Saturday, March 15, 2014

James Duncan discusses Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage and charitable remainder unitrusts

Longtime readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet will probably already know the amount of legwork done here just to keep up with the various threads of LLCs and copyright ownership involved in Mark Driscoll's published works.  I'd meant to get around to digging into and discussing charitable remainder unitrusts but now, arguably, there's no need for that since James Duncan over at Pajama Pages has tackled just that topic this weekend.  One of the handy things about bloggers like James Duncan and Warren Throckmorton blogging extensively about Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll is that it lets Wenatchee The Hatchet take a break from keeping up with stuff about Mars Hill long enough to write about Hayao Miyazaki films. 

Duncan also provides a nice, concise timeline of the development of the On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust, On Mission LLC, and those sorts of interstate developments as Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll, and everyone else connected to Real Marriage began to push to promote the book.

Precisely what the connection may be between the On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust and the Future Hope Revocable Living Trust, if indeed any exists, remains to be investigate, probably by other people.  We can establish that the Future Hope Revocable Living Trust was listed as being headquartered at Mars Hill Church's corporate headquarters in Ballard. 

If Hank's going to suggest an avenue for Duncan to explore further Wenatchee The Hatchet can simply shorten that search.  Snohomish County Records clarify specifically that Mark and Grace Driscoll bought a house in the county through the financial instrument Future Hope Revocable Living Trust. 

Meanwhile, Duncan's summary of charitable remainder unitrusts, what they're for, and how they work, might be some weekend reading for you.

some background on some members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability for Mars Hill Church

Let's go with the basic list that's been bandied about a few places.

Mark Driscoll
Dave Bruskas
(John) Sutton Turner

These guys need no introduction and the news about them is essentially a given.  That these three men are on the Board of Advisors and Accountability that congratulated them on enduring false accusations as, so far, everything has been essentially confirmed about plagiarism (intentional or negligent plagiarism at this point is immaterial) and sales rigging has turned out to be stuff that is either directly or indirectly admitted to so far.

But then there's these other guys, in blue:

Dr. [Paul] Tripp joins the current Board members: Michael Van Skaik, Dr. James MacDonald, Dr. Larry Osborne, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner. This Board of Advisors and Accountability was voted upon and installed by an overwhelmingly supportive vote from the entire eldership, with every single elder who voted doing so in approval.

So James MacDonald's association with Mark Driscoll as a personal friend is easily established.  They collaborated on Churches Helping Churches, and both introduced T. D. Jakes as a conventional, non-modalist Trinitarian at Elephant Room 2 (though this did not convince all that many Reformed evangelicals that Jakes was anything close to conventionally trinitarian and that's grist for some other blog).  MacDonald's church has been, it seems, significantly in debt and MacDonald himself has come under some scrutiny for gambling and for the debt that Harvest Bible Chapel has racked up over the years.  But MacDonald is a friend of Driscoll's and, as Driscoll put it in a video, MacDonald has "the spiritual gift of real estate acquisition".  So it goes. 

Now Larry Osborne's role as consulting in some fashion in reorganization of Mars Hill can be traced back to 2006-2007 in Confessions of a Reformission Rev (Zondervan, 2006) and Mark Driscoll's letter to Mars Hill Church in 2007 that can be read over in the first few pages of the 145-page document available in the Timeline at Joyful Exiles.

Paul Tripp is going to be featured at the R14 conference this year, it seems.

He was also featured in the "Best Sermon Ever" series

That Tripp has a history of influence within Mars Hill is less directly obvious than would be for the executive elders of MHC, obviously, but it's not difficult to establish what Tripp's influence within MH has been over the years.  CCEF in general and Paul Tripp in particular got credited as a key influence in the change Mars Hill Church took in pastoral counseling, a process that is apparently credited ultimately to Mark Driscoll.

Redemption" Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry
Copyright (c) 2011 by Mike Wilkerson
Published by Crossway
Trade paperback ISBN: 978-1-4335-2077-8
PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-2078-5
page 15

A few years ago, Pastor Mark Driscoll initiated some significant change in the way we approached what he called the Ground War, the many one-on-one and small-group ministries that are essential to gospel transformation and that complement the Air War, the public preaching ministry. He asserted that the Air War and the Ground War must be unified and that the Ground War must be properly unified within itself. We needed to rethink the way we equipped our counselors and Community Group Leaders. [all emphasis added]

Pastor Mark connected us with the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), and as we read their materials and consulted with them about our ministries, some things became clear to us. ... [ditto]

page 16

Those were some of our structural problems. But our worst problem was that these groups were not all unified by the same vision of biblical counseling. As each new kind of group formed, a new curriculum was required, each from a slightly (in some cases significantly) different perspective. Some were thoroughly biblical, while others were an uncomfortable blend of Christian "principles" governed by secular psychological worldviews and methods. The groups were incompatible with one
another, and in some cases, in conflict with the pulpit. [emphasis added] So a husband in one kind of group might receive counsel that contradicted what his wife received in another kind of group, both of which may have clashed with waht they heard preached on Sunday--and they may not have even known it.

So by Mike Wilkerson's account a major change in how pastoral counseling at Mars Hill Church took place because Mark Driscoll instigated the process of changing those things.  While in Grace Driscoll's chapter 7 of Real Marriage the explanation she gave was that groups were either not gospel-centered or wrongly focused on behavioral change Wilkerson's account in his Foreward suggests that one of the problems was ...

page  16
We also observed that sometimes these issue-specific groups had the unfortunate side effect of reinforcing a participant's issue-based identity, instead of helping them throw off false
identities and embrace his identity in Christ.  So Christians seeking help to live life free from pornography might learn that, actually, they were porn addicts,  something they would have to live with and manage, something their spouses would have to live with and accommodate. [emphases original]

Wilkerson goes on a bit to explain how James Noriega pioneered mixed issue counseling groups that became the prototype for Redemption Groups.  That stuff is not pertinent to this particular post.  asdf

But here is something that is interesting:
(still page 16)

In the fall of 2008, I gathered a team of pastors to see how we could address these challenges.  On that initial team were Pastors James Noreiga, Brad House, and Phil Smidt. We decided to replace some eight to ten different issue-specific recovery groups with gospel-based, mixed-issue Redemption Groups, drawing upon Pastor James' working prototype, and redesigning them based on an original content platform. T he idea to base the curriculum on Exodus as the Bible's pattern of redemption was initially influenced by the teaching of Gerry Breshears at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, who had lectured at some conferences hosted by Mars Hill.

The idea continued to gain ground as Mark Driscoll preached his "Christ on the Cross" series, where he taught on the them of redemption in Christ's atonement and its Old Testament background in Exodus.  (This preaching series later became the book Death By Love, by Driscoll and Breshears) Also appealing was the thought of a curriculum based on a large biblical narrative--a story we could find ourselves within--and what better story than the exodus? Finally, the relevance of this
motiff to our counseling challenges was confirmed in a conversation with David Powlison from CCEF.  He pointed out that in the Bible the theme of redemption applies to deliverance from both sin and suffering.

The Christ on the Cross series was in 2005, the year before Grace Driscoll was said to have shared a story of past abuse with Mark Driscoll.  Yet the Christ on the Cross series dates from October through December 2005.  This series not only predated Grace Driscoll sharing her story with Mark Driscoll about a past sexual abuse experience (the Real Marriage series has Driscoll saying a key conversation happened in 2006)
Mark Driscoll, Real Marriage, "New Marriage, Same Spouse"
Preached January 15, 2012
... And she looked at me. She said, “Oh, my gosh. I’m so sorry. What did I say wrong?” And I said, “You didn’t say anything wrong, honey. You’re a rape victim. You’re a sexual assault victim.” I said, “I didn’t know that about you. I’ve known you for—” Gosh, at that point, this was six years ago. We met in 1988, so this would’ve been in maybe 2006, five or six years ago. I’d known her for, what is that, eighteen years. I didn’t know. And to be honest with you, she didn’t know. She’d never really connected her story to the reality of what was done to her.

So 2006, perhaps, but the Christ on the Cross series was the end of 2005.  Not only did this predate Grace Driscoll, by Mark Driscoll's account, sharing a story with him about her sexual abuse, it also
potentially predate the formal installation of James Noriega.

Part 26: One Body, Many parts
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
Pastor Mark Driscoll
July 30, 2006

… In the meantime, we also picked up another miracle. This is West Seattle. This is on 35th at the top of the hill in West Seattle as you head toward White Center. I grew up in this neighborhood. This is a church building that is an absolute miracle. I’ll tell you the story on this space. I tried to launch Mars Hill Church in that building ten years ago, and we were rejected, and I’ve always wanted to be in there since. And what happened was, is we were growing. I went to Pastor Bill Clem, who was leading that congregation. He planted it for Acts 29 Church Planning Network  him and James Noriega, who is the other elder there and I said, “We’re maxed out. You got a fat building, 50,000 square feet, 1,000 seats.:” It’s a bigger building and the one you’re sitting in right now. I said, “Is there any way we to use it?” They said, “Well, we wanna reach as many people in West Seattle as possible. How about if we give it to you and work together?” we prayed about it for a second and said, “Yes.”

So if Wilkerson's account didn't fumble on any dates were he and James Noriega part of a team planning a new set of paradigms in 2005 even before he started a group in 2008?  Well, it's a little tiny bit mysterious but the possibility that Mark Driscoll, in this narrative, was moving toward having all Ground War unified with what he had planned for Air War could make sense of most of the subordinate details and chronological points in a timeline.

Finally, over in acknowledgments, Wilkerson refers to Paul Tripp again.

Page 20, from Acknowledgments in Redemption by Mike Wilkerson

Through many books, lectures, and personal interactions with the faculty of CCEF--Ed Welch, Mike Emlet, Winston Smith, Tim Lane, David Powlison--and Paul Tripp [emphasis added], I have been personally challenged and taught how to think biblically about people and how to help them practically and pastorally.  More than anyone, they have provided the vision and guidance to put gospel counseling into practice in the local church.

Thanks to James and Heather Armstrong, Warren and Melissa Myers, Michael and Mary Van Skaik [emphasis added], Hank and Sharon Matthews, Cedar Springs, and Warm Beach for providing comfortable places for me to write.

Well, that does get us pretty quickly to Michael Van Skaik, who is also on the Board of Advisors and Accountability.  Van Skaik apparently played some role in providing Mike Wilkerson comfortable places for writing in.  So who is this person?
From an August 12, 2013 screen capture of the board of directors for Ministry Coaching International, and a September 11, 2013 one, too.

Michael van Skaik

Michael completed an 18 year career in the mortgage banking business in 2003, retiring as the Regional President for a national company. Since then, he has been actively involved in coaching others, first in business (with Building Champions) and now in life and ministry (with Ministry Coaching).

Michael is passionate about helping others live the life that God intends for them. He enjoys guiding others through the various areas of our lives, searching the scriptures for wisdom regarding those areas and then seeing them implement and do what the Word says (James 1:22-27). He also serves as Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA as Chair of the Board of Advisors and Accountability.
Michael has been happily married for 31 years, has 3 grown and married daughters and a USMC son. He currently has 6 grandchildren with more to come!

There's no longer any publicly listed page or tab indicating who the Board of Directors for Ministry Coaching International might be or if Michael Van Skaik is still affiliated with the board.  Whether or not he is or was on paid staff could be verified by someone willing to contribute information. 

But that phrase "Ministry Coaching International" does raise a question for people with a long-scale view of Mars Hill history.  Let's go back to Jamie Munson's email in which he formulated charges considered grounds for the immediate terminations of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer.

* Continual insubordination and submission to leadership and spiritual authority
* Refusal to Ministry Coaching Program

So what was the Ministry Coaching Program and why would non-participation in it actually have mattered? 

Well, perhaps someone else can field, that, too.  What's of note is that Michael Van Skaik appeared to be an unpaid pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue for at least a while.

July 23, 2011
November 24, 2011
November 23, 2011

Michael van Skaik
Pastor Discipleschip Coaching
Interesting that the formerly public websites of Mars Hill campuses listed the usernames that members and staff had on The City.  That was on the old system and in the new format those City profile numbers aren't publicly accessible. 

And for those who may have read this old survey of what the Governance page used to say.

The Compensation Committee consists of at least three members of the Board of Elders chosen from among the nonpaid elders serving on the board. The members of the committee are appointed by the Board of Elders. Currently, the following elders serve on the Compensation Committee: Michael Van Skaik (Chairman), ...

So some time in earlier 2012 Michael Van Skaik was on the Compensation Committee for Mars Hill Church as its chairman. He was also on the Board of Elders in 2012, though he may or may not be on that Board now.  Back in early 2012 this was how the Board of Elders was described:

How is the Board of Elders comprised?The Board of Elders consists of seven elders: three employee elders who form the Executive Elder Team, and four nonpaid elders. A “nonpaid elder” is an elder
(i) who is not an employee of Mars Hill Church;
(ii) who does not have any family or business relationship with any member of the Executive Elder Team; and
(iii) who does not have any material business relationship with the church.
If that (iii) merely referred to something that could be construed as "right now" then it would make sense but if the aim of (iii) was to avoid the possibility of a conflict of interest by having someone on the Board who doesn't have a history of having a business relationship with the church then it's hard to be certain that either Paul Tripp or Michael Van Skaik might qualify across all points in space and time. 

While to an unegaged and incurious reader it might certainly seem as though the four extra guys who aren't executive elders are somehow not compromised by a vocational interest in ministry within Mars Hill Church it's simply not possible to establish that these are people who have had absolutely no personal interest in Mars Hill Church as a corporation either by being friends with Mark Driscoll as a person or by having participated or contributed in some way to the development of significant programs within Mars Hill history (i.e. both Tripp and Van Skaik are thanked for playing some kind of role to help Mike Wilkerson in the writing of a book and in connection to Wilkerson and Noriega architecting what became Redemption Groups).  In fact if you wanted to bother having someone on the board you'd tend to want them to have a vested interest in the causes the organization pursues. 

Finally, it might be worth noting that when you read the forward to Mike Wilkerson's Redemption it reads curiously as though behavioral change was an explicit goal and that the lack of behavioral change in a variety of member situations was part of the reason they changed paradigms. 

Pajama Pages: James Duncan discusses Mark Driscoll preparing communiy group leaders to push Real Marriage

James Duncan has highlighted one of those things that, in retrospect, seems like it would have been simple enough, Driscoll and company were planning to preach through Real Marriage as a series and all the community groups across the 14-some campuses were going to have a way to promote the book.

Duncan refers to this video link, though given the rate at which Mars Hill has been wiping away entire sermon series from their media library (Nehemiah, Phillipians, and 1 Corinthians) who knows how long this thing will stay up.

Duncan says a bit more you can go read for yourself.  Given the statement by the MH BOAA that "outside counsel" came up with the idea of using Result Source and Thomas Nelson seems to have said it wasn't them, who is left?  Yates & Yates?  Would anyone from Yates & Yates admit to proposing Result Source?  Would any of their staff past or present even propose such a thing?  And how precisely did Mars Hill Church get in a situation where outside counsel could even suggest such a thing anyway unless someone was committed to having a book "pop"?  Driscoll said himself in a sermon in 2009 that he hoped one of his books would "pop".  It's over in a 2009 sermon that never got a transcription but it's from the 1 & 2 Peter series.

Prophets, Priests and Kings
 Trial: 8 witnesses from 1 & 2 Peter
May 3, 2009
1 Peter 5:1-5

... So in all of this, as well, I've had people ask, "So what about the book sales?"  Here's how it works, I didn't start a separate company. One of the ways that guys work this, they become a leader in a church and they have a company on the side and they use the church to funnel business into their side company and I didn't start a side company (like a lot of guys do) for my book writing. Instead I publish under Mars Hill.

So the way it works, I don't get all the money. Mars Hill gets a huge take. Mars Hill gets all the marketing dollars, they get paid by the publishers. Mars Hill gets half of all the royalties so the books that I publish, about 75% of the revenue goes to Mars Hill Church, not me. Not me.  Because I'm worried about this issue, greed, shameful gain. Just using Mars Hill as a platform so I can start a business to rake in massive dollars. I don't think it's a sin for a pastor to get a salary but we're now at the point where the books and the marketing, that a huge portion of my salary is covered by income that I generate.  And, I'll be honest with you, I hope one of my books pops or I get enough books on the shelf, titles in print , I'd love to see the day where I'm basically working for free and that the book sales and royalties and such let me generate enough money for Mars Hill that I can work free of charge. That's my hope and my goal. I don't know if we'll get there but that's what I'm trying to do.

Of course there's a separate company now since about 2011 but apparently Mark Driscoll's supporters don't seem to care that Driscoll's done as big a 180 on this topic as is humanly possible between 2009 and 2011. 

Haven't even gotten to the topic of where the millions that were designated to the Resurgence Training Center Masters in Missional Leadership program got to.  They went to a program, to be sure (most likely) but the non-existence of that program as Mars Hill Church is trying (again) to launch some kind of seminary/Bible college thing is going to be worth exploring.

Chip MacGregor: What's wrong with buying your way onto the bestseller list

This is a fairly thorough summation of the controversies surrounding Mark Driscoll's publication history as they've erupted over the last half year.

Mars Hill Church discipline in 2007, survey of documents & correspondence, pertinence to plagiarism controvery of 2014

The termination of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry from Mars Hill Church in 2007 is the closest corresponding case study we have to consider how Mars Hill Church may handle the situation of a pastor who is considered to have been in error.  To be sure, there are other reports of cases of pastors who were fired from Mars Hill but there's no secure documentation of how, when, or why staff were let go some time in late 2011 or early 2012 over "overstepping spiritual authority".  But it is precisely the question of whether it was even formally possible for any pastor at Mars Hill church to overstep spiritual authority that is worth revisiting.  The cumulative documents and correspondence made available through Joyful Exiles make it difficult to sustain the idea that there was an appeal process or that the Mars Hill elders as a group considered their opinions open to alternatives.

First, if you've ever read Wenatchee The Hatchet before you may already know the story.  Mark Driscoll mentioned in a sermon that there were some people, even in the leadership of Mars Hill Church, where if he weren't going to end up on CNN over it he would have gone Old Testament on them, from the "Fathers and Fighting" sermon at the end of the Nehemiah series on September 30, 2007.  That entire sermon series seems to have been scrubbed away.  A short clip of the highlights should work over here. That evening, Meyer and Petry were informed they were fired, by the account of Paul and Jonna Petry.

The next day, Lead Pastor Jamie Munson formulated charges that were considered grounds for immediate dismissal for both Meyer and Petry.
One of the most striking charges is Petry's refusal to cooperate with the Ministry Coaching Program.  Whether or not this was a program conducted by Ministry Coaching International may have to be investigated in some other context. Munson referred to the terminations as "necessary and inevitable" but never explains why.  Since there were some two dozen pastors at Mars Hill in 2007 on the eve of voting on Munson's bylaws it simply can't be explained why the opposition of a mere two of twenty-four men to the bylaws made firing them "necessary and inevitable".  Munson appointed Pastor Scott Thomas head of an Elder Investigative Taskforce and the investigation and trial proceedings began.

The same day, Mark Driscoll addressed an Acts 29 teaching even of some kind and referred to, among other things, "a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus".  He also made reference to two guys being fired for the first time in the history of Mars Hill and that sometimes Paul the apostle understand you had to put someone through a woodchipper.  This was the second "woodchipper" reference Driscoll made in 2007, the other having been in his Raleigh address "The Man", which has since been thoroughly scrubbed of that anecdote. 

On October 11, 2007, the day after informing Paul Petry that his presence at his own trial was not necessary, that the vote would be an open show of hands, and that all evidence had been sufficiently collected, Executive elder Pastor Scott Thomas informed a member of Mars Hill Church through an email sent from his Acts 29 Network address that "A team of elders just conclude a conciliatory process with these two men". What seems to have actually happened was that days later Scott Thomas made the case that the termination of Paul Petry was, as Munson said it was before appointing Scott Thomas to lead the EIT, "inevitable and necessary".   It's impossible to evade the inference from all available evidence that Scott Thomas lied to a church member about the nature and goal of what was called a "conciliatory process".  Driscoll's audio from October 1, 2007 presented the termination of two men from eldership at Mars Hill Church as irreversible and beyond reconsideration if what and how he spoke is any indication to an average listener.

Now let's review what Munson's bylaws had to say about church discipline of members, since that was one of the things Petry had problems with.  We'll highlight a few striking passages of personal interest.
Bylaws of Mars Hill Fellowship
A Nonprofit Corporation With Members

[From pages 125-126 of the 145 doc at Joyful Exiles]

Article VIII

Section A
The reference to "member" in these bylaws is a spiritual and theological term for a member of the body of Christ that does not have any civil effect for purposes of state law. Consistent with the biblical concept of member and this Section A, members shall not have voting rights.

Section C
Church discipline

The threefold purpose of church discipline is to glorify God by mantaining purity in the local church, to edify believers by deterring sin, and to promote the spiritual welfare of the offending believer by calling him or her to return to a biblical standard of doctrine and conduct.

1. Members of Mars Hill Church and all other professing Christians who regularly attend or fellowship with this church who err in doctrine, or who engage in conduct that violates Scripture as determined by any two or more elders, shall be subject to church discipline. [emphasis added] Each potential case of discipline will be weighed on its own merits and dealt with according to Scripture.

2. Members of Mars Hill Church are not guaranteed confidentiality regarding issues of church discipline, and understand that in submitting themselves to the authority of the church, issues of a sensitive or personal nature may become known to others. [emphasis added] This includes, but is not limited to, notification of the authorities if a crime has been committed or if a real threat of someone being endangered exists, as well as other violations of scripture that may not result in physical danger.

3. Those who are members of the church or who regularly participate in church activities may be dismissed from church by the agreement of at least two elders. The dismissal of a church member may be made known to all church members. [emphasis added,  WtH: it's important to stress that this section indicates that at least two elders can kick you out and make a point of telling the entire church you've been kicked out if they consider that appropriate]

4. A person dismissed from Mars Hill Church for disciplinary reasons may be reinstated to full membership if the person's repentance is accepted as genuine by the elders that oversaw the person's discipline. [emphasis added: i.e. if the pastor you ticked off enough to make the decision to discipline you causes you to be put under discipline is convinced you've repented only then can that disciplinary status be revoked.]

5. Each member of this church, and every other professing Christian who regularly attends or fellowships with this church, agrees that there shall be no appeal to any court because of a discipline process or dismissal. A member who is under discipline by the church, as defined in the previous paragraphs, forfeits and waives the right to resign from Mars Hill Church.  [emphasis added] Resignation is possibly only by a member who is in good standing and who is not under any disciplinary action.

So, in summary, just by agreeing to be a member you'd agree that you have no basis for an appeal to any court because of how Mars Hill treats you in a disciplinary process.  Most people who became Mars Hill members from 2008 on may have never read any of this stuff, which is a pity.

6. Separate and apart from the process of church discipline, but subject to the discretion and approval of any two or more elders, a member, non-member regular participant in church activities, or other individual, may be notified that he or she is not to be present upon church premises or at church activities for such a period of time as is deemed necessary for the safety and well-being of others. Such required absence may, but need not, be concurrent with church discipline of that person.

7. Separate and apart from the process of church discipline, but subject to the discretion and approval of any two or more elders, members who have not met all of the criteria of church membership for a period of six months or longer may be removed as a member of Mars Hill Church and may be asked to no longer attend Mars Hill Church.
So we've seen that the bylaws Munson drafted conferred a great deal of disciplinary power and authority to any two elders who decided someone merited church discipline.  In fact there seemed to be no limit, in principle to what or how any two Mars Hill pastors could decide to do regarding the discipline of a church member.  There was no practical restriction in the bylaws about what the limits of the "spiritual authority" of a campus pastor might be, for instance.  Let's propose for sake of discussion some people actually got the idea that some kind of checklist or protocol would be a good idea but first ...

Llet's skip ahead to Pastor Jamie Munson's update to Mars Hill Church regarding Paul Petry:

The shun command, more or less.  What is now worth adding to a bunch of material that is already known would be pages from a Church Discipline document that was finalized within Mars Hill Church on December 7, 2007.

Wenatchee The Hatchet was given a copy of this December 7, 2007 document on Church Discipline a while back.  It's relevant now that the Board of Advisors and Accountability seem to have declared so confidently none of the executive elders have said or done anything amiss.  Nobody sinned and let's bear in mind that when Mars Hill Church was informed that Bent Meyer and Paul Petry were being fired it was stressed they weren't being fired over some kind of moral or doctrinal failure (i.e. no sex and no heresy).  But it's worth noting that Munson's shunning edict came first and any documentary basis for which such a shunning would have been considered appropriate doesn't seem to have been completed until two days later.  Here are a few pages from the document.

All right, let's gander at page 10, that checklist of reasons to consider putting someone under church discipline.  For the rank and file member these two are particularly interesting.

When a Christian has repeatedly rejected counsel by a church elder
When a Christian is not consistently in community

So if someone in leadership at Mars Hill Church finds out you're not consistently attending a community group, or maybe have never attended any small group inside Mars Hill, that could be considered grounds for church discipline. 

Or when a Christian has "repeatedly rejected counsel by a church elder".  How many times counts as "repeatedly"? Two incidents?  Fourteen?  You see this bit leaves open the possibility that a pastor at Mars Hill Church might put a member under discipline because a member considers the pastor to have given bad counsel and decides not to follow it.  If, for instance, a pastor advised against some man marrying a woman who was not a member of Mars Hill Church but the woman's family was okay with it and the woman's family liked the guy then this could be considered repeatedly rejecting the counsel of a Mars Hill elder and the basis for church discipline.

Among other striking grounds for church discipline is when a Christian appoints themselves to leadership!  So when Jamie Munson drafted bylaws in 2007 that made him Lead Pastor, legal president of Mars Hill Church, and accused Petry and Meyer of distrusting his authority and leadership could that have counted as "appoints themselves to leadership"?  What about no less than Mark Driscoll's own description of his reason for planting Mars Hill Church way back in Confessions of a Reformission Rev from 2006, that he didn't like any of the other churches around him and decided to start one he did like?  I suppose a lot hinges on the difference between "appoint" and "nominate".  You can nominate yourself to leadership positions within Mars Hill Church all you want, and in fact historically you'd be advised that you needed to if you felt called to ministry. But ... just in case, whatever the distinction between "nominate" and "appoint" may be, it was something to keep in mind. 

While there are reports that Mark Driscoll has indicated having private meetings with people he's hurt in the past there has been no indication that Mark Driscoll has ever publicly addressed the problem of citation errors (aka plagiarism) in seven of his published books.  There has been no indication that he has ever reached out in any fashion to either Paul Petry or Bent Meyer.  There is no evidence he may have said anything to Lief Moi and the point is not that any of these men would somehow be obliged to say anything, it's that Mark Driscoll has not so far said anything to the effect that he's met with people who have shared their history of being fired and cast out from leadership at Mars Hill. 

If anything that the Board of Advisors and Accountability has stated that the executive elders have humbly or patiently endured false accusations raises the question of what has been false about the evidence produced that Mars Hill Church contracted with Result Source to get Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list/  The BOAA itself admitted it happened.  Is there anything false to reports that separation and release documents effectively function as "gag orders"?  Not so far and it anything this is another thing the BOAA seems to have essentially publicly conceded is really the case.

What the BOAA has not conceded is the scale of citation error in Mark Driscoll's books, seven by the count of Warren Throckmorton.  There's been no concession on the part of the BOAA that Driscoll books contain historical errors and instances of plagiarism.  Staying silent while the publishers of Mark Driscoll's books go back and change things (as Warren Throckmorton has been documenting) is not only not a confession, retroactive actions on the part of Mark Driscoll's publishers could be inferred as a confession of guilt.  You don't go back and start acknowledging sources that weren't even mentioned in first editions unless it was sufficiently problematic to have not mentioned them you feel you have to fix the problem.  So even on the matter of plagiarism, Mark Driscoll wouldn't "need" to confess to anything for the actions of Thomas Nelson to fix problems in Real Marriage to send a loud and clear signal that Allender's work needed to have been credited the first time.

And this, in a way, gets us back to that separation and release form Throckmorton published, the one that states that a breach of confidential information is considered a basis for action on the part of Mars Hill against a former pastor whether the breach was intentional or not.  It is this sort of verbiage, more than other statements, that suggests that Mars Hill Church as a corporation may operate with a significant double standard.  If a former pastor who signed a separation-and-release agreement could get the hammer of action for even an inadvertent slip up then what does it matter if Mark Driscoll didn't intend to be a plagiarist?  Would Intervarsity Press have had a reason to even care if the "citation error" was on purpose or not?  Let's not forget that the first public reaction MH PR had when this was brought to light was to rather broadly say that Mark Driscoll wasn't the only person who worked on the book and that the Trial study guide was assembled by a team that included a research assistant.  When Mars Hill leadership says that confession means you don't shift blame then it looks like MH PR may have done precisely that. 

Mark Driscoll has avoided confessing to anything of any significance.  Even when it's been proven that he and Grace Driscoll plagiarized Dan Allender in detail there has been no confession from either of them even that mistakes were made. 

And as we've seen from the December 2007 church discipline document, there wasn't exactly a clear limit to what one Mars Hill pastor, let alone two, might decide was appropriate for church discipline that was beyond appeal and that could be reported to the entire church.  No one to date has produced any of the evidence the EIT presented for why Meyer and Petry needed to be canned from eldership at Mars Hill. 

By comparison, the evidence for Mark Driscoll's citation errors has become so incontrovertible that books are being revised right now and one of them was even retracted.  If there was nothing legally wrong or ethically problematic with using Result Source to get Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list why even mention "outside counsel"?  It doesn't matter who that outside counsel was, it matters that John Sutton Turner signed a contract.  It doesn't matter whether the Driscolls intended to plagiarize Dan Allender or not, it matters that Mars Hill Church had by its publication date gotten itself a scandal for letting a cease-and-desist letter over trademark and branding get sent to another church.  Hypocrisy may be frequent and inadvertent and that's not necessarily the problem here, it's mounting evidence that Mars Hill leadership allowed for a double standard.  When people on the out of leadership got trouble, the evidence for firing Petry and Meyer seems to have amounted to bruised egos.  When evidence has mounted for the existence of plagiarism and rigging a place on the NYT bestseller list the BOAA that includes the executive elders of Mars Hill Church exonerates them and itself by saying they will stand by their men amid false accusations that, so far, all seem to have been based on evidence provided by documents drafted or signed by Mars Hill Church leadership itself.

Friday, March 14, 2014

more from Warren Throckmorton, link titles speak for themselves
As to where this thing came from and where it was published, well, that's semi-mysterious.  Throckmorton's wording suggests that this thing was posted to The City. 

For sake of review

On March 7, 2014 the BOAA [which means Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, Sutton Turner, Paul Tripp, Michael Van Skaik, and Larry Osborne at least] said of the contract with Result Source as an investment, "While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again."

But on March 5, 2014 Justin Dean told World Magazine:

Mars Hill has made marketing investments for book releases and sermon series, along with album releases, events, and church plants, much like many other churches, authors, and publishers who want to reach a large audience. We will explore any opportunity that helps us to get that message out, while striving to remain above reproach in the process. Whether we’re talking about technology, music, marketing, or whatever, we want to tell lots of people about Jesus by every means available. That’s what we’re all about and have been since 1996.

So what the communication director said on the 5th seemed to have been reversed two days later by the board of advisors and accountability.  They'll explore any opportunity that helps them get the message out, according to Justin Dean, but according to Driscoll/Bruskas/Turner/Tripp/Van Skaik/Osborne et al the decision, though not uncommon or illegal, was unwise.  Of course these two accounts can be reconciled by considering the respective roles played by a PR person and a governing board ... and maybe the detail that this was caught by journalists two years after the book hit a bestseller list forced everyone's hand?

POSTSCRIPT: 03.15.2014

Throckmorton notes that back on November 11, 2007 in "The Rebel's Guide to Joy in Humility" Mark Driscoll talked about his pride and offered an apology.  Sort of.  We'll get to the significance of a partial apology or one which immediately includes "you're not better than me" or proposes that other parties had a share in blame some time later, maybe.

Remembrance of things past, when Real Marriage came out in 2012 even complementarians had problems with it

One of the things that Mark Driscoll's critics can all too easily forget, particularly those who have erroneously understand "Reformed" to refer to some theological and sociological monolith, is that complementarians were not all unified in tripping over themselves in endorsing Mark and Grace Driscoll's book.  There were, in fact, a number of critical voices that were not exactly low profile.

Even before the book was ever published, way back in 2009, Justin Barnard wrote a little editorial piece pointing out problems he had with Mark Driscoll's whole approach.

... Even if he were as circumspect as the most sanctimonious of Puritans in how he spoke of it, the content of Driscoll’s teaching about sex (even within marriage) is inexcusable. Driscoll seems to think that traditional marriage is the gateway to the license of mutual consent. Thus, like the world, he fails to grasp that human sexuality might be ordered toward ends to which even husband and wife might be subject. Rather, just like your garden variety advocate for moral legitimacy of homosexual behavior, Driscoll views sexual activity (of course, within traditional marriage) as subject to nothing other than the mutual desires of the participants.

The Scotland sermon was eventually taken down and Driscoll went on to preach Peasant Princess in 2008, a series on the Song of Solomon.  It wouldn't have been the first sermon on sex Mark Driscoll preached that got pulled, there was a significantly lengthy one going as far back as 2002 that was pulled maybe just a week or so after it was preached.  It was originally part 20 of the circa 2002 Proverbs series.  Good luck finding it, if you can.  It's worth noting that in terms of tone and substance Mark Driscoll's preaching and teaching on sex and sexuality has remained fairly static over 14 years.  So, with that in mind, let's go back and see what look like ambivalent or even critical comments about Real Marriage made by some guys who would seem to have been complementarian or at least conservative and evangelical. 

Critical review by Heath Lambert
Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
... I hope that after reading it [this review] you will not sense the need to read Real Marriage.  I want to be clear. I have nothing against Mark Driscoll and his wife. Instead I am thankful for (what I have been told is) a clear witness to the gospel in Seattle, Having said that, I am deeply disturbed by this book on marriage. This book will hurt people. It is going to create confusion in marriages, trouble in the sexual relationships o married couples, turmoil in individuals struggling with all manner of difficulties and questions about the nature of marriage from God's perspective.

Matthew Lee Anderson
In short, Real Marriage buries the mystery along with Ephesians 5.  There’s nothing left of it, both in the book’s candid descriptions of sexuality and in its transparent confessions about the Driscoll’s struggles.  And the prose inevitably follows: it is clear, but rarely sings and only infrequently stirs. At the end of it, we may have seen the “truth about sex, friendship, and life together,” but it’s not clear we’ve seen the beauty.  And therein lies a significant shortcoming.

... Let me pick a specific problem that I think stands out.  They rightly acknowledge that the effects of pornification on our culture and our views of sexuality.  As they put it, “young people are increasingly likely to consider that which is pornographic to be normative sexuality” (143).  Very true, and aptly put.

Yet there is no acknowledgment that the acts described in the infamous “Can we _______” chapter have been brought to the mainstream by the very pornographic culture we’re decrying.  We might call it a genetic fallacy and say that the act’s okay, despite the culture that is normalizing it.  But given Driscoll’s (and my own) interpretation of Romans 1 and homosexuality, that won’t pass muster.  Culture and the acts they sanction are more interrelated than we realize, and if the tree is rotten the fruit might be questionable too.

The Driscoll’s are surprisingly unconcerned with the pornification of the marriage bed, and don’t quite seem to realize that the questions themselves might be coming from a people whose imaginations have been stunted.   It’s occasionally worth challenging the premise of questions in order to reach beneath the surface and understand the problematic forces at work in our evangelical culture of sexuality.  That the Driscoll’s do not is nothing if not a missed opportunity.
When it comes down to it, there’s an exegetical disagreement too.  Driscoll’s definition of lust seems to, well, miss the mark.  He detours a whole lot of Christian history and witness describing lust as disordered or inordinate desires:

- See more at:

Allow me to make a few observations about these chapters.
The first is that in at least two places the Driscolls refer to a man’s sexual desire as a “need.” This is a difficult term that begs further definition and one that needs to be understood in reference to the gospel, the message that proclaims our deepest needs have already been met in Christ. A man does not “need” to have sex—not in the sense he needs to eat or sleep or have Christ as his Savior. At one point Mark writes about “testosterone-induced depression,” a condition that can arise when sexual needs are not met. That form of depression may exist and there is a sense in which a man’s body craves sex. But these things cannot be properly understood without the wider context of the gospel. This context is absent and it’s a significant oversight.

Another observation is that the book is graphic. In the “Can We _______?” chapter the Driscolls look at a long list of very intimate sexual acts. A chapter earlier they look to Song of Solomon and state that each verse points to a very specific sexual act. There is no subtlety in describing sexual deeds and misdeeds; rather, everything is explained in detail. Some of these acts are so intimate (perhaps invasive is also an appropriate word) that many readers will never have considered that they even exist. As a husband I would not want my wife to read some of what this chapter contains. This is not prudishness but protection. It is one thing to address specific questions that have arisen within the marriage relationship; it’s another thing altogether to introduce those questions to the marriage relationship.
Finally, Mark’s abuse of The Song of Solomon has been widely noted and discussed, but he continues to treat it as a graphic sex manual. To treat it this way is to utterly miss the point. As Carl Trueman says, turning the Song of Solomon “primarily into a sex manual is arguably a greater act of reductionism than jumping straight from the text to Christ and the church.” (See John MacArthur and Carl Trueman for more)

Carl Trueman

Then again, Trueman's critical observations about Driscoll in particular and celebrity pastors in general may be fairly easy to find.

So besides the more recent controversies in which journalists and bloggers have uncovered evidence of plagiarism in up to seven Mark Driscoll books (aside from factual errors) and the recent revelation that Mars Hill Church signed a contract to buy Real Marriage on to the NYT bestseller list, there's the old controversy that may have been forgotten that not even evangelical/complementarian reviewers were entirely pleased with what they saw Mark and Grace Driscoll promoting about sex and sexuality in their book.   Some Reformed types, like Darryl Hart, simply raised the question of why there wasn't a controversy about why anyone thought Driscoll should have been publishing books to begin with.

When, if ever, Mark Driscoll publicly acknowledges the sheer scale of citation errors in seven of his books or the controversy surrounding the use of Result Source, remains to be seen.  It's probably a good idea to not hold your breath.  And, no, leaked content from The City wouldn't count as a public statement of anything.  It's highly improbable that Driscoll would even want to highlight the plagiarism controversy now that seven books have come up any more than he would have wanted to mention it when he didn't mention it in the December 18, 2013 statement that was leaked on to the internet on New Year's Eve.

a weekend linkathon

Dead Poets Society as the celebration of a narcissistic demagogue

On older piece at Mockingbird about Jonathan Haidt and why scandals are entertaining and hypocrisy so common

Christian Brady writes on Boaz in the Targum of Ruth as passively going along with a lot and how Ruth is presented as the active agent in the narrative.

If you want to read how far short the Mars Hill triperspectivalism falls from the kind of stuff John Frame was exploring at the time he promulgated the concept go over here.

This one's about the old Kerrigan/Harding scandal and, as such, might be before the time of some readers but here's a fascinating quote:

But Harding sees only a conspiracy against her and not her own part in her poor Olympic performances. In Nancy & Tonya she says of her terrible showing in Lillehammer, “It wouldn’t matter if I did three triple axels; the association wasn’t going to let me represent them.” Needless to say, she did not even do one triple axel, but instead sobbed about a broken shoelace to the judges, who gave her a whole new free skate. She sees people taking things from her that she never earned.

People who think that we don't have animal sacrifices for the well-being of humanity like they did in the pre-scientific era just don't read enough about medicine.  Bleeding horseshoe crabs because their blood has a blood purifier that can be used to purify human blood samples is incredible and a reminder that in some sense someone's blood ends up being shed in pursuit of a beautiful dream of healthier people.  We'll get to how beautiful dreams come at the price of sweat and blood and so on later.
HT Mockingbird, and dietary ideals of various sorts to establish who is truly righteous haven't gone away, either, obviously.

A possibly Captain Obvious piece considering how comedians and funny people can have a cruel streak.

Film Crit Hulk, "The Wind Rises and Cinematic Moralism"
I think Film Crit Hulk, of the reviews I've read of Miyazaki's film, is the one whose view is no coincidentally 1) most persuasive as an interpretation of the film that I saw and 2) also most closely corresponds to my own interpretation of the film, of course. ;)  Speaking of which ... Wenatchee The Hatchet has a guest piece about The Wind Rises as a story of ambition and delusion over at Mockingbird now.  Of course, shameless self-promotion of a link there but definitely go read Film Crit Hulk both for the review and for the amusing Hulk-speak. 

A fascinating bit about the nexus of charity, fundraising, arts promotion, and oratorio as a less-scandalous alternative to opera in Handel's Messiah.  As a reminder that Handel worked in an era before there was anything like intellectual property as we've thought we've known it:
...  The composer frequently recycled sections of his own music: his coronation anthem Zadok the Priest appeared in his later oratorio Esther, his oratorio Israel in Egypt borrows from his funeral anthem for Queen Caroline, Messiah itself borrows from his early Italian duets. This was common practice – Handel didn't just borrow from his own work, he also borrowed from Telemann, Muffat, Bononcini and others, so much so that Handel's contemporary, the composer William Boyce, said of Handel: "He takes other men's pebbles, and polishes them into diamonds." .

Carl Trueman on celebrity pastors
Part of me thinks that, if the early warnings had been seen as significant for something more than the nomenclature of the seating at the big venues, perhaps things might be differentmolesworth_reasonably_small.jpg today.   Maybe we might have a culture where bad behavior is publicly called out by the movement's leaders, no matter how significant for ticket sales the person at issue might be.   But I think the game back then was more to do with sending signals about who counted, where patronage was to be found, and who needed to know their place and keep their mouths shut.
The recent revelation that Mars Hill Church in Seattle paid an outside company to boost sales of its pastor’s books has raised questions not simply about personal integrity but also about the very culture of American Evangelicalism.

The time signature of the theme from the first Terminator film is ... ? Big spoilery hint, it turns out to be an unlucky number.

New guest piece at Mockingbird up, discussion of Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises

A little piece about Hayao Miyazaki's film The Wind Rises.  Sure, you probably couldn't have managed to see it in the United States at all since it was a limited release and may not even be in theaters these days.  Even so, it's a remarkable film and it would be worth your while to at least catch it on rental or whatever your disc-format-of-preference choice is when it comes along.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mars Hill Church--job openings connected to live video production, which raises a question ...

Historically Mars Hill Church has had Mark Driscoll preaching on Sunday X, then the sermon is video-broadcast to the rest of the campuses that don't get live preaching on Sunday Y, and the sermon transcript might be ready by Sunday Z.

What's striking about the most recent sermon series and particularly the most recently preached sermon is that it "seems" like the sermon vodcast, audio and even the English language transcript all emerged fully-formed this last Sunday on the scheduled Sunday of the sermon.  Historically this was impossible until recently. Were they able to put everything together the day of?  Live production?  Well ... no.

We know that Mars Hill simply doesn't have the kinds of producers and editors that would have a history of live film editing and video production or they wouldn't be looking for them. Here's a sample of some still-open jobs

Live Broadcast Video Producer
Production Engineer
Integration Manager - Live Production
Video Producer

Some of those jobs have been open for 20 days, some for more or less time. 

They're clearly looking for media/production people with a capacity for live production, and this might imply that live production isn't something they've ventured into yet. 

So Wenatchee The Hatchet has a question, how is it that the recently reported-about sermon Mark Driscoll preached got reported about and nobody spotted that there's been little precedent in the history of Mars Hill Church for them to put together a complete downloadable vodcast, podcast and full English language transcript the same day the sermon got preached?  We know that's not possible in terms of live production if they're looking for people with live production experience.  We also know that historically Mars Hill has spent the last few years having a custom of a roughly two week gap between the initial preaching of a sermon and the completion of an English transcript.  Now maybe with more and more material being planned in advance it's possible to have everything ready by a given Sunday but for the transcript of the sermon to be available the day of?  There's too much post-production work in audio and video editing and editing transcripts for readability to believe that all that could be ready day of.

It makes more sense, for the moment, to propose that the most recently downloadable sermon from Mark Driscoll was filmed in advance of the publication date for the downloadable material, but as Wenatchee The Hatchet does not attend Mars Hill Church there's no way to directly verify if the sermon that was available Sunday March 9, 2014 with full transcript as well as vodcast and podcast was preached the day of or not.  There's a precedent for Driscoll to pre-film a sermon in exceptional circumstances.   But this may just be speculation.  The main thing is that we can see from recent job listings that Mars Hill Church seems to lack the capacity to pull off a live video production just yet.

Mars Hill covered by the Christian Science Monitor, Ruth Graham returns with a story at The Atlantic

There's some coverage of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in the Christian Science Monitor.

And here's something new by Ruth Graham at the Atlantic.  Graham covered the Mars Hill 2012 disciplinary situation with Andrew Lamb back in 2012.  Actually, Graham (or Graham's editor(s) completely misunderstanding the blog post linked to over here at Wenatchee The Hatchet was probably the single biggest catalyst for deciding to blog more about Mars Hill Church.  That said, Graham has mostly caught up to the plagiarism and sale-rigging controversies of the last four months.

It is probably that while Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll might have found it favorable to get coverage in these two august publications nobody over there was likely hoping that the recent controversies about plagiarism in at least half a dozen Driscoll books and a rigged place on the NYT bestseller list was probably not a preferred way to get coverage from CSM or Atlantic.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Wendy posts about Mars Hill at Practical Theology for Women--WtH has some more thoughts on what some call watchblogging

You can go read her post and the comments for yourself.  This post presupposes you've read those.

One of the things that intermittently comes up is to propose that one must examine one's heart about why one is choosing to blog about Mars Hill Church.  I've gotten some questions from people about, "What is your heart motive in this?"  That's the evangelical/conservative variation.  A slightly more progressive variation is, "Would love to hear your story/perspective on this."

Well, I don't necessarily plan to share my story and consider it comparatively unimportant to "reveal my heart" on this set of topics. 

But there are times where questions and comments can suggest, by their wording, where commenters are coming from. 

For instance, "Check your heart motives" can be a particularly Christianese variation of, "Would you please just shut up already?"  "How is this edifying?" is more a rhetorical question that comes off as meaning, "I don't feel personally edified by this so you'd best stop talking or writing." 

"This is slander", see, this one reminds me of a wonderful exchange in Sam Raimi's first Spiderman film where Peter Parker objects to J Jonah Jamieson that he's slandering Spiderman.  J K Simmons' over-the-top editor replies, "You insult me, son. Slander is spoken, in print it's libel."  There are a lot of Christians who would simply suggest, it seems, that any viewpoint they disagree strongly with amounts to slander or libel or ...

"This is gossip".  This one comes up once in a while.  At the risk of borrowing some ideas from Carl Trueman he's proposed in the past that, if memory serves, when you decide you're going to blog about controversies and issues connected to a particular church or spiritual community there's a sense in which you need to ask yourself if it is your business, to put it crudely.  To put it less crudely, you should ask yourself whether you have any social or tangible link to the community or issue you're planning to blog about.  If you don't then maybe, just maybe you don't need to sound off on it in a public fashion.

Which gets to Wenatchee The Hatchet.  I spent about ten years inside the culture and have retained connections to a variety of people who still call Mars Hill Church their church home.  I have no beef with the people as a social and spiritual community, actually.  People who have called Mars Hill Church home have given me jobs and I've played music with people from Mars Hill on a number of occasions.  People from there have helped me in tough times and when I've been able to I've tried to help as well.  Wenatchee The Hatchet may seem like an "other side" blog and certainly it seems people inside Mars Hill may have been given some impression this is an anti-Mars Hill Church blog but that's never actually been the case.

When a church like Mars Hill has the kind of staff turnover it's had in the last two years and when its history shifts and shuffles, when the leadership commits to a series of decisions as though they were directly and divinely sanctioned, even dubious proposals such as trying to get real estate in Bellevue that has already been bought by Sound Transit, then it seems worthwhile to document that history as it happens for those who may not realize that there's more to the history than PR and fundraising missions.

Mark Driscoll used to say regularly from the pulpit that we like to think there are people wearing white hats and black hats and that we wear the white hats but we don't, only Jesus does.  It would appear over the last ten years that Mark Driscoll and the other leaders may have forgotten this seminal observation.  The temptation to be the hero in the narrative of your own life and community is no doubt almost completely irresistible but ideally a practicing Christian will understand that this role is not possible.  We cannot let ourselves be the hero in the narrative of our lives if we understand who Jesus is. 

So blogging here is not necessarily about "winning".  There's nothing to win in the end.  Ecclesiastes warns us that everyone dies and there is no legacy you can build that will not eventually rot away with the passage of time or be inherited by someone who may be a fool.  The book of Job is a reminder that no matter how great one's wealth, family, or health all these can be taken away in an instant if God permits the devil to take those things. 

Wendy has gotten a number of the usual reactions I've seen from people who would like Mars Hill Church to not get discussed.  There are sometimes concerns that things shouldn't be discussed in public.  Well, let's keep in mind that if Christians consistently kept up the principle that no critique of the failures within God's people should be transmitted in any public fashion none of the books of the prophets could have been canonized, could they?  Imprecatory psalms wouldn't have passed msuter.  Even some apostolic writings would have not quite made the cut. 

Years ago, on my way out of Mars Hill Church, I shared that I had some concerns.  I was concerned about the fiscal policies in place in the wake of the 2007 multi-site move, that it seemed like Mars Hill was set on a course where they were acquiring real estate and expanding campuses faster than they were developing a robust donor base for each campus.  This seemed like a high risk move that could lead to systemic debt.  What did Mark Driscoll inform Mars Hill about in June of 2012?  Something about how there were systemic deficits at every campus?  That was four years after I felt it was impossible to stay as a contracted member.  I didn't stop spending time with friends and associates at the church but it stopped being my church home and, in time, it turned out that Mark Driscoll announced from the pulpit the thing I privately expressed reservations about years before.

Another concern I shared was a doubt about the competence and good will of counseling pastors, all across the board.  I was concerned that the by-laws that had been unanimously voted into place in 2007 provided neither confidentiality for members under discipline or any possibility of an appeal.  When Andrew Lamb's disciplinary case became the subject of blogging and headlines I saw that what I had privately warned might one day blow up in the faces of Mars Hill leadership actually did so.  It became regional and national news when an appeal process might have ameliorated the situation somewhat.  And along the way it looks like some counseling pastors got fired for reasons that have yet to be publicly verified or discussed. 

So when you see a blog post or a hundred on the subject of Mars Hill Church here you're looking at a blog written by someone who tried to articulate a set of concerns way back in 2008 about disconcerting trajectories in the leadership culture.  Another thing I privately shared was a concern that while the leaders would talk to the members about the dangers of consumerism there was, if anything, some potential for the leaders to have a consumeristic mentality about the congregation, like the flock was some piggy bank to be shaken to get money for new and ambitious projects that, maybe, were not always fiscally well-advised for the time and place.  That is more how I have come to articulate the reservations from then in the now. 

The point is that there have been a number of people who have tried to articulate concerns in private to the leadership of Mars Hill and the leadership culture and, well, we've kind of seen how things have played out. 

One of the most striking things about Mars Hill culture and leadership is a history of defining "sin" as things you say or do on purpose in defiance of God or God-appointed authority.  Other stuff, that stuff would be mistakes.  But who's to say that a sin can only be a sin if it was planned?  Is sin something where a Paul Reubens character has to say "I meant to do that!" for it to count?  Let's take plagiarism, someone was proposing last year that Mark Driscoll would not intentionally plagiarize.  And yet the separation and release agreement Warren Throckmorton published reveals that former staff are told that it basically doesn't matter if they intentionally or unintentionally compromise "confidential information".  Or that's how it reads so far.  If Mars Hill executive elders were held to that level of potential punitive action then how would Mark Driscoll feel if he knew that his sermons provided essential clues to identifying the connection Andrew Lamb had to James Noriega and his family and that all this stuff had been sitting around in broadcast and social media for anyone to put together?  Well ... perhaps Mars Hill has finally realized this and it might be a tiny, ultimately insignificant variable in yanking the entirety of the Phillipians series or even the 1 Corinthians series.  After all, it was the sermon "One Body, Many Parts" from that series that Wenatchee The Hatchet quoted extensively from in the tagged posts real estate and Mars Hill discussing the acquisition of the West Seattle campus, wasn't it?

You see a blogger like Wendy or a blogger like myself, it's not as though we never tried to voice concerns privately.  When cautions said in private get ignored for years and things blow up in ways that emerge into the public sphere and involve someone who has spent nearly twenty years working toward being a public figure and who has amassed a mountain of social and broadcast media content then it's ultimately not "gossip" to quote extensively from all that material, link to primary sources, provide context, provide an interpretation and invite public discussion. 

If anything it's more "gossip" when people who never set foot in Mars Hill attempt to opine on it and its leadership than when former members and staff decide to finally say things in public settings and none of us are obliged to agree. 

But what I would suggest to anyone attempting to jump in and attempt to keep up with things, actually do your homework.  For instance, if Matthew Paul Turner publishes a sample copy of what a Result Source contract might look like, don't link to it and say it's the actual contract signed between Mat Miller and John Sutton Turner.  THAT contract got published by Warren Throckmorton.  If you get sloppy about these simple details it makes it impossible for alert readers to take you seriously when they otherwise might. 

Anonymous comments here that make points about how so-and-so who was a former pastor or member had something coming to them, don't do those.  You wouldn't want it to be you who gets people anonymously taking potshots at your character in blog comments now that you've lost your job or church home because of events you wished had never happened.  Let's keep the Golden Rule in mind.  This blog is probably not a normal watchblog and perhaps I can take some time to explain why that is.

Years ago I took ... some journalism classes.  The professor teaching a number of the courses (okay, nearly all of them) once explained that there is a common and serious misconception people have about editorial writing and that is that anybody at all cares what you think.  An editorial that is merely an opinion isn't worth writing.  "Nobody cares what you think.  People want to know what the facts are.  Even in editorial writing you should still think like a reporter."  That's as close to a quote as can be managed some twenty years on.  That, dear readers, is close to the ethos of Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Think of this as a blog that, at least on the subject of Mars Hill Church, is more of a journalistic/historical experiment than what you might normally think of when you think of a "watchblog". 

My story, my personal opinion, my feelings, my thoughts about this or that specific issue that you might feel I'm morally or intellectually obliged to sound off in precisely the way you want me to, that's not important.  This is not some blog where you're going to see "Mark Driscoll is evil".  That's for some other place.  This is not some blog where you're going to see things framed in terms of the tone of outrage and indignation.  Outrage is quite possibly the cheapest emotion on the internet.  Don't come here to find more fuel for your indignation. 

Don't come here expecting this to be some strictly anti-Mars Hill blog, nor imagine for even a moment that somehow this blog constitutes a defense of things about Mars Hill Church you find objectionable.  It's none of those things, however badly some visitors seem to want it to be one thing or another.  That anyone, at this stage, could imagine Wenatchee The Hatchet has let Mark Driscoll off the hook for anything after having been the first blogger (it seems) to have actually documented how the Driscolls made use of but did not adequately credit published work by Dan Allender when Real Marriage was first published, is absurd. 

If there's something I've noticed in the metaphorical water that flows through watchblogs it is that they are often written by people who seem confident that if they just say the right words at the right time with the right tone in the properly forceful way they can "win".  Here, too, this is not one of those sorts of blogs.  Failure is a foregone conclusion.  When I was a teenager I read the book of Isaiah and was thunderstruck by the calling of the prophet.  Back then I was inspired by the divine commission and of the responsibility it seemed to entail.  Now on the edge of forty I'm impressed by the built-in future of failure that commission had built into it.  Anyone who would for a second imagine that something some people call a "watchblog" will succeed and "speak truth to power" and confront the powers that be had best prepare for abject failure or reconsider the entire foolish enterprise.  Of course it's foolish and most likely doomed to fail.  Thing is, if you've read the prophets you'd understand that the certainty of complete and fatal failure is not a reason to not do something.

In exceptional circumstances I've been told that I need to realize that whatever negative things I've written about Mars Hill I have to recognize that one day I will have to answer to God for those things.
I've been told that some people know stuff much worse than anything published at this blog but that is kept hidden because the reputation of the church or the reputation of God is important.  Well, okay, but I thought one of the key points of the book of Job was that God's reputation is most insulted by those who most feel obliged to defend His honor.  So keep that in mind, dear reader. 

And ... think of it this way, if you put it like that why would I not write about the history of Mars Hill Church?  If by any chance I have misquoted someone or not understand a statement in a specific context I've shown I'm willing to listen, but it can seem as though people who have made a point of raising the future in which I will have to account to God why I have written as I have about Mars Hill Church may not realize that's actually a big, big reason to write.  You've seen the details of the "story", such as they are, if you spent a decade inside a church; had some training in journalism; realized that nearly all mainstream and independent media coverage and blogging was falling terribly short of uncovering what is easily found on the record; and realized that it was important to document the history of Mars Hill Church as it shifts and changes and happen to also be a practicing Christian, then what do you suppose might happen if you stand before God one day and He asks you why you didn't say anything about what was happening?  A Christian who tries to play the guilt card to another Christian in such a setting may discover he or she has inadvertently reinforced the incentive to write.  Now there's such a thing as discretion and attempting to cultivate journalistic ethics and there's a lot that could be said about the problems of watchblogs on journalistic integrity and ethics and reliability of information but this blog post is not the place to discuss that, if ever the matter will get discussed here.

So here's the proposal, such as it is, the term "watchblog" may inadvertently get at the primary thing about such a blog, which is to watch, which is to see, to observe.  The most you can do is see what is to be seen and document it for the consideration of others.  You can't entirely anticipate, let alone change, the course of whatever the future is.  Properly understood, the emergence of the prophetic role in ancient Israel within the Mosaic law was not a predictive or eschatological role (and if you don't feel like reading Frank Crusemann on that subject that's probably your loss more than mine).  It's not that what you write will change anything at all, that's not why you do it. 

You do it because, for want of a less trite way of putting it, you find you have to.  It may mean you get considered a traitor by people you don't see yourself betraying.  You'll end up being the villain from all sorts of directions.  I've gotten more flak and vitriol from people who are against Mars Hill than from anyone who has called Mars Hill Church home.  I have never actually felt intimidated or threatened by people from Mars Hill Church in any fashion.  The people who actually know me know that I bear them no ill-will.  If it happens that quoting leaders of Mars Hill accurately, in context, and in a timely fashion on a variety of subjects; if quoting leaders of Mars Hill from the past in ways that highlight problematic statements or decisions should come off as making them look bad, well, there's no apologies here for that.  Once something's put on record it's on the record.  Scrubbing doesn't change anything. 

If the people of Mars Hill are uncomfortable with that sort of thing it raises the very disconcerting possibility that they will do anything but accept what they historically can't wait to dish out.  Of course it's usually presented as "speaking the truth in love" when you're on the giving end of this.  :)  I was that way for years, might still be that way, but this is, I hope, tempered by the realization that finding a way to articulate those concerns in a way where I can get a grasp of what it would be like to be on the receiving end is one of my goals.

So, at the risk of giving some specific examples this isn't exactly like Wartburg Watch or Stuff Christian Culture Likes.  There are people who appreciate those blogs and for folks who absolutely have to vent about Mars Hill, okay, you can head over to either of those places or somewhere else.  But if you come here, to Wenatchee The Hatchet, this is not that kind of place on the internet.  This is not a place where just ripping on Mark Driscoll or other people who have been around in the history of Mars Hill is going to get smiled upon. 

So perhaps by now you may see that when bloggers like myself or Wendy or others who once called Mars Hill Church home say some things on line don't assume that we didn't spend months or years trying to privately express concerns inside before making some things known to the public.  If the cliche application of Matthew 18 had worked five to seven years ago there probably wouldn't BE any blogs discussing the history of Mars Hill Church beyond "Isn't Mars Hill great!?"  The approach of publicly documenting the shifting sands of the history of Mars Hill Church was a last resort option, chosen with the realization that "failure" to catalyze change is a given, and chosen as much because so much journalistic coverage fell so terribly short of finding even basic facts. 

The goal of this blog, on the subject of Mars Hill at least, is not to cement existing opinions but to, where possible, educate and inform.  If you want to keep attending Mars Hill Church, then this blog may help you make a more informed decision about its history.  If you are thinking of becoming a member but have some reservations, well, this might be the perfect blog for you if you're exceptionally patient.  If you already can't stand Mark Driscoll this blog is not for you.  There are other places to go.  And, finally, this is not a blog that has an aim to "win", as though anyone wins in this kind of situation.  Let's say that I think that if someone's going to be a watchblogger the goal is to watch more than opine.  If you watchblog to succeed, however you define it, you're probably better off not doing it.   But if you're reconciled to the inevitability of failure, whatever you fear that might be, and believe you should share what you observe and be as accurate as possible anyway, then, well, see how it goes.