The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports…
“Ex-Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll, whose Seattle megachurch imploded in 2014, is seeking to rise from the ashes in Phoenix with formation of The Trinity Church, equipped with “pastors of apostolic giving.”
“We open our Bibles to learn. We open our lives to love,” proclaims the church website. Trinity Church is named after a church founded in the Seattle area by parents of Driscoll’s wife, Grace.
Its incorporation papers said Trinity Church would not have members. But Driscoll says now: “Once the church is established, a class and process for spiritual church membership will be offered.”
Driscoll has both moved and moved to make a quick comeback. It has been less than 16 months since he resigned as senior pastor at Mars Hill, which once had 15 “campuses” in five states, and barely 13 months since Mars Hill formally disbanded.
He quit at Mars Hill after an investigation sustained claims of bullying and abusive conduct lodged by 21 former pastors and church leaders.
At the time of Driscoll’s resignation, on Oct. 15, 2014, the church said in a statement:
“The investigation of formal charges against Mark Driscoll has revealed patterns of persistent sin in the three areas disclosed in the previous letter by the board of overseers.
“In I Timothy 5:20, it requires that an elder be rebuked for persistent sin. Our intention was to do this while providing a plan for his eventual restoration to leadership.”
The Mars Hill Church announced two weeks later that it was dissolving. But Driscoll had already made an appearance at the Gateway Conference in Texas, talking about how he had been persecuted and endured death threats and circling news helicopters in Seattle.
Since then, circumstances of Driscoll’s departure have been airbrushed. Introducing “Pastor Mark” at the Zion evangelical conference last month, pastor Jimmy Witcher made light of the 2014 implosion, saying of Driscoll:
“He was doing a tremendous job, and through some internal things that were going on there, it became necessary for him to resign . . . And Pastor Mark had to go through a very difficult, kind of almost a public trial, with the media on his front lawn, helicopters flying overhead, his every move being discussed in blogs and on social media.”
The reality was far different. Driscoll faced plagiarism allegations over his book “Real marriage,” for which he had received a $400,000 advance.
Questions were raised — and never answered — about the disposition of “church planting” donations supposedly earmarked for Ethiopia and India. Internal memos indicated the money was being spent in the United States.
Acts 29, a ‘church planting” network of 500 churches co-founded by Driscoll, removed both “Pastor Mark” and Mars Hill from membership.
Its directors wrote to Driscoll:
“Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior.
“We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior.”
They urged that Driscoll take a leave of absence from ministry.
He has not. Driscoll had a website up even before Mars Hill closed down, and was offering and marketing sermons. As 2016 began, he was preaching on the topic “Overcoming Anxiety” at North Valley Community Church in Phoenix.
The new church lists four pastors providing “wise counsel,” two associate pastors, as well as a prayer team.
Driscoll preached a male-centric Gospel at Mars Hill, emphasizing the husband’s leadership role in marriage and the home, condemning homosexuality, and once claiming that feminism was producing a “pussified nation.”
The strictures of Trinity Church:
“The pedals on our bike are Bible teaching and relationships
“Loving relationships are the mark of good theology
“Fun is fundamental
“Build people up, don’t beat people up.” (The complaint from 21 ex-Mars Hill pastors and elders alleged exactly the opposite pattern of conduct at the church that Driscoll had cofounded in 1996.)
The list goes on to a final stricture: “$ Vision requires provision.”
Warren Throckmorton, a Pennsylvania academic who writes for Patheos — and chronicled the 2014 unraveling — summed it up in an email: “He’s baaack.”