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.

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.

The Christian Post: “Vision Forum to Close Down Following Doug Phillips’ Admission of ‘Inappropriate Relationship'”

Wesley Strackbein, a spokesperson for Vision Forum, told The Christian Post that while the non-profit will cease to exist, the board is currently deliberating on whether the organizations’ conferences, workshops, film festival (which was canceled a week before Phillips’ announcement) and other programs, will continue apart from the organization. 

It has also been confirmed that while Phillips’ former non-profit employer will shutter, he will maintain control of his for-profit company, Vision Forum Inc., which sells books, audio lectures, and toys that promote the organization’s conservative beliefs.

 

To read the full article, go here.

“Proof” of Doug Phillips’ Repentance

One of Doug Phillips’ followers sent me a link to a bunch of pictures where he wonders if this is Doug’s confession before his church.

First, this is not his church.  This is the San Antonio Independent Film Festival, and Doug Phillips did not confess before 1800 strangers.

Second, these pictures were taken in February.  If there was true repentance in February, why the need to step down in October?

Take a look for yourself, but just in case they come down off the blog, I will preserve them here for others to decide if Doug Phillips is confessing before his smiling wife on opening night of this grand event?

02-07-13  SAICFF -14

02-07-13  SAICFF -16

02-07-13  SAICFF -28

Vision Forum Views on Women: Monstrous Regiment and Baby Dolls

From Doug’s Blog today:

The “Best of Festival” Jubilee Award — a $10,000 grand prize — went to The Monstrous Regiment of Women, a fifty-four minute documentary directed and produced by the Gunn Brothers. Featuring an all star, all female cast — including Phyllis Schlafly and F. Carolyn Graglia — the film demonstrates how feminism has restricted choices for all women, brought heartache to the lives of many, and perpetuated an unprecedented holocaust through legalized abortion.

“We made Monstrous Regiment because we believe that feminism is one of the most detrimental philosophies effecting our church, family, and government,” remarked Colin Gunn, whose wife Emily co-wrote and narrated the film. “We want to thank the [Festival] for recognizing the importance of this message. We are privileged and honored to receive this award.”

This marked the second Jubilee Award for the Gunn Brothers. In 2004, they won “Best Political” for their film, Shaky Town. In addition to landing the festivals’ top honor in 2007, The Monstrous Regiment of Women took runner-up for “Best Documentary.”

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From a Vision Forum email advertising their new baby doll today:

The way a child plays will influence who that child will become. And the tools of play are an important part of the equation.

Play is preparation for adulthood. Play can prepare a child for maturity or for teen rebellion. Play may breed noble dreams and actions, or it may reinforce dark and unhealthy attitudes. Play may reinforce biblical gender roles (women as mothers and homemakers; men as defenders and protectors of women; etc.), or it may supplant them with the stereotypes perpetuated by modern feminism.

But one thing is certain — play (like the rest of life) is never neutral.

Our culture is engaged in a battle for the heart and soul of the family. It is even reflected in the present doll wars. At stake is whether the play life of our children will reflect efforts to rebuild a culture of virtuous boyhood and girlhood, or whether it will focus on training the next generation of me-centered, empowered, feminists.

There is a reason why feminists hate the message of the Beautiful Girlhood Collection. They hate it because so many of the contributions to this collection emphasize a message of holy submission to the priorities of the Lord and not the feminist empowerment model. They hate it because it represents many of the historic family values of the old era of Christendom. And they hate the constant emphasis that a girl’s play should pave the way for her to better embrace the feminine models and admonitions presented in such Scriptures as Proverbs 31, Titus 2, and I Peter 3. We disagree with the feminists. We also disagree with any corporate model for success which capitalizes on the most negative influences in modern youth culture to market products to children. And we take seriously our mission to encourage, bless, and promote Christian family culture for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Here we are with a typical either-or dilemma from Doug Phillips and Vision Forum: all women either hold to Doug’s version of patriarchy or they are feminists. Which camp are you in? Are there really only two choices biblically?

Life in Perfect

I was going to wait a few more days to open my blog back up again, but I just read an article called “Life in Perfect” that is simply too good to pass up! Warning: Don’t read this article while drinking hot liquids. Too much laughter while drinking hot liquids can cause damage to your computer components.

Here’s a small sample from the article:

Where the children are seen and not heard.

And so are the women.

Where vile American Girl dolls are banned.

Where people talk and write like a walking 1865 dictionary.

I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I won’t post any more of it here. What a great satire, “Ingrid”!

Is Doug Phillips a Cult Leader?

” In general, a cult is a small religious group outside the established churches, usually with a charismatic leader who is a strong authority figure. One psychiatrist has described cults as “religions that haven’t grown up yet.” Ray Moseley, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 3, 1978

Doug Phillips seems obsessed with the use of the word “cult” this week, so we shall attempt to determine why he is so fixated on the term. The following is an eclectic mix of certain cult characteristics I found on various lists. The general rule of thumb seems to be that if a group exhibits at least half of these characteristics, it qualifies as a sociological cult. I am not going to list the characteristics of a heretical cult because it is quite obvious that those criteria do not apply. This is merely a list for discussion purposes. Everyone is encouraged to interact with this list regarding Doug Phillips, BCA, or Vision Forum. Based upon the following criteria, does the cult label apply?

  1. Excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to the leader.
  2. Dependency upon the group or leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without leader involvement.
  3. Seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the leader in personal behavior.
  4. Hyperactivity centered on the leader’s agenda, which seems to supersede any personal goals or individual interests.
  5. The leader is not accountable to any authorities.
  6. Anything the leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
  7. The leader’s belief system, ideology, and practices are law.
  8. They insist on total, unquestioning obedience and submission to the group, both actions AND thoughts.
  9. They are always right.
  10. They are the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
  11. Whenever they are criticized or questioned, it is characterized as “persecution”.
  12. The leader claims new revelation from God, within the past 200 years, in which all but their group are rejected by God. They, alone, speak for God.
  13. Focus is on group doctrine and writings. The Bible, if used at all, is referred to one verse at time to “prove” group teachings.
  14. Group dwells on members’ “sinful nature” (many use public confession). Guilt and fear arising from “failing God” are magnified to manipulate new member.
  15. Followers feel they can never be “good”
  16. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  17. Critical thinking is discouraged as prideful and sinful, blind acceptance encouraged.
  18. Use of mind control techniques (taken from Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s book “Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism“)
    1. Mileu Control: Control of the environment and communication within the environment
    2. Mystical Manipulation: Seeks to promote specific patterns of behavior and emotion in such a way that it appears to have arisen spontaneously from within the environment, while it actually has been orchestrated
    3. Demand for Purity: The world becomes sharply divided into the pure and the impure, the absolutely good (the group/ideology) and the absolutely evil (everything outside the group)
    4. Confession: Cultic confession is carried beyond its ordinary religious, legal and therapeutic expressions to the point of becoming a cult in itself sessions in which one confesses to one’s sin are accompanied by patterns of criticism and self-criticism
    5. Sacred Science: The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic doctrine or ideology
    6. Loading the Language: Words are given new meanings — the outside world does not use the words or phrases in the same way
    7. Doctrine Over Person: If one questions the beliefs of the group or the leaders of the group, one is made to feel that there is something inherently wrong with them to even question –
    8. Dispensing of Existence: Since the group has an absolute or totalist vision of truth, those who are not in the group are bound up in evil, are not enlightened, are not saved, and do not have the right to exist
  19. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  20. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader and members.
  21. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, everyone outside of group lumped under one label.
  22. Study and service become mandatory. New member becomes too busy to question. Family, friends, jobs and hobbies are squeezed out, further isolating the new member.
  23. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
  24. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group.
  25. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members.
  26. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
  27. Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
  28. Recruiters are told that “Satan” will cause relatives and friend to say bad things about the group to try to “steal them away from God.” Recruits soon believes group members, alone, are truthful/trustworthy.
  29. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
  30. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  31. The group is preoccupied with making money.
  32. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
  33. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  34. Group “love” and acceptance becomes dependent upon obedience and submission. Unconditional love…isn’t.
  35. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  36. The most loyal members feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
  37. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
  38. Former followers are at best considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.
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