Mars Hill Pastor Dave Bruskas Defines 'New Values' for 'Broken, Repentant' Church; Acknowledges 'Unhealthy Culture'
Mars Hill interim preaching pastor Dave Bruskas, who may take over as lead pastor, has promised localized governance, financial clarity and cultural change in the Seattle-based megachurch, whose founder and former head pastor, Mark Driscoll, resigned last week due to his admitted "divisive" leadership style.
"We love you very much Mars Hill, and it is our deep desire to begin a new chapter focused on new values," writes Bruskas to the congregation on the Mars Hill blog. "We ask for forgiveness from those who have been hurt by this church because of the culture we contributed to. We wish to move forward together knowing that we are a broken and repentant church in need of a forgiveness and restoration that only Jesus provides."
Driscoll resigned after several church elders issued a joint letter requesting him to step down from leadership. Earlier, members of the Acts 29 church planting network, which Driscoll helped found, advised that he take time off to get help, and rescinded Driscoll and all Mars Hill Church campuses' membership from the network.
Bruskas says he has committed to fulfill the role of interim Preaching Pastor, "doing so as one of many voices on Sundays along with your Lead Pastors." However, he adds, "I will not be functioning as a remaining Executive Elder, or even as a 'first among equals,' but I will be working to facilitate decisions among many leaders."
As an executive elder, Bruskas was involved in decisions such as buying copies to put Driscoll's book Real Marriage, on The New York Times bestseller list. "There are bound to be questions about what he knew. … Why did Bruskas go along with all the financial secrecy, including all salaries?" Patheos quotes Warren Throckmorton, a college professor and expert on the church, as saying.
"Our Lead Pastors and I have committed to focus on three areas during this transition: localized governance, financial clarity, and cultural change," Bruskas writes.
About local governance of the church, Bruskas writes, "We are currently not considering an option where I would take over in Pastor Mark's previous role. We intend to provide more self-determining freedom to our local churches in a way that empowers local leaders to direct the future of their churches."
Next month, Mars Hill will release its annual independent audit of its financial statements from this past fiscal year. This got delayed because of the investigation into the allegations against Pastor Driscoll.
"We will be posting them to our website … and our desire is to continue providing better financial clarity going forward. Our hope and anticipation is that we will receive a good report. But if that isn't the case, we will work openly and diligently to correct any problems," Bruskas says.
Bruskas adds that the leaders of the church want to be "humble, repentant, accountable to you and each other, and who communicate openly and regularly to our members."
"We want to be known not only for preaching the truth, but also for living it out by loving others well," he writes.
In his resignation letter, Driscoll admitted that "aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context" and that he was resigning because he did not want "to be the source of anything that might detract from our church's mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ."
The Mars Hill Board of Overseers' statement on his resignation affirmed that although "Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner," they did not find cause for him "to be disqualified from pastoral ministry."
Driscoll told the audience at the 2014 Gateway Conference earlier this week that his family is going through "a very trying season" of death threats, physical attacks, and night terrors.
"We've had a very trying season and (I'm) just trying to figure out how to be a good pastor to my family first. We all know that's the most important thing," he said, and went on to describe how his life has changed since the growing controversy surrounding his leadership style became public. He told the crowd that he has "cried a lot lately."
"We've got five kids, three boys, two girls ages eight to seventeen. We've moved three times for safety issues: people arrested at our home, death threats, address posted online, all kinds of things and more recently it's gotten more severe," he explained.
Correction: Monday, October 27, 2014:
An article on October 26, 2014 incorrectly reported that church elders that wrote a joint letter asking Pastor Mark Driscoll to resign were fired. Justin Dean, communications manager for Mars Hill Church, said they were not fired.