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Disgraced Seattle pastor plans to open new church in Phoenix

FILE - In a Feb. 11, 2007 file photo, Mars Hill Church Lead Pastor Mark Driscoll poses outside of his office prior to an evening service at the church's flagship black warehouse in Seattle. (AP Photo/Scott Cohen, File)

PHOENIX — A pastor who founded a megachurch in Seattle before leaving it amid claims of mistreatment and plagiarism is planning to begin a new church in Phoenix.

Mark Driscoll announced the founding of The Trinity Church via a video posted to the church’s website.

“We’re hoping, trusting, praying, planning — and also a little bit worrying — about planting a church here in early 2016,” he said in the video.

Despite announcing the new church, Driscoll does not yet have a location for a congregation to meet.

“Some of you will have questions: ‘Where are you going to meet?’ I don’t know.

“‘When are you going to start?’ I don’t know. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Driscoll said he and his wife, Grace, have met with numerous other pastors who have been nothing but “super loving, encouraging, welcoming.”

In the video, Driscoll alludes to, but does not mention, the failed Mars Hill church he began in the Seattle area.

Founded in 1996, Mars Hill Church grew quickly up until 2014. At its largest point, the evangelical church had 15 locations in five states and a following of about 13,000 people.

However, attendance began to fall as questions were raised about Driscoll. The Seattle Times reported the pastor, once known for his blue jeans and Chuck Taylors, was accused of mistreatment of church members and plagiarism.

Elders accused Driscoll of being “domineering, verbally violent, arrogant, and quick-tempered.” He allegedly refused to promote someone within the church because they were overweight.

Online postings made by Driscoll and later unearthed by bloggers made derogatory comments toward women.

The plagiarism charges stemmed from Driscoll’s book, “A Call to Resurgence.” Critics claimed several passages were lifted from other religion-based texts, though Driscoll’s publisher denied any wrongdoing.

As the fallout surrounding his actions continued, Driscoll resigned from the church in 2014.

“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.”

After he left, the church made it clear it had not asked Driscoll to resign.

Grace said the couple has a “healthy fear” of opening the Phoenix-area church. Its namesake was founded by her father, where he preached for 44 years.

Driscoll closed the video on a positive note.

“We love you,” he said. “We’re here. We’re glad to be here. We brought the five kids, a dog, a Bible and a lot of hopes and dreams.”

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