New Mars Hill Church controversy

So far, this one only involves two of the West Seattle branch’s sibling “campuses” — but is worth noting, as the megachurch continues to grow its presence in WS (having added a second service just last month, concurrent with a switch to centralized video preaching, and having brought members from all over the city to WS for water baptisms at Alki two months ago). This new controversy involves the reported removal of two pastors — first mentioned in the Seattle LiveJournal group on November 1st, then on Slog Friday night, and now in today’s Seattle Times. The “members-only” Mars Hill forum referred to in the latter two reports is apparently shut down, according to a notice included in an update on the Slog post.

39 Replies to "New Mars Hill Church controversy"

  • Ken in West Seattle November 18, 2007 (8:04 am)

    We stand at the end of the Age of Reason. A new era of the magical explanation of the world is rising.
    — Adolf Hitler,
    quoted from Victor J. Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

  • LS November 18, 2007 (9:10 am)

    Hmm, rapidly-growing faux-hipster congregation, scads of money from nowhere, enough to buy five new building and a load of gigantic LCD tv screens, a “private” messageboard that has now been shut down due to controversy, several pastors summarily fired without explanation, and a miscogynist homophobic fake tough-guy pastor who blames women for men’s twisted sexual transgressions.

    Sounds great! No wait, sounds like a travesty of religion, or a poorly-run cult. Driscoll should be ashamed, but he doesn’t have the balls for it.

  • Dis November 18, 2007 (11:13 am)

    Very appropriate on the 29th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre. They’re nuts, all of them.

  • Kayleigh November 18, 2007 (11:48 am)

    I don’t have a dog in the fight–I’m not a church member–but it sounds like they fired the elders because they disagreed with some of the church leadership.

    I don’t do the church thing, but shouldn’t there be *some* room for dissent and disagreement in churches? Otherwise aren’t you in cult territory?

  • Todd in Westwood (S. Delridge) November 18, 2007 (12:39 pm)

    People, people. Dont start to worry until we see the delivery van dropping off 1,200 purple running suits with matching Nike tennis shoes. If anyone from the “church” is reading this, please dont drink the koolaid.

  • Tony November 18, 2007 (3:42 pm)

    Listen to you all! You seem upset at a church.. but look at how YOU judge– sitting there at your computers making anonymous posts… ;)

    Until you’ve done your research and attended the church, it’s not up to you to be the judge. And, I would not recommend throwing the word “cult” losely. This is not a cult. If you think it is, I challenge you to attend a service and see for yourself. It’s open to the public, as all legit churches are.

  • coffee geek November 18, 2007 (8:13 pm)

    It’s only a matter of time before Little Napoleon himself blows a fuse and does something even more stupid…and probably dangerous. Stay tuned.

  • donald November 18, 2007 (8:14 pm)

    The fervor of which fundamentalist evangelicals, like those of Mars Hill are extremists and display behaviour very similar to a “cult.” All evangelicals in my opinion are cult members. They aren’t just extremists of a mainstream church branch, the way William Donahue of the Catholic League is. He may support the Catholic church, but he is still an extremist christo-fascist, the same way Osama Bin Laden is an islamo-fascist. Mars Hill, this freak homophobe out in Redmond that wants to get a bunch of christians together to buy a ton of shares in Microsoft in order to take civil rights away from gay people, Al Queida, they are all the same. Evangelical Fundamentalist Extremists like Mars Hill, etc. are terrorists and a cancer on society as a whole. I’m not ragging on religion which is a personal and private view, just extremist fundamentalists like the Cult of Mars Hill.

  • E November 18, 2007 (8:35 pm)

    Personally I’m not thrilled about what they’ve done to the parking situation and busing people in from out of the area, not to mention completely disagreeing with most of their political and religious views. But castigating a bunch of people just for going to the “wrong” church is more than a tad unfair.

  • David November 18, 2007 (9:04 pm)

    Fine, they don’t like gays, blacks, Jews, women or whatever the psychological fear is of their current leader, but so what. To keep it in perspective…they may have 5 whole buildings, but in a city of thousands of buildings. They may have membership of a few thousand, but out of a city of millions. They are a fringe. The last gay pride parade drew over 200,000. When they draw even an equal number I’ll be impressed.

    There will always be people on the extreme edge. Fred Phelps and his good “Christian” Westboro Baptist Church is probably the most extreme of the psychotic Christian extremists in our country. I don’t think Mars Hill is near that extreme, but it does have a creepy feel to it. I HAVE attended one of their services, which in content was very middle of the road to be honest. But like all of these modern mega-Churches, the whole hipster rock thing is creepy and so phony feeling it just leaves a bad taste.

  • D November 18, 2007 (11:50 pm)

    It saddens me that every post about Mars Hill on this blog devolves into a Christian hate-fest. Isn’t Seattle supposed to be more tolerant than the rest of the country?

  • Kayleigh November 19, 2007 (6:20 am)

    I’ve defended Mars Hill here in the past because I think they do get bashed here, which isn’t good in my book.

    But this particular incident does feel weird. I don’t know—do all churches stifle dissent that way?

    I have read their website and watched their sermons online, and while they make a few valuable points,there is too much emphasis on the Bible and sin for me. The racism, sexism,and homobphobia,I haven’t seen, but obviously is not Christian.

  • dinolicious November 19, 2007 (9:02 am)

    Ever since they moved in my Sunday mornings are not the same. The people that attend that church crowd the streets with their trucks and SUVs and make alot of noise entering/leaving church. Now they have two services on Sunday morning so I get to see the traffic and hear the noise even earlier. I would like that church to go away…

  • David November 19, 2007 (11:09 am)

    Stop the bullsh*t about how these “poor helpless” Churches are being bashed and attacked by the evil Seattle residents. Bullsh*t. I’ve never ranted, attacked, or “bashed” Christians, Buddhists, Hindu’s or any church UNLESS they attack me first.

    See, they started it. I don’t “bash” the Amish, no matter how extreme or silly I (and most Christians) believe their views on religions may be…why not? Because the Amish are happy to live their lives, live their beliefs, and leave me alone to live mine. But Mars Hills, and especially some of our other local evangelical ‘mega’ Churches are NOT just polite groups gathering to share their religious faith. No, they interject themselves directly into politics by holding petition signing drives and TRYING to influence secular laws (domestic partner benefits for example) that cover people who don’t BELONG to their little Church. See, I don’t care WHAT the folks at Mars Hill do or believe. I don’t belong to their church. But when they use their church and power to effect MY LIFE, someone who isn’t in their church, then they are FAIR GAME to be criticized.

  • Alki November 19, 2007 (1:03 pm)

    I go to Mars Hill and I love it! I don’t hate Jews, Catholics, and people of other religious or personal beliefs whatsoever.

    I do enjoy a good glass of wine from time to time. So, cheers to everyone posting about our church and I hope you can find it in your heart to be a bit more accepting a bit less judgemental! Have a great Thanksgiving. –TJB

  • Kayleigh November 19, 2007 (1:45 pm)

    David, I’m with you about fair disagreement, and I don’t think you’re one of the bashers.

    I have no idea why they would work against domestic partner benefits. It’s not as if denying those benefits would make anybody less gay.

    I have to admit, the explosive growth of that church in Seattle, of all places, is fascinating.

  • dksmith November 19, 2007 (2:59 pm)

    Alki ~ you’re not addressing a key issue here. Mars Hill is openly, aggressivly anti-gay. That doesn’t fly ’round these parts. To say we should be “more accepting” in light of the church’s doctrine of not accepting is a bit out of line.

  • Erik November 19, 2007 (4:07 pm)

    Was just walking down at the beach…brrr! Maybe we could have a community baptism at the Beach deux to heal our wounds.

  • Jan November 19, 2007 (5:00 pm)

    as a woman, I’ve had a hard time with this church’s…or at least Mark Driscoll’s…feelings about women, in regards to blaming them for mens sexual straying because they didn’t “keep themselves up”. Alki, I’m happy that you’re happy there. We all find what works for us. But…men…especially Mars Hill men…take responsibility for yourselves. If there’s anyone to blame for you straying from your marriage, it’s you , and no one else. I’m waiting for the Rev. Mr. Driscoll merging his church with the Rev. Mr. Ken’s…to fight Microsoft, to gay-bash…it just doesn’t endear them to this community…just my opinion , of course :)

  • KT November 19, 2007 (6:24 pm)

    Lets put MHC to the test. Any other gays want to go to chruch this Sunday and see if we burst into flames ?

  • Kayleigh November 19, 2007 (6:42 pm)

    Alki, are gay people welcome at Mars Hill Church? Serious question. And I don’t mean “welcome until they repent and become straight”. I mean welcome as they are: gay.

  • ex-christian November 19, 2007 (7:28 pm)

    You know, I can deal with the homophobia, misogyny, and general self-righteousness of churches like Mars Hill because I’ve come to expect it. They’re mostly consistent in their message about the sinfulness of buttsex, women knowing their place, etc. so it’s easy to avoid it and dismiss it for what it is.

    It’s easy to see how members of the church can excuse Marc’s comments about wives as being “taken out of context” and defend him. The members I’ve talked to in the past were very quick to point out that they didn’t agree with everything he said, but he was still awesome in spite of it! *big fake grin*! But how in the hell can they defend him getting up to preach about beating up a fellow pastor? I’m sure he’ll come back later and ask for forgiveness, claiming that he’s “only human” and “got caught up in the moment” or some such bullsh*t. It’s pathetic, he should be ashamed of himself, and I really wonder how the hell any members of the church can defend him for it.

  • Swimming in Seattle December 4, 2007 (12:41 am)


    Yes, gay people are welcome to Mars Hill as they are. They are welcome to attend all services, community groups, and all events. Gay people aren’t any different than anyone else, we all sin and we all need Jesus. Christians need Jesus just as much as non-Christians. Straight people need Jesus just as much as gays or bisexuals. If it is said any other way it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Mars Hill isn’t a gay bashing church. There was an anti-gay rally in Seattle a few months ago and Mars Hill was criticized by conservative churches in the area for not participating. The church did not participate because it would be unloving to the gay community. Yet, strangely, many in the gay community are convinced that if they come within 3 feet of our church they will be thrown out and/or catch fire. The church wants to welcome and love the everyone and show what Jesus has to offer.

  • Kathy December 4, 2007 (4:49 pm)

    Does Mars Hill consider homosexual, intimate relationships to be sinful?

  • Carrie December 9, 2007 (6:12 pm)

    I live near this church and affectionally call it “Ballard’s a**hole.” The term works well as the building is unsightly and also contains a lot of bullsh*t. I often see the cult followers walking into their warehouse (the men try to look GQ, the women try to look like sorority prostitutes). I often fight the urge to push the accelerator and run them down, but alas, I go to a real church and would never do such a thing, not even to a “cancerous gay” (their term, not mine).

  • seek truth December 9, 2007 (10:53 pm)

    For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. – 1Samuel 16:7

  • Swimming in Seattle December 12, 2007 (12:03 am)


    Mars Hill does hold that homosexual, intimate relationships are sinful. Just like any hetero sexual behavior before marriage is sinful. And gluttony and all the other sins are, well, sinful. We’re all equally sinful, no matter our orientation. The question is, then, what do we do with our sin?

    Unfortunately homosexuality gets shoved into the spotlight more frequently than other sins and makes those in the gay community feel alienated. This is not biblical. I have sexual sin, which is no different in the eyes of God than a homosexuals sexual sin-what matters is that the sin is taken care of, ie: taken to Jesus. Being gay does not send you to hell, not trusting in Jesus does. 1 Tim 2:4 says that God desires all to come to him and receive salvation. ALL-that means everyone, regardless of orientation.

    We can live in our sin and try to justify our sin but that doesn’t take it away. Jesus is the only one that can forgive sin and help us work through it.

  • Kathy December 12, 2007 (5:32 pm)

    It is difficult to reconcile Mars Hill position (i.e. that homosexuality is sinful) with the position of the American Psychological Assoc. that sexual orientation is not a choice and is basic to a person’s identity.

    Mars Hill’s position on homosexuality, which is the same as many conservative Christian churches, reminds me of the position the Church took on the earth being the center of the universe at the time of Galileo and Copernicus. Based on the interpretations of the Bible at the time, scientific data was squelched and disbelieved until it was no longer possible to contain it. So Christians had to revise their interpretation of the Bible.

    I think we are getting to that point on this issue. Sexual orientation is no longer considered a sin by most people. I realize that you try to get your definition of sin from the Bible and not from a survey of the populus, but Christians have had to revise their interpretation of the Bible before because of hard and fast data.

  • Swimming in Seattle December 15, 2007 (4:19 pm)


    The American Psychological Association states that it’s part of a persons identity, but has not come close to proving it is in genetic makeup. Many researchers are working very hard on proving that one. This is just another battle of nature vs. nurture. I find psychology fascinating and studied homosexual behavior in college. What I found most interesting is that about 95% of homosexuals interviewed in a case study were abused as children. I personally believe that homosexuality does start as a small child in reaction to unspeakably horrible abuse. They are essentially confused from a very young age.

    If the Psych Assoc does find a genetic disposition for same sex attraction, the church will still hold that homosexuality is a sin because it is in the Bible, not just an interpretation of some obscure verses. The shape of the earth is not in scripture but was an assumption by all in that day. There are some that are genetically inclined to become alcoholics yet drunkenness is still a sin to be repented of as a Christian, no matter the DNA. Many, like myself, are genetically inclined to a quick temper. This is a sin and as a Christian I am to repent of it.

    Non-Christians do not need to bend the knee to the law of Christians. We go by a different set of rules because we confess that Jesus is our boss. We, as Christians, can not expect non-Christians repent of their sin without coming to Christ. It is Jesus that deals with sin, Jesus that lets people know what sin is and it is Jesus that ultimately enables someone to repent of sin. The problem that I have with a few Christians is that they preach a whole lot on sin and how wicked non-Christians are, yet do not preach Christ who is the only hope that any of us have, including themselves.

    I hope that my posts clearly state this. That without the spirit of Christ we cannot obey the law of Christ. It is foolish to expect otherwise. It is what we think about Jesus that matters. Is he Lord, liar, or lunatic? Which one do you believe?

  • Tomkat December 15, 2007 (4:36 pm)

    My son and his girlfriend attend this church. This is a young man who was on the verge of criminal before he began attending. He is now unemployed, plays video games online, is facing eviction and still sucks off his girlfriends savings account (a solid Christian example). He brought to our home a MHC newspaper and I read through it. The thing that caught my eye was the consistent requests for church donations throughout the newspaper. It also featured an article which had a graph of church expenses and how the parishioners needed to give more. Expenses for November 2007 alone was a whopping $900,000! That is not a typo, nine hundred thousand dollars. Nine, followed by five zero’s, per month! What the hell? Annual costs for this church is around $8 million dollars! WOW! Someone, somewhere is getting rich in the name of Jesus…

  • Swimming in Seattle December 16, 2007 (9:26 pm)

    I mean no disrespect Tomkat, but are you blaming a church for the condition of your son?

  • Tomkat December 17, 2007 (3:28 pm)

    Hi Swimming-

    By no means am I blaming MHC for my sons situation. He has brought that upon himself and is the life he chooses. No offense taken to your question.

    My real question is what the church is spending so much money on that it needs close to a million dollars each month to pay church debt? I have read several postings from other blogs and news articles, and several answers point to mismanagement of church funds by the MHC Leadership due to real estate purchases. I don’t know the answer, but what I have seen, isn’t too positive.

    I was raised in the Catholic Church and when I was old enough, asked my parents the question of why the priests and nuns of my particular parish live in poverty, when the Pope was surrounded by priceless treasures? When my parents had no answer for me, I began having less and less interest in the Church. Not Christianity, but the Catholic Church and it’s antiquated beliefs and ideas. The Catholic Leadership also labeled those who did not or could not afford to pay money to the church, as “Bad Catholics” The higher up the food chain you went, the better your living conditions were. Sounded too much like a corporation for my liking.

    One more question for MHC. Where are the women in their leadership? I have scoured the internet and MHC’s websites, and have found no women in any form of the churches Leadership. Am I to assume that MHC’s female parishioner’s take a back seat to the males and are subservient? I truly hope not. Not in Seattle, not in 2007.


  • Swimming in Seattle December 18, 2007 (1:05 am)

    Hello Tomkat,
    I’m glad you’re not blaming the church for your sons choices. I wasn’t sure and wanted to clear that up.

    I’m with you on how the Catholic Church runs the leadership/pay scale. I can understand why you would be weary about the way any church would handle their money.

    Interestingly enough, this last Sunday’s sermon was on giving/money management. This topic came up in Pastor Mark’s sermon. The video should be available to watch in the next day or so at at the bottom there’s a button ‘this week’, it’s entitled, “Rebels guide to Joy in Poverty”. If you don’t feel inclined to watch, I’ll do my best to reiterate….

    Most of the real estate was given to the church, not purchased. The church is doing well with equity, but it’s the cash flow that is tight. MHC does seem to have a large budget, but for the size of the church it is pretty average. There are over 30 pastors, and maybe 75-100 others who are on staff to keep it running smoothly. In a sermon about a year ago, maybe two, I believe it was said that each pastors salary was 75,000/year-then we hit a rough patch (like we are now) and it was cut down to 70,000. Let’s say that there are 30 pastors and they all received a raise up to 80,000/year since then. That’s 2.4 million of the budget. Let’s say the average person on staff makes 25,000/year and there’s 75 on staff…that’s another 1.86 million. So roughly half the budget goes to pay the people that work there.

    There are other costs on top of those. One of the pricer ones being the vodcast. The sermons are now able to go anywhere around the world via satellite, which is really cool. This enables the gospel to continue to spread and more lives being changed by Jesus. For all the technology to get that running it was 1 million. MH offers Biblical counseling, supports the poor, hosts many events at little or no cost to attendees, supports a village in Africa (Agathos), and gives 10% of all donations to other churches around the globe. That on top of the website, bandwidth, sound equipment, lighting, publications, podcast, the childrens ministry, Proxy/Crux (high school/ middle school programs)…there’s a lot more going on than just the services on Sunday. So, of the 10 million budget, 4.8 goes to staff, 1 million goes to other churches, 1 million went to getting the satellite set up/running and the remaining is split up over the board. With 14 services and 6000 people attending, it’s more than one might think.

    The church had an outside audit company come and audit their finances, and the church got the best rating possible. The money is being managed well, even if the blogs state otherwise. The sermon online goes further into depth on this, there’s a lot I didn’t cover. It goes further into why Christians should give, why we are to steward our finances well, and we are to treat and steward our environment.

    The women in leadership question is one that I get a lot when I tell people I attend MH. (I’m a woman, btw.) There are many female leaders in the church and strongly encourage women to get into leadership. Women are deacons, teachers, worship leaders, coaches, serve communion, and are in full time paid ministry. The only role that is reserved to qualified men is the office of pastor/elder per 1 Timothy 3:11 and Romans 16:1–2. If MH is big on anything-it’s on holding true to the Bible. Scripture is clear on the office of pastor-so MH holds to it.

    Here’s a link on MHs stance on women in leadership:

    I have come from a very liberal, feminist background and didn’t become a Christian until about 3 years ago. I have never felt more loved and encouraged to lead and have my voice heard then I do at this church. So no worries Tomkat, this isn’t a place where women restricted to the sidelines.

    Does that clear anything up, or did I make the water more muggy?

  • Tomkat December 18, 2007 (8:00 pm)

    Thank you for the clarification. I appreciate your time and explanation.


  • Ayn Rand March 9, 2008 (2:05 pm)

    I do believe that the money is missmanaged at MH. Mark Driscoll does NOT need to make $70,000 a year. No one on staff should make that much. And what ISN’T mentioned is that there were elders in the past that made 6 figures a year! And Driscoll is paid that amount to only preach how many times a year? I love his job description;

    “Pastor Mark preaches on Sunday, trains pastors, writes, and researches the culture in order to build a church full of missionaries to Seattle”

    He trains pastors at large “camps” along with a whole lot of others, and he preaches OCCASIONALLY on Sundays. Whatever he is doing, it isn’t worth $70,000 a year.

    They have mismanaged their real estate. They bought a warehouse a stones throw from the Ballard location that is being left unused. They bought it to use for expansion without doing any research into how they could utilize it. So that building is a sap on the entire congregation. They can’t use it, they can’t rent it out properly, and apparently they can’t sell it either. And even if it is sold now, it was an idiotic idea to begin with.

    And the “riches” that Catholic priests are surrounded by are not owned by the priests, they are owned by the church. When a pope dies, they die with nothing. Most priests of a parish MH’s size make about $26,000 year. That isn’t enough for a single person to live off of. But Driscoll and Munson make enough to buy multiple houses, rent them out and have college funds for their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

    If MH is tight on cash they should slash all the salaries for elders to $55,000 a year, they don’t pay any taxes on their wages anyway.

    Driscoll could just dip into his college fund for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren that he likes to brag about so much. Or sell one of his houses.

  • John Franklin March 28, 2008 (10:45 pm)

    Here is where the money is going…at least how they hide it from salary.

    The public salary making it look like the head fellows in the church are making anywhere between 12k-25k per year, and if I understand right Driscoll is claiming 70k per year(far far greater than any reasonable pastors salary.)

    They HIDE their extra tax free income through a loophole, which is the housing allowance. This may also explain why they distribute their money into real estate.

    So lets say someone says on their W2 to make 12k per year. Their tax free housing allowance could easily bump their actual take home pay an additional 50-90k tax free dollars per year! So they live below the poverty line, yet are making far more than most, getting every possible tax credit for all the kids they are having, and in my opinion using this housing allowance this way is criminal.

    If the IRS were to investigate they would shut this place down and send people to prison.

    I would LOVE to see Driscoll’s housing allowance. 70k on salary, a ton of money from his book sales which are required and expected reading, and the housing allowance. He has the game figured out thats for sure.

  • Jeff Graff April 3, 2008 (7:30 am)

    It’s interesting to see the degree of vitriol coming from people who insist that Christians are “intolerant.” It affirms for me the great truth that those who truly follow Jesus will be put despised those who despise the truth. It seems there are always people ready to degrade and demean those who work hard for what they earn, especially if they love God. I wonder how many of you know the history of this church – how many years he worked for no salary.

  • cab25 June 13, 2008 (8:43 pm)

    Well regardless if anyone thinks that Mars Hill is homophobic, racist, sexist or whatever you think, the point has always been about Jesus and anyone that doesn’t have Jesus in their lives will not understand that. You can pick and choose to hear what you want to hear and most people do, that’s the way it has always worked within social circles and politics. Most people find one issue to plant their flags on the hill and die for, even if that’s for hate. Mars Hill is against being in sin and that includes homosexuality, heterosexual relationships that are promiscuous, drunkeness, idolatry, etc, etc. I’m sure that even many people reading this comment will pick and choose what they want to get angry about. Look at the statistics out there. We’re a highly intelligent city that loves to sleep together without ever making a commitment to each other and when someone questions that “commitment” they are being intolerant….nevermind the intolerance that comes from those not accepting different belief systems. Say what you will about Mars Hill, but do so under an informed mind not because it’s easy to go with the popular vote.

  • John Franklin July 14, 2008 (11:15 am)


    I have been to the church, I have family and friends who attend the church, and I know people who work at the church.

    If people are looking for a place to learn about the Bible and Jesus I suggest Bethany Community Church, which is tolerant and the pastor is a wonderful guy.

    Forget this ego driven drivel that MHC is preaching. Hatred and violence is what they promote, using Jesus to score loads of tax free cash.

    MHC is not a business, yet uses Jesus to make a killing.

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