Dear Mars Hill,
Lately, we’ve gotten some negative press regarding two specific church discipline cases, which has led to speculation regarding and criticism of our church discipline process. In each of the stories surrounding these cases both in various blogs and in the news media, there has unfortunately been some misinformation. Such is the nature of commenting and reporting on private issues between two parties, especially when it comes to issues that are emotionally charged to begin with.
Rather than try and defend ourselves or refute misinformation, we simply wish to say that as a church, we’re saddened by this continual attempt to drag into public very private and sensitive issues that were church matters. As with any story that has two sides, the natural tendency is for people to lean toward their prejudices. If they don’t like Mars Hill, these stories will serve to cement their beliefs regardless of what we say. For those who are part of Mars Hill and love the church, there is a tendency to take the defensive.
Rather than attack or defend, we wish to reconcile. We are saddened that in some cases people have been hurt, both people who are no longer at Mars Hill Church and those who still call us their church home. While we reiterate that the overwhelming majority of our church discipline cases are healthy and restorative, there are certainly times where things don’t go as they should—both from our end and from the end of those who are in the process.
To our critics, we’d humbly ask you to imagine how complicated situations such as this are for us. When someone says they have a issue with us, they get to tell the media their side of the story. If we tell the other side of the story, we risk breaching laws and exposing people—both the people in the discipline process and the people they’ve sinned against—to public backlash. The choice for us as a church is often to either take the hits in the press or put one of our members forward (often a young woman sexually sinned against) to let our members take the hits and endure the criticism. Obviously, we’d rather take the hits as a church than expose our members to the media and potentially break the law by divulging private information shared in a counseling session by a victim.
Here’s the bottom line: we love people. Our goal is always repentance and reconciliation in the discipline process and that the process would be loving, grace-filled, and reflect the heart of Jesus. We don’t always get it right. But, in this instance we ask that you would pray for your leaders, love your city, and wait until we all stand before Jesus to get the facts and a clear verdict.
If you want to know what we believe about church discipline biblically, we recently wrote about it here.
If you want to know what we think about it practically, read our response here.
Naturally, we’ve been following these stories closely, and a handful of people have stepped out to discuss their experiences. Quoted in various sources are people who’ve given their stories anonymously. Since we don’t know who they are, we’d love to meet with them and serve them and begin a process of reconciliation. So please, if you’re reading this, do let us know who you are so we can do all we can to love you by sitting down to meet, listen, and serve. For the two mentioned in the KOMO story, we’d love to meet with you also to do the same.
And for those who used to be Mars Hill Church members seeking to resolve something from the past, including the majority in the news stories that have not been at our church in roughly six years, the best way to do that is not through the media but rather by meeting with a Mars Hill pastor. Our desire is for reconciliation between us and you. This won’t mean we’ll always see eye to eye, but can and should talk face to face in a spirit of humility and grace. Please submit requests by phone or email so we can begin this process. We offer this all as a means of opening up a line of reconciliation in the hopes of making it as easy for you as possible.
- The Mars Hill pastors