The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports…
“In a reversal of what normally happens inside a church, about 65 people stood outside Mars Hill Church in Bellevue on Sunday and called on the pastor of the mega-church to acknowledge his sins and repent.
The quiet, peaceful demonstration — “It’s very unusual to have evangelicals protesting,” said participant Jim Henderson — was directed at the church’s controversial, authoritarian and domineering co-founder and senior pastor, Mark Driscoll.
Driscoll claimed in a video last week that his critics had chosen to remain anonymous. The central message of the protest: “We are not anonymous.” On Sunday, ex-members outside carried signs of what they were not permitted to do inside Mars Hill: ”Question Mark.”
“People have been harmed, hurt,” said 17-year-old Bailey Strom, who passed up a day of lifeguard duty and drove over from Yakima with his family to join the protest. Strom’s parents were married by Driscoll. Now, said father Gerd Strom: “Suddenly he became very important and disconnected. Nobody can talk to him.”
The protest came hours after the second resignation of the week by an “outside” member of the church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability. The departure of James MacDonald followed that of Paul Tripp, although both will keep ties to the church.
Driscoll has been delivering mea culpas in recent months. The latest was Saturday. He apologized to his flock for a rant, delivered under the pseudonym “William Wallace II,” in which he told a church chat board, “We live in a pussified nation” of “sensitive emasculated men.”
“I was wrong to respond to people the way I did, using the language I used, and I am sorry for it and embarrassed by it,” wrote Driscoll, who co-founded the church in 1996. He was responding on a chat board to what he called “emerging-church-type-feminists and liberals.”
The pastor’s attitudes toward women, and belief in male dominance of marriage, has caused some Mars Hill members to leave and a few to show up Sunday outside the church.
“I am an ex-member who left a couple years ago, because my views on life and women evolved,” said Elizabeth Smith. “I come from a Jewish family, a family with strong women. It appeared, at the church, most development attention was given to me. Women were seen as accessories in marriage.”
Rob Smith (no kin), a former program director at Mars Hill, cited Driscoll’s “disregard for women’s voices,” adding: ”In the church’s view, women are just objectives. They are there to please their husbands. In my theology, Jesus freed women. Jesus was surrounded by strong women.”
Driscoll has also apologized for hiring a firm to spike sales of his co-authored book “Real Marriage” to get it on the New York Times bestseller list. Notes of attribution have been added in another book where he was accused of lifting thoughts from other authors.
He wrote to his flock in March that “my angry young prophet days are over” and that he realized he could not be “a celebrity and a pastor.” He pledged to relinquish the former role for the latter.
In his “pussified nation” apology, Driscoll confessed to having gone off his “good mission,” writing of his 2000 rant:
“This season was messy and I sinned and cussed a lot, but God somehow drew a straight line with my crooked Phillistine stick. I had a good mission, but somehow my tactics were born out of anger and burnout, and I did a lot of harm and damage while attracting a lot of attention.
“The content of my postings to that discussion board does not reflect how I feel, or how I would conduct myself today.”
The travails of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill are not over.
MacDonald and Tripp have gone quietly from the Board of Advisors and Accountability. Tripp is still on schedule to preach at a church-sponsored conference in October, and will stay as a “consultant” to the Seattle-based mega-church.
MacDonald, in a church-released statement, said: ”I am not resigning because I doubt Mark’s sincerity in any way. I believe in Mark Driscoll and his heart to leverage difficult lessons in service to Christ and his church in the years ahead.”
But another shoe will drop over the next few days. Rob Smith said critics are preparing to level “50 specific new charges” against Driscoll, focusing on allegations of outbursts and abusive conduct, and — particularly — the shunning of former church members.
In the church, ex-member Mike Dinsmore said at the protest, “If you’re a little bit of a dissident, you get thrown under a bus.”
He was alluding to a new-famous instruction that Driscoll gave to church planters. (Mars Hill had 15 branches in five states.)
“You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options but the bus ain’t gonna stop. And I’m just a guy — I’m just a guy who is like, ‘Look, we love ya, but this is what we’re doing.’ There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus.”
Not all the demonstrators in Bellevue have gotten in the way of the Driscoll bus. A few were there as witness that Mark Driscoll should not define religion and faith in the Puget Sound area.
“Mark Driscoll has sort of become the face of Christianity in Seattle. It’s insane, some of it,” said Bruce Hanson, who goes to church elsewhere. Kay Willette chimed in, adding, “Mark Driscoll is the Rush Limbaugh of Christianity, a bombastic big-mouth.”
Bailey Strom still holds out hope that Driscoll will acknowledge hurts he has caused, reach out to those who have been harmed, and gracefully exit.
“I still love him,” said Strom. “There could be a reconciliation. But there is a time to listen, and a time to step down.”
Ex-member Matt Coles disagreed, saying he has “little hope” for reconciliation in that celebrity-hood has gone to Driscoll’s head, and given his personality.
Rob Smith was quoting Timothy 3, saying it delivered the Biblical message that “it is dumb to ordain an elder too young. They will get arrogant and puffed up.” He said Driscoll’s character has never really been tested, and that there is nobody to hold him to account.
The Mars Hill Church, founded in 1996, has claimed as many as 14,000 members.”