Mars Hill pastor Steve Tompkins confesses sinful behaviour, asks forgiveness

The former pastor of Mars Hill Church's Shoreline congregation has issued a heartfelt apology for his conduct over several years.

Mars Hill's director of schools, Steve Tompkins.Mars Hill

Now Mars Hill's director of schools, Steve Tompkins has written an open letter saying: "I am deeply sorry that so many people have experienced profound hurt over the years at Mars Hill. It breaks my heart that many continue to live with deep emotional and spiritual wounds, even long after leaving the church.

"I also realise that in my role as an elder, including as Lead Pastor at Shoreline, I share responsibility and complicity in some of the ways you have been hurt, disappointed, and sinned against at Mars Hill."

Mars Hill has been in turmoil during the last few months as revelations emerged about the behaviour of its founding pastor, Mark Driscoll, eventually leading to his resignation.

Tompkins wrote that "what has been happening at Mars Hill is the work of Jesus in our midst", adding that "the root of the problem is not satanic opposition or attack, nor is it social media or vocal online critics, nor is it the members or attenders of the church (past or present). Nor is it elders, deacons, staff and leaders who have called for change from within."

In fact, he said, "the root of the problem has been the leadership of the church who have been blindly committed to maintaining the status quo as if we simply need to push through what has so frequently been referred to as a 'difficult season'."

He said that he had been seeking "diligently and humbly" for eight months to respond to a new awareness of his complicity in Mars Hill's culture of arrogance and domineering leadership. "I am now beginning to see how my own idolatry of performance and ministry "success" played so well at Mars Hill," he said. "Again, I do not blame my sin on others or our culture. Rather, I am now seeing how I contributed to the hurt of faithful and trusting members, attenders and leaders."

He continued: "But there is another—and related—area of great sin and blindness that I need to address. In fact, I would say I consider this to be the darkest, most destructive and most hurtful aspect of Mars Hill's ministry culture by far. I call it the 'ad hominem' narrative."

Dissenting voices were silenced through personal attacks rather than engagement with their arguments, he explained, saying: "What I have seen on multiple occasions is that when a leader raises an issue with Mars Hill or Mars Hill leadership, they themselves soon become the issue rather than the issue they raised. What they said, for example, is invalidated by how they said it, or because they did not follow proper procedure or protocol.

"Then, almost inevitably it is not long before they are gone from their position, their job, or the church itself. Often, their integrity was then slandered and their character maligned."

In an expression of deep remorse, he wrote: "There are so many things I frankly did not see. Looking back prayerfully however, I now realise there were also a few situations where I did see but did not speak up or stand up when I should have. My silence in those situations was sinful and cowardly. In our coercive culture of fear I gave in to fear of man."

He referred specifically to the dismissal of pastors Paul Petry and Bent Meyer in 2007, saying: "I was involved in the subsequent events which included the official investigation process, the trial conducted by the elders, and the official shunning of the Petry family which followed. These events were profoundly devastating and damaging to both the Petry and Meyer families. I deeply regret my actions. I sinned against them through my participation as an elder, and desire to publicly redress these wrongs." Tompkins said he had received "only grace and forgiveness" from the families concerned.

He said he felt he was "late to the table" but intended to continue as an elder at Mars Hill "as long as the process of repentance continues moving forward, and as long as there is hope for a more biblical and healthy plurality of elders to arise".

"Leaders need to confess sin specifically, taking full responsibility," he urged. "Apologies need to be given in person where possible. Now is the time for genuine open-hearted face-to-face repentance."

He added that he would reach out personally to as many people as possible who had been hurt.