Former Mars Hill Church elder moves to dismiss lawsuit against him

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Former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll embraces his family in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill Church

Former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll embraces his family in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill Church

UPDATE (6/22/2016): Mark Driscoll’s counsel filed a similar motion to dismiss the lawsuit against him on Thursday, June 16, the attorney representing Sutton Turner has confirmed. Both motions likely will be decided by the court at the same time, attorney Aaron Bigby said.

(RNS) Former Mars Hill Church elder Sutton Turner has filed a motion to dismiss the civil racketeering lawsuit brought against him and former pastor Mark Driscoll by four former members of the now-defunct Seattle church.

That’s because, Turner said, he never was served with the lawsuit, which the state of Washington reportedly requires within 90 days.

“The sole purpose of filing the lawsuit was to disparage my character,” he wrote in a blog post on Wednesday (June 15).

The lawsuit accuses Turner and Driscoll of “a continuing pattern of racketeering activity” — namely, soliciting donations for specific purposes and then using that money for other things. It was filed under part of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was created to prosecute the Mafia and other criminal organizations.


RELATED: Former church elder offers to meet Mars Hill plaintiffs


The suit filed in February by Brian Jacobsen, Connie Jacobsen, Ryan Kildea and Arica Kildea alleges the church paid $210,000 to a company called ResultSource Inc. to land Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together” on the The New York Times Best Sellers list.

It also alleges the church led donors to believe money collected for an organization called Mars Hill Global would go to overseas missions. Instead, that money appears to have stayed in the United States, it said.

Contrary to the lawsuit’s claims, Turner did not profit from sales of “Real Marriage,” according to the text of the motion posted on his website. And both the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and an independent audit had found the actions the church took regarding Mars Hill Global were appropriate, it said.

The motion also claims he attempted several times to meet with the plaintiffs, whose accusations have caused “irreparable harm” to his career and future earning potential — which he “conservatively” put at $5 million based on what he had made in the business world before joining Mars Hill Church, he said.

Driscoll, who resigned from Mars Hill in October 2014, has called the allegations in the lawsuit “false and malicious.” He had not yet been served as of late March, when he spoke to a local news station on Easter Sunday at the opening of his new church, The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Neither Driscoll nor lawyers for either side could be reached for comment Thursday.

Mars Hill’s 15 campuses closed in December 2014.

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