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Driscoll resignation ‘saddening’ & ‘sobering’

SEATTLE (BP) — Controversial author and speaker Mark Driscoll has resigned from the pastorate of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, stating in a resignation letter that he has not disqualified himself from ministry but that aspects of his personality and leadership style have proven “divisive.”

Dale Braswell, a Southern Baptist church planter in the Seattle area, told Baptist Press that Driscoll’s resignation is saddening and sobering.

“It’s never good to see a minister of the Gospel have to resign and have the allegations brought against him that he did,” Braswell, pastor of Lifepoint Church in Lynnwood, Wash., said. “All these things are definitely saddening. It’s also sobering in the sense of being a good reminder that all of us are capable of that kind of a fall.”

Driscoll’s “conservative evangelical theology” and innovative approach to ministry helped inspire Braswell to plant a church in Seattle, he said. Braswell believes Mars Hill’s success has benefitted all churches in the area, including Southern Baptist ones.

“The rising tide lifts all the boats,” Braswell said.

In an Oct. 14 letter to the chairman of the church’s board of advisors and accountability, Driscoll said he doesn’t want to be the source of anything that might detract from Mars Hill’s “mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

“That is why, after seeking the face and will of God, and seeking godly counsel from men and women across the country, we have concluded it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church we helped launch in 1996.”

Beginning in August Driscoll had taken a break from the pastorate and temporarily suspended speaking engagements and media interviews. During his leave, seven Mars Hill elders and one member of its board of overseers investigated charges against him and concluded that he has been “guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner,” according to a letter from the board of overseers obtained by Religion News Service.

The investigation also found that “some of the accusations against Pastor Mark” were “altogether unfair or untrue” and that Driscoll has not been “disqualified from pastoral ministry” because of “immorality, illegality or heresy.”

Driscoll’s resignation came shortly after the investigation concluded.

Driscoll has long been criticized for his direct leadership style and at times crude speaking and writing manner. Among the charges leveled against Driscoll in recent months are plagiarizing in his book “A Call to Resurgence,” paying a marketing company more than $200,000 to help elevate his book “Real Marriage” to the New York Times bestseller list and using vulgar language on an Internet forum more than a decade ago in response to critics.

Earlier this year and in a 2006 book, Driscoll admitted to and apologized for the vulgar forum posts.

LifeWay Christian Resources suspended the sale of Driscoll’s books in August. Also in August, the Acts 29 church planting network, which Driscoll founded, removed him and Mars Hill from membership.

Mars Hill has 14,000 attendees at 15 locations in five states, according to RNS.

Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay, wrote in a blog post that four lessons can be drawn from Driscoll’s situation: leadership matters; church polity matters; character matters as much as doctrine; and the celebrity culture hinders our witness.

Regarding polity, Wax noted that Driscoll has mocked congregational church government. In response he hinted at the advantages of congregationalism and wrote, “Whatever polity your church adopts, you should ensure an appropriate accountability to people within the body.”

Following Driscoll’s resignation, some Southern Baptists took to Twitter. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted, “Let’s pray for all N this.”

Jared Moore, a Kentucky pastor and 2014 nominee for Southern Baptist Convention president, tweeted, “In light of Mars Hill Church & Mark Driscoll’s resignation, do we desire repentance or revenge?”