As 21 former Mars Hill members file charges against Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller says brashness was 'obvious to many'

Pastor Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll and his family are currently on vacation but there will be a fresh headache on his plate when he returns to his pastor duties at Mars Hill on Sunday.

Formal charges have been filed against the pastor by 21 former members of the Seattle-based church who allege "persistent sinful behaviour toward others" and sufficient shortcomings of character as to warrant the termination of his leadership.

These include a lack of self-control in his speech and instances of "verbally assaulting others"; occasions when he has exhibited "anger and ungraceful ways of dealing with those with whom he disagrees", and been domineering and arrogant; created a "culture of fear" in which people are "often afraid to ask questions or challenge certain ideas"; and a failure to adequately repent of sin and change.

The charges came to light through the blog of Warren Throckmorton on the Patheos blog and echo similar charges brought against Driscoll by former Mars Hill pastor Dave Kraft in May 2013. 

Kraft stated then that he found Driscoll wanting in relation to 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5, by
not being self-controlled and disciplined, and for being domineering, verbally violent, and arrogant. 

Mars Hill's Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) was the recipient of Kraft's charges, but it deemed that they were not sufficient to warrant Driscoll stepping down from leadership of Mars Hill.

In light of the latest round of charges against Driscoll, the church has responded with a statement to KOMO News in which it says they will be reviewed by the board. 

"We take these allegations seriously and we are thankful that we have a process in place where allegations will be reviewed by our Board and our elders," the statement reads.

"As it is relatively new that these former elders submitted this, at this time we don't have any information on how long that process will take or what the outcome will be, but we look forward to having Pastor Mark back from vacation this Sunday."

Allegations of a culture of fear and bullying have abounded for several years now but the megachurch pastor has undoubtedly had his toughest year yet after a seemingly relentless succession of PR disasters and highly publicised challenges against his leadership of the church he founded in 1996.

In late 2013, Driscoll found himself at the centre of a plagiarism scandal relating to some of his books, including A Call to Resurgence. Then in spring this year, Mars Hill was forced to admit it had hired a marketing company to help place Driscoll's Real Marriage book on the New York Times bestseller list. 

In June, the BOAA suffered its own setback when two members stepped down, Pastor James MacDonald and Pastor Paul Tripp.

Pastor Tripp, explaining the reasons for his resignation in a blog post on August 12, said he felt the BOAA would "never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church".

"Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs," he wrote.

"Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected.

"I would still love to see the leadership community of Mars Hill Church become itself a culture of grace and I am still willing to help, but not through the means of a board that will never be able to do what it was designed to do."

In the same week as Tripp aired his views on his blog, dozens of former Mars Hill members had turned up to protest outside the Seattle church and demand his resignation. A few days later, the Acts 29 church planting network Driscoll helped found announced that his and Mars Hill's membership had been terminated. 

In a statement explaining their decision, Acts 29 said the accusations against him "make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network".

BOAA chairman Michael Van Skaik strongly criticised Acts 29 in a statement to SeattlePi in which he said no one from the network had spoken directly to the board or Driscoll prior to making their public announcement.

He added: "Our board's decision is final regarding these charges, although will no doubt continue to be played out in the courts of public opinion."

The nightmare week ended with LifeWay ministries pulling Driscoll's books from their online shop and physical stores.

Former pastor and one of the signatories of this week's 11-page charge document, Lief Moi, said it had been "hard" to speak up and that he felt a "deep compassion and concern" for Driscoll and his family, he told KOMO News.

Until now, the controversy surrounding Driscoll has largely been played out between former members of Mars Hill and other critics, but a report in the New York Times included some rare quotes from a high profile figure on Driscoll. 

Tim Keller, a distinguished evangelical and senior pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, was quoted by the paper as saying: "He was really important — in the Internet age, Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously.

"But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people."