Thursday, June 16, 2016

revisiting Turner's account of MH governance and its problems, it's hard to shake the impression that he bent over backwards to blame systems rather than the people that designed the systems in his 2015 posts

Mars Hill RICO – Never Served

Yesterday, my attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case that was pending against me. Even though the Jacobsens and Kildeas (Plaintiffs) and Brian Fahling (Plaintiff’s attorney) filed a 42-page document with the court and conducted TV interviews, they never served me with the lawsuit.
So effectively, we don’t have an active lawsuit because under Washington law they have 90 days to file, which has since passed.
Here are some of the important points in my response to the Court from yesterday:
  • The sole purpose of filing the lawsuit was to disparage my character. The Jacobsens, Kildeas, and Brian Fahling acted in bad faith and the case should be dismissed with prejudice as a result of this bad faith. In addition, attorney fees and sanctions in the amount of $4,240.00 should be assessed.
That claim seems pretty confident, to state that the sole purpose of filing the lawsuit was to disparage the character of Turner. 

It was never clear whether or not the RICO was ever going to move forward and though a few commenters here and there suggested it might be something to talk about or get behind it's only been something to discuss here when something gets discussed.  So since Turner's brought up a few things it's back on the set of topics to discuss.

Throckmorton has a post up today, at which Turner has made a comment. One of the things that might be worth mentioning is that in Turner's account of Mars Hill governance it seems he concluded substantial changes to governance needed to be made.

It may be worthwhile to revisit things Turner has written about the history of Mars Hill from 2015:
Posted by on
In April 2011, I joined Mars Hill as the General Manager and reported to the Executive Pastor. [emphasis added] I had enjoyed the teaching via podcast from overseas since 2007. My family and I looked forward to attending and serving in the church that we had enjoyed from afar, a church that loved Jesus and preached the gospel. I looked forward to using my gifts and experience to further the mission of Jesus through the local church.

When I arrived at Mars Hill, the financial books were a mess. During my first week, I asked the finance director to bring me the financials. He said he could provide me with September 2010 because they were about to close out the books for October. Financial reporting was six months behind. [emphasis added] I thought, “How do they know how they’re doing financially?!” The finance team handed me a bank statement. (If you are in finance or accounting, you just cringed as you read the last sentence.)
In July 2011, a new marketing proposal was already in the works at Mars Hill: ResultSource. I learned of the project from the manager who was overseeing it. ResultSource was a marketing practice that purchased books through small individual bookstores that would qualify the book for the New York Times Best Seller List. Then, these books would be shipped to Mars Hill and sold in our nine church bookstores. It was proposed that being listed on the New York Times Best Seller List would increase the awareness of the church, support the upcoming sermon series, and increase church size.
Shortly after the decision to execute the ResultSource marketing plan was made, my supervisor resigned. After him, I was the highest-ranking employee in administration. The decision had been made but the contract hadn’t yet been signed. On October 13, 2011, I signed the ResultSource contract as General Manager a full month before being installed as an Executive Elder. After signing the contract, I emailed an elder, stating my frustration with having to be the one to sign the contract when I had voiced my disagreement with it. [emphasis added] But few in the organization (or in the media since then) knew of my disagreement. When you stay in an organization and you do not agree with a decision, you have to own that decision as your own. Unfortunately, I will always be linked to ResultSource since my name was on the contract even though I thought it was a bad idea. If given the same opportunity again, I would not sign the ResultSource contract, but honestly, my missing signature would not have stopped it. Someone else would have signed it anyway since the decision had already been made.

I knew if I left Mars Hill, the likelihood of decisions like ResultSource would only continue. Through prayer and confidence that Jesus had called my family and me to Mars Hill Church, I decided to stay and change the decision-making process so that decisions like ResultSource would not be made again.

A few brief thoughts. Turner explained that basically Mars Hill was a fiscal trainwreck when he arrived on the scene in 2011.  Since nobody has contested the reliability of this account and quite a few people have corroborated the account we'll have to take it as the semi-official account of Mars Hill financials from 2011.

The other thing to observe is that by Turner's account he was the highest ranking employee in administration after his supervisor resigned.  The highest profile resignation in later 2011 was former Mars Hill president Pastor Jamie Munson.  Since robots.txt is still in effect after all this time, we'll have to settle for WtH's preservation of the material over here:

It would seem that although the Result Source contract that was signed had the intent of promoting a book by Mark and Grace Driscoll, it seems Mark Driscoll was not the highest-ranking employee in administration whose signature was required to make the deal a done deal.  Turner seemed convinced in his 2015 statement that even if he had not signed the contract this would not have stopped ResultSource from having been used.

This has raised the question we asked back in 2015, who WOULD have signed it in Turner's absence?  Turner's story simply raised again why that other person didn't sign it.  Turner didn't address that, rather, he described how he decided to stay at Mars Hill and change the decision-making process so RSI would not be repeated.

Cumulatively this narrative could seem to throw Jamie Munson's reputation under the proverbial bus by way of explaining how Sutton Turner reasoned his way through to signing the Result Source contract.  Munson was president of Mars Hill from 2007 to 2011, after all, so if Mars Hill governance came to be characterized by conflicts of interest systemic enough to merit a governance change
By Board of Advisors & Accountability
March 7, 2014

Changes to GovernanceFor many years Mars Hill Church was led by a board of Elders, most of whom were in a vocational relationship with the church and thus not able to provide optimal objectivity. To eliminate conflicts of interest and set the church’s future on the best possible model of governance [emphasis added], a Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) was established to set compensation, conduct performance reviews, approve the annual budget, and hold the newly formed Executive Elders accountable in all areas of local church leadership. This model is consistent with the best practices for governance established in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability standards. Mars Hill Church joined and has been a member in good standing with the ECFA since September of 2012

It's tough to read that statement as saying something other than conceding that Mars Hill had a governance system from the 2007 to 2011 period that was characterized by insiders who were in the church culture who were not able to provide optimal objectivity. Further, you don't seek to eliminate conflicts of interest and set the church's future on the (course?) o fthe best possible model of governance if you think things were hunky dory.  It's worth bearing in mind for those who read the whole timeline at Joyful Exiles that Meyer and Petry were terminated in connection to objections to the by-laws Munson reportedly drafted in 2007.  If Munson drafted the 2007 bylaws (and that's not entirely clear since in a 2013 video Mark Driscoll said HE drafted those bylaws, apparently).  So whether it was Jamie Munson or Mark Driscoll or some combination of the two seems less material than Sutton Turner's conclusion, apparently shared by the entire BoAA in 2014 (which did not include Munson by that point, obviously) that the MH governance as it existed by 2011 when he arrived was in need of dire revision.

What changes got made?  Turner discussed that in his part 2.

...  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.  [emphasis added] I do know that it showed that the process of making big decisions at Mars Hill was flawed and should be fixed.

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.) [emphasis added] Within weeks of the decision to use ResultSource, my supervisor had resigned. 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.


When I looked at Mars Hill in the summer of 2011, many of its board members had limited large organization experience and that experience was solely at Mars Hill. Few had any business experience and some had no college education. [emphasis added] I do not comment on their background as a personal critique but to show that they needed outside help to enhance their experience and perspective.

This looks like smoke in mirrors in the end.  Think about it this way, Turner said the problem was the decision-making process or the governance structure more than the individual decision-makers, if we've read this rightly.  Okay ... well, who designed the governance?  Depending on what accounts we consult it would seem from the cumulative documentation at the Joyful Exiles timeline, Jamie Munson was the prime mover/author of the bylaws that dealt with Mars Hill governance by the time Sutton Turner arrived.  So if Munson was the primary architect behind a governance system that led to the flawed decision to contract with Result Source then Turner's potentially been too evasive as to who was responsible, even if indirectly in terms of the responsibility being that of whomever designed the procedural systems.  Either Jamie Munson drafted the governance that led to what Turner considered to be a bad decision or Driscoll drafted the governance or Driscoll and Munson did so, but there's not a whole lot of room left to consider other parties at the moment.  If Driscoll's "Stepping Up" video account is the authoritative one then none other than Mark Driscoll may have orchestrated the governance system that, by 2011, Turner concluded was problematic.

It's also difficult to escape the fact that by 2011 the majority of Jamie Munson's organizational experience was within Mars Hill.  What's more, it's impossible to escape the fact that according to Mark Driscoll's account a decade ago in Confessions of a Reformission Rev, one of the most substantial moves to develop Mars Hill by way of purchasing what was once the 50th street corporate headquarters was Munson's idea.  And since Munson's listed his formal education being graduating from Hellgate highschool

It would be hard to shake the impression that if we were to look at just one former Mars Hill leader who embodied the concerns Turner had about how the Mars Hill leadership culture was full of guys who had mainly intra-Mars Hill leadership experience and lacked formal collegiate education you can't get more obvious than Jamie Munson finding someone who fits "all of the above".

Back to Turner ...

But six months before the public spotlight, this new board of outside leaders, who were unassociated with the ResultSource decision, evaluated the proposal afterwards and made the right decision: it was a bad idea and it was wrong.

But in the end even one of the members of the BoAA concluded the BoAA itself was incapable of doing what it was intended to do, that would be Tripp.  And as has been discussed at some length here elsewhere, one of the ironies of Turner's remodeled board was that it ended up being full of guys who had as much or more insider/advisory history within Mars Hill than perhaps even the board he'd replaced.  But that's something to peruse at your leisure with help from blog posts tagged "boaa".

Part 3 ..

Part 3 was where Turner vented some steam about Tripp's critique of the BoAA being incapable by its very nature to achieve what it was supposed to achieve.  Turner mentioned something:
... Early on, Mars Hill chose a path that every pastor was also a governing elder, which worked when the church was smaller.  At that time, Mars Hill’s governance required plurality, or unanimous agreement, of all elders on any decision (there were no clear directions on what decision required plurality). Those early leaders had not thought Mars Hill would reach 14,000 in attendance. As it grew by God’s grace, more pastors were needed to shepherd the flock. Those pastors were also governing elders, which meant at one point, decisions required unanimous consent of over 20 elders. This also gave veto power to any one elder.

The problem is that you can go to the old pre-2007 bylaws and compare them to the 2007-2011 bylaws there was no need for unanimous agreement, a simple majority was considered sufficient.  The 2007-2011 bylaws consolidated more formal power to the executive elder group, which was free to acquire real estate and contract without necessarily having to bring in the rest of the elder board.  Turner's account attempted to pin the blame on bad decisions on a governance system but he skipped past the part where the guys who, by various accounts, had the largest roles in re-architecting the governance of Mars Hill toward this bad end, were the guys who worked for, basically.  Driscoll's old jokes about plotting world domination with the co-founding partners who founded Mars Hill may be taken as pure jest but it still suggests the possibility that Turner may have been amiss in presuming that the early leaders had not thought Mars Hill would reach 14,000 in attendance.  Driscoll was vision-casting a movement that would start a publishing house, a bible college, a music label and a church planting network even before Mars Hill had 400 people.  That's been documented amply by the 2011 film God's Work, Our Witness.

To be nice about it, it often seems as if Turner spent time in 2015 trying to explain the history of a church culture that he may not really understand.  For some more on some difficulties in Turner's account vis a vis people who were at Mars Hill before he ever showed up ....

One of the things that's still funny to me is that Turner seemed to think it was somehow weird of Tripp to advise local elder governance for Mars Hill campuses ... as if Turner had never come across a Presbyterian who would think like a Presbyterian about church polity ... but I digress.

Now it may well be Turner believes the suit was filed solely to discredit him ... but it's hard not to remember that when he posted away in 2015 he looked to this writer like he was stopping just short of throwing Munson's reputation under the bus and impugning the competence of the entire governing culture of Mars Hill circa 2011.  And the problem with expressing reservations about the degree to which Mars Hill seemed to be run by elders who were insulated insiders with no real-world experience managing large organizations or businesses is that the higher up the organizational chart we go the more impossible it is to avoid considering that Jamie Munson had a high school education and apparently no more and that, as Mark Driscoll said on the road a few times, he'd never been a formal member, exactly, of any church he hadn't started himself.   And, of course, by Driscoll's 2013 account as preserved for us by Throckmorton, for instance, Mark Driscoll claimed he was the one who had to go back and rewrite the bylaws and constitution of Mars Hill for the sake of his marriage.  So if that's true then, well, it'd be impossible for Turner to have written all that he has written about the shortcomings of Mars Hill governance without saying that Mark Driscoll's governmental design was ultimately the core problem.

But then if that's the case that'd be something we could agree on, wouldn't it?


One of the things that's worth further investigation, if possible, is the mention of Resurgence Publishing.  The thing is ... there was some kind of Resurgence back in 2008.
October 4, 2008

Pastor Mark Driscoll here from Mars Hill Church and President of The Resurgence with my good buddy, dear friend, and fellow elder at Mars Hill  Tim Smith.
So there was a Resurgence of some sort, if not necessarily the publishing company (and there was the old defunct Resurgence Training Center, too).  The thing worth noting is what Mark Driscoll said about himself, that he was President of the Resurgence in 2008, whatever it was, publishing company or now.  So one of the questions we may want to ask and seek an answer for is whether that Resurgence circa 2008, whatever it was, has anything to do with Resurgence Publishing circa 2012.


Having looked over the Washington State Secretary of State UBI search options, it turns out there was never a "Resurgence" UBI other than the publishing company, which strongly indicates a lot of what was known as The Resurgence was simply intra-Mars Hill differentiation, which will be the topic of a pending post.

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