When Pastor Mark Driscoll told Joey Manuele and his fiancée at a staff Christmas party that he’d pay for their honeymoon, Joey Manuele was stunned.
“I really just didn’t want to accept it,” said Joey, who until recently was a staff intern at Driscoll’s The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It was too nice. And I was like, ‘How could you do that?’”
But Joey said after several days of discussing the offer with his fiancée, Kaelyn (Uribe) Manuele, he relented. Kaelyn then emailed Driscoll, accepting the gift and thanking him for the “kind gesture.”
The next day, the young couple got a response from Mollie Hanke, Driscoll’s executive assistant, offering to arrange everything for their stay at a local resort.
Because of an apparent snafu when booking, Joey said the couple ended up paying for their two nights at the Omni Resort at Paradise Valley with their own credit card. But Joey said that when they contacted Hanke on their return, she assured them that they’d be reimbursed.
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A couple weeks later, the Manueles received a check for the full amount. But to their surprise, the check wasn’t from Driscoll, but from The Trinity Church.
“I was like, ‘Wait! He never said it was coming from the church!’” Joey Manuele said. “(Driscoll) said ‘me, me,’ like ‘I’m going to give it to you. I want to do this for you.’ And then we get a check from the church . . . So that was a shock.”
According to the Manueles and several former Trinity members who spoke with The Roys Report, this isn’t the only questionable financial dealing they’ve witnessed at Driscoll’s church.
Two families told The Roys Report that Trinity uses gift cards to pay its junior interns “under the table.”
Joey Manuele added that the honeymoon stay wasn’t the only unsolicited gift Driscoll gave him and his wife. Manuele said that when he first began interning at the church, he found a $100 bill taped to a whiteboard in the church office with the note: “Date night for Joey—PMD (Pastor Mark Driscoll).”
Manuele, whose entire family was recently kicked out of the church, said he now suspects the gifts were intended to buy his loyalty. (A previous article explains why the Manueles were kicked out of Trinity, as well as a zero-to-10 loyalty rating system Trinity uses to determine people’s access to the Driscolls.)
Another red flag former members noted is the apparent mingling of finances between Trinity Church and Real Faith.
Real Faith is the trade name for Mark Driscoll Ministries, a separate 501(c)3 organization, which pays Driscoll—its president and board member—a six-figure salary for a reported 25 hours of work a week.
Yet it appears that the director of Real Faith may be paid by the church, rather than by Real Faith. Similarly, a new building purchased by Trinity Church is reportedly used by both the church and Real Faith.
The Roys Report reached out to Driscoll for clarification and comment on all these issues, but he did not respond.
Paying interns with credit cards
The Trinity Church runs two paid internship programs, according to several former Trinity families who spoke with The Roys Report. One internship is a staff internship for young adults aged 18 and older. The other is a “junior internship” for pre-teens and teens aged 12 to 17.
According to Joey Manuele, staff interns are paid extremely low wages. Joey said he initially got paid $500/month for 50 hours of work a week. After a few months, he said his salary increased to $1,000/month for the same amount of work.
Similarly, Chad Freese and his wife, Mary Freese, referred to the junior internship at Trinity as “slave labor.”
The Freeses had two daughters in the internship program. According to Mary Freese, Trinity promoted the program as a means of discipleship. In reality, though, she said the internship consisted mainly of babysitting and set-up and tear-down for church events.
But even more concerning, the Freeses said, is how Trinity pays its interns.
The Freeses said their children were paid exclusively with Visa gift cards. Vince Manuele—Joey’s 15-year-old brother who served as a junior intern—told The Roys Report he was paid in gift cards to stores like Target and Walmart.
Chad Freese said that in his capacity as security director, he once saw a safe at Trinity that had stacks of gift cards in it. Though Chad and Mary Freese said they couldn’t be sure how Trinity obtained the gift cards, Mary Freese said the church collected hundreds of gift cards during two women’s Christmas dinners in December.
She said the church urged women to bring gift cards to the dinners, which leaders said would then be used to help single mothers. She said the church did not issue receipts for the gift cards. There was simply a box in the lobby where people would drop off their donated cards.
According to Rusty Leonard, founder of the donor watchdog group MinistryWatch, paying interns with gift cards is a way to avoid paying employment taxes.
“It’s untraceable money,” he said. He added that using a donation for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was given violates IRS rules.
Using church finances for personal ministry?
According to Joey Manuele and Chad Freese, Driscoll does not view The Trinity Church as a ministry that’s beholden to donors, but rather as a family business that’s owned and controlled by Mark Driscoll.
Just this week, Trinity posted a picture of Zac Driscoll, Mark Driscoll’s son, preaching at a gathering of Real Men, Trinity’s men’s ministry.
“It’s a family business here at Trinity,” the post read. “We had a Driscoll teach at Real Men’s tonight, but it wasn’t Pastor Mark.”
Hours later, the line about Trinity being a family business was deleted.
Yet as mentioned in a prior article, Trinity has no elders providing accountability for Driscoll and doesn’t publish a budget or financial statements. As a result, Driscoll unilaterally decides how church funds are spent, Joey Manuele said.
“(Driscoll) would just flat out say, ‘No one needs to know our financials, like it’s none of their business,’” Manuele recalled. “And he would just say, ‘This is our business, like, we started it as a family business . . . And he was like, if anyone asks, basically tell them to ‘screw off,’—like, that’s how he would say it. . . . He would always say, ‘Everything is directed from the senior pastor.’”
One apparent product of this philosophy of ministry is the use of church funds for Driscoll’s personal ministry, Real Faith, which not surprisingly, is headed by a Driscoll.
Driscoll’s daughter, Ashley Chase, is the director of Real Faith. Yet, on Trinity’s website Chase is listed in her capacity as Real Faith director as a staff member of the church. Chase also is not listed on the latest IRS 990 for Real Faith, even though the IRS requires nonprofits to report compensation paid to anyone related to a board member.
According to Freese, Real Faith also uses a warehouse The Trinity Church recently purchased for $740,000.
Freese said Chase’s office is located in the warehouse. (On Real Faith’s website, the address given for the ministry is 21001 North Tatum Blvd, Suite 1630-527. But as Warren Throckmorton reported in 2016, this address is not an office but a P.O. box.)
Similarly, Freese said the new recording studio in the warehouse is intended for recording music videos and other videos shown during Trinity’s services. But these videos also will be used for the worship portion of Real Faith.
According to Rusty Leonard, using church funds to support another nonprofit ministry is not illegal. Yet he said ethically, it’s something that should be disclosed to those who are donating, and the way the money flows should be explainable and defendable.
He added that given Driscoll’s track record at his previous church, Mars Hill in Seattle, Driscoll should be especially transparent and above-board if he’s trying to establish the legitimacy of his new ministry.
A pattern of financial misconduct?
One of the major issues at Mars Hill, which contributed to the church’s financial demise in 2014, was the practice of using church funds and resources to promote Mark Driscoll’s personal platform.
For example, in 2011 and 2012, Mars Hill paid a marketing company at least $210,000 to ensure that Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage, made the New York Times best-seller list.
And according to a memo by former Mars Hill executive elder, Sutton Turner, which was leaked to blogger Warren Throckmorton, church staff also promoted Driscoll’s book on church time. This reportedly included scheduling and arranging speaking engagements for Driscoll. According to Turner, this kind of misuse of church time was rampant at Mars Hill.
“Many times these personal ministries are done during staff time and using church resources,” Turner wrote. “This (was) actually encouraged when I first came on staff as it was explained to me that staff was able to take MHC time to do consulting work to supplement their income. At the very highest levels of the organization this was taking place and reproduced throughout the organization.”
Given Driscoll’s checkered past, Leonard said he would expect Driscoll to be especially transparent about his church’s finances, yet he appears to be doing the opposite.
“He doesn’t seem to have learned from his past foolishness,” Leonard said. “Where there’s a lot of smoke, there’s more than likely a fire . . . How big the fire is, is hard to say. But the smoke is real.”
18 thoughts on “Mark Driscoll Paid for Honeymoon with Church Funds; Uses Gift Cards to Pay Interns, Former Members Say”
“Joey said he initially got paid $500/month for 50 hours of work a week. After a few months, he said his salary increased to $1,000/month for the same amount of work.”
My 19-year-old son makes over $2,000 per month (before tax) as a stocker at Walmart. Why would a young person who could easily get a full-time job at Walmart or Amazon take sub-market wages to be a babysitter and gofer for Mark Driscoll?
Summer camp staff jobs are often similarly low-wage, but they come with lodging, meals, and a fair amount of fun.
Please let these empires come down once and for all. Im afraid the general population of “believers” has no clue what godly leadership looks like. I was in a church w no healthy leadership or oversight in the 70’s it didnt end well then either. After you come out of this type of environment you realize very quickly who you are truly following. I still have my faith, I pray the attendees of these places keep theirs.
Marky Mark should not be a pastor. In fact, he shouldn’t be allowed to be around other humans. At this point, I really don’t feel sorry for anything that happens to the people around him. The ignorance of people is amazing.
Mark and Jimmy Mac, two peas in a pod.
Why is the check from Trinity Church showing an address in Tulsa, OK?
Address tracks to the Stanfield and O’Dell accounting firm. How very strange.
The signature on the check matches to Dan Skerbitz, listed on their site as a “shareholder” and CEO.
“ His areas of expertise are accounting and taxation of nonprofits and charitable organizations, with additional expertise in the unique requirements for religious organizations and members of the clergy.”
If this is an example of what Stanfield O’Dell considers acceptable financial practices, one certainly wonders about their own integrity.
Updating to add that in addition to Mark Driscoll, looks like Stanfield and O’Dell is retained by Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyers, and Ed Young, pastors noted for their multi million dollar homes and private jets. So is this firm serving the church or enabling these abusive pastors?
They audited Ed Young’s church while an employee embezzled over a million dollars, as previously reported by Julie Roys. So how qualified are they as ministry auditors? Did they audit Mark Driscoll/Trinity Church’s use of gift cards to pay salaries?
In my opinion, Stanfield and O’Dell are part of a corrupt system that aids and abets “ministry leaders” who pursue lavish lifestyles that are way out of line with the commands and example of Jesus.
I think what is disheartening is how these guys never show any genuine evidence of repentance. It sounds like there’s no accountability at Driscoll’s new Church. That’s unfortunate.
is there accountability in evangelicalism as a whole? i see a subculture of lily-livered, happy-go-lucky people who are more concerned about the ‘kingdom of God’ than they are about right and wrong. the irony is staggering.
corruption and extraordinary abuses are rife in evangelicalism, and i see a subculture of people so wrapped up in their own personal sinlessness that they are paranoid of taking any kind of moral stand of any kind regarding their own for fear of ‘judging’.
the actual lives that are harmed, ruined? ‘”all things work out for good” so we don’t have to concern ourselves with them.’
As a rule, when ungodly character traits become grossly apparent in a ministry leader, problems with some aspect(s) related to money, e.g. luxurious living, greed, self-dealing, secrecy and deception about finances and use of donations, shady/illegal business deals, etc., also become evident as more of truth comes out.
Driscoll had major character and financial issues at Mars Hill, and these seem to be unsurprisingly cropping up again now, given the poor, unrepentant way he left Seattle.
I’m no Driscoll fan. At all. The Manuele’s were railroaded right out of Dodge. But if they were so offended, why didn’t they return the money?? Again, I’m no Driscoll fan, but what’s wrong with the $100 gift? Maybe he was trying to buy loyalty, who knows? But on the surface, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I feel like there are some misdeeds here but the style of this writing borders on, or is, sensationalism.
Lord forgive me, a sinner.
What’s sensationalist about reporting Joey Manuele’s take on why he was given gifts? In a church where the pastor rates staff and members on a loyalty scale from 1 to 10, this conclusion is not unreasonable.
A simple journalistic question…”did you return the money?” Did you ask that, Julie? Sincere question.
Yes folks. This is how your cheerful giving is spent.
And now reports of criminal activities are coming out. Paying anyone under the table is illegal, especially for an org this size. Also the full value of gift cards donated to the org need to be added up and accounted for in donations totals for the year to be reported on the 990. It is not legal for them to be used as a kind of slush fund.
Not that many “Christians” in our culture actually care about such things. We have been trying to serve God and Mammon all of my life. We treat some Scriptures oh so sacredly and then totally ignore others in a pick and choose kind of way. We do not believe we have to choose which one we will love. We keep loving Mammon while denying that in doing so we are despising our own proclaimed savior. If Jesus lied about Mammon then how can we trust Him about being The Way, The Truth and The Life?
It’s good to be king.
Until it isnt.
As they say, it is always easier to spend other people’s money than your own.
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