In an interesting departure from the norm, parishioners of Pastor Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill megachurch gathered outside its doors in Bellevue, Washington, on Sunday, to ask their leader to repent of his sins. The church, which was founded in 1996, has claimed to have as many as 14,000 members.
Driscoll has come under fire for multiple scandals this past year, the most recent of which centered around his admission that he posted vulgar and misogynistic comments on the church's online forum fourteen years ago under the pseudonym William Wallace II. He provoked further ire when he said in a video apology that he was confused about how to make amends because he believed that most of his critics were anonymous. Since then, a Facebook group has been made for people critical of his behavior to publicly make their point. They organized the protest on Sunday, carrying signs that declared, "WE ARE NOT ANONYMOUS" and "Question Mark."
Driscoll was also slammed for using church tithes to unethically boost sales of his book, Real Marriage, in an attempt to get it on the New York Times bestseller list. He has since apologized, and stopped calling it a bestseller, but the incident seriously damaged his credibility as a pastor. In addition to that controversy, the Seattle Times reported that in a message on the Mars Hill website, Driscoll admitted that funds earmarked for "church planting" overseas in fact went to "domestic general-fund church expenses."
It's not just the scandals that have caused members to leave Mars Hill Church. Driscoll is known for his belief in male-dominated marriage, an attitude which has alienated female members of the congregation. Furthermore, ex-members complain that he is difficult to talk to and prone to bullying. "In the church’s view, women are just objectives. They are there to please their husbands. In my theology, Jesus freed women. Jesus was surrounded by strong women," said Rob Smith, a former director of programming at Mars Hill, to Seattle PI.
About sixty-five people attended the demonstration, reported Seattle PI. Participant Jim Henderson noted, "It's very unusual to have evangelicals protesting." However, Driscoll has clearly earned himself his fair share of critics.
“It is not OK for him to be arrogant, abusive or prideful,” said ex-member Judy Abolafya, who had attended Mars Hill for fourteen years. She told the Seattle Times that she was particularly upset about the misuse of church finances. “They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar,” she said. “He needs to step down.”
In Driscoll's video apology he said that the church would be paying to launch a reconciliation process with former members and other critics. However, he was clear to say that he would not be stepping down. “I am not going anywhere, I am where I am supposed to be, and doing what I am supposed to be doing,” he said, according to the Seattle Times. “I hope to do this for the next, 30, 40 years, and do it better by God’s grace.”