Mark Galli of Christianity Today writes an article on the grace of church discipline. In it he singles out Mark Dever and 9 Marks. This post asks Mark as to what rock he has been living under and reviews issues with church discipline. From it being mishandled in Matt Chandler’s church to it not being applied to C.J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll or Steve Estes.
“In any authoritarian society, the possessor of power dictates, and if you try and step outside, he will come after you. This is equally true of Sovietism, of China and of Iran, and in our time it has happened a lot in Islam. The point is that it’s worse when the authoritarianism is supported by something supernatural.”
“Authoritarian systems evolve. Authoritarianism in the Internet Age is not your old Cold War authoritarianism.”
Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf[i] welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”
Luke 9:46-48 NLT
I do not subscribe to Christianity Today, but a reader tipped my off to an article by Mark Galli called “The Grace of Church Discipline.” Its in the December 2016 issue. As I read Mark’s article my blood pressure rose significantly. Let’s review this article and then I want to ask Mark Galli some questions in this post.
Mark Galli Article in Christianity Today
Mark starts out the article by discussing the issue of abiding by sexual rules in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). IVCF rolled out guidelines and told staff they expected to abide by them or they would have to leave the organization. He then goes on to quote statistics on church discipline
Discipline is not something most American churches practice. It’s not even something they talk about. In a recent LifeWay Research survey, 62 percent of churchgoing Christians—and 57 percent of evangelicals—said their church does not have the authority to withhold the Lord’s Supper or to exclude them from fellowship. An earlier LifeWay survey found that 9 in 10 evangelicals said the church doesn’t have the authority to declare they’re not Christians. A 2011 Barna study found that only 5 percent of Christians involved in a church say their church holds them accountable (the figure was about the same for members of Christian small groups).
After further discussing the IVCF situation he then states the following:
We live in a world that listens to a steady song of absolute autonomy, with its refrains of “my rights,” “my freedom,” and “my truth.” Others advocate communities of inclusion that embrace the intellectually marginalized. At the same time, media and university elites who sing such songs are the very ones who “excommunicate” those who don’t agree with their ideas. Thus the increasing number of secular campuses that refuse to welcome speakers with “hurtful” points of view.
He then proceeds to talk about the Mark Dever’s 9 Marks and gives him glowing praise for them bringing back church discipline. Pay attention to this next section:
By God’s grace, church discipline is making a comeback in several circles. Mark Dever’s 9Marks church network has made a robust discipleship commitment. As the 9Marks website reminds us, church discipline is not primarily about the “correcting of sin in the life of the body” but about “everything the church does to help its members pursue holiness.”
American evangelicalism has been right to repudiate arbitrary markers of holiness like prohibitions on playing cards and watching movies. But are we treating people with grace if we allow leaders to traffic in beliefs and ethics that sabotage the ability of both leaders and followers to be conformed to the image of Christ?
There is much to say about this below. I want to break this down and look at this from many different angles. But this needs a strong response.
Will Steve Estes, C.J. Mahaney and Mark Driscoll Ever Face Church Discipline?
Over the past few years we have seen a number of scandals that have been deeply disturbing. The scandals haven’t come from the people in the pews but instead the leadership of places such as Mars Hill Seattle, Sovereign Grace Ministries and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. Let me run through them quickly.
In Seattle Mars Hill which was led by Mark Driscoll imploded and shut down on January 1, 2015. Mars Hill Seattle at its peak had 15 locations in 5 states in Washington, Oregon, California, and New Mexico. Plus in 2013 Mars Hill had an average weekly attendance of 12,329. Then what happened? Well it was a number of things…the truth about how Paul Petry and Bent Meyer being fired emerged. Mars Driscoll vulgar and crude talk kept getting him into trouble. There was the time he spoke about women being penis homes and he ranted about how the United States is a pussified nation. Under Mark’s leadership finances were allegedly misdirected, and $2.3 million dollars from The Global Fund disappeared. Then there was Mark’s’ allegations of plagiarism and the bully culture he promoted. When he was finally confronted with all this what happened? Was Mark Driscoll subjected to church discipline? No he resigned and he fled. The coward fled to the Scottsdale, Arizona area! If church discipline is so crucial and an act of grace that is necessary will Mark Driscoll ever face church discipline? Well Mark Galli what say you?
Then there is C.J. Mahaney who led Sovereign Grace. He led an empire out of Gaithersburg, Maryland. C.J. Mahaney ruled Sovereign Grace in the same way Joseph Stalin ruled the Soviet Union – with absolute tyranny, and in the process creating his own personality cult. Then here was the launch of SGM Survivors, and eventually SGM WikiLeaks. People learned about the allegations of child sex abuse that was pouring out of SGM. Plus there was the allegations of Mahaney practicing blackmail on his ministry partner Larry Tomczak. Then he fled to Capitol Hill Baptist Church before fleeing to Louisville to “reach the lost” which would eventually be people in Louisville Marriott East. Here’s the question I have….if church discipline is so crucial when will C.J. Mahaney face church discipline? After all are allegations of blackmail “Gospel Centered?” What about the allegations of covering up child sex abuse? So again Mark Galli when will C.J. Mahaney face church discipline?
Then there is another situation that this blog has been writing about. In the town of Elverson, Pennsylvania Steve Estes the Senior Pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church and Practical Theology Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. Steve’s son Brock allegedly raped his wife, and pointed a loaded gun on her. When she filed for divorce Steve Estes coached a church discipline situation that declared that his former daughter-in-law is not a Christian, drove her from Elverson, and protected his son, who allegedly raped his wife while drunk. So not only do you have the misapplication of church discipline but you also have this other glaring scenario. For abusing his power and protecting his son when is Steve Estes going to face church discipline? So again Mark Galli this is the third time I am asking you…when will Steve Estes be excommunicated from Community Evangelical Free Church?
Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Fiasco
Then you had the situation at Matt Chandler’s The Village Church down in Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas. In that situation you had a wife (Karen Hinkley) who annulled her marriage to a child pornography addict. When she did that The Village Church went after her and wanted to impose church discipline on Karen. Meanwhile they took a guy who was allegedly addicted to child pornography and claimed that Jordan Root was “walking in repentance.” You can read about the story in detail in ““The Explicit Gospel” at Matt Chandler’s “The Village” Includes Child Pornography, Church Discipline and Membership Covenants.” In that situation The Village Church pursued Karen Hinkley all the way to North Carolina in behavior that was more cult like than anything else. But here is my open question to Mark Galli….was there grace in what Matt Chandler’s church did? Was that loving to take a woman whose marriage, career goals and more ended and then come down on her like a machine? She was shunned, treated horrifically, and faced incredible injustice at the hands of Matt Chandler’s church.
Mark Galli was there any grace in what The Village Church did to Karen? Was there any grace on bringing down the hammer in a way that was more cult like in how the organization functioned? Was there any grace for shunning a victim of failed marriage, which by the way I would say rests with her husband. Mark Galli, I challenge you when you read this…look at how The Village Church treated Karen Hinkley and tell me in a future Christianity Today post how grace was shown. You could even say “well Matt Chandler apologized…” yada, yada, yada, (to quote Seinfeld 🙂 and yet many parts of The Village Church have never come to Karen and said “We were wrong, please forgive us.” That includes her small group and many of the Elders at that location. The Village Church Mark has not recovered from that situation, for further information you can read, “Has Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Recovered from the Karen Hinkley/Jordan Root Scandal?”
Church Discipline is for the Pew Sitters Alone
Here is the problem with church discipline today. Church discipline is not about grace. It’s not about redemption, damn it its not even about love. Church discipline in the modern evangelical church is about control. Its about forcing one’s will and polity. Its manipulative, highly questionable and very unethical. Its about people drunk on authority and themselves consumed with a desire to control another person. All I have to do is point to the examples earlier on in this post to make my claim. When people like C.J. Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, and Steve Estes are exempt that tells you that church discipline is only for one class of people. What Mark Dever and 9 Marks have created is a theological version of the caste system in India. There are two classes the untouchables, (Dalits) which today is the regular pew sitter. Then there is the other class who is protected by status and privilege. That is the pastor class who is elite and above question. Heck in many of these theological tyrannies the pastors cannot even be questioned as to do so is viewed as sinful.
Another question I have for your Mark is that you quoted and referenced Mark Dever. What about his enabling of C.J. Mahaney? Here you have the author and greatest advocate for church discipline today. And yet he ignored it in regards to C.J. Mahaney. Why did that happen? It’s my belief that Mark Dever was corrupted by money which C.J. Mahaney gave to him. You can read more in this Wartburg Watch post but we need to understand the role that money is playing today. But getting back to the issue, church discipline is primarily for the pew sitters. When you look at many corrupt theological regimes, such as Steve Estes at Community Evangelical Free Church you need to look no further. Steve Estes will never face church discipline. Nor will Merle Stoltzfus. Neither will Dave Stoltzfus. Brock Estes and any of the Estes clan will not face church discipline. Nor will any of the Stoltzfus clan. They are protected by blood. However, anyone else who is not protected under the royal linage of the House of Stoltzfus, or the House of Estes is fair game. This goes back to tell you Mark Galli that church discipline is only for the people in the pews. If someone can find evidence of a 9 Marks church that actually practiced church discipline on a Senior Pastor I would love to hear of it. Please contact me if you know of such a case and I will write about it.
Directed to Mark Galli
When I read this article by Mark Galli the first thought I had is this…what rock has he been living under these past few years? I mean Mark Gallis is the editor for Christianity Today and has been one for a while I believe. So is he minimalizing the horrific stories about church discipline and ignoring the scandals? I mean wasn’t the implosion of Mars Hill Seattle and Mark Driscoll fleeing one of the top religion stories a couple of years ago? What about the meltdown of Sovereign Grace? Did that amount for something? If church discipline is so important why not raise those issues and probe why C.J. Mahaney and Mark Drisocll were exempt from church discipline? How could Mark have been the editor of Christianity Today and miss The Village Church fiasco? If he were committed to journalism wouldn’t he have noted that this misapplication of polity and playing favoritism in church discipline situations became a regular and routine story on a frequent basis? How many Village Church scandals will it take before the light bulb goes off in Mark Galli’s mind? Also is it me or am I finding Mark Galli’s tone in that article a little arrogant? I found it condescending in how it came across. I mean that must be the case if you are going to downplay and dismiss some of these issues. In order to be on the in crowd you almost have to dismiss these problems. So that is my take on t his, as always you are free to post your comments below. As always I love you guys!