Disgraced and combative pastor Mark Driscoll is back on the speaking circuit, and he’s about to share a stage with the high-profile Baptist pastor who presumably has been cleaning up the reputation of the Acts 29 Network Driscoll helped found and was fired from leading.
Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in North Texas, is highlighted as one of three keynote speakers at the May 11-13 Theos Conference, which will be an online event. Chandler also serves as president of the Acts 29 Network. His megachurch is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and Chandler is a highly revered figure among Baptist and nondenominational Calvinists.
Also highlighted on the program among 18 “guest” speakers is Driscoll, who is the primary subject of the much-lauded Christianity Today podcast “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” Driscoll founded Mars Hill Church in Seattle, grew it into a nationally known model of the emergent church and then led to the church’s demise after he was accused of a laundry list of abusive behaviors, including grossly inflating his book sales and fostering an abusive leadership environment in the church.
In 2014, Driscoll was removed as president of Acts 29 by the church-planting network’s board of directors, who cited a pattern of “ungodly and disqualifying behavior.”
Largely unrepentant for his previous actions, Driscoll recently started a new congregation in Arizona, Trinity Church. There, he’s been accused of cult-like activity, according to The Roys Report, which first reported on the Theos Conference.
Driscoll isn’t the only controversial speaker on the program, however. Joining him is Eric Metaxas, an author and historian who mainstream historians charge promotes revisionist history, as evidenced in his controversial biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Metaxas also is among the evangelical figures who contend the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, despite no actual evidence to prove such as claim. On Thanksgiving Day 2020, Metaxas tweeted: “Trump will be inaugurated. For the high crimes of trying to throw a U.S. presidential election, many will go to jail. The swamp will be drained. And Lincoln’s prophetic words of ‘a new birth of freedom’ will be fulfilled. Pray.”
The Theos Conference bills itself as offering “theological clarity,” “prophetic insight” and “world-class teachers.”
Despite the controversial nature of some high-profile speakers like Driscoll and Metaxas, the lineup also includes widely respected figures such as Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and New Testament scholar Craig Keener. Kreeft has written 95 theological books, and Keener has written 30.
The Roys Report published a statement from an unnamed Acts 29 spokesperson defending Chandler’s appearance on the program with Driscoll: “Matt Chandler welcomes the opportunity to teach the Bible to a variety of audiences. When Matt was invited to be a part of this year’s online Theos Conference and recorded his session, he was unaware of the other participants as they had not yet been determined. Matt recognizes that conferences like these serve as an outlet for different viewpoints and voices to be heard and discussed.”
However, Driscoll also spoke at last year’s Theos Conference.
Theos is organized by Theos U co-founder Nathan Finochio, a worship leader and author and a former teaching pastor at Hillsong New York City.
According to The Roys Report, at least one scheduled speaker has backed out of the conference after learning of Driscoll’s participation: Author Samuel Sey, who tweeted: “I’m no longer a part of the conference, brother. And I believe Driscoll is a false teacher.”
Driscoll is not the only discredited leader making a conference circuit comeback. Paige Patterson, who was fired as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, for mishandling sexual abuse reports and other infractions, recently showed up on a Bible conference program full of Southern Baptist pastors and leaders.
Patterson was featured at the March “March Like a Champion” Bible conference along with Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership for the SBC’s North American Mission Board, and David Allen, distinguished professor of preaching and director of the Southwestern Center for Expository Preaching.
Neither Southwestern Seminary nor NAMB officials made any public comment on their high-profile staff members sharing a stage with Patterson.
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