Mark Driscoll steps down

Controversial Seattle megachurch founder Mark Driscoll will step down for at least six weeks while church leaders review formal charges from a group of pastors that said that he abused his power. He has been under fire in recent months for plagiarism, inappropriate use of church funds, and improper behavior towards employees.

Returning from a vacation on Sunday, he addressed Mars Hill worship services through a pre-recorded message.

“I want to say to my Mars Hill family, past and present, I’m very sorry. I genuinely mean it,” Driscoll said. “I’m very sorry for the times I’ve been angry, short or insensitive. I’m very sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”

Driscoll also said that he will not do any outside speaking and postpone publication of his next book.

“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men,” Driscoll said.

Mark DeMoss, a public relations consultant and former adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, has been brought in to work with the congregation on these issues.

“I think he’s a gifted, biblical communicator who has done effective church work in an unchurched part of the country,” DeMoss said about his involvement. “I like him, I believe in him, and if I only worked with ministry leaders who were faultless, I would be out of business tonight.”

Warren Throckmorton first posted an audio clip of Driscoll’s message. Throckmorton said that other elders may resign or are considering it.

“Storm clouds seem to be swirling around me more than ever in recent month, and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it,” Driscoll stated in the message. “Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based my own past actions that I am genuinely sorry for.”

Though he has long been controversial for his unapologetic chauvinism, the pastor has faced increasing turmoil this past year within evangelical circles. A story in The New York Times Saturday suggested that Driscoll’s empire was “imploding.”

“He was really important — in the Internet age, Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously,” Timothy Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, told the paper for the story. “But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people.”

Earlier, 21 former Mars Hill pastors filed charges against Driscoll alleging that he has engaged in abusive and intimidating conduct and has not changed.

“God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip, or anything else that is inconsistent with the fruit of the spirit, and I am deeply sorry, genuinely sorry, for the times I have not lived peaceably with all men,” Driscoll had said regarding these accusations.

Mars Hill also canceled its fall conference, which was set to feature recently resigned board members Paul Tripp and James MacDonald as speakers. Driscoll was also removed as closing speaker at a church conference in Dallas and knocked off from the speaker list at a series of four “Act Like Men” conferences.

Earlier this month, Driscoll was also removed from Acts 29, a network of more than 500 churches he helped found, after board members said they found “ungodly and disqualifying behavior.”

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help,” other board members told Driscoll before booting him off.

Driscoll recently admitted to comments he made under the pseudonym “William Wallace II” where he posted statements critical of feminism, homosexuality and “sensitive emasculated” men.

“I have acknowledged and confessed many of my sins and shortcomings and missteps and God has been more than faithful with his forgiveness,” he stated regarding the comments.

After Acts 29 removed Driscoll from its membership, LifeWay Christian Resources pulled his books from its website and 186 stores.

Driscoll, who came into evangelical prominence as multi-site churches and podcasts were becoming popular, noted that one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in a media age is this increased exposure.

“The same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the world, can be used by anyone around the globe to criticize, attack or slander. However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me.”