Boerne Christian Assembly Excommunicates Doug Phillips: A Response

I received a notification on my phone today that said there was a sharp increase in my readership here today.  I haven’t posted anything here in a long time, so I was a bit perplexed. Then friends began notifying me of the new article up on Boerne Christian Assembly’s website and it all started to make sense.

Ten years ago, I was blissfully unaware of what was just about to take place. I had just finished my mandatory counseling with Beall Phillips and Reba Short on why I was such an ungodly wife (they had no specific examples, but just a general, broad accusation); I had written my private letter to Doug Phillips about why voting for his father’s third-party candidate was a losing proposition, and he had in turn not only preached against my letter point-by-point on Election Sunday, but had also threatened me with “You will pay for this!” But that retribution did not take effect for three more months, when I was excommunicated on January 30, 2005. There were no reasons given for my excommunication, except for broad-brushed generalizations that I was not a godly wife.

Confused and deeply hurt, Mark and I tried every possible way we knew to reconcile with Doug Phillips and BCA, but he finally threatened to sue us if we ever contacted him again.  When I knew that my heart was right with God on this matter, and I found out that Doug Phillips had hurt other people without a just cause, I began to sense that this was a pattern of spiritual abuse and that my homeschool patriarchy friends needed to be warned about this wolf in sheep’s clothing, so nearly two years after we were excommunicated, I began this blog.  (If you have not read my story in full, it is listed to the left of this article.)

After nine years, Doug Phillips was forced to (voluntarily) resign from his position as President of Vision Forum Ministries and he subsequently lost his business when the homeschool world was rocked with the revelation that Doug Phillips, the man who held himself out as the one to emulate in having the “perfect” godly family, was really a hypocrite to the highest degree, teaching one thing and living a lie, having an “inappropriate” relationship for many years with a young woman who happened to be my daughter’s best friend.

Doug Phillips’ resignation took place just over one year ago, and since that time, I have had many conversations with numerous people who have been either directly or indirectly involved in this whole saga of what was happening behind the scenes in the last fifteen years.  I have finally found out the real reason I was excommunicated: my “sin” that was kept secret from the whole world, one that even I was not aware of.  As I share this, I realize I have no “proof,” but every indication points to the “real” reason for my unjust excommunication.

Doug Phillips is used to being the “top dog” in his own circles. As the years went by, first hundreds, and then thousands, of homeschool families literally worshiped Doug and his teachings, following him around from one homeschool conference to another, and clamoring to attend his “patriarchy-homeschool-only” events.  They were quite memorable and well-done trips and events, to be sure!  Those who challenged Doug were the “outsiders,” those Jezebels and liberals and feminists and all those who never measured up in Doug’s eyes.  But no one inside his circles ever stood up to him and challenged him — until I came along.  However, I don’t think that being challenged by a woman, as insulting as that was to Doug, was the underlying reason for my excommunication, although Doug used it as his “justification.”

During the five years we were at BCA, my daughter was best friends with Lourdes.  They were inseparable and shared all their secrets together.  But as Lourdes turned 18 and “graduated” from high school, something began to change, ever so slightly.  During these Vision Forum grand events that Doug Phillips and Vision Forum Ministries would put on, he needed help with his many kids, so he and Beall would bring along a nanny for the trip.  One year, it was Natasha’s turn to be a nanny for the Faith and Freedom Tour, a highly coveted trip indeed!  But then something happened.  Out of the blue, and with no explanation given, Doug informed Natasha that he would be taking Lourdes instead of Natasha.  My daughter was understandably devastated and confused. That did not make any sense to us ten years ago.

But that was the beginning of Doug Phillips’ more overt attention toward Lourdes, although he had made it abundantly clear what his intentions were long before she turned 18.  So, if Doug had his eye on Lourdes, and Lourdes shared all her secrets with Natasha, what would happen if Natasha told her mother that Doug was acting inappropriately toward Lourdes?  Would I be bullied into keeping quiet? Or would I speak out and tell the world what Doug Phillips was really doing behind the scenes?  Whether Doug Phillips correctly guessed or not, he obviously chose to get me out of the way, and that meant getting my whole family out of the way so he could continue to pursue this young lady he had fallen in love with.

So, in reality, I was excommunicated so that Doug Phillips could get my family, and especially me, out of his way so he could pursue another woman other than his wife.  I cannot help but think of the time in church when Doug said, “When a man falls in love, all reason goes out the window.”  This was more than foolish young love, however.

Today, BCA’s new elders announced that BCA has excommunicated Doug Phillips because they feel he has not repented for his sins that he first confessed to BCA nearly two years, and for which he resigned one year ago.  This story has now come full circle.  As I try to process this event today, I have several thoughts and would like to share some words from my heart to several people involved here.  Please allow me to post several open letters in this article.

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Dear Doug,

Today you are reaping what you have sown.  You have been instrumental in excommunicating many individuals and families, whether at BCA or through other NCFIC churches.  You have ruined many businesses and careers because of your involvement. You have threatened many people with lawsuits, you have stolen what has belonged to others, you have brought much fear and terror to many families who trusted you and looked up to you. I won’t name names here, but you know the hundreds of people whose lives have been greatly harmed because of how you made yourself judge and jury in people’s personal lives, and you made yourself “God” in judging who was sinning and who was not.

You also set yourself up as the “model” godly family, inviting trusting homeschool families to emulate you and look up to you, while you lived a lie at home. You have treated your own children abominably and they probably don’t even realize it yet.  You have “dealt treacherously” with the wife of your youth, and defrauded another young woman who looked up to you and trusted you.

You have not dealt with the pornography problem, you have cheated your customers, you have lied to get what you want including lying about being commissioned to begin this church which has just excommunicated you, you have not honored your parents and you have blatantly dishonored Beall’s parents. You have committed murder and adultery in your heart, many times. You have stolen and lied and coveted ideas and businesses and recognition that belonged to others.  You teach the Ten Commandments but you do not live them.

I have no problems in listing the “sins” you have been excommunicated for, although BCA probably has their own list.

But I am not going to call you to change your ways. No, I am not.  Patriarchy was wrongly built on a performance-based platform. Patriarchy’s platform was performance and perfection.  “If you do this, it’s a sin.” “If you don’t do that, it’s a sin.” “If you behave in this way, God will be pleased.”  “If you follow this rule or that rule, you will be blessed.”  Perhaps your greatest sin, Doug, is in leading so many astray from the real truth of God’s Word, putting them in a bondage never designed for us.

Doug, that is not the God of the New Covenant.  You have attempted to live your life by the letter of the Law rather than the spirit.  Whenever we focus on outward rules and restrictions, we will certainly doom ourselves to doing the opposite of what we are trying to do.  And the harder we try, the more we fail.  And that is what is being demonstrated in your own life today.  You have forced so many rules down the throats of hundreds of thousands of homeschool families, a burden God never intended us to bear. You could not bear that heavy burden either, so I will not call you to continue to try to carry this heavy burden of performance.

We have all sinned.  No one here is perfect: not you, not me, not any of us homeschool families.  It is not up to us to judge one another in our lack of perfection since performance and perfection was never God’s intent for us.  Doug, this is a heart issue. God wants you to simply put your heart in His hands and allow Him to mold your stony heart into a softened heart of flesh.  When God writes His Law of Love on our hearts and minds, then God’s love is that driving force in our lives.  We no longer need to strive to obey Him or work hard to please Him.  Instead, we simply respond to His love as His love so fills us to overflowing that we cannot help but love all those He puts in our lives.

And that is why I can honestly say, Doug, that I do love you.  God has filled me to overflowing with His love and I deeply desire to see you experience this love that only God can fill you with.  Doug, my prayer for you today is that you turn your hard heart to God and allow Him to soften it with His love.

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Dear Beall,

Although you will never experience the depth of loss and shunning that I did, I want you to know that in this very ironic turn of events, you and I are now on the same team: those who are being shunned by the “community.” Like I told your husband, I am really not interested in what you did wrong or right, but I just want you to know that I care.  I will not participate in the “shunning” that accompanies excommunication in this “community.”  I will not return wrong for wrong.

I choose to believe that you did not willingly participate in my excommunication, Beall.  I know that you truly believe that you must submit to your husband in all things, and in some sense that is admirable.  But there are times when you need to realize that it is better not to be complicit in your husband’s abuse of others.

I will never forget the day we met in Costco. Only you know what I am talking about. Know that if I saw you again, it would be the same way.

Beall, I pray that God will give you the courage to do what is right, no matter what.  This is not a performance-based “doing what is right,” but this is the natural result of the love of God permeating your very being.

I miss you, Beall.

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Dear Joshua, Justice, Liberty, Jubilee, Faith, Honor, Providence, and Virginia,

What has happened today will not really sink in for a long time.  You may not ever fully understand it.  It may take years and years to process it.  As I think back to how my own children’s lives were devastated by our excommunication, I can only say that I would never wish that upon any other child, and especially upon those whose lives we have been a part of.

For many years, I watched you grow up. Most of you were friends with my own kids.  Natasha was like a second mom to Honor.  It broke her heart to have him ripped away from her like that. I know it is very difficult to lose all your friends you have known your whole life.  I hear that you are attending another church now.  It is not the same, is it?  I know how difficult it is to lose your whole way of life, and everyone you love, and try to start over.

Some of you will handle this better than others.  Some of you will carry the scars of this for the rest of your life. I pray that as the years go by, and you struggle with all the questions that will come up, that you will find that only realizing how much God truly does love you is where you will find your healing.

I pray that none of you ever experience the depth of pain and suffering that my own children did in the excommunication. I pray that no one ever publicly turns their back on you or ignores you and pretends like you don’t exist because of something your father did. I pray that God will heal you from the things your father has done to you.

Perhaps you will see this letter to you many years from now, as I know you will not be allowed to read it now.  When you finally read this, know that I have been praying for you all these years.

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Dear Mark, Natasha, Joshua, and Alicia,

This is karma for us. What goes around, comes around.  But there is a huge difference between taking revenge personally and allowing God to work in His own way and His own time.  There are always consequences for our actions in life, and today is a perfect example of that.

No matter what happens to Doug Phillips, though, never let him rule your life.  Forgiveness frees US from Doug Phillips having any power in our lives. Anger and bitterness only gives Doug authority and power.  God’s Word is always proven true in how we are to treat our enemies, and Doug has treated us like an enemy: Let us resolve to love Doug Phillips, to pray for him, to forgive him, to bless him, and to do good to him. We will leave the rest up to God.

God loves each one of you and rescued us all from the pit of patriarchy and legalism.

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Dear Lourdes, my dear friend,

What a blessing it has been for our families to renew our friendships once again!  We have thought about you and anguished over our lost relationship throughout the years. Natasha has cried countless tears at the loss of her best friend.

But God has graciously brought us all back together again and I am loving the time I get to spend with you — long talks together, delicious homemade meals in your home, running errands together, and even working together! How ironic that we would end up working outside the home together!

It is even more ironic, and perhaps fitting, that God would use women and children to bring down Doug Phillips’ ship. His foundation was “Women and Children First,” based upon the Titanic, but in reality, Doug trampled on women and children, rather than protecting them. God’s ironies are far greater than anything we could have planned!

Speaking of God, Lourdes, I don’t think I have ever seen someone so filled with the love of God as I do in you!  You have no unforgiveness in your heart, no anger, no bitterness toward Doug.  It always amazes me that when you and I get together, the focus of our conversations are on moving forward in life, rather than continually hashing out the hurts of the past.  While dealing with the past is necessary for healing, it is also vitally important to move on to the “acceptance” stage of life, and that is where we both live now.

The joy of the Lord is my strength! That joy is so evident in you, my dear friend! I look forward to many more years of sharing our lives together!

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To the elders of BCA: Jeff Horn and David Fry,

While I have never met you, I’m sure you know who I am.  I can’t help but see a striking difference between my own excommunication and that of Doug Phillips.  While I do not know all the specifics, what I do know is significant. I know that Doug “confessed” to certain sins in February, 2013, and was then “forced” to resign in October, 2013, just over one year ago.  I have also seen the change in eldership since that time as well.

Nearly two years has gone by since this first became known to the church.  It appears, although I cannot verify this, that everything possible has been done to restore Doug to his church. Thank you for taking plenty of time in working through this situation when you could have easily jumped straight into the quick disciplinary action Doug was well-known for.  He was shown the mercy through you that he himself never extended.

I also thank you for not taking the easy way and just believing that Doug Phillips was repentant. Doug may have fooled many with his smooth talk and charm, but those of us who know him well know very well that he is not the least bit repentant.  In excommunicating him, you have not only shown that we share this view, but you have also effectually said that Doug has committed some serious wrongs.  This was not done without much prayer and time, and that is obvious. Thank you.

I also realize that as elders, you have inherited a mess at BCA.  Many people, including my family, have been greatly harmed and wounded at the hands of BCA, in some way.  I pray that you will not try to simply sweep all these wrongs under the rug, but as these are all bound up with Doug Phillips, in some way, I sincerely hope that you will also be the catalyst to bring healing to a very hurting community. God has given you an incredible responsibility at this point in time. Please use it wisely.

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Dear Past and Present BCA members, and members of the “community,”

Whether or not you ever signed your name on the dotted line of the “till death do us part” covenant, we are all still united.  God is the One who brought us all together, and no matter what hurt or pain has separated us, our hearts are still connected, and always will be. God made us that way.

There is no place like BCA, no “community” like ours. It is one of a kind, never to be duplicated again.  Whatever happens in the community in the future, whatever happens to BCA, let us all keep one another in our hearts and in our lives.  You can tell your stories to your friends and family far and wide, but they will never “get” it, because it is such an unusual place.

There is a ton of hurt and pain in this community right now.  We all need healing.  We can blame Doug Phillips or you can blame me, or we can play the blame game all day long, but the truth is that we need one another, and we need God for healing.  Not only do we need healing on an individual level, many of us, but we all need healing on a corporate level.  We, the “community,” and we, the past and present members of BCA, are part of one united body. Why are we self-inflicting wounds? Why not bind up those broken hearts, why not reach out to those we have judged as being “not worthy,” why not come together in unity as Christ commissioned us to?

Do you remember the first year together, when we learned about “one anothering” in the Bible, when love and fellowship was contagiously high?  Have we lost our first love?

There are many of you I have not met yet.  You are still a part of my heart.  I want you to know that I love you and am praying for each of you and for this “community.”

PS. I want to say a special word to Jennifer Grady. I don’t judge you.  I’ve been in your shoes in so many ways. You have spunk and you’re gonna make it! I’ve heard that you have made some awesome changes in life lately!  Great job! Always remember that God loves you just the way you are.

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To my readers, especially those affected by patriarchy and/or the NCFIC,

Thank you. You all have helped me go through this difficult part of life in a way I would never have dreamed of!

It may be tempting right now to gloat about what is happening to Doug Phillips, but that was never my intention here.  I came here solely to warn people about a wolf in sheep’s clothing because I didn’t want anyone to be hurt in the way my family was.  While many readers heeded the warning the first year (I personally heard from over 1000 families who left patriarchy the first year I told my story here), unfortunately, there were many more who did not listen. It grieves me deeply to see how many people and how many families have been wounded by Doug Phillips, either personally or through his teachings. So let us not use this opportunity to rejoice at someone’s fall, but let us endeavor together to pray that God will soften his heart of stone, and let us pray for Beall and their children, and for Lourdes. My family still really needs prayer and healing.  And BCA.

You are all my extended family. I thank God for each one of you.  I pray that this whole ordeal will be a life-changing lesson not only for us individually, but as the larger community of Christian homeschoolers.

This has left a black eye, or worse, for Christian homeschoolers. Let’s let God put a steak on that black eye and bring healing to our whole body.

NCFIC: A Vision Forum Retread

Andrew McDonald has been reading and commenting here for the last year, and partially because of his involvement here, he has encountered his own story of church discipline which he would like to share with us here.  While there have been many, many people and families who have been hurt in various ways through the years by Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Scott Brown, NCFIC, and others associated with these men and their ministries, most have chosen the easy road of just keeping quiet.  It takes real courage to speak out publicly about what is happening, to warn friends and family that their house is on fire!  Patriarchy, and the abuses within its walls, is still alive and well.  To those who are still in the patriarchy movement, and/or the NCFIC movement: Your house is on fire!  The time to act is now!

Here is Andrew’s story, in his own words:

Some of you know my concerns as I have written on Jen’s Gems a bit. People are still suffering from Doug Phillips’ abuse and speaking out is part of the process of healing. I began thinking about those like him: Men desiring control. I’ve posted about that and gave details of the past and present situations in my own life and church. Some details were specifically about Scott Brown and as a result someone alerted the leader of my church and I was eventually called into a private meeting and confronted. I do not deny that some good has come alongside the wrong teachings, there has been much good done, but the wrong teachings are never justified by adjacent successes. Successes are really God’s department and to His credit not ours. He gets the glory. Justifying the error by mention of the benefit only makes the situation more tragic, it does not validate the error. Since the leader knows I post here I’ve decided to respond here. You may well ask what is my background and how dare I say these things? Glad you asked! I am a great sinner who has a greater Savior, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and trying to follow after the Great Shepherd who invites us all to follow Him. I say these things not because I am worthy; I say them because the TRUTH is worthy and, lastly, because folks need to be warned.

An Open Letter to my former leader:

When you confronted me about posting on this blog, you showed up with a stack of paper and mentioned over 100 pages written. I thought that seemed like a lot. In order to get an accurate idea of what I said in the posts and the volume of the entries, I went through the site and copied them all. I posted 66 messages, printable in less than 23 pages, not even close to the ‘over 100 pages’ mentioned. Most posts were short and, contrary to your ‘concern’, took little time away from my family. Some were late at night as the matter was heavy on my heart.

No posts were purposefully inflammatory; they were my experiences or opinions tempered with prayer and investigation. That the posts were truthful is bolstered by the fact that they eventually identified me. Most were inquiries about Doug Phillips’ close associate, Scott Brown. Scott Brown was initially my concern. Some posts were sincere inquiry seeking counsel.

a-weed-in-the-churchI contacted people who knew Scott Brown to confirm that he had problems; the events were confirmed by personal testimony and church records. These events were never cleared up.

As it turns out, your belief that Scott Brown is ‘one of the godliest men’ you know is based solely on your experience with him. I continued to research and began to post in December of 2013. NONE of the posts were made until after I’d spoken with you. My concerns were effectively dismissed. After I told you that the posts were mine, you moved to the old standby tactic of all authoritarian leaders: accuse and intimidate. You accused me of being a gossip and a busy body even though you knew that I came to you with each concern and you also knew I had not broadcast it about the church. Am I a gossip? Like Doug Phillips has said, ‘He who defines the terms wins.’ But my intent was not to get the ‘juicy stuff’ as you said; it was only to get at the truth, to protect against wrong teachings and to warn you.

I am sure that I am not the only one with concerns over these matters. Yet many will say nothing as they understand the reception and repercussions of doing so. This lack of freedom to speak is not surprising to anyone on this blog. It thrives in all cultish environs where perfunctory dismissal of differing opinions seems to be the order of the day. I am not sure who told you about this blog, but it really matters little to me. I imagine it is another concerned person in the church and I am glad they are concerned. I hope they continue to dig into the details. If they do they will discover the truth. I do not regret warning others or checking into folks presented as ‘teachers’ or ‘authorities’; it is the obligation of any follower of Christ and especially one who leads in any capacity to ‘know the well from which they drink.’ We are charged to be Bereans, to see ‘if these things be so.’

I went through the NCFIC site to see just how deeply entrenched you were. It was a task to be sure. I found your presence pervasive and realized your course had been set firmly. I discovered that the beliefs along these lines were nothing new, they began even before you came here. You testified to that in your phone interview on the NCFIC blog. The beliefs were fostered, in part, by and through Doug Wilson and his disciples.

At your first church experience you expressed frustration at trying to ‘replicate the ministries’ of your sending church. You say it caused burn out and ended with the eventual abandonment of Junior Church. In the phone interview with Scott Brown, you said a youth pastor gave you a booklet by Christopher Schlect. The pamphlet explained why people should remove their children from Sunday School and youth ministries and how such activities are anti-Biblical.

When I researched Schlect, I found he was a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Christians. (CREC is a denomination/sect started by Doug Wilson in 1998 surrounded by dubious activities and shenanigans.) I saw that he was a teacher at New Saint Andrews College (Doug Wilson’s college). His pamphlet was published by Canon Press (Doug Wilson’s company). Then I recalled your response when I tried to caution you about Doug Wilson, after you gave out one of his books at a men’s retreat. I researched Doug Wilson, and then came to you. I warned you and you said he was a friend. I thought you were just trying to get a book published. Now it makes sense, you were already a follower. My warning was years too late.

After your church plant, you found an established church to implement your newly adopted ideas. In the interview you declare that you came to the church and began your ‘5 year deprogramming’ plan. You followed exactly Paul Washer’s counsel on his You Tube video for ‘Reforming a Church’. Gaining their confidence, by teaching on relevant issues like the family, you moved right along ‘letting some ministries die gracefully’ rather than axing them. Although I’m not sure how any ministry dies gracefully, that is what you said in the interview.

You have also followed the example of Scott Brown. When he got in a tight spot, he called for a ‘vote of confidence’ . I recalled the same ploy used at church when people voiced concern at a congregational meeting just after Scott Brown had been there. You called for a vote of confidence and it worked. In retrospect, that was a sad, sad day. If the vote had been the other way, the church would have been saved from much trouble. The whole event seemed out of place, the timing of the ploy may have been a tad off, perhaps a bit overplayed, but hey, it worked. It was a watershed moment.

Those who knew something was wrong likely knew they’d just lost their church. Trouble was that they lacked the expertise of the better communicator. Mark this, they did not lose because they were wrong, they lost because they were not as articulate, as organized, as winsome and because they got too emotional over the issue. They had the disadvantage because they did not really know what was being played at. Few did. They were colorfully painted as aggressive, arrogant, close minded, slightly ignorant and off base. Some colors were slightly true and that lent credence to the accusations; yet who is perfect, don’t we all have some of these traits? The flesh is hard to capture and, as Christians, we are all in the process.

After this event you, more firmly, established your authority; after all the church is a ‘pastor rule’ church and it was your prerogative. When this all started I wonder if the congregation saw the big picture. I wonder if they knew about the ‘5 year plan’ or about ‘letting ministries die gracefully.’ I am sure the idea of changes for the ‘good’ of the congregation seemed good. Some, in fact, were good; that they were based on an unbiblical foundation was far from their minds. Did they know they were involved in ‘worldly practices’? I doubt it. Scott Brown was the first real clue but it was already too late, the wheels had been set in motion. I have to respect what you’ve accomplished even though the church had to split to get there. I have learned from this: I will NEVER attend a ‘pastor rule’ church again; sadly human nature is just too corrupt for such a rule.

I did consider revealing myself on the blog. I thought it was perhaps even courageous since you implied that to be posting on the blog under a pseudonym was cowardly and sinful. Blasphemous, you said about the site, although I still cannot see that one; I see no contempt or lack of reverence for God on the site. Yet I’ve decided not to reveal myself as it would reduce this to a personality contest. The contest should be the truth against falsehood. It may take awhile but the truth will always win. Some do not think too deeply about much and it is not their fault. If it wasn’t for Scott Brown, I would not have thought more. Not knowing was far more comfortable.

When I first began all this, I did it because I thought you were being charmed or won over by these people. I wanted to warn you. I was wrong. I was quizzical at the reception of the information I had retrieved, for two reasons: first, it is very, very likely true; and second, I thought you’d appreciate the time and effort involved in an effort to warn you. Instead, you told me I should be a ‘spy or a detective’, that I should stay off the internet.

Your challenge to pray about what I was doing caused me to go to prayer and to the NCFIC site again. I combed through it and found the phone interview mentioned, then I knew by your own admission, you had come to the church with a preconceived notion, inspired by the followers of the beliefs espoused by NCFIC. Unbeknownst to the church membership, you began to work it out. They should have known the whole plan, they did not. Doing it this way was wrong. An announcement posted by NCFIC, about the telephone interview you and two other pastors participated in, stated, ‘What these men dared to do was not easy. But, with much prayer, teaching, and faithfulness these pastors have made significant strides in dismantling various worldly practices in their churches!’  I do not think that the church you came to, after a failed church plant, had ‘various worldly practices’ going on. I know you could say, ‘Well, that’s what they wrote; I never said that.’ That fits nicely with the plausible deniability that the NCFIC and all their followers always seem to have.

Your accusation of my demeaning you (by mentioning that you were young) is not fair, as if I am against you personally. I am not. The fact is, you are young, you are just as susceptible to spiritual deception as anyone else, and as a leader you’re even more likely to be targeted than others for deception. On this site, I said you were young and asked people to pray. As I told you, this was not meant as a slam. I still ask that, now even more fervently.

In researching this situation, I can’t tell you how many people sounded like Sgt. Shultz from the old Hogan’s Heroes show, ‘I know nothing!’ or the TV evangelist’s ‘Don’t touch God’s anointed.’ If I did not know the people involved, I might ask, ‘Who has bewitched you?’ Except I know who bewitched you for I was bewitched by the same crowd.

In 2006 the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International said Family Integrated Church practices were ‘errant and schismatic.’ They pretty much sum it up:

• It encourages schism in the local church bodies by encouraging its adherents to change the theology and philosophy of the churches of which they are members.

• It does violence to local church authority, calling on local church members to leave their churches when the church does not bow to the philosophical demands of the movement.

• It espouses an ecclesiology based upon the family that is not based upon the New Testament but rather is an adaptation of Old Testament patriarchy.

• It falsely lays the claim that the destruction of the family in the U.S. is solely the fault of age-graded ministries in local churches. We contend that this is a simplistic and therefore false accusation.

• It espouses a postmillennial theology that is contradictory to a dispensational understanding of Scripture.

• It is oddly inclusive, basing fellowship on a particular philosophy of ministry rather than on the great fundamentals of the faith.

I do not say that anyone involved in the NCFIC is lacking salvation. Salvation does not hinge on these things singularly but the efficacy of the salvation message can be clouded by them, the Christian walk can be hindered by them and unity will certainly suffer from them. I urge you to step down from involvement with these people, as Kevin Swanson has done, and just pastor your church; the people love you, they do not need someone in ‘substantial’ agreement with NCFIC. (Gotta love those nebulous words; they always provide a convenient back door if things get hot!) The people need you to stand for God, for His Word and lead. And be honest with them, if they want to go the direction you intend then great but give them a voice in the matter.

God Bless,

Andrew

For more information about:
Scott Brown look here.
Doug Wilson look here and here.
Doug Wilson’s school.

UPDATE: This letter will certainly identify me as I put it into the hands of church leadership before I decided to post it and parts of it (like the statement from the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International) were given to alert leadership to the hazards of the NCFIC. Already my family has been turned away from by some folks who will no longer come to our home because of, as one dear saint said, some ‘offense.’ Naturally unexplained. Another hung up their phone when we called. We are funny and predictable creatures upon which God has lavished his love. We should do likewise even in the face of shunning. In the end, God will prevail and we will understand, one day, just why we did the things we did and how it was right or wrong; for God’s glory or our own. In the meantime we must continue to look to Jesus.

I was told yesterday that the pastor called a congregational meeting where they were told that I’d posted ‘lies’ on the web about him and the church. That explains the responses we’re getting. Oh well. Funny thing is just before I got the phone call about the meeting I’d told my wife we were probably excommunicated in abstentia; not too far from wrong on that one! Explains the cold shoulders we’re getting.  I wonder why no one is thinking about how so many folks who’ve left could all have been wrong?

Doug Phillips: Peace Maker or Truth Silencer?

02-07-13-saicff-beallOne year ago, the theme of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival seemed to be “Defending the Defenseless.”  This festival came only days on the heels of Doug Phillips being found in a compromising position with “Cassandra” and the subsequent sudden departure of her family from the beloved church they had attended for nearly thirteen years.  Putting women and children first, and defending the defenseless, seemed to be the farthest thing from Doug Phillips’ mind as he stood front and center on the stage and continued to hide his deep, dark secrets from his adoring fans. At that time, no one knew he had quietly stepped down as elder, stating that he wanted to spend more time with his family.  The reality is that he probably turned on the charm in order to save his marriage after having been caught.  He waited until after the film festival to “confess” his sins to Bob Sarratt, the only other elder at BCA, a “yes man” who was very good at keeping Doug’s sins secret for the next nine months.

saicff postponedWhen Vision Forum Ministries announced online last October that the 9th annual San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival was first postponed, and then cancelled, it sparked waves of confusion and frustration for the filmmakers and their families who had worked so diligently to meet the film submission deadline which was only days away.  Rather than emailing those on the SAICFF list and telling them of the postponement and cancellation, and with absolutely no explanation of why Vision Forum Ministries’ most popular annual event was being suddenly dropped at the last moment, the grapevine soon became the de facto form of communication within this small, but tightly knit, troop of independent Christian film makers.  One by one, they contacted each other in utter disbelief: “How could this happen?  We just spent the last year of our lives working on making another film, and now what?”

Ten days later, when Doug Phillips announced his resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, it began to make some sense.  But did it really?  Or did it actually cause more questions and more confusion?  After all, according to World Magazine’s April 5, 2014 cover story article about Doug Phillips, the five men who confronted Doug Phillips on his doorstep did so the day before he resigned, which was October 30, 2013.  If that is true, why did Vision Forum cancel the film festival ten days prior to Doug being confronted?  I’m guessing there’s a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye, including why Scott Brown knew, at the latest, by September 9, 2013, and still allowed Doug Phillips to continue on with his duties as normal.

At this exact same time, a pastor in Illinois, Philip Telfer, was moving his family down to the San Antonio area to become the new pastor at Living Water Fellowship, which is Little Bear Wheeler’s church in the “community” here.  Although Pastor Telfer had gone to a couple of the film festivals put on by Vision Forum and submitted a couple films himself, he had no interest in patriarchy whatsoever.  Coming from an inner-city youth ministry in Chicago, patriarchy was a totally foreign concept to Pastor Telfer. Like so many other filmmakers and individuals who were just there to observe, they attended Vision Forum’s San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival simply because it was the only game in town for Christian films.

Not desiring all that work and talent to be wasted and discouraged, Pastor Telfer naively thought that it shouldn’t be too difficult to put together a new film festival for everyone who was already expecting one, so he went to Little Bear with his idea of simply providing an avenue for a film festival.  In his mind, he just needed to find a venue, pick a date relatively close to the original date, and organize it.  Little Bear thought he was nuts!  He had no idea of the politics behind Doug Phillips’ resignation and that he would now be painting a large target on his back for stepping on such sacred ground.  Not to be daunted, however, Pastor Telfer set out to provide a safe place for Christian filmmakers to gather and continue their annual film festival traditions.

CWFFWhen I first heard of this initiative, I was a bit dubious.  What were his real motives?  Is this just another ministry rising up to promote more patriarchy?  Is this man trying to make a name for himself on someone else’s coattails?  The only thing I knew about him was that one of our mutual friends was in ministry together with Pastor Telfer, in a ministry called Media Talk 101.  That was encouraging enough to me to check it out since I knew my friend, a humble man who dearly loves the Lord, was definitely not into patriarchy, although he is a godly family man.  I considered attending the new Christian Worldview Film Festival, held March 11-15, 2014, but I wasn’t really interested in just being a spy.  That didn’t seem like a good idea, so I thought about it for a long time.

I have been going to school for quite a while now to become a certified health coach and my area of emphasis is in learning how to help people who are going through traumatic events, or who have not healed from the stress and trauma and pain of past events in life.  Not only have I experienced much trauma and pain from the excommunication and all the aftermath from that, especially with my children, but I have also experienced a tremendous amount of agonizing and heartbreaking ordeals and upheavals in the last decade or so.  God has taught me many ways to not only handle the stress and emotion and pain that accompany these difficulties in life, but also how to bring about the level of healing that actually makes me stronger and a much better person because of attending the University of Hard Knocks.

With Doug Phillips’ resignation came a mass of chaos, confusion, pain, and deep wounds within the “community,” both local and nationwide.  Even many of those who thought they had finally put their differences with Doug Phillips in the past and had moved forward in life suddenly found themselves looking hurt in the mirror one more time.  And it was very confusing.  As TW Eston and I continued to write articles here after Doug’s resignation, the comments, both here and elsewhere, were filled with, first, denial, then anger accompanied by deep hurt.  In any grieving process, these two are the first stages of how we respond emotionally in any situation where we have loss.  Bargaining and depression are the next stages before finally coming to terms with accepting the loss.  For some, going through these five stages of grieving happens very rapidly, but for others, it takes a very long period of time, while there are many who never reach the last stage of acceptance, allowing one to move forward in life.  When we “bury” our feelings and emotions from a hurtful experience in life, we find ourselves stuck somewhere in this grieving process, unable to truly move forward freely in life.  Others remain in the anger stage forever.

Telling my story online seven years ago was a cathartic process for me, and for those who followed along, many saw me go through these stages right in this blog.  I am grateful that God brought me through the grieving process to the healing point of acceptance so that I could move forward in my own life, partly because I was able to respond to this whole recent debacle without personally involving myself the way I did the first time around.  This allowed me to be much more objective.  It also allowed me to be able to empathize with those who just had the rug pulled out from underneath them.  I have read the comments and followed the conversations here and there, both online and in real life, with greater insight and compassion.

Healing from emotional pain is one of the life’s most transforming events ever.  It is more powerful than the initial trauma.  So, as I considered whether or not I should attend this year’s new Christian film festival, I realized that what I most wanted to do was to help bring healing to a hurting community.  How could I do that?  I decided to sign up as a volunteer and see what happened.  Although I could have used a fake name to get in the door, I knew that if I was going to bring healing to this hurting community that I needed to be just me, so I signed up online with my real name.  When the volunteer coordinator called me to talk to me about volunteering, I was surprised to find that she also attended BCA, but I was just going to go with the flow here, since my only goal was to bring healing to a hurting community. After we talked, she decided to have me “manage” the registration desk for the majority of the film festival.  That meant that my face would be the first one everyone saw when they entered the front door.  I knew I could use this opportunity for good!

With less than two days to go before the film festival began, I got the phone call.  I’ve heard this so many times before.  I either get a letter, an email, or a phone call, but they all say pretty much the same thing:  “Don’t ever darken the doors here again.”  I was fully prepared for the fact that this may be just another door slammed in my face, but when Philip Telfer called me to tell me that someone had emailed him, concerned about what might happen if I showed up at the film festival, I was pleasantly surprised when, instead, he asked me to have dinner with him and his wife that evening.  I knew they were super busy getting ready for the film festival, so I was honored that he would give me his time and give me the opportunity to speak for myself.  I found both Pastor Telfer and his wife to be wonderful people, and we easily fell into much laughter and a delightful conversation together!  It turned out that we both had the same goals in this film festival:  to bring healing to a hurting community.

HEROI am happy to report that the first annual Christian Worldview Film Festival was drama-free.  There was no idol who everyone was clamoring to see, but rather a servant-leader who was not only available whenever he was needed, but also just milled about and interacted with everyone in attendance.  If there was a mafia dressed in black, packing pieces, I did not see them.  What I did see were hundreds of happy people, excited to see old friends again, enjoying all the workshops, films, and special events that filled the week!  And I enjoyed being there to greet every single person each day.  As I saw those I had not seen in 8-10 years, I attempted to go out of my way to give each one of them a hug.  My goal was to hug every person I knew from my days in the “community.”  But what I found instead was that most of those who I had not seen in a long time were the first to want to give me a hug instead!  There was even one family that currently attends BCA who wanted to hug me.  Although I was not wearing a name tag, apparently, there were some who recognized my picture from online and came up to speak to me.  One lady, upon confirming who I was, gave me a big hug and just said, “Thank you!” with tears in her eyes. One small step for healing, one giant leap for the “community.”

I really did have a wonderful time there.  There were a few conversations about Doug Phillips and Vision Forum, but for the most part, these people were here to focus on moving forward, not looking backward.  I went to a few films.  I really enjoyed a couple, like Hero and Creed of Gold.  There were a few I didn’t care for as well, but for me, that was not the main point.  I also attended a lecture by Rich Christiano because I heard he was controversial.  I wanted to hear that for myself. It was sad to see that certain young filmmakers did not show up, simply because it was not organized by Vision Forum.

Imagine the irony, then, of coming off the high of the first step toward healing, the first step toward making peace in this hurting “community,” of finding out in World’s article that Doug Phillips sent a letter, through his attorney, of course, threatening to sue three of the men who showed up on his doorstep that fateful day in October, 2013.  This letter was mailed March 13, 2014, right smack in the middle of the Christian Worldview Film Festival.  While many of us were working to bringing healing to a hurting community, Doug Phillips, obviously hurting himself that he was not the star of the show this year, was busy stirring up strife instead. The letter to Bob Renaud and Peter Bradrick (Doug Phillips’ former personal assistants) and Jordan Muela (former intern/VF employee) stated, in part: “the three of you have conspired together, and with others, in an attempt to destroy Doug Phillips, his family and Vision Forum Inc.”

internsThis immediately brings to mind several questions.  If there were five men standing on Doug Phillips’ doorstep on that red letter day in October, why were only these three threatened with a lawsuit?  Why not Dr. Joe Morecraft, who immediately preached a sermon about Doug Phillips’ fall, although he did not name him by name; and Mark Weaver, Doug’s close college friend?  I would posit that it has everything to do with the tiny little word found at the end of the sentence quoted above — “Inc.”  It seems readily apparent to me that while Doug Phillips rightfully acknowledged his responsibility to step down from ministry (albeit months and years too late, and only under duress), that he had every intention of keeping the business side of Vision Forum going strong, while he took a breather for a year or so from public speaking, and then he would pick up the reins once again, ready to lead the charge of his Vision Forum Ministries brigade, onward to victory over the evils of the real world.

Apparently, Doug Phillips believes that these three young men, whom he personally trained, not only in the patriarchal way of life but also in how to use any means possible to attain the desired results, were somehow responsible for destroying his business.  Pragmatism ruled the day in this business/ministry of Vision Forum, while love, respect, relationship, and all ethics were thrown to the wind.  So what did these three young men do to merit the threat of Doug Phillips suing them?  They broke the “No Gossip” rule.  Never mind that the “No Gossip” rule is not to be found anywhere in Scripture.  Never mind that there is no law that contains this supposed “No Gossip” rule.  Never mind that one current BCA member recently stood up and said that this “No Gossip” rule does not exist, even in the face of hundreds of others who state otherwise.  The “No Gossip” rule was originally put into place to keep people from speaking about what was happening between Doug Phillips and Joe Taylor, and it grew in intensity and reach ever since.  The “No Gossip” rule has kept hundreds of hurting people, and families, from sharing their pain and hurts with anyone, for fear of retribution for breaking the “No Gossip” rule, even long after they left BCA or the “community.”

So what was this great sin that Bob Renaud, Peter Bradrick, and Jordan Muela committed?  What was this juicy gossip that they shared, that would merit the level of a defamation lawsuit?  Although Peter Bradrick’s Facebook page has since been closed, Peter shared his pain of being disowned by a man he considered to be both a father and a mentor to him.  Bob Renaud shared a few other details, showing that he and Peter had worked together to confront a man they both deeply loved.  Jordan Muela wrote a heartfelt Facebook article, “How Silence Enables Abuse.”  Although he did not name Doug Phillips (if I remember correctly), everyone in the community knew who he was speaking about.  (He has since hid his Facebook page, so I do not have access to the article now.)

ndarnlIn addition to these three young men speaking out, there were a few others who have spoken publicly as well.  Apparently, Doug Phillips does not consider the others to be a threat, but one that has spoken out in favor of everyone keeping silent is Nathaniel Darnell.  His most recent article about how to respond to the allegations of the nature being made against Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard caused quite a stir when he suggested that the young women should go to their elders if they were sexually abused.  I guess he forgot that that’s exactly what got them into that situation to begin with.

Although no one I personally know from BCA and the community has publicly apologized to me, nor even really said anything about my situation, there have been a handful who have privately apologized. On a personal note, I will say that as I read each of the articles and comments above, as well as those by Nolan Manteufel and Ryan Short, that I have shed many tears.  For me, they were healing tears, because at least I was not the lone person out here warning those I love that danger lurks nearby.  Finally someone else was seeing it as well.  It is truly tragic that it had to come at such a heavy price.  Nathan Barnes, another former VF intern/employee, posted this status on Facebook recently:

The laws of friendship require a discovery of that which endangers one another. You would count him unworthy the name of a friend, who knowing a thief or an incendiary to lurk in your family, with a design to kill, or rob, or burn your house, would conceal it from you, and not acquaint you with it on his own accord. There is no such thief, murderer, incendiary, as sin: it more endangers us, and those concernments that are more precious than goods, or house, or life; and that most endangers us, by which the Lord’s anger is already kindled against us. Silence or concealment in this case is treachery. He is the most faithful friend, and worthy of most esteem and affection, that deals most plainly with us, in reference to the discovery of our sin. He that is reserved in this case is but a false friend, a mere pretender to love, whereas, indeed, he hates his brother in his heart.  Clarkson, David (1865). The Practical Works of David Clarkson Retrieved from http://books.google.com

gobobSo why are all these statements made by Bob Renaud, Peter Bradrick, and Jordan Muela libelous to the point of warranting a lawsuit? Apparently, I Cor. 6 is magically erased from Doug Phillips’ Bible, but beyond the “sin” of violating the “No Gossip” rule, Doug Phillips seems to think that these three men conspired together to destroy the business half of Vision Forum.  By Doug’s own actions, he destroyed Vision Forum ministries, which closed on November 11, 2013, although he has threatened to make legal claims against the remaining Vision Forum Ministries board as well.  At first, he made it known that Doug still owned the business side of Vision Forum, but by November 27, 2013, we announced on this blog that Vision Forum, Inc., the business, would be closing permanently by December 31, 2013.  Unless Doug Phillips was actually following our lead, we correctly reported this event.  Most likely, we were not the first to know that Vision Forum, Inc. would be closing their doors, so this decision was probably made several days earlier than November 27, 2013.  Look at the comments made by Peter Bradrick and Bob Renaud again. The only comment made publicly before we announced that Vision Forum, Inc. was closing was made by Bob Renaud on October 22, 2013: “Your sins will find you out so it’s best to follow Lanny’s advice: ‘Tell it early. Tell it all. Tell it yourself.’” (This comment causes me to question World Magazine’s timeline for the front door confrontation, unless Bob was just sending a message out ahead of time.)  But all those other comments and articles were posted after Doug Phillips had already decided to close his business.

The only person who destroyed Vision Forum, both the ministry and the business, was Doug Phillips himself.  The only person who destroyed Doug Phillips’ reputation was Doug Phillips himself.  While the words of his former interns and close associates deeply hurt him, they were the wounds of friends who loved him enough to publicly rebuke a sinning leader, in the hopes of restoring him to his senses, and to a right relationship with God.  As Doug Phillips once stated in church, when a man falls for a woman, all common sense goes right out the window.  How prophetically true, in his case.

On August 7, 2013, Doug Phillips wrote a brilliant article about “True Repentance.”  What happened that prompted this article we’re not sure at this point, but now seems like a good time to remind Doug of some key points that he made: “Those who remain unrepentant should not expect the blessing of the Lord. Unrepentance is not only an impediment to the very object of our life—true unity with God—but it leads to the judgment of the Lord. It is the single greatest roadblock to family vision.”  Doug goes on to list six elements of godly sorrow that produce true repentance: brokenness, forsaking sin, truth telling, acceptance of responsibility, restitution, and peace.

From day one, we have been saying that Doug Phillips did not show any evidence of true repentance in his public statements.  I know him well enough to read between the crafty wording clever disguised as godly sorrow.  If Doug’s recent threats of legal action against his close friends and his former board members are any indication of where his heart is right now, these acts of retribution rather than restitution openly belie his words of resignation that are still publicly displayed for all to see.  Although I had held out a tiny spark of hope that Doug Phillips would truly repent, in the manner he himself prescribes, his blame shifting, his arrogance, his refusal to accept responsibility for tearing down his own house and ministry, and his insistence that others pay him restitution instead, all point to his stirring up even more strife rather than being the one who brings peace and healing to a hurting community.

In his latest article, TW Eston presciently stated:

Doug Phillips is hasty to resort to legal intimidation. He has legally threatened dozens of people. To my knowledge Doug Phillips has never actually taken anyone to trial. Rather, he only threatens to take them to court, but out of the goodness of his heart he agrees to settle with them out of court, provided they keep their mouths shut, i.e. they must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Are Non-Disclosure Agreements biblical? In certain cases an NDA may be appropriate, and they may not necessarily in all cases be expressly unbiblical. However, they should never be used if the underlying motive is to silence critics and cover up unrepentant sin. The purposes for which Doug Phillips has so frequently coerced the signing of NDA’s is only intended to silence those who would speak out against his egregious sins and hold him accountable for his duplicity and corruption. Doug Phillips’ habitual use of NDAs has allowed him to cover up a huge amount of sin, both his own sins and the sins of his accomplices.

But let us not be too hasty to judge Doug Phillips’ latest attempts to take his brothers to public court.  Perhaps he has found I Cor. 6 in his Bible after all, and has mentioned the possibility of Christian conciliation instead. On the surface, appealing to Peacemaker Ministries sounds promising, but what is Doug Phillips’ track record with these types of situations? The first instance of using Peacemaker Ministries, that I am aware of, was when Mark and I asked Doug Phillips to go to mediation with us, through the trained Peacemaker counselors at Faith PCA here locally.  The first thing we were required to do was to clean up all derogatory comments, whether they were ours or others, to refrain from saying that we were repentant, and to be silent.  Since I had diligently sought to fully forgive Doug Phillips, and all those involved, privately in my heart before telling my story publicly (a public leader’s sins need to be made known to the same degree that their teachings are), and I was already extremely cautious in using my words carefully, it was a difficult decision to abide by these rules during the conciliation process.  But for the greater good of bringing healing to the situation at hand, we did so willingly.

A couple months later, after an emotionally charged meeting between Doug Phillips and the elders at Faith PCA (two of whom were also the Christian conciliators for Peacemaker Ministries), we were informed that Doug Phillips refused any reconciliation with us. Doug Phillips told the elders that there is only one way for the Epsteins to be reconciled with me; they must come to me and repent fully without any equivocation of everything that we excommunicated them for, and they also have to repent for blogging about me. We were also invited by these Christian conciliators to never darken the door of their church again.  When asked about the situation privately, one of the Christian conciliator elders remarked, “We f***ed up.”  That was Doug Phillips’ first interaction with Peacemaker, that I am aware of.

PeacemakerEncouraged by even the thought of Christian conciliation, Joe Taylor thought he would attempt the same offer of mediation through Peacemaker. As you can see by TW Eston’s latest article on Joe Taylor, not only did Doug Phillips refuse Joe Taylor’s offer of using Christians to mediate, but he also took him to court.  Two strikes for Doug Phillips.

But what happens when Doug Phillips decides he wants to be the one to call for mediation through Peacemaker Ministries?  Rumor has it that Beall Phillips asked Peacemaker to mediate between Doug Phillips and Cassandra and her family before this all went public.  Knowing that Peacemaker always requires silence on both sides during and after conciliation, this would have been a perfect way to forever keep Doug Phillips’ adultery hidden, allowing the family to continue their opulent lifestyle and the public fame and glory that they so enjoyed.  However, Cassandra was wise enough to decline such an arrangement, and so was Peacemaker Ministries.  Having met with Doug Phillips before, they probably knew it would not be a prudent case to take on. Three strikes.

Doug Mac girlsAs I consider the possibility of Peacemaker having taken that particular case, I cringe at the tremendous amount of damage that would have mounted had Doug Phillips been allowed to continue on as if nothing had ever happened.  This is one of the reasons why using Peacemaker Ministries can be a very bad idea.  While I readily acknowledge that many people have been helped through this ministry, I wonder how many others have actually been allowed to cover their sin, or worse yet, continue in their sinful lifestyle, because of this requirement of forever remaining silent.

In my training as a professional health coach, I have found that unresolved emotional pain causes more health problems, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well, than any other aspect of health.  I remember when Mark, my first husband, required me to never speak about my adultery in the first couple years of our marriage, even though I had fully repented from it.  There were times during those fifteen years of silence when I wanted to be able to share with others how God brought me through that time in my life and what I learned and how I repented and moved forward in life (although Mark never found it in his heart to forgive me).  As the years went on, that enforced silence built up inside me and caused me deep turmoil.  When Doug Phillips took it upon himself to tell the church about my adultery, which had happened 15 years earlier and for which Doug Phillips himself agreed that he saw true repentance in me, and I was now free to talk about it, it was like a load of bricks was finally lifted off my back.  While Doug Phillips certainly had no business sharing a pastoral confidence which Mark had shared with him privately, it ended up being one of the most freeing things that ever happened to me, and I was now on the road to being healed emotionally.

Peter BradrickTo Peter Bradrick, Bob Renaud, and Jordan Muela:  Don’t fall for it!  You all know Doug Phillips well enough to know that his offer of going to Peacemaker Ministries is for one purpose only:  to shut you up.  Confidentiality rules the day in Peacemaker’s mediation process.  While a public trial can bring to light every single detail and expose all the dirt on every side, Peacemaker goes to the opposite extreme and covers up all sin.  Bob, with your legal training, you know that Doug Phillips does not have any legal grounds against you three.  Yes, the easy thing to do is to settle quietly behind the scenes and go on about your life.  But the right thing to do takes much more work, and only a man with great integrity will do the right thing.

This is not about making peace.  This is all about silencing the truth.  “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” is a principle that applies to many different aspects of life.  Everyone who sat under Doug Phillips’ teachings and ministry needs to know the truth now so that each person, each family, each BCA member, each VF employee and board member, can be set free, emotionally and spiritually, to begin healing that will lead to acceptance of what has happened, in order to move forward in life.  May we all we be stronger and wiser for having walked this journey, but may we learn to love and forgive as we begin our new paths in life.

Raising The Allosaur, A Doug Phillips Fraudumentary

Only a few years after moving to San Antonio and starting Vision Forum, Doug Phillips led a tour group of 30 home school kids and their parents (mostly fathers and sons) to Colorado in search of dinosaur bones. According to the Vision Forum news release sent out immediately following the tour in May 2002, this small group of home educators met with a stunning success. Doug Phillips claimed that, under his personal leadership, his home school group found a fully articulated, 70% intact, Allosaurus. He would later claim that his home school tour group successfully “raised” the allosaur:

COLORADO, May 20 — A dinosaur fossil expedition for home educators sponsored by Vision Forum and Creation Expeditions has excavated a rare, large, intact Allosaurus measuring more than 22 feet in length, 10 feet in height, with a complete skull more than a yard long. Allosaurs are believed to be a close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex, and differ from the T. rex primarily in size and cranial capacity.

Under the leadership of Vision Forum president Doug Phillips, an adjunct professor of apologetics with the Institute for Creation Research, and Peter DeRosa, a veteran archaeologist and paleontologist with Creation Expeditions, the team of thirty home educators spent a week hunting for and excavating fossils in a privately owned location in the Skull Creek Basin of Northwest Colorado. Vision Forum News Release, May 20, 2002

Doug Phillips’ news release was replete with half-truths, lies, fabrications, and stealing credit from the men who had actually been responsible. Even the claim that they’d “spent a week hunting for and excavating” was a lie. In reality they had only spent three days on site excavating.

World Net Daily naively swallowed Vision Forum’s news release and posted an article about it. It’s for good reason that Doug Phillips’ stunning paleontological feat of finding a major dinosaur and excavating it, all in the span of three days, had never been done before, and would never be claimed again. Such a feat is completely impossible, even for seasoned professional dinosaur paleontologists, of which no one on Doug Phillips home school team were. Contrary to Doug Phillips’ news release Pete DeRosa was not “a veteran archaeologist and paleontologist”. In the same Vision Forum news release Doug Phillips announced his intentions to produce a video documentary:

Vision Forum is planning to release a video documentary on the historic Dragon’s Den Expedition in the future.

In order to be a video documentary, Doug Phillips’ film would need to come reasonably close to what comports with the common definition:

doc·u·men·ta·ry (of a movie, a television or radio program, or photography) using pictures or interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual record or report.

a movie or a television or radio program that provides a factual record or report. New Oxford American Dictionary

RTAfilmcrewA scripted staged event cannot be a “documentary”; but that’s precisely what Doug Phillips’ video proved to be. He took a film crew on location to video tape a staged event, based on details that he already knew about the dig sites, including what had already been discovered there. He would take credit for his own group doing everything, including the discovery. He took full credit for the excavation. He even took credit for his home school group “raising the allosaur”—even though his tour group was long gone prior to the allosaur excavation.

Doug Phillips’ film had been carefully choreographed in advance around his self-promoting agenda. The script was a sham, and the resultant video “documentary” was a fraud – a fraudumentary. Many thousands of Vision Forum patrons purchased Doug Phillips’ video. They made him rich in the process, and not only from just purchasing the video itself. A large percentage were so highly impressed by Doug Phillips’ stunning paleontological success that they purchased many other Vision Forum products, as well. It seemed that the Christian home school community had suddenly found a creationist hero that they could rally behind, and rally they did.

Raising The Allosaur coverOn November 15, 2002, concurrent with the publication of the 2003 Vision Forum Catalog, Doug Phillips and Vision Forum released its “first feature documentary film”, the 60 minute Raising The Allosaur: The True Story of a Rare Dinosaur and the Home Schoolers Who Found It. It’s ironic but not surprising that Phillips selected a title that included the word “True”, for there is very little truth to it.

The 2003 Vision Forum Catalog stated:

“Consider that our dinosaur site was completely excavated by home educators. The paleontologists were home educators. The team doing the restoration was made up of home educators.” Vision Forum Catalog, 2003 (pg. 3)

Thus begins the saga in a long train of lies, fraud, stealing credit from and destroying the livelihoods of other men, and legal chicanery that is Doug Phillips’ duplicitous career in Christian film making, film production, and film promotion. Raising The Allosaur formed the backdrop, the very foundation, on which the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival was soon thereafter launched in 2004.

I watched the video trailer and was impressed. So like thousands of other suckers, I bought the video.

I was at the time a fan of Doug Phillips and Vision Forum. Looking back on it now I can plainly see how my biases blinded me to what I was viewing. Anyone who claims they’re “unbiased” is very likely deceiving themselves. We all have biases and we all need to be mindful of how they can affect our judgment. Eventually common sense started overcoming my pro-Doug Phillips biases.

As I grew increasingly suspicious about Doug Phillips’ incredible claims, I made calls to Vision Forum. In doing so I encountered doubletalk and stonewalling, especially from Wesley Strackbein (Vision Forum Public Relations Director) and Bob Renaud (Doug Phillips’ Personal Assistant). No one at Vision Forum had any credible answers, and all the while Doug Phillips was hiding in the background, refusing to take any calls or respond to emails. My suspicions only increased that Doug Phillips’ “documentary” must have been a sham.

I’m no paleontologist, but I do understand some basics, and one of the basics is that you can’t find a large dinosaur of any kind and excavate it, and raise it, all in the span of a week. Even prior to the actual work of the excavation, such projects require a great deal of preparation. That includes drawing up and executing the necessary contracts between all concerned parties (especially the property owner), surveying the site, equipment provisioning, and logistical support. All that requires money, and this generally means securing financial backing. Because of all these factors it usually requires months, if not several years, to bring a dinosaur excavation project to successful completion. In other words you can’t just show up and start digging and have any chance of raising a large dinosaur.

Raising The Allosaur was soon dubbed a “fakeumentary” by those who had personally worked the dig site long before, and long after, Doug Phillips and his home school tour group had made their three-day appearance. Included among them were the property owner, the project director, the surveyor, the logistical support man, the equipment man, and the excavation team.

Doug Phillips had big financial problems at the time that he set out to produce his “first feature documentary film”. Just prior to the release of Raising The Allosaur, Dunn and Bradstreet’s fiscal rating of Vision Forum Inc showed that they were over a million dollars in the red. The many thousands of copies of Raising The Allosaur that were sold, along with all the associated dino dig merchandise, including Indiana Jones fedoras, rock hammers, fossils, and dinosaur toys, quickly put Vision Forum in the black. There was no other product line that had ever made Vision Forum so much money so quickly.

Raising The Allosaur rapidly became a stunning success, and a very lucrative one too. One would think that Doug Phillips would have proudly showcased Raising The Allosaur at the inaugural San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival on November 11-13, 2004, as an inspiration to other filmmakers of how Christians should (in Doug Phillips’ words) “take dominion”. Certainly that’s the way he’d portrayed Raising The Allosaur everywhere else. Doug Phillips had aggressively promoted his video to the press, and in numerous home school convention speeches he’d given coast to coast. Yet with the arrival of his first film festival he mysteriously went silent about Raising The Allosaur.

As part of the SAICFF awards consideration process competitors must comply with The Ten Commandments of Submitting Films for the Jubilee Awards:

Eighth Commandment

Don’t steal other people’s work…

Ninth Commandment

Truth is essential to Christian films… Film is an especially powerful medium for communication and should be handled with integrity.

No one should assume that just because Doug Phillips makes the rules that he complies with them himself. To quote him, “He who defines the terms wins.”

Twin brothers Graham & Joel Fisher of Beowulf Studios, who filmed Raising The Allosaur, received the SAICFF’s top award, but not for that movie.

The “Best of Festival” Jubilee Award — a $10,000 grand prize — went to The Art of Play
SAICFF News Release, November 15, 2004

Doubts were raised about the objectivity of the judges and whether or not the top award for the 14-minute film short was a payoff for the Fisher brothers’ labors in filming Raising The Allosaur. That was all quite unfortunate because, from all accounts, The Art of Play was a good film. As evidence mounted that Doug Phillips had scripted his entire “documentary” on falsehoods, Raising The Allosaur became a tremendous career embarrassment to the Fisher brothers. More than likely the Fisher twins were guilty of no wrongdoing, other than youthful naiveté.

Oddly enough Raising The Allosaur was never mentioned at the SAICFF, or anywhere else, and it would never be mentioned by Doug Phillips again. For reasons never explained, Doug Phillips abruptly pulled Raising The Allosaur from the Vision Forum web site and catalog, immediately prior to the inaugural launch of the SAICFF.

It was probably no coincidence that the sudden disappearance of the video occurred on the heels of a News Release entitled Villainy Behind the Mask of Virtue: Vision Forum Unmasked. The author, Terry Beh, is a professional writer, having written for Focus On The Family and other major ministries. More significantly Mr. Beh had excavated on the Allosaurus himself, working side-by-side with those whom he knew were responsible for the work. The news release was distributed the week prior to the SAICFF, and it received wide circulation:

“In a few days the faithful will gather at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival to hobnob with some of the most well-known Christian film makers around, and Doug Phillips will be basking in glory and hyping his fraudulent film.”

Terry Beh’s news release proved to be the straw that broke the Allosaurus’ back, and Raising The Allosaur instantly vanished without explanation. That lack of explanation only raised more suspicions. Questions kept being directed to Vision Forum for which answers weren’t forthcoming. Doug Phillips never made any public statement about the film’s abrupt disappearance, and for over two years there was no Vision Forum explanation at all. When the pressure for answers didn’t subside Vision Forum finally did, quite belatedly, make this one Statement Concerning Raising The Allosaur:

“We want to assure our friends that we firmly stand behind the integrity of the film Raising the Allosaur. Also, contrary to the claims of our detractors, the voluntary decision to withdraw the film from circulation (for the present) had nothing to do with concerns on our part that the film was untruthful. ” (Josh Wean, CFO, Vision Forum, Inc, January 1, 2007)

The 2003 Vision Forum Catalog, and the back cover of the Raising The Allosaur video case, state:

Q: What happens when a group of home school boys and girls travel to the badlands of Colorado with their parents in search of adventure and the hope of finding ancient treasures buried in rock?

A: They make the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year. There, buried in the rock, they excavate three amazing creatures: a many-plated Stegosaur; a 120-foot Brachiosaur. Most importantly, they raise from the ground what appears to be the most complete Allosaur (similar to a T. rex) ever found in the history of paleontology, including the monster’s giant skull complete with rows and rows of once-razor sharp teeth.  (pg. 48)

A number of people knew from the very beginning who was really responsible for discovering, excavating, and raising the Allosaurus. People started asking questions that proved impossible for Doug Phillips to answer. So by the time that the 2004 Vision Forum catalog was released, the description of Raising The Allosaur was altered, but in so subtle a way so as to not attract too much attention:

Q: What happens when a group of home school boys and girls travel to the badlands of Colorado with their parents in search of adventure and the hope of finding ancient treasures buried in rock?

A: They become part of the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year. There, buried in the rock, are three amazing creatures: a many-plated Stegosaur, a 120-foot Brachiosaur, and most importantly, what appears to be the most complete Allosaur ever found in the history of paleontology. As they participate in the excavation of these creatures, they discover even more—remarkable proof that the creature is not millions, but thousands of years old! Vision Forum Catalog, 2004 (pg. 86)

Though the wording between the 2003 and 2004 Q & A appears much the same, a careful comparison shows these are anything but minor differences. Changing the catalog was easy. Yet, Doug Phillips couldn’t so easily change the single most important thing of all – the content of the video itself. Start to finish, Raising The Allosaur is full of half-truths, gross exaggerations, flagrant omissions, lies, and fabrications:

  • The allosaur was not discovered by Doug Phillips and his group of home educators
  • The allosaur was not excavated and “raised” in one week
  • The allosaur was not “completely excavated by home educators”
  • “The paleontologists were home educators” is a half-truth
  • Not even one single bone of the allosaur was raised by Doug Phillips’ group

A synopsis from Creation Wiki accurately states:

In the fall of 2000 Dana Forbes discovered an Allosaur on his property located in the Skullcreek Basin of northwest Colorado. The Allosaur was subsequently excavated under the direction of creation scientist Joe Taylor and his team from the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum (Crosbyton, TX). Assistance was provided in 2001 by Carl Baugh from the Creation Evidence Museum (Glen Rose, TX), the Derosa Family from Creation Expeditions (Crystal River, FL), and in 2002 by a homeschool tour group from Vision Forum.

After the excavation of the Allosaur was complete Vision Forum and Creation Expeditions made and released a documentary titled “Raising the Allosaur”. Controversy and criticisms about the film surface quickly because of many inaccuracies that were present, the most notable of which was the failure to give any credit for the excavation to the directing paleontologist Joe Taylor. After the exposure of ethical violations the film was pulled from the market in October of 2004.

So who discovered the dinosaur? The Colorado property owner himself, Mr. Dana Forbes, and that happened in October 2000. Dana Forbes removed two of the dinosaur’s vertebrae at that time for later identification. In 1999 Dana and his wife Brenda had acquired just under 70 acres in Massadona, Colorado, just east of Dinosaur National Monument. It wasn’t long before Dana started uncovering dinosaur bones. As a creationist he wanted to use the property for advancing the cause of creationism.

In early 2001 the Denver Post ran an article about the Forbes property and his Dinosaur Excavations. That article gave him considerable exposure and helped him sell fossil dig tours. Several radio interviews came shortly after the Denver Post article. Two National Geographic photographers made arrangements with Dana to come out in May 2001 and shoot photos of his conducting a dig. In June he was contacted by The Today Show to arrange for an on-site interview. It seemed the Forbes were well on their way to having a successful fossil dig business; but their most important concern was that their property be used to bring glory to God. Dana also knew that he would need the help of a skilled paleontologist in order to properly excavate and restore the large dinosaur bones that he knew were on his property.

Joe Taylor

Joe Taylor

Word of Dana’s property started getting around the creationist community. Dr. Carl Baugh visited with the Forbes on May 20, 2001 at their property. He recommended that the Forbes work with the professional dinosaur paleontologist, Mr. Joe Taylor of the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum. Taylor and the Mt. Blanco team were working at Baugh’s dig site just a few miles away. The next day Taylor and members of his team were introduced to the Forbes at the Forbes’ property. Dana Forbes produced several dinosaur bones for Taylor to examine. Taylor identified two vertebrae as being an Allosaurus. Taylor was soon thereafter contractually assigned as “Chief Excavator” for all work on the Forbes’ property.

Excavation assistance was indeed provided, in part, by Pete DeRosa’s Creation Expeditions, comprised of himself and his two sons Pete Jr. and Mark DeRosa. Doug Phillips and his home school tour group also assisted in the excavation, for three days.

MtBlancoBldgFrontMThe contributions of Joe Taylor and his Mt. Blanco team, as well as significant contributions made by others were, apparently, of such minor consequence in Doug Phillips’ mind that none of them merited any mention at all. Doug Phillips rationalized that the minor contribution made by Pete DeRosa and his two boys, as well as the three days of work by the Vision Forum home school tour group, was so significant that it merited taking 100% of the credit for everything.

Joe Taylor isn’t one to make an issue over getting credit. However he was genuinely concerned that Doug Phillips’ false representations would come back to harm not just Doug Phillips, but potentially the entire creationist community. Joe attempted to contact Doug Phillips in July 2002 but, in classic Doug Phillips fashion, he insulated himself from exposure by having his Personal Assistant, Bob Renaud, respond to all Joe’s emails. So on July 29, 2002 Joe Taylor sent an email to Bob Renaud:

Bob:
Please consider these corrections. If Ken Ham or the Australians see one little mistake they might denounce your work, and you don’t want that.

But there was far more than just “one little mistake” that needed fixing. Joe explains why a number of Doug Phillips’ claims were scientifically false, and one was even rooted in evolutionary theory. He then goes on to explain why the claims made by Phillips and DeRosa of their personal responsibility for discovering and raising the allosaur were false. Joe Taylor did so in an exceedingly gracious manner:

8.     This is just a technicality, and just for your eyes, I told the Forbes they had an Allosaurus when they showed me some vertebrae a year and a half ago…

9.     Just for the record; it was the Mt. Blanco team who came with all the equipment the first time and excavated the 12 feet of spine etc. when we developed the site for AiG and CSI, before they abandoned it. lt was also the same equipment that excavated the neck, and jaws attached to the skull this spring. Our team member Jordan Hall found the first bit of the lower jaw that took us to the skull. We were digging the same spot together…

11.    Not to take anything away from Vision Forum’s story, but, Mt. Blanco has been working world class sites for many years. We have made them available to ICR, AiG, CSI, Bryan College, and many more creation groups, inviting them to take advantage of our sites for years, though with little success. We have been excavating on as many as a dozen dinosaurs and one mammoth for Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidence Museum for the past eight years or more. Last year alone, we excavated a large mastodon tusk, and two mammoths, not to mention the Allosaurus. We continued work on the 10 animals at Carl’s Colorado dig. And our new T-rex site in Montana this spring is ongoing. I’m not looking for y’all to say anything. I am just informing you so that someone doesn’t come up and ask any embarrassing questions.

All of this prudent advice came some four months prior to the release of Raising The Allosaur. Had Doug Phillips heeded Joe Taylor’s advice it would have saved Doug Phillips all those “embarrassing questions”. But a man who is greedy for gain isn’t one to listen to the voice of reason.

Doug Phillips responded the same day in his classic, I’m such a busy and important man that I can’t be bothered with speaking directly to mere commoners like yourself, so you’ll have to run everything through my Personal Assistant. Doug Phillips rebuffs and deflects all of Joe Taylor’s recommendations and assertions:

Dear Mr. Taylor:

Doug is rushing around from state to state and asked me to respond your letter. First, he wanted me to thank you for your kindness in taking the time to write with the below corrections and comments. He also wanted to acknowledge our gratitude for the expertise and years of experience that the Lord has given to you in the field of paleontology. Doug wanted me to respectfully disagree with points 1 through 4 in your note…

Concerning the remaining points, Doug wanted me to assure you that it is never his desire to rob another brother of the glory due to him, but that it has always been our understanding based on his relationship with Pete and Creation Expeditions, that this dig from beginning to end has been a Creation Expeditions dig for which you were an important part of the support team. Consequently, the information was not meant to exclude Mt. Blanco, but to emphasize Creation Expedition team which oversaw the project and was yoked with Vision Forum during the week that the Allosaurus skull was discovered. The articles were cleared with Creation Expedition and represent our best attempt to promote an accurate overview of the situation and to draw attention to the importance of this find which culminated with the dig that occurred during the week that Vision Forum and Creation Expeditions sponsored our joint dig. He mentioned that because of the formal working relationship between Creation Expeditions and Vision Forum, that any concerns should be discussed with Pete, from whom we take our queue.

Doug Phillips doesn’t take his queues from anyone, much less from someone as insignificant (to him) as Pete DeRosa. Doug Phillips gives the orders, he doesn’t take them. What Doug Phillips does regularly do, however, is to insulate himself by feigning that someone else is in charge of a project, and that he’s just following their lead. If the project fails he can blame them, but if the project succeeds he can share the credit, if not claim it all for himself. Anyone who knows Doug personally knows how he plays the game. It’s all about avoiding personal responsibility, but taking the credit if the project succeeds. Such was the case here. It was no accident that Bob Renaud cc’d Joe Taylor the following email to Doug Phillips:

From: Bob Renaud
Sent: Monday, July 29, 2002 11:38 AM
To: Doug Phillips
Subject: FW: ALLOSAUR INFO
This is absurd! Pete needs to have another talk with him.

In other words, “We’re calling the shots, Joe. You’d better get on board with the program.”

Doug Phillips declares that “this dig from beginning to end has been a Creation Expeditions dig” and that Joe Taylor and Mt. Blanco were merely “an important part of the support team”. It all reminds me of Yul Brynner’s imperious Pharaoh in The Ten Commandments: “So let it be written, so let it be done.”

It’s probably not as though Doug Phillips even comprehends that he’s lying. Doug Phillips probably really does believe the entire story that he’s fabricated. This is precisely how the mind of a pathological liar works. Once a pathological liar fabricates a story in his mind, no facts, or evidence, or testimony to the contrary will ever convince him otherwise. Doug Phillips had even written the script for his video so, therefore, it all had to be true. Doug Phillips probably even believes it when he says, “Doug wanted me to assure you that it is never his desire to rob another brother of the glory due to him”, even though that’s exactly what he was doing, and would continue doing.

As portrayed in Doug Phillips’ fraudumentary, it’s as though Joe Taylor and the Mt. Blanco team weren’t even there. Not only was Joe directing the entire project, he and his Mt. Blanco team had been there working on the site for weeks prior, including also working the site the prior year. They would continue working on the site for some time after Doug Phillips and his home school tour group had gone home.

This is classic Doug Phillips modus operandi – steal the credit from those men who actually deserve it, but give credit to himself, and to men who deserve very little credit in order to cement strategic business partnerships from which he can financially profit. Pete DeRosa had partnered with Doug Phillips to have Vision Forum use its half-million-name mail list to sell dino dig tour packages for $995 per person, the profits of which they would split between them. The profit motive from selling tour packages, as well as the profit from selling a “documentary”, became Doug Phillips’ overarching concern, and he would allow nothing to stand in the way of that. Doug Phillips’ insatiable greed would completely undermine what should have been a significant advancement for the cause of creation science. In the process Doug Phillips would ruin the livelihoods of a number of men who had dedicated themselves to the cause of creation science.

Raising The Allosaur begins with:

“The Colorado Morrison formation is part of a vast geological graveyard of bones that is world renowned to dinosaur hunters. But in May of 2002 an unusual group of 30 parents and their children journeyed to these badlands to participate in an experiment, a rare experiment in paleontology and a unique search for one of the most elusive dinosaurs, the Allosaur. Over the next sixty minutes we invite you to join our team on this journey of discovery and family renewal. Join us with Doug Phillips, President of the Vision Forum and Professor with the Institute for Creation Research. Join us with Pete DeRosa, the visionary founder of Creation Expeditions, a unique ministry to wed the science of paleontology with the training of future leaders. And join us with his family, including sons Pete Jr. and Mark, who with more than a decade of experience in field excavation will bring to this dig a wealth of knowledge.” Raising The Allosaur: The True Story of a Rare Dinosaur and the Home Schoolers Who Found It. (2:19)

The DeRosa’s, a home school family, certainly deserve at least some credit. The Vision Forum tour group also deserves some credit for moving some top soil and rocks, providing better access to three separate dino dig sites. However, Raising The Allosaur deceptively puts Pete DeRosa at the very center of events, portraying that it was he who directed the entire dig. That’s not what happened, nor would the DeRosas have been qualified or experienced to direct a large scale dinosaur excavation project. While the DeRosa’s did have several years of small fossil expedition experience, primarily plucking fossils  from the sands of the Peace River of their native Florida, such experience didn’t transfer well to large-scale dinosaur digs in the hard rock and sandstone of Colorado. Indeed, the DeRosas required training, and it was Joe Taylor who was training them. Prior to 2002 they had only been on two dinosaur digs, both of which were under the tutelage of Joe Taylor. Yet, according to Doug Phillips:

“Within minutes, I discovered that home schoolers Pete DeRosa and family, from Creation Expeditions, were committed to Creation paleontology, with hundreds of digs under their belt, more than ten years of experience in the field, and a vision to work together as a family.” 2003 Vision Forum Catalog, pg. 2

This claim was reinforced in the video. Doug Phillips is speaking here of  having first met the Pete DeRosa family on October 6, 2001 in Tampa Florida at the Back To Genesis Conference hosted by Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Pete DeRosa was Field Agent for Creation Studies Institute (CSI), founded by Tom DeRosa (no relation to Pete) and was supposedly representing CSI at the conference. As it turns out he was only representing his own interests, but doing so on CSI’s credit card. In all likelihood it was at this ICR conference that Doug Phillips first entered into a conspiracy with Pete DeRosa to claim credit for the  Dragon’s Den Allosaurus that had been discovered on Dana Forbes’ property the year before.

When Doug Phillips first met Pete Jr. and Mark DeRosa at the Back To Genesis Conference, they were 18 and 17 years old respectively. Doug Phillips portrays the two as not just paleontological prodigies, but prodigies who had accomplished something that most elderly seasoned paleontologists who have spent much of their lives in the field haven’t accomplished: “hundreds of digs under their belt”.

Joe TaylorDeRosa boys

Pete DeRosa Jr, Joe Taylor, Mark DeRosa

Why is it that Doug Phillips gave the students in training total credit, but their teacher Joe Taylor, who was also directing the dig, wasn’t mentioned or shown in the video a single time, not even in the film credits? Amazingly enough, even the DeRosa’s dog is given film credit! No doubt much of it had to do with Doug’s tour package partnership with Pete DeRosa. “For the love of money is the root of all evil”.

The very title of the movie, Raising The Allosaur, is duplicitous. We are never shown any video footage of any Allosaurus bones being excavated, let alone any bones being raised, nor of the other two dinosaurs mentioned in the video. There are a few still-photos inserted toward the end of the fraudumenatary, but for the most part they aren’t even representative of what Doug claims they are. For example a photo that Phillips claims is of “loading the skull” was actually taken the year before of the Mt. Blanco team moving the tail down the hill to be loaded on a truck and carried off to Mt. Blanco for restoration.

The strange absence of any video footage showing the raising of any allosaur bones isn’t due to any lack of video footage having been taken of those events. There is plenty of footage of the excavation, field jacketing, raising, and loading of Allosaurus bones into the truck to take them to the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum for restoration. The problem for Doug Phillips is that all that video footage was taken by the Mt. Blanco team, and it tells a completely different story from what Doug Phillips tells in his fraudumentary.

Doug Phillips knew of the Mt. Blanco team’s extensive video footage and photos but never contacted Joe Taylor to receive copies of any of it, and for good reason – it would have been impossible to use any of it while continuing to portray that Phillips and his home schoolers were responsible for discovering, excavating, and raising the allosaur.

In order to counter the lies contained in Raising The Allosaur, Joe Taylor began the process of creating his own documentary, The Truth About Raising The Allosaur. However, due to legal threats and coercion by Doug Phillips, Joe Taylor was prevented from releasing his own video documentary.

Further debunking Doug Phillips’ claim that, “They [the Vision Forum tour group] make the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year”, as well as the film’s subtitle, “the Home Schoolers Who Found It” is the fact that a large portion of the Allosaurus had already been removed in September 2001 when some 12 feet of the Allosaurus’ vertebrate was dug up, field jacketed, and transported to the Mt. Blanco Museum for restoration. The dig team consisted of Joe Taylor (Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum), Don Yaeger (Mt. Blanco), Don Ensign (Mt. Blanco), Dave Hall (Mt. Blanco), Phillip Hall (Mt. Blanco), Jordan Hall (Mt. Blanco), Chantell Lines (Mt. Blanco), Tom DeRosa (President, Creation Studies Institute, no relation to Pete DeRosa), Mike Zovath (VP, Answers In Genesis), Stephanie Zovath (AiG), Buddy Davis (AiG), Dave Babbitt (professional surveyor), and Terry Beh. Assisting and being trained by Joe Taylor were Pete DeRosa, Pete Jr. and Mark DeRosa. This happened some 7 months prior to Doug Phillips and his home school tour group even showing up. Doug Phillips knew this, and yet his “documentary” portrays that it was his home school group “Who Found It“.

One of the excavators who worked on the allosaur site in September 2001 and May 2002 was Terry Beh. In Allosaurus: The true story of one of the most significant fossil finds in creationist history, Terry Beh documented his on-site experiences:

“One of the greatest finds in the history of creationist paleontology was made in the ‘backyard’ of a Christian family living in a remote area of Colorado a few years ago. An Allosaurus skeleton, including one of the largest and most complete skulls ever found, was excavated from the jutting hills and up-tilted layers of prehistoric muds, clays and sandstones of the Jurassic Morrison Formation bordering Skull Creek Basin near the tiny and appropriately named town of Dinosaur. Beginning with what appeared as a series of ‘divine appointments’ and a historic show of unity, members of many different creationist groups were involved in the discovery and removal of these bones. Sadly, that togetherness soon deteriorated into partisan wrangling and selfish positioning for profit and control.” (pg. 1)
Douglas W. Phillips, Esq. was at the center of fomenting that “partisan wrangling and selfish positioning for profit and control.” Doug Phillips was the fly in the ointment that spoiled and ruined what should have been a significant paleontological discovery for the creationist cause.
“By spring of 2002, the clarity of purpose and vision—not to mention any semblance of unity—that had characterized the previous fall dig had become as murky as a Florida swamp. When Taylor and Yaeger arrived at the Forbes property separately at what they knew to be the agreed upon time (May 10th), each was intercepted by by Pete DeRosa and told that they’d come too early, that some filming was going on at the site, and that they’d have to go elsewhere for a couple of days. Scratching their heads, Taylor and Yaeger reluctantly withdrew and set themselves up elsewhere. They knew that the DeRosas had hooked up with Doug Phillips, head of a home schooling group called Vision Forum from San Antonio, and that 30 or so folks from VF had paid to work the dig site (and that this was partly how DeRosa had arranged funding for the excavation). However, the seeming ‘miscue’ made no sense to them.” (ibid. pg. 3)

It didn’t make sense at the time; but after the release of Raising The Allosaur it all started adding up. Doug Phillips had arranged to shoo everyone away from the dig site for two days so that he could get enough footage for his scripted and staged fraudumentary, minus all the numerous people who were actually responsible for the dig.

One of the most significant aspects of the Allosaurus discovery, especially for young earth creationists, was Doug Phillips’ claim that:

“The excavators found remarkable proof for a ‘recent’ death of the dinosaur. Buried
in and around this fully articulated dinosaur was unfossilized organic material. Because the evidence is that the material was deposited at the same time as the dinosaur, it points to the fact that the creature is not millions, but thousands of years old!” Vision Forum Catalog, 2003 (pg. 48)

Given all the other lies that Doug Phillips told in Raising The Allosaur, how is anyone to believe that this claim of “unfossilized organic material” isn’t just another lie too? What evidence did Doug Phillips use to substantiate this claim? He used the testimony furnished to him by Joe Taylor, in an email Taylor sent Phillips on May 16, 2002, just four days prior to Doug Phillips’ news release:

“This is not all. There is wood from trees mixed with it. The amazing thing is that some of them are both petrified and un-petrified in the same piece of wood! The animal is lying on a bed of leaves and plant debris. On another dinosaur excavation of the same Morrison group of animals, a huge log was excavated. The log was totally petrified, but the bark was not. It was carbon dated at 5,000 years.”

Significant facts contained in Joe Taylor’s email found their way into the May 20, 2002 Vision Forum News Release. However Doug Phillips never once mentioned Taylor as his source, or any other members of the excavation team. Rather than crediting Joe Taylor for the very significant discovery he and his team had unearthed, Doug Phillips makes it appear as if it were actually a direct quote from Pete DeRosa:

“The evidence strongly points to a relatively recent and catastrophic event similar to that described in the Bible as the Flood of Noah’s day,” said Pete DeRosa.

“We found a complete section of vertebrae more than twelve feet in length which was fully articulated. The dinosaur appears to be in much the same position as he was at the time of his death and burial, which must have been virtually instantaneous, and caused by a catastrophic event. Not only was this fully articulated dinosaur found laying in a bed of leaves and plant debris, but there is wood from trees mixed in among the bones, some of which contains petrified and non-petrified elements in the same piece of wood. If this creature were millions of years old, the evidence would look quite different.” Vision Forum News Release, May 20, 2002

Doug Phillips also falsely credited Dr. Bruce Bellamy as the person responsible for finding the Allosaurus skull. But this has been refuted by many, including even the Bellamy family:

“Based on notes which Taylor had made and shared of where the skull would likely be located if it had not eroded away, the Vision Forum group exposed a bit more bone. Dr. Bruce Bellamy, given credit in Phillips’ film for finding the skull, did in fact dig where he was told to and found the first articulated neck bone. But the Bellamy family has told witnesses that they tried to tell Phillips they didn’t find the skull as stated in the movie. At the time of this dig, Phillips and his tour group had no idea what it was that they had found. Others present concur.”

Doug Phillips masquerades as a creation scientist, and in particular a young-earth creation scientist. However, because of his “selfish positioning for profit and control” he brought scandal, shame and disrepute to the entire field of creation science, like no one ever had before. Nobody has ever sabotaged creationism like Doug Phillips has. The Darwinists never had a better friend.

For the majority of Vision Forum patrons, the sudden disappearance of Raising The Allosaur piqued few concerns on their part. All was soon forgotten and anyone who continued raising concerns about it was branded “a gossip“, “hateful” and “bitter”. That’s exactly how Joe Taylor was portrayed. Doug Phillips even claimed that “internet assassins” were attacking not just him, but his family too. No one, other than Doug Phillips, had even mentioned anything about Beall and the Phillips children. They had nothing to do with Raising The Allosaur. Doug Phillips has made a lot of money marketing “women and children first”. Yet he won’t hesitate playing the victim by invoking the names of his wife and children, using them as human shields to deflect criticism away from himself. His whiny and unmanly family victimization stories were countered by accusations that he was just hiding behind his wife’s skirt. Indeed, that’s exactly what he was doing.

Vision Forum loyalists went right on enriching Doug Phillips for another ten years. Had they not been so naive Doug Phillips could have been stopped long ago. Raising The Allosaur wasn’t just an aberration, a rare and unusual departure from Doug Phillips’ true character. Nor was it just some temporary lapse of judgement. Rather, Raising The Allosaur is entirely representative of Doug Phillips’ ethics, morals, and his methods of “taking dominion”. Raising The Allosaur goes to prove several things:

  1. Doug Phillips is a hypocrite and a fraud.
  2. Doug Phillips is a self-serving man who is eager to steal credit from others.
  3. Doug Phillips uses people for his own selfish gains, stealing credit for things he has no personal responsibility for. While using others they are made to feel like they are the best of friends. Once he’s done using them he discards them and treats them as enemies.
  4. Being a religious sociological cult leader, Doug Phillips has often made a show of his religiosity. He rationalizes his sinful behavior by twisting and perverting God’s Word for his own selfish objectives.
  5. Doug Phillips promotes/markets various causes, such as creation science and Christian home education, not out of genuine personal conviction, but out of greed and personal enrichment.
  6. Doug Phillips has discredited the very causes that he claims to support, such as Christian home schooling and creation science. He has brought great shame and humiliation to those who support those causes.
  7. When confronted for his duplicity and corruption Doug Phillips throws his “Esq.” around and threatens to sue for defamation. He is a litigious bully and makes a mockery of the American justice system, not to mention what the Bible has to say (1 Cor 6:6-8).
  8. None of these things are recent developments. Doug Phillips has been this way since he arrived in San Antonio in 1998, and likely for some years prior. The fact that he stole the HSLDA mail list from which he launched Vision Forum is a clear indication of that.

Doug Phillips is hasty to resort to legal intimidation. He has legally threatened dozens of people. To my knowledge Doug Phillips has never actually taken anyone to trial. Rather, he only threatens to take them to court, but out of the goodness of his heart he agrees to settle with them out of court, provided they keep their mouths shut, i.e. they must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Are Non-Disclosure Agreements biblical? In certain cases an NDA may be appropriate, and they may not necessarily in all cases be expressly unbiblical. However, they should never be used if the underlying motive is to silence critics and cover up unrepentant sin. The purposes for which Doug Phillips has so frequently coerced the signing of NDA’s is only intended to silence those who would speak out against his egregious sins and hold him accountable for his duplicity and corruption. Doug Phillips’ habitual use of NDAs has allowed him to cover up a huge amount of sin, both his own sins and the sins of his accomplices.

I know of many people Doug Phillips has under Non-Disclosure, including former Vision Forum Interns, former Vision Forum employees, and former business associates. The total number is in the dozens, if not hundreds. These people live in fear that if they say anything derogatory of Doug Phillips, no matter how truthful and factual is it, he will sue them for defamation. Proving a defamation case is far more difficult than most people realize. Most plaintiffs lose such cases. Nevertheless, our “justice” system permits filing such lawsuits, no matter how lacking in merit a case may be, and many people have been financially ruined defending themselves in the process, even when they win. The mere threat of such legal action has frightened most people from coming forward and sharing what they know about Doug Phillips. Joe Taylor is one of those rare people who hasn’t been afraid to speak out.

I’ve spoken before of the fact that Doug Phillips is a religious sociological cult leader, and that like so many other cult leaders he employs various mind control techniques to keep his followers docile and compliant. Instilling fear is one of the most common control tactics used by cult leaders. One method Doug Phillips has used to instill fear at Boerne Christian Assembly and Vision Forum is imprecatory prayer. Anyone subjected to hearing their spiritual leader from his pulpit call down on his enemies the wrathful judgments of God is being subjected to a powerful form of mind control. Such cult members live in fear that, should they ever defy the will of the leader, they too will be singled out by name and cursed from the pulpit. Jen Fishburne has stated that, while she and her family were members, they regularly witnessed Doug Phillips leading Boerne Christian Assembly in imprecatory prayers, calling down the vengeance of God on numerous people, including Joe Taylor. I don’t believe that God answers such prayers, but members of religious sociological cults do.

This story is such a tangled web of duplicity and legal chicanery that I have found it quite challenging to cover the subject matter adequately in just one article. However, I’ve put forth my best effort to condense the most significant issues here.

With respect to the Allosaurus, it should be noted that Pete DeRosa of Creation Expeditions is probably as guilty of fraud and duplicity as Doug Phillips. Phillips couldn’t have pulled off his fraudumentary without the aid of DeRosa, and DeRosa couldn’t have pulled off his scams without the backing of Phillips. Indeed, not only were they co-conspirators in defrauding Joe Taylor and others of the notoriety and rights to the bones they deserved for discovering and excavating the allosaur, but from the significant amount of income that should rightfully have gone to them. On top of everything else they caused immense injury to the Forbes family, both financially and to their emotional health. The Forbes were ultimately forced to abandon their dreams and sell off their property.

Raising The Allosaur provided Doug Phillips, and to a lesser extent, Pete DeRosa, with a great deal of undeserved fame and fortune. To this date neither Doug Phillips or Peter DeRosa have ever admitted to their deception or confessed their sins related to this matter, much less repented, apologized and made restitution to those they so grieviously injured and robbed.

This blog is focused on Doug Phillips, which is why this article hasn’t gone into a great amount of detail on Pete DeRosa. Moreover, it’s not particularly necessary since Pete DeRosa has already been exposed through the efforts of Randy and Mary Gavin at Raising The Truth. Perhaps the single most valuable resource that the Gavins have provided are their Video Interviews With Those That Excavated The Allosaur. Those interviews directly corroborate this story and are well worth reviewing.

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Additional Supporting Documents and References:

Mt. Blanco News – Allosaur

Vision Forum Schedule for Dragon’s Den Dig

Joe Taylor email to Pat Roy (ICR Radio), 10-13-02

Carl Baugh letter to Joe Taylor, 06-02-03

Dave Babbitt grid survey of the Allosaurus

Dana Forbes responds to email about Raising The Allosaur

Fossil find could lead to ruin of Crosbyton museum owner

Home School Expedition Uncovers Rare Allosaur and Giant Sauropod

Father and Son Dig Trip to Find Dinosaurs’ Bones

Other Related Blog Articles:

Raising The Truth

Doug Phillips’ Raising The Allosaur, A Review of Vision Forum Film Flim Flam

Raising the Allosaurus and Bordering On Deception

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Post Script:

Some may ask, “Why are you telling this story when others have already told it before?” Yes, others have told this story before, but (with no disrespect intended toward anyone else) quite frankly, I haven’t seen anyone tell it very well. In my view it’s an extremely important story and it’s deserved considerably more effort than I’ve seen anyone else put forth so far.

Jen and I have received several comments and emails asking why we keep posting stories about Doug Phillips. “You’re just beating a dead horse. He’s down for the count. This just makes you look bitter. Let it go. You just need to forgive. Move on.”

Perhaps an entire article on the naive philosophy that inspires such questions might also be in order. For the time being let me just say that no one should be so gullible as to believe that Doug Phillips is “down for the count”, as though that means he will stay down. Doug Phillips will be back, or at least he will try very hard to make a comeback, and we should look for that to happen in 2-3 years. Make it one year if he’s especially audacious about it. Rather than being the time to “let it go” this is the time to draw attention to at least some of the most significant things Jen and others have been trying to expose about Doug Phillips for years, but for various reasons those warnings went largely ignored. Now is the time because now it’s not as easy for people to ignore those warnings, as it was in the past.

Many charismatic cult leaders, like Doug Phillips, have gotten away with horrendous sins and even crimes, often for many years, largely by maintaining a highly polished public image. Even when a scandal does erupt, such as the Raising The Allosaur scandal did back in 2004, a brilliant cult leader like Doug Phillips, with virtually unlimited resources at his disposal, and aided by his in-house PR team, can often clamp the lid down hard on a scandal and reduce to it a mere “misunderstanding.” In Doug Phillips’ case he can even turn it around and claim that he’s the victim, and that his family is being attacked (even though that never happened), thereby gaining him even more support from the gullible.

Because of the gullibility and trusting nature of many of his followers, it requires many proofs to convince them of the true character of Douglas W. Phillips, Esq. and, in my view, Raising The Allosaur is a key part of that. Cheating on his wife for a dozen years, all while making millions of dollars promoting marital fidelity and biblical family values, would be another such example of the magnitude of Doug Phillips’ hypocrisies. The problem is that in a year or two too many people will only remember it as an “extra-marital affair”, rather than the clergy sexual abuse that it really is. Even now there are too many claiming that, “It could have happened to any of us.” However, few of us could have perpetrated and profited from such a fraud as represented by Raising The Allosaur without a tinge of conscience, as Phillips has. It helps reveal a despicable pattern of abuse of power, deceit and manipulation, and I shudder when I hear people trying to trivialize such egregious sin by a “Christian leader”.

There are extremely valuable lessons to be learned from Raising The Allosaur, not only about Doug Phillips’ true character, but also about wolves in sheep’s clothing, in general. If Christians refuse to learn anything from stories like this, then it’s certain that Phillips—and others like him—will have no trouble making comeback after comeback, and continue to prey on the innocent. And that is neither just nor right.

Alone Yet Not Alone: The Tangled Web of the Academy Nomination

With writing and research assistance from T.W. Eston
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Quite a brouhaha is stirring over a song that was recently nominated for an Academy Award.  With music written by Bruce Broughton, lyrics by Dennis Spiegel, and performed by Joni Eareckson Tada, this song edged out nominations for original songs performed by Taylor Swift (“Sweeter Than Fiction,” from One Chance), Coldplay (“Atlas,” from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), and Lana Del Rey (“Young and Beautiful,” from The Great Gatsby). How in the world did the title song from a movie that previewed in only nine theaters for one week last year get nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song?

Rumors abound online regarding the apparent unethical actions, or at least breach of etiquette, of those involved.  There appear to be conflicts of interest with William Ross and Bruce Broughton, the writer and composer of this original song, and their connections with the Academy.

AloneYetNotAloneLong before the general public heard anything about Alone Yet Not Alone, those like myself who were steeped in all things Vision Forum and Boerne Christian Assembly knew all about the origins of the movie. It began just over ten years ago with the book by the same name, authored by Tracy M. Leininger. We attended church with the Leiningers at Boerne Christian Assembly where Doug Phillips was the pastor. Doug Phillips published and sold the first editions of Tracy Leininger’s books on his Vision Forum Inc. web site, and in the Vision Forum annual catalog.  Doug Phillips capitalized on Tracy’s books by also pairing each book with an American Girl knockoff doll that matched the main character of each book as part of his Beautiful Girlhood Collection.

As this faith-based film went into production, many of the actors and extras cast for parts came from “the community”, the term we use for Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA) and a few other closely aligned churches spun off from BCA in the greater San Antonio area. Others also came from Patrick Henry College. Doug Phillips was cast as “Colonel Mercer.” The close relations between the film’s writers and producers and Doug Phillips continued up until at least the time that Doug Phillips’ San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival announced the World Premiere of the film to be shown on February 8, 2013.

At this same time there was a significant confluence of events going on behind the scenes. Doug Phillips had been caught with his pants down with “Cassandra” in her home in January 2013 by two members of her family. Doug and “Cassandra” were caught again in early February in Doug Phillips’ home, this time by his wife and/or eldest son. Immediately thereafter Doug Phillips stepped down as pastor/elder of his church, Boerne Christian Assembly. Doug Phillips managed, at the time, to contain the knowledge of his sex scandal to a very small group of people. Those who have been following the articles here about Doug Phillips being a religious sociological cult leader are already familiar with how he pulled it off. In spite of his best efforts, however, it ultimately did go public. Doug Phillips resigned from Vision Forum Ministries on October 30, 2013, and on November 11, the Vision Forum Ministries Board of Directors announced the closure of the ministry.

Alone Yet Not Alone is the only movie I went to see last year, yet apparently I am one of the few people in this world who has actually seen it already.  I can’t even remember how I found out about this movie preview, since I had not followed anything Vision Forum related for several years; but when I discovered that Alone Yet Not Alone was previewing here in San Antonio, I asked my daughter, Natasha, if she would like to see a Vision Forum movie with me.

Kelly Leininger Greyson

Kelly Leininger Greyson

Alone Yet Not Alone is the true story of Barbara and Regina Leininger, Tracy’s ancestors who immigrated in 1748 from Germany to Colonial American in order to avoid religious persecution.  The starring actress, portraying Barbara Leininger, is Kelly Leininger Greyson, Tracy Leininger’s sister.  The film’s estimated $7,000,000 budget came by the financial backing of dad, Dr. James Leininger.

Who is Dr. James Leininger?  Besides being one of the richest men in America, his public accomplishments read like a “Who’s Who” of men with many varied interests in life.  His private accomplishments are even more vast.  Dr. Leininger has a very impressive public life, but also maintains a very private personal life, as well.  Unlike Doug Phillips, James Leininger appears to take his Christian convictions seriously and he probably has no scandalous skeletons in his closet.

I will not talk disparagingly about Dr. Leininger, a man who I have nothing but the utmost respect for.  I have many good memories of my time at Boerne Christian Assembly where Jim and his lovely wife and their children also attended, and the many happy memories of the events held at their gorgeous home. The Leininger’s left BCA prior to our “excommunication,” so unlike virtually all other BCA members, the Leiningers never complied with Doug’s orders to shun us.

It’s not much of a secret that James Leininger donated two buildings to Vision Forum Ministries: the warehouse/office building that Vision Forum Ministries and Vision Forum Inc. recently vacated, and the massive Phillips’ family home in Hollywood Park they were recently required by the VFM Board of Directors to vacate (both due to Doug Phillips’ clergy sexual abuse scandal).  What happens to these two pieces of property still remains to be seen, but these were hardly James Leininger’s only financial backing to Vision Forum.

In Doug Phillips’ November 6, 2013 blog article, he stated: “I retain ownership of Vision Forum, Inc.”  Most people didn’t question that at all.  Of course Doug Phillips “owns” Vision Forum, Inc.  Why would we think otherwise?  But “President” does not necessarily mean “owner,” or principal shareholder.  No, the principal is James Leininger.

Vision Forum has two sides, the non-profit tax exempt tax deductible 501(c)(3) ministry side, Vision Forum Ministries; and the for-profit business, Vision Forum, Inc.

The officers and directors of Vision Forum Ministries include:

  • Doug Phillips: Pres, Dir
  • Scott Brown: Dir
  • Don Hart: Dir (and staff attorney)
  • Josh Wean: CFO, Dir
  • Jim Zes: Dir

VFI was incorporated December 16, 1997 and its board of officers and directors have included:

  • Doug Phillips: Pres, Dir (1997- )
  • Thomas W. Lyles, Jr.: VP/Sec, Dir, Reg Agnt, Incorporator (1997- )
  • David Keith: VP/Treas, Dir. (2011- )
  • Charles A. Staffel Treas, Dir. (2002-2011)
  • Josh Weans: CFO (2012- )
  • Kimberly Feltner: VP (2012- )
  • James Leininger, Dir (1997-2002)

Jim Leininger resigned from the VFI board of directors around the same time that he left Boerne Christian Assembly in 2002.  This was also the same time that Doug Phillips started coercing BCA attendees into signing his “Til death do us part” document called “The Church Covenant”. After this point Boerne Christian Assembly quickly morphed from a church into a religious sociological cult.

“Mom, look!  There’s Joshua Phillips and so-and-so and so-and-so.”  We hadn’t seen any of these people in nearly nine years, so watching the movie, Alone Yet Not Alone, was bittersweet for us.  We eagerly searched for glimpses of old friends, and then shed a few tears when we recognized yet another old friend who continues to shun us, ever since our “excommunication” from Boerne Christian Assembly.  “Mom!  Is that Cassandra?  And why is Mr. Phillips fawning all over Kelly like that?”  Having seen this preview less than a month before Doug Phillips’ resignation on October 30, 2013, I couldn’t help but wonder what really went on behind the scenes in Alone Yet Not Alone.  Even the name of the movie ironically seems to be descriptive of Doug’s secret double-life.  We were so caught up in searching for lost friendships that we overlooked the fact that this movie might be about Dominion Theology.

The current release date is now Father’s Day weekend, June 13, 2014.  The newest book version is now being published by Zonderkidz. Originally scheduled to open February 21, 2014, Alone Yet Not Alone apparently required a delayed release due to the need to edit out Doug Phillips as Colonel Mercer, not to mention any credits to Vision Forum.  Toward the end of the film Kelly’s character is rescued from an Indian tribe. She is filthy and disheveled with her hair dyed dark to look like an Indian. After bathing she emerges as a beautiful blond bombshell. Doug Phillips as Col. Mercer fawns all over her, praising her beauty. “If I hadn’t known that you were that same poor creature I saw before I never would have believed it.” He then launches into a classic Doug Phillips sermon, giving glory to God that their faith delivered them from their trials and tribulations.

NormandyFinalFarewellThe film will, no doubt, be helped by the absence of Doug Philips who didn’t stray from his true self in rendering a rousing Patriarchy speech as a key feature of his part. In one sense, however, it’s a pity that Doug Phillips’ Col. Mercer scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Doug is renowned for his costume parties and playing dress up, and even though he’s never served in the military his favorite costumes are military uniforms.

No doubt Doug Phillips’ sex scandal proved to be a huge embarrassment to the film’s producers. They had to scramble to remove any references that might tarnish this Christian film. Up until just prior to Doug Phillips’ resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, the film’s trailer included Doug Phillips. Now he’s nowhere to be seen.

But is that the extent of the Vision Forum connection to this movie?  Alone Yet Not Alone is produced by Enthuse Entertainment, who recently acquired BlueBehemoth.com, the media download site of Vision Forum, Inc.  Blue Behemoth’s web site, as of this date, states that the site is “currently offline while undergoing maintenance.” Additionally, “BlueBehemoth.com is under new ownership and management whose vision is to produce and provide God-honoring, faith-based, family friendly media into the future.” However, just prior to that notice being posted “Vision Forum Inc.” had been replaced with “Enthuse Entertainment”. I don’t think they really wanted us to know that Enthuse Entertainment is the new “owner” and “management” of Blue Behemoth because that information quickly disappeared.

Who is Enthuse Entertainment? Just a new name for Mission City Productions that was formerly listed as the production company for Alone Yet Not Alone, and it had exactly the same board of directors.  Alone Yet Not Alone is their first feature film production for nationwide release. Their second feature film release is To Have and To Hold, also starring Kelly Leininger Greyson, scheduled to be released sometime later in 2014.

Enthuse Entertainment also had a very familiar address to me.  The building is owned by one of James Leininger’s many for-profit organizations, DJL Ventures.  That building leases space to many different businesses, with most, if not all, also owned or financially backed by James Leininger.  The personal property in one office space in particular, which means the business itself, is also owned by DJL Ventures.  That is the office for Enthuse Entertainment.

DJL Ventures board of directors is made up of Thomas W. Lyles, Jr., David Keith, Charles A. Staffel, and Kimberly Feltner.

CJL Acquisitions, Inc. board of directors is made up of the same people: Thomas W. Lyles, Jr., David Keith, Charles A. Staffel, and Kimberly Feltner.

Not surprisingly, the same exact people have served as board members for Vision Forum Inc. Interlocking directorships galore. So will Vision Forum and Doug Phillips ever really go away?

These same officers also serve together on several other boards, all backed financially by James Leininger.  (If you want to have some fun, click around on the various names at this site.)

So, the officers of the board for Vision Forum, Inc. are the same officers of the board for DJL Ventures and CJL Acquisitions, Inc., who just “bought” Blue Behemoth from Vision Forum, Inc.  In other words, the officers of the board for one business owned by James Leininger bought that same business from themselves under a different name.

And the public thinks the Oscar nomination for Best Original Song is a little bit fishy?

Alone Yet Not Alone: How did it wind up coming out of obscurity to have it’s eponymous theme song nominated for an academy award? Certainly the Bruce Broughton connection may be significant and shouldn’t be disregarded. But is that all there is to this story? I think not. Super-wealthy men like James Leininger always have powerful connections.

Joni Eareckson Tada did a wonderful job singing the song. But that’s irrelevant. It’s not the singer’s performance that is judged for Academy Award consideration for Best Original Song, or at least it’s not supposed to be. It’s the composers that are being judged. Is the song really Academy Award material? Personally, I don’t think so. I can’t help but think there was a lot of influence peddling going on behind the scenes to secure the nomination. I think that’s really unfortunate because, other than that issue, I really enjoyed this movie. Even the song is good.

I hate to see these sorts of things happen because it just gives the non-Christians another opportunity to mock Christians. We should know better by now.

UPDATE 1/29/14:

Oscar Nominee ‘Devastated’ After Academy Disqualification

The Academy’s board of governors voted to rescind the original song nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone,” music by Bruce Broughton and lyric by Dennis Spiegel. An additional nominee in the category will not be named.

The decision was prompted by the discovery that Broughton, a former governor and current music branch executive committee member, had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period.

“I’m devastated,” Broughton told Variety. “I indulged in the simplest, lamest, grass-roots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them.”

…In a statement about the withdrawal of the “Alone” song nomination, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said, “No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one’s position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one’s own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage.”

The board determined that Broughton’s actions were inconsistent with the Academy’s promotional regulations, which provide, among other terms, that “it is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner. If any campaign activity is determined by the Board of Governors to work in opposition to that goal, whether or not anticipated by these regulations, the Board of Governors may take any corrective actions or assess any penalties that in its discretion it deems necessary to protect the reputation and integrity of the awards process.”

Read more.

Scott Brown’s No Gossip Rule: The Plague of the NCFIC

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How Doug Phillips and Scott Brown Promote Sin and Cowardice In The Church

“Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” –Charles Haddon Spurgeon

gossip-frontIn 2007 Scott Brown, Director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, preached a sermon entitled, Gossip: The Plague of the Church. This sermon was preached to an audience of several hundred immediately following a conference on building businesses and entrepreneurialship. The audience also included some pastors.

Doug Phillips, President of Vision Forum Ministries, was at that conference and struck a deal with Scott Brown to sell the sermon as an audio CD on the Vision Forum web site.

Jen Fishburne informs me that it was no coincidence that Scott Brown preached this sermon at the time he did. It was at this same time that Doug Phillips was beginning to feel the heat from Jen exposing his ecclesiastical tyrannies and abuses on her blog. Jen had done everything humanly possible to seek reconciliation with Doug, but he sabotaged her every overture. As a last resort she published her story on her blog, not to shame and humiliate him but to publicly expose Doug Phillips as an ecclesiastical tyrant so that others might not fall prey to his abuses.

Jen has been accused many times of being “bitter and unforgiving”, but I know Jen well and I know that the opposite is the case. Her motivation isn’t a hatred for Doug Phillips but a love for the body of Christ.

As a direct result of Jen’s story going public, the home school community was asking questions, and even some members of his own church, Boerne Christian Assembly, were voicing concerns. In desperation Doug Phillips searched for a way of shutting down all inquiries into his abusive practices. The charge of “gossip” was a ready-made excuse for silencing all calls for his accountability and repentance. Scott Brown’s “Gossip” sermon was tailor-made to clamp the lid down hard on any challenges to the tyrannies of a spiritually abusive pastor.

It was Scott Brown’s “Gossip” sermon which launched the No Gossip Rule in the BCA community. By mass-marketing the CD, Vision Forum and the NCFIC have also effectively inculcated the No Gossip Rule within a large portion of NCFIC churches. Doug Phillips and Vision Forum have, likewise, indoctrinated thousands of Christian home school families with the No Gossip Rule. To quote from one of my previous articles:

Doug Phillips has railed against so-called gossipers for years, and gossip is whatever Doug Phillips defines it to be. As Doug Phillips has often said, “He who defines the terms wins”, and the way Doug defines gossip is by equating gossip with a violation of the 9th Commandment. This is quite typical of how Doug Phillips twists and distorts sacred scripture for his personal agenda. To Doug Phillips gossip is anything that anyone says about him, or about his friends, that he doesn’t like. It makes no difference to him whether the things said about him are true and already public information. Say something about Doug Phillips that he likes, even if it’s just complete lies and fabrications (and there have been plenty of his sycophants who have done so to feed his massive ego), but that’s not gossip. But say anything true about Doug that he doesn’t like and it’s not just merely gossip, it’s “wicked gossip” or the “horrific sin of gossip”…

This is one of the most oft-used mind-control tools Doug Phillips has pulled out of his toolbox, and he’s used it to tremendous effect. Doug Phillips injects massive doses of  guilt and shame to prevent anyone from confronting him and holding him accountable, or even so much as reading anyone’s blog where they might find “gossip” about him. What few BCA members and Vision forum employees and interns that have read our articles and posted comments here have inevitably condemned it as, “I see your fruit on this site and it is wicked gossip.”

The fruit of Doug’s “no gossip” rule has created many more non-thinking people than just within the walls of BCA and Vision Forum. That mind-control influence has been spread to thousands of home school families too, and that mind-control prevents thousands from so much as looking at a blog of this nature lest their utopian home school dreamworld be contaminated.

Those indoctrinated in the No Gossip Rule can’t even question it, even in the light of the very Scriptures from which its teachers claim it originates. To my knowledge, the Phillips-Brown No Gossip Rule hasn’t ever been challenged. I intend to not only challenge it here, I intend to dismantle it, and the Code Of Silence that goes with it.

omertaThe Phillips-Brown No Gossip Rule contains a terrifying message. It is the VF/NCFIC equivalent of the Mafia’s Omertà. Omertà means “honor” in Sicilian, but the Mafia perverted the term into a Code Of Silence. The violation of Omertà has frightful retaliatory consequences. The power of the Mafia is real and only a fool would defy it. The power of Scott Brown and Doug Phillips is largely bluff and bluster. The threat of “excommunication” from a cult leader has no impact on the condition of one’s soul, nor does it carry any weight whatsoever with the Lord God. But as P.T. Barnum put it, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Doug Phillips and Scott Brown have effectively created a Christian Cosa Nostra, complete with its Code Of Silence. Doug Phillips is all about drama and theatrics. He loves dress-up and costume parties, so it should surprise no one that he accessorized his Boss image by having VF employees and interns trained as “executive protection” agents. He periodically had them play dress-up as black-suited black-shade wearing armed enforcer goons. In several cases he’s sent his enforcer goons out (very likely at VFM donor expense) to threaten and intimidate people who dared to expose him. In at least two cases that we know of blog owners dramatically altered and removed content from their blogs, or shut them down altogether, as a direct result of those threatening encounters. Those strong-arm tactics have been well concealed and they are known in detail to only the perpetrators, victims, and a few others, like Jen and myself.

Multiple thousands have come under the influence of not only the Phillips-Brown No Gossip Rule, but also the cultish influence they have injected into dozens of other religious sociopathic leaders they have served to inspire within their VF/NCFIC subculture. Brown’s lecture wasn’t preached so much to his own church members, though some were there. He was addressing a larger audience of several hundred. There were pastors in that audience, and Scott Brown had an objective of influencing those pastors to become the same kind of autocratic tyrant that he and Doug Phillips are.

For those who have embraced the No Gossip Rule, violating it could have even worse consequences than what the Mafia imposes. This is because the consequences, as they have been led to believe, could be eternal. As I will demonstrate herein, that threat is a myth based on nothing more than Scott Brown’s clumsy and inept twisting of Scripture.

One thing that is not bluff and bluster, however, is the very real threat of “church discipline” (code word for banishment and shunning) for any who would dare to violate the No Gossip Rule, or challenge it, or challenge any of those other numerous cultish rules endemic in the VF/NCFIC subculture. In Gossip: The Plague of the Church, Scott Brown affirms that gossip warrants a “zero tolerance policy”. According to Scott Brown gossip is the worst and most destructive sin in the church. Gossip is due the harshest possible penalties. Gossip is due only one warning, and two at the most:

“I had a very interesting moment several months ago where I was speaking to a pastor friend of mine at my house and we were talking about the subject of gossip and he told me that in his church he has a zero tolerance policy for gossip, and he said that in his church in Wilmington, North Carolina, no one becomes a member of that church until they hear the sermon on gossip, and he delivers this sermon on gossip every September, and he makes two promises to the people in his church. The first promise is that whenever they come they are going to be taught scripture as best as he can in its context and, secondly, that no one will speak evil of you behind your back, and I was very interested in this policy because I’d never heard anything like that before, and I thought what a great policy and what a great practice in the church, and I said could you send me last year’s sermon, and he did… And he says that gossip is the chief destroyer of the church. And the destruction isn’t to brick and mortar but it’s to the souls of people…(4:20) Here’s what my pastor friend told me in his church. He said, You know Scott in our church if you commit adultery you get four warnings according to Matthew 18. But if you gossip you’re out of here by the first or the second warning. And that’s it. You will not survive in this church after the second warning, and maybe the first” (17:50)

Scott Brown goes on to state his approval for this “zero tolerance” policy, and it’s one that he apparently practices himself. He may be accurately representing his “zero tolerance” pastor friend for the tyrant that he unwittingly portrays him to be. On the other hand Scott Brown may be every bit the duplicitous liar that Doug Phillips proved himself to be when he lied for many years about his “mentor and spiritual father” Pastor Robert Gifford, and that Pastor Gifford allegedly commissioned him to start a church in San Antonio. Either way though, “zero tolerance” has some frightening ramifications.

Yes, we are to confront and discipline sin in the church, but we are to do so per Matthew 18:15-17, and that applies to all sins and all members of the local church, including to pastors, elders and deacons. Scott Brown singles out gossip as being the one sin that is unworthy of any Matthew 18 biblical due process because it is far worse than any other sin. Under Scott Brown’s tyrannical oversight, if gossip happens there’s only one warning, two if you’re lucky. Confession and repentance apparently count for nothing in such a case. You’re put out of the church and you’ll be shunned by all your friends. This sounds like an ironclad guaranteed way to shut everyone up.

Is gossip inherently so much more destructive to the church than other sins that it warrants a zero tolerance policy and immediate expulsion and shunning? Is gossip so horrifically sinful that it qualifies for sanctions that aren’t imposed even in cases of adultery, extortion, drunkenness, and idolatry? Is that really what the Bible teaches? Scott Brown claims as much:

“And so here in Titus 3:10 we read, reject a divisive man after the first or second admonition. I don’t know why this sternness is present here. It’s more stern than the sins that we might regard as even greater sins, like adultery, or like extortion, or like drunkenness, or like idolatry, or like covetousness, or all manner of idolatry. It’s right in the same plane and it’s categorized in the midst of other great evils.” (18:10)

Here Scott Brown makes a subtle and yet significant exegetical and logical error. He conflates terms. This is something he does throughout his lecture, and he does so with practically every verse he quotes. Titus 3:10 uses the term “a divisive man” which he conflates with “a gossip”. If not confronted, gossip in the church does have the potential to cause division. However, it is not gossip that the Apostle Paul is referring to when he speaks of a “divisive man”.  What is a divisive man? Scott Brown doesn’t seem to appreciate the importance of interpreting scripture with scripture. The previous verse (9) clearly defines what a divisive man is by the activities he engages in:

But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law;  (Titus 3:9)

Scott Brown and Doug Phillips claim to be Calvinists, so let’s see what John Calvin has to say of Titus 3:10. In Calvin’s Commentaries he likens the divisive man not to a gossip but to an argumentative, quarreling “heretical man”:

10. Avoid an heretical man. This is properly added; because there will be no end of quarrels and dispute, if we wish to conquer obstinate men by argument; for they will never want words, and they will derive fresh courage from impudence, so that they will never grow weary of fighting. Thus, after having given orders to Titus as to the form of doctrine which he should lay down, he now forbids him to waste much time in debating with heretics, because battle would lead to battle and dispute to dispute. Such is the cunning of Satan, that, by the impudent talkativeness of such men, he entangles good and faithful pastors, so as to draw them away from diligence in teaching. We must therefore beware lest we become engaged in quarrelsome disputes; for we shall never have leisure to devote our labors to the Lord’s flock, and contentious men will never cease to annoy us.

It’s debatable whether Titus 3:10 is even about church discipline at all since “have nothing more to do with him” implies that it is addressing someone outside the local church. If it applied to a member of the local church Paul would likely have said something like, “Rebuke him before the assembly and cast him out of your midst for an example to all”. That would be consistent with another of Paul’s pastoral instructions, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1Tim. 5:20). However, even if it could be reasonably argued that Titus 3:10 is addressing members of the local assembly it clearly only applies to the argumentative, quarreling heretical man, not mere gossips.

After conflating “divisive man” for “gossip”, Scott Brown goes on to say that failing to shun a gossip is sinful:

“Notice the last three passages of Scripture that we read say reject a divisive man, or to avoid them, or to not keep company with them. You might think about that on a practical level. Maybe on two levels. Is it possible that there are people in the body of Christ who are sinning by not avoiding you? They actually continue to relate with you and they should not because of this. Or is it possible that we are relating with and not avoiding those who gossip? These are beautiful and very simple passages of Scripture. They’re not complex. A six year old can understand them.” (18:48)

“A six year old can understand them” is a rather common tactic among intellectually dishonest men like Scott Brown. His message is transparent – “What I’m telling you is so obvious that even my little grandchildren get this. If you don’t get it you’re dumber than a six year old. Don’t even think about questioning me about this.”

Needless to say, any pastor who considers his own twisted interpretations of Scripture to justify his autocratic methods of ruling his church to be “beautiful” is no pastor at all. Like Doug Phillips, Scott Brown is a religious sociological cult leader.

Under the terms of this No Gossip Rule the accused gossiper is confronted with the frightful threat of “discipline”. Discipline in many NCFIC churches is accompanied by the implied threat of banishment (“excommunication”) and shunning. This is precisely what Scott Brown is advocating in the above quote. Banishment and shunning means being cut off from “the community of believers” and being cast out into “the world” where they are “lost”. The shunned are cut off from all their friends, and sometimes even family members, who will no longer so much as speak to or even look at them. They may even lose their job if their employer is a member of the same cult (I’ve seen it happen). They are forever a pariah.

The threat of being shunned is a powerful mind control tactic that keeps members passive and docile. This is precisely the demeanor that cult leaders demand of their followers – unquestioning servile obedience in all things. Obedience to the cult leader is the real standard in a cult, not the Word of God. The Bible itself is not the authority to the cult but, rather, it is what the cult leader interprets the Bible to mean for them. Any dissenting views are subject to immediate and harsh discipline. One cannot dictate efficiently as an autocrat without first silencing opposition, and Scott Brown’s sermon gives the alleged “biblical authority” to put down any and all dissenting views, as well as eliminating any and all accountability of themselves.

One of the indicia of cult leaders is their penchant for blowing minor sins and transgressions completely out of proportion with what the Bible says of them, while also often ignoring major sins (and especially their own sins). The sin of gossip is a perfect example of this. Of gossip Scott Brown says:

“The Lord hates it and He calls it an abomination… If we want to understand this subject we need to understand that God hates it.” (24:55)

Scott Brown makes this bold claim by conflating “gossip” for “sowing discord among the brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19) and completely ignoring the context of the passage of those things listed which God actually does hate. Gossip may be the vehicle through which some discord is sown, but sowing discord is a far more egregious act than mere gossip. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God hates gossip, nor does the Bible call gossip “an abomination”.

Abomination is one of those scary words that cult leaders love to recklessly toss around because “sin” just doesn’t have the punch they’re looking for to justify “disciplining” the alleged perpetrator. Once someone is charged with an “abomination” then all bets are off for any biblical due process.

gossip-backThe back cover of the “Gossip” CD case states:

“Gossip is the great destroyer of families, communities, and local churches. And the Bible has much to say about this form of verbal murder [emp. added]. Now, in this Scripture-saturated message, Scott Brown defines and diagnoses the problem of gossip, unveils the spiritual devastation it leaves behind, and explains the scriptural remedy and the blessings which accompany following God’s commands regarding the use of the tongue.”

Scott Brown’s message includes a number of quoted Scriptures, but it would only qualify as “Scripture-saturated” if the scripture verses he quotes were directly applicable to gossip and not distorted into something not intended by the authors. In his sermon introduction Scott Brown says,

“I’m not actually going to do an exposition of the book of James, but I’m going to give us lots scripture, lots of verses. I’m going to just wear us out with verses here this morning. I almost never do this but I’m going to do it this morning.” (3:30)

The following is the list of verses Scott Brown quotes from, given in the order that he quotes them. I’ve summarized the verses, not according to what Scott Brown claims they say about gossip, but what the verses plainly say for themselves:

  • Matt 5:21-26 “angry with his brother without a cause”, “whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool’, shall be in danger of hell fire”
  • Ps 15:1-3 backbiting, taking up a reproach against a neighbor
  • Prov 6:16-19 “A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”
  • Prov 26:20-23 talebearer, contentious man, “Burning lips and a wicked heart”
  • Rom 16:17-18 “divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned”
  • 1 Cor 5:11 “do not keep company with… a reviler”
  • Titus 3:10 “avoid a divisive man”
  • James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another”
  • 1 Pet 3:8-12 “Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit”
  • 3 John 9-10 “Diotrephes… prating against us with malicious words”
  • Prov 17:4 “An evildoer gives heed to false lips; A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.”

While we should all take heed of these admonitions, none of these verses have much if anything to do with the act of gossiping. Rather, they are about slander, lying, speaking deceitfully, backbiting, reviling, sowing discord among brethren, contentiousness, and listening to and giving credence to lies and liars. Yes, all of these things can be conveyed by means of gossip. But gossip can also occur without any of those other sins being perpetrated.

Scott Brown’s method of expositing Scripture is little different from throwing a big pot of spaghetti and meatballs at the wall and hoping something will stick. His exegetical skills really are that much of a mess. He twists and contorts Scripture, as well as the definitions of the terms used therein, while conflating one term for another, all to arrive at a predetermined outcome. Deception is always rooted in truth, or at least a half-truth because blatant lies would never have any chance of deceiving anyone but the most gullible. As such Scott Brown starts off his lecture by giving a half-truth:

“So I’d like to define gossip here a little bit with scripture. The terms gossip and slander occur around 56 times in Bible, and they’re often used interchangeably”. (7:10)

As Doug Phillips has stated many times, “He who defines the terms wins.” Scott Brown and Doug Phillips have defined gossip as slander and slander as gossip, when in point of fact they are distinctly different from one another. Slander and gossip are not “interchangeable” as Scott Brown claims, whether it be in the Bible, or anywhere else. If “gossip” were “interchangeable with slander”, as Scott Brown asserts, it would have to be, like slander, a violation of the 9th Commandment in all cases. Certainly gossip can be the means of facilitating these things, but gossip is not, of its own accord, a violation of the 9th Commandment. Gossip is, quite often, completely truthful, whereas slander is always lies, fabrications, and/or half-truths.

To conflate “slander” for “gossip” Scott Brown very early in his lecture uses a specific Bible version that he believes aids him in this error, the 1995 edition of the NASB. The editors of the NASB state: “Version Information – While preserving the literal accuracy of the 1901 ASV, the NASB has sought to render grammar and terminology in contemporary English.” While a modern English rendering may be beneficial to the casual reader, it’s hardly the basis for sound hermeneutics. In order to make his case that gossip = slander,  Scott Brown quotes Proverbs 20:19 (at 7:30) from the NASB:

He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,
Therefore do not associate with a gossip.

The naive may suppose that Solomon himself is conflating slander for gossip. Wisdom literature, such as we see in the Proverbs, is often poetic, and often delivered in one sentence segments where the second part of the line may serve to contrast the first part or, as in this case, it may serve to reinforce the first part (see Prov 10:1 – 22:16 & 25:1 – 29:27). In all cases it is still a poetic literary form. We get into deep weeds quickly when we take poetical literature too literally by attempting to augur intention that isn’t there; and in the same way we also get into trouble by taking biblical parables too literally. It’s called “wisdom literature” for a good reason – not only may it impart wisdom to those who can receive it, it may also require a modicum of wisdom, or at least a bit of common sense, to properly understand it in the first place.

In no way does Solomon seek to make slander “interchangeable” with gossip. Scott Brown himself probably knows better. If not then he is a remarkably ignorant Bible teacher. Doug Phillips’ favorite Bible commentator is John Gill. Ironically enough John Gills says of Proverbs 20:19:

“It may be applied to false teachers, and their deceptions with good words and fair speeches; the word used signifies to deceive with the lips; see Romans 16:18″.

Nevertheless, this NASB rendering of Proverbs 20:19, or rather Scott Brown’s conflated interpretation of this rendering, forms the very foundation from which Scott Brown then proceeds to base his entire No Gossip Rule.

“So maybe we could define gossip like this: A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts, a rumor or a report of an intimate nature… But basically speaking negatively about another person without that person being present is gossip.” (9:05)

Here Scott Brown finally uses a reasonably honest definition for “gossip”. Yet he has already corrupted that definition by claiming that the terms “gossip” and “slander” are “interchangeable” when they are not. This is typical of what he does throughout his duplicitous sermon. Since Scott Brown has defined gossip as slander, he then must go on to define “slander”:

“So here’s a definition of slander: The utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation. A false and defamatory oral statement about another person. And this term in Hebrew would be translated typically with the word talebearer and in Greek becomes the word blaspheme or to speak against us.” (10:12)

Scott Brown offers up a reasonably accurate definition for slander, at least up until, like his definition for “gossip”, he conflates slander for “talebearer”. Yes, a slanderer is also a talebearer, but not all talebearers are slanderers. If Scott Brown were capable of an honest definition he would have equated the modern “gossip” for the biblical “talebearer”. I’d like to be able to say that Brown and Phillips are only ignorant Bible teachers; but knowing their character as I do I can’t chalk this up to mere ignorance. This is all quite deliberate on their part. They are guilty of conflating gossip with slander for a specific agenda – to silence any and all opposition to their abuses of authority. This Code Of Silence prevents anyone from holding them accountable.

In seeking out actual dictionary definitions, I purposefully quote here from Doug Phillips’ favorite dictionary, the Webster’s 1828. Of this dictionary Doug Phillips says: “When Noah Webster first published this book, he understood that whoever defined the words of a culture would capture that culture”:

GOS’SIP, noun

1. A sponsor; one who answers for a child in baptism; a godfather.

2. A tippling companion.

And sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl.

3. One who runs from house to house, tattling and telling news; an idle tattler. [This is the sense in which the word is now used.]

4. A friend or neighbor.

5. Mere tattle; idle talk.

GOS’SIP, verb intransitive To prate; to chat; to talk much.

1. To be a pot-companion.

2. To run about and tattle; to tell idle tales.

BACK’BITE, verb transitive [back and bite] To censure, slander, reproach, or speak evil of the absent. Proverbs 25:1.

SLA’NDER, noun

1. A false tale or report maliciously uttered. and tending to injure the reputation of another by lessening him in the esteem of his fellow citizens, by exposing min to impeachment and punishment, or by impairing his means of lining; defamation. slander that worst of poisons, ever finds an easy entrance to ignoble minds.

2 Disgrace; reproach; disreputation; ill name.

SLA’NDER, verb transitive To defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report respecting one; to tarnish or impair the reputation of one by false tales, maliciously told or propagated.

It’s interesting to note that “gossip” originally had a positive meaning, but over time it was corrupted to the point where today it is pejorative. The term “gossip” has changed a great deal over time. That is not the case for the biblical terms “slander” and “backbite” whose meanings have remained reasonably fixed throughout history. “Gossip” only came to be used in its disparaging form in relatively recent history. As such “gossip” appears not a single time in the King James Version (1611) or the Geneva Bible Translation (1599). The Geneva Bible happens to be the preferred translation of Doug Phillips and many others in VF/NCFIC circles. The ESV, which is highly acclaimed by Bible scholars, includes “gossip” only twice (Ez 36:3 & 2Chron 12:20). This isn’t much to go on to build an entire doctrine out of.

If Scott Brown and Doug Phillips were honest they would only use the terms “slander” and “backbiting” instead of “interchangeably” substituting the completely separate and distinct term “gossip”.

For those of us who have been on the receiving end of slander (and I’m no stranger to that myself), it indeed can be the murder of one’s reputation – “character assassination”. Through lies, fabrications and half-truths the slanderer with malicious intent sets about to cause severe damage and harm, and to divide friend from friend. Slander and backbiting are expressly condemned in scripture, not only for the harm they cause, but also because they are in direct violation of the 9th Commandment.

3-monkeysScott Brown makes a case for speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, and he equates the see no evil and hear no evil with sins that will “mar” the hearer permanently. Therefore, one must do everything possibly to avoid so much as even accidentally overhearing gossip, lest it corrupt and defile them:

“Once you hear gossip you’re marred. You are marred. That tasty trifle goes down to the inmost parts and you are never the same again. One little word and you’re never the same again regarding that person. It’s tragic. If you’ve ever listened to gossip then you just need to know that you’ve been defiled. Because it has gone down. It’s gone down, deep down into the inmost parts and it’s a danger to you.” (27:33)

“You’ve been defiled.” How terribly frightening! Fear of alleged “defilement” is a common tactic used by performance-based religious cult leaders to control their followers. Scott Brown then reinforces the policy of cutting off and shunning anyone who would dare to ever gossip:

“Note and avoid a gossip, and there are a number of passages of scripture that make this clear. Romans 16:27-18, 1Corinthians 5:11, and Titus 3:10 all say this. Let’s just sort of get some detail on this. Romans says to note such a one. Romans 16. Titus 3 says warn a gossip once and then twice. Titus 3 says reject a factious man. And in Romans 16 avoid, and 1Corinthians 5 do not keep company with. And then it gets even worse do not even eat with such a one in 1Corinthians 5. Well there’s just much evidence for the importance of avoidance and isolation of this sin. We’re not used to doing that, are we? It’s counter-intuitive to us. We don’t want to do this. But yet we have these very stern and clear warnings from scripture.” (28:10)

Scott Brown speaks “of how gossip is often disguised” as a prayer request, seeking counsel, or bearing one another’s burdens (21:50). True enough, this can happen. In a healthy church of compassionate believers it’s far less likely to happen than in an unhealthy dysfunctional church. Rather than addressing the problem in a biblical way, Scott Brown recommends the elimination altogether of prayer requests, seeking counsel, and bearing one another’s burdens:

“On the speaking side of the coin, first of all keep quiet. Zip it. Just zip the tongue. Remember what your mom used to say? It’s as simple as momma. Momma got it right, didn’t she? If you can’t say anything nice just don’t say it. Don’t share your pain. We live in a culture which teaches us to just share any old thing coming out of our black old heart. Well this isn’t the counsel of the Lord. This is the counsel of a wicked culture saturated in ungodly psychological principles. Don’t make your prayer requests. Have you ever heard of silent personal prayer? Do you have to bring everybody in the world in to prayer for a brother who might be having trouble?  Couldn’t you just labor in your closet for him instead of speaking evil of him in the midst of it?” (33:10)

Is this what Scripture actually teaches? Is making a prayer request for a friend or loved one really gossip? Is coming to the pastor for counseling in, say, an abusive marriage, really gossip? What of “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”? (Gal 6:2). In Scott Brown’s church it appears that everyone is required to just stuff it and suffer in silence. Certainly that has also been the experience for members of Boerne Christian Assembly.

Scott Brown’s teaching on gossip is a gross misrepresentation of Scripture. It calls into question whether he is capable of honestly expositing any biblical topic or passage at all. Rather than guiding Christians out of sin, Scott Brown is actually teaching people to sin. In other words, the cure is worse than the disease. Many of Scott Brown and Doug Phillips’ followers have falsely assumed that obeying the No Gossip Rule will keep them out of sinful behavior in the church when just the opposite is the case.

A wooden compliance with the No Gossip Rule ignores the command of Jesus to “judge with righteous judgement” (John 7:24). Christians aren’t to live with their heads buried in the sand, ignoring sin in their midst. Gossip is hardly the only sin in the church, nor is gossip the “abomination” that Scott Brown makes it out to be, or the “horrific sin” that Doug Phillips makes it out to be. By complying with the No Gossip Rule one would, of necessity, not be able to do a number of  things required in Scripture:

  • Mat 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
    If only I am aware of a grievous sin in a brother’s life, how am I to obey this scripture and still comply with the No Gossip Rule? I can confront that brother privately about his sin, but what if he doesn’t repent? According to the No Gossip Rule I have to keep that brother’s sin a secret, thereby making myself complicit in his sin.
  • 1Tim. 5:19-20 “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
    How am I to accuse an elder of sin when I’m not even permitted to speak with and identity any other witnesses for fear that I will be charged with “gossip”?
  • Gal 6:1-2 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
    How is one to obey this scripture in light of the No Gossip Rule? Also, how do we allow the brethren to fulfill the law of Christ (which is love) if no one ever shares their needs and can only “zip it”?
  • 1Cor. 5:11-13 “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
    This is one of the passages Scott Brown lifted out of context. What if I know that a man is sexually immoral and that man is my own pastor (such as Doug Phillips)? What if that man is also my employer because I work for Vision Forum? What if because I work for Vision Forum I also know the same man is covetous and an extortioner? I could try Matt 18:15, but I already know that everyone else who’s tried it before was fired, put under church discipline, and everyone was ordered to shun them for the rest of their lives. Maybe I could go to the elders of my church? No, that can’t work because they’re all just hand-picked stooges of the pastor. So how do I obey scripture and not violate the No Gossip Rule?

“Bearing one another’s burdens” may require listening patiently to a wounded brother or sister’s tragic story, not judging them over it, or fearing that we’ll somehow be “marred” by it. Requiring that Christians suffer in silence isn’t love but hate.

“Speaking the truth in love” sometimes means having to confront sin (as defined by the Word of God, not some twisted cult leader’s interpretation). The Code Of Silence implicit in the No Gossip Rule just creates a whole new level of sins far worse than the problem of gossip.

It’s been said that, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” How true. Doug Phillips through Vision Forum has marketed the image of inspiring “biblical manliness”. The reality is, however, that Doug Phillips has created hundreds, and perhaps thousands of cowardly men who remain silent in the face of terrible sin. Nothing could more clearly prove this point than the dozen years he spent cheating on his wife. Multiple men knew about it and said nothing and did nothing. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. That’s not manliness. That’s cowardice.

The No Gossip Rule that has been so successfully promoted by Scott Brown and Doug Phillips has had precisely the effect they intended – it’s shut everybody up. There has been much sin in the camp for years; but rather than confronting it to purify the church, sin is concealed. That Code Of Silence is a sure-fire recipe for concealing sin, when scripture commands that we expose sin and purge it from our midst:

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph. 5:11)

Ever since the public revelation of Doug Phillips’ clergy sexual abuse Scott Brown has sought to distance himself from Doug Phillips. In a sermon Scott Brown gave immediately after Doug Phillips’ resignation Brown even referred to Phillips as an “apostate”. Yet it is by Scott Brown’s No Gossip Rule that he empowered Doug Phillips to get away with his apostasy for so many years, and those sins are far worse, and far more extensive, than have come to public light so far.

Until Scott Brown’s teaching on gossip is eradicated from all Vision Forum and NCFIC spheres of influence there will be more scandals and abuses of power that occur within those churches.

Like Doug Phillips, Scott Brown is a Pharisee and a hypocrite. We should all heed Jesus’ warning, and Scott Brown and Doug Phillips should take special note of it:

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:1-2)

___________________

January 17:

One of our regular commenters here, who wishes to remain anonymous, emailed me an article that she wrote on gossip. It’s an insightful article and provides some practical guidelines for knowing what gossip is and what gossip isn’t. I believe her article complements my own and addresses several key areas that I have not. I hope everyone will also read it. I have her permission to share it here: Is it Gossip or Speaking the Truth in Love?

Scott Brown and Jason Dohm Offer Advice On the Doug Phillips Debacle

In the last three days Scott Brown and his fellow church Elder Jason Dohm have, between them, posted three noteworthy articles. Their articles seem inspired by the Doug Phillips sex scandal that resulted in his resignation and the closure of Vision Forum Ministries. No doubt there is much more than a mere adulterous affair that forced the closure of Vision Forum Ministries, but that story will have to wait for another day. Scott Brown and Jason Dohm are Elders at both Hope Baptist Church and Sovereign Redeemer Community Church. Both churches are in or close to Wake Forest, N.C.

Distancing oneself from Doug Phillips is all the craze these days. Multiple blog articles, Facebook posts, and even a sermon or two have been hastily thrown up by Vision Forum board members, employees, interns, and various assorted associates of Doug Phillips. The humorous part for me is they hardly ever mention the name “Doug Phillips”. It’s as though there is now an unwritten rule, Let not that name be mentioned. In this way they can circumvent the “no gossip” rule that is so widespread in Vision Forum Land, or so they at least rationalize. Since we all know who they’re talking about anyway, I’d much prefer they just stop pretending. Moreover, too many of those public postings smack of CYA and are no more genuine than was Doug Phillips’ True Repentance article that he posted in August 2013. In retrospect we can plainly see that article was an utter sham and a ploy to save his own bacon. It goes to show that even the most biblically valid article, written in the most eloquent prose, can be authored by a silver-tongued wolf in sheep’s clothing. We should never assume that good sermons only come from good men.

ScottBrown-DougPhllips

Doug Phillips and Scott Brown

Scott Brown features prominently in the Doug Phillips sex scandal. He is the Director for the Vision Forum Ministries Board of Directors and, no doubt, has good reason to distance himself from The Doug. Scott Brown is also the Director for the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. The NCFIC was handed over to Scott Brown by Doug Phillips.

Brown and Dohm’s articles are quite good. I especially appreciate Jason Dohm’s article, not only for his brevity and his insights, but for the fact that he’s one of the few that has actually used the forbidden name “Doug Phillips” (Scott Brown has yet to do that). Jason Dohm’s article is so good that I contacted him and asked permission to repost it here, in it’s entirety, thereby giving it far greater exposure than he has now. To put it in the politest possible terms (on my part) he declined my request.

Jason Dohm

Jason Dohm

Jason Dohm doesn’t permit comments on his blog, and perhaps that’s why he doesn’t want his article being reposted in it’s entirety here. Doing so might facilitate some discussion that he may not want to address. It might also necessitate his interacting with commenters here, something he may wish to avoid. Be that as it may I’ll only selectively quote from Brown and Dohm’s articles and link to them where they may be read in their entirety. Needless to say, any discussion is welcome here, as are Scott Brown and Jason Dohm themselves, should they wish to make an appearance to answer questions. Feel free to ask them questions regardless of whether or not they reply. I’m confident they’re reading. In fact Jason made an appearance here earlier today.

Regardless of their motivation in writing their articles, they are good articles, and worthy of our consideration and discussion. We should all take these matters to heart.

First from Jason Dohm:

Has Doug Phillips repented? No one knows.

Even if all the signs were positive – granting that purely for the sake of argument – no one would really know for quite some time. Though Proverbs 28:13 doesn’t explicitly use the word “repentance,” it contains the best definition of true repentance that I know: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Did you catch that? Confession ≠ Repentance. Confession is a subset of repentance. The other active ingredient is the forsaking of the sin, and knowing whether or not that has really happened takes significant time. Part 1, confession, is super-easy for a skilled communicator – and Doug is a very skilled communicator…

Has Doug Phillips repented? Don’t count on it.

If we have learned anything from these revelations, it is that Doug is a very skillful deceiver and manipulator. He is good at it, and he has had a lot of practice. Knowing that, it would be foolish for any of us to put ourselves in a position to be deceived or manipulated by him now…

Which kind of shepherd has Doug been? For years now, Doug has been an Ezekiel 34 shepherd, exploiting and devouring for self-satisfaction. He was entrusted with sheep to be a blessing to them, and instead he has been a curse. Is this not beyond dispute? And has not the Chief Shepherd removed him?…

Has Doug really repented? Time will tell, as the saying goes. And as it relates to Christian leadership, that can’t mean a week, a month, a year, or a decade. When it becomes known that a shepherd has cultivated a life of deception and manipulation for many years, such a man may not have enough years to reestablish himself as qualified for leadership.

Should Doug be forgiven? Absolutely. Anyone who has been forgiven much by the King must stand ready to forgive his fellow servants (Matthew 18:21-35).

Should he be trusted? Not on your life. At least not now. At least not soon.

Next, Scott Brown:

Disciplining an Elder – Alexander Strauch Weighs In

One of the most difficult things a church ever does is to discipline an elder. It is difficult enough to bring biblical discipline to church members, but it is even more difficult when elders are the ones in need of correction. There are so many conflicts and questions that are raised when an elder is caught in sin. When this happens, the church is in a very vulnerable situation. They are immediately subject to partiality, divisions, and even biting and devouring one another. Alexander Strauch has given me permission to post this from his book, Biblical Eldership. The quotation below is from chapter nine, following this citation is a link to the whole chapter.

Disciplining an Elder

How should an elder be treated if an accusation of sin is found to be true? Verse 20 provides the answer: “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all.” Some expositors think that verse 20 begins a new subject regarding the treatment of sinners in general, but this view is incorrect. Such a break in thought would be too abrupt and unexpected. Furthermore, it is clear that verses 19-25 deal with the topic of elders, particularly the sin of elders.

The clause, “those who continue in sin,” translates a present active participle (tous hamartanontas). The New American Standard Bible rendering stresses the persistent nature of the sinning. There is disagreement among commentators, however, as to what is implied by this present tense participle.

Some commentators believe that only those elders who stubbornly persist in sin after private warnings are to be publicly rebuked and that repentant elders need not be rebuked publicly. This interpretation, however, misconstrues the point of the passage…

The elder’s disposition toward his sin is not the issue here. The issue is: an elder’s sin demands public exposure…

First Timothy 5:20 provides additional biblical instruction on church discipline, specifically the matter of a church leader’s sin. Of course, if an elder refuses to repent, he would be disfellowshiped from the congregation according to Matthew 18.  Paul’s instructions go on to add that an elder who has been proven to be guilty of sin by witnesses is to be rebuked before the church. The imperative verb “rebuke” translates the Greek word elencho, which is a rich term conveying the ideas of “exposing,” “proving guilt,” “correcting,” and “reproving.” In this context, “rebuke” includes the ideas of public exposure, correction, and reproof…

Nine Ways Church Elders are to be Held Accountable

Each year we see new stories of Christian leaders who get entangled in scandalous sin. Our experience tells us that this has happened before and will happen again. Often we ask, “Who was holding this man accountable?” And, “If I can’t trust this seemingly godly man, who can I trust?” It is very common and very appropriate to also ask, “How are we supposed to hold leaders accountable?” If they are local church elders, the Bible speaks directly to the question…

Following are nine ways that 1 Timothy 5:19-21 shows how church elders are to be held accountable.

1. Personal responsibility

Paul makes it clear that church members have a very specific role. Every church member has the divinely appointed right and responsibility to bring a charge against a church elder when it is necessary. It is remarkable that woven into the very relational and sociological fabric of the local church is the assumption that at no time should elders be above the evaluation of the people they serve. Every person in the pew has this responsibility…

2. A stricter judgment

It is immediately evident from 1 Timothy 5:20 that the Lord has designed His church to have a very specific set of rules for dealing with church elders when they sin. These procedural commands are obviously focused on elders, not the wider church. Eldership carries with it greater risks for a greater number of people, and therefore they are subjected to a “stricter judgment,” (James 3:1)…

3. Multiple witnesses 

Holding church elders accountable requires two or three witnesses, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.” Notice how the Lord has commanded that there be a careful process that includes the following elements. First there must be a personal witness. Then in order to bring an accusation, that person is obligated to bring a minimum of one other witness. This language implies a vigilant examination and verification process.

This procedure is designed to protect the elder from trivial, false or evil accusations. It also protects him from accusations based on rumors, gossip or internet slander. It is part of the territory: Church elders are often targets of criticism since they are all imperfect in their life and doctrine, and the best of men can be picked apart…

4. Partiality avoided

Paul makes it clear that there must not be any partiality, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.” Partiality has many faces. Sometimes it expresses itself when there is a very gifted elder and because of his charisma, persuasiveness and position, people actually hold him to a lower standard when they should be holding him to a higher one…

5. Accountability for what happened

Paul is advocating accountability for the sin, in the phrase, “Those who are sinning rebuke…’… In the case of sins of a financial or moral nature, for instance, the very act of getting caught almost always brings these sins to an immediate stop.

For example, if an elder is caught embezzling funds from his church, the ability to embezzle is taken away the moment he is found out. He is therefore no longer continuing in his sin. Does this mean that he should not be rebuked? Or if a man is caught in adultery, he usually stops. Does this mean there is no need to rebuke him?…

What if the man says he repents: does he then escape the rebuke? This passage gives no indication that repentance suspends rebuke. In fact, there is no mention of repentance in the text. Paul’s instructions are very clear. The purpose of this rebuke is not to produce repentance in the elder—important as that may be—but to cause all “to fear.” The issue here is not excommunication (whether that happens or not). The issue is the public exposure and reproof of one who holds a high office. No one gets a pass in Christ’s churches when it comes to sin, especially not its elders. While true repentance is a critical matter in the elder’s relationship with the Lord and His church, it is important to remember – the explicitly stated purpose of the rebuke is not repentance, but the causing of fear…

6. A rebuke 

…The rebuke is designed to expose and bring the sin to light. The word that Paul uses here speaks of exposing, convicting, disapproving or punishing.”The rebuke should be delivered according to wisdom. It should be measured according to the severity of the sin and the disposition of the offender. There could be a simple public rebuke, or temporary removal, or even excommunication depending on the many factors involved. The punishment should be delivered according to wisdom…

7. A public rebuke 

The rebuke is to be delivered before the whole congregation, “…in the presence of all.” There is the tendency in many situations like this to try to protect people from hearing. Sometimes, in an attempt to express sympathy or to act out of a sense of misplaced kindness, there is a private meeting for the church members only, or a subset of the church. It is difficult to see how these approaches are appropriate applications of the scriptural language…

8. The courage to cause fear 

In today’s church environment, church elders and members often prefer a positive, upbeat church life; free from guilt, repentance or fear. In contrast to this, Paul’s stated purpose of the rebuke is so that “the rest also may fear.” Paul uses very strong language to communicate this. The word he uses to communicate the desired result indicates “alarm” and “fright.” Paul desires that there be a fear of sin in the congregation…

9. Trembling at the seriousness of the matter

The requirement to rebuke must be regarded with utmost seriousness. The gravity of handling the matter properly is identified by an unusually sober warning, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”…

Is your church afraid to expose sin? Is there partiality? Are you personally reluctant to play your role for an elder trapped in sin? If so, the consequences can be terribly harmful for the purity of the church and the elder entrapped in sin. It easily blemishes the public reputation of the church as “pillar and ground of the truth.” It can muffle the proclamation that God saves and sanctifies sinners. In the presence of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels, it hides an important expression of the redemptive power of the gospel itself.

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