Why I Protested and Why I’m Done

Brian McLaren is one of the Christian leaders I respect and admire the most. He has been made a lightning rod for many people simply because he loves young leaders and refuses to “throw them under the bus” when they say things that make life uncomfortable for him. He is one of the most honest followers of Jesus I know.

Unlike his many bible defending critics, Brian is very very reluctant to criticize others so when he does it’s a pretty serious deal in my mind. He and I became friends around 2000. He came to Seattle for a visit and I drove him around. I’ll never forget him mentioning meeting with Driscoll and saying “there’s something wrong with that guy” I recorded that and remembered it when I ran into a number of comments Driscoll made about McLaren in public. That’s when Driscoll got on “my list”

Around 2006 I was painting Paul and Rachelle Chapman’s house (that’s my day job). Rachelle is a ministry colleague and Paul is a friend. They were both raised in Christian homes and went to Regent for their graduate degrees. They’re smart sincere followers of Jesus. While I was painting, Paul started asking me if I would ever be willing to protest Driscoll, specifically for misogynistic statements that were generally debasing of women and ungodly for a leader to make in public. This was the Ted Haggard incident where Pastor Driscoll inferred that if Gayle Haggard had been more sexually available to her husband, he may not have been tempted to have gay sex and use methamphetamines. (true story – google it)

Paul and I organized an online group called People Against Fundamentalism because we see Driscoll as the poster boy for neo fundamentalism (all his fundamentalist denials notwithstanding) Like they say, if it quacks like a duck…
We set a date and published our demands. Then the phone started ringing for interviews with the Seattle Times and KIRO Radio etc.

As the Sunday we’d chosen to protest drew near we got a call from Driscolls camp asking for a private meeting. Paul attended and several other veteran Christians pastors from the Northwest (who can identify themselves here is they so choose). I chose to stay behind the scenes since I wasn’t pastoring and had not been attending church since 2000. To a person these long time Christian leaders told me that “there’s something broken in that guy”, he couldn’t stop talking about how difficult it was to lead a large church which didn’t particularly endear him to my friends. Leif Moi (now fired) was with him ostensibly as his security person which also served to reinforce the tough guy image Driscoll had already successful created around himself.

In that meeting Driscoll agreed to apologize to women (one of our demands) if we would call off the protest. We agreed and he gave what can only be called a “political apology” where you refrain from directly apologizing someone you actually insulted and instead apologize to everyone who might have been offended. It’s a tried and true tactic in national politics, which Driscoll now employs on a seemingly monthly basis. This was my first time watching Driscoll use private meetings to get out of public trouble but it would not be the last.

Instead of protesting we pivoted and held up signs saying Thank You Rev Driscoll for Apologizing. There were two of us and about 15 others joined us for that thank you party. Several people from Mars Hill came out to talk with us. Some of them were security people and some were elders and deacons. One of the elders was Paul Petry who in response to our protest was quoted in the paper as saying “Driscoll honors women”. He was fired about 6 months later.

A few years later Driscoll came out with his famous video rant against the best selling book The Shack (which unlike his faux bestseller Real Marriage, “earned” its #1 ranking on the NYT bestseller list as in 19 million in 7 years). Since I’m a friend of the author, Paul Young I asked the two of them to meet in Seattle in public to discuss their differences. Paul immediately agreed, Driscoll went silent. On the appointed day Paul and I and about 100 curious people showed up at Sandy Browns First Methodist Church in downtown Seattle. Driscoll did not. We had a great time taking questions from the audience.

After the meeting Driscoll’s camp in keeping with insulating the “man of god” “reached out” and said Driscoll would be willing to meet with Paul privately (are you seeing a pattern?) However Paul would have to come to Driscolls office and meet with him there. Paul had returned home to Portland but nonetheless drove back up to Seattle a few days later to meet Driscoll (his junior) in his office in Seattle. Driscoll promised to not diss the book anymore (which was of no concern to Paul since Driscolls rant only served to draw more attention to the book ultimately driving it onto the list of the 100 most popular books in history) Paul went hoping to make a connection so that in the future Driscoll will know Paul is safe to talk with.

Fast forward 7 years to 2014. Paul Petry and I became friends and he introduced me to Rob Smith. Rob, like me, is a provocateur but unlike me he is also a former Mars Hill insider given his status of being shunned by Driscoll for calling BS when Paul Petry was put through one of Driscolls ecclesiastical kangaroo courts. Rob invited me to a group of ex insiders who asked me to join them in protesting their former church. Those who had been opposite sides seven years earlier were about to join forces and do it all over again. What type of leader would push these former ideological opponents to stand together?

After the protest this weekend it became apparent that the role I served as placeholder is done. There is now an activist base of resistance against Driscoll led by his former close friends, allies and co planters. Rob Smith, Judy Abolafya and Paul and Jonna Petry are qualified, capable and now motivated to lead this Driscoll Awareness Campaign to its next logical place, which is to gain the partnership of some influential pastors who will call Driscoll out and ask for his resignation. This will not be easy but it is inevitable.

I took on this challenge as a result of feeling compelled by The Holy Spirit. I never asked anyone to join me and kept my questions about others passivity to myself. I am fine forgiving Driscoll as long as he is fired or removed or resigns from his role of influence in the church as part of that forgiveness. There are some sins that require people to “bring forth fruits meet for repentance” KJV (sorry it’s the one I memorized) this is one of those sins. I am astounded at the fear leaders have of Driscoll and appalled at how little Christians care about their reputation with nonbelievers in the Seattle area. I’m speechless. I’ve learned a lot about the condition of the Church and I’m wondering about a lot of things.

Driscoll is an addict. Quit expecting him to respond normally or with empathy. Not going to happen. He will either hit bottom or sabotage himself and his future in a manner that finally forces people who are dependent upon him for their incomes and identity to fire him and save him from himself.

I appreciate the insiders who have allowed me access to their group. It was an honor and I wish you the best.

3 thoughts on “Why I Protested and Why I’m Done

  1. Dear Jim,

    I just want to be clear from the start of the post that I am no member or former member of Mars Hill or have any affiliations with Mark Driscoll.

    I am however very concerned as of the whole uproar particulary by blogs and such posts as yours because I don’t see it as helpful in the process or helpful in the spread and glorification of Jesus in all our lives.
    I understand the former elders and pastors that have published their charges – and they asked not to publicly post them (online), and someone did just that – and that is correct and the situation needs to be resolved. What I don’t understand is all the people that just jump on the train – so to speak – to rant and bring accousations against Mark Driscoll, that are not directly affected by it. Or in this case here build up momentum against him for years. Maybe or hopefully I just read this wrong and you just came together to pray for him the whole time, begging God for his mercy to make a way to reconsiliation and the betterment of all parties afflicted.

    The thing that got me to respond here … and this is just to ponder is your sentence:
    “I am fine forgiving Driscoll as long as he is fired or removed or resigns from his role of influence in the church as part of that forgiveness.”
    When I read Luke 17:3-4 it is clear that forgiveness should follow repentance:
    “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, “I repent,” you shall forgive him.”
    So I guess you have to check that for yourself but the way I see it is that if Pastor Mark repents and calls it by name – and I think that can happen in a private meeting and doesn’t need to be from the pulpit, because a lot of the people from outside that just listen to the sermons will never come in touch with those debates – you ought to forgive. Sure repentance means to turn from those cruced ways that were repented of but if he quits e.g. ranting about The Shack then it’s dealt with. New things will always come up though and then need to be adressed seperately. Just like the whole discussion board thing, he even put that a few years later in a book for everyone to read.
    It might just be me but I ocassionally listed to sermons from MH when I had the time and could hear a change in his tone and speech from back in the days till today.

    The other thing that disturbed me to read was …
    “… since I … had not been attending church since 2000”
    Sorry, what? You call out somebody that is doing the groudwork in a local church and is actually building the local church and in the same sentence you admit to not even be part of a church. That is just really wrong in my ears, could just be me though. You say in your bio you planted churches. So you know of the hardships. So why afflict them on others? Just curious.

    And sure I think this is a time of testing and streching for Mars Hill and I do believe that – as the bible says – judgment will come to the church first. But I think there is something to learn for us christians here and that the whole thing can be a lesson for all of us … and it could just be that we should stand together in unity, help people of the faith out of trubble and be graceous as God was graceous with us. In reality we all have sinned and fallen short of his grace but Jesus came, died and rose again so that we would be redeemed. Sure we then need to change by the grace of God but that is a process. I guess the failures of pastors and teachers – especially if they are as famous as Pastor Mark Driscoll – are just more obvious to us but if we really took a look at ourselfs. Boy, boy, boy.
    So to close …. What I am missing in almoyst every post regarding this whole controversy – in this post above or the whole websites that have sprung up around this – is the call for prayer for this situation, the reconsiliation and the Christians & especially the leadership at Mars Hill. We are really good at pointing fingers, but are we equally good at storming the throne of God in prayer for this situation – then why do we have so much time to find every spot of failure in others – escpecially other brothers and sisters in christs – lives? Just a thought …. being convicted myself.

  2. In a great turn of irony, I am going to link a MH website for 10 Things Forgiveness Is Not: http://marshill.com/2010/09/27/10-things-forgiveness-is-not

    The 10 things they highlight are:
    1. Forgiveness is not approving or diminishing sin.
    2. Forgiveness is not enabling sin.
    3. Forgiveness is not denying a wrongdoing.
    4. Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology.
    5. Forgiveness is not forgetting.
    6. Forgiveness is not ceasing to feel the pain.
    7. Forgiveness is not a onetime event.
    8. Forgiveness is not neglecting justice.
    9. Forgiveness is not trusting.
    10. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.

    In that light, “not a mars hill member”, one could say that Jim might be criticized for using a broader definition of forgiveness than Mars Hill, but at least per the terms Mars Hill has set, forgiveness isn’t blind acceptance of a private claim of repentance. There are still consequences even if you have forgiven someone.

    You stated: “…the way I see it is that if Pastor Mark repents and calls it by name – and I think that can happen in a private meeting and doesn’t need to be from the pulpit…”

    That thought is a direct contradiction to 1 Timothy 5:20-21. If Mark were not an “Elder”, he certainly could have private reconciliation and that would be scriptural. However, if he adopts the mantle of an “Elder”, he accepts that his rebuke will be public, not private. His rebuke is for the sake of everyone, to serve as a warning of the higher standard that those who would take on the mantle of Elder are held to. So either Mark is not an Elder, and he is not qualified to preach or teach, or he is an Elder, and the rebuke of his sinful behavior will be public, and also disqualify him from preaching or teaching.

  3. Hi Nate,

    thanks for that post. You said “There are still consequences even if you have forgiven someone.” True that.
    So sorry if that came accross as if I said there arent any. To quote myself just a few sentences later ” repentance means to turn from those cruced ways that were repented of”. It just threw me of that Jim put the condition “as long as he is fired or removed or resigns from his role of influence in the church” on his forgiveness, when he isn’t even in the church or serves as an overseer for the church in a network or such. If MarsHill would be his home church then I would understand but in that case?

    It’s true that some things have to be adressed publicly, but even there there is the question of what is public, right? As far as I see it – I may be wrong – is that Paul here writes to Timothy. To a local church. That letter was meant to be passed around but the situation here that he speaks to is the local church. And each church the letter was passed to took it also for their own church. So It is correct that 1 Timothy 5:20 says “rebuke and admonish them in the presence of all” but it isn’t speaking of doing it online on Facebook. If some Pastors will choose such a form that is ok and their choice. The way I understand Paul here is though that that may happen on a Sunday or other church meeting. Today it might happen on “OnTheHub” (that online network that Mars Hill uses for only Mars Hill members). In the beginning of that sentence it says, though, “As for those who are guilty and persist in sin” … so the questions is really if he persists to do the same things.
    I’m not a member and don’t attend MarsHill – neither does Jim speaking from his post – so I can just listen to the sermons and see if a change happend. And just from the tone he uses today and the more caution that he treats a subject with compared to 2006 I think he’s changed.
    But it is correct that he may be – if those accousations against him are true – disqualified to pastor and can only return if the changes his way of life and sets a new pattern. But all those things should not be desided by outside people who like to blog and rant or get together for the sake of protesting leaders. That should be decided by the other elders and overseer of that church. In my opion.

    Looking at the context verse 24 here stands as a sign for all of us “The sins of some men are conspicuous (openly evident to all eyes), going before them to the judgment [seat] and proclaiming their sentence in advance; but the sins of others appear later [following the offender to the bar of judgment and coming into view there].”

    So I think we need to be watchful for our own hearts and be a help to our local pastors. And what good does it do now to – especially as an outsider – critize Mark Driscoll or MarsHill online? Will it build up the kingdom of God? Will it help reconsile when every little detail is brought up and rolled out to the max? We can learn from those, yes. But if we desire to do that we should rephrase those posts.

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