Saturday, March 29, 2014

MHC BOAA sent letters in 2013 inviting feedback, what did these letters look like? What did they say? Possible sample for consideration

Dear Mars Hill Leaders,
I wanted to take the opportunity to give you, the current leaders of Mars Hill Church, an update as to the status of some of what we’ve been working on as a board over the course of the past year. Thank you for all that you do. We know it is extra difficult right now, but good fruit is coming out of these trials!

On May 10, 2013, a now former elder filed formal charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll and other leaders at Mars Hill. While stating that he had not personally been sinned against by Pastor Mark, he had at least seven unnamed witnesses who would testify to the offenses and hurts he claimed, which if found to be substantiated, could result in disqualification. We requested the names of the witnesses to exercise Matthew 5:23-25, but he refused to disclose them. While the issues cited as evidence from these charges came from anonymous sources, the issues all revolved around the theme of mistreatment of fellow leaders and staff. As the governing body responsible for the accountability of Mars Hill’s senior leaders, the Board took these charges extremely seriously.

In an effort to substantiate the validity of the anonymous charges, we immediately sent out over one hundred letters to former elders and staff at Mars Hill Church from the previous two years, inviting their feedback and perspectives regarding their time on staff at the church, particularly their interactions with Pastor Mark and the Executive Elders. We received eighteen responses. [emphasis added] While some were very positive, every response was read and reread, looking for anything that would disqualify Pastor Mark and any other Mars Hill leaders from serving, or that would require further investigation. Additionally, the Board looked for repetitive patterns that may also lead to potential disqualification. After a thorough review, the charges were determined to be non-disqualifying. [emphasis added] However, the Executive Elders were individually and corporately given corrective direction by the Board. Those corrective actions have been followed and have been bearing fruit over the last seven months. We have been very encouraged to see the Executive Elders learn, grow, and repent where needed.

However, we are hungry for reconciliation and are continually grieved that many offenses and hurts are still unresolved. We want to seek out and hear the hurts in a biblical manner. A Board-approved reconciliation process is currently underway and is being overseen by Dr. Paul Tripp who flew to Seattle and recently spent a day with the Executive Elders. He has also been in conversation with a person who is very capable of facilitating these reconciliations. Additionally, each of the Executive Elders has taken the initiative to reach out to people with whom they may need to reconcile. Our prayer is that as a church we can learn from this experience as we continue to grow in love and grace.

You need to know that I and the other Board members have witnessed the Holy Spirit’s work in Pastors Mark, Dave and Sutton as they’ve grieved deeply over the hurts and sorrows that they’ve been the source of. Their hearts yearn for repentance and reconciliation with those that have been hurt and offended.

By God’s grace, the reconciliation process will continue to move forward one person at a time.
Michael Van Skaik
Board of Advisors and Accountability

So that's the material published by Warren Throckmorton that appears to be a letter from Michael van Skaik, Chairman of Board of Advisors and Accountability.

We've already discussed that 18 out of more than 100 is a small sample, too small to be statistically significant in any fashion.  But what we haven't discussed yet is what such a follow-up process might have looked like.  What did those more than 100 former elders and staff get notified they were being contacted about?

Well, Wenatchee The Hatchet has been given documents that were part of a 2013 exit interview process.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has also been given permission to republish content from the exit interview materials.  Since by Van Skaik's account only 18 of 100+ responded there's no reason the identity of the party will be a mystery to them.  "If" this document is a sample of the kind of materials the BOAA sent out circa May 2013 in response to formal charges to investigate whether there were any potentially disqualifying issues in leaders, then perhaps presenting this document will provide an opportunity for further verification of facts and events.

If this was the kind of letter departing elders and staff received from Michael Van Skaik on behalf of the Board of Advisors and Accountability in May 2013 it doesn't indicate a date in the letter itself.  Nor does the letter include any language that suggests that the reason for setting up this review process for former staff might have been because formal charges had been made against Mark Driscoll.  Had former staff and elders who left or got fired from 2011 to 2013 been informed that the reason they were being contacted was because formal charges had been made against Driscoll and others, and that a survey was being conducted because the formal elder who made charges would not reveal the identities of seven anonymous sources, would there have been more than 18 out of 100+ responses?  Obviously we can't know for sure. But if the above letter was what more than 100 people got perhaps someone can verify if this is so.

Here is an attached set of exit interview questions that seems to have come along with the above letter.

Rather than reproduce the entire contents, which are about 9 pages long, WtH will highlight a couple of things that seem pertinent to the leadership culture in general and executive leadership in particular. So the document will be quoted from without being published in full since the main question at hand is whether the two pages themselves might be what was sent out.  Secondarily, quoting from a response to these documents that has been given to Wenatchee The Hatchet is something for consideration.  So ...

in response to 4 the former staffer attached a letter stating resignation of membership from Mars Hill Church. 

In response to 8, the former staffer wrote the following:

8. You can file this under "will never happen" but here is my feedback, specifically for the EE:

a) Mark should fire Sutton for abusing employees under him

b) Mark should then repent for 1. his pride 2. the cult of personality he has cultivated 3. his authoritarianism and 4. his decision to hire Sutton and embrace a business model for running the church that is absolutely foreign and antithetical to New Testament ecclesiology. He should then resign from eldership and leadership of the church until and unless people can honestly say he is "above reproach" without watching to see if their nose is growing.

c) Dave should take a sabbatical wherein he can contemplate why he so willingly and ably provided the glossy PR sheen to all of Mark's destructive and whiplash-like initiatives.

I believe God called Mark and blessed Mars Hill.  But I also believe Mark has, increasingly over the past 6 or 7 years, told God "I'll take it from here". The veracity of his initial calling has no bearing on whether he runs the church today in a destructive way out of his flesh.

It's worth noting that in the middle of May 2013 there was no inkling that seven of Mark Driscoll's books had plagiarism issues and nobody at large, perhaps even in staff at Mars Hill, had any idea that Sutton Turner had signed the contract with Result Source on behalf of Mars Hill Church.  Even the Board of Advisors and Accountability has acknowledged that Mars Hill contracted with Result Source, while crediting the idea of working with them to "outside counsel".  So any response to the above letter and questions would NOT have had any of the news cycle of November 2013 to March 2014 at hand for an assessment of anything.  The letter and exit interview questions were presented as a new standard operating procedure for former staff to participate in without any reference to what else it might be for.  If Van Skaik's most recent communication to Mars Hill is compared to the document given to WtH, which was given a response within May 2013, it looks like Van Skaik has a narrative for Mars Hill members now that doesn't quite match up with the narrative given to former Mars Hill elders and staff back then.

With all that in mind, in response to a question about what feedback he/she had for the executive elders in at least one potential case a former staff considered Mark Driscoll to need to repent of pride, cultivating a cult of personality, having an authoritarian leadership approach, and hiring Sutton Turner in the first place!  That is a pretty strongly worded statement, saying that Mark Driscoll adding Turner to the MH leadership was something to repent of in and of itself regardless of a cult of personality, authoritarian leadership and pride. 

Now it might be understandable if the BOAA would consider a single case of a former staffer considering even hiring Sutton Turner to be in ministry at all at Mars Hill to be a thing to repent of to be less than noteworthy.  If there were only 18 out of more than 100 and this was one of the 18 responses, however, then why not take this small percentage of the 18 as seriously as the 18 were a percentage of the 100+, if the smallness of the sample was already not going to be a matter of concern?

Here are a few statements from the former staffer's letter announcing resignation from membership at Mars Hill

A few statements from the former staff member's letter announcing resignation of membership at Mars Hill Church.  The statements are included in sections with headings regarding concerns that cumulative led the former staffer to also resign membership.  This commentary on the leadership culture at Mars Hill is interesting.


Mars Hill is led by the Executive Elders. However, neither Pastor Dave nor Pastor Sutton will undertake any serious actions without Pastor Mark's consultation and blessing. That fact, combined with the fact that Pastor Mark is responsible for Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton being on the EE in the first place, means that Pastor Mark is the de facto leader of Mars Hill Church. In many operational ways, Mars Hill is closer to a bishopric or denomination than a traditional evangelical church. Even so - and somewhat ironically - an average parish priest or denominationally affiliated pastor has far more freedom and latitude than the local lead pastors of Mars Hill.  ... Anyone with their integrity intact and who had to speak honestly would have to agree that, for better or worse, when Pastor Mark says "jump" every other leader at Mars Hill is obliged to say "how high?". Even if Pastor Mark were a virtual Mother Teresa, and a wonderful person to be emulated in every way, the authority vested in him would still be too much for him to responsibly hold. Nor would it comport with the spirit of what I believe Scripture teaches about a plurality of elders and their mutual accountability.


Additionally, if Central ultimately controls the budget of all Mars Hill churches, it would seem to militate against the veracity of the claim that these are individual churches and not wholly owned subservient and subsidiary entities. I would prefer that Mars Hill had a more humble stance regarding its multi-site model. Such as: "Yes, we understand that this is without notable precedent in church history, but we think we can tease out a scriptural case for it." Rather, it seems Mars Hill has adopted a more dubious position: "There is clear and unambiguous scriptural support for the multi-site model. Historically, I guess the church was just slow to catch on to that." It strains credulity when Pastor Mark re-casts the New Testament to be giving explicit imprimatur to an organizational model that happens to align with his visions of expansion.

Mars Hill leadership has been too cavalier with the "this is where Jesus is taking us" and "Jesus is our Senior Pastor" language because it absolves leadership from owning up to their responsibility for decisions that are made. It is an unfair rhetorical sleight-of-hand when the changes they want to make are presented as the changes Jesus wants to make.  After all, who can take issue with Jesus' administrative plans, organizational initiatives or ecclesiological convictions? ... Additionally this type of conversation-ending frontloading extends to other areas. For example, when Pastor Mark repeatedly tells us that Pastor Sutton is up at 4am every day praying for all of us, it forestalls legitimate concerns anyone might raise with decisions or actions coming from Pastor Sutton. 

It looks like in at least one case of the possible 18 who responded out of more than a hundred the reservations about the leadership culture seem clear enough.  Too much of the leadership culture was believed by at least one former staffer to be too centralized around the personality of Mark Driscoll and that even executive elders Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner seemed to have the "how high" reaction to cases where Driscoll might say "jump".  Another concern was that since Mars Hill Central (operations?) ultimately controlled the budget of all individual Mars Hill churches these locations were finally not churches so much as franchise extensions and that the entire ecclesiological model seemed to have doubtful exegetical and historical precedent.  Finally, the persistent use of language referring to Jesus as Senior Pastor and use of emotionally charged statements that seemed to pre-empt any distinction between the will of executive leadership and the divine will was another concern that led a former staffer to resign membership from Mars Hill Church. 

Obviously just one potential response out of the 18 from the more than 100 is just that, but if the above letter and questions were what the BOAA sent out perhaps this can be verified by others, possibly in other media settings. 


Rob Smith said...

If this is in fact the way the BOAA tried to verify the charges, it is no wonder very few ex employees responded - especially with many ex-employees having to sign a gag order before leaving,.

Perhaps the following might have been a little more effective:

"Dear Ex-employee,

We know that you signed a non-disclosure agreement wherein you agreed to say nothing that may be perceived as negative toward Mars Hill Church. Despite this, we are most interested in hearing of any pain you may have experiences at the hands of Mark Driscoll during your time at Mars Hill Church.

Please rest assured that your response will be respected and held in confidence."

The implication on the letter to the leaders is that it was this kind of reaching out that was done. If it was in fact a belated interview that did not release the responder from the gag order they signed, it is no wonder that they only got 18 responses.

It also explains why there may have been a higher ratio of positive responses than might otherwise have occurred.

Moderator said...

honestly, this whole blog is about discrediting and badgering Mars Hill Church. You are so concerned about them and their sin, while completely overlooking your stirring up controversy, which God hates. Take down this redicluoius blog, and I have and will continue to report this as abuse and malicious content

Rob Smith said...

Dear Lord.

Please help this blog to avoid stirring up ungodly controversy, and to continue to carefully stick to the true facts. Help this blog to always point to the original source documents, and to be sure to simply walk in the light with as much accuracy as possible, so that we may have true fellowship together,

Thank you that you love truth and detest lies. You detest spin and have promised to expose what is hidden. Thank you that the truth sets us free.

We pray for the hundreds of people who have been abused and harmed because of lies and spin. May you use us to speak truth and to bring healing.


Rob Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Smith said...

.. and Lord. Please forgive "Moderator" for hiding who he or she really is and for pretending to be some sort of moderator. Please protect him or her from the consequences of bearing false witness. Show him or her the true freedom and joy that being truthful brings to the life of the community. May he or she yearn for the fellowship of the believers, especially those that have been shunned and abused because of deception and lies.

terriergal said...

Amen to everything Rob Smith said and prayed. It's funny how "moderator" has no trouble rebuking publicly the sins he/she has issues with and trying to stir up trouble. Hmmm...

The whole thing about the anonymous sources is frustrating to me. At some point people HAVE to stand by their accusations. I agree that they've definitely been put in a bind. Could they possibly have some kind of affidavit notarized with objective, third party witnesses who know who they are, but who they can trust not to reveal their identities?

Then again at some point, we all are going to suffer for our stands for the truth. It is tragic that this kind of persecution is happening, ostensibly *within* the visible church.

But the willingness to lose for the sake of His truth is very powerful.

I know, it's easy for me to *say* that...

I did get 'disciplined' out of a church for rebuking my pastor too for his micromanaging, playing favorites, shunning people who questioned him, his behind the scenes divisive behavior. You could see him making the same kinds of tactical changes and stacking the deck for himself. But it wasn't nearly as cult like yet at that point as Mars Hill has been so I can imagine the suffering and pain is much worse from a hugely powerful institution like MHC.