtesy and respect of privacy but as I attempt to understand the following:

1) firing two pastors and announcing this to the church body,
2) the by-laws say a pastor can be suspended on credible charges of moral or doctrinal wrong
3) 1 Timothy 5:19-20 says to not accept accusations against elders without two or three witnesses
4) and says that spiritual leaders rebuker sinners publicly so that the rest may also fear
5) Pastor Jamie has said the fired pastors have not been accused of any moral or doctrinal error at all

This seems to create more rather than less confusion and presents a precedent that confuses me.  It seems that firing two pastors; barring them from service in ministry and voting on church issues; and publicly announcing this to the body seem necessary and good if the pastors are guilty of moral or doctrinal error, are not repentant,  and an investigation has already been completed establishing their guilt.  It seems baffling if they have not been accused of anything but their firing has simply been announced prior to an actual investigation.

It is particularly confounding for me in light of the precedent established by the pastoral announcement about Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxx two years ago.  She was found to be in unrepentant sin, was determined to have never been a Christian, and was allowed to leave the church with an admonition to the Mars Hill body to not ostracize but welcome her back if she chose to return.  I trust that once the investigation and disciplinary process is complete we'll hear from the pastors but I wonder if Pastor Jamie's announcement is having the unintended effect of fueling rather than stifling speculation.  I will keep praying that the Lord's will be done and that He will guide the church where He wishes and that the Enemy will not sow discord. 

Scott Thomas' reply on 10/12/2007 was as follows:

I appreciate your love and concern for these men. My heart is heavy right now as well. A team of elders just concluded a conciliatory process with these two men. Be patient, trust Jesus and rest in the fact that this is His church. I do not expect you to understand the gravity of the situation with limited information. This is a legal proceeding, is supervised by our lawyer and as a result, is not a familial discussion. It was what Paul and Bent specifically requested. However, we are bound by our own judiciary system to act justly. After due process, the elders will rule according to Bylaw procedure and the members will be informed. This takes the church through a sanctification process—elders and members. It is more painful but at the last bears the needed fruit. You have to endure as well. You have to trust Jesus and His under shepherds to complete the task assigned in the time allotted (Oct 15).


Pastor Scott

Scott Thomas stated that a conciliatory process for both men had just been completed. He also indicated this in an email sent from his Acts 29 Network email address.  He sent this email two days after he informed Paul Petry of the date of the trial would be 10/15/2007 and that the EIT had adequately heard his concerns.   The trial took place on schedule and its outcome announced by Munson on 10/16/2007.

Munson stated that the EIT presented charges they found to be credible. Members were told that Scott Thomas, Gary Shavey, Dave Kraft, and Steve Tompkins were appointed to the Elder Investigative Taskforce. They were not told, as Petry was, that the taskforce was headed by Scott Thomas. They were not told that Scott Thomas was appointed to head the EIT and that Scott Thomas lead the taskforce that found Munson's charges against Paul Petry to be credible.

If as advocates of Mars Hill are wont to say that there are two kinds of deception, outright lies and half-truths it looks curiously as though both outright lies and half-truths abounded here.  It's something that needs to be taken into account when anonymous people try to tell you that Andrew deserved everything he got. When Scott Thomas told a Mars Hill member from his Acts29 email the conciliatory process had been completed that wasn't true. What had been completed was moving up the trial date to find Petry guilty of the charges Munson had made against him from late to mid October.  That Scott Thomas used an Acts 29 email account from which to misinform members does not seem like a minor point to me.  Others may disagree.

After the trial and decision were published questions arose.  Enough questions that Munson published the following on 10/25/2007

He mentioned that of the roughly 2,000 members only some had sinfully questioned leadership.  Note that Driscoll would later tell Justin Taylor that in early 2008 roughly one thousand members left the church during the Doctrine series.  As I have discussed at some length the doctrinal requirements of Mars Hill were not made any more stringent.  Early 2008's Doctrine series, as demonstrated by Scott Bailey at Scotteriology and Robert Cargill, was the series in which Driscoll patently misrepresented both the content and context of the Targum Neofiti. As Bailey so bluntly put it, straight up lying to your congregation about a Targum is a great big fail for a pastor and a scholar. 

No, during late 2007 and early 2008 members were belatedly informed of the firings, of the status of the 50th street building, and of the new by-laws, which members were required to agree with in order to renew membership.  Put all this together and it becomes apparent that in early 2008 half of the members of the church left in the wake of these unpleasant discoveries and not, as Driscoll told Justin Taylor in 2010 during his promotion of his Doctrine book, because doctrinal requirements were raised.  In later 2008 Mark Driscoll preached the Peasant Princess and happily reported record attendence levels. 

As has been demonstrated above Scott Thomas was involved in each step of the firing of Paul Petry.  He was part of the executive elder group that approved the firing to begin with.  He was appointed the head of the Elder Investigative Taskforce to establish whether or not Munson's accusations were credible. He was appointed to be the person to inform Petry and Meyer of the trial date.  He was in charge of the taskforce that found Jamie Munson's accusations against Petry and Meyer to be credible. He also informed a member on 10/12/2007 the conciliatory process for Petry and Meyer had been completed days before the trial in which he would submit that the charges Munson made against Petry were credible and thus grounds for termination.  Munson would then move from that to articulate that Mars Hill members would shun Paul Petry.

To say that Scott Thomas was involved in the firing of Paul Petry is to make a drastic understatement.  It would appear that if Driscoll and Munson were the primary force behind getting Meyer and Petry fired Scott Thomas was the apparatus through which every stage of the firing process was mediated and also justified.  Thomas was willing to tell members that a conciliatory process had been completed days after he notified the men their trials were moving forward.  And Thomas was willing to lie to members of Mars Hill using resources available through the Acts 29 Network, it seems. Making the Acts 29 Network complicit in deception exercised by executive elders of Mars Hill about where the conciliatory process of Petry and Meyer actually was hardly seems like a good thing, does it?

On March 19, 2012 Paul and Jonna Petry documented their story at Joyfule Exiles.  The weekend after this documentation goes up it gets announced that Mark Driscoll is stepping down from leading Acts 29 after taking the reins at the urging of Scott Thomas earlier this year.  Matt Chandler is announced as stepping into leadership of Acts 29.  Driscoll neglects to mention anything about Scott Thomas but Matt Chandler mentioned the following this week:

From Matt Chandler's recent letter:

Scott Thomas is taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas. Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29. He is excited about what God has next for him.

Scott Thomas' own letter is available here:

Scott Thomas told Chandler this last weekend he felt God has released him from leading Acts 29. 
Chandler has done us a great service in sharing that conversation.  Chandler has confirmed that Scott Thomas felt released from leading Acts 29 the week after Paul Petry documented Scott Thomas's systematic and comprehensive role in the firings of Petry and Meyer back in 2007.  It's remarkable and yet unsurprising Matt Chandler has shared Scott Thomas's perspective while Driscoll has avoided discussing Scott Thomas so far in this transition.  What is Scott Thomas' future in Mars Hill and Acts 29?

Well, first let's review yet again what Scott Thomas' role in the 2007 firings appears to have been given the evidence and documentation at hand. Driscoll and Munson were able to use Scott Thomas' role in the 2007 firings as a way to insulate themselves from appearing to be the primary agents in pushing for the firings of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer.  Munson made the accusations and Driscoll told Petry and Meyer they were fired after preaching about how there were some men, even in the leadership of Mars Hill, that if he weren't going to end up on CNN he'd go Old Testament on them.

Immediately after preaching the sermon, Mark Driscoll walked off the stage and entered the secret “mandatory” meeting where Bent Meyer and Paul were fired and threatened.

From there Scott Thomas was appointed the point man for the rest of the process until the firing of Petry and Meyer was made official, complete, and justified.  Now the week after Petry has gone on record with everything Scott Thomas feels released from leading Acts 29?  The network is moving from Seatttle to Texas and Thomas explained that he knew he wouldn't be at Acts 29 forever (well, yes, everyone dies). So it may well be that Thomas was going to go at some point anyway.  But feeling released the week after the Petrys released their story on record, a story that consists in no small part of emails sent by Scott Thomas, that's ... interesting.

Maybe now would be a good time to have a "where are they now?" overview of the men who were executive elders involved in the firings of 2007. Munson stepped down in 9/2011 and is working on a book about leadership (probably being ghostwritten for him given what a poor writer he is).  Munson's also tackling some business ideas.  Munson's already effectively out of any public scrutiny and was given a lavish and fond announcement by Driscoll.

Bubba Jennings is executive elder at Mars Hill Ballard and seems to have played no real role in the process at all except agreeing with what others told him was the case.  Moreover Driscoll has recently announced that thanks to the leadership of Clem and Jennings Mars Hill Ballard is financially stable enough that Driscoll can move live preaching to Bellevue. 

Now some financial history of Mars Hill is in order.  I didn't renew my membership back in late 2007 but I kept attending through late 2008.  I also stayed in touch with many members, some of whom attended Ballard.  Up until about 2010 Ballard and after 2007 when the Wedgewood campus was launched Ballard ended up habitually running budget shortfalls almost each year.  Concerns were expressed by leadership about giving.  Over at the Wedgewood/Lake City campus members were informed that member giving was good.  It was good enough members were subsidizing Ballard to help keep it from budget shortfalls. 

Around 2010 the Lake City campus was closed.  At the time members were advised that this was because money was tight and things couldn't be kept up.  That seemed plausible for a while.  But then the annual reports came out.  It turned out that the only campus with higher per capita giving was Mars Hill Eastside/Bellevue. Shutting down Lake City and moving its generous members (i.e. donor base for folks into non-profit fundraising) back to Ballard was a shrewd move.  It meant Ballard could regain financial solvency instead of having to decide whether or not to lay off counseling staff or buy red cameras.  With financial solvency back on the table for Ballard Driscoll could FINALLY start thinking in terms of moving live preaching to Bellevue where, as non-profit professionals around here will have learned, a lot of big donors and foundations are based. 

And on top of all this Clem and Jennings are understandably well-liked leaders at Mars Hill.  I've met both of them and they're nice guys.  In 2007 Clem's sermons were vastly superior to Driscoll's.  What began to take place since 2007 is that campus pastors gained personal connections to members that Driscoll has, apparently, sought to avoid.  It would not be prudent to get rid of Clem and even less prudent to do anything to Jennings.  Jennings is, for practical purposes, indispensible. 

So if Munson is doing his thing and outside the public eye; if Jennings is indispensible to keeping Ballard where it is so Driscoll can move live preaching to Bellevue; and if Driscoll is the star of the whole show; then who from the four executive elders who had Paul Petry and Bent Meyer fired in 2007 has been in a very high profile and publicly accessible setting at a ministry where he used its resources to field questions about the firings in 2007 with less than honest answers?  Who of the four men is in the most vulnerable position both for public enquiry about the 2007 firings and for damaging the reputation of both Acts 29 and Mars Hill in light of everything published at Joyful Exiles? Scott Thomas is the only one of these four men who would ever have to fall on his sword to preserve the brand integrity of both Mars Hill and Acts 29 in one stroke in the unforeseen event that everything connected to the 2007 firings went on record.  Given the mountain of documentary evidence provided by Paul Petry it's very hard to avoid considering this explanation.


Anonymous said...

"That Scott Thomas used an Acts 29 email account from which to misinform members does not seem like a minor point to me."

It most certainly is not to some in the SBC who are looking closely at our CP dollars funding Acts 29 church plants by paying salaries or whatever.

Sonja said...

I'm anonymous no more. :) Ex-MHC member, praising God for that.

What do you mean by this?

"Jennings is, for practical purposes, indispensible."

Bubba is a great guy, but a chameleon. To us sheep, caring and wanting to shepherd. But always got the impression of wanting to please some man or men.

What are your thoughts of good, godly men who are elders, now fearing a man rather than God, being that they will be judged for their shepherding, or lack thereof? Petry's letter of "I'm guilty" resonates.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Jennings is executive pastor at Ballard. Driscoll just announced Ballard is solid enough, thanks to Jennings and Clem, that Jennings is going to stay where he is. They just now got Ballard to a point where Driscoll can move his live preaching toward Bellevue.

And looking over all the Joyful Exiles documents Jennings has an almost cosmetic connection to the 2007 firings. Driscoll and Munson seem to have been the primary people pushing for the firings and Thomas was the implementer of the institutional apparatus and Jennings seems like he was just there in name. It might hurt his rep a bit but probably not much. He wasn't saying the firings were "necessary" or "inevitable" and he certainly wasn't using Acts 29 resources to tell members things that were half-truths or lies. Driscoll had publicly let fly his words that he'd go OT on people so his agency can't be lived down or evaded.

As to the second question, I've wondered about that a lot and not just about that but about other questions. For instance, Daniel loved the Lord but served a pagan regime. Obadiah served the Lord but was a servant in Ahab's court. Micaiah was the same way. One of the shortcomings of angry bloggers (for or against) is they want a grossly simplified stance on everything. That's about all I've got for the moment.

Sonja said...

Bubba is a good leader and Clem is a terrific teacher and both truly love the flock. I love both of those men, so can't help but wonder how ... so I appreciate your examples (just read 2 Chron. 18 today)very much, thank you. Very helpful and encouraging to me.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Some other case studies from Scripture to consider that have helped me realize both that things are rarely simple and that there isn't anything truly new:

David was a man after God's own heart but his reign ended in impotence at every level (Driscoll has consistently avoided the innuendo that has been discussed by scholars of the text here as much he's gone for every innuendo possible in Song of Songs).

Jehoshephat was a godly but ultimately foolish king who got Judah into disastrous alliances and appointed a son for being firstborn who had most of his siblings slaughtered.

Ahab was a consistently wicked leader who was, nevertheless, successful and apparently charming. After all, he talked Jehoshephat into working with him.

Joash started off with some possible promise when he was mentored by an older priest but was still fickle and when his mentor died Joash was approached by the elders and chiefs of Judah and not only permitted idolatry but ordered the killing of the priest/prophet who spoke up against this, the son of the man who'd helped him. Joash was ultimately assasinated by his own royal officials for not only do this but for paying tribute to Syria.

Mannasah was a terrible king unlike the others before him yet repented late in life.

Finally, Josiah was a godly king who instituted dozens of reforms and yet despite his godliness the cumulative historic and cultural corruption of God's people was considered so great none of Josiah's reforms were ultimately going to sway God's coming judgment that would push all of God's people, including Judah, into exile.

Paradosically if Mark Driscoll had not been so cavalier and specious in transforming Nehemiah into a typology about himself and Mars Hill instead of treating Scripture as actually being God's word I wouldn't have been spurred to study the Old Testament narrative literature more seriously. Driscoll placing himself above Scripture and using the text of a biblical book like Nehemiah or Ruth as a pretext to ramble on his own topical concerns was the catalyst for my taking the narrative literature more seriously.

Sonja said...

I sat through Nehemiah and very much remember the strange eisegesis, totally clueless as to what was going on. And that wasn't the only extra-biblical interpretation I heard. But Driscoll is by no means an OT scholar, as much as he's an NT scholar.

That's why I left. As someone else said somewhere, "Mark Driscoll Ministries".

I'm very familiar with the history of the sad stories of the kings of Israel and Judah. At least Judah had some who did right in God's sight. I had never applied any to the good men still at MHC, so again thank you for that connection.

This is old, but new to me, maybe to you too. Many links from March and April of 2009. This link is basically in the middle:

Here's the video response. Read all the links to see what Johnson has to say about it.

Mark's preaching has turned into something strange. He can only learn from men who have larger churches than his ("his" intentionally) by his own words. He's embraced the heretic TD Jakes. Jesus said He would build His church, which I've taken to mean that the Lord doesn't need Driscoll.

Sonja said...

Meant to add: Johnson was more charitable than I would be knowing what has been confirmed.

I wasn't fed by Driscoll, and when Clem preached it was like rain in the desert.

My objection is his eisegesis when he contends his preaching is expository. It is not. Any teaching had been degraded to become only to put bodies in the seats. I guess sex does that, even when the text does not lead one that way (not Songs).

Anonymous said...

In all the gushing over Clem and Jennings, let's not forget that they both were jurors at the Petry and Meyer trial - accomplices with Driscoll.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Yes, but the culture of pragmatic, self-congratulatory complicity and duplicity didn't just show up at the 2007 firings. It permeated and grew in a lot of small ways. There were people who left in 2005 who warned of exactly the problems that came up in 2007 and how many of us listened? Probably nearly none.

I've shared how I warned that I was afraid X would happen if Y weren't resolved but I, too, was the same kind of person who didn't heed warning signs myself. I'm sure you were, too, Anonymous. We probably both got more positives than negatives while we were there and things were going good. If things seemed a bit weird we just dismissed those as oddities. As a friend of mine put it, there were little things on the surface of the water that he thought were just quirky individual moments that turned ou tto be tipes of icebergs.

And if you were around circa 2002-2007 then you know draconian pastoral disciplinary procedures didn't just start in 2007, did they? In some ways they really predated the firings.

Sonja said...

The only juror in that "trial" was Driscoll. But the rest of them bring to mind 2 Chron. 19:6-10 not heeding the admonition. Regardless, Driscoll was judge, juror and executioner.

For the record, was there from '06 until 12/11.