Saturday, April 01, 2017

Joshua Rifkin playing, oh surely you know ... :)

Because, well, why wouldn't you tip your hat to one of the greatest ragtimes ever this day?

The Entertainer

Joshua Rifkin plays Gladiolus Rag

I've been particularly partial to this one for years.

Scott Joplin's "Frolic of the Bears" from Treemonisha.

Joplin: Treemonisha / Act two - No. 13 Frolic of the bears · Houston Grand Opera Orchestra · Gunther Schuller

Because The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag, great as they are, are also too obvious.  :)

You can hear this as part of why Treemonisha didn't go over so well ... and yet also hear it as an example of Joplin striving to move toward a musical language that went beyond the confines of ragtime as known in his day. 

On the possibilities of spatial-temporal correspondence between the syntactics of ragtime and sonata forms

An earlier draft of this essay was published on February 28, 2017.  This new draft has been both shortened and given more detailed citation.  This essay is, of course, published to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the death of Scott Joplin, king of the ragtime composers.

In my late teens and early twenties I got into ragtime.  While my study of the style was not necessarily deep it was enthusiastic; although I’m a guitarist I studied and practice just enough piano to learn how to play “Maple Leaf Rag” while I was also picking up a few Bach pieces and teaching myself how to play excerpts from Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis.  During those years I made several attempts to compose rags of my own. At length I settled into my primary love, composing for the guitar and for a long time set ragtime aside. 

What I never set aside, however, was the conviction that ragtime and sonata forms ought to be perfectly suited to each other.  Although I was not always very sure how, I took it as given that, in principle, the style of ragtime and various sonata forms could ultimately be synthesized. To paraphrase Iannis Xenakis, the most ambitious forms of interstellar travel that technology may provide for us may not carry us so far as liberation from our mental shackles could.   If I never accepted the shackles of assumptions that ragtime and sonata forms could not mix I would have a lifetime to find out how they could mix.  

One of the gentle warnings Leonard B. Meyer had about musical analysis is that we not forget the distinction between musical analysis as a matter of form and musical analysis as an observation of process.  That these two aspects of musical analysis often overlap does not mean we won't run into trouble if we misdiagnose early on which of these two aspects of analysis will be most relevant to whatever we study.  The kind of modular architectonics that are useful for delineating themes and transitions in a sonata form may be useless in evaluating the contrapuntal processes guiding a fugue, and might even lead us astray.  While linear expansion and development in a fugue "might" give us insights applicable to a sonata form the expectation of a continuously developing thematic economy may run aground in explicitly dance-derived forms, so the way we'd analyze a Bach fugue will be of little help in assessing a rag by Joseph Lamb.   

That said, being thoroughly steeped in both the history and literature of the sonata, as well as the history of ragtime can open up possibilities for the fusion of both idioms that may remain, as yet, under-explored. 

Of course to explore those possibilities we need to establish basic observations that may be made about these idioms.  Rather than attempt to discuss ragtime in terms more suitable for the unfamiliar, I'm simply going to briefly go over the basic outline of the "Joplin" rag as it's commonly described. 


Give or take an introduction, any transitions, and a coda, that's the basic formal outline of a rag. 

We know that not every theme will be repeated and there are cases in which a theme that appears earlier may appear again in a modified form.  For instance, the B strain in James Scott's Modesty Rag is recapitulated at the end where the "D" strain would be and it's slightly recomposed.  This example alone should satisfy for the sake of this essay that recapitulating the B group as the final strain in a rag already opens up possibilities for a sonata form cast in a ragtime style. 

For that matter, where the return of the A strain would typically be could very easily be replaced with what in more traditional understandings of sonata form would be the development section.  The syntactic climax of the return of the A material in a ragtime may be spatially displaced to a point later in a ragtime than we might expect it to conventionally appear but the syntactic climax of the reprise would still take place.  If we bear in mind a simple proposal, that the A or B sections do not have to refer to explicit, literal repeats but may stand as a cumulative time-space, then what we'd call the BB section or B section of a ragtime can be the space in which the second (or also third) thematic strains can be introduced with some suitable transitional materials.   

This would be a way of synthesizing ragtime and sonata form in cases where we have sixteen-measure ragtime strains.  Of course this would not be the only way a sonata form in a ragtime style could be composed.  In fact if we were to make use of material more characteristic of early (rather than late) 19th century sonata materials we might find themes are more apt to be as short as eight measures.  If our thematic strains are 12 measures or less then immediate and literal repetition might be ill-advised; it might also be less effective, given the fact that so very often thematic differentiation is a weakness in ragtime compared to other styles.

Any structural repetitions we might plan to introduce that could bridge the conceptual space between a rag and a sonata form would have to lean more toward a conventional understanding of a sonata form than a rag.  Ragtime repetitions are so conventional as to overpower the often ignored conventions of structural repetitions in sonata forms.

This basic adjustment to small-scale sonata form to resemble the style of ragtime is actually not the least bit difficult.  Rather than an AA BB paradigm as we'd expect in ragtime we could substitute a short repeating exposition that would present as AB AB that could fill the commensurate durational space of AA BB. George Rochberg's concept for this, called "time-space" is inelegant and bluntly literal, but it's arguably the best possible term we're looking for.  Corresponding durational time-spaces within sonata forms and ragtime won’t need to be very strict.

Still, generally, if a ragtime strain is conventionally understood to be sixteen measures long and a conventional ragtime has an AABB procession before A returns, then the number of measures in that durational stretch would be sixty-four measures.  This means that if you have a small-scale sonata exposition (something in the zone of forty measures) then you would be able to fulfill the cumulative AABB in a ragtime best with an AB exposition that has an internal structural repeat.  A simple but perhaps necessary observation about sonata forms in the 18th century is to note that the repetitions should be considered structural.  If you keep this in mind then an exposition with two themes can be mapped out as:
exposition repetition  development   recapitulation
A  B           A   B         C                     A  B 

Not coincidentally, what kind of popular form can this resemble?

verse chorus    verse chorus    bridge   verse chorus

In strictly modular, macro-structural terms, the sonata form with a repeating exposition that's observed before the development and recapitulation can be thought of as remarkably similar in its overall concept to a standard pop song format.  
There are crucial, substantial differences in thematic developmental economy between a sonata form and a pop song, to be sure, but the differences are not necessarily reducible to a matter of sheer modular form.  Rather, we're looking at a continuum of differences in the realm of procedural development, conventions for thematic differentiation, and expansion of thematic content.  When advocates of high art musical culture dismiss popular music they do not necessarily reject the elegant simplicity of pop music at the level of macro-structural considerations. They're rejecting the rudimentary presentation and repetition of thematic materials without long-form development.

Rejecting the possibility that the musical materials of popular styles can be used within sonata forms depends, in part, on a stereotyped and negative assessment of those materials. However, such a rejection may also be predicated on a stereotyped view of what sonata forms are, and this could be particularly true of those whose ideal sonatas date not from the 18th century but the 19th. 

In Style & Music (University of Chicago Press, 1989), Leonard B. Meyer proposed that a key conceptual difference between 18th and 19th century approaches to large-scale form consisted in the difference between a “script” and a “plan” (pages 245-246).  A “script” approach to a sonata would not require contrasting thematic groups in the way a “plan” approach to sonata, particularly in the post-Beethoven pedagogy, often required.  With Meyer’s observation in mind, if a 19th century prescription for the sonata that thematic groups display contrast is abandoned, the lack of strongly contrasting themes within ragtime is no longer inherently incompatible with the syntactic scripts of sonata forms.

In recent scholarship the most extensive case made for understanding 18th century sonata forms as a range of scripts has been undertaken by James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy in their book Elements of Sonata Theory. Without attempting to summarize their findings or the debates that have surrounded their proposals, the Types 1 through 5 they delineate suggest that we no longer need to think of sonata forms as tethered to the descriptions of 19th century or even 20th century pedagogy. We can make use of their concepts of “rotation” and of the expositional and recapitulation spaces to formulate syntheses of ragtime style with sonata forms.  While there are many things that could be said about the concepts they employ the simplest account of their proposed sonata scripts hinges on principles of thematic differentiation.

If we combine Hepokoski and Darcy’s concept of space within sonata forms with George Rochberg’s “time-space” we can propose that the conceptual foundation for a fusion of ragtime style into sonata forms has been established.  The architectural precepts are in place and the question that remains is a practical one, could we demonstrate that it is possible to recompose an existing sonata form in such a way as to generally conform to recognizable rhythmic, harmonic and melodic traits we hear and see in ragtime? 

Yes.  By way of example, we can turn to early 19th century guitar music.  Anyone who is studied in both ragtime and early 19th century solo guitar sonatas may already be able to observe the ways in which Giuliani’s second thematic group in his Op. 150 can be quickly transformed into a ragtime strain.  While I have written at length about 19th century guitar sonatas elsewhere,  there’s always the writerly axiom “Show, don’t tell.

So let’s demonstrate the possibility of rewriting a small sonata form into a ragtime style by way of recomposing Fernando Sor’s Op. 29 etude in E flat into a ragtime style.  [after the break]

Leonard B. Meyer on the challenge of global pluralism in the arts, and on the distinction between syntactic and statistical climax in music, and implications for the future of fusion
In 1967, musicologist Leonard Meyer published a fiery book that was widely read at the time: Music, the Arts, and Ideas. In it he predicted “the end of the Renaissance,” by which he meant that there would cease to be a musical mainstream, and that instead we would settle into an ahistorical period of stylistic stasis in which a panoply of styles would coexist. This seemed an outrageous forecast at the time, but Meyer’s prescience has been greatly confirmed.

Thanks to Kyle Gann's blogging I was introduced to Meyer's work and have been benefiting from it in the few years since I read the above.

So here we are in 2017, half a century after Meyer's book was originally published and what was Meyer's assessment of his moment?  A sample:

Leonard B. Meyer
Copyright © 1967. 1994 by The University of Chicago
ISBN 0-226-52143-5

page 179-180
Although diversity had been growing since the seventeenth century, the fact was seldom squarely faced. The very ideology that nurtured pluralism tended, until recently, to eclipse its presence and obscure its significance. To believe in progress, in a dialectic of history, or a divine plan was to acknowledge, at least tacitly, the existence of a single force or principle to which all the seeming diversity would one day be related. To accept the Newtonian world view, or later the theory of evolution, was almost inevitably to subscribe to monism and to look forward to a time when all phenomena would be reduced to, or subsumed under, one basic, encompassing set of laws. The notable achievements of science were taken as proof that Truth was One. Behind the manifest variety of phenomena and events lay, it was supposed, the latent unity of the universe which would eventually be discovered and embodied in a simple, all-embracing model. Because the oneness of things was what was real, surface diversity and incongruity could be disregarded.

But this picture of the world is, as we have seen, no longer entirely convincing. …

page 226
For most men, then, one of the central problems of our time—perhaps the central problem--is, and will continue to be, that of learning how to live in a relativistic and pluralistic world, a world without scientific, metaphysical, or aesthetic absolutes. In such a world the attraction of formalism is obvious.

Decades later Meyer would write a lengthy monograph on the Romantic era and its music.  In that book he made an observation I have found immensely valuable in changing my understanding of sonata forms:
Style and Music: theory, history, and ideology
Leonard B. Meyer
The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 1989 by Leonard B. Meyer
ISBN 0-226-52152-4
page 304

... In sonata-form movements the chief syntactic climax is the action whereby the instabilities and tensions, the ambiguities and uncertainties of the development section are resolved either directly to the stability and certainty of the recapitulation or through the clearly oriented, regularized tension of a dominant preparation.

...Two characteristics of syntactic climax are particularly pertinent for the present discussion. First, though often congruent with a statistical high point, a syntactic climax essentially involves a change in function. It is an action in which the tensions of instability are resolved to the relaxation of regularity. This being so, a syntactic climax can occur at a low point in a statistical/dynamic curve shaped by the secondary parameters. [Meyer's example in this case was Haydn's Op 76, 4 "Sunrise" quartet, movement 1] The second characteristic--one related to the first--is that a syntactic climax can occur relatively early in a musical structure, as early as halfway in a small form and two-thirds of the way through larger ones.

That observation also went a long way to explaining why I found myself loving 18th century sonatas more than 19th century sonatas. 

There's a very specific set of reasons I'm quoting Meyer on how early a syntactic climax can occur in a musical structure on the centennial anniversary of Scott Joplin's death and it has to do with a case I've been formulating over the last couple of years as to why I believe a synthesis of the vocabulary of ragtime can be used as the basis for sonata forms. 

It has generally been a given, per the John McWhorter article I quoted earlier this weekend, that the idiom of ragtime is incompatible with large-scale musical form.  This reflects a commonplace belief that the vocabulary of vernacular or popular styles is, at some level, impossible to incorporate into what are regarded as the forms of high art music. 

Yet even a self-avowed conservative like Roger Scruton can articulate that the gap between what many would call high and low music seems to be a problem.  As he sees it, there's an impasse, a separation between serious music (i.e. art music) and popular music. 

He proposed that:
... the question that surely troubles all serious music-lovers now, which is whether we can find our way to a musical syntax which is as expressive as the tonal language of [George] Rochberg, but which is not shut off from the surrounding world of popular culture.

We could go either way in how we interpret the phrase "serious music-lovers" now, either as people who are serious about their love of music in general or as people who are lovers of whatever they regard as serious music.  The gap between the world of popular culture and what is regarded as high art culture seems too big to writers like Roger Scruton or Richard Taruskin.  The question they have both posed but have not, as writers or composers, formulated an answer to, is how the gap between popular and high-art musical styles might be bridged.  Since Scruton went to the trouble of mentioning George Rochberg we can let Rochberg speak for himself:

The Aesthetics of Survival: A Composer’s View of Twentieth-Century Music
George Rochberg
Copyright © 1984 by the University of Michigan
ISBN 0-472-10037-8

Page 240
… the twentieth century has pointed—however reluctant we may be to accept it in all areas of life, social as well as political, cultural as well as intellectual—toward a difficult-to-define pluralism, a world of new mixtures and combinations of everything we have inherited from the past and whatever we individually or collectively value in the inventions of our own present, replete with juxtapositions of opposites (or seeming opposites) and contraries. …

Page 241 (from “On the Third String Quartet”)

Granting pluralism, how is a composer to deal with it? From the inside out, i.e., from the internal psychic imagery which becomes the musical gesture to its artistic manifestation. Gesture, singly or in combination, successive or simultaneous, is the determining factor—not style, language, system or method.

Rochberg, for those unfamiliar with his work, wrote at least one rag.

If gesture, not style, nor language, nor system, nor method can be the determining factor of how a composer can deal with a pluralism that must be granted rather than ignored, what kind of gesture would it be?  There are any number of ways this can be done.  We could begin with the gesture and explore the ways it could be transformed by means of a language, style, system, or method.  Or we could survey styles to see what gestures persist across styles.  When I immersed myself in ragtime and in 19th century guitar sonatas I began to notice that many a melodic turn in a guitar sonata theme could sound like the beginnings of a ragtime if a few rhythms were changed.  Or I would notice that many of the harmonic devices deployed in rags were more or less shared in the cadential preparations I would find in guitar sonatas.  In the very long 19th century the sonatas of the early masters of the six-string guitar and the masters of ragtime had far more in common than not. 

Yet there's a great deal of value in learning style, language, system and method before you attempt to work with gesture.  If you don't have all of these then were you to discover a gesture that is on the cusp of almost any musical style you wouldn't know what you could do with it.  If your thought process is constrained by one method of thinking about a sonata form then you're not open to the possibilities that there's more than one way to think of sonata, not merely as a form cast in a plan but as a variable scriptable process. 

Roger Scruton's question as to whether we can find a musical language as expressive as that of Rochberg's that is not shut off from the world of popular culture seems eminently easy to answer if we look to ragtime and to look to ragtime we can hardly ignore Scott Joplin.  If we consider John McWhorter's caution about Joplin's style and ragtime in general, we need to ask whether it's really true that ragtime is somehow incompatible with larger scale music or with the possibilities of sustained developmental musical "argument".  In essence the question that Scruton has asked can receive an answer if we consider the possibility that ragtime, one of the foundations of all sorts of popular music in the United States over the last century, can be used to compose sonata forms, by and large considered the apotheosis of the high art music idiom of the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

I think that between Leonard B. Meyer and George Rochberg the conceptual foundation for a ragtime/sonata fusion could be laid, but that to move further toward such a fusion we need musicology that is not beholden to the 19th century assumptions about musical "argument" and form that Joplin was, according to John McWhorter, in so many ways limited by. 

John McWhorter on the failure of Scott Joplin's music to have more than a marginal place in the American musical canon

A couple of years back John McWhorter wrote the following in a review of a biography about Scott Joplin:


In the end, the reason Joplin’s music burned brightly only for a spell forty years ago is the same reason Joplin never found true success in his lifetime. Certainly, his being black in an America most of whose citizens saw black people as barely human didn’t help. Yet a white Scott Joplin would have had little more success. Almost obsessed with fashioning ragtime as high art, Joplin was bested by two obstacles. First, high art is always a limited taste; second, even at its finest ragtime is an art of limited parameters, the musical equivalent of the miniature and the madeleine, incompatible with larger scale.

This is a shame but Joplin had set on developing his sound toward what was arguably one of the most prestigious musical idiom of the 19th century, opera.

I can grant, somewhat, that high art is always a limited taste.  I have to dissent on the proposal that even at its finest ragtime is an art of limited parameters that is incompatible with larger scale.  There are two reasons for this dissent, the first is that ragtime may be incompatible with larger scale forms as we observe them in 19th century art music but this does not mean ragtime is incompatible with larger scale forms if we go back to a more 18th century approach to musical forms. 

Unfortunately for Joplin his attempt at opera was less than stellar and opera itself was beginning to wane as the "in" high art happening.  Joplin's death was during the period in which Stravinsky's star rose with his scores for ballets.  I can't really disagree with McWhorter about the limitations of Joplin's idiom being applied to opera.  But while I grant that ragtime seems unsuited to opera I would propose that a century after Joplin died there are untapped possibilities of synthesizing the beauty of Joplin's recognizable sound into larger scale forms.  I think a case can be made that ragtime is a style that can be developed into a vocabulary that can work in sonata forms.  On the centennial anniversary of Joplin's death I think we're overdue to reassess just how unsuitable the style lf ragtime is as material that is thought incompatible with larger scale musical works. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Throckmorton presents plans of distribution for Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Churches and for Mars Hill Church itself
It's a somewhat pedestrian observation but at "B" when we get through Recitals ...

The Corporation has no members.

it might be useful to cross reference the stated lack of members with the bylaws from 2012, which say what constituted membership in the corporation.


Section 4.1.  Members for State Law Purposes. The elders of the Church shall be the civil members of the Church for the purposes of the Act. Except as otherwise explicitly stated in these Bylaws, the term "member" is a spiritual and theological term for a member of the body of Christ that has completed the membership process at the Church and remains in good standing, and does not have any civil effect for purposes of state law.  Consistent with the biblical concept of member and this Article 4, members of the church shall not have voting rights.

So while there may well have been officers for the corporation the absence of members would indicate, based on the bylaws from 2012 at least, that there were no longer any elders at the corporation that was formerly known as Mars Hill Church.

The plan does not indicate much about who the then Board of Directors was.  Based on Article 7 the board of directors would apparently have been the BoAA.

For 3., regarding distribution of assets and the like, the general summary indicates

3. Distribution of Assets. The Corporation hereby resolves that after payment of the Corporation's debts and liabilities, or provision made therefore, including without limitation the establishment of reserves as set forth in paragraph 4 herein, Kerry Dodd or Caleb Walters (either, the "Authorized Officer") shall distribute all of the remaining property of the Corporation as follows: (a) first, any assets held by the Corporation upon condition requiring return, transfer, or conveyance, which condition occurs by reason of the dissolution, shall be returned, transferred, or conveyed in accordance with such requirements; and (b) second, any remaining assets of the Corporation shall be transferred or conveyed to specific churches (each a "Church", and collectively, the "Churches") identified in Exhibit A that provide ministry services and have a similar lawful purpose as the Corporation in the percentages indicated in the attached Exhibit A.

For those who haven't read the whole thing, Exhibit A lists the then surviving campuses. 

People may have forgotten that the former MH corporate headquarters being given back to the lender, deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Cross & Crown Church (Ballard at the time of closure, moved over to former U district campus)
Sound City Bible Church (Shoreline)
Trinity West Seattle (West Seattle)
Harbor Church (Olympia)
North Church (Albuquerque)
Foundation Church (Everett, cf Throckmorton on Everett and the former MH Global)
Rainier Valley Church (this was renting space at Union Gospel Mission)
Resurrection Church (Tacoma and here for cf to the Everett thank-you stuff)
Redemption Spokane (there's some possibly dead links to them getting real estate here)
Doxa Church (Bellevue, not going to go into all the history of MH Bellevue and real estate)
The Church at 3210 SE Taylor St  (Portland)

It's the weekend so there's more fun stuff that could be done but a little bit of a review probably helps.   While concrete numbers aren't in the published plans the plans seem straightforward as to where resources, if any, are to be directed.  The precise nature of the conveyance isn't explained.  However, Trinity West Seattle was recorded by King County as having purchased their real estate from Mars Hill.  There may be enough raw material of at-the-time-reportage for people to do a bit more digging on their own but it IS the weekend

Monday, March 27, 2017

for archival purposes, the letter of confession to Bent Meyer and Paul Petry from 2007 era elders of Mars Hill, courtesy of The WayBack Machine

The website is down or expired so it's no longer available to read.  However, with help from The WayBack Machine it's possible to preserve a November 2, 2014 letter.

Letter of Confession to Bent Meyer and Paul Petry

Sunday, November 2, 2014
Dear Paul and Bent, we want to publicly confess our sin against you regarding events that took place at Mars Hill Church back in 2007. We were wrong. We harmed you. You have lived with the pain of that for many years. As some of us have come to each of you privately, you have extended grace and forgiveness, and for that we thank you. Because our sin against you happened in a public way and with public consequences, we want to make our confession public as well with this letter.
On September 30th 2007, you were both terminated from your employment as pastors at Mars Hill Church. Your status as elders of the church was suspended, according to the church’s bylaws at the time, pending an investigation of your qualification for eldership. It’s hard to imagine just how disorienting and painful this experience must have been for you. That night, Bent, you called Mike Wilkerson, your direct supervisor, to let him know that you’d been terminated. Within hours, Paul, you emailed all of the elders to notify us of what had happened to you that night. We had the opportunity and the responsibility to intervene, to care, to listen to you, and to make sure that any harmful treatment against you was corrected. Instead, we allowed the process of your investigation and trial to continue unimpeded and we participated in it. By failing to intervene and by participating in that process without protest, we implied to the members of Mars Hill Church, to each other, and to you and your families that your termination was above reproach. We stood by as it happened, and that was wrong.
We now believe that you were grievously sinned against in that termination. We believe that the termination meeting’s content and tone was abrupt, one sided, and threatening. Hearing each of you recount your experiences of this meeting is shocking and sad. By failing to intervene, we enabled a growing trend of misuses and abuses of power and authority that would be feared and tolerated by the rest of the church’s eldership. We now understand that these sorts of overpowering actions against elders were some of the very concerns that you had each expressed regarding some of the pending proposed changes to the bylaws. It is tragic that you were proved right by your own experiences. The harm permitted by our failure to protect you has had a devastating and lasting impact on you, your families, Mars Hill Church, and the watching world.
Paul, On October 15, 2007, all twenty-three elders at the time—including most of us signers of this letter—voted that you were in violation of the biblical qualifications of eldership. The alleged violations included a “lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority”. All but two of the elders then voted to remove you from eldership based on these perceived violations.
We now believe our decisions were invalid and wrong. The entire investigation and trial process was skewed by the implication that your termination was above reproach and for just cause. If there had been sin in your life that might have warranted a warning about possible disqualification from eldership, we should have patiently, carefully, and directly addressed it with you before the matter became so extremely escalated. By reporting our wrongheaded assessment to the church, we put doubt about your character in the minds of church members, though you had done nothing to warrant such embarrassment and scrutiny. By doing this, we misled the whole church, harmed your reputation, and damaged the unity of the body of Christ.
Bent, On October 29, 2007, all twenty-three elders at the time—including most of us signers of this letter—agreed that you were guilty of “displaying an unhealthy lack of trust in, and respect for, the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church”. We also unanimously approved that, based on your repentance, you would remain an elder of the church on probation.
Bent, we were wrong to have called you guilty of lacking trust and respect for the senior leadership of the church when you had good reasons for challenging the church’s senior leadership. We were wrong to have insisted that you repent of this lacking trust as a condition of your continued eldership, because it was not sinful on your part in the first place.
Bent and Paul, you each had every right as an elder to openly express your strong concerns about the bylaws and to influence our thinking so that we might have made the most informed decision possible. You also had good reason to contact the church’s attorney about those bylaws. These were not sinful acts of mistrust on your part, but reasonable acts of due diligence. We needed to learn from you at that time and we should have trusted you and respected your spiritual authority as elders of the church to educate us about potential problems with those bylaws. Instead, we silenced your voices through our complicity in your terminations and our decisions to remove Paul as an elder and keep Bent on probation instead of examining the issues more closely.
Paul, On December 5th, 2007 those of us who were elders at the time voted to instruct the members of Mars Hill Church to treat you as an unrepentant believer under church discipline after you had resigned your membership from the church. This treatment was to have included “rejection and disassociation” in the hope that you would “come to an acknowledgment of [your] sin and repent.” This instruction was given with the weight of all twenty-seven elders at the time. This disciplinary rejection led to great loss to your family in extreme financial hardship, sudden loss of long standing friendships, spiritual and emotional trauma to your family, and the public shaming of your character. We share responsibility for those losses due to our participation in the vote.
A church disciplinary act of this magnitude is extreme. It’s perhaps the most powerful that can be enacted upon a pastor. We now think that motion was hasty and harmful. We should have challenged the motion rather than approving it. Instead, we used our voting power as elders in a way that resulted in further harm to you. Further, we brought disrepute on the Church and its responsibility to exercise church discipline in a godly, loving and redemptive way. We failed to love you as a fellow elder and brother in Christ.
Confessing our sins against you has been a process that has taken us some time. We have engaged in self-examination, challenged our memories of what happened by reviewing the documents and interviewing one another, and spent time listening to you and your wives tell your heartbreaking stories. Many of us have met personally with each of you over the years to confess our sin and to seek forgiveness for our sinful actions and inaction. We don’t intend to convey by this letter that we are the only elders or former elders who’ve come to similar conclusions, and we hope that in time, the others will join us in public confession. Our desire is to clear the reproach from your names.
We hope that our confession also brings healing to the many past and present members of Mars Hill Church whose hearts were broken for you and your families as a result of our sin. As part of our commitment to walk in repentance, we invite anyone who has been impacted by our sins against you to contact any of us so we can continue to walk in repentance by listening, confessing, and asking for forgiveness.
Paul and Bent, we are sorry for our sinful behavior toward you, for harming you, and for bringing shame to Christ’s church. We hope that you will forgive us. May the peace and grace of our Lord heal our hearts.
Mars Hill Elders as of October, 2007
—Scott Thomas
—Dave Kraft
—Gary Shavey
—Steve Tompkins
—Brad House
—Phil Smidt
—Mike Wilkerson
—James Harleman
—Lief Moi
—Adam Sinnett
—Jesse Winkler
—Zack Hubert
—Tim Reber
—James Dahlman
—Dick McKinley
Additional Mars Hill Elders as of December 5th, 2007
—Jon Krombein
—Matt Johnson
—Joe Day
That 2014 letter of confession and apology is best considered in light of lengthy quotations from Mark Driscoll, whose name was conspicuously absent from the above-quoted letter, in the wake of the 2007 firings.
October 1, 2007

... Too many guys spend too much time trying to move stiff-necked obstinate people. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus and by God's grace it'll be a mountain by the time we're done. You either get on the bus or get run over by the bus (those are the options) but the bus ain't gonna stop. I'm just a, I'm just a guy who is like, "Look, we love ya but this is what we're doin'."

There's a few kind of people. There's people who get in the way of the bus.  They gotta get run over. There are people who want to take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off cuz they want to go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus (leaders and helpers and servants, they're awesome).  There's also sometimes nice people who just sit on the bus and shut up. They're not helping or hurting. Just let `em ride along. You know what I'm saying? But don't look at the nice people who are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, "I need you to lead the mission." They're never going to. At the most you'll give `em a job to do and they'll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that  hasn't been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader and so they're never going to lead. You need to gather a whole new core. [emphasis added]

I'll tell you what, you don't just do this for church planting or replanting, you know what? I'm doing it right now. I'm doing it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus. Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They're off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they're unemployed. This will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail.
A letter from Pastor Mark Driscoll
November 8, 2007

from pages 4-5 of the 142 document

Sadly, it was during the bylaw rewriting process that two of our elders, who curiously were among the least administratively gifted for that task, chose to fight in a sinful manner in an effort to defend their power and retain legal control of the entire church. [emphasis added] This included legal maneuvering involving contacting our attorney, which was a violation of policy, one elder who is no longer with us disobeying clear orders from senior leaders about not sharing sensitive working data with church members until the elders had arrived at a decision, which has caused much dissension, and that same elder accusing Pastor Jamie Munson, who was the then new Lead Pastor of Mars Hill, of being a deceptive liar in an all-elder meeting with elder candidates present, despite having absolutely no evidence or grounds because it was a lie. This was heartbreaking for me since I have seen Pastor Jamie saved in our church, baptized in our church, married in our church, birth four children in our church, and rise up from an intern to the Lead Pastor in our church with great skill and humility that includes surrounding himself with godly gifted older men to complement his gifts.
To make matters worse, this former elder’s comments came after my more than one-hour lecture in that meeting based on a twenty-three-page document I gave the elders as a summary report about what I had learned from the other pastors I had met with in addition to months of researching Christian movements. I had just explained the cause of the pains we were experiencing as a leadership team as largely tied to our growing number of elders and campuses, as well as ways that my research indicated men commonly respond by sinfully seeking power, money, preference, control, and information as ways to exercise pride and fight for their interests
over the interests of the team, church, and mission of Jesus Christ.

The elder who sinned was followed up with following the meeting by a rebuke from a fellow Executive Elder, but repentance was not forthcoming. To make matters worse, some vocal church members ran to that elder’s defense without knowing the facts, made demands upon the elders, acted in a manner that was not unifying or helpful, and even took their grievances public on the Ask Anything comment portion of our main website for my forthcoming preaching series. Of course, this was done under anonymous names to protect their image in the eyes of fellow church members while maligning the elders publicly. Some church members even began accusing the other elders of grabbing power and not caring for the best interests of our people, which is nothing short of a lie and contradictory in every way to the entire process we were undertaking. [emphasis added] It broke my heart personally when amidst all of this, a member asked me on behalf of other members if the elders really loved our people. Now having given roughly half my life to planning for and leading Mars Hill Church, the questioning of my love and the love of our elders, some of whom even got saved in our church, for our people was devastating.

Today, I remain deeply grieved by and for one man, but am thrilled that what is best for Jesus and all of Mars Hill has been unanimously approved by our entire elder team because I do love Jesus and the people of Mars Hill. Furthermore, my physical, mental, and spiritual health are at the best levels in all of my life. Now having joy and working in my gifting I am beginning to see what a dark and bitter place I once was in and deeply grieve having lived there for so long without clearly seeing my need for life change. My wife and I are closer than ever and she is the greatest woman in the world for me. I delight in her, enjoy her, and praise God for the gift that she is. She recently brought me to tears by sweetly saying, “It’s nice to have you back,” as apparently I had been somewhat gone for many years. Our five children are wonderful blessings. I love being a daddy and am closer to my children with greater joy in them than ever. In short, I was not taking good care of myself and out of love for our church I was willing to kill myself to try and keep up with all that Jesus is doing. But, as always, Jesus has reminded me that He is our Senior Pastor and has godly other pastors whom I need to empower and trust while doing my job well for His glory, my joy, and your good.

The past year has been the most difficult of my entire life. It has been painful to see a few men whom I loved and trained as elders become sinful, proud, divisive, accusatory, mistrusting, power hungry, and unrepentant. It has, however, been absolutely amazing to see all but one of those men humble themselves and give up what is best for them to do what is best for Jesus and our entire church. In that I have seen the power of the gospel, and remain hopeful to eventually see it in the former elder who remains unrepentant but to whom my hand of reconciliation remains extended [emphasis added] along with a team of other elders assigned to pursue reconciliation if/when he is willing. Furthermore, sin in my own life has been exposed through this season and I have also benefited from learning to repent of such things as bitterness, unrighteous anger, control, and pride. As a result, I believe we have a pruned elder team that God intends to bear more fruit than ever. This team of battle-tested, humble, and repentant men is now both easy to enjoy and entrust.
One possibility for explaining what the former Mars Hill elders of 2007 discovered about the termination and trials of 2007 was that they could be explicated as show trials.  That's not necessarily a given, but since last year we reviewed some of the observations Jacques Ellul made about propaganda and show trials it may be worth revisiting those..

Translated from the French by Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner
Vintage Books Edition, February 1973
Copyright (c) 195 by Alfred A Knopf Inc.
ISBN 0-394-71874-7

page 58

Propaganda by its very nature is an enterprise for perverting the significance of events and of insinuating false intentions. There are two salient aspects of this fact. First of all, the propagandist must insist on the purity of his own intentions and, at the same time, hurl accusations at his enemy. But the accusations is never made haphazardly or groundlessly. The propagandist will not accuse the enemy of just any misdeed; he will accuse him of the very intention that he himself has [emphasis added] and of trying to commit the very crime that he himself is about to commit. He who wants to provoke a war not only proclaims his own peaceful intentions but also accuses the other party of provocation. He who sues concentration camps accuses his neighbor of doing so. He who intends to establish a dictatorship always insists that his adversaries are bent on dictatorship. The accusations aimed at the other's intention clearly reveals the intention of the accuser.  But the public cannot see this because the revelation is interwoven with facts.

The mechanism used here is to slip from the facts, which would demand factual judgment, to moral terrain and to ethical judgment. [emphasis added]
Let's remember that, famously, Meyer and Petry were not just fired but also subjected to trials.  Ellul has a fascinating observation about the roles trials can play as propaganda.

pages 13-14
... Of course, a trial can be an admirable springboard of propaganda for the accused, who can spread his ideas in his defense and exert an influence by the way he suffers his punishment. This holds true in the democracies. But the situation is reversed where a totalitarian state makes propaganda. During a trial there, the judge is forced to demonstrate a lesson for the education of the public; verdicts are educational. ... [emphasis added]

For those who left Mars Hill in the 2007-2008 exodus phase it could certainly seem that the trials Petry and Meyer were subjected to were show trials whose aim was not to establish guilt or innocence but to serve an educational purpose, to demonstrate how the leadership culture regarded certain types of dissent.

about 30:35
When the church was small, I was able to shoot wolves. I cannot tell you the hundreds of hours that I have had just going at it with somebody who was a wolf and just telling `em: "look, you've gotta go. You are not welcome here. You're a false teacher, you're a false prophet, you're a false apostle, you're a false leader. You keep nominating yourself to have power. We don't see you the humility, and the character, and the doctrine that the scriptures require."  [emphasis added] And as the church gets bigger and as it spreads you have to guard the gate.  I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't keep track of all of the campuses and all of the heretics and all of the false teachers and all of the false leaders and all of the people that Satan is sending in to distort the truth and lead many astray and to be as wolves among the flock. For those of you who are shepherds at this church you have to guard the gate and it can't be, "I give mercy to everyone who comes." Because if it's a wolf feeding the wolf only allows them to be stronger so that they can devour more sheep. You're goal is not just to be nice to people and to care for them. You're job is to be discerning and to ask yourself, "Goat or sheep?  Wolf ... or shepherd?" It takes discernment. It takes a tremendous amount of discernment and the longer you make an erroneous evaluation of someone the more influence they have, the louder their voice, the deeper their following, and the more painful, the more painful it will be to deal with them. `Kay? 

This will be--it's not that it will be it is an ongoing issue. we are the 15th fastest growing church in America as we split to multiple campuses. Now we have conflict and war on multiple fronts.  We have many new Christians. We have many non-Christians. We have many people that are just coming to an understanding of the Gospel. We would be the perfect place that Satan would love to send, would LOVE to send false teachers,  false prophets, false apostles, false leaders with false doctrine.  You have to assume that. You HAVE to assume that. That could get our church astray, the churches in our Acts 29 Network that look to us for leadership, that would also include the churches nationally and internationally that look to us, right?  We're the fifteenth most influential church in America.  There's a lot riding on what we do.

I think one of the great myths that has come about (it's a demonic lie) is that myself, the executive elders, the senior leaders we don't care about people. I was the only one who did ANY counseling until we had 800 people. We still do tons of shepherding, counseling, spiritual warfare, conflict. But we try to do so in a way that is humble, that isn't "and here is who I served and here are the demons we cast out and here's the list of people that I've healed." That's demonic. The truth is I love the people as much--actually, more than anyone in this church. And the senior leaders, the campus pastors, the departmental leaders, the executive elders love the people in this church as much or more than anyone else in this church. And one of my great concerns is not just, "Can you hold hands and help sheep?" but "can you also flip the staff over and defend against a wolf?"  You HAVE to have that discernment, that courage, and that ability to tell someone: "You are in sin. That is false doctrine.  You are not qualified to be a leader. If you do not repent you are not welcome here. And I will speak truthfully to those who want to follow you because my job is for the well-being of the sheep."

Back in 2014 ...

Driscoll and Mars Hill Church
It is with deep sorrow that the Acts 29 Network announces its decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership in the network. Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. [emphasis added] In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.
The Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network

Matt Chandler
Darrin Patrick
Steve Timmis
Eric Mason
John Bryson
Bruce Wesley
Leonce Crump

So there's still about a month's worth of time to ask whether Driscoll has reached out to that one man in the last three to five years. 

For that matter there's time to ask (even if no one will necessarily answer) whatever happened to Darrin Patrick, of whom Mark Driscoll once said "He's my pastor, you know?" 

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the terminations and trials and the tenth anniversary of the "Mars Hill bus" address, it seems fitting, in light of Mark Driscoll's lifelong ministerial concern that guys be concerned about legacy, that we try to preserve a little testimony here and there about that legacy, maybe even some elements and aspects of the legacy that are things some people might not want to highlight so much this year.