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Current and former members of Mars Hill Church protest in front of the main Bellevue, Wash., site Sunday.
Associated Press/Photo by Jordan Stead/seattlepi.com
Current and former members of Mars Hill Church protest in front of the main Bellevue, Wash., site Sunday.

Demonstrators demand change at Mars Hill

Religion | Current and former church members call for the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll

Carrying signs that read, “We are not anonymous” and “Question Mark,” more than 60 current and former members of Mars Hill Church in Seattle protested and prayed yesterday outside the church’s main site in Bellevue, Wash. The demonstrators called for changes in the church’s leadership and structure, including the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll.

“We just wanted to be heard,” said former Mars Hill deacon Rob Smith, who organized the demonstration. “We want to help Mars Hill members and the evangelical world at-large see what is really happening at Mars Hill Church.”

Driscoll has been dogged by charges of misconduct since last fall. The first charges to emerge were plagiarism, and those accusations were credible enough to force Driscoll and his publisher Tyndale House to release a statement admitting, “Mistakes were made,” while promising to revise future editions of his book A Call to Resurgence. Then WORLD broke a story documenting Driscoll’s use of nearly $250,000 in Mars Hill funds in an effort to put his book Real Marriage on the New York Times best-seller list. WORLD also obtained a copy of a non-compete agreement Mars Hill required pastors to sign that prevented them from planting new churches in the Seattle area—despite Mars Hill’s claim of supporting church planting. In March the church announced it would destroy all emails more than three months old as part of a new “document retention policy.” The church rescinded implementation after 16 former church members sent a letter to the church in protest.

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Despite these very public and well-documented charges, all of which Driscoll subsequently admitted were true, the church posted a video two weeks ago in which Driscoll claimed his critics were “mostly anonymous” and the criticisms leveled against him were vague.

The video produced an immediate reaction on social media. Smith started a Facebook group (Dear Pastor Mark & Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous) that quickly grew to more than 500 members and was used to help organize yesterday’s demonstration. Smith said he plans to refute Driscoll’s assertion that the charges against him are vague by listing 50 specific charges against Driscoll and Mars Hill’s other executive elders. Smith said he would publish the list by Friday.

“Our primary goal is to change the by-laws of Mars Hill Church,” Smith said, adding he believes the troubles began at the church in 2007, when an earlier by-laws change concentrated power in the hands of Driscoll and two other executive elders, positions now held by Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner.

Mars Hill also has a Board of Advisors and Accountability that includes Driscoll, Bruskas, Turner, and four others outside the church. But two of the four outside board members recently resigned—James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago area, and Paul Tripp, a noted pastor and author who joined the board less than a year ago—leaving Driscoll, Turner, and Bruskas in the majority. The other two outside board members are Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, Calif., and businessman Michael Van Skaik.

MacDonald did not respond to WORLD’s request for an interview or offer a statement explaining his resignation. Tripp, through a spokesman, turned down WORLD’s request for an interview, though Mars Hill Church, in an email newsletter to its members, said Tripp resigned so he could “more extensively serve our church as a consultant.” Other members of the board have not responded to WORLD’s repeated requests for comment.

“Mark Driscoll is disqualified from ministry,” said former Mars Hill deacon Smith. “Might he, after a season of repentance, reflection, and restoration be qualified again for ministry? That would be my prayer. But the Board of Advisors and Accountability should do their job and ask Mark Driscoll to resign.”

Smith called Driscoll “an extraordinarily gifted man” but added that “his behavior has brought discredit on the church and on the Reformed theology that many of us still hold to and which he claims to love. … What he is doing comes clothed in Reformed theology, but it is not. The beautiful doctrines of Reformed theology—God’s sovereignty and God’s grace—are getting smeared in the process.”

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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