Mars Hill Church, based in Seattle, Washington, has been under intense scrutiny for the past few months, following the eruption of a variety of scandals around lead pastor Mark Driscoll. The evangelical church, founded in 1996, has claimed to have as many as 14,000 members.
Now a new scandal appears to have emerged, according to Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton and Mars Hill observer Wenatchee the Hatchet.
A much-touted “Jesus Festival” event scheduled for August 22, 2014, has reportedly disappeared from the calendar of Mars Hill, despite the fact that it was held up as one of the reasons why the church needed to raise $2,000,000 “above and beyond our normal tithes and offerings” by the end of 2013. A link to the celebration now simply returns a 404 error page.
Here is what we know for sure:
Mark Driscoll was accused of plagiarism.On Nov. 21, 2013, Christian talk show host Janet Mefferd interviewed Driscoll about his most recent book, A Call to Resurgence. In what was presumed to be a typical author interview segment, Mefferd accused Driscoll of plagiarizing the scholarship of Peter Jones, an author and adjunct professor at Westminister Seminary California.
During the interview, Mefferd accused Driscoll of not providing proper attribution of Jones’ concept on “One-ism” and “Two-ism.”
In One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference, Jones states, “One-ism believes that everything that exists is of one substance and that the goal of theology, spirituality and even sexuality is to destroy all distinctions, and bring all things together. Two-ism believes that there is a God outside creation who made all that is not God and has structured creation for the good of humanity.”
About the accusation, Todd Starowitz of Tyndale provided the following statement to ReligionNews Service:
“Tyndale House Publishers was provided a recording of the show by representatives of Pastor Driscoll. A number of people at Tyndale reviewed the tape and were stunned, not only by the accusations, but by the belligerent tone of Ms. Mefferd’s questioning. When Ms. Mefferd asked Pastor Driscoll her first question to accuse him of plagiarism, she did not invoke Peter Jones’s name. The first person that Pastor Driscoll credited in his response was Mr. Jones. Pastor Driscoll also credits Mr. Jones in the section that Janet refers to in Mark’s book, A Call to Resurgence.
Tyndale has taken immediate steps as in the process of reviewing the section of Pastor Driscoll’s book that has been called into question. Pastor Driscoll has also reached out to Mr. Jones and we expect to be able to release some information on his reaction to the interview very soon.”
In an abrupt reversal, soon after the interview, Mefferd removed the Driscoll audio file interview link from her website and apologized to her audience for her conduct. Dr. Warren Throckmorton, professor of psychology at Grove City College and Patheos columnist, is unaware of Driscoll’s motives or what took place in each case.
“All I know is that I have found citation errors in nine of Mark Driscoll’s books,” said Throckmorton. “Publishers have validated these findings by quietly correcting many of them. Driscoll has only addressed two instances so it is not possible to know how this pattern has persisted.”
While never admitting to plagiarism, Driscoll admitted to problems with “sourcing” and “attribution.”
Mark Driscoll is no longer In Charge
In early August Acts 29, the church planting organization Driscoll co-founded, issued a statement announcing the removal of the controversial pastor and Mars Hill Church from its membership.
The statement reads:
“It is with deep sorrow that the Acts 29 Network announces its decision to remove Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership in the network. Mark and the Elders of Mars Hill have been informed of the decision, along with the reasons for removal. It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.”
Smith maintains the culmination of issues led to a climax, which resulted in the call for Driscoll’s resignation.
On Sunday, August 24, Driscoll addressed his Seattle congregation through a pre-recorded message announcing his decision to step aside allowing for a review of the circumstances.
“I want to say to my Mars Hill family, past and present, I’m very sorry. I genuinely mean it,” said Driscoll. “I’m very sorry for the times I’ve been angry, short or insensitive. I’m very sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”
The Huffington Post said they reached out to Mars Hill Church to inquire whether an official announcement had been released about the future of the festival and the donations that were raised in part to fund it.
Justin Dean, Communications & Editorial Manager, replied in an email with their official statement:
During our annual end of year fundraising campaign we often share some of the exciting things that we have planned for the coming year. Last year one thing we shared was the Jesus festival, originally planned to occur this week. In line with the mission of our church, the festival would have been a great evangelistic opportunity to share the gospel and great music with the community. We regret that the festival and other summer events have had to be canceled, and we would love to still be able to host a festival like this in the future.
Contrary to what has been reported, we did not raise money specifically for the Jesus festival. Gifts given during the end of the year campaign, as well as any gifts given to Mars Hill Church, go towards ministry operations, evangelism, and church planting all over the world.
He added, “This was not sent to our church.”
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