Mark Driscoll plagiarism debate twists and turns

I got an email from a reader today with the comment that this is usually something I’m on top of.

BREAKING:  Janet Mefferd Removes Tweets and Blog Material Regarding Mark Driscoll and Alleged Plagiarism

He is correct, often I am on top of stories such as the above that explode on air and on-line. I’ll be direct – I have no use for Mark Driscoll. The neo-reform Mars Hill pastor is one of the most wearisome individuals I have attempted to watch.  His crass, attention seeking,  authoritarian behaviour, naked ambition and his lack of character are so distasteful to me, I prefer to write about lesser bad boys in North American evangelicalism.

I find stories about Driscoll and his  quasi celebrity buddies behavior in neo-Reform/neo-Calvinism soul sucking and emotionally draining, as they leave broken lives behind them in their race to the top of their world. I don’t like Mark Driscoll.  If I met him coming down the street, I’d cross over to the other side.  There are people who can speak into his life, I’m certainly not one of them. There are plenty of blogs, articles and pod-casts online which examine Mark Driscoll’s ambitions, alliances, behaviour and theology, as well as the Mars Hill machine; posts and articles warning and teaching young believers, his fanboys and the rest of us.

I have been following his latest explosion in the public square, particularly since it involved a radio show.  Mark Driscoll predictably continues his bad behaviour.  Given the last time an interviewer in the UK had the temerity to not follow Driscoll’s expectations of a puff piece for his book Real Marriage, the recent Driscoll/Mefferd blowup is another dreary day in the life of.

On November 21st Janet Mefferd, a syndicated radio host out of Texas had Mark Driscoll on her show. Apparently Driscoll’s people asked for the interview, to peddle his latest book.

Obviously the interview didn’t go the way Driscoll wanted it to, most book peddling interviews are puff pieces. This interview wasn’t.  Mefferd accused Driscoll of plagiarism in A Call to Resurgence and the discussion escalated.  The show was pre-taped, and as the bumper music played (music to indicate to the host and guest the segment is ending) Mefford assumed Driscoll had hung up. She went to twitter to re-enforce her belief, and all internet heck ensued.

I’d link that show, but it has been taken offline. I’d link to those tweets, but they’ve been taken off-line.

An interesting side note to the larger  controversy of clashing personalities and plagiarism (for me) was whether or not Driscoll hung up prematurely, with his nose out of joint. A sound engineer with 39 years experience looked into the the Driscoll recording and the last few minutes of the show, here and here, and I respect his analysis and how he conducted it.

Yesterday a part-time topic producer with the Mefferd Show resigned, leaving explanatory comments at Spiritual Sounding Board.  Blog owner Julie Anne (who I have great respect for) deleted Ingrid  Schlueters explanation for resigning.  (Julie Anne would not delete without very good reason, she is not a coward or a shrinking violet). Fortunately Warren Throckmorton got permission to reprint Schlueter’s resignation comments. I’ve been blogging a long time and know about Ingrid from her days as a radio host with VCY and for her former blog, Slice of Laodicea. I used to head over to her blog to watch the carnage, we couldn’t be more different in how we few the world and relate to it.  Schuster’s long career with VCY radio ended in 2011 when an extended family feud broke out and she posts that she got really burned.
Mefford had no comment on Schlueters resignation.

November 21 – Mefferd interviews Driscoll
November 22 – Tyndale House (publisher) releases audio of last two minutes of show
November 27 – Mefferd releases more allegations of plagiarism
November 27 – Tyndale House says review indicates no plagiarism
December 4 – Janet Mefford removes all tweets, posts and alleged plagiarism material, issues apology
December 5 – Part time topic producer for The Janet Mefferd Show resigns
December 9 – Mars Hill responds to alleged plagiarism of Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter
December 9 – IVP(original publisher of content in question) makes statement
December 10 – Mars Hill updates statement
December 10 – Tyndale explains relationship with Salem Media
December 11 – Janet Mefford on Driscoll controversy
December 18 – Mark Driscoll and Tyndale apologize

Another interesting thread to this story is Tyndale House. They reviewed the first claim of alleged plagiarism of Dr. P. Jones materials in A Call to Resurgence and issued this statement to Jonathan Merritt of Religion News Service:

Tyndale House takes any accusation of plagiarism seriously and has therefore conducted a thorough in-house review of the original material and sources provided by the author. After this review we feel confident that the content in question has been properly cited in the printed book and conforms to market standards.

I’ve not seen a statement from Tyndale House regarding the second set of charges of alleged plagiarism – Driscoll using D.A. Carson’s work in his in-house book Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1&2 Peter. Christianity Today summarizes well.

Tyndale House entered into a publishing arrangement with Driscoll/Mars Hill in February of this year under the imprint Resurgence Publishing. The Wartburg Watch:

Well, in my opinion, this is not a stellar way to start a joint “ministry” of “integrity.”
First and foremost, this is not about ministry. It is about the Christian book industry and they intend to make bank.

Secondly, who in the world is doing the vetting of these books? Don’t editors check for copyright issues? Who is going to keep up with the promised “tons” of books?

Thirdly, is  it “humble”  to say that this money making enterprise is going to be the key to “spark a resurgence?” I guess all those other Christian out there slogging around in the ditches: homeless shelters, at risk youth, missionaries, etc. are not going to spark a resurgence in the world. We need Mark’s books to do that. What in the world did the Christian church do until this alliance? Good night!

While Driscoll fanboys piled on-line to follow their leader and shoot the messenger, push back has been equally strong from those tired of the noisy behaviour coming from the neo-reform culture. I’ll leave you to decide the ethics of today’s Christian celebrity pastors, their publishers and their alliances. You get to decide whether Janet Mefferd went too far in her interview with Driscoll, or too far in her apology.

I don’t believe the truth of some whats and why some things occurred around this interview as they did, will ever come out.


There will be another Driscoll dust-up in no time, controversy seeking is part of who he is and what he does.  I hold no hope that US evangelical publishing houses will be prudent in the future. I hope that people following this educate themselves, grow in their faith and make wise decisions about who they call leaders and what tribe they chose to be part of.  I’m ending with a question that I’ve been chewing on, posed by a friend of professor Carl R. Trueman:

Is journalism no longer considered a legitimate Christian calling? Or is the task of the Christian journalist simply to strengthen the hand of the vested interests?

Update: Best post I’ve read on the apology and takedown of Mefford’s show, tweets and blog post. James Duncan: “How we went from Here I Stand to “My Bad”

My reading of the event is that Salem told Mefferd that her Driscoll interview and blog posts had breached their contract with Tyndale. If Salem owns Mefferd’s blog, which it appears to do, it had a legal right to insist on the posts’ removal. So, although I think the deletion was a mistake, I don’t necessarily hold Ms. Mefferd responsible for it. She’s under the authority of her employer, which in turn is bound by its contracts, so she’s got to do what she’s got to do. She doesn’t have to defend it or put a good spin on it, which, unsurprisingly, she has not.

Dr. Duncan looks at how Matthew 18 is misused and abused as a standard for conflict resolution.

About Bene Diction

Have courage for the great sorrows, And patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
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5 Responses to Mark Driscoll plagiarism debate twists and turns

  1. Bene D says:

    Tyndale House has an endorsement on Salem Radio Network.

  2. Pingback: Plagiarism Issue Puts Spotlight on Christian Publishing | Christian Book Shop Talk

  3. BrianM says:

    I had an English teacher who cracked the whip on our grammar studies. When we read John Steinbeck and people pointed out the grammatical rules he broke, our teacher said, “When you’re as famous as Steinbeck you can break all the rules you want!” I

  4. Maribeth Curry says:

    It’s a big jump from grammar mistakes to copying someone else’s work and calling it your own.
    Also John Steinback gained his fame by writing good literature, not by manipulating Christian media hype! He was a writer who unapologetically wrote books for his living.
    Driscoll is a minister trying to prove his prosperity doctrine by supplementing his income with book sales… big difference!

  5. Rick Hiebert says:

    An update from Christianity Today includes statements from Tyndale and Driscoll

    Thanks Rick – BD

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