(Photo: The Christian Post/Alex Murashko)
The fallout up to this point from accusations made by syndicated radio talk show host Janet Mefferd that author and megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll plagiarized in at least two of his books includes her pulling the allegations from her website, an apology to the outspoken Christian leader, and most recently, what looks to be the resignation of a dismayed producer from her show.
While the parties involved, including both Driscoll supporters and detractors, have mostly gone mum of late on the subject, Ingrid Schlueter, who describes herself as a part-time, topic producer for Mefferd, did make a scathing accusation against the "evangelical celebrity machine" as reported by several Christian media. Schlueter implies Driscoll was protected by his publishers (most recent book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Future or a Funeral? by Tyndale House Publishers) from any further scrutiny about allegations of plagiarism.
In a comment thread originally found at Spiritual Sounding Board before it was removed, and has since been re-posted by Warren Throckmorton in his blog on Patheos with Schlueter's permission, she writes, "I was a part-time, topic producer for Janet Mefferd until yesterday [Tuesday] when I resigned over this situation. All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine. That is all. Mark Driscoll clearly plagiarized and those who could have underscored the seriousness of it and demanded accountability did not. That is the reality of the evangelical industrial complex."
She continued, "…I've read much speculation online, which is understandable given the confusing situation, most of it dead wrong. Being limited in what I can share, let me just say that truth tellers face multiple pressure sources these days. I hosted a radio show for 23 years and know from experience how Big Publishing protects its celebrities. Anything but fawning adulation for those who come on your show (a gift of free air time for the author/publisher by the way) is not taken well. Like Dr. Carl Trueman so aptly asked yesterday in his column at Reformation 21, does honest journalism have any role to play in evangelicalism now? (It was rhetorical.) My own take on that question is, no, it does not. The moment hard questions are asked, the negative focus goes on the questioner, not the celebrity, when there is something that needs scrutiny. Those who have the temerity to call out a celebrity have tremendous courage. The easiest thing in the world is to do fluffy interviews with fluffy guests on fluffy books. So hats off to those like Janet who have the courage to ask at all. And my own opinion on Mr. Driscoll is that despite the bravado, despite the near silence of his Reformed peers and enablers, his brand is damaged, and damaged by his own hand."
After Mefford's allegations were made and before Schlueter's resignation, the publishers of Driscoll's book, Tyndale House Publishers, released a statement defending Driscoll, that Christianity Today published:
"It has come to our attention that a radio talk show host has suggested that author Mark Driscoll has committed plagiarism in his recent Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence. Tyndale House takes any accusation of plagiarism seriously and has therefore conducted a thorough in-house review of the original material and sources provided by the author. After this review we feel confident that the content in question has been properly cited in the printed book and conforms to market standards."
Although it is not clear why Mefferd removed her content regarding the accusations against Driscoll or whether she was pressured, the Christian Post learned that Tyndale House has some sort of media partnership with Salem Radio Network and Mefferd's radio show is a member of Salem National, a subsidiary of Salem Communications Corporation.
Mefferd's apology on air during her radio show, included her saying that she should have conducted herself differently. As published in several publications, her comments include:
"A few weeks ago, as many people know, I conducted an interview with pastor Mark Driscoll. And I received lots of feedback on that interview, both positive and negative, but I feel now that in retrospect, I should have conducted myself in a better way. I now realize the interview should not have occurred at all. I should have contacted Tyndale House directly to alert them to the plagiarism issue. And I never should have brought it to the attention of listeners publicly. So I would like to apologize to all of you and to Mark Driscoll for how I behaved. I am sorry.
"Unfortunately, I didn't anticipate that the story would go viral online the way it did and creating such dissension with the Christian community was never my aim. And so in an effort to right things as best as I can, I have now removed all of the materials related to the interview off my website, and also off my social media."
The "viral online" conversation about the issue includes a commentary by Pastor Wade Burleson who writes in the Istoria Ministries Blog: "Mark Driscoll has done a great deal of good in advancing the Kingdom of God. He has also done some really weird stuff that is at best neutral in terms of its effect on the advance of the Kingdom, and in some cases, outright detrimental. At times I have defended some of Mark Driscoll's theological views, and at other times I have called him out for his bizarre, un-biblical views on women. There is within me respect for Mark Driscoll's ministry as well as some concerns. I am neither on his bandwagon of supporters nor in the camp of his enemies."
However, in his post, Burleson makes it clear that he feels Driscoll did make a mistake in not citing specific passages in his book, A Call to Resurgence. He believes the controversy is an opportunity for the pastor to acknowledge his mistake. In addition, he writes that "Mefferd has actually advanced the name of Christ and the Kingdom of God" by pressing Driscoll during her interview with him, and "Driscoll's camp should thank Janet Mefferd."
"In the pastoral realm, preachers often use other preacher's illustrations and outlines in their teaching ministry without giving proper credit," Burleson states. "However, in the scholarly realm – and particularly in the for-profit book publishing industry – taking other people's ideas and publishing them as your own is called plagiarism."
Driscoll could not be reached for comment.