More than three weeks after being accused of plagiarism, controversial pastor Mark Driscoll admits "mistakes." - Photo courtesy of Mars Hill Church

More than three weeks after being accused of plagiarism, controversial pastor Mark Driscoll admits “mistakes.” – Photo courtesy of Mars Hill Church

Pastor Mark Driscoll has issued an apology after a prolonged silence regarding numerous charges of plagiarism in his books. In the statement released to “The Christian Post,” the controversial minister says he expects Jesus to use the experience for his betterment.

“Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for,” Driscoll said. “As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”

In the same statement, a representative for Tyndale House, the publishing company that released his most recently released book, A Call to Resurgence, defended Driscoll:

“Because of the biblical manner in which Pastor Driscoll has handled this situation, Tyndale strongly stands behind him and looks forward to publishing many additional books with him. Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll has provided a significant call to Christians to unite together in translating the message of Jesus faithfully to a post-Christian culture, to proclaim clearly, loudly, and unashamedly the Good News of Jesus.”

It's unclear why Driscoll waited until now to publicly address the matter. The first accusations of plagiarism were made by syndicated radio host Janet Mefferd on a November 21 broadcast. She subsequently accused Driscoll of plagiarizing in two other books. Mefferd’s interview generated a firestorm, to which the radio host responded by producing evidence on her blog to support her accusations.

Mefferd later removed the evidence from the internet and apologized for the manner in which she made the accusations, but her backpedaling did not quell the controversy. Evidence that Tyndale House and Salem Radio, Mefferd’s employer, were “media partners” fanned the flames of speculation online. Intervarsity Press, publisher of one of the books from which Driscoll allegedly plagiarized, released a statement demanding an answer for material that “improperly appeared without quotation or attribution.” And Ingrid Schlueter, an assistant producer for the Janet Mefferd Show, resigned over the situation, stating, “All I can share is that there is an evangelical celebrity machine that is more powerful than anyone realizes. You may not go up against the machine.”

Mars Hill Church responded to the growing scandal by posting a statement that admitted one of Driscoll’s books contained “citation errors,” but blamed a research team for the mistakes. The statement was later amended when it was discovered to contain factually incorrect assertions and then mysteriously disappeared from the Mars Hill Church web site.

For three weeks, Pastor Driscoll remained mum. Repeated attempts by several journalists including myself to contact Mars Hill Communications Manager Justin Dean were ignored.

In the meantime, leaders within the evangelical movement began to openly criticize Driscoll. Baptist professor Collin Garbarino gave Driscoll a proverbial “F” and said, “I’ve failed students for less flagrant plagiarism.” Christian scholar Carl Trueman blamed the affair on “the celebrity culture which has so corrupted the young, restless and reformed movement.” Pastor Jared C. Wilson accused Driscoll of a “trajectory of pride.” And author Andy Crouch of “Christianity Today” said Driscoll’s real problem was not plagiarism, but rather idolatry.

But in recent days, outrage over the allegations have begun to cool. Fewer and fewer people have been discussing the matter on social media and online publications. So why has the Seattle pastor waited until now to address these issues when much speculation and hoopla  might otherwise have been avoided? It’s difficult to say. One can only hope that Driscoll, a perpetual lightning rod of controversy, will indeed learn from this fiasco. And perhaps all of us who are involved in Christian publishing–if we’ll humble ourselves and reflect–will too.

28 Comments

  1. Are you unaware of Jared Wilson’s blog post on TGC today? That’s at least worth mentioning, if not the most likely impetus for the timing of MD’s apology.

  2. Mark Obenauer

    Issuing a public apology to Janet Mefford would be a start. Mr. Driscoll appears to have spent a whole deal of time parroting the same comments every time he is a lightening rod of controversy. I can’t judge the veracity of such comments, both past and present. I hope they collectively mean something and are not just words to assuage his critics. He has mostly succeeded. Most people say “oh, that’s just Mark,” and this celebrity pastors activities are under the radar, except for critics at Wartburg watch and Sola Sisters who have long been investigating Driscoll.

    • Mark: What does Driscoll have to apologize to Mefferd for? Her allegations during the radio interview were related to “A Call to Resurgence”. Only later did the additional allegations surface. Driscoll said during the interview that he would look into the matter and address it. He has done so as has his publisher.

      After all of the dust settles on this, I believe my initial thought posted on Jonathan’s original article on this matter will end up being correct: much ado about nothing.

      http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/11/22/mark-driscoll-accused-plagiarism-radio-host/#comment-112767

      • Mark Obenauer

        Elder Sanchez: the problem is, it is viewed as much ado about nothing, and the Neo Calvinist fundie moto of ” boys will be boys ” excuse by the PR folks and others will be chimed whenever one of the “boys” shows what a strong man he is. Oh that Mark,he is so funny, isn’t he? Time Mr. Driscoll grow up.

  3. Did he really say, “Mistakes were made?” –and have we not come to the point in this society that we recognize that is not an apology, it is a cliché. Oh, I know he added, “which I am grieved by and apologize for,” but that’s pretty darn opaque. I’m left to wonder, is he apologizing for someone else’s mistake, (sort of a vaguely heroic, “the buck stops here” gesture), or his own willful, personal lie. Was it an accidental mistake, unfortunate, but not a moral failure, or is he claiming just that — a personal moral failure. This is a textbook example of a politician’s non-apology. Though not even politicians can get away with it anymore, the mere opening, “mistakes were made” sets off giggles. Gotta say, I’ve got no opinion about the matter in question as I haven’t read the books, but if this was my pastor, I’d be appalled. People deserve a direct and complete explanation of what happened from a religious leader. . And this isn’t that.

    • I had a similar thought-process prior to reading the full statement provided by Mark Driscoll through Tyndale. So I’m wondering if you read the whole statement yourself (which is linked here in this article). The line of thought that Driscoll didn’t say enough doesn’t hold weight I believe after reading the full statement. Here’s the link again in case you didn’t catch it.

      http://www.christianpost.com/news/tyndale-house-publishers-defend-mark-driscoll-seattle-based-megachurch-pastor-apologizes-for-mistakes-111106/

    • David Lloyd-Jones

      Nick,

      I don’t see any evidence of this Driscoll guy being a “believer” of any kind.

      As a non-Christian looking at him and sizing him up by the normal standards of the world, I get the impression that he’s just a successful TV actor. Think Rush Limbaugh without the drugs, Billy Graham without the hair and the jaw, Fulton J. Sheen without the cape and the swish.

      Of the four I’d guess Graham and Sheen might have had some moments of Christianity when they were young, though certainly Christianity of two very strange and deviant varieties. I don’t know that Driscoll or Limbaugh would have a clue what the word means.

      -dlj.

    • A Christ Follower

      Jesus has not been dead for 2000 years, because he was crucified and 3 days later, rose from the dead and has given the world the gift of sanctification through his victory over sin and death.
      “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. and Behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing whit as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women,’Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold Jesus me t them and said,’Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” – Matthew 28:1-10
      “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. and they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” – Luke 24:1-3
      Also take into account nobody has found the remains of Jesus Christ so if he was truly dead, we would’ve found his remains by now.

  4. Driscoll handled this in a biblical manner (according to his publisher)?! Wow! More like they want to keep him in the pipeline to make more money.

  5. I appreciate your clearly articulated article. It sheds light on the dark forces that are at work which attempt to confuse and obfuscate the real story, and the truth about what has happened. Thank you for your reporting and your handling of the facts. It’s refreshing to read your commentary because it’s healthy and helpful, especially after one examines the harmful maneuverings of that menace Mark Driscoll.

    Tyndall Publishing states Driscoll has handled things “biblically.” I listened to the Janet Mefferd interview in its entirety. Is there a transcript, does anyone know? What he said and what is being reported is tame in comparison. He was defensive, rude, hypocritical and accusatory in response to Janet’s questions. He personally insulted her and took umbrage at being questioned on the subject and went on the attack. His attitude and what he said was the opposite of “biblical” especially in light of the facts. And for a guy who prides himself on being strong, his performance throughout has revealed a weak christian character.

    If we weighed what he said in the interview along with his subsequent statements in the balance against his weightless apology, it would serve to prove the measure of the man in this instance. His apology doesn’t illicit forgiveness and there’s no healing in it for the damage he’s done. And I agree he owes Janet Mefferd an apology; I don’t see that she did anything wrong.

    I attended Penn State University and although many in the PSU community I’m in touch with disagreed, their prompt firings of the key players in the Sandusky scandal including the beloved Joe Pa was the right thing at the right time. I’m not comparing pedophilia to plagiarism. But I am saying swift justice of that kind was, in my opinion, the appropriate response and more closely fits the description of a “biblical” reply than anything Bible teacher Mark Driscoll or Christian publishing house Tyndall has said or done in reply to the revealed sin of Driscoll’s plagiarism. Like others have indicated it was sufficient grounds to fire the guy instead of issuing a rash statement proclaiming Driscoll free of any iniquity and a pledge of your undying support. If Penn State had done such a thing and provided sanctuary to the guilty parties instead of meting out justice, the probability for healing of the victims and restoration for Penn State and its’ community would have decreased exponentially. As it stands with Mark Driscoll and other such leaders (I’m thinking of CJ Mahaney), their message produces more harm then good. “You’ll know them by their fruit.”

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