Twenty-one former ministers of Mars Hill Church filed charges against Mark Driscoll — the influential pastor of the church who is also known as the “Rush Limbaugh of Christianity” — on Friday, lodging their complaints with the church’s top leadership and accusing him of creating a “verbally abusive” environment within the congregation.
According to the 11-page letter, which was first obtained by Warren Throckmorton of Patheos, the ministers charged Driscoll with “verbally assaulting” his own leadership team and creating a “culture of fear” at the church, which is based in Seattle, Washington. The letter cited 25 specific incidents of allegedly inappropriate conduct on the part of the pastor, including:
- Driscoll denying one man a prominent leadership position by saying, “his fat ass is not the image we want for our church.”
- Driscoll making “a number of … inappropriate sexually-oriented comments … to and about other men’s wives, particularly in casual social settings.”
- Driscoll responding to criticism from another elder at a meeting by shouting, “I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m trying to be nice to you guys by asking your opinion. In reality, we don’t need your vote to make this decision. This is what we’re doing.”
- Driscoll threatening to defame a former elder’s church plant, saying, “I’ll tear his church down brick by brick.”
The charges reportedly only address incidents that occurred at Mars Hill sometime within last four years, although Driscoll has headed the church since 1996. All of signers have left or been let go from Mars Hill, which boasts over 14,000 members, but it includes people like Lief Moi, who helped co-found the church.
“We take these allegations seriously and we are thankful that we have a process in place where allegations will be reviewed by our board and our elders,” Mars Hill representatives said in a statement. “As it is relatively new that these former elders submitted this, at this time we don’t have any information on how long that process will take or what the outcome will be, but we look forward to having Pastor Mark back from vacation this Sunday.”
Driscoll’s sexist ideas and lewd sermons have attracted criticism for years, but the new allegations come amid of a growing storm of controversy circling around the prominent evangelical pastor and his church. Driscoll was accused of plagiarism and artificially inflating his book sales over the past few months, and in July a blogger uncovered more than 100 pages of sexist and homophobic rants — including one where he called gay people “damn freaks” — that Driscoll allegedly posted to an online forum in 2000 under the pseudonym “William Wallace II.” Hundreds of disaffected members of Mars Hill have joined a Facebook group this year after Driscoll dismissed his detractors as “anonymous” in a video message to his congregation, and dozens protested outside his church to make sure their voices were heard. Since then, at least two members of the church’s “Board of Advisors and Accountability” have resigned, and the Acts 29 church network — a group Driscoll co-founded — officially expelled Driscoll and Mars Hill from their fold in early August. As the scandals crescendoed, the church canceled its annual Resurgence Conference, which is traditionally held in October and usually features a line up of famous evangelical speakers.
It remains to be seen how — of even if — Driscoll will address the crisis. The pastor has tried to keep a low profile and even swore off social media since accusations first started to surface late last year, but he returns from vacation this Sunday, according to the Religion News Service.