November 2, 2014
As a Seattle pastor for over twenty years I want to publicly apologize for the way in which the entire Mars Hill Church debacle was allowed to unfold in our city.
I’m sorry that one man and the men in leadership at Mars Hill Church were allowed to treat men, women and children in the most scandalous way possible while acting as representatives of God. The fact that it went on for years and years without any intervention from the Church in Seattle is mindboggling.
Together, as a city we’ve had a front row seat on what it looks like when power is abused by a religious leader. This is not what Jesus meant when he told his church to bring “Good News”. I pray that God will forgive those of us who call ourselves pastors. I pray you will forgive us. I pray that you will give Jesus another chance.
I’m profoundly sorry that His message was so badly twisted by Mark Driscoll and the men who led Mars Hill Church.
I forgive them. But I ask for your forgiveness as well. Those of us who call ourselves pastors waited too long to speak up. Our silence makes us complicit with those we criticize today. None of which excuses the spiritual abuse that Mars Hill leadership has engaged in. I am grateful for all that have tried to intervene, especially Warren Throckmorton.
Like one of their pastors Steve Tompkins has already modeled, I pray these men will own their sin and get the help they need so that real reconciliation will be the end of this story.
Rose Madrid Swetman
Vineyard Community Church
September 10, 2014
I don’t have the time or space to fully think this out and edit it. I want to respond so here goes…
The last time I wrote publicly about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill church on this blog was in December of 2006. That was right after a small group of us met with Mark and his then right-hand man, Leif Moi. You can read about those meetings here and here
What I wrote in my blog after meeting with Mark and Leif was the most gracious way I could describe what I discerned and learned from the meeting. I was really hoping the best and that the future would turn out very differently for Mark and the church than what is unfolding minute by minute of late and within the public square (aka social media, the papers, magazine articles, blogs and more). What I said to my husband and a few trusted friends after the meeting in private was in the same spirit but was more direct, “From what we just observed and after working with many, many addicts, if Mark does not get help he and Mars Hill Church will implode someday.”
I think that day may be here. What is our response suppose to be? There is a mix of opinions within the Church and between followers of Christ on what is the correct response, the biblical response, the Christian response. I think if we are honest, anyone can make a case for what they think the correct response should be: silence, no social media responses that have any negativity about Mark or Mars Hill Church, don’t share links of what Mark has said in private whether years ago or recent, protect the man of God, don’t touch God’s anointed, share everything in order to get him to resign and get the help he needs, use every public space possible to uncover the abuse, sin and toxicity of the Mars Hill culture in order to be a voice for the 100’s of stories of abuse, give the victims the space to tell the truth so the public can bare witness, allow the victims to tell their stories, expose the illegal and unethical behaviors of the leaders of Mars Hill Church so that the abuse can stop, I could go on and on but you get the point.
There are many sides to this very tragic and complex story. Here is how I think about this. I am a female pastor in the Seattle area. I am the lead pastor of a Vineyard Church. I am a Regional Leader for the Northwest Vineyard Churches. I want to make it very clear that my thoughts and viewpoint in NO way represent the Northwest Vineyard or Vineyard USA.
These are my thoughts as a pastor in Seattle that has watched this up close and personal. After the 2006 meeting with Mark I have sat with and listened to countless stories of spiritual abuse laced with misogyny and twisted theology to endorse the abuse. I have listened to countless leaders from around the country and some in my own area ask me why I don’t think Mars Hill Church, its leadership and its theology are good for people, men, women and children? Some have even argued with me because Mars Hill Church is a success story! I have explained to people until I have been blue in the face that we are seriously off track in the American church when we measure success by the number of people attending any church. We have a lot of redefining what it means to be successful in our time in our context. That’s for another blog post.
The stories of abuse and unethical behavior have not just happened in the last few years, this is and has been the culture of Mars Hill Church for a very long time.
I was raised with a violent, abusive father. My mother was the victim of domestic abuse. I have born the cost of naming the truth about my story. I view Mark as a leader that had so much potential for good but went very, very wrong. I know that Mark’s twisted theology and lust for power comes out of his own story of brokenness. For that I have much compassion and grace. What I don’t think is helpful at all right now is for anyone to be told to be silent. I know of many, many people that have tried (including me) to talk to Mark about what could be in his heart and story that he would have such vitriolic rants filled with misogyny and get healing. He has never to my knowledge responded to that plea. This is evident by where he is today with all of the stories coming out of lying, cover up and continued abuse, shunning and bullying of anyone who tries to get at the truth or confronts him with truth in love. Numerous past and current elders of the church have tried to get at the truth so healing can begin for Mark, his family, those that have left and the church they love.
To tell people to be silent is in my opinion complicit with on-going abuse. That’s something to think about isn’t it? Telling victims and advocates that have been forced to public intervention to stop is abusive in its own right. These folks have gone public so the madness will stop and so Mark, Grace, his children and every victim of this tragic situation can get help.
In over eight or more years what we have learned is that there is absolutely no internal system that can hold Mark Driscoll accountable. That is why this was taken to the public sphere. Is that tragic and an embarrassment to Jesus and his Church? YES it is. But no more tragic than when Jesus walked this earth and publicly lashed out at the religious people of his day when they were abusing the people of God. I think a good case can be made that when all else failed, a public intervention is absolutely necessary for God’s sake and for the sake of everyone involved, not in the least being Mark Driscoll.
I pray for every victim of this tragic story. I pray Mark will resign and get the help he needs. May God’s mercy and justice (justice meaning putting things right) be the last word in all of this.
July 4, 2013
This Summer we (VCC) are reading through Mark Scandrette’s book, “Practicing The Way of Jesus” in order to guide our faith community into imagining more and more ways in which we can live into our faith.
We want to provide a space here for discussion around the book’s ideas. So, with that in mind let’s begin with thoughts, inspiration, questions about Chapter 1, “An Invitation to Experiment.”
Some of my thoughts:
1. I love the language of “experiment.” A friend of mine once said that when he meets Jesus he hopes Jesus will say, “Good try!” It suggests that formation happens both in the wins, the losses and the simple attempts we make.
2. I was inspired by the Have2Give1 experiment. I actually could see Leslie leading some folks from VCC in this type of experiment! I liked that it was time-bound (8 weeks) and I really liked how it led those that participated into asking deeper questions about their heart posture toward money, possessions, and consumption (pg 12). The idea being as we participate in these practices it leads us to the heart of the formation questions. I also love that they gave thousands of dollars to benefit others out of what was clutter in their lives. Beautiful!
3. The idea of doing tangible experiments taking us out our heads and into our bodies with a group of others wanting to change and grow by exploring how to integrate the teachings of Jesus into our everyday lives is very, very appealing to me. How about you?
4. “Through surrender and practice, Jesus expected his apprentices to be like him.” (pg 16) – I want VCC to be a community of practice that can experiment, will be inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus, that will commit time and energy to practices that can form us in this way of life, and will have the courge to reflect on what it means to be a counterculture community that is finding a new way to be human – together.
5. We are invited to live into the Kingdom of Love, a kingdom characterized by love that is both present and progressing. I like the idea of our church community gathering in small groups to imagine how they are being invited to experiment together practices that could actually make a positive difference in bringing a holistic view of what it means to be truly human.
What are your thoughts, questions, inspirations?
June 7, 2012
Journeying through the wilderness is like an emotional CrossFit program. You are strengthened and conditioned in the most intense of situations. The only thing that sustained me was the love of people and the complete living into the mystery of “His grace being sufficient” it is in the wilderness I learned in the most visceral sense what St. Paul could have meant when he said “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
When you have no control over a situation that ends up bringing such heart wrenching sorrow you realize just how weak you really are. The power of God to bring strength and healing at such deep levels and the conditioning of the soul to be still, relinquish and hope for me only came by the Spirit of God.
I sense I am out of the wilderness now. The journey now continues and I find myself on the sea. The sea has many waters to navigate. My friend Jessica wrote a beautiful song that captures some of the waters I find myself navigating. Take a listen. Just as the Spirit of God carried me through the wilderness I now put up my sails and see how and where the Spirit will navigate this leg of the journey.
May 31, 2012
We received a brief message from Ben on a Wednesday evening. It was a short message: “I have some bad news. I found a lump in my inner thigh a couple weeks ago and have been getting it checked out.” This started a season in our lives that in many ways correlated with the liturgical season of the church. All through Advent we found ourselves in a posture of “expectant waiting” waiting for test results, surgery results and prognosis all while Ben was in Korea. The waiting was unbearable at times, we couldn’t just hear for ourselves what the doctors were saying, we prayed and prayed for “good news.”
Christmas came. Rich, Alex and I found so much hope in the incarnation, the idea of “God with us” through the day in and day out hopes that Ben was getting better we felt the presence of God in our midst. God graced us with faith, hope and love to take each day at a time.
We journeyed through Epiphany. We had our eyes opened more and more to the reality of God’s presence in the midst of our daily lives. Every day we could sense God’s light in the midst of darkness. Psalm 139 speaks to this sort of light in the midst of darkness, the Psalmist so clearly describes it as:
“It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.”
Then came Lent – the wilderness – a time of relinquishing. The terrain of the wilderness is tough. Sustenance from the Spirit of God is all that got us through. Sustenance came through gift after gift of grace. Graced by people, words, circumstances, things we could not have imagined. The wilderness is a time where everything is stripped away. Anger rises quickly to the top and you realize what really matters. Words that have stung your soul like a scorpion sting…betrayals that you need not attend to any longer…relinquish all control over how people think and speak of you. So many lessons learned in this wilderness.
Ministering angels came in the form of two female therapists. They met with me often (at no charge) because they said they could see God was allowing me to carry a lot. They wanted to help carry some of the weight. They did exactly what you think ministering angels are sent to do. They listened, they listened, they listened more. They cared about me, my family (a very large family) our church and they offered words of wisdom about how to survive in the wilderness. They became a cup of cool water in the scorching heat. They helped me understand what was important and helped me work out forgiveness of others and myself. They fed me nourishing food for my body and for my soul. I will be forever grateful for their kindness and caring even now as we continue to meet.
Our church once again proved to us that it’s not the usual pointers of success (my friend Julia calls this “Big ass American) that matters. It’s the impact that matters, the depth of soul, the ability to put aside one’s own suffering and pain to bring help, kindness, goodness and self-sacrificing acts of service to those in such dire need. Our congregation ministered to us, our family as well as the church community in the midst of such suffering. This will be another post. There is just too much to say about how much our community means to us and how grateful we are to serve this church.
Our friends, our life-long friends that showed up in the most poignant moments of this journey. This is why life-long friends become just that. Because no matter what you’ve been through, the good times and bad times, they stay your friends. They are there because they really really love you.
Easter and Pentecost came. Ben was hopeful. He believed God would heal him. He believed in the resurrection power of Christ to heal him and commute his sentence. But for reasons that are a complete mystery to me, Ben passed from this life into the arms of Jesus on the feast of the Ascension. The day the church celebrates Jesus ascending into heaven, our beautiful Ben goes to be with Jesus and to be with all the others that have gone before him.
The outpouring of love and grace for our family is indescribable. We are very early on in being out of the wilderness of this particular journey but what I do know is that God’s grace has been present every step of the way. Though we have walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, He has been with us…he knows the way through.
One other group of people that I do not have adequate words to describe yet is our children. Angela, Roi, Seth, Laurie and Alex. They are God’s gift. We watched them love their brother, Hyemin and the children. We watched them sacrifice, hope, believe, pray, and fight for Ben. We could not be prouder of how they walked through one of the hardest times they may ever face. They did it with love, dignity and honor.
So many people around the world were and are praying, speaking words of faith and comfort. Too many to mention by name. I only hope that God will pour out his lovingkindness on every person who has been that lovingkindness to our family.
There is still a long road to travel in this part of our journey as a family. One thing I know is that I cannot travel it without taking the hand of the living God. This quote from Frederick Buechner says it well (my poker friends might appreciate this)
““Believing in him is not the same as believing things about him such as that he was born of a virgin and raised Lazarus from the dead. Instead, it is a matter of giving our hearts to him, of come hell or high water putting our money on him, the way a child believes in a mother or a father, the way a mother or a father believes in a child.”
April 25, 2012
I am on a plane heading to Minneapolis for the Society of Vineyard Scholars annual gathering. I am excited for the plenary sessions with Mary Kate Morse and Greg Boyd and several others.
You can check out the program here. I’m looking forward to being there with Amy, Rachael, Winn and Elizabeth and seeing David Ruis, Adey Wassink and others!
I do like inflight wifi:-)
April 13, 2012
I love this quote by Wendell Berry, “The shoddy work of despair, the pointless work of pride, equally betray Creation. They are wastes of life.” So true, and I would say they betray New Creation. We’ve just celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, an embodied reality that God is with us and is inviting each one of us to participate in New Creation. Participating in new creation simply means in the midst of a still very broken world, I will choose to not cave to despair. When the circumstances of life seem to invite, no, invite is too kind of word…when the circumstances of poverty, sickness, selfishness, greed and any kind of evil invade my life I pray for mercy. Mercy that the new creation in Jesus will intervene and grace me to participate with peace, love, healing, justice and truth.
And the flip side of that coin, “the pointless work of pride” that wallows in self-contempt or grandiosity in order to prove myself I will beg for mercy and grace to walk in forgiveness, humility, strength and light.
As this present evil age wages war on all that is holy and good, I will practice longing for, looking at the evidence and stepping into the new world that Jesus brought. A world that is emerging in the midst of the brokenness. A world that is full of compassion, peace, and kindness. A world that bursts with the colors of faith, hope and love.
The shoddy work of despair and the pointless work of pride, betrayals and wastes of life – yes, I would say very much so.
March 31, 2012
Tomorrow we begin Holy Week. We follow Jesus beginning with his entry into Jerusalem. We read about the crowds in reverence throwing down palm branches, shouting hosannas. Then comes the cleansing of the Temple, the Passover, betrayal, arrest a contrived trial, betrayal, death by crucifixion and burial.
Back in Luke 9:51 it says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
I find it interesting that Luke frames Jesus’ death in Jesus’ ascension. The way to redemption, to new life is through the road of suffering and death. My friend David Ruis penned lyrics in a song that captured my heart years ago: “The way of suffering takes me to the least, down the road of suffering to the wedding feast.”
Turning our face toward suffering is counterintuitive, especially in America. We have every drug available and at our disposal to avoid pain and suffering:
Food – my current drug of choice
Over the counter drugs
We use processes, people and substances to alleviate our pain and suffering
The list above is by no means complete and most of the items on the list are not bad in and of themselves. It’s when we begin to use anything in excess or in order to avoid pain.
I find I am caught in a terrible bind these days. I use food to stop the immense feeling of powerlessness and pain I feel for the people I love. Watching my heroic stepson battle life-threatening cancer with all his strength. His wife, and the rest of our family praying and believing that God can intervene and commute this sentence. Every one of us along with friends here and around the world who are holding onto to hope beyond hope that a miracle will come any moment.
I wish I were strong and courageous enough to not use something to medicate this pain. But the truth is I’m not. So today, I will practice what my practice has been through this entire Lenten journey, surrender, relinquishment, letting go of my ability to stop pain, suffering and the road that leads eventually to the wedding feast. I will practice relinquishing self-contempt because I eased the pain with chocolate or pasta or whatever drug fills that aching place in my soul. Today I will pray for grace as I take the hand of Jesus and turn my face toward Jerusalem.
March 26, 2012
More thoughts on the wilderness journey. In the past two weeks the wilderness has felt more like an emotional white water rapids trip. The risks involved in white water rafting are caused by both environmental dangers and improper behaviors. Environmental dangers such as fallen trees, dams, rocks, and waterfalls. Improper behaviors such as inexperience and not using a guide, rafting while intoxicated and panic in dangerous situations.
There are so many environmental dangers both in the wilderness and in the white water. Finding safety as I continue this journey means training, trusting experienced guides and not panicking when thrown out of the raft. In fact when out of the raft, swimming to a calm spot behind a rock is protocol.
Last week I had a dream. In my dream I was in a large house with small children. I could see a storm, a whirlwind or tornado coming. I knew that I could not out run it. As it approached I realized the only safe place was to step into the eye of the storm, that there I would find calm and not be hurt. It was counterintuitive, I wanted to run with the children from the danger. I knew without a doubt if I stayed outside of the center the outer edges of the storm would destroy everything in its path, including me and the children. I was so afraid but as it approached I grabbed the kids and stepped into the center of the storm. It was instantly calm as the whirlwind carried us and then set us down. We were safe. Dream ends.
I have no control over the elemental dangers that come. The truth is, in this lenten season I have learned how little control I have over much at all.
In a Jan Richardson’s book, “Sacred Journeys” I read a meditation on anger and tenderness. Here is part of the reflection I sit with as the white water of anger rages in my soul:
“Anger is a woman who has learned
is not the way to peacefulness,
is not the way to strength.”
Swimming to the Rock, stepping into the Center of the storm, relinquishing control over and over, that what this Lenten journey is teaching me.
March 7, 2012
“For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.”
This last week the wild animals of fear, sadness, loss, anger, frustration, powerlessness and emotions that cannot be articulated became constant companions. Both while I was awake and even more so in my sleep. At the same time angels appeared all around me. Ministering angels that brought courage, peace, joy, strength, wisdom, faith, hope and love to me in the most unexpected and in the most obvious of places.
Somehow the care of angels brought me the ability to make peace with the wild animals. The prophetic picture of the lion lying down with the lamb comes to mind. Something in the tension of holding so many conflicting life experiences that are my reality in the here and now becomes bearable as I meditate on the biblical themes of wilderness.
I’m not sure how I will feel tomorrow, but for today, I am grateful for the care of angels…