Mars Hill Church to dissolve; branches’ future uncertain

SEATTLE — Megachurch Mars Hill, which has a location in Everett, announced Friday that it is dissolving and is encouraging local branches to become independent churches.

In a statement posted on the church’s website, Pastor Dave Bruskas wrote that “the board of Mars Hill has concluded that rather than remaining a centralized multi-site church with video-led teaching distributed to multiple locations, the best future for each of our existing local churches is for them to become autonomous self-governed entities.”

Bruskas wrote that the Seattle-based church hoped to complete a process by Jan. 1 through which local elders at each branch would decide to become a new independent church, to merge with another existing church or to dissolve and help members find a new church.

The church once met at Everett Community College, but it bought the old Everett Armory at 2730 Oakes Ave. in late 2012 to serve 500 to 600 parishioners. Mars Hill celebrated its grand opening there in January. Pastor Ryan Williams in Everett could not be immediately reached for comment about the Everett branch’s plans.

All of Mars Hill’s church properties will either be sold or the loans will be assumed by the new local independent churches. The central church staff will be laid off. Remaining funds will be sent as seed money to the new startup churches.

Mars Hill has come under extensive criticism lately, most of it focused on the behavior of founder Mark Driscoll, who has been accused by other church members of bullying and abuse of power.

From outside, Driscoll has been criticized for plagiarism and using deceptive tactics to boost sales of his books, and for his reactionary views and sermons on the roles of women, homosexuality and other aspects of life.

Driscoll took a leave of absence from the leadership in August and resigned permanently Oct. 15.

Mars Hill has 12 churches, nine of them in Washington, plus branches in Oregon, California and New Mexico. It recently closed branches in downtown Seattle, the University District there and in Phoenix.

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