Mars Hill cancels Resurgence Conference

Religion | Decision caps an eventful week at besieged Seattle megachurch
by Warren Cole Smith
Posted 8/15/14, 04:12 pm

Seattle’s Mars Hill Church has canceled its annual Resurgence Conference, one of the megachurch’s flagship events, originally scheduled for Oct. 28–29.

The website for the conference, which until this week contained biographical sketches of speakers and registration information, now has only the following cancellation notice:

“The Resurgence Conference has always been born out of our love of Jesus and the church, and the desire to support efforts to grow leaders to grow churches. Unfortunately, we have decided to cancel this year’s conference due to unforeseen changes to our speaker line-up and other challenges we believe would make it difficult to provide the quality of conference people have come to expect from Resurgence. Anyone who has already purchased a ticket will be receiving a prompt refund. Thank you for your support of Resurgence and the ministries of Mars Hill Church.”

No other information is available at the website, but Mars Hill Church spokesman Justin Dean told me via email that refunds would be automatically processed “within one week,” and that the church had already notified all ticket holders. Dean said he did not know how many people attended last year’s conference, or how many had signed up for this year’s event.

Among those who were scheduled to speak at the event were Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Greg Laurie, Crawford Loritts, Paul Tripp, Terry Virgo, and—via video—J.I. Packer.

MacDonald and Tripp had been members of Mars Hill Church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA), though both recently resigned. Tripp, who heads up Paul Tripp Ministries in Philadelphia, released a statement on Tuesday explaining his resignation: “It became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn’t a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church.”

Tripp was not directly critical of Mars Hill in his statement, but he suggested that the church did not have a “biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be led and pastors to be guided and protected.” Tripp concluded, “I would still love to see the leadership community of Mars Hill Church become itself a culture of grace and I am still willing to help, but not through the means of a board that will never be able to do what it was designed to do.”

The statement by Tripp and the cancellation of the Resurgence Conference capped a tough week for Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. Earlier, Driscoll was dropped from four upcoming “Act Like Men” conferences. He was scheduled to speak in Phoenix in October, the Dallas–Fort Worth area in November, and Miami and Chicago in 2015. He’s also been dropped from the Gateway Conference scheduled for Oct. 20–22 at Gateway Church in Dallas. Last weekend, Lifeway, the retail arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, announced it was pulling Driscoll’s books from its 180-plus retail stores and website. Lifeway’s media relations manager Marty King said the retail chain made the decision to give Lifeway’s leadership time to “assess the developments regarding [Driscoll’s] ministry.”

Warren Cole Smith

Warren is president of MinistryWatch and the host of WORLD Radio’s Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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