Thursday, July 08, 2021
Alan Jacobs links to some writing on the Internet as collective hallucination, which is a way of saying that not only is the internet not forever, links die rapidly and sites vanish ... something WtH knows perfectly well from documenting the late Mars Hill!
Julie Roys has part 2 of her discussion "Inside the Driscoll Cult", so far I haven't read much of anything that doesn't fit MHC circa 2007 to 2014.
Part 3 of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast has gone up, this part includes a story of a woman who was declared a heretic for suggesting Driscoll surround himself with older, more mature men who would stand toe to toe with him
Tuesday, July 06, 2021
Julie Roys has part 1 of a conversation with Chad Freese and Benjamin Eneas regarding The Trinity Church
Monday, July 05, 2021
The title of the first episode “Who Killed Mars Hill Church?” is evocative but at a formal level a bit unmysterious. It can be easy to describe the demise of Mars Hill as seemingly happening overnight but even in post Mars Hill Church interviews Mark Driscoll eventually alluded to years-long battles behind the scenes related to governance. It was as though a set of topics he had previously declined to acknowledge as relevant suddenly became relevant after his resignation catalyzed the collapse of the church he co-founded.
But Mars Hill’s demise was incrementally picking up steam since the peak of Driscoll’s celebrity with the No. 1 spot on the New York Time bestseller list Real Marriage. In that book Driscolls wrote of how their marriage was fraught behind the scenes.
Part 6:1 Timothy 3:1-7
Preached February 08, 2004
... I love my wife. I've been totally faithful to her. I'm a one-woman man. I met her at 17. I married her at 21. I've been chasing her ever since. I'm quicker than she is, so I'm happily married. You know, things are good. I just am. I love my wife. I adore my wife. I enjoy my wife, you know? ...
Well, whatever Driscoll was implying there in the sermon excerpt above may need to be reconsidered in light of the new book. Real Marriage suggests that maybe this marriage was not always so happy.
Real Marriage: the truth about sex,
friendship and life together
Mark and Grace Driscoll
copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
We didn't know how to talk through these extremely hard issues without hurting each other even more, so we didn't talk about them at all. I just got more bitter, and Grace just felt more condemned and broken, like a failure. Occasionally we'd meet a Christian pastor or counselor who was supposed to be an expert in these areas, but we never spoke with them in much detail, because in time we found out they either had marriages as bad as ours our they had been committing adultery and were disqualified for ministry. We felt very alone and stuck.
Yet even the claim “We felt very alone and stuck” had to be weighed against all the men whose names Mark Driscoll had cited over the years. If Mark and Grace Driscoll really had no one they trusted to talk to about their marriage problems where was David Nicholas? Where was Mike Gunn? Where was Lief Moi? Where, for that matter, was Gib Martin, Grace’s father? The idea that Mark and Grace Driscoll were somehow completely alone and had “nobody” they felt they could talk to didn’t seem to be due to there actually being no one they could talk to. What about Greg Kappas? The problem that Real Marriage presented to those of us who had been at Mars Hill since the late 1990s was that one of a few possibilities seemed probable: either the Mark Driscoll of 2004 was lying when he talked about how happily married he was; the Mark Driscoll of Real Marriage was retroactively misrepresenting how unhappy they were (something I admit I wondered about when I realized that the vomit-inducing nightmare of Real Marriage seemed to overlap remarkably with a nightmare recounted in Confessions of a Reformission Rev) Mark Driscoll claimed in an interview with Christianity Today, no less, that both he and Grace were virgins when they met and began sleeping together, in open contradiction to the claim they made in Real Marriage that neither of them were virgins when they began dating.
Interview by Katelyn Beaty and Marlena Graves/ January 5, 2012
Is there tension in teaching sexual purity before marriage while encouraging frequent and wonderful sex within marriage?
M: No, and for us, we sinned, quite frankly. We were virgins when we met and were sleeping together as high-school boyfriend and girlfriend. Then Grace came back to Christ, and I came to Christ in college, so we had to stop sinning sexually. I'd say if we both could go back and rewrite history and change one thing, that would probably be the thing we would change. [emphasis added] But we did repent and met with our pastor. And then we did get married, between our junior and senior years of college
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)
Neither Grace nor I was a virgin when we met, and before long we were dating and sleeping together, which continued even after she went off to college while I was finishing high school. [emphasis added]
To be honest, fornicating was fun. I liked fornicating. To stop fornicating was not fun. But eventually Grace and I stopped fornicating, got engaged, and were married between our junior and senior years of college.
I assumed that once we were married we would simply pick up where we left off sexually and make up for last time. After all, we were committed Christians with a relationship done God's way. But God's way was a total bummer. My previously free and fun girlfriend was suddenly my frigid and fearful wife. She did not undress in front of me, required the lights to be off on the rare occasions we were intimate, checked out during sex, and experienced a lot of physical discomfort because she was tense. [emphasis added]
Before long I was bitter against God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, since I had only slept with a couple of women I was in relationships with, I had been holy enough, and God owed me. I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life. [emphasis added] I loved Grace, but in the bedroom I did not enjoy her and wondered how many years I could white-knuckle fidelity. ... We desperately needed help but didn't know where to turn. Bitterness and condemnation worsened.
To put it bluntly, by 2012 people who actually paid attention to what Mark and Grace Driscoll were saying as they promoted their new book began to discover they were lying. The long-term erosion of trust in Mark and Grace Driscoll may have seemed like an explosive overnight sensation but it wasn’t. Real Marriage is symbolically a focal point for the erosion of trust in the credibility of Mark and Grace Driscoll in a lot of ways, whether in terms of the ResultSource contract, the citation problems, or the basic narrative claims in promotional interviews and the book itself about how virginal Mark and Grace both were when they met. Behind the scenes former members heard that there were some significant efforts undertaken to ensure that William Wallace II writings would never be released to the public. That, too, is now water under the bridge. No one approached me about that topic and when I got the materials I published them. Driscoll felt obliged to issue an apology for those materials in 2014 but he didn’t issue an apology for them in his 2006 book Confessions of a Reformission Rev.
That people change their stories doesn’t necessarily make them liars. By his own account Mark Driscoll claimed to have been running on three hours of sleep a night.
I write this blog while flying somewhere over the United States late on a Thursday night heading home from a conference in the great nation of Texas. I have blogged very little thus far in 2007 as I have been playing hurt in terms of my health. I have been pushing it for ten years since Mars Hill Church opened up, and the end of last year was a particularly rough patch. I was looking forward to a few weeks off after Christmas to catch up on sleep. Sadly, what happened is that I would be very tired and go to bed at a decent hour only to wake up a few hours later, unable to return to sleep. I was not stressed out or thinking, but it seemed something was physically wrong. Even sleeping pills were of little to no help and by the end of the holidays I was exhausted, having slept an average of perhaps three hours a night. A naturopath said I had overextended myself and worn out my adrenal glands (which regulate my sympathetic nervous system). The result of basically a decade of perpetual stress and a final taxing season was that I was exhausted all day—I literally had blurred vision and would fall asleep quickly only to wake up a few hours later, unable to sleep again. So, I have been conserving energy for my family and church, but some Sundays are brutal. I find myself nodding off on the side of the stage before one of the four services I preach live.
So perhaps Mark Driscoll pushed himself so far and so hard his sleep deprivation impaired his judgment? But what about late 2006 was a particularly rough patch? You would have thought that acquiring practically free real estate in the form of the West Seattle campus via Bill Clem and James Noriega made things easier. It is true, as elders would later attest, that the plans for a second campus evaporated in the face of the realities of zoning laws but Driscoll didn’t allude to that. He just wrote that he was playing while hurt. By later 2007 he claimed he solved a lot of problems by sharing power.
Yet to go by the governance battle of the 2007 period the perceived solution was not to distribute power (as Mark Driscoll claimed was done) but to consolidate power.
Over the years Mark Driscoll has shared how rough his family has it because he just preaches the Bible (as he reads it). That Mark Driscoll’s antics as William Wallace II may have played a role in people seeking to aggressively confront him is something he has avoided directly dealing with over the years.
This season was messy and I sinned and cussed a lot., but God somehow drew a straight line with my crooked Philistine stick. I had a good mission, but some of my tactics were born out of anger and burnout, and I did a lot of harm and damage while attracting a lot of attention.
He cussed and sinned a lot but God somehow drew a straight line with Mark Driscoll’s crooked Philistine stick. We can return to that topic some other time. For now it’s sufficient to point out that a younger and brasher Mark Driscoll was able to admit he was young, brash, and confrontational but he believed God used his dubious methods to obtain measurably positive results.
But more recently it can sound from newer reports that Mark Driscoll and company have adopted some more conspiratorial takes on their lots in life. It was a point of discussion between Warren Throckmorton, Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas just last year as to what Mark Driscoll was actually claiming when he said God reportedly told him “A trap has been set.” It took a while eto get to that point, but there was a fair amount of material discussed as to what the 2014 investigation of Mark Driscoll entailed and what intra-leadership board tensions were in play:
The history of the late Mars Hill Church turns out to hinge on a feud between two boards:
Dave nor I … I think, Dave, you might have been in one of those meetings, but I had already
resigned. So I was not a part of those, but I have all of the transcripts from those meetings. So it documents basically out those … pretty much their three main charges. I said them earlier in the podcast, but it’s quick tempered, including harsh speech, arrogant, and the third one is domineering in his leadership of elders and staff. So that’s the findings that these investigating elders have and that they are bringing those charges to the Board of Overseers, which does not include Dave nor I in that, or Mark. So those are those outside four board members (Board of Overseers).
Then I think actually, Dave, you might have been a part of one of those phone calls, but you can address that. That’s kind of where we track everything, and I think we can hit into the differences of those two groups and what ends up happening because this all unravels very quickly in the first two weeks of October. If we’ll remember, when Mark took his sabbatical, he was supposed to be out until October the 14th, I think, but it was right around there. Let’s just throw out the second weekend in October of 2014. So that’s what was trying to be wrapped up during that time period and that was kind of like the drop dead date for the investigating, for the findings to come out, and for there to be something going forward.
Of course, during this whole time, the churches, the people are leaving in droves, especially
after Acts 29. That’s really where you see the great exodus from the Mars Hill churches.
Warren Throckmorton: Yeah.
Yeah, let me speak to the meeting I was a part of. I probably not should speak to meetings I wasn’t privy to. That would be dangerous. So I would have met, Warren, with … let’s just call them, as Sutton has used the language already, the Overseers. Those were the ones who … those are the outside board members that were making the final decision regarding … they were rendering the verdict of the investigation. Then the elders who had done all the investigative work.
So I met with them, I believe it was Monday, October 13th. The reason that date is significant is the Overseers had met previously to that, the weekend prior to that Monday. They had met with Mark and Grace, communicated to them the findings of the investigation and gave them both some restorative plan, a restorative plan of what changes were going to have to happen and needed to happen for Mark to be leading the church moving forward. So I was part of the meeting where the Overseers communicated to the elders, the investigative group, here’s what we’ve communicated to Mark and Grace. [emphasis added]
The weekend prior to Monday, October 13, 2014 would match the weekend before Driscoll’s resignation and match up with what Driscoll recounted to Brian Houston. Driscoll’s account was that the board laid out the investigation results and proposed a restoration plan that Mark Driscoll said he agreed to. Bruskas’ conversation with Throckmorton then moves on to pointing out that what the Board of Overseers presented was not the plan the Board of Elders recommended:
There was some agreement in that meeting, and the two things that were really … even looking back over the notes from that meeting, two things that I think are important particularly for members of Mars Hill to hear, the two points that were just evident were both bodies expressed deep love and concern for Mars Hill Church. That was clearly a point of agreement. Both groups expressed a deep love and appreciation for Mark and really wanted good for Mark, wanted Mark … Both groups wanted him to thrive long-term in ministry.
But here were the two points of differentiation and they were significant. The investigative group, the elders, wanted Mark to be disqualified from the office of elder and have an open timeline with his restoration process to restore him to the office of elder and ultimately to resume his role as an executive elder at Mars Hill Church. The overseers did not want Mark to be disqualified as an elder and they had set a target date of I believe it was January 4th, 2015, so roughly … what would that be? Two and a half months for Mark to resume his duties, albeit in a reduced role of power. That was very clear in their plan. [emphasis added]
At this point we can cross-reference Dave Bruskas’ account of that week in October with Mark Driscoll’s account given to Brian Houston in 2015:
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." [emphasis added]
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.
So clearly, by both Bruskas’ and Driscoll’s account the Board of Overseers went with the restored by January, 2015 proposal. But the Board of Elders who undertook the investigation, per Bruskas, wanted Mark Driscoll to be found disqualified from ministry as much as the Board of Overseers apparently did not want him found disqualified from ministry.
Bruskas told Throckmorton more about the impasse between the BoO and the BoE:
Sutton had already resigned. I’d already communicated to the Overseers that I would step away as soon as Mark came back in the pulpit, but Mark needed a clean start and he needed new guys around him to gain credibility. He needed a new place to begin from. So during that meeting, Warren, on that Monday, it was clear that those two groups were at an impasse, and a decision was made by the Chairman of the Board of Overseers to have a follow-up meeting where they could maybe resolve those two differences. Again, whether Mark was disqualified or not, and at what point in time if there was any set in the calendar for him to come back.
I was very convinced that neither side was going to budge. I was very certain that if … What I mean by that is, if the overseers would have said, yes this is what … we’re doing this and you guys got to live with it, I think there would have been mass resignation from the Board of Elders and maybe even the Lead Pastors in their entirety. I don’t believe the Board of Overseers was open to Mark being disqualified from ministry, from the elder role. I don’t think they were going to give an inch on that issue, and I do think they were set on him coming back in January.
Before those two groups could reconvene and come up with some sort of resolution, Mark resigned. So yeah, it’s left the story open ended in a way that I think it just needs to be told. I think people need to know what happened.[emphasis added] I will say this. Looking back on the work that the Board of Elders did, and even after they were finished with their work, I know Sutton and I met with several of the people that were hurt that they interviewed. Just to see the devastation and the hurt in those folks, they did a tremendous amount of work.
Sutton Turner: Yeah.
They were very principled. Their contention was we can’t be pragmatic in this at all. We’re either going to follow out what the Bible says regarding Biblical qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and domineering as it’s addressed in 1 Peter 5. They felt like to not disqualify Mark would be partial to him in a way that they wouldn’t be for any other elder in that position and place.
So yeah, it was tough. I don’t believe they were free to tell their story after that was said and done. I don’t know that anybody’s really shared anything from that to this day. Anyway, there was an impasse. I don’t believe it was going to be resolved. Before there could be a follow-up meeting between those two groups, Mark resigned.
The mystery at this point is why the Board of Overseers consisting of Michael Van Skaik, Larry Osborne, John Phelps and Matt Rogers would have decided that Mark Driscoll was not disqualified from ministry if the Board of Elders who investigated him concluded that he was disqualified from serving in ministry. If Bruskas and Turner have presented statements that were inaccurate or with which the members of the Board of Overseers disagree there’s been months since Throckmorton published his interview in which to make counter-statements.
What we can now move along to is the question of what Mark Driscoll meant by saying he heard God tell him “a trap has been set”. For sake of review, here’s what Driscoll told Brian Houston about the Monday night after he’d met with the board (of overseers):
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".
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
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. ...
So Throckmorton asked:
The resignation was an interesting story. He said something about he and Grace got separate messages from God about being ambushed or a trap had been set. I don’t know if either of you have any insight into that from knowing him or just knowing of the situation, but the Elders again said one thing, and the Board of Overseers said another thing. So do you have any insight into what that might mean?
Yeah. So I don’t know, Dave, if Mark called you. He called me to tell me that Grace was upstairs. He was downstairs. That God spoke to him and said that it was going to be ambush, that they were going to be ambushed by obviously the Elders. Then she came downstairs and had the same thing. Therefore, that’s why they resigned. So that was on that day, and that’s just what he told me. [emphasis added]
While Driscoll never clarified what he thought “a trap has been set” referred to, Sutton Turner stated for the record he thought it was obvious Mark Driscoll was referring to the Board of Elders wanting him found disqualified from ministry. If that’s true then, well, nobody like Mark Driscoll needed a word from the Lord to know that one of the boards of his church thought he was no longer fit for ministry. If he did need an oracle from the Almighty to even come to that moment of recognition that could be construed as a reason he wasn’t fit for ministry. After all, the cases in which God explicitly let leaders of Israel know they were no longer going to be in X ministry is a hall of shame ranging from Eli the priest through King Saul through to Ahab. When God tells you you’re released from your job in the Old Testament the results are rarely good. As Mark Driscoll used to joke, even among Jesus’ own chosen disciples there was a Judas.
So now we know that Mark Driscoll called Sutton Turner the day he received his oracle. This establishes that Driscoll told someone in 2014 about his experience of being told by God “a trap has been set”. Turner interpreted the statement to mean Mark Driscoll was aware the Board of Elders wanted him found disqualified from ministry.
Did Bruskas hear anything?
Yeah, he and I never spoke about that, so we really didn’t talk about that.
So in the middle of the impasse between those two boards, that’s when the resignation came.
Yeah, I think it was literally … I think the resignation was submitted the day after that first meeting or the second day after that first meeting.
Since the closure of Mars Hill former members and leaders have wondered whether or not there even was a formal report that any of the boards had. Sutton Turner has stated for the record he had the raw interview materials but the question of whether there was ever a formally presented report has remained unanswered.
Now, there was to be a report that was released, or maybe I’m wrong about that, but everybody was kind of chasing that report for a long time. The elders were very tight lipped about it. Was there ever a written report or was it more of a word of mouth report given to the decision making body, the Overseers?
So we don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if it was a written report that the leader of those Board of Elders was producing. I do know that there were those meetings on the first, the eighth, the 13th and the 14th that you see the documentation of the Elders basically giving their findings to the Overseers verbally on conference calls. Then those conference calls having detailed notes of this person said this, this person said this, that type of transcript I would say.
Dave Bruskas: I’ve never seen a formal report.
If even the executive elders of Mars Hill Church have said they don’t know if there was a written report then the members of the Board of Elders would have to clear things up and that still would not clear up whether such a report was retained by the Board of Overseers. If the Board of Overseers decided that they did not find Mark Driscoll disqualified from ministry as stated by Turner and Bruskas, then why would the Board of Overseers have any incentive to retain documentation of the Board of Elders arguing Mark was disqualified?
So now, more recently, there are podcasts discussing other elements of the history of Mars Hill decline.
Particularly striking are the accounts of Aaron Gray and Tim Smith to the effect, in Smith’s case, that Mark Driscoll claimed to Smith that the Board of Elders wanted to collect enough dirt on Mark Driscoll to ouster him from leadership and take over the church. That sounds like a straightforward conspiracy theory, No one who has testified about Driscoll’s resignation from the Board of Overseers or the Board of Elders up to this point agrees that there was any conspiracy theory so “if” Mark Driscoll was so convinced there was a conspiracy against him to depose him why should he have such ideas? There have been reports over the years to the effect that Driscoll was no stranger to orchestrating the ouster of leaders behind the scenes which may or may not be a topic for future podcasts. We’ll have to find out.
What a more recent podcast discusses is how, if we think of Mars Hill Church as a Generation X movement, that that movement depended on the infrastructure and patronage of the Boomer churches.
What is also becoming more apparent is that when Driscoll claimed that around 2014 they were dealing with people who were mostly anonymous and that “we don’t know who they are” that he was, most likely, lying. Andrew Lisi, to go by his statements recently published by Warren Throckmorton, was neither anonymous nor evasive in stating his concerns about Driscoll’s approach to ministry.
Ironically, or providentially, Wenatchee The Hatchet had documented Lisi’s departure in passing and I’ve since updated and corrected some missing linkage testifying to that transition out of executive pastorship I more detail.
One of the challenges in chronicling the life and death of Mars Hill Church has been the sheer extent of link rot and robots.txt that happened over the course of the institution’s life and death, especially in the 2013-2014 period. But another challenge has been, as I have demonstrated above, that Mark and by extension Grace Driscoll changed their public stories enough times that even if we do not reach a conclusion that they are willing to lie we should be cautious about taking their accounts at face value.
More recent statements by former attenders or members of The Trinity Church have raised the issue of what Grace Driscoll has claimed about the history of Mars Hill. Was there a security guard who helped take down Mars Hill? That’s largely impossible to know for certain but it seems unlikely, although it is hard to establish what, if anything, Grace Driscoll has actually said. To go by what Mark Driscoll has claimed it is hard to take his statements at face value. His claim that the late Mars Hill Church fell apart after a years long internal struggle within leadership over LGBTQ issues that he declared to Carey Nieuwhof is not only not grounded in any evidence but has been cumulatively refuted by public statements by Sutton Turner and Dave Bruskas about the demise of Mars Hill Church made in conversation with Warren Throckmorton.