October 16, 2017

Grace Means Saying, “I’m Sorry”

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.

• • •

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.

Mars Hill and Proverbs 18:17 In Action
Saturday, February 4th, 2012

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.”

However…

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.

• • •

*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.

Comments

  1. Chaplain Mike:

    Thanks for following this up and clarifying things.

    Peace…

  2. I’m guessing this post will have far less comments…

  3. It’s always good to own up to a mistake and say you’re sorry. You’re a good man, Pat K..

    I plan on doing the same thing…on the day that I ever make a mistake 😀

  4. Thanks for this post. My respect for this site (which was already high) just went higher.

    And each of us needs to keep in mind Prov 18:17.

  5. Joseph (the original) says:

    wow…

    what a messy, well, mess…

    the original post & the responses got off the rail when we transitioned from theoretical considerations to actual Mars Hill+Driscoll bashing & the focus on darker elements at the bottom of the Andrew situation?

    and now there is supposedly more to the story still?

    my, my, my. has Matthew Paul Turner made any comments about this on his blog?

    what a lot of pent-up frustration expressed thru the responses on that article though. seems like anything associated with Mars Hill+Driscoll is going to be a lightning rod for controversy…

    good response Chap Mike. taking the higher road in the entire debacle where simply adding more to the pile did not have the expected/intended result. sometimes we do need a motivation check & a public apology for being too reactionary regardless of our reasons for addressing a certain topic.

    blessings to you. thanx for the reality check & the refocus on grace, forgiveness, humility, taking ownership of actions. we need to be reminded of such things with practical examples like this…

    Lord, keep us

  6. I can’t access the New Reformation Press blog. Did they take it down? If there’s more to the story than we should hear it. However let’s remember those of you who are Christians should remember the following:

    1. Driscoll kicking out two elders who disagreed with him.
    2. His take on SOS…need I say more?
    3. His comments in Christians in Britain and Anglicans.
    4. And there are other stories about harsh autherterian situations on the web.

    If a mistake is made then by all means…it should be admitted. But it should not be a pass for a free for all, which all too often what plays out. I’d like to hear WTH’s take on these new developments. I respect his understanding of MH.

    • I did wonder was there more to the story, and obviously there is. However, the documents we saw were troubling, particularly the one laying out the methods whereby a congregant should shun and treat an errant member – the idea of continuously saying “I can’t listen to you criticise the elders because they’re in the right” whatever the reason doesn’t sit well with me. Yes, I understand that someone disbarred from fellowship for obstinate persistance in sin will probably feel hard done by and try to throw the blame on those who have rebuked him or her, but there is always the possibility that the elders are in the wrong and that they haven’t done all they could to reconcile the person, or that the shunned person has a legitimate complaint.

      Well, let us pray this situation will be resolved for the benefit of all involved and the increase of God’s kingdom.

  7. Yeah…I can’t access the NRP article. Nuts!!

  8. There’s always more info and background that people like us outside of the situations at MHC are not privy to. Thank you for your post. My views on Mark Driscoll and MHC have not changed much because Andrew isn’t the only person who have spoken out. I think grace upon grace is what all need as we bear with one another.

  9. I feel sick about all of this. It has never been more clear how quick people are to defend institutions above individuals and how easy it is for a cult to ruin someone who tries to speak out. You still don’t know the full story, the only thing that’s changed here is a MH pastor called someone to do damage control. Maybe the things he said were true, maybe they weren’t, but they were believed without question, a courtesy that you did not even give the individual in your original post.

    I realize I’m one of this blog’s least favorite commenters–maybe it’s because my criticisms aren’t always just of a gross caricature of Christianity, maybe because you still insist on viewing Mars Hill as a genuine church with a few rough edges and it makes you uncomfortable that I insist on calling it a cult–so it’s probably not much of a loss, but I think I’m done here.

  10. Part of the issue is that Mars Hill posted a letter on the internet detailing what a big, bad sinner this guy was and giving specific instructions on how to appropriately shun him. In doing so, they made it public…and I refuse to believe a church as media- and internet-savvy as them actually believed that there’s such a thing as a secret area of the internet. But now that the you-know-what has hit the fan, they want to play the “wouldn’t be prudent or wise for us to discuss publicly” card, all the while being sure to leak enough back-channel information to bloggers who can reassure us that we’re too ignorant to understand this, so we should keep our mouths shut.

    If CM or Patrick feel personal need to apologize for things they’ve said, that’s fine. It’s their conscience, their judgment and I’m certainly in no position to tell them otherwise. But I’m not sure there’s yet been any information that undermines the basic idea that this thing was shady from minute one. To be honest, CM, while I respect 100% your willingness to apologize, I think your original point still stands that this was a gross mishandling of “church discipline” and I regret that MH has short-circuited a needed conversation by leaking enough info without actually taking the responsibility of attaching their names to said info. If they think that Andrew passed the buck for his sin, well maybe he learned from the best.

    • Wow. What Megan said.

    • One more Mike says:

      From the “Amen Corner”: “Amen & well said Sister Megan!!!”

      • Megan, you may very well be right. My point is that I never wanted the focus to be specifically on Mars Hill in the first place, but I opened the door for that. Like I said in my 6:04pm comment, if abuse is happening and a specific church is acting improperly, I am all for bringing it to light. That, however, was not the primary intent of my original posts, and my apology should in no way be interpreted as letting anyone off the hook. I’m just taking responsibility for something I did that didn’t help.

    • ‘Part of the issue is that Mars Hill posted a letter on the internet detailing what a big, bad sinner this guy was and giving specific instructions on how to appropriately shun him. In doing so, they made it public…and I refuse to believe a church as media- and internet-savvy as them actually believed that there’s such a thing as a secret area of the internet’

      Megan, do you know if it is MH church policy to publish things like this on the Internet? Do you suppose they condone this? Where are the other examples of this offense?

  11. Well now my apetite is wetted. It almost should mean that the enture story should come out, from begining to ending. I would also like to know the new evidence in light of your other post CM, where you posted, “Getting Better is not the Goal.” Did MH lay out a detailed plan that this young man could not meet? What does this mean for all the other posts on the interent? Bent Meyer’s discussion of him beign kicked out of MH for disagreeing with Driscoll. I’m confused as ot whether or not MH is practicng damage control or if there was someone who intentionaly bucked the rules. But in an authorterian setting…that’s easy to do as well.

    Do you understand what I am saying?

  12. Chaplain Mike,
    Thanks for this post. I appreciate your candor and honesty.

  13. I still can’t access Pat Kyle’s post. I would suggest it would be just as bad to drop a bomb like he did and then refuse to let people to read a retraction of the whole story. That would be just as erroneous as if Andrew embellished on the story of MH discipline, and twisted it to make it sensational.

    • Eagle-

      Here is the retraction post:

      “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”

      • oops, trying to put up the original.

      • This is it? That’s all? I was expecting a longer drawn out post in the link. For me this only raises more questions. For example..

        1. What discipline measures did MH employ?
        2. How much grace was given?
        3. If he tried but was having difficulty then what? Was that when he got the letter and the discipline contract?
        4. What are the several situations that are raised? Are they severe or are they embellished to be made severe?
        5. Are they other people involved also in the process?

        This raises more questions and doesn’t really provide satisfying answers. I was hoping for a post that would say sometihng like this:

        “We tried working with Andrew for two years, he ignored our advice and bucked our recommendations. He even refused to meet us half way. And he was not at all remorseful.” That’s kind of what of I thinking of seeing in more detail.

        This only leaves me suspicous. Now let me state, that if Andrew only fed information that he wanted to feed, and withheld crucial information in the process than that is not good. If he delibertaly mislead with the intent of creating a slanderous or libel situatuion than that could be serious. The trouble is that Mars Hill has a history of spiritual abuse and becuase of that one doesn’t know if this is damage control or a legitimate effort to help a person who spurned it. Due to so many other stories Mars Hill has credibility issues that would be hard to discuss, even if Andrew made up the entire story.

      • How convenient. Does not have to give details after posting the guys info….yeah right. MH is doing the PR spin. Again.

    • I still can’t access the web articles. I think a move was made way too quickly. We don’t have all the information and my suspicions rise the more I think about this effort. Its sad that some of these places just get a pass for whatever they do or say. By moving too quickly I would suggest many are just playing into their hands. It will be interesting to see what MPT and others will do and say. I don’t think neo-Calvinism is being given a pass…but there is way too much that is not known before giving “grace”. Again…fundagelicalism is a mess. I rest my case.

      Oh well..I’ll go watch MMA and beat the ^&%$ out of someone so I can be truly masculine.

  14. Chaplain Mike (and by extension, Kyle)

    You rock. Thank you so much for doing this. It’s been a little disturbing to me to watch this stuff unfold knowing full well that only half of the story was being told at best — and by people who seem to have an active dislike of those being accused. Those are some pretty big red flags.

    I strongly believe that abuse in the church needs to be outed. People who engage in abusive and manipulative activities should be called to repentance. Yet doing so with hearsay in a public forum in a second-hand way can quickly also cause irreparable harm to innocent parties — no matter who they are.

    We’re in a world where TMZ and FOX/MSNBC have made “gotcha” stories all the more scintillating and easy to produce. Thank you for taking the high road and owning up, and may we all have the maturity to do the same when we make a mistake.

  15. All we really know is that some new information was brought to light. We have no idea what this new information was or even if there is any. I find it hard to extend an apology given the lack of facts. The truth is that Mars Hill engaged in behavior quite unbecoming of a christian church.Given their track record this does not change my mind one bit on how I view them. Where are the shunning letters for the other individuals involved ? Why does the elders daughter get a pass. Because Driscoll feels all sexual sin is the mans fault and not the womens ? This is what happens when you have everything run by one individual who allows no dissent. The neo calvin world with Driscoll and Maheaney shows us all the evidence we need. Now I think I will go pump some iron so I can be the man God wants me to be !!!!!!!

  16. The Previous Dan says:

    “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.”

    That is some good advice. I remember casting dispersions on the young man “Andrew” during the original discussion. I don’t know what the whole story is and so it isn’t my place to judge between MH and Andrew. Yes, I guess it would have been better if we could have just discussed the situation as a theoretical case study. For my part, I’m sorry for what I said about Andrew.

  17. Now it seems we have an overreaction in the other direction, still away from balance.

    You yourself have stated that we are “talking about real people and real situations that we do not know enough about.” If you are going to “apologize to Mars Hill Church and any leaders or congregation members whose reputation may have been questioned or damaged by the discussion I initiated”, seems it is only fair to apologize to Andrew as well, whose integrity may have been questioned or damaged by the discussion you have initiated today.

    (and i have to say, this post has a ring to it of endorsing MH’s platform & giving automatic credence to their rebuttal.)

    • (and I have to say, this post has a ring to it of endorsing MH’s platform & giving automatic credence to their rebuttal.)

      I agree with this statement quite a bit. If there was a like button…I would like this statement. Wouldn’t it be better for more information to come forward before making such a decision? What if more information comes forward that leads you to change your mind Chaplin Mike? And reagrdless of what is said…I would take serious issue that Mars Hill would respond with grace. Do they even know what grace is? How it’s practiced?

  18. Robin Cranford says:

    I don’t think Pat Kyle or Chaplain Mike’s retraction means they now embrace neo calvinism’s heavy handiness in discipline. I seriously doubt either of these men laud the beyond bizarre antics of M. Driscoll however, this is a case of putting the best construction on something. Bottom line, we need to extend the grace and mercy to these people as well because this is what we most desire from them. It may be true that they are a graceless bunch, and I tend to agree that many from Mars Hill have story after story of manipulation but, I have to say Bravo Chaplain Mike and Pat Kyle for putting the best construction on something and extending a bit of grace to those that don’t always do that for others. That is a beautiful picture of the Gospel. Who knows, maybe a bit grace to the graceless might engender a bit more kindness within them or maybe not but this post reminds me of a central piece of the gospel “While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly.” Thank goodness he didn’t wait around until we were willing to be a bit more kind and less heavy handed toward others.

    I will also say that I think it is NECESSARY to continue dialoguing about much about what goes on within these churches, and I am grateful for those who speak out against them. But, in this one instance I have to side with CM and PK.

  19. Two points….I admire your reflections on this, and know even more that you really do all you can to follow the Lord’s plan. And….it took some stones. Props out.

    Second…..I have to agree that there MIGHT be an undertone read into the apologies that condones Mars Hill behavior AS EVIDENCED ELSEWHERE and in doing so softens the valid questioning of how “Christlike” their policies and actions are.

    I don’t know, and I wasn’t there. BUT….reading the “there are others matters we can’t address” smacks too much like the “compromise” on abortion-inducing agents from the White House after getting a serious smack-down. Looks a little like hiding behind the “privacy” curtain only when it suits oneself.

  20. I really appreciate this post. I know I don’t comment often, but I read Imonk every day. My initial response to reading about the Andrew-MH scandal was much like Martha’s: sounds like a botched job of trying to institute something like confession. But then, the well intentioned case study approach invited us to judge the situation, and we weren’t really in the position to do that. Even in a purely hypothetical way, we only had the account of the aggrieved person. Whether he’s rightfully aggrieved or not, the person making the complaint isn’t in a position to give us context on the other side.

    Our best response to hearing such a story is to pray. Prayer, unlike judgement, doesn’t require understanding both sides. The Lord knows what mercy means in the situation even though we don’t. “Lord have mercy” covers every need, ever nuance, and entrusts everyone involved to God and his will.

  21. I could not agree more that we have to have the grace to say sorry when it needs to be said. However, saying sorry based on ” there are other things which we can not speak on ” does not seem to rise up to that standard.

  22. Had to go look at my comments on those posts again to see whether I had said anything inappropriate about Mars Hill. I don’t think I did, though I’m sure anyone could take a statement out of context and say I did. Oh well.

    I recognized, at the time, that we were only getting one side of the story, and tried to react in light of that fact. I think a lot of us were trying to do likewise.

    I also think some of us were just happy for another reason to slam Mars Hill. Don’t like Driscoll’s theology? Well, now you have an even better reason to bash them: They shun people like a cult would! My ire is vindicated! My bile is righteous bile! Whatever gives us an excuse to be vengeful instead of gracious, ’cause vengeance is more fun. Easier to write, too.

    But the purpose of criticism, in the Kingdom, must always be to restore relationships, rather than rip them to shreds on the grounds that our antagonists are forever lost, or that we’re justified in being outraged about any hypothetical scenario that resembles what we all thought was going on. Grace means we treat the sinner exactly the same way that we should be apologetically treating the wrongfully accused: We’re concerned about evil, but we don’t want to alienate. We fix, not wreck further, what’s broken.

  23. I think many of you are missing the point here.

    1. My apology is not a defense of Mars Hill, nor is it an exoneration of anyone’s behavior.

    2. Pat felt it right to post a retraction because a personal friend (not a MHC PR person) talked to him and helped him understand there was more involved than what he (Pat) had criticized.

    3. I did NOT publish a retraction. I admitted to an incautious approach that opened the door to a discussion focused on Mars Hill, when my intention was to avoid making the matter personal. The whole point is, I DON’T KNOW what happened at Mars Hill and it was not right for me to arouse people’s suspicions and speculations without having more facts. As I said in the post, even if the situation turns out to prove MHC is a cult from hell itself, my approach was flawed and inappropriate. I am only taking responsibility here for MY actions.

    4. You may think you have strong evidence of abuse at MHC. You are free to write a post about it on your own blog or tell your story at one of the “refuge” blogs designed to support victims of abuse. In fact, I would support you in that. If spiritual abuse is taking place, it needs to be shouted from the rooftops so that it can be cleansed from the church.

    • Chaplin Mike…if you please. Can you expand a little more? I’m confused. What exactly are you trying to do? What are you trying to say? I’ve interacted with you for a couple of years now and I’ve gotton some of your humour sposts, sarcasm, etc.. . Please help me understand…what are trying to apologize for? Did I or other make you feel guilty? Maybe you can do this in an upcoming post. But I would like to hear in detail what forgivenss means, how it should be practiced etc..

      The diffiucly I would suggest is that both sides becomes jaded. I admit as an ex-fundy that my views at times are jaded. And I do have a tendancy to view things through colored glases. On the opposite side you have those who look at someone and as far as they can see, this person does no wrong. I’ve been in this camp to.
      What is needed is a middle ground. But there is a lot we don’t know..if this person went through a long time before getting the book thrown, that’s one thing. It depends on how Pat’s personal friend defines discipline. Becuase you can take a topic like this and put it in front of 15 different people and get 15 different answers

    • Robin Cranford says:

      Thanks for the clarification and always gracious attitude.

    • As a lurker and rare commenter here, and as someone who has no dog in this particular fight, I have to say CM that on this occasion, your naivety was, to put it mildly, breath-taking.

      Did you honestly think that starting a post with “This post is not about a certain well-known pastor, even though it involves the church he leads.” would NOT lead to the torrent of (sometimes justified) harsh comments that usually follows? The moment I read your opening line on that post, I knew it was a case of ‘here we go again… Mark Driscoll – How do I hate thee, let me count the ways…’

      I’m sorry if this comes across as an angry rant. It’s been on my heart for a while. This kind of thing happens time and time again on this site. I love coming to IM every day, particularly for your insights, CM, which I really appreciate. But sometimes I just want to scream. The IM community is to some extent, a kind of Adullam’s Cave in cyberspace, and some posts here are simply red rags to the resident bulls.

      All this aside, I really appreciate that you apologised, and understand that not all of this information should be public.

      • Derek, we all went into this discussion knowing it was about MHC and Driscoll; I made that perfectly clear — I just didn’t want them to be the primary focus. I now know that, in order to maintain the conversation at the level I desired, it required a much greater commitment to moderating the post than I was able to give. One of the weaknesses of having a teacher’s perspective, which I often have, is that I step back and analyze something and try to lead a relatively objective discussion about it, without being sufficiently sensitive to the emotional investments people have in the topic.

        I’m still learning.

    • “3. I did NOT publish a retraction. I admitted to an incautious approach that opened the door to a discussion focused on Mars Hill, when my intention was to avoid making the matter personal.”

      Spiritual abuse IS personal. It is DONE by someone and is affirmed by an organization. And it affects ALL believers if we are truly brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes it is systematic….as in built into the system. There is no way around it. I guess I am a bit jaded on this because it was folks like you that hurt the worst when I witnessed spiritual abuse of people. They believed those in power or those associated with the church over the victims. They would say they were not there and could not know for sure. They wanted to appear “fair” and careful. We expect the wolves to be cruel but it is the nice guys who walking on eggshells who hurt the worst.

      • Thank you, Matt. This, exactly.

      • Matt, you could not be more wrong. Do you really think we believe “those in power or those associated with the church over the victims”?

        Or are you just angry?

        In my posts, I gave a link to Wenatchee the Hatchet’s site and mentioned others (such as Wartburg Watch, which is in our blogroll) that are designed to let victims tell their stories, that examine these issues from that perspective, and that give people the opportunity to vent and find refuge and mutual comfort for the pain they’ve experienced.

        The fact that this was not the purpose of our posts here does not mean we don’t care about those issues or that we are “walking on eggshells.” My apology was for a very specific indiscretion, and as has been said many times, was not designed to let anyone off the hook with regard to the specific case in view.

    • “. Pat felt it right to post a retraction because a personal friend (not a MHC PR person) talked to him and helped him understand there was more involved than what he (Pat) had criticized.

      I am not missing the point at all. Pat chose to believe someone who follows a wolf instead of Andrew.

      • Matt,

        Let’s play some Biblical harball here. The standard in both the Old and the New Testaments is to not entertain an accusation unless corroborated by two or three witnesses. Especially in the case of charges against elder and Pastors. Proverbs warns us that one seems right until another examines him. . Have you heard the other side?

        A brother in the Lord reached out to me and basically pulled me back from a very public sin. I am thankful. If he lied to me, (which I am convinced he did NOT do) then it is on him. My conscience is clear.

        The Lord judge between you and me.

        To the rest of you, I say read my post carefully, and read between the lines. You might be able to envision situations in which my retraction makes sense.

  24. Matt Purdum says:

    Driscoll’s childishness, insecurity, and craving for attention have taken up enough space on the internet. When we stop paying attention, he will stop acting out his personal pathologies on the world stage.

  25. I am no fan of MHC and the Andrew story is easy to get riled up about. Even without the Andrew story, though, I’ve grown to tire of Driscoll’s approach to things.

    That said, some of the stuff I’ve been reading on here reads way, way too snarky, bitter, angry, etc. toward the evangelical movement as a whole, with which I still identify. I am few, if any, of the things embodied by MHC, or Saddleback, or Answers in Genesis… but I am still evangelical. I appreciate Lutheran theology, Catholic service, and so on… but I am still evangelical. And in recent days, iM has felt more and more hostile to people like me. It’s all love and grace, right up until you start talking about complementarians or those of us that continue to believe that ongoing rebellion in a person’s life really should be a governing factor in whether or not my church should administer communion to them. (To be fair, this is at least as much about commenters as the authors, maybe even more.)

    And then there’s a post like this that helps me feel like we’re rising above the muck a bit. Thank you, Mike, for stopping to consider the damage your words can do, and for choosing repentance, grace, and true love over further escalation, entrenching, and bitterness. I don’t want iM to become another echo chamber where everyone loves what they’re hearing… because it’s just their own words over and over. I think this kind of thing helps avoid that.

    • Thanks for your comment pgc.

      I thought I was the only one…

      • By no means were you the only one. I’ve been visiting this blog off and on for a number of years and have posted (occasionally) under various names before settling on my current one. And maybe it’s change in my perspective more than an actual change in the blog, but I’ve grown really disheartened at times with the self-righteousness that goes on display when people want to attack (fill-in-the-blank). It’s the story of the Pharisee in the Temple (“I thank You, my God, that I am not like that horrible, crude, know-nothing evangelical over there”).

        I can understand the desire to simply want to bash and vent. I’ve had horrible church experiences myself. I’ve had my salvation and spiritual maturity questioned for not continuing to support a ministry that I didn’t think was accomplishing anything. I’ve put myself out to make my needs known to others only to be ignored or patronized. I’ve seen ridiculous legalism and mind-numbing obsession with spiritual minutiae.

        But I have to remind myself, at the end of the day, I’ve done similiarly awful things. I have not cared for others as I ought. I have preferred my own self-justification at the expense of the truth. And I have had to realize that other people were dealing with their own issues. And as well, the people that hurt me in the past were probably not sitting around thinking about me. They had moved on, and so should I.

      • Add me to the list of similar concerns. I imagine there are others who also agree and just don’t comment. You are certainly not the only one.

    • PGC and Derek-

      First I’m grateful that you both had wonderful and affirming evangelical expereinces. I’m happy for both of you and I’m glad that you can’t relete to my experiences or others. However, I think you both need to remember that not everyone had a similar, rosy, uplifing expereince. My expereince in evangelicalism and my separation from it was one of the hardest experiences I went through. In different twists and turns I had to deal with a number of things – Pharises, accountability partner who lived a double life, YEC, rapture theology, and more experiences than I care to remember of fundys grateful about some natural disaster, calamity, etc.. becuase they thought it would accelerate the rapture.

      I for one had it hammered into me that Catholics, Lutherans, and main line Protestants are in heresy. And that “we” (the reformed crowd) are just a hop, skip and jump from being luke warm like them. This why even though I am out of Christianity I am still weary of the mainline’s. I feel like I am going against years and years of teaching and instinct. This is also why when I walked away and trashed some of my material I felt like a part of me died. It’s what it is…. it’s my life as I trudge forward unsure of what I am. Thus I do know…I am a product of the evangelical culture. In the way I moved cross country, submitted to what I was told, followed “God’s will” and had it all backfire. A lot of what I learned from Crusade, John Piper, etc.. didn’t work in the real world.

      So remember when people like me or others “bitch” or talk about our experiences we do so because some of us are trying to figue out how to go forward. In the process of trying to figure out life so much has changed. I discovered therater, musuems, art and most of my friends today are non-evangelical through work, clubs, etc..

      So please keep that in mind.

      • Eagle,

        I do see where you’re coming from, even though it is not my experience – which although affirming, has not been all that stellar. Most of what you have come to reject I rejected at one point or another as well, and I do ‘keep that in mind’ every time you post. Every time.

        If I was ever in your area, I would buy you a beer. But yes, sometimes I read your posts and I do want to shout at you. Text is cold, and emotions run high on this blog, and I am somewhat sick of it, but I still keep coming back for the good stuff.

    • pcg, just for the record, Catholics don’t have services, we have Mass.

  26. Robin Cranford says:

    + 1000

  27. It’s often hard to take the high road in the blogosphere where news gets old so fast, but I think this blog does just about the best job of it of any I have seen. The original post may have lacked some caution and circumspection, but not a lot (I’ve sure seen worese) . And while a number of comments got off track into the specifics of the situation and personalities, there was also a significant amount of serious discussion about church discipline in general and what the paramaters and realities are. All this to say I think it was an important conversation even given its faults and flaws, for which you are very gracious to apologize.

    • Thank you, John. I too think the posts remain valuable for the reasons you mentioned, and therefore will not retract them. The only thing I regret is that I did not keep us on track. Next time, when I present a “case study” I will do so differently, without mentioning names.

  28. I was fine with the original post, but the only question I had was whether the post was appropriate for the internetmonk website. Only Mike/Jeff can answer that for sure.

    But, in reading that post, I ran across “The Wartburg Watch” which is devoted 100% to these types of stories. I found it very enlightening. I believe the watching of authoritarian figures must continue, but perhaps mostly on sites wholly devoted to sharing stories.

    In my own writings, I created a sort of code of ethics after a problem I ran into in my community. I decided not to ever post on pastors of a local church, no matter how large the church may be. However, if a pastor transitions to a widely known public figure which widely influences large communities (e.g., how Driscoll impacts Acts 29, TGC, and other neo-Reformed groups), they need widespread accountability. Since these public figures rarely have accountability within their own church, the blogosphere seems to be the only place to hold them accountable.

    • Allen, I have a similar standard, which I stated in the post. Those who use public media to promote themselves and their ministries are subject to public critique.

      This story was not that. I should have been more cautious in how I presented it.

    • Allen…

      There are a lot of great blogs out there. This is how I got started. I was going thorugh my spiritual meltdown and one day I typed in the question, “Where does a Christian go to in a spiritual crisis?” into google. The first listing that popped up was JMJ “Christian Monist.” I was shocked as to what I read. His expereinces with the Navigators, spiritual abuse, his experience as an Elder, his pastor’s treatment of people, and at the same time trying to be a father and raise kids who were rejecting Christinaity based upon what they saw in church. It was through the Christian Monist that I discovered Internet Monk. This site has been a haven and I’ve realized that there are a lof of people who are hurting and limping due to Christianity.

      I don’t know how I discovered The Wartburg Watch, but I was glued to story after story of what I read. They cover a wide range of topics from SBC, TGC, SGM, TG4, Neo-Calvinist, IFBC, End Times theology movements, etc… But that blog started out due to pain that two people endured. It also was motivated by child who was sexually abused by a Pastor who people dismissed becuase the pastor’s word was taken over the child. That motivates Dee & Deb, and I do have to say…from my evangelical days I resisted interacting with a woman. However, after talking to them through email and blog postings, in my mind their theological knowledge and grace has settled the issue of can women be pastors? Absolutely….

      I also like to read Rachel Evans, Wade Burleson, and I find myself reading Wenatchee the Hatchet’s blog. But many of these blogs exist for different reasons and look at the same thing from differing angles. I love I Monk as much as I love Wartburg. I think highly of all of them.

  29. Professor Failure says:

    I don’t know why you’re apologizing. We don’t know any more of the true story than we did before.

    And frankly, there aren’t a lot of extenuating circumstances here that can justify the documents I’ve read.

  30. One more Mike says:

    Chaplain Mike,

    Since you asked: ” I forgive you. Now go and sin no more. Until next time.”

    Now if young Andrew in the original debacle had a friend like me, we’d could all be having a nightcap and going to bed instead of this madness.

    Peace, Y’all

  31. Eagle, I always look forward to hearing what you have to say on this blog. It’s good to hear various opinions and experiences from a variety of people.

  32. Chaplain Mike… does the word of a friend of a friend carry so much weight?

    The so-called “discipline contract” is still what it is – invasive, manipulative and controlling.

    I have liked the iMonk blog for a long time, but I’m disheartened by this post.

  33. “A member of his congregation fell into sin and soon after confessed it. What follows is a freaking train wreck. ‘Church discipline’ was clumsily attempted and soon grew out of control.”

    It’s interesting that this much was not retracted. It was obvious from the start that this was a train wreck.

  34. CM,

    I think I sort of understand where you’re coming from on this one. But what does this mean, practically? That we can’t discuss anything any more at all, because we don’t know all the ins and outs?

    The thing is, your post seems to start out apologising for having raised the subject, and only later in comments that morphs into apologising for not having moderated the comments sufficiently.

    The thing is, even if we DID know all the ins and outs, that presumably wouldn’t have prevented the (alleged) ‘bile’ in the comments, which is mostly motivated (I imagine) by people’s pre-existing attitude towards MHC & co.

    So, following on logically (to me), that means that you won’t be able to mention MHC (or any other controversial topic) ever again, for fear of ‘nasty’ comments. (Or are nasty comments allowed if they’re motivated by ‘perfect knowledge’ of every aspect of the situation?)

    I’m not saying that is wrong (judge not lest ye be judged), just trying to work out the ramifications of what you’re saying.

    • Ben, your logic is flawed. I made myself clear.

      1. When someone uses public media to promote themselves or their ministry, they are open to public critique.

      2. If, in the future, I try to do a “case study” on a real situation like this, I will approach it differently (but I won’t be afraid to approach it).

      3. I will either disguise the situation so that the people involved won’t be in the spotlight, or I will make clear that we are not to make personal comments in the discussion, and I will moderate more closely.