Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Turner's ResultSource 3 is up, "Church Governance: Local Elders or Outside Board?", open with a false dichotomy and proceed to a narrative of governance that was disproven in 2012?

After part 2 mentioned that there was a BoAA created that would solve the problems of governance and decision-making, Turner's part 3 opens with the following:

Church Governance: Local Elders or Outside Board?
ResultSource Part 3

That's a frankly inauspicious beginning that intimates a false dichotomy, as though a church could have governance that depends strictly on internal/local elders or on an outside board for accountability and wisdom.  Had Mars Hill had a thorough grounding in both external as well as internal accountability both in structural and relational terms there might still be a Mars Hill Church that isn't a dissolving corporate entity as of this year. 


Turner begins be recapitulating the narrative so far.

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. I do know that it showed that the process of making big decisions at Mars Hill was flawed and should be fixed. The decision was done and in the past by the close of 2011, 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.

How he didn't know who approved the plan is a puzzle because if he didn't know then it seems he must have been a remarkably ignorant General Manager for Mars Hill.  Given the level of Martian incompetence he seems to telegraph throughout his story, it's possible that decisions were made without his being permitted in the loop.  Given that Sutton Turner himself seems to have distributed a memo to the Board of Advisors & Accountability regarding Driscoll's proposed compensation that specified that nobody beyond the top brass even needed to know about the issue, it's not entirely implausible that Turner was kept in the dark as to who greenlit sticking with Result Source.

For that memo ...
... As of this summer [year supplemental], I have personally taken over entering the executive payroll. Outside of the Compensation Committee, there is no one withaccess to any of this information (including my assistant) for all three Mars Hill Church executive elders. I am the only person, besides the Compensation Committee, that needs to know about Pastor Mark's compensation.

So if Sutton Turner was deemed to not be in the "need to know" scene about Result Source before Munson's resignation it's possible Turner was kept in the dark.  It would seem from the wording of the compensation memo Turner had made a point of keeping executive compensation secret from even his own assistant and the rest of the organization.  Proprietary information is what it is. 

But the question of whether or not Turner actually fixed the problems he describes seems open to interpretation and debate.  If Turner developed a new board process he'd have necessarily had to remove the old system.  This might have been what the MH BoAA cryptically described as a massive series of layoffs or terminations somewhere around the time Turner joined the team. 

Anybody remember this?
Former StaffIn a 2 year period ending in the fall of 2013, Mars Hill Church endured significant turnover of key staff members that made many wonderful contributions to the development of Mars Hill Church during their tenure. A number of these staff transitions were acrimonious. Pastor Mark and the other executive Elders own their part in any discord that could have been avoided with a better process or a more patient interaction.

During the Spring of 2013 the BOAA mandated that a thorough review be conducted with all former staff from that period, soliciting their feedback so that no needed lessons for a healthier future would be neglected. In the summer of 2013 the BOAA reviewed that report, and needed corrections to policy and detrimental management patterns had been made. A former staff elder, Dave Kraft, whose disagreements with Mars Hill policies have recently been made public, had previously communicated with the BOAA numerous times that he was satisfied with the steps we have taken to address his concerns.

The BOAA supports the policy of requiring staff to commit their signatures to a mutual agreement, such as a separation agreement, that private matters of the church learned during a season of employment not be divulged outside the organization. We have seen this practice as wise for stewarding the resources entrusted to the church while engaging in common human resources practices.

So it would appear, collectively, the portrait we get from the BoAA and from Turner's own account of things was that in 2011 he arrived at a Mars Hill on the brink of financial ruin with incompetent staff and no clear sense of fiscal controls even though publicly Driscoll had only great things to say about Jamie Munson, who had been legal president of Mars Hill since 2007, when Munson and/or Driscoll drafted bylaws that made Munson president.

Turner recounts a general narrative that had currency back in the 2007-2008 period.

Back in 2007, Mars Hill had migrated away from plurality of elders in its formal governance structure, but the strains of plurality still remained within the church culture. Every man who became a pastor, whether paid or volunteer, went through the “eldership” process to ensure the character qualifications of 1 Peter 5 and 1 Timothy 3 were met in the man’s life and home. Although the by-laws clearly stated otherwise, many church members assumed those pastors were directly involved in the governance of the church, even in 2014. Some of the pastors in 2014 felt that all 60 pastors should still be governing elders and all 60 pastors should operate in plurality on all decisions.

What had happened was that Munson/Driscoll had shrunk the minimum size of the executive branch and functionally expanded its powers and removed the necessity of notifying the Full Council of pending real estate purchases, as best Wenatchee can recall.  It centralized more power into the executive branch, and placed no upper limit on what any pastors could decide to do with rank and file members with respect to church discipline. 

But if anyone from Mars Hill attempts to say that "all" the elders had to agree on everything for anything to get done that's patently false, as any consultation of the pre-2007 bylaws would easily establish.  This isn't to say the story Sutton Turner has shared is one he somehow thinks may not be true.  His sincerity is not necessarily in doubt, what's in doubt is the reliability of the narrative if the narrative claims that everybody had to agree on everything for anything to get done.  At a formal level that's bullocks.  At an informal level, though, it could be suggested that lockstep uniformity was expected to a degree that made the leadership culture think it was "necessary and inevitable" to fire Paul Petry and Bent Meyer for being 2 of 24 guys who didn't approve of the bylaws being proposed in 2007. 

So that far Turner's idea that the formal governance obviated unanimity is only accurate if we take it that unanimity was NEVER NECESSARY at a formal level.  But lockstep conformity was apparently expected to the point that Jamie Munson's first major act as Lead Pastor, besides drafting the by-laws that made him president, was to fire Petry and Meyer or at least formulate the grounds for immediate termination.  Given what Sutton Turner seems to be strongly implying this week, Jamie Munson's parting gift before resigning from Mars Hill presidency was approving of Result Source.  It's simply not possible for the legal president of the organization to have never been involved in that process, and Throckmorton has reported enough information to establish that Munson did have some kind of role.

So we've established Turner believed things needed to change and that the problem was the locals were trying to rule and didn't have the wisdom.  He also indicates that he created an external board.  It's just that there's this puzzle here in his having said that.  Let's notice what he says about Paul Tripp's participation on the BoAA

Turner moves along to say this:
During my tenure, many people criticized the culture of Mars Hill and lack of accountability. The most stinging came from Dr. Paul Tripp who actually served on the Board of Advisors and Accountability for eight months when past mistakes and sins began to crater in on Mars Hill. Few people know that Dr. Tripp never physically attended a board meeting during that time. In fact, he had never met all of the board members in person. Furthermore, the points he attempted to make were never made in a board meeting or to all of the board members. Dr. Tripp resigned because he wanted the board to go back to local elders. He wanted local elders to govern each of the fifteen churches across five states. Many of the mistakes, sins, and problems that created the culture occurred under a local elder-led board—including the ResultSource decision. There is a tipping point where a church or organization outgrows its current governance. I’m not certain when it happened, but for Mars Hill, the local elder governance had reached the tipping point well before the summer of 2011.

First, we'll want to take a little detour to a comment from Justin Dean
Justin Dean ·  Top Commenter · Buford, Georgia
Hi Frank,

 We didn't get everything right but I do think our critics, a few in particular, were responsible for starting a snowball effect of events, all under the guise of doing gods work. These aren't honest people we were dealing with.

 Paul Tripps comments shocked me because he was barely involved at MH, never showed up for any meetings and only talked on the phone with our board a couple times. He has no context to say those things and I believe his words and actions were very self serving. What he described is not at all how it was at Mars Hill, not that he would know. I'd love to hear from Paul how he justifies what he did.

Reply ·  · March 6 at 6:57am

This strikes a very different tone from the one taken announcing Tripp was joining the Board of Advisors and Accountability back in 2013.
Dr. Paul Tripp joins Mars Hill’s Board of Advisors and Accountability
  • By: Mars Hill Church
  • Posted: Nov 23, 2013

  • ... In recent years, the Board of Advisors and Accountability has been an incredible source of wise counsel for which we are very grateful. We are so excited to announce that we have now added our friend Dr. Paul Tripp who has accepted our invitation to join our Board of Advisors and Accountability! He is a great brother and partner in ministry. He preached at Mars Hill last the summer for our Best Sermon Ever series and brought the Word with power. Dr. Tripp has been teaching at Mars Hill for many years in various capacities, and we also greatly appreciate his writing ministry especially, Dangerous Calling.

    In regards to his acceptance, Dr. Tripp says, “I have a deep respect and admiration for churches that preach a courageous and liberating gospel into the brokenness of the culture around them. Mars Hill is one of these churches and I am glad to use my gifts and experience to assist it in its gospel mission.”

    Dr. 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 in 2013 Tripp was described as a "friend", who was a great brother and a partner in ministry, who had even been teaching at Mars Hill for many years in various ways.  But this year?  The guy is now described as disconnected from the community and as having not shown up for meetings.

    Turner and Dean make much of how Tripp never showed up, as though this were a notable absence.  But based on the bylaws Turner drafted how often were the members of the BoAA actually expected to meet?

    At least twice a year, it turns out, and we don't know if it was ever more than twice a year or not just yet.  Take a gander at Section 7.9 and you'll see the quorum was a simple majority and that so long as a majority of the independent members of the BoAA were present they didn't necessarily have to all be there.  Saying Tripp wasn't around doesn't attempt to explain WHY he might not have been around.  Maybe Tripp didn't show up because if there were only two meetings a year and he wasn't able to set aside time to attend the meetings the rest of the crew were authorized to meet without him.  We don't know for sure and if Dr. Tripp is inclined to share his side of things that could clarify the matter.  That Turner took pains to say Tripp was not involved belies the idea that an external board was going to be effective.  If anything Turner's complaint about Tripp seems to reinforce Tripp's complaint about the external accountability potential of the BoAA itself, which he seems to have considered something close to zero.

    Turner insists:

    Dr. Tripp resigned because he wanted the board to go back to local elders. He wanted local elders to govern each of the fifteen churches across five states. Many of the mistakes, sins, and problems that created the culture occurred under a local elder-led board—including the ResultSource decision. There is a tipping point where a church or organization outgrows its current governance. I’m not certain when it happened, but for Mars Hill, the local elder governance had reached the tipping point well before the summer of 2011.

    Now this does seem to be a new statement, that Tripp resigned because he wanted the board to go back to local elders, and that Tripp wanted local elders to govern each of the fifteen churches across five states, apparently as autonomous church entities.  Turner seems to find this problematic.  Turner blames most of the trouble in the culture on the local elder leadership.  But how can Turner blame the local elders for the ResultSource decision if he opened up saying he didn't know who approved RSI or how it was determined Mars Hill would use it.  Turner can't have it both ways here, can he?  Either he didn't know how RSI was settled upon or he can blame the local elder board for choosing Result Source but he can't do both.  Given how many times he has insisted upon his ignorance it is to his ignorance we shall have to incline our ears, unless he's willing to revise his statement and say he actually knew who approved RSI.

    But Turner seems ignorant of the fact that the pre-2007 bylaws got published at Joyful Exiles by Paul Petry and the problem of local elder governance was that there wasn't any, functionally.  More power had been consolidated into the smaller elder team and even Sutton Turner has acknowledged this fact.  So how could local elder at a campus-by-campus level have been the cause of the trouble?  Turner hasn't explained this yet, though there are intimations that fiscal incompetence played some role.  But this gets back to why and how Tim Beltz stopped being an executive elder.  The Generous series trumpeted the effectiveness of Beltz' financial acumen as a way to keep Mars Hill leaders from doing prison ministry from the inside, didn't it?

    But what if Paul Tripp's suggestion was that all the local churches should be governed as autonomous churches with their own governance and this as part of a network of churches in which elders could govern?  That's not the most earth-shaking proposal to come from someone who's a pastor at a Presbyterian church.  In fact that's pretty much what we'd expect!  Maybe Paul Tripp was advising Mars Hill to stop trying to model itself as a single church on a franchise platform and turn into an actual nascent denomination that considered the fiscal and infrastructural dynamics that would allow for autonomous church activity.  Just an idea there.

    It's fascinating that after trumpeting the greatness of Tripp as an addition to the BoAA in later 2013 Sutton Turner and Justin Dean rushed to dismiss Paul Tripp's role in the BoAA whose existence Sutton Turner has described as his innovation.  Well, hasn't Turner testified against the effectiveness of the board if he's complained about Tripp's role on it?  And hasn't this confirmed Tripp's concerns that the BoAA simply could not do what was expected of it?  The more Sutton Turner and Justin Dean try to belittle Tripp's ideas and role on the BoAA he was recruited to by Mars Hill the more they seem to confirm that Tripp's publicly stated concerns have some merit.

    We haven't even gotten to the roll call for the BoAA in later 2013.  If Turner wanted an external board with guys who would not necessarily have an insider interest in the church there's a lot of explaining left to do.

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