After nearly 20 years as lead pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll has resigned. Driscoll, 44, had faced mounting criticism over church leadership and discipline within Mars Hill and how he wrote and promoted his popular books.
The decision came less than two months after Driscoll stepped down from leadership while the church investigated charges against him. Earlier in August, he had been removed from the church planting network he founded, Acts 29.
In a statement, the church's board of overseers accepted his resignation, but emphasized that they had not asked Driscoll to resign and were surprised to receive his letter.
They concluded Driscoll had “been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner," but had "never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.”
The board—composed of longtime members Michael Van Skaik and Larry Osborne as well as business leaders Jon Phelps and Matt Rogers (who were added after popular evangelical speaker Paul Tripp and Harvest Bible Chapel’s James McDonald resigned over the summer)—also added that many of the formal charges that had been levied against him were “altogether unfair or untrue.”
Dave Bruskas, an executive elder at Mars Hill Seattle will serve as the primary teaching pastor during the transition.
In his resignation letter (initially obtained and reported on by the Religion News Service), Driscoll noted that the board’s investigation into the formal charges against him had ended last Saturday, saying he “had not disqualified [himself] from ministry.”
“I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware,” Driscoll wrote, alluding to themes of previous apologies. “Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit.” Driscoll also said the past year had not only taken a toll on his family’s health but had also left them “physically unsafe at times.”
CT has reported on Driscoll's apologies for the steady stream of controversies over the past few years, including crude, 14-year-old comments he made in a church forum that resurfaced in the blogosphere in recent months.
“In the Internet age, Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously,” Tim Keller told the NYT's Michael Paulson in an August front page article. “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.”
Last November, Driscoll was accused of plagiarism after duplicate content was spotted in several of his books—claims which his publisher, Tyndale House, defended. In March, the pastor also admitted to paying a public relations company $200,000 to bump his books to The New York Times bestseller list, though Driscoll later apologized for the agreement and voluntarily retracted his bestseller status. Over the summer, LifeWay Christian Stores stopped selling his books.
Since starting Mars Hill in 1996, Driscoll rose quickly in one of the country’s most secular regions and later across the U.S. The outspoken Reformed pastor founded the Acts 29 church-planting network (which he led until March 2012) and the Resurgence, a well-known ministry website and conference.