02 Organizational System

On This Page:

  • 02-1. Research Sources – State Regulatory Agencies
  • 02-2. PDF Charts of Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll-Related Entities
  • 02-3. Overview: Five Types of Organizational Forms Related to “Mars Hill”
  • 02-4. Type #1 – Tax-Exempt Organization (EO) – 501(c)(3) Non-Profit
  • 02-5. Mars Hill Church Compilation Reports and IRS Forms 990
  • 02-6. Type #2 – Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • 02-7. Type #3 – For-Profit Corporation
  • 02-8. Type #4 – Charitable Remainder UniTrust (CRUT)
  • 02-9. Type #5 – Revocable Living Trusts
  • 02-10. Official Source Links and Summary Profiles
  • 02-11. Mars Hill Church Organizational System Graphic
  • 02-12. Mark Driscoll and Related Personal Trusts, LLCs, etc.
  • 02-13. Mars Hill Church Campuses
  • 02-14. A Critique of the Three Official Options for Dissolution of Mars Hill Church

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02-1. Research Sources – State Regulatory Agencies

Washington State

Secretary of State Corporations Registration Data Search. Includes non-profit corporations, for-profit corporations, and limited liability companies.

Washington State Department of Revenue.

State of Washington Business Licensing Service.

Colorado

Secretary of State Business Database Records Search. Put a name or ID# into the search bar, and that should take you to a Summary page. Below the summary data table, there is a link to “Filing history and documents.” Clicking on that link takes you to a chronological list of activities related to that entity. There should be a link on each line item to view the document that was filed. Note: I have repeatedly had trouble viewing the PDFs online at this site, with nothing showing up on my screen plus I receive the notice at the top of the page that “This PDF document might not be displaying correctly.” however, when I click on the download button, a download screen does show up shortly after that and allows opening or downloading the document, despite the fact that I see none of the document

The side-by-side comparison chart is an intentional selection of key details to establish a chronology of creation/registration and start tracking the trail of what individuals and entities are in control over various organizations.

Part of the problem in research writing involves moving from gathering facts and observations, to analysis and interpretations. Many people have learning styles that make it difficult to grasp material if everything is presented only by telling about concepts and relationships in words via prose. So, I have created a set of compilation and charts that present and summarize key official information, and a set of graphics that show the relationships among various entities involved with the larger Mars Hill Church system and/or with Mark Driscoll.

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02-2. PDF Charts of Mars Hill/Mark Driscoll-Related Entities

Washington State Public Information Compilation

At Becky Garrison’s post, Follow the Money – Mars Hill Fellowship/Mars Hill Church Organizational Chart, you’ll find a compilation I produced on the Mars Hill Entities Washington State Compilation. If that link on that blog to the Compilation seems to be broken, so I’ve posted the Mars Hill Entities Compilation here. It puts all in one place information gathered from Washington State public records on 12 different organizations associated in some way with Mars Hill Church and/or its current Executive Elders: Mark Driscoll, John Sutton Turner, and Dave Bruskas. Notes:

  • The organizations are numbered and listed in chronological order by date created or filed, whichever is earlier. This is because some entities were created in Colorado state and then registered in Washington state later.
  • This includes all the related organizations I knew about from Washington and Colorado, as of September 1, 2014. This does not guarantee that these are all the relevant organizations in those states or elsewhere.
  • I was as careful as possible with getting the links correct but do not guarantee they will all work exactly. See page one for the main address for the three Washington state registries this information was taken from, and the links to access them. You may need to plug in the UBI (Unified Business Identifier) for an entity to get to the correct webpage.

Side-by-Side Comparison Charts

Detailed Version of Charts

At Becky Garrison’s post, Mars Hill Entities in Order by When Created/Registered, you’ll find the Side-by-Side Comparison Chart for Organizations Related to Mars Hill Fellowship / Mars Hill Church. [UPDATE: The link on that blog to the Chart seems to be broken, so I’ve posted the Side-by-Side Comparison Chart here.] It gives essential information about 11 of the 12 organizations in the Public Information Compilation. (It does not include Future Hope Revocable Living Trust.) It contains two charts with identical information, but the second one is color coded. Notes:

  • Numbers on the organizations correspond to those in the Public Information Compilation document.
  • Organization #12 was not included on the comparison chart due to lack of space and because it was only registered in Colorado.
  • Some color codes worth noting:
    • Red = No Governing Persons (Members) listed.
    • Purple = Organization tracks back eventually to Mark Driscoll.
    • Yellow = Governing Persons are the Mars Hill Church Executive Elders.
    • Gold = Governing Person is John Sutton Turner alone.
    • Light Green = Mars Hill Fellowship, the organization, listed as Governing Person.
    • Bright Green = For Profit Corporation.

Shortened Forms of Charts

Becky divided the comparison chart in two parts to create shorter forms. Click on the image of the chart to view a larger version.

Organizations Related to Mars Hill Fellowship / Mars Hill Church.

Organizations Related to Mark Driscoll.

The original chart does have a lot of detail, and no introduction to give an orientation, so these shortened versions are more intuitive to navigate, thanks to Becky.

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02-3. Overview: Five Types of Organizational Forms Related to “Mars Hill”

When it comes to Mars Hill Church as an organizational entity, the deeper I’ve researched, the more confusion and questions arise. A lot of that is because what people think of as “Mars Hill” might be one of almost half a dozen very different integration points for what they’re talking about, depending on when and how they got involved.

For some, they likely think about their community group and for them, Mars Hill is relational – it’s all about the people. Others may be more tuned in to the leadership or staff service, and so are thinking more about the strategies and structures of Mars Hill Church – the non-profit. Old-timer insiders may be remembering it when it was Mars Hill Fellowship, and also how things were different before Mars Hill developed an extensive multi-campus system. Virtual attenders listeners via podcast and print may think of what’s recently [i.e., late 2014] been re-termed “Mars Hill Global.”

But now these other issues and organizations have been coming up, especially in the last 12 months or so, about other Mars Hill-ish entities and acronyms and how they relate. For instance:

  • There’s one Mars Hill Church non-profit corporation for the whole system of campuses, right?
  • What’s On Mission LLC?
  • And how does a CRUT connect with all of this?
  • Are there more add-ons and spin-offs than are known publicly?
  • Who owns Mars Hill? [This is a very legitimate question being asked by Becky Garrison in her analysis post, Holy Hipster Mark Driscoll Continues to Fall.]

And that leads to a series of questions about how these entities interrelate, and whether one or more activities therein could put Mars Hill Church at risk of losing its tax-exempt status or lead to other problems with transparency, accountability, and taking responsibility. (See Part 2B.) Meanwhile, here are the five kinds of organizations that are definitely intertwined in the organization known as “Mars Hill.”

  • Type #1 – Tax-Exempt Organization (EO) ~ 501(c)(3) Non-Profit
  • Type #2 – Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Type #3 – For-Profit Corporation
  • Type #4 – Charitable Remainder UniTrust (CRUT)
  • Type #5 – Revocable Living Trust

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02-4. Type #1 – Tax-Exempt Organization (EO) – 501(c)(3) Non-Profit

Introduction

According to the International Revenue Service (IRS), an EO (Exempt Organization) must function “in the public interest” and not run it for the benefit of any private individuals or other organizations. The Compliance Guide for 501(c)(3) Public Charities is the best overview resource I found to address the basics of constituting a non-profit, ongoing requirements, record-keeping, governance procedures and practices, and required disclosures and documentation. It’s concise and clearly written, and if you’re involved with an EO, you should read it to make sure you don’t put its tax-exempt status in jeopardy.

What we typically think of in America as a “church” is constituted as a non-profit religious organization that is exempt from federal income tax. Yes, in reality a church is its people – the organic, local congregation – but to stay tax-exempt you have to abide by the rules and regs for the organizational, virtual corporation! And although there are many requirements in terms of forms to file and records to keep, the IRS print materials and websites consistently emphasize three main restrictions for maintaining tax-exempt status. To quote the Compliance Guide:

1. Private Benefit and Inurement. A public charity is prohibited from allowing more than an insubstantial accrual of private benefit to individuals or organizations. This restriction is to ensure that a tax-exempt organization serves a public interest, not a private one. …

No part of an organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of an insider. An insider is a person who has a personal or private interest in the activities of the organization such as an officer, director, or a key employee. …

If a public charity provides an economic benefit to any person who is in a position to exercise substantial influence over its affairs (that exceeds the value of any goods or services provided in consideration), the organization has engaged in an excess benefit transaction. [Page 4, emphasis added.]

2. Political Campaign Intervention. Public charities are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office. [Page 5.]

3. Legislative Activities. A public charity is not permitted to engage in substantial legislative activity (commonly referred to as lobbying). [Page 8.]

A key potential organizational integrity problem for Mars Hill Church (nonprofit) revolves around that first restriction, on private benefit, inurement, and excess benefit. (More about this later, in Part 2B.)

Official Information – Type #1 – Non-Profit Corporations and 501(c)(3)

Mars Hill Church.

WASHINGTON STATE INFORMATION

  • Registered in Washington state, December 22, 1995, UBI #601677819.*
  • Governing Board = President, Mark Driscoll. Secretary and Treasurer, John Sutton Turner. Vice President, Dave Bruskas.

* Registration of an organization (nonprofit, LLC, etc.) in Washington state uses a “UBI number.” According to the State of Washington Business Licensing Service, a Unified Business Identifier, or UBI, “is a 9-digit number that registers you with several state agencies and allows you to do business in Washington State. A UBI number is sometimes called a tax registration number, a business registration number, or a business license number. Use the Business License Application to apply for a UBI number.”

FEDERAL / IRS INFORMATION

  • Federal Tax-exempt 501(c)(3) Public Charity
  • EIN (Employer Identification Number) #91-1733689.
  • NTEE (National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities) Code = X20 – Christianity.
  • IRS Ruling Date = March 1999.

ONLINE PROFILES FOR MARS HILL CHURCH

IRS DOCUMENTS FROM MARS HILL CHURCH

Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Churches.

WASHINGTON STATE INFORMATION

  • Registered in Washington state, October 30, 2013, UBI #603349072.
  • Governing Persons = Directors Mark A. Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and John Sutton Turner.

Although Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Church is registered in Washington as a non-profit corporation, I find no records (yet) of it being tax-exempt or in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status.

Resource Articles – Mars Hill Church / Mars Hill Fellowship ~ Nonprofits

Here is an important post at WenatcheeTheHatchet on the history of Mars Hill and its three co-founders.

This post from Becky Garrison on Holy Hipster Mark Driscoll Continues to Fall surveys major people and points in the history of Mars Hill, as well as gives a big-picture perspective on key current issues.

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02-5. Mars Hill Church Compilation Reports and IRS Forms 990

Mars Hill Church Compilation Reports

Please note that despite the same title on the following two documents, the contents are different. The first one is about Tax Year 2011 (running from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012), and the second is about Tax year 2012 (running from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013).

2013 Public Disclosure Package (36 pages). It includes:

  • Consolidated Financial Statements for tax year 2011 ending June 30, 2012, with comparisons to totals from June 30, 2011.
  • Forms 990-T for years 2011, 2010, and 2009.

2013 Public Disclosure Package (42 pages). It includes:

  • Consolidated Financial Statements for tax year 2011 ending June 30, 2013, with comparisons to totals from June 30, 2012.
  • Forms 990-T for years 2012, 2011, and 2010.

2014 Public Disclosure Package (41 pages). It includes:

  • Consolidated Financial Statements for tax year ending June 30, 2014, with comparisons to totals from June 30, 2013.
  • Forms 990-T for years 2012, 2011, and 2010.

Note: If/when Mars Hill Church is officially dissolved, these documents must be found from other sources.

Mars Hill Church IRS Forms 990

Probably the best single source for researching key aspects of non-profits is CitizenAudit.Org. Members of the public can access a total of 40 page views per year for free. Additional views after that are by paid subscription, which various fee plans available (such as one month, one year, etc.).

The Mars Hill Church EIN (Employer Identification Number) is 91-1733689. Go to the CitizenAudit site and plug the EIN into the search bar. Currently (September 2014), the CitizenAudit page for Mars Hill Church has downloadable PDFs for Form 990s from Tax Years 2007 through 2012.

Note that Mars Hill Church’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. So an example of a typical tax cycle would start on July 1, 2012, go through June 30, 2013, and the Form 990 would be submitted in 2014.

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02-6. Type #2 – Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Introduction

Here is how the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) describes a Limited Liability Company (LLC):

A limited liability company is a hybrid type of legal structure that provides the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership.

The “owners” of an LLC are referred to as “members.” Depending on the state, the members can consist of a single individual (one owner), two or more individuals, corporations or other LLCs.

Unlike shareholders in a corporation, LLCs are not taxed as a separate business entity. Instead, all profits and losses are “passed through” the business to each member of the LLC. LLC members report profits and losses on their personal federal tax returns, just like the owners of a partnership would. (Emphasis added.)

As best I can interpret and summarize this, it seems like an LLC is a business entity that serves as a conduit for earnings from its specified activities to go back to the owners. The owners are then responsible for including those proceeds in their personal or corporate income tax filings.

There are at least four active LLCs related to Mars Hill directly or indirectly.

  • On Mission LLC (which holds the copyright to the Real Marriage book by Mark and Grace Driscoll. The governing “persons” are OMCRU Investments LLC and Lasting Legacy LLC. OMCRU Investments LLC has On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust (see the section on Type #4 directly below) as its governing person, and Lasting Legacy LLC has Mark and Grace Driscoll as its governing persons.
  • Mars Hill Church Investment Fund LLC does not list who the governing persons are on the Washington Secretary of State page, but the Department of Revenue Washington State search page from searching for this LLC’s Unified Business Identifier (#603353130) shows that it operates from the same address as Mars Hill Church.
  • There MAY now be or once have been an active “Mars Hill LLC.” Some articles online have referred to the church being started as an LLC business and not incorporating until later to apply for tax-exempt non-profit status. I am still trying to sort this out and find official documentation. I mention it because it may show up in history or analysis materials about Mars Hill, so you need to be aware that it is a point of confusion.

There are also at least four inactive LLCs, all related to Mars Hill Properties – 49th, 50th, Lynnwood, and Ocean Shores.

Official Information – Type #2 – ACTIVE Limited Liability Companies ~ LLCs

Some of the relevant LLCs were created in Colorado, which references them by an ID number. Registration of an LLC in Washington state uses a “UBI number.” (See directly above under Type #1 for details on UBI.)

On Mission LLC.

  • Created in Colorado. Articles of Organization filed January 28, 2011, ID #20111058965.
  • Later, it was registered in Washington state, December 12, 2012, UBI #603258287.
  • Governing Persons = OMCRU Investments LLC and Lasting Legacy LLC.

OMCRU Investments LLC.

  • Created in Colorado. Articles of Organization filed September 30, 2011, ID #20111552249.
  • Later, it was registered in Washington state, December 6, 2012, UBI #603258278.
  • Governing Persons = On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust.

Lasting Legacy LLC.

  • Registered in Washington state, April 17, 2012, UBI #603199549.
  • Governing Persons = Mark Driscoll (Member, Manager) and Grace Driscoll (Member.)

Mars Hill Church Investment Fund LLC.

  • Registered in Washington state, April 17, 2012, UBI #603353130.
  • Governing Persons = not listed on the Washington Secretary of State page. However, the Department of Revenue Washington State search page from searching for this LLC’s Unified Business Identifier (#603353130) shows that it operates from the same address as Mars Hill Church.

Official Information – Type #2 – INACTIVE Limited Liability Companies ~ LLCs

Mars Hill Properties – 49th LLC [inactive as of July 1, 2009]

  • Registered in Washington state, March 24, 2005, UBI #602486142.
  • Governing person = Mars Hill Fellowship.

Mars Hill Properties – 50th LLC [inactive as of March 14, 2012]

  • Registered in Washington state, March 24, 2005, UBI #602486138.
  • Governing person = Mars Hill Fellowship.

Mars Hill Properties – Lynnwood LLC [inactive as of July 2, 2007]

  • Registered in Washington state, March 16, 2006, UBI #602594462.
  • Governing person = Mars Hill Fellowship.

Mars Hill Properties – Ocean Shores LLC [inactive as of October 1, 2008]

  • Registered in Washington state, June 25, 2007, UBI #602738658.
  • Governing person = Mars Hill Fellowship, WSOS.

Resource Articles – LLCs

According to this WenatcheeTheHatchet post about On Mission LLC, this LLC is the actual copyright holder for Real Marriage. That is confirmed on the book’s copyright page, which is on public view at Amazon’s “Look Inside” for Real Marriage.

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02-7. Type #3 – For-Profit Corporation

Introduction

To my knowledge, there is only one for-profit corporation that is part of the Mars Hill enterprise.

Official Information – Type #3 – For-Profit Corporations

Resurgence Publishing, Inc. (For-profit Corporation).

  • Registered in Washington state, May 17, 2012.UBI #603207560.
  • Governing person = John Sutton Turner.

Resource Articles – For-Profits

None at this time.

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02-8. Type #4 – Charitable Remainder UniTrust (CRUT)

Introduction

Wikipedia has a helpful short explanation of a Charitable Remainder Unitrust:

A charitable remainder unitrust is an irrevocable trust created under the authority of Internal Revenue Code § 664[1] (“Code”). This special, irrevocable trust (known as a “CRUT”) has two primary characteristics: (1) Once established, the CRUT distributes a fixed percentage of the value of its assets (on an annual or more frequent basis) to a non-charitable beneficiary (which is considered the settlor of the trust); and (2) At the expiration of a specified time (usually the death of the settlor), the remaining balance of the CRUTs assets are distributed to charity. The trustee determines the fair market value of the CRUT’s assets at the time of contribution, and thereafter on the applicable valuation date. The fixed annuity percentage must be at least 5% and no more than 50% of the fair market value of the assets in the corpus. The remainder (the amount expected to go to charity) must be at least 10% of the fair market value of the assets contributed to the CRUT. Code Section 664(d)(1) sets the federal income tax requirements for a charitable remainder unitrust. [Retrieved August 2014.]

Wikipedia links to the posting at the Cornell University Law School site of Section 664 from the Internal Revenue Code. Note the tabs for the US Code and for Notes. The Notes section allows tracking specific changes to the Code over time.

Official Information – Type #4 – CRUTs

The On Mission CRUT is apparently one way that Mark and Grace Driscoll are donating back to Mars Hill Church (the non-profit). Since the CRUT is based on the Driscolls’ financial assets put into the trust, it therefore is connected to proceeds from their book, Real Marriage.

Resource Articles – CRUTs

James Duncan discusses Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage and charitable remainder unitrusts. (March 15, 2014, by Wenatchee the Hatchet).

How Mark Driscoll pockets the money he gives to Mars Hill (March 16, 2014, by James Duncan).

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02-9. Type #5 – Revocable Living Trusts

Introduction

I may expand the information section on this at a later date, with information about Living Trusts. For now, I will note that WenatcheeTheHatchet and others have been investigating another whole layer of Mars Hill activities involving Living Trusts, and how they relate with the ownership of different residential properties where the Driscoll family has lived.

Official Information – Type #5 – Revocable Living Trusts

The labyrinthine interconnections among these have not been clarified yet. However, the Revocable Living Trusts do deserve mention as they could well turn out to relate to financial dealings in one or more LLCs and the On Mission CRUT. At this point, there are at least two living trusts involved:

  • Future Hope Revocable Living Trust
  • Downs Family Revocable Living Trust (aka Melanie J. Thompson)

No additional official information is available at this time on these Revocable Living Trusts.

Resource Articles – For-Profits

James Duncan discusses Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage and charitable remainder unitrusts. (March 15, 2014, by Wenatchee the Hatchet).

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02-10. Official Source Links and Summary Profiles

Washington State Agencies – Sources for Official Records

Here are three key Washington State agency websites where you can find such official documentation on the public record as for: type of entity, date of creation/registration, whether it is active or inactive, “governing persons” (individuals, LLCs, corporations, combination), reseller permits, business licenses, business locations, registered trade names, etc.

Reference List ~ Active Entities Related to Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll

  1. Mars Hill Church (non-profit)
  2. Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Churches (non-profit)
  3. On Mission LLC
  4. OMCRU Investments LLC
  5. Lasting Legacy LLC
  6. Mars Hill Church Investment Fund LLC
  7. Resurgence Publishing, Inc. (for-profit)
  8. On Mission CRUT. On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust. No official link located as of this time.
  9. Future Hope Revocable Living Trust. No official link located as of this time.
  10. Downs Family Revocable Living Trust (aka Melanie J. Thompson). No official link located as of this time.

Reference List ~ Inactive Entities Related to Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll

  1. Mars Hill Properties – 49th LLC [inactive as of July 1, 2009]
  2. Mars Hill Properties – 50th LLC [inactive as of March 14, 2012]
  3. Mars Hill Properties – Lynnwood LLC [inactive as of July 2, 2007]
  4. Mars Hill Properties – Ocean Shores LLC [inactive as of October 1, 2008]

Entities Still Under Study

Mars Hill LLC. Existence not confirmed. An entity by this name – or Mars Hill Fellowship LLC – has occasionally been referred to in blog posts or other sources. To date, I have not been able to confirm its existence.

MGD Legacy LLC.

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02-11. Mars Hill Church Organizational System Graphic

Click on the image to view a larger version.

This is what looks like an all-in-one chart. But even this is not really comprehensive. While it is packed with details about entities and activities directly related to Mars Hill Church, I can’t guarantee that I have included all elements that are organizationally a part of their system, or that their spokesmen would agree with my categories or the titles I’ve used.

Plus, I’m only presenting a few select partnerships and contracts that have been particularly relevant in 2014, for a variety of reasons. See the subpage 06 Partnership Problems for summary descriptions of those partnerships to consider why I have included them.

Here is the color code for the element boxes in this illustration:

  • Bright turquoise = non-profit corporations that are part of Mars Hill Church.
  • Light blue = campuses and constituents.
  • Dark blue = Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) that are part of Mars Hill Church.
  • Bright green = for-profit corporations that are part of Mars Hill Church.
  • Grey = Categories of activities or associations.
  • White = organic elements in Mars Hill that do not have their company or corporation – though some may have their own webpages, like Mars Hill Media, or separate websites, like The Resurgence.
  • Bright yellow = outside for-profit companies with contracts from Mars Hill-related personnel or divisions.
  • Light yellow = outside non-profit agencies and networks that Mars Hill Church has/had some kind of key association with.
Mars Hill Church Organizational System ~ Version #3 ~ December 12, 2014

Mars Hill Church Organizational System ~ Version #3 ~ December 12, 2014

[UPDATE: Changes from Draft #2 (September 6, 2014) to Version #3 (December 12, 2014) – I recently checked the Secretary of State’s site on the Mars Hill Church Investment Fund LLC and found that the “governing members” had been updated to reflect that this LLC is controlled by the Mars Hill Foundation for Church Planting, which is a non-profit corporation. Also, I corrected an incorrect title from Mars Hill Foundation for Church Planting to Mars Hill Foundation for Planting Churches.]

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02-12. Mark Driscoll and Related Personal Trusts, LLCs, etc.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

This illustration captures my understanding of the interrelationships among Mark Driscoll as manager, member, and/or beneficiary of eight financial entities that I know of that relate more directly to him, and another one indirectly. Four are LLCs, two are Revocable Living Trusts, one is a CRUT/Charitable Remainder Unitrust, and one is a non-profit corporation.

There is an overwhelming amount of detail populating this image. And while all these entities seem to be legally constituted from what I have researched thus far, they tend to mask underlying questions. Such as, Should a local church pastor – even of a multi-campus mega-church – be making the amount of money that allows him to live in a “preferred zip code” neighborhood? And afford a house which cost over $1 million and then had tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars of renovations?

Here are the color code and line codes for this illustration:

  • Different colors of purple = the more close the link is directly to Mark Driscoll, the darker the purple color of the heading box. The lighter the purple color, the more diluted the connection is, meaning the farther away it is from a direct connection with Mark Driscoll.
  • White = events, properties, or products.
  • Tan = outside trust or other entity that has an indirect/mediated connection with Mark Driscoll or any of his financial organizations.
  • Pink = outside individuals who takes care of insider business.
  • Bright blue = non-profit corporation, in this case, it is Mars Hill Church and it is apparently one of two beneficiaries where payments from the On Mission Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT) go, the other beneficiary being the Driscoll family.
  • Unbroken Line = direct link, such as full ownership, or a relationship as a trustee.
  • Broken line = partial ownership.
  • Dotted line = conveyance of property, so that the entity holds the title on behalf of the actual owner and does not truly own the property itself. This provides a layer of privacy that tends to shield the actual owner from publicity – but may actually cause more interest for exactly that reason, otherwise known as The Streisand Effect.
  • Double line = contractual obligation.
Mark Driscoll and Related Trusts LLCs ~ Draft #2 ~ September 6, 2014

Mark Driscoll and Related Trusts LLCs ~ Draft #2 ~ September 6, 2014

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02-13. Mars Hill Church Campuses

Click on the image to view a larger version.

Mars Hill Church has multiple campuses. Current campuses are in the sections under light blue heading boxes. Defunct campuses are in the section under the blue-grey heading box.

There is no further detail on the graphic about Mars Hill “Global” as a sort of virtual campus, as the description of this entity has been in flux due to controversy over whether:

  • Mars Hill Global was/is a restricted Global Fund which was solicited by Mars Hill with that designation (and no disclaimer originally that the Church could put those donations into the General Fund to use for other purposes).
  • Mars Hill Global was/is merely a name for those outside of a brick-and-mortar Mars Hill campus and who “participate” by reading Mars Hill materials, listening to the podcasts, donating to the Church, etc.
  • Both of the above, and/or some other explanation.

For an overview of the dispute over the Global Fund designation, see subpage 04 Specific Legal/Ethical Issues.

Mars Hill Church Campuses ~ Draft #3 ~ September 7, 2014

Mars Hill Church Campuses ~ Draft #3 ~ September 7, 2014

In the most recent updates of September 7, 2014, Mars Hill Church announced plans to shutter/transition three campuses (Seattle/Downtown, Seattle/U-District, and Phoenix, AZ), put one on notice (Huntington Beach, CA), and continue with plans to plant in Spokane as finances allow. Draft #3 of the Campus organizational chart reflects these changes.

Many other changes have since happened, with the planned dissolution of Mars Hill Church as of December 31, 2014, tentatively leading to the spin-off of 11 local churches which were due to receive “seed money” from Mars Hill Church. For my response to the initial proposal for these spin-offs, see the next section on A Critique of the Three Official Options for Dissolution of Mars Hill Church.

If you are interested in historical research on what happened/happens with various campuses, below are the links to tags on Warren Throckmorton’s blog. Links to Mars Hill campus labels on Wenatchee The Hatchet’s blog are noted with (WtH) after the link. See also Mars Hill Church (category). Mars Hill Church (tag).

WASHINGTON STATE CAMPUSES [10]

OTHER NATIONAL CAMPUSES [3]

MARS HILL GLOBAL/GO [1]

PRIOR CAMPUSES [6]

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02-14. A Critique of the Three Official Options for Dissolution of Mars Hill Church

This was originally posted as Capstone Article 1 on November 2, 2014, with numerous comments that contain additional facts, opinions, and insights.

SUMMARY. This article presents a critique of the three possibilities presented on October 31, 2014, by Executive Elder Dave Bruskas for individual campuses in the multi-campus system of Mars Hill, which tentatively will be dissolved by January 1, 2015.

  1. Becoming an independent, self-governed church.
  2. Merging with an existing church to create one independent, self-governed church.
  3. Disbanding as a church and shepherding current members to find other local church homes.

To gain the greatest potential understanding and benefit from considering this Capstone article, first read my series on Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse and the Research Guide to Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. The former series looks at the theoretical issues involved in abuse, repentance, individual restoration, and organizational renovation. The latter series provides frameworks for understanding personal and organizational problems at Mars Hill, along with extensive documentation, analysis, and interpretation.

THE THREE OPTIONS LISTED

On Reformation Day – October 31, 2014 – an article entitled Local Mission, Local Churches was posted on Mars Hill’s website by Dave Bruskas. He is the sole remaining Executive Elder from before Mark Driscoll’s stepping down in August 2014 while under investigation for charges that would disqualify him from ministry. Here is an excerpt from the post by Mr. Bruskas:

[…] Following much prayer and lengthy discussion with Mars Hill’s leadership, the board of Mars Hill has concluded that rather than remaining a centralized multi-site church with video-led teaching distributed to multiple locations, the best future for each of our existing local churches is for them to become autonomous self-governed entities. This means that each of our locations has an opportunity to become a new church, rooted in the best of what Mars Hill has been in the past, and independently led and run by its own local elder teams.

We recognize this reorganization plan is a significant and complex undertaking on many fronts; however, our goal is to have the process completed by January 1st, 2015.

LOCAL DECISIONS

Please be in prayer for your local elder teams as they contemplate the following options in the next few weeks: (1) becoming an independent, self-governed church; (2) merging with an existing church to create one independent, self-governed church; or (3) disbanding as a church and shepherding current members to find other local church homes. This decision will be made by your local church’s Lead Pastor and elder team. […]

While the options from the dissolution of Mars Hill as a centralized multi-campus system may seem on the surface to be positive and constructive, I don’t see them that way. Looking deeper, I see all three options outlined by Executive Elder Dave Bruskas as being problematic. This is based on these dimensions of my work and ministry experiences:

  • Working regularly over the last 20 years in church planting teams, church transition consulting, and social enterprise start-ups.
  • Spending 17 of the last 40 years in five different church and ministry situations that turned out to be extremely abusive through misuse of spiritual authority.
  • Doing research writing and extensive blogging since 2008 on subjects related to spiritually abusive leaders, toxic organizational systems, and those who survive being victimized by them.

Here are my main concerns that flow from those areas of expertise, plus specific concerns about each of the three options.

MY MAIN CONTENTIONS:

We Need to Start with the Assumption that Mars Hill Leaders Will Implant Toxic DNA in any New Church/Ministry Situation

Questions about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill have been around for a very long time – perhaps the core of them really being about whether the label of “controversial” actually should have been one of “contempt” instead. At any rate, I think we can trace increasing and intensified scrutiny of them to about a year ago. It was November 21, 2013, when Janet Mefferd presented evidence of Mark Driscoll’s alleged plagiarism during her radio interview with him. And the rest is history.

Since then, numerous organizational system issues emerged beyond the many questions raised about Mark Driscoll’s personal character and behaviors, and whether they disqualified him from public ministry. The organizational issues are important here, because they directly affect every current and recent Mars Hill leader who might be involved in a potential church spin-off or merger. Here is my basic contention:

The documented situations of spiritual abuse and organizational obfuscation make all current and former leaders suspect – including all who have served as an Executive Elder, on the Board of Advisors and Accountability, Board of Elders, or paid staff. We must assume they were/are all part of the leadership problem at Mars Hill until each can individually prove otherwise.

And, until each individual leader documents and demonstrates otherwise and clears his/her reputation, everyone else should assume that he/she brings the exact same, corrupt “spiritual DNA” to the table for any future ministry developed from scratch or joined in through a merger.

That DNA has been shown to create and support a severely corroded system where spiritual authority was misused constantly. There is now substantial evidence showing that the ensuing actions from that system were sinful, unethical, and potentially even illegal – and also that the resulting impacts led to a culture of fear, confusion, intimidation, and traumatization.

These individuals’ involvement with Mars Hill decision-making and implementation makes them culpable for harmful actions and inactions inflicted in the name of the institution they served. So, all who are outside and inside of Mars Hill have been given every reason NEVER to accept the word of ANY Mars Hill leaders at face value – until they willingly clear their reputation – and NOT to automatically accept the endorsement of their character or behaviors by any other individual or organization.

They worked for a church with a tainted reputation and toxic running of the organization, and this has been increasingly verified by documentation. So, we cannot simply start them off at neutral, offer them automatic trust, or give them the benefit of the doubt. No disciples, no elders, no organizations should “lay hands on” any Mars Hill leader until he/she adequately shows that he/she is NOT DISqualified from roles of public service in the Church.

We do not need to feel sorry for doing this. It may feel “unfair” to Mars Hill leaders. But the real issue now is discernment for the protection of others and the prevention of splicing into new or merged churches the DNA of abuse that will replicate toxicity.

So – these leaders bear complicity for harm committed in the name of Mars Hill until they clear they name and reputation. How do they do that? Disclose their roles and resolve remaining issues.

Unresolved Issues = Uncleared Reputation

I am calling on remaining Mars Hill leaders “to let the light shine in, and let full and accurate information out” before thinking that Mars Hill is ready for closure, transition, replants, and mergers. Many other voices are calling for similar actions as a precaution against spreading abuse elsewhere.

What Issues to Address

To me, this means dealing any personal involvement with at least the five potential legal/ethical problems detailed in this Research Guide post, plus several other important theological concerns that are related. I’m grouping them here into three clusters:

1. Mars Hill has failed to show robust transparency and accountability about significant financial issues, meeting relatively minimal standards. Leaders need to clear up details about:

  • The ResultSource contract and apparent misuse of financial gifts to Mars Hill being used for the personal benefit of Mark Driscoll through purchase of Real Marriage.
  • The Global Fund designation and alleged misappropriation of restricted funds.
  • Where funds went that were raised for the Jesus Festival.
  • Whether salary levels and severance packages to any individuals constituted “excessive compensation.”
  • Theology of “prosperity gospel.”

2. Mars Hill has failed in its governance and organizational systems through misusing its by-laws and by exerting authoritarian dictates. Leaders need to clear up key remaining issues:

  • Before it closes, Mars Hill leaders need to “finish well” by officially exonerating Bent Meyer and Paul Petry, two elders who were disciplined and shunned in 2007 during the by-laws rewriting and power take-over by Mark Driscoll. (For details of this watershed issue, see the Joyful Exiles)
  • Before Mars Hill closes, the leaders need to complete and release the official investigation report on Mark Driscoll’s disqualification from ministry. Leaders also need to clarify definitively which statements about his disqualifications posted so far are fully or partially accurate, and where they left out conclusions in ways that created confusion.
  • Individual leaders need to declare their theological positions about biblical qualifications for leaders, the authority of elders/leaders, the submission of disciples to those in authority, partiality and conflicts of interest, character issues and behaviors that constitute disqualification from leadership ministries.

3. Mars Hill created a long track record of untrustworthy communications through “spin,” issuance of conflicting statements, revision or deletion of online materials without notice, etc.

  • “Spin” is often really just deceit. Leaders who know of any Mars Hill communications or media materials that were not fully true and/or have harmed the reputation of others need to bring the details to light and seek to repair the damage.

How to Address Them

Any leader who seeks to deserve being trusted needs to disclose what they did or didn’t have to do with any of the above issues. This is not a particular novel idea. Many people – especially those personally victimized by the anger, intimidation, control, and verbal abuse of Mark Driscoll and his key “enforcers”– seem to be suggesting the need for Mars Hill leaders to clear their reputation. The key mechanics include disclosure of facts, and repentance through resolving any outstanding issues, including personally repairing damaged relationships.

  • Go on record about the issues and any personal involvement in them (or lack of involvement).
  • Establish a track record of personal repentance by making things right for any relationships they harmed through damaging actions they took – or failed to take.
  • Confirm any necessary repentance and repair of relationships by private actions over time, with public declaration of those if appropriate.
  • Don’t skip over the realities of requalification for leadership, but engage in a repentance and restoration process that is overseen by others before there is any potential resumption in a role of public leadership ministry.

So, this process combines biblical concepts of repentance in the heart with a faith that then shows itself through one’s actions, restitution, and restoration.

What About Those Who Refuse to Address Them?

Any current leaders who refuse to do this continue to give every reason to trust nothing they say or do, from this point forward. Also, based on the past track record of Mars Hill Church, which includes the impact of their own actions and inactions as leaders there, we need to assume that their future actions will potentially put any non-profit they are associated with in jeopardy for issues that have allegedly come up with Mars Hill, until/unless they clear their own reputation. Such risk issues that could carry over include:

  • Illegal use of non-profit funds to benefit private individuals.
  • Illegal misappropriation of restricted funds solicited for designated purposes.
  • Deletion, destruction, or alternation of evidence that could have potential legal consequences.
  • Failure to disclose or avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Failure to follow the organization’s required processes and procedures as laid out in its governance documents.
  • Spin of information, posting of misinformation.
  • Direct or indirect infliction of spiritual abuse.

Surely this is sobering for any Mars Hill leaders. They need to demonstrate their discernment about how toxic organizational systems harms people in the congregation. But scrutiny of such issues is appropriate stewardship for any potential members/attenders who are thinking of joining them in a new spin-off, or leaders of other churches considering some kind of merger with them.

ISSUES WITH THE OPTIONS

Option #1 – Independent Spin-Offs/Replants

Spinning off a local campus as an independent church is a problem if it implants the same spiritual DNA overall as what was in Mars Hill. Given those bad seeds over time growing in a similar direction, it will produce clones of Mars Hill and thus, the same fruit as what happened to people there: authoritarian control, lack of more than minimal transparency and accountability, and spiritual bullying.

Only those leaders who can clearly and comprehensively show that they do not carry the corrupt Mars Hill organizational DNA, and that they have taken care of any remaining “spiritual business” of personal recovery and interpersonal restitution, should be potentially trusted to plant and lead a new congregation. Even so, leaders who prove qualified to serve by their character and behavior may still need a “time out” in “ministry quarantine” to detoxify from immersion in the infected fish tank that Mars Hill had become.

Option #2 – Mergers

Merging with another church is a problem for similar reasons. Any other potential church partner should assume that the shards of Mars Hill left in the wake of Mark Driscoll’s control are still covered with contagions.

So, if you merge a healthy, orthodox church with a church fragment consisting of leaders and congregants from a group demonstrated to be toxic, what do you think you will get? Such a merger does not automatically amplify the healthy trajectory of the one and merely stop the toxic trajectory of the other. Instead, it stops the arcs of both, and creates a new entity on a new pathway, with new needs.

If a healthier church decides to go through with a merger, hopefully the leaders from the host church can figure out how to care for those affected by the spiritual carnage of their former Mars Hill situation. However, they should give up setting any timetables or expectations for qualitative growth and new ministry development. Absorbing and serving a group of wounded people – especially those who may not yet realize how deeply their spirits were bruised by bad leadership practices – will bring huge unanticipated consequences, conflicts, and clashes of church-culture dynamics.

When I was a church plant strategist/designer, I gained a detailed insider view of the merger process where a relatively healthy church plant merged with an extremely unhealthy church in decline. This intensive real-world tutorial took two years of my insider participation and about five years of follow-up observation after I left. I was enthused and optimistic at first, but soon saw more clearly how it was not some “match made in heaven,” despite our attempts to describe it as such. It quickly turned out to be more like a troubled second marriage, and needed the community equivalent of “marriage counseling” from the outset, but didn’t get any. The church planting pastor sincerely seemed to believe he knew exactly what to do, and he gave only the appearance of considering ideas from other people.

Anyway, a key thing to consider for any potential partner for a merger (or perhaps even in welcoming in large numbers of ex-Mars Hillites) is the spiritual DNA of abuse that comes with them, especially with the Mars Hill leaders. 1 Timothy 5:22 is a biblical mandate for congregations, and for good reason: “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” (NIV) Leaders of existing churches fail to follow this requirement at their own peril, plus at the potential risk of harm to those they already oversee.

Merger? Not an optimal option when abusive leaders and “troublesome congregants” are a major part of the mix.

Option #3 – Disbandment and Former Members Find a Church Home Elsewhere

The potentially fatal flaws in the first two options mean I’m left with supporting Option #3 … while considering if there are other scenarios possible – and more preferable – and what their probable challenges and consequences would be.

But meanwhile, yes, it would likely prove safer and easier in the short term and more productive in the long term for relatively healthy local churches to take in small bands of refugees from Mars Hill than to merge organizationally and splice in the cultural DNA of abuse.

Still, other congregations ought to be very wary of any overtures for merging, and also aware of the baggage of abuse that ex-Mars Hill attenders inevitably carry – even if they don’t realize it yet. These men, women, and children may well need a significant season of relational help and healing. So, if they haven’t given such trainings already, leaders would do well to equip and empower their people to be welcoming, but also to go beyond hospitality and show greater “perseverance with the saints.” That’s because it’s likely at least some newcomers will have traumatic flashbacks, confusion, grief, depression, and other forms of cognitive dissonance and emotional eruptions, based in their past experiences with Mars Hill. At the very least, every disciple knows what it is to receive comfort from the Father (2 Corinthians 1), and so we all have something worthwhile to share, even if it is generic, because not everyone has a specific, first-hand understanding of victimization by spiritual abuse.

I have been in such a healing church, one which brought me back to life after a period of severe treatment for about four years by the CEO-style pastor in a church plant elsewhere in town. I had flashbacks and near anxiety attacks for another three years after I left that abusive church. Thankfully, these people understood. One of the elders in my new home church even shared with me later on that they saw their main ministry as helping survivors of my former church and one other local church, since there was a continual stream of victims coming out from under those churches’ authoritarian leaders.

If I didn’t have that community of truly caring Christians surrounding me, I’m not sure my faith journey would have survived. I was first a recipient of their immensely gracious care and long-suffering with me. Gradually I was able to share what I’d received with newcomers who needed the same kind of love that I’d been shown – true love that casts out fear. My hope, my prayer, is for all who have been associated with Mars Hill to find that kind of genuine community. They will need a church where whatever wounds they have are healed, whatever doubts that surface are transformed to confidence, that whatever relationships that have been torn apart get repaired. That is Christ’s Kingdom in action, embodied by His followers among us.

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