Home Christian News New Church, Similar Stories: Is Mark Driscoll an Abusive Leader?

New Church, Similar Stories: Is Mark Driscoll an Abusive Leader?

Mark Driscoll

Familiar accounts of controlling behavior are emerging about Mark Driscoll, the pastor who launched a new megachurch in Arizona after leaving his Seattle congregation amid controversy.

In 2014, Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill, the church he founded, rather than face an elder-proposed restoration process. Two years later, he started The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, which is now under the microscope for having no elders or board, requiring loyalty and nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), and keeping close tabs on members and staff. Some former church members and employees have recently come forward, warning that Driscoll operates in a toxic, even cult-like manner.

At the end of April, blogger David Bonner wrote about a family who was “allegedly driven from” Trinity because their teenage son was in a relationship with Driscoll’s teenage daughter. Warren Throckmorton, who’s been blogging about Driscoll’s “elderless church,” wrote that he’s “been able to confirm the basic elements of this story with several sources.” Then on May 10, investigative journalist Julie Roys published a deep-dive look into Driscoll’s actions at his new church, concluding, “His tactics reportedly have grown more extreme and cult-like.”

A Family Describes Being Shunned and Surveilled

Angelo and Katherine Manuele and their teenage sons, who began attending Trinity last June, say they’re going public with their experiences to protect fellow Christians. When Vince Manuele, 15, and Pastor Driscoll’s 17-year-old daughter became close, he says, Trinity staffers warned him that kissing was off-limits. After Vince admitted to violating that rule, he describes being locked in another pastor’s office, interrogated, and ordered to leave.

Vince and Angelo, his father, were then ordered off Trinity property and added to a watch list. Using his daughter’s email account, Driscoll reportedly warned Vince to cease all communications with her. Soon afterward, church friends started breaking ties with the Manuele family, apparently at the directive of Trinity staff.

On Facebook, Katherine Manuele thanked Roys for her reporting, as well as “everyone that has called, supported, encouraged and prayed with us through all of this.” Vince Manuele wrote, “This is a whole new level of messed up. As a 15 year old MINOR in this all, I am traumatized from the decisions Trinity has made against my family and others.”

In his Facebook posts, Angelo Manuele wrote about his son, “Vince is a modern day David. Proud of your strength, buddy, and God is using you in a mighty way.” He also shared a screenshot thread in which Trinity apparently conducted “Easter weekend” surveillance of the Manuele family.

Trinity and the Manueles have filed charges against one another with Scottsdale Police.

Vince Manuele’s Podcast Explores Cult-Like Traits

Vince Manuele, who describes himself as “an American religion and political activist,” shared in a recent podcast “9 Ways Mark Driscoll’s ‘Church’ Is a Cult.” The list includes characteristics such as the leader having ultimate truth and being above the rules, as well as the group suppressing skepticism, using shame as punishment, being paranoid about the outside world, and delegitimizing former members.

Speaking about Trinity’s lack of financial transparency, Vince describes how the church spent $15,000 of members’ tithes “watching his family,” conducting surveillance as they went shopping and started attending another church. “Congratulations, Mark,” he says. “You found that we’re Bible-believing Christians. Nice job.”

At the end of the podcast, Vince Manuele calls Driscoll “a joke and a cult leader” who’s abusive and a bully. The Manuele teen adds that he’ll keep working to expose the pastor because he’s “not scared” of him.

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Stephanie Martin, a freelance journalist, has worked in Christian publishing for 28 years. She’s active at her church in Lakewood, Colorado, where she lives with her family.