Monday, November 19, 2007

By the nose ring

-- by Dave

The original Mars Hill Church -- limned scarily well by Lauren Sandler in Salon (actually an excerpt from her book Righteous: Dispatches From the Evangelical Youth Movement) -- is only a few blocks from my house. Every Sunday they pack into the old refurbished hardware megastore that serves as their church.

It's quite a crowd, exacerbated by the fact that parking sucks in the neighborhood and most of the old parking lot was filled in by a new office building, so everyone parks on the nearby streets. I'm often out and about on Sundays and see them going to church: Pretty young folks, a lot of them with tats and assorted piercings. They usually seem to be wearing their nicest black things.

Of course, once I got a taste of Mark Driscoll's theology, I pretty much lost interest in pursuing it any further (an impression deepened by Sandler's book). It just looked like religious authoritarianism for the body-art crowd.

The latest news from Mars Hill, via the Seattle Times, pretty much confirms the impression:
The recent firing of two pastors is causing turmoil at Mars Hill Church, Seattle's largest congregation.

About a month ago, Paul Petry and Bent Meyer were fired from their staff positions.

Some Mars Hill members contend the pastors were removed because they challenged proposed changes in church structure that those members believed would consolidate power in the hands of top church leaders.

A current church leader disputes the interpretation, saying the church intends to share power, not hoard it.

The firings and changes to church bylaws, passed last month, have prompted lengthy exchanges in an online, members-only church forum.

Mars Hill leaders said in forum postings that one fired pastor was removed, in part, for "displaying an unhealthy distrust in the senior leadership." They said the other was removed for "disregarding the accepted elder protocol for the bylaw deliberation period" and "verbally attacking the lead pastor" — charges the fired pastor denied, the leaders added.

Petry also was removed as an elder; Meyer remains a church elder but is on probation. At Mars Hill, elders are men who hold positions of authority in the church. Some are on paid staff and some are not.

... Some members also lamented the loss of Petry and Meyer, challenged their firings, and questioned whether dissent was being quashed and a "culture of fear and elitism" was being perpetuated.

In some cases, members' posting privileges were revoked.

Church leaders said bylaw changes were made because the church governing structure had grown so large that it was impractical to have that many people governing its affairs.

You know, I think other people can be great spiritual teachers, but I've never understood the willingness or compulsion to let someone else tell you what to think.

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