Those who know me and have regularly read my blog, know that I am not a Mark Driscoll fan. I was first introduced to the popular Seattle mega church pastor when Rachel Held Evans posted a reaction to his sermon series on Esther in 2012. I was astounded to read that a well known pastor would equate Esther to a contestant on the Bachelor, stating “Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions. Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women.” His gross misinterpretation of a story of God’s providence by using a minority, captive, powerless woman to save an entire people group and his blatant ignorance of the time, place, and culture that limited Esther’s choices to death or sexual slavery (if that can even be described as a choice), inspired my reaction of throwing a Purim party with my friends to celebrate Esther.
After this initial introduction to Driscoll, I began to recognize his name more and more as a boisterous and charismatic leader of the mega church Mars Hill in Seattle. His controversial statements about women, leaped gleefully over the line of misogyny and raced headlong into the obscene (see Libby Anne’s analysis of him calling women “penis homes“). Additionally concerning was his intentional rewriting of the bylaws of the church and the shunning of those who disagreed with him, and blatant spiritual abuse causing those who have left the church to have support pages such as Mars Hill Refuge and Joyful Exiles.
In the last month, his autocracy has slowly crumbled as his extremely offensive writings under pseudonym William Wallace II were published online, Acts 29 (a church planting group he helped found) broke their association with him, and nine pastors of his church called for him to step down and submit to the discipleship of a mature pastor, Dr. Paul Trip who stated of Mars Hill “This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve
ever been involved with” (Eight of the nine pastors who signed the letter are now no longer employed at Mars Hill).
I watched his online statement when he stepped down for six weeks with hopes that perhaps he was finally to the point of having a change of heart and would be submitting to the eldership of his church. His statement was emotional and captivating. He did apologize at one point but I was disappointed that he never stated he was submitting to eldership or leadership or discipleship of any kind.
I am surprised by my feelings about his church crumbling and his stepping down for the time being. I am saddened by Driscoll’s inability to be humble enough to have strong people of faith hold him accountable. He is a talented and engaging speaker and much of what has happened to precipitate these scandals could have been prevented if he had submitted to oversight of more mature people and accountability and transparency to church as a whole. I am heartbroken for the large community of believers who suffered spiritual abuse at Mars Hill. I am saddened that a large community of believers is now rocked by scandal, rumors, and resignations. I know from first hand experiences that resignations and scandals in the church are deeply hurtful to the members of the church, causing difficulty in trusting any church body.
While I mourn with Mars Hill community, I also pray for their regeneration, to build a stronger church in the years to come. I hope for a church with transparency, openness, equality, humble and accountable leaders, and I hope that Mark Driscoll can use the next six weeks to seek humility and openness to input of other’s into his life. While it may seem impossible, I know that I serve a redeemer who can make all things new.