Tag Archives: Evangelicalism

Why Mark Driscoll needs a Bishop

Every time I wade into the fray of American Evangelical Drama, I feel like the little Canadian guy waving my arms wildly, shouting, “I have something to say too!”

UnknownIf you keep up on Evangelical drama at all, you will regularly hear Mark Driscoll’s name come up associated with some controversy or another, from saying something offensive to or about women, plagiarizing material for his writing, buying up his own book in order to make the New York Times best seller listrevealing that he anonymously posted some truly awful stuff to a Mars Hill Church chat board 14 years ago. (For my mainline readers, Mark is the senior pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and author of a number of books. Mark is a big Evangelical deal.)

Now, Mark Driscoll should be no concern of mine… our worlds are very far apart. And yet, as a Christian pastor, he is my colleague. And as someone trying to represent at least one progressive Lutheran Canadian millennial voice in the great sea of social media christianity, he is hard to ignore.

As the pastor of a small local church in the Canadian hinterland, it is easy to feel smug about the spiralling downfall of a “Mega Pastor” like Mark Driscoll. Each time another story breaks I can just sit back in my office chair and think, “Hah, that’s what happens when you build a church on the cult of personality! Now… how can I get more than 100 people to show up to worship on Sunday?” (Compared to Mars Hill’s 15,000+)

But the reaction to the latest controversy among Evangelicals seems more and more discombobulated. Some are outraged and aghast by Mark Driscoll’s misogyny, abuse and lack of apologizing. Some think that he should resign. Some believe that he should be shown grace because that is what Christians do. Some say this issue is for Mars Hill to deal with. And some are blogging about not blogging about it.

People seem just unsure of what to do with Mark Driscoll.

But I think Mark Driscoll is a symptom of a bigger Evangelical problem.

Accountability.

Specifically, institutional accountability.

Mark Driscoll is just one of many pastor/church combos adrift in the sea of loosely affiliated Evangelical congregations. Congregations and pastors that become islands of theological, doctrinal, ethical and institutional accountability.

There is no 3rd party – outside of the congregational system – to whom both congregation and pastor are accountable to.

Like a Bishop.20140805-235616-86176628.jpg

Now, no church structure is perfect and human beings are very adept at finding ways within any system to abuse each other.

However, mainline churches have had a few hundred more years of practicing unhealthy behaviour than Evangelicals. We know our need for overseers.

We know that congregations really don’t have the mechanisms to deal with pastoral conflict. In times when pastors and congregations aren’t working together, when there is conflict and definitely when there is abuse, Bishops are 3rd parities who can come in and begin processes of reconciliation and/or discipline.

Sometimes pastors just need someone to come and say, “Your ministry is finished here.” I wonder who can say that to Mark Driscoll? Bishops are not peers, but rather pastors to pastors. They can come and speak with an authority and with concern that lets a pastor and a congregation know that they are cared for and also accountable to the whole church beyond them. With Bishops, congregations and pastors aren’t free to do as they will, but nor are they abandoned in times of need. Bishops connect the little congregation/pastor islands together to the larger Body of Christ. And they connect them in a theological, doctrinal, ethical and institutional way. Bishops are the embodied lines of accountability that we have to one another in the Body of Christ.

20140805-233952-85192204.jpgNow, I would love to sit down with Mark Driscoll and tell him, from my professional and pastoral perspective, all the ways in which he is failing as a pastor. I would love to tear a strip off of him for all the ways in which he is putting himself before his people. And I would have every right to do so as a colleague and fellow pastor in the Church. And he would have every right to ignore me. But a Bishop would be that person who can call a pastor and a congregation to account.

The reality is Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill don’t have these structures of accountability,  and the ministry there will continue to implode and not only wound people, but perpetuate an unhealthy system that will eventually become unsustainable. I would bet real money that Mars Hill won’t exist in 50 years.

And maybe this is the underlying truth that Evangelicals who don’t know what to do with Mark Driscoll need to know.

Mark Driscoll would not be approved for minsitry in most mainline denominations. Bishops would see his drama coming a mile away.

He would never have made it through the candidacy process, he would not stand up to the academic rigour required to be ordained, he would not pass the psychological exams, and he would not have been encouraged to pursue professional, ordained ministry. Mark Driscoll ministers from an unhealthy place and is not suitable to care for a congregation.

He would not make it as a mainline pastor.

Yet, even if he did make it through the process, any one of his “controversies,” would have earned him a visit from the Bishop and likely he would have been removed from ministry.

And the reality is Mark Driscoll probably wouldn’t want to become a mainline pastor, because we don’t make celebrities of our pastors (Nadia Bolz-Weber is the one quasi-exception). Lutheran theology reminds me that is isn’t even me who is given the gifts for minsitry, but rather the office is. When I am called to serve a church, I don’t serve it as me but I inhabit the role of pastor and the role or office is the one who serves. I serve at the call of the congregation, AND by the call of the greater church, the body of Christ who has sent me to serve in a local context.

And this is why Mark Driscoll is a symptom of a greater problem. As long as Evangelicals continue to exist as congregation/pastor islands, with little or no accountability to the larger body of Christ… cults of personality will continue to pop up and invariably lead to abuse by the celebrity pastors at the centre of them.

And while mainline churches also still have our share of problems and abuse, we have built in systems of checks and balances to hopefully correct the problems before long.

In my opinion, which is in fact a professional one, Mark Driscoll should absolutely resign. The victims of his twisted minsitry at Mars Hill need to find reconciliation and healing with someone else pastoring them. But the sad reality is, another pastor just like Mark Driscoll is waiting in the wings to step onto the big stage at Mars Hill or another church like it. Mark Driscoll is not unique.

Mark Driscoll and pastors like him will continue to be symptoms of a greater problem as long as Evangelicals continue the build up churches more concerned with American individualistic values than with being accountable and connected to the rest of the Church.

But if Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill have any chance at making it through this mess… It will be with a Bishop.


 

Is Mark Driscoll an isolated problem? Or does he represent a greater issue of accountability across Evangelicalism? Share in the comments, on the Facebook Page or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

World Vision’s Decision Was Still a Watershed Moment

So I wrote a satirical response to the outcry from some Christians  in regards to World Vision’s decision to allow people in committed gay marriages to work there.

Today,  a World Vision employee wrote to me, in regards to that post, thanking me for the humour it added into, what I can only assume, has been an impossibly tough week. It broke my heart to imagine what those on the ground must be experiencing when 2000 people pull their sponsorships within a few hours.

Well, today the absurd got absurder.

World Vision reversed its decision today.

This is sad.

The letter from the board citied a mistake. They re-committed themselves to the “biblical understanding of marriage” (between one man and at least one woman, I guess).

But let’s not fool ourselves.

This is about bullying. This is about the same lobby that managed to get a secular cable network, A&E, to re-instate Phil Robertson, after he said some of the most vile and racist bigoted things you could say and still be published in GQ.

If A&E caved, World Vision didn’t stand a chance.

Evangelicals, especially conservative pastors, shame on you. Double shame on you, Gospel Coalition.

I know that change is hard, I know that you are reacting to the loss of your privilege in the world. And we all know that this reversal is temporary.

As much as I wonder how conservative, American, Republican, culture-war, nation-worship can can still be, in any meaningful sense, called Christianity, I am certainly not going to say farewell to Evangelicals, as they did to World Vision.

But I will offer this rebuke:  As your elder in faith, stop it. Stop acting like a bunch of teenagers and grow up. The I-am-taking-my-ball-and-going-home attitude is old and tired.

As one who has been ordained into a church and denomination that has had to get past many of our own demons, I know that growing up isn’t easy. But the world needs you to grow up, and soon.

In the meantime, for those who are completely lost, saddened and disheartened with what has gone with World Vision this week, let me say something:

World Vision is not the only Christian NGO out there. In fact, there are many who won’t succumb to the Evangelical Lobby anytime in the future. I am not saying stop supporting World Vision, not by any means. Keep signing up for sponsorships, don’t assume those 2000 are coming back. Keep sponsoring those kids you are already sponsoring!

But check out the Christian NGOs below as way of knowing that World Vision is not responsible as an NGO to hold within it the entire diversity of the church. Just as many pointed out, the work World Vision does with communities all over the world is the same, regardless of their employment policies.

Check them out knowing that, in fact, World Vision made the best decision for the communities they work with. World Vision was put into an impossible, no-win, situation and I think they did what was best. They asked, “How can we help as many people as possible?” And so they did what they could to stop the financial bleed.

In the meantime, also keep fighting for LBGT rights, fight for them in all areas of the Church. Fight for them knowing that World Vision’s reversal doesn’t change anything. The policy change on Monday was still a watershed moment for the church, today’s reversal just means the hill to climb is taller than we thought.

Just because the Gospel Coalition is afraid of Gay Terrorists, doesn’t mean we have to fear their conservative backlash. It only means we have them on the ropes.

ARDF_Logo-copy_noTMAnglican Relief and Development Fund

 

LWR-LOGO-HOME-RESIZEDLutheran World Relief

 

 

devp-logo-enCatholic Development and Peace

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 6.37.06 PMMennonite Central Committee

 

 

What do you think of the World Vision Announcement today? Will you change who you give your support to? Share in the comments, on Facebook: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

 

All You Disaffected Evangelicals should Become Lutheran

I never thought I would write a post with this title.

However, I suspect a lot of you are already thinking about it, so let me say out loud what you might be thinking.

Image source - http://cyberbrethren.com/whats-a-lutheran/
Image source – http://cyberbrethren.com/whats-a-lutheran/

“Maybe checking out a nice Lutheran church wouldn’t be so bad.”

Over the past few weeks, the Evangelical world (read: media, twitter, blogosphere) has been full of drama, so much so, that I wrote about how it reminds me of High School drama. There have been those who are just tired out. Those who have resolved to quit fighting about the drama with other disaffected folks. Those who are advocating for schism. Those who are breaking up with Evangelicalism.

Meanwhile, Lutherans in the US elected a Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, who is a woman. Nadia Bolz-Weber (our own little rock star) wrote an incredible book worth reading. Lutherans have a strong history, we have leaders like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who have found renewed followings among many Christians. Lutherans have been doing alright.

Let me be clear though. I am not saying you should become Lutherans because we are awesome (because we are not), and I am not really into sheep stealing.

In fact, Lutherans have a lot of flaws and we may not seem, at first, like what you are looking for.

Most Lutheran churches can seem kind of boring. We don’t create cults of celebu-pastors. We are pretty calm and subdued in worship, when people smile at a joke told during a sermon it is a really big deal. We generally do liturgy, but we are not as good at it as the Catholics or Episcopalians/Anglicans. Lots of us try the praise and worship thing, but we are still stuck in 1992 when it comes to music and style. We sometimes try to get involved in our communities and with helping the poor, but our churches don’t have big outreach budgets and many of our folks are burning the candle at both ends. We do have strong aid organizations like Lutheran World Relief, but we are not like the amazing Mennonites. For youth, we have 2 years of church school (confirmation) for 12-14 year olds – we do not do youth group like the Baptists or Pentecostals.

Of course, Lutherans have drama too. We fight about all kinds of things that churches fight about, from theological understandings of human sexuality to worship styles to carpet colour to budget deficits.

churchsignBut here is the thing you disaffected Evangelicals might appreciate. We Lutherans are pretty sure we are wrong and imperfect. Plus we like to name it.

Most Sunday mornings, we begin by confessing our sins. Together. We admit to God and to each other that we haven’t got things right and we won’t in the future. We remind ourselves that we are all pretty screwed up.

Then we hear God’s forgiveness. Given to us, freely, generously, graciously, without condition.

And we go from there. We begin with confession and forgiveness, and then we preach grace.

Real grace. Grace that is God’s action and not ours. Grace that is entirely God’s responsibility, not ours.

Lutherans might not be the best at liturgy, music, social justice, outreach, youth group, or promoting celebu-pastors. But we are the best at grace.

In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say Lutherans have the best theology of justification – bar none. We get this grace stuff and we drill it into each other a lot. Lutheran theology and preaching at its best provides the clearest distinction of law and gospel, of what our problem is and what God is doing about it, in all of Christianity. Lutherans churches at their best will boldly declare that we are not the ones saving ourselves, that our theology, our pastors, our liturgy, our music, our youth programs, our celebu-pastors… our good works… don’t meant squat to God.

God has already decided how God feels about us. Any pastor, any Christian who tells you otherwise hasn’t read enough Martin Luther. Or enough of the Bible.

God loves all of us, and not because we earn it or deserve it. God loves us because God is just really cool that way.

This is why I think you disaffected Evangelicals need a little more Lutheranism in your lives. Because we know how to be broken, marginalized, tired out, sinners, and we do it honestly, without pretense. And we know that we will be okay. We know that God is really good at working with our brokeness, working with us at our worst. That is what grace is all about.

That is what I hear you needing. That is what I see coming to odds in Evangelicalism. The need to be right, the need to do it all, the need to have it all together, the need to do God’s work all on your own. The need to be prefect little bible believing Christians coming to odds with the reality of all suffering, sin and death in the world.

Now, before I tell you to become a Lutheran, let me explain one thing. Yes, Lutherans are named after Martin Luther, but Luther named himself after something else. Martin Luder changed his name to Luther, which is derived from the greek work ‘eleutherius’, meaning one who has been set free.

Lutherans are followers of Luther, but we are also ones who have been ‘set free.’

So all you disaffected Evangelicals. Become Lutherans. Become set free.

Become ones who  are set free by God’s grace.

So who wants to become a Lutheran? Is this an option for disaffected evangelicals? Share in the comments, or on Facebook or on Twitter: @ParkerErik