Mark Driscoll's books pulled from Lifeway Christian stores

(Photo: Mars Hill)

It's been a challenging few days for Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle.

Last week, he was dropped by the church planting network he helped to found, Acts 29, because of concerns about his ministry.

This was followed a day later by news that Lifeway Christian stores is withdrawing Driscoll's books from sale across the US.

Lifeway media relations manager Marty King confirmed the move to Warren Throckmorton at Patheos, saying: "Lifeway Stores and are not selling Mark Driscoll's books while we assess the developments regarding his ministry."

A process of reconciliation is underway at Mars Hill to address longstanding complaints from former members about a culture of intimidation and the silencing of criticism they say existed at the church.

Acts 29 said in their statement 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".

Mars Hill was strongly critical of Acts 29's decision. Michael Van Skaik, chairman of Mars Hill's Board of Advisors and Accountability, said he was "deeply saddened" that the A29 board had terminated their membership "without speaking directly to the board or Mark prior to their public announcement".

"Our board's decision is final regarding these charges, although will no doubt continue to be played out in the courts of public opinion," said Van Skaik, according to SeattlePi.

It was the end to a difficult week that began with a protest at Mars Hill's Bellevue campus staged by dozens of disenchanted former members calling for Driscoll's resignation.

Protesters held banners reading 'We are not anonymous', a slogan reportedly rooted in a video clip in which Driscoll referenced complaints from anonymous people.

The last few days aside, Driscoll has not had an easy time of late, as concerns about the leadership culture at Mars Hill seeped out and prompted a process of reconciliation to take place at the church.

This coincided with accusations against Driscoll that he had plagiarised from other Christians in his books, and reports that church funds had been used to hire a marketing company to boost sales of his books.

"In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use ResultSource to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list," a statement issued by the church's Board of Advisors and Accountability said at the time.

"While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again."

But it may be a while yet before the storm clouds clear from over Mars Hill, as former Mars Hill deacon Rob Smith announced on his blog a few days ago that he and a group of over 75 current and former members are preparing to file 53 new charges against Driscoll and the team of Mars Hill Executive Elders.

Smith says they decided to delay filing the charges only because of the Acts 29 announcement to remove him from membership.

One of the charges relates to the church's current bylaws, which the group claims were passed in a "sinful and unlawful manner".

Smith said, "It is with a mix of sadness and relief to see that Acts 29 has taken these actions. We hope and pray that the call for Mark Driscoll to step down from ministry is heeded. We would therefore rather wait and withdraw our plans to file new charges if he steps down, or file them in due course if he chooses to ignore the call of the Acts 29 board.

"We are in prayer for Mark and his family. We pray that he will find comfort, restoration, and hope in the Christ that he loves. We are committed to love him well and stand ready to support him and his family through these difficult days. We echo the call of the Acts 29 board."