Controversial Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll has resigned, according to the church’s website.
In a Tuesday letter written by Driscoll and printed on Religion News Service Wednesday, the controversial pastor said:
“By God’s grace I have pastored Mars Hill Church for 18 years. Today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace.”
Driscoll took a leave of absence on Aug. 24 while elders conducted a formal review of charges made against him.
Driscoll had stepped aside in August so church leaders could investigate whether he was fit to lead, following accusations that he bullied members, threatened opponents, lied and oversaw mismanagement of church funds.
The church noted that Driscoll was not asked to resign.
Mars Hill grew to 15 branches in five states with 13,000 visitors on Sundays. Driscoll appeared on Nightline, preached at Seahawks stadium, threw out the first pitch at a Mariners game, and founded a network of evangelical leaders who started hundreds of other churches.
But after 18 years of stunning growth, an escalating string of bad news finally started driving churchgoers away. Mars Hill leaders recently said attendance and giving had plummeted so fast that it would have to close several Seattle branches and cut its staff 30 to 40 percent
Mars Hill Church has put its 39,000 square-foot facility in Ballard on the market for $8 million, with the condition that Mars Hill would lease back part of the facility, according to Colliers International, a real-estate brokerage.
The church bought the property on Northwest Leary Way and 15th Avenue Northwest for $4.8 million in 2003.
Steve Pelluer, who’s handling the listing for Colliers, said the church put it up for sale a couple weeks ago. The church would likely do a 10-year leaseback with a buyer and share space with a new tenant, such as a day care or elementary school, he said.
“They’ve been downsizing a little bit and are looking to use their facilities more 24/7 rather than just for Sundays,” Pelluer said Wednesday.
The church operates at least nine locations in Washington state as well as sites in California, Oregon and New Mexico, according to its website.
In a Seattle Times story published last month, Driscoll’s flashy style and quick temper were written about by reporter Craig Welch.
“For years the edgy, blue-jeaned, hipster preacher used charisma and combativeness to barrel through turmoil, once bragging that he’d mow down all who questioned his vision: “There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus, and by God’s grace, it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done,” he once said in a meeting. “You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus.”
Behind the scenes, former church members said, Driscoll could be vicious, abusive and controlling. Some charged that he refused to promote an overweight elder because Driscoll said his “fat ass” would tarnish Mars Hill’s image.”