My name is Ron Wheeler. I Am Not Anonymous.

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Wayne Wilson's picture

That's rather powerful. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I stopped shortly after the author related that his wife had an affair with another Pastor. Too depressing to continue. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Steve Newman's picture

I thought the article was a good confession and challenge.

How do we treat those who have been given the reins of leadership and fall into sin? Driscoll is portrayed as too ready to "shoot the wounded" and to shout down anyone who disagrees with him. His blend of profit, power, and pragmatism is a scary blend of how the megachurch is built.

Jay's picture

TylerR wrote:

I stopped shortly after the author related that his wife had an affair with another Pastor. Too depressing to continue. 

No, that's WHY we should read it.  It's a big part of why I'm passionate about this this topic.  It's not about destroying a successful man, like his defenders say. It's about how a man who should have never been in the ministry in the first place got seriously off track and who has ruined (destroyed might be a better term) thousands of lives.  It's about the people that were warning us about Driscoll as far back as 2008 or 2009 that we ignored and didn't pay heed to.  It's about lives like this:

In the fall of 2004, my then wife had an affair with another pastor on staff (who was also one of my closest friends).  Our church had serious problems as it was, many as a result of my failing to lead properly.  Many of the things at the church were shaped by your influence, and some of that influence I still recognize as inspired, Biblical, and even prophetic at times.  Again, it is hard to express how much you helped us.

Much of that influence however, was very unhealthy and systemically flawed.  It took me many years of distance and separation to truly gain objectivity and see just exactly how flawed. For instance, I was patterning my/our discipline process after what you were doing.  One of those situations was with a man in leadership named Dale.  I will always grieve over the heavy-handed way we dealt with Dale. Not only was it ungracious and unfair, it was hypocritical.  Again, something for which I’m profoundly sorry.

Add to all that, some significant personal weaknesses and sins of my own, and I/we needed serious help.   I asked you for that help, and in customary fashion, you dropped the hammer. When all of your recommendations on discipline weren’t followed, you came unglued.  

or

On March 17, 2005, I sent a letter of grievance to the Board of Acts29, asking them to address what I had come to realize over time, were serious character flaws of yours.   I made the case that Biblically you were unfit and disqualified as an Elder. A case based off long established patterns of pride, lack of self-control, sexually vulgar and slanderous speech, exaggeration that bordered on deception, gossip about others and confidentiality issues. An excerpt from that letter stated: “The fact that Mark is an incredibly talented leader and charismatic personality, cannot in any way substitute for the simple Biblical requirements of being Christ-like, much less the qualifications of being an Elder. I can make a Biblical case from Titus regarding his being overbearing, quick-tempered, self-controlled, upright, and holy, as well as 1 Timothy regarding being above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not quarrelsome, and a good reputation with outsiders”.

Not surprisingly, we got a response letter from the Board of Acts29 informing us that they would accept our resignation from Acts29, as we had made our continued participation in the network contingent upon their dealing with your issues.  Apparently, they lacked the fortitude and resolve to deal with your out-of-control behavior, and so became complicit themselves.  

or

That wasn’t the only grievance letter that the Board of Acts29 received regarding you either.  Co-founder and Acts29 President David Nicholas sent one as well.  David was a mentor to you… he was your pastor I remember you saying.  Yet over time, Pastor Nicholas came to have grave misgivings about your character and conduct, personally brought it to you on multiple occasions, and finally wrote about them to the Board.  Yes, David was an imperfect, strong-willed, stubborn man sometimes, but he loved you.

David Nicholas is Not Anonymous.

David wanted the Board to come help our church work through this situation, but you wanted to do it your way. That added to the growing conflict between the two of you.  He had said that the Board would be coming to meet with our Elders during the Reformission conference, and then suddenly, somehow, you took over as President of Acts29.  I remember talking to David on the phone afterwards and him being stunned at what just happened.  You somehow had enough support to vote him off of the board.  Rick McKinley (a very good man) wanted nothing to do with any of this, and pulled out of the board and Acts29 altogether.  How you got the other guys to go along with that move, I’ll never know, but it foreshadowed a similar move that would happen with your own Eldership in 2007.

Or

The final straw for me was this video you just released where you cited these anonymous detractors. To the masses watching, you may get away with “sounding sorry”, but to the hundreds…thousands even, who have been actually victimized, they need actual Biblical confession and repentance, the kind that is specific and identifies actual people and actual sins against them.  Evasive generalized statements only worsen the hurt.  Spin doctoring and ‘damage control” is just more of the same big-business marketing tactics that led to this systemic pattern of cancerous abuse in the first place.  Worse, it desensitizes and inoculates people to what real, genuine repentance looks and feels like.

So, why am I saying this to you now, Mark?

Why am I saying it like this, and after all this time?

Well, because you are unreachable through any other means. I’ve tried. Talk about being anonymous.  Who knows where you are, or where you live?   You have isolated yourself behind your ministry fortress and this is the only way to have a hearing.

Yes, it's depressing.  No doubt about that.  But it's also important that this man - this liar, thief, misogynist, porn pusher and worse - has been continally upheld for years as an example.  And he's an example all right - an example of what not to do, of what happens when power goes to your head, of building a media empire with yourself at the center instead of building on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets.  It's a story of a Diotrephes who built a fortress on the sand and who cares for nothing other than his own self-aggrandizement.

It's truth.  And the TRUTH needs to be told.  The truth is what will set people free.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

Because I'm not really sure what you are saying about Wheeler's wife and the affair.

Are you saying that somehow Driscoll was responsible for the affair?

Ron Bean's picture

I can think of a number of fundamentalist leaders with honorary doctorates from fundamentalist institutions whose leadership style parallels Driscoll's; minus the profanity and vulgarity.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

There is a point where it can come across as a long whine, but whatever his faults, I do think the author confesses some points that those interacting with the mega-churches (and mega-church wanna-bees?) ought to consider.

1.  The author confesses spending a LOT of time in the organization of the Mars Hill movement....but does not describe the pastoral care he did, or did not, implement, at that time.  I suspect the loss of his wife was because, in part, his attention and the paramour's were on other things besides servant ministry.

2.  The author confesses some fairly heavy-handed habits in church discipline proceedings.

In other words, he portrays his own, and Mars Hill's, operation as more or less a combination of Donald Trump and General Patton, not that of a church, and he draws a compelling need for believers in general and church officers specifically to recover the dramatic, life-altering truths of the Gospels.

And I agree with Jim 100% that this is the result of hero worship--it is easy to get distracted by bright shiny things, and we ought to remember that the man of God is not called to be Sterling North's pet "Rascal".

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

Jim wrote:

Because I'm not really sure what you are saying about Wheeler's wife and the affair.

Are you saying that somehow Driscoll was responsible for the affair?

To a degree.  If Driscoll was filling the guy's head with garbage on male leadership that was causing him to disregard his wife's needs/desires and also making him travel all over the place for these ministry "activities" to the detriment of his family, then yes, I think it's fair to ascribe some guilt to Driscoll.  Not nearly as much as the author, but some.

Let's face it - the author's wife saw something in someone else, so it's clear there were needs there.  Given what Driscoll teaches on male leadership and female subjugation, then I think it's entirely possible that he's somewhat culpable for destabilizing the marriage.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

I would agree that Driscoll bears a degree of responsibility for setting the stage for affairs by having his "posse" jet around the country instead of ministering to their families and congregations.  For that matter, the summaries of "Real Marriage" that Dr. Dan (?)  Miller posted suggest that this wasn't especially helpful in Driscoll's own marriage, though thankfully I've seen no hint of adultery there.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

 

I agree with Jay 100%. 

It is high time we stand up and call these people out in a clear and direct manner.  It isn't about getting even or overkill, but these kind of details need to come out so it is very clear what happened.  I wish I could say NO more Driscolls, Schaaps, Gothards, or Hyles, but the thing is, these punks get to this level of leadership because we let them.  Easier said than done, but it is true, we let them get like this.  Leaders like this somehow know how to push our pride buttons or make us feel good so it can be easy to lack the courage and character to take a stand or simply to leave.

Call me naive, but I just don't understand how people can let themselves get that caught-up with a ministry leader or organization that they can't think straight.

JC's picture

mmartin wrote:

Call me naive, but I just don't understand how people can let themselves get that caught-up with a ministry leader or organization that they can't think straight.

 

Seeking a church front man, probably stems from similar sentiment that caused Israel to demand an earthly King - 1 Samuel 8 

Julie Anne's picture

mmartin wrote:

Call me naive, but I just don't understand how people can let themselves get that caught-up with a ministry leader or organization that they can't think straight.

Study narcissism. They are master manipulators. The Bible talks about false teachers who creep in unnoticed.  We cannot dismiss this type of following, blame the people, and say they were weak. Mars Hill attracts highly educated people, just as the follower of Jim Jones were very educated. This is and continues to be a very dangerous situation.

Think of the situation right now. Acts29 removed Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill from their group, yet how did the Board of Mars Hill respond?  They said Mark Driscoll has changed.  He's not going anywhere. The board will not do anything. Can you imagine all of the members of Mars Hill knowing what is going on outside of Mars Hill, all of the articles, websites, now the powerful words from the Board of Acts 29, and yet they choose to remain?  What kind of charisma must he have to CONvince them that everyone else in the world is wrong and Mark Driscoll and his group are the elite/chosen ones.  

Jay, I appreciate your words.

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding why people don't leave, I think it has a lot to do with (a) how someone does or does not understand the Gospel and (b) the cult of personality.  A third factor is that (c) you get a lot of friends at any church, which makes it hard to leave.  Now I cannot do anything about the fact that believers make friends, and of course I want more of that happening and not less, but there are two things that believers can do to be less amenable to abusive pastors.

First of all, it's crucial for us to understand the Gospels--I would almost suggest that we ought to read them through several times a year so that Gospel habits of thought are in us.  I personally figured out that a popular mega-church pastor and author was developing a cult of personality around himself beginning with the fact that some of his statements were flatly contradicted by the teachings of Christ.  Not debateable; flatly contradicted.

In the same example, it was also very important that I took the time to go through the book of this author's, and then take a look at his patterns of ministry, and see if I could figure anything out. In this case, I was able to document numerous abuses of basic principles of exegesis (see above) and a pattern of abusing his authority as pastor to enrich himself and create an empire that only he could run.  

It took me a few weeks to get it done with other responsibilities, but suffice it to say that when I'd put it all together, my pastor was quick to note "oh, I'd better look into this."  In other words, the second thing we need to do is to take a close look at a pastor's teaching and life and see if it matches what we see in Scripture.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

#1-Pastor is having an affair for years but the deacons know do nothing. When the affair becomes public, the majority of deacons ask for his resignation. The pastor resigns but then changes his mind. The deacons accept his repentance and the hurch splits. The pastor starts another church in same town.

#2-The pastor is arrested for drunk driving. The church leaders know but say nothing until years later when it is discovered. After having years to feather his nest, the pastor resigns to move to another religious position.

#3-More than once a prominent religious leader gets discovered in continual sin,  promoting false doctrine, financial malfeasance, or just being a fool and he just disappears from view and is never spoken of again.

This tragic situation happens way too often but we fundamentalists need to be careful that we don't develop a pious attitude by implying that we're not as bad as they are.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Frankly, Ron, I think you are on to something. I am increasingly convinced that every time a member leaves a church badly, there ought to be church discipline. No one should be allowed to just slink quietly into the night.  It may not impact the departed, but it will still be a teaching moment for those who remain.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Frankly, Ron, I think you are on to something. I am increasingly convinced that every time a member leaves a church badly, there ought to be church discipline. No one should be allowed to just slink quietly into the night.  It may not impact the departed, but it will still be a teaching moment for those who remain.

Sounds like a reign of terror

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Really Jim? Why is that. When a member becomes disruptive in the body, scripture calls for discipline in the body. We are given three reasons for discipline in the body: purity, restoration, warning. A member who ducks out improperly has caused pain and disruption in the body, and discipline is the scriptural response with clear implication for two of the three reasons for discipline. Only God knows the potential for restoration in those situations, but it certainly doesn't hinder restoration to follow God's directives. Honestly, the church ought to vote, either in support or in discipline, on every departing member. After all, every member who joins is approved corporately, so why is leaving the body different (other than that's not how we have been doing it). That's why churches used to issue letters of recommendation to members who were moving to take to the next church they were going to join saying that they had left in good standing. This running from church to church just to stay out of trouble and being welcomed with open arms is wrong. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Really Jim? Why is that. When a member becomes disruptive in the body, scripture calls for discipline in the body. We are given three reasons for discipline in the body: purity, restoration, warning. A member who ducks out improperly has caused pain and disruption in the body, and discipline is the scriptural response with clear implication for two of the three reasons for discipline. Only God knows the potential for restoration in those situations, but it certainly doesn't hinder restoration to follow God's directives. Honestly, the church ought to vote, either in support or in discipline, on every departing member. After all, every member who joins is approved corporately, so why is leaving the body different (other than that's not how we have been doing it). That's why churches used to issue letters of recommendation to members who were moving to take to the next church they were going to join saying that they had left in good standing. This running from church to church just to stay out of trouble and being welcomed with open arms is wrong. 

Chip, you make a good point, but if one leaves because of disagreement over doctrine (which can happen if the church doctrine has changed), there will never be corporate agreement or support, even if the leaving was handled as diplomatically and biblically as possible.  Are you saying that all such departures should be handled as church discipline?

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

Dave, I think Chip is saying that there ought to be church discipline if someone leaves due to a pattern of sin, not departures over a change in doctrine on either the part of the church or the member.   But that said, I know I've personally voted to remove members when the members did not have Biblical faith.  So even change in doctrine is not completely out of play.

And I'll grant that all too often, church discipline can be a reign of terror--I knew of a church where for a while, it seemed that the measure of piety among the remaining members was how many people they could excommunicate, and for many, "church discipline" is a battering ram by which they get their way against the "problematic" members who disagree with them.  So for Chip's idea to work, you've got to remember that the primary goal of church discpline is not abuse, but restoration, of the believer.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Rob Fall's picture

It's really very simple.  If someone for one reason or another (good or bad) disappears into the wood work, a letter is not issued.  In time, that person is removed from the rolls thorough erasure for nonattendance.  This is a frequent situation at HSBC due to the transitory nature of our demographic.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Rob Fall's picture

I thought we had the beginnings of a beautiful friendship. Wink

TylerR wrote:
Casablanca

When I read "Letters of Transfer" (above), I kept thinking of "letters of transit . . ."

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Ron Bean's picture

Rob Fall wrote:

It's really very simple.  If someone for one reason or another (good or bad) disappears into the wood work, a letter is not issued.  In time, that person is removed from the rolls thorough erasure for nonattendance.  This is a frequent situation at HSBC due to the transitory nature of our demographic.

I minister in a very transitory area as well. In the Washington D.C. suburbs 3 years is a long time. While we've only been in existence for about seven years, I'm glad to say that we make every attempt not to have members disappear. We impress the responsibilities of membership on new members and, if someone is absent for any length of time, we seek them out. If members move, which they often do, we try to assist them in finding a good church and keep in contact until they do.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

....but it strikes me as comforting that I'm not the only fan of old movies on this board.  If only Hollyweird could make something like that again, I might actually go into a theater.

If they cleaned the stale gum off the seats, of course.  :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.