Mars Hill Church Final Distribution – Where Did the Money Go?

When Mars Hill Church closed, the by-laws required a final distribution of assets. Although the plan omitted some details, a dissolution plan was filed with the state of Washington and I assumed had been carried out by last June. Today current pastor of Doxa Church (once the Bellevue campus of MHC) Jeff Vanderstelt said the following about funds distributed from MHC. His comments were posted in the comment section of a Gospel Coalition article on Mars Hill Church. I wrote a reaction to that article yesterday. In response to a claim from another commenter about money paid to the MHC churches, Vanderstelt said:

The churches were given money to continue on if they signed a binding legal agreement not to talk about Mark Driscoll in a negative way. Do you see how that could be dangerous?

  • That is actually not the truth. Churches were not given money if they signed a binding legal agreement. Where did you get that information from?

There was no “hush money”. I stepped in to restart a church from the Bellevue campus and we did not receive the money you are referring to. Neither did any of the other churches. What are you basing your conclusion on Roger? And what revisionist history are you referring to?

I wrote Vanderstelt to ask if his church received money as set forth in the MHC distribution plan. He answered by saying he had made comments on the Gospel Coalition article and that I should read those. I wrote back to ask if his church received the 22.18% which was designated as part of the plan.

As he said, Vanderstelt clarified his earlier statements on the Gospel Coalition website:

Roger – Each church did receive some “start-up/seed” money because MH had money in their accounts that had to be distributed as directed by their 501 c3 guidelines. It was not hush money however. I was not required to sign anything or agree to silence in order to receive those funds. Also, they weren’t that substantial (as some seem to believe) when you take into account the lease payment we assumed in stepping into the Bellevue campus. For us, it amounted to about 2-3 months of operating expenses. You are correct in that I can’t speak for the other pastors so I will not. I’m only representing what I know and what I’ve experienced.

According to the dissolution plan, Doxa was to get 22.18% of what MHC had to distribute after debts and liabilities were paid. I hope Vanderstelt will clarify if this “seed money” was all they received. Mars Hill owned lots of equipment and property and sold it all off. Did Doxa and the other churches receive those funds according to the plan filed with the state? I hope Vanderstelt will address this point. If the churches didn’t get anything else, then significant questions may be raised about how the rest of the assets were distributed.

The plan states:

Distribution of Assets.

The Corporation hereby resolves that after payment of the Corporation’s debts and liabilities, or provision made therefore, including without limitation the establishment of reserves as set forth in paragraph 4 herein, Kerry Dodd or Caleb Walters (either, the “Authorized Officer”) shall distribute all of the remaining property of the Corporation as follows: (a) first, any assets held by the Corporation upon condition requiring return, transfer, or conveyance, which condition occurs by reason of the dissolution, shall be returned, transferred, or conveyed in accordance with such requirements; and (b) second, any remaining assets of the Corporation shall be transferred or conveyed to specific churches (each a “Church”, and collectively, the “Churches”) identified in Exhibit A that provide ministry services and have a similar lawful purpose as the Corporation in the percentages indicated in the attached Exhibit A.

One of the liabilities could have been Mark Driscoll’s severance pay. The church never addressed this matter. If all concerned really want to move on, they should come clean on the distribution of assets at the end of the church. As Vanderstelt said, the churches got seed money, but it sounds like from his comment that Doxa Church didn’t get anything else, or in other words, 22.18% of nothing. Is that possible? If that is the case, a final public accounting is all the more necessary for MHC to cease being a stumbling block in Seattle and surrounding area. As a non-profit, MHC has a responsibility to donors and the public to account for those funds. One of the factors that led to the downfall of MHC was a lack of transparency with donor funds. It would be tragic if the legacy churches continue that trend.

Read the Mars Hill Dissolution Plan

Exhibit A:

MHC dist plan churches

 

Reflections on TGC’s Life After Mars Hill Church

DriscollBuildingToday, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra posted a reflection on Mars Hill Church two years later. I started twice to write an article like this but didn’t get an answer back from some of those former pastors Zylstra quoted. I must still be associated with the opposition.

Overall, I think Zylstra did a fine job of weaving together a recognizable picture of Mars Hill Church. However, I don’t think this is the last word on the subject. Several more of these kind of articles will need to be written. Probably the whole situation requires a book.

For now, I will add some comments to aspects of the article. I’ll quote Zylstra and then comment.

Slow Train Coming

Then, in a few breathtaking months, the whole thing collapsed. Founder and lead pastor Mark Driscoll’s bent toward the provocative, which was part of his draw, increasingly came under fire, fanned by a series of controversies.

The collapse was a slow motion ride of over a year. There were multiple controversies and turning points but much of what became controversial was the exposure of a pattern of leadership which had taken place over many years. In the last year, many on the inside decided they had tried everything an insider could do. Those people started to talk, organize, and give witness to what they had experienced.

PDCSD – Post Dysfunctional Church Stress Disorder

The collapse of Mars Hill released a tidal wave of hurt, disillusioned people. Many quit Mars Hill; some quit church or Christianity altogether. Hundreds limped into other area churches, asking about church bylaws and pastoral pay structures before even introducing themselves.

A valuable aspect of this article is the documentation of troubled ex-Mars Hill people careening into new churches with church related PTSD.  The church’s structure wasn’t the reason for the problems at Mars Hill but in the last days, the drama was played out on the stage Mark Driscoll and his oversight board had created. No wonder ex-members were wary of how other churches do things.

Your Pastor is Not Your Father

“The biggest fear was that I was going to walk away,” he said. “The thing that hurt the most, that they couldn’t believe, was that Mark would leave them. The feeling that they lost their pastor was a hard blow.”

That’s because “Mark called us his kids,” said Huck, for whom Driscoll was a father figure. “He up and left his kids. That’s the hard part we’re still dealing with. I don’t need a public apology, but it would be nice to be acknowledged. It’s like your dad left and started a new family, and you’re here with your brothers and sisters. And you’re just confused.”

In one of my early interviews on Mars Hill Church, a former leader told me, “Mark recruited all these guys with daddy issues.” While there was much more to the demise of MHC, a fantasy about the role of pastor was a key feature. Driscoll cultivated a paternalistic stance with the congregation. At least some of those people longed for what they imagined a father figure would be, and Driscoll delivered. Even when Driscoll was harsh and outrageous, many excused the actions as a sign of paternal boldness. After all, “father knows best.”

Hopefully, the MHC affair will disabuse Christians of the wish for the pastor-father. Your pastor is not your dad. He or she is a person who can play the role of a shepherd regarding matters of faith but beware of the pastor who wants to be your father.

The Fall Out

No one took a survey, but by most estimates, about half of the former Mars Hill congregants stayed with their campus. Of those who left, most seem to have landed in different area churches. (Two were planted from the Bellevue exodus.)

I think instead of guessing, it would be valuable to do a survey. I doubt that most have landed in area churches. No doubt some have, but I don’t assume that most people have moved on and are still in church.

Well Taught or Well Conditioned?

But even though they’re wounded and unsettled, the Mars Hill diaspora has one enormous advantage: They’ve been well taught.

I hope that’s true but there are many ex-members who I am pretty sure will dispute this.

Mars Hill Church Was Where Jesus Hung Out

One unintentional and subtle message of Mars Hill was, “If you want to be part of what Jesus is doing in our city, then you should be here,” Sinnett said. “When we got out of that ethos and into the church-planting realm, I was blown away by the million things Jesus was doing in the city which were unnamed and unbranded but just as spectacular.”

No, I think this message was intentional and obvious. Perhaps Zylstra was being kind, but a consistent theme I heard from former Mars Hill leaders was that MHC was the best church, really the only church where it was all being done correctly.

We’re Sorry Now

“To a man, every one of them has struggled with what role of complicity they’ve had in the whole thing,” Fairchild said. “That has been very good for us. I have learned the difference between intent and impact—you can have good intentions, but that doesn’t always translate into helpful, gracious impact.”

The elders from Bellevue and Sammamish “truly repented of their participation in any of the sin,” Vanderstelt said. “There was a deep godly sorrow, a genuine repentance, a real desire to walk out the fruit of repentance.”

Apparently, the Mars Hill financial distributions are over.

What is missing in this article is the testimonies of all of the healing that Mark Driscoll has said has taken place. Phoenix is happening but it seems obvious that Seattle still has issues.

 

For much more on Mars Hill Church, see this link.

Video of Mark Driscoll Blaming Demise of Mars Hill Church on a Governance War; More Elders Respond

In early April, Mark Driscoll stunned many ex-Mars Hill Church leaders with his account on the Life Today TV program of how Mars Hill Church came to an end. Driscoll blamed the problems at Mars Hill Church on an “eight year governance war” and said it centered around disputes over power with his subordinate elders. Last week, one elder, Mike Wilkerson, went on the record on Matt Carter’s podcast to contradict Driscoll’s account. When Driscoll first made that claim, former elder Mark Dunford also denied Driscoll’s story.

Not long after the show aired, it was removed from Life Today‘s website.  Now, I can post a fair use clip of the show which contains Driscoll’s unique perspective. Watch:

Transcript:

Mark: At 22 we graduated; 25 we started a Bible study trying to reach primarily young 2 college-educated singles in what was at the time among the nation’s least churched cities. In the early years we were broke and we didn’t have kids and I was working a job and didn’t think it would amount to anything. Eventually, in God’s grace, God did some remarkable things through some wonderful people. We saw about 10,000 people baptized. We saw the church grow to 15,000 on a typical Sunday. We saw 15 locations in five states, just kind of superseded all expectations.

Randy: And this is the Pacific Northwest, this is not the Bible belt.

Mark: No. This is urban, single, young adults, all kinds of sexual issues, confusion, abuse, baggage and carry-ons — so lots of stuff going on. We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved, especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.

So the governing board in authority over me invited us to continue and we prayed about it and talked about it as a family and felt like we heard from the Lord and I resigned. And left without — didn’t have an opportunity to say good-bye to the people so I want to let them know how much I love them and appreciate them and wish I would have had that opportunity. We took some time off just to heal up. I signed a non-disclosure agreement so you’re not going to talk about it, which was fair and reasonable and I agree with. And just decided to spend time as a family to heal up, to meet with wise counsel, to learn what we could learn and to see what the Lord had for the next season of our life.

Since the show, I have heard from a dozen former elders. None recall a war over power and control. Some gave me permission to use their comments anonymously.  One said:

Mark’s version is revisionist history.  There was no battle.  He was always in charge of the church.  He ruled it and steered it as he wished.  He mostly had “yes” men on board who did what he wanted. They only reason Mars Hill ended up with 67 elders at the end was that Mark lowered the standards for eldership so he could have more elders for more franchise locations. He pushed for more and more locations, and in this Life Today interview he is acting like it was the idea of the local elders.  No Mars Hill elder wanted to have an independent church in the sense of pulling a MH location away.  If an elder felt like being a lead pastor and preaching more, he would plant a church with Acts29. Since Mars Hill and Acts29 were closely related for most of the time, it was very fluid. A few did that, but it was very few.
Mark’s version is an example of him playing the heroic victim.  He’s not the victim of his elders.  They were his victim.  And when they finally recognized he did not meet the qualifications for an elder and the were going to remove him, Mark resigned like a coward and blamed his resignation on God.  Interestingly, Mark resigned the night before the elder report about his disqualification was going to be made public. I believe Mark resigned because it preserved his severance package.

Another told me:

I don’t ever remember hearing anything about any campuses wanting to break away. If they did, they would have been fired on the spot. I guarantee you that.

Another one said:

There was no “war”, Driscoll decided to rewrite the bi-laws and then fire a couple wise pastors asking legitimate questions.

Finally, a former elder concluded:

The common thread in all these events has to do with Mark’s character flaws, authoritarian leadership style, unresolved conflict and his biblical qualifications for being an elder being questioned, due to many specific and ongoing patterns, incidents, and behaviors. No discussions in elder meetings over those 8 years involved anything to do with church governance, as that was not even a consideration or topic of conversation.

For the record, I approached Rev. Driscoll via his ministry website for comment and to give him an opportunity to present his side of the story. He never responded.

Wenatchee the Hatchet has a major analysis of the Life Today appearance and takes down Driscoll’s narrative bit by bit. Start with part one and work your way through the details.

Former Mars Hill Church Elder Disputes Mark Driscoll’s Account of Church Demise

Mark Driscoll 2016
Mark Driscoll 2016

On April 6, Mars Hill Church founder Mark Driscoll claimed to Randy Robison and Sheila Walsh on the Life Today TV show that he left Mars Hill Church over a “governance” conflict which lasted eight years. At the time, I surveyed former Mars Hill Church elders and not one of them remembered it that way. Now another Mars Hill elder has spoken out in response to Driscoll’s claim. Yesterday, former elder Mike Wilkerson said on Matt Carter’s podcast, Break it Down, that the reason Mars Hill ended was not governance but Driscoll’s coercive and abusive style of leadership.

The video of Driscoll’s appearance on Life Today has been removed from the program’s website but the transcript is still available. Here is what Driscoll told Walsh and Robison about the end of Mars Hill Church.

Mark: At 22 we graduated; 25 we started a Bible study trying to reach primarily young 2 college-educated singles in what was at the time among the nation’s least churched cities. In the early years we were broke and we didn’t have kids and I was working a job and didn’t think it would amount to anything. Eventually, in God’s grace, God did some remarkable things through some wonderful people. We saw about 10,000 people baptized. We saw the church grow to 15,000 on a typical Sunday. We saw 15 locations in five states, just kind of superseded all expectations.

Randy: And this is the Pacific Northwest, this is not the Bible belt.

Mark: No. This is urban, single, young adults, all kinds of sexual issues, confusion, abuse, baggage and carry-ons — so lots of stuff going on. We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved, especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.

So the governing board in authority over me invited us to continue and we prayed about it and talked about it as a family and felt like we heard from the Lord and I resigned. And left without — didn’t have an opportunity to say good-bye to the people so I want to let them know how much I love them and appreciate them and wish I would have had that opportunity. We took some time off just to heal up. I signed a non-disclosure agreement so you’re not going to talk about it, which was fair and reasonable and I agree with. And just decided to spend time as a family to heal up, to meet with wise counsel, to learn what we could learn and to see what the Lord had for the next season of our life.

Now go here and listen at 32:31 into the podcast to Carter ask Wilkerson if Driscoll’s recent statements on Life Today were accurate. The following is a transcript from 32:31 to 34:02.

Carter: A couple things, so the way that you’re describing that is, I’ll at least bring up and say that it seems to me to be at odds with what I saw Mark say on TV recently which was, which really tripped me out when he said it, yeah, there was problems there but it was an eight year governance war behind the, power struggle behind the scenes and it didn’t work out right and so God told me to leave. When he said it on there, I was like, hm, maybe I’m crazy and that’s what happened but I felt so weird like maybe I’m the crazy one because it sounded believable what he said the way he said it, but I think he, if I’m not right correct me on this, some of the stuff that you’re already discussing and whatever that is that he’s describing would largely involve you and other people.

Wilkerson: Presumably

Carter: How does that strike you when you hear him say that?

Wilkerson: What strikes me is that’s not true, but…

Carter: Do you think he thinks that’s true?

Wilkerson: I don’t know. I mean I don’t know. What I can tell you that I know is there I was in 2013, early 2013 dealing with these highly escalated issues and they had to do with the bullying, kind of domineering, that kind of stuff. There was no context about governance in that.

Then Wilkerson said he continued to hear stories of domineering and bullying behavior even after he resigned. About the reasons for Driscoll’s and the church’s demise, Wilkerson said clearly, “None of it was about governance, none, none of it was about governance. It was about the issues he was eventually charged with.”

To read those formal charges, click here. As you will see, none of the issues related to governance, eight years in duration or otherwise.

In the coming days, other Mars Hill Church elders may speak out.

From the Archives: Mars Hill Church Elders Post Letter of Confession to Bent Meyer and Paul Petry

Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014
Screen capture from Mars Hill Church video, 2014

Recently, current pastor of The Trinity Church in Phoenix and former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle Mark Driscoll told Sheila Walsh and Randy Robison that Mars Hill Church ended due to a church governance dispute which lasted eight years. Driscoll added:

We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved, especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.

I have spoken to a dozen former Mars Hill Church elders and no one remembers it that way.

The eight year period must refer to the time when Bent Meyer and Paul Petry were removed from eldership because they questioned the changes which were eventually enacted at Mars Hill. After those men were publicly shamed and removed, others did not dare vote against the changes. There was no eight year dispute. The governance changes were made.

A remarkable letter written in 2014 provides a counter point to Driscoll’s account. As is clear from the letter, the elders other than Meyer and Petry feared being treated in a similar manner and fell in line. While those who left the church kept hoping for change at Mars Hill, those who stayed got with the program.

As Mars Hill Church was unraveling, a group of men who were elders at the time Meyer and Petry were fired got together to write a letter of confession to Meyer and Petry. Now seems like a good time to remember what they had to say.

The letter was originally posted at the Repentant Pastor website which is no longer working. I found the letter archived via the Wayback Machine and is reproduced in full here.

Letter of Confession to Bent Meyer and Paul Petry

Sunday, November 2, 2014
Dear Paul and Bent, we want to publicly confess our sin against you regarding events that took place at Mars Hill Church back in 2007. We were wrong. We harmed you. You have lived with the pain of that for many years. As some of us have come to each of you privately, you have extended grace and forgiveness, and for that we thank you. Because our sin against you happened in a public way and with public consequences, we want to make our confession public as well with this letter.

On September 30th 2007, you were both terminated from your employment as pastors at Mars Hill Church. Your status as elders of the church was suspended, according to the church’s bylaws at the time, pending an investigation of your qualification for eldership. It’s hard to imagine just how disorienting and painful this experience must have been for you. That night, Bent, you called Mike Wilkerson, your direct supervisor, to let him know that you’d been terminated. Within hours, Paul, you emailed all of the elders to notify us of what had happened to you that night. We had the opportunity and the responsibility to intervene, to care, to listen to you, and to make sure that any harmful treatment against you was corrected. Instead, we allowed the process of your investigation and trial to continue unimpeded and we participated in it. By failing to intervene and by participating in that process without protest, we implied to the members of Mars Hill Church, to each other, and to you and your families that your termination was above reproach. We stood by as it happened, and that was wrong.

We now believe that you were grievously sinned against in that termination. We believe that the termination meeting’s content and tone was abrupt, one sided, and threatening. Hearing each of you recount your experiences of this meeting is shocking and sad. By failing to intervene, we enabled a growing trend of misuses and abuses of power and authority that would be feared and tolerated by the rest of the churchs eldership. We now understand that these sorts of overpowering actions against elders were some of the very concerns that you had each expressed regarding some of the pending proposed changes to the bylaws. It is tragic that you were proved right by your own experiences. The harm permitted by our failure to protect you has had a devastating and lasting impact on you, your families, Mars Hill Church, and the watching world.

Paul, On October 15, 2007, all twenty-three elders at the time—including most of us signers of this letter—voted that you were in violation of the biblical qualifications of eldership. The alleged violations included a “lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority”. All but two of the elders then voted to remove you from eldership based on these perceived violations.

We now believe our decisions were invalid and wrong. The entire investigation and trial process was skewed by the implication that your termination was above reproach and for just cause. If there had been sin in your life that might have warranted a warning about possible disqualification from eldership, we should have patiently, carefully, and directly addressed it with you before the matter became so extremely escalated. By reporting our wrongheaded assessment to the church, we put doubt about your character in the minds of church members, though you had done nothing to warrant such embarrassment and scrutiny. By doing this, we misled the whole church, harmed your reputation, and damaged the unity of the body of Christ.

Bent, On October 29, 2007, all twenty-three elders at the time—including most of us signers of this letter—agreed that you were guilty of “displaying an unhealthy lack of trust in, and respect for, the senior leadership of Mars Hill Church”. We also unanimously approved that, based on your repentance, you would remain an elder of the church on probation.

Bent, we were wrong to have called you guilty of lacking trust and respect for the senior leadership of the church when you had good reasons for challenging the church’s senior leadership. We were wrong to have insisted that you repent of this lacking trust as a condition of your continued eldership, because it was not sinful on your part in the first place.

Bent and Paul, you each had every right as an elder to openly express your strong concerns about the bylaws and to influence our thinking so that we might have made the most informed decision possible. You also had good reason to contact the church’s attorney about those bylaws. These were not sinful acts of mistrust on your part, but reasonable acts of due diligence. We needed to learn from you at that time and we should have trusted you and respected your spiritual authority as elders of the church to educate us about potential problems with those bylaws. Instead, we silenced your voices through our complicity in your terminations and our decisions to remove Paul as an elder and keep Bent on probation instead of examining the issues more closely.

Paul, On December 5th, 2007 those of us who were elders at the time voted to instruct the members of Mars Hill Church to treat you as an unrepentant believer under church discipline after you had resigned your membership from the church. This treatment was to have included “rejection and disassociation” in the hope that you would “come to an acknowledgment of [your] sin and repent.” This instruction was given with the weight of all twenty-seven elders at the time. This disciplinary rejection led to great loss to your family in extreme financial hardship, sudden loss of long standing friendships, spiritual and emotional trauma to your family, and the public shaming of your character. We share responsibility for those losses due to our participation in the vote.

A church disciplinary act of this magnitude is extreme. It’s perhaps the most powerful that can be enacted upon a pastor. We now think that motion was hasty and harmful. We should have challenged the motion rather than approving it. Instead, we used our voting power as elders in a way that resulted in further harm to you. Further, we brought disrepute on the Church and its responsibility to exercise church discipline in a godly, loving and redemptive way. We failed to love you as a fellow elder and brother in Christ.

Confessing our sins against you has been a process that has taken us some time. We have engaged in self-examination, challenged our memories of what happened by reviewing the documents and interviewing one another, and spent time listening to you and your wives tell your heartbreaking stories. Many of us have met personally with each of you over the years to confess our sin and to seek forgiveness for our sinful actions and inaction. We don’t intend to convey by this letter that we are the only elders or former elders who’ve come to similar conclusions, and we hope that in time, the others will join us in public confession. Our desire is to clear the reproach from your names.

We hope that our confession also brings healing to the many past and present members of Mars Hill Church whose hearts were broken for you and your families as a result of our sin. As part of our commitment to walk in repentance, we invite anyone who has been impacted by our sins against you to contact any of us so we can continue to walk in repentance by listening, confessing, and asking for forgiveness.

Paul and Bent, we are sorry for our sinful behavior toward you, for harming you, and for bringing shame to Christ’s church. We hope that you will forgive us. May the peace and grace of our Lord heal our hearts.

Signed,

Mars Hill Elders as of October, 2007

—Scott Thomas

—Dave Kraft

—Gary Shavey

—Steve Tompkins

—Brad House

—Phil Smidt

—Mike Wilkerson

—James Harleman

—Lief Moi

—Adam Sinnett

—Jesse Winkler

—Zack Hubert

—Tim Reber

—James Dahlman

—Dick McKinley

Additional Mars Hill Elders as of December 5th, 2007

—Jon Krombein

—Matt Johnson

—Joe Day

 

Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church

DriscollBuildingFounder of the now-closed Mars Hill Church in Seattle Mark Driscoll showed up on the Life Today Show with Randy Robison and Sheila Walsh last Thursday with a surprising revelation about the end of Mars Hill Church. According to Driscoll, the church folded and he resigned as the culmination of eight years of a struggle with elders over power.

To fully appreciate the new revelation, you should watch the show here.  You can read the transcript of the entire show here. Here is a taste:

Mark: At 22 we graduated; 25 we started a Bible study trying to reach primarily young 2 college-educated singles in what was at the time among the nation’s least churched cities. In the early years we were broke and we didn’t have kids and I was working a job and didn’t think it would amount to anything. Eventually, in God’s grace, God did some remarkable things through some wonderful people. We saw about 10,000 people baptized. We saw the church grow to 15,000 on a typical Sunday. We saw 15 locations in five states, just kind of superseded all expectations.

Randy: And this is the Pacific Northwest, this is not the Bible belt.

Mark: No. This is urban, single, young adults, all kinds of sexual issues, confusion, abuse, baggage and carry-ons — so lots of stuff going on. We had a governance war at the church that went eight years behind the scenes over who is in charge and how things play out. At the end we had 67 elders in 15 locations in five states, a large percentage of whom I had never met. They wanted to have independent local churches and we were one large church in many locations. So there was an eight-year battle that finally went public the last year and it was very painful for everyone involved, especially the wonderful, dear, generous, amazing people that served and gave and made it all happen.

So the governing board in authority over me invited us to continue and we prayed about it and talked about it as a family and felt like we heard from the Lord and I resigned. And left without — didn’t have an opportunity to say good-bye to the people so I want to let them know how much I love them and appreciate them and wish I would have had that opportunity. We took some time off just to heal up. I signed a non-disclosure agreement so you’re not going to talk about it, which was fair and reasonable and I agree with. And just decided to spend time as a family to heal up, to meet with wise counsel, to learn what we could learn and to see what the Lord had for the next season of our life.

What Was the Problem at Mars Hill Church?

It is stunning to listen to Driscoll toss his former elders under the bus. While he may not have known all of his elders, I don’t recall any of them, in my many conversations with them, advocating independence for the video locations. In fact, I contacted several of them who were around during those years and none remember any movement or rumblings in favor of separating from the Mars Hill mothership. One told me he felt sure that if the issue had been raised by an elder, then that person would have been fired on the spot. Mark Dunford, who served at the Portland and Ballard locations, provided a statement regarding Driscoll’s claim:

I spent time at both the Ballard and Portland churches, though only 4 months of that was at Portland. I knew of zero conversations at either location that discussed any sort of desire to separate from Mars Hill as a whole. There were official contingency plans that spoke of the churches becoming independent if Driscoll were unable or unwilling to continue in his role. But, to the best of my knowledge those were initiated from higher levels of church leadership (above the local church level). To my knowledge none of the local churches had any intention of separating from the whole.

In fact, it was the then-current elders of Mars Hill who extended an offer of reconciliation and restoration to Driscoll after an investigation of charges filed by former elders found that Driscoll should step down from preaching and come under the care of his elders.  Driscoll’s account sounds like the “67 elders” wanted power and engaged in a struggle over eight years to get it.

I can understand why Driscoll wouldn’t want to remember this, but the struggle at Mars Hill did not relate to elders wanting power. Remember what MHC Board of Accountability member Paul Tripp said about Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church?

This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.

If the elders of Mars Hill Church wanted anything, it was for Driscoll to address this problem.

Non-Disclosure Agreement

Perhaps Driscoll did sign a non-disclosure agreement, but who could enforce it now? Mars Hill Church has ended and filed a dissolution plan with the state of Washington (click here to see it). Mars Hill Church used NDAs to threaten former employees but there is no one left to enforce them.

In fairness, Walsh and Robison could now have former MHC elders and their wives on to talk about “tough times” and how to survive an “abusive, coercive ministry culture.”

See also Wartburg Watch on this video. Click here for all posts on Mars Hill Church.

Read the Plan of Dissolution for Mars Hill Church

At the end of 2014, Mars Hill Church closed down. Several ends were loose as MHC ceased to hold services. Mark Driscoll had left the church but there was much curiosity about the report prepared by his elders which called on him to step down and enter a plan of restoration. That report was never released.

The status of the assets of MHC was also of interest to many members and ex-members. The plan was to distribute the remaining funds and proceeds from sales to 11 MHC video locations that became free standing churches. Nothing was explained to the public by remaining administrators Kerry Dodds and Caleb Walters.

Recently, I have obtained the plans of dissolution for MHC and the MHC Foundation for Planting Churches as filed with the Attorney General’s office. The latter was a trust on behalf of MHC and had $154,732 remaining in an account. After expenses, the proceeds of those funds went to an Indian mission, Visions Nationals, and the mission to Ethiopia, New Covenant Foundation. After these groups had been used to solicit funds for Mars Hill Global, it is nice to see them benefit.

Read the Dissolution Plan for Mars Hill Church Foundation for Planting Churches

Although no figures are given, the distribution of remaining assets owned by Mars Hill Church were given to the 11 churches according to their attendance and offerings. See the distribution percentages below:

MHC dist plan churches

Although the plan doesn’t specify the amount of money involved, the assets were distributed according to financial and attendance numbers.

Read the Dissolution Plan for Mars Hill Church

The church’s official date of dissolution was June 30, 2016:

Plan of Distribution. The Board hereby approves, authorizes, and consents to the voluntary dissolution of the Corporation, such dissolution to be effected in a reasonably expeditious manner but in no event later than June 30, 2016, and in accordance with the Plan set forth in this Agreement.

For Those Interested in Mars Hill Church History, Wenatchee the Hatchet Has Organized Some Links. A Former Elder’s Wife Speaks Out

marshilleverettaskfundsFor Mars Hill history buffs, Wenatchee the Hatchet has done a service for you. Go check out his post with links tagged and organized topically.

Also, wife of a former elder Jen Smidt has spoken out about her experiences at Mars Hill. According to Jen, she once said something Sutton Turner didn’t like and the next day Turner rebuked her husband for it.

WtH has a lengthy account and analysis which I won’t try to compete with.

It occurred to me recently that a final accounting of Mars Hill was never made public. I assume the assets were sold and divided up between the legacy churches but no final reporting ever became public. Secrecy persisted until the end.

For all of my posts on Mars Hill Church and The Trinity Church see below:

Mars Hill Church

The Trinity Church (the post-Mars Hill church Mark Driscoll started in Phoenix)

Follow Us!