Theology

Mark Driscoll’s resignation letter

You might have heard the news that broke just a little while ago– Mark Driscoll has officially resigned from being a pastor and elder of Mars Hill. This is exceedingly good news, and while I was not exactly joyful to hear it, I am hopeful that those who have been abused by Mark and the Mars Hill leadership can gain some hope and comfort from this. Mark Driscoll wasn’t the only problem at Mars Hill– no one becomes a spiritual abuser of thousands all by themselves– but he was the most visible example of misogynistic, abusive Christianity and I’m glad he’s gone.

For the moment.

Because he’ll be back.

However, that’s not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about a few things happening in Mark’s resignation letter that hopefully won’t be ignored in the flood of “see, everyone, now we need to forgive him and NEVER SPEAK OF THIS EVER AGAIN” posts that are probably coming. You can read the entire letter here, if you’d like, but there’s a few things about this letter that I think it’s important to highlight.

This appears in the third paragraph:

You have also shared with me that many of those making charges against me declined to meet with you or participate in the review process at all. Consequently, those conducting the review of charges against me began to interview people who had not even been a party to the charges.

The “You” there is “Board of Advisers and Accountability.” When I got to this section, at first I was a little puzzled why this was coming up in the middle of what was supposed to be a resignation letter, and then I remembered that this is not so much a resignation letter as much as it is a PR move on Mark’s part. It’s his attempt to continue controlling the narrative and what gets talked about as he leaves, and “these people who have forced me into this are cowards whose stories aren’t credible” is supposed to be one of the things he wants us all to bicker about.

Except most of the people who have “made charges against him” have done so publicly, with their names attached, and they have put an overwhelming amount of proof out there for anyone to review, including memos and e-mails. That whoever Mark is talking about didn’t feel particularly inclined to talk to a “Board of Advisers” isn’t at all surprising, especially when people like Paul Tripp resigned from it because it was incapable of actually addressing the issues at hand. Why would anyone abused by not just Mark Driscoll but an entire system set up to keep him in power ever want to talk to these people?

This is not a failure on the part of those who “declined to meet.” They’ve done more than their fair share of suffering in order to expose Driscoll and Mars Hill leadership, and “declining to meet” was probably the only option they had to protect their mental and spiritual well-being.

Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry.

This line made me laugh– a bitter and cynical and rueful laugh, because oh it’s just so … sad. What this line actually means is: well, nothing I did was actually ILLEGAL. If the best thing you have to say about your behavior is “well, I wouldn’t go to prison for it,” you have a problem.

But let’s talk about how he says he didn’t commit “heresy.” The fact that he doesn’t think his abusive behavior– and his plagiarism– is immoral is a problem all on its own, but that the Board decided he’d never taught anything heretical is revealing. Granted, I’m not one to bandy around the word “heresy”– but Mark’s tribe is. I mean, they pull out the “heretic!” when someone uses a feminine pronoun to describe God in a poem.

But Mark gets to call women “penis homes” and preach entire sermon series on how women should basically be nothing more than sex slaves to their husbands and … crickets.

And, to be blunt, that Mark’s and the Board’s standard is “don’t be convicted of anything illegal and don’t do anything heretical or immoral” is more than just a touch horrifying. It’s also troubling, because the “standard” that these people claim to adhere to doesn’t have “don’t do something illegal” as its baseline. The Acts 29 Network even has a whole article dedicated to the “Biblical Qualifications of a Pastor” (posted March 2010, when Mark was still in charge) and these items jumped out at me:

4. A Pastor must be humble – not arrogant (Titus 1:7)
5. A Pastor must be gentle – not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
7. A Pastor must be peaceful – not violent (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3)
16. A Pastor must be respectable (1 Tim 3:7)
17. A Pastor must be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3)

The Board of Advisers and Mark himself admitted to all the different ways Mark has not been any of these things– and some of these he even admitted to in the letter. He says that ” I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit.” The Board of Advisers said this:

We concluded that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner.

Mark is quite clearly saying my own articulation of the rules do not apply to me.

One of the last things he says in this letter, though, made me angry:

Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family—even physically unsafe at times—and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill.

I am not in Seattle, and I do not personally know the Driscolls. It is entirely possible that his family has received threats, even threats of physical violence. That would not surprise me at all, considering the things that Mark has done in an incredibly public way. Threats against his family are completely inexcusable and I will not justify them if they happened.

However, there is absolutely nothing in this letter that says “I am resigning as pastor because I have sinned against the people I was supposed to shepherd.” He never says that. He says a bunch of stuff about how the Board didn’t say he was disqualified to lead, and how the people accusing him are a bunch of untrusthworthy cowards, and how he’s leaving because it’s just not the best thing for him. This letter is dedicated to creating this image of a man who was persecuted out of being a pastor, and it makes me sick because that’s not what happened.

Mark is a misogynistic abuser who has spent well over a decade creating a church and staff that would enable his behavior, and this letter is nothing more than a continuation of that. It is insurance so that one day he can start another ministry and do it all over again.

Photo by Barret Anspach
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  • AW

    Yes to all of this. The whole thing screams narcissist – from the complete lack of pseudo-repentant language now that he’s resigning to the reminder that he is not disqualified from ministry to the spin that places him in a martyr’s role and points out how much he’s suffered.

    Personally, I’m reading between the lines over at the announcement on MHC website that this was not what they expected either. My guess is that when the Accountability Team met with MD, they gave him guidelines for changed behavior moving forward and Mark walked.

    I am sorry that his family has had to go through all of this, but unfortunately it will only probably continue for them. At least those at MHC have a chance to leave and start over.

    • I agree with you, AW, completely when you say that Mark Driscoll is a narcissist. A narcissist is never going to agree that they ever did anything wrong…their actions are ALWAYS justified (in their own twisted logic). I also want to point out that his explanations are created to make others feel sorry for him and to put the attention back on himself. He doesn’t need to be repentant, he was “falsely charged”…He doesn’t need to apologize, they didn’t go through the right channels or use the right protocols. Everyone needs to remember just how stressful this has been on him and his family…he’s even been unsafe at times!! Its all a set up to get and keep his own disciples…probably from current members of Mars Hill and some of his readers and etc. who will fall for it.

  • I feel for his wife and children who are trapped (because let’s face it, what options does Grace really have in this environment?). I am extremely thankful that he is no longer in control of this particular group of people, and I hope that it is a long time before he is granted control again, if ever (my cynical side says it will happen again).

  • Sam, if you are truly bitter or angry at Mark’s actions then don’t act like him. Your words are just as abusive as his. He messed up. He might still be messing up but this post does nothing to help the situation. All it does is create resentment in the hearts of readers towards another human being. It’s your blog and you have the right to do that but know a soft, grace-filled heart does not write a post like this. I appreciate your honesty and I understand your anger, but writing these words on a topic that is so humbling to the Church causes more harm. How you treat a person who messed up, and maybe still messes up exemplifies how you see yourself and how you believe God treats you and the rest of humanity.

    It’s easy to join the “let’s attack Mark Driscoll bandwagon,” but it’s tough to take our bitterness and anger to God, have him heal and then start praying for a man and his family we have never met personally. I’m battling with personal hurt too. I trusted Mark a lot and have lost a lot because of his actions, but I’m praying for him, his family and Mars Hill. Please be doing the same Sam.

    Respectfully,
    Zach

    • One day, someone who identifies as a religious conservative will use the word “bitter” and have it not be part of a general, “Stop criticizing him!” diatribe.

      This is not that day.

    • Hey Zach,

      I understand that this is coming from a well-meant place, but, honestly it’s a little … old.

      My words are not “just as abusive” as Mark Driscoll’s. He has sinned against many thousands of people and the church at large and his actions have demonstrated, consistently, that he does not care about that and has not repented. It is my responsibility as part of the Church to continue to call our leaders to account.

      I am not bitter. I am speaking the truth, and this truth is something worth being angry about.

      It is unfortunate that you think speaking the truth is “being divisive,” but that is something every single spiritual abuse survivor has heard a thousand times.

    • Abby Normal

      Dammit, how come EVERY SINGLE TIME someone rightfully criticizes an abusive church leader one of you guys shows up, with all your pathetic handwringing and your “but-but-but-what about ‘graaaaaaace’?” (And I’m sure the fact that your calling out a woman for failing to sound sufficiently “soft” is no accident.)

      Guess what, fella–Jesus Himself did not have nice, soft-hearted things to say to jerks who abused their flock and preyed on the weak. You want to keep abusive jerks in power? By all means, keep thinking of *their* feelings. Heaven forbid someone’s demand for justice come off as offensive.

      What you’re doing is tone policing. I suggest you google that and then think twice before you pull it again.

      • I should have known better than to respond to insecure and bruised feminist. I won’t make that mistake twice. But thanks for the insight.

        • Please read my comment policy before commenting again, Kris. Name calling won’t fly here.

        • Chris

          Love love LOVE chiding Samantha for being “nasty” before flinging labels at her.

        • Tim

          Kris, I read your comments below sharing your personal experience resigning from a church. I don’t discount your feelings, but they don’t necessarily give you unique insight into Driscoll’s situation which (I hope) is probably very different from yours. Your time will not be well-spent here focusing on tone vs substance. And it’s just not helpful to psychologize (i.e. “insecure”) the person you’re trying to have a conversation with. I’ve never yet seen the exchange where someone was told, “You’re only saying X because of your Y mental issues,” and then responded, “Holy cow! You’re right! I never thought of that!” But hope springs eternal, I guess.

    • Bri

      Fuck the word “bitter.”

      • Crystal

        So says I also!!

    • Hey Zach,

      I think I have a clue where your heart is at and that your intentions are good. However, and I mean this as respectfully as possible with much love, your comment indicates you have no clue about abuse or abuse dynamics. Don’t fret. You are not alone. Most Christians [and I am one as well] need to educate themselves in these areas. Abuse is not merely saying something or doing something perceived to be unkind or even mean. It is much more than that. At it’s core, abuse is always about a misuse of power (for example: financial power, physical power, spiritual, intellectual, age and maturity, etc.) and being that Sam is not in a position of power over Driscoll, her words can not be categorized as abusive. Also, abuse is a systematic pattern of behaviors that are driven by distorted beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts. Do you really see a parallel between Sam’s strong [yet truthful words] and Driscoll’s decades of abusive bullying behaviors?
      You have no difficulty discerning the state of Sam’s heart (“not soft, and grace filled” – and who set soft and grace-filled as the standard to aim for anyway?) from her one post, but somehow you do not see the twisting of God’s image and harm done to many created in God’s image, that Driscoll’s abuse has authored?
      Also, your comments imply that you assume she is bitter and angry and that if she is there is something wrong with that. If she is, does that make her point not true or valuable? Does her potential anger negate her words? I am sincerely curious, why bring up emotions at all?
      You wrote, “How you treat a person who messed up, and maybe still messes up exemplifies how you see yourself and how you believe God treats you and the rest of humanity.” I agree. This is why we need to love Driscoll in a way that causes him to confront his behaviors and offers him a true hope for transformation, not in a way that allows him to remain in his current condition. However, your words reminds me of the words of Lundy Bancroft, an expert in treating abusers. He said often people ally themselves with abusers by believing it is their responsibility to remind the victims and their advocates that the abuser is human too and deserves compassion. Yet, he notes the difficulty with this is that the abusers are the ones who forget their victim’s humanity. He states he has never worked with a victim who does not feel compassion for their abuser.
      Any thoughts?

    • Africaturtle

      “Your words are just as abusive as his”. This is completely false. But others further down have commented at length so i won’t add more. Only another voice to disagree… And say you need to educate yourself on the dynamics of abusive behavior.

    • KP

      Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy-Faye Bakker, Ted Haggard, etc., etc.
      Disgraced Christian leaders come back again and again precisely because well-meaning and good-hearted people like Zach choose to pay attention to the hurt experienced by the abuser rather than the hurt they willfully chose to dish out. I understand the forgiveness impulse, and I too like to think that people, no matter how horrible they have been, can change. But I choose to put them at the back of my own personal queue for any empathy (and trust me, that’s a long line), and, alas, I just don’t have the energy or mental resources to get to everybody. Redemption from committing such public and widespread abuse can’t help but take a lot of time. And in my opinion, this kind of change should *always* lead the disgraced leader to choose a form of redemption out of the limelight. No comeback tours, no confessional books, no new prominent pastoral position, and especially, no profiting off of your redemption narrative (monetarily or professionally).
      The forgiveness impulse for disgraced leaders, instead of helping them, very often leads to well-meaning Christians like yourself allowing only partially- or non-repentant abusers to get back into the positions of power that they crave, and that’s a far worse result than any criticism this one man will receive for a few days from random people on the internet who he’s never met.

    • Lee Hauser

      I have been exchanging posts on the Seattle subreddit with someone coming from some place close to this, who has been telling everyone we’re piling on, we shouldn’t judge, if we haven’t met him/heard him preach/read his writings we don’t really know him. My position has been that, as with every public figure, we know Mark Driscoll by his actions.

      Zach, I’m sorry about your pain, and the pain of others at MHC. I believe Mark Driscoll is wrong, but I don’t believe he’s evil. I also believe he’s unrepentant. And he does indeed deserve prayer…and to be held accountable for his actions.

    • tsig

      If god had done his job and struck this man down then we wouldn’t have to.

      • Tim

        God was doing his job through the agency of the Christians who confronted Driscoll. That’s pretty standard Christian teaching.

  • Glad I found your blog, I look forward to reading more! I sense a little anger and frustration from Mark and his ministry. I just resign from my church yesterday not because of allegations but because we feel God is moving us in a different direction. I come from an IFB church( not an extreme one) but my college was not doubt IFB. While I find many good men and people in the movement, I felt that I no longer want to identify with this sect of people. Listening to Mark Driscoll and others from the Resurgence conference made me examine some of my beliefs and branch out to other preachers and ministries.

    It’s funny because I took a class in college called “contemporary theology” and Mark Driscoll was of course a chosen villain of choice. But I find his preaching to be very good and encouraging.

    While I’ll admit, he is at fault and I believe the celebrity pastor status more than likely got to his head. I feel that he has matured as an individual and a pastor. For me to step down from a church of 200 is a difficult thing! And Im not the pastor! I am leaving because of other reasons, but to step down from Mars Hill and Acts 29 associations is not an easy task.

    To his defense, He has been humbled and I believe he is allowing God to humble him. And thats a good thing! He is no doubt an alpha male who had a taste of power. But for any of us regular people, how would we have handle such status?

    Mark resigning is a good thing. I pray God will work in him!

    • For the record, he did not “step down” from Acts 29. He was forcibly removed.

      • Thanks for the correction but you missed my point.

        • No, I got your point.

          There is no evidence that Mark Driscoll has ever been humbled. If we see the fruit of a repentant heart in the future, well, that would be good. We have not seen it yet.

          • Well todays news sparked me to write as well, so in his defense I think its a good thing that he resigned but also I believe he is humbled.

            http://www.ephesusriot.com/#!The-Rise-and-Fall-of-Mark-Driscoll/cjds/488F4953-6751-4CEE-ACDF-93BF62DAC297

          • You say that he submitted to elders.

            Elders he’d handpicked. Every single elder that EVER tried to tell him that what he was doing was wrong was immediately removed– and not just removed, but their lives destroyed. He purposely ruined the lives of any of the elders that stood up to him. The “Board of Advisers” that he appointed? People who were on it that tried to talk about the actual problems were dismissed and replaced with yes men.

            This is all a matter of public record at this point– you can see the memos and e-mails hashing all of that out in plenty of places online.

            You said the “hard thing” was to resign? No, it wasn’t. It was his only option to retaining any sort of power and influence if he wanted to be in control anywhere else again– which he clearly does, or he wouldn’t have made such a big deal about how he wasn’t “disqualified from ministry” by the Board (he is, by his OWN rules, but he’s changing the rules for himself– seem repentant and humble to you?)

            There is no evidence that he’s changed yet. Only more evidence on the already mountain-sized pile that he’s a narcissistic abuser.

          • I don’t usually comment in blogs so I apologize but why is your tone so nasty? Disdain and disgust? Someone like Jack Schapp (Hyles Anderson College) did much worse, and is much more abusive and sickening than this man. A man like Schapp deserves that kind of disgust and prison!

            I would never say I don’t find fault in Driscoll, but why I say it’s hard to resign is because I just did so myself. It hurts, I am a strong individual but all of us have our insecurities. I can relate knowing it’s difficult to be scrutnized for a decision to step down. People will think the worse. Now for me personally, it’s on a way smaller scale. I’m just a nobody in Rhode Island. But on the larger scale, stepping down for Driscoll will hurt a man’s pride, certainly his. I think he has been prideful and to be lambasted, criticized and ridiculed by all media outlets nationally is not an easy thing to deal with. After all he is just a man.

            But if he wanted to stay in the pulpit, he could have. He sure could have and done just fine!

            But stepping down and letting someone else shepherd the church. Well…to me from a pastoral standpoint it is a sign of humility. I don’t think he is trying to save face.

          • You…realize you’re not actually addressing anything Samantha says except with statements that you don’t see what she sees? That she points out that he selected the elders who he “submitted” to, that he ruined the lives of the ones who went against him, and your response is neither, “Well, I don’t think that’s accurate because of X and Y” or “That’s a good point” but “Why is your tone so nasty?” She’s gone into a great deal of detail on exactly why her opinion of Driscoll is as low as it is, none of which you have addressed with anything other than tone criticism; is there anything she could say that would not be a concession that you’re right and she’s wrong that you wouldn’t consider to have an inappropriate tone?

            (Let me know if I’m over a line here, Samantha. I don’t mean to step on your toes.)

          • No, you’re fine. 🙂

          • Sorry if disagreeing with you is coming across as “nasty.”

            I have nothing but disdain for someone like Schapp- and, in fact, have written about him here multiple times.

            Just because Driscoll hasn’t raped anyone that we know of doesn’t make any of his actions less despicable, though. He’s an abuser and a misogynist and his “theology” has been used to abuse women for years. He doesn’t just get to say “ooops, sorry” and walk away.

  • Well said!

  • Katie

    Driscoll’s letter remind me of Bill Gothard’s resignation letter: BS, self centered and totally missing the point. These guys aren’t sorry for what they did. They’re just sorry no one’s allowing them to do it anymore. For now. Cause I agree: they’ll come back and people will let them.

    • Gothard’s already announced his new ministry.

      • GODDAMMIT. I’m not surprised, but it doesn’t really do anything to reduce the amount of offense I feel.

      • Seriously?!!! Fuck. Well that relief was short-lived.

      • Tim

        That really disheartens me. I am extremely sorry to hear that. 🙁

      • AW

        WHAT?!? NO! Please, no.

        • Crystal

          Oh AW my friend, same here! I can’t STAND the man!!!! This is indeed lamentable when we cannot deign to look after our vulnerable under our leadership – namely, our women AND children. I TOTALLY SYMPATHISE WITH YOUR FEELINGS – I FEEL THE SAME WAY ABOUT THIS CATASTROPHE MYSELF.

  • Thank you for speaking out like this against this awful person. I got the same sense that you did, reading it. My Evil Ex did the exact same sort of thing; this really does have spin-doctoring written all over it. Poor widdle him, he’s so so so unfortunate, everybody’s all pickin’ on him. No word about how he grilled women for their sexual histories and habits or called women revolting sexist slurs or treated non-dudebro men like lesser human beings and constantly spewed bigotry. No, it’s just “but but but I didn’t do anything illegal!”

    All he’s doing is prepping for his next attempt to start a ministry. And he will succeed. You know, I’d wondered why, after his blustering and belligerence, he would suddenly seem like he’s showing throat like this, but you’re right: he’s basically pulling chocks and taking off. The faster he gets established in his next gig, the faster he makes money again and gets the power back that he craves. So yes, the timing is really suspicious to me. I’ve got to wonder if he’s just shrewd enough to realize that if he wants that kind of personal power and lack of accountability, he just won’t ever get it again at Mars Hill. I guess time will tell, but predators don’t change their spots.

  • KP

    Does anyone doubt that Driscoll is already writing his confessional book?
    I still distinctly remember the icky feeling I had when I first saw this book in a very prominent display in the local Christian bookstore: http://www.amazon.com/Was-Wrong-Untold-Shocking-Journey/dp/0785271368 The guy who used to go on tv to bilk naive Christians out of money for his “ministry” was doing it again, but simply using a different medium. Bakker may have reformed and repented of the worst of his excesses, but he chose a medium and tone that would allow him back in to evangelicalism’s good graces. Slightly different values, perhaps, but same PR shell game. Do good without signing a book deal first, and without going on tv or the radio to let people know about all the good you’ve been doing, and maybe then I’ll believe you’ve really changed.
    That moment (I was about a sophomore in high school at the time, I think) was also the first time I had the thought, “Hmm, maybe “Christian” book stores and “Christian” book publishers and “contemporary” “Christian” “music” labels might be in it to get money from an all-too-persuade-able Christian sub-culture rather than legitimately trying to further the kingdom of God.” My look around the bookstore, and seeing primarily kitschy gifts, largely confirmed that thought.

  • This is a positively Nixonian resignation. “I am not a crook, I didn’t do anything wrong, but my enemies will keep hounding me until I give in, so for the good of the organization I head I will resign.” How noble.