UPDATE: Having long passed the point of “the more I try to explain the less I’m understood,” I am closing comments for now.
UPDATE: Please read my comment at 6:04 pm.
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I spoke on the phone the other night with fellow blogger and friend of Internet Monk Patrick Kyle. His website, New Reformation Press is devoted to offering substantive products to help people discover the Gospel message as recovered in the Reformation. Many of you have gone to NRP and downloaded Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s fine message, “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church,” which remains prominently featured on the right sidebar of Internet Monk.
Pat got my attention with a blog article he posted on Saturday, Feb. 4, concerning the church discipline situation at Mars Hill Church that we have discussed here at Internet Monk, and which has prompted conversation all around the blogosphere. In fact, Pat himself wrote about it in a post published January 25. This subject is a sensitive one to him, because of his own experience of being “beaten down” in an evangelical church. He wrote two marvelous posts that we have appreciated here at IM called, “How the Confession of My Sins Kept Me in the Church” (Part I and Part II).
However, if you go to NRP now and look at the articles about MHC, you will see that Pat has modified the original post, and in the second one, has retracted most of what he wrote in the first piece. He did this in response to receiving additional information from a personal friend who knows more about the situation (see below for details).
Pat’s action in publishing this retraction spoke to me of humility and grace. It has moved me to say some similar things here at Internet Monk today.
Before I do, let’s take a look at Pat Kyle’s Feb. 4 post. It’s reproduced after the jump.
I recently put up a post contrasting the supposed mishandling of church discipline at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and my own experience in a Lutheran congregation in Southern California. You can read that post here.
A friend on staff at Mars Hill read that post and reached out to me earlier this week. After a fairly lengthy discussion, I have decided to post this retraction and clarification. There is much more to the story than initial reports, including the ones I linked to, than it first appears. It is a classic case of Proverbs 18:17 in action.
The first to plead his case seems right,
Until another comes and examines him. (Prov.18:17)
While being discreet to protect the identities of those involved, and avoiding many of the gory details, my friend laid out enough evidence to satisfy me that the initial accounts given by Andrew and those promoting his story are at best incomplete, and most likely deliberately misleading. Large parts are left out, including the majority of action taken by the church to reconcile him. Also, Andrew’s case involves a confluence of several situations that it appears Mars Hill has properly and thoroughly dealt with. Because the details involve the sin of others that are not publicly known, the church has decided the best course of action is to remain silent to protect those people’s reputation and privacy. They did not divulge the identities of the people involved, or the specific details of each situation to me, but they gave me a rough overview of the pieces missing in various accounts of the incident now in circulation. In light of these facts it is only right that I publicly retract my former comments directed at Mars Hill.
In the future I will keep Prov.18:17 clearly in mind, and heed the admonition of our catechism to put the best construction on everything.
I have elected to keep an edited version of my original post up on the blog. My point remains valid, and I personally know of a number of instances of abuse of church discipline. However, I no longer feel it applies to Mars Hill or their handling of this case.
By Pat K
When I wrote my posts on this subject — “MPT Posts on Church Discipline – And I Suggest a Better Way,” and “Thoughts on Church Discipline and Relational Wisdom” — I have to confess that I fell into a trap I’ve failed to avoid many times before. You might think I would have learned by now.
I began the first piece with this — NOTE: This post is not about a certain well-known pastor, even though it involves the church he leads. In the discussion that follows, I am not interested in having us talk about this pastor personally. So don’t. Please keep the conversation on the subject of church discipline itself, more broadly. We focus on these articles because they present a detailed description of a church discipline process that gives us a rare inside look at how a congregation attempts to deal with Christian sin, repentance, and restoration in the church.
You might see what I was trying to do. I was trying to act as a teacher presenting a case study. Early in the first post, I said, “I recognize that we are only getting one side of the story, and that is an important caveat to keep in mind. But if we are to take Andrew’s word as anywhere near accurate in the description of what he went through, then I would make the following observations…”
In the second post, I tried to make the same point: “…this story provides a clear case study of the lack of relational wisdom that plagues many church communities. And that’s what I’d like us to consider today.”
I failed to accurately estimate the level of personal emotion and opinion there is concerning Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll, etc. And I failed to recognize that a story like this is so incendiary that there was no way we were going to be able to discuss it as a mere “case study.” No matter how many times I might say, “Let’s assume these facts are correct and discuss the case as presented without passing judgment on the actual situation,” for me to think that was possible or likely was foolish.
The result was that we all got drawn in to talking about real people and real situations that we do not know enough about.
For that I’m sorry. I apologize to Mars Hill Church and any leaders or congregation members whose reputation may have been questioned or damaged by the discussion I initiated and in which I participated, sometimes saying hurtful things. And I apologize to you, our Internet Monk readers, for “leading you into temptation” — for drawing you into a situation where I encouraged and enabled you to cast aspersions on others without all the evidence.
Even if some of the negative conclusions that were drawn in our conversation were to prove accurate, and it turns out that certain parties made dreadful decisions, that doesn’t change the fact that I as a blogger engaged you in talking about the situation wrongly, or at least with insufficient wisdom and caution.
By the way, in saying these things, I also don’t want to cast any aspersions at Matthew Paul Turner or anyone else who published the original stories or other posts about them. I merely want to take responsibility for my own actions here.
Some of you (us) will continue to maintain strong opinions about this situation, and about certain churches and figures who put themselves in the public spotlight. I believe that those who use public media to promote their causes put themselves in position to receive public critique when it is warranted, and we won’t shy away from doing that on Internet Monk. However, this was not one of those cases, and I acted improperly.
By God’s grace, I see this. And by God’s grace, I ask your forgiveness.
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*Note: In case anyone is wondering, MHC has been contacted directly and notified of this post and apology, and they have responded with grace and gratitude.