Note: some of the content below is pretty racy, so if that offends you here is your warning. There's also a great deal of misogyny and homophobia because, well, it's Driscoll.
Yes, I am excited by the news. I've already explained the general principle of why, but I'll go into specific details for my Catholic readers.
Mark Driscoll started a non-denominational church in Seattle in 1996, purposefully creating a church in a place that most deemed "unchurched" and even hostile to Christianity. By using various techniques including casual dress, salty language during sermons, and evangelism to social outcasts and the counter-culture, he built a mega-church with satellites in other states. Eventually this because the Acts 29 Network, which also planted a church in my hometown a few years back. These churches were known for their Calvinism, vital ministries to young families, and quick church plant model. They were part of a "network" but otherwise not part of any denomination, unless it's the denomination of Mark Driscoll.
For awhile, his efforts were lauded everywhere you turned in evangelical circles. Even Donald Miller's spiritual memoir Blue Like Jazz, written in the 90s, had a complimentary account of the "cussing pastor's" ministry to "fruitcakes and artsy people," a place where the religiously-burned Donald felt he could breath again. In keeping with his commitment to contemporary-style ministry, Driscoll had a constant stream of podcasts for anyone with a computer access. He and his wife Grace even authored a book called "Real Marriage" which hit the NY Times bestseller list (through nefarious means, it turns out).
Slowly, we started seeing signs that things were not kosher. There were too many stories of ex-parisioners who felt bullied by leadership, who had been shunned by congregants who got their orders from on high. These stories sounded an awful lot like cults. For awhile though, Driscoll got a pass from conservatives because he was preaching "The Truth" on gender issues, homosexuality and other hot button issues. In the past few years, that reputation crumbled. This year it came out that he plagiarized and essentially bought his way onto the NY Times list. However, the real damage was to his character reputation. After awhile, his comments about "pussified" Christian men and "pansy" pacifists were recognized as what he really thinks, not mere aberration or exaggeration.
Before his leadership at Mars Hill, he posted a series of misogynistic rants on his church website under the pen-name William Wallace. The content of these rants is shocking, even for those of us who had been following developments for awhile.
In response to a woman on the discussion board, he said these gems of wisdom:
I speak harshly because I speak to men. A woman might not understand that. I also do not answer to women. So your questions will be ignored. I would however, recommend to you a few versed to memorize: I Timothy 2:11-15 I Corinthians 14:33-35.To learn them, ask your father or husband. If you have neither, ask your pastor. If she is a female, find another church. If you are the pastor, quit your job and repent.
Perhaps she took umbrage to remarks like these:
The first thing to know about your penis is, that despite the way it may see, it is not your penis. Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while. While His penis is on loan you must admit that it is sort of just hanging out there very lonely as if it needed a home, sort of like a man wondering (sic) the streets looking for a house to live in. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home....
Can I be a gay Christian? In the infamous words of the now metaphysically challenged and likely kindling ex-pentecostal pastor Sam Kinison "How can one man look at another man's hairy ass and find love?" What an insane conversation. Every man knows you can't build anything with bolts and bolts. Damn freaks. And the pastel cashmere wearing sensible haircut clean shaven loafer wearing minivan driving suburban sympathizers contend "But they really really love each other." I love dogs, but I don't stick my tongue in their mouth and lobby congress for a tax deductible union. "But we need to be nice." What the hell for? A man is free to knock boots with any sad hairy lump of clay desperate enough to climb in the sheets and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that total depravity is an understatement, but what the hell you want from me? Should we form some form of homo Promise Keepers so we can all climb into a stadium and hug each other and cry like damn junior high girls watching Dawson's Creek. I'd tell you to kiss my ass, but I'm afraid you'd take me up on it.
I always wanted to be a penis-home!
He called this his "prophecy days" and assured folks that he was a kinder, gentler version of that guy. Well, I believe that they're the same person; I just don't see a change. Neither did the 21 pastors who charged Driscoll with abusive conduct. Neither did any women outside of his congregation when we heard sermons like this:
His sexual obsessions notwithstanding, the scariest things came from those who formed entire support groups to help each other after leaving Mars Hill. They said the church acted like a prototype cult: lure you in when you're new in town and lonely, provide an instant family via small group assignments, fill up your free time with "work for the church," require new members to sign an extensive "covenant," and intrude on all your personal decision making. And if you step out of line, your name might get put on a shunning list on the church website and email list. Perhaps the last straw for many was in 2007 when Driscoll fired the executive board that was meant to be a check on his authority and installed a group of yes men.