In the aftermath of what happened on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut
at Sandy Hook Elementary School, all of us are asking questions. As I’ve
watched this horrific story unfold, amid outbursts of tears and
sadness, my mind has also been overwhelmed with a multitude of thoughts
that begin with the words why, how, where, and what. Senseless violence
should make us ask questions. It’s necessary for us to process these
types of happenings with a solemn-filled curiosity for how things should
be, could be, would be if…
And that’s where the questions begin
to overwhelm us. Because our answers to the questions don’t always
match. And because some of us are more fearful of the answers than we
are of the questions. Many of think that there are no answers. And let’s
face it; seeking answers to our questions can be exhausting because
often the search for answers only leads to more questions. And it’s easy
to get lost in the questions.
As a person of faith, a couple of
the questions I keep asking myself are these: In light of the Newtown
tragedy, how can America’s evangelical churches help to challenge and
change our culture’s violent trend? And if we really want to help, are
the doctrines and beliefs that we promote relevant or helpful to being a
part of the solution?
Big questions, I know. But we’re used to
asking big questions. Asking big questions is what we do. How we answer
those big questions defines who we are and how useful we can become in
helping pave a more peaceful future.
Which is why, right now, amid
the pain, confusion, and heartbreak that our country is feeling and
processing, we (as in America’s evangelical churches) should be asking
lots of questions. And we should be asking these questions now, while
we’re still in the emotional shadows of Friday’s shooting.
the list of questions we should be considering is long and tedious, here
are four inquiries that I believe should be on every evangelical
1) Does our current approach and understanding of mental health issues promote true (and proven) wellness and healing?
many evangelical churches have made great strides in how they talk
about and help those with mental health problems, the sad fact is that
many churches still approach the topic of mental health with archaic
understandings of the issues at hand and often treat subjects as being
spiritually sick as opposed to being mentally sick. In some evangelical
churches, those who counsel church members are often untrained and too,
unable to recognize (let alone diagnose and treat) many or most mental
health concerns. Spiritual methods of treatment have their place, but
this is only true if the church counselors rendering such methods are
trained, licensed, and realize their limitations.
If a church
wants to become a part of a solution, it must assess how it currently
handles situations involving the mentally ill. This includes its
approach to counseling and its preferred treatment methods. In some
churches, its doctrine or statement of faith disregards the science of
mental health mental and the use of medications as treatment.
evangelical churches desire to become a part of a solution to curb
violence in our culture, we need to change (update) how our we approach
mental health and wellness. And that includes becoming educated,
realizing our limitations, and working in conjunction with medical
communities in helping people find healing.
2) Are we pro gun to a fault?
too many evangelical churches promote the freedom to bear arms like
it’s mentioned in the Beatitudes. And in case you’re wondering, it isn’t
mentioned in the Beatitudes. Supporting the Second Amendment is one
thing, rallying for the freedom to purchase and own assault rifles is
quite another. Over the last few days, some of the loudest, and most
obnoxious “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” rants have come
from the mouths of conservative evangelicals. Being pro “gun control”
does not equal being “anti gun”.
When the Second Amendment was
written, its author–James Madison–never expected that people would be
able to own and operate guns with the ability to shoot 100 rounds or
more. The guns Madison owned shot once and then needed reloading, which
wasn’t an easy process. That’s a far cry from the gun that was used to
kill 26 people on Friday.
Many of us in the evangelical
communities treat the Second Amendment like it’s one of the Ten
Commandments. And there’s simply no theological rhyme or reason for our
love affair for guns. No, gun control is not the complete answer. Very
few believe it is. But putting limitations on gun ownership is a part of
the answer. And we in the evangelical church–even those of us who hunt
or own shotguns–should rally behind this (or at the very least, not
rally against it).
America is far too fascinated with guns. And
sadly, most evangelical churches have aided in helping create and
promote our gun-loving culture.
And if we truly put our trust in
God as opposed to things like chariots, horses, or automatic assault
rifles, then why are so many of us a part of churches that promote “God
& Guns” as if the two entities are equals?
3) Are we equipped for helping “the outcasts”?
few people who have spoken about their knowledge of Adam Lanza describe
him using words like “shy”, “a loner”, “quiet”, and “troubled”. One
person I heard interviewed used the word “ordinary”. How many people do
you know in your church who could be described using the same words as
those that have been used to describe Adam? While the majority of shy,
quiet, ordinary, troubled loners never even think about committing a
multiple murder, I can’t help but think about all of the Adam-like
people I’ve known in my life.
Most of the loners I’ve known, I’ve
met in a church. I suppose this is true because people come to church
hoping to find peace, community, help, and love. Oftentimes, the loners I
know would stick around for six months or so and then disappear.
loner I knew was named Don. Like Adam is described, Don was a strange
bird, rarely fit in with the other kids in the youth group, and had a
fascination with war, guns, and killing things. After leaving for
college, I lost touch with Don. In fact, I mostly forgot about him (or
didn’t think about him) for nearly 18 years. Three years ago I found one
of his siblings on Facebook. And at some point I asked about Don. “Oh,”
his sister said, sighing, “Don committed suicide in 2006.”
I gasped. Because that’s what you do when you learn news like that. But sadly, I wasn’t surprised. I was sad. But not surprised.
we (the evangelical church) good at helping outcasts? We’re often great
at helping jocks and princesses plug in. But what about the unpretty,
unpopular, unfriendly few? Can our gospel help them? And my question is
serious. Because even though most outcasts will never commit murder or
suicide, most evangelical churches aren’t known for helping the loners
find hope. In fact, we often suck at it.
A few years ago I was
speaking with a youth pastor friend of mine about his ministry goals. He
said, “I try to reach the popular kids first. Because popular kids help
me reach other kids.”
That got me thinking. How many of our
evangelical programs are set up with the “popular” in mind? How many
outcasts slip through the system because reaching them doesn’t earn more
attendees and is usually time consuming?
So again, consider the question: Are we equipped to reach our culture’s loners?
4) Are we actively pursuing being people of peace?
churches use the word “peace” a lot, especially around holidays like
Christmas and Easter. But do we pursue peace? Do we promote peace? Do we
believe that peace is a possibility?
Peace is one of those ideals
that evangelical churches love to talk about but often struggle to know
how to define it, create it, or engage it? (It’s sort of like “hope” in
a lot of ways–we are great at talking about it, but are somewhat
clueless when it comes to knowing how to “live it”.) And in regards to
peace, many churches seem to almost work against it.
heard one of Nashville’s evangelical pastors being interviewed on the
radio about the shooting. “What happened on Friday in Newtown is not
about guns! Liberals are going to try and use this to take all of our
guns away. But that’s crazy liberal logic!”
Many of his statements
were passive aggressive, involved finger pointing, or blamed Supreme
Court decisions from the 1960s. But what struck me more than anything
was how unpeaceful his words sounded. Most of his statements didn’t
promote unity or care, but rather sounded as if he was on one side and
the audience he was talking about was on the other.
help but compare what the pastor said to what I heard a local rabbi say
the day before. “Events like these should encourage us to reflect on our
own lives… to shed light on how we might change to help bring peace to
our corners of the world.”
Some evangelical churches need to
realign themselves with the words of Christ, words that push us to be
peacemakers. Too often, rather than being in a position of peacemaking,
we evangelicals make statements and take stands that create more
scenarios where a peacemaker is necessary.
Americans are asking a
lot of questions. Yes, some of the questions are being sparked by
emotions, but that doesn’t make them any less relevant or needed. These
questions will hopefully lead to a national conversation regarding the
widespread violence that seems to be trending in our culture.
all Americans, those of us who belong to evangelical churches are
brokenhearted over what occurred in Newtown. May our broken hearts lead
us to ask the difficult questions. But as our tears dry, will we be
brave enough to begin framing together honest answers to the questions
we have asked?
Because evangelical churches can (and must) play a
role in helping stop this current trend of violence in our culture. But
before many of us can be a part of the solution, we must first assess
how the beliefs, doctrines, and practices of our churches might be a
part of the problem.
We must ask hard questions.
We must be brave enough to seek out the answers.
And then, where necessary, we must make changes.
Because we may or may not be a part of the problem, but we can most definitely work toward being a part of the solution.
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“Dear Matthew, I was one of the first people to be punished and ‘let go’ by Mark Driscoll (Mark) and his church’s leadership,” she wrote. “My now ex-husband and I were among the original Mars Hill members. We were a part of the ‘core group,’ the inner circle of the church, and great friends with Mark and his wife, Grace. We were close with the elders and their wives. And we both served within the church.”
Amy is one of nearly 100 former Mars Hill members who emailed me after Andrew’s story was posted. Something about her story stood out. The details. The history. The journey. She and I exchanged a few emails, mostly ones where I asked questions and she offered detailed answers.
I knew I wanted to share Amy’s story, but I didn’t feel like the timing was right until now.
In 1996, when Amy was twenty-years-old, she moved to Seattle. Tired of life in a small town and wanting a change in scenery, she says she threw a dart at a map of the United States (literally) and on the following weekend, clothes packed in a laundry basket and $400 in her pocketbook, moved to the grunge capital of the world.
After only a month, she officially hated Seattle–“mostly the climate,” she says–and was considering a move to the southwest. But that didn’t happen. Before she was able to plan her escape out of Washington State, a Seattle acquaintance introduced her to a man. He was seven years older than her, a musician who played in a Christian band, and three weeks after their first meeting, he became Amy’s fiancé.
“We were young and clueless,” she says, “we got caught up in a whirlwind mutual infatuation.”
In August, a month or so after they were engaged, that young infatuated couple became husband and wife.
That fall, two months after they were married, the same acquaintance who introduced the couple, invited them to attend Mars Hill Church.
“Our first time visiting was right when Mars Hill was launching,” Amy says.
After a few visits, they became members.
“We were one of the church’s core members right from the start. The church didn’t even have a building. We joined when it was meeting at Mark and Grace’s home.”
Prior to becoming involved at Mars Hill Church, Amy’s church experience was limited.
“My mother sporadically took my brother and me to a non-denominational church,” she says. “I attended a few youth group events. I did occasionally go through times when I tried to live up to the standards that I saw in some of my peers, but I don’t remember having a genuine interest in church.”
According to Amy, she and her husband were in agreement about joining Mars Hill. “We didn’t feel hesitant or uneasy about anything,” she says. “To me it seemed like a social club with some ‘Jesus’ thrown in. I admit that I was naive at the time, but I sensed no red flags.”
Amy also genuinely liked Mark. “My first impressions were all positive. He was funny, quick-witted, a bit of a smart-ass–all qualities that I can appreciate. He seemed to be a solid ‘dude’–hip, pop-culturally aware, and down-to-earth. And I thought he was an excellent speaker. In the beginning, his teaching style was engaging. He wasn’t intimidating or insulting. It was nothing like his style today.”
In that first email, Amy wrote that Mars Hill became her only social exposure.
Can you explain what you mean by that?
Well, nearly every aspect of my life was connected to Mars Hill. My friendships. My free time. Everything.
Tell me about your friendships.
Before joining Mars Hill, I had never been the type of person to have close girlfriends, but I developed so many wonderful friendships with the other “wives”. (Amy now groans using the word “wives” in its “Mars Hill” context.) And these women were people that I trusted, that I relied upon. I never questioned their sincerity. We went through our first pregnancies together. We threw baby showers for each other. We were a part of each others’ lives on a daily basis.
Were you friends with Mark?
Mark was my husband’s friend and leader for the most part. But Mark knew me well. We were close enough that he felt comfortable throwing out a one-liner or telling an off-colored joke around me. Foul language was used regularly, even around me. Sometimes it felt like I was one of the guys. That was one of the things that made him seem like a real person, imperfect and relatable. I didn’t mind it at all.
How about Grace?
Grace and I were never the closest of friends. To be honest, I always felt a little like the “lesser wife” around her. So I didn’t really confide in her. I had other women in my life that I shared things with. Grace and I hung out alone on occasion and I admired her devotion to being a supportive wife. She was extremely submissive! But after years of knowing Mark and Grace, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was as happy as they advertised. Because slowly, over the years, Mark’s controlling “head of household” ways came alive.
My husband and I never felt pressure to have Mark and Grace’s attention. Because honestly, we had it all the time. My husband was well-known because he was a musician in a Christian band and that gave us a little bit of priority in Mark’s eyes. On many occasions I heard Mark bragging to church visitors about my husband being a member of the worship team.
Though Amy and her husband seemed to adjust well to life at Mars Hill, at home, the couple was struggling to adjust to each other.
“The truth just sort of hit us about three months after our wedding. I think that’s when both of us realized that we had made a terrible mistake.
Amy’s quick to admit that their marital mistake was their own fault. “I was married to a stranger, and so was he,” she says.
However, she also says that they both tried to make things work. “Both of us wanted to be the ‘godly married couple.’ And I think both of us really tried to be the kind of husband and wife that Mark often preached about from behind the pulpit.”
Mark’s sermons played a pretty major factor in the breakdown of their marriage. Amy says that Mark’s preaching, both stylistically and thematically, changed significantly during her time there. Mark began sermonizing more and more about the roles of men and women in the home, using his words to empower men to rule over their households, and encouraging women to remain quiet, submissive, and above all, serve their husbands.
“My husband was always pretty stubborn,” says Amy, “but Mark’s preaching made that part of his personality worse. He most definitely felt empowered by Mark to rule over me. I experienced that more and more the longer we were married. The church encouraged it. And my resentment toward that grew over the years.”
Amy says that she and her husband felt a great deal of pressure to be that couple that Mark preached about. Much of that pressure came after they began going to Mars Hill’s marriage counseling.
“About a year after we joined Mars Hill, we began meeting with elders and sometimes deacons about our marriage problems. Usually that involved dinner with a member of church leadership and then after eating, we moved into the living room for ‘the talk’.”
During those talks Amy often felt invisible. “Mostly because I was the wife,” she says, “a woman, the ‘weaker vessel.’ Because I was a woman, my opinions and complaints fell on deaf ears. But my husband’s opinions and complaints, however, were always heard. Any complaint he’d make, I was told that I needed to repent. Often I’d leave those sessions feeling depressed and angry, feeling like a child because I’d been reprimanded for not being an obedient wife.”
Mark also counseled the couple. During one of those sessions, Amy remembers Mark saying, “Hey guys, tough shit. It’s too late now. You made a choice to get married. Get it together.” That “tough it out” sentiment, Amy says, was often the advice they received from many members of church leadership, not just Mark.
“Once, when I shared with Mark that I felt neglected in my marriage, he told that I was being a nagging wife and that I needed to suck it up. That was something Mark preached about a lot–the nagging wife.”
Not living up to Mars Hill’s marital standards had emotional consequences, at least for Amy. “I felt a lot of guilt and fear, fear of disappointing the leadership or failing our other married friends. Sometimes I’d go through long periods of deep depression.”
One of the bigger obstacles to their marriage working, at least within the confines of Mars Hill’s standards, was Amy and her inability to become like the other wives at Mars Hill. “The longer I was there, the more I realized that I didn’t share the same ideals as those leading the church. I didn’t fit into their ‘wife mold’.”
What was it about your personality that didn’t fit Mars Hill’s so-called “wife mold”?
I spoke up too much. I wasn’t, according to them, “obedient”. I had opinions. Listen, I tried all the time to fit into that mold–you have no idea–but it wasn’t me. I couldn’t do it and I didn’t. I couldn’t just put my head down and remain silent. I was called “fiery” and “feisty” all the time, and I’ll admit, I am fiery and feisty. But that’s just me, a hot blooded Italian, I guess.
But I’m sure you weren’t the only married woman at Mars Hill who spoke up?
I was the only woman I knew who spoke up. All of the wives I knew followed along. They didn’t dare speak out. But that wasn’t me. I’ve always had a little dark streak–not a “mean spirited” streak–I’ve just always had a darker sense of humor. I like a little shock value here and there. I have tattoos and dark features. I’m also a fairly accomplished artist (she’s a painter of abstract and modern types of work on canvas. And today, she’s internationally known) and have always had a tendency to be more free-thinking.
And that was considered wrong?
Yes. I was often made to feel that, because I am different, I was living in sin and not conforming, that I wasn’t being obedient in my role as a wife. Over and over again, I was told that I was the problem, that I needed to submit, and “get my shit together”.
Amy and her husband’s marital unhappiness went on for years (the couple was married for eight-and-a-half years). At the time, leaving Mars Hill wasn’t an option. Her husband wouldn’t give it a second thought. And Amy’s unhappiness grew.
“I felt trapped,” says Amy, “And the guilt from our circle of friends at Mars Hill was unreal, sometimes oppressive.”
Amy says that she and her husband discussed the possibility of leaving each other on several occasions throughout the years.
“We hashed over getting a divorce for years,” Amy says, “but then the fear, guilt, and pressure would take over and we’d end up staying together.”
On one occasion in 2001, during a time when Amy struggled to become pregnant, she confesses that she’d almost conjured up the courage to ask her husband for a divorce. “I knew it would be better to do it before I got pregnant.”
But then, out of the blue, Amy found out that she was already two months pregnant.
“I’ll never forget what my husband said when I told him. He was standing in the bathroom doorway. I said, ‘I’m pregnant’. He hung his head and said, ‘Well, I guess we better try and make it work.'”
Just about twelve months later, Amy became pregnant again.
Amy adores being a mother, but she also admits that those first years of motherhood were some of the most difficult days of her life.
“I was knee-deep in diapers for 3-4 years at home alone. I totally lost my identity and grew even more depressed. I lost myself and felt, not only stifled, but undeniably trapped in my circumstances and surroundings. It was my only reality and I literally feared I couldn’t survive much longer because mentally I was downtrodden and unheard, it was unbearable and I knew I couldn’t go anymore. I felt like such a chronic failure compared to the ‘wives’ [at Mars Hill] and what Mark would preach I was supposed to do or be. I just couldn’t hit the marks he taught. And honestly, I started to see that I didn’t even want to.”
On numerous occasions, throughout their rocky marriage, Amy’s husband would confide to Mark about what was happening at home. On many of those occasions, Mark would summon them to his office for a talk. Amy admits that, toward the end, at a time when she describes her marriage as “in absolute shreds,” the whole “getting dragged into Mark’s office” routine was getting old. It happened so often that Amy began referring to Mark’s office as the principal’s office. “I felt like a ‘problem child’,” she says.
But Amy was wrong. She wasn’t a “problem child”, at least, not according to Mark Driscoll.
Amy learned what Mark really thought about her during one of those visits to the “principal’s office”.
This meeting took place in a private room at Mars Hill’s Earl Building**. It was only the three of them: Amy, her husband, and Mark. Amy was sitting beside her husband on a leather couch. They were facing Mark.
“Mark started the meeting by telling us he was convinced that I had demons,” says Amy, “and then he went on to add that my demons were ‘sexual demons’.”
Amy describes Mark’s demeanor toward her as a “fiery tirade”. During this encounter, Mark told Amy he believed that every one of her sins were “sex based.” He said that the demons inside her were out to destroy every one of the marriages in their circle of friends.
“At one point,” says Amy, “he asked me which one of my husband’s friends I had imagined sleeping with.”
Amy was dumbfounded by Mark’s questions and accusations. But she also admits, because she no longer trusted Mark, she was also slightly terrified of what was about to happen. (NEED PROOF? Mark “Sees Things”)
“A part of me didn’t give a damn what Mark was saying or what he proclaimed as ‘truth,'” says Amy, “because by that time I was already one foot out the door and I wasn’t buying what Mark was selling. But then there was a part of me that was also pretty spooked.”
Mark then announced that he would be performing an exorcism. Amy says that was the word he used.
“Mark began the exorcism by praying a prayer of protection against Satan and anything else that was not of God. And he asked for a ‘shield’ to cover us.”
Right before he started the exorcism, Mark told Amy that he would be asking the demons very specific pointed questions. “He told me that it would feel like a normal conversation.”
Mark stared hard at Amy and began yelling questions at her “sex demons”. His fierce glare seemed to look past her as he screamed his questions at her face. He asked the demons what their names were. He asked them about sex. He asked them about Amy’s past sexual sins. He asked them about Amy’s current lustful thoughts. He asked them if they were planning to destroy marriages in his church. And then he asked whose marriages were they planning to destroy and how.
And then, according to Amy, Mark cast the demons out.
So, was Mark right? Did it feel like a normal conversation?
No. Not at all.
Why do you think Mark claimed that your “demons” were “sexual”?
It’s always his go-to topic. Ironically, my husband had more “demons” than one could imagine. But his demons were of no consequence and unimportant to the church. It was somehow my fault because “maybe I wasn’t the godly, providing wife” I was supposed to be.
That said, Mark was also aware that my husband and I had sexual troubles from day one. And regarding our sex life–because I was essentially grinning and bearing it most of the time–Mark concluded that I was a terrible wife to my husband. Even when my husband looked at porn, Mark blamed me because I wasn’t doing my “wifely duty”. I felt violated when sex was expected of me. I was intensely miserable and neglected throughout my marriage, but Mark deemed that irrelevant because I was the wife and my duty was to serve my husband sexually.
Of course, I had my own “sin” just like anyone else and I was open about it. I was frank and transparent about it. But my sin had nothing to do with sex and did not have anything to do with why I didn’t want to stay in my situation. Mark didn’t have a clue about what was in my head or in my heart.
Do you think Mark just made that part up?
I think Mark obsesses about sex. I know that many have debated whether or not Mark has an underlying issue related to sex and lust. I think that debate is valid because it is absolutely one of his core focuses. In my opinion, Mark projected his issues onto me when he told me that I had sex demons. I think he has a problem. Even when I called Mark my friend, I always found it odd how he would force sexual topics into sermons and into all of our counseling sessions.
How did your husband respond to the “exorcism”?
He was sold–hook, line and sinker. I think he felt exonerated. It was like his sins had been wiped clean because Mark Driscoll said that his wife was just chock full of demons.
How did you feel afterward?
I just wanted to hightail it out of that room as fast as I could. I was emotionally drained. I felt like I’d experienced psychological torture. I felt like an experiment.
**UPDATE**According to Mars Hill, Mark performed a “Spiritual Warfare Trial” (a definition and instructions for a Spiritual Warfare Trial can be found here, toward the bottom of the page). They also deny using the word “exorcism”.**
A few weeks later, in the spring of 2005, Amy woke up one Saturday morning and told her husband that she wanted a divorce. Her husband delivered the news to Mark in person. Amy says that, upon hearing the news, Mark once again summoned her and her husband to his office.
During that encounter, Amy says that Mark told her that she was no longer welcome at Mars Hill. However, Mark also told her that if she was ever “repentant” and desired to reach out to anyone that she should send a letter. “He assured me that my letter would be ‘accepted’ with a soft heart.”
A few days after that last meeting with Mark, Amy picked up the phone and called her best friend. When her friend answered, she told Amy that she was no longer allowed to have any contact with her and that she needed to hang up the phone.
“She was my closest friend for eight years. I’ve never heard from her since.”
Amy learned later that Mars Hill’s church leadership had instructed members that they were not allowed to have any contact with her.
“According to them, I was in sin. Being shunned shocked me. I wasn’t told that was going to happen. And it was devastating. A lot of lies got told about me. And the gossip was terrible.”
When the silence and loneliness of being shunned became too great to handle, Amy sat down and wrote six letters and stuck them in the mail. “I sent one of them to Grace,” says Amy. And then she waited. And waited. And waited.
She’s still waiting for one of those six women to respond.
Amy says that no one from Mars Hill has ever attempted to reach out to her.
“I guess they still think of me as a bad girl. Or perhaps I’m still being shunned or maybe I’m dead to them. But there’s one difference: I don’t care anymore. I stopped caring several years ago.”
Do you feel as though you’ve recovered from this experience?
Yes. But that took a long time. The abuse I experienced at Mars Hill had very damaging repercussions that lasted many, many years. Being shunned is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to go through. But I’m definitely a different, stronger person now because of it. I love my kids. They keep me alive and they adore me. They are such protective and compassionate people. And they are my world.
How is your relationship with your ex-husband? Is he still a member at Mars Hill?
Yes. He’s still a member at Mars Hill. He remarried nine months after our divorce. Our relationship has been extremely bumpy since his remarriage. I can only assume the blow to his manly Mars Hill ego when I left has consumed him and he’s grown bitter roots that are there to this day.
Why did you decide to talk about your experience now?
I read some similar stories from others who came out of Mars Hill and I learned that there was such a thing as spiritual abuse. I decided that enough time has passed that I feel comfortable telling the truth about my own experience. I’m also very concerned for my children. They still have to go to this “church” with their father on the days that he has them. I fear what they are exposed to and, in fact, there have already been negative effects.
What are your thoughts regarding God now? Do you still consider yourself to be a Christian?
I consider myself agnostic, I suppose. I don’t think about it too often. I definitely do not consider myself a Christian/believer. And, in fact, I’m not certain whether I truly ever did. My experience with Jesus was, in my mind, really not even a true one. It was born out of guilt and forcing myself to fit into the Christian mold that, for many years, I tried desperately to fit into. I had no other life outside of the church life and no other options or escape so I felt compelled to cling onto it as long as I could. I had a hard time fitting in that pretty little Mars Hill box and I had a hard time swallowing the pill of Christianity.
My hope and prayer is that Amy will continue to find peace on her journey and that grace will shine brightly on the path ahead.
**Late yesterday, I notified Mars Hill Church’s publicity department that I was running this story and offered them an opportunity to comment along with a few questions. Initially, they were going to issue a statement, but later said they would wait to comment until they read the story. They also directed me to this sermon series by Mark Driscoll.
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.”