Days after former members of Mars Hill filed formal charges against Mark Driscoll, the pastor has announced a break from the pulpit.
In an update to the congregation on Sunday, Driscoll said the leadership's review of the accusations would "best be performed without me being in the pulpit or the office".
The "extended focus break" will last a "minimum" of six weeks, during which time Pastor Dave Bruskas and other lead pastors will share the preaching and pastoral responsibilities.
This will include taking over Driscoll's new teaching series on 1 John, "Love One Another", that he had been due to start upon his return to the pulpit on Sunday following a family vacation.
During his six-week break, Driscoll said he will "focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing", and work with a professional team of mature Christians who will provide wise counsel on his personal development.
Addressing the controversy, Driscoll said a central theme in his personal walk with Jesus had been Romans 12.8 and Paul's call to believers to live peaceably with all men.
"God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip or anything else not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and I am deeply sorry for the times I have not done my part to living peaceably with all men," he said.
And while he said he would as a general rule reply to "little if any" of the criticism circulating in the media, he used his address from the pulpit to assert that "some of what is said is true, some is partly true, and some is completely untrue".
He also insisted he had "taken full responsibility" for his past wrongdoings, and made specific reference to one time in 2000 when he used a pseudonym to write comments against critics on a Mars Hill discussion board.
Driscoll reiterated a previous apology to the church on the matter, adding that he would be "forever shamed by what I did".
"I have learned hard lessons from this situation, as I have from other situations where I have done wrong things and God has had to deal with me," he said.
"Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church. (In fact, it would not be healthy for any church.)"
Driscoll has been under pressure to step down from leadership of Mars Hill for some time, but he made clear his desire to continue teaching God's Word.
"As I look forward to the future—and I do look forward to it—I believe the Lord has shown me I am to do two things with the rest of my life: love my family, and teach the Bible," he said.
"Finally, I want to say to our Mars Hill family—past and present, I'm very sorry. I'm sorry for the times I have been angry, short, or insensitive. I'm sorry for anything I've done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention."
The address was also uploaded to the Mars Hill website alongside a picture of Driscoll looking tired as he received the embrace of a church member.
Although Driscoll has suffered damaging revelations about his ministry in the last year, the last few weeks have seen an escalation in the turmoil, with a quick succession of highly public challenges.
Earlier in the month, a protest by dozens of former members calling for his resignation outside the Seattle campus caught the media attention. In the same week, LifeWay withdrew Driscoll's books from sale, and the Acts 29 church planting network terminated his and Mars Hill's membership.
This was followed shortly after by the submission of new charges against Driscoll by 21 former Mars Hill members. The charges, presented to the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability, accused Driscoll of "persistent sinful behaviour towards others", including verbal assault and slander, demonstrations of anger, and creating a culture of fear in which people were "often afraid to ask questions or challenge certain ideas".
The BOAA is overseeing a review into the accusations and Driscoll said a report would be released by them in due course.
Read Driscoll's statement to Mars Hill in full here
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