This post is the continuation of Part One: Mark Driscoll’s Church Discipline Contract.
After receiving a “church discipline contract” from Pastor X, Andrew offered no response for a week. This was intentional. One of Andrew’s friends was getting married and since he wanted to make sure he could attend the wedding, keeping his response under wraps until after the ceremony was necessary.
“I worked security,” Andrew tells me. “And so, I witnessed unwanted visitors being escorted off the property all the time. I wasn’t going to risk missing my friend’s wedding.”
A day or so after watching his friend get married, Andrew responded with the following email.
After extensive prayer and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that Mars Hill is not the place that God has for me to be right now. Therefore, I respectfully decline your help in this next stage of my life. I will not be returning to [name of community group leader’s] CG, and will not be attending Mars Hill anymore. Thank you for your continued prayers.
I asked Andrew, “Why did you decline to sign the contract?”
“Because I felt that the contract was legalistic, voyeuristic, and controlling. I felt like it was putting them in the place of God, determining when my heart was right or repentant enough. I didn’t want that.”
“Andrew, before you received the contract, did you feel like you were already walking in repentance?”
“Yes. I knew that I needed help. I knew that I’d done wrong, which is why I brought what I’d done into the light.”
Pastor X responded to Andrew’s email:
If this is your decision, you need to know you are leaving as a member under discipline not as a member in good standing. What this means is Matthew 18 discipline we discussed in our last meeting will be escalated, as there has not been enough time to determine if in fact you are walking in repentance. It is communicating to [name of community group leader] and me that you are unwilling to follow the leaders of your church who have determined you have been in sin and that time will be needed to determine if you are in fact walking in repentance.
[Paragraph mentioning Andrew’s ex-fiancee edited out by Matthew Paul Turner]
If this is your final decision, you will also need to know this will not be our final communication as this is not an instance where you can walk away from the mess you have helped create and leave many issues unaddressed.
Please let me know if this is in fact your final decision as we will need to know how to best remain in follow up communication.
Andrew hasn’t responded to the pastor’s email. “Toward the end, their desire to control me sort of felt out of control. It’s like they believe that they have some power over me.”
A week or so after that final communication with the Mars Hill pastor, Andrew learned via a phone call with a good friend (a member of Mars Hill Church) what exactly Pastor X meant when he said that Matthew 18 discipline would be “escalated.”
During the conversation, Andrew’s friend mentioned something about “A letter”.
“A letter?” said Andrew. “What letter? I know nothing about it.”
Andrew’s friend informed him that a letter addressed to Mars Hills members had been posted on The City, which is described on Mars Hills’ website as “Mars Hill Church’s online network. Rather than encouraging virtual community, the purpose of The City is to enhance actual relationships within the church…” Andrew described The City to be like “Facebook for Mars Hill members.”
Mars Hill had blocked Andrew’s access to The City. Andrew’s friend copy and pasted the letter (in its entirety) and emailed it to Andrew.
The following is the content of the letter in its entirety.
**UPDATE**A source close to the situation informed me that 1) this letter is real and that it’s posted at The City and 2) that it was sent to a select membership of the Mars Hill Ballard campus. The number of people who received the letter was not available. Please know that I will update this page any time new information that is relevant to this post becomes available.**
(Editor’s note: Names edited out by Matthew Paul Turner).
[scribd id=79241578 key=key-gzjuyp5zj8y3svwzckx mode=list]
That’s a mouthful, huh?
Where do I even begin? Honestly, this letter speaks for itself in my opinion. The harsh heavy-handed “theology”. The misuse of scripture to validate their reasoning. The carefully worded instructions on what to say, how to act, etc. The term “gospel shame”? The assumptions that their decisions are to be viewed equal to God’s decisions. At times, this letter comes off like the Roman Catholic church during the Dark Ages.
We discuss Mark Driscoll a lot at this blog. His sermons. His theology. His sexist rants. His rage against Avatar. His sincere love for hell. And all of those topics are valid for discussion, disagreeing, and sometimes poking fun at.
But this letter offers a view of how Mars Hill manages their congregation, how they seek to control the words of people, how they manipulate scripture and use it push their rhetoric.
Do they truly believe that they’re the only church on the planet who can help Andrew engage a pathway toward restoration? Is the Mark Machine really that arrogant? That narrow-minded? That narcissistic?
Listen, I know what it feels like to get kicked out of a church. My family went through that in the early 90s. But even that little church of people on the Eastern Shore of Maryland didn’t seek to control how members were to treat us (though most of them knew how to do that on their own).
Mars Hill has been called an abusive environment by many. But “gospel shame”?
When I first read this letter, I was sitting in Starbucks, and I was shaking. Shaking because I was hurting for Andrew. And too, I was shaking because I was so angry that somebody (heck, a lot of somebodies–not just Mark) would use the words and messages of Jesus in such away.
And if this is how they plan to treat Andrew–as an “unbeliever”? How in the world do they treat people who really are non-Christian? (And not to mention the fact that Jesus hung out with Gentiles, tax-collectors, etc.)
Fine. If they don’t want Andrew to be a member of their church, take his name off the list! But this? I mean, seriously, did any of this letter, except for perhaps the “heavy heart”, infer that Mars Hill loves Andrew? Oh I know they think their actions represent love. But really, many of us have experienced firsthand that kind of “love,” and we know very well that it’s an abuse of the term.
I honestly wouldn’t wish this so-called “gospel shame” on Mark Driscoll, let alone somebody I know personally, somebody I’m called to love, somebody I am hoping to help restore.
And you know what’s sad? Many (not all) of Andrew’s friends (from Mars Hill) are “obeying” the advice in this letter. While every one of them has implied that they believe Mars Hill is completely out of line and blowing this out of proportion, they all end up using some variation of the words that Mars Hill told them to say.
Do you think that makes Andrew want to rejoin Mars Hill? Oh, trust me, he’s heart broken. A part of him aches every single time he hears or sees those words.
But he’s also free. And being free, especially in the beginning, is never easy. But in time, as his spirit gets used to living without chains, the love of God will refill Andrew.
And though he knows that the road ahead is not going to be easy, Andrew also knows that God is with him on the journey. “And I’m going to see a counselor. Cuz this hurts, and I don’t want to walk through it alone.”
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