Wednesday, October 15, 2014

some thoughts about formal charges and Driscoll, what wasn't considered? Well, Mark Driscoll has shown us that his real legacy is
October 14, 2014
On August 24th I announced to our Mars Hill family of churches that I had requested a leave of absence from the pulpit and the office for a minimum of six weeks while a committee of elders conducted a formal review of charges made against me by various people in recent times. Last week our Board of Overseers met for an extended period of time with Grace and me, thereby concluding the formal review of charges against me. I want to thank you for assuring Grace and me that last Saturday that I had not disqualified myself from ministry.
You have shared with us that this committee spent more than 1,000 hours reviewing documents and interviewing some of those who had presented charges against me. You have also shared with me that many of those making charges against me declined to meet with you or participate in the review process at all. Consequently, those conducting the review of charges against me began to interview people who had not even been a party to the charges.
Let's recall that Mefferd has stood by her allegations that Mark Driscoll plagiarized the works of others.  It was nearly a year ago that Mefferd made her on air allegation in an interview with Driscoll that he plagiarized the works of others, specifically Peter Jones. Now whether or not Janet Mefferd knew that Mark Driscoll was name-dropping Peter Jones as far back as the February 2008 Spiritual Warfare series remains to be seen. Part 2 "The Devil" about 1:08:45
Spiritual Warfare part 2, The Devil
February 5, 2008

So Driscoll had half a decade, it seems, to have absorbed Jones' ideas and thought to give them a bit more credit than he did.

It would appear some folks believe that Mark Driscoll had not disqualified himself from ministry.  To date Mark Driscoll has never publicly addressed the sheer breadth of the plagiarism scandal.  He has not once acknowledged the significant mistake of not acknowledging the work of Dan Allender in Real Marriage in its first edition.  In fact to date none of the authors whose work Mark Driscoll was shown to have plagiarized from has seen fit to take any legal action in spite of a mountain of evidence.  Nor have any of Driscoll's publishers been particularly scrutinized for having let so much citation error happen under their watch. 

Nor, for that matter, have the publishers of the books Driscoll cribbed from seen fit to take any legal action. The plagiarism that took place over half a dozen books could only be construed as Driscoll not being charged with illegality would be based on the technicality that formal charges in a court were not made.  On air and for-the-record accusation of plagiarism was made and evidence was produced to establish the case for the accusation.  What is more, the public record of the conduct of Mars Hill with respect to intellectual property has shown a double standard.  In later 2011 they did let Stokes & Lawrence issue a cease and desist letter during the season when Sutton Turner signed a contract that bought a #1 spot for Real Marriage, a book that was more full than average for a Driscoll book with citation errors of citation errors.

Driscoll put himself and Mars Hill Church, as a corporation, in a miserable double bind.  If Driscoll simply accepted what the BoE and the BoAA apparently concluded, that he was never disqualified from ministry because no serious allegations of immoral, illegal, or heretical ideas were made or were sustained then why quit?  Concern for the safety of his family?  Driscoll has played this card before and as serious a consideration of the safety of the Driscolls is it would be foolish for anyone to imagine that the personal Driscoll cultivated over the last seventeen years did not play a role in the Driscoll family facing unpleasant situations.  To date Mark Driscoll has tended to see adverse reactions to his inflammatory speech and conduct as reflecting on those reacting to him and not on his cultivated pulpit persona. 

He also has, in the last year, gotten to a point where he can't even keep his own story or the story of Mars Hill coherent.  So if Driscoll came back after everything that has transpired he would practically be signing a death warrant for Mars Hill the corporation.  The scandals swirling around him and Sutton Turner reached too high a pitch. 
On the other hand, by quitting even after conceding that the BoE and the BoAA have found him not ultimately disqualified from ministry he's destroyed for good the dregs of his narrative.  People have flocked to hear Mark Driscoll, and not the local campus pastors, preach every Sunday.  They won't settle for a local campus pastor.  They may not even settle for Dave Bruskas and while Dave Bruskas has been largely free from the spotlight as scandal goes he and his assistant in 2012 were reportedly the leads in the Call for Reconciliation of 2012.  Bruskas and other pastors met with former members to "reconcile" in some fashion but that mainly seemed to be a PR move and, perhaps even more crucially, a possible move to prevent people from sharing their concerns with the media or via social media.  For so long a career punctuated by jokes about bloggers from Mark Driscoll Mars Hill Church has actually taken a keen interest in a handful of blogs.

Without the roles of president and secretary being filled (that we can be sure about) Mars Hill is now bereft of the required minimum of officers unless Mars Hill can clear up who the new president and secretary are.  Sutton Turner quit and now Driscoll quit but Driscoll quitting is more important and puts Mars Hill in a more precarious position.  It's as though all that narrative of divine calling and commission amounts to this, when the pressure gets high enough fear of man takes over and Driscoll becomes a coward.  He seems to have put himself in this no-win situation.  If he stays on in the midst of this controversy he hurts the closest thing he has to a legacy besides, you know, his own children.  But Driscoll doesn't want the legacy he's spent 18 years building to just fizzle if he can help it.  But so far the signs are it will fizzle.  The corporation looks set to die and at this point it probably deserves to die. 

Any publisher who would publish a book by Mark Driscoll at this point would be run by some first-class fools.  It's worth hammering this point over and over, that we didn't get to this place we're seeing with Mars Hill because of people being concerned about Mark Driscoll's views on gays and women.  Nope, what set all of this last year's controversy off involved intellectual property and the cavalier double standards that seem to have been displayed not just by Mark Driscoll individually but by the corporate culture of Mars Hill.  It's worth noting that the moment it became clear that a book copyrighted to Mars Hill Church as a corporation had plagiarism in it that swift and public actions were taken.  Mars Hill PR made a point of shifting blame away from their president to the research help and has to date not apologized for implying that plagiarism that only had Mark Driscoll's name on it was probably the fault of the hired help.

Speaking of hired help, for Driscoll to quit in the way he has suggests he's approached all of this more like a hired hand.  Where's the Driscoll who said the following in 2012?

"“I will endure as much criticism as necessary to help as many people as I can,” concluded Driscoll."
And now Driscoll has thrown in the towel.  It may be for the sake of the public welfare of the corporation (church) he helped establish but without him Mars Hill has no brand and the brand is Mars Hill.  After a decade of the neo-Reformed bromide "what you win them with is what you win them to" Mars Hill has nothing to win anyone.  They can say they will win people with and to Jesus but they made a point of winning them to and with a Jesus as mediated by Mark Driscoll. 
And while the press may continue to discuss how Mark Driscoll apologized for the William Wallace II antics and words Wenatchee The Hatchet has demonstrated at considerable length that Mark Driscoll never apologized for the substance of what he wrote as William Wallace II.  He regretted the phase, to be sure, but he still made a point of talking about how God drew a straight line with his crooked stick and how in reaction to his yelling at them there were gay guys going straight.  In both the 2006 book and the 2011 fundraising film God's Work, Our Witness it was ultimately God's work that Driscoll snapped, even if he may have sinned and cussed a lot. In 2011 Driscoll was still baiting people on social media to share stories about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leaders they had come across and, when pressed about this stoking of controversy, basically used it as an opportunity to plug for the forthcoming Pastor Mark TV.
What is more, it is not at all the case that Driscoll's substantive views on sex and marriage seemed to change from 2000 to 2012.
If anything Driscoll became more lenient and permissive on what types of sex acts were okay within marriage.  He also ramped up the gay panic jokes as a way to dismiss the viability of the traditional Christian interpretation of Song of Songs as a typology about the love of God for His people and this in spite of that view being common among the Puritans for which Driscoll professes admiration.

Since Driscoll transferred the house he bought in 2012 to the name of his sister Melanie he has the option of staying in Washington state.  Or, as several have indicated in the last few months, Driscoll could try to move away from Washington to California.  Who would care if Driscoll turned out to have cribbed from the works of others in six to eight of his books?  Christians these days will go so far as to say copyright and intellectual property aren't even really all that Christian. 

But we got to this point because of intellectual property and the rights associated with it.  It's one thing to blather on about how bad Driscoll is or was on women or gays or charismatic issues.  The fires that have erupted in the last year involved donation designations, intellectual property, and real estate acquisitions.  None of the authors whose work Driscoll cribbed have said anything at all for the record.  They don't necessarily have to go Harlan Ellison or anything but some kind of public statement might have been helpful.

Mars Hill Church could give atheists more than enough talking points to question why on earth any churches have any tax exempt status at all.  This would not be a case of Satan playing some role in persecuting churches or, even if we grant that, did not a famous theologian remark that even the devil is God's devil?  As Wenatchee The Hatchet detailed earlier this year, spirits of calamity were generally authorized in the OT in their few appearances by Yahweh to punish and destroy corrupt and wicked leaders.

Who's to say God hasn't permitted all this calamity to befall Mars Hill because of systemic corruption and mistreatment within the culture of Mars Hill? 

If Mark Driscoll wants to do what is best for the sake of the name of Christ he would do well to avoid ever pursuing ministry ever again.  Driving a bread delivery truck would be better and at this point likely more honest vocational activity for Driscoll. 

The accumulating weight of his own histories suggest that after years of admonishing young men to not take shortcuts Mark Driscoll took shortcuts to get his books published (i.e. citation errors) and took a shortcut (Result Source Inc) to land himself a #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

After years of telling young guys to pay their own way the mounting evidence of how Mark Driscoll actually handled personal real estate acquisition seems to suggest that he depended on some of those single guys to help coverage the mortgage for his house during the time he was ranting as William Wallace II against single guys.

There was some room to doubt whether Mars Hill was going to survive and move on before but with Driscoll calling it quits there's virtually no chance it will survive.  It has officially and finally reached what Mark Driscoll would have described as the death stage circa 2006.  Maybe Jon Phelps doesn't want the corporation to die after having invested so much of himself into over the years.  Okay, but throwing good money after bad doesn't make the long-term investment any sounder.  People who joined Mars Hill for the delicate balance of Kirk (Mark Driscoll), Spock (Mike Gunn) and McCoy (Moi) found themselves losing that delicate balance as far back as about 2002.  Without a group of older and more experienced guys to rein him in (even as little as they did back then) Driscoll was left alone to surround himself with hand-picked converts and disciples whose entire careers owe to Driscoll's patronage. 

So for Driscoll to stay or leave could doom Mars Hill either way. 

What is remarkable is that no one from whose work Mark Driscoll cribbed saw fit to say anything in public or take any legal action even when there was a case to be made.  The last year's worth of scandal about plagiarism and sales rigging should have Christians asking some brutally honest questions about the collective ethics of the publishing and media industries that made Mark Driscoll a star to begin with but those questions are clearly not going to get asked now.  People will want this to all be about Mark Driscoll being a bully and a thug.  It's not that that can't be said, it's that we have to remember that things didn't get lively until intellectual property and physical property became issues.  You can pretend that's due to American consumerism all you want it doesn't change the reality of how things played out.  Jesus reportedly said something about how those who are faithful with very little will be faithful with much and how those dishonest with very little would be dishonest with much.  Even if Christians pretend that intellectual property was not what blew the lid off of a host of controversies associated with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill as a non-profit corporation it's worth bringing up again and again.  Remember the old adage that Al Capone wasn't busted for murder but for tax evasion.  A Mars Hill corporate culture that was willing to be so cavalier about the intellectual property of others could also be cavalier about the flesh and blood lives of its people.

And if nothing else what Mark Driscoll's resignation may show is that it doesn't matter these days if you co-founded the company, if it's a company that lasts, it will eventually not need you.  Driscoll may have a chance to find out if this corporation known as Mars Hill was really founded on the blood of Jesus or on the spit of Driscoll's mouth.  After all, if it survives at all then "maybe" it had Jesus involved in it in some way.  But then for someone with anti-Catholic sentiments of the sort Driscoll has published ... the same could be said about the Catholic Church, too. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet has proposed that the real idol of Mark Driscoll is probably not success but legacy.

If Driscoll has thrown in the towel then he's called it quits.  By now we know he's not a missiologist and he's not a pastor and he's not necessarily even an evangelist.  What is he?  He's a media figure and the trouble is that, as the plagiarism scandal of the last year has shown, the products he's sold have turned out to be problematic.  Who needs Real Marriage if you can just go get a reissued and trimmed down version of the Christian Directory?

Now that Driscoll has quit why not just sell off all the real estate?  Abandon Mars Hill Schools.  Sell Resurgence Publishing Inc to whomever will buy it.  Without Driscoll, without the brand, Mars Hill is pretty much nothing.  Mark Driscoll has spent the last few years making the story of Mars Hill so much about himself and his own family life that for Driscoll to be out of that picture would necessitate completely re-orienting the life and conception of the social community around not-Mark-Driscoll.  It's too late for that.

And it's too late for Mark Driscoll to even consider the possibility of just relocating to another state and starting over.  Thanks to the internet-saturated empire Driscoll has helmed the last eighteen years; thanks to the sea of sermons and published content he's overseen; there's nowhere with a tolerable wifi connection Mark Driscoll could possibly go where his legacy won't follow him. 

In the last year or three it has seemed as though Mars Hill as a leadership culture was a bit like, well, the Nixon administration.  Sure, Nixon was probably pretty convinced he was doing what was best for the United States but that doesn't mean how he approached things was necessarily for the best.  The analogy to the Nixon administration might also be unfortunately apt in the sense that if a handful of writers could be likened to Woodward and Bernstein there were questions as to who Deep Throat was.  Wenatchee The Hatchet was contacted a handful of times by pastors of Mars Hill over the years.  Since Wenatchee The Hatchet did not leave under any church discipline and simply did not renew membership when all memberships were cancelled circa 2007-2008, there was basically no reason to meet with people who by and large didn't know whom they were contacting.  And for that matter preserving things for the public record and laboring to quote people as accurately and as in context as possible probably doesn't merit any repeated contacts.

Wenatchee The Hatchet isn't sure that Driscoll has put Mars Hill into anything other than a no-win scenario.  Without Driscoll as the draw it remains to be seen whether Mars Hill will survive.  On the other hand, if Driscoll were welcomed back it isn't clear whether or not Mars Hill would survive that, either.  That in the last seven years Mark Driscoll has steadily and thoroughly transformed into everything he preached against from the pulpit is something that should be viewed as tragic.  Attempts to warn him from the consequences of his own ill-advised ways of handling biblical texts and treating people have apparently fallen on deaf ears.  Driscoll has, once again, played the safety-of-family card as part of the reason to quit but the Mark Driscoll so many people thought they knew from 2000-2002 might say that the Mark Driscoll of 2014 has just revealed what his real legacy is, the legacy of a quitter and a coward. 

Whether Mars Hill can survive either with or without Mark Driscoll remains to be seen.


Robb said...

I'm sure you will have more to say, but your closing thoughts in this article are the best I've read today.

Unknown said...

Well said WtH. Perhaps it could have been solved with contrition and honor but they didn't have it.

Unknown said...

He just knocked out both bases of people at once. The Driscoll fanboys (the people who left Ballard when he moved campuses, yet didn't change serving or giving numbers at all) now have nothing to keep them there, and the people who were waiting and seeing get only one of the actions that would keep them there.

Unknown said...

Maybe if the old team of Gunn Driscoll and Moi came back as their ST characters Spock Kirk & McCoy and re-ran the Kobyashi Maru scenario... They just might... But Mark blew that up a long time ago... (And the solution was gamed anyway so nevermind)

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

oh ... yeah ... forgot about that part. That cheating the Kobayashi Maru thing wasn't originally in mind for the analogy ... but it might be disturbingly applicable now that you mentioned it, Unknown.

benden said...

"And it's too late for Mark Driscoll to even consider the possibility of just relocating to another state and starting over. [...] there's nowhere with a tolerable wifi connection Mark Driscoll could possibly go where his legacy won't follow him."

Great analysis, but on the above point: I actually would not be surprised at all if he relocates to Calif. or elsewhere and founds another church. You're right, nearly everyone who comes would know what happened at Mars Hill. It would not be another meteoric rise; there would be no "short cuts to 10,000". But anyone as charismatic as he is can start with 200 and get to 1,000 in short order.

The issue would be: Will the same toxic character traits and behaviors that sunk the leadership and then the church at MH be repeated? Could MD really transition from "angry young prophet to spiritual father" as he said he wanted to? Could MD really forsake celebrity status and focus on shepherding a church, with a reasonable salary? Could MD really get meaningful accountability from guys like Paul Tripp, actually listen and learn from them?

In short, I don't think his "legacy at Mars Hill following him" on the internet would be guaranteed to sink a new church. It would be repetition of the same scenario, if he does not learn from the previous one and actually change.

Dana said...


Thank you for taking on this documentation project. I've been reading intermittently. My goodness, what a lot of time you have devoted to it, and for the sake of the good of Christians. May God reward you, and I hope some of that reward includes some intensely fine ideas for your musical compositions.

When MD and MH first gained notice in the Evangelical world, an age 60-ish pastor friend of mine was enthralled with the how people in the church were positive toward the arts and sought to integrate artistic expression into the life of the church. He and his wife are musicians, and both of their children work in the arts. I told him that as good as that was, I couldn't jump on the bandwagon because of MD's views on women. My friend looked at me a little cross-eyed, and I think it had not occurred to him to investigate MD's views any further; after all, he was "preaching the gospel." But my friend respected my opinions, and I didn't hear any more from him about MH; I suspect he did indeed investigate further after that.

And on that topic, I think the reason not much of a fuss was made re the women issue is because the culture of low-church Protestantism as regards women is very much a mirror of the culture in general. I submit advertising as evidence, along with women as the butt of jokes, and the continued subsurface churning of anti-woman rage, evident in some rather blatant web sites - not to mention statistics on violence toward women in this country and worldwide. Since you are familiar with the comics scene, I'm sure you know about the stalking and death threats to which women working in that field are subject nowadays. The reality is, women are not yet seen as fully human beings who deserve not to be used, neither in the culture at large, nor in non-sacramental Protestant churches. In those churches, theology is often used to justify using women as housekeepers and breeders, in addition to sex objects. This was one of the big reasons I left low-church Evangelicalism.

I know you don't hold those views of women, W, and I know not all low-church members do, either. Nevertheless, the more "bible-centered" a church advertises itself to be, the more likely it will hold to an interpretation of the bible that eventually leads to women as not-quite-human. The plagiarism and misappropriation of funds - which are in the purview of publishing and economics, both data ($) - driven - can get people riled up without any reference at all to MD's attitude toward women, which is much trickier to navigate.

Well, I've said enough. Thanks for putting up with my long comment. MD/MH is not usually the subject of blog comments I write, but I do have some thoughts about the whole sorry mess. One sorry aspect of it is that benden is probably right.

Lord, have mercy on all of us.


brgulker said...

Thanks for all you've done on this blog. I only recently discovered it, but I've read a lot of it going back several years now.

One point of dispute: I think Mark Driscoll will absolutely have another book deal, and I'll be shocked if it takes longer than 24 months for it to happen.

There's a story to tell here, and even if it's 100% lies, you gotta know there's a market.