After a flurry of articles and blog posts about Mars Hill's idea of "church discipline"—which occasionally veers towards the stalker-ish, with letters and phone calls to church members' family and acquaintances detailing their "sins"—the church has responded.
The response has no real surprises—it's a free country, members have agreed to be subjected to that kind of treatment, etc. Fair enough. It's their press release and they can be as defensive as they want. I only have one quibble. They state:
Unfortunately, in most of the articles and blog posts published in recent weeks, with the exception of the recent Slate article, we were not contacted by the authors to verify the facts or seek explanation regarding those cases prior publishing their articles.
That is factually untrue, at least in The Stranger's case. From the original article:
Mars Hill pastor Jeff Bettger responded to queries from The Stranger about these stories with a long, heartfelt e-mail. He confirmed some of the stories, did not deny the rest, and wrote:
I personally have never known anybody at Mars Hill who would harass, blackmail, verbally abuse, or belittle ex-members. I would actually say that over the last few years Mars Hill has increasingly become more loving, kind, generous, and humble. I have been seeing this over and over from leadership at Mars Hill, and from members. We know we are not perfect, but we believe in an active God who loves us... The way God is growing this Church, I don't believe anybody would even have the time, let alone the interest, to follow ex-members around. We have a difficult enough time maintaining all the work that needs to get done from week to week as well as meeting with all the people who want counsel and are hurting.
The Stranger attempted to contact several current members of Mars Hill, but none of them responded to requests for comment.
To be crystal clear: I sent many emails with many questions to current church members and Mars Hill HQ. Only Pastor Bettger and Mars Hill's p.r. liaison answered—and there was this Tweet by Pastor Driscoll, which I love: