The Mark Driscoll Interview

I have watched Brian Houston interview Mark and Grace Driscoll. As you may imagine, I have thoughts on it.

There are various ways language has been used to minimise and avoid responsibility for Mark Driscoll’s choices, both from Brian Houston and Mark Driscoll. I previously wrote a post called “Translating Mark Driscoll” after his resignation. It feels that this video also needs some level of translating.

Before you start though, have a read through the sheet I hadn’t out at the Hillsong one-woman protest I did.  You can access it by clicking HERE.

Avoiding Responsibility:

Mark says, “I made a lot of mistakes.”

One of the big issues in Christian culture is this affirming of mistakes instead of insisting on responsibility. Creating a church that one Mars Hill elder described as “without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with” is not a mistake. Abuse and coercion is intentional. It’s not like falling over. It’s a pattern of behaviour that creates a certain response from those around us. Abuse and coercion is used because it results in the abuser getting their own way.

Brian talks about it having been “a turbulent year for you both…”

Rather than use language that infers responsibility, this makes it sound like a storm that happened to them, rather than the result of choices Mark Driscoll has made. This is the consequence of years of abusive behaviour.

Mark says, ““My contributions and my faults and my sins.  I don’t want the kids embittered against me.”

When responding to Houston’s questions about the effects on their children (which I’ll come back to later), the language Driscoll uses isn’t “my choices and actions”. By using the word “contributions” it infers that there are other contributions to the situation. That he isn’t the only person with faults and sins.

Mark says, “There’s no way to say I’ve always acted with grace or with appropriateness.  There’s been anger.”

This response isn’t, “I acted angrily and without grace.” Though people might hear that, it’s not what he says. Rather than categorically stating how he has behaved, he reverses it. “I haven’t always acted with grace etc…” The reality is, no person can say they’ve always acted with grace or appropriateness. So rather than owning his extreme behaviour, he brings it back to something that anyone could say. He also doesn’t own his actions and say, “I was angry.” He removes it from himself and makes it something separate to himself, “There’s been anger”.

Mark says, “Some people see me as…harmful, angry, careless with words.” 

Though this sounds like he’s saying, “I was harmful, angry and careless with words”, that’s not what he’s actually saying. He places the responsibility for this onto the people who have seen him in this way. Rather than owning his behaviour and actions, he makes it about other people’s perceptions.

When describing some of the impact of his behaviour Mark says: “What that does is it drives your team and it makes them feel unloved and uncared for” 

This doesn’t say, “I behaved in ways that were unloving and uncaring towards my team.” It infers that it is his teams feelings that are the problem. The non-apology of saying, “I’m sorry you FEEL that way” is a classic tactic for placing the responsibility onto the person who has been hurt. This is no different.

Brian Houston asks, “So would the word bully have been an accurate description do you think?” Mark responds by saying, “I think for sure on occasions yeah. I think, um, I think on occasions sometimes, um, strong leaders there’s a line…”

Mark doesn’t say, “Yes I was a bully.” He again removes the description from himself and makes it about “strong leaders”. There is no owning of his behaviours or his bullying. Brian Houston’s questioning doesn’t help here. He could have asked, “Were you a bully?” But he didn’t. They both distance themselves from Driscoll being a bully or even acting in a bullying manner. It becomes a “description”.

Driscoll also says, “on occasions”. Bullying some of the time makes someone a bully all of the time. The bullying infects every aspect of a person’s relationships. People fear the bully all the time, not “on occasions”. It seems “on occasions” is closely related to “occasionally”. Yet Mark Driscoll was not a bully occasionally. He created a culture of bullying and abuse.

Bullies act in the ways they do to get what they want. It’s not an accidental thing that all strong leaders have a tendency towards. The actions are intentional for someone to a) get their own way and b) maintain control. And the reality is, it often works.

Mark says, “so that there wasn’t anger or hurt or defensiveness that was driving some of my motivation.”

Driscoll doesn’t say “I was angry, hurt, defensive.” And within this sentence it’s only driving “some of” his motivation. It has not consumed him or anyone else, it’s just part of what drives him. Throughout the entire interview Driscoll avoids statements that start with “I was…” or “I am…” And until he starts to use statements which own his behaviour, it’s impossible to fully change that behaviour.

When asked what he would have done differently, one of the things Driscoll says is, “I would have had more mature people…in my oversight or governance.”  

Whether intentional or not, this suggests that a) there were not any mature people in Mars Hill who worked with him or had eldership in the church and b) the fault wasn’t entirely Mark Driscoll’s, it was the lack of eldership. My understanding is that anyone who did try to challenge him, those who were in eldership, were sacked and/or abused. He talks about all these kind people who’ve looked after them since the impact of his behaviour started to hit him. But what about all the people who loved him enough to challenge him in the midst of his all-powerful status? They aren’t honoured within this interview. In fact, it seems they are erased.

Brian Houston states: “…there’s been a huge fallout from some of the mistakes you have made.”

We are back to the language of “mistakes” and added to that is the euphemism of “huge fallout”. He doesn’t use the language of choice; Driscoll’s choices to behave in ways that have hurt others and (for a long time) benefitted him. Instead he talks of mistakes; accidents that have happened. It is not a mistake to systematically bully and damage people. That is a choice. (I’ll come back to the “huge fallout” later…)

Mark says, “Having gone through this very complicated season…”

Again with the euphemisms. This isn’t a “complicated season”. This is dealing with the consequences of choices made over a prolonged period of time. The term “season”, while legitimate “Christian speak”, infers something external to Driscoll. Something that has been done to him; similar to the mistake, the season is a thing that happens to a person.

Brian Houston asks, “Do you personally take accountability for the break up of Mars Hill church?” Mark Driscoll responds with, “Yes I think as the leader I have to bear the lion’s share of responsibility for that.”

Leaving aside the fact that Brian uses the word accountability when he should have said “responsibility”, there is significant avoidance of responsibility in this statement. Though this sounds like Mark Driscoll is taking responsibility, what he’s actually doing is saying, “because I was in charge, it’s my fault.” He has not said, “Because I was an abusive bully, of course it is my responsibility, my fault.”

Brian Houston suggests Driscoll’s views on women were a “red rag to the bull to the secular media”. Mark responds by saying, “The fact I can’t even come see you in Australia, you are onto something…”

It wasn’t solely the “secular media” who have a problem with Driscoll’s misogynistic language. There were many Christians who were horrified by his views and thoughts.

Driscoll’s response is telling. Rather than acknowledging his actions have led to him being uninvited from the conference, he sees that it was the media response that meant he was prevented from attending. He doesn’t see this as a legitimate consequence of his behaviour, but rather as something separate to it.

Mark responds to Brian’s questions about his views on women “Some of the misperception is entirely my fault. Some of the things I did were ungodly, unwise and unhelpful.”

As before, when he talked about other people’s feelings, this again makes the problem not what he has said or done, but  how other people have “perceived it”. I’m not sure how he expects people to rightly perceive his historical comments about women as penis homes or his views that women shouldn’t work or that men can’t be stay at home parents.  He does acknowledge that he did things that were ungodly, unwise and unhelpful”. But saying that straight after talking about “misperceptions” leaves it slightly hollow.

When asked specifically about calling women penis homes, Mark states, “What I said is not representative of what I think or how I feel.  Looking back on that, that was not a healthy person working from a healthy place. And so I would have a hard time explaining it.  I wouldn’t even make an effort to defend it.”

 What Mark does not say is, “Yes I did think like that and I’ve realised that is wrong and hateful”. Those words are blamed on being an unhealthy person in an unhealthy place. The term “unhealthy” doesn’t really infer responsibility, rather than “I made bad choices, I said terrible things about women” it’s the language of “not being representative”. He sees it as something to “not defend”, rather than something to describe as abhorrent and misogynistic.

Brian Houston asks him, “Were you ever a misogynist?” Mark Driscoll answers, “No, but because of things I have said foolishly, that impression is entirely my fault…I’ve allowed that to become the impression”

After talking about being unhealthy and saying things from an unhealthy place, he now does not accept that what he said was misogynistic. That’s some high level cognitive dissonance, right there.  The term “foolishly” is the same device as “mistake”.  It’s something whimsical, accidental.  Whereas his ministry was (in part) defined by his ongoing views of women as inferior.  That’s not “foolishness”, that’s intention and choice.

On at least two occasions in the interview Brian Houston infers that Driscoll’s age a) when starting Mars Hill and b) when he wrote the majority of his most misogynistic stuff are relevant to the actions he took. Mark was 25 when he started the church and in his late twenties when he wrote about women being “penis homes” etc.

There is no excuse for Mark Driscoll’s behaviour. I am 31 and at 29 I was quite able to see that calling women penis homes was a problem. Mary was around 14 years old when she had Jesus, the apostle Timothy was criticised for being so young.   Being young does not give anyone a free pass for making abusive or bullying choices. Brian’s inference that his age is a mitigating factor only serves to absolve Driscoll of some responsibility.

Grace Driscoll, who remains quiet throughout much of the interview says that: “I’ve never seen him as a misogynist.  There were methods that were wrong.”

It is clear that some of what Mark Driscoll has said is categorically misogynistic, and denying it isn’t going to change that.

 

Who Has Been Hurt?

Throughout the interview we hear about some of those who have been hurt, namely Mark and Grace Driscoll, their children, the pastors Mark Driscoll was publicly critical of, but throughout the entire hour interview we don’t hear about the many people who were thrown under the “Mars Hill bus”. We don’t hear the names or stories of any of them.

Here are some of the ways Mark Driscoll’s many victims are erased…

After asking the Driscolls how they got into ministry Brian Houston asks, “How are you both doing?” 

This invites a very emotional response from the Driscolls. It makes this about their pain, which although not irrelevant, is not actually why the interview is taking place. Mark Driscoll is not the victim of some tragedy that he had no control over. He made choices and benefitted for many years from bullying and abusing other people.

By starting the interview in this way, we are invited to see Mark Driscoll as a vulnerable, emotional person, miles away from the abusive choices he made.

Within his response to Brian’s question Mark Driscoll says, “watching the kids and the pain that they’ve had, to experience in the grieving process.”

Though it is clear that the Driscoll children have been caused pain within the choices their father has made, at no point during the interview do we hear about the children of any of those whose lives Mark Driscoll has destroyed. Whose parents are in long-term therapy because of his behaviour? Whose parents lost jobs because they challenged Mark Driscoll’s authority? Who were moved halfway across the country for the parents to work in a church that subsequently kicked them out? We don’t hear any of those children’s stories.

We also hear about Mark’s health problems. He says, Fatigue, adrenal glands, intestinal ulcers. There were times where I drove myself to a point of not being well.”


Though he acknowledges he drove himself to this point, he doesn’t acknowledge the likelihood that other people were made ill by his actions. This is one of the issues with the whole of the interview format used. The victims are erased within it. We don’t hear their stories at all.

 Mark describes some advice he was given, to “put down the binoculars and pick up the mirror.” 

Though I appreciate the sentiment, what about focusing on those hurt? One of the big issues with counselling perpetrators of abuse is that counselling “focuses on my feelings and other people’s actions” and what an abuser needs to do is “focus on other people’s feelings and my actions”. While self-reflection isn’t a bad thing, Mark needs to focus on the people he has hurt, he needs to hear their stories, feel their pain. Restorative justice programmes use that model. An abuser cannot simply change their self-perception, they must also work on their perception of “the other”.

Mark says, “What has been useful to me, older people…”

The focus is still on him. On him getting sorted and being restored. What about the hundreds, if not thousands of people who are trying to be restored after the hurt he has caused them? How different would this interview have been if he said, “I have been trying to find out what would be useful to those I have hurt and what they have said is…”

Brian Houston states: “…there’s been a huge fallout from some of the mistakes you have made.”

I quoted this above. I mention it here as this is the only time Brian references the actual people who were in Mars Hill. Except he doesn’t. He talks about the “huge fallout”. Which must be a euphemism for large scale spiritual abuse, job losses, financial irregularities, damage to women’s views of themselves, damage to men’s views of women, damage to LGBT* people, people losing faith and no longer being able to trust, along with a whole host of other issues.

When discussing the Australian media interest around Mark Driscoll’s involvement in the Hillsong conference Mark says to Brian Houston, “I apologise for putting you in that position…”

Even the impact on Brian Houston is acknowledged more than the impact on the many people who were in Mars Hill for ten years or more.

Mark says, the “people who have loved and encouraged us have been out of our tribe.”

I can’t imagine the pain these words must have caused the many people who stuck by Mark through his bullying and abuse. Who sought to help him change and who endured abuse and shaming when they challenged him. All the families who were deeply wounded and tried to stay onboard, believing God could transform the situation.

Maybe the reason the people who have “loved and encouraged” them have been from outside of the church is because they burned all their bridges to those within the tribe? Maybe it’s not the tribe’s job to love and encourage Mark Driscoll after he has chosen to be abusive for years?

Mark talks about how those who he judged (focusing on the pastors and preachers he spoke against from the platform) have offered grace and kindness that has “brought about repentance”.

Perhaps unintentionally, this seems to infer that those who have not offered grace or kindness haven’t “brought about repentance”. As if it is incumbent on the victim to behave in ways that bring about repentance, rather than on the offender to become repentant.

Brian Houston mentions that he doesn’t like people speaking against pastors…  

He doesn’t mention that he doesn’t like bullying or spiritual abuse or misuse of funds. Which is actually the main reason I set up the petition that contributed to the media in Australia pressuring Hillsong. I know that being a pastor himself, he’s probably quite uncomfortable with pastors being criticised, but actually maybe we should be more concerned with the oppressed and downtrodden. It’s not the powerful who are most wounded by Mark Driscoll. Yet Brian doesn’t really mention the wounded, just his friends who have been offended.

“And for the people.  It was a great honour to be their pastor for 18 years…There’s a lot of joy and a lot of gratitude.  For the people in the church who have been hurt.”  

This is the first we really hear about “the people”. There is no acknowledgement that maybe the way he pastored wasn’t very honourable. He also talks about the people “who have been hurt”. Yet again he distances himself from his choices and actions. He doesn’t say, “for the people I have hurt”. We’re back to the language of “mistakes”.

When talking about how God told them to resign, Mark explains that God said, “We’re released from Mars Hill.  A trap has been set, there’s no way for us to return to leadership.”

Within this he doesn’t acknowledge the additional pain this heaped on those within the church. He doesn’t explain how all the elders at Mars Hill could have been getting a different view on the situation to him. He doesn’t explain how God’s words to him and Grace fit within Jesus’ or Paul’s model for dealing with sin. It’s simply that this was right because God said. The wounded yet again are ignored.

There’s also something significant about him saying that there was “no way” for them to return to leadership while staying at Mars Hill.  Maybe that is the issue, he knew staying would result in an end to him having a platform, whereas now, he’s ready to start a new ministry less than a year later.

Towards the end of the interview Mark thanks, “…the people who were really wonderful for us.” 

This seems to be the same people who have offered kindness and grace. I’m not sure the people who attempted to hold him to account when he was in power are considered “really wonderful”. But then, I could be wrong…

Next Steps 

Throughout the interview there’s some quite mixed messages about the next steps. In parts it seems that they have no plans, but then the steps they have taken seem to be ministry based:

Mark says, “This whole season, I’ve been largely out of public ministry for about a year, with a few exceptions” 

The thing about being out of public ministry is that you actually don’t do any public ministry. I know this is quite basic, but I’m not sure he’s grasped that. His first speaking engagement involved him talking about being a “shepherd that had been struck”, that he had to forgive lots of people who had hurt him. He not only has been on the public platform, he has used it to further hurt the wounded.

Brian Houston says, “I know some of the people who have stood with you…”

I could be wrong about this, but I would suggest that most of the people Brian Houston knows are famous pastors. He could mean the woman who works on the checkout at his local supermarket, but I’m guessing not. That the Driscoll’s have likely been spending time with famous pastors kind of suggests the direction they’re hoping to go in. It also seems that this inference from Brian Houston is “hey guys, he’s in with my lot” which sounds a lot like an endorsement…

Mark explains that they have wanted to, “Meet with pastors and learn from them…”

If someone is unsure what the next steps are, why focus on one particular ministry? It seems they are convinced God wants them to continue to lead churches. Which doesn’t sound like they’ve really opened up to the million of other ways God calls people to serve Him…

Mark says, “We don’t know what is next.  I would like to teach the Bible.”

It seems odd that he doesn’t know what’s next when they’re spending a whole lot of time with pastors (possibly famous ones). That they’re moving to Phoenix to start exploring churchey things and that fact he’s just bought a load of mailing lists back from Mars Hill church is neither here nor there.

When asked about the concerns around his theology on women, Driscoll says, “In the future, for the women I pastor…”

This doesn’t sound like someone unsure of what is next. This is someone who plans to be a pastor, not solely someone who “would like to teach the Bible”.

At the end of the interview Brian Houston says to him, “You’re anointed to [teach the Bible].  You’re a gifted teacher…” He goes on to pray that Mark Driscoll’s “greatest days of preaching and teaching” are yet to come… 

So after an hour long interview in which the majority of Mark Driscoll’s victims have not been focussed on, Brian Houston is essentially endorsing and blessing his new ministry. The ministry Mark Driscoll doesn’t even know is coming next. Hmm…

 

A Few Other Concerns

I know, I know, you would think I’d have had enough by now, it’s likely you probably have too. But there are a few other concerns I’d like to share…

Brian Houston self identifying 

Throughout the interview Brian Houston regularly self-identifies with Mark Driscoll. Early in the interview he shares how they both started churches their mid to late twenties. He talks of making mistakes himself and that all pastors and preachers say things they regret.

None of these things are necessarily wrong, but the issue with empathising with an abuser is that you have to be an abuser to empathise with one. Rather than likening abusive choices to “mistakes we all make”, the abusive person needs to hear that their behaviour isn’t the norm, that what they have done is totally unacceptable.

Empathy Deficits

Regularly during the interview Mark Driscoll talks about lacking empathy. That he wants to increase his empathy levels and acknowledging he has a lack of empathy. This is of great concern. He hasn’t mentioned how he is going to increase his empathy levels, and although I’m not a psychologist, I would suggest moving to set up a new ministry less than a year after abandoning a ministry where thousands of people have been damaged is not really enough time to develop the empathy skills required.

Grace Driscoll 

For a blogger called “God Loves Women” I haven’t written much about Grace Driscoll’s contribution to the interview. That’s mainly because she didn’t contribute much.  Once during the interview, Mark asked Grace to offer her view and she did say a bit within the interview, but Brian Houston didn’t ask her many questions. I was surprised that during his questions about Mark’s views on women, Houston didn’t ask for Grace’s perspective. She is obviously 100% committed to her husband and his continued ministry. My question would be, given the damage it has done to her children and their community of 17 years, whether her uncompromising support is the most helpful thing for him? Then again, with their strong complementarian theology, that’s the only available option.

There’s more I could write, but I’ll leave it there for now.

If you’re reading this as one of those Mark Driscoll has hurt, I stand with you and am so sorry for the ways Christian culture is complicit in your ongoing pain. Much love to you…

Thanks to Michael Roca-Terry for proof reading this!

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Mark Driscoll is Speaking at Hillsong

By now you will probably be aware that Hillsong misled everyone about Mark Driscoll contributing to their conference, after they played a pre-recorded interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll at their Australia conference. In response to this, I am organising a protest at their Europe conference taking place at the O2 next week.

I’ve had a few lovely emails from people sharing their appreciation for the protest and petition that I started a few months ago, including from people directly impacted by Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll’s damaging leadership. I’ve also had a couple of emails challenging me for protesting against a fellow Christian. A while ago Premier asked me to write why I thought creating a petition was a Christian thing to do, with Carl Beech offering an opposing view. You can read it HERE.

I thought it might be helpful to post anonymised versions of the email conversations. Hopefully then if I get any other emails, I can just direct them here, and also to offer my perspective on why protesting Mark Driscoll’s continued platform opportunities is so important.

Email 1:

Their email:

I am not a Fan of Mark. I also do not understand the Petition you are signing. Pray for the guys involved, love mercy and do justice. Christians are seen as people who are always against something and always fighting. This petition serves to enforce that perception. You really disagree with what Mark and the Hillsong guys, I get that, but petition is more a political response, I think it does more damage then help. My humble option I guess. I don’t know you so would not want to judge your motives. I am just sad that this is another example of Christians who are against something, this time its other Christians.

I pray that the ultimate result for all this is Love.

My response:

Hi,

Thanks for your email.  I totally hear what you’re saying.

I am for a lot of things.  I am for Jesus’ love, justice and mercy.  I am for the many, many people Mark Driscoll has hurt.  I am for women’s equality and gender justice.

The petition resulted in Mark Driscoll not attending either Hillsong conference.  It enabled the people he has hurt to know that thousands stand with them in their pain.

We live in a digital age and therefore some of the solutions and tools we will use to bring about change are going to be social media and online petitions.  I know lots of amazing women (and men) who will never consider Jesus because their experience of Christians and the Church has been sexism, collusion with abuse or actual abuse.  For them, the petition and other methods to challenge power abuse and woman hating is a witness to a God of love and justice.  It is a witness to a Jesus who said “if a brother or sister sins, go to them. If they don’t listen, take others.  If they still don’t listen, treat them as a pagan.”

Mark Driscoll’s teaching and actions do not exclude him from God’s love and the forgiveness found in Jesus, but they do exclude him from leadership.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of people whose lives have been damaged and even destroyed by Mark Driscoll.

We are called to stand with the last, the least and the lost.  They are the ones Jesus will ask us if we have cared for when we reach eternity.

I desperately hope for a unity in the Body.  For people of one mind in Christ, but Jesus’ teaching and life shows me something radically different to that which Mark Driscoll has brought.  And I seek unity with Jesus and Jesus’ teaching above and beyond anything else.

The world doesn’t need a facade of unity from the church.  In many of Paul’s letters (which were essentially what we would now term “open letters”) he challenged those who were not in line with the Gospel. He even encouraged some to be expelled from the church.  Paul did not collude with sin, neither did Jesus.  As Christians we are called to a higher place and that is what I want to witness to the world.  Not collusion with powerful leaders.

I hope that helps make sense of my actions.  I appreciate you taking the time to contact me.  Many blessings to you,

Natalie

Their response:

 

Thank you Natalie for your very good response. I too will stand with you for those hurt. Thanks for being pro-active and putting your prayers into actions.

 

When few leaders have too much power it often ends with real damage and hurt. May God bring His healing, His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Blessing to you.

Email 2:

Their email:

I pray that God will show you to forgive people. Everyone makes mistakes and deserves a change to explain and be heard. It’s not your place to judge. Christ died for our sins, look at your own sin in your life before pointing fingers. That sin is what Christ died for. please don’t leave anger build up inside or something you will never become completely happy inside.

My response:

 

Hi,

Thanks for your email.  I appreciate your prayers, but perhaps you could have asked me about my views on forgiveness rather than assuming that I am not a forgiving person or that I have anger building up inside me.  I do not.

I am not in a position to forgive or not forgive Mark Driscoll, he has not done anything personally to me.  He has hurt hundreds if not thousands of fellow sisters and brothers of Christ.  What he has done is not a mistake.  Over a period of years Mark Driscoll has misused church funds, unfairly sacked employees, behaved in spiritually abusive ways to many and preached messages which denigrate women.  He has used power in a way that has hurt many.

I am not advocating for anyone to not forgive Mark Driscoll.  Forgiveness is not the same as being given access to one of the biggest platforms in Western Christianity.  Forgiveness does not mean nullifying the consequences of someone’s actions.  The Bible is clear about what Christian leadership should look like, even according to Mark Driscoll’s own teaching on leadership, he has behaved in ways that prevent him leading.

He hasn’t even been away from the platform for a year and already he is re-entering that arena.  His victims are irreparably damaged.  There are many who have walked away from the church because of how badly he hurt them.  The apostle Paul makes clear that as Christians we are Jesus’ representatives, that leaders especially should be above reproach, that we should behave in ways which are in line with Jesus’ teaching.

I have walked many paths of forgiveness.  I was abused and raped for four years.  I do not hold anger towards the man who did that to me.  I have forgiven him.  I hope he changes his behaviour and no longer hurts people.  I hope to see him in heaven.  I am not someone who is struggling with unforgiveness.  I struggle with injustice.  I struggle with Christians wounding other Christians and then being welcomed onto the world stage with applause and celebration.  I struggle with a church that defiles the name of Jesus with abuse of power and collusion with abusers.

I am so grateful for Jesus, for all He has brought to my life.  I have been utterly redeemed and transformed because of Him.  That transformation, and the power of the Holy Spirit is what drives me to stand against abuse, both within and without the church.  I will weep with those who weep.  I am not driven by anger or unforgiveness, but by love for God and my neighbours, the ones Mark Driscoll has hurt.  I am driven by the desire to see the Bride of Christ, pure and white, not defiled by power abuse and collusion with abuse.

Thank you for taking the time to read my response.  We may not agree.  But that is okay.  Jesus died for both of us and Jesus loves us both, and perhaps if we don’t agree on this side of eternity, we will be able to discuss it on the other side.

Many blessings to you,

Natalie

Their response:

 

Thank you for your reply. Thanks you for your openness in Christ, there is true healing.  Forgiveness is a hard thing to overcome I find it hard to do. When Peter denied Jesus three times, it was a big thing to do. Jesus forgave and used him after to do amazing things in his life. I do not know all the story only a few things, I’m just an onlooker, to see Christians disagreeing and putting things on the net about their brothers and sisters that would turn away loads of people from their beliefs also, I think the devil is standing back having a good laugh at the situation. I am truly sorry if I offended you. I did not mean to do that in any way.

My reply:

 

Hi,

I wasn’t offended at all, and really welcome the opportunity to openly discuss differences.  I agree that it is hard when Christians are not united.

I think the devil enjoys seeing Christians misuse and abuse power.  The devil watches powerful (usually) men destroying the lives of their congregations and rubs his hands gleefully as those same men are welcomed with open arms and standing ovations onto new platforms.  We are called to “weep with those who weep” in the body of Christ, and it seems many more are interested in protecting and supporting those in power, than weeping with those who have been hurt by the powerful.

I know many who can’t even consider the church because of the ways they see power being misused. Those who have been subjected to abuse by their husbands are expected to forgive and continue to suffer. People’s lives can be ruined by charismatic leaders who have little integrity.  Churches that preach no sex before marriage while condoning rape within marriage.  If the Gospel is not good news to those who are suffering abuse, it isn’t really good news at all.

I hope and pray that by protesting, it will provide an alternative narrative about Mark Driscoll and those who are colluding with him.

Thanks for being so willing to listen to my perspective, may you have a blessed day!

Natalie

If you would like to join me in protesting, here is the information:

Mark Driscoll Protest

 

Mark Driscoll isn’t Speaking at Hillsong

Mark Driscoll is no longer speaking at the Hillsong conferences in Australia and the UK. This is a Good Thing.

I set up the petition asking for Hillsong to remove Driscoll from their conference after they confirmed he and his wife Grace were doing an interview, subsequent to his resignation from his position as a pastor, surrounded by accusations of bullying, plagiarism, spiritual abuse and misuse of funds. The pain of those who are continuing to live with the consequences of Driscoll’s choices must have grown as one of the biggest platforms and brands in Western Christianity welcomed him to the stage.

The recent media coverage has focussed on some of Driscoll’s many woman-hating comments he made over ten years ago. Although his attitudes and beliefs about women are very concerning, the direct impact of the well documented bullying and abuse perpetrated by him, towards many within his church and wider community was what led me to set up the petition.

Many people have commented on Brian Houston’s statement, and while I hope his actions in uninviting Mark Driscoll speak louder than the words in his statement, I wanted to comment on various parts of the statement, partly in response to him and partly to correct some assumptions within it.

After personal interaction with Mark Driscoll today, we have agreed that he will no longer be coming to Australia or the UK to attend Hillsong Conference. It is my hope that Mark and I will be able to speak in person in the coming weeks to discuss some of the issues that have been raised, what – if anything – he has learned, and for me to understand better how he is progressing in both his personal and professional life.

 

This part of the statement is excellent. It suggests that in conversation with Mark Driscoll, Brian Houston may have realised that Driscoll is not in the right place to offer appropriate responses about his behaviour in recent years. As Pastor James Miller wrote after hearing Mark Driscoll speak at the Thrive Conference, “Driscoll just gave a long lecture on forgiveness without asking for it.  Aside from the allusion to “not being totally innocent,” he really didn’t point out his own failings.”

It is likely Driscoll will continue with the same minimisation, denial and blame in private conversation as on the platform and it is good to know Brian Houston has taken this into consideration.

The teachings of Christ are based on love and forgiveness, and I will not write off Mark as a person simply because of the things that people have said about him, a small minority of people signing a petition or statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised.

 

I agree with Brian that love and forgiveness is at the core of Jesus’ teaching. Nobody has “written Mark off” and any action that is taken has been based on well documented and extensive information about the ways Mark has behaved in bullying and damaging ways; both as a leader and as a Christian.
Ensuring that someone who has chosen to hurt many people does not have access to a platform is not writing someone off. If Mark wanted to work in a supermarket or office, aside from concerns about his bullying behaviour, I would not have set up a petition asking him not to be employed. Being given a platform of any size (especially one of the largest in the western world) is an enormous privilege and being denied access to that is an appropriate consequence for someone who has misused power in so many ways.

In the same way that taking a person with alcohol dependency to a bar might be problematic, giving someone with power issues a platform invites them to continue to misuse power.

The petition was not primarily about statements Mark made years ago, it was about his ongoing misuse of power.

The petition has been signed by 3000 people. This may be a small minority for a church which has around 30,000 people attending its Australian campuses, however some of those who signed the petition have been directly hurt by Mark Driscoll. They are not a number. They have a painful story of Mark Driscoll’s choices, they are still living with the consequences of his choices.

 

However, I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference, particularly as this 30 minute interview was only a small part of this five day event. It was clear to me that Mark’s attendance had the potential to divert attention from the real purpose of Hillsong Conference, which is to see people leave encouraged in their own spiritual journey.

 

Some have commented that this part of the statement is concerning. I would agree. He has shifted the focus away Mark Driscoll’s choices and lack of repentance, to talking about “unnecessary distractions”. For many, Hillsong’s brand has long been associated with the more negative elements of Christian culture, and this section of the statement will have done nothing to dissuade them of that. However, perhaps it could be seen that he is saying “interviewing Mark Driscoll is not going to encourage people in their own spiritual journey”. Which I think many would agree with.

Clearly Mark has held some views and made some statements that cannot be defended. One or two of the more outrageous things he is purported to have said, I have heard for the first time through the media exposure over the past week.

 

I think similarly to Steve Chalke’s quotes about Yoder, Brian Houston perhaps made an uninformed choice to include Mark Driscoll. But unlike Steve Chalke, Houston has had the wisdom to not collude with power misuse or hatred of women. Perhaps this situation will cause conference organisers to investigate speakers more thoroughly before inviting people onto their platform. Maybe they can also address the lack of women on the platform at the same time…

I am grateful to Hillsong and Brian Houston for their decision and hope that this will lead other conference organisers to think before inviting Driscoll onto their platform. There is much time that must pass, responsibility that must be taken and restitution that must be done before Mark Driscoll should be considered for any platform in any part of the world.

Woman Hating; I pray this prayer for myself and for you also.

Over the last few years it seems that blogging and wider social media has changed enormously.  I’m not an expert in trends, but the monetising of the digital space (adverts on your Twitter timeline, bloggers gaining book deals, personalised trending lists) all have contributed to the space which was once a place of speaking truth to power, into a power source in its own right.  The radical prophets of truth have been subsumed into the power structure, the emerging church becomes, as David Haywood (@nakedpastor) calls it “submergent”.  The question is, does power corrupt, or was the tendency to desire power there all along?

I’m writing this piece partly in response to the way Julie McMahon’s voice has been silenced and ignored by people in power.  Her husband Tony Jones (a man I had never heard of until Julie, his ex-wife, began sharing her experiences of abuse online) is a well known leader within the Christian progressive movement.  She has shared some of the ways in which he hurt her and their children, alongside the ways their church colluded with him over at David Haywood’s blog.

I’m also partly writing this as a reflection a while after Steve Chalke’s continued choice to ignore criticism of the way he referenced a well documented sex offender as a “well-known pacifist”.

I’ve always been vaguely suspicious of the emerging church, where the leaders are almost exclusively white men talking mainly about themselves and their journey deconstructing religion.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve benefitted from reading Rob Bell’s books as much as the next person, but still, these two situations have solidified what was a gradual uneasiness.

Mainly men protecting those accused of being abusers.  People like Pete Rollins, a man presenting himself as liberating people from the chains of religiosity spewing nonsense about narcissism as a form of self-hatred to justify his siding with his friend; enabling Tony Jones continually hurting his wife.  Declaring holding an abuser to account for his abuse as “a reductionist and violent act that allows for dehumanization and lack of empathy”.

Steve Chalke, a leader of inclusivity, whose theological justification for the inclusion of LGBT people within the church included throwing the weight of Biblical scholarship for female leaders under the bus.  (“all those Christians who accept that women have any role, however minor, in teaching or leading, rather than simply serving in a local congregation or any wider expression of church, the Bible – the closed canon of Scripture – does not provide the final answer to the issue.“)  Steve’s inclusivity excludes justice for the 100 women Yoder abused, denying their voice in favour of the nonsense of a “gap between aspiration and behaviour”.

Mark Driscoll stood on a platform this week and declared himself a victim.  And some of the audience believed him.  And his powerful friends who invited him onto the platform applauded him.  And his many victims continue to suffer the consequences of his choices.  His family continue to suffer the consequences of his choices.

This weekend I had an amazing time with a group of wonderful women.  It was my wonderful friends’ hen night and some of our glorious group of women were lesbians.  After a lovely meal, we went to the gay friendly bar “New York New York” which describes itself as a “safe, friendly and welcoming space”.  A man performing as a drag artist spent the 20 minutes we were in the bar being horrendously misogynistic and lesbo-phobic.  He talked about “muscular dykes”, describing lesbians in many and varied disgusting terms, joked about paedophilia and anal rape and spent most of every song shouting about penises.  Myself and at least four other women complained about his behaviour, yet we were told to “f*ck off” or accused of being aggressive.  Woman hating isn’t a church based problem, it’s everywhere.  Even in so called “progressive” and “safe” places.

Isn’t it interesting that women who want equality are so often called “man hating”.  That when women say men rape, they are called man-hating.  But when men kill, rape or emotionally torture women, it’s not called woman hating?  When high profile (mainly) men defend and stand with other powerful men accused of abuse, sexual violence or emotional torture they are not called woman hating?  Isn’t that interesting?

Since the monetising of the digital space, it seems people are less willing to speak out.  Will it always be the case that when people have something to lose they stop being willing to speak out?  Is maintaining book-deals and friends in positions of power worth it?  When powerful people stand on stages or write from blogging platforms do they ever ask themselves, “And what do I benefit if I gain the whole world but lose my own soul?”

I don’t know what the way forward is. Power and platform are not the enemy, like any currency, it is in the hands of humanity that it becomes good or evil.  Money is not the problem, the love of money is.  Power is not the problem, the love of power is.

We need spaces that call out woman hating for what it is.  We need people (and some do exist!) who will speak out, who care more for the voiceless than having their own voice heard.  Because it is that which is not seen as honourable that has the most honour, and that which is last which will become first.  And the truth is, it was in giving up all power that Jesus saved anyone, and as we all know, it is the truth that sets us free.

I don’t have a plan for how we see things change.  I just know that they must.  I say it often, yet I will say it again, until women are safe, no one is safe.  And while  “progressives” hate women there will be no progress.

I was sent this song by someone today, and it spoke so deep into my soul.  I pray this prayer for myself and I pray it for you also.


(The song starts at 1:50 minutes)

Pray by Kendall Payne

I will pray for you now, for you have been my faithful friends

While the road we walk is difficult indeed

I could not ask for more than what you’ve already been

Only that you would say these prayers for me

May your heart break enough that compassion enters in

May your strength all be spent upon the weak

All the castles and crowns you build and place upon your head

May they all fall, come crashing down around your feet

May you find every step to be harder than the last

So your character grows greater every stride

May your company be of human insignificance

May your weakness be your only source of pride

What you do unto others may it all be done to you

May you meet the One who made us

And see Him smile when life is through

May your blessings be many but not what you hoped they’d be

And when you look upon the broken

May mercy show you what you could not see

May you never be sure of any plans you desire

But you’d learn to trust the plan He has for you

May your passions be tried and tested in the holy fire

May you fight with all your life for what is true

I have prayed for you now all my dear and faithful friends

But what I wish is more than I could ever speak

As the way wanders on I’ll long to see you once again

Until then, would you pray these prayers for me?

Oh, that you would pray for me

Petitioning Hillsong: Unfair or Justified?

Last week I set up a petition to ask Hillsong to remove Mark Driscoll from their platform at their Europe conference.  His contribution has been downgraded from “MAINSTAGE SPEAKER” to “Interview Guest” alongside his wife Grace.  Driscoll was on the programme for Hillsong before he resigned and his behaviour within Mars Hill and beyond had been made as public as it is now.

I did not create the petition because I’m slow to forgive.  I did not create the petition because I am “shouty and ranty” or because I’m “emotive” or because I’m not very “Christlike”.  I did it because I believe it is unjust for Mark Driscoll to be given one of the biggest Christian platforms in Europe while those he hurt are still trying to rebuild their lives.

Stories have been told of how Driscoll encouraged people to give up their jobs and lives to move and work with Mars Hill, to then fire them.  The destruction and damage caused to those families?  Horrendous.  Stories of him asking church leaders’ wives inappropriately sexual questions, of him spending church tithes on getting his book into bestseller lists, of him plagiarising other people’s work; stealing their ideas and words and calling them his own.

He has not publicly repented, no matter what Charisma News tell you…  HERE is a blog I wrote about the PR apology he offered when resigning from Mars Hill.

Mark Driscoll used power in a dangerous and damaging way.  Just as an alcoholic uses alcohol in a way that is hurtful, to their own body, to their family and to others.  Or as a workaholic uses work in a way that damages themselves and others, Mark is a “Poweraholic” (Yes, I made that word up.  You are welcome…)  It is not that leadership is wrong or inherently damaging.  But it does come with risks (like drinking).  That’s why Jesus gave us a specific model for leadership, “The leaders of the world dominate, IT SHALL NOT BE LIKE THAT AMONG YOU.” (Matthew 20:26)

It is intensely unloving to provide Mark Driscoll with a platform.  Firstly to the many, many people broken by Mark’s actions and those around him who colluded with and enabled him to continue as a poweraholic.    Secondly, to his family and friends.  Poweraholics are like alcoholics, their need to maintain and increase power damages all those around them.  Thirdly, to Mark himself.  Poweraholics are not loved and cared for by giving them more power.  Just as loving an alcoholic involves enabling them to avoid alcohol, loving a poweraholic means enabling them to avoid power.

Mark DeMoss, Hillsong’s spokesperson has responded directly to the petition, and the mention within it that it would be a form of “cheap grace” to give Driscoll their platform; “I don’t think that is ‘cheap grace,’ but rather, a thoughtful approach to challenging circumstances. I think it would be fair for the petitioners to judge this appearance after it takes place, but advance judgment seems premature and a bit unfair, in my view.”

I would suggest what is slightly more unfair is that Mark DeMoss is the same person who did the PR management for Mark Driscoll’s resignation.  So, we have the person who equipped Mark Driscoll to do his slick PR apology (referenced above) now telling us that Hillsong is right to keep Mark Driscoll on the programme.  Isn’t that interesting?

Even within DeMoss’ statement he describes Mark Driscoll’s choice to damage hundreds, if not thousands, of people as “challenging circumstances”.  I think that suggests what is to come in the interview.  There’s no acknowledgement of the pain Driscoll has caused.  And as Donald Miller tweeted:

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 09.33.19

It is fair to offer advance judgement when there is no acknowledgement of the broken, vulnerable and hurting.   It is fair to offer a chance for people to be heard.  There are ex-members of Mars Hill signing, like this person who says:

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 09.37.12

Conveniently for a PR person, not offering “judgement” until after the event, allows Mark Driscoll’s career to be relaunched on one of the biggest Christian platforms in Europe.  And afterwards, the voice of (perhaps) the majority of people will be silenced by the swathe of media reports coming out of Hillsong, rewriting Mark Driscoll’s choices as “challenging circumstances” and his PR apology as Full Repentance.  And before I’m labelled as cynical, in advance of Mars Hill church being dissolved, Driscoll had already launched a new website, complete with opportunity to give to his ministry.

I will continue with the petition, and as I told Warren Throckmorton, am considering organising a peaceful protest at the Hillsong Conference because, when I finally have the opportunity to stand before Jesus and account for my actions, I can say that I stood with the broken and hurting and created space for their voices.  I did not walk by on the other side or as has been suggested, simply “vote with my feet”.

For another useful and important perspective, have a read of Jem Bloomfield’s blog: “The Punishment of Mark Driscoll”

Translating Mark Driscoll

This morning I watched the 17 minute videoed announcement from Mark Driscoll this weekend that he is stepping down as Pastor of Mars Hill for a minimum of six weeks. You can watch the video and read the transcript here.

 

Within the announcement Mark speaks of the “court of public opinion” not being useful in addressing issues in a Biblical manner and suggests online conversations, like this blog for instance, are unhelpful. I can see that everyone having OPINIONS can be problematic, but without the courageous tenacity of bloggers across the internet raising the issues, Mark Driscoll would not have taken the very necessary and welcome step that he has. So I’m not going to apologise for adding to the OPINIONS in the public space and I would suggest his denigration of the “court of public opinion” is a tactic to silence the hurting, and as a book we Christians honour states, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

 

I have recently begun working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. I am facilitating a Respect accredited programme with men who have chosen to be violent and abusive to their partners. And if there is one thing that perpetrators are “gifted” in, it is avoiding responsibility and manipulating people’s views of them. I would suggest that some of what we see in Mark’s announcement uses those same tactics, whether intentionally or not, whether orchestrated by a PR plan or by the man himself. I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting Mark is perpetrator of domestic abuse, but that his words and actions mirror those of abusers.

 

During the announcement Mark was emotional, at points he seemed very close to tears. It is interesting to note that domestic abuse perpetrators who visibly show remorse change at about the same rate as those who don’t. In our wider context of power based masculinity, men crying, or being close to tears brings out a specific response for many. That act of vulnerability in a society that states the only appropriate emotions for men are humour and anger can change perceptions of an offender in an instant. I’m not for one minute suggesting they were “crocodile tears” but that we must be careful not to use an emotionally remorseful delivery as a litmus test for repentance.

 

This is my translation of some parts of the announcement:

 

“When a small group of us started what would become Mars Hill Church in 1996, we could not have dreamed it would be what it is today. Thousands upon thousands of people have become Christians as the gospel of Jesus Christ has proven powerful over and over. Every day, it seems, I hear of someone whose life has been transformed by the power of the Word of God taught in this place and modeled by so many who call this their church home.”

I’m going to start by reminding you of all the 1000s of people my ministry has saved from hell, so that when I get to my bad choices, we’re all feeling that is insignificant compared to all the people I have helped. So many people’s lives have been transformed by my teaching of God’s Word and you all living out my teaching.

 

“Today, we are blessed with lead pastors who love Jesus and the people He gave His life for. These men faithfully serve the Mars Hill family.”

Though there are 21 ex-leaders of the our church who are publicly stating that I have behaved in horrendous ways and were either sacked or left due to their strong convictions, the current leaders are supportive of me.

 

“While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good.”

I am a 43 year old grown up, but I am going to describe myself as “young” in order to suggest that my young-ness mitigates the bad choices I have made. I would also like to remind you that I have done good things and not actually say that I have done bad things, but just things that are “not so good”.

 

“I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for.”

I would like to remind you all of the powerful man I am and the many successes I have had in my career so far, but that I also want you to know that I am humble local church pastor, even though I have intentionally and ruthlessly built a large megachurch over the last 18 or so years.”

 

“It is because of my deep love for the local church in general, and Mars Hill Church in particular, that it grieves me to see anything come against it or threaten to harm it. It also grieves me greatly when something I say or do results in controversy and publicity none of you signed up for when you decided to be a part of this church family.”

I get upset when my choices, actions and words result in people challenging me. I am so totally uninterested in the people I have hurt that I’m not even going to mention their hurt in my announcement. I don’t want to accept the consequences of my actions as the leader of a large church which I am paid large amounts of money to lead and rather than say this, I am going to make it about the peripheral hurt of the church family, which I am actually responsible for not those who have challenged me.

 

“Over the years, as I have grown and as the Lord has been molding and pruning me, I have, on many occasions, shared with you some of the lessons I’ve been learning. Some of these have been painful, and some I’ve been slow to learn. I’ve acknowledged and confessed many of my sins, shortcomings and missteps, and God has been more than faithful with His forgiveness. Most of our Mars Hill family has been forgiving as well, and for that I’m grateful and blessed. By God’s grace, I want to always be humble and teachable.”

I would like to remind you all of the times I have said sorry for what I did over the years. The fact that at no point have I actually changed my behaviour is something I’m going to try and ensure you don’t think about by making it all about the ways I’ve learned. I’d like to also remind you that before God I am forgiven. Rather than mention how much I appreciate and value all those who have tried to stop it coming to this point, I’m going to validate all those who collude with my behaviours by honouring those who keep forgiving me. Although I have proven that over the last 18 years of ministry that I am not willing to be taught and am not humble, I am going to say that I am both of those things.

 

“A central theme in my personal walk with Jesus in recent times has been to follow the Apostle Paul’s charge to Believers in Romans 12:8: If possible, so far is it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip or anything else not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and I am deeply sorry for the times I have not done my part to living peaceably with all men.”

By quoting Scripture I can reduce my ongoing hurtful behaviour to the term “not living peaceably with all men”. I am going to use the term “my part” so as to suggest that it is not all my fault, but that it is a reciprocal thing where both I and every other person involved are partly to blame for the hurt I have caused.

 

“I want to thank those who have come directly to an Elder, lead pastor or me to tell us of an offense they are carrying. This allows us to deal with it head-on between the two affected parties, rather than in a court of public opinion and public media. I believe God is honored by this approach—the approach He prescribed for us in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures.”

All those who have used public spaces to challenge me are wrong and dishonour God and only those who have come to me and the leadership of the church are right and honour God. I am going to use the term “offense they are carrying” so as to avoid saying that I had hurt people. The fact that when people tried to come to me I refused to listen, sacking them, threatening them and destroying their lives and livelihoods is of absolutely no relevance. God is not honoured by anyone who publicly holds me to account. I am going to mention the first bit of Matthew 18 where Jesus tells us to approach other Christians who we have been hurt by, but I am going to conveniently ignore the bit Jesus says that’s someone who fails to listen should be treated like a non-believer.

 

“Others have chosen to air their grievances with me or this church in a more public forum. As is often the case, some of what is said it true, some is partly true, and some is completely untrue. Lately, the number of accusations, combined with their public nature, makes it much more difficult to know how to respond appropriately. Indeed, many times we have chosen not to respond at all, which probably raises even more questions in some people’s minds, and I understand that.”

I am going to use the term “air their grievances” rather than talk about people being hurt. I am going to talk about truth, half-truths and lies without distinguishing between them so that I subtly cast aspersions on all that everyone has accused me of. I am going to talk about “the number of accusations” increasing which makes the issues external to me, rather than about my own choices and hurtful actions. I am going to reinforce my criticism of people holding me to account publicly, but will use it neutral language like “public nature” to hide that. I am going to mention that we haven’t addressed the issues, acknowledge that is problematic but continue doing it.

 

“In other cases, some have publicly brought up issues that were long ago addressed and resolved, adding to the understandable confusion many of you may be experiencing recently. For example, nearly 15 years ago I wrote some things on a Mars Hill discussion board on our website using a pseudonym. I quickly realized what I wrote and how I did it was wrong. We removed the entire section of the website a few months later and I addressed it publicly in a book I wrote six years later—calling it what it was: wrong.”

The only accusation I am going to address during my announcement is the one that relates to historical actions. I am going to manipulate the facts to suggest that a book I wrote six years later dealt with what I had done, when in actual fact, that book mentioned that I thought it was funny how I had a man turn up at my house to challenge me; that I talk of things “going crazy”. I’m not going to mention that at no point in the book do I actually own or apologise for my misogynistic, homophobic behaviours and attitudes. I am also not going to mention that for the past almost 15 years I have continued to use similar language and ideology in my preaching and writing. I am going to use language that distances me from my actions by saying “what I wrote and how I did it was wrong” rather than saying “I was wrong and I have hurt people”.

 

“I have taken full responsibility for those actions and will forever be ashamed by what I did, even as a 29 year-old preacher. What I did in this case back in 2000 is indefensible. It is also forgiven; and thank God, I’m not the man I was back then. I have learned hard lessons from this situation, as I have from other situations where I have done wrong things and God has had to deal with me.”

I am going to talk of taking full responsibility for something while still using language that distances me from my choices and actions. When talking about what I did I will mention the age I was in order to justify it as related to being young (like I did earlier in my announcement). Although at 29 years old I had been an adult for over ten years, I will suggest my age made me immature, though I was a married father entrusted with the leadership of a church. I will remind everyone that this happened in 2000, keeping people focused on the historical accusations and not the current ones. I will talk about learning hard lessons which will allow me to suggest I have changed, when the way I have behaved and the choices I have made since then have continued to hurt many people.

 

“Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church. (In fact, it would not be healthy for any church.)”

I will again talk about the consequences of my actions using language which distances me from any responsibility by talking of what “storm clouds seems to be” doing. I will talk of how unhealthy this would be and subtly place myself as a victim. I will then restart talking of Mars Hill Church as the main victim of the issues, keeping my audience feeling like they are the centre of this and their interests and hurts are cared about while continuing to completely ignore the hurt and pain of the people I have hurt throughout my ministry.

 

“Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am sorry for. In recent years, I have sought to apologize to people I have knowingly offended in any way. I’m grateful that God has honored many of these encounters and granted true reconciliation and restoration.”

I will start addressing criticisms by saying that some have been unfair. I will not use language which states that my critics are right, but will instead say “I am deserving of” some criticisms. This sounds like I’m taking responsibility, but subtly avoids doing so. I will use the term “past actions” to suggest that this isn’t related to my ongoing behaviour, thereby subtly connecting it to my previous comments on my actions in 2000. I talk of seeking to apologise to people even though those who have been hurt report being shunned and destroyed by me. I will talk about God honouring these encounters without specifics.

 

“But I’m particularly sorry that any of my past actions or decisions have brought distraction to the mission of Mars Hill Church, and therefore, to those who call this their church home. Part of this is no doubt a function of the media age we live in—anyone can write anything, anywhere, anytime. As a public figure, I recognize and accept this, even if I don’t like it; for this is one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in a media age—the same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the globe can also be used by anyone around the globe to criticize, attack or slander.”

The first time that I start a sentence with “I am sorry” it is related to the impact on the church community which yet again reinforces to the audience that their feelings are validated, but the actual victims of my offences are not mentioned. I make my sorry focused on the mission of Mars Hill, reminding everyone that is the priority, not the reality of the people who have been hurt. I will then yet again criticise people who have publicly challenged me and place myself as the victim by talking of myself as a “public figure”. This makes the situation more about my position than my choices and actions. That I have used media channels to criticise and attack is irrelevant, and I will suggest my detractors are “criticizing, attacking and slandering” without actually stating that is what those who challenge me are doing.

“However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent I have any control over it.”

After spending time being negative about my detractors I will now talk about my fault. Yet I won’t take responsibility for any of it, I will just accept partial fault, which essentially means the other people involved are also at fault. Essentially I am blaming everyone else while using the language of responsibility. I will talk of God redeeming me to remind everyone that God is okay with me, having previously implyred that others have dishonoured God by challenging me. I will use the term “avoid such conflict” which essentially distances me from fault and focuses the issues as conflict based rather than founded in power and abuse.

 

“There is a well-documented list of past actions and decisions I have admitted were wrong, sought forgiveness, and apologized for to those I hurt or offended. I will not review them here, as it is my prayer we can, together as a church, move on as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13—But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

I will talk about admitting I am wrong when what I have done previously is apologise but continue to do the same things over and over. I quote Philippians and use the word “forget”; this implys that forgetting is the option for the church community. That forgiveness and forgetting are not in any way related and that forgetting is impossible when we have been hurt badly is something I want to avoid people being aware of.

 

“These are serious times we are living in and people all around us are dying every hour without Jesus. It is this reality that drives me and motivates me to keep learning God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to His people so that together, we can continue to reach people with the saving grace and love and mercy of Jesus. I hope that regardless of whatever else is swirling around us, we never lose this perspective on why Mars Hill exists in the first place – Jesus loves people and people need Jesus.”

I will now spend time explaining how people’s souls are at risk of burning in hell and that in comparison these issues that have been raised are really not a big deal. I will talk about my purpose and call and will talk of the current issues that have resulted from my actions and choices as “swirling around us” yet again distancing myself from being the instigator of the issues.

 

“I realize the vast majority of you just want to come to church and hear God’s Word taught. You want to feed your families spiritually just as you feed them physically, and Mars Hill should be a safe place to do just that. As your pastor, I want that for you more than anything. All of our lead pastors want that for those under their care as well.”

I will keep the audience supportive of me by yet again talking about them as the primary victims in the situation. I will talk about the consequences of my choices and actions in a way that acknowledges the struggles of people are going through without taking responsibility for them.

 

“I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.”

I will not mention that one of the accusations against me relate to changing the bylaws of the church to make it very difficult for the church to hold me to account. I will talk of inviting the process even though it has taken enormous public pressure to essentially force me to take action. Book shops are withdrawing my books from sale, I am being removed from church networks and others and although there have been issues throughout my entire ministry, I have shut down all criticism to the point of changing church bylaws and sacking employees, yet I will state that this is a process that I have invited. I will again reinforce that challenging me publicly is wrong. I mention that a report will be presented, but I haven’t mentioned who that report will be presented to, and I have called it a “report on the process” not implyring whether the outcomes will be made public.

 

As a general rule, I will respond to little if any criticism of me in the media, on social media, blogs, open letters, etc. Conducting church business and biblical conflict resolution through media channels is not healthy and is more likely to prove unproductive at best, and destructive and dishonoring to the Lord at worst.

I will now categorically state that media channels are unproductive, destructive and dishonouring to God. That without these media channels I would be able to continue behaving in hurtful and damaging ways without any accountability or negative consequences. This places anyone who comments publicly about what I have said as unproductive, destructive and dishonouring God. The hurt I have caused people should be compounded further by me attempting to silence and denigrate their attempts to heal.

 

“I have asked our Board of Advisors and Accountability to strengthen our board by adding members to it, and they are in the process of doing so with local members being our first choice.”

We will strengthen the board of advisors and accountability by inviting people who are still in the church and have stood by me throughout all that I have done. Anyone who has had the courage to challenge me has talked of how they were sacked or abused by me. By saying this I yet again focus on my audience, enabling them to feel they are being given power to change things and trusted with that.

 

“I have agreed to postpone the publication of my next book until a future season, to be determined.”

Bookshops have removed my books from sale and due to the current climate I would probably not sell many books if I did publish my book, plus I am no longer able to pay a PR company to unethically get my books onto bestseller lists.

 

“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men. I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing.”

I will talk of meeting with a professional team of mature Christians but will not mention any of their names. The fact I haven’t taken an extended break in 18 years will be used as an opportunity to be applauded for my commitment rather than concern that I have not had a healthy work life balance.

 

“As I look forward to the future—and I do look forward to it—I believe the Lord has shown me I am to do two things with the rest of my life: love my family, and teach the Bible. I deeply love my family and our church family and am seeking the Lord for how to have a godly and loving future that is not just sustainable but fruitful.”

I will now talk about my family which reminds everyone I am a human being with good priorities. I will establish that I plan to continue teaching the Bible for the rest of my life which suggests I will continue be seeking to influence and lead people.

 

“Finally, I want to say to our Mars Hill family—past and present, I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for the times I have been angry, short, or insensitive. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”

Having spent over 15 minutes talking I will finally say that I am sorry, not to those I have direct hurt, but to my church family. I talk about inviting criticism rather than behaving abusively and focus on the actions of the commentators rather than my own actions.

 

“God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day. The gospel is powerfully at work in me, your pastor, thanks to the faithfulness of our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ, and the best thing for us each to do is look to Him and point others to Him. Thank you Mars Hill. I love you.”

I talk of “falling short” and doing things “I am not very proud of” yet still do not quantify that in terms of identifying what I have actually done. I make this last section about what God is doing in me and still do not mention anything about the people I have damaged who are no longer in Mars Hill church. After this I am given a standing ovation by the church and my wife and children all come onto the platform to embrace me. This reminds the audience that there are children involved in any decisions made about me. The image of them embracing me will be used on the Mars Hill website alongside my statement.