Mega Fridays: Mars Hill & Authoritarianism Run Amok

It was exactly eighteen years ago that I personally experienced spiritual abuse at the hands of a “pastor.” I put that word in quotes because I do not believe that men who so abuse members of the flock that God has entrusted into their care deserve to wear the title or to serve in the Biblical office. My experience is probably not unlike others’ experiences, particularly when it comes to spiritual language that abusers use to beat down anyone who dares to even question their leadership. The abuse, many times, is done behind closed doors and a veil of secrecy is used so that what “happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors. After all, we wouldn’t want to spread gossip and rumors — that would be divisive and unholy.” Abusers like to twist Scripture so that the victims of spiritual abuse don’t have the courage to speak up.

If you have been in the church for any length of time, you have no doubt personally experienced — or know someone who has personally experienced — spiritual abuse at the hands of an authoritarian leader, usually a “pastor” or other “minister” of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That this happens at all is a travesty. That it happens far too often is inexcusable. The reason why it happens so much is because good, Godly men stand by silently when well-known celebrity abusers continue their abuse unabated. We should all know by now what flourishes when good men do and say nothing.

As the song says, “it only takes a spark to get a fire going.” It only takes one man (or woman) to take a stand against authoritarianism to make a difference. When the right person begins to speak up and to put feet to their words, it’s amazing how quickly the floodgates open. Such has been the case with the revelations of Paul and Jonna Petry at their new blog, Joyful Exiles. Four years after suffering spiritual abuse at the hands of the leaders of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, the spotlight is shining brightly on the leadership style of the church’s lead pastor, Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll, the founder and face of Mars Hill, has led the church to expand to expand to 14 locations in four states, with some 12,000 people attending weekly services. The influence of Mark Driscoll, not only through the ministry of Mars Hill, but through Acts 29, the church planting network that he also founded, cannot be understated. With best-selling books and top-rated podcasts, Driscoll’s warped form of “masculine Christianity” is shaping how thousands of (mostly) younger pastors and church planters — many of whom are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention — do church. Despite the overwhelming numbers being “reached,” I’m not sure that is positive. And, if you want to argue that numbers are THE evidence of God’s blessing, then you need to acknowledge that the God of the Bible (who is not the same as Allah) is likewise blessing Islam, the Mormon “Church” and Joel Osteen. In a word, that’s preposterous!

Paul Petry, who was an elder at Mars Hill Church, was asked to draft revised By-Laws for the church in late 2005. With his legal background, it would have been entirely reasonable for him to be involved in this process. What Jonna Petry now describes as an “ominous circumstance” why the By-Laws’ revision was necessary:

As the church was growing, Mark wanted a smaller group of men involved with the everyday details of running the church without the need to gather every pastor/elder for discussion and voting. A number of issues had to be hammered out and the bylaws changed in order to allow a smaller group of elected elders (termed “the executive elders”) to operate freely with the day-today administration and “vision” aspects of running the church while still granting full disclosure and including all the elders in votes for major decisions like changes to the bylaws and purchasing property. This was to ensure accountability and protection. (“My Story,” by Jonna Petry)

This initial move to shrink the circle of “real” leaders was, according to the Petrys, just the beginning of the move to what can only be described as an authoritarian style of church governance and leadership. After the revised By-Laws were approved, the Petrys claim that Jamie Munson, Mars Hill’s Administrative Pastor/Elder said to Paul, “This is only half way.” I suppose the question that could be asked is, “Half way to what?” As more details emerge, we are beginning to get an answer to that question.

But, questions in an authoritarian organization, including churches run by authoritarian leaders, are not often received well. In fact, asking questions, even if one happens to be an elder, will apparently not only get you fired, but stripped of your eldership and shunned in the process. This is what the Petrys allege happened to them. To read their account is to understand how spiritual abuse can be perpetrated by “Christian pastors/elders.” In yet another revision of the By-laws, this time in an apparent attempt to further consolidate power, Paul Petry, a trained attorney who had drafted the previous revision, was not even asked to participate in this second round of revisions. That’s curious. Why? But, beyond asking why, when Petry, an elected elder of Mars Hill, contacted the attorney for the church to discuss the language of the new By-Laws, this was seen as rebellion and an affront to “authority.” When Petry sought input from a layman regarding an appeal mechanism for members undergoing “church discipline,” this was seen as a greivious breach of confidentiality. So much for getting counsel from non-elder types. When Mars Hill members have no voting rights, I guess one should not be surprised that elders are not even allowed to seek input from members’ regarding the church’s By-Laws, even when the language would directly impact members who were subject to church discipline. Truly scary.

After two weeks of “investigation” and “fact-finding,” a “trial” was convened. Twenty-two elders and all the elder candidates filled a large room where Paul was permitted to read his prepared statement regarding accusations he wasn’t even sure of and was then called upon to answer any and all elder questions. His accusers presided over the trial. Paul had no advocate, no friend, no witnesses to support him. After the questioning he was asked to leave the room so the elders could “deliberate.” Paul was found guilty at his “trial” of: “lack of trust and respect for spiritual authority and improper use of confidential information” (for discussing the proposed bylaws with a MHC deacon/friend to get input regarding an appeals process for members under church discipline). The elders then voted to remove Paul as an elder.

For daring to ask questions of leadership or to suggest due process and a more Biblical (i.e., Matthew 18) approach to church discipline, it appears that Paul and Jonna Petry were summarily dismissed through a sham trial and subsequent public shunning.That no real appeal mechanism was included in Mars Hill’s By-Laws certainly puts into perspective the shunning not only of the Petrys four years ago, but the most recent shunning shenanigans by Mars Hill in the last few months.

The Petry’s story is one that should be read by Christian leaders and lay folks within Evangelicalism and the Southern Baptist Convention. But, we should not merely stop at reading their story. What the Petrys describe is an authoritarianism run amok. It is a leadership structure with the veneer of Biblical governance (i.e., elders), but with the practical effect of an un-Biblical corporate model that is just about as far removed from the spiritual leadership that Jesus exemplified and taught. I’m not sure some of these megachurch/CEO celebrity pastors would even understand Jesus’ words, “I have come, not to be served, but to serve and to give my life a ransom for many.”

That many within Southern Baptist and Evangelical life have bought into this Driscollian leadership style (he’s not the only one who exhibits it) is inexcusable. It is past time for our so-called leaders to publicly rebuke this nonsense and to distance themselves from it. I hold out very little hope that the elitists within the SBC will do so. Their silence will be deafening, but it will not go unnoticed. And for that, they will not be able to avoid legitimate criticism.

 

 

63 comments for “Mega Fridays: Mars Hill & Authoritarianism Run Amok

  1. March 23, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    I’ve seen the authoritarian style from pastors I worked for as a youth minister and promised myself I would not be that kind of pastor. Now, I get accused of being a weak leader by other pastors (and once or twice by some congregation members) because I just do not want to go down this road. Better 1,000 churches of 50 that function Biblically in character than 50 churches of 1000 that are dictatorships.

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:14 PM

      “Better 1,000 churches of 50 that function Biblically in character than 50 churches of 1000 that are dictatorships.”

      Doug,

      Well stated. Unless prominent leaders within the SBC and Evangelicalism start to believe what you wrote and start to act on it, then we will continue to see the poison of a secular/CEO/Celebrity pastor megachurch model trickle down. And, what drips down will not be good for the Church in America. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  2. Debbie Kaufman
    March 23, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    Amen Doug. And if what you write reflects the kind of leader you are, keep going the way you are going.

    • March 27, 2012 at 7:58 AM

      Thanks, Debbie. I’m trying to mature and not just age.

      After all, cheddar improves with time, but cottage cheese doesn’t :)

  3. Jeremy Johnston
    March 23, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    Two things I feel need to be addressed. The first is the need for churches to work through the ecclessiological implications of any polity structure. The spiritual abuse that occurs functions among both clergy and lay leaders as pastors have been the recepients of spiritual abuse in the name of congregational polity. The issue with what has been reported is that the model was based upon best practices rather than biblical examination. While we all have to impliment some of the best practices they should come after the theological examination. Second, our leadership models have been based upon business and secular leadership theory. As a student enrolled in a leadership program, I have come to realize that the Christian leadership material is an adaption of secular leadership or based upon a pastor’s sermon series with little research to validate the ideas. The examples mentioned would not pass any definition of leadership among the scholars in today’s world. Leadership is not about power or authority but empowerment.

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      Jeremy,

      Thanks for your observations. A Biblical ecclessiology — whether elder-based or pastor-based — should be used within the church. The problem comes when the church ceases to be a church and is run more like a business. Can business and secular leadership principles be employed within the church? Yes. We do it with accounting and our fiduciary repsonsibilities. However, when those business and/or secular principles conflict with Biblical principles, then we begin to see the abuses that are happening, not just at Mars Hill, but at large and small churches throughout America. Of course, a non-Biblical mindset in regard to Deacons or Trustees can be used by lay people to spiritually abuse pastors. It’s not all one sided. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. God bless,

      Howell

  4. Milton Robins
    March 23, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Thank you for speaking out again on what is, I think, a very critical issue in evangelicalism today.

    Spiritual abuse is nothing more than oppression. Simone Well put it best, “After rape, oppression is the second horror of human existence. It is a terrible caricature of obedience.”

    In her book, “Five Faces of Oppression,” Iris Marion Young describes different types of oppression–exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, and cultural imperialism. I think her comments on the third face, powerlessness, provides important insight into what happens when a person is involved in a spiritually abusive church.

    Young writes, “Some of the fundamental injustices associated with powerlessness are inhibition to develop one’s capacities, lack of decision making power, and exposure to disrespectful treatment because of the lowered status.”

    In a spiritually abusive church context, the membership has no power. Out of fear of being reprimanded by church leadership or alienated from their friends, the members may choose to remain silent about their oppression. When people do not speak out about their oppression, it guarantees that the oppression will be perpetuated. What’s more, the oppression may be so thoroughly ingrained in the church’s culture that many members may not even know they are being oppressed.

    Driscoll should–if he hasn’t already–issue a statement about these recent allegations. Any allegation of spiritual abuse must be taken very seriously. The SBC, for their part, should give pause before allowing any further funding of Acts 29 church plants until a thorough investigation into the truth of these allegations is conducted to determine whether any wrongdoing has taken place.

    Pastor, you know how serious this is! Spiritual abuse can–and often does–most certainly shipwreck a believer’s faith. At best, this situation represents an aberrant view of church governance or at worst, a gross misrepresentation of the character and nature of Christ as it pertains to leadership and excercising authority in the church.

    Mr. Driscoll, please respond! You must respond! In this case, Pastor Scott, Mr. Driscoll’s silence is truly deafening!

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      “In a spiritually abusive church context, the membership has no power. Out of fear of being reprimanded by church leadership or alienated from their friends, the members may choose to remain silent about their oppression. When people do not speak out about their oppression, it guarantees that the oppression will be perpetuated. What’s more, the oppression may be so thoroughly ingrained in the church’s culture that many members may not even know they are being oppressed.”

      Milton,

      That is a grat observation. You know first-hand at how this oppression can occur. It all comes down to what I believe is a non-Biblical model of ecclessiology, namely a non-congregational polity which allows a select few (call them elders or pastors) to completely control the church with no input whatsoever from the members of the body of Christ. I am a Baptist because I believe that congregational polity is Biblical. I am not necessarily against a plurality of elders model, but when that is used as a sham for avoiding any congregational input, then the abuses that have been alleged at Mars Hill will continue. This is a vitally important issue because many of our young SBC church planters look to the Driscoll/Mars Hill model as the ideal for church goverance. I think that many of these megachurch pastors disdain any input from the congregation. Mark Driscoll will not respond, other than to call attention to the “haters.” This is a common ploy used by some within the megachurch today to silence their critics. Our SBC leaders, including Drs. Mohler and Akin and others, need to speak out on this issue. Their silence will no longer go unnoticed. Thanks Milton. Have a great day and God bless,

      Howell

  5. Max
    March 23, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Power corrupts. Absolute power absolutely corrupts. Control, manipulation and intimidation are not fruit of the Spirit. Authoritarianism has not only run amok at Mars Hill … it’s in the ditch!

    Driscoll is a sick man. The Petrys’ testimony speaks of a cult-personality running unchecked. Scary stuff when members swear total allegiance to an all-powerful leader, rational thought is discouraged or forbidden, and followers are weakened psychologically.

    Unfortunately, Driscoll’s spiritual disease is spreading untreated across SBC’s landscape of young, restless and reformed churches. Driscoll-wannabes are scrambling into new church plants and splitting established works. Why do his message and methods go unchallenged at our seminaries, NAMB, and other SBC entities? Why do leading Southern Baptists endorse him? An easy answer – they need each other! It’s all about nickels and noses … Driscollism attracts students, sells books, precipitates “successful” church plants. If you lower the price, folks will come to church … and 20s-30s are drawn to this ministry model.

    When Driscoll falls (and he will), SBC leaders will be scrambling to distance themselves from him. Disillusioned Driscollites will drop out of church or flow to the next new movement. After all, many “resurgent” were once “emergent” Rob Bell worshipers. They’ll find something else to tickle their ears. The rest of us will have to clean up the mess … and perhaps start preaching the Gospel with more passion to reach this generation for Christ in truth and love.

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      “Why do leading Southern Baptists endorse him? An easy answer – they need each other! It’s all about nickels and noses … Driscollism attracts students, sells books, precipitates “successful” church plants. If you lower the price, folks will come to church … and 20s-30s are drawn to this ministry model.”

      Max,

      You are very perceptive about what is going on. I, for one, have been silent on the issue of Driscoll’s influence within SBC life. The evidence has always been there, but it has never been as clear-cut as it is now after the Petrys exposure of what happened to them. I know there are always at least two sides to every story, but I am assuming that an attorney would not publish a blog with intentional lies or libelous statements. He would know the consequences for such actions. I believe what the Petrys reveal is entirely consistent with the modus operandi of Driscoll and Mars Hill. The influence of Driscoll on not just the young, restless, and reformed, but also on the older, should know better leaders like Mohler and Akin, can no longer go unchallenged. Silence is not an option for those who see the dangers of this model of ministry nor is silence an option for SBC leaders who have endorsed — directly and indirectly — Driscoll’s ministry and influence. Enough is enough! Thanks for speaking out and letting your voice be heard. God bless,

      Howell

  6. Lydia
    March 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    I think we have to ask important questions:

    What is it that makes people go along with such things for as long as they do? (Why don’t people recognize the inherent problem sooner?)

    Why would people think such things are biblical from the outset? (I am speaking of the “follow the guy with a title” mentality in the Body of Christ. It is almost as if people think the title ensures integrity or some spiritual value)

    I saw this sort of thing done all the time in seeker circles. Not with the authoritarian/document bent of this one but using more relationship guilt and cheap grace type of tactics. So, it is not exclusive to the NC crowd but they do have as their big promoted issue, “Church discipline” and we saw that word bandied about quite a bit in the documents. That is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys in some of these YRR bent churches.

    • Max
      March 23, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      “That is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys in some of these YRR bent churches.”

      Exactly Lydia. Many of the YRR works in my area resemble large youth groups, with the kids running things. One young pastor told me that he preferred “elder-rule” governance because he didn’t like old deacon boards telling him what to do. For you traditional churches listening in who have just hired a young graduate from SBTS or SEBTS, hold onto those old deacon boards as long as you can!!

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM

      “That is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys in some of these YRR bent churches.”

      Lydia,

      That is too funny! You do have a way with words :-) People go along with these type of things, even if they know they are wrong, because of power and/or access to power and money and/or access to money. The same happens in the secular world. Look at the “yes men and women” who surrounded Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston (and many, many others). Did these folks know that what was happening was wrong? I suspect that some of them did. Why didn’t they say anything or speak up so that these celebrities might have turned from the path they were on? Because to speak up or to even question the actions, behavior or words of the celebrity — be it a rock star or rock star pastor — is to be cut off from the gravy train. In most cases, not only are you cut off from the gravy train, but you are thrown off with extreme prejudice. In some cases, a public statement is issued which impugns your integrity and character while giving cover and a defense to the celebrities. In the church world, this might be called public shunning, including posting messages on very public and open websites. There’s nothing like beating someone into the ground even when they have surrendered. If we continue to give teenage boys whiskey and the keys to the car, we will have churches — and people’s lives — spiritually abused and wrecked throughout the SBC. It’s time to put a stop to this unBiblical model of “church.” Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  7. March 23, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Mr. Driscoll has, totally apart from Biblical teaching, elevated disagreeing with him and asking questions of others in the church, to the level of the egregious sins listed in 1 Corinthians chapter 5. That’s the only way he could justify shunning the Petry’s.

    That’s a terrible misuse of scripture, and in my mind, warrants the strongest reprimand possible, of the pastor.

    If there was someone at Mars Hill up to that task.

  8. March 23, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    Howell,

    Well, as usual our foray into agreement didn’t last very long. You might not be surprised to learn that I disagree with you in posting this particular article. I hope you will bear with me and try to understand my reasons why. And allow me on the front end to say that I sincerely hope you will consider my criticisms and whether or not they are legitimate rather than simply jumping to defend your post. I do believe some reflection on this sort of blogging would do us all some good.

    But before I get there let me say what I don’t have a problem with in this post. I don’t have a problem with you saying that spiritual abuse is a problem – I am certain that it is. Nor do I have a problem with you saying that Mark Driscoll’s position on elders within the elders is a problem. Certainly there is no Biblical evidence for this sort of thing (though one could argue that this sort of thing likely existed in the Church at Jerusalem where there may have been elders and then apostles in a high position). I also don’t have a problem with you saying that Southern Baptists need to be careful about spiritual abuse and this particular style of elder leadership. Now having said that, what I do have a problem is the way that you went about making those statements. And here’s why:

    1) I think you need to consider that while the Petry’s may be telling the absolute truth, as a pastor, I bet you’ve never dealt with a situation where one of the two parties in the disagreement were completely honest and the other party was completely wrong. More often than not the truth lies somewhere in the middle and even more often inconvenient facts are left out which would have been helpful to know before coming to a conclusion about what really happened.

    2) That being true, the way you treat this story by the Petry’s is as though it were completely true and nothing else needs to be said about it. That’s a serious problem because you assume to know all the fact prior to a legitimate investigation. As a former lawyer that seems hypocritical given that you functioned under a system that saw as foundational, “innocent until proven guilty.”

    3) Furthermore, I have a problem with you not only highlighting this story to a wider audience without knowing all the facts, but then also encouraging the entire SBC to read this story and assume themselves it is all true without knowing all the facts. At what point Howell, does this become gossip? And then your posting of it and encouragement to others to read it and believe it become promotion of gossip? I mean, at the very least isn’t this hearsay without clear facts and the ability to rebut testimony? Wouldn’t such be thrown out of court as inadmissible?

    4) I have a problem with the end of the article where you jump from the problematic issue of spiritual abuse and Driscoll’s potentially unBiblical view of elder leadership in his Church to the statement that “many within Southern Baptist and Evangelical life have bought into this Driscollian leadership style (he’s not the only one who exhibits it) is inexcusable.” Who are these folks who have bought into this? Where are they? Do you have proof of this? Is this not also hearsay unless you can provide proof? Isn’t this promoting the type of boogieman-blogging that Ed Stetzer warned against just a few weeks ago? And if you say, there are Acts29 Churches that are SBC, how exactly would you prove that just because they are associated with Driscoll means they have bought into his very particular viewpoint of leadership? Isn’t that guilt by association, which itself is a logical fallacy?

    5) You then go on to say:

    It is past time for our so-called leaders to publicly rebuke this nonsense and to distance themselves from it. I hold out very little hope that the elitists within the SBC will do so. Their silence will be deafening, but it will not go unnoticed. And for that, they will not be able to avoid legitimate criticism.

    First, are you advocating that the SBC leadership address every concern brought up on the blogosphere about Driscoll? And if so, why shouldn’t that same thing apply to guys who are Southern Baptists, who have shared national SBC platforms at the annual meeting, and who have held official SBC positions? You know, guys like Steve Gaines and Mac Brunson, who also have been accused of similar dictatorship-style behaviors by those in the blogosphere? Additionally, why should any SBC leader respond to anything they don’t have all the facts about – wouldn’t that be responding to and thus furthering gossip by doing so? Wouldn’t that be speculation – another aspect of testimony that is thrown out of court?

    I could go on and on mentioning things like using political propaganda terms like “elites” to describe your brothers and sisters in Christ and comments about the contrived necessity of Driscoll responding to these accusations, but I think you get the point Howell. In the end, you are better than this. I read Law and Grace often, and while I don’t always agree I certainly hope this doesn’t turn into another one of those SBC gossip blogs. Because honestly, this article looks exactly like every post on those. And I think you know exactly which ones I am talking about.

    And so, I will end this comment like I began it, saying, I do sincerely hope you will consider my views about what is wrong with this sort of blogging and not simply attempt to defend your post against any and all opposition.

    • March 23, 2012 at 3:29 PM

      D.R.,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this. I do appreciate your views on this, even if we may end up coming to different conclusions. I do not expect everyone to agree with what I write or the conclusions that I draw. However, I welcome folks to challenge me because I am not perfect and there maybe things that I do not see clearly. I’ll try to address each of your points in the order you gave them. At the outset, we are not in a court of law and this is not a criminal proceeding or a civil suit. While we can use legal terms, there simply is no “presumption of innocence” nor rules of evidence (i.e., hearsay, of which there are multiple exceptions anyway) which would bind my hands or yours in a public case such as this.

      1. Actually, as an attorney, I have represented clients who I thought were completely honest and trustworthy whereas their “opponents” were not. That’s one of the reasons I would have taken the case. While I think I have been careful to not state that I believe everything that the Petrys have written, including all of the facts and circumstances that they have recounted, I simply do not think that we can use the fallback position that “the truth lies somewhere in the middle.” That may or may not be true, but it is just as likely that the truth does not lie in the middle in this instance. I think that you have to look at the motivations, credibility, and docummentary evidence of the Petrys, coupled with prior actions by Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll that are consistent with what the Petrys allege, to come to certain conclusions. I will readily admit that I have come to certain conclusions regarding the truthfulness and credibility of the Petrys. You may not come to that same conclusion. But, as this is not a court of law nor is it a criminal case, the burden of proof to prove the facts beyond a reasonable doubt simply does not apply, IMO. I do acknowledge that the Petrys could have left out pertinent facts or given the facts in the light most favorable to them and the least favorable to Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. Again, that’s a credibility issue. Lastly, I am assuming that since Paul Petry is a licensed, practicing attorney that he is aware of libel laws. Therefore, I find it highly unlikely that he would post content on his blog that was libelous or otherwise contained outright lies or fiction. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. After all, we are talking about a lawyer :-)

      2. See my answer to you in the intro and #1 above.

      3. We can never know ALL the facts. Not even in a court of law, where the state has the burden to prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, do we have all the facts. To say that we must have all the facts before commenting on a particular issue is to preemptively tie the hands of those who would challenge the behavior in question. And, to say something is “gossip” is another way to stifle debate and inquiry. Even though you may not be using it this way, I know from first hand experience that some like to level charges of “gossip” in a way to keep control of the situation and to use spiritual language to keep people quiet. I think I know the difference between legitimate inquiry and gossip, so this argument, at least in this case, will not be persuasive.

      4. Again, the “naming names” argument will not be persuasive, although perhaps it’s time that we began to do so. This is the same argument that is used to rebut those who have personally witnessed authoritarian pastors (both Calvinist and non-Calvinist) divide churches. If I put out a plea to my readers, I’m sure that they could name names. Lastly, people are not “guilty by association,” but associations matter. They give us insight into the person who would associate with others. If you don’t think that associations matter, then you perhaps don’t think that President Obama’s associations with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers were important. I do believe that some SBC leaders, including Drs. Mohler, Akin, Stetzer and others who have been associated with Acts 29, whose founder and President is Mark Driscoll, will have to answer questions because of their associations, particularly if they do not speak to the issues raised by the Petrys and others. Dr. Akin already had to explain his endorsement of Mark Driscoll’s book, “Real Marriage.” The issue of associations, particularly where CP and NAMB money is involved in church plants that are affiliated with Acts 29, will be an issue to further explore.

      5. I do not intend for this blog to become a “gossip blog,” whatever that might be. Of course, “gossip” is in the eye of the beholder. As to other pastors (you mention Gaines and Brunson), there are certainly those besides Mark Driscoll who exhibit authoritarian tendencies. When those abuses occur and I am led to write about them, I will. Sooner or later, with more and more credible evidence coming forward regarding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, our SBC leaders will need to speak to this. I don’t expect them to address every issue, but when certain non-Calvinist leaders tweet jokes, some of these same leaders are all over it. It would be refreshing if they spoke up with such swiftness and clarity against instances of spiritual abuse and authoritarianism when it rears its ugly head.

      You will not be surprised that I did not exactly see eye to eye with you on your points. However, please know that I value your opinions and comments. You will find that my blog and how I respond to “guests” who take the time to read and comment is slightly different than how I interact with others at Voices. I believe in a free and open comment stream (with a few limits like no profanity), so please feel free to share. Who knows. We may find another area of agreement sooner than you think :-) Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  9. Max
    March 23, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    Bent Meyer, another elder fired by Driscoll, also spoke up recently about life at Mars Hill:

    “In my opinion he is a very troubled man. He is caught in his own hell. The consequence, of course, is the influence he has on others, which is mixed … The downside is Mark’s pathology shows up in ways that are impulsive, aggressive, irascible, shut off from effective relational influence, and most apparent not respectful and submissive to anyone, though he claims otherwise … Mark uses shame and intimidation as the means of gaining compliance … abusive relationships related to power and control … women are marginalized and silenced in so many ways.” http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/01/30/fired-mars-hill-elder-breaks-his-silence/

    If left unaddressed and uncorrected, Driscoll will crash. Pride cometh before a fall … an eternal truth you can take to the bank.

  10. Ryan Abernathy
    March 23, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    So let me get this straight. We are to simply take the word of every person who says they have been “spiritually abused” by Mark Driscoll as truth?

    Sorry, that’s a stretch for me. As someone who pastors an elder led church, and has had to put an elder under discipline, let me just say that this situation is not uncommon when the person who is in need of correction is not repentant.

    I find it interesting that in the midst of all of these attacks the only response from Mars Hill that can be found is a document that is several years old that was intended for internal consumption, not for wide distribution. No other comments. I wonder why?

    My suspicion is that the elders at Mars Hill know quite a bit about the people who are disparaging them in public and are simply waiting for those people to reveal the truth about themselves. In the meantime, every SBC guy who dislikes Acts 29, Mark Driscoll, and/or Calvinists is having a field day with rumors and gossip. So sad that we are willing to tear down a brother in Christ for the sake of our own agendas.

    The whole thing is pretty pathetic. I hope no disgruntled church members ever do this to any of you.

    • March 23, 2012 at 5:55 PM

      Ryan,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. As to your last point, I agree that the whole thing (i.e., what Mars Hill is alleged to have done to the Petrys and to Bent Meyer is pretty pathetic). I should also hope that I never do anything remotely approaching what is alleged to have happened at Mars Hill so as to not even give a disgruntled church member a reason to go public with such allegations. Of course, in Southern Baptist churches where congregational polity is actually used as the governing model of the church and where members of the church actually have rights and responsibilities, then this type of spiritual abuse tends to be mitigated (although never fully eliminated).

      As to your first question, the answer is obviously no. I would agree that it would be a stretch to “simply take the word of every person who says they have been spiritually abused by Mark Driscoll as truth.” No one, including me, has said that. We have to judge the credibility of those leveling the charges on a case by case basis. The Petrys’ testimony, taken together with the testimony of Bent Meyer, seems credible to me. Both were elders at Mars Hill. Their stories have consistencies with recent stories regarding the shunning process involved at Mars Hill. I will readily admit that I tend to give Paul Petry’s story greater weight because of his legal background. I suppose that he and his wife could have started a blog where they knew that libelous material would be disseminated, thus opening themselves up to lawsuits by Mars Hill, but I highly doubt it. The fact that the Petrys waited four years to make their story public also, IMO, lends itself to their credibility as witnesses. Others, including yourself, may disagree. Do you find any of what the Petrys allege credible? Is none of it credible? Is it somewhere in the middle? Is their story consistent with others’ stories of similar abuse? Those are questions that you don’t have to answer, but should at least try to.

      The only one tearing down Mark Driscoll is Mark Driscoll himself. People are free to try to silence others by accusing them of “gossip” and “rumors,” but in this case, that dog will not hunt (see my response to D.R. and Lydia’s response and questions to you, as well). I have no doubt that the truth is being revealed. It is that truth which we are discussing. It is a truth which some do not want to hear. That’s fine. But, this issue of authoritarian leadership in the church — not just Mars Hill –is one that will continue to be explored. I often find the best disinfectant is a bright light. Most authoritarian leaders hate when the bright light of questions and inquiry are shone upon a situation. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. God bless,

      Howell

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet
      May 2, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      Ryan, that’s not quite accurate. A Mars Hill response “may” have included the recent stepping down of Scott Thomas from the A29 board and possibly as well from MH eldership. He’s not currently listed as having a pastoral role in either capacity.

      Since Joyful Exiles is predominantly primary correspondence in which elders at Mars Hill past and present state things in their own words doubting the credibility of the material requires believing that Munson, Driscoll, Thomas and other elders whose correspondence is presented at Joyful Exiles were lying and that Petry must have been lying. The level of skepticism and assumptions about the elders at Mars Hill necessary to doubt Joyful Exiles necessitates believing a dedication to fabrication on Petry’s part that is unsustainable.

      It’s unsustainable because I and hundreds of other former members saw a large part of the documentation at the time and heard Driscoll sermons from that time. We know Driscoll said in a sermon before the firing announcement that he would have gone Old Testament on some elders in the church if he weren’t going to end up on CNN. It became impossible not to connect the dots. It was also none other than Driscoll himself who responded to Moira Bugler’s enquiry about the bylaws that by asking about this she was pressing on the issue that was the cause of the recent situation. These are things documented at Joyful Exiles. I was a member at the time and saw many of the documents and announcements myself.

      If Petry’s account is not credible and the elders were waiting for things to be fully revealed then it would not make sense that Scott Thomas seems to have stepped down from both Acts 29 and Mars Hill leadership a week after Joyful Exiles went up, especially if he wished to avoid confusing people. True, it may all just be a coincidence but it’s an admittedly puzzling coincidence if it is. Given the emails between Thomas and Petry published at Joyful Exiles I don’t think Scott Thomas could have afforded for the sake of either Mars Hill or Acts 29 to have fielded public enquiry about his management of the firing process in 2007. Joyful Exiles has been updated and shows that Thomas emailed a member days before the trial that “a conciliatory process” had just been completed when, in fact, the trial was going forward. Driscoll has avoided any mention of Scott Thomas in the last few weeks amidst announcements about what changes are coming up for him (and by extension, Mars Hill).

      .

  11. Lydia
    March 23, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    “As someone who pastors an elder led church, and has had to put an elder under discipline, let me just say that this situation is not uncommon when the person who is in need of correction is not repentant”

    Ryan,

    “You” had to put an elder under discipline?

    • Ryan Abernathy
      March 23, 2012 at 5:33 PM

      Our Elder council had to put an elder under discipline. Though I see what you were attempting to imply. Thankfully the guy we put under discipline was repentant and has been restored.

      • Lydia
        March 23, 2012 at 6:24 PM

        Thanks Ryan for clearing that up. I did not “attempt to imply” it, I simply restated the singular pronoun you chose. Besides, how am I to know you don’t have an “elder council” of 2– similar to Mars Hill now? (wink)

  12. Lydia
    March 23, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Ryan, What did the elders of Mars Hill claim that Petry was “unrepentant” about?

  13. Lydia
    March 23, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    I am so glad the very familiar and typical accusations of shaming and “gossip” are not working here. It is a great way to try and censor in these shepherding authoritarian style churches. In fact, one would think John should be censored for naming Diotrephes. After all, it was only heresay. No proof. :o)

  14. Max
    March 23, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    In an attempt to discern truth from gossip, rumors and hearsay, you can find more spiritual abuse stories from ex-Mars Hill members at http://marshillrefuge.blogspot.com/p/why-we-are-here.html

  15. elp
    March 23, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    I just happened to have come across this blog, and though I won’t be able to articulate as well as some of you, I would like to share my thoughts (as a former member of mars hill church).

    We were members when Paul Petrys was fired. We only knew them as acquaintances, but had heard nothing but respect and admiration for this family. My husband worked closely with Bent Meyer, the other fired elder, in the counseling ministry, and developed a tremendous trust for Bent- he is an insightful man and counselor.

    After the firings, we immediately wondered what was going on. These two men were the older, respected men on the elder board, and it just wasn’t making sense to so many of us. We had a number of friends who were elders who were part of voting Paul out, so my husband had numerous conversations with them, telling them ourconcerns, asking questions, seeking truth. A few of them validated our concerns with the new bylaws and the lack of accountability for Mark Driscoll, who admittedly struggled with pride.

    We also had separate conversations with the Petrys and Bent Meyer. Both of them had been documenting the events without the other’s knowledge, and yet their stories lined up.

    We continued for months to seek the truth, to continue to ask questions from both sides. As the months went on, we found that the answers we were given by the elder board were focused on tearing down Paul Petry. We were shocked to hear the tone and words which were used to describe Paul, especially. We found that when discussing the incident with the Petrys and Meyer’s, on the contrary, it was more fact-based, a timeline with separate accounts which were surprisingly similar.

    After much prayer and deliberation, it became clear that we couldn’t continue to remain as members. We resigned our membership, informing our elder friends in writing, but without giving specific reasons unless they wanted to ask. We either didn’t get a response, were accused of suspicious behavior, or shunned (by the friend who were closest to us).

    Up until the point of leaving, we were given favor as we were involved and serving in ministry. It was quite revealing to see how we were treated after leaving. The good friends we had turned against us and explained clearly that we could not be in “intentional community” anymore. It seemed to confirm to us the cult-like behavior that they had demonstrated during the Petry and Meyer incident.

    We have gotten to know the Petrys well over the last few years, and I can say in confidence that they have acted honorably and with integrity even after Paul’s firing. The character demonstrated on both sides, good and bad, are crystal clear when you have the opportunity to be close to the situation.

    • March 23, 2012 at 6:53 PM

      Elp,

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share additional insights regarding the situation involving the Petrys and Bent Meyer. I do not know any of these men personally, but I found the Petrys’ and Meyer’s stories to be credible. While there are always at least two sides to every story, I do not believe that the story always lies in the middle. Sometimes the story is fairly close to what one of the party’s says and contradicts the other party’s recollections. Such is the case with life and with legal issues that I dealt with while practicing law. Your own witness of what was transpiring behind the scenes lends further credence to what Paul and Jonna Petry and Bent Meyer have already made public.

      Your own experience — which some no doubt will try to discredit even though it is personal to you — of being effectively shunned and cut off from “intentional community” because you no longer were members of Mars Hill strikes me as cult-like behavior, as well. Usually, when people in the same community change churches, that does not mean that the friendships that were established have to be cut off. That those who are called to be “elders” are engaging in this behavior makes this truly sad. The more that people are willing to share their stories of spiritual abuse, either at Mars Hill or other churches, the better equiped Christians will be to spot spiritually abusive “churches” and remove themselves from that environment. I’m glad that you found my blog. Thanks again for being willing to comment and shed more light on the subject. As I shared with Ryan, more light is usually the best disinfectant for the spirutual abuse that takes place in the dark. God bless,

      Howell

  16. March 23, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    Howell,

    I don’t have time to deal with each and every counterpoint you made, but I am disappointed that you seemed to dismiss the idea that this article could indeed constitute gossip. You said:

    And, to say something is “gossip” is another way to stifle debate and inquiry. Even though you may not be using it this way, I know from first hand experience that some like to level charges of “gossip” in a way to keep control of the situation and to use spiritual language to keep people quiet. I think I know the difference between legitimate inquiry and gossip, so this argument, at least in this case, will not be persuasive.

    First, I am not trying to stifle debate, but rather focus it. As I pointed out early on in my comment, I have no problem with you disagreeing publicly with Driscoll and his views on how elders should function. My problem is with the way you went about doing it – passing on a story (and encouraging others to read it) when you don’t have all the facts (and you don’t have Spirit-breathed inspiration unlike John when he wrote his letters). Why not simply disagree with the man based on what is factual (the bylaws, print media, sermons, etc.) and then simply point out that there very well could have been instances of abuse which are circulating around the internet? In that way, you could distance yourself from making a judgment call based on limited information and focus instead on the facts you do have.

    Secondly, you seem to be doing exactly what you claim I may be in stifling debate by claiming that “some” use the charge of gossip to silence people. Could this not be construed in some way of silencing my criticism of you by implying that the charge of gossip could not in any way be legitimate?

    Third, you never offer a definition of gossip that would disqualify this article as being such. In fact, you simply claim that you know the difference and thus that should be enough to dismiss the possibility of such a charge. Consider what would be the results should we in the Church do this for every potential sin – we could simply say, “I know the difference between what I am doing and sin and so I am unpersuaded by confrontation.” It just seems that you haven’t thoughtfully considered whether this could indeed be gossip, but rather only whether the charge could be used to silence you or others.

    So I guess my main question for you is this: What constitutes gossip in your mind from a Biblical perspective and how is your article definitively disqualified from being such?

    • March 23, 2012 at 10:17 PM

      D.R.,

      Thanks for the response. I am not at all sure what you mean when you say that I “don’t have all the facts (and you don’t have Spirit-breathed inspiration unlike John when he wrote his letters”). I’ve never confessed to having all the facts nor have I ever said that what I wrote nor what the Petrys allege is somehow on par with the Spirit-led inspiration that John had. Quite frankly, I don’t think that statement makes any sense whatsoever, but maybe I’m just very dense. And, yes, I am passing on the story of the Petrys and encouraging people to go to their site, Joyful Exiles (www.joyfulexiles.com), and read it for themselves. I would also highly encourage people to go to The Wartburg Watch (www.wartburgwatch.com) and read some of the stories there. I am simply not going to be drawn into a fight over the definition of gossip. If people want to believe what the Petrys are doing is gossip or that my directing people to read the Petrys account for themselves is gossip, then I am prepared to live with that. But, it seems that the Petrys — and by extension anyone who shares their story like I have done — will be accused of spreading “gossip” and “rumors.”

      To be clear, when I stated the fact that “some” accuse others of spreading “gossip” as a way to stifle debate, I did not have you in mind. If I did, I would have said so directly. People that read and comment here are discerning enough to distinguish between “gossip” and “facts” and to determine the credibility of people involved in this situation. Part of what constitutes “facts” are eyewitness accounts such as the Petrys’. I happen to believe that their testimony, coupled with the testimony of Bent Meyers and other former members of MH, add up to a credible testimony of spiritual abuse and cult-like behavior. Sometimes you have to make judgment calls based on the available evidence. I am making that judgment call in this case. I could be entirely wrong about what the Petrys, Bent Meyer and countless others have described as the spiritual abuse that they were subjected to at Mars Hill. You and others may discount the Petrys’ story or not even view it as part of the factual record. That is certainly your perogative. I cannot make someone credible to you just as you cannot make someone credible to me. We have to come to our own conclusions. I would, however, encourage you to continue to try to make your case here and elsewhere. Even though we may not agree, you will have the freedom (unlike on some blogs) to comment as you feel led. Some will agree with your arguments while others won’t, just as there will be some who will agree with my arguments while others won’t. We don’t want to use our freedom to sin, but I am glad that we do have the freedom to discuss issues in the open. It sure beats the authoritarian, non-open approach :-) Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  17. March 24, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Howell,

    First, what I mean by “you don’t have all the facts (and you don’t have Spirit-breathed inspiration unlike John when he wrote his letters” is just that. You don’t have all the facts. And that you readily admit it is good, but somewhat crazy that you don’t see the problem with that. How can you legitimately know what really went on enough to make a judgment call that involves potentially damaging public rebuke of a pastor you have never spoken to? It’s not like you are commenting on his sermons in the public domain or even interviews that could be watched and read. You are commenting on proceedings that took place out of the public eye, which you have no record of other than one side’s testimony. It seems to me based on the Biblical definition of gossip that this lack of personal exposure to the entire situation would indeed constitute gossip (by the way the parenthetical section there was in response to a comment above, not to you directly).

    Secondly, it seems again that while you don’t indict me for trying to silence you, you use this defense as a means of avoiding the real issue, which is “Is this gossip?” If you can’t even offer a definition, how can you know if this is gossip or not?

    I hope you read the articles above. They all seem to point to the idea that gossip is something where you pass on damaging or potentially damaging secret or insider information about a person or group of people without being personally involved in the situation and without use of the proper outlet to do so. I’m sorry, but that seems to be exactly what is going on here Howell. And to be honest, I think you are blurring those lines of what constitutes gossip and hiding behind the idea that charges of gossip could lead to “silencing”. The problem with that, of course, is that the Bible never mentions this sort of “silencing”, but the Bible does have a lot to say about gossip, including some very harsh words about those who do it regularly.

    I think you need to honestly sit back and ponder prayerfully whether this sort of article and many, many of those on other gossip blogs (like the one you pointed to in your previous comment to me) are indeed pushing Christian people towards more and more gossip. I don’t know about your Church, but if it’s anything like mine, it probably needs their pastor to be boldly against gossip – even potential gossip.

    • March 24, 2012 at 2:27 PM

      D.R.,

      Been with the family all day, so have not had a chance to respond before now. Thanks for the clarification in your subsequent comment. I think we can agree on the need to address gossip within our local churches and within the Church as a whole. I certainly understand your concerns about the problem that gossip presents within the church and even within our culture at large. I don’t think that you would get any argument from Biblical Christians on that front. Where I do think that you would find disagreement is on the issue of what constitutes gossip and what constitutes legitimate warning in regards to spiritual abuse, particularly with the facts that we have in this case. Again, we will never have all the facts. Even in a court of law, there is simply no way to have all the facts. That seems to be an impossibly high standard to meet. Is there a “blurring of those lines of what constitutes gossip and hiding behind the idea that charges of gossip could lead to silencing?” Of course. There is always a brurry line when it comes to what is gossip as opposed to what is legitimate words spoken to warn others of impending danger.

      There will be times when we (including you and me personally) can agree on what constitutes gossip. Those are the easy ones. But, there will also be times where we disagree on where that line is drawn. I wish I could say that there is a brightline in each and every circumstance, but there is not. I do understand that some blogs can veer off into mainly gossip. Those who so engage in that behavior will have to answer to God. As I have only written two posts on Mark Driscoll, I’m not sure that my blog would be in the category that your are thinking when you talk about gossip blogs. That being said, we have a dilemma and a choice to make: Say little or very little about the specific allegations against Mars Hill, thus avoiding committing the sin of gossip, but also failing to warn people of a credible danger of spiritual abuse vs. speaking out based on what I believe are credible and consistent allegations of spiritual abuse that have continued to occur at Mars Hill, thus possibly committing the sin, but warning people so that they will not endure the spiritual abuse that can be so devastating in their lives.

      In this instance, based upon all that I know, I am choosing the latter. I acknowledge that I could be wrong and that my judgment, based upon the Petrys’ testimony and the consistent testimony of other former members of Mars Hill, could be flawed. At this point, I am willing to be accused of gossip and am willing to have to answer to that charge. But, I am not willing to remain silent in the face of mounting evidence of a real and credible danger, IMO, of people being spiritually abused. You may come to a different conclusion in this case, which I fully understand. But, I have been led to the conclusion to speak up. Ultimately, people will have to discern for themselves whether what is happening at Mars Hill rises to the level of spiritual abuse or sinks to the level of just gossip. Thanks again for the dialogue. God bless,

      Howell

  18. March 24, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    I just realized after thinking for a few minutes about it that the last sentence could come across as snippy and arrogant. That’s not how I meant it. I was simply trying to show the gravity of a rather influential pastor engaging in what I think could indeed be gossip. Our people don’t even flinch when they gossip – it comes so naturally. I just wanted to point out that as destructive of a sin, being so subtle, that gossip is, we as pastors need to take that into account whenever we write on these things.

    Additionally, as a personal story, I have been convicted of this personally in the past and realized I might have been pushing my people in this direction without knowing it. And recently I have had to confront gossip in my Church – gossip that almost destroyed an entire ministry and sullied our reputation in the community. So I said all that to say, sorry if that can across the wrong way, but I do think we should take gossip seriously and not simply dismiss accusations of it.

  19. Max
    March 24, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Howell,
    Thank you for this post. I’m not sure all your readers appreciate the service you are providing to the greater body of Christ by flagging the problems at Mars Hill. This article and others like it in the blogosphere serve to speak on behalf of the victims of spiritual abuse. It’s amazing to me how many pastors there are in the YRR camp (and SBC leaders who encourage them) who continue to support Driscoll, despite a steady stream of spiritual abuse reports coming from former members. Granted, some stories might be stretched a bit or based on rumors and gossip, but that excuse is getting old! Turning a deaf ear to such cries is how abuse continues to occur inside the walls of churches. It’s high time to stop defending Driscoll by ignoring and devaluing the stories of hurting people … and well past time for SBC leaders who endorse Driscoll’s message and method to look into this matter. The SBC may not be able to hold non-SBC Driscoll accountable, but Southern Baptists should certainly call our leaders to account for not addressing this, given the unchecked access of Driscoll’s ministry model into the most vulnerable segment of our ranks … our youth.

    • March 24, 2012 at 2:35 PM

      Max,

      Thanks. As I shared with D.R., the case of Mars Hill presents both a dilemma and a choice: Say little or very little about the specific allegations against Mars Hill, thus avoiding committing the sin of gossip, but also failing to warn people of a credible danger of spiritual abuse vs. speaking out based on what I believe are credible and consistent allegations of spiritual abuse that have continued to occur at Mars Hill, thus possibly committing the sin, but warning people so that they will not endure the spiritual abuse that can be so devastating in their lives. Based upon the known facts and witnesses, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot be silent in the face of a clear and credible danger of spiritual abuse. If I am wrong and spoke when I shouldn’t have, then I will be guilty of gossip. If I am right and was silent, then I would have failed to warn the sheep (even if they are not the sheep in “my” church) about a real danger of spiritual abuse and, in so failing to warn, allowed some to be spiritually abused. I am willing to live with the consequences of the first. I am unwilling to live with the consequences of the second. Other pastors and leaders, including those within the SBC, must similarly make a choice. We will all be accountable for the choices we make and for the choices we fail to make. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  20. Lydia
    March 24, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2012/02/our-review-of-real-marriage-by-mark-and.html

    Here is a review of the Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage, by a former employee of Mars Hill. Both spouses review the book and the second review gives one pause. It is done in an irenic spirit but very eye opening for those who wish to connect the historical dots of Driscoll’s teaching and public behavior.

    The charge of “gossip” is one we used all the time in mega circles for anything that might negatively affect the image of the institution or powers that be. It was used a lot because it sounds so biblish and most people have not studied enough or have the discernment to know when it is being used to protect bad things. They follow leaders.

    We also used this one: You don’t have all the facts. (And of course, they never would have all the facts as long as we could keep them buried!) But it worked.

    The irony is that things are called gossip that are actually first person stories made public. That makes no sense. People are allowed to draw conclusions based upon past behavior.

    These are all ad hominem tactics that won’t work when the drapes are opened and sunlight can get in. The goal is to keep the drapes closed and anyone who wants to open them with inquiry or conclusions is in sin…gossiping. I know, I used these tactics quite a bit myself to my utter shame. See, we were doing great things for God so these pesky negative things deserved to be buried. Nevermind the people thrown under buses for….. the Glory of God. (Acutally, it was for the Glory of the institution and man which some actually think translates into the Glory for God)

    • March 24, 2012 at 3:35 PM

      Lydia,

      Thanks for the link to the book review for “Real Marriage.” I read this a few weeks ago, but just re-read it. Again, the personal experiences of this couple are consistent with the Petrys’ experiences, Bent Meyer’s experience, and countless others’ personal experiences at Mars Hill. You seem to have your own personal experience on the “inside” of a megachurch where this type of behavior occurred. As I have tried to point out, we will never have “all the facts” in any case, whether we are talking about Mars Hill or a first-degree murder case. That is simply an unreasonable standard to apply. As I shared with Max and D.R., given the choice, I would much rather be accused of gossip and there be no spiritual abuse as opposed to remaining silent when actual spiritual abuse is taking place. I can live with the former, but I don’t think I would feel too good about the latter. Thanks for your insights into this and for your positive contributions to this dialogue. The more that the sunlight can get in, the better. God bless,

      Howell

  21. Scottie
    March 24, 2012 at 5:06 PM

    So, D.R. Randall,

    Why is it that concern for what may be “gossip” and may be the act of “gossipping”, outweighs the concern for multitudes of individuals who “may be” in abusive situations? (which will ruin relationships, homelife, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, leaving it all in tatters)

    You mention how gossip “almost destroyed an entire ministry and sullied our reputation in the community”. I agree this was unfortunate. But it is hard for me to see how that compares to the thousands of people in Mars Hill environments, and the untold numbers of others in churches whose leaders are deely influenced by the likes of Mark Driscoll.

    If the Petry’s story, and the stories of others, “may be” truthful accounts, the danger that “may be” is enormous.

    You mention “your reputation”, almost being sullied by gossip — you seem to imply that a pastor’s reputation is of far greater consequence than the potential for many, many human lives to be ruined.

    So, again, D.R. Randall, why do you favor the cause of “the ministry” over scores of human lives which will endure varying levels of destruction (if what “may be” true turns out to be very much true)?

    (And the mounting credibility seems to be lost on you)

    ****

    Your statement, “Our people don’t even flinch when they gossip – it comes so naturally.”

    “Our people” — who, now?? Oh, right, the stupid and dumb sheep corralled in your pen. I’m sure you’re thankful you’re above all that.

  22. March 24, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    Scottie,

    Let’s take a step back and look at all of this without the emotion and the snarkiness. First, we shouldn’t ignore spiritual abuse. I never said that. Go back and re-read what I wrote. Three times I mentioned that it was legitimate to warn others of spiritual abuse. However, what I took issue with was the way in which it was done, which I believe employed the use of gossip. I even gave Howell an alternative trajectory of addressing this topic without providing details of which he is not directly privy.

    Secondly, both you and Howell above frame this in terms of “choose gossip” or “choose truthtelling” without considering that one could warn of spiritual abuse without the need to address specific issues that cause one to gossip (by the way, I am glad to see both you and Howell now recognize that this could very well be a form of gossip – that’s at least a step toward critical and Biblical thinking on this).

    Third, Scottie, you fundamentally misunderstood my comments regarding my experience with gossip. You framed my words in the worst possible light and gave me no benefit of the doubt. That is not how Christian discourse should be done. And that is part of the problem with articles like this one – no benefit of the doubt is given, everything is black and white, and only one side is worthy of being listened to. That is what makes all of this unfortunate. Those who engage in this sort of blogging end up making their entire blogs focus on such negativity in the Body of Christ and thereby damage the very institution for which Christ died (and yes, sometimes even more so than the original cause for alarm). We as Christians should do better than this.

    Fourth, back to misreading my comment – I never tried to compare the two situations, but simply offered my own experience as a reason why I am sensitive to this as a pastor and why I think Howell should be sensitive to the issue of gossip as well. Never did I try to compare the two and frankly that is a bit out of bounds to suggest I did.

    Fifth, I never said “my” reputation, I said “our” reputation – as in the Church I pastor. My reputation is only important in as much as I represent Christ and the Body I serve. I would never, ever suggest “that a pastor’s reputation is of far greater consequence than the potential for many, many human lives to be ruined.” Reading my words in this way is completely illogical and terribly unfair.

    Finally, as to your last sentence regarding my statement, “Our people don’t even flinch when they gossip – it comes so naturally” – I was referring to the Church universal – those we have been called to undershepherd and to teach as a part of our calling as elders. Never did I suggest that they were “stupid and dumb” nor was I trying to set myself above them. You again chose to read my words in the most negative light possible. In the end, almost all you wrote was simply an ad hominem attack on me. That’s unfortunate.

    The reality is that I love my people and I can promise you that I would be one of the happiest pastors you would probably ever meet were you to do so. I am thrilled about my Church. But I am realistic about myself, my Church, and the universal Body of Christ. We struggle deeply with gossip and my comments were meant to remind Howell how desperately important it is for the elders of the Church to set an example – it’s Biblical and we will one day be judged more harshly for it.

    Again Scottie, I am sorry you chose to read my words in the worst possible light, but I do hope you will go back and reread what I wrote in a more generous way and perhaps you will see that I am trying to help Howell choose a better way for warning people than by utilizing gossip to do so.

    • March 24, 2012 at 10:56 PM

      “by the way, I am glad to see both you and Howell now recognize that this could very well be a form of gossip – that’s at least a step toward critical and Biblical thinking on this”

      D.R.,

      I cannot speak for Scottie, but, just to be clear, I do not believe that what I have written in this post (and the previous one) constitute gossip. You obviously believe that it is. I cannot dissuade you from that belief. What I did say is that I am willing to be accused of gossip, even if the accusation is false. In this case (and I limit it to this case), I would rather err (if I do err) on the side of protecting people from being spiritually abused rather than to protect myself from being charged with gossip. I appreciate you trying to help me find a better way, but it seems that this way has been fairly effective for warning people about the potential for spiritual abuse at Mars Hill. If I am guilty of gossip (which I do not acknowledge, notwithstanding your continued characterization), I would rather face the consequences of that if just one person were spared from being spiritually abused at the hands of an “elder” or “pastor.” It appears that you would choose differently. At this point we will probably not be able to persuade each other that our choices should be different than they are. But, there are times when hard choices need to be made, even if others may disagree with our reasoning and our final choice. Thanks for the dialogue. God bless,

      Howell

  23. March 24, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Howell,

    I do want to address one comment you wrote and then I will be done. I believe I have said my peace and I leave it up to you to work through whether it is worth considering or not.

    You said above, “…I would much rather be accused of gossip and there be no spiritual abuse as opposed to remaining silent when actual spiritual abuse is taking place. I can live with the former, but I don’t think I would feel too good about the latter.”

    Three problems I can see in this:

    1) As I said above you seem to pit the need for gossip against the need for truth-telling, when the reality is there is a third way. I mentioned above that you can warn people against spiritual abuse without bringing into it a specific situation where you don’t know all the facts and which I believe a good case has been made is in fact gossip. You could have even warned people against Driscoll. All you had to do was stick to the facts that can be confirmed – the change in bylaws, of which there is a record, and the specific form of elder leadership he is on record as advocating. You could have mentioned specific sermons or writings of his that you see as problematic and then simply mentioned that there seem to be cases of this sort of spiritual abuse circulating today. You didn’t have to take the extra step of pointing to the blogs that carried the stories. And yet, you still would have done your duty. Why is this approach not sensible? Why can you not see this third way could very well have been as effective, if not more so?

    2) I don’t see how you can live with sin. I don’t think this is a wise approach. We, as pastors, should not take this attitude. This is equivalent to saying that sometimes sin is just necessary. Maybe I am an idealist, but I just don’t buy that and it’s hard for me to see you do so.

    3) In the end, I think you are overestimating the impact your blog is going to have on Mars Hill and on Driscoll, himself. Ultimately, God doesn’t need you or anyone else to discipline or blow the alarm on Driscoll or Mars Hill. And we don’t have a mandate for this in Scripture. In fact, we kind of have the opposite in Philippians 1 when Paul, who is being personally afflicted because of some who are preaching Christ for selfish reasons, tells them there not to confront those who do so and try to stop them, but rather he says, “The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice…”

    It’s been questioned above why so many young adults like Driscoll (or elsewhere Mahaney and Mohler and others). It’s quite simply that for all their serious flaws (which they do actually readily admit much of the time), they do preach the Gospel – plainly and clearly. And not only do their ministries produce the fruit of Evangelism, but they produce dedicated, deeply committed Christians who boldly proclaim Christ as well. Yes, they are deeply flawed men, but the reality is that all of us are. All of us stumble and fall and do stupid, stupid things that hurt people. And we will all stand before God one day to give an account of those things. But where the Gospel is preached we should rejoice, just as Paul did. That’s something I’m having to learn to do a lot more these days. And I think it’s something we all need to work on – especially in the “Christian” blogosphere.

    Thank you Howell for putting up with me, for not ever getting testy with me, and for your encouragement to continue to interact. I deeply respect you for that. I do hope that my words have had some impact on your thinking and that they will resonate with you as you continue to seek to do God’s will in how you write your blog. May you have a wonderful Lord’s Day tomorrow!

  24. elp
    March 24, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    First of all, Scottie, Howell, and Lydia, thank you for putting words to my thoughts and emotions. I appreciate your standing in defense of those who have suffered from spiritual abuse and who often times, feel voiceless.

    Mr. Randall, I was a member of Mars Hill Church for about 4 years, and I have to say that reading your comments made me cringe because it took me back to what we experienced after we chose to leave teh church. Our questions were deflected, the church was defended, we were accused of being divisive in sharing our stories (that we should not “gossip” about what happened to my family) and of leaving for self-seeking reasons.

    We are just one of many families who have been abused by the authority at Mars Hill Church. In fact, the church we now attend has become a refuge for at least 20 people I know. People who love God, served faithfully at Mars Hill as community group leaders, deacons, teachers, etc..

    By the grace of God, we chose to listen to Paul Petry’s and Bent Meyer’s stories, as well as those of others who chose to leave the church. Many of us also spoke with the pastors we knew, repeatedly asking questions to make sense of it all. None of us wanted to leave; some had been members for 10 years. It was our community, our network of friends. Our family hosted a community group in our house and my husband was a leader in the Grace Groups (counseling ministry). We still needed to do our due diligence and hear both sides before coming to a decision.

    The answers we received from leadership, to many of our questions, were startling. We had one conversation with an elder on the executive board and his wife (who were friends of ours at the time), in which he called Paul Petry names, slandered him, and attacked his character. It was gossip in its purest form.

    If we who had left had all chosen to dismiss these men’s stories as gossip, it would have been turning a blind eye to what we were sensing was a deeply rooted problem. This is not an isolated incident, Mr. Randall. Living in Seattle, it seems that we come across someone at least once every other month who suffered from some sort of abuse at the hands of this church. There are many of us who have stories (maybe not as extreme as the Petrys’, but certainly damaging), and we are not lying or gossiping by sharing them with others.

    Mars Hill is a non-denominational church. My husband pointed out that if it were a Presbyterian church, or a denomination with a higher level of accountability, then sharing this story with others rather than taking it to those higher levels, would be wrong. But there is no one above Mark Driscoll, and nowhere to take your grievances. What are people in that situation supposed to do? Some have taken it to the local news authorities, some, to the internet, and others have received support/counseling through churches who graciously minister to us.

    People are finally coming out of the woodwork, begging to be truly heard- to be believed. We are telling the truth. To those of us who have been through their authoritative system, it stings to hear comments like those you have made. It is just another reminder that WE are the ones who have sinned. WE are in the wrong for speaking out.

    In your most recent response, you sound like a victim of someone who was attacked by Howell after having your words twisted. May I respectfully say, Mr. Randall, that this is NOT about you, or the sin of gossip and how Christians should avoid it. It is about the abusive power structure existing at Mars Hill Church that is turning people away from God and His Church, mis-using the Gospel for its own purposes, and leaving a trail of casualties along the way.

  25. JeffB
    March 25, 2012 at 3:23 AM

    Mr. Randle,

    C.J. Mahaney does not preach the Gospel “plainly and clearly.” He greatly overemphasizes the doctrine of sin and greatly underemphasizes the doctrine of grace. He has admitted (sort of) to the former, but, typically, tends to blame the flock for misunderstanding him rather than clearly admitting that he has been mistaken for decades. The fruit of his teaching has been borne out in the rampant “sin-sniffing” that has taken place, and been encouraged, at all levels of SGM churches. He has taught that pastors (elders) are not to be questioned when they accuse members of sin; naturally, this has led to authoritarianism in SGM churches. He has even said that it is the duty of members to make their pastors happy! The “G” in SGM is ironic.

  26. Debbie Kaufman
    March 25, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    DR: I believe the stories of the people. There is a definite pattern in them. You are shooting those who are speaking out and that may be the greater sin. This is not gossip, although you sound just like MH and Driscoll in using the word. These people are speaking out and have a right to. I am grateful that Howell is highlighting this on his blog. Again, I believe the stories and think there is adequate proof. As you know I am Calvinist.

    To not speak out would be the greater sin. This is a misuse of authority and this is killing people spiritually. Again that is the greater sin.

  27. Debbie Kaufman
    March 25, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    In this case (and I limit it to this case), I would rather err (if I do err) on the side of protecting people from being spiritually abused rather than to protect myself from being charged with gossip.

    Bravo and well said Howell.

  28. Lydia
    March 25, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    I am wondering what some think the definition of “Gospel” is? Driscoll is widely known more for his sermons and writings on sex. I am sure he has preached the Gospel. I have listened to him for years and read his stuff and it seems he tries to bring it back to sex or be a shock jock of sorts with his vulgarity about our Savior.

    Yet, I am amazed that the accusation of gossip is levied here since so many are aware of Driscoll’s behavior and shock jock preaching. It is not a case of people being incredulous to hear what the Petry’s say. Few are saying, “Mark Driscoll? No way”. He has the reputation for being combative and in your face. He has enjoyed that reputation for many years. So when 1st person accounts come along like the Petry’s that reputation comes into play.

    The “other side” of this are Mark’s own words from stages, books, conferences, internet, etc. He has had to delete things he wrote or said on the internet several times because of the outcry. The rant against wives of pastors “letting themselves go” comes to mind. Also the unwise tweet about effiminate music directors. Mark is raw, vulgar and in your face. He is not known for humility or mercy. His recent book only make that more known since it has been taken to the secular media.

    The problem with all the other stories that have come out is they are just nobodies and are easy to destroy. We have already seen this happen to Andrew who went public with his story even though his “shunning” was done on Mars Hill inhouse facebookish pages. That is why more people are reluctant to come out. Leveling the charge of gossip only enables sin and protects wolves. We should be more worried about wolves devouring sheep. The leaders have the power, stages, and many venues to get their side out. If they choose to.

    DR and I have crossed swords in the past on blogs. And I do not want to be unkind but his comments only prove the point of why we must be vigilent in warning people. DR has gone for the minutia and sets himself up as the arbiter of what is gossip. If we truly believe in correct doctrine then it will be lived out. And that is the problem with Driscoll. We have to redefine sin to ignore the antics and poison taught (SoS comes to mind not to mention calling our Savior a redneck) for so long yet anyone who discusses spiritual abuse in detail, is gossiping. If you all have not read SGMsurvivor site or the Detwiler docs, the beating of the sheep sounds eerily like DR’s words here. Shamed for talking about being spiritually abused. It is horrible. In many of these shepherding cults it is (false) doctrine over person for authoritarian reasons. For power. To have followers. to be in charge.

    This is not unlike the pastor who molested girls and they were told there had to be 3 witnesses to bring an accusation of an elder. Was that verse really meant to protect predator elders? Of course not. But it was definitely used for that purpose. Now, where are you going to get 3 witnesses to a molestation? It is done in secret. So much scripture twisting to keep power over people.

    This is not unlike totalitarian regimes where it was a crime to say negative truths about the leadership. In this case, the punishement is shame/shunning/ as “church discipline” for “sinning by gossiping” or as Driscoll said from stage: Sinning by questioning.

    In my opinion, only a wolf would say such a thing that questioning leaders is sinning. But he said it.

  29. Lydia
    March 25, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    BTW: I will add that I think this sort of thing is the direction the SBC is heading. From funding Acts 29 YRR churches to Mahaney moving to Louisville (and his son in law already at SBTS with his wife working a job there) to Mohler’s words concerning Mahaney stepping down to the Courier Journal that the bloggers “just do not like strong leadership”. There are many more dots to connect with the elitism and authoritarian moves of sealing records, unofficial task forces, etc, etc.

    I see it coming. Some folks are just not connecting the dots.

    • Max
      March 25, 2012 at 7:14 PM

      Lydia,
      Here’s some dots I’ve been connecting …

      (1) Driscoll is a super-star in SBC’s YRR ranks, a “culturally-relevant” hero of the reformed faith … Driscoll-wannabe pastors defend him, even as reports of spiritual abuse flood social media;
      (2) Driscoll’s Acts 29 network is considered the ideal church planting model by the YRR;
      (3) YRR pastors/elders consider only entities which endorse their heroes of the faith;
      (4) SBTS and SEBTS compete for students – their leadership endorse Driscoll;
      (5) NAMB needs young pastors for its aggressive church planting program – its leadership endorses Acts 29;
      (6) LifeWay sells books to the YRR – its leadership endorses Driscoll & Acts 29.

      As they say in my neck of the woods, “It’s as clear as the nose on your face!”

  30. Scottie
    March 25, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    D.R. Randle,

    You’re just giving me plenty of material here. In your point 3) above you say,

    “3) In the end, I think you are overestimating the impact your blog is going to have on Mars Hill and on Driscoll, himself. Ultimately, God doesn’t need you or anyone else to discipline or blow the alarm on Driscoll or Mars Hill….”

    Hmmm, based on this, the reasonable, logical and fair conclusions are:

    a- Driscoll is above discipline from his peers.

    I’m not sure exactly why. My guess is because he is a “minister” / “pastor” / “leader”, you deem him part of some elite group. And because of the high position this elite group holds, they (& he) are exempt from such discipline, and the only one suitable enough to discipline such a person is God himself. However deductive reasoning further leads me to conclude that those “beneath” the level of pastor are free for the disciplining, in your view.

    b- Discipline, alarm-sounding, confrontation of Mark Driscoll (and by logical extension other ministers/pastors/leaders) should be avoided because God is fully capable of such things. Instead, we should be thankful that God and the gospel are being preached, and because this supercedes all else in importance, we should tolerate the bad things. Since we have specifics as to what said “bad things” are in this case (in short, life destruction), it is logical and fair to conclude that you see this as of lesser importance. It can be concluded that you believe everyone should put up with “life destruction” (& the continued occurrence of it) & wait for God to intervene.

    D.R., you’ll need to ‘splain yourself. Unless I’m understanding you correctly.

  31. Lydia
    March 25, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    “Ultimately, God doesn’t need you or anyone else to discipline or blow the alarm on Driscoll or Mars Hill.”

    If that is the case, then why are you doing this here? Is this part of the ruling of the “local church” doctrine where we are all not really part of the Body of Christ? Does this mean we should not have spoken out about Jim Jones unless we were in that church? Ted Haggard if we knew but not in that church? This is why I cannot go into the minutia that some are trying to pass of as “correct doctrine” these days.

    Some are forgetting that Mark has a very PUBLIC ministry. That has been his goal with books, conferences, Acts 29, etc. He has marketed himself out to the world. He has said “Look at me” for years now. His behavior/teaching affects a lot of people who are NOT in his church. That makes it even more imperative to warn folks: This is not right.

  32. March 26, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    D.R. Randle – In your comment on – March 24, 2012 at 10:54 PM – you write…

    “It’s quite simply that for all their serious flaws” – and – “Yes, they are deeply flawed men”

    I was wondering – Seems to me, in the Bible, there are some tough qualifications
    for those who desire to be a “Pastor/Leader/Elder/Overseer.”

    I don’t recall having “serious flaws” or being “deeply flawed”
    as being part of those qualifications. In fact it seems to be the opposite.

    Here are just three qualifications – 1 – Blameless. 2- Holy. 3 – Just. – that most
    who want to be a “Pastor/Leader/Elder/Overseer” today *Will Ignore,* or “Twist,”
    in order to obtain – for themselves – a position of importance – that comes with…
    Power – Profit – Prestige – Honor – Glory – Recognition – Reputation, etc..

    ALL those things Jesus spoke against.
    ALL those things that become “Idols” of the heart. Ezek 14 1:11.
    ALL those things that are highly esteemed among men – BUT…
    Is abomination in the sight of God. Luke 16:15.

    Titus 1:6-8 KJV – says it nicely.
    6 If any be *blameless,* the husband of one wife,
    having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
    7 For *a bishop “must be” blameless,* as the steward of God; not self willed,
    not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
    8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, *just,* *holy,* temperate;

    For a bishop (overseer) “must be” blameless.

    And that “must be” is the same “must be” as in – You “must be” born again. John 3:7.
    Thayers has “die” as = necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.

    Must Be – Sounds important. Yes? Is – Blameless – important?

    1 – Blameless – Strongs #410 anegkletos – unaccused, irreproachable, blameless.
    Blameless – Thayers – that cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused.
    Blameless – Dictionary – Without fault, innocent, guiltless, not meriting censure.

    2 – Just – Strongs #1342 – dikaios – innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively), just, meet.
    Just – Thayers -1) righteous, observing divine laws.
    1a) in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God
    1a2) innocent, faultless, guiltless
    1a3) used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed
    ……. to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life

    3 – Holy – Strongs #3741 – hosios {hos’-ee-os}
    Holy – Thayers – 1) undefiled by sin, free from wickedness,
    religiously observing every moral obligation, pure holy, pious.

    Now that’s three tough qualifications for “Pastor/Leader/Elder/Overseer.”
    1 – Blameless. 2 – Just. 3 – Holy. Yes?

    Nope – Being “deeply flawed” as a “Pastor/Leader/Elder/Overseer” doesn’t seem to fit. Does it?

    D. R. – If what you say is accurate, “They Are Deeply Flawed,”
    then these “Pastor/Leader/Elder/Overseers” – do NOT?meet the qualifications.
    Maybe, you could encourage these men “to Remove Themselves” from their “Position”
    of “Pastor/Leader/Elder/Overseer” and be a good example to the flock?

    When you don’t meet the qualifications – shouldn’t you be honest about it – and just go away?

    I’m Blest – I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul… Jesus…

  33. March 26, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    Oh Yea…

    There is NO excuse

    For “Spiritual Abuse.”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  34. March 28, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    “As the song says, “it only takes a spark to get a fire going.” It only takes one man (or woman) to take a stand against authoritarianism to make a difference.”

    Alas, my friend, it may take but “one man (or woman) to take a stand”, but it also may only take one man to wipe out that woman’s voice in the scheme of things. When a woman takes a stand, she is “snarky”, “unkind”, and “angry”. When a man takes a stand, he is forthright, determined and spirited. In a world of authoritarian thinkers, it’s best at times to find another world in which to stand. selahV

    • March 28, 2012 at 1:24 AM

      Hariette,

      I have just finished a post (actually proofing it now) on the move to oppress dissent within the SBC. It will be up later this morning. You are mentioned by name toward the end of the post as it was written with you in mind. I am sorry that this authoritarianism is running amok, not just at Mars Hill, but within the SBC. When I heard that one of your comments had been deleted (and I can’t for the life of me imagine a comment that you would have made that would have come anywhere close to needing to be deleted), I knew that I could not remain silent. I have kept a relatively low profile on SBC Voices since February. I disagree with the new commenting policies, but my “voice,” even as one who had contributed, has already effectively been marginalized there. However, my voice will continue to be heard, just as I hope the “dragon-lady’s” voice will continue to roar at the moves to stifle debate and silence opposition within the SBC continue apace. Thanks for your perspective and for being willing to take a stand. God bless,

      Howell

      • March 28, 2012 at 12:12 PM

        Well, Howell, I guess my testy comment was a bit too “nasty, angry and unacceptable” for pure and undefiled minds to discern. It also lacked “substance” and failed on its face to engage anyone in positive conversation, dialogue or debate. Funny, though. Its deletion has caused more discussion than the post in which it found its demise. I’m just one dumb, inconsequential troll, afraid of “bogeymen”, I guess. I’m thinking about asking the Dali Lama (sp?) to help me in controlling my inner spirit. Then I will post on how his techniques can aid the SBC in dwelling in peace and harmony. What do ya think? [disclaimer: this comment contains tongue-in-cheek phrases meant to provoke chuckles and not be at all offensive in nature to followers of the Dali Lama.]

  35. Lydia
    March 28, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Selah V,

    That is actually a good sign when your words are described that way. In my experience, it means you were probably too much on the mark and that negative truth had to be scrubbed before it infected anyone and got them to thinking.

    However if you had made inane, ignorant comments as a women, they usually do not have a problem with that. So be of good cheer. I have read you a lot and have never come across anything that would be rude or vulgar (Just the exact opposite!) so I am betting you hit on an uncomfortable marker.

    • March 28, 2012 at 12:22 PM

      Well, thank you Lydia. I wish that your kind words of affirmation applied to my every thought–posted or held in abeyance. I know I’m not perfect, but sometimes, I find it odd how my simply registering of disinterest can provoke one to assume I have a penchant toward nasty comments and growing spirit of anger toward the brethren with which I find harmonious alliances. Very odd indeed. I don’t know where this will lead. Often the most “trivial” matter burns itself out quickly. Other times it simmers in a “sealed” container and starts to stink up the entire atmosphere of poetic prose and intellectual superiority. We’ll see. I’m going back to my cage now. I have some ideas for more commonplace posts on feathers, daisies, herbs and spices. Perhaps that is where I best attend to matters becoming of a person like myself. :) selahV (a.k.a. The Dragon-Lady)

  36. Job
    March 28, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    Mark Driscoll no longer leads Acts 29. Does anyone know anything about his replacement, Matt Chandler? Incidentally, the headquarters of Acts 29 is moving from Seattle to Texas … right in traditional SBC territory. Curious development if you ask me.

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/03/28/matt-chandler-installed-as-the-new-president-of-acts29/

    • March 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Matt Chandler is a fine Christian man who survived brain cancer. During the most unbelievable challenge of faith, he met it with grace, dignity and testimony of honor and glory to God. He speaks with eloquence, and love…and in my not-so-humble opinion, is counter-Driscoll in most all ways “characteristically speaking”. How he fits into the model of ACTS-29, is baffling to me. Other than that, I am surprised to hear of this new alliance he has with ACTS 29. selahV (a.k.a. the Dragon-Lady)

    • Max
      March 28, 2012 at 3:18 PM

      Matt Chandler is a Southern Baptist pastor (Village Church, TX), former board member of Acts 29, and leading “influencer” of the young, restless and reformed in SBC ranks. Connect the dots.

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