When accusations of plagiarism regarding Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll surfaced in November, he and his church initially chose to ignore them. But in the face of mounting evidence and calls for accountability, the Mars Hill Church pastor and his publisher, Tyndale House, issued a joint statement yesterday acknowledging that “mistakes were made” and asserting that corrective actions had been taken.
The uproar began when Driscoll appeared on the nationally syndicated Janet Mefferd Show on Nov. 21 to promote his new book, A Call to Resurgence. On air, Mefferd accused Driscoll of plagiarism, claiming he had not properly cited ideas that originally came from Peter Jones, director of truthXchange and adjunct professor at Westminster Seminary California. Since then, other examples of alleged plagiarism involving Driscoll have surfaced. Several websites feature screenshots of pages from Driscoll’s books posted side-by-side with passages from other books he allegedly quoted without proper citation.
In the statement issued by Tyndale and Driscoll, the publisher says “it has spent much of the past three weeks looking carefully into these claims” and has concluded that “Mark Driscoll did indeed adequately cite the work of Peter Jones.” Further, “Tyndale rejects the claims that Mark Driscoll tried to take Peter Jones’s ideas and claim them as his own.”
The statement points out that Jones had written articles for the Resurgence website, spoke at Resurgence events, and participated at a Mars Hill workshop, all at Driscoll’s invitation.
“Quite the opposite of trying to take Peter Jones’ ideas, Mark Driscoll has provided several opportunities for Peter Jones to publicly express his ideas to a large audience,” the statement reads.
Tyndale’s statement also addresses issues related to Trial, a book published by Mars Hill and not by Tyndale, which included material from an Intervarsity Press book without proper attribution. “In this instance,” the statement says, “Pastor Driscoll agrees that errors were made” and that corrective actions have been taken.
“The error was unintentional, but serious nonetheless,” Driscoll adds. “I take responsibility for all of this.”
Driscoll says he contacted Intervarsity Press, apologized, and agreed to resolve any issues. He also points out that he has reached out the editor of the portion of book not attributed.
“Thankfully, he and I have a longstanding relationship, which includes him teaching at Mars Hill and publishing a book with us through Resurgence,” Driscoll relates. “He’s a godly man who has been very gracious through all of this. I am deeply thankful for his acceptance of my apology, as I deeply grieve this mistake with a brother in Christ whom I appreciate very much.”
Driscoll went on to say that the Full Council of Elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability associated with his church has been kept abreast of the situation, adding that he is “gladly under authority both internally at Mars Hill to a team of elders, and to a formal leadership team from outside of Mars Hill.”
But neither the Full Council of Elders nor the Board of Advisors and Accountability are truly independent. Of the 64 “elder/pastors” on Mars Hill’s council, 37 are on the payroll of the church and either directly or indirectly report to Driscoll himself. Of the seven members of the board listed on the Mars Hill website, three of them are Mars Hill pastors, including Driscoll. The other members are James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Chicago; Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, Calif.; Seattle businessman Michael Van Skaik; and best-selling author Paul Tripp.
Driscoll concluded by saying, “As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know He cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects His glory. As a result, I have been praying that He would help me learn through all of this to become more like Him and more effective for Him.”
Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College and an outspoken critic of Driscoll’s, said, “I think the statement is a good beginning, but there are other instances of citation problems which were not covered by the statement. These instances should also be addressed.”
Throckmorton has documented examples of Driscoll’s alleged plagiarism on his blog (see “Mark Driscoll’s Death By Love And Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart: Is This Plagiarism?” and “More IVP Reference Material Shows Up Without Citation in a Book by Mark Driscoll”).
Throckmorton added that one critical issue was completely ignored, and that is “the issue of Christian celebrities who take credit for books written essentially by committee. Will a book produced by Tyndale with Driscoll’s name on it be by Driscoll or by a committee which he organizes? Prospective consumers of these products should be allowed in on that process.”
But that is unlikely to happen. Todd Starowitz, senior public relations manager for Tyndale House, said, “I fully expect this to be Tyndale’s and Mark Driscoll’s final discussion of the matter.”