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.
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:
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:
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”