NOTE: Much of the research material on laws, organizational systems, non-profits, etc., from throughout this case study has had an updated version posted at Futuristguy’s Systemic Abuse Researcher Notes. For details of what that site covers, see the Table of Contents page there. It gives an overview of the main topics and pages, plus a complete list of pages and sections. The text in this case study has been left unchanged here.
I have compiled this information of select resources to provide what I think will be a helpful guide to those who want to research and decide for themselves about the serious set of issues involving Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, and other present and former leaders there. I have been tracking many aspects of this situation since at least 2008, some even earlier. This represents my best attempts to synthesize what I have learned and present it in an organized way that can help introduce the concerns to others. My tentative plan is to post four sections, with the first one in this article and the others probably in the near future.
Part 1. Research Guide to Mark Driscoll’s Personal Issues
Part 2. Mars Hill Church Organizational/Institutional Issues
- Part 2A. Five types of organizational forms found in “Mars Hill.” Official source links and summary profiles.
- Part 2B. General background on top legal problems for non-profits.
- Part 2C. Five potential legal/ethical problems: inurement; misappropriation of funds solicited with a specified designation; spoliation of evidence; constitution, bylaws, and board structure; and conflicts of interest.
Capstone Article 2 – Some Words for Discernment for Those from Mars Hill
Capstone Article 3 – Answering the Original FAQ List About Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill
Also, please note that all comments on this blog are moderated, and that I will block uncivil and off-topic comments. For more details, read my Comment Policies.
PART 1. RESEARCH GUIDE
TO MARK DRISCOLL’S PERSONAL ISSUES
Formal Charges and Asking Key Questions
List of Official Charges
Statement of Formal Charges and Issues – Mark Driscoll. Note: Though the document states it is meant to be confidential, online sources at Warren Throckmorton’s blog noted that there was apparently no actions taken and no response until the Official Charges were posted/leaked/leaked on purpose. This 11-page summary document focuses primarily on Mark Driscoll’s personal issues. In some cases, these overlap with issues of Mars Hill organizational strategies and structures.
The Statement of Formal Charges and Issues submitted recently by 21 former Mars Hill elders states:
In the biblical passages cited below, we acknowledge that a single instance might not be a disqualifier from eldership; but an established pattern of such behavior supported and substantiated by eyewitnesses would be. We believe that Pastor Mark has a long-standing pattern of violating these eldership qualifications and has done so with dozens of individuals, including some of us. (Page 2.)
It then goes on to detail six biblical mandates for elders that they believe Mark fails to meet:
- Self-controlled and disciplined.
- Not domineering.
- Not violent, but gentle.
- Not arrogant.
- Not quick-tempered.
That is followed by 25 concrete points of supportive evidence ranging in date from 2010-2014. These break down those six categories with specific details about his interactions with these former elders and other staff using words that allege he engaged in:
- sexual harassment,
- threats of termination,
- organizational control,
- threats of violence,
- coercion to ignore organizational conflicts of interest (that would involve inurement – Mark Driscoll personally profiting financially from expenditures of a tax-exempt non-profit),
- gossiping, and
- telling conflicting accounts about the ResultSource agreement for the Real Marriage book.
If you read other lists of charges/evidence against Mark Driscoll and about his inappropriate, leadership-disqualifying behaviors, you find very similar topics addressed. Similar incidents and charges go back to as early as the late 1990s and carry forward to the present day.
Questions to Answer
What are biblical qualifications for elders and others in public roles of leadership ministry? (See at least 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5 for lists of character qualities and patterns of behavior.)
Read the Formal Charges document. Now, at least assume for the moment that the allegations of these 21 elders (and the 20+ others who have volunteered to serve as additional witnesses) are (1) accurate, (2) illustrative of how Mark Driscoll has treated others, and (3) representative of ongoing patterns that have been present in his leadership for at least 15 years.
- Based on demonstrated character and patterns of behavior, is Mark Driscoll qualified, unqualified, or disqualified from eldership at Mars Hill Church?
- Similarly, is Mark Driscoll qualified, unqualified, or disqualified by character and patterns of behavior for a role of national/international prominence?
- If so, what is the overall response that congregations should take?
- If not, what is the overall response that congregations should take?
- How can you tell the difference between a mere point of apology, and a genuine process of repentance?
- Does forgiving a sinner who happens to be a leader guarantee them being restored to their leadership role? Why or why not?
- Given Mark Driscoll’s highly documented and verified pattern of angry outbursts, threats, and control, what actions from here and forward would disqualify him from public service, according to scriptural qualifications of elders?
Resources for Tracking Mark Driscoll’s Character Issues
I have narrowed the reading list to those posts that are the most relevant and clear, with only a few for each topic. I have given preference to sites that feature “primary sources” (first-hand personal accounts that verify allegations and/or provide other documentation).
Summaries of key personal and/or organizational issues
Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church removed from Network, asked to step down and seek help. The most comprehensive overview of key issues I’ve found to date, given in bullet-point list format.
Inside Mars Hill’s massive meltdown. Probably the most comprehensive overview of key issues I’ve found to date, presented in narrative format.
Mars Hill Church Reddit. Ongoing list of links to online articles about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll.
Timelines and documents for issues going back to early 2000s
Joyful Exiles Timeline. Key source for people and events surrounding the change in Mars Hill Church by-laws which resulted in basically autocractic control of the non-profit by Mark Driscoll and his hand-picked two internal Executive Elders and four external members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability
Some key first-person accounts – 1990s and early to mid-2000s
Ron Wheeler: I Am Not Anonymous. A recent open letter from Ron Wheeler, a former protégé of Mark Driscoll.
Timeline for Young Leaders Network and Terra Nova Project. This timeline lays out the beginnings of the “emerging” church/ministry movement in the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, and gives a framework for understanding where Mark Driscoll fit in with that unfolding movement and how it settled out into multiple “streams,” including “New Calvinism” that he came to represent. It also helps interpret some of the historical narrative offered by Ron Wheeler, a former protégé of Mark Driscoll who suffered spiritually abusive behavior from him.
We Love Mars Hill: Karen Schaeffer – A Letter to Mark Driscoll. From Karen Schaeffer, who served as Mark Driscoll’s Executive Assistant from 2002-2003. She opens with the following statement:
There has been much “spin” out of MH [Mars Hill] about Mark’s ungodly behavior being a thing of the past. That has now been refuted by the document written by the 21 Elders and many stories that illustrate more recent cases of abuse and misuse of authority, including some posted at this site. The point I want to emphasize, however, is this: The “root” of Mark’s behavior has never been eradicated and it has been evident from the beginning of the rise of MH, when I was Mark’s assistant.
Resource sites with many first-person accounts and analysis
Surf these sites for what they share about personal stories of enduring spiritually abusive behaviors from Mark Driscoll and/or at Mars Hill Church.
Announcement of August 24, 2014; background information; and interpretations
An Update from Pastor Mark. The official Mars Hill Church site, with video and transcript of Mark Driscoll’s announcement of a minimum six week leave while the Formal Charges are being investigated.
Announcement: Mark Driscoll Will Take At Least Six Weeks Off. Some background plus video, audio, and link to transcript of Mark Driscoll’s announcement.
Translating Mark Driscoll. [UPDATE: Be sure to see Jason’s comment and my response to better understand why I’ve included this particular link.] An insightful blog post by a woman who recently began working with perpetrators of domestic violence. She “translates” from parallel kinds of apology strategies from her clients to interpret the transcript of Mark Driscoll’s statement to Mars Hill of August 24, 2014, in which he states he will be taking at least six weeks off while the formal charges against him are investigated. This is included in part because the author is skilled in discerning tactics of manipulation by those who abuse power and authority. Also, it appears her analysis and interpretation piece is being linked to and shared widely within both the Mars Hill Church survivor community, and spiritual abuse survivor communities in general. That, plus the survivors’ comments about her article, provide some important pieces of evidence about intellectual, relational, and emotional responses to abuse.
* * * * * * *
NEXT POST: Part 2 – Research Guide to Mars Hill Church Organizational/Institutional Issues. This article will cover some of the organizational strategies and structures of Mars Hill Church (the tax-exempt non-profit entity) and some of how it relates to other organizations (LLCs, CRUT, etc.). It will also cover potential internal and legal issues of the organization that are central to whether Mark Driscoll is qualified or disqualified from leadership. It will use a similar “research guide” format that organizes key links and poses the main questions that need to be answered.
09/06/2014 – Additional website links added.