Mark Driscoll interviewed at Hillsong Conference despite promises he'd been dropped

Mark Driscoll has been accused of unethical and abusive behaviour.

A taped interview with Mark Driscoll was shown at Hillsong 2015 yesterday, after he was dropped from the speaking bill.

The 30-minute video of Driscoll and his wife Grace being interviewed by Brian Houston was shown to tens of thousands of Christians who attended the conference in Sydney, Australia.

He spoke about grace, love, families and leadership, raising children, pastoral ministry and learning how to grow.

Driscoll also described coming to terms with some of the criticism he has faced, and the love and kindness he has received.

"The whole Bible is ultimately about the personal love of Jesus, and when it comes to salvation, it is the work that God does and we respond to that but we don't participate in that," he said.

He spoke about those beyond his Mars Hill community who reached out to him after his resignation. He gave no indication of definite plans for what he will do next.

The interview received little public promotion. A video posted online by Patheos blog was of poor quality and barely audible. However, as Patheos noted, he seemed more contrite than previously.

In a statement earlier this month, Houston said Driscoll would attend neither the Sydney conference, nor the Hillsong Europe conference at the O2 Arena in London next month. The decision followed intense criticism regarding Driscoll's planned appearance and a petition calling for his removal. Initiated by gender justice specialist Natalie Collins, it said that Driscoll's appearance would be "disappointing and of great concern to many across the UK and internationally."

At the time, Houston said: "It is my hope that Mark and I will be able to speak in person in the coming weeks to discuss some of the issues that have been raised, what – if anything – he has learned, and for me to understand better how he is progressing in both his personal and professional life.

"The teachings of Christ are based on love and forgiveness, and I will not write off Mark as a person simply because of the things that people have said about him, a small minority of people signing a petition or statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised.

"However, I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference, particularly as this 30 minute interview was only a small part of this five day event. It was clear to me that Mark's attendance had the potential to divert attention from the real purpose of Hillsong Conference, which is to see people leave encouraged in their own spiritual journey.

"Clearly Mark has held some views and made some statements that cannot be defended. One or two of the more outrageous things he is purported to have said, I have heard for the first time through the media exposure over the past week."

Collins has expressed her disapointment at Hillsong's decision to play the interview. "Many will be deeply saddened by the approach of Brian Houston, firstly the PR statement and then the interview still taking place, albeit pre-recorded. It is sad to know that it is the letter and not the spirit of Brian Houston's words that we should have trusted," she wrote in an update on her petition.

"After Brian Houston's statement that Mark Driscoll would not be 'coming to Australia or the UK to attend Hillsong Conference', it seems the truth was in the semantics."

Collins is planning a protest at the UK Hillsong Conference in July.

Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill last year after a series of revelations about his leadership style and being found "guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner". A longtime controversial figure, he was also embroiled in a number of scandals including allegations of plagiarism and manipulating sales figures by paying a company to bulk-order his book.

Mars Hill, which had become one of the biggest churches in the US, closed at the end of 2014. Hillsong's original invitation to Driscoll to take part in the London conference pre-dated his resignation from Mars Hill.

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