Saturday, August 17, 2013

Studio Ghibli's hayao miyazaki has a new film coming out, The Wind Rises

Decades ago World War 2 was the subject of the bleak Grave of the Fireflies.  Now Hayao Miyazaki has tackled a fictionalized account of the creator of the famous Mitsubishi Zero.  Miyazaki's films have heretofore always addressed fantastic else-worlds rather than our own.  Miyazaki has always been, at heart, a very serious filmmaker and a storyteller in spite of his flights (literal and figurative) of fancy.  He's also no spring chicken and some policy changes in Japan and shifts in governance may have inspired him to be more blunt and direct.  There's a sense in which, the desires of movie critics withstanding, no art is ultimately subtle in the end, thus the artifice of art. 

This should be interesting and an advantage of living in the Emerald City is that no matter how limited the release this film may get (will Disney really give THIS film a nationwide screening in the US?) there will be a chance to see this in Seattle. 

stuff at Cinemagogue

After a semi-hiatus James Harleman has a couple of posts on recent films over at Cinemagogue.  Wolverine finally gets a decent stand-alone movie that, ironically, ties everything to the X-Men trilogy that came before in terms of backstory.  Oh well, that's the thing about the X-Men franchise that is a strength or a weakness depending on who you ask.  I say it's a weakness but then that's just personal taste.  First Class was arguably the first and only X-Men film that WASN'T about Wolverine.  It was about Magneto and since Magneto's one of the persistently actually interesting characters in the franchise First Class was fun.  Not that McKellan wasn't always fun as Magneto ... just that we're often given the idea that we're supposed to sympathize with the heroes. 

NPR: Why are American orchestras afraid of new symphonies?

Normally articles that have titles that end in question marks are inane rhetorical questions (personal opinion, any article written by Graeme McMillan for Spinoff).  This article, however, delves a bit into one conductor's view about how and why American symphonies don't back new works.  We could have a big old discussion about the contemporary place of the symphony has become the soundtrack of the blockbuster rather than as a "pure music" venue that was replete with programmatic digressions and stories to imbue meaning into abstract music.  If anything a person could playfully make the case that the symphony has ultimately gone Hollywood, which was where symphonists seemed determined to take the whole genre for centuries.  If Beethoven were alive today I don't think he'd mind that his Ninth shows up in the first Die Hard movie just so long as he got the royalty checks.  :) 

Prepare for Mars Hill Church sites at Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Spokane (and Tacoma)

From Church Positions:
Executive Assistant to Lead Pastor - Bellevue
  • Executive Pastor - Dallas
  • Executive Pastor - Los Angeles
  • Executive Pastor - Phoenix
  • Executive Pastor - Spokane
  • Executive Pastor - Ongoing

  • The Chief Sales and Marketing Officer job listing is still up, for those interested in that role.

    There's also a Real Estate Finance Manager job opening.
    ... As a church, our ability to generate capital is one of our greatest bottlenecks in planting churches. The Real Estate Finance Manager will lead the charge in planning and executing the financial tools needed to support the movement of the Holy Spirit in our church. This is an incredibly unique opportunity, and as such it will require an incredibly unique disciple to carry this out. ...

    The role of the Real Estate Finance Manager is to manage and administrate the investment tools, drive investor relations, and continue to develop our ability to meet the increasing financial demands of church growth. This position reports directly to the Property & Development Director [WtH:  apparently that's currently Caleb Walters] and will work closely with both the Development Team and the Finance Department.

    There's a few other job leads (like ongoing listings for executive pastors at every campus but these job listings indicate upcoming sites that are slated to open.  There isn't a listing for Tacoma possibly because someone is already in mind, perhaps? 

    A layman makes a case for less humor from the pulpit

    My esteemed blogging associate Wendy Alsup recently published a post on sarcastic pastors. Conspicuously against her usual approach to language in blogging she made a point of discussing smart-ass pastors.  She made a case for why a smart-ass remark to prove one's own wit and brilliance is unbecoming a pastor. 

    A handful of people, it would seem mainly a dude here or there, trundled out "sarcasm is in the Bible".  That the pastor today is not really a prophet like Elisha or Elijah should be too self-evident for anyone who actually reads the Bible to receive the dignity of a response in itself but pastors and their fans within evangelical Protestantism have been making the mistaken conflation of "prophet" with "pastor when the Torah indicates that it was the priests who instructed for, oh, generations now.

    Sarcasm and mockery to combat idolators and false teaching is one thing, but the role of a pastor is more that of a shepherd most of the time and when sarcasm works on sheep someone can blog about that.

    Today I'm going to present a brief case for why we'd do well to have less humor from the pulpit of any kind, regardless of sarcasm.  While today's young, restless preacher type (even those in middle-age) like to pepper sermons with jokes and personal anecdotes it's striking that this sort of method is not what we see in sermons by men ranging from John Donne to David Martyn Lloyd-Jones to Charles Spurgeon.  These guys managed to get from point A to point B in a sermon without telling oceans of jokes about themselves; using cultural commentary on things like whether or not Marlowe's Faust was a good adaptation of the folk tale; or making other snappy pop culture references.  Not that these points would never ever get a mention, just that the kind of humor and personal anecdote that is virtually a requirement in any contemporary sermon seems absent from the sermons of preachers past by comparison.

    When we boil down humor to its most essential essence there are two categories of humor, laughing with and laughing at.  With this in mind it is not a big surprise that many a mature pastor erred on the side of omitting humor from an explication of a biblical text.  After all, if you're laughing with someone who are you laughing with?  If you're laughing at someone what place does that have in a sermon where the aim is to teach people the Scriptures?  If the pastor or priests employs humor in a way that draws attention to the self then how does that draw attention to the Scriptures or God?  It makes the pastor look and sound funny ... if the humor works.

    Conversely, a pastor who employs humor so that we are invited to laugh at others has employed the pulpit and the responsibilities associated with it as a not entirely tacit endorsement of the pastor's opportunity to belittle someone by laughing at them.  This, too, would seem full of the potential for imprudence to someone who gives the matter a bit of thought. 

    Let's try a little game.  Take a sermon and remove all the personal anecdotes about the pastor's history or observational humor or cultural references out of the sermon.  What do you have?  How much of the remaining sermon is an exposition and explanation of a biblical text?  Let's make a distinction here between an "applicatory section" of a sermon in which there is ethical or doctrinal instruction you can make use of later in the week on the one hand and a discourse on culture in general or an other group that may or may not be in the flock.  Boil all that stuff away and what are you left with?  In the last ten years I've had a realization that when I did that with some sermons that as little as a third of a sermon a pastor preached was 1) an exposition on a biblical text or 2) even a biblical text itself.  Maybe two thirds of a sermon that was about an hour long involved a bunch of rambling self-referential commentary on things that had pretty little to do with a biblical text.  Sometimes what ostensibly had something to do with the text turned out, with a little independent exegetical study, to have had nothing to do with the text at all.

    For those who will insist against all this that humor from the pulpit is justified because the Bible has sarcasm put the shoe on the other foot and consider the Golden Rule.  If you want someone to point out that you're defending a self-aggrandizing misuse of biblical texts as a pretext to show off how funny you are now rather than explicate the word of God then that tells us what we need to know about you and your fitness for ministry.  :)  Preachers are not prophets like OT prophets such as Elijah or Elisha.  In fact evangelicals and particularly cessationists can fundamentally misrepresent the nature of prophetic office.  In Deuteronomy we see the prophet was consulted when the local tribal chiefs and priests had already consulted case law and didn't manage to field the situation at hand.  Prophets in the minds of self-congratulatory men are full-time preacher dudes who teach the Bible.  They weren't.  There were professional prophets, of course, but they were themselves the subject of some mockery by biblical authors.  Amos did not consider himself a prophet or the son of a prophet and while some prophets did a lot let's not ignore the possibility that some of these guys had boring day jobs that were boring enough that we weren't told what they were in much detail.  Someone from the priestly set would have been a priest, maybe. But rambling about how preachers like to imagine they're prophets is a subject for some other post.  In the interest of niceness we'll try not to have any humor at their expense.

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    Links for the weekend

    The internet has changed the way people lie and how quickly they can be caught lying. 

    Google clarifies how not-private they think anything on the internet is, particularly gmail.

    Someone decided that it'd be fascinating to kill rodents and study their brain activity as they died to see if it sheds any light on human near-death experiences, apparently.

    In defense of Bob Dylan's voice.  As in the one he has right now that is scarcely distinguishable from a lawn mower. 

    Be careful how you employ terms like "right brain" and "left brain" with those hemispheres.  Turns out the shorthand about those hemispheres and creativity or analysis is sloppy and disproven some.

    In case you want a simple shorthand regarding psychopathy the combination of fearless dominance with self-centered impulsivity would be the two best indicators that someone you deal with may be a psychopath.

    Something relatively new at The Elephant's Debt.

    Wendy at Practical Theology for Women has a blog post on sarcastic pastors.

    Jim West reminds us that today is Adolf Schlatter's birthday

    For those who have read anything at all by Schlatter and happen to be English-speakers, a day worth noting. 

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    Matt Redmond on Weaknesses, Resumes and the Pastoral Search, part 2--some thoughts of my own, such as they are

    It may have been twenty years ago that I was struck by Isaiah 6, the account of the prophet's calling.  The whole vision and the realization of being a man of unclean lips.  The self-breaking realization of a complete lack of worthiness or holiness before God stuck with me, and the call of the prophet stuff at the start of the book.  The glorious elements are the easiest ones to remember.  "Who will I send?"  "Here I am."  That'll preach ...

    and then there's this part:

    Isaiah 6:9-13
    He said, “Go and tell this people:

    “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
        be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
    Make the heart of this people calloused;
        make their ears dull
        and close their eyes.
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
        hear with their ears,
        understand with their hearts,
    and turn and be healed.”

    Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”
    And he answered:

    “Until the cities lie ruined
        and without inhabitant,
    until the houses are left deserted
        and the fields ruined and ravaged,
    until the Lord has sent everyone far away
        and the land is utterly forsaken.
    And though a tenth remains in the land,
        it will again be laid waste.
    But as the terebinth and oak
        leave stumps when they are cut down,
        so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

    Isaiah finds out what he gets to say and then he asks, "How long?" God replies, essentially, after countless of your people have died and the land is ravaged.  Keep speaking to them but they will not listen.

    The call was to challenge people to repent but they ended up in exile.  It's easy in focusing on the glory of Isaiah's call how bitter the message he was tasked to deliver could actually be, and still easier amid all the useful citations of Isaiah just for Advent and Christmas homilies that most of Isaiah is a book that follows up on a blistering beginning and a prediction that no matter what the prophet says God's people will not listen.  The prophet is warned up front, "You're going to fail at this and not because you're not trying or because God is not with you but because the people won't listen."

    It sure is fun to imagine God would only call you to a stunning success unlike anything anyone in your age has seen before.  Matt Redmond has written that there are two types of pastors, those who are on the speaking circuit and those who wish they were.  None of those guys would want to be the "prophet" whose entire ministry is defined by failure despite a direct and divine commission. 

    We'd like to talk about how God has a special plan for our lives and that's a special plan for what we define as success.  Guess what?  Judas Iscariot's life fulfilled a special plan, too, as did King Saul, as did Pharoah.  Just because God has a special plan for your life doesn't mean it ends well for you!  Something to keep in mind if someone prooftexts a passage about divine foreknowledge or plans to you, or brings up the bromide "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."  The Gospel is good news but it is useful to define what the nature and scope of that Good News is.  Being a layman I won't presume to do better than the official peeps on that topic.  Just reflecting a bit on something Matt Redmond posted a little bit before bedtime. 

    HT Alastair Roberts, PZ Meyers--Y'all can stop patting yourselves on the back now

    Just the link will suffice here.  Thematically not unrelated to this.  Just a link will suffice for that, too, since it's been a topic of blogging her before.

    Dan has posts at City of God (sometimes) and here's a link to one--evangelicals on Truth and evangelicals with personal testimonies

    He's not nearly as prolific in volume or frequency these days but Dan Gouge over at City of God does still write posts.  Here's an excerpt for your consideration:

    The evangelical community that has made such a big deal about the threat of relativism and the importance of an eternal, unchanging, objective truth as a starting point possesses another key characteristic that is utterly contradictory: the centrality of personal testimony. This is especially the case in youth groups (and hence this is perhaps why twentysomethings and thirtysomethings are most affected by this return to older church forms). Almost any speaker at a church youth group in the 1990s-2000s, be it the regular youth pastor or some kind of guest speaker or one of the students themselves would, if given any length of time to talk, weave in a personal testimony of sorts. Most youth group kids likely had a better understanding of the personal conversion and faith story of their youth pastor than they did that pastor’s take on any number questions about theology or ecclesiology.

    There's more but this is a fairly large excerpt from it.

    Could write a bit about personal story and how it seems to be a Christianese thing but it isn't, really.  Everyone wants to hear somebody's story but the Christianese form of storytelling or testimony could be a topic for some other blog post ... if I cared enough to write that ... which ... just now ... I don't.

    Wednesday, August 14, 2013

    Aisha Harris asks "Will Black Actresses Ever Catch Up to Their Peers?" Okay ... but what about Johnny Depp playing Tonto?

    Okay ... but Johnny Depp played Tonto so let's keep in mind that in a discussion of race and entertainment blacks have made considerably more progress in the last fifty years than American Indians have in terms of leading men and women.  Improved relations between blacks and whites is salutary and all but that historic faultline among the races doesn't mean things are the same across every set of histories and relationships.  The magic white boy who goes native and turns into the hero of a more primitive and spiritual tribe than the decadent white West managed to be the whole plot, in a nutshell,  of James Cameron's Avatar just a few years ago.

    new candidate for Mars Hill Church Ballard Elder presented for consideration, Matt Repucci.

    Ballard | New Discussion Topic
    Pastor Scott Harris
    From Pastor Scott Harris:
    This past Sunday at all of our services, Matt Repucci was presented to the congregation as an elder candidate. Matt has been married to his wife Rachel for 14 years and has three kids at home. Matt has been in the process regarding the qualification for eldership for that past two years.
    Matt serves as a Head Coach for Community Groups and will continue in that capacity as a Ballard Elder. He has been approved by the Executive Elders along with the local Ballard Elders for presentation to the Church.
    We always bring elder candidates in the final phase before the church so that anyone with affirmation, questions or concerns can voice them before Matt is officially installed as an elder of Mars Hill Church. Our prayer and hope is that the Ballard elders will install Matt as a pastor of this congregation on Sunday August 18, 2013.
    If you have any encouragement, questions or concerns regarding Matt and his pending installation as an elder over this congregation, you may email If not, we ask that you pray for Matt and his family over the next week as our good God makes Matt’s calling clear to leadership and confirms it through his church.
    [file attachment online]

    So there's a new elder candidate being presented at Ballard.  Precisely how publicly and "always" elder candidates were presented for consideration at Mars Hill Ballard is something that could get clarified.  The reason is that in the past an elder candidate might have a history of felonies, be newly married into his second marriage, and might be a relatively recently baptized convert and still get a greenlight from the elders without any of the above being significant cautions about installation.  Let's keep in mind that in 2006, in April, Mark Driscoll stated in Confessions of a Reformission Rev. a few things that may be worth keeping in mind.

    From page 190

    The concept of ordination is man-made and finds no biblical backing in the Scriptures. Therefore,
    while the concept of ordination may not necessarily be bad, it is also not necessary.  The closest thing we see in the New Testament to ordination is when the elders of a church laid hands on new leaders and commissioned them into church leadership (1 Tim 4;14, 5:22).

    from page 191 about elder accountability

    Fortunately, we have never had to discipline an elder for any sin because the closeness of our reltaionships brings potential issues to the surface before they manifest.  Should an elder ever sin grievously, we would quickly discipline him according to the biblical directives (1 Tim 5:19-21).

    Oh what a difference a year made, eh?  Two pastors managed to get fired even though Munson explicitly said there was no sexual or moral impropriety involved that was grounds for their termination.

    Then there's page 192 of Confessions of a Reformission Rev:

    Practically, this means that someone desiring to be an elder at Mars Hill must first be a faithful member of the church. Then he speaks with one of the elders about his desire, and that elder assesses wehther he is qualified for leadership according to the biblical criteria. If the elder does believe the man is qualified to be an elder, his nomination is brought before the entire group of elders, who must unanimously agree that the man is called of God and qualified to be brought through a slow process of testing (1 Tim 3:10, 5:22). This process takes at least one year and requires that the potential candidate study ... After the lengthy process is concluded, the candidate is considered for eldership only if all the elders agree that he should be an elder.  ... is then brought before the church, and if anyone should for any reason believe he is not qualified, we cancel his nomination if there are grounds to do so. 

    Okay, so can people establish that this was how things worked in the eldership of Bill Clem, James Noriega, and Scott Thomas?  These were men who seemed to have been grandfathered in from Acts 29 affiliations (Clem and Noriega from Doxa, Thomas from some unspecified board role on Acts 29 Network).  That Clem and Noriega were sitting on a piece of real estate Mark Driscoll said he had wanted to launch Mars Hill at in 1996 has been documented amply here, here, here, here, here, here and here.  Not that you'll necessarily be interested in reading all of that unless you're interested in the history of how someone newly married and a relatively new convert with a history of felonies was vetted as an elder candidate in what seems to have been less than a full year.  That men could be grandfathered into leadership in less than a year due to Acts 29 affiliations is not exactly a surprise, but it also completely subverted public testimony on the part of Driscoll about how long elder nomination would take if Clem, Noriega and Scott Thomas were able to just be grandfathered in without being subject to the investigative procedure and vetting processes alluded to by Driscoll in his 2006 book. 

    So for those who have come to Mars Hill since any time past about 2007 it may help to know a little more about how the elder nomination and vetting process has worked in the past and this series can comprise a set of case studies that may be helpful. 

    where are they now? MH pastors from `07 ... part 5 Tim Beltz

    Tim Beltz became an executive elder in late October 2007 when the bylaws drafted by Jamie Munson were passed and the termination process of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry had run its course.  However Beltz was an elder candidate up to that point and became an instant executive elder once the Munson-drafted bylaws got passed.  Beltz had been Chief Operations Officer for CHRISTA ministries during the previous few years, years in which Mars Hill was granted free use of Schirmer Auditorium even to the point of not having to pay for utilities or janitorial service.  Beltz had been attending Mars Hill since about 2004. 

    Beltz had been serving in a consultancy capacity during 2007 and was credited with advising on salary and policy adjustments in the 2007 re-org and in his subsequent role as executive elder.  Those details, to the extent to which they can be documented from Driscoll sermons and documents published at Joyful Exiles, have already been discussed here, here and here, at considerable length even by the standards of Wenatchee The Hatchet. On February 27, 2012 Wenatchee The Hatchet referred to an interview with Tim Beltz that had been posted at the Mars Hill West Seattle blog in which Beltz mentioned a reliance on James Noriega's biblical counseling materials.  A week or so later and the entire blog network and associate blog archives for the Mars Hill campus system seemed to be down (excepting, apparently Lake City, which didn't go down, apparently, because the campus had been closed for years in 2012 anyway). Not long after Wenatchee The Hatchet mentioned Beltz relying on Noriega's materials with a link to the Mars Hill West Seattle blog Tim Beltz turned out to be at Mars Hill Downtown, where he stayed until he left earlier this year.

    Now it is worth noting that Tim Beltz was the one who wrote a letter to Mars Hill regarding the end of Lief Moi's eldership at Mars Hill, discussed at vast length else on this blog.  It is worth repeating that while Beltz stated that Moi had not stewarded his household well in the 2008 letter sent to Mars Hill members there is no mention in that letter that Moi's salary had been cut by nearly 40% in 2007 during the big Mars HIll re-org, let alone that Beltz himself had a role in that re-org.  Beltz may have simply not put together any of that but since a few years have transpired it's worth noting that Beltz' role in the re-org as consultant in 2007 and Moi's salary cut the same year are worth considering when one attempts to evaluate whether Beltz' statement about Moi could be considered fair or accurate or, to pose the question in a more extreme fashion, entirely truthful.  If you really want to read Beltz' letter in his own words click on the previous hotlink and scroll all the way to the bottom.  Otherwise, let's proceed.

    Beltz himself has left Mars Hill as of earlier this year.  His departure was not formally announced the way Tim Gaydos' was. The posts discussing Gaydos' departure are here and hereAccording to Event Horizon Tim Gaydos, Tim Beltz, and Will Little all stepping down from leadership at the same time was coincidence and did not indicate anything one way or the other. 

     ... Pastor Beltz announced his resignation at the same meeting. Following a recent trip to an Acts 29 church plant in Louisville, KY, Beltz witnessed a great need for an Executive Pastor there. The elders of that church have asked him to come serve in that capacity and after much prayer Beltz accepted. This occurred over the previous two or three weeks.

    Executive Pastor

    Also over at Sojourn these days is ...

    Pastor of Community Life

    But this blog post isn't about House.  Beltz seems to have joined a church that already had four executive elders so exactly what great need for an executive pastor Sojourn had with its four executive pastors there already is asserted by Event Horizon but never explained.  Maybe Beltz actually thought/thinks that four executive pastors at The Journey wasn't enough.

    HT to Jim West: a cartoon about how Jesus feeding the 5k would go over these days

    I may not have studied German (alas) ... but I'm enough of a Seattleite to get what the punchlines are. 
    If Jesus tried feeding five thousand in Seattle one would say he's a vegetarian, another would want to know if the fish was farmed or native, another would decline the bread due to gluten intolerance. 

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    and since we're linking to The Atlantic

    Rumors were that Shailene Woodley was cast as Mary Jane Watson for the new Spiderman franchise but that her scenes were cut (apparently more than just rumor).  If there's a female role as the prize to be won by the underdog nerd guy in all of comics it would be hard to top Mary Jane.  She's so far up the top of the totem pole of prize female that Spiderman buffs want Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy to die already so MJ, the "real" prize female, can show up already. 

    But if the character is so strong a character then wouldn't she have some identity independent of her love interest?  It remains to be seen what Marc Webb and company do with Mary Jane but, so far, they've managed to give us a Gwen Stacy who can plausibly be thought of as having an identity and things to do and values she cherishes apart from Peter Parker.  Similar things could be said about any of the more memorable superhero wives and girlfriends (and boyfriends and other sorts of significant others) but then ... how many of them do we really remember? 

    The Atlantic: You can do ANYTHING: must every kids' movie reinforce the cult of self-esteem?

    Actually ... not every kids' movie in the last twenty years rolls with the message of how you can be anything you want to be and to not let the haters drag you down.  Some of the better kids' films in the last two decades deal with how selfishness and insecurity can lead you to do terrible things and make foolhardy decisions (Toy Story trilogy).  Other films deal with the fact that people you care about can die (The Iron Giant).  Still others run with the idea that being true to yourself can make you inadvertently betray the people you love most and put them in great peril (Brave, from last year no less).  Still other films run with the idea that a child needs to learn to be less of a whiner, be willing to work, and consider the welfare of parents (Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki, to play a bit with themes).  Sometimes kids' movies are about the fear and need for control some parents bring to the relationship they have with their children (Finding Nemo). 

    While I'm as skeptical as anyone about the cult of self-esteem  in childrens' entertainment I think the average film critic may not be aware how diverse the world of animation actually is.  In fact we've gone so far afield of the previously unbroken American custom of thinking of animation/cartoons as kid stuff there's a sense in which this criticism from Luke Epplin, sympathetic though I find it, may not quite grasp that we've got some more variety in narrative than, I dunno, some quasi-John Galt kid who is misunderstood and could do so many great things if parents could just get out of the way (that's been a template in Disney films since at least as far back as 1989 or so). 

    And let's cast about for more adult cartoons, like the animated film Persepolis.  Marjane Satrapi wrote "Freedom has its price".  It may be that the truly pernicious problem in Western kids' entertainment has less to do with the "you can be anything" trope as with the narrative shortcuts taken on the way to urging everyone to realize his/her inner awesome.  There's a difference between promoting a right to a freely chosen path and promoting a right to a freely chosen path while remembering that it has a price.  In grand theological terms it's easy to say that Someone else has paid the price for our freedom but in day-to-day life it can be easily forgotten that life is still full of opportunity costs and that to take one road you have to forsake others.  If that is a lesson that even adults seem incapable of embracing in the modern US it would be no great shock to see that it is not a lesson we seek to inculcate in children.  Just throwing that idea out there for consideration.

    where are they now? Mars Hill pastors from 2007 and what they're up to now, part 4 Dave Kraft
    from an email composed by Jamie Munson in 2007 regarding the termination of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry:

    I am grieved for them and their families and will contact them tomorrow in hopes that they are repentant and choose to resign from eldership rather than be subject to what will be a painful and personal investigation. If they decide to go the investigation route an elder taskforce will be formed and led by Pastor Scott Thomas with the assistance of Pastors Dave Kraft, Gary Shavey and Steve Tompkins.  If you have anything to add to the investigation please send the details or questions to Pastor Scott Thomas.


    Some might conclude this is a political move to gain more support for the bylaws as Paul and Bent were outspoken critics of the current direction.  This is not the case, the executive team wants to conduct itself in a way that is full of integrity, walking in the light, under full disclosure and in a decisive manner that best serves Jesus and His church through Mars Hill.  If the bylaws don't pass, so be it, we didn't want to wait on what we had determined were necessary and inevitable firings until after the bylaws had been voted into approval because that would have been deceptive. We made the decision to terminate them now and give them the option to resign or undergo the full investigation. We have a higher value on being men of integrity than playing politics to swing a vote in our favor.

    It would be in the interest of full-disclosure for members of the EIT to discuss what they found in their investigation, how long the investigation took, and how it was conducted.  Munson's role and that of Scott Thomas in the 2007 termination process have been discussed earlier in this set of tagged posts.  Kraft was part of the EIT headed by Scott Thomas.  Precisely what he said or did (if anything) is unknown.

    Kraft is, however, still listed on the Mars Hill pastors listing.  He's a pastor at Mars Hill Orange County.  He's also written a few things here and there such as this piece about "The Offended Brother".  That particular piece was addressed by The Wartburg Watch in late December 2012.

    Since Jamie Munson said they wanted to make sure everyone has been full of integrity, walking in the light, under full disclosure and in a decisive manner than some public discussion of things from that period.  Kraft, as part of the EIT alongside Scott Thomas, Gary Shavey, and Steve Tompkins will keep having opportunities to discuss what the evidence from his investigation into allegations against Meyer and Petry for what conclusions for as long as there's a Mars Hill Church, maybe longer.

    where are they now? Mars Hill pastors from 2007 and what they're up to now, part 3 Bubba Jennings

    Bubba Jennings is of note in this series because alongside Mark Driscoll, Jamie Munson, and Scott Thomas he was the fourth executive elder at the meeting in which Bent Meyer and Paul Petry were fired.  See the email Petry sent to the four executive elders after he was terminated.

    Jennings ended up being the lead pastor at the Ballard campus, though in time this may have proven to be an interim leadership role.
    Mars Hill West Seattle

    Mars Hill West Seattle was a result of conversations I had with Pastor Bill Clem, who now leads our Ballard church. Bill planted Doxa Fellowship in West Seattle after having served as the North American Director for Sonlife Ministries, a national discipleship ministry. The church was part of the Acts 29 network and running under 100 people when Bill and I began talking.

    At the time, Bill’s wife was diagnosed with cancer, from which she eventually passed away. I called up Bill to offer support for the tough battle he and his wife were facing, and I also asked if he’d be open to letting us use Doxa’s building on Sunday mornings, as Doxa was only meeting on Sunday nights.

    Eventually, as our church met in his building in the mornings, as we talked more and more, and as Bill’s wife faced a continuing and difficult battle with cancer, Doxa decided to merge with Mars Hill and become part of our church. We gave Bill many months off, paid him a full salary, and let him care for his dying wife and get a break from the exhausting work he’d undertaken in planting a church with an often bedridden wife. [emphasis added] Her funeral was held in the church building that Pastor Bill had been given, and once he was ready, he started working for Mars Hill and is now our lead pastor at our biggest church, Mars Hill Ballard. [emphasis added] Additionally, he has published the book Discipleship for us, and is the Northwest regional director for Acts 29.

    This could be read as a statement that Clem had been intended to be the lead pastor at Mars Hill Ballard but that Jeannie Clem's cancer presented an obstacle to that goal being realized.  Other interpretations of the above statements are possible but this particular interpretation seems most likely.

    In lieu of Clem being in a position to be lead pastor at Mars Hill Ballard, Bubba Jennings took on that role.  Other than being part of a team of pastors who voted that Petry be removed from eldership there's no certainty what, if anything Jennings said or did during the termination/trial process of 2007.  As to what he's been up to since then, he's remained at Mars Hill, though he is no longer an executive elder.  He has recently been mentioned as having a vision to plant Mars Hill Church Tacoma.  Jennings and his wife have been at Mars Hill for quite a few years now.  Jennings resigned his role as executive elder in 2008 to focus on being lead pastor at Ballard.  Once Clem was ready Jennings may have simply stepped down and transitioned into another leadership role.  Jennings is currently listed as lead pastor of Mars Hill Federal Way.

    Sunday, August 11, 2013

    where are they now? Mars Hill pastors from 2007 and what they're up to now, part 2 Scott Thomas

    Next on the list is former executive elder Scott Thomas.  There's been quite a bit of blog posts keeping track of what he's been up to since he was head of the EIT that oversaw the removal of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry from eldership at Mars Hill

    Then there are these old posts.

    Scott Thomas' departure from Acts 29 in light of his role in the 2007 MH firings
    Scott Thomas is officially Pastor of Ministry Development at The Journey and ...
    The transition of Scott Thomas from Mars Hill/Acts 29 to The Journey
    Where are they now? A Scott and Derrin Thomas follow-up
    Scott Thomas at The Journey?  Maybe?
    Scott Thomas and Ray Ortlund Gospel Coalition connection?  Well, we'll have to wait and see

    Here's a sermon Scott Thomas preached on November 11, 2012

    This is another sermon Thomas preached. Having quoted from this one earlier:

    Well, good morning.  It's great to see you and be with you. My name is Scott Thomas, I'm the newest pastor at The Journey.  I oversee pastoral development, and so I oversee all of the different sites, the campus pastors, and such. And I also reach out to the church-planting, the missions, serve on the executive leadership team. And so I have quite a bit that we're doing and I'm glad to be here with you.

    I most recently came from Seattle. We just moved here. In fact we just moved into our house on Monday this week. ... We came from Seattle where I served as President of the Acts 29 Network for the last six years. ... Also served as executive elder of Mars Hill Church. ... 

    But what took place was Acts 29 was relocating down to Dallas. ... I sensed this was going to take place for about a year. 
    Is there any sign of his role at The Journey in his LinkedIn profile lately?
    No.  Scott Thomas managed to be President of Acts 29 Network from April 2006 right up to roughly a week or two after the publication of Joyful Exiles in March 2012.  He doesn't even list his role at Darrin Patrick's church any more.  A handful of sermons are still available at the moment to testify to the role he briefly played there. 

    Scott Thomas is significant because Jamie Munson informed Paul Petry that Scott Thomas would head the investigation

    If they decide to go the investigation route an elder taskforce will be formed and led by Pastor Scott Thomas with the assistance of Pastors Dave Kraft, Gary Shavey and Steve Tompkins. If you have anything to add to the investigation please send the etails or questions to Pastor Scott Thomas

    From emails sent by Jamie Munson in October 2007

    ... If they decide to go the investigation route an elder taskforce will be formed and led by Pastor Scott Thomas with the assistance of Pastors Dave Kraft, Gary Shavey and Steve Tompkins. If you have anything to add to the investigation please send the etails or questions to Pastor Scott Thomas. ... [we'll get to Kraft, Shavey and Tompkins some time later]
    ... In lieu of resignation as an elder you have elected to go through the process outlined in the Mars Hill bylaws regarding an investigation into your status as an elder and potential removal. This is independent of your employment status. A task force headed by Pastor Scott Thomas is conducting the investigation. He will contact you regarding your opportunity to discuss your eldership status with the task force. ...

    Paul Petry wrote to Scott Thomas and the EIT on October 10 with the following:

    Just wanted to confirm that the hearing originally scheduled for October 29 has been moved up to this Monday October 15, and some clarification regarding the hearing on Monday.  When you started the meeting this morning, you said (I am paraphrasing here, I know) something to the effect that tthe reason the taskforce wanted to meet with me in person today, instead of just giving me questions to answer, was because it is difficult to discern a person's heart in the matter from just a written statement.  So my question is, will I have an opportunity at Monday's hearing to present my statement to the elders in person and to answer any questions they may have?  Also, will the elders submit their votes by secret ballot?
    Scott Thomas replied as follows:

    All four of us agree that we adequately heard your response to the charges/accusations and yor presence will not be necessary.  We believe that in so doing, we are fulfilling the requirements of the Bylaws.  This is something that we discussed and consulted on with the lawyer. The elders will submit their vote by show of hands.

    So Paul Petry was told that his presence at his own hearing would not be necessary.  Scott Thomas stated that he, Dave Kraft, Gary Shavey and Steve Tompkins all agreed that Paul Petry did not need to attend his own trial. 

    Here are references Petry makes to Scott Thomas' activity and statements prior to and during the investigation process from Paul Petry's statement for his trial.

    ... I only received an e-mail from Pastor Scott that he was heading up the Investigative Team, and later, an official employment termination letter from Pastor Jamie. ...

    Pastor Scott told me that I could submita a astatement, adn that it would be submitted along with the findings of the investigative taskforce to all the elders on my behalf. I would have preferred to address you all in person to testify on my behalf so you could perhaps hear my heart - but Pastor Scott informed me that I am not allowed to be present at my "trial", nor would I be allowed to testify or to personally answer any questions you may have. When I asked Pastor Scott if I could be provided with the findings and conclusions that the taskforce would be presenting to you, so that I could specifically respond to them, he told me that was not possible. I have not been provided a list of who my accusers are, nor the names or testimony of corroborating witnesses - let alone being able to question any witnesses or face my accuser(s). ...

    It is important ot note that Pastor Scott was also one of the four Executive Elders who sat in the room the night of September 30, when Pastor Bent and I were "terminated".  And, that previousto that, on September 11, Pastor Scott approached Pastor Bent and me as we were eating lunch in a nearby park and told us, "If you men do not agree with the new bylaws that are being proposed, then you need to resign." This was more than two weeks before the September 26 deadline for submitting comments regarding the proposed new bylaws. 

    ... When Pastor Jamie asked if I was accusing him of hiding the final draft, I said no and I followed up wthe question by asking what was negotiable, and what was not negotiable. Perfectly legitimate questions in the context of any board meeting.  When Pastor Scott confronted me the next day and said he found my questions to be very offense to Pastor Jamie, I immediately went and spoke to Pastor Jamie and apologized for causing him offense and that I intended no offense and asked him to be patient with me.  He said he would, and I thought that was the end of it.  He did not bring it up again.  That evening Pastor Scott suggested that I had offended all the elders and should write a letter of apology to all theelders, but this seemed "over the top" to me making it a bigger issue than was warranted.

    On October 11, 2007, days before the trial, Scott Thomas informed a member of Mars Hill Churchm "A team of elders just concluded a conciliatory process with these two men."  That Scott Thomas replied to a question about the termination of two pastors of Mars Hill from his Acts 29 Network email was a puzzle in itself.  The email Scott Thomas replied to was sent to per the written statement Jamie Munson gave about who to contact and where.  But Thomas' reply came from his Acts 29 Network email.  This is not a mundane detail. 

    Thomas' role as the head of the Elder Investigative Taskforce is significant because given everything Petry has stated it looks like Scott Thomas informed Meyer and Petry in mid-September that if they didn't agree with the bylaws being proposed they should resign.  Why two of roughly 24 men "should" resign for not agreeing with bylaws has never been explained to this day. 
    While Scott Thomas is no longer President of Acts 29 or at The Journey his publications are still available as resources at Acts 29 Network.

    Per Mark Driscoll's February 7, 2012 statement

    7 February 2012

    Dear Acts 29 Members

    We're excited about the future of Acts 29. In a recent letter to the network, Pastor Mark Driscoll detailed some changes to the network leadership that will position us to plant more churches and make more disciples. We've posted the letter below. February 6, 2012 Dear Acts 29 Members, This letter is intended to provide some clarity about where we are, and Lord willing, where we are going. I hope you find it encouraging, compelling, and unifying. Under the leadership of Pastor Scott Thomas we just completed our most amazing year of God’s grace yet. In the US alone we are now over 400 churches! This is a wonderful gift of God. I want to sincerely and personally thank Pastor Scott for juggling so many duties so graciously. Our prayer is that this tremendous momentum continues, ...

    You won't be able to keep reading because by now that's all there is to read.  The link to "Keep Reading" just bumps back   The letter was discussed where it referred to Scott Thomas back here.

    So, for sake of review, Scott Thomas seems to have been a prime mover in the termination process, not merely present at the event, not merely the head of the EIT as appointed by Jamie Munson, but also someone who made statements to Paul Petry and Bent Meyer in September telling them that if they did not agree with the new bylaws that they ought to resign.  Why Munson and company selected Scott Thomas to head the EIT remains to be explained.  If what Scott Thomas was in charge was, as he claimed in an email to a member, a conciliatory process then what was the deal with Mark Driscoll's October 1, 2007 statement "There's a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus ..." ?  Scott Thomas was president of Acts 29 at that point and seems likely to have known what Driscoll said at that address.  Driscoll said that they'd fired two guys for the first time in the history of Mars Hill and that the guys weren't on mission so they were unemployed.  Munson insisted the terminations were not a political move to get more support for the bylaws and in the sense that 2 of 24 could not have turned the tide that is true, but it also rendered the terminations completely unnecessary for that same reason, didn't it?

    Taken together the cumulative evidence of Scott Thomas' role in Mars Hill in 2007 does not suggest he was heading up a conciliatory process so much as a kangaroo court. 

    It's worth noting that Scott Thomas gets a name drop in a footnote in Confessions of a Reformission Rev, over on page 198

    Confessions of a Reformission Rev, page 198, Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
    From the footnotes to Chapter Zero: Ten Curious Questions

    2. The following discussion and the categories of traditional and institutional, contemporary and evangelial, and emerging and missional churches summarizes the work and ideas of Scott Thomas, who is a friend, an Acts 29 board member, and the pastor of the Encounter Church in Colorado.

    In case it wasn't clear by now it's impossible to consider the terminations of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry from employment at Mars Hill Church in 2007 without considering the role Scott Thomas played in Mars Hill Church and in Acts 29.  Of all the men in eldership at Mars Hill Church in 2007 Scott Thomas' role is arguably most easily documented.  If Mars Hill Church wants to take A Call For Reconciliation seriously then discussing Scott Thomas' role in the 2007 termination and trial process will be difficult to avoid.  Scott Thomas is apparently tackling a church plant in Nashville, TN. 

    where are they now? Mars Hill pastors from 2007 and what they're up to now, part 1 Jamie Munson

    Those familiar with Joyful Exiles may know the basic story and know of the detailed documentation.  What may not be so readily remembered was who was in the leadership scene at the time.  What has happened to those men since 2007?  Well, setting aside gigachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, who has kept us up to date via his blog, tweets, instagram and sermons, what about those other guys?

    Let's start with the executive set

    1. Jamie Munson
    Currently co-president of Storyville Coffee with a 5 percent ownership of a company 90% owned by Jon Phelps (president of DC-3 Entertainment and co-credited with Mark Driscoll on "reverse-engineering your life").

    In his LinkedIn profile (at least currently) Munson describes himself as having been Executive Pastor from 1999 to 2011
    Born and raised in the state of Montana, Pastor Jamie came to Mars Hill as a 19-year-old non-Christian, not long after the church began. He met Jesus, got baptized, and after a stint in the corporate world, became the first Mars Hill intern in June 1999.

    In chapter 6 of Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006) Mark Driscoll mentions that Jamie Munson became a pastor some time after the winter of 2002.  So there are different accounts as to when and how long Munson was in pastoral leadership or executive eldership. 
    For those interested in a sample of Munson's work since he stopped being paid staff at Mars Hill (he's still a pastor at Mars Hill Downtown at the moment), here's "You Can't Teach Hustle".