To all our readers, greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose blood is sufficient to atone for even the vilest sins of any who truly thank Him for His righteous life and substitutionary death.
We’ve requested membership at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) in San Antonio, Texas. We have fully described our excommunication by Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA) to our Session of Elders. The Session has agreed to work with us toward reconciliation and restoration, and we have agreed to submit to their authority as ordained Elders.
There are certain terms and conditions that the Faith Session will place upon us to begin the process of restoring us to communicant church membership. In fulfilling these obligations, the Session will have evidence we are sincere in our desire to become members of Faith Presbyterian Church under the authority of their Session. The very first of those issues is that we demonstrate a willingness to be reconciled with our brethren at BCA.
Faith Presbyterian Church considers reconciliation and peacemaking to be a Biblical mandate for the whole Body of Christ. Several FPC members are certified Christian conciliators with Peacemaker Ministries. FPC has agreed to do everything possible to assist us in being reconciled with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly.
In the view of our elders, the fact that we are unlikely to attempt to become members of BCA again is irrelevant to the necessity for brethren to seek reconciliation with one another. Though we have made attempts at reconciliation before, perhaps with many of you fervently praying toward that end, God will be pleased to unite the injured parties together again in Christ and to demonstrate His peace before a watching and skeptical world.
In order to lay the groundwork toward reconciliation, the Session has requested we take offline any of our blog articles, links and feedback comments on any website of our creation, or under our control, that contain accusations against Doug Phillips, members of his family, or BCA. Although Ministry Watchman isn’t under our control, we will formally request that they likewise take offline the articles about us by Charles Fisher.
This request by our Elders was made primarily for two reasons:
- Removing accusing words from the public forum greatly increases the opportunity for reconciliation and restoration. Removing the accusations from the Web will allow each side to be heard without the on-going offense of public rebuke while pursuing private reconciliation.
- Removing the accusations from the Web will provide evidence that we are repentant, that we are willing to submit to the ecclesiastical authority of the Elders of Faith Presbyterian (PCA) church, and our willingness to allow those Elders to work with the leadership of BCA to restore us to communing fellowship within a local evangelical church.
In submitting to our Session of Elders, we will no longer comment publicly about our conflict with Doug Phillips, or others at BCA, on any website or blog, while the Session of Faith Presbyterian Church seeks the peace and purity of the Church of Jesus Christ through reconciliation.
We ask all our readers to pray for a successful reconciliation. Sin is not absent from any of us in this life, so please pray diligently for the Holy Spirit to move sinners to repentance at the foot of the Cross.
Pray also that the Lord would calm our fears. After what we’ve already been through, it’s not an easy thing for us to submit to church elders. We want to trust these men and to believe the best of them. They’ve shown themselves to be caring and compassionate towards us. We do believe that they’re sincere, and that they intend God’s best for us. But we have to admit that there are times that we still feel intimidated and afraid of a process that we’re unfamiliar with. This is, after all, the very first Presbyterian church that we’ve ever been in, and Presbyterians do things a lot differently from what we’re used to.
Our hope is that we will be able to soon report a complete reconciliation between the Epstein family and the brothers and sisters at Boerne Christian Assembly. At that time, perhaps web sites that once held accusations can be filled with rejoicing and details of revival in relationships, offering hope for others in conflict, and giving honor and glory to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Prince of Peace,
Mark and Jennifer Epstein
January 15, 2007 at 8:05 pm
I hope and pray that your new found fellowship will bring healing in your hearts and souls. What you have been through is devastating to say the least. I know how you must feel.
January 16, 2007 at 12:06 pm
[…] email from Mark and Jennifer Epstein regarding an article that they’ve posted on their blogs (Peacemaking: The Biblical Response to Our Conflict With Doug Phillips and The Path of Peace and Purity). They gave us permission to repost their email here. Dear […]
January 17, 2007 at 3:19 pm
You should do what you think God is calling you to.
However, other people should know the truth about Doug Phillips and what is going on, even if only half of what you say is true. He has a teaching ministry and actively tells others that they should live their lives in a particular fashion.
A leader and teacher should be subject to criticism and correction more so than others.
I am sorry for what your family has gone through. Trust your instincts and trust God to lead you.
January 18, 2007 at 12:51 am
Since I am so close to this situation, I didn’t realize that there were a few things I missed in cleaning up my blog in preparation for reconciliation. A friend just informed me that although I took down my negative articles about Doug Phillips, at the request of our elders, there are still a few “accusatory” words on my blog. The title of my blog is itself an accusatory statement, and the titles of my articles were also accusatory. Although I removed the articles, the titles are still in the sidebar. I don’t want to give Doug Phillips any excuses for refusing to come to Peacemaker reconciliation, so I’m going to remove those things too.
January 18, 2007 at 11:32 pm
In my experience those that have been abused seem to always have a strange fascination with their abuser. Many times the abused will return to the same situation over and over again. In other cases the abused are constantly pre-occupied with the abuse which seemingly permeates every day of their lives. Make no mistake, these are signs of serious abuse and cannot be treated simply by “making peace.” I see this situation as a spiritual abuse issue. So often we have seen battered persons be counseled to return to their spouse, seeking reconciliation. While this may be successful in some rare situations, in most cases of severe abuse, going back is only asking for more. It is not un-Christian to speak the truth. In fact, is it not true that Jesus himself called the Pharisees “a brood of vipers?” I realize no one has the authority of Jesus, but we must call sin what it is, or else it will raise it’s ugly serpentine head again and again. The greatest trick of oppressor is to convince the oppressed to be silent. You see, there is a distinct difference between the sin of un-forgiveness or resentment and letting truth be told. I believe one who truly seeks the reconciliation of an enemy, will do it on terms of truth, not denial. Removing all the comments you have made before not only denies this truth to others, but opens them up to the same harmful situations. My guess is, that rather than seeing this opportunity as one of reconciliation, the facts suggest that abuser will see this as a grand opportunity to silence the accuser and save face, perhaps even drawing you closer again. Why would any accused man pass up such an opportunity? Have you not already begun to hide the truth? This is not a condemnation of you, it is a sincere attempt to help you understand what many will see outside of such a situation, but few can see while they are in it. Please, before you continue to try make everything better by putting it behind you, consider what true healing means. One must come to terms with the truth. Denial will only lead to future disappointment. Trust that the Lord will help you face this truth in a way that is healing, not forgetting. You may feel your comments have been pointed or accusatory, but there are few victims out there that do not experience the same types of resentment. You can truly forgive without having to throw away the truth. The other party involved may never be at a point where reconciliation can be possible, and this is a fact that you may have to deal with. Have you considered rewriting all of your comments in a way that reflects what really happened, but is not accusatory? Perhaps you will discover there is much that still needs to be said, but that you simply had not before seen the best way to say it.
January 19, 2007 at 8:08 pm
You have many different alias’, don’t you? You have woven a trap for countless people and you delight in how you get attention. Is this really how you want to face your Lord? My posts have been directed toward you and your clan and I hope that you quit your little game and get on with life because this scam is sick.
January 20, 2007 at 1:54 am
Larry, I thank you for your concern and it is my concern as well. I would like to address two points you make. The first is in regard to the editing of the comments. I must not have made myself very clear, as several people have mentioned this, but the comments that were edited last week were those of other commenters responding to my articles. I did not change any of my articles, as I felt I had been quite charitable in the straightforward telling of my story to begin with. However, some commenters used language that was quite inflammatory and not exactly conducive to persuading Doug Phillips to agree to a reconciliation process, so we toned it down a bit.
The other issue is what we mean by reconciliation. Let me begin with what we don’t mean. Reconciliation with Doug Phillips and BCA does not mean that we will ever place ourselves under their authority again. Reconciliation could, however, take many different forms in terms of restoring a relationship between fellow believers in Christ. I do not have any idea what lies ahead in this process, but it will not include placing ourselves under abuse. As they say, “Once burned, twice shy.”
January 22, 2007 at 5:07 pm
Reformed Calvinist, thank you for the reminder, but I did remove that subtitle several days ago. I’m not sure what you’re really saying here.
I suppose I could update my other blog as well. Thank you. I don’t read my little blurb very often, so I hadn’t even paid attention to it.
January 27, 2007 at 4:53 pm
Are you able to give us an update on where the reconciliation process stands with Doug Phillips? I understand that once things move into conciliation that it’s often treated confidentially. But can you at least let us know if you or your session have called or sent a letter to Phillips inviting him to conciliation? Any reply yet from Phillips?
January 27, 2007 at 9:02 pm
You’re right about the confidentiality issue.
What I can say is that the session of Faith Presbyterian Church has contacted Doug Phillips and BCA in writing and requested that they meet with the FPC session for the purpose of entering into formal Christian conciliation with us. To my knowledge, neither Doug nor BCA have responded.
As we move through this process, the session tells me that there will probably be some things that I won’t be at liberty to discuss. If Doug and BCA do agree to conciliation, there will probably be certain things that the Faith Presbyterian Church session may not even be able to talk about with Mark and me because our session will be dealing in confidence with the leadership of BCA. Anything we do say publicly will first have to be cleared with our session.
January 29, 2007 at 10:05 am
I understand about not discussing publicly your situation BUT for a session to WITHHOLD information about you and your situation from you is something I am not sure about. I sincerly hope you have made the right decision to proceed in this way.
January 29, 2007 at 12:25 pm
Jen, I know you can’t provide details, but would you let us know when you are made aware that Doug or BCA has responded to your session’s letter?
January 29, 2007 at 6:13 pm
Morgan and Lynn, I’ll comment as I’m able and as the session approves it. Their priority is reconciliation, not blogging. If they’re able to facilitate reconciliation, then I’m sure they’ll be fine with my announcing it at an appropriate time, but no one should expect that to happen within the next week or two. These things take time.
I think I will post about what reconciliation is and the process that Peacemakers uses, though, so that may help people understand better what will be happening.
January 29, 2007 at 6:32 pm
I am grateful to learn that you have found a place where you feel encouraged and safe. I am unclear, however, as to why you are seeking “formal” church membership? Does Faith PCA require that you vow to submit to the authority of its session in order to take Communion?
January 29, 2007 at 7:32 pm
In my church travels, I have learned that every church has a different policy concerning taking communion and I feel it is best to submit to each policy in order not to cause someone to stumble. The policy at Faith is that you must be a member in good standing at a Christian church. Since this definition does not seem to fit us at the moment, we will patiently wait until we can once again be members in good standing at a Christian church. We are hopeful that our wait won’t be too long!
February 1, 2007 at 12:04 am
[…] JemsGems is the blog of Jen Epstein who, along with her husband Mark, are the focus of this dispute which appears to have begun about two years ago. Boerne Christian Assembly is independent and not under the authority of any denomination. The Epsteins apparently blogged about what occurred, others got involved. Vision Forum also claims to have been under anonymous attack in November and December. […]
March 10, 2007 at 7:54 pm
Jen, I have no idea what this conflict is about, but I commend you folks for at least trying to resolve it and seek reconciliation. God bless you in your efforts, and may His Spirit grant the peace that you are looking for in this particular situation – besides the peace that passes all understanding that is the birthright of all believers.
Good for you guys to be willing to go through this. I hope that you don’t get chewed up more. 🙂 It looks like you have some good people who are working with you, though.
Like I said in my first comment to you I stumbled onto your blog when I was googling Phillips’ blog. I know that until and unless the gossip and slander can be gotten under control, there can be no reconciliation and peace making.
You have taken the most important step in removing public comments and letting church leaders help you through this. Some just want to engage in personal attacks and never really seek reconciliation. You are heading in the right direction on this.
God bless, and please take care,