Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Seattle-based megachurch Mars Hill, has announced his resignation, saying he does not want to distract from the church's mission to lead people to a person relationship with Christ.
Driscoll, who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and a large ego, announced his decision after taking a six week hiatus from the pulpit while the church investigated charges against him.
"Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family - even physically unsafe at times - and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill," Driscoll wrote in his resignation letter.
According to elders, Driscoll was not asked to resign; "Indeed, we were surprised to receive his resignation letter," they wrote.
The Mars Hills' board of overseers also added that Driscoll hadn't committed any acts of "immorality, illegality or heresy," but that of "arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner."
However, they also added that "We found some of the accusations against Pastor Mark to be altogether unfair or untrue."
"Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry," Driscoll wrote.
"Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context, and I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church's mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ."
The 43-year-old pastor acknowledged that, "There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware. Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit."
Mars Hill grew from a small home church in 1996 to a congregation of 14,000 people at 15 locations across five states. However, due to the controversies surrounding Driscoll over the past year, the church has been forced to close its Downtown Seattle and University of Washington District locations.
"During the month of August, we received $1,552,817 and expenses were $2,222,274, so our net over expenses (loss) after depreciation and capitalizing assets was $647,768," stated a report released to church members in September and obtained by World magazine. "Our income target was $1,842,414, and we missed this target by almost 16 percent."
Regardless of the charges against Driscoll, loyal congregants are hopeful that the pastor will once again return to the pulpit.
"It is very sad, what is going on is incredibly heartbreaking," says Mary Wheeler, who has attended Mars Hill for ten years.
"It is always sad to see great leaders fall--the Bible very clearly warns against pride, and that's been pastor Mark's downfall. But he has a heart for ministry and he loves the Lord--we are hoping and praying that he has truly repented and, in the future, will return to serving the Mars Hill community."