Saturday, June 22, 2019

an exchange between Warren Throckmorton and Justin Dean on Twitter, and a Driscoll discussion of governance as "throne down, not pew up" may (actually) shed new light on Driscoll's 2014 resignation decision

Longtime readers of Wenatchee The Hatchet will understand that one of the things I basically refuse to do is to present things as simple when I don’t think they are simple.  No one is likely to truly learn anything if they are told the “bottom line” version without needed history and nuance.  I may be nuanced to a fault.  A friend of mine once told me that I can see more and finer shades of gray than just about anyone he has ever known in his life.  That means, perhaps, I write extravagantly long posts about things that test the patience of internet-era readers.  This is going to be another one of those kinds of posts.  Wenatchee The Hatchet as a general rule refuses to write for the TL:DR sort of reader.  If you're up for it, prepare to read about 8,100 words.

It was recently brought to my attention that Mark Driscoll talked about church governance at a conference recently.  We’ll get to that.  But there’s something else that caught my eye.  Warren Throckmorton and Justin Dean had some exchanges on Twitter.  I believe that that is the topic we need to look at first because Dean shared some things that I believe may illuminate the history of the late Mars Hill in ways that have not come to light before. 

So we turn to the recent exchanges on Twitter. webpage capture

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22 Jun 2019 20:30:51 UTC

Did you see a final report which said he was qualified to preach? He was rebuked as being in persistent sin and was supposed to enter a restoration plan but resigned before he did so.
1 reply 0 retweets 1 like

 Justin Dean‏ @justinjdean

Replying to @wthrockmorton @dawirice and 4 others
Yes the report said he was not disqualified as an elder but was found to have a pattern of arrogance so they wanted him to step down from management, get help for the arrogance, but still be the preaching pastor... then the 15 lead pastors would be in charge.
1:25 PM - 22 Jun 2019
0 replies 0 retweets 0 likes

Replying to @wthrockmorton @dawirice and 4 others
Yes he said he and Grace prayed in separate rooms and both felt God wanted him to quit so he did. He was never found unqualified. They wanted him to continue preaching, but not lead the church or staff. Had he stayed he would have been removed from managing.

1:16 PM - 22 Jun 2019

Yes the report said he was not disqualified as an elder but was found to have a pattern of arrogance so they wanted him to step down from management, get help for the arrogance, but still be the preaching pastor... then the 15 lead pastors would be in charge.

1:25 PM - 22 Jun 2019

Now for those who don’t know that Justin Dean wrote and published a book about public relations and media relations in contemporary church life PR Matters is on the market and I wrote a review of the book.  There are also two preludes to the review which are important for getting a clearer historical sense of how many public relations and media crises Mars Hill PR was dealing with from roughly late 2011 up until the end of Mars Hill Church. 

One of the things that has to be kept in mind is that Mark Driscoll resigned rather than enter into a restoration plan.  This is still a bit mysterious years later, because while Justin Dean recounted that Mark and Grace Driscoll prayed in separate rooms and both felt God had released them from ministry, we’ll see that Mark Driscoll recounted that a … or the board governing Mars Hill proposed a restoration plan and that Mark Driscoll agreed to it.  If when preaching to others Mark Driscoll made a point of saying that you can’t just say “God told me” and expect people to find it binding Driscoll seems to have felt that he could do that for himself.

But in order to get a general sense of what happened let’s go back through the six accounts of how and why Mark Driscoll resigned from membership and leadership at Mars Hill Church in October 2014.

October 14, 2014Michael Van Skaik
Chairman, Board of Advisors and Accountability
Mars Hill Church
Dear Michael:

Last week our Board of Overseers met for an extended period of time with Grace and me, thereby concluding the formal review of charges against me.
...That is why, after seeking the face and will of God, and seeking godly counsel from men and women across the country, we have concluded it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church we helped launch in 1996. [emphasis added] I will gladly work with you in the coming days on any details related to our separation.

The initial resignation letter featured Mark Driscoll explaining that the investigation that was going on did not feature any allegations of criminality or immorality or disqualifying sin.

The resignation letter itself stated that the Driscolls sought godly counsel from men and women across the country and concluded it would be best for the family and Mars Hill that Mark and Grace Driscoll step aside from further ministry at the church they helped launch in 1996. In this earliest account that’s all that’s said. There’s no mention of God being described as releasing Mark (or Grace) Driscoll from ministry at Mars Hill.  The account was that the Driscolls sought the face and will of God, and sought godly counsel from men and women across the country, and concluded that it would be best for the health of their family and for the health of the Mars Hill Church family to step aside from further ministry there. 

Now Justin Dean’s account was that Mars Hill leadership wanted Mark Driscoll to keep preaching and teaching but to step away from management of the church.  Since Driscoll was the president on the basis of the governing documents that was perhaps a lot to ask but, as we’ll see, Driscoll would later say he agreed to that.

Okay, that was the account available on October 14, 2014.   A day later the Mars Hill Board of Overseers published the following:

On October 15, 2014 ... Mars Hill issued the following statement.
Pastor Mark Driscoll's Resignation
By: Mars Hill Church
Posted: Oct 15, 2014

On Tuesday, October 14, Pastor Mark Driscoll submitted his resignation as an elder and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. The Board of Overseers has accepted that resignation [emphasis added] and is moving forward with planning for pastoral transition, recognizing the challenge of such a task in a church that has only known one pastor since its founding. We ask for prayer for the journey ahead.

As is well known, inside and outside of Mars Hill, Pastor Mark has been on a leave of absence for nearly two months while a group of elders investigated a series of formal charges brought against him. This investigation had only recently been concluded, following some 1,000 hours of research, interviewing more than 50 people and preparing 200 pages of information. This process was conducted in accordance with our church Bylaws and with Pastor Mark’s support and cooperation.
While a group of seven elders plus one member of the Board of Overseers was charged with conducting this investigation, the full Board of Overseers is charged with reaching any conclusions and issuing any findings.

Finally, Mark Driscoll was not asked to resign; indeed, we were surprised to receive his resignation letter. [emphasis added] While he can speak to his decision as he chooses, we would point to just two things from his letter. He noted that he had concluded “it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church.” Secondly, he specifically wanted to convey “to the wonderful members of the Mars Hill family, how deeply my family and I love them, thank them, and point them to their Senior Pastor, Jesus Christ, who has always been only good to us.”

Mars Hill Board of Overseers
Michael Van Skaik
Larry Osborne
Jon Phelps
Matt Rogers

So the resignation was a surprise to the board.  Whoever counseled Mark and Grace Driscoll as alluded to in the resignation letter of October 14, 2014 were, those godly men and women were apparently not on the BoAA or the BoO or the BoE.  In fact, an announcement issued at Mars Hill October 19 seems to indicate that by resigning Mark Driscoll chose to not participate in the restoration plan that was considered necessary for his return to formal ministry at Mars Hill. 

starting about 3:45 (for now the audio works, surprisingly)

The investigation of formal charges against Mark Driscoll has revealed patterns of persistent sin in the three areas disclosed in the previous letter by the Board of Overseers. In I Tim 5:20, it requires that an elder be rebuked for persistent sin. Our intention was to do this while providing a plan for his eventual restoration to leadership. The Board of Elders in agreement with the Board of Overseers are grieved, deeply grieved, that any process like that was lost to us when Mark Driscoll resigned in position and left the church. [emphasis added] Now is the time to move on and consider what God is calling us to next as a church as we participate in Jesus’ mission to make disciples in His name. Today begins a new chapter in the history of our church which has proceeded in one direction under one leadership for many years now, but I want you to understand this, God is our Father. That does not change. Jesus is the chief shepherd of the church and that has not changed.

The phrase “restoration to leadership” could have been construed as management of Mars Hill Church as a corporation with 501(c)3 status, possibly, or it could have been understood as a reference to preaching and teaching.  Whatever the sense of “restoration” was, the main statement was that by choosing to resign rather than agree to the restoration plan the possibility of restoration was made moot.

So if it was no one inside of Mars Hill whose counsel prompted Mark and Grace Driscoll to resign in advance of participating in a restoration plan, has anyone got any ideas who DID say something?

According to Robert Morris, it was he who conferred with Mark Driscoll that it would be wise if he stepped away from ministry.

since Patheos dropped Throckmorton’s blog if you want to see the statement you should be able to find it in the first minute of footage here:

Transcript of Robert Morris and Mark Driscoll from the Gateway Leadership + Worship Conference
on the evening of Monday, October 20, 2014, as broadcast live via DayStar Television:

Robert Morris: [0:29]  Uh, it was publicized that we cancelled him; that’s not true, we did not cancel. I’m speaking of Mark Driscoll. We did not cancel him. He and I decided together uh that he was going to step out of ministry for a season and get some healing. … [emphasis added]


Then in 2015, at the Thrive performance, Mark Driscoll introduced a previously unmentioned narrative element, a direct divine edict. Driscoll could have told his inner circle of associates about this the day he says the incident happened but, with the current record being what it is, it was not entered into the public record as an element in any account of how and why Mark Driscoll resigned from being president of Mars Hill and a pastor and a member there until May 2015, when he was speaking at the Thrive Conference. [this no longer has functional audio but is mentioned for archival purposes]
Transcript | Mark Driscoll | Thrive 2015-05-01
See Links to Timestamps at the end of this doc. [these omitted here]


[6:34 in audio file]

It finally came to the point where God released my wife and I from our responsibility to ministry. He spoke to us audibly. It wasn’t what we were expecting. It wasn’t what we had agreed to. We were both pretty shocked and the announcement was going to come out that week. [emphasis added] And, uh, our server, our e-mail and things apparently were hacked and there was no way to get anything done without it being a public situation. And so the Board, which are good, godly people in authority, which I appreciate -- they released a statement earlier than we were anticipating, so um, but that meant, and I agree with that decision, I’m not critical of it.  But that meant that I hadn’t told my kids that I had resigned and they were in school, taking test, it was a test week, …. we threw some stuff in a bag and ran to school to grab the kids and within minutes it was on TV, I think it was on CNN.  [emphasis added]We pulled the kids out of school, and they already knew because of social media -- media moves so fast.  So we told them they couldn’t go back to the house for a few days so we jumped in the car and went to a hotel and it was just kind of a emotionally wrecked.  We’d served in that city for 20 years.  Founded that church in our living room. And served it for 18 years.  (loud applause) Baptized somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 people. (audible amens from crowd). 

So, we’re sitting with the kids explaining to them that dad had resigned and that we were going to continue forward and that God had released us very clearly.  And my middle son -- he is really the pastor’s heart of the family, he’s a shepherd -- his first question, I just lost it, he said “Who’s going to care for the people?” We stayed there for a few days. Drove them into school for their tests. I went home and checked the security footage and yeah, there was a lot of people at our house taking photos.  It was a good thing we weren’t there.  We finally came home.

So in the Thrive account the board released the resignation letter statement sooner than anticipated.  Driscoll emphasized that the trouble the swift release of the October 14, 2014 resignation letter was that Mark and Grace Driscoll had not yet told the Driscoll kids Mark had resigned and the kids were in school.  

CNN was it?  When did CNN cover the resignation?
Let's pull that up
October 15, 2014 at 4:33pm.

and RNS also covered the resignation October 15.
c.f. HuffPo

The story seems to have broken about 3pm October 15.  And, of course

So threading all the accounts together, Mark Driscoll seems to have drafted the letter Tuesday October 14.  It was submitted to the BoAA, who released it to the public and RNS published the resignation letter October 15.  In the Thrive presentation Mark Driscoll described that "within minutes" of going to get his kids, CNN was discussing his resignation.  It leads us to a remarkable little question that needs some narrative grounding.

Mark and Grace Driscoll told the Fab Five Poppa Daddy agreed to the restoration plan the Board proposed October 10th and/or 11th; and if by Mark and Grace Driscoll's account they heard from God they were released from ministry responsibility and able to quit on Monday, October 13; if the Driscolls consulted people on October 14th and Mark Driscoll wrote and sent his resignation letter that day; then when the media reported the resignation on October 15 there had been at least some time in there for Mark and Grace Driscoll have told their kids that Poppa Daddy had made the decision to quit, right?

If Mark Driscoll's story at the Thrive conference is true and the Houston story account shared by Mark and Grace Driscoll is true then the question to ask is why on earth they waited for their children to find out about Mark Driscoll's resignation the way they did rather than telling their own children Poppa Daddy and Mom heard audibly from God that they were released from ministry at Mars Hill and this meant they could quit, and to tell the kids first? The space between Monday evening and about 3:00pm October 15, 2015 PST gave them at least twenty-four hours, didn't it? No sitting the kids down the afternoon or evening of Tuesday, October 14, 2014 to break the news?  Could not the Driscolls have shared the news with their children FIRST and THEN sent off that letter to the BoAA?  

Still, if the Driscolls decided the best way for their kids to find out was some other way, okay.  Maybe the idea was the resignation letter would get sent off and the BoAA would just, I don't know, sit on it for at least a few days before releasing it to the press?  That might have given the Driscolls time to have told their children some time after October 14. It appears, however, that the kids found out via press coverage before their parents told them. 

The sixth available account of how and why Mark Driscoll resigned comes from an interview.


on the resignation letter, this is a transcript of the audio, though thanks to coughing people and garbled voices and murmurs it's not always easy to make out every last little syllable. There may be some inaccuracies but the audio link is available.  Transcription is not necessarily one of Wenatchee The Hatchet's great gifts. 

I never got to say good-bye to the church and the people and so what went public was actually the resignation letter that went to the legal governing board that was in authority over me and so, uh, i uh, I know under the circumstances there wasn't a way to do that that would have been, uh, clean or easy. I don't have any criticism of the board. I think that, for the people, that there wasn't closure and I didn't, we didn't get to say anything.

And we didn't expect to resign. I met with the board. There was a whole list of things that were charged by current and former leaders and there was an internal governance struggle and threats of legal action that it got very complicated. And a lot of it was anonymous through the internet so you don't know who is saying or doing what. And so I invited the board to do a full examination, interview anybody, anything, and we would submit to whatever verdict that they determined. 

... When I think about eight weeks we met Friday and Saturday, October 10 and 11. I remember because the 11th was my birthday and so Grace and I were present with the board and they said: "We see in your history of leadership, less in more recent years but particularly in the past, pride, anger and a domineering leadership style." That would be the exact words they used.  "We don't see anything disqualifying. These are areas we want you to grow. We want you to leadership at the church soon." They wanted to do some clean up internally. "We want you back on January 4 in the pulpit, give you time to heal, things to cool down, and for some changes to be made."

We agreed to that. I sent in a go-forward plan and then we went home to have birthday cake with the kids. I think it was on Monday night. I was in the bedroom. Grace was in the living room. And so we told the board and told the kids, you know, we come back and ["will do"? garbled] preaching and try and love and serve and, and fix what was a struggling church and God had provided a way for us to do that as volunteers. And so our plan was to come back as volunteers. [emphases added]

And then on that Monday night I was in the bedroom, Grace was in the living room and he spoke to me and he spoke to her in a supernatural way that neither of anticipated or expected. Ah, and so Grace walked in and she said, "I feel like the Lord just spoke to me and said what we're supposed to do." and I said "I feel like the Lord spoke to me and said what we're supposed to do." It's not what we wanted; it's not what we agreed to; it's not what we've planned for. And so I asked her, "Well, what did the Lord say to you?" cuz I didn't wanna influence and she said, uh, she said we're [Grace Driscoll speaks but it's low and indistinct, Driscoll pauses a moment and is urged to continue by Houston] "The Lord revealed to me that , you know, a trap has been set, there's, there's no way, chance we can return to leadership" and I didn't know what that meant or what was going on at the time.  And I'm, I said, [garbled] "We need to resign". [emphases added] So this is not what we anticipated and a lot of people've thought, you know, "maybe he's another plan" but we didn't. We didn't know what we were doing.

And Grace fell to the floor and she was just sobbing uncontrollably and I'd never seen my wife like that. She was devastated. So we prayed and slept on it and decided we would make sure we got this right. Talked to pastors, those that we trust and sent in our resignation then on, it would have been Tuesday.

Based on the Houston interview, Driscoll initiated a review process for himself by telling the board (BoO? BoE? BoE as surrogate) to check whether he was not fit for ministry.  On the weekend of his birthday, or his birthday, he met with the board.  The board said there was nothing disqualifying him for ministry but they wanted him to participate in a restoration plan.  By Driscoll's account he agreed to this and he and Grace explained to their kids what was going to happen.  That is all spelled out in the Houston interview.  

Now what seems to have happened next was the Monday after the meeting, Driscoll stated he heard a voice.  The way he described it at Thrive was he was released from responsibility to serve in ministry at Mars Hill.  In the Houston interview the story is more detailed and Driscoll mentioned hearing a voice that said "a trap has been set".  There's another transcript that can be consulted now, over here:

In this newer account the Driscolls describe "we're released" (Grace Driscoll) and "a trap has been set and they could not return to ministry.  Since the Hillsong focused blog features a much longer transcript that captured more of the statements we'll refer to that some:

… so I asked her well what did the Lord say to you because I didn’t want to influence her and so she said, uh, she said we’re” (39:45-42:42)
Grace Driscoll: “We’re released.” (42:43)
Brian Houston: “We can take a moment.” (42:52)
Mark Driscoll: “So, she said well what have you heard so I can hear it. “Well the Lord revealed to me that, you know, a trap has been set there’s no way in which to return to leadership.” And I didn’t know what that meant or what was going on at the time. And um, I said, he said well release too we need to resign. And so, um, you know, this is not what we anticipated, and uh a lot of people thought you know, maybe he’s got another plan, or, we didn’t. We didn’t know what we were doing. And Grace fell to the floor and she was just sobbing uncontrollably and I’ve never seen my wife like that she was devastated. Um, so we prayed and slept on it decided that we would make sure we got this right, and uh.”
Grace Driscoll: “Speak with wise council.”
Mark Driscoll: “Sought the pastors of those we trust and sent in our resignation in on that, it would’ve been that Tuesday, yeah, and resigned.” (42:53-43:57)

Now this comes across as though the Driscolls say they heard God release them from ministry Monday night.  They decided to sleep on it and Grace mentioned "wise council" Mark Driscoll mentioned "sought the pastors of those we trust".  So if they "slept on it" Monday night, this would have been Tuesday that they sought the council and consideration of other pastors, although if they were sure a voice from God told them they could quit what confirmation they would need or want seems moot.

There have been other accounts that allude to the resignation period but they do not necessarily add much by way of information about the resignations.  In an interview with Larry Osborne Mark Driscoll stated he met with thirtysome former leaders.

uploaded November 16, 2016

092816 400 Gathering Session 1

Driscoll: um, I met with thirtysome former leaders that would be sort of in the unhappy, disgruntled, frustrated category and almost every single conversation post my-resignation and transition, it's almost like it was a script, and they said the same thing which, I don't know if they were processing together, it's just where it ended up.  And it was, "I can't forgive you because you're not repentant."

And I'd say, "Well, I apologized" and I would give the dates that I apologized with them, one, on multiple occasions I said, "Did I ever do that again?"

"No, you didn't not but I can't forgive you because you've not repented."

I asked, "Well, what does repentance look like?"

And over and over and over it was repentance--forgiveness, rather--forgiveness is at the END of the process, not the beginning and then I will JUDGE you and I can't forgive you until you're repentant and that means that I kind of sit in a God seat, and I need to give it a lot of time, and I can't forgive you until I believe you have come to full repentance as I see it. [emphasis added]

Now Driscoll has indicated in some interviews and statements in the past he apologized for stuff he said and did.  Since public memory can be short-lived, it might be worthwhile to remember what, exactly, Driscoll admitted to doing. There was an interview about April 2017 in which Driscoll was asked point blank why so many people seemed to be angry with him.  If you haven’t read that … :

Mark Driscoll,  Zondervan
copyright (c) 2006 by Mark Driscoll
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
350-1,000 people

At this time, our church also started an unmoderated discussion board on our website, called Midrash, and it was being inundated with postings by emerging-church type feminists and liberals. I went onto the site and posted as William Wallace II, after the great Scottish man portrayed in the movie Braveheart, and attacked those who were posting. It got insane, and thousands of posts were being made each day until it was discovered that it was me raging like a madman under the guise of a movie character. One guy got so mad that he actually showed up at my house to fight me one night around 3 a.m. [emphasis added]

Had Mark Driscoll simply opted not to write as William Wallace II in the way that he did nobody would have felt like fighting with him at 3 a.m. What he chose to write as William Wallace II featured the opening salvo of “Pussified Nation” and also the following:
William Wallace II  Member 
posted 01-06-2001 09:01 PM     
William Wallace II     

I love to fight. It's good to fight. Fighting is what we used to do before we all became pussified. Fighting is a lost art form. Fighting is cheaper than medication and more effective than counseling. Fighting always wins over compromise. Fighting is what passionate people do instead of killing. So log on, fight away. And if you are reading this and talking to yourself log on you coward and get in the ring.

So when Robison asked Mark Driscoll repeatedly:

Randy: Why are they so mad at you?

Notice how Driscoll’s response stayed on story rather than the topic of the question.

Mark: Well, it was from one of the police officers, I don't know if he was at Seattle S.P.D. but for high alert Sundays where there was protest or there was danger. And the kids knew on those days come in and out with police escort.

Randy: Why? Why were they so mad at you?

Mark: You know I'm a really lovely guy so I just don't know.

In the end Driscoll claimed to just not know why so many people would have gotten so angry at him.  Sure, in his “Mars Hill bus” comment he ended with an observation that he’d read enough of the New Testament to know that sometimes Paul had to put people through the wood chipper but that couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with why anyone might have come to dislike him.

It may have been that people came to distrust him after he ended up being embroiled in a controversy about the extent to which the first editions of many of his books showed evidence of plagiarized work, discussed extensively by Warren Throckmorton at his blog.  For that matter, an early chronicle of evidence that there was use of another author’s work without attribution was here at Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Second editions of Driscoll books have amended notes and copy, to be sure, but in the midst of the plagiarism controversy a Mars Hill public relations response included mention of research assistant help that came across to some as diffusing responsibility for what looked to be plagiarism that just had Mark Driscoll’s name on it. 

That a Docent Group writer contributed research to Mars Hill that was passed off as Driscoll’s work has been discussed here.  If Mars Hill had a history of presenting the work of research assistants as the work of Mark Driscoll and also demonstrated a capacity to shift or share blame for Driscoll’s citation errors with Docent designated aid then one of the reasons people could be mad at Mark Driscoll would have been because when he was initially embroiled in a plagiarism controversy he conceded maybe he might have made a mistake but MH PR opened up the possibility that if there was any plagiarism it wasn’t his fault but the fault of some assistant.  That doesn’t come across as a very good demonstration of “headship”, which, as Mark Driscoll used to put it, means that it’s your responsibility even if it isn’t your fault.  Mars Hill’s public relations response to the immediate aftermath of Janet Mefferd’s plagiarism allegations made it seem as though the Mars Hill idea of headship was that, perhaps, it was someone else’s fault even if officially the authorship of materials in question was Mark Driscoll’s responsibility.

Then there was the discovery of the Result Source contract and how it was used to secure a place for Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Real Marriage on the New York Times bestseller list.

Although an anonymous commenter at the time said it didn’t seem like plagiarism in any literal sense the fact that the newer editions of Real Marriage now mention Dan Allender at all suggests that at some point Mark and Grace Driscoll became convinced or, perhaps it could be said they felt convicted, to credit Allender with formulating ideas they found valuable.  Given the extent to which it was eventually revealed that materials credited to Mark Driscoll were not written by him …

Replying to @justinjdean @dawirice and 4 others
I stand corrected. He did star in such a post - …. Now truth or dare: How much of that did you write?

12:45 PM - 22 Jun 2019

Replying to @wthrockmorton @dawirice and 4 others
For the sake of transparency, I'm pretty sure I wrote most of that... not that it's relevant. That's what a good church communications director does, helps their pastor articulate their message well. He still said it, backed it, and took the heat for it.

12:48 PM - 22 Jun 2019

It’s probably no longer a safe assumption to assume that anything with Grace Driscoll’s name on it is automatically material Grace Driscoll wrote.  Ghostwriting is not unheard of in popular level publishing, after all.  So it’s relevant that other people wrote statements made on behalf of Mark Driscoll inasmuch as there was a history of Mars Hill public relations shifting or diffusing blame to research assistants in the days following Janet Mefferd’s interview with Mark Driscoll in 2013 where she said he was guilty of plagiarism.  People who have not personally felt thrown under the bus by leadership at Mars Hill might not feel that’s an important distinction but it’s something that should be considered. 

Mark Driscoll’s persona as it developed in the late 1990s was of a raw and authentic straight-talker.  To borrow a term used by Alastair Roberts to describe other kinds of Christian authors, Mark Driscoll’s initial appeal was less as an authority as such than as a “super peer”.  Go back and read the old Mother Jones article and perhaps it will be easier to understand, but Mark Driscoll presented himself as a raw and unvarnished straight talker.  That in the later phases of Mars Hill statements were written for him can be seen as doing considerable damage to that persona.  Docent Group writers and researchers seem, generally, to have an understanding that they help pastors put together material rather than that they will end up being ghostwriters.  It is important to understand this distinction when assessing how and why people became angry with Mark Driscoll who once were at Mars Hill and serving.  The more things came to light between 2013 and late 2014 the more it seemed that Mark Driscoll was not who he had been saying he was; to put it another way, for those who were at Mars Hill from the 1998 to 2008 period it began to seem that Driscoll had slowly and potently transformed into nearly everything he’d warned us from the pulpit to distrust in professional preachers.  This is a point that, to this day, it may be that Justin Dean doesn’t understand.

Lastly, the more useful you are to God and his work, the more attacks you’ll get. Unfortunately they’ll mostly be from other Christians.

It was other Christians that brought down Mars Hill Church. The world just watched in awe and clapped.

5:09 PM - 22 Jun 2019 from Georgia, USA

In PR Matters the impression Dean gives is that Mars Hill was not up to handling the constant barrage of hostile secular and liberal press coverage over the years so it’s possible the demise of Mars Hill was a very complex and yet also a rapid and volatile process, because on Twitter Dean presents Mars Hill as being brought down not by secular or liberal press coverage as such but by other Christians. 

But a Christian could at least entertain the possibility that God chose to destroy Mars Hill Church because its leadership betrayed all the ideals they used to stand for and had become an insular and self-serving empire of branding more than a church. 

Now there’s something to keep in mind about all that has been discussed so far.  Justin Dean’s account basically seems to match the variety of accounts Mark Driscoll and others gave about the nature of Mark Driscoll’s decision to resign from leadership at Mars Hill Church and from membership.  Dean’s account adds that Driscoll was offered a restoration plan in which he would preach and teach but not be in management of Mars Hill. 

When Mark Driscoll recounted, "The Lord revealed to me that, you know, a trap has been set, there's, there's no way, chance we can return to leadership" and I didn't know what that meant or what was going on at the time.” he never explained what that trap was.  Who set the trap?  On the one hand it seems that it can’t have been the board, because Driscoll said he agreed to their plan and recounted how he and his wife told their kids they agreed to the plan.  So Driscoll’s own testimony would seem to rule that out. 

Then again, Dean’s account was that the leaders offered Driscoll a chance to be a preacher and teacher but as someone who would not be in management of Mars Hill as a corporate entity.  This is, as far as it goes, actually a new bit of information.  If we can assume it is accurate and, at the moment, it seems to cohere with everything we’ve seen so far, then it may add to the previously hazy sense Mark Driscoll gave about his resignation in the context of agreeing to a plan proposed by the board that he then reneged on by way of resignation.  We know that Robert Morris said his counsel to Driscoll was that Mark should resign and heal up.  We also know from the resignation letter that Mark Driscoll mentioned seeking godly counsel from men and women.  Whether they knew about the restoration plan in which Mark Driscoll would preach and teach but not manage the corporation we cannot know for certain.  But what we can establish from the variety of testimonies available is that Driscoll was offered a non-management way to return to preaching and teaching and that, at first, he agreed to it, and then he declined it. 

During a June 2019 event Mark Driscoll gave an interview where he discussed church governance, an interview that is worth quoting from.


I think a big emerging issue for the church is governance.  Because of all the legal liabilities that we got regarding marriage and gender and litigation. In addition, I think, the governance issue is really big because now as churches are going multisite that requires a more apostolic format of government. Any time you have trans-local and not just local leaders and so our first one did not have any sort of trans-local or apostolic level of leadership. I've since been spending some good time with Pastor Robert Morris and Pastor Jimmy Evans who I love very much. They're serving on my board at our church as founding overseers but a lot of what the work is coming out of Gateway and networks like that is helping to reset governance for churches and I think governance is like a pot for a plant. If the plant's too small, excuse me, if the pot's too small, the plant gets rootbound and it can't grow. 

And so if the governance is LARGE enough it gives enough room for the leadership and the Holy Spirit to grow something that's more fruitful. So I think, a lot of times, they want more fruit but they've got the wrong pot.  And that's governance. And once you get the right pot you can have a more fruitful harvest.


So, governance is always two things. It's singular headship and plural leadership. And, and to me on the governance issue, so, the kingdom of God is, quite frankly, just a governance issue. We talk a lot about the kingdom of God. It's a governance issue. There's a king who establishes a kingdom and what God had in Heaven was a singular headship, plural leadership governance structure. The Father, Son and Spirit are the plural leaders. The Father is the singular head. And then Satan has a governance war in Heaven.  He really wants to upend the governance and he wants to overthrow.  He loses, gets cast down to earth. He immediately goes after Adam because Adam is the head of the human race. Jesus shows up. He goes after Jesus because Jesus is the head of the new covenant.  He goes after Peter because Peter is the head of the disciples and so Jesus says "Satan has asked to sift you as wheat but I have prayed for you."  


So there's ALWAYS a governance war, and the governance war is always the one that was lost by Satan in heaven being replayed out in churches, families, missions and networks.  So, ultimately, governance is a demonic foothold and ultimately--you look it, too, like,  the end of the book of Revelation ... 05:09:41 and the war in all of human history is "Who gets to sit on that throne?"  That's really the governance war.   And, you know, what I like to say as well, been doing some work on this theologically ... 05:09:55 I believe God has a governance in two realms. I believe He has a spiritual family, not just of angelic beings but  what the Bible call the heavenly hosts, the divine counsel, the sons of God and He works through them.  And then He has a human family and He works through us. 

On governance at Scottsdale

I said singular headship, plural leadership.  But in that, as well, they run thrown down, not pew up. [emphasis added]  A lot of governance structures in churches are pew up. What do the people want? Let them vote. They will tell the leaders what to do. [interviewer says "Congregational governance"] Yeah. And if you get too big of a board you get a de facto congregational government.  Because those families constitute such a large percentage of the population within the church.  ...

What we’ve been able to establish is that Arizona records show that the new church has Mark Driscoll as its president and CEO 20491878
STE 1630-434
11/20/2015 10/07/2016  

STE 1630-434
11/20/2015 10/07/2016  

STE 1630-434
11/20/2015 10/07/2016  

STE 1630-434
11/20/2015 10/07/2016

This might look like something that was the case of the former Mars Hill back in 2012.

ubi Number: 601677819
Category: REG
Profit/Nonprofit: Nonprofit
Active/Inactive: Active
State of Incorporation: WA
Date of Incorporation 12/22/1995
Expiration Date 12/31/2012

Register Agent Information
John Sutton Turner
1411 NW 50th St
Seattle, WA 98107

Governing Persons:
President: Driscoll, Mark
Vice President: Bruskas, Dave
Treasurer: Turner, Sutton
Secretary: Turner, Sutton

If Mark Driscoll has been the president of the two churches he’s founded or co-founded, then here’s a question, a question that seems significant in light of Driscoll’s comments about church governance.

Justin Dean’s account via Twitter may illuminate things if we cross reference his comments to some of Mark Driscoll’s ideas on church governance and look back at his accounts of how and why he resigned.

Replying to @wthrockmorton @dawirice and 4 others
Yes he said he and Grace prayed in separate rooms and both felt God wanted him to quit so he did. He was never found unqualified. They wanted him to continue preaching, but not lead the church or staff. Had he stayed he would have been removed from managing.

1:16 PM - 22 Jun 2019

Yes the report said he was not disqualified as an elder but was found to have a pattern of arrogance so they wanted him to step down from management, get help for the arrogance, but still be the preaching pastor... then the 15 lead pastors would be in charge.

1:25 PM - 22 Jun 2019

Driscoll has said he was given an opportunity to keep preaching and teaching at Mars Hill but that he was going to have to step down from management.  Driscoll’s accounts since his resignation have indicated he agreed with the plan proposed by the board and then … then he resigned with some explanation of seeking godly counsel and Robert Morris has said for the record he advised Driscoll to resign and heal up and then in 2015 Driscoll began to share that he heard from God he was released from ministry and a trap had been set.  What on earth was the trap?  Well, all we have to go on from the statements made and the history provided is that Driscoll was given a restoration plan at Mars Hill wherein he would no longer be in management but would get to preach and teach that was offered by the governing board of Mars Hill.  That’s literally the only thing we’ve been told about in the history of the birth, life and death of the corporate entity that was known as Mars Hill Church that seems like a plausible candidate for whatever “a trap has been set” could refer to, even on the detail in which Driscoll claimed he heard there was “no way” he and Grace could return to ministry?  That doesn’t really make sense … unless it could be explicable by way of Driscoll referencing some possibility that once he was removed from management at Mars Hill the corporate entity there was no way he was likely to be perceived as sufficiently cured of arrogance to be given managerial control of the corporation he founded … or … the church he co-founded with Mike Gunn and Lief Moi with the support, so we were told decades ago, of Antioch Bible Church. 

Driscoll was, by the accounts given by himself (and more recently by Justin Dean and by other accounts by people associated with Mars Hill), cumulatively present a man who was offered a restoration plan that he initially accepted and then declined.  It wasn’t always clear what he was going to be restored to in 2014 but Dean’s comments this year and Driscoll’s comments in 2015 open up at least a possibility to consider, that Driscoll was told he was found too arrogant to remain in a managerial role at Mars Hill Church but that he could continue to preach and teach.  Initially, Mark Driscoll accepted this proposal and his 2015 account to Brian Houston was that he and his wife went to their kids and explained what the future path was going to be. 

But some time prior to the October 2014 resignation Driscoll began to seek wise counsel and at least one person, Robert Morris, said he advised Mark Driscoll, said that he and Mark Driscoll agreed, that Driscoll should resign and take time to heal up.  Driscoll would later state in 2015 that he heard God say he and Grace were “released” from ministry and also say that “a trap had been set”.  There had never been any clear or coherent potential explanation as to what “a trap” could even be but, cumulatively, it becomes possible, by collating comments from former Mars Hill leaders in the highest echelon, to arrive at a possible explanation.  Mark Driscoll was told he was not managerial material for the corporation he had built and that he had to step down, although he could retain his public role as preacher and teacher.  He agreed to it but then, as he put it, he sought wise counsel from godly men and women across the land.  Although at the time of resignation concern for safety of family was presented (and that’s a serious and legitimate concern), it is also possible, in light of Mark Driscoll’s recent talk about “throne down, not pew up” and his concern about governance that that was also a variable in his decision to resign from Mars Hill Church as president, leader, and member. 

If in Driscoll’s understanding of church governance and ecclesiology leadership is from the throne down and not the pew up, and if Justin Dean’s account is accurate that the Mars Hill Church governing board offered Mark Driscoll a restoration plan in which he would stop being in a managerial role and would preach, then the most plausible explanation for why Mark Driscoll resigned that takes all of his accounts as factual, face-value accounts is this: he decided that a church as a corporate entity in which he was not seated on the throne (as president and CEO) was not a church in which he would be a member. 

POSTSCRIPT 7-14-2019

If you want to get a clearer sense of the governance context in which Mark Driscoll decided to resign, here are some pertinent passages from the Mars Hill Church bylaws from 2012.

Mars Hill Church 2012 bylaws

Article 7

Section 7.6. Removal. The primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church may only be removed from the board of advisors & accountability if it is determined that he engaged in conduct which would disqualify him from service as an elder in the Church. This determination will be made pursuant to the procedure established in Article 12 of these Bylaws. The remaining members of the executive elder team may be removed from the board of advisors & accountability at any time for any reason upon a recommendation of removal by the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church and the approval of a majority of the board of advisors & accmmtability. If a member of the executive elder team is removed from his position on the board, he will also be deemed removed as a member of the executive elder team and as an officer of the Church. Any other member of the board of advisors & accountability may be removed by majority approval of the members of the board of advisors & accmmtability. In connection with any vote of the board of advisors & accountability pursuant to this Section 7.6,the member of the board of advisors & accountability being considered for removal shall not vote and shall not be taken into account for purposes of determining whether the required vote is obtained.

Section 7.7. Resignations. Subject at all times to the right of removal as provided in Section 7.6 and to the provisions of any employment agreement, any member of the board of advisors & accountability may at any time resign by giving notice in writing or by electronic transmission to the board of advisors &  accountability or the chairman of the board. Such resignation shall take effect at the time specified in such notice or, if the time be not specified, upon receipt of such notice; and, unless otherwise specified in such notice, the acceptance of such resignation shall not be necessary to make it effective. If a member of the executive elder team resigns from his position on the board of advisors & accountability, he will also be deemed to have resigned as a member of the executive elder team and as an officer of the Church.

It looks like the way the bylaws were written the president had an all or nothing kind of deal.  The president could resign or be removed but once the president was removed from, it seems, any position, he was removed from all other positions.  Clearly Driscoll chose to resign rather than be removed, although the wording as to how not unfit for ministry Driscoll was found to be for ministry now seems a bit vague.  If he was found ultimately not unfit for ministry why would he have been asked to step away from management when the bylaws that would have apparently been in effect at that point stipulated that being asked to step away from the BoAA or a managerial position meant loss of membership (go read the earlier articles).  Let's look at some of the other articles.

Article 9 

Section 9 .1. Election, Qualification. The primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church shall serve as the president of the Church and shall have the authority to appoint other elders who are employed by the Church (or, if necessary to fill a vacancy while an individual completes the eldership process, a deacon) to fill other offices of the Church. The officers of the Church shall at a minimum include a president and a secretary. The president may also choose a chief operating officer, a chief financial officer, one or more vice presidents, a treasurer, one or more assistant secretaries and assistant treasurers and such other officers and agents as he shall deem necessary. Any number of offices may be held by the same person, unless the Articles of Incorporation or these Bylaws otherwise provide. The office of president and secretary may not be held by the same person.

Section 9.2. Term, Removal. The primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church shall serve as the president of the Church until such time as he ceases to be a member of the executive elder team. Each other officer shall hold office until such officer's successor is appointed and qualified or until such officer's earlier resignation or removal. Any officer appointed by the president of the Church may be removed by the president of the Church at any time.

Section 9.3. Resignation. Subject at all times to the right of removal as provided in Section 9.2 and to the provisions of any employment agreement, any officer may resign at any time by giving notice to the board of advisors & accountability, the president, or the secretary of the Church. Any such resignation shall take effect at the date of receipt of such notice or at any later date specified provided that the president or, in the event of the resignation of the president, the board of advisors & accountability may designate an effective date for such resignation which is earlier than the date specified in such notice but which is not earlier than the date of receipt of such notice; and, unless otherwise specified in such notice, the acceptance of such resignation shall not be necessary to make it effective. If a member of the executive elder team resigns from his position as an officer of the Church, he will also be deemed to have resigned as a member of the executive elder team and the board of advisors & accountability.

Section 9.4. Vacancies. A vacancy in the office of president because of the death, resignation or removal of the primary preaching and teaching pastor shall be filled by the individual chosen to fill his vacancy on the board of advisors & accountability. A vacancy in any other office because of death, resignation, removal or any other cause may be filled in the manner prescribed in these Bylaws for appointment to such office.

Section 9.5: President. The president shall be the chief executive officer of the Church and shall, subject to the provisions of these Bylaws, (i) have general and active management of the affairs of the Church and have general supervision of its officers, agents and employees; (ii) in the absence of the chairman of the board, preside at all meetings of the full council of elders and the board of advisors & accountability; and (iii) perform those other duties incident to the office of president and as from time to time may be assigned to him by the board of advisors & accountability.

Section 12.1. Constitution. In the event that a formal charge and/or accusation is made against the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church that, if investigated and found to be true, would disqualify him from his position as an elder in the Church based on the biblical requirements of an elder, the board of advisors & accountability shall refer the charge and/or accusation to the board of overseers. The board of overseers shall have authority to investigate any such charge and/or accusation. If the board of overseers determines that the charge and/or accusation is true, the board of overseers can vote to rebuke the primary preaching and teaching pastor or, if warranted, remove the primary preaching and teaching pastor as an elder of the Church (in which case he shall automatically be removed as a member of the board of advisors & accountability and his employment with the Church shall be terminated for cause under the terms and condition set forth in any employment agreement entered into between the primary preaching and teaching pastor for the Church and the Church).

That's a lot of formal power and a lot of combined elements.  It reads as though Driscoll was chief officer, president, preaching and teaching pastor, and a member of the executive elder team and the board of advisors & accountability and yet it reads as if, were he to be removed or regarded as not qualified for any one of these elements he would be removed from all of them, or a resignation from one automatically entailed resignation from all the others.  Driscoll's resignation rather than comply with a restoration plan makes a certain kind of sense based on the way the bylaws were written.  At least my understanding of the bylaws is that Mark Driscoll either had full legal power to run the corporation known as Mars Hill however he saw fit or he was going to be removed or resign and stop being a member in a governance-based way.   I wrote earlier that it appeared that Mark Driscoll made a decision that was reflective of an approach that held that he was either going to be on the throne at a church as a corporate entity or he wasn't even a member of that church.  Reviewing the bylaws from 2012 era Mars Hill it would seem that this was woven into the very fabric, the wording of the Mars Hill bylaws.