Here at Wenatchee The Hatchet we've looked at multiple narratives recounting the incidents and motivations described by Mark Driscoll and others about his late 2014 resignation from Mars Hill. There's the resignation letter itself, the MH leadership statements from shortly after the resignation was announced, the Robert Morris Gateway narratives (mostly Morris there), there's the Thrive presentation, and most recently the Houston interview. It might be tempting for some readers to assume that all the stories are false. Well, actually, that's not at all necessary. In fact, it's possible to reconstruct a pretty coherent linear narrative from all of the narratives previously presented and discussed.
Based on the Houston interview, Driscoll initiated a review process for himself by telling the board (BoO? BoE? BoE as surrogate) to check whether he was not fit for ministry. On the weekend of his birthday, or his birthday, he met with the board. The board said there was nothing disqualifying him for ministry but they wanted him to participate in a restoration plan. By Driscoll's account he agreed to this and he and Grace explained to their kids what was going to happen. That is all spelled out in the Houston interview.
Now what seems to have happened next was the Monday after the meeting, Driscoll stated he heard a voice. The way he described it at Thrive was he was released from responsibility to serve in ministry at Mars Hill. In the Houston interview the story is more detailed and Driscoll mentioned hearing a voice that said "a trap has been set". There's another transcript that can be consulted now, over here:
In this newer account the Driscolls describe "we're released" (Grace Driscoll) and "a trap has been set and they could not return to ministry. Since the Hillsong focused blog features a much longer transcript that captured more of the statements we'll refer to that some:
so I asked her well what did the Lord say to you because I didn’t want to influence her and so she said, uh, she said we’re” (39:45-42:42)
Grace Driscoll: “We’re released.” (42:43)
Brian Houston: “We can take a moment.” (42:52)
Mark Driscoll: “So, she said well what have you heard so I can hear it. “Well the Lord revealed to me that, you know, a trap has been set there’s no way in which to return to leadership.” And I didn’t know what that meant or what was going on at the time. And um, I said, he said well release too we need to resign. And so, um, you know, this is not what we anticipated, and uh a lot of people thought you know, maybe he’s got another plan, or, we didn’t. We didn’t know what we were doing. And Grace fell to the floor and she was just sobbing uncontrollably and I’ve never seen my wife like that she was devastated. Um, so we prayed and slept on it decided that we would make sure we got this right, and uh.”
Grace Driscoll: “Speak with wise council.”
Mark Driscoll: “Sought the pastors of those we trust and sent in our resignation in on that, it would’ve been that Tuesday, yeah, and resigned.” (42:53-43:57)
Now this comes across as though the Driscolls say they heard God release them from ministry Monday night. They decided to sleep on it and Grace mentioned "wise council" Mark Driscoll mentioned "sought the pastors of those we trust". So if they "slept on it" Monday night, this would have been Tuesday that they sought the council and consideration of other pastors, although if they were sure a voice from God told them they could quit what confirmation they would need or want seems moot.
But that does, in any case, get us to the resignation letter itself.
October 14, 2014Michael Van Skaik
Chairman, Board of Advisors and Accountability
Mars Hill Church
Last week our Board of Overseers met for an extended period of time with Grace and me, thereby concluding the formal review of charges against me.
...That is why, after seeking the face and will of God, and seeking godly counsel from men and women across the country, we have concluded it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church we helped launch in 1996. [emphasis added] I will gladly work with you in the coming days on any details related to our separation.
No mention of any instruction from God there, just the godly counsel. As before, it would seem that if God told the Driscolls they were released that would have been the thing to lead with back on October 14, 2014. And as Wenatchee The Hatchet has discussed at some length in the past, the scriptural precedent for God telling leaders "you're off the job" conspicuously features the likes of King Saul and King Ahab. What was attested by the BoAA at the time was what a surprise the resignation was.
Pastor Mark Driscoll's Resignation
By: Mars Hill Church
Posted: Oct 15, 2014
On Tuesday, October 14, Pastor Mark Driscoll submitted his resignation as an elder and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. The Board of Overseers has accepted that resignation [emphasis added] and is moving forward with planning for pastoral transition, recognizing the challenge of such a task in a church that has only known one pastor since its founding. We ask for prayer for the journey ahead.
As is well known, inside and outside of Mars Hill, Pastor Mark has been on a leave of absence for nearly two months while a group of elders investigated a series of formal charges brought against him. This investigation had only recently been concluded, following some 1,000 hours of research, interviewing more than 50 people and preparing 200 pages of information. This process was conducted in accordance with our church Bylaws and with Pastor Mark’s support and cooperation.
While a group of seven elders plus one member of the Board of Overseers was charged with conducting this investigation, the full Board of Overseers is charged with reaching any conclusions and issuing any findings.
Finally, Mark Driscoll was not asked to resign; indeed, we were surprised to receive his resignation letter. [emphasis added]
This was not the only statement made about the Driscoll resignation by leaders at Mars Hill, of course:
starting about 3:45
The investigation of formal charges against Mark Driscoll has revealed patterns of persistent sin in the three areas disclosed in the previous letter by the Board of Overseers. In I Tim 5:20, it requires that an elder be rebuked for persistent sin. Our intention was to do this while providing a plan for his eventual restoration to leadership. The Board of Elders in agreement with the Board of Overseers are grieved, deeply grieved, that any process like that was lost to us when Mark Driscoll resigned in position and left the church. [emphasis added] Now is the time to move on and consider what God is calling us to next as a church as we participate in Jesus’ mission to make disciples in His name. Today begins a new chapter in the history of our church which has proceeded in one direction under one leadership for many years now, but I want you to understand this, God is our Father. That does not change. Jesus is the chief shepherd of the church and that has not changed.
So both accounts present Driscoll's resignation as a surprise, and the second account presents the decision as having pre-empted the restoration plan that was proposed for him to be able to return to ministry.
In light of the Houston interview the Driscolls may have fit in all the seeking godly counsel Tuesday after they "slept on it" about the voices saying they were released from ministry/a trap was set. This could account for why the BoAA found Mark Driscoll's resignation to be a complete surprise. They weren't expecting it because, per Mark Driscoll's longer account in talking with Houston, he said he asked the Board to investigate him and present him with a result and he'd comply with what they decided. By Mark Driscoll's account he said he agreed to cooperate with the restoration process proposed and told his kids what the plan would be. Then, come Monday, all that changed. Tuesday, it seems, the Driscolls talked to those they considered godly counsel.
Which gets us to Robert Morris and his account.
Transcript of Robert Morris and Mark Driscoll from the Gateway Leadership + Worship Conference
on the evening of Monday, October 20, 2014, as broadcast live via DayStar Television:
Robert Morris: Uh, it was publicized that we cancelled him; that’s not true, we did not cancel. I’m speaking of Mark Driscoll. We did not cancel him. He and I decided together uh that he was going to step out of ministry for a season and get some healing. [emphasis added]
So by this account Robert Morris could have been one of the people the Driscolls reached out to on Tuesday, after the Monday voices and their respective messages to Mark and Grace Driscoll. Now it's possible Mark Driscoll opted to not tell Robert Morris "God told me we get to quit" in so many words. Morris may have either not known what Mark Driscoll says God told him, or Morris may not have mentioned it. In any event, the observation here is that Robert Morris' story does not contradict the cumulative Driscollian narrative we can assemble from the multiple accounts--Driscoll wrote that he/they sought counsel and Morris recounted that he and Mark decided together that Mark should step out for a while.
So this presents a story in which Monday voices are heard and Tuesday people are consulted, a letter is drafted, and the resignation is made official. This completely explains the elements from the Thrive presentation:
Transcript | Mark Driscoll | Thrive 2015-05-01
See Links to Timestamps at the end of this doc. [these omitted here]
It finally came to the point where God released my wife and I from our responsibility to ministry. He spoke to us audibly. It wasn’t what we were expecting. It wasn’t what we had agreed to. We were both pretty shocked and the announcement was going to come out that week. [emphasis added] And, uh, our server, our e-mail and things apparently were hacked and there was no way to get anything done without it being a public situation. And so the Board, which are good, godly people in authority, which I appreciate -- they released a statement earlier than we were anticipating, so um, but that meant, and I agree with that decision, I’m not critical of it. But that meant that I hadn’t told my kids that I had resigned and they were in school, taking test, it was a test week, …. we threw some stuff in a bag and ran to school to grab the kids and within minutes it was on TV, I think it was on CNN. [emphasis added]We pulled the kids out of school, and they already knew because of social media -- media moves so fast. So we told them they couldn’t go back to the house for a few days so we jumped in the car and went to a hotel and it was just kind of a emotionally wrecked.
We pulled the kids out of school, and they already knew because of social media -- media moves so fast. [emphasis added] So we told them they couldn’t go back to the house for a few days so we jumped in the car and went to a hotel and it was just kind of a emotionally wrecked. We’d served in that city for 20 years. Founded that church in our living room. And served it for 18 years. (loud applause) Baptized somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 people. (audible amens from crowd).
So, we’re sitting with the kids explaining to them that dad had resigned and that we were going to continue forward and that God had released us very clearly.
CNN was it? When did CNN cover the resignation?
Let's pull that up
October 15, 2014 at 4:33pm.
and RNS also covered the resignation October 15.
The story seems to have broken about 3pm October 15. And, of course
So threading all the accounts together, Mark Driscoll seems to have drafted the letter Tuesday October 14. It was submitted to the BoAA, who released it to the public and RNS published the resignation letter October 15. In the Thrive presentation Mark Driscoll described that "within minutes" of going to get his kids, CNN was discussing his resignation. It leads us to a remarkable little question that needs some narrative grounding.
Mark and Grace Driscoll told the Fab Five Poppa Daddy agreed to the restoration plan the Board proposed October 10th and/or 11th; and if by Mark and Grace Driscoll's account they heard from God they were released from ministry responsibility and able to quit on Monday, October 13; if the Driscolls consulted people on October 14th and Mark Driscoll wrote and sent his resignation letter that day; then when the media reported the resignation on October 15 there had been at least some time in there for Mark and Grace Driscoll have told their kids that Poppa Daddy had made the decision to quit, right?
If Mark Driscoll's story at the Thrive conference is true and the Houston story account shared by Mark and Grace Driscoll is true then the question to ask is why on earth they waited for their children to find out about Mark Driscoll's resignation the way they did rather than telling their own children Poppa Daddy and Mom heard audibly from God that they were released from ministry at Mars Hill and this meant they could quit, and to tell the kids first? The space between Monday evening and about 3:00pm October 15, 2015 PST gave them at least twenty-four hours, didn't it? No sitting the kids down the afternoon or evening of Tuesday, October 14, 2014 to break the news? Could not the Driscolls have shared the news with their children FIRST and THEN sent off that letter to the BoAA?
Still, if the Driscolls decided the best way for their kids to find out was some other way, okay. Maybe the idea was the resignation letter would get sent off and the BoAA would just, I don't know, sit on it for at least a few days beore releasing it to the press? That might have given the Driscolls time to have told their children some time after October 14. Let's keep in mind
Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family—even physically unsafe at times—and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill. Grace and I pledge our full support in this process and will join you in praying for God’s best for this, His church, in the days and years ahead. Grace and I would also covet your prayers for us as we seek God’s will for the next chapter of our lives. Therefore, consider this written notice of my voluntary termination of employment.
If Mark and Grace Driscoll decided their family was not in a healthy spot and was even physically unsafe at times then that would seem all the more reason to not leave the announcement of Mark Driscoll's resignation wait until October 15 when the media got the story. It would seem like something to have mentioned somewhere between October 13 and the and of October 14. But perhaps Mark and Grace Driscoll had reasons to not mention anything about the resignation and to let things play out. By Mark Driscoll's account at the Thrive conference the way the Driscoll kids learned about the resignation was through social or broadcast media, maybe CNN. Driscoll's Thrive account makes it almost seem as though the way the kids found out about his resignation was through media coverage because he hadn't told them himself yet. Maybe that's not what he meant but that's the impression that comes across to Wenatchee The Hatchet.
So ... waiting anywhere between 24 to 32 hours to let someone else break the news to your children you've made a decision that will alter everything about their social lives as they'd come to know it was ... part of the plan for Mark and Grace Driscoll? It seems weird, but it's just how things come across threading all the narratives of Mark Driscoll's resignation together. The Thrive narrative and the Houston narrative basically overlap and don't really contradict each other so long as we take as given that neither Mark nor Grace Driscoll saw any reason to tell their kids the evening of October 14 what they had decided based on something they claim they heard on what seems to have been October 13.
We've already discussed the few precedents there are in the biblical narrative literature for God explicitly telling a leader he is released from leadership or no longer bearing the responsibility of a previously divinely appointed role.
If you want to read a dry but informative survey of the rise and decline of King Saul V. Phillips Long has a great dissertation on that subject.
We've also looked at precedents in Old Testament narrative literature for traps God set for wicked rulers who misappropriated authority and power for themselves.
Whether Abimelech seeking kingship by treachery and murder; or King Saul being tormented by a spirit sent by God; or Ahab's prophets being deluded by a spirit of calamity that misled them, we simply cannot take as given that just because the Driscolls say they heard an audible voice telling them they were released from ministry in contradiction of what they just agreed to do was necessarily God, or a god. No matter how many times Mark Driscoll protests otherwise, if Mark and Grace Driscoll did not want to quit being part of Mars Hill they could have stayed on. By Mark Driscoll's account the Board found nothing that disqualified him for ministry and he claimed to Brian Houston he agreed to submit to their restoration plan. Then all of a sudden, as he's lately recounted it, he heard a voice saying "a trap has been set", or something like that.
Let's not forget that even though God was described as commanding Abraham to kill Isaac the Bible also tells us God stopped Abraham from actually doing that. What's fascinating about the Driscoll narratives is they never bothered to say God said anything to either of them until this year on the road talking to people at Thrive or in a video-taped interview with Houston. Even if we assume for the sake of friendly conversation a voice said the Driscolls were released, the cumulative precedent of OT canon does not suggest that being released is a sign of approval, rather it tends to be a sign of substantial divine disapproval and even judgment. So it's not impossible God released them because of some shortcoming and the sticky wicket here is that if we go by what the biblical texts say, when God says someone's no longer on the job, their salvation is frequently an open question at best. Lots of people would consider kings like Saul and Ahab to have not been believers to begin with. So there's that.