Update: For Facebook group information, read to the bottom
Over the past several months, I have talked with quite a few former Mars Hill Church members and ministers. A common theme is that the current difficulties being experienced at the church have at least some of their roots in a change of governance in 2007. At that time, Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired as elders which set off a firestorm of discontent among certain members. The discord even reached the Seattle Times with an article by Janet Tu titled, Firing of pastors roils Mars Hill Church.
The article mentioned the fired elders and noted that changes in the by-laws seemed to spark the discord. According to then pastor Jamie Munson, the object of the changes was to share power, not hoard it. The 2007 changes were resisted by Petry, Meyer, Lief Moi and others and were followed up by the current 2011 by-laws which further consolidates power in the hands of the board of elders (see this post for the by-laws). The 2011 by-laws move even further away from the original model of governance.
Judging from conversations I am having with former Mars Hill members and staff, as well as their various Facebook postings, some of the current distress and discord can be traced back to the difficulties in 2007. After the by-laws were approved, MHC required members to rejoin under the new scheme. About 1,000 members declined to rejoin.
Some of the more infamous video clips of Mark Driscoll come from that period (Some of those sermons have been removed from the MHC website). In one sermon, Driscoll describes how to keep elders in line
As noted, once one gets past the important concerns of plagiarism, and using Result Source to get on best seller lists, much of the concerns I hear relate to authoritarian leaders, hurt feelings and disrupted relationships from that turbulent period of the church’s history. The additional changes in the church by-laws and increasingly corporatization of Mars Hill into a brand (some recall and describe the “I am the brand” speech) have led to significant reaction on the part of current and former staff.
A detailed history of the situation is beyond my time constraints now, but I did want to raise this observation in the midst of covering the other controversies. There are other blogs and sources which help tell the story; some are first person accounts from those involved. Here are some of those accounts and resources.
My Story by Jonna Petry (wife of Paul Petry) at Joyful Exiles. This is a good initial reading of the timeline in the firing of Paul Petry from his wife’s perspective
Mars Hill Timeline from Joyful Exiles. – There is a wealth of information here.
Wenatchee the Hatchet – A former Mars Hill member provides a wide range of information about the history of MHC. Use the search engine to track down posts.
Repeal the By-Laws – Exonerate Pastors Paul Petry and Bent Meyer – A Facebook group started by Rob Smith to promote the exoneration of the fired elders Paul Petry and Bent Meyer.