Mea Culpa

But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord;
In You I take refuge;
Do not leave my soul destitute.
Keep me from the snares they have laid for me,
And from the traps of the workers of iniquity.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
While I escape safely.
Psalm 141:8-10

Many people have rightly encouraged me to seek to be integrated into a local church since my excommunication. That is easier said than done. Here’s a brief history of the last three years.

Church #1 — Living Water Fellowship. We attended there for six months, at Little Bear’s request, while he attempted to work with Doug Phillips to get him to drop the excommunication. We left because of severe doctrinal differences.

Church #2 — an OPC church. We went there with the intention of finding a church that was strong on Reformed theology and church governmental structure that allowed for appeals and basic rights for church members. After one month, we left when we were informed of some very extreme teachings in that particular congregation.

Church #3 — Faith Presbyterian Church. We went to another Presbyterian church for the same reasons as the last one and because the elders there promised to help us. Their requirements, eventually, were that we take down our story in preparation for going to Peacemakers with Doug Phillips. After three months of attending there, the elders finally met with Doug for several hours. The outcome of that meeting was that they told us to return to Doug and repent and pay restitution. When I inquired as to what I was to repent from, they said they didn’t know. So after several hours, the outcome of the meeting was that we were to repent, but they had no clue as to why? We left that church not understanding why Reformed elders would make such a quick and complete turn-about.

Church #4 — an independent Reformed church. We show up anonymously and don’t say anything about who we are, the excommunication, our story, anything. We did notice that we knew two families, one of whom was not speaking to us, but who was quick to speak to the elders on our first Sunday there. After our third Sunday, we received a letter in the mail asking us not to return. No questions. Just don’t come back.

Church #5 — an NCT church. I was sure this one would be different. I first approached the elders and was up front about everything. They welcomed me immediately and asked me to start attending that Sunday. I knew there were some people in that church who were not happy with my telling my story, so I offered to attempt to reconcile with those people first, so as not to cause a church split. Although the elders didn’t ask me to do anything at first, their demands began to grow and change on a fairly regular basis, until I couldn’t keep up with all the specifics of what was being required of me in order to attend this church. Finally, it boiled down to apologizing on my blog, which I did; then taking down my blog without any explanation, which I did, much to the great confusion of most of my readers; writing a letter of apology to Doug and all the BCA families, which I did; and having a gag on speaking about Doug, Vision Forum, or these issues. When I was first told what I had to apologize for, I said that I had not done those particular things, so I apologized for what I felt I had done. I will not say that I did everything perfectly in this last year of telling my story, so I was glad to give a heartfelt apology for certain things. But then they started applying a LOT of pressure. In the end, I was coerced into agreeing that I had done certain things which I did not feel that I had done. One of those things was admitting that I harmed Vision Forum or that they lost business in some way. I fought greatly against saying those things, but was heavily pressured into agreeing with them. I greatly desired to attend this particular church, so I acquiesced in the end. Here is the letter the the elders of this church helped me write that I sent to Doug and each family at BCA. They would have received this on December 24th.

My Dear Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

I have thought about you often in the last three years. I pray for you every day. I love you dearly and have many fond memories of our years together at BCA.

Doug, and brothers and sisters at BCA, I am really wanting to walk away from all of this. God has brought me to the end of my rope both emotionally, and by daily teaching me about grace. I am hoping that this repentance letter will help me put the BCA chapter behind us, and start anew trying to build my marriage, nurture my family, and have peace with Doug and BCA. Please hear my heart.

I have made many public accusations against Doug, some of which were clearly mocking in nature. I have vehemently spoken out against many of Doug’s actions towards me. This resulted in escalation and further division among the body. I recognize that I have ardently spoken out against Doug’s actions towards others. I have publicly accused Doug of using his blog for manipulative purposes. I have publicly criticized, and rebuked Doug. I have vehemently disagreed with Doug on many issues and aired it in a non-private, but public way. I have forcefully spoken out against the way Doug has handled many situations. Further, I have continually brought up many areas of disagreement with Doug personally, and I have questioned many of his actions, bringing doubt to a large public audience.

My actions have resulted in division in the body of Christ, especially in the community, for which I am both very sorry, and I turn from now. These actions have also resulted in harm to Vision Forum, for which I am also very sorry, and I turn from now. I realize that my actions have hurt Doug, the man, which goes further than objective disagreements. I turn from actions that bring hurt to Doug, who is my brother in Christ. I am sorry for mocking Doug regarding his mother and the catalog, and in other ways. I am sorry I used unnecessarily strong language when I accused Doug of having sociological cult-like behaviors and accused him of spiritual rape. This language is subjective, divisive and hurtful. I am sorry I wrote “Shame on you” to Doug when he was still my elder. I realize that I have not tamed my tongue (James 3:8), and it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it I bless my Lord and Father, and with it, I have cursed Doug who has been made in the likeness of God (James 3:9). I do not want to do this any longer, and I turn from it now. Further, I am sorry for continuing to hammer on Doug. That was, and is, not necessary. I am sorry for sending the emails to the homeschool leaders. I am sorry for passing out the journal articles at Arlington. I am sorry for not being respectful to Doug and to those at BCA and Vision Forum in this matter, and in other matters. I am ashamed of the wrong things I have been doing, and I turn from them (repent) now. Doug and BCA, I want to walk away from them, and I want to start my life all over again. Will you please, please, accept my apology, and my turning from these things to try and start over in growing in the Lord. Will you please forgive me?

I’m sure you know that I told my story about my excommunication online. When I first began telling it, my intent was only to talk about Doug, from which I have repented at this time. I did not want to bring anyone else’s name into it, and had planned on redacting all other names from my primary source documents, but there was a clamoring online to reveal all the names. I willingly gave into this and accept responsibility, but now I am very sorry that all the names were brought out into the public and I would like to apologize to B, R and J, R and R, B and D, M and A, K, and L, and anyone else, for bringing their names into the public limelight. If there are any I have forgotten, I apologize as well. Will you please forgive me for doing so?

In February of this year, something new began happening within me that has taken time to grow and produce fruits. What happened is that I was arguing online for theonomy. A retired pastor came along and challenged me and I was not able to answer his questions. This intrigued me and he offered to teach me about the Law. Since that was one of my favorite subjects, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to hang on to Jen’s beliefs and my presuppositions very badly, but I was also sold out for the truth of God’s Word. After many weeks of wrestling through God’s Word, often 8-12 hours a day, God finally convicted me that I was wrong in my beliefs and that I needed to line up my thinking with His Word. So I repented. This pastor then taught me how to study the Bible and how to interpret Scripture. I have since studied the Bible several hours a day for most of this year. That had a huge impact on my life, as you might well imagine. I came to realize that I had a veil over my heart, as described in II Cor. 3, because I was still living under the Law of Moses. Jesus fulfilled and abolished (made of no effect) that Law on the cross and gave us a new law — the one written on our hearts. I am not an antinomian either! I truly believe in obeying God’s Law. I also recognize that I am not perfect, and obedience must be worked into me.

So when that veil was lifted, God began exposing my heart and I found a lot of ugly things there. One thing that was particularly hard to own was the fact that I had become a pharisee in my legalism. When we’re in the middle of legalism, it’s nearly impossible to recognize, but when God brings us out of it, hindsight is definitely 20/20. Not only am I ashamed of my legalism now, but God exposed that judgmental spirit that went with it. I tried so hard not to judge others, but when I look back now, all I can see is judgmentalism. Judgmentalism is nothing other than plain old pride. Some of that judgmentalism was directed toward some of you. I am very sorry for judging you in my legalism. God has freed me from that spirit of pride now and I would like to ask your forgiveness for that as well.

In all the many hours of Bible study, I became very firm in my beliefs in the doctrines of Grace. I had not previously understood them fully and I’m glad to take a firm stance on that now. But I also discovered that not only do I not agree with various theologies and doctrines out there, but that there is a name for the theology I have come to embrace and hold dear. It is the oldest Christian theology known to be, having been around since the time of the apostles, but it has not been labeled as a specific theology until recently. New Covenant Theology is the theology of the New Covenant (New Testament). Jesus said, “This is the New Covenant in My blood,” so New Covenant Theology is centered on the work and person of Jesus Christ. We do not reject any part of the Old Testament, and in fact, often study the whole Bible, but I have learned to interpret the Old Testament by reading the New Testament. I never even realized that the key to understanding what the Old Testament says is to look in the New Testament. It revolutionized my biblical thinking!

I do not want a difference in theology to cause any more strife among the Body. Because of this I think it would be best if I did not return to BCA. I would like to say a proper good-bye. Change is hard but good and often necessary.

I wish the best for each one of you. I am grateful for all the years we had together. It is time for me to move on.

God has even given me a new name!

Merry Christmas and may God bless each of you with a love for the truth of His Word.

Jen Epstein

Combined with my public apology on my blog, I was truly sorry for certain things in the last year, although I think that many people were not clear about what exactly I was apologizing for. At this point, I’m not sure exactly what I was apologizing for! I was attempting to apologize for some of the ways in which I handled the whole thing. So, with these two apologies in mind, notice what Doug Phillips posted, in part, on his blog, only three short days later, and with Christmas in between:


III. Forgive Those Who Have Wronged You


Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21)

In the course of a year, it is possible to build up many offenses and personal grievances at others. Left unaddressed, these grievances fester and grow. They turn the heart black and the body weak. They foster a spirit of vengeance and misguided self-righteousness. The short of it is this: Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Bitterness curdles the mind and the spirit.

Fresh starts and new years should begin with forgiveness for others. Having a genuine spirit of forgiveness towards those who have wronged us is a mark of biblical Christianity. It is an evidence that we have been redeemed, and that we are praying lawfully: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Successful Christians are men and women who are free from bitterness. They have learned the principle modeled by our Lord Jesus Christ who, while suffering death at the hands of people he had never wronged, was able to say “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24). I have a dear preacher friend with a sterling reputation who was once grievously slandered. When asked about the wicked actions of the slanderers, he replied something to this effect:
Oh you don’t understand — I am far, far worse than my detractors realize. They may have gotten a lot of the specific facts wrong, but I am just thankful they don’t know how bad my heart truly is. God have mercy on me a sinner.

This man had victory over bitterness.

My father is another man who always appeared to have victory over bitterness. In fact, from my earliest days to the present, I have watched lesser men “twist the truths [he’s] spoken to make a trap for fools.”

Early in my life when I was still in government schools, I would listen to my own teachers criticize before my class the work my father was doing for the President to dismantle a government agency which was at war with the family. I read untruthful articles and saw derogatory comics on the pages of the Washington Post picturing him as a caveman for his “prehistoric” views. When my father was a leader in the Republican Party in Massachusetts, a gangster repeatedly threatened the life of his family. I remember being a boy and having my father shield me from homosexual picketers and protesters that would follow him and our family around at public locations.

Most painful and difficult for many to forgive is betrayal and dishonor. But that is a mistake. Betrayal and dishonor probably exist in the lives of most men. And why should any Christian be denied in their lives what past generations of Christians — and our Lord and Savior Himself — patiently endured? To our shame, most of us have been on both sides of that coin. From a son’s perspective, however, it is highly instructive to watch a father act honorably in the midst of such conflict. It has been a great blessing in my own life to observe my father nobly respond even in the face of barbs from former allies and friends, once loved and nurtured by him.

Eternally optimistic, Dad would always say: “Never be bitter. Life is too short. Thank God for your blessings. Press on!”

Bitterness comes from being unwilling to forgive. Bitter people are small people. They are unsuccessful people. They are people who cannot move forward. They are people who believe that the personal wrongs against them are so great that they — the offended — are entitled to do to their offenders what they pray the Lord Jesus Christ will never do to them: refuse to forgive.

Here is my recommendation: Think through every grief, minor and major, caused by others to you in the year 2007. Now add to the list any other personal offenses that continue to linger from past years. Write these down as bullets on a sheet of paper.

The first thing you will likely realize is just how many offenses are polluting your thought life and, probably, your spirit. This is a sign of latent bitterness. Bitterness will kill you. It renders you completely ineffective.

Now prayerfully walk through the list — bullet, by bullet. With each offense, remind yourself that the most despicable action taken against you by another utterly (and infinitely) pales in comparison to the least of your offenses against the Lord Jesus Christ.

And yet He has forgiven you.

Before 2008 begins, adopt a spirit of forgiveness towards your insensitive friends as well as your hateful enemies. Forgive your imperfect father for whatever it is you need to forgive him for (and pray to the Lord that your own children someday forgive you for your failures). Quit devoting untold precious hours to commiseration, mental replay of the wrongs done, and thoughts about just how badly you were wronged. Stop blaming everybody but you for your problems. Look to yourself. Once you start chronicling your own sinful attitudes and crimes against God and man, you simply won’t have time to worry about the wrongs done to you. You will stop being bitter, and you will start being thankful.

Wipe the slate clean. “Press on.” Forgive.

What excellent advice! When I saw this immediately after Doug had received my letter of apology, I was sure that he would follow his own advice, even as I chose to offer him forgiveness as well. But you see, the above advice about forgiveness is not quite complete. I like to think of Christ’s example to us. Christ paid the price for our sin. He offers us His forgiveness. All we have to do is believe Him and accept His forgiveness. Now, I am in no way saying that my offer of forgiveness is as pure as Christ’s is, but that is certainly our example. I have offered complete forgiveness to Doug Phillips, should he choose to accept it. I have also offered an apology for certain ways in which I have handled this public warning.

So did Doug accept my apology? Am I now a part of church #5? Or is there something in the water here in San Antonio, as Corrie so eloquently puts it?

In my desperation for fellowship with people in real life, I made a foolish mistake and compromised what I worked so hard for this last year. When I first started telling my story, I knew God was leading me to do so. In looking back over the last year, I have hundreds of testimonies from people whose lives have been impacted this year because I told my story. An interesting testimony that I have heard multiple times this year goes something like this: “I knew you spoke the truth because I lived it, too!” How many more similar stories are out there, but people are afraid to tell them? Or how many more comparable records of spiritual abuse are there in the patriarchy movement but the leaders are not public figures like Doug Phillips so they don’t feel the freedom to go public like I have?

Numerous Christians whose only goal was to glorify God in all that they do have been personally hurt and abused by Doug Phillips, and they now know they are not alone. I won’t tell their stories here unless they ask me to, but time after time after time, I’ve heard the same stories of Doug Phillips threatening Christians with lawsuits, threatening church discipline against those not even in his own fellowship and then going to their elders (often personal friends of Doug’s) and pushing for church discipline, and threatening men’s jobs and businesses and sometimes being successful in getting them fired. Most of these people still live in great fear of Doug. Countless times I’ve heard about people in these situations, or other conflict with Doug, who try to get an audience with Doug Phillips. We are not even talking about your average Christian homeschooler who just wants to speak to the Big Man, but people who already have a relationship with Doug and need to communicate regarding various issues, but they can’t get an appointment to meet with him or even speak to him on the phone. Weeks go by, and months, and I know of one man who tried for four years to speak to Doug about something, but Doug is always too busy. He will condescend to letting you speak with his “personal assistant.” He will send you a contract to sign before he agrees to speak with you, exacting promises that you will never repeat anything that goes on between him and you. He will have his lawyer contact you. And he will give you a list of sins you have to repent from before he will consider listening to you, but very rarely will he ever follow through in meeting or speaking with those he has offended, hurt, or abused.

Hoodwinked

Or maybe he will demand that you pay indulgences, only he uses the word “restitution.” After I sent my apology to Doug in a nice Christmas card, I heard that he would speak with me if I paid him $100,000 in restitution! Just to speak with him! I wonder why he didn’t put paying restitution/indulgences in his article on forgiving others? Well, I won’t hold this against him either, but I can’t be quiet when he continues to bully others, as he seems to have been emboldened to do even more since my story came down. Oh, the stories I have heard lately! This Edmund Burke quote keeps circulating in my mind: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

But surely I had done my part. I struggled immensely with taking down my story. I saw how many people were affected to change for the glory of God because of my story, yet there were those few who said I was sinning. But I desperately wanted fellowship also, a place of community to be a part of. I knew God had given me a ministry through this blog, yet I knew I needed to be ministered to as well. And I thought I’d found the perfect church again. Church #5 had everything I was looking for — 100%. So I took that as a sign from God to submit to the elders and do everything they told me to do, even though I did not want to and even though I knew it was causing great confusion among my readers. I was told that if I humbled myself, God would lift me up. So I humbled myself and took everything down without any explanation. I did everything those elders required of me in order to attend church #5, ending with the apology Doug and the BCA members received on December 24th. But, on December 27th, on the same day that Doug posted his article about forgiving others even though he had no intentions of forgiving me, I received a call from church #5 — “We quit.” No real explanation. I’d been had.

I’ve been working hard since that day to find out the truth, and I have a lot more information in general, although no specifics. I now see the pattern in all these reformed churches in San Antonio, or at least the last three, where pastors and elders fear men more than they fear God. These are men who believe in the doctrines of grace, who believe in the providence of God, yet they fear Doug Phillips. All I can say is that I understand. I, too, believe in the providence of God, so I must trust that God simply did not want me to attend this “perfect” church for some reason. When I hear of the intense pressure and coercion and threats that comes down from Doug Phillips, I suddenly understand why godly men fear man more than they do God and I won’t hold it against them.

Until my story, Doug was successful in bullying all other believers into being quiet. If I take my story down, how will other people who come behind us know the truth about this false teacher?

Dozens and dozens of God-honoring churches have been sharply divided, resulting in many church splits, due to the divisive teachings of Vision Forum’s Family Integrated Church movement. When Doug Phillips says that the church is to blame for most of the evil in the world, he brings a blanket condemnation to churches all across America. That condemning, accusatory spirit has invaded many good churches and many a pastor has found himself on the receiving end of a church member’s declaration that the way they do church is evil and wicked. Innumerable relationships amongst brothers and sisters in Christ have been unnecessarily destroyed, and great division has been wrought, in churches all across America for the sake of patriarchy. The ones left behind, those still reeling from the incredible hurt and pain due to the loss of dear friendships, now know that they are not alone. They now know that false teaching found a foot in the door of their church as well.

Countless believers who saw the folly of feminism thought “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” were actually biblical until we examined them here. There were even more who didn’t understand that what looks good in writing in “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” is not how it plays out in real life in Doug Phillips’ world. My story brought substance to the skillfully crafted wording of various patriarchy documents. Patriarchy on paper is not patriarchy in real life. Patriarchy in real life is patriocentric, as thatmom so aptly termed it. When people read the everyday details of my story, they see what life is really like when the patriarchal man is “king” of his castle. Are all men who claim patriarchy that way? No. But the type of patriarchy that Doug Phillips lives out is a misogynistic patriarchy and one every Christian should run far, far away from. Many men have repented in tears this year for having this top-down, authoritarian style of headship rather than the loving servant’s heart toward their wife and children. They saw their own hearts in my story.

Multitudes of homeschooling families were attracted to the nostalgia of the perfect life that Vision Forum seems to offer, and knew that there was a lot of truth in the message of patriarchy, but they also had a sense that something wasn’t quite right. They just couldn’t put their finger on it. Through my story, it was the little details here and there that resonated with their spirits and they had an “Aha!” moment — “I knew something wasn’t right!” The patriotism, the look of the ’50s when life was “perfect,” the glossy catalog, the exciting adventures, the charisma that Doug Phillips uses to persuade others that he alone has the corner on this market — all those perfectly polished outward appearances — yet they forgot to wash the inside of the cup. My story showed the scum and the filth on the inside of that shimmering chalice.

Then there were those sincere, dedicated Christians who loved Vision Forum and Doug Phillips and they didn’t want to hear that their hero wasn’t as perfect as they always thought he was. My story wasn’t enough to convince them on its own merits, but over time they observed the responses from Doug Phillips, his Vision Forum employees, the “leadership” of BCA, and Doug’s “independent investigators” and boys. Their behavior has been 100% consistent over the past year in not responding directly to the issues or accusations, in putting up numerous slanderous statements against us, in posting frequent blog articles that were indirect attacks against my family, friends, and many who comment here, in doing everything possible to prevent us from ever going to church again, and in slandering us and railing against us. That consistent, malicious, and retaliatory conduct has brought down another Christian idol among us and many came to see the real Doug Phillips behind the masquerade.

Hundreds and hundreds of God-loving families were bound up in legalism, and as they walked through these changes in my life this last year with me, they saw legalism in their own lives and they repented and found the freedom Christ has for us. How did they see that legalism? Through the details in my story. Did my story set people free? No. But my story was what resonated with people and what caused them to look at their own lives and their own families, and then the truth of God’s Word set them free. It is very difficult to identify legalism in your life. It was heart-wrenching for me to let it go. But as I walked away from it, others could see the harm in the legalism of my story as well.

When I first started telling my story, that was my whole goal — just tell my story. There were no issues to discuss, other than the unbiblical excommunication. I recognized that there were some signs of spiritual abuse, but not much. But after I told my story, the issues began surfacing one by one. Since my story was so public, I was forced to deal with these issues publicly as well. I remember earlier in the year when I made a comment like, “Of course I still believe in patriarchy!” Telling my story, though, necessitated digging to the roots to find out why the fruit was so rotten. We have just begun to examine these roots of patriarchy, legalism, theonomy, dominion theology, and reconstruction. Have you ever looked at the root of a plant and tried to determine what it was without looking at its fruit? There may be some tell-tale signs but it is extremely difficult to identify the root apart from the fruit. I realize now that if I solely focus on the root of these issues, without having the picture of the fruit ever before us, we will lose our perspective. And those who come along after I take down all the pictures of the fruit will not understand why we are examining what appears to be good roots. “Oh, those roots aren’t all that bad,” they might say. “There might be a little rot here and a few pest-eaten spots there, but overall they mostly look good. I don’t see anything to worry about.” My story is the fruit of what even a little rot and a few pests can do.

When we come to God’s Word, we all come with our own presuppositions. That is inherent in each of us, to one degree or another. When someone challenges our presuppositions, that can be quite scary. As my own presuppositions were not only challenged this year, but severely undermined and then completely upended, so were the presuppositions of those who hold to various doctrines such as theonomy, dominion theology, and reconstructionism. Many teachable Christians, those who were sold out for the truth of God’s Word over their own presuppositions, wrestled through weighing these particular doctrines and many repented from these false teachings that hold one in bondage. The results of these false teachings were evidenced clearly in my story and that is why people were willing to reconsider what beliefs they hold to.

So — I’m putting my story back up. I am very sorry for all the confusion I caused in taking it down. I tried very hard to reconcile taking down my story and focusing on just the issues, but I realize that it is impossible to separate them. In order to demonstrate the stark reality of each issue, I need to be able to point to my story. I will be writing about the issues, as I promised, but I will use examples from my own life, from my own story, to demonstrate why the issues matter, why the root is bad and what the fruit of that bad root looks like.

I tried to show grace to Doug by taking down my story. Sometimes when we go from one extreme in our lives, we tend to let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction and we go to an equally opposite, and equally wrong, extreme. In my haste to leave my judgmental spirit of legalism behind me, I forgot about the big picture. Yes, I need to show grace to Doug, but does grace cover up sin? Yes, I need to show grace to Doug, but does grace take the blame for another’s wrongdoings? Yes, I need to show grace to Doug, but does grace forget about all the other people out there who are being spiritually abused or who are caught up in Doug’s false teachings? Yes, I need to show grace to Doug, but doesn’t grace include holding public Christian leaders accountable? Doesn’t grace include shining the light of God’s Word on not only Doug’s teachings, but his public sins as well? I do love Doug, but I am not loving him by taking down my story. I appropriately showed him grace when I turned down an interview with the Wall Street Journal, recognizing that the secular media would write a biased piece and take Christian business to an unbelieving world. I confronted two women recently, lovingly, for allowing others to abuse them and their families without saying anything in response. I have to look in that same mirror and give myself that same advice. I guess I still have a lot to learn about grace.

If I don’t tell my story about Doug Phillips, who will? Even if others told my story, I am the one with the story. I am the only one who can give the personal testimony that God has given me. This is the testimony of what God has done in my life. I don’t need to hide my testimony, but I do need to be careful in what I say . I don’t need to cover up my testimony because someone else doesn’t like to hear the truth. I’ve been thinking a lot about King David. He was a murderer and an adulterer. He was a wicked sinner. But is that what we remember him most for? No. When we think of David, we think of the shepherd boy who dared to stand up against a giant when all the soldiers were too afraid to do so. I am that kind of a David. When we think of David, we think of all the psalms he wrote to the Lord, we think of a king who did what was right in the sight of the Lord. When we think of David, we think of a man after God’s own heart. I don’t know the exact meaning of that phrase “a man after God’s own heart,” but I heard recently that it may mean that David loved the Lord with all his heart and wanted to do everything he could to please the Lord. If so, that’s the kind of David I long to be. We also think of a man who quickly and wholeheartedly repented when he was confronted with his sin. He even wrote a psalm of repentance that was recorded for us to be able to hear his heart. And I want to be like David in that I quickly and earnestly repent when confronted with sin in my own life as well.

But why is the story of David’s sins, not only the murder and adultery, but others as well, recorded permanently in Scripture not only for a record of a public leader’s life, but for all the generations to read and hear about for thousands of years afterward? Why didn’t God erase that part of the story when David repented? Why didn’t He clean it up and only tell us the good parts about this man who loved God so much? Aren’t David’s sins part of his own testimony? Aren’t David’s sins part of the testimony of what sin does to us? Aren’t the effects of David’s sins far-reaching? Or perhaps we could consider the effects of Abraham’s far-reaching sins as well? Does God cover up our stories when we repent? Does God expect us to cover up our stories when we repent? Or does God expect us to cover up the far-reaching sins of public leaders who bring false teaching to unsuspecting, sincere believers? No.

So, I don’t need to hammer on Doug. That is the grace I need to show him. I don’t need to be nit-picky, as I sometimes was in my articles. That is the grace I need to show him. And I won’t be putting up all the articles I originally had here, since some of them were not done with the right attitude. I will also show grace in that I will revisit the articles and comments here and see if there is anything that is not glorifying to God. But I need to continue exposing Doug Phillips’ false teachings and I need to keep my story up to show the serious nature and effects of those false teachings. Just as Christ spent much of His time rebuking the Pharisees of His day, so God has called me to speak out against the modern-day “pharisees” of this world. Repent!

This past year has been an incredible growing experience for me. I’m grateful for all those who came along for the ride with me. I’m eternally grateful for all those challenged me in so many ways this year. And I’m grateful that God used my story for good. It really is true that all things work together for good to those who love Him. I’m grateful for the excommunication. Without this spiritual abuse, I probably would have grown into the Pharisee of all Pharisees. Without this story, I wouldn’t have been able to help other people who have been abused. Without this story, I wouldn’t have met all of you!

In my last article where I took down my story, I said this:

There cannot be peace at any price. It would not be possible to have a true unity based upon error, nor would it do any good to convince ourselves that we are in unity when we do not agree on the truths presented in God’s Word. … We cannot compromise, but we can love one another. Unity in fellowship does not always equal unity in beliefs.

Did I read what I wrote?!! My actions in my last article were the exact opposite of what I wrote! Peace at any price. How many of us do that? Many of us got together with family in these last few weeks; what did we do for the sake of keeping the peace amongst our family members? Do we compromise ourselves or our children to cater to one other person? I am guilty of attempting peace at the price of covering up the truth. Yes, I still live real close to Doug and many people from BCA and many Vision Forum employees. I still see them on a frequent basis. Just a couple weeks ago, I saw several hundred former “community” friends. The temptation to want “peace” with real life people, the temptation to desire fellowship at any cost (even if I compromise myself), the desperation to belong to a church where the truth of God’s Word is preached, is peace at a price that I cannot pay. I cannot enter into fellowship with other believers and pretend like there is not a false teacher out there in our midst. I cannot water down the truth of God’s Word so that I can be in some sort of agreement with those who lives are bound up in the false teaching of Doug Phillips. I cannot compromise, and I am sorry for doing so in my last article. I can love them, and I do. I can pray for them, and I do. And I can pray that God will provide a church for me who will not ask me to compromise in any way. I know there is one out there and I am praying diligently for that church. I do not have to agree with everyone in that church in order to fellowship with them. I am willing to love them where they are, but God has called me to speak the truth and I cannot compromise.

So, did I tell the truth in my last article? Of course. But I also told the truth in my story. Did I tell the truth in my Thanksgiving article? Of course, but it was confusing to people. I am writing about how Doug Phillips has spiritually abused my family and then I tell about some wonderful memories. To some, that article may have looked like I was negating my story. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Remember when I began my story with “the search for the perfect church”? Those first couple years at BCA were mostly “perfect.” Yes, I was not allowed to take communion, but there were still many really good memories, and most of that Thanksgiving article was about that early time period, that honeymoon phase for BCA. So, I will not post my Thanksgiving article so as not to cause any confusion. I don’t want anyone thinking that I am divided against myself!

But I think I need to address a couple things from my last article. I said, “I publicly apologize to Doug Phillips for telling my story online.” There are times to go public and there are times not to. My story needed to be told in public. I gave Doug every opportunity to repent. He did not. He has a pattern of abusing other Christians. That needs to be shown. He is teaching false doctrine. That is important not only to expose the false teaching, but also the false teacher. This apology was an example of “peace at any price.” I was wrong to seek peace, and fellowship, by compromising. (I guess I still have a lot to learn in my spiritual walk!)

I also apologized for Vision Forum experiencing a loss of business. I really cannot accept responsibility for that in any way. I never asked people not to support Vision Forum. I never asked people to boycott Vision Forum. I never organized or participated in a protest against Vision Forum or its products. I never did anything to purposefully harm Vision Forum’s business. I merely told my story. Doug’s response was quite telling to many people. And everyone made up their own mind on where they would spend their money. I did not interfere with Doug’s business in any way.

Mike tried to teach me how to interpret Scripture this year and one of the things that he taught me was that we cannot make a principle out of a story. I think I failed in that lesson in my last article. In trying to bend over backwards to justify taking my story down, I did just that — made a principle out of several passages from Paul that were miniature stories. Paul’s purpose in writing those epistles was not to expose specific false teachers. He did not say that was wrong either. The Bible does not say it is wrong to expose false teachers. In fact, we are told to do just that. That hermeneutic of drawing out principles where none exist resides deep within me and it will take a while to see where I am still being principially based in my thinking when I should be focused on the teachings of God’s Word instead.

Could I have told my story better? Probably. There’s always room for improvement. But just because I have a little overkill in places does not mean that I again swing to the opposite extreme and just kill the whole story. Talk about overkill!

I had been noticing some confrontation online regarding various aspects of the patriarchy movement that really concerned me awhile ago and I felt that some of the conversations were not glorifying to God. While we are certainly called to expose the false teachings, I do want us all to do so in a way that glorifies God. I say this because I felt responsible for starting to expose patriarchy and I didn’t want to see it turn into something ugly and un-Christlike and I was concerned about the direction I saw things heading. In my fervor to help calm things down a bit, I thought taking my story down might help. Peace at any price — not good.

So my focus is sharpened now and I’m sorry for any confusion I may have caused with all this. My spiritual walk is quite a journey and I got off course a bit last month. I’m back on track again now, and know that this is the ministry God has given me. I intend to fulfill this ministry with much love toward Doug Phillips and all those who have hurt me. I intend to show grace, but never compromise. I intend to expose the false teachings and the fruit that results from those teachings. I intend to start showing where we should go after we reject these false teachings. And I trust God to provide fellowship for me in His way and His time.

I took my children to a Christmas concert a couple weeks ago and we saw lots of old friends. Natasha wrote on her blog: “How much things have changed in the past 3 years. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a good or a bad thing. Then I see them, and not that much has changed for all of them, and I wonder if that’s a good or a bad thing. Or maybe it’s neither. Maybe it’s just life. Maybe it doesn’t have to be black and white, it just is.”

For all the Natashas out there who are torn between the past and the future, my story is there to remind you of the truth of the past. For all the Matthew Murrays out there, my story is up to show that not only is there sin in the camp, but that God has a way out. For all those who in any way relate to my story, know that there is a kindred spirit here who cares.

And to all my readers, I am sorry for all the confusion I caused in my desperation for fellowship. I purpose never to do such a thing again.

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51 Responses to “Mea Culpa”

  1. Hutch Says:

    Jen-

    Wow. I am so sorry that I was one who was encouraging you to take down your blog. I really believed that it would be the best thing for you to do, as it would allow you to move forward in fellowship at a local church. It really is amazing that Doug Phillips has so much power over local churches in San Antonio.

    I truly believe that NCT and the FIC/Patriarchy movement are not compatible at all. I think you will see that church #5 although paying lip-service to NCT will become in practice just like every other FIC in respect to the common legalisms held by the FIC movement. Where the New Covenant gives liberty and choice regarding some issues, the FIC/Patriarchy gives none.

    It also seems to me that if church #5 proudly displays a link to Vision Forum on their web-site; even if they propose to be a NCT church, that they will in reality adhere to the same aberrant teachings of Doug Phillips and Vision Forum or soon will. My reasoning being that if they thought that Doug’s teaching are unbiblical that they would never want anyone who visits their web-site to be unwittingly sucked into Vision Forums heresy.

    The Family Integrated Church Movement really is Patriarchy-Lite.

  2. Whitney Says:

    Sorry about the churches. I would recommend this church outside the city limits: http://www.lifegateministries.us/

  3. Morgan Farmer Says:

    I knew that some serious mischief was afoot when the blog came down. My prayers for you are answered.

  4. Robin Says:

    You will never find the “perfect church” because we are all sinners saved by grace.

    Thank you for explaining what happened.

  5. sarah walston Says:

    Jen – I’m sending you a private email. Love you -Sarah

  6. Marcia Says:

    I guess I just didn’t realize that following Christ had to be so complicated. All of the hours and hours wasted debating this online, deciding who said what and who associated with which person while in the meantime people are dying–it’s a shame. It’s a real shame.

  7. Jen Says:

    Hutch, I can only hope you’re wrong, but it certainly looks like you might be right.

    Thanks to everyone for commenting.

    Marcia, I’m not following what you are trying to say here. Could you explain please? It sounds like you think I am wasting my time because people are dying, but I don’t follow that train of logic. Perhaps you don’t think people who follow Doug Phillips should know the truth about him?

  8. Cynthia Gee Says:

    You know, Jen, Marcia is kind of right. Your blogging over the last year served a real purpose — it was a cathartic to you and to others who had been through the same thing, and it served to alert many, many people to the folly of the patriarchal movement.
    THAT is a good thing.
    But now, you are wanting to move on with your life, and that is a good thing too. You have forgiven Phillips, and he has said that he will forgive you — for money – which shows your caliber as a Christian… and his.
    There is nothing more that you can do to change his heart, and if you are finished “getting it out of your system” it is time to walk away from Phillips altogether, by finding a church which has NOTHING to do with him or the things he preaches.
    You see, I’ve been looking at the Patriarchal movement, and the blogging that’s been going on about the movement, back and forth, for the last year. The blogging, discussion, and sturm-und-drang has been necessary, to define a real evil and warn folks away from it, but it’s not JESUS, any more that the Tenets of Biblical P. are JESUS.

    The struggles of this world are necessary, even as touching the Body of Christ, to keep Her pure, but NONE of that is what we are supposed to be taking into church with us on Sunday morning. Jesus isn’t about patriarchy, He isn’t about family integrated church vs. regular church, He isn’t about what we wear or where we school our kids. These things are of The World, they are not Jesus, and what we do in Church is supposed to be all about Him.

    What I’m getting at is that in my opinion, you will never be able to focus on Jesus as long as Church reminds you of Doug Phillips, the patriarchy-or-not argument, or any of that stuff. IMO, you need to be able to park that stuff at the church door and just go in and be with your Lord, in the company of other Christians who are doing the same. THEN you will be able to worship in peace, without dragging your past into church with you.

    Believe it or not, outside of Reformed and Presbyterian circles, there are plenty of congregations who would welcome you with open arms. Many have not heard of the Hyper P movement, and others just don’t care.
    You won’t find the perfect church, because the perfect church will not exist until Jesus comes, and His Bride runs to meet Him, without spot or wrinkle. But my advice is to find a good mainstream Church that’s been around for at least a few hundred years, one that ISN’T Presbyterian, Baptist, or Reformed (because those denominations will just remind you of what you’ve been through), and try worshipping there. Visit Lutheran, or Anglican, or even Catholic churches (though for you, Catholicism might not be a good fit), and just test the waters.
    I think I’m safe in saying that most congegations and ministers in these denominations are not going to burden you with your past, require letters of reference, restitution to Phillips, etc. They don’t care about that stuff, they are about worshipping Jesus, and like Jesus, most will welcome you with open arms.

  9. Cynthia Gee Says:

    BTW… I do think that putting your messages back up is a GOOD thing too. People need to know the truth. But, it shouldn’t own you or dominate your life, especially your life in Christ.
    You were a soldier, so you of all people know that in the service of a cause and in defense of yourself and others, sometimes it’s necessary to fight and wrestle in the mud, but all fighting is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The goal of combat, of wrestling in the mud — is to prevail, and to walk in the sunshine.

  10. Jen Says:

    Cynthia, thank you for your thoughts. I just wanted to say that until we went to those last 3 churches, none of them knew Doug Phillips, nor did they have anything to do with patriarchy. I had absolutely no intentions of bringing any of this to church with me. It has been Doug Phillips who has followed me from church to church and heavily leaned on these elders and pastors to the point where they turn me away. It has come to the point where I feel sorry for any pastor who tries to help me because I know what’s going to happen to him from the other side. I have a very strong indication of what is really going on behind the scenes, but I also feel that speculation is gossip, so I will not speculate on my blog, even though I am fairly sure I am right. That just means that Doug will do all he can to keep me from attending church — at any cost.

    My focus here will not be on Doug anymore, as you can see from my changing the title of my blog. If I need to use an example from my story or something current comes up about Doug, I will report on it, but I will focus more on issues, on how to heal, on where we should go after patriarchy, and on studying God’s Word.

    Thanks for all you’ve done on my behalf, Cynthia. I appreciate you.

  11. Michelle Says:

    Dear Jen ~
    I stumbled onto your story last night through ministrywatchman (I don’t even know how that happened!) I can see throughout your story your humility & desire to seek & do God’s will. I invite you & your beautiful family to move to PA & come to my sweet, unconditionally loving country church where you would welcomed with open arms!

    Seriously, I have never seen a more WARM & LOVING church, with a humble & faithful pastor. It saddens me that after a couple of years of teaching CD’s on what I can see may have been patriarchal teachings, I became very irritated at everything there. I would tell my husband how I was feeling “in our church but not of it”. Totally dissatisfied, longing to be in a “family-friendly” church with at least a few homeschool families. (I hated being the “weird one” with so many differing beliefs)– This became a very strained time for me & effected my marriage as well.

    It must have been God’s Grace that gently brought me back into balance. I am still the only HS mom there but I see the bigger picture now (and thanks to your story, I can see more why I grew dissatisfied with an (almost) “perfect” church, in unconditional love & forgiveness!).

    I have spent plenty of $ at VF and have appreciated the teaching, however, I will now listen with much more discernment (in fact, it’s just another example of the importance of listening to my husband who has had some reservations, etc along the way)–

    Thank God for His TRUTH… and His guidance, His faithfulness & His patience with all of us along this journey! Sorry for such a long post. And the invitation to PA stands. We’d love to grow in His Grace with you & your beautiful family.

    I will pray for God’s guidance to the right church family where you can be completely FREE from the past!

    Blessings to you & your family,
    Michelle ~~ Enjoying the Journey in PA

  12. Cynthia Gee Says:

    That’s why I suggested these three denominations, Jen, because nothing will happen to them from the other side, (unless they are “Reformed” Anglican, Reformed Lutheran, etc). If Phillips contacts a minister in any of these denominations, he will in all likelihood recieve a polite hearing, a “That’s nice” 😉 answer, and no further consideration. In some churches, including ours, he would probably also recieve a lecture on forgiveness.

  13. Marcia Says:

    Hi Jen–

    I did not mean to imply that you have been wasting your time. I understand why you would want to talk about what happened, although I haven’t had the time to follow your whole story.

    I was saying that, in my perception, a lot of yourtime has been wasted clarifying things and answering people and defending yourself, and I can’t even imagine the amount of time that you’ve put in.

    It seems to me that the Body of Christ would have better things to do.

  14. Jen Says:

    Thanks for clarifying, Marcia. I looked at this whole thing as being “for a season.” Unfortunately, there was another recent “season,” which opened my eyes to a whole lot. I came away from that experience with a whole new perspective on people. The main thing I learned that is that we are to treat each person as an individual and not be so concerned with all their various relationships. The secondary lesson in that debacle was that even when it is necessary to expose evil, if we are speaking about someone else who professes Christ, we need to find areas of unity as well and try to win them over in our areas of disagreement. I realize that is very difficult to do, but I am not going to just look for all the bad in a fellow believer, especially at the expense of not looking for anything good. It’s the whole casting stones thing.

  15. Light Says:

    Cynthia Gee said: “But my advice is to find a good mainstream Church that’s been around for at least a few hundred years, one that ISN’T Presbyterian, Baptist, or Reformed (because those denominations will just remind you of what you’ve been through), and try worshipping there. Visit Lutheran, or Anglican, or even Catholic churches (though for you, Catholicism might not be a good fit), and just test the waters.
    I think I’m safe in saying that most congegations and ministers in these denominations are not going to burden you with your past, require letters of reference, restitution to Phillips, etc.”

    I agree with Cynthia. There are also the Methodists – they all aren’t liberal. 🙂 I’m sure there are many other denominations as well. It seems to me that if Doug is in fact following you around from church to church, and you are going to churches that fall into the reformed or FIC category, those are the ones where the elders are going to be more easily swayed by him because that’s just how things operate. By their very nature, they view things more in a convental, authoritarian way, where the elders have more authority over the members. The most common intimidation tactic with authoritarian pastors in the reformed churches is to demand the name of someone’s pastor or husband to go tattle on their misbehavior. With other church models, such as the Methodists, this simply isn’t so. Believers are seen much more as free agents who are left to their own consciences on pretty much everything. At least the Methodist churches I’ve attended. If Doug came and tried to influence them in any way, they would look at him like he has three heads.

    I gently suggest that you try to let go of your “wish list” for a church and cling to just one thing – is the gospel preached? All else may well get you tangled up – whether homeschoolers attend, if it’s family integrated worship, the worship format, a tightly scripted service or a free-flowing one, how people dress, whether they sing traditional hymns or rock and roll praise – let go of all those preferences. They are not the gospel.

    Ben Franklin said the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. Perhaps it’s time for a 180 degree turn in what you are hoping for in a church. Jesus can be found in the most suprising places. (Even in a Catholic church!)

    I grew up Catholic, but was not a believer. I spent my adolescence proudly boasting that I was an atheist. The Catholic chuch always left me cold and empty. I came to Christ in my 20’s in a Methodist church (and have since moved on to a presbyterian one). Shortly after my father died, I attended Catholic mass one Sunday with my mother because I didn’t want her going alone after her loss. And, Jesus was there. He had been there all along, but I had been focusing so much on what I didn’t like about the Catholic church that I couldn’t see Him.

  16. Michelle Says:

    Light said: “I grew up Catholic, but was not a believer. I spent my adolescence proudly boasting that I was an atheist. The Catholic chuch always left me cold and empty. I came to Christ in my 20’s in a Methodist church (and have since moved on to a presbyterian one). Shortly after my father died, I attended Catholic mass one Sunday with my mother because I didn’t want her going alone after her loss. And, Jesus was there. He had been there all along, but I had been focusing so much on what I didn’t like about the Catholic church that I couldn’t see Him.”

    I was raised Methodist, but it was a liberal church. I spent years “searching” for God & ended up in the Catholic church for awhile. I ended up receiving Christ in an Assembly of God type of church. Now I can experience Jesus anywhere 🙂 I agree that the gospel preached is the critical element. And if that is the case their should be GOOD FRUIT~~ Unconditional love, warmth & acceptance… JOY & PEACE among the body. Lovingkindness & patience, etc.

    Although I was kidding about relocating to PA, my point was I had that beautiful loving church all along & became dissatisfied due to some imbalanced teachings… Now I am so very thankful. The warmth, love & acceptance, UNITY, etc (coming from the love of God through those believers that are truly enjoying the freedom they have found in Christ)… It is the perfect place for anyone, especially those of us that have been hurt, including spiritual abuse.

    Just enjoying that kind of fellowship if refreshing & healing. There are some things that I would like to see different, but I now give them to God (and share with my husband) & let go so I can focus on what is even more important than my preferences & beliefs… living out what I believe & loving others where they are. These ladies all love God dearly~~ all but one works FT outside the home, all children are in PS, most are the leaders of their homes (vs. husbands)– The culture is definitely more “matriarchal” (we are a mix ethnically, african american, hispanic, etc)… But over the past year, through some teachings on loving husbands, etc I can see hearts changing. And that’s what is so beautiful. the change in the hearts (not the outside appearance)–

    Again sorry to go on so long. I’m done. I do pray you will find this loving acceptance in whatever church the Lord leads you to. You’ll know. Hey, there’s always PA 🙂

  17. Cynthia Gee Says:

    And if any of y’all happen to be in PA in the summertime, drop in and see us.

  18. CD-Host Says:

    Jen —

    Glad to see the blog is back up and you are back to your old self! I’m sorry the last church didn’t work out. I don’t think you are going to be able to go back to a church to a conservative reformed church with a home schooling population. Twice since I’ve known you you’ve tried to crawl back to churches that put conditions on your membership. I agree with Cynthia its time you stop.

    I wrote a post about how to handle joining a church where you won’t have to put up with nonsense:
    http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2007/07/united-church-of-christ.html

    Frankly I think you are a perfect candidate for a church that doesn’t demand you comply with anything and instead just tries to facilitate your communication with God and with other members.

    Anyway, God bless and welcome back!

  19. happymom4 Says:

    I have to say you are being given a lot of wisdom, Jen. Find a church that is one that works, even if you don’t totally agree, and stick with it till God moves you on. That is what he did for us–when we were finally beaten and battered senseless practically in a series of “plain” churches, we finally left and went to a Wesleyan Methodist church that loved us and helped us heal spiritually and emotionally. We called it our “hospital”. We were there for about 5 years, and then God helped us find a church that was closer to our beliefs doctrinally, though VERY different in practice and application than what we were used to (and yes, we still do some swallowing from time to time–however, there is LOVE THERE!). We maintain warm friendships still with the pastor and people at the Wesleyan Methodist church, and still visit there on occasion, but our home church is now back in our same denomination (though in a VERY different branch than what we started out in years ago). I second the fact about them not caring what the previous leader thinks. . . . we took our time simply living out our faith and our lives in this new church for YEARS before only just in the last week asking to join the body of believers as a full-fledged member. At this point, I don’t anticipate any problems with our previous “excommunication” due to the fact that we have lived our lives in such a manner for so long that these people KNOW US and what the other vindictive minister from nearly 8 years ago has to say isn’t going to hold much water with them–given that he has had no contact with us for 8 years he doesn’t know us like they do!

  20. CD-Host Says:

    And if any of y’all happen to be in PA in the summertime, drop in and see us.

    Email me. Which part of PA?

  21. Cynthia Gee Says:

    Right smack dab in the middle… Shippensburg, which is just southwest of Hershey (where they make the chocolate!)

  22. CD-Host Says:

    OK that’s kind of far.
    You going to be there around Ren Faire:
    August 9 – October 26?

    If you were serious send me an email?

  23. Cynthia Gee Says:

    I don’t know your email addy. And, which Ren Faire? There are several.

  24. Roger Mcwalker Says:

    I now see the pattern in all these reformed churches in San Antonio, or at least the last three, where pastors and elders fear men more than they fear God. These are men who believe in the doctrines of grace, who believe in the providence of God, yet they fear Doug Phillips.

    Until my story, Doug was successful in bullying all other believers into being quiet.

    If these grown men are afraid of this dude because of threats, and they dont even rely on God to control the situation, what are they going to do when something really hard comes along? What would they do if they were threatened with death because of their faith? Would they wimp out like they are doing now with this guy who threatens to do something to them? Maybe if they had the guts to stand up to this guy, God might honor that decision and protect them from whatever this Doug guy might do to them, if he even did anything. Maybe these elder people should just trust God and quit being a bunch of sissys.

  25. CD-Host Says:

    I don’t know your email addy.

    cd.host@gmail.com

    As for which Ren Faire, the Mount Hoppe one near you. The big one

  26. Hutch Says:

    The disciples often had disputes among themselves about who would be first in the Kingdom. They even had this dispute again on the night Christ was to be betrayed-and once again The Lord Jesus Christ had to remind them through word and action that those who are first in His Kingdom are the ones who are servant to all.

    Maybe we should hand out name tags to all the elders this next Sunday that will remind them of their job description that read: “John Smith-Lead Servant” to remind them that they are the servants of the congregation.

    Maybe some of these guys mistakenly believe that they have apostolic authority as opposed to occupying a servant leadership position of nurture and protection.

    Perhaps they are not really servants in Christ’s Kingdom at all-maybe they are building their own kingdom?

    The Lord is really teaching me to have a lot more patience with and compassion for people. I used to really have a dim view of “roaming Christians”. God really does have a sense of humor-here I believing in the importance of ministering to and being ministered to within a local church-yet I am now a “roaming Christian”.

    Instead of just jumping to conclusions about Christians who are not members of a local church and assuming that they are “uncommitted”, now my first thought is: “I wonder what they have been through?”

    I’m still dreaming:

    Damascus Road-where legalistic religiosity meets the risen Savior! Love God, Love your neighbor.

  27. Jen Says:

    Hey, Hutch! Will Damascus Road Church take all the BCA rejects? If so, you could move here and start a new congregation! Of course, you’d need to be prepared for independent thinkers.

    CD, you mentioned about the two churches who tried to put conditions on our membership. The interesting thing about both of those churches is that there were no conditions at the beginning. Then they started adding them gradually. Then they changed and grew and morphed and all along we complied with everything they asked us to do — until they finally met with Doug. That one man could have so much power over people he doesn’t even know or barely knows is absolutely incredible. Talk about authoritarian. I think Don Veinot must be right in his assessment that patriarchy is just top-down authoritarianism.

    Roger, welcome. You have some excellent insights. I am quite concerned for where these churches are headed now that they have feared Doug more than they fear God. I do believe that God could have worked great and mighty things through the situation if they would have stood up to a bully rather than cowering in fear. I have often thought about the martyr passages in Scripture as well. Now I have a better understanding of why God has a special place for martyrs; they truly are a special breed of people — ones who won’t stand up to bullies or be cowed by anyone.

  28. CD-Host Says:

    The interesting thing about both of those churches is that there were no conditions at the beginning. Then they started adding them gradually.

    So pick one that doesn’t have a concept of conditional membership. Or one that would hate Doug or both.

  29. hutch Says:

    Jen-

    Independent thinkers? The only people who are afraid of independent thinkers are authoritarian and personality cult-leaders.

    My perception is that most of the people who get sideways with Doug are people that have actually read their bibles! People who ask questions are not always to be viewed as trouble makers-many of them are believers who are exercising the spiritual gifts of discernment, wisdom and knowledge–The God given ability to spot error and the ability to interpret God’s word into practical application. They are not trouble makers; they are probably leaders or future leaders in process.

    NO, folks who actually read and study their bibles as well as leaders and future leaders will all definitely be welcome at Damascus Road!

    BTW- I can live and let live over secondary issues, as long we are like minded regarding the essentials and define sin in light of the new covenant and the law that believers are actually under-the Law of Christ.

    CD-Host-

    I am hopeful that Jen will not find a church that hates Doug Phillips, that would not be a good church to attend.

  30. Jen Says:

    Hutch: “The only people who are afraid of independent thinkers are authoritarian and personality cult-leaders.”

    Then why do I seem to be so attracted to these types? I am an independent thinker, sometimes probably too much so, and yet I constantly find myself in these situations. Actually, Doug taught us that the Bible says that it is a sin to have an independent spirit. I haven’t been able to find that verse yet. I’ve been pretty independent since I was a latch-key child at six. Maybe that’s it! I should just blame my independent spirit on my childhood! Or maybe I should be grateful that I had such a spirit instilled in me at such a young age. Do you have any idea how difficult it was to try to be a doormat after I had been extremely independent all my life? All of a sudden at 40, I needed someone to tell me what to do? Ha!

    I believe that God will give you a wonderful church someday, Hutch, and that day could be real soon. You really only need one other family to meet with and get it started. If you are interested in any books that talk about this approach, let me know.

    CD, all I can tell you is that in one of those churches there were some extremely strong feelings about Doug and they still caved. If I went by initial appearances, there is no reason in the world why they should have changed their minds like that. Something happened behind the scenes to scare them.

  31. Hutch Says:

    Jen-

    Did the elders at Church #5 ever indicate to you exactly how Doug Phillips was interfering with your desire to attend?

    What kind of explanation did they give to you?

    Just curious.

  32. Jen Says:

    Hutch, I changed your comment to reflect church #5 rather than the specific name of the church because I voluntarily promised the elders that I would not name them publicly if they ever screwed me over.

    Part of the bullying methods of Doug seem to include absolute secrecy on the part of everyone he deals with. I believe there are threats behind the secrecy in general, but I can’t state that for certain with regard to church #5. However, after working with those elders for two months not only to do everything they asked of me in order to be able to attend their church but also those two elders and I had some very big plans together for a totally unrelated project, when they called to tell me they quit, the reason was that the elder’s wife was crying because they were spending too much time on my situation. However, this simply was not true because I hadn’t had any interaction with them for almost a week at that point, they hadn’t had any contact with my husband for a week, and they hadn’t had any contact with Doug or anyone from VF/BCA for a week either. So I had a very difficult time understanding what was so time consuming that his wife would be crying that day. It was almost as if the excuse was so ridiculous that he was begging me to read through it and see what was really happening. I didn’t see it at first, but then I heard yet another bullying story about Doug and all of a sudden what happened with church #5 and with Faith started to make sense.

  33. Agatha Says:

    I just stumbled upon your story. I have experienced a small part of what you have experienced in my own life. My husband and I decided to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. Believe it or not, many Protestants are! The historical integrity, the focus on the individual’s spiritual growth, and the hierarchical structure drew us in. Not to mention the sheer beauty of the worship.

    I would recommend a book called Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells. Also a book called Becoming Orthodox, and anything you can get by Frederica Matthews Green.

    They are all stories of people who were searching for something true and unchanging. Anyway, it’s been so healing for me to attend this church after the authoritarian church I was a part of before.

  34. Hutch Says:

    Jen-

    Not making excuses for Church #5, but Church #5 may have been bombarded with requests and requirements from DP/Vision Forum that you are not aware of-that is a common tactic for authoritarian groups in order to wear folks out and waste their time. The goal is for people to say exactly what those elders said to you…we quit.

    What I had hoped was happening was that the elders of Church #5 had listened to your side of the story-then listened to DP/BCA’s side of the story and then just let you attend/worship and watch the fruit of your life and actions before drawing a final conclusion.

    I think if a church did that, it would be reasonable. It is almost impossible to know exactly what has really taken place when you step in the middle of a situation like this. Observing peoples actions over an extended period of time and evaluating the fruit of their lives is the only way to even begin to make a judgment call regarding someone’s character.

    That is what I thought they would do.

  35. Hutch Says:

    Jen-

    Are the elders at Church #5 full-time staff pastors or do they also have other jobs?

    Just curious.

  36. sarah Says:

    Jen. . .it seems to me that these reformed churches are decidedly not showing the fruits of the spirit. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider some of your theology.

  37. Jen Says:

    Hutch, I think you know too many details already. 😉

    What you suggested was exactly what was proposed to them. I requested to attend quietly for two months, promising not to say or write anything at all about Doug, VF, BCA, or patriarchy during that time, and to just let them observe me. No go. The odd thing is that these two elders have already observed me elsewhere, which is why we had such plans together for a totally unrelated project. They already “know” a lot about me and were very impressed. At least that’s what they said.

    As far as behind the scenes stuff, Hutch, there really is more to it than just wearing them down with requests. Just think about what techniques a professional “bully” might use against other adults. Think about another term for that kind of behavior. I’m being cautious in what I say, but if I wrote what I know, most people here would think I’ve been WAY too kind to Doug.

    One elder is full time staff at church #5 and one holds down another job.

    Sarah, just because some Reformed elders are cowards does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with the theology. I will believe what God’s Word teaches no matter how badly that theology might be abused or misused. Same goes for hypocrites. I am constantly drumming it into my children that even though Doug and others are total hypocrites that we cannot judge Christianity by how others use it for evil purposes.

    So, I will stand on what I see God’s Word saying, no matter what. But, I do thank everyone for all their suggestions here. Perhaps it does mean that there are no Refomed elders in this mega-city of 1 1/2 million who are willing to stand up to bullies, but I am!

  38. sarah Says:

    I will forgive you for ambiguous and unspecified offenses at the bargain price of $100. No public groveling necessary! Cash only.*

    *This forgiveness is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original forgiveness. It implies no promise by the forgiver to actually implement any of the forgiveness for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the forgiver. This forgiveness warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of mercy and grace for an indefinite period, or until the issuance of a subsequent forgiveness for new offenses is required. Warranty is limited to replacement of this forgiveness or issuance of new mercies at the sole discretion of the forgiver. Forgiveness is issued upon receipt of cash payment of $100 without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the forgivee. By accepting this forgiveness you are accepting these terms.

    (I’m joking, of course).

  39. Cynthia Gee Says:

    Gasp…
    Sarah is selling indulgences!

    ROLFLOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  40. Jen Says:

    But Cynthia, Sarah’s indulgences are much more reasonable than Doug’s! Sarah, have you been spending too much time in your law classes lately? 😉 Thanks for the offer.

    Now that Pape Blastus has exonerated me and you offer me forgiveness for only $100, I don’t see any need to go groveling to Doug for a measly 100K entrance fee, do you?

  41. Cynthia Gee Says:

    Realy, we should be thankful that Doug is in the ministry and not the medical profession — his rates would be astronomical.

    Mar 2:9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, [Thy] sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?

  42. sarah Says:

    Law classes aside, I merely attempt to divine the terms of Doug’s forgiveness contract. But with my own “egalitarian, white-washed” forgiving twist – a lower price tag.

    Doug’s actions seem more like racketeering than selling indulgences. Conspiracy, threats and extortion, all to keep Jen from church or to allow her to go to church. Creepy.

  43. Jen Says:

    “Doug’s actions seem more like racketeering than selling indulgences. Conspiracy, threats and extortion, all to keep Jen from church or to allow her to go to church. Creepy.”

    Sarah, how about some free law advice with that diagnosis? Those terms should all be red flags to you!

  44. sarah Says:

    I am not yet qualified to give law advice, free or otherwise. Law or common sense, the whole thing is red flags. Christianity run amuck, for sure.

    I think one thing is clear: setting out to build an empire and earn profit based on “ministry” certainly leads to odd relationships and corrupt theology. The sad thing is that Phillips probably sincerely believes he is in the right and he has no one in his life willing to tell him otherwise.

    Once again I say, “creepy.”

  45. Annie C Says:

    If you do decide to give the Catholic church a try, let me know. I’m sure there are a number of us who would be glad to talk with you about it, you may well be surprised.

  46. Bene D Says:

    I have followed your story since the day I read you were looking for the perfect church.

    I didn’t ask you to define perfect.:^)

    I honestly didn’t know whether you’d be successful in being a walkaway, thanks for filling in the blanks.
    There was a world of hurt ahead from when you first found your voice, good to see discerning kicking in.
    It’s common to get sucked back in.

    It is indeed your story and you get to tell the rest of us what escape and growth looks like. You get to answer your own question; “why am I attracted to these types?”
    You get to warn others and continue to expose falsehood and abuse.

    I don’t know what it is like to be immersed in such a small world, I don’t know what it is like to long for the perfect church, I don’t know what it is like to bump into people caught up in a toxic religious environment.
    I don’t know what it is like to hurt this way, abused and shunned by adults who don’t know what inter-dependence and healthiness is.

    Doug Phillips is no different than any other authoritarian abuser, I see you are grasping that reality now.
    He may never stop trying to contaminate your environment Jen, it’s part of what makes him dangerous and effectively so.
    He is a legend in his own mind, and I pray he’ll stop being one in yours.

    There are so many Christians who have successfully left toxic religious environments. They’ve healed, found balance and live to help others God brings their way – clear eyed, without fear – taking good care of themselves first.

    I’m glad to see you are going to be one of them.

    Good for you for refusing the WSJ article, it’s not time, and I say that as a reporter. It may never be time, given what you’ve been going through, keeping the ability to tell your own story may be an integral component of your journey toward emotional, social and spiritual health.

    Take care of yourself, God isn’t in a hurry.
    Blog on!

  47. WOW Says:

    Wow.

    It really is hard to stop being a people pleaser, isn’t it?

    That is really the last battle it seems before we learn to rest in the Lord and his finished work, where we are accepted in the beloved.

  48. Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff Says:

    Jen, what a painful and familiar story. I ended up here on your blog because I’m going to blog about the Monstrous Regiment movie. I had heard of your initial struggles but then was told you had reconciled with Phillips, et al. Reading about everything you’ve gone through made me physically ill. Doug Phillips. What a dude.

    Here is what I know: he’ll never stop. None of them ever will. There is nothing you can ever do, I don’t believe, that will ever appease their relentless determination that women who think for themselves and take full responsibility for their own relationships with God be subordinated and silenced.

    Well, good luck to them with that! How’s that working out for them? 🙂

    You ask why you seem to be drawn to these ridiculously abusive, arrogant types. You might find some answers if you do a little research into “traumatic bonding” or “betrayal bonding.” I was drawn to people and groups and leaders like that as well for a very long time, was I ever. Not any more.

    My best to you,

    Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff

  49. Biblical Marriage Says:

    Jen, thanks for posting, but you know that Doug Phillips is probably not to blame for his sexual sin. It’s the fault of the woman’s authority figure for not keeping her properly cloistered.

  50. Brandon Says:

    Jen,

    Just happened to stumble across the blog and have been reading about your experience…What a shame. As a Presbyterian who has ministered in churches and who is a committed Presbyterian I have to say that I’m appalled at the behavior of these Presbyterian & Reformed churches, not to say anything of Doug Phillips. That any church would prohibit or let someone know that they were not welcome at the church is the highest form of Pharisaism. Even if you were under discipline any church that I have ever been a part of would have encouraged you to enjoy the worship of the church and would have worked with you had they determined a need for repentance. Even refusal to repent, if it were necessary, would have been met with an admonishment that you could not participate in the sacraments but that you were more than welcome at the church.

    I obviously don’t know all the data that the elders had to make the decisions that they did (from what I’ve seen from the articles I’ve read the fact that they don’t know what to ask you for repentance about is highly dubious), but their decisions are faulty regardless. I hope you’ve been able to find a church where discipline is taken seriously but where due process is also highly valued.

    Brandon


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