The Only Forum Available To Mars Hill Members

Every so often, someone will raise the question “why don’t you guys just take this up with the elders? Why bring it up here? The short answer is that taking it up with the elders has been tried repeatedly.

In the most recent fiasco at Mars Hill, Pastors Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired specifically for “taking these things up withthe elders”…specifically, their strong resistance to the new bylaws. as a result, Mark Driscoll, by and thru his 4 executive minions,charged Pastors Petry and Meyer with the sin of “unhealthy distrust of the elders” (a sin that PH is still trying to find in that ESV that Pastor Mark so highly regards). While the previous disaster was unfolding, several members expressed concern and disagreement with the trial, stating that they were not so concerned with the outcome, but the seemingly biased process. The dissent varied in its vigor, but was always respectful and reasoned. They got disciplined, and were referenced as behaving in an “utterly sinful” manner. Then, in the all church forum, a couple of members made some pointed, but respectful observations about the 150 page elders document…they were removed from the members website within the day. Now, the members site has been re-formatted to make it impossible for a member to post something that can be seen by all of Mars Hill.

Even after the above events, many brave households individually took these matters up with the elders privately. The elder responses to these individuals have ranged from evasive to outright intimidation by a couple of the executive elders.

As a result of the above, members have no place to discuss these event amongst ourselves, and no elders willing to engage us in meaningful conversations. So…we must find other forums.

PH blogs.

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5 Responses to The Only Forum Available To Mars Hill Members

  1. I have no connection with this body, let me say that up front. But out of curiosity I have a few questions.

    What would you propose to keep this kind of thing from happening again?

    What kind of interest or participation has there been on the lay level in church law?

    Is the problem the result of too large a body or centering around a specific personality?

    What kind of que does this body take from historic sources in church law such as those found in ancient councils?

    What kind of voting rights do members enjoy at Mars Hill?

    Do members have voting rights with respect to finances?

  2. A Closer Walk says:

    What would you propose to keep this kind of thing from happening again?
    I would propose that the new by-laws be amended to match the church historic belief that the church is ruled by a plurality of elders. These elders can vest authority to an executive and hold the executive to account. This is opposed to the newly passed by-laws where the authority is held by the top 5 who then grant it to elders below them who on an ad hoc basis.

    What kind of interest or participation has there been on the lay level in church law?
    None at all.

    Is the problem the result of too large a body or centering around a specific personality?
    The problem is hard to define. You have a headstrong leader who has set a precedent of bullying to get his way. Fits of anger and threats to his fellow elders have been common place. Trying to manage the size is a problem. The size dictates the budget – the budget keeps growing so the size must also keep growing. Learning to manage this and changing methods are acceptable. But not at the cost of holding those that have authority to account.

    What kind of que does this body take from historic sources in church law such as those found in ancient councils?
    Not much at all. In fact mark Driscoll has stated that there are few that he can get advice from. He has even outgrown John Piper (after all, Piper’s church is smaller). he told the church that he has outgrown the wisdom of his own elders. Clearly he does not view his own elders as leaders. Clearly their failure to deal with this outrageous treatment of the two fired pastors demonstrates that they are not in fact able to rule as they ought.

    What kind of voting rights do members enjoy at Mars Hill?
    They can vote with their feet and leave.. or vote with their pocketbook and cease to give. They have no other rights. There is no accountability to the members at all. Even the document on accountability is upward and vague. Accountability to each other as executive elders, some level of relational accountability to other pastors. But no mention of accountability to the flock that they serve.

    Do members have voting rights with respect to finances?
    None at all.

  3. Do laymen vote for any of the elders or have any vote over who gets ordained? If not, that seems to be problematic as well as being rather unbiblical.

    As for interest in church law, perhaps that is part of the problem. Modern evangelicals hold practical disdain for those things that make the church work on a day to day level, seeing them apart from the work of God. Or so it seems to me. This I think is because in part at least, law is opposed to grace in their thinking in such a strong manner and because law requires dealing with physical as opposed to “spiritual” things.

    For me, it is better to have small local parishes, limited in size. It keeps the ego of the rector in check, requires more cooperation, and allows the rector the ability to actually know his members.

    Regarding historic legal documents I’d recommend looking through canon law across traditions. There is plenty of biblical material to mine and would put you on better footing in appealing to biblical precedent.

    As for voting rights, this seems to me a definite advantage of traditional churches over evangelical type groups. At my church (not that we don’t have problems) members have voting rights over major decisions, at least financial ones except the minister’s salary. Theological and liturgical decisions are strictly in the hands of the upper clergy and/or the wider church beyond the local level. Laymen also have rights in terms of membership. They can’t be barred from communion or kicked out without a legal appeals process with the right of representation, the right to recuse judges, etc. It seems ironic to me that evangelicals like to boast of the superior spirituality and biblical adherence until matters of church gov’t come to bite them in the ass.

    If I were you’d I’d recommend voting rights for laymen in key areas-minister approval prior to ordination, major financial decisions, etc. Its part of the Reformation tradition after all, not to mention the wider Christian tradition.

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