Saturday, October 05, 2013

Real Marriage Chapter 7: Grace Driscoll's critique of 2006 care groups in light of Mark Driscoll putting those people in charge himself

Grace Driscoll, Real Marriage
Copyright 2012 On Mission, LLC
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0
page 127-128
... I joined a group of women in our church who had all experienced abuse in different ways, and in the group walked through a twelve-week process of talking through the years of sin against me and sin I committed against others in response. When I joined the group, it was a bit disheartening to start out with one of the women putting our family on a pedestal as she said, "Oh, you are that Grace, Mark's wife, I just love his preaching ... " How can I possibly be honest and real now? I thought. What will happen in our church and life if they know about my abuse?

My leader thankfully addressed the issue with the woman, and every week it was helpful to hear others' stories and have the women respond to mine. I wasn't alone! But I also needed to realize no other "friend" was going to fix this for me.  Although I was blessed to have people in my life who loved me very much, our church lacked the resources in helping abuse  victims. We quickly realized there were large numbers of abuse victims attending our church and began the process of gathering resources to help.

page 131
As I previously mentioned, our church was on a mission to equip people as best and as efficiently as possible to serve the people in our congregation who had suffered abuse. The number of abuse victims was in the hundreds or more; just with those we were aware of at that point. ... Several elders were researching and trying out different programs but to no avail. Most weren't gospel centered or they focused wrongly on helping behavior rather than the person's heart. God cares about our hearts, and we needed something Jesus and Bible focused, so the elders decided to write their own material and train our people.
So Grace Driscoll stated that she joined a group and that the church lacked resources to help sexual abuse victims.  It's been established that Grace mentioned something that happened to her some time in 2006.  Grace Driscoll never actually says what happened to her but Mark Driscoll has publicly stated he told her she was raped.  Whatever it was Grace Driscoll has recounted what happened to her as something she did not recognize as actually having been sexual abuse until Mark Driscoll told her it was.

Now Grace Driscoll's account can be compared to Mark Driscoll's own account in Confessions of a Reformission Rev from 2006. 

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
copyright 2006 by Mark Driscoll

ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
page 151

To make these transitions, I needed to hand much of my work load to my elders and deacons so that I could continue to concentrate on the future of expansion of our church.  In some ways I longed for this day because it meant the weight of the church would be off my shoulders and shared with many leaders. In other ways I lamented not being able to invest in every young couple, experience the joy of officiating at so many weddings, or know everything that was going on in the church.

I asked our newest and oldest elder, Bent, to take over the counseling load that I had been carrying. [emphasis added] He was the first person to join our church who had gray hair, and he and Filipino wife, Joanne, were lock rock stars with groupies since all the young people wanted to hang out with these grandparents that loved Jesus. My problem was I loved our people so much that if I got deeply involved in the pain of too many people's lives, it emotionally killed me, and I needed to do less counseling.

pages 156-157
Pastor Bent has launched a number of care and recovery groups for such things as sexual abuse, sexual addiction, and alcoholism. He is also training new elders to help shoulder this burden with him. Among them is Phil, who was the first father to show up in our church when we had less than forty people and who has risen up to become a pastor
[most likely Phil Smidt, Jamie Munson's brother-law and currently a biblical counseling pastor at Mars Hill Ballard, WtH]
So whenever Grace Driscoll participated in a small group she was participating in what was probably a ministry that was only a few years old.  Zondervan published Reformission Rev in 2006 so it means that what Driscoll described as Meyer's work in setting up care and recovery groups was happening while Driscoll was writing the 2006 book or may have begun even earlier, and the bulk of the writing was likely in 2005.  Mark Driscoll, by his own account, gave Bent Meyer the task of taking over the counseling load and that Bent Meyer was beginning to launch care and recovery groups.  If Grace Driscoll in 2012 declared the resources were not gospel-centered or wrongly focused on behavior modification what were some of those resources?

How about How People Change by Timothy S. Lane?
The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender?
Blame it on the Brain? by Ed Welch?
Addictions: Banquet in the Grave by Ed Welch started getting mentioned circa 2007-2009

In fact earlier this year (March 2013 no less) there was a linked feature on Ed Welch at The Resurgence. This was before Holcomb jumped ship.

With those authors and titles circulating around and some of those authors still getting shout-outs from Mars Hill this year Grace Driscoll's claim that what was available circa 2006 was not gospel centered or wrongly focused on behavior change makes no sense.  If that were true why still plug the works of those authors?  Wasn't CCEF credited by Mike Wilkerson in the opening pages of Redemption as a potent and formative influence on the approach taken by Mars Hill? 

Nevertheless, Grace Driscoll mentioned in chapter 7 of Real Marriage that because the elders of Mars Hill sought in vain for really great resources to help abuse victims they began writing their own material.  She eventually name-drops books by Mike Wilkerson and by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb.  What is striking is that Grace Driscoll only refers to publications by authors whose works in question were published under the Re:Lit banner, one by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb and another by Mike Wilkerson.  Curious that she only mentions two books available through The Resurgence.

All right, both Rid of My Disgrace and Redemption were published in January 2011. Yes, roughly five years after Grace Driscoll was said to have shared the story of her abuse.  But that's not even the whole story here.  Let's get back to Driscoll's account that Mars Hill pastors began writing their own material.  Grace Driscoll's lack of detail about chronology glides over a significant detail about Justin Holcomb, he wasn't even at Mars Hill at the time.  Holcomb didn't even show up at Mars Hill Church until 2009 which is easily verified by our friends at Mockingbird! The wording in Grace Driscoll's chapter might lead an inattentive reader with none of Mars Hill's history to imagine that Holcomb was a pastor at Mars Hill prior to 2009 or that Holcomb's work is a reflection, in any way, on Mars Hill Church. 

No, none of the above.  Holcomb developed a reputation prior to coming to Mars Hill.  For that matter, whatever is in Rid of My Disgrace may already be available in a non-Martian imprint in the form of Save Me From Violence[WtH, update 2-10-14, this is actually a different book on the subject of domestic violence] "If" Holcomb has published  new form of his earlier book in a way that is no longer under the Mars Hill imprint that "might" be a sign that he's steadily distancing himself from his past association with Mars Hill.  How distant?  How about not mentioning that he was at Mars Hill in his LinkedIn profile?  And at this point I would say who would blame him?  I don't.

Now, for Mike Wilkerson. He is still Director of Biblical Counseling at Mars Hill.  How did he end up in this field of ministry?  Remember that Mark Driscoll wrote that he put Bent Meyer in charge of counseling and that Bent Meyer was setting up ministries and care groups.  Bent Meyer was in a position to put men like Mike Wilkerson and James Noriega into ministry roles.  Both men would later be part of the vote in 2007 to remove Meyer and Petry from eldership, which got covered by The Stranger at the time.

In Redemption Wilkerson explicitly expressed a debt of gratitude to CCEF and to James Noriega for developing the prototype group on which the Redemption Group model is based and Noriega's choice of resources aren't that hard to consult. 

Now let's go back to 2009 when Pastor James Noriega was asked what he hoped for and looked forward to for Mars Hill.  It would appear that as co-leader of the Redemption Group and Biblical Counseling Noriega laid out, in an interview on March 17, 2009, what his hope was for that ministry in Mars Hill.  Mars Hill has made a point of scrubbing all the below away but The WayBack Machine managed a few screen captures.  So here you go, former Pastor James Noriega on a positive vision for Mars Hill helping people.
What ministry are you currently serving in?  Co-Pastor of Redemption Groups and Biblical Counseling.
What is your biggest challenge in this ministry?
 In our generation there has been so much suffering from abuse that it is so easy to get caught up in lies from the enemy of God. I have watched people die based on a lie they heard from the enemy of God. These lies are so entrenched in one’s soul; it is very difficult to help someone see that what they saw as truth all along was a lie. In addition, the lie can be so entrenched that when they hear the truth of the gospel, it sounds like a lie and to them God seems like the enemy.
What is your greatest joy while serving in this ministry?
 To have front row seats when someone really gets who Jesus is for the first time, when the light really goes on for the first time. You literally watch their heart melt in the presence of God. It is an amazing thing to watch; I feel very blessed by God to have such a great job that I get to watch lives transformed before my very eyes.

What are you looking forward to seeing God do in this ministry?
 Uncovering more of the enemies schemes, that the church actually becomes a real healing ministry, that we do not have to rely on outside sources to help our people, and that the church is seen by the secular world as a place where real change that glorifies God is going on.

The goal, as Noriega saw it, was to see to it that Mars Hill would never rely on outside sources to help its people.  If the then co-leader of Biblical Counseling explicitly said his vision for the ministry was no outside sources of help this suggests that Grace Driscoll's take is idiosyncratic and not formal.  The Resurgence is a for-profit publishing arm of Mars Hill Church.  While Grace Driscoll negatively faulted resources available in 2006 as not being gospel-centered and as wrongly focused on behavioral modification former pastor James Noriega articulated a positive vision of a Mars Hill that would never need to consult outside resources and people to help victims of abuse. 

In other words, Grace said in Real Marriage there were no resources for sex abuse victims when she shared her story.  But if there really weren't any resources for abuse victims how did she end up in that small group she wrote about?  And who put Bent Meyer in charge of counseling and let Bent develop a series of ministries?  Mark Driscoll, by his own account.  And who made an explicit public statement of the hope that one day Mars Hill Church could rely entirely on internal resources for helping people?  Former Pastor James Noriega, whose connection to Andrew Lamb and the Mars Hill Church disciplinary situation of early 2012 has already been exhaustively discussed elsewhere.

So even if we set aside the question about how much Grace Driscoll's Good Girl, Tough Girl and party Girl resembles Dan Allender's "Style of Relating" without giving Allender any credit, Grace Driscoll's purported history of recovery/care ministry inside Mars Hill circa 2006 seems tendentious.  Mark Driscoll was glad to tell people in April 2006 in a book that he put Bent Meyer in charge of counseling and that Bent was starting care groups.  It would be accurate to say the recovery/counseling ministries were new and relatively inexperienced but to claim that the existing resources were doctrinally problematic belies the fact that a lot of those authors works are still given rave reviews by MH people to this day. Some of them are even invited to teach at Mars Hill functions.

By contrast, former Pastor James Noriega's positive hope circa 2009 that one day Mars Hill Church could use only its own materials and ministries to help people makes more sense.  It explains why so many authors and resources have been retained or recycled into the Mars Hill publishing arm, and it also better explains how Grace Driscoll could broadly put down 2006 Mars Hill resources only to plug for 2011 books published under the Mars Hill Re:Lit imprint.

We learn more about the story of how Mars Hill started putting together its books in the Re:Lit imprint, in fact, than we learn from Grace Driscoll about what actually happened to her in the first place.

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