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    Mars Hill Downtown: There's community amid all that controversy

    Pastor Tim Gaydos recently shepherded his congregation into its new downtown location, but it's his openness and community outreach that has become his trademark.
    Mars Hill pastor Time Gaydos.

    Mars Hill pastor Time Gaydos. Mars Hill Church

    Mars Hill's downtown Seattle branch is led by Pastor Time Gaydos.

    Mars Hill's downtown Seattle branch is led by Pastor Time Gaydos. Mars Hill Church

    On his first Sunday in a new location at Fifth and Marion in downtown Seattle (the former and historic building of First Methodist Church), Mars Hill pastor Tim Gaydos took note of post-election stories in which some more conservative people and Christians said they no longer felt comfortable in the Northwest (post legalization of gay marriage, post decriminalization of marijuana) and were thinking about heading for somewhere more congenial, say Texas.

    “That is exactly the wrong response,” said Gaydos. He turned in his Bible to Jeremiah 29 to quote the word to the faithful centuries ago, “Seek the welfare of the city to which I have sent you.” It is the responsibility of Christians to do just that, said Pastor Gaydos, “to seek the welfare of their city, Seattle.” He called his congregation, “to be the very best citizens of the city in which we live.”

    Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw confirms that this is her experience of Pastor Gaydos and the Mars Hill congregation. “I worked with Tim through the Belltown Business Association, [the church was formerly located in Belltown] and found him great to work with. ... We have worked together to improve livability for all residents and businesses in Belltown, and actually picked up garbage together on a Greening Initiative and Neighborhood Clean-Up Day. Several hundred members of his church took part.”

    Five years ago Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, founded by Mark Driscoll, opened a downtown location in Seattle’s Belltown, rehabbing an old night club for its first home. Leading up to that opening, Gaydos had been gathering people in his home in the neighborhood for over a year.

    Last year the decision was announced to move to the former building of First Methodist Church in Seattle’s financial and government district. The Church entered into a ten-year lease of the site with owner and developer Kevin Daniels.

    December 30 was opening Sunday at the new Mars Hill location. Even though the Sunday after Christmas is a low attendance Sunday in many churches, the turnout at Mars Hill Downtown was 1,100. Gaydos estimates the congregation to be between 1200 and 1400 members at present. It is one of the fourteen campuses of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. Outside Washington, Mars Hill also has locations in Orange County, California, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Portland, Ore.

    Gaydos describes himself as a person with “an urban sensibility,” who cares about city people and city problems. Though he grew up in Edmonds, he went to college and seminary in Los Angeles. His wife is from L.A. She, Gaydos and their two daughters live at the Queen Anne end of Belltown. They have a third child on the way, which makes them hopeful that the Seattle Schools will open a new school, as has been rumored, downtown.

    Gaydos is, and wants his congregation to be, involved with the people of the city. He described his own participation first as a member, then Vice-President and finally President of the Belltown Business Association, a group with many projects of neighborhood improvement. Additionally, one of their church’s annual service projects is its “Coat Lunch,” where the congregation puts on a fine dining experience for 500 to 600 homeless people, after which all the guests leave with a new coat and a new pair of shoes.

    Currently, Gaydos estimates that between 75 and 100 homeless or formerly homeless men, women and children are part of the Mars Hill downtown congregation. “To us, it's all about relationships, building relationships with people.”

    Mars Hill is known as hip, but also theologically conservative. Two issues, in particular, tend to put Mars Hill at odds with much of liberal Seattle: views on homosexuality and the role of women.

    So I asked Gaydos, “What about gay people and people of other faiths? Are you comfortable working with people like that?” “Absolutely,” said Gaydos.

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    Posted Wed, Jan 9, 7:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    Wow, what a fluff piece. I'm disappointed Crosscut. Again, The Stranger gets the real story: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/church-or-cult/Content?oid=12172001


    Posted Wed, Jan 9, 4:29 p.m. Inappropriate

    Agreed-thanks for the link. If Crosscut ever decides to investigate why it's had so little impact in this community it can look to it's selection of writers like Anthony Robinson and others like him for the answer.

    Now for my third attempt at the captcha.


    Posted Thu, Jan 10, 11:34 a.m. Inappropriate

    I agree; Brendan Kiley's February 1, 2012 article in The Stranger is much better coverage on Mars Hill.

    Any church whose leader says people who question the exercise of authority are "sinning through questioning" has serious problems. Mars Hill is infected with the psychopathology of control over others by its leaders, and 'escape from freedom' by the members. This dynamic leads to an authoritarian institution that is a danger to itself and others.

    Crosscut/Tony Robinson had an opportunity to report on the current status of this "church" and its impacts and potential impacts on Seattle communities and culture. The article barely touches on how Mars Hill is "being engaged and involved in the city." Very disappointing.


    Posted Wed, Jan 9, 9:41 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'm neither a resident of Seattle, nor a member of any of its congregations..

    What I, or anyone else say, doesn't matter. Jesus himself summed it up the ill-will and hatred toward Mars Hill and its work very aptly in the 15th chapter of John:

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’


    Posted Wed, Jan 9, 4:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    Well my lord and savior John Drabble from Mars says in the book of common sense that if many people criticize your organization as being homophobic and misogynistic you very well may be. Especially when you allow anyone but homosexuals to join and tell women their role is to service their husbands and shut the hell up.


    Posted Wed, Jan 9, 5:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    Your first paragraph misrepresents Christianity. Christ embraced those whom others did not. Liberal Christians and liberal denominations such as the UCC, the Congregationalist (NACCC) and the Metropolitan Christian churches embrace the LGBTQ community. There are other liberal churches not listed. God bless the Reconciling Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Conservative Christians are not the only Christians and do not accurately represent the teachings of Christ.

    Posted Wed, Jan 9, 6:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    This church just seems likely to something happen that will leave heads shaking, and we'll all say 'I thought something like this would happen'. Who knows, maybe not. But overall, they are weird. For any woman to agree to go to a church that puts them in a subservient role is one of the major reasons why so many people have discarded organized religion.

    I do like the coat and shoes lunch though. Doing good deeds is still good.

    Posted Sat, Jan 12, 9:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    Mr. Robinson, you were certainly bamboozled by this particular pastor (one of seemingly two dozen Mars Hill pastors).

    Interesting how when some organization says that men and women have different roles, it's the men who decide what the womens' roles are.

    greglyman, although I'm not Christian, I've still read enough about Jesus to guess that he wouldn't have set foot in any church that claimed it was based on his teachings but refused membership to one whole group of human beings.


    Posted Thu, Jan 17, 4:28 p.m. Inappropriate


    Actually Jesus denied "membership" to a wide body of humanity.

    "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14.6 Note the use of the definite article. "THE way, THE truth, THE life." He is making a claim of exclusivity in terms of access to God and eternal life with God.

    "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it." Matthew 7.13,14

    Those are Jesus's own words and his claims. You can evaluate them and decide that he is either some kind of a liar or fraud, mentally deranged, or correct in his claims based on your own literary analysis of the literature and available history and archiology.

    John would later write, "These things I have written, that you may know you have eternal life ...." The claim is being made that whether one can have eternal life is knowable. Again you have to read the writers claim, do a literary, historical, and legal analysis (what does the majority of the evidence point to as being most probable?) and decide for yourself about the validity of the claim.

    Whether those that run Mars Hill are truely his followers or accurately represent Jesus's teaching is a seperate line of inquiry.

    Why would a God not just have a universal club and admit everyone? Simple. A God of love, must by definition, be a God of choice. If we couldn't choose the narrow or the wide gate, we would be mere robots or automatons and God would be a slavish overlord.

    The literary/historic record is there for you, or anyone, to read, evaluate, and make your own choice about. The claims made by Jesus are exclusive, but they are his claims. Evaltuate them as you will. Don't get lost in how well Mars Hill or anyone else represents those claims or live up to them. Go to the source!

    Best wishes.

    Posted Mon, Jan 14, 1:12 p.m. Inappropriate

    "At about 75 percent of the services, the sermon portion is a message — via audio on a big screen — from Mars Hill’s founding pastor, Mark Driscoll. The other 25 percent of the time the sermon is live, usually given by Gaydos." - Sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel...


    Posted Mon, Jan 14, 1:43 p.m. Inappropriate


    Qoute from the article:

    "Being closer to Capitol Hill is a blessing as we are serving and ministering to those who are infected with AIDS on the hill,” said the email from Tim Gaydos, lead pastor of the downtown congregation, which does not allow gay people to join as members.


    Posted Mon, Jan 14, 7:16 p.m. Inappropriate


    And an update. They apparently want all the AIDS sufferers on the Hill to get to know Jesus but haven't actually applied to do any actual work that AIDS sufferers would need.


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