Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sutton Turner post "Good Decisions Made By the Right People", Turner's account revisits the question of who formulated the governance he considered badly in need of a fix

Posted by Sutton Turner on April 21, 2015

In my first months on staff at Mars Hill Church, the ResultSource contract was approved even though I had advised my direct supervisor against it. I don’t know who approved the plan. I don’t know what process was conducted concerning the decision, even after reviewing the board minutes for that time frame. I do know that it showed that the process of making big decisions at Mars Hill was flawed and should be fixed.

A Board to Match the Organization

In 2011, the Board of Directors was made up of men that were local church pastors within Mars Hill. I was not a board member at the time, so I do not know any of the specific deliberations on ResultSource. At the time, I did not care who was to blame for making the decision, and I don’t blame them now. (As you will see, the flawed governance structure contributed more to the situation than the individual decision-makers.)  Within weeks of the decision to use ResultSource, my supervisor had resigned. [emphasis added] Within months, I was installed as Executive Elder (a position that would have allowed me to better voice my concerns on the ResultSource decision just months prior). At that point, the decision was done and in the past, but Mars Hill could certainly learn from it. My goal over the next few months was to restructure the decision-making process and the board that made those decisions.

We've discussed a couple of the Board of Director members who may or may not have been part of the BoD in 2011 by the time Sutton Turner arrived. 

Turner has been emphatic that the core problem that led to the unwise decision that was using Result Source to promote the Driscolls' book Real Marriage stemmed from governance.  Well, for the sake of conversation, let's assume that's true.  Who formulated the flawed governance structure?  There are two distinct but not necessarily conflicting or competing narratives that have been made available regarding this topic.

The first is available by way of Joyful Exiles, Paul Petry's site that includes a mountain of documents and correspondence pertaining to his termination and trial.  We can see the formal accusations made by Jamie Munson, rather, the grounds for immediate termination:

 from Pastor Jamie Munson to the elders of Mars Hill Church on September 30, 2007

Pastor Paul Petry - Grounds for immediate termination of employment

* Continual insubordination and submission to leadership and spiritual authority
* Refusal to Ministry Coaching Program
* Divisive within Mars Hill Student Ministry and undermining of Pastor Adam, Deacons and entire ministry
* Blame shifting to Proxy leadership for misbehavior of children
* Public accusation of Lead Pastor [Jamie Munson] regarding hiding the real bylaw document
* Not following protocol and process for making bylaw comments by contacting church attorney without permission
* Ongoing contentious spirit to leadership regarding changes and direction.
For those familiar with the mountain of documents at Joyful Exiles, the consensus from Mars Hill leadership was that Jamie Munson was drafting a new set of by-laws that Paul Petry and Bent Meyer had objections to.  They were soon terminated and both went through trials. 

The second narrative is as follows, from a video that seemed to get posted in earlier 2013.

transcript of Mark Driscoll statement in a video called "Stepping Up", discussed over at Warren
Throckmorton's blog:

I don’t know what the most courageous thing I’ve ever done is. I know the one thing that was one of the hardest was, the church was growing, it had exploded, it had grown to, I think, maybe six thousand. So it made it one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America in one of the least churched cities, and in a conversation one night it was just up in our bedroom on a couch we were visiting, Grace and I were talking about past relationships and just kind of a casual conversation and we’d been together at that point for maybe seventeen, eighteen years or something. [WtH, i.e. either 2005 or 2006] I mean we’d been together a while between dating and marriage. And she just explained to me a few occasions where she had been sexually assaulted, raped, and abused [prior to my meeting her, (WT's transcript differs from what is presented here and this is punctuation that WtH believes makes more sense of Driscoll's actual words)]. I just broke and I just started weeping, thinking that I had not known that about my wife, and she just said it matter of factly, like she was just reading the script of someone else’s life. And there was no emotion in her, and I could tell she didn’t even really understand what she had just explained. That sort of led to a season of me really getting to know her, and her getting to know her past, and us getting to know Jesus in a deeper way.

It was around that time I could just tell that she’s gonna need me available more.

Emotionally present more, we just had our 5th child. So the timing’s not great. We just decided to go multi-site in video, cause we had outgrown our location and everybody’s looking and all the critics are around and is this gonna make it? A couple of things combined at that season as well, overwork and stress and everything else. I fatigued my adrenal glands, I was in a bad place health-wise, was not sleeping. It was a pretty dark time for me, and I told Grace, “For me to recover, for you to recover, for us to build our friendship, I feel like we’re kind of at that watershed moment where our marriage is gonna get better or it’s gonna get colder, and you’ve really opened yourself up and I need to love and serve you better and pursue you more.”

I said so I got to change the church. I mean all the way down, I have to rewrite the Constitution, bi-laws, I got to let some people go. I have to put in place some hard performance reviews. I’ve got to be willing to lose a lot of relationships, endure criticism, preach less times, hand off more authority, and I said I don’t know if the church is going to make it and I don’t know if I’m going to make it.

I told Grace, I said “I’m going to give it one year, and if it doesn’t get fixed, I’m going to quit, because you’re more important to me than ministry, and I feel like if I quit right now, the church will probably die, and there’s all these thousands of people that met Jesus.” I said “So we’re either going to change it or I’m going to quit, but we’re not going to do this forever and you’re my priority,” and that led to everything that I feared, quite frankly. [emphasis added]

It was really brutal, and I couldn’t tell the story at the time of and here’s why- because Grace is really hurting, and I love her, and I’m broken, and we need to pull back and make some course corrections because it’s Grace’s story to tell, and she wasn’t ready at that point to tell that story, and I had no right to tell that story for her.

And so everybody got to speculate for years what the motive was, “oh he’s power hungry, he’s controlling, he wants to take over, he doesn’t love people, you know he’s just a bully.” And no, it’s actually he’s broken and his wife is hurting and the church is gonna probably literally kill him or put him in the hospital and his wife needs him right now, so he’s gotta make some adjustments. So, you know, by the grace of God, we weathered that storm.
That's a lot of text but it is best to keep it all there.  The second narrative is that it was Mark Driscoll who rewrote the constitution and the bylaws for the benefit of working on his marriage.  There are a couple of basic questions as to what was going on there.  Why would Driscoll have needed to rewrite the constitution of Mars Hill in order to spend more time with Grace?  It's not like Grace was a charter member of the corporation, was she?  If someone were to find the articles of incorporation and the earliest by-laws that could be something that could be established, perhaps, but otherwise the whole idea of rebuilding the governance of Mars Hill from the ground up so Mark Driscoll could spend more time with Grace seems strange.  But, if true, then it means that whatever Jamie Munson was doing with the by-laws could have been with supervision from Mark Driscoll. 

And whether it was Jamie Munson acting on his own or under direction from Mark Driscoll, or whether it was Mark Driscoll personally rewriting the constitution and the by-laws with Jamie Munson being formally credited with that during the termination and trial process, it's pretty hard to escape the fact that Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson seem to have the credit or blame for the governance system that Sutton Turner has lately described as flawed.  The governance was flawed inasmuch as it permitted the Mars Hill leadership culture to endorse Result Source as a way to promote Real Marriage on the one hand, and on the other it may have had something to do with the shambolic state of financial reporting when Sutton Turner arrived at Mars Hill.

Turner's summary of Mars Hill financials and governance seems dire enough that it seems to cast some doubt on something Mark Driscoll was emphatic about the year Jamie Munson resigned.

By: Mars Hill Blog
Posted: Sep 06, 2011
 Important Letters from Pastors Jamie Munson and Mark Driscoll

[from Mark Driscoll's letter]
 I want to make it emphatically clear: there is no disqualifying sin or error of any kind in Pastor Jamie’s life. This is in no way connected to anything negative. He is, by God’s grace, "above reproach," as he always has been. [emphasis added]

To fill Pastor Jamie’s vacancy on the EE, I am recommending that the BOD vote for Pastor Scott Thomas to join the EE for at least the foreseeable future. Pastor Scott has served faithfully for many years as an elder at Mars Hill, is among our most trained and seasoned leaders, is already a BOD member, and has served previously for many years as an EE member while also leading Acts 29. Pastor Dave and I both believe Pastor Scott is the best choice for this role in this season. Pastor Scott has been very clear in his love and commitment to Mars Hill and has said he will gladly serve wherever he is needed, which we deeply appreciate. Administratively, Pastor Jamie was our senior "king" and his departure requires very competent leadership to cover his many responsibilities. Thankfully, Pastor Jamie was a great leader and humble man. He surrounded himself with great people. This allows us to not have the kind of crisis that could otherwise ensue. Pastor Dave and I agree that Sutton Turner should function as our highest-ranking "king."

Yet if under Munson's tenure the church was teetering toward the edge of some kind of fiscal cliff and was greenlighting rigging the New York Times best-seller list for the advancement of a Driscoll book how was that supposed to be "above reproach"?

Turner has described the replacement board as fixing the problems of the earlier board but that merits another post.

For this post we'll end with Mark Driscoll in 2008 explaining why putting Jamie Munson in charge of everything was the best move he'd made.

Back in 2008 when Mark Driscoll talked about making Jamie head of Mars Hill he described it as the best decision he ever made for a memorable reason:


"Jamie Munson is head of the elder board. Jamie Munson is executive pastor. He is legal president of the organization. And for me, to be honest, it was the most freeing, liberating thing I could have dreamed of because now I don't have all that conflict of interest. I can be friends with someone but I don't have to fire them, do their performance review, and decide how much they get paid. It's just too conflicting for me." 

Putting Jamie Munson as head of the elder board and legal president liberated Driscoll from all that conflict of interest.  Curious phrase there, and it seemed from Driscoll's wording he was implying that conflict of interest was the normal managerial plight for him.  Well, whatever improvements Driscoll may have thought would accrue from the governance changes of 2006-2007, it seems by the time Sutton Turner arrived in 2011 he considered the governance in place problematic enough to need an overhaul.

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