Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Walking Wounded & Rebuilding After Deconstructing

Kathy Escobar has offered to do a special session of  Walking Wounded  for those who have left Mars Hill. It is a 4-week online workshop designed to help you move through the painful and confusing aftermath of a negative faith-based experience. Please comment or email Sophia if interested. I am looking to find out how much interest there is and then we will put it together.

In the meantime, there is an amazing series of posts over at Kathy Escobar's blog entitled Rebuilding after Deconstructing.  For me personally, this is an answered prayer.  I have decided to work through these posts on my other blog, http://sophiasavedbygrace.blogspot.com/.  If anyone would like to join me, I will be spending more time there in the next few weeks.  Please know that it is a safe space, and also if you are not ready to face questions about faith that others may have without criticizing or preaching then I ask that you do not participate.
Here are the links to the first 6 of 7 posts in the series (there is one more coming):

Rebuilding after Deconstructing

Rebuilding after Deconstruction: 1 Honoring the Process

Rebuilding after Deconstruction: 2 Acknowledging Losses

Rebuilding after Deconstruction: 3 Discovering What Remains

Rebuilding after Deconstruction: 4 Finding What Works

Rebuilding after Deconstruction: 5 Celebrating What Was

Below is Kathy's Stages of the Journey chart.  These posts and definitely Walking Wounded would be a great idea if you have hit "THE WALL".

Stages of Faith

Monday, April 23, 2012

Social Distortion - The Distinctive of Complementary Gender Roles

A guest editorial post by my husband, UnReformed.  We realize that some readers will disagree, but we want to learn and encourage others to learn to stay in the room with disagreement and tolerate beliefs that are different than their own...So here goes!  ~ Sophia
UPDATED BY REFORMED 4/23 @10:00p.m.

For years after I got married both my wife and I listened to Dr. Laura on talk radio. We both enjoyed her no-nonsense approach to offering advice, and because she typically dealt with marriage, children, and relationships, being a young couple with a budding family we felt it time well spent. 

One of the primary precepts of Dr. Laura’s moral code was that children should be raised by their families. It did not necessarily mean it fell to the wife. But simply that children being thrown into institutional daycare as infants and toddlers was an atrocity. When we were first starting out, we got into a rental contract we couldn’t afford and had to send our 1 year old into a daycare for 9 months so my wife could work. It was absolutely heart breaking for her to drop him off each morning and not much easier for me. It came to a head (in my mind) when I went to pick him up one afternoon around 4:00 and walked into the backyard to find my 16 month old son sitting on the concrete playing by himself with a half dozen other little children between 2 and 4 years old around him. He looked dejected and lonely playing by himself as he was far younger than most of the kids….. It was absolutely heart breaking thinking that I was sending my 16 month old little boy out into the world to fend for himself. Shortly thereafter I developed a game plan, my wife quit her job and we pulled him out of daycare for good. 

Since then my wife has been home with the critters. She stays with them during the day to support, love, teach, guide and when the need arises discipline them. I go out each day and slay dragons to put food on the table. In that regard we operate in traditional roles. 

However I do not see my wife as weaker or easier to deceive. If she is more naïve than me it is because I have lived a VERY hard life and because of this am supremely cynical. She is far less naïve than most men I have met and has intellectual and social gifts that overshadow mine tremendously. I dare say I admire the optimistic prism through which she sees the world and people and if that is naiveté then sign me up! 

I say all this to point out that we live out traditional roles in regard to the work place and household. However beyond these superficial situational roles, the distinction disappears. 

The distinctive of complementary roles is to me a paradoxical concept. If one is the head and the leader and the other is the helper who is submissive, where does equality fall into that equation? You always hear pastors say that men and women are “equal but different” in regard to gender roles however they proceed to say that women are more easily deceived, the weaker vessel, the helper, a good one is submissive, respectful of her husband etc…. What is said about men? That they are priests and kings of their household, and that they are the “head” of their family. 

So submissive, naïve, weaker helper is equal to Strong, King Priest, and Leader? 

Although any complementarian pastor may be getting red faced and angry saying that I am misrepresenting the issue and that men must be like Jesus willing to sacrifice their lives for their wives and live as humble servant leaders. There is still an undeniable paradox in the descriptive tone regarding men and women. Men are Kings, women are helpers. Men are Priest and Leaders, women are to be submitted. Another relatively severe problem is that Jesus came to earth because he knew that we couldn’t be like him. We will always fall short right to our dying day. So when you recklessly tie Christ like behavior from men as a necessary component to healthy relationships in marriage where you’ve already stoked chauvinistic thinking in the men empowering them with a kingship, a priesthood and executive leader in their abode….. Well then you can venture a guess that oppression is going to happen at least in a fair number of occurrences…. Thinking anything else would be naïve… and we all know that men aren’t naïve right? 

I’ve had this argument with people before and the “goto” for men (women rarely argue this issue) is Paul’s numerous statements in his letters diminishing a woman’s role in the church. 

We love to contextualize scripture. Mark Driscoll rented the entire city of Ephesus for a day and globe trotted around Israel so he could develop documentary styled video clips to contextualize his Luke, and Revelations sermons. And pastors love to bring historical & cultural tendencies into context to help parishioners understand better the power or meaning of certain verses. And we do this recklessly so that it seems you can get whatever meaning you want out of whichever verse you want. Like last week I wrote about the "tough text" where Jesus said “Do not make any vows” (Mathew 5:34) and Mark Driscoll was able to postulate that what Jesus meant by “Do not make any vows” was that he sometimes wants us to make vows! Like vows of submission to authority as members, or vows to submit to discipline from leadership..... or making vows to be leaders as part of Driscoll's RMT tour. Driscoll used “context” to establish that Jesus meant the exact opposite of what he said. No means yes in the right context!

However we steer clear of contextualizing Paul. The church loves to study the Apostolic Letters. And the church loves to impart the full weight of prophetic scripture to his words. I honestly fear that too much focus is put on them as the basis for a lot of what churches consider their ‘doctrine’. This ends up nullifying or at least limiting the power of the Gospels. And to those outside the main of the church It is a clear and obvious trend that a fair number of people inside the church seem more like followers of Paul than Christ these days. 

And it is understandable why. 

Paul spoke in clear terms. Jesus spoke in riddles. Paul said ‘do this, don’t do that’. Jesus said ‘believe in me’. The doctrine of Paul fits into our modern task oriented, productivity based world much better than the doctrine of the Gospels and sadly it shows. 

But I would dare say that, when Paul said things like women aren’t supposed to lead, or that women are easily deceived and naïve or that women should be submissive helpers etc…, you have to apply almighty context to these statements and to Paul. Not to say that Paul didn't mean what he said. I would never suggest that a man from the Bible meant something radically different than what he said! But what is his context? What was the cultural mindset out of which he made these statements? Were woman treated with respect and honor. Did men believe in servant leadership to their wives?

NO! Women were viewed as just a notch above livestock! 

Daughters were sold to the highest bidder, women who had sex prior to marriage were killed, women who committed adultery were killed, if a woman was raped her assailant had to merely pay her dad a fee and he could keep her, if a man died before producing an heir, his brother took ownership of his wife, and their eyewitness accounts were not recognized by the courts. So if a woman saw a man murder another man, and went to tell the police, they would essentially brush her off.

"Silly, easily deceived woman, what does she know?"

Paul lived right in the middle of an era not unlike fundamentalist Islam (from a gender roles perspective). And he was a celibate priest, raised in an ultra-conservative Jewish family who was hyper zealous about religious tradition. So Paul was not only living in an era similar to Islamic fundamentalism, but he was a religious cleric in that culture.... prior to his conversion.

So is Paul the pillar through which to establish the stature, and strength of women in the church? NO!

Bible based models for women’s roles in the church will ALWAYS render a stone- age looking culture because the Bible was written thousands of years ago when views towards women were crude and ignorant. Do it with anything… slaves, racial purity, racism, treatment of the disabled etc…. Bible based models will always yield something out of the stone- age, because the books were written ages ago. 

So where does this leave me? I don’t know. I know that something seems amiss about the way the church supports complementarian roles and something seems amiss in the way it is practiced. Unless I cherry pick the verses that I want to cherry pick, I cannot come to the same conclusion that Piper and Driscoll and the Catholic church are arriving at. Jesus Christ empowered women, stood up for them, protected them and leaned on them. Nothing about Christ and the Gospel's leads me to a diminished helper role for women.... Only if I have my exacto knife out sifting through Paul's letters do I find the scriptural support I need.... and then only in short little snippets which I must cut and paste together to create my framework.

If relationships within the church resembled the way the church describes it with humble servant leader men sacrificing their life in honor and admiration for women, I could/ would lend it some currency. But in my own experience, the louder a church beats the drum of complementary roles, the more oppressive its culture seems to be. 

My own take is not completely formed yet. I believe that women are endowed with and seen fully as equals in God’s eyes because of the way Jesus treated them. I do not see anything in Genesis or the Gospels that would lead me to believe otherwise. I believe women’s limited roles in the church and supposed limited roles within the home are a remnant of cultural chauvinism in society and the church and think that Paul’s writings are simply a tool men use to advance a self centered agenda. 

I know that what I saw at Mars Hill was oppressive. I know that men in leadership expected their wives to “mind their place” and that the drumbeat was so loud and so steady from the church that no one I knew was modeling servant leadership when the church was constantly telling them they were kings, priests, and leaders. Understanding that many were not leaders it seemed like they resorted to a form of bullying to establish their “authority” in the home. So in practice they were failing horribly…. I cannot imagine how much worse it would be for a single woman in that church…. Erin’s story over at my wife’s blog gives me a fair idea. 

Any man who needs his wife to be submissive to him isn’t much of a man in my book. A man is not strong if his wife is weak and submissive. I’d say anyone who needs someone they love to bend their knee to them is an insecure little wimp if they are not willing to earn respect first. Often these complimentary churches push young men and women into marriages when young men still rely on mommy to cook and clean for them.... Yet wives are supposed to honor and respect their wisdom? Because he's equipped with male anatomy? This entitlement attitude, "I'm the leader cuz I'm the man!" attitude typically yields unhealthy dynamics with insecure chihuahua type men lording it over their wives who quietly resign themselves to submission. Largely because every other woman, man and leader in the church is telling them to do so..... Your support will help him become great! Is one of the twitter comments I saw.... yeah or it will embolden him into a tyrant or despot.

And ultimately it rolls gender equality back into the stone age. Secular society cringes in disgust as the church pushes gender roles back to the 30’s, 20’s past women equality into the 1800’s with its so called “gospel centered” doctrine. Secular people are not fooled. “It has nothing to do with the Gospel or Jesus” one secular friend of mine said the other day. “It’s the frickin Elks Club with a crucifix! What a joke!” 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Psalm 5:11-12 (NLT)

11     But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
         let them sing joyful praises forever.
         Spread your protection over them,
         that all who love your name may be filled with joy.
12     For you bless the godly, O Lord;
         you surround them with your shield of love.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Comment I Really Appreciated

I really appreciated this comment and wanted to share.

AnonymousApr 11, 2012 02:10 PM on Sophia's Story

I have friends who are incredibly influenced by Driscoll (constantly quoting him) and I see many of the same egotistical and misogynistic character traits exemplified in their actions that I also see/hear in Driscoll. I hear them (my friends) say "women are a weaker sex" in public settings and hush their wives (with a wink and a nod) when they are trying to contribute to conversations. There are pathological issues being impressed upon an entire generation of young men that will end in the abuse of many women. It honestly scares me. I have confronted this mentality many times over, yet I am crushed with each new occurrence thinking how their actions must impact their wives. 

I am a reformed believer, a male and a husband, who loves and cherishes his wife and I do everything in my ability to ensure she is protected, cared for and loved. Jesus instructed us (men) to sacrifice our lives like Christ did for the Church. There is an under-emphasis on this kind of humility, love and sacrifice in this "movement." In no way shape or form is my masculinity or teaching authority (as a BS leader) challenged, dismissed or undermined by a woman asking an honest question, making a point in a BS/CG/SG setting or working through an understanding of important doctrinal issues. As adults, civility and mutual respect must rule the day. Unfortunately, my experience is replete with boys pretending to men with chest-thumping, bravado and supposed theological intellectualism (elitism). 

My heart goes out to you women and others caught in this world of control, oppression and shunning. MH is not a fair representation of the application of reformed Theology. From what I can tell, it holds the appearance, but can't pass the sniff test. 

I hope MH/Driscoll repents of these mistreatments and Mark installs real accountability for leadership in their by-laws and protections against those in discipline. The need for Church discipline is necessary, however, it must be done with the upmost care and gentleness. The intimidation, "sin hunting" and "confess your sin history to join the Church" need to go. 

Also, I would encourage you and other "exiles" to seek out a smaller church which is confessional. There is less likely the chance you will run into the "cult of personality" that mega-churches attract and all the mess that comes with it. The PCA or OPC have presbyteries in place to over see and hold accountable wayward pastors, elders and deacons. This necessary protection ensures that people aren't (or at least not for long) held under the thumb of an oppressive authority.

Friday Must Reads

Mars Hill Refuge is starting something new!  Each Friday we will post articles that have affected us, inspired us, angered us or stuck with us.

My (Sophia) personal favorite this week:
Well Behaved Women Won't Change the Church ~ Kathy Escobar
"Change in the church will come when women passionately follow Jesus, not systems-made-in-his-name-that-do-not-reflect-his-image.
Change in the church will come when women bravely use their voices, power, and any influence they have to inspire others to be brave, too.
I admit, it’s still sometimes hard for me to not be the good-girl. I miss the safety. I miss the praise. I miss the security, even if it was false. Some days I wish I could make nice like I used to because it was so much easier then.
But the Kingdom of God was never about easy. It was never about comfort. It was never about maintaining the status-quo. It was never about playing nice."

"God is doing two things  in your life  and mine right now…He is transforming us into the image of His son in preparation for eternity and He is using us in some mysterious way to  further His kingdom plan for the ages toward it’s consummation. Whatever cup you are drinking from is part of those processes…and I don’t think there is any other way."
Have You Been Spiritually Abused? This is for You ~ Matthew Paul Turner
"With a conservative estimate of 4,000 abusive churches and cults in America? Spiritual abuse is real, and the Church needs to talk about it. Spiritual abuse happens when a pastor or spiritual leader mistreats or uses another for their own gain. The word of the pastor trumps the needs of the individual. People are manipulated for the sake of a gospel that isn’t good news at all. The sickest part is that this abuse happens in the name of God. If the member asks questions about abusive practices, they are the problem. Because they question the authority of the pastor, their soul is in jeopardy. Often they are cut off from their entire social system of family and friends. They are called demon-possessed and told they are in dangers of the fires of hell. They are told this is love. Jesus most certainly does need new PR."

A Challenge to Mark's interpretation on Tough Text Thursdays ~ UnReformed
"So even though the text he just read said specifically "DO NOT MAKE ANY VOWS" which is 100% red letters I might add, Driscoll asserts that he didn't really mean "not to" when he said "not to" and actually God's will is that we DO make vows from time to time. I think this is a nice little sight guise into the theological misuse of scripture over at MH."

Defining Forgiveness and Reconciliation ~ Cindy from Under Much Grace
"Reconciliation is a reckoning that the involved parties make together, essentially wiping away the history of the debt. The two parties write new books, and the offending party is restored to a place of trust and favor...This far surpasses what mere forgiveness accomplishes alone."

The Ironies of Real Marriage ~ Heath Lambert
"I do not live in some sheltered ministry context away from people with perverse 
struggles. As true as that is, the Driscolls taught me a lot about pornography I wish I never knew. 
The Driscolls introduce their readers to the titles of pornographic books, magazines, and videos; 
they provide technical names for specific kinds of pornographic films; they list the names of celebrities who have starred in pornography; they even provide web addresses where readers can meet people for sex. As I look back on that sentence I am overwhelmed that a Christian minister could be so irresponsible."

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Mars Hill Departed" Story, Part 2

This part starts with my email response to "Mars Hill Departed", and ends with his reply. ~ Sophia

Dear Mars Hill Departed,

Wow, wow, and wow.  First let me say that I have the utmost respect for you.  You were there much longer than we were, but it is eerie to me how similar the reaction, including the accusations, demands for reasons, and handling of the situation by the leader.  It makes me wonder if the CCEF training for leaders includes this?

Have you been able to maintain any of your friendships with your community group?  I tried the same thing and my community group leader removed me from the city and as far as he was concerned put us under church discipline.  He forbid his wife from ever having contact with me.

How are you and your wife now?  Are you attending a church?  Has there been fallout?  Sorry...so many questions.

I wasn't clear from your email if you were okay with me posting this as a blog post or if you were sharing with me privately.  I could send you my emails and I think you would find it creepy just how similar the wording and our replies are.  Thanks for sharing!



Hi Sophia,

Thanks, yes, the similarities are shocking. My wife and I have been amazed at how the same exact phrases we've heard in our experiences with MH leadership are also common in the stories of others. I think it definitely is a top-down style, or even teaching, that is producing this.

We've been able to start to repair some of the friendships in our group, but honestly there weren't many to repair as our group leader's immature and controlling style eroded a 25something group down to 3 couples (the leaders). This leadership style continuously made new visitors feel belittled, condescended, and straight up attacked. Most never returned. Right now we're on speaking terms with most of them.

I'm sorry to hear that your leader treated you that way! That's definitely not how someone pursuing relationships and unity through love and truth would behave, rather it's the classic M.O. of tyrants and cult leaders. Scary stuff.

My wife and I are doing fantastic now. We feel like a dark oppressiveness has been lifted and we're rediscovering God's grace and how simply loving God is a much more effective catalyst for change in our lives. We still have many friends and family members who are very involved and connected at MH, but we're working hard not to "poison the well" or be divisive. At the same time though, we feel truth is important, and just as we would want to bring individual sin into the light, so we also want the same to happen for corporate sin. Looking back on our experiences, we do now feel that there is some serious idolatry and sin going on at MH. I think that the main idol is growth in church attendance and fame, which is a classic example of "a good thing becoming a god thing".

Yes, we're attending a new church that we had some existing connections to and we're really loving it. It's a smaller church body which has really allowed us to connect on a more genuine and natural level with others. It's sad that we were actually SURPRISED to see the gospel being preached and lives changing outside of MH... how did we ever get such prideful tunnel vision? We even have time now to further pursue real relationships with non-believers, something we really enjoy and feel called to do.

As far as fallout, we had a very hard month surrounding our departure from MH. But things have quickly gotten better as we've embraced new community and activities and have distanced ourselves from MH. Any initial questioning about our decision quickly disappeared once we were on the other side. Now we just can't believe we didn't see it this clearly before! Right now we feel concerned for our friends and family who are still there, and for those leaving who don't immediately have somewhere else to go!

Yes, you can post our letter and emails if you like and if you would post them in their entirety, that would be great. We hope that maybe they will help people see the wrong things that are going on at MH, but at the same time, we hope people will also remember all of the wonderful good that God has done through them! God uses sinners, but we should still address and repent of our sins. Our hope and prayers are that MH will change and continue to point to our wonderful savior Jesus!

Thanks for what you're doing Sophia. It's great to find a place where people can have some connections, post-MH. All our best!

[Mars Hill Departed]

"Mars Hill Departed" Story, Part 1

This story will be posted in two parts, consisting of my email conversation with "Mars Hill Departed". ~ Sophia

My wife and I have attended Mars Hill for 7 and 5 years respectively. We met at Mars Hill, got married in the church, were community group leaders, employees of the church, hosted community groups, gave regularly and sacrificially, led accountability groups, and served in numerous serving roles. We absolutely loved what God was doing through Mars Hill and have benefitted very much from their teaching.

But as the years went by, we saw how the church was changing and we eventually realized that we could no longer call Mars Hill home. Rather than tell our whole story, we thought we would just enclose the letter we wrote to our community group leaders, explaining why we were leaving. This letter is a follow up explanation to a brief and polite email declaring our decision to leave. Only after our group leader pressured us, accused us of "hidden sin", told us we were liars, and declared that he believed we were trying to do harm to the group, did we send this detailed email with our reasons for leaving.

Hey [group leader],

Thanks for writing. I really would like to iron out as much as possible so that we can have as much unity as possible in the Body. By the way, in this email, when I say "church" I mean the lowercase 'c', brick & mortar, locally organization church. When I refer to the capital 'C' Church, Bride of Christ I'll say "Body".

I'm sorry our decision hurt your feelings and made you feel slighted. That wasn't our intent, though we knew that could happen. That's why I called right away to talk so that I could explain beyond just that basic email outlining our decision. I also spoke with [group apprentice] that evening as I didn't want just that email to be the only contact or discussion.

We have talked and prayed about attending a new church for a while, off and on for several years. I may have told you that at one point we "took a break" for 5 or so months to try to decide what to do. At that point we felt it was best to continue attending Mars Hill, at least for a time, even though we saw things that we felt were concerns/differences in our beliefs, convictions and callings.

I can give more info about the differences I mentioned and if you'd like more specifics, feel free to ask. We've been careful not to call these differences, "sin", as we don't believe that most of it is. We see most of them more as "differences" between how we feel called to share our lives, preach the Gospel, reach out to others, serve the church, the role of the church, and the structure of the church. These are the kind of differences I believe Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthian 12:12-31 when he describes the diversity in the body of Christ. Different churches/people have different callings and sometimes their greatest strength can also start to become a weakness. We feel very hesitant to criticize things that Mars Hill is doing as we know that God has built up Mars Hill and is using Mars Hill for the furthering of the Gospel. We do feel ok with saying that we feel differently called though. Please keep that in mind when you read the details below.

We feel that MH's focus/calling is more on growing the number of people it reaches, often at the expense of growing mature disciples of Christ. The number of campuses, attendees, conversions and baptisms seems to be the priority at the sacrifice of maturity, genuine relationships, and discipleship. We see a very few serving and giving while the vast majority does and gives nothing, well beyond the 80/20 ratio that is common in churches. Add to that the extreme turnover in attendance we see at Mars Hill and it just makes the situation harder. One concern is that in the parable of the sower, Jesus talks about how the number of conversions don't equal mature saved souls, the goal.

* Because of MH's calling of church growth, we feel MH and it's leadership is more controlling over the lives of it's congregation, in ways that we don't see in scripture. A concern in this area is that we feel that control is more often used instead of love, exhorting, relationship and mutual submission.

* Because of MH's calling of church growth, we feel that Mars Hill is more called to serving new Christians rather than also taking care of more mature Christians. We feel that more mature Christians are leaned on more heavily and forcefully than necessary to reach conversion/baptism/attendance goals.

* Because of MH's calling of church growth, we feel that Mars Hill is appointing less mature/able leaders and those that lead through the methods I mentioned in the first item.

* Because of MH's calling of church growth, we feel that structure that Mars Hill uses for primary, intensive, and maturity-building Christian community (community groups) sacrifices/is at the expense of the relationships that we feel are more beneficial, genuine, natural and enjoyable. Mars Hill member's time spent with and choice of Christian friendship is largely decided by The City, service teams, group replications and formal CG activities. Little flexibility of time is given to those with smaller social "plates" or those with existing outside relational commitments. We don't feel that formal "bible-studies" and church activities can/should replace or take away significant time from natural affinities and relationships. Even Jesus spent more time with the people he liked best.

* For Mars Hill's calling toward training men, we feel like women have become less considered and a bit neglected.

* We feel that Mars Hill places too much control and power in the church into the hands of too little. When we first started attending Mars Hill there was only around 2,000 people but 40 or so voting elders. There are now around 12,000 people and 3 voting elders.

* We feel saddened by the loss of dozens of mature, strong, wise, experienced, loving, shepherding pastors that Mars Hill has been losing over the last few years. Many of these Pastors have been key leaders in founding the church, serving the congregation and bringing different and valuable gifts and abilities to MH. We've really benefitted from them and often knew them personally and are saddened by the leaving/firings of people like Pastor Lief Moi, Pastor Bent Meyer, Pastor Paul Petry, Pastor Jamie Munson and Pastor Tim Beltz as well as other leaders in the church. We feel saddened by the replacements of leaders which are usually immature, young, inexperienced, arrogant, and controlling.

* We feel that Mars Hill has gone from "being all things to all men" to adopting more of an "us vs them" mentality over that last few years ("city within a city", at times making fun of the city and the lost). We feel like Mars Hill has forgotten how to be as missional and speak to the majority of the unsaved in Seattle area as they used to be.

* We feel concerned by the often inflammatory things that Pastor Mark says from the pulpit which we don't see in scripture. Most recent examples: That Jesus was beaten all night, that masturbation is a form of homosexuality, that "nice" guys are bad, that Seattleites are strange to think that having a king would be a bad thing (see: all of world history, 1 Samuel 8:9-18). We've tried to bring non/new Christians to Mars Hill and they get offended by things other than the Gospel, and never want to come back. We are bothered that we are unable to have influence over our isolated pastor who is at such a high level.

* We feel sad and repulsed by Mars Hills emphasis on, fascination with, and treatment of, the gore and torture of Jesus' death. We feel like the degree to which the Bible talks about these matters should be the degree to which the Body does and that Hollywood gore films should not be the guide. Children returning from Sunday school should never be forced to watch a man representing Jesus being shredded to pieces onscreen while underscored by a band rocking out. The most beautiful aspect of all eternity should be treated with the utmost sensitivity and reverence and not used as what appears to have become a manipulative gimmick. During all of Jesus' suffering, the only point at which He cried out was when the Father turned his back on Him, yet we rarely seem to hear about the suffering He endured then.

* We feel like Mars Hill has gone from treating Pastor Mark as "one of the pastors at Mars Hill" to become too focused on him. Things that disturb us are the constant fascination and fanaticism in the church over him, the church's pastormark.tv website, and Pastor Mark main menu items on church sites. We are wary of any one man being such a figurehead and representative for our community of equals under Christ. The church has begun in ways to remind us too much of a cult-of-personality rather than a community of humble, mutually submitting believers who are completely obsessed with Jesus.

I hope these examples give you a understanding of why we have decided that Mars Hill isn't the right fit for us anymore. The reason we haven't brought all of these things up with you is that: they don't mostly involve you, we don't want to discourage others who feel called to Mars Hill's mission, we didn't feel it would have (or should have?) changed these issues. In the past we've brought issues like these up with church leaders and haven't been considered and haven't seen change.

About our commitment to the Body/church, we are no longer concerned with our membership commitment since we are no longer Mars Hill members. We have left the church because we want to abide by the commitments and covenants we make. You can call it running away if you like, I can't control that. I understand it as leaving the church after years of commitment and service upon realizing that Mars Hill, as well as we, have changed. Feel free to share my comments with leaders at the church. As I said, several of these things have already been expressed by us to past community group leaders, deacons and elders. I doubt any of it ever reached the top. Again, I don't know that it's my job to tell Mars Hill to change things that seem to be largely issues of calling. I'm not called to be a missionary to The Congo, but I'm not going to try to change those that are.

In regard to the discussion we had the other night, I've shared my concerns/questions on this issue already and still haven't seen the scripture come through that you and [community group coach] said you would send that would clearly show how Mars Hill's requirements, methodology and authority are absolutely biblical in regard to the restrictiveness of attendance and participation. In any case, it doesn't matter now. I actually agree with you on this issue, but for different reasons. I agree with the practical reasons brought up by folks the other evening, that largely being committed to one church is better for the body as a whole. But just because something is practical hardly makes it a close-handed issue. I continue to believe that visiting other Christians and churches occasionally is allowed by the Bible.

This issue of unrepentant sin has come up quite a bit all of a sudden now that we have started to leave. This wouldn't be controlling manipulation would it? If you believe that we are in sin somehow then tell us what sin you see. Otherwise, why do you bring it up?

I'm sorry if you don't believe us when we said we've been talking and praying about this, that it's been a hard decision for us or that we care about how it would affect others in the group. We really do and it isn't a lie when we say these things.

I hope this letter only helps things and that you understand that all of these things are being said in love and respect. We're praying that God will use this for whatever purposes He has and that He will be glorified. We love Mars Hill including the Pastors and attendees and we support their mission of making sure that the Gospel is heard by as many people as possible. Mars Hill needs people who are similarly-called on this mission to continue to join them and we will pray for God to continue to use Mars Hill. We should also do as the Bible says and appreciate the differences in the Body of Christ and not assume that they are simply sin.

One thing I want to make sure to emphasis is that our decision to leave has almost nothing to do with our personal feelings and relationships with people in our community group. Sure, there might be a few things we can work on together to help each other mature and strengthen our friendship, but I hope we will do these things anyway, remaining in friendship with each other going forward. None of us are perfect and [my wife] and I both still consider the [other group members] our friends and hope you will still want to be involved in our lives and walk with us as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is one of the reasons I wanted to gradually transition out of Mars Hill initially, because I didn't want it to appear that we didn't love, care about and enjoy all of you guys! But our conversation the other night was enlightening to me that we needed to not delay our decision to change churches. Apart from going where we feel called and edifying the Body of Christ, what we are most concerned about is how this transition will affect our friendships with you all. Again, we really hope we can still be close and apart of each other's lives.

I'd also like to say that, while we care about Mars Hill and would like to continue to help how we can, since we've left the church, from here forward our aim will be unity with our Mars Hill brothers and sisters in Christ and we'll try to avoid engaging in "quarreling over words" or "irreverent babble" like Paul talks about. I'm sure you all know that I have a tendency to babble ; )

Thanks for taking the time to read this long letter.

Let's talk soon,

[Mars Hill Departed]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Question for Our Readers

For those of you who left Mars Hill, has your experience caused you to question different parts of your beliefs?  Have you changed your views, theology, denomination?  Which?  Are there any beliefs that you had once held strongly that you would say have changed dramatically?

Please comment to answer.  And it is fine to remain anonymous, but please make up some kind of handle, or it will be difficult to keep track of multiple "Anonymous"...Thanks!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

For Our Visitors

This is a must read:


It is long, but worth your time.

Guest Post: Speaking Your Truth

This is a guest post by our Seattle area counselor.  You can read about what is available to former Mars Hill members here: An Exciting Opportunity

I won’t even be able to begin to scratch the surface of all the dynamics that go into the battle women (and men) face in speaking their own truth (which has been so poignantly exemplified through the stories shared on MarsHillRefuge), but I will say that it is among the list of most powerful things one could do in this life.  There is too much research today about what happens in the body and/or relationships when anger, sadness, and shame are silenced.

As Poet Muriel Rukeyser writes, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”

In the work that I do with clients, we continue, over and over again, to be with the emotions that the client has not allowed themselves to feel, out of reasons that they have come to, be it because they were punished for those emotions, they are afraid that the emotions will overtake them, they realize their life might be impacted if they do, or fill in the blank with the reason you use when you feel your emotion and then choose to move away from it.  When we work with these thoughts and feelings, a beautiful thing occurs—healing!  Clients realize that they can tell their story.  And when clients are able to speak freely of their experience, they find that they enjoy life more fully, they are able to maintain intimate relationships with deeper satisfaction and overall, are able to navigate through their lives with more ease.

“You think you can avoid [pain], but actually you can’t.  If you do, you just get sicker, or you feel more pain.  But if you can speak it, if you can write it, if you can paint it, it is very healing”  --Alice Walker

So what?  Why am I writing about this here?  In power dynamics, such as church systems in which men and women are slotted to speak a specific truth, even if that is contrary to what they may think or feel internally, the ability to tell one’s truth becomes near impossible.  Confusion sets in and folks experience cognitive dissonance.  They feel one reality to be true and yet are left trying to understand why that felt reality seems so contrary to what they are seeing lived out around them.  Perhaps the reason why MarsHillRefuge is such a refuge is because it truly is opening up a glimpse for folks that they can speak their truth, and that speaking their truth does help in some way.

So, while I can’t write what that specific truth may be for you, I can say that your truth is important.  I can also say that your truth is meant to be lived out with others—be it your spouse, community, church, work, school—others need your truth as much as you do.

Women will starve in silence until new stories are created which confer on them the power of naming themselves.  Sarah Gilbert & Susan Gubar 

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Results of Reconciliation

As most of you aware, Mars Hill posted, A Call for Reconciliation in the beginning of March. I filled out the form they provided a few days later. On March 28th The Wartburg Watch posted about how Mars Hill had taken so long to contact me. I received an email the next day from a representative of Mars Hill who apologized and said my response had been lost in a spam filter. Later that day I was emailed by Pastor Adam Christiansen to set up a meeting.

I had no expectations for this meeting. In my mind it was an experiment. Out of all the people who have shared their stories, I felt I was probably the safest to conduct this experiment since my time at Mars Hill was so brief. I felt that we were all curious to see if their post, “A Call for Reconciliation” was genuine or just a PR move.  I was curious what reconciliation with me meant for them. I tried my hardest (and admittedly failed a bit) to go into this meeting with no preconceived notions of how it would go. I wanted to act as a guinea pig and be able to report back to everyone reading Mars Hill Refuge about how the meeting went.

In my response to A Call for Reconciliation I listed the terms of meeting in a neutral location, and bringing along my old pastor for support. He completely understood my terms and told me we could meet where I wished and I could bring whoever I wished along. He told me he would also be bringing along another pastor, who ended up being Bill Clem, the lead pastor at the Ballard campus.

I was honestly very surprised at how the meeting went. They were both very humble and seemed to expect nothing from me. They asked to hear my story, and I told them what I have written here. Both of them seemed genuinely saddened by my experience, and apologized for the actions of others. They talked about where Mars Hill aspires to be and how they have missed the mark. The men I met with seemed like they really wanted Mars Hill to grow and change for the better. Our meeting has given me some hope.

My main question for them was to ask what reconciliation with me meant. I asked what they expected from our meeting. When I looked up the word reconcile the other day a couple of definitions really stuck out to me, “to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable:” and, “to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent:” With such opposing viewpoints I didn’t understand how I could be reconciled with them. When I told him these definitions and my thoughts, Bill spoke of living in the same neighborhood and focusing on similar desires for our community, instead of our differences. I left it at that during our meeting, but truthfully I feel that while I can let go of theological differences, I can’t ignore what I view to be abuse. Until the abuse stops, and until Mark Driscoll publicly apologizes for his bullying, there is no way I can ever be fully reconciled with Mars Hill. I wish I would have thought to say that then, but my feelings and thoughts weren’t completely gathered yet. 

While I was telling them my story, I said something that eluded to the fact that I don’t hold the complementarian view on marriage. Nothing was said at that moment, but later Bill did bring it up and spoke about his experience with marriage, and leadership in marriage. I had nothing against him sharing his experience with me, but I did feel as though he was trying to correct me, or change my viewpoint. The last thing I wanted was to descend into a theological battle so I left it at that. I did not feel like he was doing it out of anger at my views or pride. It is obviously a belief that is very important to him. This is the only part of our meeting I had issue with.

After our dialogue I feel that I have some more clarification into my own mindsets. I believe that Mark is the problem. He is purposeful to create idealism in young people, and I believe that idealism often breeds the abuse we have suffered. People say it isn’t Mark’s responsibility, but it is his own stated goal to inspire and lead young people (especially men), and this inspiration isn’t manifesting in a healthy manner. Our experiences are proof of that. 

I want to end this by saying I wish all the best for the men I met with. Though our views may still differ, I felt like I met with real human beings, not narcissistic theology-machines. I appreciated their willingness to meet with me and hear what I had to say. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hey Liberty University, Drop Driscoll! Petition

Updated: 4/5/2012

I will start off saying that some of you may disagree with my participation in this. I know that the purpose of this blog is to tell our stories and support one another.


What if we could prevent the stories?  What if we put action behind our words and opinions?  What if a greater number of people were aware of what is being taught by Pastor Mark?

I am sure that some will judge my heart and call me bitter.  That is a risk I am willing to take.  Why?  Because I have nieces and nephews who almost started attending Mars Hill a few weeks ago.  But they didn't because my brother told them about this blog.  In my opinion, we have a responsibility.  A group of us have gotten together to form "Sophia's Voice".

Here is our strategy: I met with social justice groups over the past week after news outlets have failed to pick up any of the spiritual abuse stories coming out of Mars Hill church. It’s troubling how Driscoll has a bestselling book on godly marriage while at the same time alarming stories from behind the scenes of his church have been coming out on sites like Jesus Needs New PR and Joyful Exiles, and Mars Hill Refuge. We’ve emailed major papers and news sites to ask them to spotlight the testimonies of insider experiences coming out of Mars Hill, andl the only one who would pick up the story was The Stranger. Not Christianity Today, not any of the Times type papers – no one.
So to raise curiosity about a problem (emotional and spiritual devastation coming out of Mars Hill church) that we have seen for years in our community and now spreading nationwide as Driscoll’s fame and Acts 29 church network grows, we need to spark curiosity about what is happening behind the scenes. If demand is created then news outlets will cover these devastating stories of people who were once on the inner circle of Mars Hill church. Since Driscoll is a national bestseller and getting lots of media attention we decided to petition Liberty University to rescind their invite for Driscoll to speak on their campus on April 20th. We think that would get the conservatives and fundamentalists engaged as well. Once the truth is brought to light then healing can begin, as any survivor will tell you.

If you are so inclined, please sign the petition to have Mark Driscoll uninvited from speaking to more than 10,000 students at Liberty University on April 20.  Also, please share it with your networks if you feel comfortable.

Here is the link:

Hey Liberty University, Drop Driscoll!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Guest Post: Facing Your Spiritual Abuser

Cindy, at the Under Much Grace blog has so kindly allowed us to re-post this article, entitled:

As we have seen in many of the stories here ( Kip's , for example), this is very much a reality.  Please stop over at Cindy's blog...but I must warn you...there is so much good information that you will need to have time on your hands!  Very educational.

For those that have answered A Call for Reconciliation, please take notes!


Sometimes, members of a high demand group or a spiritually abusive church are called in to sessions of confrontation with their group leadership, pastors, and elders in order to intimidate them and to secure their compliance with group demands. And quite often, when people discover problems with manipulation, doctrine, or exploitation within their spiritually abusive church, they feel responsible to inform their leadership. Many people seek out their leaders to inform their leaders that they are leaving their group, just as a courtesy, to find personal closure, and sometimes, to hopefully make their spiritual abuser aware of the hurtful if not harmful nature of their actions – a personal courtesy to them.

Because of the authoritarian nature of spiritually abusive groups and the dynamics by which the leaders perpetuate control and coercion of the followers, group leaders generally react to this type of confrontation in very predictable ways. Such a system demands compliance with a certain set of dynamics, one of which demands complete perfection of the group, the way it does things, and the decisions made by the leaders. The group defines ultimate truth, so the group leadership speaks on God's behalf. The system demands complete devotion and compliance, requiring unquestioned obedience and complete submission to authority to any of their superiors on their chain of command. Because these dynamics demand that the follower assume fault at all costs, for the purposes of discussion, we have named the sessions of confrontation the “Star Chamber.”

Manipulative groups also make use of shame sessions that demand that the follower confess their faults to the group and the leadership. Deeply personal information elucidated in the “star chamber” can generally be extracted from group members because of the threatening nature of the confrontation sessions, what some high demand groups have formally called “the Hot Seat.”

If you're planning to confront a church leader that you suspect might be spiritually abusive, you will find this series of blog posts quite helpful. If you have advanced knowledge of the nature of a meeting to which you've been summoned, or if you are planning to confront manipulative church leaders, please take advantage of this information in advance. If you are recovering from this aspect of spiritual abuse which often proves to be quite difficult because of the moral questions that arise, you will likely find this information helpful to you as you work through the anger, grief, recovery, moving through your experience into triumph.

The many posts on the subject have been categorized to make them easier to navigate.

Thought Conversion During Confrontations
With a Manipulative Leader
(What is the Church Star Chamber and the Hot Seat?)

Considerations and Protective Measures to Take
When You Encounter a Hot Seat / Star Chamber Meeting