Embattled pastor Mark Driscoll is taking a break from the pastorate of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has suspended publication of his next book, and is receiving personal counsel from a group of mature Christians, he told his congregation Aug. 24.
Driscoll apologized for any harm he has done the church, announced the temporary suspension of any speaking engagements or media interviews, and recounted past “sins, shortcomings and missteps” of his 18-year pastorate.
Speaking from the pulpit at the end of worship service, he read from a more than 2,000-word statement posted on the church blog.
“I have requested a break for processing, healing and growth for a minimum of six weeks while the leadership assigned by our bylaws conduct a thorough examination of accusations against me,” Driscoll said. “I believe their review can best be performed without me being in the pulpit or the office, and they have agreed to this arrangement.”
Driscoll, who has long been a polarizing figure due to his direct leadership style and his often crude speaking and writing manner, is accused of plagiarizing in “A Call to Resurgence,” paying a marketing company more than $200,000 to help elevate his book “Real Marriage” to the New York Times bestseller list and using vulgar language on an Internet forum more than a decade ago in response to critics.
Acts 29, the church-planting group Driscoll founded, removed him and his church from membership Aug. 8, stating “the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network.” LifeWay Christian Resources has suspended the sale of Driscoll’s books.
Driscoll is seeking the Lord’s guidance for himself, his family and his church, he told congregants. At points in his statement, his voice cracked as if he were near tears, though he maintained composure.
“I will use this time to continue to seek the Lord about His plans for me and our family and the next season for our church family,” he said. “I will also use it to spend more time with God, my wife and our children.”
“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men,” he said. “I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing and growing.”
Driscoll agreed with critics on some points, although he did not mention specifics.
“Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am genuinely sorry for,” he said. “In recent years, I have sought to apologize to people I have knowingly offended in any way. I’m grateful that God has honored many of these encounters and granted true reconciliation and restoration.
“But I’m particularly sorry that any of my past actions or decisions have brought distraction to the mission of our church, and therefore, to those of you who call this your church home,” he said, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of “the media age in which we live. … However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me by His grace. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent that I have any control over it.”
Worshippers responded to Driscoll’s statement with applause and a standing ovation.
Mars Hill is not a Southern Baptist church, although Acts 29 includes Southern Baptist congregations.
— Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer/ editor.