What could possibly bring Mark Driscoll, Rachel Evans, Anthony Bradley and Brian McLaren to the same party?

Mark Driscoll ridicules ‘Effeminate Worship Leaders;’ Rachel Held Evans (Evangelical Blogger) Calls Driscoll a ‘Bully’, Anthony Bradley rips Rachel in WORLD Magazine and on his FB page; Brian McLaren defends someone in the Washington Post. You can’t make this stuff up!!

The ‘story’ really begins in the ministry of evangelical Acts 29 leader and pastor (Mars Hill, Seattle) Mark Driscoll. By most accounts Driscoll was one of the early leaders of the ‘Emergent Church’ movement, but he has tried to distance himself as others such as Brian McLaren (more on him later) moved beyond the bounds of evangelicalism.

During his ministry, Driscoll has frequently been criticized for some of his ‘over the top’ statements. For instance, in a local Seattle newspaper reported that Driscoll, after being accused of demeaning women was “sad and sorry to hear that various things I have said over the years have been received very personally by some people who felt personally attacked.”

One of these statements implied the wife of evangelical leader Ted Haggard was partly to blame for his contacts with a gay prostitute. “A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him, either,” Driscoll wrote.

Another problematic statement in the news article concerned appointment of a woman as an Episcopalian bishop, to which Driscoll commented “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.”

With this background in mind, fast forward to last week when Driscoll posted the following status update on his Facebook page:

“So, what stories do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leaders you’ve ever personally witnessed?”

Needless to say, all you know what broke out. A few of the blogger comments included:

Now Driscoll is in trouble again over a vicious Facebook status update in which, with all the finesse of a high-school jock, he called on his followers to expose and ridicule effeminate men (Source)

Real tough guys don’t need to spend all of their time convincing everyone they are men. Fake, insecure bullies on the other hand do. In Mark’s case it is worse: he has a bully platform and apparently is surrounded by yes-men and people who have to respect his ‘authority’. Mark, you are not a ‘tough guy’; stop pretending. Your overcompensation is getting beyond pathetic. (Source)

One highly regarded evangelical blogger noted the ‘silent treatment’ Driscoll was receiving from other ‘big name’ Evangelical leaders:

While I am not surprised there are some who would defend Mark Driscoll’s call on facebook to ridicule effeminate men. I am surprised by the way he is defended and the veritable silence from the big-time evangelical neo-calvinist bloggers…those in my tribe. The post, now gone, happened five days ago and neither Challies nor any of The Gospel Coalition blogs have addressed it.

But of all the postings, the one that got the most attention came from a young mother and writer who lives in Dayton, Tennessee (who has been published here in The Aquila Report), named Rachel Held Evans. She blogs regularly at rachelheldevans.com.

Instead of my telling you what Rachel had to say about Driscoll’s post, I’ll copy her blog post for you (notice that every accusation has a reference link):

Mark Driscoll is wrong.
Godly men stick up for people, not make fun of them.
Godly men honor women, not belittle them.
Godly men love their gay and lesbian neighbors, not ridicule them.
Godly men celebrate femininity, not trash it.
Godly men own their sexuality, not flaunt it.
Godly men pursue peace, not dismiss it.
Godly men rise above violence, not glorify it.
Godly men build up the Church, not embarrass it.
Godly men imitate Christ—who praised the gentle and the peacemakers, who stood up for the exploited and abused, who showed compassion for the downtrodden, who valued women, and who loved his enemies to the point of death.

If this Facebook status were Pastor Mark Driscoll’s first offense, it might not warrant a strong response. But Mark has developed a pattern of immaturity and unkindness that has remained largely unchecked by his church. In evangelical circles, he’s like the kid from high school who makes crude jokes at every opportunity, uses the words “gay” and “queer” to describe the things he most detests, encourages his friends to subject the unpopular kids to ridicule, and belittles the guys who aren’t “macho” or “manly” enough to be in his club.

As blogger Tyler Clark put it, “When you put out a call on Facebook for people verbally attack ‘effeminate anatomically male’ men, I find myself back in high school—shoved against a locker, with the bullies calling me a faggot.”

What we have on our hands is a bully.

And this bully is teaching the young men at his church and under his influence that bullying is an acceptable expression of “biblical manhood.”
This has to stop. As followers of Jesus, we are obligated to stick up for the least of these, especially when they are being publicly bullied in the name of Christ.

We are also obligated to use the proper channels to do so. Many have asked that Mark apologize, but he has refused. Many have written blog posts expressing their concern, but he remains defiant. It’s time to take some more practical steps:

Today I emailed Mars Hill Church to request that the elders take whatever measures necessary to stop Mark’s bullying once and for all. No more empty apologies. This behavior must change.

If you wish to do the same, here’s how:
Write: Mars Hill Church, 1411 NW 50th, Seattle, WA 98107
Call: (206) 816-3500
Email: life@marshillchurch.orgr

If you know Mark personally or attend his church, approach him as a friend and request that he get the counseling he needs to deal with this destructive pattern. Bullying is as harmful to the bully as it is to the victim.

And to turn this bad situation into something good, consider joining the “I’m Sorry Campaign” to apologize for the ways that we as Christians have harmed the LGBT community.

Mark’s bullying is unacceptable.

Stop talking about it and do something.

OK, perhaps that was a bit over the top (in my opinion). But I think most of our readers can understand the emotions and perhaps even overlook it. Recall the very poignant Op-Ed we published last October from Al Mohler on anti-gay bullying.

But one of our readers (and frequent contributors) could not.

Well, at least someone came to the rescue of Driscoll – but it was not from a source that would normally be expected. Early today Dr. Anthony Bradley, on the faculty of The King’s College in New York City, wrote an Op-Ed for World Magazine that read in part:

After receiving more than 600 comments, Driscoll deleted the post, but the cat was already out of the bag. I am not here to defend Driscoll’s post and would personally challenge him over what he wrote. My concern is how Christians handle conflict with other Christians in public.

That’s where Rachel Held Evans and her blog post, “Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him,” come in. There is nothing loving about calling a pastor a “bully“—that is, “a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.” That is a serious charge. In her post, Evans describes why she believes Driscoll to be a bully, implying that he, his teachings, and the elders at his church are not functioning in ways consistent with Scripture…

Evans’ slanderous post also represents one of the things that God finds detestable, “a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:19). Additionally, the Bible teaches that if someone offends us we should go to the person directly first (Matthew 18:15-20).

In addition to publishing in World Magazine, Bradley continued the cannon-fire from his own Facebook page where he said:

Over at World Mag I explain why Rachel Evan’s response to Mark Driscoll should not be celebrated by anyone committed to love. Character defamation and stirring up dissension is never a virtuous response to people you don’t personally like. This is not the way of love. I’m still shocked that people celebrated this approach. Really?

Needless to say THAT post came close to going viral; and many of the comments were downright vicious. Since I was personally involved in the discussion, especially to correct Dr. Bradley’s misuse of Matthew 18 (as our readers will remember was so carefully parsed in a recent Op-Ed in the Aquila Report by D. A. Carson), we won’t reprint any further entries from that stream.

Now the pressure is on Mrs. Evans. But, talk about unexpected sources, in the early afternoon, one came in the online edition of the Washington Post, written by Mr. Emergent Church himself, Brian McLaren.

You should read the entire post as Brian sets the stage for what he has to say about this ongoing scrimmage, but here’s the application:

The difference is exemplified by a young evangelical communicator named Rachel Held Evans. In her book and blog posts, she excels as a creative, bold communicator. But she rejects and opposes the more excessive rhetoric of her counterparts. In fact, she has a name for that rhetoric: bullying. She doesn’t engage in bullying; she stands up to it, and urges others to do so as well.

I know that most folks like to divide evangelicals along a political spectrum that runs from left to right, or along a theological spectrum that runs from conservative to progressive. But I think the more significant divide is between those who bully and those who stand up on behalf of the bullied.

Now, I’d be surprised to learn that McLaren knows Mrs. Evans personally, but he certainly is complimentary of her writing skills – which, one should take note – were honed while she was an intern at World Magazine.

I’m going to leave it up to our readers to connect the dots in this saga, but there are two more of those dots to finish out the night. The first comes in a bit of an offhand way from Driscoll himself.

In a long entry on his blog entitled “Gender – Is it a socially constructed reality or a God-given identity?” Mark gives the background of how the Facebook status from which this firestorm caught spark.

Anyway, you should read the whole post, but for the sake of keeping this story a bit shorter, let me give you the final ‘dot’ which needs connecting, and that is Rachel Evans response to Driscoll’s blog article:

As the title suggests, Mark seems to miss the point a bit, but I am grateful that the elders at Mars Hill held him accountable and asked him to “do better” in speaking about these issues with decorum and respect. That means that our messages were heard and that something was done. I know that many were hoping for an apology, but as followers of Jesus we must be willing to forgive without one. This is a step in the right direction, and I thank Mark for taking it.

In the post, Mark expresses his intentions to provide a fuller context for his views on masculinity and femininity via a new web site and a book. This is a good idea. (Coincidentally, Mark and I have both written books about the Bible and gender to be released by Thomas Nelson in the near future.) Evangelicals appear to be at a crossroads in this debate, and Facebook is certainly not the ideal forum for productive dialog… especially when everyone knows we’re moving to Google+.

While I disagree with many of Mark’s views on femininity and masculinity, I am convinced that Christians can talk about gender issues with gentleness and respect, without resorting to stereotypes, bullying, and scorn.

Mark is my brother in Christ, and I would welcome him to such a conversation with open arms.

So far there is no comment on this at Anthony Bradley’s Facebook. So as soon as we post tomorrow’s articles on The Aquila Report, I will post a link to this story so we all get a good night’s sleep! J

(Note: In rereading I discovered at least 4 – if not more – mixed metaphors. My apologies to the writing specialists out there.)

Don K. Clements is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is the co-founder and publisher of the Aquila Report.