Former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll is scheduled to appear at several high-profile conferences and churches in the upcoming months, signaling his gradual return to the ministry.
Driscoll's new website reveals details of upcoming appearances at churches in Texas and Alaska as well as at the Men Coaching Men Discipleship Ministry Leadership Conference in Arizona and the Hillsong Europe conference in London, which is scheduled for July 22-24.
The pastor's swift return to ministry has come as a surprise to some, as he resigned from his position as senior pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill church last October amid widely-publicized accusations of plagiarism, bullying, and an unhealthy ego.
The subsequent fallout from the implosion of his leadership and ministry at Mars Hall eventually led to the church's closure, with its satellite campuses closing, merging with other churches or becoming stand-alone congregations.
Although Driscoll and his family disappeared from the public eye for several months following his resignation, the pastor and his wife, Grace, made an appearance in a pre-recorded interview at the Hillsong conference in Sydney, Australia last month. During the interview, Driscoll admitted that in the past, he has not always operated as a "healthy person working from a godly place."
In a blog entry posted on July 1st, Driscoll thanked Hillsong founder Brian Houston for allowing him to appear at the conference, writing, "We are also grateful this week to Pastor Brian Houston for sitting down to interview Grace and me, then showing our conversation at the Hillsong Sydney conference. We are praying that the remainder of the conference goes well, and we were honored to participate via video."
However, campaigners who signed an online petition calling for Driscoll's appearance at the conference to be cancelled have criticized Houston for reversing his promise to drop the pastor from the speaker list and demanded an apology for his "intentional deceit."
Campaigner Natalie Collins, who will be leading protests at the event, said in an update on the petition page: "After Brian Houston's statement that Mark Driscoll would not be 'coming to Australia or the UK to attend Hillsong Conference', it seems the truth was in the semantics." She added: "It is sad to know that it is the letter and not the spirit of Brian Houston's words that we should have trusted."
While some in the Christian community have applauded Driscoll's decision to return to ministry, others, including former Mars Hill deacon Brian Jacobsen, believe it's too soon. "Mark is unrepentant," Jacobsen told The Seattle Times. "Should Driscoll try to get a new church off the ground," he said, there would be an "awful lot of people who would oppose him in any way they could."