Posted August 25, 2014 by Religion News Service in Commentary and News

Mark Driscoll To Step Down While Mars Hill Elders Review Charges

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey

(RNS) Seattle megachurch founder Mark Driscoll will step down for at least six weeks while Mars Hill reviews formal charges lodged against him from previous pastors.

Returning from vacation Sunday (Aug. 24), Driscoll addressed Mars Hill worship services through a pre-recorded message. The 43-year-old pastor has been under fire in recent months for plagiarism, inappropriate use of church funds and abuse of power.

Mark Driscoll’s books pulled from the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay stores

Driscoll has been an influential but edgy pastor within conservative evangelical circles for several years.

Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor who has been blogging details of the events surrounding the church’s turmoil, said he is aware of other elders planning to resign or considering it. “According to sources in church this morning, Driscoll said he is meeting with mature Christian men unrelated to the church,” Throckmorton wrote.

A Mars Hill spokesperson has not returned requests for comment.

Respected preacher and author John Piper, who received some backlash for inviting Driscoll to his 2006 Desiring God conference, tweeted his reaction to this news.

I hope Mark Driscoll feels a tidal wave of hope-filled prayer for a new day and a new man in this season.

— John Piper (@JohnPiper) August 24, 2014

Driscoll has faced increasing turmoil this past year, though he has long been controversially popular within evangelical circles. “But now Mr. Driscoll’s empire appears to be imploding,” The New York Times wrote on its front page on Saturday (Aug. 23).

“He was really important — in the Internet age, Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously,” Timothy Keller, the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, told the Times. “But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people.”

Mars Hill Church has claimed as many as 14,000 members at 15 locations across five states each Sunday.

Earlier this week, 21 former Mars Hill pastors filed charges against Driscoll, saying that he has engaged in a pattern of abusive and intimidating conduct and has not changed.

Mars Hill also canceled its fall Resurgence Conference, which was to feature recently resigned board members Paul Tripp and James MacDonald as speakers. Driscoll was removed as closing speaker at an October church conference in Dallas and stricken from the speaker list at a series of four Christian “Act Like Men” conferences.

And earlier this month, Driscoll was removed from Acts 29, a church-planting network of more than 500 churches he helped found, after board members said they found a pattern of “ungodly and disqualifying behavior.”

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help,” board members told Driscoll.

Driscoll recently admitted to and apologized for comments he made under the pseudonym “William Wallace II” where he posted statements critical of feminism, homosexuality and “sensitive emasculated” men.

He has been provocative, occasionally profane, and has faced more recent allegations of plagiarism and inflating his book sales. “Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for,” he said late last year of plagiarism charges. He also apologized in March, saying “my angry-young-prophet days are over.”

After Acts 29 removed Driscoll from its membership, LifeWay Christian Resources, the nation’s second largest Christian book retailer, pulled Driscoll’s books from its website and 186 stores.