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A few thoughts on Mark Driscoll’s Resignation

Mark Driscoll resigned today from the pastorate of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Driscoll has been embattled in several controversies over the past year including allegations of plagiarism, verbal abuse of staff. For the past several weeks he had been on a leave of absence while a small group of Mars Hill leaders investigated a long list of charges brought against him by many former church pastors, elders, members, and staff.

Driscoll’s resignation is he latest blow to a church already staggering under the recent closure of several campuses and the resignations of many other pastors and staff.

I will continue to pray for Driscoll, his family, and the many people who have been hurt by his words and actions over the past years. I hope this can be the first step in a process of healing and reconciliation for all concerned.

That might be a good place to stop this post, and yet there is more I think it’s worth saying. Perhaps you may think it uncharitable to say any more, but I think not. I get no pleasure out of Driscoll’s resignation, and want to hope that this is really his first step on the road to repentance. And yet to be as wise as serpents we should consider what he said as well as his actions.

Driscoll’s resignation letter is addressed to the Mars Hill board of investigation, but was clearly written with a broader audience in mind. In the letter Driscoll didn’t confess to anything that hadn’t been addressed before.

I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware. Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit.

A couple of thoughts here: first, that we are all imperfect messengers of the gospel. Which makes this a very non-specific confession of something that he doesn’t even identify as sin. Yes, he reiterates confession of ‘past’ pride, anger and a domineering spirit, but doesn’t address any of the multitude of very specific charges that have been levied against him. Second, he doesn’t address the plagiarism or the use of a quarter million dollars of church money to get his book on the NYT Bestseller List.

Driscoll still seems to be blaming others a lot for the situation:

many of those making charges against me declined to meet with you or participate in the review process at all.

And later:

Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family—even physically unsafe at times…

While these statements may be true, they seem to be deflecting attention from his faults and calling attention to his accusers. This hardly seems like a contrite spirit of repentance.

In addition, he says his resignation is not because he did anything wrong, but because “aspects of [his] personality and leadership style have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context” and it would be best “for the health of [his] family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside”.

He also emphasizes that there haven’t been any charges of anything criminal, [sexually] immoral, or heretical, which would disqualify him from ministry. The Mars Hill board who investigated him also state that he is still qualified for pastoral ministry. My question here is how the scope of qualification has been narrowed so far that only crime, sexual immorality, or heresy will disqualify you. Consider 1 Timothy 3:

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

This is a sobering text for anyone considering a call as an elder. But if we truly believe these are the qualifications for the office, Driscoll, by his own admission in many cases, is disqualified.

As a friend of mine noted, this move by Driscoll also allows him to leave on his own terms, and to suddenly place himself outside of any structure that could hold him accountable. (This, too, seems to have been a pattern of Driscoll’s over the years.)

It will be interesting to see what becomes of this situation over the coming months. This isn’t the end of difficulties at Mars Hill; there are still the Global Fund shenanigans to deal with that may yet bring additional charges. Will the neo-Reformed types who once championed but more recently distanced themselves from Driscoll take this opportunity to now declare him again fit for ministry and bring him back into the regular rotation of conferences and book deals? Or will there be a longer-term awareness that there is confession, repentance, healing, and reconciliation that needs to occur?

If you’ve read this far and think I’ve been unfair to Mark, take a few minutes and go read some of the other statements of confession that have come from Mars Hill pastors: Lief Moi, Jeff Bettger, Kyle Firstenberg… Then compare them in detail and tone to what Driscoll is saying. One of them is not like the others, and we should not be afraid to ask ourselves why.

Let’s continue to pray for the Mark Driscoll and his family, for Mars Hill Church, and for all those who have been affected, both positively and negatively, by Driscoll over the years. God’s heart is for grace, healing, and reconciliation. Ours should be, too.

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