Mark Driscoll is risen


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports…

“Mark Driscoll has resurfaced less than a week after resigning as senior pastor at Mars Hill Church, getting a star’s welcome at a major evangelical conference in Dallas/Fort Worth on Monday and saying he wants to “sing, to pray, to learn, to grow, to repent.”

Driscoll had been removed earlier this year as keynote speaker at the annual Gateway Leadership & Worship Conference, a big stop on the evangelical circuit. But the controversy-shrouded mega-church founder was welcomed to the stage by Gateway Church founder-pastor Robert Morris with allusions to Jesus.

“He did make some mistakes,” said Morris. ”Uh, here’s what I figure. We’ve got two choices. One is we could crucify him. But since someone’s already been crucified (hollering) for him, (applause), the other choice is we could restore him with a spirit of gentleness considering ourselves, lest we are also tempted.”

Driscoll responded with a homily of self-pity, persecution and limited repentance. He talked of repeated physical threats to his person and family.

“Yah, for me I’m in a season of just, uh, healin’ up, praying,” he began. “Uh, asking the Lord Jesus through wise counsel to show me any blind spots where I can grow.”

He morphed into a discussion of family, and of himself.

“I think there’s a lot I could say that would make me feel better,” said Driscoll. “I don’t know that it would make me look better, but I don’t think it would make Jesus look better, so I won’t say anything other than, uh, just pray for my family. We’ve had a very trying season and, uh, just trying to figure out how to be a good pastor to my family first.”

“I’ve cried a lot lately (and) it’s been a rough season for the family,” Driscoll added. After telling the audience to take a seat, he opined: “I would say don’t overlook your family as first ministry.”

Driscoll, who has traveled with a bodyguard, detailed attacks that have come his way.

“We’ve got five kids, three boys, two girls, ages 8 to 17 and, uh, we’ve moved three times now for safety issues. People arrested at our home, death threats, uh, address posted on line, all kinds of things and, uh, more recently it’s gotten very severe.

“We came home from break. There was rusty nails all over the driveway. We, uh, we had a night where the kids wanted to sleep out in the tent and, uh, I got a call that, um, my address was posted on-line by the media and so, we, we, went out of town for a few days . . .”

When the family returned, the family tried camping out, “woke up in the morning about 6:30 or so and huge rocks about the size of baseballs come flying at my kids, uh, 8, 10, 12 years of age. Call the police. Flee into the house for their safety.”

A few days later, he charged, “the media flies overhead with a helicopter and is trying to flush us out for a story.” That night, Driscoll claimed, his 8-year-old son asked, “Well, it’s bad guys in the helicopter coming to shoot the family, right.”

Of course, the most telling damage to Driscoll has been self-inflicted. Twenty-one former Mars Hill elders charged him with threats, intimidation and bullying. Acts29, a global “church planting” network, expelled Driscoll and Mars Hill, with its directors urging Driscoll to leave the ministry and seek help. A similar call came from nine pastors at Mars Hill.

Driscoll has had to explain remarks, such as a posting under pseudonym in which he referred to America as a “Pussified Nation.” He had to answer charges of plagiarism. He had to apologize for hiring a consulting firm with Mars Hill money, and using church dollars to artificially puff sales of his book “Real Marriage” to put it on The New York Times bestseller list.,

Driscoll was not about to go to confession before the Gateway Conference.

“I just want to come here to, uh, sing, to pray, to learn, to grow, uh, to repent, to heal anduh, God is surrounding me with some great pastors and friends, and if I could just say anything, it’s ‘every pastor needs a pastor,’” he said.

The non-mea culpa was greeted with sustained applause and not a few whoops.

Morris stepped in to play the role of confessor and a form of absolution.

“Debbie and I have been able to spend some time with Mark and Grace and talking with them and, uh, we were talking the night before he resigned and talking about that and talking through the situation and you know he, uh, resigned the church he founded and pastored for 18 years.”

After drawing his breath, Morris drew lessons.

“He preached 10 to 12 years, 50 weeks a year, sometimes six services a weekend,” said Morris. “And, uh, it’s just not healthy and so I’m glad that, uh, he’s saying, ‘Help me. Help me to do it differently and do it better.’

“And so I love him very very much and, um, I’m glad that he’s here. Uh, you’re going to be blessed.” Earlier, Morris said of Driscoll, “We’re speaking into his life and he is listening.”

He made a final reference to Driscoll receiving “bad media” and went on to introduce the last speaker.

Driscoll will have a cushion with which to pray, learn, grow and minister to his family. He is reportedly receiving a year’s severance. The senior pastor’s salary has never been disclosed. One memo from (since resigned) deputy Sutton Turner recommended that Driscoll receive a $650,000 salary for 2013.

We have not heard the last from Mark Driscoll.”


Deadbeat pastor confronted at church


Standard Digital reports…

“There was drama in Kariobangi South, Nairobi, yesterday when a woman stormed a church allegedly run by her husband, accusing him of neglecting her and their son.

Jane Wambui disrupted the Sunday service at God’s Gift Favour Church at around midday, claiming Mr Charles Muchanji, who she claimed was her husband, had abandoned them.

Frightened worshippers took to their heels as others hurriedly closed the door, with Wambui inside.

She emerged from the church a few minutes later and accused some members of the church of attempting to rough her up. “Come out and fight if you are men,” she shouted as she smashed the church’s windows.

However, police officers arrived at the scene moments later and took her and a young man she claimed had tried to assault her to Langata Police Station.

Muchanji, who had all the while remained inside the church, declined to talk to journalists. A few faithful we talked to confirmed that he runs the church.

Wambui claimed that the man left her and their son for a another woman they had met during their honeymoon. “We got married in church in 2000 in Kariobangi South and we met the woman in Thika during our honeymoon,” said Wambui.

According to her, they lived together for three years before they were blessed with a baby boy and that is when trouble started.

“We named him Victor because we had tried to conceive for a long time and even at times fasted and prayed at Ngong Hills. We would have her named her Victoria if she had been a girl,” explained Wambui while addressing press outside the church.

She said her husband abandoned her at St Mary’s Hospital Otiende in Langata where she had undergone a caesarian section to deliver their baby.

“He left me in the hospital for two days before I was rescued by friends and relatives. I went home only to find the woman we had met in Thika in my matrimonial home,” she exclaimed.

Wambui said the husband explained that she had travelled to Nairobi to visit her at the hospital but decided to do it the following day as it was already late.

She allegedly believed him as she still too weak to be involved in a confrontation.

But before long, her husband allegedly started being abusive and at one point kicked her and their baby out of the house.

“He ruined his life and mine and now he wants to do the same to my son, but I will never allow it,” she said.

Wambui claimed that she has even previously filed a case in court to have him compelled to pay her money for their son’s upkeep, but all he has done is to make promises he had not kept.

Wambui said she even took him back early last year, but he has neglected them despite running a school.”


Calmer Chameleon


The Christian Post reports…

“Hillsong Church pastor Brian Houston has issued a statement specifying his position on marriage and homosexuality after a news outlet reported that he “won’t take (a) public position on LGBT issues.”

The news report came after Houston brought up the topics of homosexuality and same-sex marriage at a press conference held on Thursday with New York City media, on the occasion of Hillsong Conference being held at Madison Square Garden.

“I encourage people not to assume a media headline accurately represents what I said at a recent press conference,” Houston says in a statement emailed to The Christian Post on Saturday.

“Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage,” he adds. “I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.

The question that resulted in Houston’s remarks on homosexuality centered on how his church tries to remain relevant. In his response, the Hillsong pastor offered homosexual marriage as an issue that is a challenge for some churches. Traditional Christian teachings define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“I think with the church, the message is sacred but the methods have to change for the church to stay relevant,” said Houston. “And it’s challenging. It’s challenging to stay relevant. I mean, if we go to the one big hot topic maybe for churches … now with homosexual marriage legalized, and churches for generations, they hold a set of beliefs around what they believe the Word of God, the Bible says. All of a sudden in many circles the church can look like a pariah, because to many people it’s so irrelevant now … So staying relevant is a big challenge. I think it’s more than just singing more contemporary songs and the colors you paint your walls or whatever.”

As CP noted in a previous report, Hillsong Church has among its 12 global campuses two operating in Los Angeles and New York City, both diverse and progressive cities where same-sex marriage is legal.

Houston, prompted by The New York Times’ question for clarification, went on to emphasize that, for him, questions about his position on homosexuality were “too important for us to reduce” down to a “yes or no answer in a media outlet.” His remarks were similar to those previously made by Hillsong NYC pastor Carl Lentz, who has declined to take a public “yea or nay” position on homosexuality.

The New York Times published a report on Houston’s remark under the headline “Megachurch Pastor Signals Shift in Tone on Gay Marriage,” and notes that the Hillsong Church pastor’s “spokesman said on Friday that the pastor personally agreed with traditional Christian teaching on sexuality.”

The Religion News Service published in its report (under the headline “Hillsong’s Brian Houston says church won’t take public position on LGBT issues”):

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler declared from his blog in June of 2014, “There is no third way on [same-sex issues].”

But Brian Houston, pastor of Hillsong Church, a global family of congregations comprising more than 30,000 weekly attendees and millions of worship music album sales, apparently disagrees with Mohler. At least, for now.

The RNS report goes on to state that after the Times’ request for clarification, “… Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was ‘an ongoing conversation’ among church leaders and they were “on the journey with it.'”


A law unto themselves



Listen to ABC Radio report


The Sydney Morning Herald reports…

“Australian Pentecostal churches might have to enforce a strict national child protection policy as a condition of registration with their umbrella body Australian Christian Churches, a royal commission has heard.

The national president of Australian Christian Churches, Wayne Alcorn, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse that the organisation would review its structure after listening to shocking cases of abuse which occurred at three affiliated churches.

A mandatory and enforceable child protection policy for the ACC’s 1000 churches will be discussed at the national executive conference in April next year.

“We will seriously examine whether or not we can demand, for ongoing registration, the adoption and adherence to a policy for child protection,” he said.

Churches registered with the ACC are independently run by their senior pastors and not currently required to adopt any policies from their umbrella body.

Mr Alcorn said to introduce an enforceable policy would, “challenge the fabric of who we are as a movement of autonomous churches.”

John Hunt, the state president of ACC Queensland, told the royal commission that the body did not currently monitor individual churches, enforce compliance of its policies or sanction churches which did not adopt them. 

“There would be nothing … that would demand a church adhere to the policies that we have recommended,” he said.

He told the commission the ACC had the power to approve a pastor’s credentials and ask them to abide by a code of conduct.

The royal commission was told that a youth pastor who repeatedly molested a teenage boy at a Pentecostal church in Queensland started ministering to at least 80 young people in 2004 despite not receiving his credentials from the ACC until July 2005.

Ian Lehmann, the senior pastor of the church at the time, is the father-in-law of the offender, Jonathan Baldwin.

Baldwin was convicted over the offences in 2009 and sentenced to eight years jail but has since been released.

The royal commission previously heard that Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston was involved in the disciplining of his late father Frank Houston, when allegations of child abuse came to light.

Mr Alcorn told the commission that ACC’s ministerial code of conduct failed to address familial conflicts of interest but this would be reviewed.

The public hearing is examining the response of Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse.”



HIV+ pastor slept with church members – updated*


WSFA reports…

“Embattled church pastor Juan McFarland has complied with a judge’s order to turn over keys, bank accounts and a Mercedes Benz to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church officials prior to a 5 p.m. deadline, according to the church’s board of trustees chairman

Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Charles Price ruled against McFarland earlier in the day, telling him in a preliminary injunction hearing to return the property to the church’s leadership. In addition to returning the property, the judge barred McFarland from the church’s property.

The ousted pastor arrived in the Mercedes around 4 p.m., surrendered it to the church, and drove away in a different Mercedes with an unidentified woman.

The ruling against the pastor came several hours after Judge Price called a morning recess for the courtroom, packed with more than two-thirds of the church’s members. Juan McFarland sat on the very back row and had to be called to the front by the judge to join his co-defendant.

Both McFarland and his co-defendant, Marc Peacock, Sr. were being sued by church members who say they voted McFarland out of the church by an 80-1 margin after he admitted from the pulpit to having sexual relations inside the church building – with congregants – while knowingly having AIDS. McFarland has also admitted to drug abuse and misuse of church finances. Still, the pastor refused to step down.

McFarland did not say a word during the hearings, had no legal counsel and chose to represent himself.  He left the courtroom and stepped onto an elevator with two men after the judge ruled against him.

Peacock was being sued for his alleged role in helping McFarland change the church’s locks, bank accounts and for threatening to shoot deacons if they returned to the church’s property. However, during Thursday’s hearing, Peacock resigned his membership with the church and was subsequently removed from the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claimed McFarland passed a new church constitution in 2013 giving himself total control of the church while only a few members were present, and it sought the termination and removal of both McFarland and Peacock from all aspects of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church’s operations. 

“They all thought it was wrong and when they discovered it, they took measures a couple of weeks ago to pass resolutions that did away with that constitution. Also another resolution establishing who the board of deacons was and who is on it and then a resolution terminating Pastor McFarland,” said church attorney Julian McPhillips.

During the morning hearing, each side was allowed two witnesses to explain the situation. Head Deacon Nathan Williams, Jr. and Deacon Lee Sanders spoke on behalf of the church, while Peacock spoke on his own behalf and church member Chauncey Ballard spoke for both defendants.

The plaintiffs argued that an emergency injunction should be put into place, returning access to church bank accounts. They argued that if the court did not return access to the accounts, they would miss a $2,000 promissory note payment on the church building that is due by the end of the day.

The plaintiffs sought an immediate injunction while Peacock’s attorney, Charles Anderson, sought the termination and removal of McFarland and Peacock from all aspects of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church’s operations. Anderson attempted to have the case dismissed citing the court’s lack of jurisdiction in a matter involving a religious issue, but Judge Price immediately dismissed the request saying this wasn’t his first case involving a church and added that he does have jurisdiction if the church can’t resolve the issue on its own….”


Mark Driscoll resigns


The Seattle Times reports…

“After a meteoric rise and a drawn-out fall, embattled Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll resigned Wednesday, leaving unanswered questions and an uncertain future for the megachurch he co-founded.

The church has been facing an avalanche of allegations against Driscoll in recent months, ranging from charges of bullying and abusive behavior to plagiarism and overseeing mismanagement of church funds.

So loud were the clamor and questions around Driscoll — who gained national prominence by combining a dynamic preaching style with controversial views about women, homosexuality and other issues — that church attendance and giving plummeted, and several branches of the megachurch closed.

It all came to a head Wednesday when Driscoll resigned, and members of a church board looking into charges against him released their findings.

“By God’s grace I have pastored Mars Hill Church for 18 years,” Driscoll said in his resignation letter, printed on the Religion News Service site. “Today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace.”

Driscoll, who had been on leave since Aug. 24 while church elders conducted an investigation of formal church charges brought against him by 21 former pastors, made a point of saying in his letter that there had been “no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy.” But, he allowed, “other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive.”

He and his wife “concluded it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church we helped launch in 1996,” he wrote.

The Seattle-based church noted that Driscoll was not asked to resign and said it was surprised he did so.

Still, a church board said it had found that Driscoll had, “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,” according to a letter posted on the church website.

But, the board added, “while we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry.”

The departure of Driscoll, and other elders in recent weeks, leaves in disarray the church he started with Bible study in his Wallingford home and that, at one point, had grown to 15 branches in five states with some 13,000 visitors on Sundays. As troubles escalated, the church closed several Seattle branches and cut its staff by 30 to 40 percent. The church now lists 13 locations in four states.

The church board of overseers, in its letter Wednesday, asked for “patience as we now make plans for the first transition of pastoral leadership in the history of Mars Hill Church,” and noted that Pastor Dave Bruskas would serve as the primary teaching pastor “while we work on long-term plans and decisions.”

The church already has put four sites up for sale — two in Ballard, one in the University District and one in Sammamish — according to Steve Pelluer, the Colliers International broker representing the church in its sales.

The church has been trying over the past year to sell its corporate headquarters, located along 14th Avenue Northwest between Northwest 49th and 50th streets in Ballard. It’s asking $7.75 million for those properties it purchased in 2005 for $3.2 million. Recently, the church put its worship facilities in Ballard and Sammamish up for sale, with the condition that the church wants to lease back part of the space.

The church is asking $8 million for the 39,000-square-foot building in Ballard (which it purchased for $4.8 million in 2003), and $8.75 million for the 30,800-square-foot building and 22 acres of land in Sammamish (which it acquired from Evergreen Christian Fellowship’s merger into Mars Hill).

A fourth property, which Mars Hill bought in 2010 for $2.5 million from the former University Baptist Church, is under contract and could close before the year ends, Pelluer said. It is listed for $4 million.

Donna Kostanoski, who has been attending Mars Hill Church for seven years, called Driscoll’s resignation “refreshing and depressing all at the same time.”

It’s refreshing for the church to get out from under the weight of all the questions about Driscoll and refocus on Jesus, said Kostanoski. “The church for me was more the people,” she said. “I don’t hang out with Mark Driscoll.”

But what’s depressing now, she said, is the uncertainty about “who is going to lead this group of people. … The church needs to figure out how to be a church without Mark Driscoll at the helm.”

For some former members of the church, Driscoll’s resignation did not bring a sense of peace or closure.

Dave Kraft, a former pastor at Mars Hill Church who filed the first church charges against Driscoll last year, said: “My fear would be that he would just walk away and there would be all these unanswered questions about what happened” with allegations that he plagiarized material from another pastor for his book, or the discovery that the church paid a company to buy up and distribute his latest book in order to get him onto best-seller lists, and how much of the funds solicited by the church for overseas missions actually went to grow churches in the U.S. instead.

The church and Driscoll have addressed some of those issues, but not completely. Driscoll apologized for plagiarizing and church leaders apologized for paying the company to prop up book sales.

Church officials have also apologized for using the fund designated to start overseas churches for regular church expenses instead, but have said the issue was a misunderstanding.

“If Mark just walks away, where will we get answers?” Kraft said. “There are still hundreds of people who would say they’ve been sinned against, hurt, or harmed by Mark. Are they going to be able to have any resolution? Any reconciliation? Or is Mark just going to disappear and all these things are going to hang in the air?”

Karen Schaeffer, a former church member and Driscoll’s executive assistant from 2002 to 2003, said Driscoll’s letter held “no hint of humility or understanding of the depths of chaos and grief he has caused. Furthermore, he has left those who are still at Mars Hill in a financial mess, as well as a spiritual one, and he has walked away, failing to stand up and acknowledge his responsibility.”

Schaeffer said “there was a lot of good” that came out of Mars Hill. “In the midst of it all, God’s words really changed a lot of lives. The tragedy is that the depths of pain that occurred — that has not been addressed.”

Dave Baerman, who has attended Mars Hill for the past 10 years, said that while the church board found Driscoll not guilty of “immorality, illegality or heresy,” many current and former members believe the Bible sets clear standards for an elder and that some of Driscoll’s conduct violated those standards.

“When we first started coming, there was a lot of refreshing openness and honesty about the failures of other evangelical churches. Unfortunately, over the years, we fell into some of that,” he said.

Lief Moi, a Mars Hill co-founder, called on church leaders to gather all the former pastors and current and former church members and have an open accounting of what happened and what went wrong.

“There’s going to be a lot of hurt and injured people, thousands of very confused people,” he said. “Leadership needs to move forward with humility and listen. Until there’s true repentance and reconciliation from the top down, things are going to continue on the same path.”