Mark Driscoll, top megachurch pastor, resigns
(CNN) — Less than a year ago, Mark Driscoll, an evangelical pastor, was flying high.
His hometown Seattle Seahawks were in the Super Bowl, and the brash pastor scored a big, faith-fueled interview with five of the team’s top players, including quarterback Russell Wilson.
But in a remarkably fast fall from grace, Driscoll resigned Tuesday as pastor of Mars Hill Church, a congregation he founded 18 years ago and turned into a force in the mostly secular Pacific Northwest.
In a statement, Mars Hills’ board of overseers said Driscoll hadn’t committed any acts of “immorality, illegality or heresy” — sins that have felled many a powerful pastor.
Instead, the board said, Driscoll is guilty of “arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner.”
Driscoll was not asked to leave, the board added, saying they were “surprised” to receive his resignation letter.
In that letter, obtained by Religion News Service, Driscoll says: “Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family — even physically unsafe at times — and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill.”
Pride comes before the fall
The 43-year-old pastor acknowledged that, “There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware. Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit.”
Before his resignation, a number of Mars Hills leaders fled the church, saying that Driscoll was not fit for leadership. He has also been accused of plagiarism and using a complex scheme to pad book sales. The pastor has apologized and said “mistakes were made.”
The broader beef with Driscoll, though, seemed to be his more-macho-than-thou approach to fellow Christians.
According to Christianity Today, the pastor had trolled online discussion forums under the pseudonym “William Wallace II,” and lambasted the supposed rise of “male lesbians;” “feman,” (men who act like women, in his definition); and “men who allow their wives to nag at them.”
“While the discussion board itself was a bad idea,” Driscoll said in a letter obtained by Christianity Today, “my decision to attack critics who were posting there (I did so by posting under the character ‘William Wallace II’) was an even worse idea.”
Even before that revelation, Driscoll was highly controversial and almost comically outspoken.
“Richard Simmons, hippie queer Christ”
He once said that mainstream Christians had turned Jesus into a “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” and a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that … would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”
In a book he wrote with his wife in 2012, Driscoll delved into serious detail about his sex life, leaving some reviewers, and almost as many Christians, a bit uncomfortable.
For all that, though — or maybe, because of all that — Driscoll was pretty successful by many measures. He built Mars Hill into a mini-empire, with 15 satellite locations and even a couple of universities. His books and sermons were read and heard by millions.
In his resignation letter, Driscoll hints that his pastoral career isn’t dead yet.
“My journey, at age 43, is far from over,” he writes, “I believe (God) has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like him every day.”