If you listened to Cosper's The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill there wasn't much new in the January 7, 2022 post.
Or at least, for me, there wasn't much new but then, you know, I have chronicled a lot of stuff about the former Mars Hill over the years.
But this post ... there's a lot of material to it, notes from the investigation of 2014.
Warren Throckmorton has noted the post and has left it at that for now.
I will highlight passages that have stuck with me that I think merit further discussion:
- Mark: On these charges, particularly from Pastor XYZ process, I for sure am guilty of these things on various occasions…but I would say it is a combination of governance contributing into it, and historically, when we inherited our bylaws from Antioch…and it may be unrecoverable, when we inherited the bylaws from Antioch, I did not read them well. I should have read them then. Elders were elders for life, and everything required a unanimous vote. This leads to contention. This would be terrible if played out in the family. It leads to conflict and politics. A lot of this swirled in 2006 and 2007. [emphasis added] It was a tense, difficult time. Once you give men power, you cannot get power from them. [emphases added]
- Mark: 2011 – 2012 was the same thing to some extent. The guys who agreed with the governance would say that we did what we needed to do…the guys who disagreed would say it was a hostile takeover. This all depends on if you trust the leaders or don’t. A lot of these charges are around that central issue.
- Mark: There was a lot of hurt. When Dave Kraft presented the formal charges, that was process one. Process 2 was with Crossroads to deal with the hurt. No one signed up for the meetings, despite spending $47K dollars, and 3 days in Chicago with Grace intensively to prepare.
- Mark: When men are hurt, they don’t want to say they were hurt, because that appears weak, and so they want to attack. I don’t think Christians fighting with Christians in front of non-Christians is good. I’m grieved that I cannot work these things out with these men. I want to reconcile with some people, but now is not a good time.
- BOE member: Can you talk a little bit about domineering? Do you think that is a fair characterization of how you were living in that time?
- Mark: I don’t know how I could have led MHC with the size and complexity under those governance restrictions. Would I say that I was acting godly, no. But, do I see another way to have done it? No.
So Driscoll said he didn't really look at the governance documents and precedents inherited from Antioch Bible Church and that they included a plurality of elders who had to vote unanimously for things to get done. If he couldn't be bothered to really read and study the governance protocols and precedents he inherited (he said) from Antioch Bible Church at the co-founding of Mars Hill Fellowship how was he in a position to ever contest that other men who wanted to abide by those kinds of procedures were somehow in the wrong either in attitude or in learning? The most striking passage I have, of course, double emphasized, "Once you give men power, you cannot get power from them." That's weirdly telling of Mark Driscoll to say in the middle of an investigation into formal charges made against him in 2014.
Driscoll's response to the charge that he knew of Result Source earlier than he indicated:
- Results Source (Charge 25): “May 2014—Mark told elders that he was not aware of the ResultSource agreement but had chosen to admit knowledge of it for the sake of the team in his letter to the church, and that others had made the decision to work with ResultSource. He claimed that another elder and Mark’s publishers made the decision to work with ResultSource without his knowledge. He insinuated that he had learned about the ResultSource agreement only after the story broke on World Magazine. In fact, Mark agreed to work with ResultSource on the Best Seller Campaign for Real Marriage as early as July 2011.”
- Mark: I knew about it, but I recused myself from the vote. This personally involved me. I did not know the particulars or the mechanics of ti. Sealy Yates with Brian Hampton came in and asked for pre-sales of my books. All of my previous books could have made the NY times. Christian bookstores and churches don’t count. NY Times was going to do an article on Result Source, until they found out that their own list was rigged. John Maxwell, the Parrots, and others use Result Source and still do. We decided to do this, we launched 5 churches and we grew by 3,000 people. When I found out the royalties that I would earn, I wrote a check to MHC to guarantee that I did not benefit from these. MHC always gets all the money from my book sales. Did I understand the mechanics? No. I thought it was a win. I knew of it, but I didn’t know the specifics or the mechanics. I don’t believe (former staff member's) version of this is accurate.
If all of Mark Driscoll's previous books could have made the New York Times bestseller list why didn't they? Why resort to Result Source if all of Mark Driscoll's previous books "could have" made the NYT list? How would Driscoll know the New York Times was going to do an article on Result Source until they found out their own list was rigged? Driscoll's response, as relayed by the notes, comes across as knowing who else not only had been using Result Source but was still using it. Even if Driscoll were right that a former staff member misremembered something the statements, in summary form, show Driscoll saying he knew of Result Source from the start.
A bit later we get the following:
- Mark: I have a CRUT, so I can give away money to charity tax free. I am being blown up for organizing my life to give more money.
- Mark: If you can do something that benefits the church and allows you to be generous, I won’t criticize it
- Mark: This will sound arrogant and proud, but I am the founder. No one criticizes Bill Gates. I was working hard for 3 years with no salary. I have gone 18 years without a bonus, or sabbatical. (Now on forced, no-fun sabbatical). Craig Groeschel told me that no one builds a platform at his church.
- Mark: Our generosity has gotten us into trouble. If you are generous with some people, they become generous. If you are generous with others, they become entitled.
- Mark: Giving is one of our spiritual gifts.
- Mark: Wilkerson told me that I give money to manipulate people. This is how twisted the whole thing is.
- Mark: We shouldn’t give severance to people who quit. We shouldn’t publish other people’s books. We shouldn’t do people’s albums. For me, yes, I have been blessed, and I like being generous…but at the end of the day, I want it to grow the church. I did: Doctrine (Driscoll’s book)– theological foundation and Who do you think you are? (Driscoll’s book) – Bible study on Ephesians.
By 2014 he thought of himself as the founder, not the co-founder, of Mars Hill. Now we can go back through a history of Mars Hill by way of Articles of Incorporation and Annual Reports and it's possible to see how in Mark Driscoll's memory he was "the founder". But Mike Gunn and Cedric Bryant were also on the Board of Directors. Driscoll was sole incorporator and so, perhaps from his perspective and in his memory that's all that mattered. And yet, as we saw above, he apparently also couldn't be bothered to seriously study the governance precedents and documents Mars Hill inherited by being sent out and planted by Antioch Bible Church.
Now here's notes for Charge 4:
- Charge 4: “Early 2012—Slander about former Executive Pastor in a Lead Pastors meeting.”
- BOE Member questions Mark: The hard thing is with these, one of the guys that I talked to that signed the letter. (Former Staffer) was on staff at DTS, and apparently you had shared with the DTS staff, and you had blasted (Executive Pastor), and apparently slandered Piper.
- Mark: The only way that Piper would have been involved, is in regards to the (Executive Pastor)’s recommendation.
- Mark: If I did leak or vent, then that was wrong
- Mark: (Executive Pastor) was terminated for embezzlement and academic fraud. He was working on his PhD, and had Docent and (former staffer) do all of his work, and then turn it in, and bill MHC. He bought tens of thousands of dollars. (Former Staffer) and (Outsider person) rang the bell on (Executive Pastor).
- Mark: I don’t know what went down at that meeting.
- BOE Member: (Former Staffer) explained that you had insinuated that (Executive Pastor) had terrible character. If anything, it was the wisdom of talking to people about (Executive Pastor).
- Mark: I agree that this showed a lack of wisdom. And I wouldn’t do it again today.
So an executive pastor of Mars Hill was terminated for embezzlement? In contrast to the terminations of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer whoever the former executive pastor Mars Hill was that was allegedly terminated for embezzlement and academic fraud, Mark Driscoll had no hesitation talking about that in the 2014 investigation but this raises a number of questions, even if we set off to the side whether or not it's possible to confirm or disprove Driscoll's claims.
Mark Driscoll's own reported history of passing off the work of Docent Group writers as his own material is something we've looked at before. For the material we looked at earlier go here
So when presented with this fourth charge Driscoll explained that he said something about a former executive pastor who had been terminated for embezzlement and academic fraud, said fraud being working on a PhD and having Docent and a former Mars Hill staffer doing all of the work and turning the work in and then billing Mars Hill. A former staffer and an outsider to Mars Hill rang the bell on who ever that former executive pastor was.
Since he so famously said "I see things" in his 2008 spiritual warfare teaching session why didn't Mark Driscoll "see" that one of his fellow executive pastors was up to that stuff? Believe me, I know he said it, as I transcribed about three fourths of that Spiritual Warfare seminar from 2008 here at Wenatchee The Hatchet. What we can see, if these notes are an accurate summary of what Driscoll said, is a pattern in which Driscoll seemed to believe it was bad if another executive elder passed off the writing of a Docent Group research as their own work despite the fact that a former Docent Group writer/researcher testifying that Driscoll himself was willing to take materials written by Docent Group writers and pass that work off as his own. Was academic fraud the problem, that a former executive pastor tried to pass off material as academic material? Was Driscoll innocent in his own eyes because the machinations of the Mars Hill Content Management System or whatever was involved in the generation of products that had intellectual property issues were not being published for academic purposes? It comes across in Driscoll's response to Charge 4 that there was still a double standard at work in his thinking where he could apparently pass off the work of others as his own even though he regarded another fellow executive pastor as having done that as one of two grounds for termination of employment. Or so it seems based on the notes and the available history of Mars Hill. Others may have a different take or more details to add on record in a medium of their choosing.
So we get to ...
BOE Meeting on Thursday, September 25, 2014 (Debrief on the meeting with Driscoll)
- BOE2: In our meeting with Mark we saw paranoia, blame shifting, arrogance at times, and we saw these things…minimal expressions of these things, but we saw the deeper heart stuff. Going forward, if Mark does not change, then MHC will not be healthy, and I don’t believe that Mark is healthy currently.
- BOE2: The fact that this board is having to say that we may be destroyed, and our relationship with Mark could be destroyed….it is insane. Our pastor should be safe. We should know that about our pastor. And until we know that…Mark is not ready to lead the church. I look to a day when there is a culture of love that surrounds Mark. The BOO needs to understand how the BOE feels in this process. We are even concerned, so the BOO and us can change our culture. If we restore Mark, it will require all of us to change together.
One member of the Board of Elders concluded that Driscoll's conduct and responses to the investigation of charges made against him revealed patterns of paranoia, blame-shifting and arrogance.
Now I'm going to move ahead to the following synopsis of the fateful weekend of meetings prior to Mark Driscoll's resignation.
BOE & BOO Monday, October 13, 2014
- BOO member: The BOO met with Pastor Mark & Grace from 4:00pm into the evening on Friday, and met at 8:30 to noon on Saturday.
We didn’t talk about next steps until Saturday. We focused on how the investigation concluded.
We approached Mark not from the standpoint of what the interviewers said, but what we had experienced. We pointed out instances where we had seen him act domineering, arrogant, or quick-tempered.
It was sobering, heavy. The BOO guys had planned out the structure of the meeting, and knew it was going to be uncomfortable.
Mark was listening carefully, taking notes. There was a point where the BOO member was trying to describe a reason for Mark not to be in the pulpit, and I compared it to an alcoholic wanting to get clean not serving as a bartender.
Mark snapped back harshly and immediately, and it was the “I don’t agree with that, don’t do it again” instance.
The BOO had prepped for this uncomfortable moment, and the conversation went south for 20 minutes, and I called a time out, and we called him out.
We began to call a blind spot a blindside, because it was a little bigger than we thought.
The encouraging part is that he listened to us carefully, and he listens to Grace.
They have been working on this at their home for 8 years. He has softened that approach at home…and now we need to get him to expand that circle to include the greater church.
After that, the general tone of the conversation turned quite hopeful.
- BOO Member: Early Saturday morning, we started with 2 questions:
- I want each to tell the others about what occurred Friday night.
- What are our immediate next steps?
- BOO Member: As we went around the room, there was great sharing. One of the things that the BOO saw was when these issues happen, Mark needs to instinctively say that he is sorry. That will be a sign to all of us that he is making progress. He didn’t do that Friday night.
Mark prayed, and after the prayer, Grace was whispering in his ear, and Mark said that he was sorry for the night before. He took his cue from his wife, but he did the right thing.
- BOO member: Yes, on Saturday, BOE8 had summarized the 3 hour interview that you guys did, and he began to read the list of things that Mark said, and described how it was superior. Mark said that he received it. Grace was shocked.
For eight years ... would have lined up with 2006.
He took his cue from his wife but he did the right thing. Well, if the goal was that Mark would instinctively say sorry without prompting from his wife (who at one point Mark Driscoll used to remind us had trained in public relations, which it's unfortunate to have to mention but in this case seems relevant), then Mark Driscoll saying sorry for how he behaved the night before after his wife told him to, unfortunately, gives us no compelling reason to understand that he was going to be apologetic unprompted. If Grace was shocked that her husband agreed to submit to the Board of Overseers conclusions and plans that's a detail that didn't make it into Mark or Grace Driscoll's accounts of Mark Driscoll's 2014 resignation in later stories.
These are notes but what the notes present, such as they are, is that the Board of Overseers did not get a sense that Mark Driscoll was able or willing to actually submit to their authority, as best I understand the notes, and that it was literally noteworthy that Grace Driscoll was shocked that Mark agreed with the Board of Overseers' conclusion and recommendations.
We do, at length, get to the January back in the pulpit reference Driscoll made and the notes suggest the Board of Elders members were not thrilled about that proposed plan.
- BOO member: At the end of it, the BOO is not ok for him to be back in leadership.
- BOO member: We as a BOO have a responsibility to see that the entity is healthy and continues financially, and so we need to walk the tricky line of Mark needing to be out of leadership, and getting counseling. What we are pursuing is a 4-6 month temporary leadership team made up of some older men, known and respected by Mark, one a shepherd type, and the other more of a financial administrator type leader. Both of these men will do repeatedly with Mark what we did Friday night.
We still believe that Mark will be restored to his preaching role, but going forward, one guy can’t be the sole driver with everything. We hope to model with these two temporary leaders.
- BOO member: Statement from BOO – BOO1 cooked up the first draft, the other men weighed into it, and it has been read to Mark & Grace. When we read it to Mark, the weight was seen on his face.
- BOE7: The date will be a struggle for some men, but it clearly says that Jan 4th is his return date on the assumption of growth and change. If we are still looking at the same guy, then he is not back in January. We are not putting the same guy back in January.
Secondly, the part about the date, I understand it being a hopeful date…maybe language of being “on probation” as an elder. The letter missed the weightiness by a mile.
- BOE1: It is frustrating that you are not talking about names…it is frustrating that it isn’t forthright. But we as a BOE want to have a say in this, and there is no say in it. The letter, the overstatement of many things, and I would have great difficulty signing this in my conscience. It sucks that this is so far off the mark, that it puts us in a bad position.
I think the practicalities of Mark’s housing allowance are inconsequential, and to keep him on as an elder because it is financially more sustainable does not ring true. That is a poor reason to remove him from eldership.
- BOE2: I could not sign the statement in its current form either. I am really struggling with Mark having a date. The fact that he ripped your head off, and did not apologize on his own, but Grace had to make him do it. I don’t see how it is possible. I don’t think you men see that everyone is on the fence, and if we throw out another date, it makes people be in the fence until Jan 4th…and to the body and to me personally, it does not have the kind of weight that a true elder would say this is sin. I hear the commitment to that from you in your voice and this conversation, and I am encouraged by this…but a statement or letter that does not include that, does not lead to this in the body.
- BOE4: One of the things that I am struggling with, is, if this is the public rebuke, this does not meet the standard of rebuking in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. The weight of the letter does not come close to this, I am not looking to drag Mark through the mud, but something much more weighty or pastoral has to be done.
From notes on Monday ...
BOE & BOO Monday, October 13, 2014
- BOE3: Mark is not qualified to be an elder today. Time out is indefinite, and unless his eldership is suspended, I cannot get behind it, in the name of unity or anything else. The bottom line is, it feels this way, I don’t impugn your guys’ motives, but this is where I am at.
- BOE2: I really appreciate the BOO, but if the BOO does not see Mark as disqualified, and we do see him as disqualified, how is that elder supposed to support the statement of the BOO? How are they supposed to lead in this? If you men have the authority to do whatever you choose to do, and you don’t see him as disqualified, and you are going to remove further authority from elders?
- BOO member: I hear that. You men want to proceed today as if Mark is never coming back, therefore you can tell your people that we are moving forward under the assumption that he may never come back. Our giving and attendance need to get up to where they are at. If he comes back, it is awesome, but if not, we know where we are.
- BOE as a group: Yes.
So it would seem that Monday night October 13, 2014 was when Mark and Grace Driscoll claimed they heard from the Lord that what he heard was "a trap has been set ... " and what she heard was they were "released". But by this point the investigation had been going for a while; in the earliest accounts of Driscoll's resignation (his resignation letter) reference was made to getting advice from men and women across the country; and "a trap has been set" as some divine oracle comes across as a post hoc mystical obfuscation. Robert Morris made a point of saying he and Driscoll said he needed to take time to "heal up". The motivations and catalysts for Mark Driscoll's departure seem flesh-and-blood and plain from the 2014 accounts. It was only in 2015 that the divine "release" and "trap" narratives came up. For those who read Pray Like Jesus co-authored by Mark Driscoll and Ashley Chase there's some passages that suggest the Fab Five (a.k.a. Mark and Grace Driscoll's kids) were not entirely jazzed about moving to a place like Arizona. However abrupt the resignation seemed to the Board of Overseers it takes only a serious read of the by-laws of Mars Hill from the post-2012 period to observe that if Mark Driscoll wasn't preaching and teaching pastor and president he wasn't even technically a member of the church. We've seen from the notes that the Board of Elders concluded that how Driscoll conducted himself in the investigation seemed paranoid and defensive. It's worth noting that a member of the Board of Elders felt obliged to point out that Mark Driscoll didn't hesitate to snap at a member of the Board of Overseers and didn't apologize about that until a day or so later at the prompting of his wife. Looking for unprompted apologies from Mark Driscoll would be one thing but the more substantial thing to look for would be that he stopped being the kind of person who made explosive off-the-cuff remarks about people that he would later defend as having been said under trying circumstances.
Some notes from after the resignation.
BOE & BOO Saturday, October 18, 2014
- BOO member: Mark’s resignation was a surprise to all of us. We asked him several times if he would reconsider his resignation. Pastor Mark is not coming back. Mark and Grace had a prayer time before they felt released from MHC.
- The statement read in many churches on October 19th but did not go public until 41 former elders released it on July 26th, 2021 Link
So we revisit the statement that nobody on the Board of Overseers thought Mark Driscoll was going to quit rather than submit to the restoration plan. Now I wrote so extensively on what an exchange between Justin Dean and Warren Throckmorton seemed to reveal about the nature of governance at Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll's role within its power structure I don't want to rehash all of that here. A link to previous work should suffice. The same can be said for all the work I did going through accounts of the late Mars Hill in connection to Driscoll's claim to Carey Nieuwhof about why Mars Hill declined.
One of the things that makes wading through so much of this material a bit of a challenge is having enough context to understand what seemed to be going on. What sticks with me is how in response to one of the charges Driscoll could explain how and why, it seems, whatever he said about a former executive pastor's character was explicable in terms of the unnamed former executive pastor being some kind of academic fraud who embezzled. But if any of that was true why wouldn't that have been noteworthy enough to share with church members? Can it really be that there was the need to terminate the employment of a Mars Hill executive pastor over credible charges of embezzlement and academic fraud and never actually tell the members of Mars Hill Church?
I've documented things about Mars Hill Church for years and this bit of tossed off explanation credited to Mark Driscoll in the notes from the investigation seems a bit creepy. It could be taken as a sign that the level of corruption and incompetence within the leadership culture of Mars Hill entailed a case where, in response to a formal charge made against him that said he impugned the character of a former executive pastor Mark Driscoll's recorded response seemed to be a defense of whatever he said. But even if we take that as given it raises what should be a troubling question for anyone to whom Mark Driscoll ever said "I see things" in line with his claims to spiritual discernment. He could allegedly witness sexual molestations in visions as if they were in real time but he couldn't discern that one of his own executive pastors had turned out to be an embezzler and an academic fraud?
As was summarized elsewhere in The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, members of the Board of Elders found that Driscoll's response to their investigation essentially proved the credibility of the formal charges that had been made against him. The release of the notes, though more skeletal than full audio or transcriptions, suggest that the accounts Mark Driscoll told of his resignation from late 2014 moving forward may be accounts he really believes and, if so, that his ability to give a reliable account of what happened is a bit questionable in light of the mass of now for-the-record statements made by former staff, elders and executive pastors. Driscoll seems, as more and more comes to light, to confirm a pattern I've noticed in his words in which he seems to grade himself on a curve he doesn't necessarily apply to others.
over at Throckmorton's blog Sutton Turner has commented that Nieuwhof took down his Episode 328 interview with Driscoll once Cosper's podcast series went online. I'll quote one of Turner's comments below: