Mars Hill Church officials deny that anything out of the ordinary was done when a video of a recent sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll was edited to exclude a portion about Jesus and "mistakes" he may have made during His life on earth. Also, the pastor of the church's communications' team says the original video of the unedited complete sermon used to compare the two versions was stolen from a restricted password protected site.
The controversy began when psychology professor and blogger Warren Throckmorton accused the Seattle-based church of having an internal leadership conflict over the segment and deleting six minutes of Driscoll's argument that Jesus potentially made mistakes, though He never sinned.
"It is standard operating procedure at Mars Hill to take the first two sermons that Pastor Mark Driscoll preaches each week and edit the best possible version of the message for distribution to the other Mars Hill locations, and our online audience. Partly because it is necessary to edit the sermon to conform to time restraints," Anthony Ianniciello, executive pastor of Media & Communications, stated in an email to The Christian Post.
"Pastor Mark not only submits to someone taking material out of his sermon but welcomes the process. This goes on each and every week and has been the standard procedure since we started recording our sermons many years ago. The weekly sermon editing process at Mars Hill is designed to provide the best content for all who watch and listen in a time sensitive environment," Ianniciello said.
In regards to the unedited version of the sermon video posted on the Throckmorton blog and other sites via YouTube, he said, "Recently someone gained entry to a restricted password protected site to steal the original recording of a recent sermon so they could compare the rough cut with the original material to determine what had been edited. In any case, we stand behind the sermon in its entirety as the content is helpful and orthodox."
Ianniciello concluded his remarks by stating, "We welcome anyone to come and visit our services to see the amazing things God is doing among the people of the cities we serve. Pastor Mark's sermons can also be found on the Mars Hill website, marshill.com, each week for all to learn from and enjoy, or even criticize if you wish."
Throckmorton writes that the "fact that Mars Hill leaders thought this passage should be removed is intriguing. Was Driscoll making an analogy to himself? It seems so because he follows this section up with a reference to leaders: 'Every leader fails at something. And your failure doesn't need to be the end of you; it could be the beginning of your learning.'"
However, church officials say nothing was wrong with the sermon, including the part that was deleted.
"We stand by the entire sermon, even the piece that was edited out," Teaching Pastor Dave Bruskas, told The Christian Post. "We see Pastor Mark's teaching is in line with Hebrews 4:14-15 which says 'Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.'"
Throckmorton has been chronicling the alleged and confessed missteps of Driscoll for the last year when controversy over possible plagiarism and unethical book promotion first surfaced. Driscoll has admitted to mistakes regarding giving improper attribution in one of his books and for using a book promoting organization that used tactics he does not agree with.
In his blog about Driscoll's recent sermon, Throckmorton adds, "Reflecting on Jesus' humanity is a worthy theological topic but in this context, it seems like a distraction from the many calls from former members and pastors to enter into reconciliation and mediation over alleged sins, not mistakes."
An email inquiry sent to Throckmorton was not returned by press time.