October 25, 2014

Power: WTH on Discipline and Other Issues at Mars Hill

Mark Driscoll

NOTE: I asked our friend, Wenatchee the Hatchet, to update us on one of last year’s scandals involving the discipline process at Mars Hill Church. You may recall that we used this situation as a basis for discussion last year, and then decided to leave further discussion to others who were better informed. (See “MPT Posts on Church Discipline — And I Suggest a Better Way,” “Thoughts on Church Discipline and Relational Wisdom,” and “Grace Means Saying, ‘I’m Sorry.'”

I also encourage you to check out his riff on Martha’s post on the abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, in which he applies her observations that there were cultural factors contributing to the problems in Ireland and helps us see some of the cultural factors affecting Mars Hill and other Neo-Reformed bastions that provide context for their scandals.

Make sure you read this carefully. WTH has some extremely important things to say, not just about Mars Hill and their shortcomings, but also about the biases and failures of the Christian blogosphere and other Mars Hill critics. I thank him for his wise and balanced approach.

* * *

In early 2012 Mars Hill Church in Seattle made headlines over the disciplinary procedures made in the case of former church member Andrew Lamb. Andrew’s story was shared by Matthew Paul Turner and told a story of a young man who was dating a pastor’s daughter, engaged in behavior he regretted, confessed the behavior to his girlfriend, and the confession catalyzed the gears of the Mars Hill disciplinary apparatus. Along the way Andrew confessed that he and the pastor’s daughter who was his girlfriend at the time were in a physical relationship. The disciplinary process Lamb underwent involved many meetings and a lot of correspondence to which we were not made privy but the culminating escalation letter posted to The City discussing Andrew’s departure from Mars Hill while under member discipline was posted by Matthew Paul Turner.

The subsequent controversy that erupted made enough news to get covered in Seattle by local newspaper The Stranger, by a number of bloggers, and by Slate. While there are many important details and subjects that can be discussed about Andrew Lamb’s case (such as that he finally identified himself to the public this year) the two most salient issues to discuss a year later can be summed up in two questions. How could we know whether or not Andrew’s story was plausible or true? Why did nearly everyone who was for or against Mars Hill already display no interest in addressing the veracity of Andrew’s story once Matthew Paul Turner put it on his blog?

Where the first question is concerned Andrew Lamb identified himself publicly earlier this year. More than sufficient information was available on the internet to identify the names of other parties involved on the basis of social and broadcast media content that was available even before Andrew became a subject of Mars Hill Church discipline. For those with the patience to read about that “A Confluence of Situations” is available to read at Wenatchee The Hatchet. The most basic details of Andrew’s story were very specific. He was a security volunteer at Ballard, was in love with and dating a pastor’s daughter there, and the daughter had a stepfather. This permitted the identification of at least four parties involved in Andrew’s case if a person could go through publicly available information provided by Mars Hill and associates over the last nine years.

The problem with doing that was that in early 2012 Mars Hill had embarked on a massive information purge that removed basic information about Mars Hill staff and families from all publicly viewable websites. Even information that had been available on The City for members may have been amended for all we do and don’t know. When Mars Hill PR said that they regretted that bloggers and journalists did not contact them to confirm the facts about Andrew’s case this was just that, public relations. Had Mars Hill not undertaken a massive information purge no one in the press would have needed to bother finding out whether or not Andrew’s story was reliable because they could have worked out which divorced-then-remarried pastor had a stepdaughter who could have been involved with Andrew. Mars Hill’s public response seemed insincere precisely because they presented themselves as beleagured by bloggers and journalists who didn’t want to find out the facts while the church was taking significnat measures to prevent basic details of Andrew’s story from being investigated.

mars-hillMars Hill critics, for their part, seemed far more obsessed with finding ways to tie everything back to Mark Driscoll. Never mind that Mark and Grace Driscoll were on tour promoting their book Real Marriage during the time that Andrew Lamb’s story became a news item. Critics supposed that Driscoll had to be the subject of discussion as often as not. Mars Hill PR asserted that Driscoll was in no way connected to the discipline of Andrew. Mars Hill advocates asserted repeatedly that Andrew’s story only became public because Andrew went to bloggers. That’s not exactly true, Andrew’s story became a matter for possible discussion in the public once his disciplinary case was posted to a social media network known as The City. Mars Hill history of posting notices to church members about member and leadership changes would take more time than is suitable to discuss here. That subject, too, is a matter you can read about at Wenatchee The Hatchet if you wish.

As public discussion escalated Mars Hill PR response suggested a team that was coping with a situation they didn’t actually have a grip on. Mars Hill stated that only Slate attempted to verify facts about disciplinary cases when, in fact, Mars Hill Pastor Jeff Bettger had gone on record to The Stranger even before the Slate article was published. The story of Lance (a pseudonym) was another story of church leadership taking a stern stance against a romantic pairing. What was lost in the coverage for and against Mars Hill was that these controversies were not swirling around because of executive pastor Mark Driscoll, the controversies surrounded the competence and good will of what are called biblical living pastors. Amid a blogosphere and press eager to reduce every controversy related to Mars Hill about Mark Driscoll the actual controversy, concerns about incompetence, malice and unchecked authority in the biblical counseling/pastoral counseling branch of Mars Hill, were overlooked in favor of critics attempting to make the controversies about Driscoll.

Mars Hill advocates, for their part, simply accepted at face value whatever leaders said about former members or staff with no demonstrable interest in investigating matters further. All that mattered was that Andrew had been labeled a wolf and he was considereed a liar and sexually immoral for fornicating with multiple women. Whether or not that assertion about Andrew’s sexual life and character could even be confirmed was of no interest to Mars Hill advocates just as Mars Hill critics seemed to have no interest in verifying whether Andrew’s story checked out. Neither side was interested in the facts because their minds were made up. In most cases the prosecution and defense fixated on Mark Driscoll in blogs and debates and not about establishing the competence, credentials and good will of what are called “biblical living pastors” at Mars Hill. The real story and controversy Andrew Lamb’s story was pointing to was largely sidelined by the story people already wanted to discuss, whether or not you liked Mark Driscoll and why.

The first and most distressing observation is that when Andrew Lamb’s story made news virtually no one in the Christian blogosphere displayed any interest in confirming even basic details about Andrew’s story. Matthew Paul Turner very obviously put a lot of effort into establishing all the details he could before running with the story. At no point did Mars Hill ever correct any claim in Andrew’s story as actually being fraudulent or untruthful. Mars Hill advocates insisted that Andrew’s story was incomplete at best and likely deliberately misleading but no attempt to establish facts supporting this contention were provided. Critics of Mars Hill, however, seemed to take everything in Andrew’s story at face value without seeming to investigate even basic claims and facts in the story. After a month of steady research I was able to establish that the basic claims in Andrew’s story were, at the very least, credible and credible enough to identify the names of at least four parties involved by name relying entirely on social and broadcast media that, to my knowledge, remains available to the public to this day.

Mars Hill’s critics were not working particularly hard or creatively to find out whether Andrew’s story was plausible. A great deal more time and energy was spent insisting that Mark Driscoll was ultimately behind all this and responsible for the situation. Never mind that Mark Driscoll was busy on tour with his wife promoting the Real Marriage book, in the eyes of many of his critics Driscoll had to be connected directly to whatever was going on with Andrew. Driscoll had to be the puppet master behind whatever happened. That meant that when Driscoll mentioned not being sure why Mars Hill Orange County got an eviction notice that he had to have been playing very dumb or he genuinely hadn’t been kept up to speed by campus pastor Nick Bogardus in Orange County about the inevitability of the eviction notice that was handed down in 2012. Mars Hill critics will need to learn that criticism of Mars Hill does not necessarily have to involve Mark Driscoll.

Mars Hill advocates took as given that Andrew Lamb was a liar and a wolf, even though Andrew fornicating with a pastor’s daughter meant that Andrew’s conduct was not entirely different from Mark and Grace Driscoll fornicating prior to marriage. Anonymous people posted Andrew’s full name online in retaliation for what he was considered to have done, while some anonymously proposed that Andrew being told he needed to get tested for sexually trasnmitted diseases was reasonable since he was a volunteer security guard at a Mars Hill campus. No questions about whether or not Andrew’s former girlfriend had any history of dishonesty ever came up. The woman’s identity was not even up for consideration. All that mattered was Andrew had been labeled a wolf by Mars Hill leadership and he had left the church under member discipline.

Andrew Lamb’s disciplinary case eventually looked like the tip of an iceberg as Lance’s story was covered by The Stranger locally. Former leaders quickly went on record with concerns about the leadership culture in Mars Hill. Wendy and Andy Alsup, who both served in ministry at Mars Hill years ago, reviewed Real Marriage and mentioned that Mark Driscoll described putting an elder through a proverbial woodchipper. The sermon cited and quoted was subsequently redacted so that the woodchipper incident was no longer a part of the sermon. While Mars Hill public relations statements asserted that they did not wish to defend themselves against misinformation (which was presumed and implied rather than established) Mars Hill was undertaking a quiet campaign to eliminate things that could be considered incriminating evidence of Mark Driscoll’s methods for conflict resolution.

By the spring of 2012 Mars Hill issued “A Call for Reconciliation” asking that people meet privately with Mars Hill rather than go to the press or the public. Mars Hill also stated that they would review their member disciplinary process. To date Mars Hill Church has not published any statement about what they concluded in their review of the member discipline process or even if such a review ever happened. Neither has Mars Hill, to date, mentioned anything about the results of the reconciliation process they called former members to in the spring of 2012. For many former members and staff the two public gestures seemed more like public relations moves rather than sincere efforts at reconciliation. Although a handful of people did have meetings set up through what Mars Hill considered a call for reconciliation, the general account of the meetings summarized them as follows–Mars Hill leadership simply agreed to disagree about differences on doctrine and the suitability of Mark Driscoll for eldership was reaffirmed.

"A bruised reed he will not break" (Isa 42:3)

“A bruised reed he will not break” (Isa 42:3)

During the spring of 2012 former Mars Hill pastor Paul Petry established Joyful Exiles recounting through documents how he was terminated from employment at Mars Hill in 2007. Within a week of this site going up Acts 29 announced that Scott Thomas was stepping down from leading Acts 29 and that Matt Chandler would assume leadership. Scott Thomas’ role as head of the Elder Investigative Taskforce during the 2007 termination process has been documented at Joyful Exiles and does not need to be rehearsed here. It is worth mentioning that a common theme among former members and staff of Mars Hill in the wake of Andrew Lamb’s story becoming public was to affirm that what happened to Lamb fit what former members and leaders experienced once they ran afoul of upper-level leadership within Mars Hill over the years. Former members and leaders had, by and large, worked out the identity of Andrew by dint of being within Seattle.

In early 2012 former staff and leaders from Mars Hill began to go public with their stories. Bent Meyer went public at The Wartburg Watch saying he was one of the two pastors fired in 2007. Paul Petry set up the website Joyful Exiles, which includes a timeline with documents and correspondence outlining his termination in 2007. To date no one at Mars Hill has publicly acknowledged anything about any documents at Joyful Exiles. Within a week of the website going up, however, former president of Acts 29 Scott Thomas was described by Matt Chandler as feeling released from leading Acts 29. While in February Mark Driscoll siad he was urged by Scott Thomas and the Acts 29 board to reinsert himself as President this may not have come to pass as Thomas was stepping down from presidency so Chandler could step in.

When Real Marriage was published it was reviewed by former Mars Hill members and staff Andy and Wendy Alsup. In their review the Alsups referred to a Driscoll session in which Driscoll talked about putting a pastor “through the woodchipper”. Some time after this incident was referred to at Practical Theology for Women, the sermon titled “The Man,” that was available for download through the Acts 29 media library, was obviously edited to remove the woodchipper anecdote. For a church with a PR team talking about not wanting to combat misinformation it was starting to look like the church was working hard to remove anything that might seem incriminate Mark Driscoll’s reputation. Taken with Mars Hill Church scrubbing all their webpages free of biographical and family details about their pastors and staff and a person could get the distinct impression that Mars Hill was trying very hard to make sure that Andrew’s story couldn’t be investigated in a way that would lead a person to identifying parties involved.

In the months after Paul Petry’s Joyful Exiles went up Mars Hill faced an eviction in Orange County as well as a fiscal situation that was in part resolved by a mass layoff. By the summer of 2012 Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith, was given audio for a presentation Mark Driscoll gave after the 2007 terminations. In that audio Mark Driscoll mentioned that there was “a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus” with a slight chuckle and another explanation that sometimes you have to put guys through the woodchipper. In the audio Driscoll referred to two elders being fired for the first time in the history of Mars Hill and this would have referred to the firings of Meyer and Petry at the end of September 2007. To date I’m not aware that anyone in Mars Hill leadership in the upper levels has contacted Paul Petry or Bent Meyer.

After some extensive research on how and what is said by Mars Hill advocates in defense of Mars Hill about former members I have observed that though rare public defenses of Mars Hill by its more ardent advocates are characterized by a willingness to directly state or imply character defects on the part of former members and staff that disqualify them from being able to make any public statement about Mars Hill. Disqualifying sin is considered to preclude critics from saying anything about Mars Hill that is critical and if this means making a point of referring to documents published and distributed within Mars Hill about former pastors then so be it. When the shoe is on the other foot and information gets out about problems in how Mars Hill pastors and staff treat people then advocates tried sticking to privacy.

What this has engendered in critics is a reflexive distrust great enough to presume that controversies about Mars Hill must be connected to Mark Driscoll on principle. That the Andrew Lamb disciplinary case highlighted shortcomings in the competence and goodwill of biblical living pastors (aka counseling pastors by another name) was easily overlooked in blogs and comments. For those for and against Mars Hill it was all about Mark Driscoll at the expense of making any serious investigation of what else might be going on inside the church. This anti-Driscollian fervor reached a peak when Matthew Paul Turner published the story of a woman calling herself Amy. Amy described herself as one of the original core at Mars Hill Church’s planting and mentioned being married to a man who is at Mars Hill. Amy described divorcing her husband in 2005 and being subjected to an exorcism by Mark Driscoll. Amid the outpouring of sympathy people critical of Mark Driscoll did not display any interest in basic questions such as whether or not Amy got custody of her two sons or not or how often she sees them if she does not have primary custody. Questions about the reliability of her story were as reflexively moot for Driscoll critics as the reliability of Andrew’s story was moot for Mars Hill members. The other side had to be discounted in advance. As cognitive biases go we can see that the halo effect works both ways, it’s an all or nothing bias the human brain readily embraces.

bruised-reed-will-not-break-e1304567889504As coverage of Mars Hill’s controversies have gone in the last 14 months there has been a lot of disappointment. When we discuss a church as obsessed with using social and broadcast media in every way possible to further its story we must resist the urge to rely on a merely Wikipedia-level approach to research. I have annoyed and frustrated people over the years by insisting that you do not trust Wikipedia entries. Go to the primary sources and actually read them. You may discover that Wikipedia footnotes have inaccurate and decontextualized references that have nothing to do with what the footnotes claim to support in the body of a Wikipedia entry. It is important to go seek out primary sources not simply because Wikipedia itself can be unreliable but also because when a controversy gets big enough an institution seeking to protect its reputation is capable of suppressing massive amounts of information relatively quickly. The downfall of the confirmation biases of most critics is that they are looking for what they want to see about Mark Driscoll (or an Andrew Lamb) and do so at the peril of discovering what the truth is.

One of the ironies I discovered burrowing deep into the internet to find out whether Andrew’s story was plausible was that everything needed to establish the basic credibility of his story was sitting in plain sight. It wasn’t just sitting in plain sight, it was published in most cases by the Mars Hill members and culture who, as a whole, claimed they didn’t want to compromise the privacy of hurt women who were in some cases blogging away their own privacy. The Christian blogosphere culture was evidently not up to investigating these matters any more than Mars Hill was up to suppressing information rapidly enough to prevent names from being discovered. At the risk of dropping some media studies jargon, institutions commit too much to the fallacy that their media presence can’t boomerang on them and bloggers put too much stock in their own observations and a libertarian theory of the press. A church as big as Mars Hill may think it can retract and redact information fast enough to avoid a story becoming news, but bloggers too often assume we know the real story when the real story is sliding past us. This can paradoxically happen because we reflexively distrust primary sources because we don’t like them.

While there are reasons to doubt the reliability of official sources and content can get suppressed or redacted, if you want to get information about Mars Hill the most reliable way to begin doing that is to go to the primary sources. As many criticisms as I have made about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll over time it is still true that critics have accepted claims about Driscoll that are simply not true, such as the claim that Driscoll said Ted Haggard went to a gay prostitute and used meth because Gayle Haggard let herself go. What Driscoll did was simply use the Haggard scandal as a pretext to discuss what were already his hobby horses about marriage and sex without any particularly clear link between those hobby horses and the actual scandal involving Ted Haggard. The confessions in Real Marriage retroactively shed light on why Driscoll seemed determined to publicly discuss pastors exasperated by the lack of sexual enjoyment they got from their wives.

Conversely, Mars Hill critics have tended to uncritically accept any and every story from former members as reliable without question. This is not the case, either, and the reliability and credibility of the stories of former members and staff has to be assessed case by case. A person who is willing to go public with their real name should be given more consideration because they are willing to present claims that can be disputed. No one to date from Mars Hill has even acknowledged that Joyful Exiles exists but, in principle, Mars Hill could publicly issue statements about Joyful Exiles or get in touch with Paul Petry any time they wish. I’m not aware that they have and that’s their business. The story of Andrew Lamb is now established as that of a person with a name in the public sphere. Whether or not a person agrees with Andrew’s ethics, decisions or story the burden of proof is on each party to establish the credibility of his or her claims. Anonymous or pseudonymous parties have to be assessed with the understanding that they could be wrong. This is will be as true of me as it will be of Amy’s story related to Matthew Paul Turner. You simply can’t be sure that our respective biases or experiences might not blinker our understanding but you can’t assume that our respective stories or understandings must be wrong, either.

The trouble with the Christian blogosphere as it showed its colors over the last year or so on Andrew’s case is that for the most part everyone had already made up their minds about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill before the disciplinary case became news. It was ironically left to the secular press in the form of The Stranger (and to a much lesser degree Slate) to make an effort to figure out what was going on. While Christians understandably believe a secular mainstream press is not up to the task of covering religion in America it’s become more apparent that neither was the Christian press up to keeping up with how fast the Mars Hill stories were breaking. The best coverage on Mars Hill I’ve seen in the last ten years on hot topics has come from The Stranger and Matthew Paul Turner. No one who has read a single issue of The Stranger will have any illusion about whether or not they are conservative evangelical Protestants. Their wear their advocacy on their sleeves but that also has not kept them from fact-checking that many Christian bloggers and at times Mars Hill’s own public relations team didn’t bother to get to. The long-term health of a local church may not just depend on Christian bloggers but also on a hostile secular press as a form of accountability.

Comments

  1. They shouldn’t blame this nice young man for cheating on his fiancee. According to their own theology, it’s probably her fault for letting herself go.

    OBEY
    MARRY AND REPRODUCE
    THIS IS YOUR GOD

  2. afaik, at least two other bloggers who ran Andrew’s story wrote to MH and attempted to get some kind of confirmation of details, etc. in the same way that Matthew paul Turner did. But nobody ever wrote back.

    As for anti-Driscoll whatever, I’m afraid that there’s far too much in “Real Marriage” that implicates Mark Driscoll as the origin of the kinds of ideas and attitudes seen in Andrew’s case – and in that of others (very much including Amy).

    There is systemic abuse at MH and related churches in the same way that there has been systemic abuse at SGM and related churches, though afaik, I have never (yet) heard anything about pedophile scandals at MH and/or Acts 29 churches.

    The whole idea of “believing the best” about abusive, authoritarian systems is that they *are* abusive, authoritarian systems, and people really do get hurt by them.

    One other thought: why is the word “fornicate” used repeatedly in this piece? I would think that “had sex with” (if, in fact, that is the case) would be sufficient, because “fornicate” makes Andrew sound like some kind of pervert who had non-consensual sex with the woman in question.

    They;’re adults, and whether you believe they were right or wrong, there’s a point at which people make up their own minds about what to do or not do. To tar them with slurs like “fornicator” is just (imo) wrong.

    Besides, how many people out there *never* get hit with those kinds of labels, even though they’re equally culpable?

    It’s hard to see the degree of doubt regarding Andrew’s story, knowing that there are “pastoral” staff involved, also in knowing that there are plenty of things wrong with MH. (If in doubt, you can ask some other bloggers who know a lot of painful details … start with Stephanie Drury at Stuff Christian Culture Likes and go from there. You can contact her through SCCL’s Facebook page, for one.)

    • If Andrew was having sex outside of marriage, he was fornicating. And so was the girl he was fornicating with (if they actually were fornicating).

      • Robert F says:

        Fornicate is an antiquated word used only by those who speak Christianese; it signals to those in the wider culture that the Christian subculture is speaking in its own dialect to itself, and it is an occasion for non-evangelicals to laugh at the self-righteous prigs.

        • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

          What might be a less “Christianese” term for fornication? Considering that “those in the wider culture” tend to have no problem with fornication (excepting, sometimes, adultery), I rather expect that no matter what, we’re considered “self-righteous prigs” when it comes to issues of sexual morality and moral theology.

          • Pretty much. Anybody who holds to traditional morality in this area is viewed as backwards and primitive in a culture of neo-Epicureanism. Human nature also tends to be highly intolerant of anybody who doesn’t accept our rationalization of selfish behavior.

          • which people in “the wider culture” are you referring to?

            I find this ironic, because evangelical Christians are not the only people who believe in sexual continence prior to marriage – by a long shot.

          • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

            Surely you’re not saying that it’s considered normal to “wait until marriage” in contemporary American culture. While Evangelicals aren’t the only ones to hold it up as an ideal, even among Evangelicals it seems to be considered very rare that young people will hold to it. Heck, that’s been the case at least since the late 60’s.

          • It’s not at all unusual in many parts of xtianity (like Catholicism) – let alone other religions.

            For many Orthodox Jews, for many Muslims, Hindus and Sikh, it’s de rigeur for the woman. And in many East Asian communities, it would be *not* good – again, for the woman.

            Just because the media portrays people as having serial sexual relationships and hookups doesn’t mean that everyone out there does it.

          • cermak_rd says:

            Adultery is a different animal from fornication. People were to be stoned for adultery, but only forced to marry (or pay) for fornication. Clearly, a different level of sin. After all, adultery (except in cases of open or monogamish marriages) has a victim–the wronged partner who is expecting fidelity. Fornication has no such victims (unless there is a dishonesty such as one party leading the other(s) on about a future relationship).

            And yes, you’re right, most people in the US have no problem with pre-marital sex. I mean, if you’ve committed it (and stats show most have), you’d be a bit of a hypocrite to be against it.

          • Interesting points, Cermak. I would not go as far as to say that fornication has no victims, however. I think there is something to be said for the blessings of lifelong marital exclusivity. But I’d agree that it pales in comparison to the damage done by infidelity. However, I don’t think it makes you a hypocrite to believe something you’ve done in the past is a crime. It does give one a higher moral platform if you can paint an “s” on your chest, but honestly, I think the whole point of the teaching of Jesus is that literally nobody can really do that. Lust IS adultery, in his book. So even if you got married before having sex, you’re just as much an adulterer (likely) as someone who did not. That doesn’t mean we should not have and strive for ideals. True hypocrisy would be to say you believe in waiting when in truth you do not. Many who honestly do believe just fail themselves. But it is remarkable how few of those who claim this belief really follow through.

          • Yes, some Christians do remain virgins until marriage.

            I’m in my early 40s and have never had sex because I was waiting until marriage.

            I have come across other Christians my age and older online, both male and female, who have also refrained from sexual activity. Not everyone out there is “doing it.”

        • Would the other “F” word be more acceptable to you?

          • Robert F says:

            The problem with the word Fornication (and it should be capitalized) is that it fairly drips with condescension and moral judgement, like Harlot or Sodomite.

          • Robert F says:

            Ed,
            Actually, I think that every time you want to use the word Fornicate, you should substitute some more charming word or phrase, such as “making the beast with two backs”; I find that far more acceptable. Thank you for asking.

          • Oh come on, that Shakespearian phrase could apply to spouses. The whole point of having a word that refers to intercourse that is specifically pre-marital IS to mark the distinction in order to condemn it. If there was truly nothing wrong with it, it wouldn’t be in need of it’s own word, would it?

          • Robert F said

            The problem with the word Fornication (and it should be capitalized) is that it fairly drips with condescension and moral judgement, like Harlot or Sodomite.

            Exactly!

            And it seems that we humans rush to judgment on sexual sin (or what we perceive to be sexual sin), while ignoring sins that can have far more grievous results – ones that usually seem to involve money, ignoring those in need (material, spiritual and/or both), etc.

            After all, yelling “fornicator!” or “Gay!” (or whatever) means that We Are Not Like Them. (Whoever the “them” happens to be.)

          • Well, Miguel, of course the Shakespearian phrase is a little too wide to fit, but so is the other “F” word that Ed was suggesting I might prefer. The fact that most people don’t use the word “Fornicate” beyond some Christians and possibly some in other religious groups in our society shows what disuse it has fallen into and that it’s not functional except in indicating that the users have in-status with a judgemental subgroup; and the fact that those among whom it has fallen into disuse also know both from personal experience and from widely reported sociological studies that the users of the word are not only judgemental but hypocritical because their sexual mores as reflected in behavior rather than rhetoric are almost exactly the same as the wider culture makes the use of aforementioned word a matter of glass houses and stones and rolling-of-the-eyes. “Premarital sex” is a perfectly serviceable substitute, and any ethical particularities the speaker wishes to articulate may be prefixed or suffixed in the wider discussion; it just takes a little more time and thought, which is a good witness to Christian charity in the behavior and demeanor of the speaker. And if there is no wider discussion, well no judgement should be included and the speaker should, in the title of an earlier iM post, “Talk like a human being, please.”

          • I still use the term “fornicate” at times because it’s a handy, shorter way of saying “sexual activity outside of marriage” or “sex before marriage.”

            Sad and a little puzzling to see that some are choosing to interpret it as a very judgmental, condescending type word.

            Again, as I stated before, I’m over 40 and still a virgin – not fornicating here.

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

      numo, bloggers contacting MH to verify anything in early 2012 were wasting time without knowing it. There were just two men in elder roles at MH Ballard in 2011 who fit even the most basic details of the campus pastor in Andrew’s account. MH was busy engaging in a massive information suppression campaign in early 2012 scrubbing away any and all references to spouses or children. Even with all that going on the process of elimination was rudimentary.

      Both Turner and Lamb confirmed that I figured out who the relevant parties were last year. If you haven’t read “A Confluence of Situations” you won’t know how much of an open secret the identities of the parties were when the story first broke.

      numo, did you forget my comments at TWW and WtH suggesting that Andrew’s case may have been tainted by nepotism, double standards, retaliation, and conflicts of interest? :) Or did you just not notice those comments last year?

  3. Robert F says:

    The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote: “Whereof one doe not know, one should not speak.” We are members to a culture, Christian and otherwise, that surely needs to hear and heed his advice.

    • He also said, “Die Welt ist die Gesamheit der Tatsachen, nicht der Dinge” (“The world is the totality of facts, not of things.”)

      Yeah, the whole book reads like that. Somebody should start a religion around it.

      • Werther,
        Somebody did start a religion around it a long time ago; his name was Boddhidharma and the religion was Zen.

        Hey, you wouldn’t happen to be related to Young Werther, would you?

  4. John Kaess says:

    I have been a reader of InternetMonk for many years and it as profited my spiritual life tremendously. Let me say then with regret that this is the worst written article to have ever been posted here. To say it rambles would be kind. Actually, it is almost incomprehensible with constant repetitions and assumptions throughout. I have no feelings for or against Mars Hill. I am not an advocate or a critic. However, an understandable account of the issues and problems would be interesting, but this article certainly is not that.

    • This article is in desperate need of some editing, to be sure. I kept reading and thinking, “Didn’t I just read that same exact paragraph one paragraph ago?” I’m too tired to go back and count how many times I read the same statement criticizing Mars Hill advocates and Driscoll dissenters. Not that the criticisms are at all unfair. In fact, the first 2 times I read them, I found them very insightful. And then I read it again and again and again…

    • James the Mad says:

      Likewise. I liked the gist of the piece, and I think it’s an important message. However, I kept finding myself asking, didn’t you just say the same thing two paragraphs back? Or even in the last paragraph?

      This is certainly an important and timely message, but I found it almost painful to read.

    • I had to go look up the Slate and Stranger articles just to figure out who did what, and why this was considered scandalous. I still don’t know why people are arguing about any of the facts, when the ones that are generally admitted are sufficient to demonstrate that this church is a cult which tries to control its members’ lives.

  5. After reading this, I have only one question: Was Andrew Lamb’s story true, or not?

    • What specific point are you wondering about?

    • Tina, His story was woefully incomplete. I will not break confidences, or leave clues, but suffice it to say that people should guard their tongues and reserve judgement on a host of these matters, Being tangentially involved in the above situation has caused me to entirely re-think the internet and the media and my relation with them. Unless you know the people personally or were involved in some situation I seriously question whether you can ascertain the facts in situations like these.

      • Wenatchee The Hatchet says:

        Patrick, you actually left a big clue last year at New Reformation Press when you blogged on the situation and mentioned “a confluence of situations”. For someone in Seattle who has spent many years inside Mars Hill what you shared last year from your anonymous source gave away the identities of several parties involved, most likely without intending to.

        • WTH,

          If that happened, I am sorry. However, it should give those ‘in the know’ pause before they confidently
          cast aspersions on Mars Hill and it’s pastors , at least in regard to this situation.

          • WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

            Yes, that is what happened, patrick. Mars Hill advocates have not realized the degree to which they unwittingly gave things away while trying to keep things private.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The problem with doing that was that in early 2012 Mars Hill had embarked on a massive information purge that removed basic information about Mars Hill staff and families from all publicly viewable websites. Even information that had been available on The City for members may have been amended for all we do and don’t know.

    doubleplusungood ref doubleplusunpersons.
    doubleplusungood ref doubleplusunevents.
    memhole.
    L! L! M! D!
    L! L! M! D!

    I have annoyed and frustrated people over the years by insisting that you do not trust Wikipedia entries. Go to the primary sources and actually read them. You may discover that Wikipedia footnotes have inaccurate and decontextualized references that have nothing to do with what the footnotes claim to support in the body of a Wikipedia entry. It is important to go seek out primary sources not simply because Wikipedia itself can be unreliable but also because when a controversy gets big enough an institution seeking to protect its reputation is capable of suppressing massive amounts of information relatively quickly.

    Don’t forget that since Wikis are publicly-editable by nature “an institution seeking to protect its reputation” can edit any critical entries into Total Puff Pieces of Praise. If one fanboy literally living in his Mom’s basement could do that at Wikifur, why couldn’t an institution with Web access do it at Wikipedia?

    • In my experience, this is difficult to do with articles/subjects which get a lot of attention. It is easy to catch, and these days, there are tools which can help people determine who did the editing, which tends to embarrass say, politicians whose staffs made a lot of “vanity edits.” But an obscure topic which is of intense interest to a small, committed group, and largely ignored by everybody else, will likely suffer.

    • Reading the “talk” page for an entry can be pretty interesting/revealing..

  7. I wish all of these ‘holiness’ churches would close their doors. They do so much damage to people. And they wouldn’t know the gospel if it hit them in the face.

    Sickening.

    • Funny… I would never call Mars Hill a “holiness” church. They are squarely in the neo-Reformed genre. But I do understand what you’re getting at, I think. It’s funny that many theologies when taken to their logical extremes lead to authoritarianism and spiritual abuse.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Neo-Reformed = Hyper-Calvinist?

        If so, MD is following in the Pastor-as-Dictator footsteps of Calvin in Geneva.

      • Good thoughts, Phil.

        Whenever churches are focused on ‘your behavior’ in the quest to make you a better Christian…I call them a ‘holiness church’.

        Never been to Mars Hill, but I’ve read some about it. I could be wrong, but they seem to place the focus on the believer.

      • Good points. The way I see it, Puritanism and Holiness traditions hold remarkably similar views on sanctification, despite coming from Calvinist vs. Arminian soteriology. Most of the neo-Cals are really more puritan than truly Reformed (especially if they are non-denom). But ultimately, where both traditions err is they point you to your own works for your assurance. This theology provides plenty of foder for manipulation and abuse: It’s either work harder or you might not be saved, or if you truly were one of the elect you would be working harder. Both can lead to despair. I understand many people can be happy, content, and at home in those systems, but having spent a little time in each, I find that they were both more despair than hope for me. Either I’m too much of a realist or a pessimist for those systems of belief.

        • Miguel. I totally agree. It took me years to get over the despair implanted in me by this kinda theology.

          Also, I had a follow up question on Saturdays post that I think you missed. Should I email you?

          • You bet! I’m all for fair trade and stuff, and I think that our culture has a strong need of learning simplicity. However, it’s going too far to equate shopping at Wal-Mart with oppressing the third world. If our business practices are exploiting the poor, our laws should be changed.

        • Josh in FW says:

          I still struggle with despair and the ideas of Calvinism always seem to make it worse, but when I explain my objections to my Calvinist friends they quickly say that I’m describing “hyper-Calvinism” which is a corruption of true Calvinism. I usually respond apologetically that I don’t think hyper-calvinism is a corruption as much as it is the logical conclusion of Calvinism. Then I try to lighten the mood by saying if God’s children are pre-destined then it doesn’t really matter what I think because I’m either elect or damned and can’t do anything about it. My buddies usually just shake their head and we order another beer.
          :-)

          • The cure is Lutheran theology.

          • “I usually respond apologetically that I don’t think hyper-calvinism is a corruption as much as it is the logical conclusion of Calvinism.”

            Me too, buddy. It is the practical application of Calvinism, it’s logical conclusion, as you call it, that I object to.

          • And Calvinism is the logical conclusion of Luther’s theology (notice I didn’t say Lutheran theology, which, at least in the ELCA, is very latitudinarian).

          • Roert F,

            Luther’s early thought is often claimed as a basis for Calvinism, especially his Commentary on Galatians (A Reformed favorite.) but his later teachings are contrary to Calvinism

  8. Is it an intentional irony that an article that stresses how not everything that happens at Mars Hill has anything to do with Mark Driscoll, despite how bloggers talk about it, is lead off by a picture of Mark Driscoll?

  9. Who is the “guest author” that wrote this article? Did I happen to miss something?

  10. I need to spend more time at WTH blog. In my case I am overwhelmed by all the blogs that exist, and I keep discovering more.

    I think its important to be objective. Not everything is the result of Mark Driscoll’s action. Also others will play down or defend Mark. In some cases Mars Hill reminds me of national politics. In the eyes of every Republican every Democrat is to blame and is attacked. In the eyes of Democrats…every Republican is a liar and beholden to corporate special interests.

    Now to be fair when I think of Mars Hill I think of Mark Driscoll. I think like that as a result of the PR blitz that Driscoll has. Mars Hill and Driscoll are one. Also to be fair…how much slack does Driscoll have since its Mark Driscoll’s church. He sets the tone, and calls the shots, and created a culture that discourages a lot of questioning.

    To be fair I am open to discussing this. There’s a lot of information on Mars Hill…that’s true.

    • Not only that, MD has openly said that the people who were bounced (mentioned by WTH in his post) were sinning – more specifically, he said “They are sinning through questioning.”

      Abusive systems – and those who control them – always object to questioning. Been there, done that, have the scars to prove it.

    • Would it be right to call the following “look”:

      * faded jeans
      * long-sleeved shirt with sleeves rolled up
      * shirt hanging outside the pants
      * hair combed to a peak in the middle
      * Bible in hand

      the “Full Driscoll”?

  11. wayyyyyy off topic, BUT, if anyone is interested in a bright note of grace/positivity: check out AJ Swoboda’s short video , title is something like “Loving as Learners” over at Out of Ur. What a breath of breath of servant/leadership fresh air, and he is a pastor, oh my……..

  12. Wait a minute, some guy named “Lamb” inside some church is found out actually to be a Wolf? You’re putting me on, right? Or is this a Saturday Night Live bit? An early April Fools prank? An article from The Onion? Proof of realized prophecy?

    • The Church Universal and Triumphant was led by an Elizabeth Clare Wulf ,whose married name was Mrs. Prophet.

  13. When Driscoll jokes about breaking the nose of any staff member who disagrees with him, how can he NOT be responsible for everything going on there? It sounds like a church staffed with pawns, lemmings, minions, and lackies. Inspiring.

  14. Maybe Driscoll isn’t strong enough to stop the buck.

  15. Josh in FW says:

    The problems at Mars Hill remind me of a comment Miguel made regarding church polity. It seems to me that a Presbyterian (I think Miguel also used the word federal) style Elder Board model provides the best governance for an independent congregation for both efficiency in decision making and checks and balances against authoritarianism.

    • Real Presbyterianism never has independent congregations because there is also outside accountability for each congregation as a whole. The elders of the local churches in one area serve as a regional elder board. It’s kind of a complicated system, but there’s a lot of benefits to it.

      • Josh in FW says:

        Yeah, I was sloppy with labels. I agree that there are many inherent dangers in being an independent church. It seems that a ton of the mega churches are SBC “spin offs” where the charismatic preacher deleted the congregationalism that was the only weak form of accountability that exists in a Baptist Church. Despite some of my minor theological differences with my current home church (Dispensational Bible Church), I’m really impresses with how thoughtful the founding members were when they developed the church constitution/bylaws. The senior pastor and executive pastor are both non-voting members of the Elder Board which is tasked with all administrative decisions. Members of the Elder Board can serve no more than 2 consecutive terms and all decisions of the Elder Board must be unanimous. The constitution also forbids debt and has from the beginning. But even with the many thoughtful safeguards at my church I’m not too naive to imagine a controversy that could cause serious damage. In those situations, I think it would be valuable to have some kind of denominational hierarchy that could come in and help put the pieces back together.

        • CCsoprano says:

          Miguel is absolutely correct. Regardless of the body, PCUSA, PCA, EPC, OPC, RPCNA, ARPC, and CPC (I hope I got all the acronyms right), the local church congregation is governed by a board of elders called a session. That session is responsible to the presbytery, then synod, and general assembly. Ministers of the Word and Sacrament are not members of a local congregation. They are members of the presbytery. It’s weird, cumbersome, and flawed, but it works most of the time. Presbyterians are between the world of the cathedra and complete congregational independence. We are not as close to the Mass as the Lutherans liturgically, but retain the corporate confession of sin and the historic creeds of the faith. I am not even qualified to comment regarding this groups, because I don’t get it.

          • The liturgical movement brought about a resurgence of high-church worship in Presbyterianism. The forms for the communion service in PCUSA’s “Book of Common Worship” (1991) are remarkably similar to the high churches, albeit with a bit of a low church flavor, especially with the music. But generally Presbyterians and Methodists seem to avoid the extremes of both high and low church worship. It’s like they’ve carved out this niche in “medium church.” It seems the more liberal the church is the more high-church, and the more conservative Presbyterians tend to be less formal.

  16. And off-topic, but…

    The Conclave starts tomorrow; Mass at 10 a.m. Roman time/9 a.m. Irish time/5 a.m. ET/2 a.m. PT and then at 4.30 p.m. Roman/3.30 p.m. Irish/10.30 a.m. Eastern/7.30 Pacific time, the cardinal-electors will process into the Sistine Chapel where they will stay until we have a new pope.

    You can see it here (click on the “TV live/on demand” player) but most importantly – pray! Pray for us that we get a good man suited to the times. Or at least, pray that God’s will be done.

    Last chance to place your bets – I see Cardinal Scola of Milan is doing well in the odds over at Paddy Powers online bookmakers :-)

  17. For me, the mere fact that a “church” needs to have a PR team makes me highly suspicious of them. I guess I believe that if you’re doing the right things, or even just doing what you believe in, then why would you need a PR team?

    I also don’t buy the argument that Driscoll wasn’t involved in the Lamb case or shouldn’t be responsible because he was out on tour (sidebar, I thought a pastor ministered to his flock at home??). First of all, as the head of any organization, the buck stops with you. You are responsible for what goes in in your organization. Especially in cases where something becomes newsworthy. You intercede and if you find out bad stuff happened, then you make it right. Secondly, MD set the culture at MH that allowed the Lamb situation to happen.

    Finally, When I was quite young, I learned that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If the Lamb case was isolated, I would almost certainly not believe him. But there have simply been too many incidents at MH to ignore Lamb. In the case of MH, there is a lot of smoke.

  18. UmiUmiSumi says:

    This article was in serious need of some editing… I feel like I lost his points by having to wade through some circuitous writing. =(

  19. I am not sure I buy into the idea that Driscoll has nothing to do with the scandals mentioned. Driscoll is a heavy handed leader. He sets the tone and environment for what takes place. It sounds like he had many minions who acted just like him. I am afraid readng the Joyful Exiles documentation showed me that Driscoll, like Mahaney, had many doing his dirty work.