BELLEVUE - One of Seattle s largest churches came under fire Sunday from some former members. Dozens of protesters lined the Mars Hill Church in Bellevue Sunday, furious over the actions of their lead pastor.
They re starting to question Mark. Mark Driscoll, that is, the lead pastor of the Mars Hill mega church that boasts 15 locations over 5 states with almost 15,000 members.
We feel defrauded. We feel like our church was stolen, said former pastor Robert Smith.
The frustration started back in 2007 when parishioners say Driscoll wrongly let go of pastors like Robert Smith, who questioned some of Driscoll s decisions.
It was crushing in our lives. Our whole sense of community, people that loved us and trusted us one day, hated us the next, added Smith.
Since then those frustrated said the Church they loved has radically changed. A tipping point seems to have come earlier this month. Protesters said in his Sunday sermon, Driscoll acknowledged there are disillusioned former members but said they have chosen to remain anonymous.
Those comments infuriated Heidi Strom, her husband, and six children so much, they drove from Yakima to make their voices heard
We were married in 2001 by Mark Driscoll and really enjoyed the community and fellowship there at the church. But there have been many people wounded and they do count and they re not anonymous, Strom said.
To add fuel to the flame, just this week, a blog that the pastor had written back in 2000 surfaced. The church once had an unmoderated discussion board on its website. Pastor Driscoll admits under an alias he posted vulgar rants about women.
Driscoll wasn t available to comment about Sunday s protest but did send KING5 the apology he sent out on Friday saying in part: I was wrong to respond to people the way I did, using the language I used, and I am sorry for it and remain embarrassed by it. Over the past 14 years I have changed.
And those still in his church agree.
It s sad to see that this is the way that this is going to play out. I think Christianity is all about growth and change in people and I think we ve seen growth in Pastor Mark said Pastor Anthony Ianniciello.
But those on the outside aren t buying it.
What I see is a pastor who is sorry for how he said what he said but will just say the same thing in softer and kinder tones. It s underlying everything that Mars Hill has become, said former Pastor Smith.
Smith added there are a lot of unanswered questions, even some church financial issues. They re asking for a realignment of the church leadership and a personal apology from Driscoll.