Mars Hill and Proverbs 18:17 In Action

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

I recently put up a post contrasting the supposed mishandling of church discipline at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and my own experience in a Lutheran congregation in Southern California. You can read that post here.

A friend on staff at Mars Hill read that post and reached out to me earlier this week. After a fairly lengthy discussion, I have decided to post this retraction and clarification. There is much more to the story than initial reports, including the ones I linked to, than it first appears. It is a classic case of Proverbs 18:17 in action.

The first to plead his case seems right,
Until another comes and examines him.
Prov.18:17

While being discreet to protect the identities of those involved, and avoiding many of the gory details, my friend laid out enough evidence to satisfy me that the initial accounts given by Andrew and those promoting his story are at best incomplete, and most likely deliberately misleading. Large parts are left out, including the majority of action taken by the church to reconcile him. Also, Andrew’s case involves a confluence of several situations that it appears Mars Hill has properly and thoroughly dealt with. Because the details involve the sin of others that are not publicly known, the church has decided the best course of action is to remain silent to protect those people’s reputation and privacy. They did not divulge the identities of the people involved, or the specific details of each situation to me, but they gave me a rough overview of the pieces missing in various accounts of the incident now in circulation. In light of these facts it is only right that I publicly retract my former comments directed at Mars Hill.

In the future I will keep Prov.18:17 clearly in mind, and heed the admonition of our catechism to put the best construction on everything.

I have elected to keep an edited version of my original post up on the blog. My point remains valid, and I personally know of a number of instances of abuse of church discipline. However, I no longer feel it applies to Mars Hill or their handling of this case.

By Pat K

7 Comments

  1. Ryan Yowell says:

    Pat -I am greatly encouraged by your post , and your willingness to be transparent for the body. I remember hearing a sermon by Warren Wiersbe where he said he had never written an essay, book, or preached a sermon he was happy with; He knew that because of his fallibleness all was up for examination of others, and many errors to be found. I appreciate your work – Ryan Yowell
    @ContendersBible

  2. Simon Lee says:

    Matthew Paul Turner: you’re move, bro.

  3. Robin says:

    Thanks for the update.

  4. Sophia says:

    Dear Pat,

    I appreciate your willingness to apologize, and I know as a human and a blogger it is very difficult to not screw up. I hope you take this comment with the intent I am making it.

    I am very troubled by this statement:

    “I have elected to keep an edited version of my original post up on the blog. My point remains valid, and I personally know of a number of instances of abuse of church discipline. However, I no longer feel it applies to Mars Hill or their handling of this case.”

    I do not think, even if there are extentuating circumstances in the Andrew case, that it clears Mars Hill from all of the allegations of abuse of church discipline. Call it what you want, but Mars Hill has numerous people who have detailed stories of spiritual abuse at the hands of church leadership. Come on over to my blog and read some of the unsolicited stories posted there. And the Yelp comments. These do not include stories that have been shared privately with me, by people who are fearful of what repercussions they will endure if they are identified. An explanation from a friend in one instance cannot clear this church of all the allegations. Did your friend speak to Lance’s situation? How about my family’s experience? Kaelee? Kevin Potts? Most of us did not get to the level of actual shun documents (that we know of, as most of us, upon disagreement, were immediately locked out of The City) and discipline contracts that Andrew did. I know for our situation, it was because we refused to be subjected to meetings with our community group to justify our desire to worship elsewhere.
    I appreciate that you have a friend at Mars Hill, I am sure he is a good man. I met many good people while I was there. Your friend also receives a paycheck from Mars Hill. I am sure he is not lying, but I see no biblical basis for requiring a person to document what was asked of Andrew. However, we are entitled to our opinions.
    What I find most curious, is that Mars Hill will only speak about the two cases that were covered in the Stranger and MPT. Why will they not address the stories at my blog? A personal apology, at least for me, would go a long way. It seems that they are mostly concerned with the reputation of the church and saving face. They are not concerned with me, my husband, or any of the people on my blog. I know they have seen it as it was referenced in both the Stranger and the Slate article.

    Reading both your retraction and back-peddling on Mars Hill and Chaplain Mike’s subsequent apology to his readers actually hurts those who have been hurt by this church all over again. It invalidates our pain and the damage that was done, and feels like people we respect very much are saying, “Actually, we don’t believe you, because so-and-so said such-and-such.” And so the cycle continues. If you talk to your friend, will you ask him why the church will not address the rest of us?

    Thanks & God Bless

    Sophia

    • Pat K says:

      Sophia.

      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful reply.

      I am sorry for being less than clear. My comments only refer to the particular incident mentioned in my post. It is not meant as a blanket statement covering every situation of church discipline at Mars Hill. I am not qualified to address those issues, as I am not familiar with them. (Just as I was not qualified to speak as I did about Andrew’s situation.) Once I was given a rough outline of a number of other circumstances surrounding Andrew’s case, the choice was clear; I had to retract or be guilty of publicly bearing false witness against Mars Hill and it’s staff. It was the right thing to do, and I did it gladly. I was not addressing any other situation.

      I am sorry you feel this has hurt your cause. However, I don’t think that one case that proved to be something other than it initially appeared will set you back. If the things you are saying are true, they won’t escape wider notice, and the issue will be forced sooner or later.

      I am not Reformed/Calvinist and I am no fan of mega churches, so what goes on at MH or with the pastors on staff is not really on my radar. It was not my intent to get embroiled in their controversies, and other than knowing someone on staff I have absolutely no connection to that church.

      That being said, there are a few things that deserve consideration.

      The Reformed/Calvinists view church discipline as a mark of the church. This means, in their view, that if a church does not discipline its members its not really a church, or at least not a healthy church. You can probably see where this can run aground. (Note to my Reformed friends- This does NOT mean that I don’t believe in church discipline, just that it is not a necessary mark of the church.) I did not retract my statements at the end of my first post entitled ‘A Tale of Two Sinners and Their Confessions’ about programmatic approaches to church discipline. I really don’t see that kind of thing in Scripture.

      I have been deeply hurt by the church in the past and suffered much damage to my faith. I am thankful for blogs like yours and Phoenixpreacher.net that offer a safe place for those hurt by the church. However, we have chosen to fight that fight a different way, by offering what we think is a better and more grace filled theology and orthopraxy in contrast to the harmful and hurtful places we have come from. Our most popular lecture “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church” is a one sentence summation of what we try to do here.

      Becoming embroiled in this controversy has hurt our reputation and turned off many people who could benefit from our message. It is a no win situation. Those who are angry at Mars Hill are not satisfied by my retraction and think I was ‘used’ by the church to cover their tracks. Wicked men in authority can and will look at this situation and use what they learn to hide their deeds.

      Yet , I still stand by my decision to print the retraction, because I substantially misrepresented Mars Hill and their staff in a very public forum, and my retraction should be just as public.

      Feel free to email me through the NRP site if you wish.

      Peace,

      Pat K

  5. [...] In light of certain comments that recently appeared on Pat Kyle’s blog, it appears there is more to Andrew’s story than meets the eye.  Oh well.  Good thing I [...]

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