Amid news of continued chaos and turmoil at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington — the house of worship led by embattled Pastor Mark Driscoll — church leaders have announced that they will be closing at least three locations and laying off staff in the process.
In a statement posted to the church website Monday, leaders explained that they have fallen upon difficult financial times, as member giving is down.
"While our church has been financially healthy for many years, we are now facing the most serious budget challenge in our history," the statement read. "Church budgeting is really a simple process in one respect: we are able to provide the level of staff and ministry programs that those who attend our church provide the resources for."
Mark Driscoll (Image source: YouTube)
The church said that it "agonized" over the decision and implored parishioners to pray for those who will be impacted in the days ahead.
"Some of our churches can no longer support the ongoing costs associated with their buildings and paid staff," the statement read. "Our leaders have agonized over these decisions but have concluded that just because we are a church does not mean we are exempt from economic reality."
Pastor Dave Bruskas was more specific in a blog post published Sunday, detailing which locations would be impacted by the decisions as the church seeks to "operate within [its] current means."
Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor who has blogged extensively about Driscoll and the turmoil at Mars Hill, said that the church's wording comes across as "a rebuke to the people who are left in the pews."
"The implication of this notice is the layoffs are the fault of the people in the pews," Throckmorton wrote.
This news comes after Driscoll announced that he would step down temporarily while church officials investigate claims waged against him.
Pastor Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill website)
Other pastors have joined in criticizing the church and Driscoll. Some, though, have focused in on their own past behavior and, much like Driscoll has done, have issued public apologies.
For instance James Noriega, a former pastor of a Mars Hill congregation, recently penned an open "confession," apologizing to anyone that he might have harmed while serving in ministry at the church.
Noriega, who willingly left Mars Hill West Seattle in 2011, admitted in a post on his Facebook page that he offended and hurt people in the church and that his newfound public appeal and admission of fault constitute an effort to officially begin the healing process.
In an interview with TheBlaze last week, Noriega said that he decided to write the very personal confession after he recently found himself joining 20 other former Mars Hill pastors in signing a document accusing the church — and Driscoll — of misconduct.
(H/T: Christian Post)