Should Washington’s Attorney General Hold Up the Dissolution of Mars Hill Church?

I must admit I am unclear about the legal issues here. However, for discussion’s sake, I thought I would make readers aware of this complaint letter lodged with the Washington Attorney General’s office.

The Honorable Bob Ferguson
Attorney General of The State of Washington
1125 Washington Street SE
PO Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504-0100

Re: Requesting The Attorney General Obtain Injunction Regarding Mars Hill Global Fund Dissolution

5th November, 2014

Dear Mr. Attorney General,

I respectfully request the urgent use of extraordinary measures to preserve funds raised through MHGF [Mars Hill Global Fund] solicitations and protect any future claim against MHGF.

On October 31st Mars Hill Church issued statements related to their impending dissolution:
(1) All of Mars Hill’s existing church properties will either be sold, or the loans on the individual properties will be assumed by the independent churches, subject to approval by the lender; (2) all central staff will be compensated for their work, and then released from their employment; (3) if any funds remain after the winding down and satisfaction of Mars Hill business affairs, they will be gifted as seed money to the newly independent churches,

The following three actions are requested:

First, The Office of the Attorney General view these funds as “commingled funds” that were obtained through false solicitation and not general purpose, unrestricted funds.

Second, an emergency injunction be obtained blocking transfer of all funds obtained by, or co-mingled with the proceeds of solicitations in the name of MHGF, to current and former Officers through severance packages or bonuses, as well as any transfers to the planned Independent Mars Hill Church location 501 C 3’s.

Third, challenge transfer of real estate holdings to Independent Mars hill Locations in which all,or substantial part of purchase cost was provided by MHGF solicitations, or in which MHGF resources were used to make capital improvements resulting in substantial property value changes.

MH raised, by their own statements, over $10 MM on behalf of the charitable efforts in Ethiopia and India, and MH has an obligation under state law to use those resources as originally stated. MHGF solicitations appear to make no mention of severance packages to current or former Officers or transferring MHGF monies to outside 501 C 3’s.

I would strongly argue MH intentions would be in violation of State Law and constitute public display of contempt for the role your Office plays in enforcing applicable laws regarding corporate solicitations. According to the following statement, close to half of MH operating budget appears to have been restricted funds.

Where have past gifts been used?
During fiscal years 2009-2014, over $10MM dollars has been given to Mars Hill Church by the Mars Hill Global Family. During that same time period $22.48MM has been spent on church planting in the US, India and Ethiopia.

October 2nd MH issued this FAQ page:

I gave and thought that my Mars Hill Global gift was solely used for church planting outside of the United States. What do I do?
If you gave previously and were intending that your gifts would be used solely for international efforts, we sincerely apologize for the confusion caused by a lack of clarity on our part. If you still want your previous gift(s) to be directed to our international work, please email giving@marshill.com and we will make sure that your previous gift(s) will be used to support making disciples and planting churches specifically in Ethiopia or in India.

MH appears to be admitting there never was a MHGF, they knew their solicitations had confused the public,and waited over five years to change the name of MHGF after public complaints began to surface.

What happened to the Global Fund?
Since 2009, we have used the term “Global” to help us distinguish between donors who attend our churches and donors around the world who follow us online. In the past we used the name “Global Fund,” which was originally intended to “start new Mars Hill campuses, plant new Acts 29 churches, and equip leaders at the Resurgence Training Center” (as noted in the Global Newsletter from 7/7/2009). As our efforts increased we continued to refer to the fund when specifying our local and international church planting efforts. To reduce confusion we have consolidated the naming into “General Fund (Local & Global)” as we continue raising all funds to make disciples and plant churches, here in the US, and around the world under the “General” heading. If you are part of the Global Family, and would like to make a donation to Mars Hill Church online, please choose the “General Fund (Local & Global).”

It appears MH is now stating MHGF was an attempt to distinguish the physical location of the donors, not a distinguishment of the funds purpose.

Mars’s Hills Staff said it best.

“What happened to the Global Fund?”

Respectfully yours

Nathan Priddis

 

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