Monday, December 09, 2013

Mars Hill Church admits to 'citation error', pulls Trial study guide, Intervarsity Press publicly states lack of citation does not fall under Fair Use

A number of people have alluded to this statement but for those who haven't spotted this already:

In 2009, Pastor Mark preached through 1 & 2 Peter in a sermon series called Trial. To help our small groups, a team of people including a research assistant, put together a free study guide that was produced in-house. About 5 years later it was brought to our attention that it contained some citation errors. We have discovered that during the editing process, content from other published sources were mistaken for research notes. These sentences were adapted instead of quoted directly. We are grateful this was brought to our attention, and we have removed that document from our website to correct the mistake. Additionally, we are examining all of our similar content as a precautionary measure.

Mars Hill doesn't name names and if they did the names might end up being of people who are no longer in leadership at Mars Hill anyway.  None of that is particularly germane by itself but we'll get to why it matters that the copyright of the book is registered to Mars Hill.  The reason is simple, Intervarsity Press has made a comment to Christianity Today, today.

InterVarsity Press tells CT:

Several paragraphs from the New Bible Commentary edited by G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson and R. T. France published by InterVarsity Press appear in Mark Driscoll's now out of print book Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter. These improperly appeared without quotation or attribution. With proper citation the material would have been a case of fair use.

InterVarsity Press believes all writers should use great care as they do research and prepare texts for any use to make sure that proper acknowledgement is given to source material.

IVP tells CT this will be its final statement on the matter. CT has reached out to Driscoll for a response.
There went any possible defense of Trial via fair use, apparently. 

Mars Hill has made a public statement that leans on the idea that a team of people were responsible for what turned out to be a citation error that was brought to the attention of Mars Hill Church.  Does anyone at Mars Hill Church care to thank Janet Mefferd specifically as an expression of gratitude or would giving her public thanks be inappropriate because Mark Driscoll said she was being accusatory and unkind.  It looks like Mars Hill Church as a corporation may differ from Mark Driscoll on this general issue now that a different case of alleged plagiarism has come up.

Jonathan Merritt has pointed out about the Mars Hill Church statement:

The statement appears to contain at least one incorrect statement. Though Mars Hill claims the book was “never sold,” it is currently on sale by at least one vendor (Logos Bible Software) for $9.95. A screen shot of the sales page is attached. - See more at:

Warren Throckmorton has noted that The Resurgence at one point was selling copies of the Trial study guide.  Throckmorton has clearly become quite good at navigating the peculiarities of Mars Hill's sites where tags and downloads may not always appear in easily spotted places.

I examine this statement below, but one claim in it appears not to be accurate. The statement says the study guide was never sold. It is being sold presently by Logos Research Systems as a download. Product details are listed as:
  • Title: Trial: 8 Witnesses from 1 & 2 Peter
  • Authors: Mark Driscoll and Brad House
  • Publisher: Mars Hill Church
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Pages: 198

...  Furthermore, at one point Driscoll’s The Resurgence website advertised printed copies in bulk.
Because the link is dead already let's do a little fishing.

For those for whom images don't pop up:

From now until the start of Mars Hill Church’s Luke series, you can purchase copies of the Trial Study Guide by the case. Only twenty cases are available, so order soon if you’re interested. The book is a 200-page overview of 1 & 2 Peter (paperback, 5-1/4 × 7-7/8). It features over 30 small group lessons and an extensive day-by-day family discussion section. The Study Guide was originally written as a companion piece for Mars Hill Church’s sermon series Trial: 8 Witnesses from 1 & 2 Peter. The book is written by Pastor Mark Driscoll and Pastor Brad House, who oversees Mars Hill community groups. [emphasis added] It was distributed for free at Mars Hill campuses during the sermon series, and in order to recoup some of the printing expenses, we are now selling cases of the book at cost, plus shipping and handling ($95 per case; each case includes 66 books; not authorized for resale). You can also download the PDF version of the book for free. To purchase copies, please submit the online order form and the payment details that follow: Click here for the Trial Study Guide Order Form - See more at:

As Wenatchee The Hatchet has already noted neither Brad House nor Justin Holcomb are at Mars Hill these days. 

But let's get back to something mentioned earlier at Wenatchee The Hatchet, that The Resurgence is a for-profit corporation registered in Washington state and that John Sutton Turner, executive elder at Mars Hill, has every significant officer/governing role in the corporation these days.
UBI Number 603207560
Category                      REG
Profit/Nonprofit           Profit
Active/Inactive            Active
State Of Incorporation WA
WA Filing Date           05/17/2012
Expiration Date           05/31/2014
Inactive Date 
Duration                       Perpetual
Agent Name                 JOHN SUTTON TURNER 
Address                        1411 NW 50TH STREET
City                              SEATTLE 
State                             WA


1411 NW 50TH ST
SEATTLE , WA 98107 

And who owns the copyright to the Trial study guide?  Mars Hill Church. Sure, lots of anonymous people insist that it's all about Mark Driscoll and it must be Mark at the top.  Well, so what?  The corporation has more officers than Mark Driscoll.  For that matter if it's The Resurgence that has sold copies of Trial at a profit to recoup printing expenses that's apparently a matter for Sutton Turner to field now if anyone wants to ask about that.

The book may have had the names of Mark Driscoll and Brad House on them but Brad House is gone from Mars Hill.  The copyright is owned by Mars Hill and who are the big names there?

UBI Number601677819
State Of IncorporationWA
WA Filing Date12/22/1995
Expiration Date12/31/2013
Inactive Date
Registered Agent Information
Address1411 NW 50TH ST

Governing Persons
Vice PresidentBruskas, Dave1411 NW 50th Street
PresidentDriscoll, Mark1411 NW 50th Street

So Mars Hill Church has admitted to a "citation error" issue in the Trial study guide for the 1 & 2 Peter sermon series.  They have made a point of mentioning it was a team project involving not just Mark Driscoll but other people, including a research assistant.  Given Mark Driscoll's experience as a professional journalist and his remark about how formidable his working memory was in an early 2008 Q & A it doesn't seem like even a team oversight should have happened given what Driscoll has said publicly at different points about how good his working memory is and how much experience he's assured people he's had working as a professional journalist.

That just makes the citation error all the stranger and less excusable now that Mars Hill Church has publicly admitted that it happened, doesn't it?  Driscoll told Mefferd that maybe he made a mistake and the recent statement looks more like an attempt to blame-shift to some unnamed research assistant and a team.  Whatever happened to the Mark Driscoll who would tell husbands "headship means its your responsibility even if it's not your fault?"


comments are disabled given the behavior of the anonymous peanut gallery in the last week or so.  You probably spotted that if you tried making a comment.  There are enough off-blog projects going on that coming back a day or so later to discover comments spiraling into what happened on the post about Jeff Bettger isn't Wenatchee's idea of fun.  Think of this blog (when it discusses Mars Hill) more as a journalistic experiment than a venue for semi/anonymous sharing or venting (there are plenty of other venues for that that are better than Wenatchee The Hatchet as it is).