Rose Madrid-Swetman

— Random Thoughts, Stories of Life, and Questions about the Journey —

November 2, 2014

The Tragedy of Mars Hill Church

Category: All Posts,Leadership,Mars Hill Church – Rose – 11:32 am

Dear Seattle,

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
Lead Pastor
Vineyard Community Church

September 10, 2014

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Abuse, Grace, The Church, Jesus

Category: All Posts,Leadership,Mars Hill Church – Rose – 4:38 pm

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.