A letter from nine Mars Hill Church pastors to their fellow elders offers the most trenchant criticism yet of controversial megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, who recently stepped down for at least six weeks amid a series of accusations.
The pastors did not mince words in their lengthy Aug. 22 letter [full text] concerning Driscoll, who has been caught up in allegations that include plagiarism, inappropriate use of church funds and abuse of power:
[W]e direct that he steps down from ministry, submitting himself under the authority of the elders of the church, who will oversee the details of his restoration plan.
He must step down not only from the pulpit, but from all aspects of ministry and leadership.
He will continue to receive his salary so long as he continues to cooperate with the restoration plan set before him by the elders of Mars Hill Church.
The letter was posted within a Mars Hill online network and provided to Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor who has been blogging updates about Mars Hill.
The 4,000-word letter suggests there were insufficient layers of accountability at Mars Hill, a congregation of an estimated 14,000 people at 15 locations in five states, and that power was consolidated at the top with Driscoll given free rein to do what he wanted.
The pastors included quotes from conversations with Paul Tripp, a widely respected evangelical pastor who is seen as a “pastor to pastors” and was on the Mars Hill’s Board of Advisors and Accountability before he resigned in June.
“This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with,” Tripp is quoted saying in the letter.
One of Tripp’s concerns was the way the church governance was set up.
“You can’t have a church culture where you essentially have a very tight circle and everyone else is your enemy,” he said.
Tripp declined to an interview request.
“This letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Mark Driscoll will be processed in accordance with Article 12 of the church’s bylaws,” a statement provided by public relations firm head Mark DeMoss said. “This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete. In the meantime, it does not seem appropriate to comment on specific accusations before/while they are being formally reviewed as we don’t want to circumvent the process prescribed by the governing body of Mars Hill.”
The church’s bylaws, which spell out how the church is governed, are not public. It’s also unclear what the governing body entails, as DeMoss was unavailable to respond to more questions. The pastors in the letter suggest that the bylaws do not offer church elders much authority.
“While the current bylaws greatly restrict our authority, we believe we must act like elders none-the-less,” they write. “It is time to take responsibility for our church, regardless of how much our current bylaws prevent us from exercising that authority.”
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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Sarah Pulliam Bailey