Saturday, April 19, 2014

Forbes article byJeff Bercovici--RSI goes into stealth mode, Driscoll controversy as likely catalyst

In an article published on Good Friday 2014, no less, Jeff Bercovici discusses how in the wake of the Mark Driscoll NYT bestseller rigging controversy ResultSource has gone into stealth mode. He suggests the timing of the low profile for RSI seems to coincide with the last six months of controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll, particularly the contract between Mars Hill and RSI to get Real Marriage on to the NYT bestseller list.

The article goes on to mention the role blogger James Duncan has played in calling attention to the story.  Duncan has produced a clear, simple and readable timeline for how the LLCs that seem to be connected to Real Marriage emerged.

As a survey of Driscoll related content at Pajama Pages goes.

A discussion of plagiarism and citation errors in the Trial study guide (which was retracted by MH in the wake of Mefferd's on-air accusation that Mark Driscoll was a plagiaris).

Duncan's response to the BOAA statement about the NYT place rigging news

That Mark Driscoll even has any side company (let alone a few) to handle book royalties flies in the face of a sermon he gave in 2009 where he explicitly explained how he didn't start a side company (which a lot of pastors at big churches have done) because, as he put it, that was a sign of selfish greed.
For those who don't want to go back to that link and who may not realize that much of Driscoll's preaching has been scrubbed, here's the pertinent quote:

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. [emphasis added]

Since Driscoll explicitly said from the pulpit he had a goal of having one of his books "pop" so that he could make enough money from book sales and royalties he'd generate enough money to work for Mars Hill free of charge it's a bit mysterious how he, in the same sermon, described the process of a church leader having a company on the side having any even tangential association with shameful gain.

So it would sound as though the Mark Driscoll of 2009 would have said the Mark Driscoll of 2011 was wrong to be setting up a side company for book royalties that let massive dollars get funneled in the general direction of Mark Driscoll and yet 2009 Driscoll expressed hope that one of his books would "pop" and bring a financial boon great enough that he could preach at Mars Hill free.  He also indicated a huge portion of his salary in 2009 was covered by income that he generated.

So how much was that in 2009 and what is it now?  That Mark Driscoll was able to buy a million-dollar home in Snohomish County in 2012 is beyond dispute.  That the purchased house was transferred from Future Hope Revocable Living Trust to the Downs Family Revocable Living Trust with a Melanie J Thompson as ttee does not particularly change the facts on the ground--Mark and Grace Driscoll were able to use the Future Hope Revocable Living Trust financial instrument to purchase a house outside of King County in May 2012.  This was the period during which Mark Driscoll was telling people from the pulpit they could step up their giving game and by June 2012 Driscoll was describing how there had been systemic deficits at every single Mars Hill campus.  Despite the promise that the new model for the budget was going to remedy things by early 2013 Mark Driscoll was still conveying to members how they had narrowly avoided their own fiscal cliff.

For those who may not remember that post or what was in it:
As a result, we were unable to raise our above-and-beyond goal in December. We did, however, raise enough to cover our operating expenses for the year, in large part because we spent $670,000 less than what we had budgeted for during the last six months of 2012. Throughout the church we are doing everything we can to be good stewards of what God has given us, and so we have significantly cut our spending as another part of our budget reform.

So the good news is, we implemented our new budget model just in time—had we not made the changes when we did, we would have faced our own version of a fiscal cliff. The not-so-good news is that we have inadequate funds to complete some necessary renovations: in downtown Seattle, we have a row of frozen outdoor porta potties instead of indoor bathrooms; in Everett, we have $126,000 to complete $750,000-worth of work on the building; and we can’t move into Tacoma until we raise another $600,000. Budget is tight, and we simply don’t have a lot of margin to complete these and other projects.

Driscoll was getting specific about dollar amounts needed for fixing some things at specific campuses.  It's worth noting those kinds of numbers as a background for the revelation in the last half year that Mars Hill Church contracted with Result Source to place Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list.  Regardless of what the BOAA thinks about the RSI contract or the plagiarism controversy the sheer numbers bandied about in connection to real estate renovation suggest that there needs to be a discussion among MH members and staff about how and why ANY amount of money was ear-marked for getting one of Mark Driscoll's books on any list in any fashion if Driscoll could go on to write to members about how the Downtown campus had a row of frozen outdoor porta potties instead of indoor bathrooms in early 2013 almost a year after he'd bought a million-dollar home outside of King County and had set up a side company of the sort he'd said in 2009 he didn't have and implied was the kind of thing that, if you had it, was a symptom of selfish gain and greed.

For all that Driscoll said from the pulpit in 2009 (and it's worth noting, again, that most of Driscoll's formerly publicly available sermons have been scrubbed away from the Mars Hill sermon library), particularly about how guys with side companies work this ministry thing to rake in money, it sure seems as though the last seven months of controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll's books for both plagiarism and rigging sales to get a book on the NYT bestseller list might look like a case of Mark Driscoll turning out to have betrayed nearly everything he used to say he didn't do and wasn't doing from the pulpit even as recently as 2009.  Meanwhile, the Board of Advisors and Accountability has decided to stand by their man even after conceding that essentially gag orders do exist and that Mars Hill did sign a contract to rig a spot for Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list.  Precisely how the BOAA stands by the executive elders amid false accusations that are things the BOAA itself has seemed to admit are true remains a mystery.

Moreever, as Warren Throckmorton has noted, the very nature of how formal charges against someone like Mark Driscoll would even be made has been changed in the wake of public statements from former MH pastor Dave Kraft about having made formal charges.  Throckmorton has also compiled nearly all the factual errors and citation errors (i.e. instances of plagiarism) found in seven of Mark Driscoll's published books into a chart over here.

And in the last few weeks Mars Hill Church has scrubbed away may three fourths of Mark Driscoll's entire sermon output from its media library and The Resurgence has set up a robot.txt to prevent The WayBack Machine from capturing any content over there.  Retroactively obliterating most of Driscoll's teaching and preaching material on the Mars Hill side of things and setting up a protection against web crawls by The WayBack Machine on the Resurgence side is an awful lot of scrubbing and purging for a church with a BOAA that says it's standing by its executive elders.  If there's nothing to hide and nobody did anything wrong why purge such a vast proportion of Driscoll's material and preclude The WayBack Machine as a tool for finding out what Driscoll and other Resurgence contributors have written or said?

Bercovici's article hits a lot of points that have already been covered in various parts of the internet but in a time when Valerie Tarico managed to get basic facts about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll wrong on nearly a paragraph by paragraph basis in some stretches of her AlterNet piece, summarizing what people have already covered while remaining factually accurate isn't that small an accomplishment..

Resurgence introduced robot that precludes WayBack Machine crawls, semi-related news, John Catanzaro makes a counter-accusation amid his license suspension appeal

User-agent: *
Disallow: /search
Disallow: /v

User-agent: ia_archiver
Disallow: /

Page cannot be crawled or displayed due to robots.txt.

So after linking to all of Catanzaro's previously published content at The Resurgence via links and captures from The WayBack Machine it looks like The Resurgence has opted to introduce a robot that disallows all WayBack crawls. 

On April 3, 2014 the Bothell/Kenmore Reporter published an update on Catanzaro's suspension and response.

Catanzaro has stated that a Swedish Medical Center oncologist reported him in response to having lost a patient to Catanzaro.

So it seems Catanzaro is not only appealing his suspension but has made counteraccusations of his own.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Triablogue--Steve Hays discusses counterexamples in the canon to three proofs of a real prophet

Rather briefly Steve points out in response to three criteria three counterexamples from within the biblical canon itself.

1. doctrinal orthodoxy.  The problem with asserting that a true prophecy or prophet will be doctrinally orthodox is that the canon attests to multiple instances of fulfilled prophecies from people who weren't orthodox by any measure of either Jewish or Christian understanding.  Balaam was not exactly "orthodox".  Saul was a prophet, ever so briefly, and yet he was ultimately rejected by God from kingship.  Other examples may be consulted

2. moral integrity.  While it would be nice to propose that real prophets of the Lord lived lives of moral integrity this isn't sustainable when we remember which people were described as prophetic in the sum of the canon.  David was described as a prophet and he massacred villages (including women and children) during his wilderness wandering.  David's affair and use of royal power to cover up taking a man's wife and killing him is just the most famous and obvious counterexample.  Since polygamy was not actually prohibited by the Torah David's multiple wives would not in themselves be entirely problematic but David's late-career census that brought down the wrath of God on Israel would hardly be an encouraging case study of a well-behaved prophet.

For that matter, as I've recently blogged, while everyone likes to talk about Nathan confronting David about taking Bathsheba and killing Uriah the Hittite, virtually nobody holds up Nathan's active participation in intra-royal politics to get Solomon installed on the throne as a case of salutary prophetic behavior!  Then there's Jonah ... even prophets recognized as legitimate prophets could have entire books written to reveal their substantial character flaws

3. If it's real prophecy it really comes true.  As Steve notes, the traditional acid test for a legitimate prophet but he highlights ever so briefly the exegetical work done by conservative scholars to establish what was going on with prophecies liberal scholars have considered to have never been fulfilled, taking the case of Jeremiah predicting the fall of Babylon as just a single for-starters.

A more customary cautionary tale about the dangers of presuming "the anointing" means you have God's favor AND that your life is exemplary has been the life of Samson.  Even among Pentecostals it has not been presumed that manifestations of spiritual power, however we'd wish to define that, is an indication of well-developed moral character.  Many of the people in the OT who were described as having the greatest power or authority were capable of being as petty as anyone else.  While Samuel could object that Israel wanted a king because it was a sign of disobedience to God this hardly exonerated Samuel from being culpable for the nepotism he displayed (a bit like Eli, his forebear) in appointing corrupt sons to manage things.