Hearsay is generally defined as “statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”(Wikipedia). Yeah…what does that mean? According to my lawyer friend…(not Paul Petry, btw) it means that “generally speaking, if a person says that he, or another person did or said something, that statement cannot be used in court.”
So…what is the big deal? Again I asked my friend to help me out on this one:
Hearsay is a problem because humans are by their nature unreliable: they often don’t remember things as well as they think they do, their view of the facts can be skewed by personal opinion or agenda, they lie, and of course there are many other fallibilities. These fallibilities apply equally to the witness and to the person who repeats the comment in a proceeding.
We assume that if we require a witness to appear and make the statement in person; the witness is more likely to take the matter seriously, less likely to lie under oath, and less likely to lie in front of a judge/jury who are judging whether s/he is being truthful. Additionally, appearing in person allows the witness and the statments to be crossexamined, to check for things like inaccuracy, outright lying, bias, personal agendas, mischaracterization of facts, clarification of the matter being spoken of, etc. etc.
According to the Mars Hill Elders:
Those who have been offended must be careful not to ascribe guilt to others without faithfully seeking truth about what was done or said. Hearsay or second hand report from one person do not qualify as a credible charge. (Deut 19:15, 1 Tim 5:19)” (Church Discipline – Mars Hill Church Elder’s Document, Dec.2007).
There were NO witnesses allowed at the “trials” of Paul Petry or Bent Meyer. In fact, as PH understands it, until about 12 hours before the “trial” not even the Defendants were going to be permitted to attend. Pastor Mark Driscoll, the primary representative of Mars Hill Church, states that hearsay is not permissible in the clip below (again, PH had nothing to do with this clip):
How would YOU like to be convicted at a trial where you could not face your accusors – where anything a person wanted to say about you could be used as evidence against you? Has anybody ever misunderstood or taken out of context YOUR words or actions, or believed untrue things about you spoken by somebody else?
And, are individuals who contravene biblical teaching (and their own policy) for the sake of expedience qualified to be elders?