One of the highest profile evangelical events this summer hosted by Hillsong Church will not include an interview with former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll after all. Reports that Hillsong’s pastor, Brian Houston, would interview Driscoll and his wife during Hillsong’s Conference in London and Sydney have been retracted with a statement from Houston that “I do not want unnecessary distractions during our conference.”
“This 30-minute interview was only a small part of this five-day event. It was clear to me that Mark’s attendance had the potential to divert attention from the real purpose of Hillsong Conference, which is to see people leave encouraged in their own spiritual journey.”
An online petition on Change.org requesting Driscoll be excluded from the conference agenda had collected more than 3,000 signatures at the time of Houston’s announcement.
Houston plans to have personal meetings with Driscoll in the coming weeks, saying he “will not write off Mark as a person simply because of the things that people have said about him, a small minority of people signing a petition or statements he has made many years ago for which he has since repeatedly apologised.”
“Clearly Mark has held some views and made some statements that cannot be defended,” concluded Houston. “One or two of the more outrageous things he is purported to have said, I have heard for the first time through the media exposure over the past week.
Although Driscoll was named by Preaching magazine as one of the most influential pastors of the past 25 years, in 2014 he was accused of promoting a coercive, “toxic” culture at Mars Hill, formerly one of the largest churches in the nation. Their properties are being sold and the satellite campuses closing, merging with other churches or becoming independent. In December, Driscoll himself launched a website, MarkDriscoll.org, featuring Driscoll’s sermon archives, devotionals and blog posts.