(Posted August 8, 2018)

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Investigation Process


1.  Was the investigation a biblical process? 

The primary passage that has been considered is 1Timothy 5:19-20. 
“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Timothy 5:19–20, ESV

This passage prompts three questions. A) What does it mean “to admit a charge?”  B) What is the meaning of “except on the evidence of two or three witnesses?” Does it mean that two or three witnesses must observe the same incident of behavior? Or can it mean that two or three witnesses can observe the same behavior, but at different incidents?  C) How does the process of Matthew 18:15-17 fit with this passage? 

A. What does it mean “to admit a charge?
The Greek word paradechomai means more than just simply listening. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary it means, “to receive or admit with approval.”  Mark 4:20 helps define the word. 

The Board of Trustees did not “receive or admit with approval” the charges until they were presented with the evidence of the charges by the investigator. The investigation allowed the uncovering of the evidence. 

There has been concern expressed that the investigation violated 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 because the investigator was not part of the church. That passage is about rendering judgement over disputes within the church. The investigator investigated facts and drew conclusions. The Board of Trustees considered these facts and conclusions, received and admitted the charges with approval, and then rendered judgment. In this sense, the spirit of the passage was obeyed.

B.  What is the meaning of “except on the evidence of two or three witnesses?”  Does it mean that two or three witnesses must observe the same incident of behavior?
We do not believe that the passage demands that two or three witnesses must observe the same incident of behavior. If so, then no one-on-one sin unseen by anyone else could ever be lodged against a pastor. Most sin occurs in private.

The requirement of “two or three” comes from the Mosaic Law but the Law itself did not always require two or three witnesses. Notice this example in Deuteronomy 22 where possible situations were considered and how to apply the Law was determined.

“But if the man meets the engaged woman out in the country, and he rapes her, then only the man must die. Do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no crime worthy of death. She is as innocent as a murder victim. Since the man raped her out in the country, it must be assumed that she screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.” (Deuteronomy 22:25–27, NLT)

What do we observe? First, it is a one-on-one situation between a man and a woman with no witnesses. Second, the account of what occurred had been made known public and would have inherently been initiated by the woman herself.  Third, the application of the Law of Moses clearly favors the story of the woman, though there was no one to confirm it. In this situation, two or three witnesses were not required.

Figuratively speaking, the “cry for help” has come from multiple women regarding Mark Darling’s misconduct.  Dismissing the stories of the women based on the technicality that private one-on-one conversations can’t be accepted would have been short-sighted if not an unethical practice of favoritism. The Board of Trustees after thoroughly and thoughtfully examining the findings of the investigation, found that that credible stories of various women mesh closely enough to become analogous to two or three witnesses and consider the actions taken to be warranted. 

C.  How does the process of Matthew 18: 15-17 fit with this passage?
The process of Matthew 18:15-17 may be superseded in the case of church leaders, in keeping with 1Timothy 5:19-20. 1 Timothy 5 supports a more public process for church leaders than for church members. 
Notice how the ESV Study Bible comments:  
“1 Timothy 5:20 The ones to be rebuked in the presence of all, are elders who persist in sin, or who sin in a way that betrays the trust that the church has placed in them as spiritual leaders. Such public rebuke goes beyond the discipline procedures that apply to other church members (cf. Matt. 18:15–20), and it reassures the congregation that disqualifying sin on the part of an elder will not be covered up. As a result of this public rebuke, the rest will stand in fear (of sinning). This refers specifically to “the rest of the elders,” but it probably also implies “the rest of the congregation,” since the rebuking was done “in the presence of all” (see further Deut. 19:15–21, which also supports this).”
Notice how The Bible Exposition Commentary comments: 
“The disciplining of church members is explained in Matthew 18:15–18; Romans 16:17–18; 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 2:6–11; Galatians 6:1–3; 2 Thessalonians 3:6–16; 2 Timothy 2:23–26; Titus 3:10; and 2 John 9–11. Paul in this passage (1 Tim. 5:19–21) discussed the disciplining of church leaders.” There are various other biblical passages that have also offered direction for the investigation process. 

Besides the concern about the meaning of “two or three witnesses,” an additional concern has been expressed that the investigation process has been possibly motivated by fear of man—that too much concern has been given to how the lost world perceives the allegations. While we must not fear the opinions of man, we must also do what we can to win the favor and respect of the watching world. We ought to be sensitive to doing what is right in the eyes of men. Therefore, we ought to be thorough with our fact-gathering and not fear the examination of our actions. “Doing what is right in the eyes of men” is a principle powerfully illustrated in 2 Corinthians 8:16-21:

 “I thank God, who put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you. For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel. What is more, he was chosen by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to help. We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.”
 (2 Corinthians 8:16–21, NIV,1984

Paul is referring to the collection and delivering of a substantial sum of money from various churches to the suffering believers in Israel. Paul recognizes that money raises concerns. People have natural suspicions on how money is handled. Therefore, Paul is careful to construct a team of respected people to carry the offering. His goal is to avoid “any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift.” Therefore, he is “taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord, but also in the eyes of men.” Because the handling of money creates scrutiny, special procedures have been adopted over the years in our church culture to create respect in the sight of the world. We follow accounting rules, hire outside financial audits, create open examinations of financial records, etc. None of those things are required by God or have clear biblical mandates, but represent reasonable, extra efforts to do what is right in the sight of man. Just as the handling of money is under extra scrutiny by our culture, so is sexual misconduct. We should take extra pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord, but also in the eyes of men. The hiring of an impartial third-party investigator was an appropriate response to the allegations. It was a respected, standard action that many organizations have taken when similar issues have arisen. 

 

2.  Was it proper for the Evergreen Board of Trustees to rescind an ordination? 

Yes. The Board of Trustees (BOT) is the final authority for overseeing employment practices. They also officially sign the ordinations of pastors at Evergreen. 

Furthermore, the BOT’s determination may be likened to the "congregational affirmation" part of the ordination process. Evergreen has historically presented potential pastors to the congregation for approval of ordination. This allows the congregation to participate in the ordination process and provides a way for any unknown concerns about a potential pastor to surface. Existing pastors would not appoint a pastor if the congregation opposed his ordination. The BOT is the organizational representation of the Evergreen-wide congregation. After examining the facts of the investigation, the BOT was not confident about Mark being a pastor to them.   Since the details of the investigation were known only to the BOT, they knew the facts better than the Evergreen pastors or the church at-large. They determined that if everyone in the congregation knew the facts that they know, the congregation would reach the same conclusion. We believe we should trust their decision to rescind their congregational affirmation, and thus, Mark’s ordination. Just as we wouldn’t insist that the Board appoint a man to be a pastor if the church members opposed it, we would not insist that the Board was wrong in rescinding their affirmation of Mark’s ordination.

 

3.  Has Evergreen set a precedent, through this investigative process and the BOT report, that any future discovery of facts or disciplinary action of a pastor would follow this same pattern? 

No two situations are identical, and therefore, no precedence has been set. Evergreen’s leadership was publicly accused of gross negligence, favoritism, misconduct, and collusion, with intent to cover up criminal behavior. In effect, the whole church was being accused—not just Mark Darling. The actions alleged were criminal, and not a proper fit for a Matthew 18 process. After getting much counsel, we responded to the charges in the way deemed most biblical, wise, honorable, and objective, for discovering the truth of the accusations. Any future scenarios may be handled differently, depending on the situation. Other forms of disciplinary action for pastoral correction and restoration (e.g. professional counseling, not preaching for a time, etc.) are common.

The investigation did not substantiate the original and most serious charges against Mark Darling. However, it did reveal some behaviors of Mark that concerned the BOT enough, that they felt serious, disciplinary action was needed—but not so serious as to require termination. Rescinding an ordination is a strong disciplinary action. However, the BOT offered Mark a pathway of restoration back to ministry and pastoring. 

 

4.  How is Evergreen responding to Mark Darling’s resignation? 

Mark was offered both a pathway of returning to ministry, and an appeal process if he believed the BOT’s decision to rescind his ordination was misinformed or made in error. Our preference was for Mark to accept those offers. However, in March, Mark started indicating to his fellow pastors about his inclination to resign. His decision was not made public and final until his resignation letter was read June 30 at The Rock, and when he notified the BOT via email. We regret his decision, but we accept it. We love Mark and Kathy, and are forever grateful for their loving, sacrificial, and multi-faceted service to Jesus and the Evergreen Churches at-large. A severance package has been offered to Mark by the Board of Trustees. 

 

5.  How does the goodness and sovereignty of God give us hope?

Psalm 29:11 says, “The Lord rules over the floodwaters. The Lord reigns as King forever.”  Floodwaters are overwhelming, fast, destructive, shocking, and traumatic. Floodwaters cause great loss, appear random, and are entirely beyond human control. Yet God exercises authority over the overwhelming and destructive. He gives boundaries and direction to even the most devastating and shocking occurrences. He wisely works His will through the traumatic. Over time, God builds through loss that appears random. He is totally in control of that which we cannot control. In a fallen world, His compassionate love is compatible with Him sovereignly threading loss into the lives of those He loves. No matter the intentions of anyone else involved, we agree with Joseph’s conclusion in Genesis 50:2: “God meant it for good”.

Proverbs 17:3 says, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart.
The same fires God uses to develop us, the devil attempts to use to destroy us. Every person has weaknesses and blind spots. In normal times, God compensates for them via our dependence on Him and our healthy interdependence with each other. However, during the fire of trials, our weaknesses and blind spots are exposed. God then transforms us at an accelerated rate—again, via our dependence on Him and our healthy interdependence with each other.

The January allegations and the ensuing investigation and final Board report have created significant levels of grief, stress, and torment for each of us. For some of us, this has been a total tsunami. But in our pain, God is actively working to transform us to become the people He has destined us to be. There will be things He wants us to listen to, learn from, and implement. Our cooperation with God will contribute to our personal and corporate growth. Our lack of cooperation will sabotage it. Just as a refiner uses fire to make the metals precious to him, more pure, beautiful, valuable, and pourable—so it is with God. He is working through this fire, to purify and shape our hearts, which are far more precious to Him than gold. Just as author John Piper has exhorted “Don’t waste your cancer”— neither will we waste this trial. We will pursue sanctification, not condemnation. The goal is to grow in Christ-likeness, not to affix blame. And the result we are aiming for is not greater humiliation, but greater humility. 

 


 

(Posted July 31, 2018)

Statement regarding the rescinding of Mark Darling’s ordination

Reason for publishing this statement.  According to 1 Timothy 5:20, impartial, public reproof of a pastor who has lost his qualification for ordination is as important for the health of the local church as the impartial, public celebration that occurs when a pastor is first recognized as being qualified for ordination. What follows is an impartial, public reprimand of Mark by fellow Evergreen pastors. It is a necessary step for the church to make sense of the rescinding of Mark’s ordination.

Question: “Do Evergreen pastors agree with the rescinding of Mark Darling’s ordination?”
Yes.  After examining the evidence of the investigation, the Board of Trustees [BOT] decided to rescind Mark Darling’s ordination. While this is a serious consequence of Mark’s misconduct, it is also coupled with a pathway back to ordination. The path to restoration offered to Mark acknowledges that the misconduct was not so serious that full restoration was not possible. Regrettably, he has declined this course of action and has chosen to resign. 

Allegations of “physical sexual abuse” against Mark Darling, and “cover up” and the offer of “hush money” against Evergreen Church – allegations first made in January of 2018, on social media, by Suzanne van Dyck – were NOT found valid by the investigator. These allegations DO NOT factor into the rescinding of Mark Darling’s ordination by the EC Board of Trustees.

EC pastors do, however, agree with the EC BOT decision to rescind Mark Darling’s ordination for a combination of the following reasons.

  1. Meeting with female congregants. Since Evergreen’s inception, its pastors have held to a verbal code of conduct of not meeting alone with female congregants. “Alone” means an intentionally private setting; without a 3rd party present, or without other known persons nearby and easily accessible. Credible female witnesses came forward in the investigation and testified Mark Darling met with them alone, prior to 2001. Beyond the investigation, there have been additional women and current attenders who have claimed to have met with Mark in an intentionally private setting.
  2. Inappropriate conversation. Credible female witnesses came forward in the investigation and testified Mark Darling spoke with them about sexual subject matters, in private, prior to 2001.
  3. Comprehensive denial. In conversation with fellow Evergreen pastors since the start of this investigation, Mark Darling categorically denies ever having met alone with adult female congregants, or ever having had inappropriate private conversations regarding sexual subject matter with adult female congregants.
  4. Credibility.  Based upon all of the evidence, the investigator found that “Mark Darling, while holding a position of authority, engaged in inappropriate conduct”. The BOT further observed that this conduct included spending time alone with women in private settings, and inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature with women. Evergreen pastors believe the findings of the investigator and the determinations of the Board are reliable and trustworthy. EC pastors therefore support the rescinding of Mark’s ordination by the EC BOT, on the basis of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Specifically, the violations are:
    1. “above reproach” Defined as “without obvious defect that discredits or undermines trust.”
    2. “good reputation with outsiders” Defined as “viewed by persons outside of the congregation (at least in terms of character and integrity) as being worthy of respect or imitation.”
    3. Note: Mark’s behavior also falls short of the ethical directive for pastoral conduct given in 1 Timothy 5:2, “treat younger women with all purity, as your sisters”.

Sincerely in Christ,
Mark Bowen, Brent Knox and Doug Patterson, on behalf of the Evergreen pastoral team

 

(Posted July 23, 2018)

Our Apology

Because of the investigation, we know that some people have been affected adversely by the inaction of our church leadership which is spoken of in this letter. We sincerely apologize to all who have been affected negatively and offended. And we mourn your hurt. There will be a reconciliation process offered by our Board of Trustees to those who have been offended.

We also acknowledge the shock, hurt, and sorrow being experienced by many in our church community. The sorrow of this situation will not go away quickly. We apologize to all who are hurting, and we hope we can move towards a place of healing and strength in our community.  

According to 2 Corinthians 7:10,Godly sorrow brings repentance.” When there is an offense in a relationship, it is imperative to humble ourselves before the Lord, and ask Him to examine our hearts, and show us where we have stepped away from the good He wants for us. As the Lord has brought light to our waywardness, we need to humbly apologize for the wrong we’ve done, acknowledge the pain we’ve caused, and ask for forgiveness from those we’ve offended. 

We have begun the process of examining where we, personally and communally, have miscarried the responsibilities and conduct our Father requires of us as leaders in His church. Collective mistakes are often harder to be aware of and discern than individual failings. We are learning to better understand this dynamic and our weaknesses. We also understand our vulnerability to judge ourselves by our intent, and not our actions, even though actions and deeds are of more consequence than intent. Our reflection is underway, but not completed. God is revealing our failings where growth is needed. We believe it is appropriate to acknowledge where God is shedding His light on our mistakes thus far, and we offer our humble apologies for how we have caused pain. To this end, we wish to express the following.

1. We should have had policies and procedures in place for congregants to voice concerns about pastoral behavior. It is generally difficult for a congregant to bring a complaint against a pastor. Why? The pastor has an influential position, and the congregant has experienced care from the pastor, and generally feels respectful toward that pastor. Therefore, approaching a pastor can be intimidating. This difficulty increases with a woman bringing a complaint against a male pastor. There has not been enough recognition by us of these dynamics of power, and how much courage it takes for a woman to bring a complaint about a male pastor. We apologize for not adequately recognizing this difficulty, and we will create procedures to make this easier and less intimidating. We want to avoid marginalizing anyone’s pain.

2. We should have had training in place regarding best practices for pastoral counseling. Wise pastoral counseling includes setting proactive limits, for the thriving of both congregant and pastor, and to prevent unhealthy attachments or inappropriate discussions of sexual subject matter. We regret not having secured continuing education for the best practices in pastoral counseling.

3. The concerns raised by John and Suzanne van Dyck in 2001, that were communicated to Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, and Doug Patterson, should have been shared with the Evergreen Church Board of Trustees(BOT), and counseling should have been required for Mark Darling. If the BOT had been informed, then legal counsel could have been sought, and an impartial 3rd party could have been retained to review and advise Evergreen leadership on the entire process. These steps would have allowed for a more thorough examination of the conduct involved. They would have greatly enhanced the follow-through necessary, and afforded opportunity to discover if the inappropriate behavior had occurred elsewhere. There should have been procedures and guidelines in place to insure pastor accountability. These steps were not taken. We apologize for this neglect.

4. By not going far enough, some offenses from the past, affecting female congregants, were not fully discovered or dealt with. This has caused some women to suffer alone, in silence, and in continued pain, due not only to the original offense, but also to a lack of closure.  We realize we should have taken the action steps in point #3 above. To those who have been hurt and have continued to remain hurt because of our lack of follow-through, we apologize and ask for your forgiveness. 

In closing, we acknowledge our lack of due diligence in this matter and the pain that has resulted.  We are deeply sorry and sincerely apologize. May God help all affected to know more deeply the comfort and hope of Jesus Christ in this difficult season, and experience new heights of personal renewal in the process.

Sincerely,
Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson, with support of the pastors of Evergreen Church, The Rock, and The Urban Refuge.

 

(Posted July 1, 2018)

INVESTIGATION FINDINGS AND BOARD ACTION

BOARD RESPONSE

According to Evergreen’s charter and by-laws, its Board of Trustees (See Note A below for information about the Board of Trustees) has final authority over financial and legal oversight, including employment decisions and policy matters. In these areas, the pastors submit to the authority of the Evergreen Church Board of Trustees (EC BOT). This governance authority is designed to provide oversight, accountability and operational integrity for the church.  On January 30, 2018, upon learning of the allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against Mark Darling (alleged to have occurred prior to 2001) including the charge that the matter was handled inappropriately by pastors, the EC BOT made the decision to recuse all pastors from the investigative process.  The EC BOT also placed Mark Darling on administrative leave.  The EC BOT’s interest in this matter was to determine to the extent possible whether allegations of employee misconduct were true or false; and, if true, determine what the appropriate next steps should be.  The EC BOT chose not to conduct its own internal investigation of the allegations because they believed that this matter needed to be investigated by an experienced person outside the church, with complete independence and without bias.  After thorough due diligence, a highly qualified, independent investigator was selected and retained on February 9, 2018. 

THE INVESTIGATOR

The investigator, Ms. Joan Harris Esq., from the law firm of Ogletree Deakins, has over 20 years of experience and has conducted hundreds of investigations. She is a lawyer, but her role in this investigation is as an investigator, not as a lawyer. She is not a litigator in this matter and she is not a legal advocate or counselor for Evergreen Church, Mark Darling, any pastors or the EC BOT.  She was retained by the EC BOT to investigate the facts surrounding the allegations that have been made, independently and without bias, and to report her findings to the EC BOT.

SCOPE OF THE INVESTIGATION

Ms. Harris was specifically retained to independently investigate the following:

1) allegation made by Suzanne van Dyck against Mark Darling of physical sexual abuse

2) allegations to the effect that Evergreen Church was made aware of allegations of sexual abuse (not physical) and failed to take appropriate action,

3) allegations that Evergreen Church attempted to “cover up” the allegations of abuse and silence Suzanne van Dyck with the offer of a monetary payment, and

4) any related claims that arise.

 

Other than occasional communications with Nicholas M. Wenner, attorney for the EC BOT, Ms. Harris did not meet with or discuss any of the allegations with the EC BOT until after the investigation was completed and her final report had been delivered to the EC BOT.  The independent investigation was conducted and directed by the investigator not by the EC BOT. 


THE INVESTIGATION

As the EC BOT reported in their April 10, 2018 investigation update, on April 5, 2018, two EC BOT members met with Suzanne van Dyck.  At that meeting, she indicated that she would not be participating in the investigation.  However, before the investigation was completed, Suzanne van Dyck did meet with the investigator and was interviewed as a part of this investigation.

The following Evergreen employees were also interviewed by the investigator – Mark Bowen, Mark Darling, Brent Knox and Doug Patterson.

Fourteen other individuals were also interviewed by the investigator (see Notes B and D below) and numerous relevant documents were provided.

Public statements that may have been made by individuals through social media or the news media were not considered as part of Ms. Harris’ investigation unless Ms. Harris obtained the information herself through direct personal interviews.  Ms. Harris’ investigation is only based upon information obtained through personal interviews and any relevant documents provided. 

 

LIMITATIONS OF THE INVESTIGATION

The EC BOT’s interest in this matter was to determine to the extent possible whether allegations of employee misconduct were true or false; and, if true, determine what the appropriate next steps should be.  An investigation of this type is not a legal proceeding or court trial where documents can be subpoenaed or where witnesses are deposed under oath, compelled to testify or subject to cross-examination by opposing parties.  Nor was a jury asked to deliver a verdict based upon evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.  This is an independent investigation conducted by an experienced investigator who tried to uncover, to the extent possible, the facts.  This investigation is also limited by the passage of time.  It is much more difficult to secure detailed recollections and documents from events that occurred 20 to 30 years ago than it would be if the events occurred more recently. 

WHAT THE INVESTIGATOR REPORTED (See Note B below)

1) regarding the allegation of physical sexual abuse made by Suzanne van Dyck against Mark Darling 

Suzanne van Dyck alleged physical sexual abuse by Mark Darling in a post she made on an online forum on January 24, 2018.  The alleged abuse was said to have occurred prior to 2001.  Investigation findings: 

        • From the investigator’s report: “Based on the interviews conducted during this investigation, Suzanne van Dyck’s individual allegations of sexual abuse, by definition, could not be substantiated.”
        • While the investigation revealed that some pastors of Evergreen Church had seen the phrase “emotional sexual abuse” prior to Suzanne van Dyck’s post on an online forum on January 24, 2018, the EC BOT first learned of Suzanne van Dyck’s specific allegation of physical sexual abuse by Mark Darling from a post she made on an online forum on January 24, 2018.
        •  The investigation determined that no one at Evergreen Church knew about this specific allegation prior to January 24, 2018.

 

2) regarding allegations to the effect that Evergreen Church was made aware of allegations of sexual abuse (not physical) and failed to take appropriate action

While the investigation determined that no one at Evergreen Church knew about Suzanne van Dyck’s specific allegation of physical sexual abuse prior to January 24, 2018 (an allegation that could not be substantiated by the investigator), the investigation did reveal the following:

In 2001, Suzanne van Dyck provided a letter to pastors Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson, and John van Dyck addressing concerns with Mark Darling. This letter included the phrase “emotional sexual abuse” and included no allegations of physical contact but stated that she had specific concerns about Mark Darling’s conduct as a pastor that felt abusive to her.  A second draft of this letter was shared with Mark Darling, Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson, and John van Dyck where the phrase “emotional sexual abuse” was changed to “inappropriate sexual boundaries”.

Additional investigation findings:

        • In 2001, Mark Bowen, was also aware of at least two other women who had concerns similar to Suzanne van Dyck’s about Mark Darling’s conduct as a pastor (inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature).  (In 2001, apart from Mark Bowen (Chair of the EC BOT), the other members of the EC BOT were not aware of the concerns raised by Suzanne van Dyck and these other women regarding Mark Darling’s conduct, and were not informed of the concerns.).

        • From the investigator’s report: “ECC failed to take appropriate action in response to misconduct allegations.” In 2001, the four Evergreen pastors, Mark Bowen, Brent Knox, Doug Patterson and John van Dyck made aware of Susan van Dyck’s concerns about Mark Darling’s conduct acknowledged those concerns, and engaged with Mark Darling in a process (Matthew 18) over the course of several months in a good faith effort to address her concerns, but failed to follow through and implement appropriate corrective action regarding Mark Darling’s conduct (conduct that failed to meet some of the standards spelled out in Titus 1:6-9 See Note C below).

        • From the investigator’s report: “ECC has no policies or procedures specific to reporting or receiving discipline” for the misconduct attributed to Mark Darling.

 

3) regarding allegations that Evergreen Church attempted to “cover up” the allegations and silence Suzanne van Dyck with the offer of a monetary payment.  Investigation findings:

        • From the investigator’s report: “Mrs. van Dyck appears to rely on standard non-disparagement and confidentiality provisions included in the GCM severance package to prove there was an attempt by Evergreen Church to pay ‘hush money’ in order to cover up the allegations she raised against Darling in 2001.”

        • When the van Dyck’s left Minnesota for Berlin, Germany, John van Dyck was no longer an employee of Evergreen Church.  He became an employee of Great Commission Ministries (GCM) (now known as Reliant).  Upon the van Dyck’s return to Minnesota, in recognition of John van Dyck’s years of faithful service and the risky nature of the Rock Berlin church plant, the EC BOT was asked to approve a monetary severance package for John van Dyck.  The minutes from EC BOT’s October 13, 2003 Board Meeting indicate that a portion of the severance amount be conditioned upon the van Dyck’s engaging in a process of Christian conciliation.  Communication about the severance package including the preparation of the formal severance agreement was handled by GCM, John’s employer and included standard confidentiality and non-disparagement conditions, and a commitment to engage in a biblical conciliation process to address “unresolved issues in your relationship with Evergreen and its leadership.”  The van Dyck’s refused to sign the severance documents to obtain the entire severance amount; they did, however, receive the portion of the severance amount that was not conditioned on participation in a process of Christian conciliation.  At the time the severance amount was approved by the EC BOT in 2003, and the severance plan was offered by GCM, neither members of the Board of Trustees (other than Mark Bowen), nor personnel from GCM were aware of the issues raised by Suzanne van Dyck with the Evergreen pastors in 2001.

        • The investigator concluded this severance agreement did not constitute “hush money” or an attempt to cover up the allegations Suzanne van Dyck made in 2001.  (See Note D below.)

 

4) regarding any related claims that arose

        • Two additional women came forward during this 2018 investigation to make similar claims regarding Mark Darling’s conduct that they experienced prior to 2001; neither made claims of physical sexual abuse. 

        • From the investigator’s report: “the investigation does support the fact that Mark Darling, while holding a position of authority, engaged in inappropriate conduct. . . .”  Specifically, this conduct included spending time alone with women in private settings and inappropriate conversations with women of a sexual nature.

         

BOARD ACTIONS

Based on the investigation findings, the EC BOT, in unanimous agreement, will proceed with the following disciplinary action (See Note E below):

        • The EC BOT rescinds Mark Darling’s ordination.  He will remain on paid leave as an Evergreen employee and will be presented an opportunity to follow a restoration process established by the EC BOT.  He will not regain his status as an ordained pastor nor return from leave until the EC BOT and an outside third-party, acting on behalf of the EC BOT, determine that he is ready to do so.

          The church has been informed that Mark Darling has resigned.

        • The EC BOT will participate in and oversee the process of restructuring the Executive Ministry Team (EMT).  Mark Bowen will step down as EC BOT Chair. 

Based on the investigation findings, the EC BOT, in unanimous agreement, will participate in and oversee the development and implementation of policies and procedures and the appropriate leadership structure to correct the organizational deficiencies revealed in the investigation. 

        • The EC BOT will retain Ms. Harris’ law firm, Olgetree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., to assist with the development of the appropriate policies and reporting procedures.

        • The EC BOT will retain an appropriate third-party to assist with employee training.

        • The EC BOT, with third-party assistance, will work with the pastors to develop procedures to address pastoral accountability, performance improvement planning and discipline.

        • The EC BOT, with third-party assistance, will work with the pastors to develop a “grievance process” and specific ways we can further open communications and improve the culture of safety in our church.

The EC BOT is committed to providing the congregation with quarterly update reports on the progress on each of the action items listed above. 

NOTE A
EVERGREEN CHURCH BOARD OF TRUSTEES
According to Evergreen’s charter and by-laws, its Board of Trustees has final authority over financial and legal oversight, including employment decisions and policy matters. In these areas, the pastors submit to the authority of the Board. This governance authority is designed to provide oversight, accountability and operational integrity for the church. 
The Board carries out their responsibility in several ways, here are some examples:

        • Approving the annual church operating budgets.
        • Monitoring the budget and financial health of the church on a quarterly basis.
        • Approving all major church financial transactions.
        • Developing and monitoring compliance with financial, legal and employment policies.
        • Determining and approving employee compensation and benefit plans.

Qualifications/Term Limits

Per the church by-laws, the minimum qualifications to serve as a Trustee shall be that of a man or woman qualified to serve as a Pastor or Elder of the Church, or as a deacon of the church, as such terms are defined in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). There must always be at least one person from the Executive Ministry Team (EMT) on the Board and this person is exempt from any term limits.  The Finance Director must always be on the Board and is exempt from any term limits.  The Operations Manager must always be on the Board and is exempt from any term limits.  All other Trustees shall serve a three-year term and shall serve a maximum of two consecutive terms before a minimum of one year off the Board.  Trustee membership should include representation from each of the Church’s locations.  The number of non-staff Trustees serving on the Board must exceed the number of the staff Trustees serving on the Board.  No Trustee shall receive payment for serving on the board. 

 

Selection Process

When a vacancy occurs on the Board of Trustees or a term expires or when the said Board has
determined to increase the number of Trustees, nominees are presented to the Board based upon recommendations from a location’s pastors in consultation with location leaders and the current location trustee.  Such vacancies and/or new positions shall be filled only by the unanimous affirmative vote of the then current Board, after consideration of the qualifications of such nominee(s). 

Current Trustees

Pastor Mark Bowen, Executive Ministry Team, Board Chair – recused from all matters related to the investigation
Lynn Newman, Operations Manager, Board Secretary
Jim Bird, Finance Director
Terry Kriesel, Bloomington location
Teri Polson, Lakeville location
Brad Zielke, New Hope location
Todd Goodwin, Rock location
Jeff Hudson, Urban Refuge location

 

NOTE B

In this document, the EC BOT has communicated the investigator’s conclusions and findings regarding the specific allegations the EC BOT asked her to investigate.  The full investigator’s report is a confidential document for the EC BOT only and the EC BOT will not release the entire report.  Other than what is reported here, its contents will not be shared or discussed with anyone including Evergreen staff and pastors. The EC BOT will also not release the names of all the witnesses who participated in the investigation.  Many witnesses came forward with the understanding that what they were sharing was confidential.  Furthermore, it is likely that some people with information about the matters being investigated would not have come forward and participated in the investigation if they knew their identity and the contents of their interview would be made public. Redacting names from the report would not fully protect the identity of the individuals who participated. The EC BOT is not willing to compromise the privacy of any employee or other individuals who chose to participate in the investigation.  While releasing the full report may make the EC BOT look “transparent”, the EC BOT is unwilling to expose the identity and personal details of individuals involved in the investigation simply because it might, in the eyes of some, enhance the EC BOT’s image (i.e., by being completely transparent).  

NOTE C

Titus 1:6-9 New International Version (NIV)
An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

NOTE D

As indicated above, public statements that may have been made by individuals through social media or the news media were not considered as part of Ms. Harris’ investigation. Evergreen Church’s stated position has been that we will not engage this matter on social media. However, posts made by Suzanne van Dyck on May 26, 2018 and June 5, 2018 warrant a response from the EC BOT because they mischaracterize comments attributed to the investigator, Ms. Harris.

        • Among the relevant documents provided to Ms. Harris were two letters drafted by Suzanne van Dyck to Mark Darling, including a copy of the original draft and a copy of the revised draft that was provided to Mark Darling.  The original draft did not include a section that was “crossed off”. 

        • No member of the EC BOT was advised by Ms. Harris to release the investigation report to the public. Although Ms. Harris advised that the EC BOT maintain transparency throughout the process, including the release of findings from the investigation, she agreed that witness confidentiality was paramount.

        • Based on the investigation report and accompanying relevant documents, there were no e-mail communications directly or indirectly to the van Dyck’s from any member of the EC BOT or Evergreen staff regarding the offer of a severance agreement. The relevant document provided by Ms. Harris contains emails and summaries of communications between the van Dyck’s and GCM.

 

NOTE E

From the Evergreen Church Employee Handbook:

PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE

The purpose of this policy is to state EC’s position on administering equitable and consistent discipline for unsatisfactory conduct in the workplace.  The best disciplinary measure is the one that does not have to be enforced and comes from good leadership and fair supervision.

EC’s own best interest lies in ensuring fair treatment of all employees and in making certain that disciplinary actions are prompt, uniform, and impartial.  The major purpose of any disciplinary action is to correct the problem, prevent recurrence, and prepare the employee for satisfactory service in the future.

Although employment with EC is based on mutual consent and both the employee and EC have the right to terminate employment at will, with or without cause or notice, EC may use progressive discipline at its discretion.

 


 

Update on the Investigation June 5, 2018

The investigation has been completed.  The investigator's report has been delivered to the Board of Trustees.  The Board has reserved several dates in June to meet to review the report and determine next steps.  They will report to the congregations upon completion of that process.  Once again, we ask for your patience during this time.  We also ask for your prayers for the Board as they seek the Lord for wisdom and discernment.

 

Update on the Investigation May 3, 2018

On Wednesday evening, May 2, Fox 9 News aired an investigative report related to the allegations surrounding Pastor Mark Darling and Evergreen Church. 
The timing of this story is very unfortunate, as we are likely in the final weeks of an extensive independent investigation into the matter by Joan Harris, Esq., of Ogletree Deakins.  

We would like to express concern for everyone involved; it is hard to see people in pain, particularly people we know.

As you know, there are always at least two sides to every story. While the Fox 9 News story portrayed one of those sides, the independent investigation will cover multiple sides and perspectives.

Please pray for all involved. 

Fox 9 News did request interviews with both Mark Darling and Brent Knox and here was our response:

We understand that you have approached some of our pastors for comment on an ongoing investigation. We can provide the following statement on behalf of our pastors and Evergreen Church:

Allegations by one individual have arisen claiming inappropriate sexual behavior prior to 2001 by Mark Darling, a pastor at The Rock in South Minneapolis, which is one of five Evergreen locations. General claims against Darling were first shared by this person through social media on January 5, 2018; more specific allegations were posted online on January 24, 2018. In addition, this person has implied that Evergreen Church was aware of the offensive behavior and did not act appropriately.

Evergreen first learned of these allegations on January 26, 2018, and has moved quickly to address them. Effective January 30, 2018, the Evergreen Board of Trustees placed Darling on paid administrative leave.

We take all allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously, although we are mindful that an allegation alone does not assign guilt. In an effort to discern the truth of these allegations – impartially and without bias – Evergreen hired a reputable, third party investigator, Joan Harris, Esq., from Ogletree Deakins, on February 9, 2018, to independently investigate the facts surrounding these claims. This investigation is ongoing.

Darling denies these allegations and is cooperating fully with this process. He is not performing any pastoral duties during the investigation, including teaching, counseling, or oversight. At the close of the investigation, the findings will be submitted to the Board to determine the appropriate next steps.

We have shared the news of these allegations and are providing updates at http://www.evergreenchurch.com/update/ on the status our current investigation with the congregations at all five of Evergreen’s locations. 

In an effort to protect the integrity of the investigation and those impacted by this process, please understand that it would be inappropriate for us to discuss the allegations with the media, or any other third party, while the investigation is underway. We will, however, be happy to provide you with updates to our congregations on the status of the investigation as they become available.

 

Update on the Investigation April 10, 2018

We know that many of you have been patiently waiting for an update. Here is what we can share with you at this time.

According to Evergreen’s charter and by-laws, its Board of Trustees has final authority over financial and legal oversight, including employment decisions and policy matters. In these areas, the pastors submit to the authority of the Board. This governance authority is designed to provide oversight, accountability and operational integrity for the church. On January 30, 2018, upon learning of the allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against Mark Darling (alleged to have occurred prior to 2001) including the charge that the matter was handled inappropriately by pastors, the Board made the decision to recuse all pastors from the investigative process. The Board also placed Mark Darling on administrative leave. The Board chose not to conduct its own internal investigation of the allegations because they believe that this matter needed to be investigated by someone outside the church, with complete independence and without bias. After thorough due diligence, a highly qualified, independent investigator was selected and retained on February 9, 2018.

The investigator, Ms. Joan Harris, has over 20 years of experience and has conducted hundreds of investigations. She is a lawyer, but her role in this investigation is as an investigator, not as a lawyer. She is not a litigator in this matter and she is not a legal advocate or counselor for Evergreen Church, Mark Darling, any pastors or Evergreen’s Board. She was retained by the Board to investigate the facts surrounding the allegations that have been made, independently and without bias, and to report those facts to the Board. Ms. Harris was specifically retained to independently investigate: 1) allegations of sexual abuse by Mark Darling 2) allegations to the effect that Evergreen Church was aware of the abuse allegations and did not act appropriately, and 3) any related claims that arise during the investigation. The Board has not met with or discussed any of the allegations with Ms. Harris. The investigation is being directed by the investigator not by the Board.

Approximately two weeks after the investigator was retained, on February 20th, the person making the allegations informed the investigator by email that she would participate in the investigation by way of her attorney. A week later, a request was made to this person by email asking her to provide their attorney contact information so that the investigator could set up a meeting with the attorney. The response back from this person by email was that her attorney would reach out directly to the investigator. Accordingly, the investigator continued with her investigative process. Five weeks went by with no contact from this person’s attorney. On April 5th, two Evergreen Board members met with the person making the allegations to inform her that the investigation was continuing with Ms. Harris and to inquire on the status of her planned participation in the investigation by way of her attorney. At this meeting, she indicated that she would not be participating in the investigation.

The investigation will be completed and closed with the information the investigator obtains from those individuals who have agreed to participate. The investigation is likely to take a few more weeks to be completed, plus the needed time for the investigator to write her report. The Board hopes to have the findings by the end of May, but we cannot give a specific timeline since Evergreen is not directing the investigation. Given the time that has passed, one might assume that this has been a very lengthy investigation, but please know that Ms. Harris is performing other work and duties for her firm in addition to working on this investigation.

The Board of Trustees will communicate to Evergreen’s congregations the outcome of the investigation and what action, if any, they are taking based upon the investigation’s findings. If the allegations are found to be true, in the case of a leader, it will be dealt with firmly and transparently by the Board.

 

Investigation Update – February 26, 2018

We have created this page to communicate updates regarding the investigation related to the allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by Pastor Mark Darling of The Rock and the allegation Evergreen Church was aware of the offensive behavior and did not act appropriately.

Our church is taking this matter very seriously. It is our sincerest desire to have this matter thoroughly and independently investigated and then seek the appropriate course of action. There are three important values we are striving to uphold as we proceed.

One: It is essential for followers of Jesus to affirm the intrinsic value and dignity of every person as being created in the very image of God. Any misuse of power, including sexual misconduct, that objectifies, diminishes or devalues another, is entirely inappropriate and contrary to the Christ-like concern and care for one another we seek to live out as a community. We recognize the vulnerability and bravery it takes to come forward in cases of sexual misconduct. We acknowledge society’s historical susceptibility to protect individuals in positions of power and the interest of organizations. This must not be the case in God’s Church and Evergreen Church is wholly committed to seeking the truth in these matters.

Two: Allegations alone do not equate to guilt. People can be and have been the subject of unfound accusations that tarnish their reputation. Care needs to be exercised when accusations arise, against anyone, including Christian leaders [1 Tim 5:19-21]. The essential principle is that there should be no favoritism shown to someone making allegations or the person being accused and if sin is found to be true, in the case of a leader, it is to be dealt with firmly and transparently. The allegations should not be quickly believed without question nor should they be dismissed without a serious and unbiased investigation [Prov 18:17]. This is our pursuit.

Third: Evergreen Church will not engage this matter on social media and our refusal to respond to any social media posts should not be construed as a lack in interest or an admission concerning any of the subjects that are being discussed. The internet is a powerful tool and has given voice to the oppressed and has supported the freedom of speech that we enjoy in this country. However, it is an intrinsically difficult environment to seek resolution and the vulnerabilities for misunderstanding and speculation are substantial. We ask that you consider this should you choose to engage personally on social media. We did respond to the initial posted allegations with an ill-considered statement that was unintentionally misleading. We apologize for this.

It was announced to the congregation on February 4, 2018 that Evergreen Church was in the process of hiring a reputable third-party investigator to independently investigate the facts surrounding these allegations. We also invited any questions you may have to be sent to Lynn Newman, Evergreen Operations Manager. We are grateful for the many people that have engaged in asking questions. The updates below are related to helping answer questions that you may have. If you have further questions or information you believe is relevant to the investigation, please contact Lynn Newman at lnewman@evergreenchurch.com.

• Evergreen has hired Attorney Joan Harris, Esq., from Ogletree Deakins to conduct the investigation. She has over 20 years of experience and has conducted hundreds of investigations. She was not hired to represent the interests of Mark Darling or any other individual pastor. Ms. Harris was specifically retained to independently investigate: 1) allegations of sexual abuse by Mark Darling 2) allegations to the effect that Evergreen Church was aware of the abuse allegations and did not act appropriately, and 3) any related claims that arise during the investigation. To remain reputable in this field of work, an attorney must uphold and maintain the highest degree of ethical, moral, and legal standards and, in this case, conduct an investigation without bias. Ms. Harris possesses the qualifications and experience necessary to conduct this investigation independently, and to convey the results of her investigation to the Board of Trustees.

• It is understandable that a person making allegations such as these would distrust the church’s pastoral leadership, particularly those that were engaged when the events surrounding the allegations occurred. The Evergreen Board of Trustees understands this and has appropriately recused all pastors from the hiring of the investigator and any disciplinary decisions that might be made following the conclusion of the investigation.

• Our February 4th statement noted that “At the close of the investigation, the findings will be submitted to the Evergreen Board of Trustees to determine the appropriate next steps.” The Board of Trustees cannot commit to a full release of the report out of concern for privacy and employment laws. The Board of Trustees will determine what can be disseminated in accordance with these laws.

Our commitment to you as followers of Jesus is that our resolve is to honor God, seek truth and clarity, honor the integrity of this process, to walk humbly and act justly when we have learned what truly transpired, and regard the dignity of those involved. God promises in James 1:5 that when anyone lacks wisdom, they can ask God who gives generously, and it will be given. Please join us in asking God for wisdom as we proceed, and that God’s steadfast love, mercy, and presence would surround all of those that are more deeply involved including Pastor Mark Darling and his family as well as the individual making the allegations and her family. We also wish to thank you for your prayers and patience.