Big scoop for Sarah: Former GetReligionista scores exclusive on Mark Driscoll resignation

We're proud to say we knew you way back when, Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

The former GetReligionista scored a major scoop Wednesday with her Religion News Service report on the resignation of Mars Hills Church pastor Mark Driscoll:

(RNS) Mark Driscoll, the larger-than-life megachurch pastor who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego that alienated his most devoted followers, resigned from his Seattle church Tuesday (Oct. 14), according to a document obtained by RNS.
The divisive Seattle pastor had announced his plan to step aside for at least six weeks in August while his church investigated the charges against him. Driscoll’s resignation came shortly after the church concluded its investigation.
“Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family — even physically unsafe at times — and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill,” Driscoll wrote in his resignation letter.

Other major news organizations quickly jumped on the story, including CNN.

I loved CNN "Belief Blog" Editor Daniel Burke's lede:

(CNN) -- Less than a year ago, Mark Driscoll, an evangelical pastor, was flying high.
His hometown Seattle Seahawks were in the Super Bowl, and the brash pastor scored a big, faith-fueled interview with five of the team's top players, including quarterback Russell Wilson.
But in a remarkably fast fall from grace, Driscoll resigned Tuesday as pastor of Mars Hill Church, a congregation he founded 18 years ago and turned into a force in the mostly secular Pacific Northwest.
In a statement, Mars Hills' board of overseers said Driscoll hadn't committed any acts of "immorality, illegality or heresy" -- sins that have felled many a powerful pastor.
Instead, the board said, Driscoll is guilty of "arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner."

What was terrific about that opening: The precise, colorful anecdote that made the story relevant — and interesting — to all readers, even those perhaps unfamiliar with Driscoll or his church.

From there, CNN quoted Driscoll's resignation letter — with full credit to RNS:

Driscoll was not asked to leave, the board added, saying they were "surprised" to receive his resignation letter.
In that letter, obtained by Religion News Service, Driscoll says: "Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family -- even physically unsafe at times -- and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill."

Not surprisingly, the story made the front page of today's Seattle Times, with former Godbeat pro Janet Tu (now a technology reporter) handling the heavy lifting: 

The Times, too, quoted RNS up high:

After a meteoric rise and a drawn-out fall, embattled Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll resigned Wednesday, leaving unanswered questions and an uncertain future for the megachurch he co-founded.
The church has been facing an avalanche of allegations against Driscoll in recent months, ranging from charges of bullying and abusive behavior to plagiarism and overseeing mismanagement of church funds.
So loud were the clamor and questions around Driscoll — who gained national prominence by combining a dynamic preaching style with controversial views about women, homosexuality and other issues — that church attendance and giving plummeted, and several branches of the megachurch closed.
It all came to a head Wednesday when Driscoll resigned, and members of a church board looking into charges against him released their findings.
“By God’s grace I have pastored Mars Hill Church for 18 years,” Driscoll said in his resignation letter, printed on the Religion News Service site. “Today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace.”

Congrats to Sarah on her scoop! She does remarkable work on the Godbeat on a daily basis and has better sources than just about anyone in the evangelical world. Here's hoping the fine folks at RNS reward her with a big raise or at least a nice bonus check.

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