Mark Driscoll, the former pastor of Mars Hill Church, has condemned the "malicious" allegations of racketeering made against him in a new lawsuit filed by several former church members.
According to Religion News Service, four former members of Mars Hill Church in Seattle filed a 42-page lawsuit last Monday against Driscoll under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
"Unfortunately, false and malicious allegations continue to be made against me," Driscoll said in an email to RNS last week when asked to comment on the lawsuit. "I'm certain that the most recent examples are without any merit."
The suit by Brian Jacobsen, Connie Jacobsen, Ryan Kildea and Arica Kildea alleges Driscoll and former Mars Hill executive elder John Sutton Turner, demonstrated a "pattern of racketeering activity" in how they ran the now-closed church by "soliciting, through the internet and the mail, contributions for designated purposes."
The lawsuit also alleges the church leaders "fraudulently used significant portions of those designated contributions for other, unauthorized purposes" and paid $210,000 to a company called ResultSource Inc. to land Driscoll's book, "Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life Together" on the best-seller lists of The New York Times and others.
As reported by The Gospel Herald, Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill in October 2014 due to his admitted "divisive" leadership style. Members of the Acts 29 church planting network, which Driscoll helped found, had advised that he take time off to get help, and rescinded Driscoll and all Mars Hill Church campuses' membership from the network.
In his resignation letter, the pastor said that "aspects of my personality and leadership style, had proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context" and that he was resigning because he did 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 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.
In February, the 45-year-old pastor revealed that he is opening a new church in Phoenix, Arizona. Trinity Church, which is named after a church founded in the Seattle area by the parents of Driscoll's wife, Grace, will open sometime in 2016.
"We have moved to Phoenix...we love it here, making new friends, excited about this city and the future that God would have us play in serving the people here along with some other great churches in the valley," Driscoll said in a video, in which he appears next to his wife.
"Lord willing, we're hoping, trusting, praying, planning and also a little bit worrying about planting a church here in early 2016," he added.
Driscoll said he is uncertain of where exactly the church will be located, but explained that "Once the church is established, a class and process for spiritual church membership will be offered."
According to the church website, Trinity Church hopes to be a place where "lives are transformed through learning the Bible and loving people."
"Our church aspires to celebrate and honor other churches in Phoenix and beyond, partnering with them for the cause of God's Kingdom," it reads.