The downfall of Mars Hill Church and its macho pastor

Timothy Kincaid

September 18th, 2014


Seattle’s Mars Hill Church is a mega-church with real machismo, where the men are men and the women are subservient. Mark Driscoll, the charismatic leader at Mars Hill has long been known by readers here at Box Turtle Bulletin to have contempt for “effeminate men” and the church has shown itself to be ignorant, at best, about the gay community, referring to it as “those who are infected with AIDS on the hill” and advocating for ex-gay efforts.

But perhaps less known, until recently, was Driscoll’s misogyny, abuse, and dictatorial approach to ministry. But eventually enough of those within his circle had experienced his abusive and controlling nature and his empire has now begun to crumble. And the catalyst was someone who is as extreme as Driscoll in her anti-gay positioning, radio host Janet Mefferd. (Seattle Times)

Driscoll’s heated November 2013 exchange with radio host Janet Mefferd would prove a crucial turning point in his explosive rise and recent fall, igniting a chain of events that would begin unraveling the Seattle megachurch he founded.

Mefferd had discovered that Driscoll had based about 14 pages of his latest book on another author’s ideas, without giving attribution. And when she pointed this out, Driscoll went on attack mode, accusing Mefferd of being rude and “not very Christ-like”.

That may have been his error – his posturing inviting inspection when his house wasn’t in order. A few people within conservative Christianity began looking into Driscoll’s book practice. And discovered that his theft of intellectual property wasn’t a isolated event.

Perhaps the greatest damage to Driscoll came when this caught the attention of Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who in some ways serves as the conscience of the evangelical community. While the original improprieties were discovered by others, Throckmorton brought them to the attention of the greater church community through blogging and authoring articles. And one particular revelation was shocking.

Real Marriage, part relationship advice, part sex manual, had enough shock value that it shouldn’t surprise that it sold well. And it did, surging to the Number One spot on the New York Times’ list of hardcover advice books. And in January 2012, Driscoll became a NYT Best Selling Author.

But it turns out that Driscoll and Mars Hill didn’t get there honestly. Instead, they hired a firm to make bogus purchases of the book so as to drive up the sales numbers. And, to fool the Times, the scheme involved large numbers of purchases from around the country using differing payment methods.

As disclosures about Driscoll’s practices came to light, more congregants and former congregants began to tell their stories about abuse and manipulation. On August 21, Dave Kraft, who had been on staff as Dricoll’s life coach, went public as to why he had left. He was joined by 21 other former pastors who presented a listing of complaints.

This – along with revelations about opinions he had expressed while using a pseudonym – compelled nine current pastors associated with Mars Hill to call on Driscoll to step down. (Daily Beast)

Then on Aug. 22, those pastors delivered a letter to their remaining fellow pastors asking Driscoll step down and enter a process of repentance and restoration. Instead of complying with the direction of his pastors, Driscoll announced to the church on Aug. 24 after his Sunday sermon that he would take “an extended focus break” in order to heal and allow the church to examine the allegations against him.

His Executive Elders, a tiny committee, then announced that they would investigate the accusations. Early indications suggest that they have every intention of vindicating Driscoll and maligning his accusers. And as for the nine pastors who called for Driscoll’s replacement – they’ve been fired.

Mars Hill’s attendance is down by about a third and there are consolidating congregations. One of the congregations which has been closed is the one which which claimed to be “serving and ministering to those who are infected with AIDS on the hill”.

This story is likely far from over.

Ben in Oakland

September 18th, 2014

But, but, but…

They’re judging him.

And bring intolerant of him.

And effectively boycotting him.

And preventing his freedom of speech. Well at least, of someone’s speech.

And they are throwing stones of hardest schadenfreude.

And they’re not treating him as they would like to be treated.

Nor are they welcoming the prodigal some home, because they don’t want to kill the fatted golden calf.

It’s just not very Christian of them. But it is being certain that Driscoll doesn’t derail the gravy hallelujah train.

Now if only more Christians would challenge the grifters in their midst.

Biblical metaphors– I’ve got a million of them.


September 18th, 2014

I’ve been following this for some time on Dr. Throckmorton’s blog, and some of the revelations are just incredible. Along with sexism and misogyny, there was an obsession by Driscoll with sex and the sex lives of the people around him. He’d also adopted a practice of ridding people of demons, which sounds remarkably similar Scientology practices.

I know there are still people who have positive feelings about Mars Hill, but it’s become a rather scary cult of personality at this point.

Joseph Singer

September 18th, 2014

Mark Driscoll is a modern day Elmer Gantry.


September 18th, 2014

After reading the exchange between Mefferd and Chambers I feel like I need to find a way to scrub my brain with lye soap.

I am glad you can retain your sanity while reading this kind of bilge and distill it for those of us who can’t tolerate the hatred she spits.

Thanks, Timothy

Maurice Lacunza

September 18th, 2014

Not too long ago, Driscoll had a video blog of himself in an upstairs portion of his home that looked like a mancave of sorts but did not have any mirrors.

Of interest is that he claimed in his blog that it was possible to become homosexual by watching yourself masturbate in a mirror. (btw, I can’t find that video anymore. I think they pulled it. anyone got a copy of it?)

Proof that he might be gay: 1. My gut/brain intuition was that he was a repressed homosexual, and 2. My other proof is that he looked an awful lot like a secret lover of mine. Slam dunk really.

Somehow the truth always seeps out of these ranting anti-gay preachers.


September 18th, 2014

The sad thing is that most of his followers won’t learn from this. Even if they leave Mars Hill, they will soon be in the clutches of another conman.

Timothy Kincaid

September 18th, 2014


One of the articles found the opposite. People who had been burned by Mars Hill found themselves unable to trust or let down their guard as easily.


September 18th, 2014

“he claimed in his blog that it was possible to become homosexual by watching yourself masturbate in a mirror.”

I’ve hung around far too many conservative Christians, and I thought I’d heard everything… until now!

On the other hand, I guess that explains why I’m gay. And I’m grossed out thinking about what Marky Mark does in his man cave (and now “man cave” seems like a dirty euphemism). Please, dear God, make it stop!

Paul Douglas

September 19th, 2014

I’ve been following the Driscoll debacle with barely constrained glee for a few weeks now. Christianism in its most fundagelical (and irrational) form is so prone to this kind of stuff. But I guess if you believe in the inerrancy of the holey buybull with its talking snakes, walking on water and the sun “stopping in the sky” for a day, you can certainly believe whatever Driscoll and company might blather on about.

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