(Photo: Resuregence Conference 2013)
Tyndale House Publishers defended bestselling author and pastor Mark Driscoll against accusations of plagiarism in a public statement released first to The Christian Post on Wednesday. In the same statement, Driscoll released an apology, including a chronological explanation of events, saying he was grieved by his mistakes. His statement came after a long silence on the matter in which many Christian media and bloggers questioned the wisdom of staying quiet.
"Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for," stated the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church pastor. "As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him."
In the statement, Ron Beers, senior vice president and group publisher for Tyndale, said, "Because of the biblical manner in which Pastor Driscoll has handled this situation, Tyndale strongly stands behind him and looks forward to publishing many additional books with him. Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll has provided a significant call to Christians to unite together in translating the message of Jesus faithfully to a post-Christian culture, to proclaim clearly, loudly, and unashamedly the Good News of Jesus."
Tyndale House gave a summary of the nearly month-long controversy that began with plagiarism allegations by a radio talk show host, and claims from others tracking the saga about how ghostwriters or researchers were used and not given proper attribution.
"On November 21, 2013 Pastor Mark Driscoll participated in a radio interview via phone to promote his new book, A Call to Resurgence," states Tyndale House. "The interview was arranged by his book publisher, Tyndale House. During that interview, the talk show host accused Pastor Driscoll of plagiarism in his new book, claiming that he had not properly cited ideas that originally came from Peter Jones, Director of truthXchange and Adjunct Professor at Westminster Seminary in California. In the days following the interview, the talk show host posted on her blog further allegations of plagiarism against Pastor Driscoll, complete with screenshots of other books where she alleged he had committed plagiarism. She later removed all of those posts and issued a public apology.
"Since that time, both Mark Driscoll and Tyndale House have been asked to make statements addressing this issue. While Tyndale has made two brief statements, it has spent much of the past three weeks looking carefully into these claims, as has Pastor Driscoll. Tyndale House and Mark Driscoll take any claims of plagiarism seriously. Tyndale does not condone it in any of its works, and if discovered, the company takes action to correct it immediately. Driscoll has consistently spoken out against plagiarism in his writing and publishing. If any mistakes are ever made in that regard, he is equally committed to correcting such errors as soon as they are discovered. Pastor Driscoll has fully cooperated with Tyndale and both have worked together to carefully investigate the issue with respect to A Call to Resurgence."
Tyndale continued, "After taking the necessary and important time needed to investigate all aspects of this issue, Tyndale House Publishers has concluded the following:
1. Pertaining to his Tyndale book, A Call to Resurgence, Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll did indeed adequately cite the work of Peter Jones. While there are many nuanced definitions of plagiarism, most definitions agree that plagiarism is a writer's deliberate use of someone's words or ideas, and claiming them as their own with no intent to provide credit to the original source. Both Mark Driscoll and Tyndale completely agree that the above definition describes an ethical breach and therefore work hard to provide proper citation and to give credit where credit is due in all their works. Tyndale rejects the claims that Mark Driscoll tried to take Peter Jones's ideas and claim them as his own. Moreover, at Pastor Driscoll's invitation, Peter Jones has written on the Resurgence website, and spoken at a Resurgence event, as well as a Mars Hill workshop. Quite the opposite of trying to take Peter Jones's ideas, Mark Driscoll has provided several opportunities for Peter Jones to publicly express his ideas to a large audience.
2. In a separate issue unrelated to any Tyndale title, the radio host also made an allegation with regard to a study guide that was published in-house at Mars Hill. In this instance, Pastor Driscoll agrees that errors were made."
"In recent weeks, it was brought to my attention that our 2009 Trial study guide on 1&2 Peter contained passages from an existing work for which no proper citation to the original work was provided," Driscoll states. "The error was unintentional, but serious nonetheless. I take responsibility for all of this. In order to make things right, we've contacted the publisher of the works used in the study guide, offered an apology, and agreed to work with them to resolve any issues they had. Also, I personally contacted one of the editors of the work that was not rightly attributed. Thankfully, he and I have a longstanding relationship, which includes him teaching at Mars Hill and publishing a book with us through Resurgence. He's a godly man who has been very gracious through all of this. I am deeply thankful for his acceptance of my apology, as I deeply grieve this mistake with a brother in Christ whom I appreciate very much."
He writes that a full Council of Elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability were all thoroughly informed, "as I am gladly under authority both internally at Mars Hill to a team of Elders, and to a formal leadership team from outside of Mars Hill."
Driscoll explains, "We've removed the free PDF version of Trial from our website, and we are reviewing the rest of our self-published materials to ensure that no similar mistakes have been made elsewhere. We are also making changes to our content development process to avoid these mistakes in the future. In addition, we are working with all of our past publishers to review other books we have published. If other mistakes were made, we want to correct them as soon as possible.
"Unfortunately, when we removed the Trial PDF from the Mars Hill website, we replaced it with a statement that claimed the book was never sold," he continued. "That study guide was originally created for in-house small group use at Mars Hill so we gave it away at our church. We first believed we did not receive any revenue from this, but we later discovered that Trial was in fact previously sold on the Resurgence website and by Logos Software. To the best of our knowledge, total profits to Mars Hill from these sales are $236.35. We have corrected the previous statement on our website, and apologize for this error as well."
Beers added, "To his credit, Mark Driscoll has moved quickly to make all necessary changes where mistakes were made in the study guide. Moreover, he has assured us that he has personally spoken with the primary editor of a commentary that was inadvertently used in the study guide without adequate citation, and all parties spoken to have told Pastor Driscoll that they are satisfied with the steps he has taken to correct the errors."
Warren Throckmorton of the Patheos blog, who has been tracking the controversy with frequent updates said that he was surprised that statements from those involved had not yet come prior to today.
"Others, when charged with such things, are quick to comment (e.g., Shia LeBeouf"s recent apology for his mistake of not citing the inspiration and source for a recent movie)," writes Throckmorton. "Mars Hill has acknowledged some 'citation errors' but appeared to lay the blame at the feet of research helpers."
In his blog post yesterday he added, "The deflection and silence makes me wonder if evangelicals will get around to important conversations about ghostwriting and Christian celebrities."