"First of all, I want you to know that everything you read on the internet is not true," Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris said onstage yesterday at the evangelical Gateway Conference in Texas. Morris was reintroducing the audience of thousands of evangelical leaders to Mark Driscoll, the Mars Hill pastor who resigned in disgrace last Wednesday. (Read all about Driscoll's many problems in this great feature by Brendan Kiley.) "We have two choices" when it comes to Driscoll, Morris told his audience. "One, we could crucify him, but since somebody's already been crucified for him..." Morris trailed off before chastising his audience about forgiveness, saying that "in the church, we are the only army that shoots at wounded. And I want you to stop it. I really do."
Mark Driscoll then took the stage to a standing ovation with a hangdog look on his face. The fake-looking humility didn't last very long. "If you give a microphone to a preacher who's been gone for a while, he could go for a long time," Driscoll said. Someone in the audience shouted, "We love you!" Driscoll acknowledged him, before saying "I'm in a season of just healin' up, praying." In the span of five minutes, Driscoll also referred to it being "a very trying season" and "a rough season for the family."
Any pretense of contrition faded quickly. Driscoll showed the same old condescension toward his critics that he's always shown: "I think there's a lot I could say that might make me feel better. I don't know if it'd make me look better, but I don't think it would make Jesus look better, so I won't say anything."
Driscoll immediately got to work painting himself as a victim. "I've cried a lot lately," he said. He then said he and his family have been subject to death threats. He says someone left "rusty nails all over [his] driveway," and that one night when he and his family were camping in the backyard, "huge rocks [came] flying at my kids" and his family had to run into the house for safety. He then talked about how a man's primary role is to be the pastor to his family before ceding the stage to Morris.
Morris immediately began chastising the audience again. "He's resigned from the church that he founded and pastored for 18 years," Morris said. The only reference to the reason Driscoll resigned from the church came when Morris said, "He made some mistakes. Like, he preached for about 10 to 12 years, 50 weeks a year. Sometimes six services a weekend. And it's just not healthy. So I'm glad that he's saying 'help me. Help me learn to do it differently and to do it better.' And so I love him very, very much and I'm glad that he's here."
Having established Driscoll's only crime as just working too darn hard, Morris threw the blame back into the crowd. "It is surprising how we believe so quickly something that we read about a brother in Christ that we have not even met," Morris announced. The crowd ate it up, applauding loudly for Driscoll and forgiveness.