From the time that my husband and I were “excommunicated” from Boerne Christian Assembly we have repeatedly requested that Doug Phillips provide a specific and detailed list of the excommunicable offenses of which we were found guilty. We don’t believe this to be an unreasonable expectation. After all, how are we to ever be able to repent of sins if we don’t even know what they are? Repentance of specific sins necessitates naming specifically what those sins are. We can’t repent of vague and broad generalities.
When someone is tried in a secular court, the charges are clearly and specifically stated, the charges must be supported by evidence and testimony, the accused has the right to examine their accusers, and the court functions according to established rules that everyone (especially the accused) has available to them. These are some of the most basic and essential requirements to ensure that justice can be carried out. Without these things there can be no justice.
To this day the best that Doug Phillips can do is to vaguely allege,
“Mark and Jennifer Epstein were excommunicated by Boerne Christian Assembly for habitual lying, railings, contempt of authority, cruelty, gossip, revilings, and other sins for which they were patiently and lovingly admonished by numerous brothers and sisters in Christ at BCA and their church leadership.”
Since that time we have asked for no more than what any secular court knows that justice requires: a specific, detailed accounting of our sins (excommunicable offenses), supported by evidence and testimony of witnesses. We’ve also asked for Doug to provide us the rules by which we were tried, since he claims that we received “Excommunication With Due Process.”
“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.”
If that were true, then why won’t he specifically name the “doctrine and confession” that BCA holds to? We certainly knew that BCA subscribes to The Second London Baptist Confession Of Faith, but that Confession doesn’t at all address the specifics of the “Due Process” that Doug claims that he gave us. Where is the Book Of Church Order, the Book Of Church Discipline, or the Church Constitution that spells out how BCA was supposed to conduct a church trial? There wasn’t one, and as far as we know BCA has never had one, and they still don’t have one. If BCA has since adopted one, we’d like to examine it to determine if our “trial” conformed to it.
The fact is that Doug fabricated the “rules” out of thin air, and the rules didn’t in any way “follow biblical procedure.” Our trial was a Kangaroo Court, and no Kangaroo Court can render a just verdict.
In recent weeks, Doug Phillips has employed the “bandwagon” logic of trying to get as many people as he can to disparage us. Doug’s first bandwagon ploy was to publish the fact that our “excommunication” was voted on by the BCA congregation, and they voted unanimously in favor of Doug’s excommunication. Other than showing that BCA probably has a herd mentality, what does this prove? One of the things it proves is that our trial was a sham of justice. At least half of the BCA congregation were Vision Forum employees. Any votes from Vision Forum employees would have been a major conflict of interest. Not one of them was free to vote their conscience. To go against Doug might have cost them their jobs. They should have abstained, but they didn’t, and the result was totally predictable.
In recent weeks Doug has continued with his bandwagon logic. He obtained a brief letter from Living Water Fellowship which appears to support Doug. But again, what does this prove? Little Bear Wheeler would very much like to get back into Doug’s good graces. He stands to benefit financially if he can patch up the relationship. Just like Doug’s own vague allegations, the LWF letter doesn’t give us anything specific that we can work with. How are we to repent from such vague allegations as “the e-mail contained inaccuracies and misleading information?” We asked to meet with Little Bear and his elders so that they could give us specifics. They initially agreed to meet with us, but then they cancelled our meeting, and it doesn’t look like they’re now willing to meet with us at all.
Also now jumping aboard Doug’s bandwagon are Gavino and Ruth Perez. In their letter, this couple gave the impression that they personally knew me. Yet, that’s not the case at all. The Perezes allege, “Jennifer Epstein has engaged in unethical practices toward our own organization during the years of 2005 – 2006.” In a style all too typical of Doug Phillips, the Perezes fail to specify what my alleged “unethical practices” are. I’ve responded to Ruth in the spirit of step one of Matthew 18, but I didn’t write to Gavino, since I don’t ever recall even meeting him. Ruth Perez is the director of FEAST. I asked for Ruth Perez’s reply. She’s failed to do so, and so I’ll post my letter to her here:
I’m very troubled by the ramifications of your recent public statement. Most people reading it would presume that you have had some sort of personal relationship with me. Yet, I think you know perfectly well that we’ve barely had any personal interaction at all. We have chatted only briefly at various occasions throughout the last several years, but we have never really even had what could be called any substantive dialogue about any subject. Aside from greeting one another when we cross paths, we’ve barely said much of anything to one another.
The only possible exception I can think of to this is an incident in which you called me to express a concern over a particular situation. I had been in the FEAST bookstore, showing some missionaries to Korea some books from your store that I recommended for homeschooling. Knowing that money for them was scarce, I recommended to them that they might be able to save a little money by buying some of the same books from CBD for substantially less. Apparently, my conversation with them got back to you. You called to tell me that FEAST had a price matching policy. When you made me aware of that, I immediately apologized to you and subsequently retracted my advice to my missionary friends to Korea and encouraged them to buy the books from FEAST. That is the only actual conversation of any kind that I can recall ever having with you.
Imagine my utter surprise, then, when I saw that you had written a defamatory statement about me and posted it on the internet. You speak as though you know me personally and that you’ve had sufficient interaction with me to make conclusions about my character, when the fact is that you barely know me at all.
Ruth, if I have offended you in any way, I would fully expect you to come to me in the spirit of Matthew 18, privately, and to have done that a long time ago. Ruth, I will not claim that I believe that I am without any faults. I am a frail human with many failings. Obviously I’ve done something to offend you. Just how long have you been carrying this antagonism against me? Why have you waited so long to bring your concerns to my attention? Actually, you didn’t really ever bring them to my attention at all, did you? Rather than confronting me in my alleged sins and giving me the opportunity to hear you, be convicted of the Lord, and repent of them, you paraded them out for the whole world to see.
Your actions cause me to suspect that you never really have had an issue with me at all, and certainly not serious enough to confront me privately about. More than likely your only real beef with me is my blogging about Doug Phillips. If your goal was merely to side with your friend Doug Phillips, without hearing the facts, you are certainly free to do so, and state that as your opinion. But to blatantly tell these falsehoods about me the way you have isn’t just unbiblical, it’s libelous. If I have done any of the things which you have accused me of, you must now provide specific and detailed evidence, not vague and baseless rhetoric.
I will list your public accusations against me and ask you to address each of them, point by point, by responding to me with specific and detailed testimony in support of your accusations.
1. The Epsteins are a disgruntled family.
2. The Epsteins decided to aggressively attack Doug Phillips and Vision Forum.
3. Email lies
4. I insinuated that HSLDA was critical of Doug.
5. I launched an all out internet/email war to destroy Doug and Beall.
6. Terrible accusations against them
7. I engaged in unethical practices toward FEAST during 2005-2006
8. Past offenses dealing with deception
9. My deceptive character was not unknown to you
10. Attacks on Doug Phillips
11. My self-appointment as a home school leader is misleading
12. I have a Charlotte Mason business
13. My leadership consists only of my customers
14. The Phillips battle false accusations from us.
15. We are a troubled family
16. We are bitter
17. We are full of hate
18. We were excommunicated for serious sins.
19. We have an email hate campaign
The accusations that you have made are the same kind of general and unspecific accusations, and the very same tactics, that Doug Phillips used against me and my family, and that he continues to use. Of course, Doug went far beyond what you have done, by “excommunicating” me and my husband, and shunning my entire family, including my children. We’ve been asking for a list of specific and excommunicable sins that we’re guilty of for over two years now. Doug has never provided it. Do you think that by joining Doug’s little chorus of, “The Epsteins are liars and unrepentant sinners,” without ever providing even a single specific example of our alleged sins, and not a shred of evidence, that you can help bolster Doug’s unsupported and vague accusations?
I ask that you now make your allegations with some specificity, and furnish the specific and detailed evidence to back up your accusations. If you’re not able to do so (and we both know that you can’t), I’m asking you for a public apology and retraction for the falsehoods and unsupported (and unsupportable) accusations you have told about me, and I am asking you to send that apology and retraction of your public statement to me, as well as to everyone you sent the original libelous comments to.
Please respond to me at your earliest opportunity. If I hear nothing from you by Monday, May 7, 2007, I’ll assume that your intention is to ignore this request.
Hopeful in Christ,
Doug remains popular with at least a few, and so I’m not surprised that the cast of characters on Doug’s bandwagon continues to grow. But bandwagon logic is still a logical fallacy. Doug knows that. Doug even teaches logic to his interns. However, Doug is also aware that even though logical fallacies are often dishonest, they still often work with large segments of the population. They often even work with people who should really know better, people like Christian home educators.