Nine current pastors at Mars Hill Church, the Seattle-based ministry led by Mark Driscoll, have written a letter to their fellow elders expressing their concerns and listing critical points of information regarding the "abusive and coercive" culture long fostered by their besieged senior pastor.
Their aim in the letter, written just days (August 22) before Driscoll announced a 6-week break from pastoral duties, is that the Mars Hill Church leader would step down, to eventually one day be restored to a stature of God-honoring leadership.
The Mars Hill Church campus pastors who signed this letter are:
Dustin Kensrue - Director of Worship / Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Drew Hensley - Lead Pastor at Mars Hill U-District
Mark Dunford - Pastor at Mars Hill Portland
Ryan Kearns - Director of Community Groups / Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Ryan Welsh - Pastor of Theology and Discipleship
Adam Ramsey - Director of Student Ministry / Pastor at Mars Hill Bellevue
Cliff Ellis - Director of Biblical Living / Pastor at Mars Hill West Seattle
Gary Shavey - Pastor of Biblical Living at Mars Hill Bellevue
James Rose - Pastor at Mars Hill Ballard
Below is their letter in full (courtesy of Warren Throckmorton), accompanied on the left by a list of additional Christian Post coverage on the fallout concerning Pastor Driscoll and Mars Hill Church:
Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church
Grace and Peace
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." - 2 Thessalonians 2:2
We love you, this church, and the people that Jesus has entrusted to our care.
Pastor Mark, we love you and have been immensely blessed under your preaching, and for that we are grateful.
Pastor Dave, we love you and we are thankful for the love you show to us and all those in your care, and also for your calm and clear-headed leadership in tough situations.
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Pastor Sutton, we love you and are thankful that you care deeply for Mars Hill Church.
Additionally, we are thankful to the men of the BOAA for the time and energy they have given to love our church and our leaders well.
We are convicted that as we are all elders, pastors, shepherds, we equally share the responsibility for the care of the people God has entrusted to us. And it is because of this conviction and a love for the church that we are compelled to speak up. We are seriously concerned about the state of our church, especially the state our leadership at the highest levels and our continued lack of transparency in general. While the current bylaws greatly restrict our authority, we believe we must act like elders none-the-less. There is information in this letter that we believe to be important to the future of Mars Hill Church and our response to it may impact whether or not it will even have a future at all.
Come Into The Light
In John 3:21 we read this: "...whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." Brothers, have we been a church that is characterized by coming towards and loving the light? Do we welcome the light, trusting God's grace and mercy when our weaknesses and failures are exposed?
The media has been inundated, especially in the last two years and increasingly in the past six months, with controversies surrounding Mars Hill and Pastor Mark. While some of these accusations may be groundless or exaggerated, we believe that in many cases we have invited these controversies upon ourselves by not seeking the truth and not seeking to be in the light.
Where there is nothing to hide, there is no fear of being exposed. But, rather than seeking clarity, we have cloaked ourselves in non-disclosure agreements. We have become masters of spin in how we communicate the transition of a high volume of people off staff. We have taken refuge behind official statements that might not technically be lies on the surface, but in truth are deeply misleading.
At the retreat this week, Pastor Dave spoke about our church's credibility problem. Brothers, this credibility problem is directly linked to the fact that we have not loved the light.
This is not the fault of one person, or even a just a small group of people. We all share in responsibility for this in one way or another, and we must all repent of it together, together calling for our church to step into the light.
Exposing The Darkness
It is out of a longing to come to the light that we began to look more deeply into certain issues when the answers that we were being given — answers that were being given to our people — continued to not add up. We sought clarity, which has been lacking. We do not believe that looking for answers, asking questions, and trying to discern the truth is a divisive or sinful thing. Rather, this is the responsibility we have as elders as we are called to lead our people and the church from a position of truth and love. To ask us not to do so would only be to further exasperate the "culture of fear" that we so desperately want to move away from.
We would like to share with you the following two examples, as they were both misrepresented this past week at our elder retreat before the Full Council of Elders. We are not inferring intent or motives, but rather we are attempting to call attention to discrepancies and to resolve them.
BOAA/EE Statements Claim That We Had No Way to Interview Witnesses from Dave Kraft's Formal Charges
We have been repeatedly told that we could not hear from the witnesses mentioned in the document. This did not add up, since the document clearly states that there were seven individuals who were willing to testify when called upon, and Dave Kraft stated clearly that he hoped that they would be called upon.
Through conversations separately with Dave Kraft and Michael Van Skaik, I (Dustin) finally got clarity on this on Tuesday morning at the elder retreat. The issue was not that the BOAA "could not"interview the witnesses, but rather that Michael Van Skaik "would not" open an investigation without Dave Kraft giving him the names first. This seems to be a completely unreasonable and unnecessary demand when the charges themselves reveal that the witnesses felt bullied and were afraid of the consequences of releasing their names outside of the protection of a formal investigation being opened. Mike Wilkerson, who helped prepare the charges for Dave, confirms that he recommended to Dave that the names of the witnesses be disclosed only after they were protected by a formal investigation process. Mike made this recommendation in part due to his perception of the danger and fear involved for the witnesses, and also because he had knowledge that a prior complaint had not been handled according to the complainant's expectation of confidentiality, resulting in further harm to the complainant. Furthermore, this charge was not coming from an unknown critic, but rather Dave Kraft who is a respected former elder and Christian leader. Because of his reputation we should have been willing to give greater credence to his charges and want to hear them out. Regardless of whether this was a wise or helpful decision by the BOAA, it is clearly misleading to state emphatically over and over that there was no way to talk to these people and hear their testimony, when clearly there was.