I was in leadership at MHC but am no longer a member as a result of some other-worldly interactions and meetings with elders & pastors.
I have many more thoughts, but here are a few. My response to the latest “Call for Reconciliation” was similar to yours in that it felt misleading. It seems the church’s responses are consistently evasive or misleading, or both. In one of the first responses, they made it seem that the pastors involved in Andrew’s Church Discipline situation were fired as a result. This was untrue (which I confirmed by way of the exact timing with Andrew) and I’m glad that the church has clarified this. Similarly, it feels deceitful when they give numbers about a small percentage of cases that are actually in Church Discipline. As you mention in your post, there are many of these conversations that occur on an ongoing basis. Many people who are wiser or more mature choose to remove themselves before they officially get to the status of church discipline.
When I read the statements about MHC’s Theology of Church Discipline I am struck with four thoughts:
1. Theology and Praxis are two entirely different things. While their doctrine may be mostly on track, the application of their doctrine is questionable, if not blatantly abusive in some cases.
2. The level of detail given to determining “true repentance” in their literature is disturbing. I’ve researched other mainstream church discipline policies and nowhere else do I find this level of a pastoral discretion in determining true repentance on areas that are grey in Scripture. Clearly, there are ways to determine true repentance in sin areas that are black and white in Scripture.
3. If we were to apply MHC’s standard of true conviction, confession and repentance to MHC itself, would the church would be under Church Discipline? And who would administer this discipline?
4. Any thoughts on why many of these statements that come from the church never come from a particular person? It seems like one of them initially was authored by a lower level staff but they currently are all authored by “Mars Hill”. I don’t mean to be cynical, but it seems convenient that the church leadership can call out individuals when they disagree but hide behind the organization of the church when it comes to responsibility and giving a response. Does the idea of conviction, confession, repentance, restitution & reconciliation get extinguished because we are dealing with the church as an organization and not each instance with each leader/elder/pastor?
My experience from conversations with multiple MHC pastors is that their theology on submitting to your church leaders is the following. If a leader in this church tells you to do something that is not specifically prohibited by scripture, then you have a responsibility to do it. In most churches, if a leader tells you (or asks you) to do something, you have a responsibility to obey if it is a black and white issue in Scripture. At Mars Hill Church, you are considered in rebellion to authority if you don’t obey a church leader’s request, even if that request is a matter of conscience and something you may have resolved alternatively through prayer and counsel.