Inflammatory Seattle pastor of Mars Hill Church steps down
October 16, 2014 3:23 AM   Subscribe

Following an investigation by church elders that cleared him of behavior disqualifying for a pastor, "charismatic but choleric" Mark Driscoll has voluntarily stepped down after 18 years as the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Dozens of elders and church members disagreed with the ruling of the investigation, and the megachurch has been steadily bleeding members and donations over recent months.

Known as the "pastor who cusses," Driscoll has always been controversial in the pulpit and out of it. But beyond his edgy preaching style, charges dating back for years of bullying, anger problems, and verbal and spiritual abuse have been brought against him, mostly resulting in the accusers' being ostracized (shunned/excommunicated) by church leaders and members.

The most recent charges were brought by 21 former Mars Hill pastors but apparently were not persuasive to the investigating board of elders. Driscoll purportedly resigned on his own, citing the divisiveness of the controversy.

Over the past couple of years Driscoll has been accused of using church contributions to buy his way onto the NYT bestseller list and plagiarism (also here, in a testy exchange with Christian radio interviewer Janet Mefferd).

Perhaps most explosively, three months ago excerpts surfaced from a message board hosted on the Mars Hill Church website in 2000-2001. Driscoll, pastor of the church, participated in the discussion then under the pseudonym William Wallace II, letting loose a torrent of misogynistic and homophobic bile. The message board was later taken down, and Driscoll (years later) apologized for the tone he took at the time. He nevertheless remained pastor for another 14 years. Blogger Rachel Held Evans weighed in.

previously
posted by torticat (52 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm surprised he stepped down and am curious about what he will do next. Seems unlikely we have heard the last of him.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:27 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Lest this seem like the story of a big fish in a small pond (which it is, from a large perspective)--for context, the multi-site Mars Hill Church had an attendance of over 12,000, with a quarter of a million online sermon views per week (via wikipedia). In addition, Driscoll's association with reformed evangelical bigwigs such as Tim Keller in NYC and John Piper implicate them as well, both as supporters of Driscoll and (allegedly) as victims of his private vitriol.
posted by torticat at 3:32 AM on October 16, 2014


Oh man, i was just working on an FPP about this. Especially now that it seems like we're finally in the epilogue stage of the storyline.

I really don't think we can talk about this dude without bringing up the whole "penis homes" thing, too.

Reading about this guy is truly a tvtropes kind of black hole. There's so many stories of him saying utterly lost-the-plot delusional shit. Like, it crosses the line between just an asshole and questionable mental illness fairly early in the rabbit hole. He's a complete monster truck who leaves a path of destruction with ridiculous quotes and hurt people abound.

There's a million entertaining posts about him and the church on the stranger blog, if you're looking for someone to start on this rabbit hole.

It's pretty hard to separate him from the church too, as the church itself is pretty fucking awful and he was basically the steve jobs of it. They're not westboro or anything, but they're pretty terrible. And only recently did people start finally distancing themselves from him in the organization and trying to get rid of him. But really, it's like some bond villain getting kicked out of SPECTRE. This guy is not the only problem they have, at all.
posted by emptythought at 3:39 AM on October 16, 2014 [15 favorites]


I want to know where all the money went. Sounds like there was all sorts of money that "disappeared". Easy to happen when your leader gets to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. As emptythought said, that's a bigger problem than just one guy; that's an organizational problem.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:51 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised he stepped down and am curious about what he will do next. Seems unlikely we have heard the last of him.

He's made a fair bit of coin off his flock and has invested in various Seattle-area projects, including the Storyville coffee shop in Pike Place Market. He also owns OMCRU Investments LLC, On Mission LLC and other companies. Wouldn't be surprised if he is one of those shadowy investors in Seattle's overheated real estate market.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:53 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, Storyville makes a bland cup of coffee. Avoid like the plagues of Exodus.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:54 AM on October 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I want to know where all the money went. Sounds like there was all sorts of money that "disappeared".

They were certainly squirreling away a lot of fucking money too.

Literally, millions upon millions of dollars that are now just ??? This isn't a few grand missing from the church kitty here. And that's only one avenue of funds too, who knows how much damn money they have or he pocketed.
posted by emptythought at 3:56 AM on October 16, 2014


Sounds like there was all sorts of money that "disappeared".

That's the only miracle associated with Mars Hill Church.
posted by Renoroc at 4:23 AM on October 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just another grifter for Jeebus. He will reappear with a new scam once his marketing guys figure out who else they can sucker.
posted by spitbull at 4:32 AM on October 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Throughout the course of civilization, some things never change.
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:35 AM on October 16, 2014


The money earmarked for the global fund went into the general fund, where it was used for the regular operations of the church. If the donations were restricted to the global fund, that sort of reallocation is impermissible. But you can't really know whether it was illegal or just sleazy without seeing the actual solicitation material.
posted by jpe at 4:44 AM on October 16, 2014


Oh wow emptythought, thank you (I guess?) for the penis home link. I had not dug too deeply into the William Wallace II archives... you are right, the whole thing is an insane rabbit hole.

Good god. "Though women other than your wife may look like a home, to rest there would be breaking into another man's home"... some random woman's vagina is "another man's home." It shouldn't be surprising after everything but...good God.

And yes, the (all-male) leadership of that church and the congregants are complicit. (OK, I tried hard not to editorialize in the post and I will also try not to threadsit.)
posted by torticat at 4:50 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why should any member of a "megachurch" have a problem with the founder funneling money to himself through the operation, were they not entertained? Calling out a founder of a megachurch for profiteering is like watching WWE for years and feeling shortchanged when you find out the fights are fixed.
posted by any major dude at 5:02 AM on October 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


Some wall art and decorative throw rugs really make a penis house into a penis home.
posted by dr_dank at 5:12 AM on October 16, 2014 [26 favorites]



Ha. I was all 'never heard about this guy' until emptythought said he was the penis home guy.

Ahhh, that guy...
posted by Jalliah at 5:14 AM on October 16, 2014


Pastors gotta past?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:15 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


>He will reappear with a new scam once his marketing guys figure out who else they can sucker.


"I fell into the Devil's temptation - emboldened as he has been recently by America's growing acceptance of the sin of homosexuality and the abomination of gay marriage, and its failure to stand up to those who would promulgate the word of false idols like Allah - but now Jesus has saved me again, and he told me to share my story with the world, so I'd like to present my new book, on sale here at the convention, for the low, low price of only $69.95 ..."
posted by kcds at 5:18 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


The crazy thing is how long he was able to sustain the whole mess. It wouldn't be a big deal if they had a mentally ill pastor for a few months who then had to quit and get treatment, but keeping the guy around for almost two decades?
posted by Dip Flash at 5:19 AM on October 16, 2014


The crazy thing is how long he was able to sustain the whole mess. It wouldn't be a big deal if they had a mentally ill pastor for a few months who then had to quit and get treatment, but keeping the guy around for almost two decades?

For most of that time, the church was growing and money was rolling in. He only became vulnerable when attendance and giving dropped. All the scandals only really bothered the church in so far as they discouraged congregants from donating and attending.
posted by Area Man at 5:36 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Damn. Why can't we have a swearing preacher who's a good guy?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:37 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Damn. Why can't we have a swearing preacher who's a good guy?

There's this guy.
posted by drezdn at 5:43 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


"charismatic but choleric" Mark Driscoll...

his humours were obviously out of alignment...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:51 AM on October 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I just found out last night that one of my high school friends is Driscoll's younger brother. Weird. I hadn't realized he grew up here, so I checked his Wikipedia page and I see that Mark Driscoll grew up in the rough mean streets of... Riverton Heights, a suburb near the airport that he's quoted as saying is just a terribly rough place to grow up. If you know the SeaTac area, feel free to die laughing now.
posted by palomar at 5:54 AM on October 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, I'm expecting him to show up in California. The Riverside area would be just about right for him...
posted by palomar at 5:58 AM on October 16, 2014


Damn. Why can't we have a swearing preacher who's a good guy?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:37 AM on October 16 [+][!]


She's not a guy and I don't know that much about her, but there's the Pastrix
posted by Area Man at 6:05 AM on October 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is my favorite Mars Hill publicity stunt. "God said we have to have that property! You can't have it!" Christ, what a bunch of crazy assholes.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 6:08 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I arrived in Portland from Mississippi in 2001. I remember reading an article about Driscoll and Mars Hill in The Mercury around that time. My exact reaction was, Same charismatic asshole, different wardrobe. Instead of brylcream and ties it was tattoos and Chucks. If anything, the shit this guy was peddling seemed even less Christ-like than what poured from the pulpits back home. Fuck him and his cult of personality. Anyone who thinks of Jesus Christ as someone who could take you in a fight does not deserve to be teaching the gospel.
posted by echocollate at 6:12 AM on October 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


Damn. Why can't we have a swearing preacher who's a good guy?

"Babies! Be motherfuckin' kind!"
posted by Going To Maine at 6:22 AM on October 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


Well, he was a Calvinist. This was doubly predestined.
posted by graymouser at 6:29 AM on October 16, 2014 [10 favorites]


Damn. Why can't we have a swearing preacher who's a good guy?
Obligatory Mr. Show reference

Anyway, I am curious as to what actually happened behind the scenes here. As in, was he more or less forced out because of the increasing negative publicity which likely contributed greatly to the drastic fall in numbers and money? The decline in attendance in turn kind of confuses me, because this guy has been spewing heinous shit and bullying people for almost two decades now, so are people really just now having a change of heart because of the negative publicity? I guess I'm just so confused as to why people would stick with such a hateful piece of shit who was so unapologetically awful for so long and then bolt when he got mired in plagiarism scandals and junk.
posted by Timmoy Daen at 6:36 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I figured his days were probably numbered when he went into severe damage control mode and started simpering about how he was totally switching from ranty bully mode to stern but kindly guiding daddy mode. A guy like that can seldom fake humility well enough to squeeze through when the pack starts to turn on him. I'd bet money his "voluntary" resignation came with a golden handshake and a (typical Mars Hill) NDA
posted by nanojath at 6:42 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd usually just grin cynically and move on with a story like this, but my sister has a former boyfriend who was a really nice guy, very sweet and friendly. We've learned that he's involved in Mars Hill, and now whenever I hear about the place I just worry that he isn't getting too fucked up by it.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:43 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ as someone who could take you in a fight

1st Church of Jesus Christ, Bear Jew.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:36 AM on October 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I want to know where all the money went. Sounds like there was all sorts of money that "disappeared".


Well, he's obviously not spending it on his wardrobe. Why is it that the "young, hip" pastors always look like a cross between a member of a white alt-reggae band and a low-level Russian mobster?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:51 AM on October 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Damn. Why can't we have a swearing preacher who's a good guy?

He's not a preacher exactly, unless he is now, but John Bloom / Joe Bob Briggs is still rattling around in Texas somewhere.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:02 AM on October 16, 2014


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:21 AM on October 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Asshole.
posted by tristeza at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2014


Damn. Why can't we have a swearing preacher who's a good guy?

Tony Campolo would often begin a sermon this way: "I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said 'shit' than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night."
posted by straight at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2014 [22 favorites]


Why is it that the "young, hip" pastors always look like a cross between a member of a white alt-reggae band and a low-level Russian mobster

I always thought dude looked like Fred Durst. So maybe nü evangelist?
posted by echocollate at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Something something moneychangers something something temple.

Hate on the institution of the Catholic Church as much as you like (and boy howdy, I do), but there really is something to the whole vow of poverty thing. (Yes, I know it's not universally applied, and yes, I know in the upper echelons it's honoured more in the breach than the observance, but still.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:39 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Torticat's "most recent charges" link is amazing:
17. March 2013—Bullying and shaming comment to an elder at an elders meeting, where the elder asked whether Mark has considered sharing the pulpit more, and Mark’s response likened sharing the pulpit to sharing his wife (“no one else sleeps with Grace”).
...
21. April 2013—At a Lead Pastor’s dinner meeting during Spring Training, Mark told the
pastors that the churches are his daughters and the pastors are sons-in-law. Thus,
leaving Mars Hill is effectively divorcing the church and giving his daughter back in
worse shape, making a bigger mess for him to clean up. One of those LPs had been
discussing plans to resign, but had not yet announced a decision. Mark addressed that
LP before his peers in the meeting, saying, “[LP], you’re giving my daughter back.”
The Church is the Bride of Christ Mark Driscoll.

This is the sin of Pride -- at Satanic levels.
posted by jamjam at 9:41 AM on October 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd bet money his "voluntary" resignation came with a golden handshake and a (typical Mars Hill) NDA.

No word on the NDA (for probably obvious reasons), but Patheos reports that his voluntary resignation might trigger a year of pay and benefits. Last paragraph reads:
According to those familiar with Driscoll’s employment agreement, this “written notice of my voluntary termination of employment” is important because it triggers a very generous termination package of one year of base salary and benefits.
So, bro might be getting a pretty fat paycheck for a year while the dust settles. Gross.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:54 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

And by that I mean that if he were a nicer guy, this would not have happened.
posted by jcreigh at 12:04 PM on October 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


Good riddance, even if it costs $. His (and Mars Hill Church's) sexist, homophobic, racist, $$ = grace garbage poisoned interfaith social justice work all over Washington.
posted by Dreidl at 12:26 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've been watching the growth and development (and subsequent schism) of Mars Hill through the lens of some of my long-time friends who were converted over the years. One in particular, who I'll call D, was just the right type of person for Mars Hill to scoop up: he was raised Christian, drifted from his faith as a young adult, felt lost and disconnected. D being in his early twenties at the time made him receptive to the hipster-flavored modernization of Calvinist Christianity that Mars Hill offered, and his emotional sensitivities to the abuse of strength wielded against the weak was a perfect fit for Mark Driscoll's call-to-arms for Christian acts of manliness: protect your women, protect your church family, protect your faith.

I asked if I could attend a sermon with D early on about 5 years ago, primarily out of a collective concern from friends that D was getting involved with a cult. Mark Driscoll is an emotionally evocative, charming, talented public speaker, and he knows how to strike a chord in his audience. At the time, I shrugged at the entire idea of Mars Hill, more just hoping that my friend would find some spiritual peace finally.

D was slowly brought into the fold, asked to lead his own high-attendance community group and guide others, asked to mentor friends and family and shepherd them into the church, asked to volunteer hours -- the equivalent of a part-time job each week -- in order to help run the Sunday sermons. He was often too busy to meet up with friends outside of the church. The random check-ins, the spontaneous midnight drives to nowhere, the deep conversations all evaporated. His chronic insomnia worsened. Suddenly all his friends were friends from Mars Hill. His sister married one of his Mars Hill friends. He married his new Mars Hill girlfriend after dating her for three weeks.

D's wife is a peach, thankfully, but their relationship was forged in the crucible of Mars Hill and was driven (hard) by elders and pastors they met with regularly, who encourage all of the young Mars Hill couples to marry as it helps strengthen the church community. D's long-time friends outside of the church weren't even aware they were actually a couple until after announcing God told them to get married. I had an awkward breakfast with D and his intended, meeting her for the first time and asking questions like I was conducting an interview. D answered for both of them. They sent out invitations telling everyone not to bring umbrellas because God told them it would be sunny. It rained the entire time. The wedding itself was full of people I had never met. One of D's childhood friends -- one of only two who willingly joined the wedding party as Groomsmen -- spent the entire wedding ceremony crying silently. Anyway, I digress bitterly.

Even with Mark Driscoll gone, everything that Mars Hill was and is has been branded deep inside my friend D's existence. It could have been so much worse for him (and indeed it was for some people) so hopeful and willing to receive faithful leadership from someone they thought was worth listening to. What I'd really like is my old friend back, but that ship sailed years ago, and I've been learning to be friends with the D I have now -- which is to say we're not really friends anymore. I'll get over it eventually, maybe, but this is all too raw and ongoing still.

I don't know where I was going with this, maybe to put a human face on the more subtle impact that Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill has made. D's story is complicated and messy and he definitely invited this massive shift into his life. My experience is that it's not just the insidiousness of disguising misogyny and homophobia as gospel, it's the divisiveness inflicted on existing relationships and communities that has struck me so deeply. Maybe D knowingly traded us all for better friends and mentors for the adult that D is now. I hope it proves to have been for the better. And I'm glad that Mark is stepping down, but the spiritual empire he built is still very much alive inside the church membership.
posted by Snacks at 2:50 PM on October 16, 2014 [22 favorites]


I have been so privileged to have leaders in my own Christian life that were so much like Jesus it was/is mindblowing. What I don't understand is why so many leaders seem to want to act and/or be mentored by that that is NOT Christlike.


What most perturbed me about Driscoll himself is that if what I heard about his "marriage manual" is true, he pretty much threw his wife under the bus. But I can't bring myself to pick up a copy and see for myself.


Finally, I guess I am disturbed by the fact that so many other Christian leaders over the years had the opportunity if not the obligation to yank his chain, speak into his life, and maybe not put someone who was not really emotionally or spiritually ready into the position he was in. Most of us do start off as immature and/or jerky folk who simply need some seasoning, some growing up, and so forth. You put a man or a woman into leadership before they are ready, I don't care how charismatic or gifted they might be, and you wind up with a trainwreck, or worse.

Mars Hill is not my flavor of Christianity (I no longer consider myself a Calvinist, for one) but there are many fine people who are and they deserve good leaders. Maybe one day Driscoll can become one. But he made the right decision to resign.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:37 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Church of the DudeBro. I suppose it was inevitable.
posted by kjs3 at 9:04 AM on October 17, 2014


No con like the evangelical con.
posted by Sassenach at 4:55 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


He married his new Mars Hill girlfriend after dating her for three weeks. D's wife is a peach, thankfully

Holy crap, talk about using up all your relationship luck at once. Glad it worked out, but geez...
posted by jcreigh at 9:37 PM on October 18, 2014




Look, I don't want to throw rocks at this guy...but the thing is, the Bible itself says not to let many become teachers, as they are judged more strictly. In other words, when one is a leader, and one goes off the rails, it is appropriate to step back. This isn't punishment. This is common sense. If you are responsible for leading large groups of people, this is part of the deal. What you pattern, they become, and if the pattern has flaws.....

It happens that someone's talents/charisma/giftings grow faster than their character. When we promote on the former without insisting on a solid foundation of the latter, messes are made. And all of us have to allow that foundation of character to grow solid, that's not a diss. It's just that at the level Driscoll was at, you can't afford not to have solid, solid character built into you.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:22 PM on October 21, 2014


That's all, folks! Last person to leave, get the lights, OK?
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 5:54 AM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


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