A civil racketeering lawsuit filed against two former leaders of the defunct Mars Hill Church—lead pastor Mark Driscoll and executive elder Sutton Turner—has been dismissed. Back in March, four former members of the controversial church filed a lawsuit which accused Driscoll and Turner of essentially misusing donations.
The suit alleged that more than $200,000 in donations that were collected for the church’s mission fund were used to pay a company to make sure that Driscoll’s latest book ended up on the New York Times best-seller list. He later said that the tactics used by the company “[manipulated] a book sales reporting system, which is wrong,” and retracted its best-seller status in marketing material, though has said that the claims made by the lawsuit were “false and malicious allegations.”
The legal issues may not be over for Driscoll however. The racketeering lawsuit was dismissed because the former members bringing it didn’t actually serve Driscoll and Turner after filing it. The judge decided that the plaintiffs didn’t act "in bad faith, recklessly, or with an improper purpose,” and if they can get the money needed to serve the duo, they could refile it and the case could actually be heard by a judge.
In an email to RNS, one of the plaintiffs said, “We are ready to refile, if someone stepped up and offered to fund it. We will also be considering class action and contingent fee possibilities.” So far, a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the legal fees has brought in $34,660 of its $70,000 goal.
This month, Driscoll’s new church, The Trinity Church, launched in Phoenix, Ariz.
In a statement regarding the dismissal, Driscoll said, “I am grateful to God for the dismissal of these false and malicious allegations. I remain steadfast and committed to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am forever humbled and thankful for the prayers and tremendous support of family, friends, and fellow pastors.” Discuss
[The church] will host its first ever gathering at 5pm on Easter Sunday March 27, 2016, at the Glass and Garden Drive-In Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. In time, we look forward to launching The Trinity Church. In time, we look forward to launching The Trinity Church. In the meantime, we did not want to pass up this historic opportunity to gather for the first time on the 50-year anniversary of the landmark building, which opened on Easter 1966. Even though it’s last minute, as the ink on our rental contract is still wet, we look forward to meeting you at our modest open house and prayer meeting. Pastor Mark will be sharing our church vision as we begin gathering our launch team.
Driscoll is a controversial figure in evangelicalism. After founding Mars Hill Church in Seattle back in 1996, Driscoll became a prominent pastor and author. But, after growing the church to 15 locations and attracting more than 12,000 weekly members at its peak, severalhigh-profilecontroversies eventually led to the ministry being dissolved in January of last year. Driscoll is currently being sued for racketeering, being accused by several former Mar Hills members for misusing ministry funds and misleading congregants about how their donations were actually being used.
Driscoll told RNS that the allegations were “false and malicious,” adding, “I’m certain that the most recent examples are without any merit.” Discuss
This Sunday, Saddleback Church pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren was invited to deliver the final sermon at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. You can watch the message, which was delivered via video, below. Mars Hill recently announced that after 18 years of ministry, all of its satellite churches would either operate separately or dissolve completely. The move comes after a team of elders confronted lead pastor Mark Driscoll over a series of allegations involving the mistreatment of members of the congregation, plagiarism, the use of church funds to prop up book sales and other accusations of improper behavior. Driscoll resigned in October.
On their website, the church posted a message that read, “As we close the doors on Mars Hill Church, and consider the evidence of God’s grace shown to us over the years, words cannot express the depth of our gratitude for the people of Mars Hill and our Global Family who have served tirelessly, prayed continually, and given sacrificially to support Jesus’ mission through Mars Hill Church ... making disciples and planting churches" ... Discuss
Thrice frontman and indie artist Dustin Kensrue has resigned from his position as director of worship at Mars Hill. The move comes after a letter—signed by Kensrue and several fellow church leaders—asking that Pastor Mark Driscoll step down for a time and seek “restoration” following numerous controversies, was leaked to the media. The original letter added, “We believe that in many cases we have invited these controversies upon ourselves by not seeking the truth and not seeking to be in the light.” In his resignation letter, Kensrue said that the authority of church elders to correct leadership at Mars Hill “is trampled under the man-made hierarchies and ‘chain of command.’” Driscoll has since announced a six-week leave absence saying, “The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church,” adding, “I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire eldership for addressing accusations against me.”
Throughout his resignation letter (which he posted here), Kensrue focused on what he sees as a lack of ability of the church elders to offer correction to higher church leadership, and the inability to address concerns raised by church members and the media. He told members:
I would encourage you to not muddy the issues by engaging in personal attacks and becoming bitter. I honestly believe that [the Board of Advisors & Accountability and Executive Elders] love you, and that they love Jesus. But I also believe that they are blind to what is really going on, and blind to what the roots of the problems are. I believe that they are treating the media as their conscience, rather than heeding the voice of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the elders. So speak boldly, but speak in love. Mars Hill is not on a good trajectory.