Former Mars Hill elders: Driscoll's sinful leadership behaviours continue at new church
39 former Mars Hill elders have co-signed an open letter saying they are saddened that Mark Driscoll has continued “in a pattern of sinful actions towards staff members and congregants as he pastors The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.”
“These sinful leadership behaviors appear similar to what he exhibited in his leadership role at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. We are troubled that he continues to be unrepentant despite the fact that these sins have been previously investigated, verified, and brought to his attention by his fellow Elders, prior to his abrupt resignation,” the statement published by Christianity Today reads.
“Accordingly, we believe that Mark is presently unfit for serving the church in the office of pastor. Knowing that we have no formal authority in this current matter, we hope that Mark will voluntarily resign his position immediately. We also hope that those who have influence over Mark would encourage him to do so.”
Driscoll is currently the senior and founding pastor of The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, founded in 2016. In recent months, former members of The Trinity Church have alleged negative experiences online, including one by a mother whose daughter is married to Zac Driscoll and also a former Director of Security for the church. The church has denied these allegations here.
Driscoll is best known as the controversial founding pastor of Seattle megachurch Mars Hill, whose aggressive ministry style led to its meteoric rise and fall.
“Mark left deep pain in the lives of many by being unwilling to seek restoration and reconciliation with those he has sinned against.” – statement by former Mars Hill elders
“We sympathize with those who have been wounded by Mark and pray for their healing. We have engaged and heard from many former Mars Hill Church staff and members who were hurt by domineering leadership, harsh speech, and angry outbursts and are sobered by the devastation victims have suffered,” the former elders’ statement continues.
“We realize that Mark left deep pain in the lives of many by being unwilling to seek restoration and reconciliation with those he has sinned against. We grieve the harm that has come to The Trinity Church as well as the damage to the reputation of Jesus among unbelievers through Mark’s words and actions.”
From its founding in 1996 until March 2014, Mars Hill Church grew to 14,000 members in five states and fifteen locations. Yet, at the same time, the chorus of public criticism and formal complaints from Mars Hill staff members and congregants – alleging a pattern of abusive behaviour by senior pastor Mark Driscoll – grew louder.
In May 2013, a former Mars Hill elder Dave Kraft (who is a signatory to the newly released statement) filed formal charges (under Mars Hill Church bylaws) of “mistreatment” against Mark Driscoll and other leaders at Mars Hill. He specifically accused Driscoll of being “domineering, verbally violent, arrogant, and quick-tempered.” Kraft further argued that this “established pattern of … behavior” disqualified Driscoll from church leadership. And Mars Hill church’s board of advisors and accountability initiated an investigation.
In August 2014, the board of Acts 29 Network – “a global family of church-planting churches that adheres to Calvinist theology” – removed Driscoll as a member and implored him to step down from ministry altogether.
The same month, Driscoll announced he would take a six-week “extended focus break” while the charges were investigated, as even more details about the allegations against Driscoll became public.
And, on October 14, 2014, as the day for Driscoll to face the investigation’s results drew closer, Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill Church. The church was formally dissolved just a few months later.
“We plead with Mark to participate in and submit to Christian conciliation, in the important work of pursuing repentance, reconciliation, and restoration with those he has harmed and sinned against.”
Driscoll’s abrupt resignation from Mars Hill meant that he avoided any disciplinary action that was to have been brought by Mars Hill’s leadership team and did not undertake a reconciliatory process with any of his alleged victims. It is this “unfinished business” that Mars Hills former elders say is still needed.
“We plead with Mark to participate in and submit to Christian conciliation, in the important work of pursuing repentance, reconciliation, and restoration with those he has harmed and sinned against.
“We are disappointed in the leaders who affirmed Mark’s role in planting The Trinity Church. They provided a ministry endorsement from a distance, rather than investigating carefully the charges against him and leading him in a process of repentance and reconciliation. This ‘translocal’ advisory structure has allowed Mark to avoid the accountability he needs,” the statement reads.
“We hope and pray, by the grace of God, that Mark will submit himself to a prolonged season under the Godly leadership and direction of a local church body and Elder team. Many of us stand willing and ready to pursue reconciliation with Mark and assist others who also would like to do the same.
“Our hope is that after being restored in the future, Mark will find an appropriate place to serve and be served in the Body of Christ. However, we don’t believe that it would be prudent or healthy for him to be in a position of spiritual authority in a church or ministry setting for the foreseeable future.”