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.