Head First: Towards Restoration

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Towards Restoration


I didn't post about it here because it was being talked about everywhere else, but back in January, over at Our of Ur blog, Mark Driscoll, one of the pastors at Mars Hill Church, publicly lambasted Brian McClaren, among others, for what he perceived as Emergent's failure to take a strong position on homosexuality. There has been a great deal of heated discussion about this, with people on one side or another of the issue drawing the battle lines, choosing sides and standing behind either McClaren or Driscoll. It looked like the beginnings of your basic church split.


For those of us who were at least keeping an eye on Emergent, it was disappointing. I mean, these guys were supposed to be friends. For Driscoll to come out so publicly and so vehemently against McClaren (who, right or wrong, is about the most gentle brother on the planet), just lent a dirty-laundry feel to the situation. No one likes to see a relationship broken, but it's worse when it happens in front of everyone (take it from me).

Well, yesterday gave me some hope. Apparently, Mark Driscoll has reconsidered his approach, and has posted his apology for the way he criticized his brothers publicly. Pay attention to this excerpt:

A godly friend once asked me an important question: "What do you want to be known for?" I responded that solid theology and effective church planting were the things that I cared most about and wanted to be known for. He kindly said that my reputation was growing as a guy with good theology, a bad temper, and a foul mouth. This is not what I want to be known for. And after listening to the concerns of the board members of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network that I lead, and of some of the elders and deacons at Mars Hill Church that I pastor, I have come to see that my comments were sinful and in poor taste. Therefore, I am publicly asking for forgiveness from both Brian and Doug because I was wrong for attacking them personally and I was wrong for the way in which I confronted positions with which I still disagree. I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the way I chose to address the disagreement. I pray that you will accept this posting as a genuine act of repentance for my sin.

I don't know about you, but when I read it, I got a feeling that was hard to describe. It was part relief, part rejoicing that these relationships would not be cast aside, but mostly a sense that "Yes, this is right."

But notice how he came to change his mind. First, a friend approached him kindly, but firmly. Then, he heard from his board members, deacons and elders, and he listened to them (I'd love to know who-approached-who. I want to hope he initiated it.). It's not hard to imagine that someone with Driscoll's level of visibility and pastoral "success" might be a bit of a Lone Ranger, taking the enemy's bait to "be the man." But Driscoll appears to be a pastor who is clearly in genuine, accountable relationship with his fellow leaders. Far from considering himself above counsel, he relies on his brothers to help him achieve a truthful perspective. Contrast Driscoll with the pastor I once had who loved to point at the Bible and say, "God never called a committee. He always called a man." I feel little but pity for that guy. By saying, in effect, "no man is an island, except me, 'cause I'm the pastor" he has assured his own failure.

I guess the underlying message of this post is this: As much as I have come to look with contempt at what the most of the organized church has become, with its gratuitous infrastructure, its inward-focus, and its ego-driven political hierarchy...I'd gladly join the assembly whose leaders really understand and instill the value, role and meaning of relationship.

33 comments:

Society's Elite said...

Good stuff Dorse. I actually was following that story too. It's funny you posted it today.

Speaking of Driscoll, I just found out he was "Mark the cussing pastor" that Donald Miller mentioned in Blue Like Jazz.

Zeke said...

Interestingly, I don't see cussing as remotely as offensive as the content of that original Driscoll essay. Funny how priorities get out of whack.

Jekk said...

Mmm... blue like jazz... nice post Dorse. I can see what you mean about how the whole one-manned approach reaps failure. That relational accountability is crucial, especially within leadership, let alone lead pastoring.

Oh yeah, the wedding's style has been changed. I think you'll actually like it a lot more now. We're so getting married in the woods in flipflops, while being catered with the finest Indian cuisine. Originality to the extreme.

JimmyBob said...

Nice analysis. I've learned in my life that others can often see things in me that I cannot see. Listening to them takes setting aside pride and becoming vulnerable. Most guys fail at it. I do. I become defensive. But it is key to having authentic relationships, I know. I guess that's Yaconelli's point in Stories of Emergence, Moving from Absolute to Authentic.

ninjanun said...

It's good that he apologized, but the way he worded his own apology leads me to believe he wouldn't have apologized if not for the fact that others thought it marred his image. In other words, his apology almost sounded like it was (at least initially) prompted by appearances' sake.

dorsey said...

That's a tough line to hold, nun. I certainly see what you're saying, but that can be said of anyone who takes advice from someone else, don't you think? I mean, that's what a reputation is, isn't it? How you're thought of by others?

I think that's why I harp on the idea of relationship so often. I think we need to see ourselves through each other's eyes, sometimes. But seeing ourselves correctly through one another requires an inordinate amount of love, and grace, and trust. That can only happen in the context of genuine relationship.

I can think of a couple times in the past year that I could have benefitted from some kind, but firm perspective from a friend. I think this is an area in which we all stand to improve. Well, I do, at least.

jeff said...

He was doing so well...
Therefore, I am publicly asking for forgiveness from both Brian and Doug because I was wrong for attacking them personally

Until the homophobia kicked in...
and I was wrong for the way in which I confronted positions with which I still disagree

Yeah, make sure no one thinks you still don't hate the gay people, Mark.

Okay... okay... when I first read it, I was at least glad he apologized for his narrow-minded, caustic remarks. But as I re-read it, I found myself wishing he'd just said, Sorry. I'm an ass! And left it at that! Or at least, he could have said, "I should have kept my big mouth shut & minded my own business!"

Sure, it's a start. I'm glad he recognizes the fact that he was crude and 'in poor taste' (I'm not sure about 'sinful'...).

When he said, "I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the way I chose to address the disagreement.", I don't think he was being disingenuous. I'm sure he meant it, within the context of his self-perceptions and political/religious strategizing.

I'd just rather he recognize the fact that no one was addressing him to begin with. The fact that he repented of the 'sin' of "good theology, bad temper and foul mouth" all-the-while clinging tightly (and loudly) to his position against homosexuality (as he humbly 'repented') is evidence of the fact that he just doesn't "get it".

His error wasn't in what he said or even the way he said it. It was the fact that he, from his position of influence, even felt the need to vocalize it at all.

Here's how it should have read:
I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the fact that I chose to address the disagreement.

That's the apology I think a lot of people hurt by self-righteous believers need to hear...

dorsey said...

Holy Hopping Hypocrites, Batman!

Jeff, are you serious?

You really think that Driscoll's apology was somehow bogus because he didn't back away from his belief? I do not endorse his position at all, but I wouldn't expect him to change it. There's still value in the exchange of views. It's in the way Driscoll's rant dampened the exchange that the damage was done. And that's what he apologized for.

Likewise, if you were to ever offer such an apology, I think you'd choose your words in such a way as to let it be known where you were wrong and where you thought you were right. You would not let that slide.

But to suggest that he just keep his opinions to himself? On a blog? WTF? I just don't know what to say to that.

I mean, are you saying we can expect an apology from you for every demerging opinion you've ever offered that wasn't asked for? Was all the shutting down/erasing your blog your version of repentance?

Dude, you need to rethink this and cut the guy some slack. I'm guessing McClaren will.

(Everyone, you can be sure that the world is seriously FUBAR on the day when I'm NOT the most cynical person in the room.)

jeff said...

Jeff, are you serious?
Absolutely.

You really think that Driscoll's apology was somehow bogus because he didn't back away from his belief?
Not even close to what I said. I think it was potentially bogus because, in the end, he got to publicly separate himself from McLaren on a controversial issue, but then force the hand of his own followers by playing the "forgive me" card.
I don't know this guy, so I cannot comment on the validity of his repentance. In fact, I feel a little wrong even bringing it up... you know, questioning a guy's repentance & all.

Still, from a maneuvering standpoint, isn't that how the forgiveness "card" works? I mean, Mike Driscoll is probably a great guy and everybody loves him. It's just that the whole thing just seems really convenient. From a PR standpoint, he's still a really great guy (bc he repented), but he still oudly and publicly disagrees with McLaren about the gays... so his followers don't count him gay by association... whew!

Likewise, if you were to ever offer such an apology, I think you'd choose your words in such a way as to let it be known where you were wrong and where you thought you were right. You would not let that slide.
You're right about that. But as a man in a position of authority and leadership, it is interesting to note how his religious maneuvering has allowed him to have his cake & eat it too.

But to suggest that he just keep his opinions to himself? On a blog? WTF? I just don't know what to say to that.
Say, He's Mark Driscoll... a guy a lot of people are looking up to. Say he's another pastor looking for an opportunity to politicize his opinion. Say he gets his anti-homo controversy... gets his headline without all the condemnation. Say that as a teacher, he's held to a higher standard.

I mean, are you saying we can expect an apology from you for every demerging opinion you've ever offered that wasn't asked for? Was all the shutting down/erasing your blog your version of repentance?

Owning a blog is hardly the same as pastoring one of the largest, most influential churches in the country.

Dude, you need to rethink this and cut the guy some slack. I'm guessing McClaren will.
Are you suggesting that I just keep his opinions to myself? On a blog? WTF? I just don't know what to say to that. Holy Hopping Hypocrites, Batman!
:)

In all seriousness Dorsey, I wonder if you would extend the same grace to Pat Robertson or another prominent right-winged, evangelical leader for such a carefully worded apology...


Still, let me say this:
I am publicly asking for forgiveness from my dear brother Dorsey, and Mike Driscoll. While I don't retract anything I said in my earlier post, I most humbly and reverently repent of the way I said it. I hope and pray that the words I stated above, (all of which, I still completely hold fast to) are no longer found offensive or hypocritical, now that I've repented of the tone, with which they were delivered.

I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the way that I chose to address this disagreement.

Can't we all just get along???


hehehe...

jeff said...

(Everyone, you can be sure that the world is seriously FUBAR on the day when I'm NOT the most cynical person in the room.)
I hope you're right. I hope I am just being cynical. I pray this is just a bad circumstance.

I guess it's just the whole concept of public apologies come off kinda superficial. Why not just give Brian & Doug a call and apologize personally, like the Bible says to do when there's a rift between brothers. Then, since it was a public issue, just say, "We worked it out" and leave it at that.

All the careful wording and press-release style apologies make it feel very political and plastic.

I hope I am just being cynical. I hope I'm wrong.

dorsey said...

I'd just as soon leave the line by line exegesis to the athiests, but a couple things:

"it is interesting to note how his religious maneuvering has allowed him to have his cake & eat it too."

I suppose the same could be said of King David, or anyone else who obtains mercy. But eating humble pie publicly doesn't exactly strike me as inconsequential.

"Say, He's Mark Driscoll... a guy a lot of people are looking up to...

...Owning a blog is hardly the same as pastoring one of the largest, most influential churches in the country."


You're a church leader. You teach. What is the magic number of people who have to look up to you before your words have influence?.

"I wonder if you would extend the same grace to Pat Robertson..."

No need to wonder. Just go back and look. All my posts are still there. When Robertson apologized, I refrained from commenting in order to do just that.

If you're going to insist on seeing Driscoll's apology as a scheme, then what does it matter how he apologizes? If he does it publicly, he's maneuvering. If he does it privately, then you're going to claim he was too chicken to take his beating publicly. At what point do you choose to give a guy the benefit of the doubt?

For me, I don't expect Mark Driscoll to stop being short-tempered, nor do I expect to agree with him on this issue anytime soon. But here's the bottom line: the guy asked for forgiveness not just from Brian and Doug, but from you and me. I don't know about you, but I'm in no position to deny him.

jeff said...

I don't think this has anything to do with you or me fforgiving him. In fact, you're using the "forgiveness card" to attempt to shut me up.

We're not instructed to forgive him because he asked. We're instructed to forgive him even if he doesn't. But for you to accues me of being unforgiving or not extending grace isn't really what I was addressing. You assume I would call him a chicken if he did it privately, and that's just not true. Putting words in my mouth and using guilt tactics will not serve you to manipulate your points with me anymore than it serves Driscoll.

With that being said, the entire point of my analysis was not to villify Mark Driscoll, but to bring to light the tendency ministers have, to use their position for personal agendas.

You're right. I DO teach on occassion. And when I do, I take it very seriously. And I do have a responsibility to those who have read my blog. But what you do not realize is the number of times when I've gone too far, I have had to contact people privately to apologize. I hate to even mention it now, but I do it to serve a point. My motivation, however public my screw-up, was to handle it privately because, as ninjanun stated, public apologies tend to come off as self-serving, and 'for appearances sake'.

I do not recall the bible saying that if your brother offends you publicly, you should handle it publicly. I recall the bible saying that our 'good-deeds' should be done privately.

Like I said, I hope I'm wrong about him. I probably am. But my problem is not as much with him personally as it is with ministers' abuse of the "Get Out Of Jail Free" card that says, "I asked forgiveness, so you have to give it to me".

Yes, I must forgive. But there is nothing wrong with my learning from their stupidity.

If pastors and church leaders spent their time teaching on love & grace instead of using the pulpit & position to press their own peeves and agendas, the church would look a lot different. The fact that this situation is even an issue is evidence to that fact.

dorsey said...

Jeff, I'm under no illusion that there's a card on earth I could play that would shut you up. That said, I didn't know we were playing cards at all, unless you're just trying to put me on the defensive with the accusations. What's that card called? No matter, your point was not to vilify Mark Driscoll, but to highlight the ministerial inclination to abuse position for personal status, right?

Well, if you had just said, "I think ministers tend to use their positions for personal agenda," I'd have have knocked people down to get to the front of the agreement line. I believe that's absolutely the truth, damnably so! But such a generalization was not what you offered. You applied your jade-colored lens to a single act and did, indeed, vilify Driscoll, and suggested that he should apologize for ever speaking at all.

If events play out to show Driscoll as disingenuous, then I'll be knocking people down to get to the front of the kick-his-ass line. But the assumption of duplicity, at this stage, is simply not merited.

I have a question about the public/private issue. If you go too far publicly, how do you decide who was sufficiently offended to warrant a private call? Personally, I was hurt and outraged by Driscoll's original remarks, as were you. Did you expect a personal email? You mentioned yourself that he's Mr. Big Time, "a guy a lot of people are looking up to." In recognizing that fact, you can't see how he might think he needs to apologize to all of them (us)? And you don't know whether he and McClaren spoke privately before his statement.

You kinda lost me on the whole "if your brother offends you publicly" thing. As the offended parties, that would apply to McClaren and Pagit, not Driscoll. And I don't think public repentance is in quite the same category as the good deeds that should be done secretly. I mean, David repented publicly, so did Zaccheus and so did (I assume) most of the three thousand on the first day of Church. In my experience, all the secrecy is part of the everything's-ok-at-our-church facade.

I do agree with you on one point. There's a great lesson to be learned from Mark Driscoll's stupidity. But how can you learn from it if he hides it in a closet?

JimmyBob said...

While you two were distracted - I found the Holy Chip! Now I will take it back to my fundamentalist, modernist, traditional, institionalized, hypcocritical, jaded, self-righteous (and whatever other name you can come up) church and either figure out a way to make money on it so we can give it to missions or just eat it at our next pot luck.

You guys crack me up. Where can I find the blog in question?

I'm just waiting for someone to reduce this conversation to a small manure pile.

JimmyBob said...

Never mind me. I'm an idiot. I didn't finish the whole article. McLaren's point (it seems) is actually that he was glad he didn't answer the homosexual question because he would have offended them with a "straight" answer. Because he never admits to what he believes, everyone is left to assume he's not sure what he believes. Turns out that this couple met because of their gay dads.

As a pastor, this scares me a little bit. How come pastor's can't give straight answers to moral questions anymore without feeling like they are being insensitive?

Also, maybe the couple is comfortable coming to his church now, but when they find out his "true" thoughts on the subject, will they be disillusioned?

No. They only become disillusioned if his true feelings are that homosexuality is sin. If he has no stance, or he believes homosexuality is not a sin, then they will not be offended/threatened.

I say we cannot avoid offending some people because they are offended by our very beliefs. And if we cannot state our beliefs in church, I don't know what this world's coming to. It seems then, that some postmodern/emergent thinkers are left with no other logical position than to NEVER state their beliefs or positions. And they feel no one else should either. But isn't this just more hypocrisy?

Caro said...

Jimmybob- You re staing the difficulty some of us have with understanding and communicating with the post-moderns. Seems that their "anything goes if it's really what you believe" tends to eliminate the "absolutes" of the Bible. This leads to the ultimate elimination of Sin (note the S, not s) and thus, the need for a Savior who is one of us yet not us.
I haven't read the original comments of Driscoll so I won't take his position on homosexuality; however, I find the actions to be condemned (Rmns) so the position that these acts are really just a personal matter, not subject to judgment is probably p-m.
The sinner is loved; his acts are not.

dorsey said...

Good comments. Your discomfort is understandable.

I think "anything goes" might be a bit of a mischaracterization. If postmoderns reject absolute truth, it's likely because no one's ever shown them a credible version of it.

Let me tell you why I like McClaren's response (even though it gave me pause, at first, too): I'm guessing that, as a pastor, he knew that a black and white answer would likely sever any chance of relationship before it could even begin. Most evangelicals would die on this hill. Call it standing up for truth, or tough love, or calling a spade a spade. But do that, and you lose the opportunity to love that couple. And love is how you win people.

I'm going to suggest that people weren't drawn to Jesus because He was the Truth. I believe that people recognized Him as the Truth because of His love for them. If I'm reading McClaren correctly, this is the thinking behind his approach.

I find the actions to be condemned, also. But like Zeke, I believe love is the priority, not condemnation. I'm willing to give the Holy Spirit room to do His job. I already have one.

I don't necessarily believe postmoderns reject the truth so much as they reject the the easy pontifications of truth by people who are more concerned with being right than being in relationship.

Zeke said...

I don't necessarily believe postmoderns reject the truth so much as they reject the the easy pontifications of truth by people who are more concerned with being right than being in relationship.

Absaflunkenlootely, Dorse.

---A---> said...

Dorsey,

So do you think that McClaren disagrees with ALL aspects of homosexuality...or just mainly the way the church has treated that particular sin?

I'm still new in getting into these thinky-things. Just trying to think it out...

dorsey said...

Archer, I'm not sure what to expect from McClaren. Frankly, some of his comments on other docrines (hell, for instance) leave me squirming a little. I think it would be a mistake to just give the issue a green-light, and I don't have any reason to believe he'll do so. But his love first, condemn later (never?) approach is certainly borne out of his disapproval of the church's insensitive handling of same-sex relationships.

Zeke said...

Stay tuned... I think McClaren is moving towards universalism of a kind. I definitely think it's fair to say that his differences with evangelicals like Driscoll are about more than just praxis.

jeff said...

I think McClaren is moving towards universalism of a kind?

Zeke, I think he's already there. While he has not labeled himself a 'universalist', his book "The Last Word & the Word After That" serves almost as a thesis on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Dorsey, but Jesus never condoned sin by Him stating "Go and sin no more". When I see leaders condoning sin that is where there are problems. When we take a weak stance on sin then we run into problems that the Apostle Paul faced in Corinth. What I'm seeing in some post-modern circles are those things the church becoming like Corinth. dh

Society's Elite said...

"I think he's already there. While he has not labeled himself a 'universalist', his book "The Last Word & the Word After That" serves almost as a thesis on the subject. "

Who really knows what the 'hell' he believes? (pun intended)

Seriously, what gets to me is the dancing around he does when asked something.

"Let your 'yes' be 'yes', and 'no' be 'no'..

As much as I don't believe in universalism, I have more respect for someone who actually admits he believes in it, than the way it's covered up in "the Emergent conversation"..

dorsey said...

dh! Where have you been? You still haven't registered? C'mon man!

I hope you don't think I suggested condoning sin. You also need to note that Jesus also said, "Neither do I condemn you..." I think that's the more significant point.

Unbelievers don't generally make the distinction between "love the sinner, hate the sin." They too often perceive (to often correctly) that they are reviled by Christians, unless they join the club.

ninjanun said...

"Love the sinner, hate the sin," is something Gandhi said. It's not in the Bible (not that the principle isn't found like, everywhere). And Ghandi had a much different idea of "sin" than evangelicals, I bet. But then again, if you read the Gospels and the Prophets carefully, so does God.

The idea of systemic or corporate sin is so hard for our individualistic society to wrap its brain around.

dorsey said...

I think Jay Bakker's response to "love the sinner..." is perfect: Jesus said to love the sinner. Hate your OWN sin, and when you've got that under control, then maybe you'll be in a position to correct someone else.

Anonymous said...

But isn't true that unbelievers responsibility is to become a Believer "except a man be Born Again he cannot see the Kingdom of God"? Also, no one is saying that we shouldn't look at our own sin first before others. Also, Jesus says in John 3:18 about "being condemned already". So you are right Jesus didn't condemn because they are condemned already if they don't accept Christ and be Born Again. I think when you look at Jesus and Him "being like us in every way yet without sin" and how he ate with sinners and tax collectors that it is safe to say that Jesus embodied "love the sinner and hate the sin". Especially when you read the Apostle Paul, Peter and James part of of Scripture. It is corporate as well as individualistic "Except A MAN be Born Again he cannot see the Kingdom of God." in light of "...all members have not the same office so we being many are one Body in Christ." It is both a corporate responsibility to deal with sin AS WELL AS individual responsibility to deal with sin. Why can't we lovingly say homosexuality is wrong and that by the power of the Holy Spirit and by putting your Faith in Jesus Christ on can change from doing that behavior. The same goes for any sin other than homosexuality as well for I'm not singling out homosexuality as compared to other sins. dh

Anonymous said...

I'm having trouble signing on. So just let me enter dh at the end under annonymous please.

ninjanun said...

Completely missed the point.

Steve said...

Gratuitous...inward-focused....ego-driven

Damn, you just described me to a tee... bastard.

I wish I had been here from the beginning on this one... but just at first glance here are some thoughts:

THE APOLOGY: In short, VERY carefully worded. Spin anyone?? It reads like his publicist and lawyer took a few swipes at it...but seriously, I think that Driscoll apologized the best way he knew how given the fact that he is a high-profile leader...(actually you guys say he is high-profile, I have never heard of him until this drama unfolded). It's all political..but that doesn't make it disingenous...it just makes it political. He probably felt bad about the way he said things, not what he believed or what he said. He felt this way especially after the guys that write his check kept telling him (for months apparently) to back off. He is a big-time pastor, he has his pride, he just needed to be convinced that it was OK to back down and still save face. His carefuly constructed apology allows him to do this. I can live with that. He got in trouble not so much for criticizing McLaren's position but saying some off the cuff gay remarks if I recall, that weren't even that funny...and those comments were out of context for what he was writing and who his audience was. He was right in "apologizing".

MY MAN: And as for McLaren - he too is being vague on the homosexuality issue for somewhat the same reason. I think the Emergent churches feel a responsibility to reach out and serve the gay community and try to build bridges in that arena since the traditional church SUCKS at bridge-building. Truth be told, I think a lot of Emergent leaders probably see it as an unnatural act, against God's design and might privately hold that it is a sinful act and lifestyle. But saying so will only hurt, what some of them see as a mission to minister to the gay community.

I wouldn't be surprised if some Emergent-types see it as an opportunity to reach gays and see them change from their lifestyle. They are willing to embrace gays (so to speak) as long as gays are willing to move away from their lifestyle. I don't know this to be fact, but I think most Emergent types (especially those with an evangelical slant) that I know of would privately be uncomfortable with saying someone could actively lead a gay life and be a growing, serving Christian. I could be wrong, but I just don't think I am.

THE BIGGER ISSUE: Driscoll says "solid theology and effective church planting were the things that I cared most about and wanted to be known for." Are you effing kidding me? Does anyone see anything wrong with that or is it just me? Is he serious? Are we applauding this as a great goals for our spiritual leaders? That's like me saying I want to be known for solid computer system designs and effective software rollouts. Or maybe I want to be known for solid cynicism and effective blog management and website growth.

Now that's the kind of thing that gets you the SCP of the Year nominations brutha....keep it up Driscoll, I got my eye on you boy!

Zeke said...

Now that's the kind of thing that gets you the SCP of the Year nominations brutha....keep it up Driscoll, I got my eye on you boy!

That's a nomination I could get behind.

Dan said...

I'm not your annual reader. In fact, this is my first time here. First of many, in fact. I'm pretty new to the blog world... amature by any standard, really.

I'd gladly join the assembly whose leaders really understand and instill the value, role and meaning of relationship.

Your blog post brings to mind just how disconnected relationships are at my church. It's rather frusterating and constricting. It makes me want to leave the Presbyterian denomination. It looks like reassurance is put in the word of the Confession rather than the action the Confession should inspire. Such as relationships - both with God and with each other. And importantly, with each other.