Jen Epstein Responds to Doug Phillips / BCA Statement

Is the Doug Phillips / Boerne Christian Assembly statement against me “rife with pure fabrications, dangerous half-truths, malicious innuendo, and vicious personal attacks?”

Read and decide for yourself.

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

Just one month ago, in an article on Ministry Watchman, Charles Fisher introduced to the public the story of my family’s mistreatment by Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly. Three days later, BCA issued a public response on a brand new church website. Rather than reply to their statement, I decided to first finish telling my story, which I continued on this site after Charles finished a second article on Ministry Watchman. Because my own account is now complete, I will now respond to the BCA statement, section by section. This article is a little longer than my recent posts, so please be patient as you read it, but I do think you will find it well worth the time. Please note as you read that the excerpts of the Doug Phillips/BCA statement are indented, with my responses following.

Boerne Christian Assembly is a ministry whose primary effort is to broadly declare the gospel-good news of Jesus Christ and to teach the full counsel of God, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20).

I find it sad that the BCA statement begins with a needless falsehood — the claim that Boerne Christian Assembly is a “ministry.” If BCA is just a ministry, by what authority do they claim to have exercised church discipline on Mark and me?

The distinction between a church and a ministry may seem like a small matter to some readers, but the fact is that the church is a God-ordained institution that lasts forever, whereas a ministry is man-made and finite. So it is not a small matter to blur the distinction.

Response of Boerne Christian Assembly to a Defamatory Attack Circulated by an Anonymous Source Against Church Leadership, Church Families, and Women of the Congregation

BCA (actually Doug Phillips, who has done most if not all of the drafting of this statement) uses the legal term “defamatory” from the first part of its statement to send a message that Doug is still considering suing us and to warn potential supporters of us of possible legal consequences of their support. Doug made clear in a blog post he made just a few weeks ago and before we went public with our story that he feels free to sue us because he excommunicated us. The truth is that such a lawsuit is highly unlikely to get very far, because “defamatory” means an untrue statement, and nothing that Charles Fisher or I have written has been untrue. So the use of the word is little more than an aggressive rhetorical device.

The truth is Doug Phillips has done far more to attack my family than we have done to “attack” him by taking our story public. The road to the present began in 2002, when Doug Phillips refused to help me even as I pleaded with him to intervene on behalf of our marriage. Not long after, Doug Phillips launched his attack on me by promoting a theology that says problems in the marriage are always the woman’s fault, by refusing to forgive me when I apologized for “gossiping,” by retaliating against my personal political belief that it is not immoral to vote Republican, and by refusing to protect a woman and children in his own congregation.

The fact that we are now going public, after exhausting all private avenues for reconciliation under Matthew 18, does not constitute our own attack at all; rather, we are merely warning fellow believers about a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

1. Background: Boerne Christian Assembly (hereafter cited as BCA) is a duly constituted local assembly which has, since its beginning, been governed by plural leadership….

As Doug Phillips knows, the term “plural leadership” does not reflect a biblical principle of church government. The BCA statement uses this term solely to disguise the fact that they are not governed by a plurality of ordained elders. I used to always consider it the height of hypocrisy when BCA would begin services every Sunday with one of the deacons proclaiming that we believe in a plurality of elders, while year after year we only had one unordained elder, Doug Phillips. The Bible is clear that there should be a plurality of elders, not a plurality of “leadership” — as Doug Phillips himself teaches at the Vision Forum Uniting Church and Family conferences that he organizes and hosts. This example of Doug not practicing what he preaches is just the first of many that will be noted in this article.

2. Purpose: We have received notice that a highly defamatory article laced with personal character attacks has been widely disseminated by e-mail from an anonymous source.

My story is true. So by definition it is neither defamatory nor an attack on Doug Phillips’ personal character beyond revealing what that character truly is. Search through Charles Fisher’s or my story for evidence of any name-calling, pejoratives, hyperbole, or use of ad hominem attacks; you won’t find any. And, as our own websites make clear, Mark and I are public, not anonymous, sources for Charles Fisher’s story, although Ministry Watchman did originally refer to us as Jared and Mary Jackson in the interest of protecting us from possible litigation.

We also understand that it has been posted on a website run by individuals acting under pseudonyms.

This statement is deliberately misleading, as though BCA was not informed of the story when it was published and as though they only heard of Ministry Watchman through the rumor mill. This is not true, as Ministry Watchman sent Doug Phillips a courtesy copy of the story to his personal email two hours before the story was posted (and Doug’s personal assistant would have seen it almost instantly on his Blackberry). At that time Doug was invited to supply any corrections or clarifications to the story. He declined to do so. Ministry Watchman also offered a standing invitation for Doug Phillips to set the record straight on any errors he subsequently identified. Doug Phillips has declined to do so for over a month so far.

Although I don’t know if the authors at Ministry Watchman write under their own names or under pseudonyms as alleged in this statement, I do know that RC Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries filed a lawsuit against Christian blogger (and Ministry Watchman writer) Frank Vance. I also know that Doug Phillips has threatened to sue us and others. Under the circumstances — Christian public figures who refuse to obey the command in I Corinthians 6 to refrain from suing fellow Christians — it could be very prudent for Ministry Watchman contributors to write under pseudonyms. I certainly don’t fault them if they have chosen to do so.

Furthermore, we only have to look to the first two “We hate the Epsteins” websites to see that Doug Phillips’ own close associates chose to “attack” us using pseudonymns as well, all while they were exposing our names to the whole world, not to mention revealing pastoral confidences and using foul language in the process. Since Doug Phillips did nothing to stop this, I must therefore conclude that he gives them his implicit approval for what they have done. In my opinion, this is blatant hypocrisy.

The defamatory article has been sent by e-mail throughout our own church community and across the nation.

My true story has been read by many people who have emailed links to friends and associates. There are many concerned readers who are forwarding this important information to others. Doug Phillips uses email himself. I see no special problem with the medium.

The article involves numerous fictitious accounts of events, malicious accusations against BCA elder Doug Phillips and his wife Beall, the families of BCA, and its leadership.

“Numerous,” “fictitious,” “malicious,” and “accusations” are all broad and inflammatory but unsubstantiated words Doug Phillips often uses, which is one reason I know he probably wrote this statement (and not the person who signed it). These words don’t really say anything at all of substance. Why doesn’t Doug Phillips just address even one aspect of my story specifically? Maybe because he can’t refute it? Maybe because if he says anything at all falsifiable that it will be proven false?

The numerous accusations center around the relationship of BCA with a couple biblically and lovingly disciplined for gross, unrepentant sin in the beginning of the year 2005. The purpose of this letter is to offer a brief response.

Actually, my story is primarily about Doug and Beall Phillips individually, not about BCA. Notice how this statement tries very hard to take the focus off these two Phillips family members, where it belongs.

Now that I have completed telling my story (If you haven’t read it, you may want to do so, beginning here, before continuing with this article), it should be clear that the BCA “discipline” was neither biblical nor loving. In fact, the manner in which it was conducted would not even hold up to the much lower standards of the secular justice system, let alone to the higher standards of God’s Word. Doug, do you really think the way you have treated my children and me is loving? While I realize you think that this kind of discipline is meant to produce repentance in its rightful place, since you cannot clearly provide me with anything I need to repent from, you have effectively put me in a lose-lose situation: If I don’t repent, I am forever deemed an excommunicant; If I do confess, it would be a lie.

3. Summary: The article attacking BCA is a work of fiction. It is rife with pure fabrications, dangerous half-truths, malicious innuendo, and vicious personal attacks.

Here are more sweeping and unspecific charges. I have plenty of documentation that supports the truth of my story; BCA has offered nothing to disprove it. This type of language serves only to incite the reader’s emotions, something Doug Phillips taught us never to do. This is more of Doug holding others to a standard he does not follow himself.

It attributes to BCA leaders statements they never made, actions they never committed, and beliefs to which they do not subscribe.

Precisely which statements, actions, and beliefs might these be? I notice that the BCA statement is very careful, for example, to avoid denying that Doug Phillips called me a “whore” and a “Jezebel.” The BCA statement is also careful not to deny any of the other particular facts that I have put forward. Doug knows there are too many witnesses to deny such things. That’s why he resorts to denying, in a morally outraged tone, unspecified things he was not accused of committing.

The article demeans women in so far as it viciously attacks Beall Phillips and presents the women of BCA in a most unflattering and defamatory manner.

Beall Phillips has been a true helpmeet to Doug — helping him place blame where it doesn’t belong, helping him to manipulate my words into something they were never intended to mean, helping manipulate me into a situation where Doug Phillips could excommunicate me for what Beall herself recommended I do. Telling the truth about her role as a de-facto female elder is not “vicious,” unless what she has done is vicious (in which case it cannot be avoided). Furthermore, if the most extreme aspects of patriarchy as practiced by many at BCA appear unflattering, it is because of the subject matter, not because of the reporter. Criticizing Ministry Watchman’s reporting in this regard is merely blaming the messenger.

The article is undocumented, unsubstantiated, and unbiblical in so far as it is the result of a cooperative effort with an excommunicated couple to bring a false witness against Christians contrary to the Ninth Commandment and to the biblical requirements pertaining to those under church discipline.

Here is another example of a boldfaced lie. The original story by Charles Fisher WAS documented. In fact, that document includes Doug Phillips’ own signature (plus the signatures of other witnesses). See it for yourself right here. After that first story many more documents have been released. The first document supports my story, which, in fact, closely tracks the rest of the documentation. I find it very odd that the official BCA statement would find it so easy to lie about something that anyone can easily disprove. So I ask you readers, if BCA’s “leadership” will lie about this, why not about other things as well?

Furthermore, to call us “excommunicated” is to beg the question. That is precisely the matter under dispute. We deny that we were excommunicated, not only because Doug Phillips denied us due process but also because he refused to supply the appropriate grounds for excommunication. In fact, to this day, we have yet to receive any particulars about the sins we allegedly committed to justify the excommunication.

We deny the vicious charges presented in the document, stand by the character of the men and women defamed, and affirm the propriety of the excommunication both as to the substance and as to the procedure.

Which “document” is he referring to? Perhaps Charles Fisher’s original story? If so, I believe anyone would have a difficult time finding anything “vicious” in this rendering of my story. And if BCA has denied anything specific in that report, I would like to see it; a broad, general denial of “vicious charges” doesn’t amount to anything.

4. Excommunication With Due Process and Unanimous Approval of the Voting Church Body: Contrary to the claims made by this couple and the publishers of the defamatory article, the excommunication of the family followed biblical procedure consistent with our doctrine and confession, procedures which we believe to fairly represent the parameters laid out in Scripture.

I believe I made a clear case that this excommunication was both unbiblical and without due process. I have yet to hear one specific charge against me, although there have been very broad allegations without any examples. None of these broad charges, even if true, are an excommunicable offense. I was not provided time to prepare a defense, to gather witnesses, to even have a trial. I was tried and convicted by secret star chamber, and I still don’t even know the charges! There was no place and no person to whom I could appeal. I would like to know the Bible verses that describe using this kind of railroading to excommunicate.

Tremendous patience, longsuffering, and love were shown to the couple even in the face of violent railings, vicious accusations, cruelty and threats on their part directed at each other, other women at BCA, the families coming alongside of them in counsel and prayer, and the church leadership.

I would agree that Doug Phillips was patient with my husband’s anger even to the point that he refused to protect my children and me when our lives were in danger. However, I don’t think that is the kind of patience our Lord advocates. While Doug Phillips certainly had somewhat of a good relationship with Mark, his obvious disdain for me as a woman is what led to his very unloving and unbiblical treatment of me. At no time did I knowingly treat anyone, man or woman, at Boerne Christian Assembly with anything other than Christian charity, even when Beall Phillips tried to back me into corners, or when others told half-truths about me, such as when Kathleen Turley told Doug Phillips that I was gossiping, which was not the full story and certainly not my intent. In other words, to claim that Doug Phillips in particular was patient, longsuffering, and loving toward me is simply not true.

The initial reason BCA intervened with this couple was to prevent their divorce in light of the husband’s constant threats to divorce his wife.

True. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. So why was I punished by being banned from the Lord’s Supper as BCA’s first act of intervention?

Just prior to their formal excommunication, the acrimony and venom between the couple was at such a level that the wife suggested her husband was guilty of attempted murder and of psychological instability, while the husband presented compelling evidence of ongoing cruelty on the part of the wife.

As a former lawyer for HSLDA, Doug Phillips knew that he had a responsibility, both as an elder and as a lawyer specifically trained for these types of situations, to investigate my daughter Natasha’s and my allegations that our lives were in danger rather than laughing them off. I have even spoken to a well-known lawyer at HSLDA about this situation and he verified that Doug Phillips should have known better. Bob Sarratt is the one who suggested that Mark might be bi-polar, but even so, wouldn’t that be a logical concern in a situation like this?

As for the charges against me, I invite you, Doug, to give me even one example of my being cruel to my husband. The truth is that my husband made up charges against me, which you did not test but instead used as an excuse to discipline me. In fact, even after my husband recanted of his false charges in front of the whole church, you still used his false testimony to condemn me! So much for your advocacy of “Biblical law,” which does not permit judgment based on false testimony. Doug, why don’t you practice what you preach?

When confronted for sins, the wife insisted on a novel and unbiblical variation of the doctrine of sinless perfectionism to justify her claim that she had essentially not sinned in her home for close to half of a year.

The question was, “Have you sinned in your marriage in the last 24 hours?” I answered that I could not recall doing so. When Beall Phillips kept pressing, asking me about the last 48 hours, the last week, or the last month, I merely replied that I had not sinned recently in my marriage. In fact, Mark was so rarely home at this point, that I didn’t even have many opportunities to sin directly against him. I was not claiming sinless perfectionism but rather that, although I certainly had sinned in my marriage, as in all of life, I did not have some particular pattern of sin that Beall had been looking for to point to as the cause of our family’s marital problems.

Over a period of years leading up to the excommunication, the elders of BCA and appointed families from the local church logged hundreds of hours counseling both the husband and wife in the Word of God, sometimes with signs of hope, and other times with none.

While Mark was certainly afforded much counseling, although of mixed quality, I was counseled by Beall Phillips and Reba Short for a total of six hours over five years. Mark and I met with Doug Phillips for a total of four hours in five years, but I don’t consider his name calling and kangaroo courts to be “counseling.” Doug knows of this wide disparity, and he knows there is no good excuse for it, so he tries to obscure this to the readers of the BCA statement by combining my situation with Mark’s.

At no time was inappropriate language leveled against the couple by leaders of BCA.

Since there is no denial of using any specific words, I can only assume that Doug Phillips considers it appropriate pastoral behavior to call me a “whore,” “Jezebel,” “wicked,” “rebellious,” and “churlish,” even without supplying any examples of these charges. I guess that’s his view of how to shepherd a member of the flock.

The gradual and patient process involved counsel, appeals, confrontation, admonition, warnings, censure, discipline, and, ultimately, excommunication with the full consent of the church.

Let’s look more closely at each of these alleged steps:

Counsel – The only counsel I received was six hours worth by two women who thought problems in the marriage were all the woman’s fault and therefore could be solved in three weeks by following a list of submission guidelines.

Appeals – When Doug Phillips excommunicates you, there is no one to whom you can appeal.

Confrontation – I would describe my relationship with Doug Phillips as mostly confrontational.

Admonitions – “Jennifer, you are very wicked.”

Warnings – “You’re going to pay for this.” [For disagreeing in a private email that it is immoral to vote Republican]

Censure – When I ask for help in my marriage, I am not allowed to take communion for over a year.

Discipline – The whole church shunned me for something I didn’t do.

Excommunication – In a secret meeting, the whole church (half of which are Doug’s employees and thus had a major conflict of interest and incentive to vote as desired by the man paying their families’ incomes) voted to excommunicate me for submitting to Beall Phillips’ recommendation to put in writing a defense against false charges made against me?

As the final stage of a lengthy disciplinary process, the couple was brought before the church where they were admonished by the body, including men and women.

The disciplinary action in January 2005 was the final stage of discipline? Exactly how was I disciplined prior to this and for what? The suspension from the Lord’s Table in 2002 had been for my husband’s threats of divorce, as was stated just above, and it was supposedly resolved one year later when we were permitted to return to the Lord’s table. The only other “discipline” that occurred was that pre-conversion sins from which I had previously repented were read before the men, women, and children of the congregation, despite my husband’s pleading that they not be.

One other thing readers should take note of in this statement is that Doug Phillips is confessing here that there was no due process in his discipline. Instead of a trial with advance notice at which we could testify ourselves, present our own evidence, and cross-examine the witnesses supplied by the prosecution as a means to better discover the truth, we are presented to the congregation in a meeting at which our discipline which was pre-ordained.

The response of the wife in particular was to bring many hateful railings and false testimonies against women of the church and against the leadership.

My “defense” to this disciplinary action did not include railings, hate, or any false testimony. My defense was similar to what I have written in my story. My husband’s “railings” included confessing to giving false testimony, unsuccessfully pleading with the leadership not to discipline me based on the false testimony, and unsuccessfully pleading with the church leadership to not tell the whole church of my pre-conversion sins. Is this what Doug Phillips means by “railings”?

The husband was admonished for his violent anger, his lack of loving leadership, for unrepentant anger and hatred, and for bringing a false witness.

While Mark certainly confessed to and repented from his anger and lack of love, I can find no record of his being accused of bringing a false witness in the disciplinary action document we have from Boerne Christian Assembly. Certainly, the false testimony was still used by the BCA leadership as grounds for disciplining me, so criticizing Mark for such false testimony would not have been consistent, if it ever happened.

The wife was formally admonished for habitual dishonesty and lying, for railings and reviling against both her husband and church authorities, for cruelty, gossip, and attempted division of the brethren.

On this particular day, of this particular list, I was charged with gossip, of which I asked Doug Phillips for forgiveness but he refused to forgive me. I was not charged with dishonesty, lying, railings, revilings, cruelty, or attempted division. Nor have I done those things. You may check for yourself on page 5 of the Disciplinary Action to see that I was not accused of these things. I am once again mystified that the BCA “leadership” thinks they can get away with a lie that can so easily be caught.

Despite fervent and loving appeals on behalf of individual brothers and sisters, men and women within the body assembled, and the leadership of this church, the couple hardened their hearts to God and defied the admonition of the church.

Mark confessed his sins before the congregation that day and he was still excommunicated shortly thereafter. I merely asked, “What have I done wrong specifically, so that I can repent?” I was given no answer.

After careful prayer and deliberation, and pursuant to the clear commands of Scripture which states, “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:17), the couple was afterward excommunicated from BCA.

Even though we were told that we had six months in which to repent (I’m still not sure from what), we were suddenly and without notice excommunicated less than two weeks later in a secret meeting to which Mark and I were not invited. All that had happened during those two weeks was that I had written up, as advised by Beall Phillips, and circulated, a defense to members of BCA in response to the charges laid against me, as I had been given no advance warning or opportunity to do so at the previous disciplinary meeting (while my accusers had been informed weeks in advance and been able to prepare written statements). That was my only new offense and one that had been directed by Beall Phillips, the person designated by the “leadership” to counsel me. All I can conclude, then, is that submission to Beall in this was deemed the final, excommunicable offense and that her helpful “counsel” had been a set-up.

It should be noted that Doug Phillips did not make the initial recommendation to excommunicate this wayward couple. The motion for excommunication came from another member of the church body, and the BCA congregation voted unanimously in approving it.

I am very sure this is true. Doug Phillips is quite careful about not putting his name on anything and letting other people take the fall for him when things backfire. This BCA statement is another such example. Doug Phillips wrote nearly all, if not all, of it and as the sole elder of BCA, he should have signed it and taken responsibility for it, not Bob Sarratt. Some of Doug’s defenders who are foolish enough to put their names on their attacks against me would be well advised to follow Doug’s example and keep silent. If he won’t sign his own name to his own defense, why should you sign your name to a defense on his behalf?

5. Tactics Rooted in Dishonesty: The decision to isolate and attack Doug Phillips, both as an elder and also as the head of a ministry unconnected to the local church, is reprehensible.

My story focuses on Doug Phillips precisely because he is the one who was directly responsible for everything that took place. If Doug is isolated as the sole elder at BCA after teaching for years on the biblical requirement of church government by a plurality of elders, that is his personal responsibility, which should not reflect on me. Furthermore, there is nothing dishonest or reprehensible about pointing out that Doug Phillips does not practice in his own church what he preaches about church government at his Uniting Church and Family ministry conferences.

As the Bible says in James 3:1, those who presume to teach will be judged more strictly. Apparently, Doug Phillips interprets this verse as those who presume to teach shouldn’t be judged, or even criticized, at all.

It is a strategic tactic, the goal of which appears to be to confuse uninvolved third parties and to deflect attention from the real sin of the couple and the due process of accountability brought against them by a covenanting body that knows them very well and has walked with them for many years.

My goal here is to warn fellow believers, both those still at BCA and those who are in any way influenced by Doug Phillips, and his teachings through Vision Forum, that the man you see in public is not the same man in private, that you need to be aware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing who preaches due process to others but denies it to those under him. He holds up his own congregation as a national model, and he is seeking to spread that model across the whole country through his Uniting Church and Family Conferences and his National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, which, with more than 500 member churches, is looking more and more like a new denomination every day. It is Doug Phillips who has the strategic ambition to spread what he preaches across the country and around the globe; unfortunately, he does not practice what he preaches. Our response to this hypocrisy is very modest by comparison and comes nowhere near to grand strategy.

The facts are these: There was unanimous agreement on the part of the more than half a dozen families who had been privately involved in helping the family prior to their excommunication, on the part of the church leadership, and on the part of the entire voting body present (around twenty-five families) on what the outcome should be.

There were actually five couples who decided to discipline us initially in January 2005. Of these five couples, two couples and another of the wives had had little to no interaction with us. Beall had not spoken to me for years at this point, except for the six hours of counseling. So, six out of the ten people responsible knew almost nothing of us personally. The one man that did know me best in fact questioned why I was disciplined because he did not see the evidence for it. One couple, who work for Doug Phillips and are very close to him, came over to our home every week for dinner, and that man had counseled Mark extensively. That leaves Doug Phillips as the prime mover by a large margin.

Another odd aspect of this statement is the claim that “families” rather than heads of household decide on church matters. Doug does not believe in women voting, in church or state, and he also does not permit women to speak at all in church, so the claim that families decided is another example of deceptive reporting, as it is designed to give the impression that the women of the church had some formal say in the matter. They did not.

The decision was this: that for the good of the body and the spiritual good of the couple, excommunication was necessary.

While our family certainly has grown spiritually since we were “excommunicated,” I don’t think it has anything to do with being treated as heathens and publicans and the whole family being shunned. Maybe it would have been better for the body to not hide problems of this magnitude and allow others to come alongside and attempt to help us and to hold Mark accountable. In the end, because God is sovereign, I have no doubt that He will turn the evil done at BCA in the name of church discipline into good for purifying His bride. I think that is already happening through this site, as people are being warned to beware the pied piper and his “new Reformation” tune.

Concerning leadership: From its first days as a constituted assembly, BCA has maintained plural and equal leadership in the governance and oversight of the local body.

When BCA first started, it had three elders. About one year later, there were just two. Two years after that, and ever since the end of 2002, there has been only one unordained elder (unless there has been some very recent new promotion in response to the public criticism of the lack of multiple elders). BCA has always had 2-3 deacons, but deacons are not the same as elders. The truth is that it has been many years since anyone with knowledge of BCA could claim honestly that there has been “equal leadership” — unless “equal” is defined strictly as equally unordained to any office.

Even during times of transition, men have always stepped up into leadership.

Other men have preached, but everyone who is a member of BCA knows full well that no decision is made without Doug Phillips’ approval. Besides, leadership roles are not the same as offices. Many men have led in some way at BCA, but Doug Phillips has made sure for years that he was the only one holding the office of elder.

The suggestion that BCA is run by one man, or that the excommunication process was managed or run by one man, is a fraud and contrary to the clear facts.

BCA has long had one elder, one unordained elder – Doug Phillips. As the sole elder, Doug Phillips was solely responsible for the so-called excommunication as well, as he would have been the only one with any biblical authority to carry it out. The Bible does not give the “keys to the kingdom” to the heads of household of a church collectively but rather to a plurality of elders.

The isolation of Doug and Beall Phillips for censure, the connection with Vision Forum Ministries, and the absurd charges leveled against their character are tactics used by a couple who has become notorious for extreme behavior within their marriage and towards others, for gossip in the congregation, and for dishonesty.

My story about Doug and Beall Phillips involves Vision Forum to the extent that our second meeting with Doug Phillips took place in his office at Vision Forum, my three mandatory counseling sessions took place at Vision Forum, and I have been barred from the premises of Vision Forum due to the circumstances surrounding my story. But mostly, I was ultimately excommunicated because I responded, with my husband’s permission, to the open invitation of the President of Vision Forum to present to him my view of politics, which focused on the idea that it is not immoral to vote for Republicans (specifically Bush in 2004). Doug Phillips disagreed with my opinion, and for expressing it and refusing to recant without being persuaded by reason, he promised that I would pay.

If we were notorious for extreme behavior within our marriage, then why were so many BCA members shocked when the disciplinary action document was read in church on January 23, 2005? To any extent that we have become notorious since, it is no doubt due to frequent whisperings, including broken pastoral confidence about exaggerated misdeeds and sins from before conversion that have been confessed and repented of long since.

In fact, at one point their behavior was so extreme that a shepherd from a nearby congregation who also had counseled this family strongly advised Doug Phillips to get a court restraining order for his physical protection, a recommendation he declined.

We have never given any indication that Doug Phillips needed physical protection from us. This statement is designed to create sympathy where none is due. It also ignores the fact that multiple shepherds from other congregations have refused to go along with Doug Phillips’ star chamber approach to church discipline imposed on us and have told him so.

6. Ongoing Sin and Unrepentence: Subsequent to their excommunication, the couple published lengthy defamatory letters and disseminated them widely, bringing numerous false and railing accusations and demands against specific and numerous men and women of BCA.

Actually, before we were excommunicated, but immediately after the disciplinary action statement, at the advice of Beall Phillips, I wrote out a defense and sent it to the five men who decided to discipline me. After that seemed only to bring more shunning upon us, I appealed to the rest of the members of BCA as well, sending them a copy of my defense. We also gave a copy to the elders of the new church we were attending and to Bob Welch, who was involved in the excommunication. We did not take it outside the immediate group of people directly involved in one way or another. As I have already said, the substance of that communication was very similar to what you see on this site. Judge for yourself: Does what you read here sound like the BCA statement describes it?

They also raised the issue of a lawsuit against BCA.

Using correct legal terms in responding to an attorney such as Doug Phillips is not raising the issue of a lawsuit; that is, pointing out that something he said was egregious enough to be “actionable.” Making that observation is not the same as threatening a lawsuit. On the other hand, Doug Phillips did actually retain a personal attorney, Bobby Don Hart, who threatened to sue us. For months, our only interaction with Doug Phillips was through his attorney, and during that time we did not retain our own legal counsel or seek legal advice. That being so, which party — Doug Phillips or the Epsteins — has demonstrated a greater likelihood of initiating a lawsuit?

They further sought and were successful at using the spread of falsehoods to create active divisions within the community.

Not only did we not create divisions within the community, we actually recommended to certain families that they should visit BCA. When asked, we told the truth about our situation, but never in a manner intended to cause divisions. To be sure, the truth sometimes divides, but that is not always a bad thing. For example, being divided from false teaching has been good for my family.

Next, they began to launch hateful and slanderous websites comparing Doug Phillips and Vision Forum to Nazis, among other unkind and defamatory representations.

It is not true that Mark and I have launched such a website, and I certainly have not compared Doug Phillips or Vision Forum to Nazis. Readers are invited to double-check for themselves by reading through my site. But even if there is such a comparison, perhaps expressed tongue in cheek, so what? I’ve had several good laughs at being called much worse things on blogs run by supporters of Doug Phillips, and I don’t see why Doug should be so thin-skinned, unless something hit close to home. A true shepherd should be more tolerant and patient than a member of the flock, not less.

Next, they attempted via letter to blackmail Doug Phillips by threatening to destroy him via the internet unless he capitulated to unbiblical demands.

Mark offered to go to arbitration (such as Peacemakers) and explained that if Doug Phillips refused his efforts at reconciliation, that Mark would then take what we saw as the next logical step, which would be to send an email to several prominent pastors, asking for their help. That is all the charge of “blackmail” amounts to.

The unlawful nature of their behavior was explained to them, as was the fact that they have no protection under I Corinthians 6 against lawsuits should they persist in such behavior.

Mark’s request for arbitration was met with Doug Phillips’ lawyer, Bobby Don Hart, threatening to sue us instead. The only time Doug Phillips addressed his unbiblical interpretations of I Corinthians 6 not applying to excommunicants was when he said as much in his own blog. This was published on October 11, 2006, after Doug’s attorney had broken off all communications to us. I guess this is Doug’s way of admitting what BCA and Vision Forum insiders have known for years — that Doug Phillips uses his blog to communicate to people without naming names but still in a way that those in the know will know precisely the target and the message.

Next, they specifically positioned themselves as Internet whistleblowers against ministries that sue bloggers.

I wrote articles on my blog about the grievous sins of Ligonier, a Christian ministry which had sued a believer in direct violation of I Corinthians 6. I did this as a long-time monthly donor to Ligonier and as someone who believed proper stewardship of those donations required me to investigate the reports of the lawsuit when I heard of it. This was in no way related to Doug Phillips or Vision Forum or BCA — although we did eventually learn that the false church discipline against us, including pre-conversion sin relayed in pastoral confidence, had been brought to the attention of Ligonier senior management by Doug Phillips or his authorized staff during that time. So, to the extent there is a connection, it is one that Doug Phillips himself initiated.

Finally, they worked in conjunction with the website to mass disseminate rank lies and slanders against one of their former elders and to disparage the congregation that loved them.

When Ministry Watchman approached us about telling our story, we prayed about it and checked them out thoroughly. Satisfied that Frank Vance’s reporting in particular was seen to be accurate and well-documented, and impressed with the biblical standards of the website, we agreed to tell our story to one of their reporters, Charles Fisher. We have tried our best to tell the truth in every respect and cannot be held responsible for the fact that Doug Phillips treats any and all criticism of him or his leadership practices as “slander,” “lies,” “defamation,” etc.

As a part of their most recent actions, they have facilitated the posting of doctored and misleading documents onto the internet.

The first document that Ministry Watchman posted in support of our story had our names covered to protect our identity. They also blurred the names of the signatures of some witnesses as well since they were not implicated in the story. Doug Phillips’ signature, however, was not blurred. In any case, if you compare this first document that was redacted only to protect certain names to the second copy that is not altered in any way, you will clearly see that the names were the only thing changed, as was fully disclosed. Consequently, it is dishonest to call the document “doctored.”

By the way, since Doug Phillips drafted that document, and not Mark or me, if it is “misleading,” it is the responsibility of Doug Phillips, not Mark or me. At the time of this BCA statement, we had published only one document on the Internet. It was only later that it would have been accurate to say that we posted “documents.” This is not a big deal by itself, but it does provide additional evidence that the BCA statement was not drafted with scrupulous accuracy being a high priority.

In sum, their ongoing behavior has been consistent with some of the very issues for which they were excommunicated by the BCA congregation without a single vote in opposition.

In sum, you will see that Doug Phillips’ ongoing behavior has been consistently abusive not only throughout my story, but throughout the many lies and exaggerations presented in this very statement. I have already explained the unanimous vote (half of which constituted employees of Doug Phillips) and how it is not, in any case, the place of the congregation to do the work of the elders, so I won’t cover that again.

7. How Should the Church Respond to the Couple: In order to preserve the flock of God from damage caused by railers, extortioners, disorderly, disobedient, unruly, unrepentant and dishonest individuals, as well as to encourage such individuals to flee to Christ while there is yet time, the Bible offers the following directives:

The list of sins here grows to now include us being railers, extortioners, disorderly, disobedient, unruly, unrepentant, and dishonest. It should be clear by now that these terms do not describe us at all and are merely designed to draw attention away from the truth of our family’s five years of ecclesiastical tyranny and abuse under Doug Phillips. If these were true, one would think that given literally years to produce specific instances of these sins, in order for us to fully repent, the fact that he has not done so despite our repeated requests, tells me he either cannot produce such specifics or he will not because he is not interested in giving us any opportunity to be reconciled. My own view is that both are true.

Romans 16:17-18: Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Mark and I are aware of no divisions or offenses that we have committed contrary to proper doctrine. If we have committed any, we certainly have not been informed of these with sufficient specificity to make repentance possible.

I Corinthians 5:11-13: But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

This new list of “offenses” seems to be added just so Doug Phillips can use another verse to justify excommunicating us. In any case, this list of charges is simply not true.

II Thessalonians 3:6-7: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

We do not walk disorderly, but attempt to emulate the apostles and follow their teachings as closely as possible in our daily lives, especially regarding such passages as I Corinthians 6.

II Thessalonians 3:14: And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

I have done nothing for which I should be so ashamed that no one should eat with me. I have sinned, as has every other person in this world, but I am not an unrepentant sinner.

Psalms 101:5: Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.

Slander always involves lies and falsehoods, neither of which have I told.

Proverbs 22:10: Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.

None of these apply to us either.

8. Conclusion: Recognizing that church discipline, like all godly administrations of discipline, is to be an act of love, the families of BCA have for nearly two years been praying for this couple and for their children.

And we have been praying for Doug Phillips and those at BCA as well.

It is our heartfelt desire to see love return to their family, hope to their children, and lasting harmony between husband and wife.

While this is certainly our desire also, I would not have known this was Doug Phillips’ desire by the way in which he treated my children and me. My children are still devastated by how Doug Phillips treated them. Doug Phillips has done far more to undermine harmony in our home than to promote it.

Though we cannot capitulate to their extortions, condone their ongoing destructive behavior, nor remain silent in the face of the spread of divisive falsehoods which they continue to propagate, we remain constant in having a genuine spirit of love toward them and earnestly desire their reconciliation through repentance first with God, and second with the families and loved ones who have poured out their hearts and lives for them.

Requesting first reconciliation, then arbitration, and then mediation is not extortion. I have been very careful to be truthful throughout my entire story. I do believe that in some odd way, Doug Phillips truly thinks he is doing the right thing in all this and that this is the way he is to love us, but by refusing to supply any specifics of our alleged sins he has made it impossible for us to be reconciled, if any true repentance is still needed on our part. His words of love and his deeds do not match.

We encourage those who desire the best for this couple, as well as the peace of the Body of Christ, neither to receive their slanders and false reports, nor to set aside Christ’s commands in dealing with them as an unrepentant man and woman under formal censure.

If I ever slander or give a false report (which are the same thing), I would encourage you not to receive them either. However, since my story is both true and well documented, it should be obvious by now that the circumstances leading up to and including my excommunication, and even our attempts at reconciliation since then are not the actions of “heathen and publicans” deserving formal censure.

Bob Sarratt, on behalf of the BCA session

It is telling that this statement is signed by long-time deacon Bob Sarratt, not Doug Phillips, who more than anyone else is responsible for what happened to my family. So why didn’t Doug Phillips sign his name and take the kind of personal responsibility that he requires of everyone else?

It’s unfortunate that the BCA statement ends as it begins, with a falsehood. This final falsehood is the claim that the statement was issued by the BCA “session,” a presbyterian term for a board of ordained elders that rule a local congregation together with equal authority. BCA is far from presbyterian but appears to seek the sympathy of presbyterians by giving the impression that BCA is ruled by a plurality of equal, ordained elders. It is not. The truth is that Doug Phillips has been the sole unordained elder at BCA for almost four years now, and nothing major is done at BCA without his personal approval (whether he permits his name to be used or not).

***

The above is my personal assessment of the Doug Phillips/BCA statement. I welcome constructive feedback on it, including correction of any errors I may have made. Or if you think I missed something in my analysis, let me know. I’ll be glad to receive correction and acknowledge it publicly. My hope is, with your help, that this article will be the most thorough and accurate, yet concise analysis of the BCA statement possible, to the glory of God and the edification of His people.

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37 Responses to “Jen Epstein Responds to Doug Phillips / BCA Statement”

  1. Brandon Giromini Says:

    Jen, it seems that “sweeping and unspecific charges” are the name of the game when someone cannot deal with the facts. Good analysis.

  2. Justice Prima Says:

    You present a very compelling case. Two very small and minor caveats:
    The BCA statement says:
    “2. Purpose: We have received notice that a highly defamatory article laced with personal character attacks has been widely disseminated by e-mail from an anonymous source.”

    And you say that this is false because you and Mark are not anonymous. I think you misunderstood the subject of ‘anonymous’ in this section. I do not think they are condemning you here as anonymous, but complaining of an anonymous source disseminating the link via email. Personally, I think their complaint in this matter is silly, but you might look it over to see if my interpretation is more likely to be accurate, just because accuracy is always better than inaccuracy, even when we’re dealing with silliness.

    Their complaint seems to be that somebody got an anonymous email account with a name similar to Vision Forum’s and emailed many VF supporters and friends a copy of Charles Fisher’s article. This might have been you or Mark, or Charles Fisher, or somebody at VF or BCA or somebody none of you have ever heard of before — the point being that any speculation about who did it is just that — purely speculative, and it had no place in BCA’s statement and complaint about you.

    The other caveat is just a typo. You say:
    “Other men have preached, but everyone who is a member of BCA knows full well that no decision is made with Doug Phillips’ approval. Besides, leadership roles are not the same as offices.”

    And I am sure you meant no decision is made withOUT Doug’s approval.

    I think there are two things that really stand out to me in this story, things that bother me much and cast grave shadows on DP:
    The reporting of preconversion sins, and in the case of the anti-Epstein sites, the gleeful, mocking, jeering, and juvenile delight in salacious mud slinging while sharing the details of preconversion sins.

    Taking away Natasha’s standing in regard to the Elsie Dinsmore essay. That level of spite and venom directed against a young girl is breathtakingly petulant and has no place in a minister of the gospel or a preacher on family matters. What a hateful, hurtful thing to do. Natasha, if you are reading this, I am so very sorry for what you have been through. Please know that DP’s behavior is not representative of our Lord, and God’s love is very different from what they have shown you.

    There are probably other things that stand out to other people, and maybe at a different reading I would be struck by different things.

  3. Jen Says:

    Thanks for the corrections, Justice Prima. You are correct and I shall take care of them.

    Your two examples here are just two of the reasons why I know there is no true Christian love in Doug’s heart for us. I can’t imagine Jesus treating anyone in those ways.

  4. Morgan Farmer Says:

    Missed in the analysis? 😉

    3. Excommunication is not keeping one out of heaven, it means ex-community..that is you are put out of that particular community.

    4. Mark is not bipolar. His severe emotional problems stemmed from the fact that the ‘reality’ that DP was teaching did not match the ‘reality’ at home with wife and child(ren). The biblically motivated desire to be a good husband and leader conflicted with the warped crazy cult teachings of BCA. Jens ‘ongoing sin’ was to even open her mouth to speak at home…after all she could not speak in ‘the BCA assembly’ (I refuse to call BCA a church). A person cannot emotionally cope with two conflicting realities…one has to win…one has to lose. The result of trying to reconcile two conflicting realities is what Mark experienced.

    5. What is the BCA ‘session’? I do not see an elected body of elders therefore there can be no session. DP is in charge….others exist as front men for him.

    6. There is a real problem with BCA/DP expecting that the entire body of Christ…extending through all other groups, schools of thought and denominations should shun Jen & Mark as though BCA was the sole authority in the universe to determine ‘who’ should be included and excluded in the kingdom. I must have been mistaken….I thought that was Gods’ territory. Maybe DP would like to answer THAT?

    Great analysis!!!!

    Blessings, Morgan

  5. ReformedCalvinist Says:

    I’ve been part of two differenent home fellowships and I must say that I’m appalled at a situation where one could attend a HOME fellowship for weeks, much less years, without interacting with any one of the other members, much less the pastor. One church I attended was tending so much toward patriarchy that my wife was frustrated that the pastor was trying to counsel her by talking just to me; could this be the biblical model? Peter spoke directly to Sapphira and Paul to Priscilla; Priscilla even participated directly in Apollos’ counseling session. Paul admonished Timothy to treat women as family members. What kind of a relationship does a man have with his sisters if he will only communicate to them through his brothers-in-law? I certainly don’t treat my sisters that way, and I don’t intend to treat my sisters in Christ any differently.

  6. Curious Says:

    Wow! This is incredibly detailed. It sure does bring up almost as many questions as it does answers, though. In the very beginning you stated that when you first called the church that you were simply told “No” to your interest in attending. You later stated that someone from your homeschool group had attended there and caused problems and so maybe they didn’t want others from the same group attending. It seems like there must have, therefore, been some prior knowledge of who you were before you first called. Could it be that you had a reputation in the community that they were aware of? Is it possible that you may have caused problems in other churches or groups that they were already aware of? Could it be that, once attending BCA, you really wanted to fit in and be part of the core group, but that possibly your personality of being outspoken, brutally honest, and opinionated, as your friend described you, kept that from happening and that this led to feelings of bitterness and rejection? Could it be that you possibly put alot of pressure on your husband to be more like the other men at BCA so that you could fit in better as a family and that this may have possibly been some of the cause for anger and resentment in him, as well as conflict in your marriage? Once you were shunned by the members of BCA, could it be that you intentionally chose a church that you knew had leadership in conflict with Doug so that you could garner supporters to your cause? Was there no other place for you to donate items to Katrina victims than at the VF headquarters or were you trying to get a reaction?

    I don’t know you, never heard of BCA before, never heard Doug speak, and have heard of VF only from buying a few items from them. However, your story truly resounds with bitterness, pride, and devisiveness. You do tell a compelling side to your story and it sounds like things were not handled well by the other side, but to try to pretend that you are doing this for the good of others appears to be just as dishonest as anything you are accusing the Phillips of having done. It seems that both sides have handled this poorly and continue to do so.

    I doubt this will get put on, but I just wanted to share how this can be viewed from many perspectives. Only the Lord knows the truth of our hearts.

  7. Jen Says:

    Curious, let me try to clarify my story a bit. When I first called about attending a home church, there were actually two churches. The one that the other lady from my support group disrupted (I did not know her), was the other church, which met on Wednesday evenings. At that time in my life, I was a nobody and knew no one. When I called the second time, the lady was very apologetic because she had heard that I was very nice indeed. The only reputation I had was quite a nice reputation.

    I, myself, fit in quite well at BCA. I had many friends there; I was just not allowed to speak about my situation at home.

    I have a pet peeve about women who nag their husbands. I have made a conscious effort to never do something like what you describe in pressuring my husband in any way. I already had enough anger from him; I didn’t do anything that might invite more.

    The elders of the church we went to after being shunned were actually extremely good friends with Doug Phillips at that point. We went there because they were a “like-minded” church and we had lots of friends there already.

    I had lots of modest dresses to donate for hurricane Katrina. Since Vision Forum was going to be donating items to homeschool families, I thought they would appreciate my styles more than the average refugee.

    I am not bitter, divisive, or proud. I am truly concerned for people who are being deceived by Doug Phillips and I still dearly love him and his family and pray for him daily.

  8. Curious about curious Says:

    Curious, I am thankful of being warned against people like DP. I wish someone would have warned me about egomaniacs at my former church. I wish ONE person would have said, you know, really study scripture to see if they on track with the Word.

    I was too stupid to do that. I was raised to trust pastors and believe every word. That is NOT a Berean. but, now I am one and unfortuantly, there are many like DP out there.

  9. been there, done that Says:

    “Many of these churches are just a handful of households meeting at a home with one or more heads of household called “elders” without ordination and without any outside affiliation (except the NCFIC) or accountability.”

    Or, even worse, they “ordain” themselves, giving an aire of legitimacy to what they are doing, though their “accountability” is often hundred or even thousands of miles away.

  10. Corrie Says:

    “plurality of LEADERSHIP” vs a plurality of elders….very slick. So, instead of someone from BCA or StillFedUp or Mrs. Binoculars admitting that Doug is the only elder or was the only elder at the time you were there, they gloss over this very devious way of obscuring the facts.

    I wrote about double-speak on my blog recently. Much of the BCA statement and the defenders of DP sites qualifies as double-speak.

    The matter seems pretty simple to me as a true third-party observer. This could have all been cleared up if the “leadership” at BCA would have been willing to acknowledge that they were wrong when they quickly jumped to judgment and compounded an already bad situation. Instead of helping the matter, they made things 100X worse. I think, at the very least, they should refrain from counseling anyone lest they make a mess of more lives. There is nothing like someone going for help in a time of need to be beaten down even more and have false motives ascribed to them. Jen, it is obvious that their “go to” response to problems in a marriage will be to look at the wife and blame her for her husband’s problems. I have seen that in so many other situations, too. Women already have a hard time coming forward when there is abuse or problems in the home and this sort of response is only going to serve to help keep women even more reluctant to come forward for help. And then mix this with the hyper-patriarchal teachings of VF and you have a recipe for disaster.

    I am praying that by the grace of God you will all grow stronger because of what you have gone through.

  11. Mark Epstein Says:

    Corrie,

    You’ve nailed it! “'[P]lurality of LEADERSHIP’ vs a plurality of elders….very slick.”

    Very slick indeed, if it weren’t for the fact it was a deliberate deception. This is why I think it is imperative that Doug Phillips, Bob Sarratt, the BCA “leadership,” and those who have publicly defended Doug, publicly repent. Their respective sin has found them out, and now it is time to humbly seek the visible church’s forgiveness for the blatant sins they’ve committed. Failure to do so only perpetuates the fraud these individuals have perpetrated on a loving and charitable Christian public.

    Mark

  12. K.P. Says:

    I’ve read your whole story and it is a familiar one. People join church, people discover things about the church they don’t agree with…. the normal action at this point is what I personally have done several times LEAVE THE CHURCH. Obviously you were the lone dissenter in this congregation, and so for you to stay around and cause disruption is inexcusable.
    You had issues coming into this congregation, but you brought those issues into the church and then blamed the pastor for their existence after you did not get the response you were looking for.
    You didn’t agree with a lot of the philosophies, i.e., women remaining silent, modesty, college, etc. But those principles are part of the belief system of that church, so why would you attempt to change them, and re-make the church and its pastor into your own image?
    But the worst part of this all is that you have chosen to become a talebearer and practice character-assassination by shamelessly blasting all of this one-sided gossip across the internet. The Bible has much to say about talebearers.
    Is this church perfect? Of course not. Was it the church for you? Obviously not. But instead of quietly leaving, you chose to become all of the things that you have now been accused of and claim to be innocent of. You bear the responsibility for this alone.

  13. Ana Says:

    Jen,

    It has been my experience that those who abuse people, typically accuse those who are innocent, of the very things that they themselves do. This is shown in the scriptures that were given to make you look like the one who has done wrong.

    Romans 16:17-18: Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

    Has he (Doug) not caused a division not only between you and your husband during the time you were in the ‘church’, but between your family and the friends you had made within the ‘church’? Hasnt he also caused offences contrary to the doctrine by making the accusations agianst you without proper proof that you were in fault?

    I Corinthians 5:11-13: But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

    ex·tort
    to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power : WRING; also : to gain especially by ingenuity or compelling argument
    rail
    Middle English, from Middle French railler to mock: to revile or scold in harsh, insolent, or abusive language

    These two words say it all … throughout the entire publication of this story.

    II Thessalonians 3:6-7: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

    I can certainly see that you tried to walk as orderly according to the scripture as you could. I cannot, however, say the same of Doug.

    II Thessalonians 3:14: And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

    There are quite a few scriptures that he isnt obeying. (and infact he has simply changed them to his own interpretation of it as you can see in the statement provided) Sure he can teach the Word .. but he has a very hard time living by it.

    Psalms 101:5: Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.

    A high look and a proud heart refer to the state of the man. He has a high opinion of himself and he is too proud to admit when he is wrong.

    Proverbs 22:10: Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.

    scorn
    open dislike and disrespect or derision often mixed with indignation: an object of extreme disdain, contempt, or derision : something contemptible

    Ummm … hmm. I do believe that he (Doug) has shown you (Jen) a lot of scorn through the years you were involved in the ‘church’, deserved or not. Also on your behalf (Jen) I have not seen, through your words, any form of scorn toward Doug Phillips or his wife. Nor have I seen it in your words toward the ‘church’ congregants or those who ‘attempted’ to counsel you. The fact alone that you refuse to point blame in such a manner is admirable. I have seen instances, particularly with Kathleen, that you could have said that she was the one who asked you about what was going on to begin with, but you have purposely left that part out on many occasions. (matter of fact you leave it out on every instance except the original statement of how that conversation went) So for Doug or anyone else to call you a scorner is highly misinformed.

    As for the ‘Plurality of Leadership’, that is what it is, in a sense, in the fact that there is more than one leader. Their plurality of leadership consists of one (unordained) elder, a few deacons, and the heads of household. The unfortunate thing is that the latter two leaderships only come into play when it is convenient for the ‘elder’. As far as ‘Plurality of Elders’ well … they cant state that because there is only one elder.

  14. barbaracurtis Says:

    Jen –

    It has taken me several days, but I have read through your testimony – yes, it is a testimony, and an important one for other Christians to read – and I am so sorry for the pain you have suffered.

    My husband and I were involved with a church which we originally thought was morally superior to other churches (we were from a similar background as you and your husband and I think that was part of the package) but which we gradually became aware had many cult-like characteristics. Like you and your husband, we had had marital difficulties before surrendering our lives to Christ in 1987, but by the time we entered the church in 1989 there was peace in our home.

    The church nearly destroyed our marriage. When we realized that we needed to move on, we were denounced from the pulpit and shunned. We later worked with Dr. Ron Enroth on one of his follow-up books to Churches that Abuse. I also wrote a pamphlet for Plain Truth Ministries (yes, the Worldwide Church of God which had operated as a cult until the leader died and his son sought reconciliation with the body of Christ and was received by a Who’s Who summit – a rare happy ending for this kind of aberration) which I have reprinted at my blog and you may be interested in reading. It’s called Legalism and Christian cults. At the end there are several books my husband and I read which helped us understand and process our experience. Plus – just for laughs, because laughter helps – the old ‘50’s film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

    There is really so much I want to say to you. I see a kindred spirit in you – or at least a similar calling – as I was also called to document our experience. It’s been 15 years since we left the church. Because we were high profile people and I became a Christian writer a few years later, the pastor stalked me through the Christian community – calling Focus on the Family if I published an article there to tell them I wasn’t a real Christian, calling a TV studio if I had an interview.

    The worst aftermath though was the damage inflicted on our marriage. I won’t go into too much detail, except to say that my husband had been flattered and told he was more spiritual than I – it was even hinted that he would be justified in divorcing me – all because I refused to go to 5am prayer meetings when we had six children under 10 at home (I was told they could sleep in the car!) It took years to reestablish the trust we had found as new Christians.

    Because my husband and I had met in recovery, we had been through a 12-step program, and I found that “working the steps” had become so much a part of me that after a couple months of crying and feeling so wronged, I began to take a look at myself and wonder what was wrong with me that I had become part of such an organization. I realized that spiritual pride was a big part of the appeal of the church (you can read more detail if you like in the pamphlet I linked) – they were superior to other Christians because of extra expectations. So that was something that God wanted to root out in me.

    Then how I thanked God for the experience I’d had! When I saw how ugly the behavior of Pastor H was, I did not want to become like that myself. Both my husband and I have strong leadership tendencies (although I am actually opposed to women in church leadership and would refuse such a position) and I felt that through this terrible ordeal, God had delivered us by showing us what Christian leadership is not supposed to be.

    Since then we have understood Christian leadership as servant leadership – encouraging and equipping others to reach their potential rather than holding sway over a group of people who will help you reach yours.

    This is actually a common problem in the United States – enough so that there are many books on the subject. One of the things I read that helped me also was the idea that God uses these imperfect churches to perfect us as individuals. Looking back on the experience now, I know that as painful as it was, I would not trade it for the world because through it God was able to teach us some very important lessons. And what if we hadn’t learned them? Why, we might be hurting others in his name ourselves!

    Jen, I know that God must have great plans for you and your husband to have brought you through this experience and to call you to document it – not out of spite, as some people might accuse you of – but out of love for the Body of Christ. While it’s difficult to be misunderstood and wrongly accused, I see the love that motivates what you are doing – and God does too.

    I will be praying for you and your family.

    Love,
    Barbara Curtis

  15. Mark Epstein Says:

    Barbara,

    What an amazing similarity between Tripp’s and your situation and ours. I am reading through your pamphlet now. Of course, four things that struck me as similar in our backgrounds were our ages (mine, at least) when we confessed Christ as Lord, the 12-Step program (mine, at least), the “strong woman syndrome” (Jennifer), and the fact that our churches nearly destroyed our respective marriages.

    Please continue to pray for us, as this situation is far from resolved and, as you can see by the pastoral response, we’ve also been attacked by those charged by God to love and shepherd us – what an upside down world we behold!

    Mark

  16. Ex VF Supporter Says:

    Jen,

    The interest in your story just continues to grow. More and more blogs are linking to you. You also continue moving up on the WordPress Blog of the Day role. Today you’re number 25 out of the top 100 WordPress blogs. You’ve done an exceptional job of telling your story and it’s obviously a story that’s captured the interest of many people.

  17. Milehimama Says:

    I kept waiting for the “such as (specific example”) in the statement, but it appears that the document is just general accusations.

    I do want to say one thing about bipolar. It is not slander to inquire whether someone might have it, any more than it would be to ask someone if Mary might be depressed, or John might have low blood sugar. Although this diagnosis is sometimes misused or misapplied, Bipolar Disorder is a neurobiological disorder. Bipolar patients have different MRI’s than “regular” people; scans have revealed their brain anatomy varies from normal brains, and there is even a urine test – 70% of bipolar patients in one study were found to be positive for a certain type of nutritional anemia.
    So, when someone has bizarre mood swings and unexplained anger, it would not be slander to think maybe there is something medical going on… any more than if that person had a bloody nose lasting for hours and someone wondered if they were a hemophiliac.
    It’s not like someone called him a homicidal maniac, or used perjorative words such as “he’s unhinged” or “off his rocker”.

  18. Morgan Farmer Says:

    Milehimamma makes it intersting now……my late brother exhibited ALL of the classic Narcissistic Personality traits and he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and medicated out the wahzoo….BUT he never changed he was just…medicated and the same weird person he always was…now he just had an excuse for being a jerk.

    Is DP a major NPD…Will he be disgnosed bi-polar and nutritionally anemic? Somehow I seriously doubt it…..

  19. Milehimama Says:

    There’s the rub… they won’t do the tests until you already have the BP label, so really it is just a trend – they’ve noticed that so many people already labelled Bipolar exhibit this, or that. I so wish they could just do a blood test and say This Is It – like diabetes, or your cholesterol level (actually, IMO, BP and other neurological based mental illnesses are not something you “have” or “don’t have” but something that has different degrees.
    My son was medicated, but now we only use nutritional interventions. So is he cured? Did he have BP to begin with?
    I have a blog post that details how we are using nutritional therapies instead of the “meds”.
    Mama Says bipolar post

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to hijack the thread, Jen!

    Under what authority did he excommunicate you from all Christendom?

  20. Amy S. Says:

    “Charles Fisher Says:
    January 9th, 2007 at 7:43 pm
    Jen,

    The interest in your story just continues to grow. More and more blogs are linking to you. You also continue moving up on the WordPress Blog of the Day role. Today you’re number 25 out of the top 100 WordPress blogs. You’ve done an exceptional job of telling your story and it’s obviously a story that’s captured the interest of many people”

    Sadly, I believe this is just a proof of society’s bent toward gossip and the enjoyment that comes from “sticking it to” someone.

  21. Mary B Says:

    I am amazed that this is all out. When I first began reading VF’s books, etc. when I homeschooled my children, I realized they were under extreme delusion of their own self importance and found their crazy understanding of certain scriptures dangerous. But I appreciated the products. However, when 9/11 happened and when Doug finally mentioned what had happened in his writings on the website showed his inner bizarre belief system of his personal superiority, (yes, I believe he has a form of religious mental illness) and the heartless uncaring way he did not even consider those people died so violently and those that lost their families that day … well, I never checked the site again and filled the waste can with any ads they sent me. I believe that VF clearly is a cult and all the people involved probably need counseling. I have no idea how Mark & Jen have worked through this and the children will probably have problems seeing that God is a loving God. I would strong suggest you try to move on and get away from this and even move if you must to free yourself of this dark experience. I believe that many in high places that profession to be Christians are being exposed for what they clearly are and if they do represent Christ we are all in a mess.

  22. moinnj Says:

    Wow, this was fascinating reading. Thank you for taking the time to tell your story. It is appalling that the “members” of your former church are so brainwashed that they think their fellowship is a valid, God-glorifying church, and that no one there has the critical thinking skills to recognize Doug Phillips as seriously disturbed (at best!) and a rampant purveyor of spiritual abuse. I wish your family the best and hope that you have by now found a truly Biblical church and the loving fellowship you deserve.

  23. Praying Says:

    I’ve been doing some research on Vision Forum and my google hits kept coming across your blog. I finally read your whole story (just a few minutes ago). While I’m not in an abusive church, I’ve had a a bit of contact with people and groups who leaned towards this sort of authoritan and abusive system. I’m so sorry for what happened to you guys! As I read through your story I was again and again astounded by how gracious you were–almost too gracious if anything. I’m not sure if my opinion counts for a whole lot, but I’m so glad you’re going to another church now and don’t feel like you need to stay at home waiting for Doug Phillips to release you from being publicans and sinners. God gave us civil government who “don’t bear the sword in vain” but when civil government became abusive the American colonies turned around and cast off the British. Church leadership was given to the body of Christ for good, but when they act like Doug Phillips did to you then you certainly don’t have to feel in any way bound or obligated to obey or even to change them. I’m so glad you went public with this so other people could see Doug Phillips’ abuses. (And I think you should definitely feel free to blog more about any more abuses.) I just hope, though, you don’t get disheartened that Doug Phillips and co. don’t change and that you don’t feel like you have to apologize to them about gossip etc. any more. Those guys are in sin, and until they are willing to admit that to you, they don’t have any right to contact you let alone make false accusations.
    Anyway, I appreciate your guys’ testimony and I’m praying for you. I really pray to for your family and marriage because I’m sure what happened must have been so hard on those relationships… Ironic isn’t it? Doug Phillips’ organizations are supposed to strengthen marriages and families and instead here he is damaging one. Actually, I think quite a bit (definitely not all, but some) of Vision Forum’s teachings are extra-Biblical and have hurt families. I hope you have reconsidered some of those tenants too during this time.

    Much love. God knows the truth about your situation even if no one in Doug Phillips’ group will ever admit it to you or even to themselves.

  24. Kelly Wilson Says:

    I am so grieved for everyone involved. How must our Heavenly Father grieve when we don’t believe HIS word on love and forgiveness. If we do not love we don’t even know Him. Unloving is on Roman’s 1 list of deeds unto death, as is unmerciful. Not love of our own making but clearly defined in 1Cor.13.
    We have to forgive each other from the heart or we are not forgiven and don’t have a clue of the enormity of our own forgiveness. As Paul says “why not rather be wronged”? What an amazing thing it would be to have forgiveness and its cohort reconciliation after all the drama. What a testimony of God power that would be. That would involve humility which is the ultimate sign of maturity.
    How do so many fall to idolizing mere men? Those poor men, how does one not get corrupted with such power? Why so many books on the opinions of men? “I am of Apollos, I am of Paul”nothing new. We are the same, we want to be “in” and belong and drop the right names. We are sheep. Yet we are to know the voice of Lord Jesus Christ and follow no other. We are without excuse we have the translated word of God that is Spiritually appraised at our finger tips. We have to know it, it is the truth and we should be intolerant of doctrines and precepts of men adulterating it.
    I long to see biblically qualified plurality of elders. What a beautiful site that would be.
    I am sorry for everyone involved and the pain and suffering to your children. My heart aches for all concerned.
    God have mercy on us all.

  25. Matt Paul Says:

    I have finally read all the chapters and all the comments (Except a long one dealing with church discipline.) on the chapters about your story, Jen and Mark, and I cannot praise you enough for the courage you both have displayed in telling the world about your painful experiences. Your behavior was sterling (Though I personally would have told you to stop apologizing to such despicable human beings early on), you held onto the truth even though those in authority were misusing it to abuse you, and you did it over YEARS.

    If I meet anyone who is interested in regularly attending BCA or any church where Doug Phillips has influence, I will be swift to warn them and, if necessary, direct them to this blog. I myself am currently in a movement where abuse is occurring, though not the kind you’ve experienced. I know I will benefit greatly from your behavior should I decide to take action.

    My thanks to you, and God bless you both. You both deserves the highest praise not only for exposing Doug Phillip’s wicked behavior, but for your rock solid dedication to behaving in a Christian manner.

  26. Bryan Says:

    http://www.eschatologyreview.com/

    “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…” I Peter 5:1-3

    The “elders” of verse 1 were to “feed the flock” of verse 2. In doing so, they were ministering and serving the sheep. They were not driving the sheep. The Greek word is “poimaino”, which means “to tend as a shepherd.” They were instructed not just to “feed” the sheep, but they were told to do everything that a shepherd would do for the flock, e.g. providing pasture, providing water, taking care of the very young and protecting them from the wolves – any and everything that a shepherd would be required to do for his flock.

    Before the word “but” in verse 3, Peter was stating, spiritually speaking, that they were not bosses. They were not generals who barked out orders to the privates, but rather they “tended” the sheep, they were out front of the sheep, they were leading them, not trailing them and yelling at them or forcing them to do something, with the threat of being excommunicated from the flock if they did not do exactly as the orders that were given. They were kind to the sheep. They were tenderhearted to the sheep. They were forgiving to the sheep. They ministered to the sheep. Yahweh is the ultimate shepherd of all the sheep from Abel to the last person that shall exist on this planet. The “elders” (seniors) of verse 1 were themselves sheep. That seems to be forgotten by the leaders today among the believers. They want to be bosses and make all of the decisions for the other sheep. One sheep does not have authority over another sheep. But there certainly is a place for the older (elder) sheep to get out front and lead all of the younger sheep in the way that they should go. The elder sheep were “not to lord it over” the younger sheep. The sheep were the “Lord’s heritage”.

    Looking at the part of verse 3 that occurs after the word “but”, we see that the elder sheep must lead the younger sheep and be an “example” to them, so that the lambs can learn the way to go, so as they grow, they can lead other sheep.

    Copyright 2009 by Dr. Ron McRay

    From the book “Proof That God Keeps His Promises and Prophecies!”

    Ron McRay, author and publisher
    1631 Ira Dr.
    Anchorage, Alaska 99515
    nonelbc@gmail.com

  27. Donna Says:

    I Just finished reading your story. I did a search on Kent Hovind and just fell upon your site. First I want to say how sorry I am that your family suffered from this experience. And I hope that all is well with you now.

    As I read this, the question that keeps disturbing me is why? It was obvious at the onset that the teachings were not biblical.

    Anyone that took the time to research the scriptures would know that the issue with a woman being silent in the church, was specifically to those churches that Paul was counseling. If you study the history along with the greek and hebrew words used, its plain to see that the letters Paul was writing were specifically for that situation. During biblical times the women sat on one side and the men on the other. Most women were not formally educated during that period. They did not know how to read. The problem arose because the women were shouting accross the church to their husbands “what do they mean?” as example…they were disrupting the teachings. Hence they had to constantly shout out questions during the service. Paul simply gave a solution to that situation and instructed the churches that he was corresponding with, in letters, to instruct the women to remain silent in church and ask their husbands to explain to them at home. I don’t understand how you wanted to go back to a church that was preaching false teachings.

    My husband loves me, he would lay his life down for me. As Christ instructed husbands to do. Women require this, it’s their basic need in a marriage to feel loved and secure. A man wants and needs respect. We discuss things democratically but ultimately if we disagree, and I do not prove my point to him then i submit as I should. It is my way of demonstrating my respect and trust in him. He never betrays it and if he is wrong he is willing to admit it and we have a good laugh. This does not work tho unless both the husband and the wife do as God instructed. I would never consider going to anyone in a church, Pastor or not, to discuss my problems. I would not humilate him in that way. Although we are able to settle things immediately amongst ourselves with satisfaction. It isnt always the case for some to be blessed with a husband or wife who wants what is right for all (and not just to be right) I always advise those to go to a relative that they respect and know won’t twist or betray the truth of the matter. Someone that they know will be as unbiased as possible in their councel and only take the advice if they adhere to those rules.

    Church is to worship God in fellowship with others of like beliefs. To be of a helping hand in charity. But sharing such intimate details about the discourse of your marriage with others outside the relationship is missing the mark. It is not your job or mine to cause discourse in a church. If you felt they were treating you badly so early-on, why didnt you just not go back to that church? I am writing this and asking you because of my confusion as to why you keep trying to talk to this church that treated you badly. I am praying that you have learnt to recognise in the future a false church.

    I am sorry if I am being brash, but I am honestly baffled by your reactions to each situation that you described. There were signs right from the first time you went there that something was not right. You are educated. You have told us of your many bible studies, I am baffled that you did not see there was a problem with this church.

    I just don’t get it. Did this pastor actually take the time to truely study the bible, did he look up the hebrew key words to make sure he had a complete understanding? I am still hearing from christians today saying “spare the rod spoil the child” as an excuse to beat their children. They are so willing to blindly believe without doing what Jesus instructed us to do. Study and approve ourselves. The Rod by definition from the hebrew word was a staff that the shepards used when herding sheep. Anyone with common sense or who has been around sheep know they are skidish, beating them would be futile. Sheppards do not beat their sheep they guide them with the Rod by tapping their sides gently or tapping the ground. That scripture means to GUIDE your children SHOW them the way, lest they be spoiled and go their own way. He uses the sheep and sheppard analogy often to show the gentle, kind and loving way that he himself demonstrated in the flesh. Sorry for ranting but that is a pet peve of mine. I highly suspect that Phill probably taught that scripture incorrectly.

    I was once in a relationship where I was battered. At the time I was not close to God. I was not studying his word. I had no one to turn to, but i tried everywhere to find help, so I completely understand how fearful you were, of your husband during his angry period. I pray all is well with your family now.

    I am just so curious as to how and why this went as far as it did. What was your state of mind when you joined the church? I think there could be warnings and lessons for others who could possibly end up in your situation. You wrote and put the story together so well but I didnt see anywhere in there where you took responsibility for anything. I don’t mean about the church acusations, I mean about your responsibilty for not recognising the dangers of a cult and what was truely going on.

    I would have liked to have seen something at the end with some reflection on your part about how you ended up in this church and caring so much to stay with it. Not that I don’t believe you but the story is 12 pages long about how badly you were mistreated and that you were innocent, yet you still wanted to go back? I am trying to believe this story. It makes it hard to swallow that they were so bad, if after all that you still want to keep contacting any of them. I am sorry it doesnt pass the smell test.

    Not that my instincts are correct this time but without some type of responsibility on your part I just find it passive aggresive. With a touch of the martyr syndrome. This just all becomes a passive aggressive flame site. By your own admitance in the descriptions of the stories when you were questioned about your husband by others you opened your mouth. Yet you still do not see the harm in that even if they did ask first, maybe they expected an innocent response from you like “Mark is going to help a family in need” maybe they did not expect to hear that he wanted to leave you. I am not defending them because if your discription is acurate they are all blinded and i feel bad for them. But you made notes in the excomunication document that indicated no remorse for anything. You also stated to us, the readers, that even after you wrote the apologies you did it in unbelief or uniformed of what you did wrong.
    That in it’s self is dishonest to yourself to apologise without cause. And dishonest to them and to God.

    It is impossible to be near-sinless in marriage or life. Jesus did not die in vain he died for our sins, we are to only love, trust believe in him accept his gift and follow his commandments to the best of our ability and then repent when the holy spirit shows us or others that we have wronged them. We can not work our way into heaven. It is Grace that saves us and that alone. I just tell it like I see it, and I could be wrong but there needs to be some explanation about yourself. Heard enough about everyone else.

    May God Bless You and Yours.

  28. Donna Says:

    HaHa Nevermind Jen I just read your legalism page and I am so elated about you growing in your walk with the Lord. I really was concerned because I too was once like that.

    Praise God and his Son

    I still am searching the site for a good reason why so much mudslinging is here. I am asuming it is to expose them, but I am disturbed in my concience after coming here…in regards to the fact that Although Doug is obviously lost in his path and possibly a lost soul, I have a inner voice saying to me that this is too much concentration on negativity so much time is dedicated to slandering or flaming this poor soul. After all those that are lost are in more need of prayer and even though he is wrong, so many souls reading and thinking ill of him is a curse to him and is causing a hinderance to prayer. Some things have to be left to GODS hands.

  29. Rick Says:

    When men’s kingdoms are threatened (most are based on money and control/power), you really find out that they were always the ones that wanted to be preeminent and in fact were. Jesus never was preeminent. Jesus was just used to corral the sheep so a man could brand them as his own.

    Reminds me of Diotrephes 3 John.
    3Jn 1:9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

    There are so many Diotrephes today and we who desire fellowship sometimes fall into the trap of looking for “authentic Christianity” or the “right camp”. What set me free is when I stopped looking for the “right camp” or “authentic Christians” and started looking for the Authentic Jesus.

    The House Church movement is now about 30 years old in the U.S., and I think many, if they did not become shipwrecked by attacks from fellow believers and disappointment in men, found that it is all about keeping our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2) and not looking for the right camp or right man. There is no “right camp”, there is only the “right Jesus”. And with this reality you will most likely find yourself in a wilderness. Many religious organizations today are run by man using Jesus as their validator. I have come to see that the wilderness is a normal place for a Christian. It was a normal place for many in the Bible including the Lord.

    A David cannot live in the Kingdom of Saul (Man) and must flee to survive. He fled to the wilderness and God gave him a small band of men for fellowship.

    Even Jeremiah had this to say:

    Jer 9:1 Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!
    Jer 9:2 Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.
    Jer 9:3 And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD.

    Unfortunately, the Church today, is mostly asleep and in bondage to men and the powers of darkness. God’s sheep are being trampled. Jer 23.

    God is faithful and I have been encouraged to find Believers here and there that have not bowed their knee to Baal. I know you have found the same. They are not always in the stain glass buildings. Interesting how the stain glass windows don’t keep the powers of darkness out.

    Even Jesus was thrust outside of the camp (city of man and all his systems).

    So, let’s go outside the camp and find Jesus.

    Heb 13:13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
    Heb 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
    Heb 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
    Heb 13:16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

    Thank you for your testimony. I would say that it is always best to leave quietly if there is striving that cannot be settled or reconciled and then just take the reproach and entrust yourself to God.

  30. Kathryn Says:

    Dear Jen
    It has been with a sense of horror and abhorrence that I have read about your experiences with Doug Phillips. I am appalled that anyone would treat another human being so hideously. That anyone would do so in the name of a loving god leaves me with a feeling of disgust and anger.
    As an atheist I cannot understand why anyone would allow themselves to be treated in this way. This is not to say that I don’t understand your desire to be loved by the god you believe in, or to fellowship with others that feel as you do, nor a desire to have a spiritual home in your church. I do indeed understand those desires. The need for acceptance and a sense of belonging are universal, regardless of religious belief.
    What I can’t understand is how Doug Philips behaviour could possibly be considered legitimately godly, or loving in the spirit of god, or indeed Christian by any standard. That anyone would see his behaviour as consistent with his espoused beliefs is evidence that he runs not a church, but a cult. His demands of obedience to his will and his belief of justified judgement and power over others, without accountability, demonstrates that his “ministry” to his congregation is not one of meek and dutiful service to god. This man places his judgement and ego above god.
    Any leader, whether s/he be the leader of a church, a political movement or a philosophical doctrine, who disallows question by any member (women and children included) or the right to speak out against injustice or abuse, is no leader at all. S/he is a dictator, a despot, who rules over others, not with the desire to fellowship with other members, or to love others and bring them to spiritual peace. To deny another human being the right to think independently, to come to their own conclusions or to live their life without interference, is abusive and morally repugnant.
    To set oneself above their brothers and sisters, to the point where they feel entitled to preside over marriages and then to refuse help to those in danger is perverse, loveless, cruel and mean spirited.
    In short, Doug Phillips and others like him are hypocritical and deliberately manipulative cult leaders whose only aim in life is power, self aggrandisement and the reverence of themselves not god. He is a dangerous man who hurts and abuses others while using the cloak of godliness to protect himself from the consequences of his unjustifiable and truly revolting actions.
    As an atheist I do not believe there is any god or higher power in the universe, and were I in need any more proof of this view, I need look no further than your story and the countless others I have read. That any “heavenly father” would allow his children to be abused, denigrated, ostracised and left so broken hearted defies belief.
    I know the arguments of man creating the evil in the world, and the excuse that it is necessary that their be evil in order that his children see the shining path to redemption. I have heard the sermons that say it is his gift that we have free will, but that it is the exercise of that will in some who refuse his authority and saving grace, that is responsible for such evil and hurt of others.
    But it seems to me that if a god who is endlessly forgiving, incorruptible and righteous, and possessed of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, shouldn’t need a spiritual “babysitter”, and certainly not the likes of Doug Phillips.
    As a parent myself, (I have twins, a sweet daughter and a loving son who are the light of my life), I would never allow anyone, no matter what their claims of entitlement, to hurt, degrade or abuse them. As such, I fail to see why an apparently all knowing and ever present heavenly father would do any less than I would in order to protect his children. It is not as if he would be unaware or unable to put a stop to the abusive actions of someone like Phillips.

    From your writing I see that you knew, even while you were trying to be an obedient Christian within the BCA, that Doug Phillips was unloving, hypocritical, unjustifiable in his actions and ultimately plain WRONG in both his judgement of you and his demands that you prostrate yourself in front of him and his inner circle of cronies as repentance of sins he wouldn’t name.
    It is clear that the reason he would not clearly define these supposed sins was that they didn’t exist, that use of the words “unrepented sins” was a very thinly veiled weapon of manipulation and humiliation meant to cower you into meekly submit to his will. He plotted the use of these abhorrent weapons to coerce and bully you into the role of a blind follower, pitifully grateful for his utterly meaningless and hollow forgiveness.
    What I cannot understand is why, knowing that he demonstrated none of the qualities that god would require in one of those he chose to lead his children, you accepted his “authority” over you.
    This horrible man has obviously manipulated you so deeply that he had substituted his own judgement for yours. A master manipulator, he had convinced you that you were at fault for wanting to know what you were accused of and that it was plain disobedience to refuse to repent blindly so he might insert any sin of his choosing without accountability.

    Being an atheist does not render me unable to recognise you as a loving, good hearted and genuine woman in search of an ethical and positive path for her own life and that of her family. You seem to me an intelligent and hard-working woman and I believe you did all you could, and certainly more than could be reasonably expected, to heal the rift between your family and the church who were meant to love and support you, but hurt and ostracised you instead.
    It is obvious to me that it that was your strength of character, (an admirable trait in my book), and genuine desire to have god (not Doug Phiilips) always in your heart that motivated his attempts to destroy your life. He is incapable of acceptance of ethical and genuine scrutiny of his actions, a fact I think is well demonstrated by your experience.
    Unfortunately, it was those very sincere attempts at reconciliation that increased Doug Philips power over you. In seeking reconciliation you positioned yourself as the penitent, as if you had committed a grievous wrong and were unworthy of respect. This is entirely wrong! Your willingness to admit your faults and short comings and loving acceptance and unconditional forgiveness of those who seek to harm you, clearly demonstrate that your are worthy of great respect and admiration.
    As I read I could hear myself shouting in my head, saying “Don’t let him walk all over you!” and “You deserve better than to have a tyrant judge you!” and my favourite when I read Doug Phillips letters to you, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3 – 7:5”!!!! (New American Standard Bible (©1995))
    And so it was when you decided to cease these pointless efforts, and stood back and truly saw Doug Phillips for what he is, I cheered for you out loud. My heart lifted and I cried tears of joy that you would allow no more trespasses on your heart. A SLAVE NO MORE!!!!!!

    By going public and standing up to the BCA, which in truth is nothing but Doug Phillips, you are serving your brothers and sisters as you have been commanded. “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10 .
    (Atheist I am, but I’ve read the Bible cover to cover, straight through, not selected verses)
    Your strength and courage has been hard won, but I hope this journey has also returned to you your self respect and dignity as a human being, in fear no more.
    It is my dearest hope that in telling of your experiences that others will take strength from your courage and lift themselves from what I can only see as spiritual slavery. That they will again be free and without despondency.

    With my admiration, highest regards, K

  31. All Says:

    For all those who read especially to K,,, men will always fail you but Jesus Christ will not. Jesus died a hideous death for all who would accept His free gift. he didn’t qualify the sin..all sin is the same…Doug’s , Jen,s, her family, mine…….. To continue to rehash, blog, spread things about others, true or not, with bitterness and pride,as it seems, only hinders the cause of Christ…… Does this glorify Him… does it serve to draw others to Him. K as an athiest,,, does this give you more cause to stay an athiest……. what does this kind of thing show to a world of unbelievers, other than there is no difference in how we handle life….

    God says He will repay…. He will bring all things to light…… I pray all would leave this in His capable hands to look after … It is 2013 and this is still being talked about and rehashed….. tell me is God getting the glory Jen or any other believer who continues to perpetuate this story?

    No wonder the world looks at the church and laughs….. this certainly does not show the love and forgiveness of my Saviour Jesus Christ.

    In Christ,
    Ashamed and Saddened from Canada

  32. C Says:

    This site and its accusations are old. Where are you & your husband now, in 2013? If what you say is true I’m seriously questioning supporting VF further… but this just seems like he said-she said & I can’t get anything more up to date than 2007 (6 years old). Any updates?

  33. Jo Says:

    Jen, I’m so sorry. I understand. Been there.


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