Doug Phillips on “Marking” Those Who Cause Division

From Doug’s blog:

There is nothing new under the sun. There always have been and will be accusers of the brethren, scoffers and unscrupulous individuals who seek to divide the body of Christ. The battlefield may change shape and size, but the issues are essentially the same. As we press forward into the 21st century, we should aspire to be like the sons of Issachar who understood the times, were blessed of God and given positions of leadership. This means marking those who bring false accusations, or who prepare the body of Christ for great persecution by throwing around the “C” word to describe people who may differ on matters which clearly fall within the pale of orthodoxy.

Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

This seems to be a little loaded to me. Accusers of the brethren? This term is generally associated with Satan. I sincerely hope that Doug is not using the term in a biblical fashion, but rather in a more general meaning of the individual words. So, is it wrong for one brother (sister) to accuse another? Yes, I have accused Doug Phillips of many things, but hasn’t he likewise accused me? Using this term in conjunction with scoffers and unscrupulous individuals seems to put it in the category of highly inflammatory language. This seems to be a pattern when Doug writes against someone. His response (yes, he wrote it) to my story on his BCA church blog contained many such examples of provocative and incitive language.

Is my purpose here to divide the body of Christ? No. My purpose is to divide the body of Christ from false teachers. I have not asked anyone to take sides on this issue. In fact, I wish there weren’t any sides to take. Rather than taking sides, I propose that we work through the issues. Rather than having a divisive spirit, let’s look to the Bible to see what truth looks like. When someone tells me my doctrine is in error, I assume that their purpose is not to pick a fight, but to see that I know the truth, because the truth will set me free. That is not divisive, but is ultimately uniting. When I expose unbiblical or extra-biblical teachings here, I am not doing so to be divisive, I am attempting to provide truth that will set people free.

Doug then says to mark those who bring false accusations. I could not agree more, Doug. And that is exactly what I am doing here. Doug Phillips has falsely accused me. I have laid out all the evidence. If anything I have said is false, where is the evidence to the contrary? I am very willing to have everyone examine it. Doug, bringing false accusations against another is a very serious sin. You have done so, and this blog “marks” you as such. Should I now call people to avoid you, as the verse you quoted mentions?

Come, let us reason together.

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38 Responses to “Doug Phillips on “Marking” Those Who Cause Division”

  1. Morgan Farmer Says:

    Jen again…you ask DP to provide all with the facts…and none are forthcoming.

    sigh

  2. Light Says:

    Doug Phillips is an unmanly coward.

    What else do you call a person who makes false accusations, spiritually abuses his flock, and then whines that people are picking on him? What else do you call a man who is so afraid of Natasha and process servers that he must hide from them? He can dish it out, but he sure can’t take it. That’s a coward in my book.

  3. CynthiaGee Says:

    What else do you call a man who is so afraid of Natasha and process servers that he must hide from them?

    “Chicken” comes to mind….

  4. Red Ink Says:

    Jen says:

    When I expose unbiblical or extra-biblical teachings here, I am not doing so to be divisive, I am attempting to provide truth that will set people free.

    I don’t know how this sentence, which I appreciate, leads people almost immediately to lay in on the name-calling. I’m sorry, but if your immediate reaction to an appeal to unity and humility in seeking the truth is to spit bile about Doug Phillips, well, maybe you’re at this blog for the wrong reasons.

    I don’t mean this to be a personal attack – though the fact that there are only a few comments above is probably irrefutable evidence that this is one. I respect most of the people around here, but occasionally I still have to ask myself: what good does calling Doug Phillips names actually do? Does it do any more than it did the last dozen times it happened on this blog? Does it glorify God? Advance His Kingdom? Beautify the bride? Fulfill the Great Commandment? Echo the Beatitudes?

    Could I sing through the comments here on Sunday morning and come away feeling nourished by the word and encouraged by the fellowship?

    I dunno. I guess, if you’re not convinced that Doug Phillips is all that bad of a guy, this just sometimes seems gratuitous and uncharitable and terribly unhelpful.

    Pax, friends:
    R.

  5. Jen Says:

    You know, Red Ink, if I’m following you correctly, you are right. Just as I don’t allow commenters to call each other names here, I need to be more diligent in not allowing people to call Doug names, either. It is not helpful to the process. Thanks for a good reminder to all of us.

  6. Alisa Says:

    Romans 16:17 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

    You know, it’s funny… but this is the exact verse that always seemed to describe Doug Phillips and caused me to avoid his teaching if at all possible. There always seemed to be “divisions and offences contrary to the gospel which I had learned” surrounding him; like Pigpen’s cloud of dust that billowed around him wherever he went (think Charles Schultz’s Peanut’s character).

  7. CynthiaGee Says:

    Red Ink, it’s true that calling names solves nothing, and makes gives a black eye to the name-caller’s own cause.

    Nonetheless, a spade is a spade. Phillips’ actions are cowardly, there’s absolutely no way around the fact.
    His style of accusing people without naming names is reminescent of a group of genteel Southern ladies of the old school who sit on the verandah dishing dirt, piously following each fiery dart and stiletto thrust with with “Bless her heart!”

  8. Red Ink Says:

    Cynthia:

    Agreed. Paul and Jesus called people names, and I believe that labeling something for what it is can be useful. But, to me, dragging up an incident from several months ago and then using words like “coward” and “chicken” don’t really advance the conversation much. Jen called us to reason together. What you said reminded me of my casual banter in 2nd grade.

    You’re right: a spade is a spade. But I’d rather we played Bridge than 52 Card Pickup.

    Maybe the conversation has moved to the point where nearly everybody agrees, as a common assumption, that Doug Phillips is a tyrant and a coward and a handful of other nasty things to be. But I haven’t, and I have seen first hand why it is sometimes wise for people in Doug’s position to hold their tongues, or at least limit what they say. It was sometimes prudent for Christ to slip through the crowd and evade his accusers. It is sometimes prudent for Christians to remain silent in the face of their accusers. I do not pretend to know Doug’s mind, or situation, to judge whether or not he is being wise. Just because somebody doesn’t want Christians hanging up their dirty laundry on WordPress doesn’t make them a coward. Just because somebody would rather avoid confrontation with an obviously angry young girl at a public event doesn’t make them a chicken.

    And if I were so bold as to assert such things after merely hearing one side of the story, after never having heard the man’s defense, after having never been at any of the events mentioned or having never met any of the people involved, I think I’d use a word other than “chicken” to describe my thoughts. I think I’d be careful to extend charity wherever possible, the benefit of the doubt at all costs.

    Finally, I’d like to note that Doug is not always silent in the face of his accusers, and I believe that is just fine. When Doug does speak out, yes, I believe it probably addresses Jen in some sense. But that doesn’t mean Jen is the only person in mind. I hear sermons like this all the time – there are plenty of Bible verses about divisive and contentious brothers – and the problems Christianity is having online are much bigger than this blog.

    I have said before: the reason why I am here is primarily a concern over how Christianity should use the Internet. I find myself agreeing, for the most part, with Doug and the gang when they say things like they did above. And, at least in my case, it’s not because anybody is smearing me online, and not due to cowardice. It’s because, honestly and sincerely, I think the Internet is a bad place for church business. There can be no discipline, and often there is no opportunity for true repentance and restoration. People very easily confuse or twist words. People are just plain mean to each other all the time. God never intended his people to live like this. We have a hard enough time understanding each other in person and through books. We expect instant publication during lunch breaks on blogs to be any more accurate?

    If Jen’s situation didn’t get solved in counseling sessions and congregational meetings, it certainly won’t get solved on the Internet. Things will polarize, further and further, until somebody is destroyed. It’s how the Internet works. And, in the process, people from all over the nation who have no real standing to judge the situation properly are now dragged in, and being polarized too. It will get much bigger and much uglier before it ever gets solved, and that solution will come only through the Spirit, not some campaign of truth waged on a blog.

    It’s not like my theology of blogging is fully developed or anything. But I see things like Jen’s Gems and it draws my concern. And, full circle, my concern isn’t alleviated when I see grown women calling a man that at least I consider a brother a “chicken.” If we are to pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin, what are we to do with the Internet that turns us into puerile beasts?

    Hm.

  9. Lynn Says:

    “Just because somebody would rather avoid confrontation with an obviously angry young girl at a public event doesn’t make them a chicken.”

    Red Ink, you try to steer clear of the assumption that Doug is acting out of cowardice. How then do you presume to know how Natasha behaved herself at that book signing where Doug dove into his office to hide from her?

    I was understanding what you were saying up to that point, but this kind of stuck out.

  10. CD-Host Says:

    Red Ink —

    Obviously this won’t get solved via. the internet. Jen’s blog isn’t designed to “solve” the problem in a traditional sense. Originally it was designed to expose Doug Phillips. It has turned into a place where patriarchy is being critiqued.

    Doug Phillips is deliberately and intentionally starting and leading a new movement.
    Doug Phillips is creating his own confessions of faith for this movement.
    Doug Phillips is creating doctrines and practices within this movement
    This makes Doug Phillips a public leader and holds him to the standards of any major politician.

    Doug Phillips has designed a church structure for himself where he has no accountability at all, except to the public.
    Doug Phillips does not publish in religious journals where his ideas can be peer reviewed.
    Doug Phillips has consistently refused to engage people in dialogue about his positions. Nor does he debate them. Nor has he made forums available to debate them.
    CCC, Bayly blog, etc… have followed this practice of not engage in discussion, so this is a systematic problem with the patriarchy movement.

    Doug Phillips is not entitled to preach in a vacuum. If he wishes to be a Christian leader he needs to be held to the standards of Christian leaders. Which means his doctrines, and his practices are subject to review. If he doesn’t want public review of his practices then he should be submitting to accountability structures, that is private review of a quality sufficient to make the wider public believe that these issues are being addressed. And there no circumstances in which he should be allowed to circumvent public review of his new doctrines and teachings.

    I’m sorry I disagree 100% with what you are saying here. Jen’s blog would not exist if Jen case had gone before an independent group of elders where the accuser could not act in a judging capacity, and then Jen had been tried on the facts under standard presbyterian rules of evidence. Even if the sham trial had occurred had Faith Presbyterian Church actually followed the NAPARC agreement and acted in an appellate capacity this blog wouldn’t exist.

    This blog exists because Doug didn’t want to be held to any standards. The attacks on the SBC exist because the leader of the SBC broke campaign promises. Ask George Bush I what happens when you break campaign promises.

  11. CynthiaGee Says:

    And, full circle, my concern isn’t alleviated when I see grown women calling a man that at least I consider a brother a “chicken.”
    Ok, I admit, the use of a perjorative was immature, and repetitive — someone had already called the man a coward, and I still have to say that I agree with her. If Doug were to come forward right now and show us the records of the excommunication proceedings and TELL us his side of things I’d be willing to at least listen with an open mind — any human being deserves that much. But given his behavior, and given the things that we DO know about him, such as:
    1.) his pechant for selling dishonest portrayals of the facts of American history through VisionForum
    2.) the fact that he kisses up to neoConfederate kinists and bigots
    3.)his misogyny
    4.) his scripture twisting in defense of his misogyny
    5.) etc,etc,etc….

    his continued evasiveness makes it rather hard to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    If a fellow walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and repeatedly ducks the issues, one begins to suspect something may be rather fowl.

  12. Jen Says:

    Red Ink: “Just because somebody would rather avoid confrontation with an obviously angry young girl at a public event doesn’t make them a chicken.”

    Red Ink, I see that Lynn already addressed this, but what gives you any indication at all that Natasha was angry that day? I assure you that she was not. But even if she was, do you think that it is appropriate behavior for a very public figure, a pastor and an international public speaker, to RUN from a 20 year old girl? If a gentle answer turns away wrath, do you think gentleness might have been a better response no matter what attitude Natasha had that day? Doug had a prime opportunity to minister to, and possibly influence, a very hurt young woman that day. Natasha was never a threat to Doug. I’m very sorry that he chose to respond in such a fashion.

    You know, Red Ink, if I thought that Doug was merely using this article to talk about his concerns regarding those who cause divisions, I would agree with you and him 100%. I have said before that Doug has many great things to say, which is why I want to see him repent and save his ministry. Unfortunately, he has such a lengthy pattern of using his blog to attack others that it is difficult to read it without wondering about his underlying motives anymore. The more stories I hear about Doug, and I’ve heard a lot, the more I hear things like, “And you should see what Doug wrote on his blog right after that happened.” A lot of his blog articles are starting to make more sense to me now.

    You are correct that a lot of bad things happen on the internet between Christians and that is very wrong. I stand with you on that. But I also see a lot of good happening on the internet between Christians as well. Just from my blog, I know of many people who are being set free from the bondage of patriarchy and legalism. That is a very good thing and I know that pleases the Lord. Exposing error in public teaching is a good thing.

    I am not here to solve my excommunication. I’m long past that now. I will leave that up to God to take care of now. But God has used my story, and the subsequent follow-up articles, for His own good. I don’t think He is done yet. People are hurting in this movement and they need help. God is moving to provide that. This is a necessary cleaning up process in Christianity today and I feel privileged to have a little part in that.

    One more thought on the internet and Christians. You mentioned something about there being no avenue for discipline. Matthew 18 doesn’t go away on the internet. I believe that it is just as applicable online as it is offline and it has been used for that very purpose.

    Thanks for hanging around, Red Ink. I appreciate your obvious concern for the purity of the church, even in this venue.

    And CD-Host, you have summed up Doug Phillips and my reason for being here exactly right. Sometimes you just really seem to get the big picture. I need to be reminded of that big picture every once in a while, as I tend to get caught up in the details. Thanks for a great comment.

  13. Jen Says:

    Cynthia: “If a fellow walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and repeatedly ducks the issues, one begins to suspect something may be rather fowl.”

    Now this was a good one! Sometimes you really quack me up! 🙂

  14. K. Says:

    Well, I agree with everything Red Ink said. .. Well said R.I.

  15. Cindy Kunsman Says:

    “But I see things like Jen’s Gems and it draws my concern. And, full circle, my concern isn’t alleviated when I see grown women calling a man that at least I consider a brother a “chicken.” If we are to pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin, what are we to do with the Internet that turns us into puerile beasts?”

    >>>>
    We are are fallible creatures and no one argument or doctrine of man for that matter represents pure righteousness. We are all in process, working out our salvation (hopefully in fear and trembling). It is no more reasonable to hold Jen’s endeavors as pure as it is to hold Doug Phillips endeavors as pure and unadulterated. So long as we are human, all our endeavors to some degree will be tainted with our sin nature. By God’s grace, His Power transcends our flawed, human efforts.

    So for those things that are honestly meant to be pejorative or are a sarcastic response to the pain of the process of recovery, we who have made such statements are truly guilty. Each person will give account for his/her words and intent before God. For those things that I am guilty of, I repent and endeavor to grow so that I do not needlessly offend. (Say, for instance, my discussion of the hat issue online here in the past wherein I think my germain point was downplayed because of some associations I shared from my experience relating to a similar hat. I was concerned with symbolism and emulation of others regarding a person known to wear a particular hat.) I lacked discression to some extent, but I do not regret making the statements related to the central points. Now other statements that I have made here and elsewhere that others have deemed highly offensive I continue to defend.

    Many give Doug Phillips the benefit of the doubt based on the appeal of authority and agreement with his basic cause. He has also made very valuable contributions to the faith and many worth causes. It is not these things which are contested or exposed here. Those contributions have been honored by many on this site. Spunky and thatmom present some very well-balanced examples of those who do give honor where it is due but also speak against the inconsistencies inherent in the patriarchy movement.

    The criticism made by many on this site in the past and elsewhere most recently in this thread make the assumption that unfair criticism is brought against Phillips and other advocates of “patriarchy.” I believe that this is another major point of misunderstanding and deception. Although the Epsteins, others and I ultimately seek reconciliation, as this goal seems lofty and unattainable, in the event that current trends continue, the goal of exposure is a worthy one. So although we aspire and hold expectation of the most worthy goal of the most “perfect”, the “good goal” of debate (take for instance, the specific questions of whether the “tenets” are truly Bilblical or whether Doug is truly “cultic” or a “cult leader”) over that which is unclear is valuable. While holding out for these two better alternatives, if we are relegated to the “acceptable” goal of exposing a tyrant, then this is valuable. The later does not preclude the former but provides for God’s best and hightest.

    So, in the language of this recent comment which reflects so many others, this is a very open ended endeavor:

    1. Personal Repentance and Reconciliation (perfect goal)
    2. Group Repentence and Reconciliation (perfect goal)
    -concerning the ideology of patriarchy
    3. Opening up of productive dialogue halmarked by reciprocal respect of each party or representative involved on behalf of both individuals and groups toward both personal and ideological ends (perfect goal)
    …..
    4. Opening of public debate (the nature of the problem does not provide for debate soley within Christian circles as this is a shame-based and deception-driven problem)— (good goal)
    5. Productive and greater understanding of the dynamics within the movement for the edification and benefit of all concerned (good goal)
    6. Development of a support system for a problem that is poorly understood by those who have not likewise experienced the problem firsthand (good goal)
    ………
    7. Exposure of the unChristian elements of the movement (acceptable goal)
    8. Exposure of the unChristian behaviors (both inconsistent and harmful) elements of individuals within the movement (acceptable goal)

    Following on Romans 12, this is somewhat of an applied process of renewing our minds on these specifics (often a process of both failure and success) so that we might ultimately be transformed in mind and heart and spirit. It is a testing and approving of the perfect, good and acceptable Will of God, hopefully. That does not imply that we’ve mastered the rest of the admonishments and commands in the remainder of Romans chapter 12, but if this were an easy process, those words would not have been needful for our benefit in the first place. I hope that although the activities on this site have fallen short in that we’ve thought more hightly of ourselves, we’ve called names and the like, that we have also accomplished all of the good things that Romans 12 admonishes. Can you not also find examples of patience under affliction, offering of hope and support for those who are of low estate, honoring one another and especially the display of zeal and fervor for the truth by pursuit of what is Biblical and God’s highest and best?

    We are in process. The whole Christian issue of the internet is in process and is a major point of discussion both within Christian circles and in the secular world. God give us mercy and forgive us our sins, but also lead us and guide us into greater sanctification through the process! It’s a starting point, hopefully marking transition into something higher and better for all concerned.

  16. Jen Says:

    Interesting set of goals, Cindy. I am in general agreement with them, although I think I put more emphasis on exposing the false teachings for the purpose of freeing Christians from unnecessary burdens. Christ did not intend us to go through this life under the burdens of extra-biblical teachings and legalism, and I have a goal of not only exposing error, but presenting the truth of God’s Word instead. Along with this aspect, I pray for repentance for Doug and those involved in his deceptive teachings. When there is true repentance, the teachings will be repudiated as well.

    I am just beginning to see a need for help for those who are coming out of these particular extra-biblical teachings. Considering how much I have been helped on my own journey through internet relationships, this is an area that I would like to develop more fully for others as well.

  17. Spunky Says:

    Red Ink: “And if I were so bold as to assert such things after merely hearing one side of the story, after never having heard the man’s defense, after having never been at any of the events mentioned or having never met any of the people involved, I think I’d use a word other than “chicken” to describe my thoughts. I think I’d be careful to extend charity wherever possible, the benefit of the doubt at all costs.”

    Red Ink your point on calling Doug Phillips names is well said. Thank you for pointing that out. I agree that it does nothing to advance the conversation.

    I would like to point out that hearing one side of the story is what actually caused me the greatest concern when I began to follow this story.

    I was inclined to believe that Jen Epstein was just an angry woman upset over church discipline until I read that they excommuncated her without her being present at her own trial of excommunication and face her accusers. The members of BCA voted without allowing Jen to face her accusers or provide a defense for herself of the charges they brought forward. The excommunication appears to have been done with those voting only hearing ONE side. They then PUBLICALLY declared her a “heathen.” It was the elders who acted in a public way first, not Jen Epstein. By going to the internet she merely enlarged the scope of the “public.”

    Doug Phillips, BCA, and various anonymous writers have spent quite a bit of webspace speaking to this situation, but have not posted the minutes from the trial of excommunication. The very document that could exonerate them and show that the procedure was done in proper biblical order is not forthcoming.

    Instead we get accusations by an “anonymous supreme court justice” against a former friend of Doug Phillips of illegality without documentation; we get an “independent investigator” calling Jen a racist without documentation or proper footnotes; we get two anonymous websites, Still Fed Up and its predecessor Tired of the Crap, that air anything that comes into their minds or inbox about this situation. And we see TWO churches willing to use the internet to speak about about situation linked to and quoted by Vision Forum or BCA.

    So if your upset that the internet is responsible for only offering one side your missing a few websites.

    Futher, how much more upset you must be at a legitimate church that engages in the same “tactics” to excommunicate one of their members. At least Jen has the courage to put her name on her website and allow for commentary. Not so the men of Vision Forum or the elders of BCA. They post partial letters and refuse to publish the whole document for verification.

    Jen has also not been afforded the opportunity for appeal. Her only recourse is to appeal to the church universal for a remedy.

    Further, Doug Phillips or the elders at BCA do not believe that the use of the internet to “air dirty laundry” is wrong. If they did, they would never have allowed Faith PCA’s letters to both them and BCA to be used on their church website. They did exactly that even after Faith said specifically in their letter that the Internet is NOT the place for church activity. Here’s the quote,

    “[O]ur Session agreed that taking a private matter of church discipline to the court of public opinion via the Internet is at least as great an offense as taking a brother to court before a watching local heathen community.”vii Faith PCA

    So why is it wrong for Jen to air a public excommunication over the interent, but okay for Faith PCA and Boerne to use the same medium to rebuke her? If it’s wrong for Jen, it’s wrong for the elders at both of these churches as well. Even more so since as elders they are to be held to a higher standard than a “heathen” which they declare in their own PUBLIC excommunciation that they no longer have any jurisidiction over her. Their behavior should be an example to the flock, but at present that appear ready to imitate it and engage in the very same “tactics” they claim are corrupting the integrity of the church.

    So any blog posts coming forth from Vision Forum declaring it wrong to use the internet or decrying gossip seem odd coming from those that are willing to use the very same medium in their own defense and in ways very similar to those that they condemn.

  18. CynthiaGee Says:

    “So any blog posts coming forth from Vision Forum declaring it wrong to use the internet or decrying gossip seem odd coming from those that are willing to use the very same medium in their own defense and in ways very similar to those that they condemn.”

    Don’t know about cult leaders, “but the do as I say, not as I do” mentality is as old as the scribes and the Pharisees:

    “….The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: Mat 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. “

  19. Red Ink Says:

    There is a whole lot to respond to here, and I’ll probably just have to do it in chunks over the next few days.

    First, I want to clarify something I said that a few people called out. When I said that Natasha was “obviously angry,” I didn’t mean right there at Vision Forum. My statement was based on posts on her blog. I know there are reports that she was swearing and other whatnot, and I’m not talking about those. Even if she were the very vision of composure and grace that day, it might not have been the right environment for even the possibility of a confrontation, especially given the invective she authored right around that time period.

    It might be helpful to step back and give an overall apologetic for my viewpoint in this. I’m in Moscow. I’ve seen, for over 5 years now, my community shredded constantly in various venues on the Internet. Some shredding should be responded to, and other shredding not. There are a handful of maxims that could apply, and Jen sites one, but there are others about holding one’s tongue, avoiding contention, answering a fool according to his folly; the list goes on, and the reasons for acting in a particular way may not be readily apparent to an outside observer.

    Some attacks we have answered. Others, rightly I believe, we have let stand on the Internet without comment or argument. I have heard the argument that silence implies guilt a million times, and it is simply and flatly not true. I personally have been bludgeoned on local blogs, and have never said a word. Those who authored the words will grasp at any straw available to speak out against us. If I answer them, they will bicker endlessly with me or move on to the next fable or false accusation. I would merely be multiplying words, and Proverbs reminds us that sin is never absent from such things. Much better to hold my tongue, live a quiet and peaceable life, and let God do the judging on the last day.

    The information Doug has released requires further comment. I just don’t want to do it here and now. Spunky rightly makes distinctions beyond a public / private dichotomy, and I’d like to talk about that more, later.

    Jen, I just wanted to address Matthew 18 very quickly. Yes, you are right, Matthew 18 and the Internet are not mutually exclusive things. When I talk about discipline, I am talking about the entire process. Along with calling attention to sin, avenues should be provided for repentance, clear demonstrations of that repentance, and restoration to the Church body. This, in my opinion, requires an actual, physical, body to oversee the restoration of the infected part. This does not happen on the Internet.

    A loooong time ago now, as “Hugs, Not Blogs,” I commented on Mr. Vance’s site, shortly after the whole unfortunate mess over Tim Dick’s son came out. I remember you, Jen, were one of the ones on the cutting edge of this story. Rather than being up in arms over the sinfulness of this boy, I was upset over the sheer injustice of it all. A kid that far gone deserved the loving attention of some elders, a firm hand of discipline, and instruction on how to remedy his situation. What he got instead was a bunch of people, many with itching ears, squawking over his MySpace page.

    I don’t excuse his sin. I merely wonder how on earth it being revealed to a whole heap of people on the Internet did any good at all. I am now forever acquainted with his sins, but I have no idea if he’ll ever repent of them, and his repentance will likely never be public enough to remedy his reputation. This is not what discipline and repentance look like, in my view. Repentance is a tiny resurrection, and whatever the Internet can provide poor Mr. Dick the younger will fall woefully short of that indeed.

    If you’d like to argue that revealing his sin was necessary in proving that Tim Dick was not fit for leadership, I wonder if there isn’t a parallel to Natasha, and if SFU wasn’t justified in at least brining up her own Xanga indiscretions. If Tim Dick was not qualified to lead a ministry, is Jen qualified to be leading an Internet site dedicated to exposing heresy and setting people free from bondage? Sounds like a ministry to me. Ultimately, I can’t judge any of this at all. Individuals sitting together in a room, all with wisdom and personal knowledge of these situations, should be judging and doing the work of the Church. These are not questions a young heretic in Moscow should be asking about Homeschooling mothers in Texas and their daughters, people he will never see but whose sins he is very well acquainted with.

    Tim Dick, those who donated to him, Doug Phillips, and Jen all have one thing in common: no church government to handle this stuff the right way. I personally object to parachurch organizations and independent churches for this very reason. Where we lack government, though, the Internet is not a good solution. Who is holding Jen accountable? She has no elders. Do we here on the blog do that? Hardly. This whole thread started with me, a lone voice as I often am, piping up about name-calling. We all make apologies and move on. What happens, though, if I leave, and there are no other dissenting voices? What happens if it gets worse than name calling? What happens if it becomes libel, and what happens if Christians here have serious repenting to do to Doug Phillips or others? Where is the authority, where is the protection, where is the process, where is there any sense of order? Sounds like a very civilized written anarchy to me.

    I am upset about what happened to Andy Dick, and I am upset about what happened to Natasha. Both deserve much more than to be flayed alive on the Internet. The physical, immediate Church offers many protections and blessings that we forsake when we take this junk to the Internet. I have seen discipline work powerfully before, and I have cried in Church services when I have seen the beauty of repentance. There is no power like that here.

    So, short answer, I think we should expect far more than Matthew 18 when dealing with sin. And that’s what I don’t think the Internet is capable of doing.

    On a lighter not, Jen, in the middle of July I was in Austin for a wedding. I had never been there before. It was easily the best vacation I have ever had, and it only occurred to me that the seat of all of this was just a skip away. It’s beautiful country, and I want to go back. Maybe soon I can visit all of this and get my head around it a little better.

    I’ll post more later. I pray you all have restful Sabbaths.
    Red Ink

  20. Jen Says:

    Red Ink, I so appreciate your thoughtful posts here. Although we may differ slightly on the details, I think our hearts are both toward the peace and purity of the church catholic. Working that out in real life is sometimes difficult, complicated, and quite messy, though, isn’t it?

    You saw Natasha’s blogs and interpreted them as being from an angry young woman. Being a little closer to the situation, I interpret them as being from a very hurt young woman. Yes, there was a lot of sin on those blogs and I am not going to excuse it, but this excommunication has probably hurt my children far worse than it did Mark or me. In effect, they were punished to a greater degree than were their parents. It impacted them on a much deeper level. Part of that had to do with the fact that they had developed some very close relationships with their friends at BCA, while Mark and I did not. We both had other relationships outside BCA that had stronger ties. I do think, however, that deep hurt can manifest as anger, and that is probably what was so public from Natasha.

    Red Ink, try to picture yourself at 18 losing ALL your friends in one blow and you’ve done nothing wrong. You are part of a community that is similar to ours, so you know what happens when one of yours is shunned. And if your community is like ours, that is your WHOLE life for a child. You are absolutely correct that we need to show some compassion.

    Why is my exposing Ryan Dick’s sin different from SFU exposing Natasha’s? While I appreciate your calling what I am doing here a ministry, it did not start out that way. I did not set out to begin a ministry; I came here to tell my story. What happened after that was all God. However, even if I do have a ministry now, I don’t think I hold an office equivalent to that of an elder. Tim Dick, on the other hand, has a position similar to that of an elder, and certainly RC Sproul himself is an elder and young Ryan lives under his roof, so he at least should be held to that level of accountability. But more than all that, much more, is the fact that Ryan works at Ligonier, and is paid by donor money. For him to say all that he did about Ligonier, while being paid by Ligonier donors, was cause to bring that all to light, as the grandson who is under RC Sproul’s roof. And I absolutely agree with you that Ryan needed loving discipline and guidance as evidence by what I said in my article: “Tim, RC, and Vesta, we plead with you for this young man’s soul. It is obvious that the holiness of God is not very important to him. Please invest your lives in him before it is too late. … And everyone, please pray for this young man’s soul, for Ligonier, and for Christ to somehow be glorified in this situation.” Perhaps he received that love and guidance after my story about him.

    Maybe another thing that factors in differently with Natasha is the fact that we still live in the same town as all these people. Rather than attacking her, the SFU boys could be encouraging Natasha, praying with her, taking her to church, sharing God’s Word with her. In fact, since we were clearly told that the children were NOT excommunicated, why hasn’t anyone from BCA ever volunteered to take my children to church? Why can’t they take them to the church events they so long to attend? It’s not as if it that would even be a hardship. We are on the way for many people. Now that would be showing real Christian love to me. That might have been enough to bring about the repentance they desire in us, if only I knew what my sin was that I need to repent from!

    Red Ink, you are correct that the internet is certainly a different environment than warm bodies sitting together in a church, but I do believe the whole discipline process still applies. I will actually be addressing that issue quite soon. However, since you are a part of the internet scene, may I ask what you would suggest should be done differently to ensure appropriate Christian behavior online?

    You said, “Individuals sitting together in a room, all with wisdom and personal knowledge of these situations, should be judging and doing the work of the Church.” And “Tim Dick, those who donated to him, Doug Phillips, and Jen all have one thing in common: no church government to handle this stuff the right way.” I agree 100%. And I don’t necessarily think the internet is the best way to handle it when the church either refuses to do its duty or there is gross sin in the handling of the discipline process, BUT it is an option, WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS. I would not recommend that the average person take an unfair discipline case public normally. I believe the sin should be exposed to the same level of the influence of the sinner. Therefore if we have a very public figure who is not only sinning, but multiplying that by refusing to repent, then that necessitates public exposure to the same extent.

    That is why your situation in Moscow is different. While there is much that I disagree with Doug Wilson about, I do think he is sometimes treated unfairly online. If there are major sins for which he refuses to repent and if all avenues of possible reconciliation have been exhausted, then Doug Wilson should be publicly exposed. But the minor little nit-picky stuff that is said about him is totally uncalled for. As for his teachings, they are public and they should stand up to public scrutiny. Also, his public actions, such as what he did for RC, Jr., should be allowed to be scrutinized publicly as well. Beyond that, it enters into an area of gossip, possibly slander, and certainly tale bearing. I can understand your comparison of what I am doing with Doug Phillips to what has been done to Doug Wilson. At least Doug Wilson allows some comments on his blog and interacts with his readers. That provides for a much more frank discussion of the issues.

    “Who is holding Jen accountable? She has no elders. Do we here on the blog do that?”

    Thanks for asking. I have asked several men and women to hold me accountable not only regarding my blog, but also my daily personal life. I have more accountability now than I ever have in my life. Just in the last two days, I have had two different people advise me very strongly that I was going down the wrong path in two different situations, and since I have not only asked them to hold me accountable, but I also respect their brotherly concern for me, I changed my mind in both cases. Now, you are probably thinking that these people could not discipline me Scripturally if I sin, and you are correct, but because I have asked them to hold me to a very high standard of conduct, I am quite loath to lose their friendship and that has a pretty major impact on my thinking. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do right now.

    “What happens, though, if I leave, and there are no other dissenting voices? What happens if it gets worse than name calling? What happens if it becomes libel, and what happens if Christians here have serious repenting to do to Doug Phillips or others? Where is the authority, where is the protection, where is the process, where is there any sense of order? Sounds like a very civilized written anarchy to me.”

    I do have rules on this blog, Red Ink, and I try to make sure that they are followed. However, these same people who hold me accountable are QUICK to let me know when I need to take action on my blog. I cannot count how many times these men, especially, have noted situations on my blog that needed to be dealt with. As far as libel goes, I know it is difficult to take my word for it, but I am committed to telling only the absolute truth here. There are several stories I haven’t told here because either I don’t have the proof or I would be assigning intent and motive, and I won’t do that. Again, these same people hold me very accountable for what goes on my blog, and there’s been a lot that has not gone up. However, beyond that, I think I have been very open in continually asking Doug for any proof that might be contrary to anything I have written here. If I have said anything that is not true, I wish he would speak up. He has threatened to take me to court, so why hasn’t he? Could it be that I am telling the truth and there is nothing he could legitimately sue for me? I think so.

    But beyond all that, Red Ink, is that this seems to now be becoming a ministry to expose the teachings of patriarchy and legalism (and various other aberrations of God’s Word) and to provide the truth of God’s Word instead. I like the direction this is heading, and while there will be some more stories shortly, the main focus is beginning to shift, and I think that’s a good thing.

    If you ever come my direction again, feel free to look me up. I don’t bite!

  21. Spunky Says:

    Red Ink said: “Tim Dick, those who donated to him, Doug Phillips, and Jen all have one thing in common: no church government to handle this stuff the right way.”

    Red Ink, I would agree with you but in the case of Tim Dick and Doug Phillips, their lack of accountability was of their own choosing. Jen Epstien, however, was excommunicated by her church. Her lack of accountability was not her own choosing. Her local church declared her a “heathen” and a “publican” and that they no longer have jurisdiction over her. They removed accountability, she didn’t leave it. In fact, in a correspondence with her in 2005, they gave her six months to repent for some sins they believed she committed. They didn’t even wait there own alotted time, they excommunicated her with a month of that statement.

    And because her pastor, Doug Phillips, appears lacking in accountability, she had no place to go for an appeal to her excommunication. The church that might have helped reconcilliation, Faith PCA declared they had no jurisdiction in the matter. Doug Phillips lack of accountabilty has created Jen Epstein’s lack of accountability.

    So while all three appear to lack accountability, the reason for it is very different in Jen’s situation and she should not be included with men who appear to have chosen that for themselves.

    Red Ink: “Who is holding Jen accountable?”

    That is an excellent question and one worth asking. But one thing is clearly sure, it should NOT be Doug Phillips or the elders of BCA because they has declared that they no longer have jurisdiction over her or her minor children.

    Here’s what the excommunication said, “We must now inform you that effective immediately, you are excommunicated from the fellowship, and according to the Holy Scriptures to be treated as a heathens and publicans. You are removed from the membership roles as covenanting members. The church no longer has jurisdiction over you or your minor children. The members are no longer in fellowship with you.”

    So we are left with two alternatives for accountability

    1. the church if one believes Jen Epstein is a Christian, or

    2. the state if one opts for the view that she is a “heathen.”

    Depending on which stance one takes on her current status, one will act accordingly. That is why Doug Phillip’s actions are so odd to me. He and BCA have declared her a “heathen,” but they continue to respond as if they have jurisdiction and authority over her. It’s a fools errand! If they couldn’t restrain Jen BEFORE she was excommunicated, why do they think they will have any greater success now? While he is at the center of her blog, he no longer has any jurisdiction to exercise authority over her. He must seek a biblical remedy based on his grievance with those that have offended him, based upon his beliefs regarding a dispute between a Christian and a “heathen.” Given his use of the interent, it appears he believes trying this dispute in the “court of public opinion” is his best option. Time will tell if that was a good choice.

    “What happens, though, if I leave, and there are no other dissenting voices? What happens if it gets worse than name calling? What happens if it becomes libel, and what happens if Christians here have serious repenting to do to Doug Phillips or others? Where is the authority, where is the protection, where is the process, where is there any sense of order? Sounds like a very civilized written anarchy to me.”

    The answer is simple, depending on what one believes about the status of the person who has commited libel. If something is said by a Christian, you seek a remedy privately and then through the means of the church following Mathew 18. If the person is an unbeliever or “heathen”, you can choose to forgive them for they know not what they do as Christ has done. Or if you feel that they have caused personal injury to you, your family, or your estate a legal appeal can be made to the state because libel is a criminal offense. Granted libel laws regarding blogging are still being worked out because of the newness of the internet, but simply because the legal community has not addressed it does not negate it as an option.

    If a commenter here has serious repenting to do to Doug Phillips, it is up to Doug Phillips to bring that charge against the individual. No one here should assume they have offended Doug and need to repent unless the Holy Spirit has convicted them of such sin or Doug Phillips has confronted them for their actions. His remedy as a believer is the same as it does for all believers. He can overlook the offense or he can go to him as Mathew 18 instructs. His noteriety does not change his responsibilities as a believer to follow biblical instructions in conflict resolution.

    Doug Phillips is a public figure who says bold things. Just as you feel the need to be a dissenting voice to Jen, others feel the need to be a dissenting voice to Doug Phillips. And to the extent that you believe Jen has ministry and you are offering a dissent, so to those that open up blogs and disagree with Doug Phillips. The fact that the websites that Doug Phillips has authority over don’t allow commentary, makes a blog like this very compelling to those who would like to discuss and examine what he says and believes. If he is bold enough to put it out there, others are going to be just as bold in reply.

    A public figure has to expect that there will be negative comments said in a harsh and rude way. And yes, even believers will act and speak unkindly. Doug Phillips should respond as any other believer should respond.

    However, the responsibility of those who have supported the ministry of Vision Forum is to determine if the manner in which Doug Phillips and the elders of BCA acted in the excommunication process and afterward is above reproach.

    Therefore, any attempt to refute the attacks or ‘vile schemes’ of the Epsteins must be done in accordance with proper biblical order and be above reproach, lest Doug Phillips or the elders fall into the very temptations for which they excommunicated the Epsteins.

    Galatians 6:1 says. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

    That is why I continue to place greater weight and emphasis on the statements of Doug Phillips and Vision Forum and less on a ‘heathen’ who I wouldn’t or shouldn’t expect to act in a manner contrary to the reasons for which they were excommunicated.

    Jen’s actions (both right and wrong) only serve to help me discern whether Doug Phillips is acting in a manner worthy of his calling as elder of BCA, a leader in the Christian homeschool community, and my continued support. I have not made a determination on that yet. Since the story is still unfolding and for now Doug Phillips is choosing to allow others to speak on his behalf.

    I want to make sure that the ministries we support are above reproach and credible. It is with that heart in mind, that we will continue to watch what the events unfold. How he handles this trial demonstrates his character and his faith in a much better way than any teaching he gives. I find the teachings at times inspirational and helpful, but I also want to know that the man I listen to walks in integrity.

    It is my earnest prayer that all who profess the name of Christ are humble and willing to admit where they may have failed in applying God’s Word in their life. That is why public forums such as blogs are so helpful, our words can be examined and errors quickly corrected. So while some get upset at the blogging of this dispute, it is the very public nature of the internet that will hopefully bring about the complete repentance our Lord desires and for His glory alone. And if we believe that our Lord is indeed sovereign, then the internet is exactly the avenue HE chose for it all to take place.

  22. Mark Epstein Says:

    All,

    Regarding defamation (whether libel or slander), some serious questions need to be asked;

    First, if Jen or I are actually guilty of defaming Doug Phillips or anyone at BCA then, why, considering our status as “publican and heathens” hasn’t Phillips or anyone else sued us? Furthermore, considering Doug’s routine threats of lawsuits again, why haven’t we been sued? There are actually two reasons: (1) We’re telling the truth and Doug is not and (2) the same Texas Supreme Court decision applies to us as it does Doug – the secular courts will not address a church issue, which boils down to Doug believing he was correct in executing a Star Chamber excommunication and those who do not believe he was correct. Can we say “theological difference”? About biblical difference? In either case, the secular courts are loathe to touch these issues.

    Secondly, for all of Bob Reanud’s and Doug Phillips’ rhetoric concerning the non-precedent setting Texas Supreme Court decision, there is an element within the decision that does make Doug Phillips liable civilly. The following is why Phillips is liable:

    The boys at Tired and SFU published information on the internet about a private citizen (Jennifer Epstein) that they were never privy to. It was not contained in the discipline statement, and it was not discussed outside a private conversation with Doug Phillips. Therefore, either Doug, one of his deacons, or one of Doug’s inner-circle subordinates at Vision Forum leaked the information to the boys at Tired and SFU (no, I’m not going to share the specific information). The bottom line is this: During the course of legal discovery, the trail would lead to Doug the pastor/elder. The Texas Supreme Court held that such communication did NOT fall within the context of the church and, therefore, Phillips is liable.

    On a related note, it is obvious (based on Renaud’s article about the Texas Supreme Court decision) that neither Renaud’s nor Phillips’ legal research skills are what they should be. A 1L student (first year law student) is expected to do a better job researching precedents. It makes me question Oakbrook Law School’s professionalism, as well as Doug’s mentoring skills. Of course, since both Doug and Oakbrook are connected to Gothard, it doesn’t surprise me at all. 🙂

  23. Lynn Says:

    Red Ink:
    “If you’d like to argue that revealing his sin was necessary in proving that Tim Dick was not fit for leadership, I wonder if there isn’t a parallel to Natasha, and if SFU wasn’t justified in at least brining up her own Xanga indiscretions. If Tim Dick was not qualified to lead a ministry, is Jen qualified to be leading an Internet site dedicated to exposing heresy and setting people free from bondage?”

    Red Ink, I can’t add any more to what Jen has said, other than to emphasize nobody was paying Natasha, which Jen implied. As Jen said, Ryan was doing what he was doing, being paid for with donations. Yes, Ryan is accountable to those who trusted Ligonier; he was part and parcel of that ministry. And it didn’t make his father look too good, either.

    I would like to add Ryan was in the “good graces” of his Christian community while doing such things. Compare this to Natasha in a similar situation. When Natasha was in the “good graces” of BCA, she was such a model of deportment and talent that she was awarded a prize for an essay, and she was a sitter for one of the Phillips’ children.

    This comparison of Natasha to Ryan has been made before, but there is no comparison. The hint that Jen shouldn’t have her blog because Natasha is now doing things that concern everybody, and that Jen is being hypocritical because she is complaining about Ligonier and her situation is just like them, is bogus when remember that:

    1) Jen isn’t soliciting donar money, unlike Ligonier.

    2) Natasha thrived at BCA, and conducted herself well enough to be trusted by the Phillips while there, very different from Ryan Dick under such circumstances.

    3) Natasha’s behavior that COULD be compared to Ryan Dick’s happened AFTER severe social isolation, which amounts to abuse, from BCA, abuse that was meeted to her without just cause.

    4) Jen, after months of trying to deal with Phillips, starts discussing the situation on the internet. She talks about their trial where she and her husband were not allowed to be present, and that she and her husband were treated as one unit, when before that BCA told them they were being disciplined as individuals. Jen also discusses how this has impacted her children.

    So I remain thoroughly unconvinced of the charges of hypocrisy, and of claiming there is a close comparison between Natasha Epstein and Ryan Dick, and between Jen Epstein and Tim Dick, such that Jen should shut down her blog.

  24. CynthiaGee Says:

    A comparison “between Jen Epstein and Tim Dick” ???

    I can’t see one, personally.
    Jen answers her Email, answers the commenters on her blog, and Jen’s articles and comments make a lot better sense than do the meandering writings of Tim Dick.

  25. CD-Host Says:

    Mark —

    I’ve discussed this a few times on my bog. But you have a problem regarding Doug and expectation of privacy.

    1) Doug isn’t a secular counselor (as Westerbrook was). Any conversation you had with him was in a pastoral context.

    2) He had a discipline policy that was well known, so its hard to argue that given the 1st amendment considerations BCA doesn’t determine if there is a breach.

    3) Doug was pulling in non members (like his wife).

    In a court how would you prove that there was an expectation of privacy? Did Doug ever promise to keep stuff confidential?

    Don’t get me wrong here. I completely believe that most people think what they say to the pastors should be confidential and that Doug leaked the information in an unethical way. I just have serious question if it is tortable or not.

  26. Jen Says:

    CD-Host, what discipline policy did Doug have that was well known? Apparently I missed that part of my own story.

    Also, Doug’s wife was considered a member, just as I was considered a member. If I wasn’t a member, I couldn’t be excommunicated, and I certainly couldn’t be excommunicated for not being 100% in compliance with their Confession. I think it must be confusing that only the man signed the covenant of membership, but that signature automatically bound his whole family to membership as well.

    I don’t recall if Doug ever promised us confidentiality in counseling, but he demanded it of us. For years, I carried this secret around with me, very afraid to let anyone know about that first counseling statement.

  27. CD-Host Says:

    Jen —

    We actually are discussing three different topics. I’ll break these up. In terms of Doug on discipline (part 1)

    I don’t know BCA but London Baptist confessions puts a fairly strong obligation on the congregation to discipline (it is a mandatory obligation of leadership). Further Doug’s written stuff talks about being under authority to the church all the time. He openly identifies with the reformed tradition including church discipline.

    Jen under oath are you going to be able to say that you:

    1) Didn’t know that BCA would perform discipline in accordance with their understanding of Matthew 18?
    2) Didn’t know that BCA would actually excommunicate?

    Jehovah’s witnesses have won case after case after case. To prove that a discipline action is tortable you have a positive obligation to prove that:

    1) You had no reason to believe such action would be taken

    2) The discipline as it occurred violated the rules as interpreted by the religious institution. Remember the courts don’t have authority to interpret the meaning of the bible so you would pretty much need BCA to say that Doug was in error.

  28. CD-Host Says:

    Now part 2 in terms of you being a member. Remember here the court can rule. And you have the Norman Hancock precedent (Churchs cannot discipline a non member), or if you want a protestant example: Guinn vs. Church of Christ of Collinsville.

    Here is where you have the best defense. You never signed a membership agreement. There is very serious question from a legal standpoint that you ever consented to be disciplined. OTOH here I think the ethics are reversed from the first part. You considered yourself a member, so even if legally you aren’t and Dougs actions are tortable this is an example of him thinking with his theology and not his legal degree.

    If you want to clarify things and issue a letter severing your relationship with BCA and Doug continues to go after you if you join a new church then you most definitely have a tortable act. But since your membership status is vague I think if you want to actually sue you probably should legally sever your relationship.

  29. CD-Host Says:

    Finally in terms of a confidentiality agreement, can you give me the link?

  30. Mark Epstein Says:

    CD-Host,

    I think you may be commenting under a false impression.

    First, I did not identify the area that was violated. I did not identify it as a “pastoral counseling” issue. You made an assumption that what I consider tortious had something to do with pastoral confidence and counseling. This may not necessarily be true.

    Secondly, whether criminal or civil, intent is an issue. The burden of proof is far less in civil cases than in criminal, and “motive” in a criminal case is not necessarily relevant except to show some basis of criminal intent. As long as the appropriate mens rea is established via the appropriate evidence, motive can be extraneous.

    Third, regardless of the London Baptist Confession, this has nothing to do with Phillips’ tortious behavior nor does the discipline nor the excommunication. The tortious conduct occurred AFTER being excommunicated. Since we were no longer members of BCA, what legitimate purpose did the allegation serve? In fact, what business does anyone have blogging about a private citizen? Even Phillips himself heralded the ruling that found an individual liable for defaming a private citizen. Keep in mind the court’s definition of defamation, whether in oral or written form.

    Fourth, returning to intent for just a moment, regardless of where Phillips learned the information, what did he do with it? Was it deliberately passed/leaked for the purposes of deliberately inflicting emotional distress? If so, Phillips cannot claim this to be a matter of “church discipline” because the biblical text makes it clear the point of even excommunication is restoration and, therefore, since he is operating outside a theological basis he cannot claim First Amendment protection.

    Fifth, Phillips would not enjoy First Amendment protection if shown to be the source of a lie concerning a private citizen. Pastors do not have carte blanche to operate outside the laws that constrain private citizens. This is not the intent of the First Amendment as it applies to churches.

    Lastly, though it may seem unfair that I am not supplying specifics, I am just not at liberty to do so. Phillips knows what he did, which is why he is acting like a cornered animal as of late.

  31. Lynn Says:

    Mark:
    “Lastly, though it may seem unfair that I am not supplying specifics, I am just not at liberty to do so. Phillips knows what he did, which is why he is acting like a cornered animal as of late.”

    Mark, I think most of us had it figured out a long time ago that there had to have been at least one thing Doug Phillips or someone affiliated with BCA or Vision Forum (or as is probably the case, affiliated with both) did that is allowing Jen to keep this blog up.

    And that in spite of Phillips’ blustering about how I Corinthians 6 doesn’t apply to excommunicants.

    We saw what happened to Joe Taylor. We know if these people believe they can legally “mess over” their opponents, they will. The only reasonable conclusion, after seeing what happened w/Joe Taylor, and seeing the gross details about your life broadcasted on those vile sites after the article came out on Ministry Watchman, is that Phillips now has no choice but to let Jen have this blog.

    After Little G and SFU and TOTC and mrsbino, the other possible conclusion that Doug is just being oh so noble and manly and aboveboard in being quiet about this is just laughable. Totally laughable.

  32. Jen Says:

    CD-Host, I think we are commenting from two different perspectives here. You are operating under the assumption that I hold the secular courts as a viable option for me. I have not been considering that to
    be an option thus far.

    Now, it is possible that Doug could still decide to sue me, and in that case, here is how I would answer your four questions:
    “1) Didn’t know that BCA would perform discipline in accordance with their understanding of Matthew 18?”
    In retrospect, yes, I understood this, although I’ve never seen it happen before, so it was outside my frame of reference.
    “2) Didn’t know that BCA would actually excommunicate?”
    Once I was read the disciplinary statement, that became obvious. Before that, it wasn’t anything I had ever heard of in my circles before.
    “1) You had no reason to believe such action would be taken”
    I had no legitimate reason to believe that I would be excommunicated — no. If I were living in sin and refused to repent, then I should expect discipline. Otherwise, I had no such expectations.
    “2) The discipline as it occurred violated the rules as interpreted by the religious institution. Remember the courts don’t have authority to interpret the meaning of the bible so you would pretty much need BCA to say that Doug was in error.”
    I don’t know if anyone at BCA would stand up to Doug, but not charging me with a specific offense would generally be seen as violating the rules by any other institution. Also, having no opportunity to face my accusers, to answer for myself, to provide witnesses, and to appeal would also fall in the general category of violating the rules.

    How a secular judge would rule on these issues is really of no concern to me.

    I see your point in legally severing my relationship with BCA since I didn’t actually sign anything myself, but I think my situation is so public by now that that would be entirely fruitless. And it would be a technicality. I am not looking to get off on a technicality; I am looking for Doug to do the right thing.

    The confidentiality agreement was not in writing, but the story and the document can be found here.

  33. CD-Host Says:

    Jen —

    Its kind of confusing because you and mark seem to saying the opposite. Originally towards Mark I was addressing strictly the legal position (did Doug do anything tortable). I was responding too:
    there is an element within the decision that does make Doug Phillips liable civilly. The following is why Phillips is liable:

    The boys at Tired and SFU published information on the internet about a private citizen (Jennifer Epstein) that they were never privy to. It was not contained in the discipline statement, and it was not discussed outside a private conversation with Doug Phillips. Therefore, either Doug, one of his deacons, or one of Doug’s inner-circle subordinates at Vision Forum leaked the information to the boys at Tired and SFU (no, I’m not going to share the specific information). The bottom line is this: During the course of legal discovery, the trail would lead to Doug the pastor/elder. The Texas Supreme Court held that such communication did NOT fall within the context of the church and, therefore, Phillips is liable.

    So in other words this is a factual argument about legal status. Where I’m arguing that there is no tortable act of Phillips I have heard of.

    For example don’t know if anyone at BCA would stand up to Doug, but not charging me with a specific offense would generally be seen as violating the rules by any other institution. Also, having no opportunity to face my accusers, to answer for myself, to provide witnesses, and to appeal would also fall in the general category of violating the rules.

    Unless BCA says these things violated their rules of discipline then a court can’t find they did. The courts have been absolutely clear they cannot interpret the bible.

    Lets take an extreme example. Lets assume that Doug’s trial procedure was to draw to perform a tarot reading to determine innocence or guilt. Unless BCA itself says that’s an inappropriate church trail procedure or you had reason to believe another procedure would be used they win. They are absolutely not obligated to prove their system was either biblical or just.

    Now of course if you don’t actually sue none of this matters. Anyway my next response will be to Mark in a legal context.

  34. Jen Says:

    CD-Host: “Its kind of confusing because you and mark seem to saying the opposite.”

    You perceive well.

    “Where I’m arguing that there is no tortable act of Phillips I have heard of.”

    Correct again.

    I am arguing only from a Christian perspective, not a secular, legal one.

  35. CD-Host Says:

    First, I did not identify the area that was violated. I did not identify it as a “pastoral counseling” issue. You made an assumption that what I consider tortious had something to do with pastoral confidence and counseling. This may not necessarily be true.

    You are correct. I’m working on the assumption its the issue from part 1 of the story. If it is something else then that creates a whole other situation.

    Secondly, whether criminal or civil, intent is an issue. The burden of proof is far less in civil cases than in criminal, and “motive” in a criminal case is not necessarily relevant except to show some basis of criminal intent. As long as the appropriate mens rea is established via the appropriate evidence, motive can be extraneous.

    Actually motive matters. Case law is pretty clear that there has to be an intent to harm financially, interfere with a marriage or other activity as part of the shunning / post excommunication process. Otherwise you can’t establish harm.

    Third, regardless of the London Baptist Confession, this has nothing to do with Phillips’ tortious behavior nor does the discipline nor the excommunication. The tortious conduct occurred AFTER being excommunicated. Since we were no longer members of BCA, what legitimate purpose did the allegation serve?

    The courts have consistently found that excommunication is a pastoral act because of the whole “restoration” thing (in Christianity with a long tradition of excommunicated being restored). In Judaism where excommunication (cherum) is generally for life the courts wouldn’t find the same. Pretty much as a Christian you as a member have to sever the relationship to end your consent. I cover this on my blog:

    How to leave a church.

    In fact, what business does anyone have blogging about a private citizen? Even Phillips himself heralded the ruling that found an individual liable for defaming a private citizen. Keep in mind the court’s definition of defamation, whether in oral or written form.

    If you mean SFU he doesn’t have a pastoral relationship with you. The problem is if you are right that he got the information from Phillips: then he got information from your pastor which is a credible source and thus he didn’t know the information to be false…. The nice things is that he can call Phillips and force him to testify that the gave to SFU which at the least is a moral victory.

    Fourth, returning to intent for just a moment, regardless of where Phillips learned the information, what did he do with it? Was it deliberately passed/leaked for the purposes of deliberately inflicting emotional distress? If so, Phillips cannot claim this to be a matter of “church discipline” because the biblical text makes it clear the point of even excommunication is restoration and, therefore, since he is operating outside a theological basis he cannot claim First Amendment protection.

    He can argue that the emotional distress was part of the discipline process. You can’t argue he’s wrong theologically, the court can’t rule on that. What they can rule on is the level of distress rises to a level in which the state has a compelling interest. That’s like the Andrew Yoder case.

    So what would be the compelling state interest in your case?
    For example in the Yoder was very borderline and he was excommunicated and completely and totally shunned for five years. Moreover the underlying sin (taking his extremely sick daughter to a doctor) pissed off the jury. The judge basically argued there was financial harm when Yoder lost his farm and that’s where the damages came from.

    Fifth, Phillips would not enjoy First Amendment protection if shown to be the source of a lie concerning a private citizen. Pastors do not have carte blanche to operate outside the laws that constrain private citizens. This is not the intent of the First Amendment as it applies to churches.

    Of course not. If he intentionally lied then you could likely vacate his 1st amendment protections and go after him for libel. But then you are getting him for the lie not the breach of confidentiality which is a different issue.

  36. Spunky Says:

    Lynn said, “I think most of us had it figured out a long time ago that there had to have been at least one thing Doug Phillips or someone affiliated with BCA or Vision Forum (or as is probably the case, affiliated with both) did that is allowing Jen to keep this blog up.”

    It is clear that BCA and the men of Vision Forum are for some reason reluctant to go to a court of law to handle this matter, the very place where an anonymous writer on the BCA website said it should be handled. On the page with the letter from Faith PCA it said,

    “The Epsteins have slandered innocent men and women on the Internet. They have attempted to disrupt businesses, to destroy ministries, and have waged a vengeance campaign of hatred and deceit by personally serving as judge, jury, and executioner of those they hate before the entire world on the Internet. In order to garner sympathy for themselves and to squelch accountability for their unlawful behavior, the Epsteins have tried to persuade the general public that it is fine to conduct trials before the world on the Internet, but not before courts of law.”

    In the view of BCA here’s how it plays out….

    Perpetrator: Jen Epstein for unlawful acts of slander.

    Victim: Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, and BCA who have suffered under her schemes.

    Given that casting of players, the comment from this writer left me scratching my head in bewilderment. What “perpetrator” seeks accountability for their unlawful behavior? Most run and hide, few turn themselves in! Nearly all squelch accountability in one way or another. Isn’t it the obligation of the victim to seek accountablity for illegal actions against them by the perpetrator? Why does the writer expect Jen Epstein to go to a “court of law” against the victim, isn’t it the other way around?”

    Surprisingly, the “victims” do not go to the court of law where they claim this belongs and instead go to the same “court of public opinion” that they fault the perpetrator for inappropriately using against them – the INTERNET. And they use the internet to inform the perpetrator that this doesn’t belong on the internet at all but in court of law????

    The “victim” can’t have it both ways.

    On the one hand they say this should be in a court of law and fault the perpetrator for not taking it there; but at the same time refuse to meet their own obligation to take it a court of law.

    And on the other hand, they say that the internet is NOT the place to handle this and fault the perpetrator for using it to gain sympathy, and all the while use the internet to hold the perpetrator accountable (whom they have no jurisdiction over) and gain sympathy for their cause.

    So who is truly squelching accountability?

  37. Lynn Says:

    Spunky:
    “The “victim” can’t have it both ways.

    On the one hand they say this should be in a court of law and fault the perpetrator for not taking it there; but at the same time refuse to meet their own obligation to take it a court of law.

    And on the other hand, they say that the internet is NOT the place to handle this and fault the perpetrator for using it to gain sympathy, and all the while use the internet to hold the perpetrator accountable (whom they have no jurisdiction over) and gain sympathy for their cause.”

    Brilliant. I just wanted for people to see the hypocrisy again, so I quoted it.

  38. Bryan Says:

    “On the one hand they say this should be in a court of law and fault the perpetrator for not taking it there; but at the same time refuse to meet their own obligation to take it a court of law.”

    But you see, Doug is taking the high road by NOT suing fellow Christians Jen and Mark. (which I am sure he emulated from his good buddies over at Ligonier).

    On the other hand, since they are excommunicated, they can’t be considered “real Christians”, so perhaps 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 doesn’t apply?


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