Mark Driscoll is famous for this quote:
“I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (laughs) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.”
It appears that Driscoll’s ‘lawless’ behaviour at Mars Hill Church has come back to haunt him.
RICO Lawsuit Filed Against Former Leaders of Mars Hill Church; ECFA Named As Co-Conspirator
The long anticipated suit from a group of former members against former leaders of Mars Hill Church was filed today in the U.S District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle. Attorney Brian Fahling filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs Brian and Connie Jacobsen and Ryan and Arica Kildea.
The plaintiffs accuse defendants Mark Driscoll and Sutton Turner of engaging in
a continuing pattern of racketeering activity by soliciting, through the internet and the mail, contributions for designated purposes, and then fraudulently used significant portions of those designated contributions for other, unauthorized purposes. It was a pattern of racketeering activity that extended through a myriad of MHC projects, including the Global Fund, the Campus Fund, the Jesus Festival, and the promotion of Driscoll’s book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (“Real Marriage”).
In a statement, the attorney filing the suit, Brian Fahling said:
A church is not simply a building and programs. Mars Hill Church was a community of individuals—non-member attendees who considered MHC to be their church home, members, elders and pastors—who worked together in pursuit of a common mission—to make disciples and plant churches in the name of Jesus. Needless to say, the four groups are interdependent and the church cannot function without each of them. However, Driscoll and Turner engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity so deeply embedded, pervasive and continuous, that it was effectively institutionalized as a business practice, thereby corrupting the very mission Plaintiffs and other donors believed they were supporting.
On the Global Fund, just today I posted two formerly undisclosed memos on Mars Hill Church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability’s decision to keep secret how the church spent funds on missions (Global Fund) and salaries.
It is interesting to see ECFA named as a co-conspirator in the suit. The memo disclosed earlier today indicates that Dan Busby approved the moves of Mars Hill Church to address the Global Fund and apparently had no problem with the lack of transparency. In contrast, Busby and the ECFA took a turn toward transparency by removing Gospel for Asia from membership in October of 2015.
Source: By Warren Throckmorton, RICO Lawsuit Filed Against Former Leaders of Mars Hill Church; ECFA Named As Co-Conspirator, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2016/02/29/rico-lawsuit-filed-against-former-leaders-of-mars-hill-church/, Published 29/02/2016. (Accessed 01/03/2016.)
The SeattleTimes reports,
Racketeering suit claims Mark Driscoll misused Mars Hill donor dollars
Mark Driscoll may have moved on to a new city and a new church, but he faces the sharpest demand yet to account for his actions at Mars Hill Church.
On Monday, four former Mars Hill members filed a civil racketeering lawsuit against Driscoll, charging that the once swaggering pastor fraudulently used thousands if not millions of dollars raised by the church, which once boasted 15 branches in five states with 13,000 visitors on Sundays.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for Western Washington, also names former Mars Hill executive elder John Sutton Turner as a defendant.
A 42-page complaint accuses the two men of raising money for specific purposes and then using the money for other things, including a “scam” designed to make Driscoll a best-selling author.
The racketeering activity was “so deeply embedded, pervasive and continuous, that it was effectively institutionalized as a business practice,” reads the complaint. “A deadly toxin was injected,” it goes on, “ending in the complete destruction of the church.”
That happened in late 2014, when accusations not only of financial improprieties but misogyny, plagiarism and emotional abusiveness led Driscoll to resign and the once mighty church to implode.
Neither Driscoll nor Turner could be reached for comment Monday.
The lawsuit could set an interesting precedent. Brian Fahling, an attorney representing plaintiffs Brian and Connie Jacobsen and Ryan and Arica Kildea, two married couples, said he knew of only one other lawsuit involving racketeering allegations against religious figures.
“I think megachurches do have to be careful,” said Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Pennsylvania’s Grove City College and avid blogger about the Mars Hill saga. Other wealthy churches could face similar questions about who, exactly, is benefiting from moneys raised, he said.
“I think megachurches do have to be careful.” – Warren Throckmorton, psychology professor and blogger about Mars Hill
To prove racketeering, the plaintiffs in the Mars Hill suit need to show an ongoing pattern of wrongful acts during a four-year period specified. Fahling claimed that won’t be a problem. “We’ve got hundred or thousands of activities,” he said, including “every time an email was sent to a donor or something was posted to the website.”
The time period starts in 2011 when, the lawsuit says, Driscoll and Turner used church funds to prop up the pastor’s book “Real Marriage.” The suit cites a contract signed by Turner with a marketing company, which was to arrange for the purchase of 11,000 books so that “Real Marriage” would make the best-seller lists of The New York Times and other newspapers.
The company was to buy the books at their retail price of between $18 and $20, rather than the discounted price, $7, available to Driscoll. In all, the books cost $210,000, and the fee to the marketing company another $25,000, according to the lawsuit.
Around the same time, Mars Hill embarked on a major fundraising effort to support its “global fund,” which was supposed to be used for international missions. By 2014, the fund was taking in $300,000 a month. Yet only a small percentage of the money raised was used internationally, according to the suit.
The complaint quotes an internal memo outlining the strategy of designating a percentage of the global fund for a few “highly visible” projects overseas. “This percentage should be flexible,” the memo said, “and not communicated to the public.”
That memo came from Throckmorton, who publishedportions of it on his blog the morning the suit was filed, showing that new information continues to trickle out despite Mars Hill’s well-chronicled downfall.
The complaint asks for unspecified damages, which would be tripled under racketeering law if the plaintiffs are successful. The Jacobsens, former Mars Hill deacons, contributed more than $90,000 to the church. The Kildeas gave more than $2,700.
What remains to be seen is how all this will affect Driscoll. On Feb. 1, Driscoll announced that he was starting The Trinity Church in Phoenix. He boasted a high-powered group of religious leaders behind him, despite his past in Seattle. It’s a past he refrained from elaborating upon in his announcement video or on his new website, neither of which mention Mars Hill.
Source: By Nina Shapira, Racketeering suit claims Mark Driscoll misused Mars Hill donor dollars, Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/mark-driscoll-accused-of-racketeering-at-mars-hill-church/, Published 29/03/2016, Updated 01/03/2016. (Accessed 03/03/2016.)