Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church will be the target of a public protest held by Seattle community members who are outraged by recent comments about women made by Driscoll on his online blog.
A group called People Against Fundamentalism (PAF) is planning the protest at Mars Hill Church in Ballard from 10-11:30 a.m. on Sunday. During that time, the protestors will be outside of the church holding large banners with quotes from Driscoll that they find offensive.
Earlier this month when blogging about the recent sex scandal regarding evangelical leader Ted Haggard, Driscoll included commentary about pastors’ wives who have "let themselves go" and are not "sexually available" for their husbands.
"This was just the latest in a long stream of comments he’s made in the past year in which women are demeaned and objectified," said Paul Chapman, an SPU alumnus and co-founder of PAF. "We have a responsibility to stand up and say in a public forum ‘We’ve had enough with the way you talk about women.’"
In a statement released to congregation members, Mars Hill Church pastors and elders wrote: "We honor the rights of protestors to gather and speak freely, and will likewise enjoy those rights ourselves by gathering together to study scripture and worship Jesus as we normally do."
The elders also asked their members to "politely disregard" the protesters and "proceed to church without any interaction."
"We do not want any kind of counter protest, or members and guests of this church doing anything that could possibly give the impression that we do not love our critics," they wrote.
SPU senior Caleb Davis, a Mars Hill attendee, said PAF is wrong in viewing Mars Hill as anti-women and referring to Driscoll as "Mark the Misogynist," as they do on their Web site, http://endfundamentalism.org.
"The fundamental conviction of the church is that men are to love women as Christ loved the church," Davis said. "I don’t understand how that is anti-women."
Driscoll’s comments on women have long been a topic of debate among students at SPU, many of whom attend Mars Hill. In a 2003 forum, Driscoll debated Rob Wall, professor of Christian scriptures, in a packed house at First Free Methodist Church.
"Students are divided on the issue, but the faculty in theology is unified in our disagreement with Driscoll’s position on women in ministry and generally with the things he says," Wall said.
While he disagrees with Driscoll’s views on women, Wall said he is wary about the protest set against him and that it must be done carefully.
"As Christians we have to be very cautious when making a public protest against a brother in Christ and a body of believers," Wall said. "There are a range of issues we must face as people belonging to God that are passionate and difficult to reconcile."
Chapman said he and others have been upset by Driscoll’s comments and attitude toward women for a long time. But when Driscoll wrote about Haggard, who resigned from his Colorado church after reports that he had sex with a gay escort, the members of PAF decided enough was enough.
In the blog, found at http://theresurgence.com, Driscoll gave "practical suggestions" to young Christian leaders and pastors to remain free from sexual sin. Driscoll’s suggestions included having e-mail accounts screened, never traveling alone and having heterosexual male assistants.
Driscoll also turned his attention to the relationships between pastors and their wives.
"Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives," he wrote. "It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness."
These comments quickly became the focus of criticism on a number of blogs with national readership, including Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan.
As a result of this criticism Driscoll posted a second entry to clarify his statements and apologize for making it seem like he was blaming Haggard’s wife for the scandal.
"What I did mean to communicate is that most pastors I know who have fallen did so with a heterosexual adulterous relationship, often with someone they were close to in their church. In addition, as I met with many of these fallen pastors and their wives, I saw a common theme emerge: most of the marriages had serious troubles that included a lack of emotional, spiritual, and, subsequently, physical intimacy," Driscoll wrote.
"What I did not mean to communicate was anything regarding the Haggards, particularly Mrs. Haggard. She is not to blame for the sin of her husband," he said.
"He provided a follow-up blog post about his comments, but he never apologized," Chapman said. "Rather, he accused his critics of misunderstanding and misinterpreting him."
PAF believes Driscoll’s attitude toward women cannot be tolerated anymore, and the protest is their way of letting him, and the greater Seattle area, know they have had enough, Chapman said.
"The attitude he’s taking would not fly outside of the church," he said. "Treating women with dignity and respect is a good thing."
PAF wants Driscoll to make a public apology for the way he speaks about women and promise that he will not speak about women in a derogatory way anymore.
"His objectification of women is contrary to what the Bible says and to what people think human decency is," Chapman said.
PAF is calling on The Seattle Times to remove Driscoll as a columnist on the paper’s Saturday religion page. Driscoll shares the column on a rotating basis with four other Seattle based religious leaders.
"His attitude doesn’t speak for all Christians in Seattle," Chapman said. "We’re asking that he be removed from his public platform so that he cannot continue to gain a following in which he continues to objectify women."
Chapman said he has not tried to contact Driscoll to discuss the issues surrounding the protest because he has heard of failed attempts by many others, friends and foes, who have tried to speak with Driscoll regarding his attitude toward women.
"He hasn’t listened in the past so we decided to do something more public," he said. "Maybe something like this will drive him to say I need to meet with some people."
Chapman said a couple dozen people were expected to participate on Sunday.
Davis said he found out about the protest by looking at various blogs online and has been keeping track of it through the PAF Web site.
He said he doesn’t think they are wrong for protesting, but he thinks their goals are misguided.
He said he sees the goals of the protest as a desire to strip Driscoll of his right to have and express an opinion.
"He has an opinion just as they have an opinion," Davis said. "I don’t believe they can tell someone they can’t have an opinion."
According to the Mars Hill Web site, the church does not object to women teaching, serving as deacons or being employed by the church: "All church ministries are open to qualified men and women with the singular exception of elder/pastor which is only for qualified men."
The church characterizes its position as complementarian, a middle ground between egalitarian and hierarchical views on women in church.
The church’s Web site states, "We believe that men and women are created equal, in God’s image and likeness, and simply given different job descriptions by a loving God who has created roles to model not only his relationship with us, but his relationship within himself as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost where there is absolute equality but submission in different roles."
At the same time, Driscoll can be blunt in his comments on gender roles. In another recent blog post he wrote about the Episcopal Church approving Katharine Jefferts-Schori as their first female leader. He also criticized Jefferts-Schori for voting to confirm the church’s first openly gay bishop. He ended his post by writing, "If Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men."
Wall said when Driscoll says what he says, especially on the blog, it is not carefully done, but as a public figure Driscoll needs to be careful with how he addresses certain issues.
At the same time, Wall said it is wrong to assume the successful ministry and the large following of Mars Hill is based on his theology about women alone.
"On one hand he is intolerant of women having certain roles in church, and some of the language he uses is sexist in an extreme way, but his ministry has reached scores of people no one else has reached," Wall said. "Even Driscoll’s strongest critics will agree his ministry is thriving for good reasons."
Wall sees the debate surrounding Mars Hill and Driscoll as something that requires a desire for understanding. What’s missing, he said, is an attempt to understand the reasoning behind Driscoll’s theology.
"I just don’t think it gets us very far to make these demands," Wall said. "It will not bring about reconciliation. That is just not the spirit in which it is done."
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Title: Driscoll draws protesters | Author: Shawnrene Keppel | Section: News | Published Date: 2006-11-29 | Internal ID: 5307