Doug Phillips’ Political Payback

Disciplines Wife for Broad, Unsubstantiated Charges

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

Life continued on as usual until we received a request to come to church early on January 23, 2005. The previous Sunday, Mark had told Richard Short that I was not a believer, so in my naiveté, I thought we were going to be asked to defend our faith at this meeting. When we arrived, however, there were five men waiting for us: Doug Phillips, the sole elder; Bob Sarratt and Mo Gill, the deacons; Rick Huber; and Richard Short, a brand-new member. They then proceeded to read us a document entitled, “Disciplinary Action of BCA for Mark and Jennifer Epstein.” (I would encourage you to read it now.)

There were many problems, inconsistencies, and lies in this document. For instance, in Section III A, there are four reasons listed for why Boerne Christian Assembly (read: Doug Phillips here) is going public. 1. “Your own lack of self control and inappropriate public behavior among the local church…” {I guess this means the time I talked to Kathleen about Doug Phillips not being willing to protect us.} 2. “Both of you are guilty of making misleading comments to your brethren bound to cause confusion to the saints.” {Notice how there is a pattern of broad charges, but never saying anything specifically. I have no clue what this is.} 3. “Your resistance and inappropriate response to shepherding” {I asked to bring a friend to the counseling sessions}, “confrontation (and even this disciplinary action).” {Here Doug Phillips assumes beforehand how we are going to respond to this very document even before he reads it to us; this is very similar to the document he presented at the first Kangaroo Court.} 4. “Under the circumstances, the Bible expressly requires that such matters be told to the church. (Matt. 18:15-17)” {Doug Phillips cites Matthew 18, step three, but he hasn’t used steps one and two yet.}

You will notice throughout this document that both Mark and I are addressed together as if we had either conspired to sin together, or as if we received the same treatment throughout our time at Boerne Christian Assembly. For instance, in section III B, it states that we “collectively received hundreds of hours of counsel from leaders and brethren.” {This is very deceptive, as I received a total of six hours of “counsel” from Beall Phillips and Reba Short, and four hours of name-calling and false accusations from Doug Phillips, during my entire five years at Boerne Christian Assembly. I shouldn’t forget the three times I asked Beall for advice on how to be a submissive wife to an angry husband as well. That probably equaled about 30 more minutes, for a total of 10 ½ hours altogether. Mark, on the other hand, did receive much more counsel than I did, but lumping us together in this group of “hundreds of hours” of counseling is quite deceptive.}

In Section III C of this document, Doug Phillips brings up, again, sins I had committed in 1989 and fully repented from in 1990 when I came to know the Lord. Not only had I repented then, but the letter of repentance I had written Mark almost three years prior was the very one that brought tears to Doug and Beall Phillips, causing them both to acknowledge that this was proof of my full repentance. However, Doug Phillips again chose to bring up my past again. Mark pleaded with Doug not to read this portion to the whole congregation, but his pleas fell on deaf ears and this was read to a congregation who knew nothing about this and who had no need to know, especially the children.

Also in Section III C, Doug Phillips accuses me of making “accusations about Mark’s mental state” {which was in fact initially brought up by Bob Sarratt}, “broad charges about Mark’s propensity to harm his family” {which shows exactly how concerned Doug Phillips was about our physical safety}, and “constant digs against Mark” {again with no specific example of what those were}.

In Section III D, Doug Phillips states that “after you came to the church leadership stating repentance and revival, you were released to return to the Lord’s Table.” {This is simply not true. I had no input whatsoever in this decision and I had no conversation with Doug Phillips or anyone else regarding this matter. Mark simply came home one day and told me I could take communion again.}

At the top of page 3, Doug Phillips says that we were “formally admonished and rebuked by the church leadership for ungodly behavior” on October 5, 2004. {You will recall that that was the time when Doug Phillips said to me, “Mark is an angry man, and that is wicked; but you, Jen, you are very wicked, you are rebellious, and you are a Jezebel.” I asked for specific examples then of what I was doing, so that I could change, but none were forthcoming.} Doug Phillips goes on to say that I refused “to take responsibility for (my) actions” {even though I kept asking what those actions might be} “or to honor the directives of the leadership” {again, I asked to bring a friend to the counseling sessions}.

There is an excerpt of a letter on the third page, of which the second paragraph states: “Your unwillingness to be under authority or counsel,” {which again refers to Beall Phillips showing up at the meeting when I had specifically requested that she not be there because she had refused to speak to me for the previous two years and because I asked if a friend could come to the counseling sessions}, “to repent for sinful attitudes” {I keep asking what these were}, and your spreading of untruthful gossip {my pleas for help were certainly truthful; to the extent that Doug Phillips considered them gossip, I did apologize, but he blatantly refused to forgive me}.

At the top of page 4, Doug Phillips lists many lies, such as “You refused to follow the basic directives which were given to you.” {This is the list of 14 suggestions to make your husband happy, of which I did all 14. I used email instead of writing it down on a piece of paper for one of the suggestions. I even refrained from talking to men about theology during that timeframe, even though I did not see that as being biblical. I did what they asked me to.} You “claimed a startling new doctrine of near sinless-ness as it applied to your own conduct in marriage.” {The last time I checked, Romans 6 and 8 were not new. I merely explained that I had not sinned recently in my marriage, nor did I have a pattern of sin in my marriage from which I needed to repent.} You “claimed a near sinless-ness in interactions with church leaders.” {I guess that must be the voting paper I wrote to Doug Phillips – which is the real reason for this whole “disciplinary action.”}

In the second paragraph of page 4, Doug Phillips says that Mark has “again raised the threat of divorce.” {This simply shows how little Doug Phillips really knew about us, as this threat was almost daily for nearly our entire time at Boerne Christian Assembly.}

The last sentence of Section IV states that “brothers and sisters have been engaged in formal individual counsel with you including the Shorts and the Hubers.” {Although Mark was in an accountability relationship with Richard Short, I had no formal individual counsel with any of these people. Notice how we are lumped together again as if everything were equal.}

Section V starts out by saying, “Though we are not present in the Epstein house, we have been able to confirm the factuality through … our own observations and interactions with you, each of the concerns mentioned below.” {When I asked for examples, even just one example, Doug Phillips was unable to provide me with any. In fact, I asked the whole congregation for even just one example, but I have yet to hear any. However, here Doug Phillips insists that they have “observed” each of these different sins.} “Each concern has been confirmed in the mouth of multiple witnesses {we asked for a list of those witnesses, but they were unable to provide even one witness to any of these sins}.

Here is what I am charged with: {Notice the lack of specificity.}

Unconfessed sin {Writing a letter to Doug Phillips about voting?}
Lack of repentance {Writing a letter to Doug Phillips about voting?}
Bitterness {Toward whom, I’m not sure. But I prayed for a spirit of forgiveness every day toward both Doug and Beall Phillips and Mark, because I did not want to have any unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart.}
Lack of love {I loved Mark through the good and the bad, but it was hard.}
Jurisdictional abandonment and/or usurpation {Doug Phillips is saying that I did not fulfill my duties as a wife and mother. I certainly tried my best to do so in a very difficult situation.}
Using children as weapons against each other {Not only did I not use my children against my husband, but I taught them every day to honor their father, no matter what he did.}
1. Rebellion against authority
a. A rebellious and unsubmissive attitude and response to the authority of your husband. {I was as submissive as I knew how to be under the circumstances.}
b. A rebellious and unsubmissive attitude and response to the authority of the local church. This includes open hostility to the church leadership and those assigned to work with you, as well as ongoing, substantive rejection of attempts by the church leadership and their delegates to work with you. {Again, I asked Beall Phillips not to come to the meeting and I asked to bring a friend to the counseling sessions.}
2. Covenant breaking
a. Willful and constant disrespect for authority, non-responsiveness to appeals for honorable behavior in the body of Christ, gossip spreading, and efforts to wrongfully manipulate facts and individuals, contrary to the terms of the BCA covenant. {Other than telling Kathleen about Doug Phillips refusing to help protect us, I don’t have a clue what all this is about.}
b. Dishonorable and mean-spirited treatment of the your brethren in Christ, contrary to the terms of the BCA covenant. {When Beall Phillips informed me that she purposed to point out all my sins, after she refused to speak to me for two years, I requested that she refrain from further contacting me unless she had something kind to say.}
3. Unrepentance
a. Habitually refusing to acknowledge sins when confronted for them by your brethren and church leadership. {My voting letter to Doug Phillips again.}
b. Unbiblically claiming a near-sinlessness in your marriage in the recent past, and justifying such a claim by various attacks on the confessional understanding of the doctrine of sin and depravity. {Again, I never claimed any such thing as near sinlessness, nor did I attack the doctrine of total depravity. I merely requested that we read Romans 6 and 8.}

In Section VII, Doug Phillips states that “biblical efforts at loving confrontation have proven unsatisfactory.” {At no time did I ever feel that any of this confrontation was loving. I have since been confronted by elders and friends on other issues, and not only were these confrontations done in love, but I repented and changed my ways because of the Christian love that was shown in a rebuke. Maybe one of those friends will testify to that here.}

Section VII details the discipline that we were to receive at this point. We may not take communion; we are to attend the meeting of the church (Sunday services), but we may not fellowship with anyone; and all membership privileges are suspended. The only interaction we are to have with anyone from Boerne Christian Assembly is for them to tell us to repent. Some have excelled at that.

We were given six months to formally repent, accompanied by a formal request for restoration, or we would be excommunicated.

“Evidence of repentance would include an acknowledgement of specific sins for which you have individually been confronted, a fundamental heart turning which is proven over a season of time, a willingness to make restitution for wrongs done, and public (supervised – ie, in consultation with the church leadership) repentance before the Church.” {It is interesting that while Doug Phillips mentions no specific charges or sins in this entire document, that he fully expects us to tell him what they are.}

This document was read to us immediately before church. We were then asked if we wanted to plead “guilty” or if we wanted to “appeal.” Those were the only two options afforded us. Mark, realizing his guilt, chose to plead guilty. I asked to appeal. I was told that I would have an opportunity to speak right after the service, which was to begin in a few minutes. Even though Doug Phillips had taken weeks to prepare this document, I was given a few minutes to prepare my “defense,” and I was not afforded the opportunity to bring any documents or witnesses with me.

We immediately went into the service and, after the sermon, all the men and women and older children listened to Bob Sarratt read this entire document. Mark was then given a chance to speak first. He confessed his sins and asked for forgiveness. He then explained that he had falsely accused me and that I had done nothing wrong at all. Apparently, that admission wasn’t good enough, so I had my opportunity to speak. I told my story, much as it is on this website, although I didn’t have dates or documents with me. At the end, I asked, “What sin have I committed? How can I change if I don’t know what I’ve done?” No one answered.

After that Doug Phillips called forward some witnesses who had prepared statements. Bob Sarratt lied and said that I had been the first one to suggest that Mark might be bi-polar. Kathleen Turley told the story of our conversation about Doug Phillips not protecting me. She told the exact same story as I did, but it was told in a derogatory manner, making it seem as if I approached her solely for the sake of gossiping, which simply wasn’t true. Beall Phillips then proceeded to read all six hours of counseling notes, which any professional counselor would never dream of doing, ethically or legally. I believe Doug Phillips made a denial of one of the names I accused him of calling me, but I cannot remember which name.

Richard and Reba Short then got up and spoke about how they would come over to our house every Friday night for dinner, but before they would leave home, they would always pray that I would ask Reba how to be a submissive wife. This was their testimony against me. Since I knew that Reba believed that almost all problems in a marriage were the wife’s fault, she was the last person I would have gone to with marriage difficulties.

That was all the evidence that was presented against me. Nothing substantial. Nothing specific. Certainly nothing to be disciplined for. I was not given a chance to ask any of the “witnesses” any questions or to respond to what they had to say.

The men in the congregation were then given a chance to say something. Several of them stood up and said how surprised they were to hear this, that they had good memories of time spent with me. One man stood up and questioned if they were doing the right thing; he wondered if maybe I hadn’t done anything wrong after all. Doug Phillips immediately put him on the spot and made him take sides. I understand the pressure he faced when he decided to side with Doug Phillips after all.

But this discipline was nothing in comparison to what was to happen next.

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7 Responses to “Doug Phillips’ Political Payback”

  1. Lynn Says:

    Wow. Bringing up pre-conversion sins, “twice” repented of, before the congregation, including the children, huh? After your husband requested that he not do that? After your husband said he was guilty and you were not? Even though your act of sin which occurred prior to your conversion was repented of, and Doug even had read your letter of repentance years before this?

    “After that Doug Phillips called forward some witnesses who had prepared statements. Bob Sarratt lied and said that I had been the first one to suggest that Mark might be bi-polar.”

    And Jen, even if you *had* been the one to suggest this, what kind of *sin* is that anyway? Answer, of course, is that it isn’t a sin. And even if it were a sin, for a church to make *that* into a disciplinary issue just shows how much they were grasping at straws.

  2. always batya Says:

    Even though Doug Phillips had taken weeks to prepare this document, I was given a few minutes to prepare my “defense,” and I was not afforded the opportunity to bring any documents or witnesses with me.

    You look guilty here no matter what you do because they blindsided you. This is a favorite trick. They do not believe in fair play.

    Now with all that said of tactics. What about being Christians. There is NOTHING in these documents that warrant this type of treatment of a sheep. It is scary that these people think there is. What does that say about them?

    Let’s name some famous excommunication cases for not submitting to your husband as described by the church.

    But you know what is most glaring? That they spent the time to put this document together. Shows you where their priorities are.

    I wish you would get into some specifics like where some counseling took place, etc. How many times did you meet at VF.

    Also, what is Vision Forum Ministries and is there another VF that is totally for profit? Also, where was Doug all those Sundays when not preaching? Speaking somewhere? Was he paid for this and did the money come to Boerne or do you know?

  3. Rebecca Says:

    My parents believe strongly in the power of Christ’s sacrifice to atone for ALL of our sins. Because of this, they take sin seriously, but they also take forgiveness just as seriously. While my father can wax eloquent over the fine theological points, both of them like to remind me, “God has forgiven you and buried your sins in the sea of His forgetfulness. And He has posted a No Fishing sign.”

    I’ve often marveled at my parents’ ability to forgive and forget. I’ve told them this, and they remind me that Christ has forgiven them — how can they do any less?

    Jen, I wish that more Christian leaders really believed this. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to bring up long-forgiven sins, especially when asked not to do so, and especially in front of your children.

    May Doug Phillips be brought to repentance. May he experience God’s forgiveness so powerfully that his hardened heart becomes softened, and he grows to cherish God’s forgiveness, rather than trampling it under foot.

  4. Jen Says:

    Always Batya, to clarify on the “counseling” issue: I had three mandatory counseling sessions, two hours each, with Beall and Reba at Vision Forum. Of the two meetings with Doug Phillips, one was for two hours at Vision Forum and one was at a television studio. In five years, that’s it!

    Vision Forum Ministries is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that mostly puts on conferences. Those conferences are where they mostly sell their books and other materials, which are from their for-profit business, Vision Forum.

    Doug Phillips shows up to church about once every 6-8 weeks now. He is a conference speaker (his own conferences almost always fall on weekends, and homeschool conferences, which always end on Saturday). There are several churches in the “community” that also have big name conference speakers and Doug Phillips and the others are often at the same conferences. The only difference is that the other speakers, who are also pastors, make an effort to get to their own churches on Sundays most of the time. My guess is that Doug is usually flying on Sundays, and even though Boerne Christian Assembly meets nearly all day on Sunday, Doug Phillips does not bother coming out even if he does arrive home in plenty of time to fellowship.

    Yes, Doug Phillips gets paid for his speaking engagements. No, it does not come to Boerne Christian Assembly. However, the sermons that he does preach on the rare Sunday, he sells through his for-profit business, Vision Forum.

  5. Morgan Farmer Says:

    I think I now understand Dougs idea of sin in a marriage:

    Not getting the coffee cup to him in a timely manner.

    I agree with the Lynn, there are a lot of choice words for this one…..

  6. Ami Andersen Says:

    The link for the disciplinary action letter leads to an odd website. Did it get moved?

    • Jen Says:

      Ami, I had originally posted all my original documentation on ministrywatchman.com. That site has since been closed. At some point, I will attempt to upload all my documents again. Sorry about that. Most of the pertinent information from each document is posted within each article. It may be some time before I am able to upload everything.


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