Former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll received a standing ovation yesterday from the congregation at Gold Creek Community Church in Mill Creek, near Seattle.
Driscoll, who resigned from the pastorate at Mars Hill last October following multiple scandals about his leadership style and questionable practices there, has been indicating a return to active ministry with a new website and appearances at Christian events.
Yesterday's appearance was his first in the Seattle area since his resignation and the implosion of the church, which closed at the end of the year. However, he has previously spoken of the toll taken on himself and his family by the events.
Driscoll was greeted warmly by the Gold Creek congregation. The Seattle PI reported that he was introduced by Pastor Dan Kellogg, who said that he had been "unfairly treated by former staff and the media" and was "in the middle of repurposing his life".
Driscoll began his message by saying, "I would like to talk about Jesus instead of me: It would be much more pleasant and helpful."
Not everyone was pleased to see him, however. Around a dozen protesters outside the venue accused him of relaunching his ministry without addressing the problems which led to its collapse and without repenting for his conduct.
A leaflet distributed by demonstrators was entitled "Mark Driscoll – Unfit for any Pulpit". It said: "We believe restoration is possible and we pray regularly for Mark. Putting Mark back in the pulpit as a leader in the Church now is not biblical. It is neither loving to him or to those with whom he has not reconciled."
Kellogg wrote in a blog post before the morning service that Driscoll was a "controversial speaker" but that he had consulted with Driscoll's accountability board and they had said: "There is nothing Mark has done that disqualifies him from ministry".
Kellogg wrote of the protesters: "He is not their pastor. He has not committed the unforgiveable sin. They are angry and unforgiving. I wish they would take the time to hold signs that protest the Christians killed in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Nigeria. But, they will focus on Mark. The wonderful world we live in gives us the freedom of speech. Thank God for this freedom of expression."
He continued: "I may receive more than my fair share of criticism for allowing Mark to preach. But I hope, for the person who is watching this play out, that they will see Gold Creek as a place to find Grace for EVERYONE, even the protesters."
Blogger Warren Throckmorton, who has covered Mars Hill extensively, wrote: "Kellogg's stance is amazing. His ignorance or disregard of what the Mars Hill elders did is a slap in their faces; I mean all of them, the ones who left and filed charges, as well as the ones who stayed and investigated those charges."