The Church Discipline Controversy

We have had quite a few hits here over the last few days thanks to controversy at Mars Hill concerning Church discipline.  Recently, a member of Mars Hill was placed under Church Discipline and released the documents outlining his path back into the good graces of the church, as well as a statement posted on Mars Hill’s inner website called, “The City” in which members were taught how to respond to this young man if they ever saw him in public.

You can read up on the controversy here.

As a practicing Roman Catholic this whole thing strikes me as being very strange and, yes, abusive.  As a Catholic what shocked me most was that this young man, Andrew, was being disciplined for what we call “Private sin.”  In the Catholic Church, we do excommunicate, but it is most often for “Public sin.”  There is more to excommunication in the Catholic Church than that, but that is an important distinction that Mars Hill doesn’t seem to have.

But this whole thing is frustrating to me for a different reason.  Pastor Mark repeatedly makes the Catholic Church (as well as the Eastern Orthodox Church) out to be nothing more than a bunch of legalistic rule following and powerful people lording it over people without power.  Remember that video that went viral recently titled, Why I hate religion and love Jesus?  Well, the young man in the video is a Mars Hill member and pretty much sums up most of what I have heard Driscoll say about “religious people.”

If these documents are authentic they are far more controlling and legalistic than anything I have experienced as a Catholic.  I am not saying the Catholic Church’s leadership is beyond criticism.  Spiritual abuse and other types of abuse happen in the Catholic Church too.  We certainly have some unfortunate moments in our history that include prescribing a severe set of penalties for people who didn’t see things our way.  It just drives me nuts that he saw the speck in our eye and couldn’t see the beam in his own.

It has been claimed repeatedly here at Driscollwatch that we love and respect members of Mars Hill Church and their pastor, Mark Driscoll.  As far as we could see, this was just a typical evangelical Church.  Obviously, we didn’t know the whole story.  So, if it needs to be stated, while we respect people who seek to know Jesus Christ, we do not support this system of “discipline” described in these blog posts and we condemn any spiritual abuse inflicted by any religious tradition, including our own.  Extra prayers will be offered for anyone who has been wounded by Mars Hill because of this system.

And we pray for Mark and the elders of Mars Hill to rethink their disciplinary procedures.

Some required reading: This post from The Internet Monk about how having a seal of confession helps Roman Catholics avoid this problem.  Also, this response  to the Religion vs. Jesus video from Fr. Dwight Longenecker at First Things.  The Key line…

The young man in the video was clearly attracted to a Jesus Christ who was a young, table-turning radical. His Jesus was impatient with the religious establishment and on the side of the sinners and revolutionaries. His Jesus was the quintessential outsider—the rebel with a cause—a punk who all those rich hypocrites excluded and persecuted. In other words, he was just like the young man in the video.

We all fall into the trap of making Christ in our own image, so it is understandable, and if understandable, forgivable. This, however, is the main justification not only for religion, but also for a dogmatic religion. A dogmatic religion corrects our tendency to make Jesus in our own image.


Free Book Offer for Mars Hill members!!!

Surprise!  A brand new post on Driscollwatch!

Yes, we’re still on Hiatus, and at this point we have no plans to not be on hiatus.

So why are we posting?  Well, Pastor Mark and his wife Grace have recently put out a new book called Real Marriage.  The book has already sparked a bit of controversy within Christianity in that it apparently endorses anal sex within marriage.  This would not be a new thing for pastor Mark.  He has already endorsed the practice, with admitted reservations, on the Mars Hill Blog.

The Catholic Church condemns anal sex – even within marriage – because it is not marital in nature.  A lot of non Catholic Christians – ok, even a lot of Catholics – do not take Catholic teaching on sexuality very seriously.  From the outside it looks like a bunch of obscure and arbitrary, and oppressive rules that keep husbands and wives from enjoying each other completely.  While there are a lot of rules, they are certainly not obscure or arbitrary.  The rules that Catholics have for sex (i.e. Do not fornicate! Do not commit adultery! Do not use contraception! do not have anal sex!) are all about our freedom!  Our freedom to love as God loves!

Pope John Paul II dedicated the first five years of his pontificate to teaching the faithful about real marriage.  His series of Wednesday audiences (now known as the Theology of the Body) were designed to help married couples live the fullness of marriage.  Young Catholics around the world are embracing the late Holy Father’s wisdom as they apply it to their vocations as husbands and wives and, yes, even celibates.  The Theology of the Body is unlike any other theological work on human sexuality.

The Theology of the Body is only now being popularized.  One of the leading voices in its popularization is a man named Christopher West.  He himself has a controversial approach and, at his own admission, is far from perfect.  But he has been quite successful at popularizing the Pope’s teaching and his book, Theology of the Body for Beginners is the best thing we have seen for men and women who aren’t well versed in theology.

So, if you are from Mars Hill OR you are a pastor from an evangelical Church, we want to buy Theology of the Body for Beginners for you.  I will buy a copy of this book for the first 5 Mars Hill Church members or evangelical pastors who email me at  The things that you like about the Driscoll’s Real Marriage will likely still be present (complementarian views of sexuality, etc.), but will be elaborated upon at a deeper level.  Yes, it is a shift in world view, but it might set you free to love your husband or your wife as God loves.

True love is beautiful.  Marriage is beautiful.  The Catholic Church’s teaching about marriage is beautiful.  We want to share it with you.  Just send us an email and so we can tell you the truth of what marriage really is.

Update: Not sure how people are misunderstanding this post, but just to clarify, I am NOT giving out copies of Mark Driscoll’s book.  I am giving away 5 copies of Chistopher West’s book called Theology of the Body for Beginners.

Update II: Only one book was claimed despite some relatively heavy traffic, so I’ll extend the offer to any evangelical protestant who wants a copy.