Saturday, June 03, 2017

links for the weekend

Is Jeff Koons ‘Seated Ballerina’ A Copy of This Ukrainian Sculpture?

Koons' representative admits copying Zhnikrup's statue under license

Louise Blouin turning full-timers into contract freelancers

for those who may have never heard of Blouin before, we've linked to at least one piece published at blouin art info sites.

Middlebrow Tantrum in “Culture Crash” Misses the Mark

Well, the short version of a relatively short story is that this scene is a bit rocky.  Not being a huge fan of Timberg myself I don't much dissent from a review that describes his writing as the work of someone who failed to grasp that downsizing that hit industrial America could hit the culture industry, too; but it seems that arts critics have not entirely come to terms with the reality that if the empire is in some kind of real decline then the least necessary field of remunerative activity might be arts criticism.  I mean, sure, I write about the arts consistently but that's because I'm doing it strictly for the pleasure of it while holding down a fairly pedestrian day job.  One of the great misrepresentations of arts history within American academics about the arts, in my experience, is the failure to articulate the degree to which what used to be called sinecure was a necessary precondition to consistently productive creative life. 

Apropos of a more pop art topic, there's a piece in this month's Atlantic that rhetorically asks whether Disney ruined Pixar

Meanwhile, over at his blog, Rod Dreher has been incensed that an artist who made a replica of the gallows used to hang 38 American Indians consented to have the sculpture taken down and burned by the tribe whose ancestors were hung in the largest public execution on record in the region.  Dreher's outrage was mainly that a "woke" artist got pressured into letting his own work get destroyed.

Dreher seems to have been primed for outrage mode.  It's seemed as though "woke" is a term used by the African American writerly and activist community.  As yet I've never heard any American Indians from any tribes use the term "woke" and am not sure if I ever actually will.  Dreher's outrage seems to allow for slippage in appropriated nomenclature.

His readers seem to be trying to make a case that he's flipped out without a terribly compelling reason.

Protests over Sam Durant’s sculpture “Scaffold,” installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden of the Walker Art Center, have drawn immediate parallels to the controversy this year over Dana Schutz’s painting “Open Casket” in the Whitney Biennial.
Both works, made by artists who are white, recall historical acts of racial violence and have been viewed by many as painful and insensitive to communities that have suffered directly from those injustices.
Central to both cases are issues of cultural appropriation and artistic freedom. Should white artists, no matter how well intentioned, represent harrowing stories that are not their own to tell? Conversely, should any subject matter be off-limits to artists because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or other life experiences?
Calls to remove the works from public view have drawn different responses from the institutions, with the Walker and the artist agreeing to dismantle and burn the sculpture, and the Whitney keeping the painting in place.
Mr. Durant’s wood-and-steel scaffold, made in 2012 and previously exhibited without incident in Europe at venues including Documenta 13, is a composite of the gallows used in seven United States government-sanctioned hangings from 1859 to 2006. Those include the 1862 execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minn., ordered by President Abraham Lincoln — the largest mass execution in the nation’s history.
The contexts of the two pieces, with Mr. Durant’s sculpture displayed outdoors in a public park and Ms. Schutz’s painting indoors in a temporary exhibition, have different parameters and may have had an impact on how each institution reacted. The Walker’s executive director, Olga Viso, expressing deep regret at the “anger and sadness” that “Scaffold” had brought to local Native Americans, quickly agreed with Mr. Durant to remove the gallows structure from the sculpture garden — a space where children often play. [emphasis added]
On Wednesday, Dakota elders led a private mediation with leaders from the Walker, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and Mr. Durant. The artist transferred the intellectual property rights of his work to the Dakota Oyate. The entire sculpture will be dismantled in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in a four-day process beginning Friday. The wood will then be taken to the Fort Snelling area, a site that is sacred to the Dakota people, where they will ceremonially burn the wood at a date yet to be determined.

The context of the presentation of the pieces may have had an impact on how each institution reacted?  That's soft-balling it in quite a bit, isn't it?

There's a difference between the controversial painting showcased at the Whitney that you can only see by going into the Whitney to observe the painting and a sculpture that replicates a gallows on public display in a public park.  Frankly it's not the least bit difficult to be sympathetic to the concerns of the tribe.

It would seem as though Dreher, being Orthodox, should be able to grasp more firmly that the numerous debates about cultural appropriation could be construed as debates about the nature of what is regarded as sacred an profane.  Cultural appropriation can be thought of as a kind of blasphemy but if that is what it is the question of what sanctifies the culture that is regarded as appropriated might need some, pun unfortunately unavoidable here, fleshing out.  If what sanctifies a culture from appropriation is skin color then is it paradoxically possible that racial essentialism is the main defense?  Or is the case subterreneanly a religious or doctrinal concern? 

I saw some comments at Dreher's blog about how Christians wear and present crosses, and how the cross was more than just a symbol but a literal means of public execution.  Sure, but let's not forget that after TWO MILLENIA of Christian theological reflection the Cross is understood in doctrinal and soteriological terms in a way that a gallows used to execute American Indians never will be. 

Now it may be that the most cogent argument that white privilege is a real thing is that white adults in America think there's such a thing as a "right' to education or participation in the arts and that a post-Romantic obligation to defend the arts in spite of matters of taste or profanation for anything that isn't "my" commitment is important.  Dreher would probably not feel any need to defend a re-run of Serrano's "piss Christ".  Why would he? 

But, as worries that the NEH and NEA will be given just enough money to oversea their own respective administrative deaths continue, these kinds of cases may be arguments for the a-kind-of-prosecution.  This can be easier for people on the left to forget, willingly, than those on the right, but all art is inevitably a manifestation of an empire.  You'd think that anyone who could even quote Walter Benjamin at all would never forget this for one fiftieth of a second but concerns about the lack of state funding for the arts is going to remain a left/blue thing; it may simply be that there will always be someone who will regard art funded by the state as propaganda only when the guiding ideology is not his or her own--all state-funded art is going to be at one level or another propaganda of a plain or indirect type.  A gallows sculpture could be built with the idea of meditating on the ways whites have killed non-whites through governmental and informal means and for artists they may well feel this is a sign of how they are trying to think through tough issues.  All state-funded art is cultural imperialism and if it's easy to forget this when you feel like your art (however you define that) should be bankrolled by the state cases like the above controversies can be a reminder that there is a difference between foundations and states and how and where and why they opt to present art.

But in a way the arts castes of the United States may not grasp the extent to which all of them, regardless of skin color, bask in what's now known as "privilege". 

Here on the opening weekend of another superhero movie it can be easy for those committed to highbrow arts to look down on the lowbrow.  Dwight Macdonald argued that there's no point at all in begrudging the masses their love of the low-brow.  Let them have their pulp fiction and comics and jazz or rock and roll or blues.  He argued that the synergistic relationship between the low brow and the high brow was something that was going to persist.  He was against the middle-brow, infamously (if, at least, for those who know who he is). 

But a disdain on the part of participants in what Adorno called the culture industry for superheroes is misplaced.  As I read about the history of opera it was fascinating to read that in those earlier operas the hero of the aristocratically funded opera was from the aristocrat classes.  This hasn't changed, Hollywood royalty playing superheroes is basically the same kind of thing, the aristocracy of a new empire presents itself as enacting the heroism and beneficence of a new aristocracy.  Sure, it's not always literally superheroics--it may take the form of Hollywood depicting journalist investigating abusive priests in Spotlight; it could be Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper's Wife, playing someone who saved children from the maw of Nazi machinery of death; it could be any Aaron Sorkin-scripted character saying the right magic words in front of a camera that "changes everything"; it could be Baby Boomers fondly reminiscing on how their favorite pop album changed the nature of the music industry; the gist is still foundationally the same, superheroics.  What may be offensive to a group of journalists and entertainers about the superhero genre is that it makes so explicitly and shameless what artists and poets and journalists subconsciously believe should be most true about them.  Not envy, exactly, a kind of unrecognized transference, it's easier to look down on the self-aggrandizing tendencies of others than of yourself.

The royalty of the entertainment castes are still celebrating their own virtue like those entertainers who put on operas to celebrate the virtue of the aristocratic castes of their time centuries ago back in what we now call the Baroque era.  The term that what seems to be getting called the alt-right these days likes to use for this sort of thing is virtue signaling, and the participants of the alt-right are at least as bad about it themselves as they perceive the rest of the liberal world around them as being. There is a problem, at least within the realm of Judeo-Christian literary tradition, which is that according to one of the prophet's, there is none that is righteous, not even one. 

I have no problem with the basic idea of superhero stories.  The first reason is that I don't have a problem with the idea that there are people out there who can physically or intellectually do things I can't do, things that are beyond what I could accomplish.  The second reason is that while I have what some have told me is a really bleak view of the human condition (beyond simply being a Calvinist) I have this "low anthropology" that might be described as a floor rather than a ceiling.  We're stuck on the floor.  We aspire to more, constantly, but we don't get off the floor without being lifted up.  There are those whose bleak assessment of the human condition might be described as a ceiling, a ceiling that in some cases might be at floor level, I.e. beneath the feet of whomever is contemplating the "ceiling" of the human condition from which the pundit is frequently exempting himself or (slightly less often) herself.

 I have no problem being the kind of Calvinist who believes we humans are weak and miserable and frail creatures who do not know how to truly and fully live our lives as humans who, yet, are given mercy and love by Christ to become better people than we would otherwise be and to have opportunities to both give and receive love.  I do have a problem with what passes itself off as an ostensibly low anthropology that looks down with contempt on the super-majority of the human race by someone who's chief beef with the human condition is how people are just, ultimately, not really worthy of what the pundit regards as most defining legitimately human experience and ability.  There can be any number of disagreements a person can have with Adorno but his comment about the arts comes to mind, that it is the measure of a philistine that if he or she cannot see their very selves in the arts they set out to enjoy they regard whatever is set before them as not really art.  There are ways of living out this kind of self-regard from eith the left or the right or from a white or a black perspective. 

Since Kyle Gann's monograph about the Charles Ives Concord Sonata finally got published I am thinking of a comment Ives made about what would now be called cultural appropriation.  His conviction was that if you are genuinely sympathetic and at one with a group whose musical idioms you make use of then you have shared values and what you've down isn't necessarily merely what would now be called appropriation.  I suppose a way of translating this concept would be to say that if a Christian makes use of musical idioms spanning continental Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and parts of Africa the unifying variable would be the Christian faith.  As a person of mixed racial lineage it would be impossible for me to have a strictly white or non-white "heritage"; the one unifying element across the lineages is the Christian faith.  It's possible for whites and American Indians alike to, say, be Presbyterians or have an appreciation for Spurgeon or to have attended Pentecostal churches.  So to put it in explicitly religious terms, a shared creed across idioms allows for an opportunity to share expressions of praise for Christ that would not necessarily automatically be bracketed into what gets called "cultural appropriation".  If someone who isn't a professing Christian of any kind made use of the sounds of different kinds of Gospel music then, sure, that could be construed as cultural appropriation.

Perhaps the common thread I'm seeing in the debates about cultural appropriation that makes it seem so weird is that we seem to live in an era in which we want there to be a category of the sacred and the profane based on skin color while simultaneously seeing a lot of people attempt to explicitly reject such an essentialism as thoroughly racist (which it frankly is) but ..  and here's the twist that's so prevalent in these debates, kinda just for the "other".  We seem to live in a secular era that wants to figure out how to identify the boundary markers of the sacred without making any concession at all to the potential legitimate existence of categories that could be regarded as divine.  For North Americans and some Brits we even want to secure for ourselves (but not necessarily others) the right to complete disregard all categories of the sacred for anyone else.  We don't yet seem to have people who are able to entirely recognize the extent to which double standards about the sacred and the profane in an ostensibly secular age are guiding these undercurrents in the debates.   Rod Dreher's recent reaction suggests that some of the people who you might think would be primed to already be able to understand these categories of thought might choose not to because they're outraged that stunt political art hit a raw nerve with an American Indian tribe that went into mediation to have the art work removed from the public park so that it can be dismantled and burned. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Gospel Coalition article on Seattle reboot after Mars Hill touches on Bellevue campus, some background on local news preceding the precipitous decline

Given that it's possible some of the most important potential sources on Mars Hill's decline in general and the decline of Mars Hill Bellevue in particular may never speak on the record, it's understandable that the article at The Gospel Coalition is by turns interestingly informative about the aftermath of MH and skeletal; some statements to the effect that Mars Hill seemed to collapse in just a few months are provably wrong but if they come from people who weren't inside Mars Hill as members or leaders it's hard to fault people who weren't connected to the inner workings of the collapsing corporation for genuinely believing everything came crashing down in just a few months.  We've discussed at some length how there was internal evidence that all was not well in Mars Hill between 2011 and 2013 here in the past; with Bellevue there's some particular local history that needs to be revisited so that it may clarify why this specific campus might have experienced a substantial crisis of faith in local leadership in addition to the top tier Mars Hill leaders--it's material that would be virtually impossible to find or even imagine existed if you weren't connected to Mars Hill in some close way over it's roughly two-decade run.  So, let's get to the statements pertinent to what was once MH Bellevue.
Ground zero was the Mars Hill Bellevue campus, where Driscoll preached live and in person. Within weeks, the congregation of 3,000 plummeted to 700.

The church stayed in its building, joined by fellow Mars Hill campus Sammamish, and replanted as Doxa church on January 1, 2015. Their new pastor was Jeff Vanderstelt, who had been leading his own church  plant about an hour south of the Bellevue campus.

While controversies directly connected to Mark Driscoll such as allegations of plagiarism; verification of the use of Result Source to secure a #1 spot for Real Marriage on The New York Times bestseller list; concerns about authoritarian leadership; and other concerns were high profile in the last year of Mars Hill, it's important to stress that there was controversy in the Puget Sound area connected to Mars Hill that was specific to the Bellevue campus.

It's understandable that no one outside King County would be likely to remember the International Paper Building incident.
capture from October 26, 2013
As we walk down the path God has laid out for us, we want to share with you a bit of a paradigm shift: Bellevue is now in “core group” phase. [emphasis added]

While many churches plant with a core group of 25 people, or 250 people, Mars Hill Bellevue is currently a core group of 2,500 people. As we look ahead, the Bellevue elders and the Executive Elders are not just praying for 1,000 people, or 5,000 people on a Sunday, we’re praying for 10,000 people to worship on a Sunday at Mars Hill Bellevue…10,000 individuals whose lives are forever changed by the Gospel. To this end, we need to think, act and pray differently, starting today.  If we wait until tomorrow, a year from now or three years from now when our lease is up, it will be too late.

With this in mind, we have found a site in Bellevue that meets these needs. I’m asking you to pray with us as we explore what it will take to move Mars Hill Bellevue to this new location, and how you can be a part of the mission.

The International Paper Property on 120th St.

After many months of searching and narrowing down our choices, only one building in Bellevue is available that meets the needs of the church that God is building on the Eastside. A few weeks ago we made an offer on a property in the Bel-Red corridor on 120th St. which is currently owned by the

International Paper Company. [emphasis added]

The space is about 180,000 sq. feet on 10.5 acres of property, located directly on the new light rail line being developed in 2017. The City of Bellevue has plans to develop the area immediately surrounding this site with retail, restaurants, and urban housing.

After renovations the property could feature:
Seating for 3,000+ per service
Local Bellevue Church office space
Central Operations office space
Media & Communications space
Much larger Kids Ministry area
Space for Mars Hill Students
Training classrooms for a future Bible college
Ample parking space on-site
Large common areas

Mars Hill Bible College

Part of this vision includes opening a Bible college. Recently we sent out proposal requests to the best Bible colleges in the U.S. with the intention of partnering with one of them to establish an accredited Bible school at Mars Hill Bellevue. We want to provide sound theological training for your children as we raise up the next generation of leaders and church planters.

We’re Not Done Yet

Upon submitting our offer for this property, we’ve hit a snag.

Sound Transit, the government agency responsible for building and operating the light rail transit system, has purchased this property to protect their interests, even though we offered to outbid any other offers. [emphasis added]

Sound Transit intends to use this property to build an Operations & Maintenance Satellite Facility (OMSF), basically a large barn they will use to maintain the light rail trains, much like the one located in Georgetown just south of downtown Seattle. They have five locations in mind for this facility, and this property on 120th St. is currently their top choice.

“Good for Bellevue”

We believe, though, that this property is the location that God wants us to use to further the mission of the Gospel through Mars Hill Church, so we are continuing to pursue this property and work with Sound Transit to come to an agreement that works well for everyone involved.

We believe a Mars Hill church at this key location is far better for the church, better for the City of Bellevue, and better for the community and local economy than a transit maintenance barn. We will provide:

Immediate benefit to local commerce (restaurants, hotels, transit and more).
More jobs to Bellevue (150+ employees).
Much needed conference/multi-use space to Bellevue.
Ridership for Sound Transit will increase due to our large events and regular attendees because we will be located directly on the transit line.

We plan to use the existing structure, which supports local green initiatives and the development plan for the Bel-Red corridor.

The City of Bellevue can benefit greatly by having both Mars Hill Church’s largest facility and the Sound Transit OMSF located in the city. While Sound Transit has several options for their maintenance barn, we only have one option for our church. Our intention is to work with Sound Transit as they decide by the end of the year whether to use this location or choose one of the other locations that they have available to them.

Unfortunately we find ourselves in a position where we are going up against the government. Given the perspective, we are a small church with little chance of being able to make the government change their decision. However, we will continue to move forward with faith in a God who is bigger than any government.

One of the simplest historical problems with the claim that Bellevue was in "core phase" was that it seemed hard to buy the idea that a church that was reportedly planted back in 2005 could still be in "core" phase eight years later.  There was a blog post a few years back on the mystery of this "core phase" here at Wenatchee The Hatchet, from which we'll have to quote extensively owing to how many things got purged from the net.

Pastor A. J. Hamilton wrote the following about Mars Hill in Bellevue:
Bellevue was an A29 church plant which then converted to a MHC campus and exploded in attendance. We then sent their campus pastor out to plant another church in San Diego and an existing A29 planter took the role. It is no wonder that Bellevue has aggressive church- and campus-planting strategies that other campus leadership teams look to for best practices.
Mars Hill Bellevue
In the mid-2000s, a Mars Hill elder planted church on the Eastside of the greater Seattle area called The Vine. This plant was led by a Mars Hill pastor at the time, Jesse Winkler. The Vine started with a small core group from Mars Hill and eventually grew to be somewhere between 100 to 200 people.
Many people from that area were still driving into Seattle to attend Mars Hill in Ballard, and the number of people grew so large that we decided to consider planting a church east of Seattle. We met with Winkler and asked him if he wanted to continue as an independent church with us planting another one far enough away from his church so as to not drain his people, or if he wanted to become a Mars Hill Church. He took some time to fast and pray, seeking God’s will, and was convinced God was asking him to partner with Mars Hill to lead one church made up of people from The Vine and Mars Hill. The Vine church became Mars Hill Eastside in 2008, which eventually became Mars Hill Bellevue.
After the merger, the church saw immediate growth, going from 200 people to over 500 people almost overnight. Some Sundays, men were asked to stand outside in the wet and cold of Seattle to listen via speaker because we couldn't fit everyone into the small funeral home in which the church met for the multiple services. Since then, there has been much fruit, as Mars Hill Downtown Bellevue just moved into a new building in the heart of Downtown Bellevue and is seeing over 2,000 people worship Jesus and serve the surrounding community, hundreds of which are a result of new Christians who met Jesus and were baptized at Mars Hill Bellevue.

Additionally, Mars Hill Bellevue, along with some other Acts 29 churches, helped fund Westview Church in San Diego, California, with Pastor Jesse spearheading that plant. And the church has sent a core group of a couple hundred over to our newest location, Mars Hill Sammamish (which I’ll talk about later in this post).

So what's in the link?
The Bellevue church started four years ago, after merging with The Vine in a Redmond funeral home. It was a quiet launch, but it was only a few weeks before the church outgrew its space. Three years ago it moved into a remodeled gym at Eastside Christian School, near Bellevue College, but the group has been in pursuit of a more permanent situation since. Pastors discovered the John Danz building about two years ago. The church overcame a number of obstacles, including raising $2 million dollars to renovate the space, before its grand opening yesterday.

In the '70s and '80s, the Danz building played home to one of the biggest four movie theaters in the area. In the past 10 years, its served as a Good Guys and an Underhill's furniture store. It now has a new purpose. Pastor Mark Driscoll was so moved by what is going on in Bellevue, he committed to preaching a couple evening services a month at the new location. "This is a fantastic place," he said, spectating the growth. "I feel like I'm a kite, and God's a hurricane."

And while we're at it here's a post published September 2, 2010.

Jesse Winkler is planting Westview Church |

Jesse planted The Vine church in Seattle, Washington in 2005. In 2009 The Vine was adopted as one of the sites of Mars Hill Church and God put a calling on Jesse to move back down to Southern California and plant a church in Rancho Penasquitos of North County San Diego. Jesse is married, has four children and has been a guest speaker at The Resolved Church a number of times. Currently Pastor Duane is serving as one of Jesse’s virtual elders until he is able to find and develop qualified elders. Jesse is currently having soft launch vision and core group gatherings and is officially launching in November 2010. Here’s a word from Jesse about it:
With such a cloud of witnesses establishing that Jesse Winkler planted The Vine in 2005 and that The Vine eventually went on to become what was called Mars Hill Bellevue, the idea that by 2013 Mars Hill Bellevue was in "core phase" was preposterous.  The other, even more substantial problem was that whether or not MH Bellevue was in "core phase" or not, the desired real estate had been purchased some time before Mars Hill leadership expressed interest in the real estate.

To read a quote from Justin Dean telling The Seattle Times God wanted Mars Hill to have that Bellevue property you can go over here:

Obviously Mars Hill in general and Mars Hill Bellevue in particular was forced to move on.  The INternational Paper Building was not going to be an option. 

By November 2014 Hurst resigned from eldership and moved on away from formal ministry.

By this time, of course, Mark Driscoll had announced his own resignation.  By the end of October Mars Hill Bellevue had begun a transition to become something else.
One of the names that used to be more prominent in the Mars Hill Bellevue scene was Matt Rogers.  Rogers, some may recall, wrote a missive regarding a protest that happened in 2014 outside MH Bellevue.  Rogers had a role on the Board of Elders tasked with investigating Mark Driscoll
From Pastor Matt Rogers:
This past Sunday outside our building about 60 professing Christians led a protest, left a bit of trash,
and slandered good men. Inside the building our church family worshipped Jesus. Let that image be what defines us. Others will cast aspersions, but we will worship Jesus. ...

There was a point when Matt Rogers was listed the registered agent of the Bellevue Doxa-Eastside church, but that was back in October 2014.

UBI Number 603448198
Category REG
Profit/Nonprofit Nonprofit
Active/Inactive Active
State Of Incorporation WA
WA Filing Date 10/29/2014
Expiration Date 10/31/2015
Inactive Date 
Duration Perpetual

Agent Name Matthew Rogers
Address 620 106th Ave NE
State WA
ZIP 98004 
Governing Persons

Chairman Rogers, Matthew 620 106th Ave. NE
 Bellevue, WA 98004
Director Hurst, Thomas 620 106th Ave. NE
 Bellevue, WA 98004
Director Skelton, Jason 620 106th Ave. NE
 Bellevue, WA 98004
Director Molvar, Roger 620 106th Ave. NE
 Bellevue, WA 98004

You won't find Rogers' name listed on the site now, however.  While Hurst's resignation was announced, Matt Rogers' disappearance from the leadership roster of what was once Mars Hill Bellevue and later Doxa-Eastside has no journalistic documentation that Wenatchee The Hatchet is currently aware of. 

All told, Mars Hill Bellevue's precipitous decline is explicable not only in terms of the general controversies associated with Mark Driscoll, it could also be explicable in terms of local scandals that people beyond King County possibly never heard about in the first place, dust-ups that would scarcely have merited national or even regional coverage but that played a possibly significant role in the congregation losing trust in the honesty or competence of local Mars Hill leadership. 

There's little room to doubt that if God wanted Mars Hill in general and Mars Hill Bellevue in particular to have the International Paper Building they'd have it by now.  Since there is no Mars Hill and Mars Hill Bellevue relaunched as Doxa-Eastside and still doesn't have the International Paper Building it would seem like a safe guess that if God wanted Mars Hill to have that real estate there would still be a Mars Hill around to have it.  Transparency from the leadership teams of the new churches will be a good thing and in the case of what was once Mars Hill Bellevue, that congregation could have been particularly rocked by the gap between what the public statements by PR and top-tier leadership had to say with local campus leadership and the reality of what didn't come to pass about God's will for Mars Hill in Bellevue.  As easy as it is to chalk up the cataclysmic decline of the corporation formerly known as Mars Hill to scandals directly connected to Mark Driscoll there were, as we've demonstrated at some length, some other controversies that not only involved top-tier leadership but which would have also implicated the reputations of leaders at the campus level.  Every day a pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue went to church on Sunday in 2014 one of the dark clouds looming over any given church service was "Good for Bellevue". 

Gospel Coalition piece on life after Mars Hill misreads time-frame of Mars Hill collapse, consulting FY2012 and FY2013 reports we can establish numeric decline starting in Fy2013.

Four years ago, Mars Hill Church in Seattle seemed too big to fail.

Just 17 years old, the church was drawing an average weekly attendance of 12,329 to 15 locations. In fiscal year 2013 alone, Mars Hill baptized more than 1,000 people, planted 53 churches in India, and supported 20 church planters and evangelists in Ethiopia. It released 50 new worship songs, gave away more than 3,000 Bibles in the United States and Ethiopia, and took in nearly $25 million in tithes and offerings.

Then, in a few breathtaking months, the whole thing collapsed. Founder and lead pastor Mark Driscoll’s bent toward the provocative, which was part of his draw, increasingly came under fire, fanned by a series of controversies.

Driscoll announced he was taking a break in August 2014, then resigned less than two months later. By the end of October, lead preaching pastor Dave Bruskas announced the whole thing was shutting down.

“We don’t have anything in church history this apocalyptic, as far as a behemoth like Mars Hill—not only a city but national and international voice—collapsing in a two-month period,” said Taproot Church pastor Dan Braga, who watched the whole thing from the adjacent suburb of Burien.

Mentioning the plagiarism and Result Source controversies early on is a good way to let readers know the nature and scope of the controversies surrounding Driscoll at the basic level; but it can be easy to miss that if you weren't documenting the plagiarism scandal as it was happening it could be easy to forget that between the evidence presented by Janet Mefferd or Warren Throckmorton or even here that the scandal about the integrity of Mark Driscoll's intellectual property was what it was because it turned out to encompass what was, at the time, a stretch of time going back to even his first book, then called Radical Reformission and since re-issued as Reformission.

Under no circumstances could the church be said to have collapsed in a mere two month period. Of course it would have been difficult to know that the numbers for attendance might have been declining for anyone who wasn't inside Mars Hill in 2014.  That would be because Mars Hill decided to stop submitting numbers to magazine lists for list articles in 2013.
Pastor Mark Driscoll
August 27, 2013

On September 12th, Outreach magazine will release its annual issue listing the 100 largest and  fastest-growing churches in the nation. For the first time in a number of years, you won’t see Mars Hill Church listed. [emphasis added]

The longer I am at Mars Hill, the more I feel like a dad. First Corinthians 4 is a place my soul has been camping for the past year. There, Paul speaks of the fact that we have a lot of teachers, but not a lot of fathers. Elsewhere, he speaks of people as sons in the faith including Timothy, Titus, and others. Similarly, as an elderly man writing 1 John, John keeps referring to the people in the network of churches he oversaw as his dear “children.” As Mars Hill has experienced growth that is staggering and unprecedented for our region of the country, there’s nothing to prove. But, there are a lot of people to reach, love, and serve. I hope, by God’s grace, to have a growing family and pastor one church from the age of 25 until Jesus says I’m done. I genuinely care about the faces in our church and not just the numbers. I also want to relieve some of the pressure our leaders may feel to outdo ourselves every year, as that has the possibility to cause us to not make certain tough calls and changes because it could slow our growth for the sake of health. In the end, removing ourselves from the list is just something I feel the Holy Spirit has asked me/us to do and godly counsel from our executive elders and outside pastors of other very large churches.

I have no criticisms of the lists, nor any judgment regarding those who participated. I simply pulled our church off the list after conversations with some pastor friends who have done the same. We will continue to count things at Mars Hill, such as how many people we have on Sundays, how many people are baptized every year, how many people are in Community Groups, how many elders we have to lovingly lead our people, how many people are giving financially, how many dollars we are bringing in and sending out, how many locations and services we have, etc. But, we will use that data internally for our church and not be publishing it much externally. [emphasis added] Our church continues to grow and has big plans for long term expansion, and by God’s grace we are expecting our escalator of opportunity to continue to go up.

To count or not to count

Since we are no longer submitting our numbers for the Top 100 list, this seemed like an opportune time to speak about numbers. Churches that like to count are often accused of being proud, pragmatic, and all about the numbers in an unholy and unhealthy way; some are, some aren’t. ...

While Mark Driscoll wrote that Mars Hill would not be publishing the numbers externally and said that the church continued to grow, another Mars Hill pastor published the following:
 by Pastor Matt Rogers
... This next stat is a tough pill to swallow: about 1 in 5 of us churchgoers invites anybody to church in the course of a year, per Rainer. We might have someone who could be totally up for it right in front of us, practically beckoning us to invite them, and instead we hesitate and hem and haw and sometimes don’t even get the words out of our mouths.
So the hard sales pitch that you should invite people to church coming mere days after Driscoll's announcement didn't seem to jive with the assurance of growth.  For that matter, a commenter remarked as follows:
... Mars Hills was around 14,000 people a Sunday at the end of 2012 and now is around 11,600. Most of the pastors who left did leave over the corporation management style that took full effect about 18 months ago, moving for a 5 day work week at 10 to 12 hours a day, to 6 day work week at 12 to 18 hours a day. And when you question this as a pastor or member like I did and many ex-pastors you are told to resign and leave Mars Hill for not being in full submission to Mars Hill's 3 executive pastors, Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas and Sutton. Turner. Most of the ex-pastors are bond by non-disclosure agreements and will be sued by Mars Hill for ever thing they have if they talk about it in public. I pray for a heart change form the 3 executive pastors and for all the ex-pastors and ex-members forced out of Mars Hill to land in a Christ centered church.

That was at the blog post here:

where it was noted, thanks to content from The City published by Sutton Turner that:

July Recap
All that to say, here is a summary of our July numbers—the first month of our new fiscal year:
  • Average weekly attendance: 11,151 (8,959 adults and 2,191 kids)  [emphasis added
Maybe that 12k figure is what you get if you average year-round attendance but the July figure that was leaked to Wenatchee The Hatchet in the summer of 2013 had the average weekly attendance at least 1,175 lower. 

There's also something to keep in mind about the 11,151 attendance number from July 2013. We have to compare it to what was listed as the attendance rate in Fall 2012 from the earlier fiscal year report.
The average attendance for the FY2013 report mentioned 12,329

But weekly attendance in the fall of 2012 was 13,173.

Nor would that be the only detail that has been missing.  As noted back in the blog post in January 2014 there's the matter of comparing how many contracted members were at Mars Hill across FY2012 and FY2013, which WtH did in the post linked to above:

Check out the average weekly attendance listed in what appears to be a FY2013 MHC annual report, that's 12,329 average.  While 1,337 members were added the grand total number of members of Mars HIll Church only increased by a total of a net total of 60 members between FY2012 and FY2013.  [emphasis original] Curious.  If your organization has a net gain of formal members of a mere sixty after getting more than 1,200 newbies that's obviously not very awesome net growth....

Compared to FY2012's listing the percentage of people who gave $0 went from 23.9% to 35.1%.  Interesting. (emphasis added) [WtH at 11:53pm---comparing this percentage of 0 donors to previous annual reports it also looks like possibly the highest ratio of non-givers at MHC in the last five fiscal years]

The number of people who gave between $1-$499 went from 42.9% to 29.5%.  It looks like they're losing the bottom of the pyramid in terms of lowest-level donors but that Mars Hill Church is gaining in the mid-tier and major donor categories.  But no organization can rely entirely on the top-tier for long.  You have to mobilize your base-level, low-end donors.  It's not safe to assume that some kind of Pareto principle means you can effectively ignore your base.  Let's not forgot if the numbers presented in the MHC FY2013 report hold up a whopping 64.6 percent of donors to Mars Hill in FY2013 either gave nothing at all or gave no more than $1-$499 for the fiscal year.
 [emphasis original]

Merely looking at the attendance numbers listed for FY2013 would give you a truncated picture of Mars Hill's rise and fall.  In terms of sheer numbers Mars Hill peaked in late 2012 and began to decline slowly in 2013 and then precipitously in 2014.  Even the average in July being 11,151 was so if you count 2,191 children on top of 8,959 adults.  Was the 13k from late 2012 also including children? 

So the sentences in the Gospel Coalition article that say:
“We don’t have anything in church history this apocalyptic, as far as a behemoth like Mars Hill—not only a city but national and international voice—collapsing in a two-month period,” said Taproot Church pastor Dan Braga, who watched the whole thing from the adjacent suburb of Burien.

it's not really true.  There was no collapse of Mars Hill in a mere two-month period.  Mars Hill was already experiencing numeric decline in 2013.  Mark Driscoll even made a point of saying in August 2013 that Mars Hill would no longer submit numbers to magazines for lists because numbers were important but not to be published for the general public.  Thanks to information leaked about tracked numbers inside MH from sources with access to The City, the resource Mars Hill Church leadership used to communicate to the members, it was possible to establish that the average weekly attendance in July 2013 was lower than the publicly disclosed peak attendance.  It was also possible to observe from the annual reports that while mid-tier and major donor giving had escalated that the rank-and-file donors were giving less and less. 

As previously noted, the number of members who gave nothing at all rose from about 23% to slightly more than one third of all listed members. For anyone with a modicum of professional background in non-profit donor cultivation the numbers inside MH were starting to look creepy in terms of long-term sustainability even during the two years prior to the formal end.  The memo from Sutton Turner to the executive elders that was leaked to Warren Throckmorton established in some detail that even at the uppermost echelons of Mars Hill leadership there was some real worry that the growth paradigm Mars Hill had committed to pursuing was economically unfeasible; even a slight stoppage in numeric growth could have had catastrophic consequences.

That Bellevue was described as "ground zero" of Mars Hill rather than Ballard indicates how much had changed in the last five years of Mars Hill.  There are a variety of issues and incidents associated simply with what was once Mars Hill Bellevue but that is probably best served by another post.