Mark Driscoll denies racketeering, calls claims 'false and malicious'

Mark Driscoll has been accused of racketeering at his former Mars Hill church.

 Former Mars Hill church Pastor Mark Driscoll has said the accusations made against him in a new legal action are "false and malicious".

The lawsuit was filed last week under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

It claimed Driscoll and his chief elder Sutton Turner demonstrated a "pattern of racketeering activity" in how they ran the now-closed church by "soliciting, through the internet and the mail, contributions for designated purposes". It alleges they "fraudulently used significant portions of those designated contributions for other, unauthorized purposes".

The charges relate to allegations the church used funds donated for missionary work in India and Ethiopia for other causes and paid a company called ResultSource Inc to artifically boost the sales of Mark and Grace Driscoll's book on marriage in order to improve its position in the New York Times bestseller list.

However, in an email to Religion News Service, Driscoll said: "Unfortunately, false and malicious allegations continue to be made against me," adding: "I'm certain that the most recent examples are without any merit."

Driscoll, who recently announced the formation of a new church in Phoenix, Arizona, said: "I remain focused and devoted to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, loving others, and praying for my enemies."

Sutton Turner has reflected on the events surrounding the Mars Hill closure in a series of candid blogs. He said he wrote to his supervisor on August 26, 2011, saying that the plan was poor stewardship and would reflect badly on Mars Hill and Driscoll. However, his advice was not taken and Turner himself signed the contract in October as his supervisor had by then resigned.

Turner was asked by Mars Hill's former attorneys to take down posts he had written about ResultSource but declined to do so.

Regarding the allocation of money from the Global Fund, a major focus of the lawsuit, Turner also admitted a video he had created in 2012 had focused unduly on church-planting in Ethiopia and India, though it had referred to work in the US too.

"I now realise that over time, I did not continue to communicate as well as I should have that Mars Hill Global was doing church planting in the US, Ethiopia, and India," he said. "My personal passion for Ethiopia began to overtake the communication about church planting in the US."

He has expressed remorse about aspects of the church's life and culture.