New Letter from Mars Hill Church Leadership Board Acknowledges Charges Against Mark Driscoll; Silent on Twenty Former Pastors

Earlier this evening (3/26), a letter went out to Mars Hill Community Group leaders from the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA)* regarding the formal charges filed by Dave Kraft in May of last year. In addition, the BOAA commented on a “reconciliation process” but did not specifically mention the 20 former pastors who asked for a mediator. The letter refers to someone who could fit that role but it is not clear that the BOAA’s actions are in response to the initiative led by Dave Kraft and Kyle Firstenberg. As far as I can determine, the BOAA has not responded to the March 17 letter from the 20 former pastors.

Dear Mars Hill Leaders,

I wanted to take the opportunity to give you, the current leaders of Mars Hill Church, an update as to the status of some of what we’ve been working on as a board over the course of the past year. Thank you for all that you do. We know it is extra difficult right now, but good fruit is coming out of these trials!

On May 10, 2013, a now former elder filed formal charges against Pastor Mark Driscoll and other leaders at Mars Hill. While stating that he had not personally been sinned against by Pastor Mark, he had at least seven unnamed witnesses who would testify to the offenses and hurts he claimed, which if found to be substantiated, could result in disqualification. We requested the names of the witnesses to exercise Matthew 5:23-25, but he refused to disclose them. While the issues cited as evidence from these charges came from anonymous sources, the issues all revolved around the theme of mistreatment of fellow leaders and staff. As the governing body responsible for the accountability of Mars Hill’s senior leaders, the Board took these charges extremely seriously.

In an effort to substantiate the validity of the anonymous charges, we immediately sent out over one hundred letters to former elders and staff at Mars Hill Church from the previous two years, inviting their feedback and perspectives regarding their time on staff at the church, particularly their interactions with Pastor Mark and the Executive Elders. We received eighteen responses. While some were very positive, every response was read and reread, looking for anything that would disqualify Pastor Mark and any other Mars Hill leaders from serving, or that would require further investigation. Additionally, the Board looked for repetitive patterns that may also lead to potential disqualification. After a thorough review, the charges were determined to be non-disqualifying. However, the Executive Elders were individually and corporately given corrective direction by the Board. Those corrective actions have been followed and have been bearing fruit over the last seven months. We have been very encouraged to see the Executive Elders learn, grow, and repent where needed.

However, we are hungry for reconciliation and are continually grieved that many offenses and hurts are still unresolved. We want to seek out and hear the hurts in a biblical manner. A Board-approved reconciliation process is currently underway and is being overseen by Dr. Paul Tripp who flew to Seattle and recently spent a day with the Executive Elders. He has also been in conversation with a person who is very capable of facilitating these reconciliations. Additionally, each of the Executive Elders has taken the initiative to reach out to people with whom they may need to reconcile. Our prayer is that as a church we can learn from this experience as we continue to grow in love and grace.

You need to know that I and the other Board members have witnessed the Holy Spirit’s work in Pastors Mark, Dave and Sutton as they’ve grieved deeply over the hurts and sorrows that they’ve been the source of. Their hearts yearn for repentance and reconciliation with those that have been hurt and offended.

By God’s grace, the reconciliation process will continue to move forward one person at a time.

Michael Van Skaik

Chairman,

Board of Advisors and Accountability

I know of at least one person who reached out to the BOAA regarding the formal charges and requested to meet personally with Michael Van Skaik, the elder who led the inquiry. However, according to documents I have reviewed, Van Skaik refused to meet in person and wanted the information in writing. I also have seen other materials submitted in writing to the BOAA that cause me to question the BOAA’s relatively mild response.

It is hard to reconcile the claims of this letter with the silence from the BOAA and Executive Elders toward those who have privately and publicly asked for reconciliation.

This letter has been posted on Facebook in multiple locations.

More to come…

*The members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability are Paul Tripp, Michael Van Skaik (Chairman), James MacDonald, Larry Osborne, (the independent members) Mark Driscoll, Dave Bruskas, and Sutton Turner (the executive elders who also sit on the BOAA).

The governance of Mars Hill rests on these seven men. The members of the church don’t vote on anything and the council of elders only vote on doctrinal changes and vote to ratify the slate of BOAA members yearly. However, elders serve at the pleasure of the BOAA and executive elders. The paid elders seem especially subject to pressure to conform because they report to Mark Driscoll who is the president of Mars Hill. He can remove officers at will and has the authority over the paid staff. Given the repeated allegations of a culture of fear, there is reason to wonder if this structure is facilitating accountability. Given the small size of the board and how dependent they are on each other, the potential for groupthink seems high. Furthermore, the lack of voice given the congregation and elders seems to set up an adversarial situation such as appears to have developed.

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