Friday, February 10, 2012

Slate: Mars Hill PR and Marketing Manager Defends Church Discipline Policy

Slate has an article on church discipline at Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church (see here for background and links). What is interesting in this article is that it contains the point-of-view of Justin Dean, the PR and marketing manager of Mars Hill. Here are some passages:

"One key element that was not clear in Andrew’s original account, Dean told me, was that the letter was intended to be read aloud, not posted online, and only to a 'handful' of people. Instead, the group leader received unclear instructions and posted the letter online, a move Dean insists was not meant to hurt Andrew. Furthermore, says Dean, only the approximately 15 members of Andrew’s small group, who met regularly and knew one another well, had access to the letter on the City. (Though Andrew was blocked from accessing the City, he says the letter was available to a slightly wider circle, including his fellow security volunteers.) 'His case was not shared with the full church and had, until he posted it publicly online, only been known by a handful of people who were involved in his life and cared deeply about him,' Dean said. (Confusing social-media privacy settings strike again!) He added that Driscoll was not involved in the case at all. Mars Hill currently has 5,417 members and just nine ongoing church discipline cases."

"Dean says that the church would welcome reconciliation with Andrew, but Mars Hill is not backing down from its strict definition of repentance. The unspoken implication seems to be that Mars Hill itself has done nothing it needs to repent from. Dean describes Andrew as 'a man who cheated on his fiancee, lied about it, and only confessed after being pressed about suspicious details.'"

Dean is probably right that only a limited number of people were intended to have access to the letter. Whether or not that's what happened, well, I don't know. But I don't really buy Dean's characterization of Andrew as someone who "cheated on his fiancee, lied about it, and only confessed after being pressed about suspicious details." Andrew's story was that he told a leader of his small group about what he did, and that's what commenced the process of meetings and (eventually) church discipline. If Andrew did not come forward and confess at the outset, as he relates, then how did leaders at Mars Hill even know that Andrew cheated on his fiancee? I doubt that they had a camera in his room monitoring his every move! I think it's more likely that Andrew confessed at the outset, and Mars Hill leaders then disciplined him because he did not strike them as repentant enough. I'm not saying that Dean is lying. Perhaps Dean means that Andrew had to be prompted to give further details about his deed. But Dean should have made that clearer, if that's what he meant.

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