Mark Driscoll Fighting 'Malicious' Racketeering Lawsuit Brought By Former Mars Hill Church Members

( [email protected] ) Jun 23, 2016 06:24 PM EDT
Mark Driscoll, former pastor of the now-defunct Mars Hill Church, is fighting a "malicious" racketeering lawsuit against him brought by former members of his church.
Mark Driscoll resigned from his position as senior pastor of Mars Hill Church last October amid a string of revelations regarding his leadership style. YouTube/ScreenGrab

Mark Driscoll, former pastor of the now-defunct Mars Hill Church, is fighting a "malicious" racketeering lawsuit against him brought by former members of his church.

In March, four former members of Mars Hill Church in Seattle filed a 42-page lawsuit against Driscoll, now the pastor of Trinity Church in Phoenix, Arizona, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

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.

However, according to Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton, Driscoll claims he has not actually been served papers, and earlier this week filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

"If the Court decides to dismiss the civil RICO complaint against (fellow defendant John Sutton) Turner with prejudice, it should do the same for the remaining civil RICO defendant, Driscoll." reads the motion, in part. "The failure to prosecute applies to both parties. The plaintiffs were put on notice about their obligation to serve process in a general sense when Turner contacted the plaintiffs directly. That notice reminded the plaintiffs that they must serve all plaintiffs, not just one plaintiff."

When asked about the lawsuit earlier this year, Driscoll told RNS, "Unfortunately, false and malicious allegations continue to be made against me. I'm certain that the most recent examples are without any merit."

As The Gospel Herald has reported, Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill Church in late 2014 after a string of controversies. Less than two years later, he planted another church in Phoenix, Arizona, where he plans to simply "open the Bible and preach and teach Jesus."

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.

While some have suggested the pastor's comeback may be too soon, Driscoll has received the support of a number of megachurch pastors, including Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in South Carolina and Pastor Robert Morris of Texas-based Gateway Church.

"Here's a man [Driscoll] who messed up, made some mistakes, admitted it, apologized, said he was sorry - he's starting over ... Who made you the judge on whether or not he's ready?" Noble asked in a lengthy Facebook video shared earlier this year. 

Noble also hit back at those who say Driscoll has harmed others: "So have you ... I think he's [Driscoll] got ministry left in him ... He may have hurt people, but he's learned from it ... Christians are the only army in the world that shoot their wounded."