As we work on a new investigation regarding Mark Driscoll, we wanted to call attention to a salient fact that has come up in the course of our reporting: his new church has no elders.
You’ll recall that back in 2014, Driscoll was embroiled in a controversy for his abusive and bullying style of leadership. Overseeing 14,000 people across multiple campuses in five states, he was also taking heat for a plagiarism scandal uncovered by Janet Mefferd and a book-buying scheme highlighted by Chris Rosebrough, where Pastor Mark reached the NYT best-sellers by having his church buy tens of thousands of his own book, unfairly inflating the numbers.
As a result of these actions, he was called out by over 20 elders, many of who later admitted that they were “yes men” and were ashamed that they let him get away with his behavior for so long. The majority wanted him to be disqualified from ministry completely, with a handful desiring that he take a break from the pulpit but not be declared disqualified per se, so that he could return to preach once he got his house in order.
Rather than repent and stick around to go through church discipline and potentially be restored, submitting himself to the authority of his elders, Driscoll jumped ship, moving 1400 miles to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he planted The Trinity Church.
Slowly, he has rebuilt his empire, even as his theology got squishier. He mocked reformed theology and described Calvinism as “garbage.” He publicly apologized for criticizing Joel Osteen. He started selling copies of his sermon notes online, as well as pushed seeker-sensitive services like “swimsuit Sunday.” He even defended the Roman Catholic Church, saying they “believe in the essentials.”
Despite resigning in disgrace and possessing a penchant for theological violence, people flocked to him at his new home, and his church has grown immensely in the last few years, recording over 1000 people attending earlier services this month.
But Driscoll has never repented. He was not changed. Rather than submit to his elder team he chose to flee instead. He picked up his ball and went home, resulting in some of his abusive ways to begin creeping up in his new kingdom. Warren Throckmorton, whose investigations were invaluable in 2013-2015 in exposing the original mess, has begun to roll out testimony from former congregants and staff members of Trinity, detailing more of the same from a pastor who has clearly not learned his lesson.
Non-disclosure agreements are again being used. Money is again conditioned on silence. People are describing abrupt decisions about membership without due process. Friends and family who are considered disloyal to the church are being shunned…
Unfortunately, as we alluded to earlier, Driscoll has set himself up as Pope of his own church, removing any of the limiting factors that previously constrained him, chiefly, the presence of elders.
Despite having hundreds and hundreds of people attending each week, there are no elders at The Trinity Church. Instead, there are five other pastors, none of whom function in the office of an elder with the accountability and decision-making process that goes with it. He does have a small corporate board made up of a handful of people, some who don’t even go to his church, and others who aren’t even pastors.
Whereas in years past Driscoll defended a biblical understanding of the office of elders in his teaching and in his books, he has since disavowed their importance, choosing to abstain from anything that may tinker with his power or do him dirty by daring to take him to task for his many acts of malfeasance. In fact, Throckmorton is covering one right now.
Armed with the keys to the kingdom, Mark finally gets to call the shots all on his own, unencumbered by a biblical ecclesiology or any sort of accountability.
With Driscoll, we’ve seen this all before, and we know how it all will end.
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