Although, in the next few days, on their anti-Hillsong site, a headline will possibly appear over a cut’n’paste of today’s ABC report about Mark Driscoll, which features an article about a petition to stop him talking at Hillsong Conference in Sydney, or it will be added to the chookwatchers‘ post already praising the petition.
Whether it does or not, the petition has been given coverage in the national media now, so it is an issue of sorts, even though, so far, not many people have signed it – around a thousand. Early days perhaps. Let’s see, but now that the petition is cast into the public limelight, potentially people from all and any religious or non-religious persuasion will jump on the anti-Driscoll/Hillsong bandwagon.
The ABC is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It is not by any means faith-centric, unless you consider climate change and rainbow rights religious, so any controversy involving the Church will be published.
Meanwhile, the good Christian news is either ignored, used as a good will close-out before the weather report, or set aside as being of less importance to the bad news. Even their religion section is a series of faith-dimnishing articles mainly featuring liberal thought.
Uncompromising Reformed minister
Mark Driscoll is a controversial character in his own right, having built a successful and thriving mega-church at Mars Hill, but, following a series of missteps, subsequently resigning under a cloud. I am not familiar with Mark’s ministry other than what is publicised, nor am I a fan of what is termed the Emergent Church, but there are some things which do stand out about his ministry.
First of all Mark Driscoll is of the Reformed theology school, which, of course, is cut from the same cloth as the chookwatchers, who massively promote Reformed theology teachers, preachers, resources, and churches, some of whom have reputations for being tendentious towards those who do not adhere to their strict theology.
The theology is especially hard-line in its approach to women in ministry, has a strong emphasis on patriarchal leadership in the church and home, and a number of other issues liberal media such as the ABC would find controversial.
The ABC article hits out at the uncompromising approach attributed to Driscoll and the emotive language he sometimes uses to get his point across. It doesn’t mention any of the less controversial means of building a large congregation, or the good times, which, I guess, are less interesting to the casual observer or seeker of problems, who strike at the lows and ignore the highs, which is not great journalism.
Driscoll eventually resigned from Mars Hill, and has continued to receive pretty poor press, especially from the self-styled discernment ministries, some of whom tend to see no hope for those who fall, fail or flounder.
Hillsong statement clears up the controversy
Hillsong, on the other hand, wants to give Driscoll the opportunity to share his experiences with a large audience under the proviso that he is not taking the stage as a teacher or preacher, but as someone who has been through a problematic time and has a story to tell which could help ministers avoid similar pitfalls.
Brian Houston has given a clear explanation of the motives behind this move.
Personal statement from Pastor Brian Houston – Re: Mark Driscoll
Let me be clear about one thing. Mark Driscoll and I stand poles apart on women, their place in society, and their role in the Church.
I think our leadership styles and relationship with staff and key people have also been vastly different.
So why am I using our platform to interview Mark? We come from different backgrounds, theological positions, and church expressions. I genuinely want to know! Did he really say those things? Does he believe those things? Does he have any regrets? Has he been misrepresented? What has he learned and what can we all learn? And where to from here?
I have met Mark just twice. Before his very public resignation from Mars Hill Church, a mutual friend introduced us over a cup of coffee in Seattle. We talked about life, ministry, and his previous exposure to Australia. The second time, I was standing in line at Starbucks in California bleary eyed and jet lagged when another customer in the line said hi. It was Mark Driscoll and his daughter.
A lot has been said. There’s lessons to be learned. I’m looking forward to asking the questions and hearing from Mark directly. Will we agree afterwards or agree to disagree? Time will tell. I doubt we will agree on everything, but everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard.
Mark will not be speaking at the conference. It’s an open interview with Mark and his wife Grace. Let’s see what he has to say.
There is no reference to this statement in the ABC article, even though a simple search at the Hillsong site would have given them the information and the disclaimer.
Chookwatchers value atheists’ claims
The chookwatchers have already given their backing to the group that is putting out the petition against Hillsong’s interview with Driscoll, even though the person running the petition is a self-confessed atheist.
It is a known fact that the chookwatchers have used material from several people who claimed that they were formerly Christians but have since become atheists, such as Tanya Levine and Steve West, or from people who are simply atheists, such as ‘A Current Affair’ journalists.
It will remain to be seen whether the chookwatchers support or use the ABC article as fodder for their ongoing campaign against Hillsong, who they call a cult, ‘fascist christians’, and, conversely, non-Christian, despite the clear evidence that Hillsong is a strong, growing and dedicated Christian movement which is focused on the call of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to go into all the world and make disciples.
Grace overcomes despite the liberal media
Meanwhile, the liberal media will do what liberal media does, and the Church will get on with what it does. Having read the end of the Bible we know what the eventual outcome will be regardless of what they write today.
Hopefully Mark Driscoll, regardless of what he has or hasn’t done, will go through a process of change for the better, as we all must, and will come to a place where he will once again be able to exercise the gift of God in all sincerity.
For this he deserves our prayers and not our condemnation.
Problem solved! Hillsong has decided that the interview will not go ahead or create a distraction from the true purpose of their conference.
Statement from Pastor Brian Houston, Hillsong Church
After personal interaction with Mark Driscoll today, we have agreed that he will no longer be coming to Australia or the UK to attend Hillsong Conference. It is my hope that Mark and I will be able to speak in person in the coming weeks to discuss some of the issues that have been raised, what – if anything – he has learned, and for me to understand better how he is progressing in both his personal and professional life.
The teachings of Christ are based on love and forgiveness, and I will not write off Mark as a person simply because of the things that people have said about him, a small minority of people signing a petition or statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised.
However, I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference, particularly as this 30 minute interview was only a small part of this five day event. It was clear to me that Mark’s attendance had the potential to divert attention from the real purpose of Hillsong Conference, which is to see people leave encouraged in their own spiritual journey.
Clearly Mark has held some views and made some statements that cannot be defended. One or two of the more outrageous things he is purported to have said, I have heard for the first time through the media exposure over the past week.
The controversy has captured the world’s media, so you would have to say that the campaign to shut down the discussion was successful. Of course, it now hands the anti-Hillsong media and discernment sites another negative story to add to their articles whenever Hillsong has newsworthy stories, whether they are positive or not.
The greater scrutiny
It demonstrates that being successful as a church or minister becomes a reason for being targeted. As James said, those who aspire to leadership as ministers are liable to the greatest scrutiny. This is as it should be, and we should take note of the levels of expectation people have for those ministers who are in a position to oversee large and growing works.
In this saga Hillsong and Brian Houston have done nothing wrong, apart from possibly misjudging the mood of people who have essentially thrown Mark Driscoll into the scrap heap because, through his resignation, he admitted he had character flaws that were unacceptable to them.
Hillsong were going to give a short interview with a person who has courted controversy to find out if there is anything ministers can take from his story to help them avoid the same problems he has faced. Perhaps this was naive on the face of things, but how do we prevent the same mistakes if we do not face up to them?
Well, as predicted, not just one post, but three and counting on this controversy over at the chookwatchers‘ site. It’s quite ironic that they are now reduced to promoting the works of populist media outlets and atheists – anything negative towards Hillsong will do.
Chookwatchers hold similar views on the role of women as Driscoll
The greater irony, though, is that they would, in essence, agree with Mark Driscoll on the issue of women’s role in the church and home, albeit falling short of some of Driscoll’s more colourful descriptors. Let them come here and openly reject this claim if they disagree with it.
As we have already said, Driscoll is a Reformed theology adherent, as are the chookwatchers, and hold to the same doctrinal stance on women in ministry and the submission of wives to their husbands, which are the very things being criticised by the media outlets the chookwatchers are now championing. I think that’s called biting off your nose to spite your face.
They also talk up the notion of a more masculine approach to life, as Driscoll does, especially when criticising Hillsong worship. I don’t say these things are necessarily right or wrong Biblically, but the fact is that these are the main issues that have made Driscoll controversial as far as the media is concerned. They are staunch Reformed views. He just expresses them in a stronger way than others might.
Are the chookwatchers now agreeing with the atheists and media outlets who have come out against Mark Driscoll when they oppose the notion of women being put in their place in the church and home?
Have the chookwatchers changed their stance? Are they now agreeing that women should be in ministry, and should run the home? That would be a reversal of their doctrinal stance on women. If you’ve read any of their comments, you know by now that the chookwatchers are much closer to the Driscoll view than the antichristian media’s or the atheists who petitioned against Driscoll.
Driscoll’s reported strong language and treatment of staff is a concern that needs to be addressed. Is the chookwatchers‘ attitude towards people who challenge their views that different, though? Here’s a sample of the rhetoric of regular commenter TF: “Mark Driscoll is made of low-grade slime. (Also, you wouldn’t throw Driscoll into a bin, because he’d make it smell).”
Yes, well, thanks, TF, that’s a very grown-up, edifying way to remind people not to imitate Mark Driscoll’s alleged verbalising – not.
The chookwatchers‘ opportunism and willingness to publish anti-christian and atheist propaganda catches them out time and time again. This episode is no exception.