Despite a recent rash of apologies from Mark Driscoll, the Acts 29 church-planting network he founded more than a decade ago has dismissed him and his Mars Hill Church from membership, citing complaints from other network pastors concerning the minister's divisive behavior. The Seattle-based pastor has been also asked to remove himself from ministry.
The Acts 29 Network Board reportedly called on Driscoll, out of concern for his "good, the good of (his) family, and the honor of (his) Savior," to step down from ministry "for an extended time and seek help."
A message dated Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, and appearing on the Acts 29 blog reads:
"It is with deep sorrow that the Acts 29 Network announces its decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership in the network. Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored."
The message was followed by the names of members of the Board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network: Matt Chandler, Darrin Patrick, Steve Timmis, Eric Mason, John Bryson, Bruce Wesley, and Leonce Crump.
According to Patheos writer Warren Throckmorton, who regularly covers developments concerning the ministry of Pastor Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, the board actually goes further in its requests to the minister in the letter sent to his church. According to a letter published on Throckmorton's Patheos channel shown as addressed to "Mark," the Acts 29 board writes:
"Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior.
"In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming. We now have to take another course of action.
"Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction."
"We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner," the letter adds.
The leaders go on to express "eternal" gratitude for what Driscoll "as a man and Mars Hill as a church have meant" to the network, before closing the letter with "in sorrow and with hope."
A representative with the Acts 29 Network declined The Christian Post's request for confirmation of the letter addressed to Pastor Driscoll and reportedly shared with Throckmorton by "several Acts 29 pastors." CP was informed that the Acts 29 board would not be making any further comments nor accepting interview requests, and was directed to the network's previously mentioned blog statement.
News of Driscoll's dismissal from the church planting network comes just days after a group of former Mars Hill Church members held a protest outside of the Seattle, Washington, megachurch the weekend of Aug. 3, 2014. The disaffected Mars Hill members staged the protest to challenge Pastor Driscoll's claim in a videotaped statement that he would not be able to fully reconcile with members who were abruptly dismissed from or displeased with his ministry because "a lot of the people … remain anonymous." That apology was later followed by another statement of regret over strongly-worded and vulgar comments he made 14 years ago on Mars Hill Church's website (read about it here: Mark Driscoll Issues Another Apology, This Time Over 'Pussified Nation' Comments Made 14 Years Ago).
While the Board of Advisors and Accountability for Mars Hill Church decided in March that allegations made by a former elder of mistreatment by Driscoll did not merit disqualifying the pastor from leadership, the Acts 29 Network board expressed disappointment in that very same board's course of action, or inaction, regarding Driscoll's overall behavior. Over the years, Driscoll has been criticized for his alleged domineering approach in leading his ministry, and for allegedly being verbally and emotionally abusive to those who challenged him.
Pastor Chandler took over as president of the Acts 29 Network in 2012, when Driscoll announced that he would be stepping down from leadership of the organization. At the time, Chandler had expressed hope that Driscoll would at least remain on the Acts 29 Board, telling CP, "He's a great advantage to the men, the movement, and the network as a whole." Now, Dricoll's association is considered a "discredit" and "major distraction" to the network he founded in 2000 with David Nicholas, who passed away in 2011.
According to the letter, Chandler and other members of the board — and perhaps others in the wider Christian community — were hoping and praying that Driscoll accepts this disassociation by the Acts 29 Network as the decision of those who "love (him) deeply and want (him) to walk in the light…"
"It brings us no joy to move forward in this direction, and we trust that the Lord will be at work in all of this," the board's letter concludes.
The Christian Post emailed Mars Hill Church's Communication and Editorial Manager Justin Dean for comment. There was no response as of press time.
The Acts 29 Network counts 500 churches around the world among its membership, and states on its website that the organization's focus is "to advance the mission of Jesus through obediently planting church-planting churches."
Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, which has 15 campuses in several states and, according to its most recent Annual Report, attracted an average of 12,329 worshippers weekly and counted 6,489 members in 2013.