I received a notification on my phone today that said there was a sharp increase in my readership here today. I haven’t posted anything here in a long time, so I was a bit perplexed. Then friends began notifying me of the new article up on Boerne Christian Assembly’s website and it all started to make sense.
Ten years ago, I was blissfully unaware of what was just about to take place. I had just finished my mandatory counseling with Beall Phillips and Reba Short on why I was such an ungodly wife (they had no specific examples, but just a general, broad accusation); I had written my private letter to Doug Phillips about why voting for his father’s third-party candidate was a losing proposition, and he had in turn not only preached against my letter point-by-point on Election Sunday, but had also threatened me with “You will pay for this!” But that retribution did not take effect for three more months, when I was excommunicated on January 30, 2005. There were no reasons given for my excommunication, except for broad-brushed generalizations that I was not a godly wife.
Confused and deeply hurt, Mark and I tried every possible way we knew to reconcile with Doug Phillips and BCA, but he finally threatened to sue us if we ever contacted him again. When I knew that my heart was right with God on this matter, and I found out that Doug Phillips had hurt other people without a just cause, I began to sense that this was a pattern of spiritual abuse and that my homeschool patriarchy friends needed to be warned about this wolf in sheep’s clothing, so nearly two years after we were excommunicated, I began this blog. (If you have not read my story in full, it is listed to the left of this article.)
After nine years, Doug Phillips was forced to (voluntarily) resign from his position as President of Vision Forum Ministries and he subsequently lost his business when the homeschool world was rocked with the revelation that Doug Phillips, the man who held himself out as the one to emulate in having the “perfect” godly family, was really a hypocrite to the highest degree, teaching one thing and living a lie, having an “inappropriate” relationship for many years with a young woman who happened to be my daughter’s best friend.
Doug Phillips’ resignation took place just over one year ago, and since that time, I have had many conversations with numerous people who have been either directly or indirectly involved in this whole saga of what was happening behind the scenes in the last fifteen years. I have finally found out the real reason I was excommunicated: my “sin” that was kept secret from the whole world, one that even I was not aware of. As I share this, I realize I have no “proof,” but every indication points to the “real” reason for my unjust excommunication.
Doug Phillips is used to being the “top dog” in his own circles. As the years went by, first hundreds, and then thousands, of homeschool families literally worshiped Doug and his teachings, following him around from one homeschool conference to another, and clamoring to attend his “patriarchy-homeschool-only” events. They were quite memorable and well-done trips and events, to be sure! Those who challenged Doug were the “outsiders,” those Jezebels and liberals and feminists and all those who never measured up in Doug’s eyes. But no one inside his circles ever stood up to him and challenged him — until I came along. However, I don’t think that being challenged by a woman, as insulting as that was to Doug, was the underlying reason for my excommunication, although Doug used it as his “justification.”
During the five years we were at BCA, my daughter was best friends with Lourdes. They were inseparable and shared all their secrets together. But as Lourdes turned 18 and “graduated” from high school, something began to change, ever so slightly. During these Vision Forum grand events that Doug Phillips and Vision Forum Ministries would put on, he needed help with his many kids, so he and Beall would bring along a nanny for the trip. One year, it was Natasha’s turn to be a nanny for the Faith and Freedom Tour, a highly coveted trip indeed! But then something happened. Out of the blue, and with no explanation given, Doug informed Natasha that he would be taking Lourdes instead of Natasha. My daughter was understandably devastated and confused. That did not make any sense to us ten years ago.
But that was the beginning of Doug Phillips’ more overt attention toward Lourdes, although he had made it abundantly clear what his intentions were long before she turned 18. So, if Doug had his eye on Lourdes, and Lourdes shared all her secrets with Natasha, what would happen if Natasha told her mother that Doug was acting inappropriately toward Lourdes? Would I be bullied into keeping quiet? Or would I speak out and tell the world what Doug Phillips was really doing behind the scenes? Whether Doug Phillips correctly guessed or not, he obviously chose to get me out of the way, and that meant getting my whole family out of the way so he could continue to pursue this young lady he had fallen in love with.
So, in reality, I was excommunicated so that Doug Phillips could get my family, and especially me, out of his way so he could pursue another woman other than his wife. I cannot help but think of the time in church when Doug said, “When a man falls in love, all reason goes out the window.” This was more than foolish young love, however.
Today, BCA’s new elders announced that BCA has excommunicated Doug Phillips because they feel he has not repented for his sins that he first confessed to BCA nearly two years, and for which he resigned one year ago. This story has now come full circle. As I try to process this event today, I have several thoughts and would like to share some words from my heart to several people involved here. Please allow me to post several open letters in this article.
Today you are reaping what you have sown. You have been instrumental in excommunicating many individuals and families, whether at BCA or through other NCFIC churches. You have ruined many businesses and careers because of your involvement. You have threatened many people with lawsuits, you have stolen what has belonged to others, you have brought much fear and terror to many families who trusted you and looked up to you. I won’t name names here, but you know the hundreds of people whose lives have been greatly harmed because of how you made yourself judge and jury in people’s personal lives, and you made yourself “God” in judging who was sinning and who was not.
You also set yourself up as the “model” godly family, inviting trusting homeschool families to emulate you and look up to you, while you lived a lie at home. You have treated your own children abominably and they probably don’t even realize it yet. You have “dealt treacherously” with the wife of your youth, and defrauded another young woman who looked up to you and trusted you.
You have not dealt with the pornography problem, you have cheated your customers, you have lied to get what you want including lying about being commissioned to begin this church which has just excommunicated you, you have not honored your parents and you have blatantly dishonored Beall’s parents. You have committed murder and adultery in your heart, many times. You have stolen and lied and coveted ideas and businesses and recognition that belonged to others. You teach the Ten Commandments but you do not live them.
I have no problems in listing the “sins” you have been excommunicated for, although BCA probably has their own list.
But I am not going to call you to change your ways. No, I am not. Patriarchy was wrongly built on a performance-based platform. Patriarchy’s platform was performance and perfection. “If you do this, it’s a sin.” “If you don’t do that, it’s a sin.” “If you behave in this way, God will be pleased.” “If you follow this rule or that rule, you will be blessed.” Perhaps your greatest sin, Doug, is in leading so many astray from the real truth of God’s Word, putting them in a bondage never designed for us.
Doug, that is not the God of the New Covenant. You have attempted to live your life by the letter of the Law rather than the spirit. Whenever we focus on outward rules and restrictions, we will certainly doom ourselves to doing the opposite of what we are trying to do. And the harder we try, the more we fail. And that is what is being demonstrated in your own life today. You have forced so many rules down the throats of hundreds of thousands of homeschool families, a burden God never intended us to bear. You could not bear that heavy burden either, so I will not call you to continue to try to carry this heavy burden of performance.
We have all sinned. No one here is perfect: not you, not me, not any of us homeschool families. It is not up to us to judge one another in our lack of perfection since performance and perfection was never God’s intent for us. Doug, this is a heart issue. God wants you to simply put your heart in His hands and allow Him to mold your stony heart into a softened heart of flesh. When God writes His Law of Love on our hearts and minds, then God’s love is that driving force in our lives. We no longer need to strive to obey Him or work hard to please Him. Instead, we simply respond to His love as His love so fills us to overflowing that we cannot help but love all those He puts in our lives.
And that is why I can honestly say, Doug, that I do love you. God has filled me to overflowing with His love and I deeply desire to see you experience this love that only God can fill you with. Doug, my prayer for you today is that you turn your hard heart to God and allow Him to soften it with His love.
Although you will never experience the depth of loss and shunning that I did, I want you to know that in this very ironic turn of events, you and I are now on the same team: those who are being shunned by the “community.” Like I told your husband, I am really not interested in what you did wrong or right, but I just want you to know that I care. I will not participate in the “shunning” that accompanies excommunication in this “community.” I will not return wrong for wrong.
I choose to believe that you did not willingly participate in my excommunication, Beall. I know that you truly believe that you must submit to your husband in all things, and in some sense that is admirable. But there are times when you need to realize that it is better not to be complicit in your husband’s abuse of others.
I will never forget the day we met in Costco. Only you know what I am talking about. Know that if I saw you again, it would be the same way.
Beall, I pray that God will give you the courage to do what is right, no matter what. This is not a performance-based “doing what is right,” but this is the natural result of the love of God permeating your very being.
I miss you, Beall.
Dear Joshua, Justice, Liberty, Jubilee, Faith, Honor, Providence, and Virginia,
What has happened today will not really sink in for a long time. You may not ever fully understand it. It may take years and years to process it. As I think back to how my own children’s lives were devastated by our excommunication, I can only say that I would never wish that upon any other child, and especially upon those whose lives we have been a part of.
For many years, I watched you grow up. Most of you were friends with my own kids. Natasha was like a second mom to Honor. It broke her heart to have him ripped away from her like that. I know it is very difficult to lose all your friends you have known your whole life. I hear that you are attending another church now. It is not the same, is it? I know how difficult it is to lose your whole way of life, and everyone you love, and try to start over.
Some of you will handle this better than others. Some of you will carry the scars of this for the rest of your life. I pray that as the years go by, and you struggle with all the questions that will come up, that you will find that only realizing how much God truly does love you is where you will find your healing.
I pray that none of you ever experience the depth of pain and suffering that my own children did in the excommunication. I pray that no one ever publicly turns their back on you or ignores you and pretends like you don’t exist because of something your father did. I pray that God will heal you from the things your father has done to you.
Perhaps you will see this letter to you many years from now, as I know you will not be allowed to read it now. When you finally read this, know that I have been praying for you all these years.
Dear Mark, Natasha, Joshua, and Alicia,
This is karma for us. What goes around, comes around. But there is a huge difference between taking revenge personally and allowing God to work in His own way and His own time. There are always consequences for our actions in life, and today is a perfect example of that.
No matter what happens to Doug Phillips, though, never let him rule your life. Forgiveness frees US from Doug Phillips having any power in our lives. Anger and bitterness only gives Doug authority and power. God’s Word is always proven true in how we are to treat our enemies, and Doug has treated us like an enemy: Let us resolve to love Doug Phillips, to pray for him, to forgive him, to bless him, and to do good to him. We will leave the rest up to God.
God loves each one of you and rescued us all from the pit of patriarchy and legalism.
Dear Lourdes, my dear friend,
What a blessing it has been for our families to renew our friendships once again! We have thought about you and anguished over our lost relationship throughout the years. Natasha has cried countless tears at the loss of her best friend.
But God has graciously brought us all back together again and I am loving the time I get to spend with you — long talks together, delicious homemade meals in your home, running errands together, and even working together! How ironic that we would end up working outside the home together!
It is even more ironic, and perhaps fitting, that God would use women and children to bring down Doug Phillips’ ship. His foundation was “Women and Children First,” based upon the Titanic, but in reality, Doug trampled on women and children, rather than protecting them. God’s ironies are far greater than anything we could have planned!
Speaking of God, Lourdes, I don’t think I have ever seen someone so filled with the love of God as I do in you! You have no unforgiveness in your heart, no anger, no bitterness toward Doug. It always amazes me that when you and I get together, the focus of our conversations are on moving forward in life, rather than continually hashing out the hurts of the past. While dealing with the past is necessary for healing, it is also vitally important to move on to the “acceptance” stage of life, and that is where we both live now.
The joy of the Lord is my strength! That joy is so evident in you, my dear friend! I look forward to many more years of sharing our lives together!
To the elders of BCA: Jeff Horn and David Fry,
While I have never met you, I’m sure you know who I am. I can’t help but see a striking difference between my own excommunication and that of Doug Phillips. While I do not know all the specifics, what I do know is significant. I know that Doug “confessed” to certain sins in February, 2013, and was then “forced” to resign in October, 2013, just over one year ago. I have also seen the change in eldership since that time as well.
Nearly two years has gone by since this first became known to the church. It appears, although I cannot verify this, that everything possible has been done to restore Doug to his church. Thank you for taking plenty of time in working through this situation when you could have easily jumped straight into the quick disciplinary action Doug was well-known for. He was shown the mercy through you that he himself never extended.
I also thank you for not taking the easy way and just believing that Doug Phillips was repentant. Doug may have fooled many with his smooth talk and charm, but those of us who know him well know very well that he is not the least bit repentant. In excommunicating him, you have not only shown that we share this view, but you have also effectually said that Doug has committed some serious wrongs. This was not done without much prayer and time, and that is obvious. Thank you.
I also realize that as elders, you have inherited a mess at BCA. Many people, including my family, have been greatly harmed and wounded at the hands of BCA, in some way. I pray that you will not try to simply sweep all these wrongs under the rug, but as these are all bound up with Doug Phillips, in some way, I sincerely hope that you will also be the catalyst to bring healing to a very hurting community. God has given you an incredible responsibility at this point in time. Please use it wisely.
Dear Past and Present BCA members, and members of the “community,”
Whether or not you ever signed your name on the dotted line of the “till death do us part” covenant, we are all still united. God is the One who brought us all together, and no matter what hurt or pain has separated us, our hearts are still connected, and always will be. God made us that way.
There is no place like BCA, no “community” like ours. It is one of a kind, never to be duplicated again. Whatever happens in the community in the future, whatever happens to BCA, let us all keep one another in our hearts and in our lives. You can tell your stories to your friends and family far and wide, but they will never “get” it, because it is such an unusual place.
There is a ton of hurt and pain in this community right now. We all need healing. We can blame Doug Phillips or you can blame me, or we can play the blame game all day long, but the truth is that we need one another, and we need God for healing. Not only do we need healing on an individual level, many of us, but we all need healing on a corporate level. We, the “community,” and we, the past and present members of BCA, are part of one united body. Why are we self-inflicting wounds? Why not bind up those broken hearts, why not reach out to those we have judged as being “not worthy,” why not come together in unity as Christ commissioned us to?
Do you remember the first year together, when we learned about “one anothering” in the Bible, when love and fellowship was contagiously high? Have we lost our first love?
There are many of you I have not met yet. You are still a part of my heart. I want you to know that I love you and am praying for each of you and for this “community.”
PS. I want to say a special word to Jennifer Grady. I don’t judge you. I’ve been in your shoes in so many ways. You have spunk and you’re gonna make it! I’ve heard that you have made some awesome changes in life lately! Great job! Always remember that God loves you just the way you are.
To my readers, especially those affected by patriarchy and/or the NCFIC,
Thank you. You all have helped me go through this difficult part of life in a way I would never have dreamed of!
It may be tempting right now to gloat about what is happening to Doug Phillips, but that was never my intention here. I came here solely to warn people about a wolf in sheep’s clothing because I didn’t want anyone to be hurt in the way my family was. While many readers heeded the warning the first year (I personally heard from over 1000 families who left patriarchy the first year I told my story here), unfortunately, there were many more who did not listen. It grieves me deeply to see how many people and how many families have been wounded by Doug Phillips, either personally or through his teachings. So let us not use this opportunity to rejoice at someone’s fall, but let us endeavor together to pray that God will soften his heart of stone, and let us pray for Beall and their children, and for Lourdes. My family still really needs prayer and healing. And BCA.
You are all my extended family. I thank God for each one of you. I pray that this whole ordeal will be a life-changing lesson not only for us individually, but as the larger community of Christian homeschoolers.
This has left a black eye, or worse, for Christian homeschoolers. Let’s let God put a steak on that black eye and bring healing to our whole body.
Andrew McDonald has been reading and commenting here for the last year, and partially because of his involvement here, he has encountered his own story of church discipline which he would like to share with us here. While there have been many, many people and families who have been hurt in various ways through the years by Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Scott Brown, NCFIC, and others associated with these men and their ministries, most have chosen the easy road of just keeping quiet. It takes real courage to speak out publicly about what is happening, to warn friends and family that their house is on fire! Patriarchy, and the abuses within its walls, is still alive and well. To those who are still in the patriarchy movement, and/or the NCFIC movement: Your house is on fire! The time to act is now!
Here is Andrew’s story, in his own words:
Some of you know my concerns as I have written on Jen’s Gems a bit. People are still suffering from Doug Phillips’ abuse and speaking out is part of the process of healing. I began thinking about those like him: Men desiring control. I’ve posted about that and gave details of the past and present situations in my own life and church. Some details were specifically about Scott Brown and as a result someone alerted the leader of my church and I was eventually called into a private meeting and confronted. I do not deny that some good has come alongside the wrong teachings, there has been much good done, but the wrong teachings are never justified by adjacent successes. Successes are really God’s department and to His credit not ours. He gets the glory. Justifying the error by mention of the benefit only makes the situation more tragic, it does not validate the error. Since the leader knows I post here I’ve decided to respond here. You may well ask what is my background and how dare I say these things? Glad you asked! I am a great sinner who has a greater Savior, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and trying to follow after the Great Shepherd who invites us all to follow Him. I say these things not because I am worthy; I say them because the TRUTH is worthy and, lastly, because folks need to be warned.
An Open Letter to my former leader:
When you confronted me about posting on this blog, you showed up with a stack of paper and mentioned over 100 pages written. I thought that seemed like a lot. In order to get an accurate idea of what I said in the posts and the volume of the entries, I went through the site and copied them all. I posted 66 messages, printable in less than 23 pages, not even close to the ‘over 100 pages’ mentioned. Most posts were short and, contrary to your ‘concern’, took little time away from my family. Some were late at night as the matter was heavy on my heart.
No posts were purposefully inflammatory; they were my experiences or opinions tempered with prayer and investigation. That the posts were truthful is bolstered by the fact that they eventually identified me. Most were inquiries about Doug Phillips’ close associate, Scott Brown. Scott Brown was initially my concern. Some posts were sincere inquiry seeking counsel.
I contacted people who knew Scott Brown to confirm that he had problems; the events were confirmed by personal testimony and church records. These events were never cleared up.
As it turns out, your belief that Scott Brown is ‘one of the godliest men’ you know is based solely on your experience with him. I continued to research and began to post in December of 2013. NONE of the posts were made until after I’d spoken with you. My concerns were effectively dismissed. After I told you that the posts were mine, you moved to the old standby tactic of all authoritarian leaders: accuse and intimidate. You accused me of being a gossip and a busy body even though you knew that I came to you with each concern and you also knew I had not broadcast it about the church. Am I a gossip? Like Doug Phillips has said, ‘He who defines the terms wins.’ But my intent was not to get the ‘juicy stuff’ as you said; it was only to get at the truth, to protect against wrong teachings and to warn you.
I am sure that I am not the only one with concerns over these matters. Yet many will say nothing as they understand the reception and repercussions of doing so. This lack of freedom to speak is not surprising to anyone on this blog. It thrives in all cultish environs where perfunctory dismissal of differing opinions seems to be the order of the day. I am not sure who told you about this blog, but it really matters little to me. I imagine it is another concerned person in the church and I am glad they are concerned. I hope they continue to dig into the details. If they do they will discover the truth. I do not regret warning others or checking into folks presented as ‘teachers’ or ‘authorities’; it is the obligation of any follower of Christ and especially one who leads in any capacity to ‘know the well from which they drink.’ We are charged to be Bereans, to see ‘if these things be so.’
I went through the NCFIC site to see just how deeply entrenched you were. It was a task to be sure. I found your presence pervasive and realized your course had been set firmly. I discovered that the beliefs along these lines were nothing new, they began even before you came here. You testified to that in your phone interview on the NCFIC blog. The beliefs were fostered, in part, by and through Doug Wilson and his disciples.
At your first church experience you expressed frustration at trying to ‘replicate the ministries’ of your sending church. You say it caused burn out and ended with the eventual abandonment of Junior Church. In the phone interview with Scott Brown, you said a youth pastor gave you a booklet by Christopher Schlect. The pamphlet explained why people should remove their children from Sunday School and youth ministries and how such activities are anti-Biblical.
When I researched Schlect, I found he was a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Christians. (CREC is a denomination/sect started by Doug Wilson in 1998 surrounded by dubious activities and shenanigans.) I saw that he was a teacher at New Saint Andrews College (Doug Wilson’s college). His pamphlet was published by Canon Press (Doug Wilson’s company). Then I recalled your response when I tried to caution you about Doug Wilson, after you gave out one of his books at a men’s retreat. I researched Doug Wilson, and then came to you. I warned you and you said he was a friend. I thought you were just trying to get a book published. Now it makes sense, you were already a follower. My warning was years too late.
After your church plant, you found an established church to implement your newly adopted ideas. In the interview you declare that you came to the church and began your ‘5 year deprogramming’ plan. You followed exactly Paul Washer’s counsel on his You Tube video for ‘Reforming a Church’. Gaining their confidence, by teaching on relevant issues like the family, you moved right along ‘letting some ministries die gracefully’ rather than axing them. Although I’m not sure how any ministry dies gracefully, that is what you said in the interview.
You have also followed the example of Scott Brown. When he got in a tight spot, he called for a ‘vote of confidence’ . I recalled the same ploy used at church when people voiced concern at a congregational meeting just after Scott Brown had been there. You called for a vote of confidence and it worked. In retrospect, that was a sad, sad day. If the vote had been the other way, the church would have been saved from much trouble. The whole event seemed out of place, the timing of the ploy may have been a tad off, perhaps a bit overplayed, but hey, it worked. It was a watershed moment.
Those who knew something was wrong likely knew they’d just lost their church. Trouble was that they lacked the expertise of the better communicator. Mark this, they did not lose because they were wrong, they lost because they were not as articulate, as organized, as winsome and because they got too emotional over the issue. They had the disadvantage because they did not really know what was being played at. Few did. They were colorfully painted as aggressive, arrogant, close minded, slightly ignorant and off base. Some colors were slightly true and that lent credence to the accusations; yet who is perfect, don’t we all have some of these traits? The flesh is hard to capture and, as Christians, we are all in the process.
After this event you, more firmly, established your authority; after all the church is a ‘pastor rule’ church and it was your prerogative. When this all started I wonder if the congregation saw the big picture. I wonder if they knew about the ‘5 year plan’ or about ‘letting ministries die gracefully.’ I am sure the idea of changes for the ‘good’ of the congregation seemed good. Some, in fact, were good; that they were based on an unbiblical foundation was far from their minds. Did they know they were involved in ‘worldly practices’? I doubt it. Scott Brown was the first real clue but it was already too late, the wheels had been set in motion. I have to respect what you’ve accomplished even though the church had to split to get there. I have learned from this: I will NEVER attend a ‘pastor rule’ church again; sadly human nature is just too corrupt for such a rule.
I did consider revealing myself on the blog. I thought it was perhaps even courageous since you implied that to be posting on the blog under a pseudonym was cowardly and sinful. Blasphemous, you said about the site, although I still cannot see that one; I see no contempt or lack of reverence for God on the site. Yet I’ve decided not to reveal myself as it would reduce this to a personality contest. The contest should be the truth against falsehood. It may take awhile but the truth will always win. Some do not think too deeply about much and it is not their fault. If it wasn’t for Scott Brown, I would not have thought more. Not knowing was far more comfortable.
When I first began all this, I did it because I thought you were being charmed or won over by these people. I wanted to warn you. I was wrong. I was quizzical at the reception of the information I had retrieved, for two reasons: first, it is very, very likely true; and second, I thought you’d appreciate the time and effort involved in an effort to warn you. Instead, you told me I should be a ‘spy or a detective’, that I should stay off the internet.
Your accusation of my demeaning you (by mentioning that you were young) is not fair, as if I am against you personally. I am not. The fact is, you are young, you are just as susceptible to spiritual deception as anyone else, and as a leader you’re even more likely to be targeted than others for deception. On this site, I said you were young and asked people to pray. As I told you, this was not meant as a slam. I still ask that, now even more fervently.
In researching this situation, I can’t tell you how many people sounded like Sgt. Shultz from the old Hogan’s Heroes show, ‘I know nothing!’ or the TV evangelist’s ‘Don’t touch God’s anointed.’ If I did not know the people involved, I might ask, ‘Who has bewitched you?’ Except I know who bewitched you for I was bewitched by the same crowd.
In 2006 the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International said Family Integrated Church practices were ‘errant and schismatic.’ They pretty much sum it up:
• It encourages schism in the local church bodies by encouraging its adherents to change the theology and philosophy of the churches of which they are members.
• It does violence to local church authority, calling on local church members to leave their churches when the church does not bow to the philosophical demands of the movement.
• It espouses an ecclesiology based upon the family that is not based upon the New Testament but rather is an adaptation of Old Testament patriarchy.
• It falsely lays the claim that the destruction of the family in the U.S. is solely the fault of age-graded ministries in local churches. We contend that this is a simplistic and therefore false accusation.
• It espouses a postmillennial theology that is contradictory to a dispensational understanding of Scripture.
• It is oddly inclusive, basing fellowship on a particular philosophy of ministry rather than on the great fundamentals of the faith.
I do not say that anyone involved in the NCFIC is lacking salvation. Salvation does not hinge on these things singularly but the efficacy of the salvation message can be clouded by them, the Christian walk can be hindered by them and unity will certainly suffer from them. I urge you to step down from involvement with these people, as Kevin Swanson has done, and just pastor your church; the people love you, they do not need someone in ‘substantial’ agreement with NCFIC. (Gotta love those nebulous words; they always provide a convenient back door if things get hot!) The people need you to stand for God, for His Word and lead. And be honest with them, if they want to go the direction you intend then great but give them a voice in the matter.
UPDATE: This letter will certainly identify me as I put it into the hands of church leadership before I decided to post it and parts of it (like the statement from the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International) were given to alert leadership to the hazards of the NCFIC. Already my family has been turned away from by some folks who will no longer come to our home because of, as one dear saint said, some ‘offense.’ Naturally unexplained. Another hung up their phone when we called. We are funny and predictable creatures upon which God has lavished his love. We should do likewise even in the face of shunning. In the end, God will prevail and we will understand, one day, just why we did the things we did and how it was right or wrong; for God’s glory or our own. In the meantime we must continue to look to Jesus.
I was told yesterday that the pastor called a congregational meeting where they were told that I’d posted ‘lies’ on the web about him and the church. That explains the responses we’re getting. Oh well. Funny thing is just before I got the phone call about the meeting I’d told my wife we were probably excommunicated in abstentia; not too far from wrong on that one! Explains the cold shoulders we’re getting. I wonder why no one is thinking about how so many folks who’ve left could all have been wrong?
One year ago, the theme of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival seemed to be “Defending the Defenseless.” This festival came only days on the heels of Doug Phillips being found in a compromising position with “Cassandra” and the subsequent sudden departure of her family from the beloved church they had attended for nearly thirteen years. Putting women and children first, and defending the defenseless, seemed to be the farthest thing from Doug Phillips’ mind as he stood front and center on the stage and continued to hide his deep, dark secrets from his adoring fans. At that time, no one knew he had quietly stepped down as elder, stating that he wanted to spend more time with his family. The reality is that he probably turned on the charm in order to save his marriage after having been caught. He waited until after the film festival to “confess” his sins to Bob Sarratt, the only other elder at BCA, a “yes man” who was very good at keeping Doug’s sins secret for the next nine months.
When Vision Forum Ministries announced online last October that the 9th annual San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival was first postponed, and then cancelled, it sparked waves of confusion and frustration for the filmmakers and their families who had worked so diligently to meet the film submission deadline which was only days away. Rather than emailing those on the SAICFF list and telling them of the postponement and cancellation, and with absolutely no explanation of why Vision Forum Ministries’ most popular annual event was being suddenly dropped at the last moment, the grapevine soon became the de facto form of communication within this small, but tightly knit, troop of independent Christian film makers. One by one, they contacted each other in utter disbelief: “How could this happen? We just spent the last year of our lives working on making another film, and now what?”
Ten days later, when Doug Phillips announced his resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, it began to make some sense. But did it really? Or did it actually cause more questions and more confusion? After all, according to World Magazine’s April 5, 2014 cover story article about Doug Phillips, the five men who confronted Doug Phillips on his doorstep did so the day before he resigned, which was October 30, 2013. If that is true, why did Vision Forum cancel the film festival ten days prior to Doug being confronted? I’m guessing there’s a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye, including why Scott Brown knew, at the latest, by September 9, 2013, and still allowed Doug Phillips to continue on with his duties as normal.
At this exact same time, a pastor in Illinois, Philip Telfer, was moving his family down to the San Antonio area to become the new pastor at Living Water Fellowship, which is Little Bear Wheeler’s church in the “community” here. Although Pastor Telfer had gone to a couple of the film festivals put on by Vision Forum and submitted a couple films himself, he had no interest in patriarchy whatsoever. Coming from an inner-city youth ministry in Chicago, patriarchy was a totally foreign concept to Pastor Telfer. Like so many other filmmakers and individuals who were just there to observe, they attended Vision Forum’s San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival simply because it was the only game in town for Christian films.
Not desiring all that work and talent to be wasted and discouraged, Pastor Telfer naively thought that it shouldn’t be too difficult to put together a new film festival for everyone who was already expecting one, so he went to Little Bear with his idea of simply providing an avenue for a film festival. In his mind, he just needed to find a venue, pick a date relatively close to the original date, and organize it. Little Bear thought he was nuts! He had no idea of the politics behind Doug Phillips’ resignation and that he would now be painting a large target on his back for stepping on such sacred ground. Not to be daunted, however, Pastor Telfer set out to provide a safe place for Christian filmmakers to gather and continue their annual film festival traditions.
When I first heard of this initiative, I was a bit dubious. What were his real motives? Is this just another ministry rising up to promote more patriarchy? Is this man trying to make a name for himself on someone else’s coattails? The only thing I knew about him was that one of our mutual friends was in ministry together with Pastor Telfer, in a ministry called Media Talk 101. That was encouraging enough to me to check it out since I knew my friend, a humble man who dearly loves the Lord, was definitely not into patriarchy, although he is a godly family man. I considered attending the new Christian Worldview Film Festival, held March 11-15, 2014, but I wasn’t really interested in just being a spy. That didn’t seem like a good idea, so I thought about it for a long time.
I have been going to school for quite a while now to become a certified health coach and my area of emphasis is in learning how to help people who are going through traumatic events, or who have not healed from the stress and trauma and pain of past events in life. Not only have I experienced much trauma and pain from the excommunication and all the aftermath from that, especially with my children, but I have also experienced a tremendous amount of agonizing and heartbreaking ordeals and upheavals in the last decade or so. God has taught me many ways to not only handle the stress and emotion and pain that accompany these difficulties in life, but also how to bring about the level of healing that actually makes me stronger and a much better person because of attending the University of Hard Knocks.
With Doug Phillips’ resignation came a mass of chaos, confusion, pain, and deep wounds within the “community,” both local and nationwide. Even many of those who thought they had finally put their differences with Doug Phillips in the past and had moved forward in life suddenly found themselves looking hurt in the mirror one more time. And it was very confusing. As TW Eston and I continued to write articles here after Doug’s resignation, the comments, both here and elsewhere, were filled with, first, denial, then anger accompanied by deep hurt. In any grieving process, these two are the first stages of how we respond emotionally in any situation where we have loss. Bargaining and depression are the next stages before finally coming to terms with accepting the loss. For some, going through these five stages of grieving happens very rapidly, but for others, it takes a very long period of time, while there are many who never reach the last stage of acceptance, allowing one to move forward in life. When we “bury” our feelings and emotions from a hurtful experience in life, we find ourselves stuck somewhere in this grieving process, unable to truly move forward freely in life. Others remain in the anger stage forever.
Telling my story online seven years ago was a cathartic process for me, and for those who followed along, many saw me go through these stages right in this blog. I am grateful that God brought me through the grieving process to the healing point of acceptance so that I could move forward in my own life, partly because I was able to respond to this whole recent debacle without personally involving myself the way I did the first time around. This allowed me to be much more objective. It also allowed me to be able to empathize with those who just had the rug pulled out from underneath them. I have read the comments and followed the conversations here and there, both online and in real life, with greater insight and compassion.
Healing from emotional pain is one of the life’s most transforming events ever. It is more powerful than the initial trauma. So, as I considered whether or not I should attend this year’s new Christian film festival, I realized that what I most wanted to do was to help bring healing to a hurting community. How could I do that? I decided to sign up as a volunteer and see what happened. Although I could have used a fake name to get in the door, I knew that if I was going to bring healing to this hurting community that I needed to be just me, so I signed up online with my real name. When the volunteer coordinator called me to talk to me about volunteering, I was surprised to find that she also attended BCA, but I was just going to go with the flow here, since my only goal was to bring healing to a hurting community. After we talked, she decided to have me “manage” the registration desk for the majority of the film festival. That meant that my face would be the first one everyone saw when they entered the front door. I knew I could use this opportunity for good!
With less than two days to go before the film festival began, I got the phone call. I’ve heard this so many times before. I either get a letter, an email, or a phone call, but they all say pretty much the same thing: “Don’t ever darken the doors here again.” I was fully prepared for the fact that this may be just another door slammed in my face, but when Philip Telfer called me to tell me that someone had emailed him, concerned about what might happen if I showed up at the film festival, I was pleasantly surprised when, instead, he asked me to have dinner with him and his wife that evening. I knew they were super busy getting ready for the film festival, so I was honored that he would give me his time and give me the opportunity to speak for myself. I found both Pastor Telfer and his wife to be wonderful people, and we easily fell into much laughter and a delightful conversation together! It turned out that we both had the same goals in this film festival: to bring healing to a hurting community.
I am happy to report that the first annual Christian Worldview Film Festival was drama-free. There was no idol who everyone was clamoring to see, but rather a servant-leader who was not only available whenever he was needed, but also just milled about and interacted with everyone in attendance. If there was a mafia dressed in black, packing pieces, I did not see them. What I did see were hundreds of happy people, excited to see old friends again, enjoying all the workshops, films, and special events that filled the week! And I enjoyed being there to greet every single person each day. As I saw those I had not seen in 8-10 years, I attempted to go out of my way to give each one of them a hug. My goal was to hug every person I knew from my days in the “community.” But what I found instead was that most of those who I had not seen in a long time were the first to want to give me a hug instead! There was even one family that currently attends BCA who wanted to hug me. Although I was not wearing a name tag, apparently, there were some who recognized my picture from online and came up to speak to me. One lady, upon confirming who I was, gave me a big hug and just said, “Thank you!” with tears in her eyes. One small step for healing, one giant leap for the “community.”
I really did have a wonderful time there. There were a few conversations about Doug Phillips and Vision Forum, but for the most part, these people were here to focus on moving forward, not looking backward. I went to a few films. I really enjoyed a couple, like Hero and Creed of Gold. There were a few I didn’t care for as well, but for me, that was not the main point. I also attended a lecture by Rich Christiano because I heard he was controversial. I wanted to hear that for myself. It was sad to see that certain young filmmakers did not show up, simply because it was not organized by Vision Forum.
Imagine the irony, then, of coming off the high of the first step toward healing, the first step toward making peace in this hurting “community,” of finding out in World’s article that Doug Phillips sent a letter, through his attorney, of course, threatening to sue three of the men who showed up on his doorstep that fateful day in October, 2013. This letter was mailed March 13, 2014, right smack in the middle of the Christian Worldview Film Festival. While many of us were working to bringing healing to a hurting community, Doug Phillips, obviously hurting himself that he was not the star of the show this year, was busy stirring up strife instead. The letter to Bob Renaud and Peter Bradrick (Doug Phillips’ former personal assistants) and Jordan Muela (former intern/VF employee) stated, in part: “the three of you have conspired together, and with others, in an attempt to destroy Doug Phillips, his family and Vision Forum Inc.”
This immediately brings to mind several questions. If there were five men standing on Doug Phillips’ doorstep on that red letter day in October, why were only these three threatened with a lawsuit? Why not Dr. Joe Morecraft, who immediately preached a sermon about Doug Phillips’ fall, although he did not name him by name; and Mark Weaver, Doug’s close college friend? I would posit that it has everything to do with the tiny little word found at the end of the sentence quoted above — “Inc.” It seems readily apparent to me that while Doug Phillips rightfully acknowledged his responsibility to step down from ministry (albeit months and years too late, and only under duress), that he had every intention of keeping the business side of Vision Forum going strong, while he took a breather for a year or so from public speaking, and then he would pick up the reins once again, ready to lead the charge of his Vision Forum Ministries brigade, onward to victory over the evils of the real world.
Apparently, Doug Phillips believes that these three young men, whom he personally trained, not only in the patriarchal way of life but also in how to use any means possible to attain the desired results, were somehow responsible for destroying his business. Pragmatism ruled the day in this business/ministry of Vision Forum, while love, respect, relationship, and all ethics were thrown to the wind. So what did these three young men do to merit the threat of Doug Phillips suing them? They broke the “No Gossip” rule. Never mind that the “No Gossip” rule is not to be found anywhere in Scripture. Never mind that there is no law that contains this supposed “No Gossip” rule. Never mind that one current BCA member recently stood up and said that this “No Gossip” rule does not exist, even in the face of hundreds of others who state otherwise. The “No Gossip” rule was originally put into place to keep people from speaking about what was happening between Doug Phillips and Joe Taylor, and it grew in intensity and reach ever since. The “No Gossip” rule has kept hundreds of hurting people, and families, from sharing their pain and hurts with anyone, for fear of retribution for breaking the “No Gossip” rule, even long after they left BCA or the “community.”
So what was this great sin that Bob Renaud, Peter Bradrick, and Jordan Muela committed? What was this juicy gossip that they shared, that would merit the level of a defamation lawsuit? Although Peter Bradrick’s Facebook page has since been closed, Peter shared his pain of being disowned by a man he considered to be both a father and a mentor to him. Bob Renaud shared a few other details, showing that he and Peter had worked together to confront a man they both deeply loved. Jordan Muela wrote a heartfelt Facebook article, “How Silence Enables Abuse.” Although he did not name Doug Phillips (if I remember correctly), everyone in the community knew who he was speaking about. (He has since hid his Facebook page, so I do not have access to the article now.)
In addition to these three young men speaking out, there were a few others who have spoken publicly as well. Apparently, Doug Phillips does not consider the others to be a threat, but one that has spoken out in favor of everyone keeping silent is Nathaniel Darnell. His most recent article about how to respond to the allegations of the nature being made against Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard caused quite a stir when he suggested that the young women should go to their elders if they were sexually abused. I guess he forgot that that’s exactly what got them into that situation to begin with.
Although no one I personally know from BCA and the community has publicly apologized to me, nor even really said anything about my situation, there have been a handful who have privately apologized. On a personal note, I will say that as I read each of the articles and comments above, as well as those by Nolan Manteufel and Ryan Short, that I have shed many tears. For me, they were healing tears, because at least I was not the lone person out here warning those I love that danger lurks nearby. Finally someone else was seeing it as well. It is truly tragic that it had to come at such a heavy price. Nathan Barnes, another former VF intern/employee, posted this status on Facebook recently:
The laws of friendship require a discovery of that which endangers one another. You would count him unworthy the name of a friend, who knowing a thief or an incendiary to lurk in your family, with a design to kill, or rob, or burn your house, would conceal it from you, and not acquaint you with it on his own accord. There is no such thief, murderer, incendiary, as sin: it more endangers us, and those concernments that are more precious than goods, or house, or life; and that most endangers us, by which the Lord’s anger is already kindled against us. Silence or concealment in this case is treachery. He is the most faithful friend, and worthy of most esteem and affection, that deals most plainly with us, in reference to the discovery of our sin. He that is reserved in this case is but a false friend, a mere pretender to love, whereas, indeed, he hates his brother in his heart. Clarkson, David (1865). The Practical Works of David Clarkson Retrieved from http://books.google.com
So why are all these statements made by Bob Renaud, Peter Bradrick, and Jordan Muela libelous to the point of warranting a lawsuit? Apparently, I Cor. 6 is magically erased from Doug Phillips’ Bible, but beyond the “sin” of violating the “No Gossip” rule, Doug Phillips seems to think that these three men conspired together to destroy the business half of Vision Forum. By Doug’s own actions, he destroyed Vision Forum ministries, which closed on November 11, 2013, although he has threatened to make legal claims against the remaining Vision Forum Ministries board as well. At first, he made it known that Doug still owned the business side of Vision Forum, but by November 27, 2013, we announced on this blog that Vision Forum, Inc., the business, would be closing permanently by December 31, 2013. Unless Doug Phillips was actually following our lead, we correctly reported this event. Most likely, we were not the first to know that Vision Forum, Inc. would be closing their doors, so this decision was probably made several days earlier than November 27, 2013. Look at the comments made by Peter Bradrick and Bob Renaud again. The only comment made publicly before we announced that Vision Forum, Inc. was closing was made by Bob Renaud on October 22, 2013: “Your sins will find you out so it’s best to follow Lanny’s advice: ‘Tell it early. Tell it all. Tell it yourself.’” (This comment causes me to question World Magazine’s timeline for the front door confrontation, unless Bob was just sending a message out ahead of time.) But all those other comments and articles were posted after Doug Phillips had already decided to close his business.
The only person who destroyed Vision Forum, both the ministry and the business, was Doug Phillips himself. The only person who destroyed Doug Phillips’ reputation was Doug Phillips himself. While the words of his former interns and close associates deeply hurt him, they were the wounds of friends who loved him enough to publicly rebuke a sinning leader, in the hopes of restoring him to his senses, and to a right relationship with God. As Doug Phillips once stated in church, when a man falls for a woman, all common sense goes right out the window. How prophetically true, in his case.
On August 7, 2013, Doug Phillips wrote a brilliant article about “True Repentance.” What happened that prompted this article we’re not sure at this point, but now seems like a good time to remind Doug of some key points that he made: “Those who remain unrepentant should not expect the blessing of the Lord. Unrepentance is not only an impediment to the very object of our life—true unity with God—but it leads to the judgment of the Lord. It is the single greatest roadblock to family vision.” Doug goes on to list six elements of godly sorrow that produce true repentance: brokenness, forsaking sin, truth telling, acceptance of responsibility, restitution, and peace.
From day one, we have been saying that Doug Phillips did not show any evidence of true repentance in his public statements. I know him well enough to read between the crafty wording clever disguised as godly sorrow. If Doug’s recent threats of legal action against his close friends and his former board members are any indication of where his heart is right now, these acts of retribution rather than restitution openly belie his words of resignation that are still publicly displayed for all to see. Although I had held out a tiny spark of hope that Doug Phillips would truly repent, in the manner he himself prescribes, his blame shifting, his arrogance, his refusal to accept responsibility for tearing down his own house and ministry, and his insistence that others pay him restitution instead, all point to his stirring up even more strife rather than being the one who brings peace and healing to a hurting community.
Doug Phillips is hasty to resort to legal intimidation. He has legally threatened dozens of people. To my knowledge Doug Phillips has never actually taken anyone to trial. Rather, he only threatens to take them to court, but out of the goodness of his heart he agrees to settle with them out of court, provided they keep their mouths shut, i.e. they must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Are Non-Disclosure Agreements biblical? In certain cases an NDA may be appropriate, and they may not necessarily in all cases be expressly unbiblical. However, they should never be used if the underlying motive is to silence critics and cover up unrepentant sin. The purposes for which Doug Phillips has so frequently coerced the signing of NDA’s is only intended to silence those who would speak out against his egregious sins and hold him accountable for his duplicity and corruption. Doug Phillips’ habitual use of NDAs has allowed him to cover up a huge amount of sin, both his own sins and the sins of his accomplices.
But let us not be too hasty to judge Doug Phillips’ latest attempts to take his brothers to public court. Perhaps he has found I Cor. 6 in his Bible after all, and has mentioned the possibility of Christian conciliation instead. On the surface, appealing to Peacemaker Ministries sounds promising, but what is Doug Phillips’ track record with these types of situations? The first instance of using Peacemaker Ministries, that I am aware of, was when Mark and I asked Doug Phillips to go to mediation with us, through the trained Peacemaker counselors at Faith PCA here locally. The first thing we were required to do was to clean up all derogatory comments, whether they were ours or others, to refrain from saying that we were repentant, and to be silent. Since I had diligently sought to fully forgive Doug Phillips, and all those involved, privately in my heart before telling my story publicly (a public leader’s sins need to be made known to the same degree that their teachings are), and I was already extremely cautious in using my words carefully, it was a difficult decision to abide by these rules during the conciliation process. But for the greater good of bringing healing to the situation at hand, we did so willingly.
A couple months later, after an emotionally charged meeting between Doug Phillips and the elders at Faith PCA (two of whom were also the Christian conciliators for Peacemaker Ministries), we were informed that Doug Phillips refused any reconciliation with us. Doug Phillips told the elders that there is only one way for the Epsteins to be reconciled with me; they must come to me and repent fully without any equivocation of everything that we excommunicated them for, and they also have to repent for blogging about me. We were also invited by these Christian conciliators to never darken the door of their church again. When asked about the situation privately, one of the Christian conciliator elders remarked, “We f***ed up.” That was Doug Phillips’ first interaction with Peacemaker, that I am aware of.
But what happens when Doug Phillips decides he wants to be the one to call for mediation through Peacemaker Ministries? Rumor has it that Beall Phillips asked Peacemaker to mediate between Doug Phillips and Cassandra and her family before this all went public. Knowing that Peacemaker always requires silence on both sides during and after conciliation, this would have been a perfect way to forever keep Doug Phillips’ adultery hidden, allowing the family to continue their opulent lifestyle and the public fame and glory that they so enjoyed. However, Cassandra was wise enough to decline such an arrangement, and so was Peacemaker Ministries. Having met with Doug Phillips before, they probably knew it would not be a prudent case to take on. Three strikes.
As I consider the possibility of Peacemaker having taken that particular case, I cringe at the tremendous amount of damage that would have mounted had Doug Phillips been allowed to continue on as if nothing had ever happened. This is one of the reasons why using Peacemaker Ministries can be a very bad idea. While I readily acknowledge that many people have been helped through this ministry, I wonder how many others have actually been allowed to cover their sin, or worse yet, continue in their sinful lifestyle, because of this requirement of forever remaining silent.
In my training as a professional health coach, I have found that unresolved emotional pain causes more health problems, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well, than any other aspect of health. I remember when Mark, my first husband, required me to never speak about my adultery in the first couple years of our marriage, even though I had fully repented from it. There were times during those fifteen years of silence when I wanted to be able to share with others how God brought me through that time in my life and what I learned and how I repented and moved forward in life (although Mark never found it in his heart to forgive me). As the years went on, that enforced silence built up inside me and caused me deep turmoil. When Doug Phillips took it upon himself to tell the church about my adultery, which had happened 15 years earlier and for which Doug Phillips himself agreed that he saw true repentance in me, and I was now free to talk about it, it was like a load of bricks was finally lifted off my back. While Doug Phillips certainly had no business sharing a pastoral confidence which Mark had shared with him privately, it ended up being one of the most freeing things that ever happened to me, and I was now on the road to being healed emotionally.
To Peter Bradrick, Bob Renaud, and Jordan Muela: Don’t fall for it! You all know Doug Phillips well enough to know that his offer of going to Peacemaker Ministries is for one purpose only: to shut you up. Confidentiality rules the day in Peacemaker’s mediation process. While a public trial can bring to light every single detail and expose all the dirt on every side, Peacemaker goes to the opposite extreme and covers up all sin. Bob, with your legal training, you know that Doug Phillips does not have any legal grounds against you three. Yes, the easy thing to do is to settle quietly behind the scenes and go on about your life. But the right thing to do takes much more work, and only a man with great integrity will do the right thing.
This is not about making peace. This is all about silencing the truth. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” is a principle that applies to many different aspects of life. Everyone who sat under Doug Phillips’ teachings and ministry needs to know the truth now so that each person, each family, each BCA member, each VF employee and board member, can be set free, emotionally and spiritually, to begin healing that will lead to acceptance of what has happened, in order to move forward in life. May we all we be stronger and wiser for having walked this journey, but may we learn to love and forgive as we begin our new paths in life.
Only a few years after moving to San Antonio and starting Vision Forum, Doug Phillips led a tour group of 30 home school kids and their parents (mostly fathers and sons) to Colorado in search of dinosaur bones. According to the Vision Forum news release sent out immediately following the tour in May 2002, this small group of home educators met with a stunning success. Doug Phillips claimed that, under his personal leadership, his home school group found a fully articulated, 70% intact, Allosaurus. He would later claim that his home school tour group successfully “raised” the allosaur:
COLORADO, May 20 — A dinosaur fossil expedition for home educators sponsored by Vision Forum and Creation Expeditions has excavated a rare, large, intact Allosaurus measuring more than 22 feet in length, 10 feet in height, with a complete skull more than a yard long. Allosaurs are believed to be a close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex, and differ from the T. rex primarily in size and cranial capacity.
Under the leadership of Vision Forum president Doug Phillips, an adjunct professor of apologetics with the Institute for Creation Research, and Peter DeRosa, a veteran archaeologist and paleontologist with Creation Expeditions, the team of thirty home educators spent a week hunting for and excavating fossils in a privately owned location in the Skull Creek Basin of Northwest Colorado. Vision Forum News Release, May 20, 2002
Doug Phillips’ news release was replete with half-truths, lies, fabrications, and stealing credit from the men who had actually been responsible. Even the claim that they’d “spent a week hunting for and excavating” was a lie. In reality they had only spent three days on site excavating.
World Net Daily naively swallowed Vision Forum’s news release and posted an article about it. It’s for good reason that Doug Phillips’ stunning paleontological feat of finding a major dinosaur and excavating it, all in the span of three days, had never been done before, and would never be claimed again. Such a feat is completely impossible, even for seasoned professional dinosaur paleontologists, of which no one on Doug Phillips home school team were. Contrary to Doug Phillips’ news release Pete DeRosa was not “a veteran archaeologist and paleontologist”. In the same Vision Forum news release Doug Phillips announced his intentions to produce a video documentary:
Vision Forum is planning to release a video documentary on the historic Dragon’s Den Expedition in the future.
In order to be a video documentary, Doug Phillips’ film would need to come reasonably close to what comports with the common definition:
doc·u·men·ta·ry (of a movie, a television or radio program, or photography) using pictures or interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual record or report.
a movie or a television or radio program that provides a factual record or report. New Oxford American Dictionary
A scripted staged event cannot be a “documentary”; but that’s precisely what Doug Phillips’ video proved to be. He took a film crew on location to video tape a staged event, based on details that he already knew about the dig sites, including what had already been discovered there. He would take credit for his own group doing everything, including the discovery. He took full credit for the excavation. He even took credit for his home school group “raising the allosaur”—even though his tour group was long gone prior to the allosaur excavation.
Doug Phillips’ film had been carefully choreographed in advance around his self-promoting agenda. The script was a sham, and the resultant video “documentary” was a fraud – a fraudumentary. Many thousands of Vision Forum patrons purchased Doug Phillips’ video. They made him rich in the process, and not only from just purchasing the video itself. A large percentage were so highly impressed by Doug Phillips’ stunning paleontological success that they purchased many other Vision Forum products, as well. It seemed that the Christian home school community had suddenly found a creationist hero that they could rally behind, and rally they did.
On November 15, 2002, concurrent with the publication of the 2003 Vision Forum Catalog, Doug Phillips and Vision Forum released its “first feature documentary film”, the 60 minute Raising The Allosaur: The True Story of a Rare Dinosaur and the Home Schoolers Who Found It. It’s ironic but not surprising that Phillips selected a title that included the word “True”, for there is very little truth to it.
The 2003 Vision Forum Catalog stated:
“Consider that our dinosaur site was completely excavated by home educators. The paleontologists were home educators. The team doing the restoration was made up of home educators.” Vision Forum Catalog, 2003 (pg. 3)
Thus begins the saga in a long train of lies, fraud, stealing credit from and destroying the livelihoods of other men, and legal chicanery that is Doug Phillips’ duplicitous career in Christian film making, film production, and film promotion. Raising The Allosaur formed the backdrop, the very foundation, on which the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival was soon thereafter launched in 2004.
I watched the video trailer and was impressed. So like thousands of other suckers, I bought the video.
I was at the time a fan of Doug Phillips and Vision Forum. Looking back on it now I can plainly see how my biases blinded me to what I was viewing. Anyone who claims they’re “unbiased” is very likely deceiving themselves. We all have biases and we all need to be mindful of how they can affect our judgment. Eventually common sense started overcoming my pro-Doug Phillips biases.
As I grew increasingly suspicious about Doug Phillips’ incredible claims, I made calls to Vision Forum. In doing so I encountered doubletalk and stonewalling, especially from Wesley Strackbein (Vision Forum Public Relations Director) and Bob Renaud (Doug Phillips’ Personal Assistant). No one at Vision Forum had any credible answers, and all the while Doug Phillips was hiding in the background, refusing to take any calls or respond to emails. My suspicions only increased that Doug Phillips’ “documentary” must have been a sham.
I’m no paleontologist, but I do understand some basics, and one of the basics is that you can’t find a large dinosaur of any kind and excavate it, and raise it, all in the span of a week. Even prior to the actual work of the excavation, such projects require a great deal of preparation. That includes drawing up and executing the necessary contracts between all concerned parties (especially the property owner), surveying the site, equipment provisioning, and logistical support. All that requires money, and this generally means securing financial backing. Because of all these factors it usually requires months, if not several years, to bring a dinosaur excavation project to successful completion. In other words you can’t just show up and start digging and have any chance of raising a large dinosaur.
Raising The Allosaur was soon dubbed a “fakeumentary” by those who had personally worked the dig site long before, and long after, Doug Phillips and his home school tour group had made their three-day appearance. Included among them were the property owner, the project director, the surveyor, the logistical support man, the equipment man, and the excavation team.
Doug Phillips had big financial problems at the time that he set out to produce his “first feature documentary film”. Just prior to the release of Raising The Allosaur, Dunn and Bradstreet’s fiscal rating of Vision Forum Inc showed that they were over a million dollars in the red. The many thousands of copies of Raising The Allosaur that were sold, along with all the associated dino dig merchandise, including Indiana Jones fedoras, rock hammers, fossils, and dinosaur toys, quickly put Vision Forum in the black. There was no other product line that had ever made Vision Forum so much money so quickly.
Raising The Allosaur rapidly became a stunning success, and a very lucrative one too. One would think that Doug Phillips would have proudly showcased Raising The Allosaur at the inaugural San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival on November 11-13, 2004, as an inspiration to other filmmakers of how Christians should (in Doug Phillips’ words) “take dominion”. Certainly that’s the way he’d portrayed Raising The Allosaur everywhere else. Doug Phillips had aggressively promoted his video to the press, and in numerous home school convention speeches he’d given coast to coast. Yet with the arrival of his first film festival he mysteriously went silent about Raising The Allosaur.
As part of the SAICFF awards consideration process competitors must comply with The Ten Commandments of Submitting Films for the Jubilee Awards:
Don’t steal other people’s work…
Truth is essential to Christian films… Film is an especially powerful medium for communication and should be handled with integrity.
No one should assume that just because Doug Phillips makes the rules that he complies with them himself. To quote him, “He who defines the terms wins.”
Twin brothers Graham & Joel Fisher of Beowulf Studios, who filmedRaising The Allosaur, received the SAICFF’s top award, but not for that movie.
Doubts were raised about the objectivity of the judges and whether or not the top award for the 14-minute film short was a payoff for the Fisher brothers’ labors in filming Raising The Allosaur. That was all quite unfortunate because, from all accounts, The Art of Play was a good film. As evidence mounted that Doug Phillips had scripted his entire “documentary” on falsehoods, Raising The Allosaur became a tremendous career embarrassment to the Fisher brothers. More than likely the Fisher twins were guilty of no wrongdoing, other than youthful naiveté.
Oddly enough Raising The Allosaur was never mentioned at the SAICFF, or anywhere else, and it would never be mentioned by Doug Phillips again. For reasons never explained, Doug Phillips abruptly pulled Raising The Allosaur from the Vision Forum web site and catalog, immediately prior to the inaugural launch of the SAICFF.
It was probably no coincidence that the sudden disappearance of the video occurred on the heels of a News Release entitled Villainy Behind the Mask of Virtue: Vision Forum Unmasked. The author, Terry Beh, is a professional writer, having written for Focus On The Family and other major ministries. More significantly Mr. Beh had excavated on the Allosaurus himself, working side-by-side with those whom he knew were responsible for the work. The news release was distributed the week prior to the SAICFF, and it received wide circulation:
“In a few days the faithful will gather at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival to hobnob with some of the most well-known Christian film makers around, and Doug Phillips will be basking in glory and hyping his fraudulent film.”
Terry Beh’s news release proved to be the straw that broke the Allosaurus’ back, and Raising The Allosaur instantly vanished without explanation. That lack of explanation only raised more suspicions. Questions kept being directed to Vision Forum for which answers weren’t forthcoming. Doug Phillips never made any public statement about the film’s abrupt disappearance, and for over two years there was no Vision Forum explanation at all. When the pressure for answers didn’t subside Vision Forum finally did, quite belatedly, make this one Statement Concerning Raising The Allosaur:
“We want to assure our friends that we firmly stand behind the integrity of the film Raising the Allosaur. Also, contrary to the claims of our detractors, the voluntary decision to withdraw the film from circulation (for the present) had nothing to do with concerns on our part that the film was untruthful. ” (Josh Wean, CFO, Vision Forum, Inc, January 1, 2007)
The 2003 Vision Forum Catalog, and the back cover of the Raising The Allosaur video case, state:
Q: What happens when a group of home school boys and girls travel to the badlands of Colorado with their parents in search of adventure and the hope of finding ancient treasures buried in rock?
A: They make the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year. There, buried in the rock, they excavate three amazing creatures: a many-plated Stegosaur; a 120-foot Brachiosaur. Most importantly, they raise from the ground what appears to be the most complete Allosaur (similar to a T. rex) ever found in the history of paleontology, including the monster’s giant skull complete with rows and rows of once-razor sharp teeth. (pg. 48)
A number of people knew from the very beginning who was really responsible for discovering, excavating, and raising the Allosaurus. People started asking questions that proved impossible for Doug Phillips to answer. So by the time that the 2004 Vision Forum catalog was released, the description of Raising The Allosaur was altered, but in so subtle a way so as to not attract too much attention:
Q: What happens when a group of home school boys and girls travel to the badlands of Colorado with their parents in search of adventure and the hope of finding ancient treasures buried in rock?
A: They become part of the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year. There, buried in the rock, are three amazing creatures: a many-plated Stegosaur, a 120-foot Brachiosaur, and most importantly, what appears to be the most complete Allosaur ever found in the history of paleontology. As they participate in the excavation of these creatures, they discover even more—remarkable proof that the creature is not millions, but thousands of years old! Vision Forum Catalog, 2004(pg. 86)
Though the wording between the 2003 and 2004 Q & A appears much the same, a careful comparison shows these are anything but minor differences. Changing the catalog was easy. Yet, Doug Phillips couldn’t so easily change the single most important thing of all – the content of the video itself. Start to finish, Raising The Allosaur is full of half-truths, gross exaggerations, flagrant omissions, lies, and fabrications:
The allosaur was not discovered by Doug Phillips and his group of home educators
The allosaur was not excavated and “raised” in one week
The allosaur was not “completely excavated by home educators”
“The paleontologists were home educators” is a half-truth
Not even one single bone of the allosaur was raised by Doug Phillips’ group
In the fall of 2000 Dana Forbes discovered an Allosaur on his property located in the Skullcreek Basin of northwest Colorado. The Allosaur was subsequently excavated under the direction of creation scientist Joe Taylor and his team from the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum (Crosbyton, TX). Assistance was provided in 2001 by Carl Baugh from the Creation Evidence Museum (Glen Rose, TX), the Derosa Family from Creation Expeditions (Crystal River, FL), and in 2002 by a homeschool tour group from Vision Forum.
After the excavation of the Allosaur was complete Vision Forum and Creation Expeditions made and released a documentary titled “Raising the Allosaur”. Controversy and criticisms about the film surface quickly because of many inaccuracies that were present, the most notable of which was the failure to give any credit for the excavation to the directing paleontologist Joe Taylor. After the exposure of ethical violations the film was pulled from the market in October of 2004.
So who discovered the dinosaur? The Colorado property owner himself, Mr. Dana Forbes, and that happened in October 2000. Dana Forbes removed two of the dinosaur’s vertebrae at that time for later identification. In 1999 Dana and his wife Brenda had acquired just under 70 acres in Massadona, Colorado, just east of Dinosaur National Monument. It wasn’t long before Dana started uncovering dinosaur bones. As a creationist he wanted to use the property for advancing the cause of creationism.
In early 2001 the Denver Post ran an article about the Forbes property and his Dinosaur Excavations. That article gave him considerable exposure and helped him sell fossil dig tours. Several radio interviews came shortly after the Denver Post article. Two National Geographic photographers made arrangements with Dana to come out in May 2001 and shoot photos of his conducting a dig. In June he was contacted by The Today Show to arrange for an on-site interview. It seemed the Forbes were well on their way to having a successful fossil dig business; but their most important concern was that their property be used to bring glory to God. Dana also knew that he would need the help of a skilled paleontologist in order to properly excavate and restore the large dinosaur bones that he knew were on his property.
Word of Dana’s property started getting around the creationist community. Dr. Carl Baugh visited with the Forbes on May 20, 2001 at their property. He recommended that the Forbes work with the professional dinosaur paleontologist, Mr. Joe Taylor of the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum. Taylor and the Mt. Blanco team were working at Baugh’s dig site just a few miles away. The next day Taylor and members of his team were introduced to the Forbes at the Forbes’ property. Dana Forbes produced several dinosaur bones for Taylor to examine. Taylor identified two vertebrae as being an Allosaurus. Taylor was soon thereafter contractually assigned as “Chief Excavator” for all work on the Forbes’ property.
Excavation assistance was indeed provided, in part, by Pete DeRosa’s Creation Expeditions, comprised of himself and his two sons Pete Jr. and Mark DeRosa. Doug Phillips and his home school tour group also assisted in the excavation, for three days.
The contributions of Joe Taylor and his Mt. Blanco team, as well as significant contributions made by others were, apparently, of such minor consequence in Doug Phillips’ mind that none of them merited any mention at all. Doug Phillips rationalized that the minor contribution made by Pete DeRosa and his two boys, as well as the three days of work by the Vision Forum home school tour group, was so significant that it merited taking 100% of the credit for everything.
Joe Taylor isn’t one to make an issue over getting credit. However he was genuinely concerned that Doug Phillips’ false representations would come back to harm not just Doug Phillips, but potentially the entire creationist community. Joe attempted to contact Doug Phillips in July 2002 but, in classic Doug Phillips fashion, he insulated himself from exposure by having his Personal Assistant, Bob Renaud, respond to all Joe’s emails. So on July 29, 2002 Joe Taylor sent an email to Bob Renaud:
Please consider these corrections. If Ken Ham or the Australians see one little mistake they might denounce your work, and you don’t want that.
But there was far more than just “one little mistake” that needed fixing. Joe explains why a number of Doug Phillips’ claims were scientifically false, and one was even rooted in evolutionary theory. He then goes on to explain why the claims made by Phillips and DeRosa of their personal responsibility for discovering and raising the allosaur were false. Joe Taylor did so in an exceedingly gracious manner:
8. This is just a technicality, and just for your eyes, I told the Forbes they had an Allosaurus when they showed me some vertebrae a year and a half ago…
9. Just for the record; it was the Mt. Blanco team who came with all the equipment the first time and excavated the 12 feet of spine etc. when we developed the site for AiG and CSI, before they abandoned it. lt was also the same equipment that excavated the neck, and jaws attached to the skull this spring. Our team member Jordan Hall found the first bit of the lower jaw that took us to the skull. We were digging the same spot together…
11. Not to take anything away from Vision Forum’s story, but, Mt. Blanco has been working world class sites for many years. We have made them available to ICR, AiG, CSI, Bryan College, and many more creation groups, inviting them to take advantage of our sites for years, though with little success. We have been excavating on as many as a dozen dinosaurs and one mammoth for Carl Baugh’s Creation Evidence Museum for the past eight years or more. Last year alone, we excavated a large mastodon tusk, and two mammoths, not to mention the Allosaurus. We continued work on the 10 animals at Carl’s Colorado dig. And our new T-rex site in Montana this spring is ongoing. I’m not looking for y’all to say anything. I am just informing you so that someone doesn’t come up and ask any embarrassing questions.
All of this prudent advice came some four months prior to the release of Raising The Allosaur. Had Doug Phillips heeded Joe Taylor’s advice it would have saved Doug Phillips all those “embarrassing questions”. But a man who is greedy for gain isn’t one to listen to the voice of reason.
Doug Phillips responded the same day in his classic, I’m such a busy and important man that I can’t be bothered with speaking directly to mere commoners like yourself, so you’ll have to run everything through my Personal Assistant. Doug Phillips rebuffs and deflects all of Joe Taylor’s recommendations and assertions:
Dear Mr. Taylor:
Doug is rushing around from state to state and asked me to respond your letter. First, he wanted me to thank you for your kindness in taking the time to write with the below corrections and comments. He also wanted to acknowledge our gratitude for the expertise and years of experience that the Lord has given to you in the field of paleontology. Doug wanted me to respectfully disagree with points 1 through 4 in your note…
Concerning the remaining points, Doug wanted me to assure you that it is never his desire to rob another brother of the glory due to him, but that it has always been our understanding based on his relationship with Pete and Creation Expeditions, that this dig from beginning to end has been a Creation Expeditions dig for which you were an important part of the support team. Consequently, the information was not meant to exclude Mt. Blanco, but to emphasize Creation Expedition team which oversaw the project and was yoked with Vision Forum during the week that the Allosaurus skull was discovered. The articles were cleared with Creation Expedition and represent our best attempt to promote an accurate overview of the situation and to draw attention to the importance of this find which culminated with the dig that occurred during the week that Vision Forum and Creation Expeditions sponsored our joint dig. He mentioned that because of the formal working relationship between Creation Expeditions and Vision Forum, that any concerns should be discussed with Pete, from whom we take our queue.
Doug Phillips doesn’t take his queues from anyone, much less from someone as insignificant (to him) as Pete DeRosa. Doug Phillips gives the orders, he doesn’t take them. What Doug Phillips does regularly do, however, is to insulate himself by feigning that someone else is in charge of a project, and that he’s just following their lead. If the project fails he can blame them, but if the project succeeds he can share the credit, if not claim it all for himself. Anyone who knows Doug personally knows how he plays the game. It’s all about avoiding personal responsibility, but taking the credit if the project succeeds. Such was the case here. It was no accident that Bob Renaud cc’d Joe Taylor the following email to Doug Phillips:
From: Bob Renaud
Sent: Monday, July 29, 2002 11:38 AM
To: Doug Phillips
Subject: FW: ALLOSAUR INFO
This is absurd! Pete needs to have another talk with him.
In other words, “We’re calling the shots, Joe. You’d better get on board with the program.”
Doug Phillips declares that “this dig from beginning to end has been a Creation Expeditions dig” and that Joe Taylor and Mt. Blanco were merely “an important part of the support team”. It all reminds me of Yul Brynner’s imperious Pharaoh in The Ten Commandments: “So let it be written, so let it be done.”
It’s probably not as though Doug Phillips even comprehends that he’s lying. Doug Phillips probably really does believe the entire story that he’s fabricated. This is precisely how the mind of a pathological liar works. Once a pathological liar fabricates a story in his mind, no facts, or evidence, or testimony to the contrary will ever convince him otherwise. Doug Phillips had even written the script for his video so, therefore, it all had to be true. Doug Phillips probably even believes it when he says, “Doug wanted me to assure you that it is never his desire to rob another brother of the glory due to him”, even though that’s exactly what he was doing, and would continue doing.
As portrayed in Doug Phillips’ fraudumentary, it’s as though Joe Taylor and the Mt. Blanco team weren’t even there. Not only was Joe directing the entire project, he and his Mt. Blanco team had been there working on the site for weeks prior, including also working the site the prior year. They would continue working on the site for some time after Doug Phillips and his home school tour group had gone home.
This is classic Doug Phillips modus operandi – steal the credit from those men who actually deserve it, but give credit to himself, and to men who deserve very little credit in order to cement strategic business partnerships from which he can financially profit. Pete DeRosa had partnered with Doug Phillips to have Vision Forum use its half-million-name mail list to sell dino dig tour packages for $995 per person, the profits of which they would split between them. The profit motive from selling tour packages, as well as the profit from selling a “documentary”, became Doug Phillips’ overarching concern, and he would allow nothing to stand in the way of that. Doug Phillips’ insatiable greed would completely undermine what should have been a significant advancement for the cause of creation science. In the process Doug Phillips would ruin the livelihoods of a number of men who had dedicated themselves to the cause of creation science.
Raising The Allosaur begins with:
“The Colorado Morrison formation is part of a vast geological graveyard of bones that is world renowned to dinosaur hunters. But in May of 2002 an unusual group of 30 parents and their children journeyed to these badlands to participate in an experiment, a rare experiment in paleontology and a unique search for one of the most elusive dinosaurs, the Allosaur. Over the next sixty minutes we invite you to join our team on this journey of discovery and family renewal. Join us with Doug Phillips, President of the Vision Forum and Professor with the Institute for Creation Research. Join us with Pete DeRosa, the visionary founder of Creation Expeditions, a unique ministry to wed the science of paleontology with the training of future leaders. And join us with his family, including sons Pete Jr. and Mark, who with more than a decade of experience in field excavation will bring to this dig a wealth of knowledge.” Raising The Allosaur: The True Story of a Rare Dinosaur and the Home Schoolers Who Found It. (2:19)
The DeRosa’s, a home school family, certainly deserve at least some credit. The Vision Forum tour group also deserves some credit for moving some top soil and rocks, providing better access to three separate dino dig sites. However, Raising The Allosaur deceptively puts Pete DeRosa at the very center of events, portraying that it was he who directed the entire dig. That’s not what happened, nor would the DeRosas have been qualified or experienced to direct a large scale dinosaur excavation project. While the DeRosa’s did have several years of small fossil expedition experience, primarily plucking fossils from the sands of the Peace River of their native Florida, such experience didn’t transfer well to large-scale dinosaur digs in the hard rock and sandstone of Colorado. Indeed, the DeRosas required training, and it was Joe Taylor who was training them. Prior to 2002 they had only been on two dinosaur digs, both of which were under the tutelage of Joe Taylor. Yet, according to Doug Phillips:
“Within minutes, I discovered that home schoolers Pete DeRosa and family, from Creation Expeditions, were committed to Creation paleontology, with hundreds of digs under their belt, more than ten years of experience in the field, and a vision to work together as a family.” 2003 Vision Forum Catalog, pg. 2
This claim was reinforced in the video. Doug Phillips is speaking here of having first met the Pete DeRosa family on October 6, 2001 in Tampa Florida at the Back To Genesis Conference hosted by Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Pete DeRosa was Field Agent for Creation Studies Institute (CSI), founded by Tom DeRosa (no relation to Pete) and was supposedly representing CSI at the conference. As it turns out he was only representing his own interests, but doing so on CSI’s credit card. In all likelihood it was at this ICR conference that Doug Phillips first entered into a conspiracy with Pete DeRosa to claim credit for the Dragon’s Den Allosaurus that had been discovered on Dana Forbes’ property the year before.
When Doug Phillips first met Pete Jr. and Mark DeRosa at the Back To Genesis Conference, they were 18 and 17 years old respectively. Doug Phillips portrays the two as not just paleontological prodigies, but prodigies who had accomplished something that most elderly seasoned paleontologists who have spent much of their lives in the field haven’t accomplished: “hundreds of digs under their belt”.
Pete DeRosa Jr, Joe Taylor, Mark DeRosa
Why is it that Doug Phillips gave the students in training total credit, but their teacher Joe Taylor, who was also directing the dig, wasn’t mentioned or shown in the video a single time, not even in the film credits? Amazingly enough, even the DeRosa’s dog is given film credit! No doubt much of it had to do with Doug’s tour package partnership with Pete DeRosa. “For the love of money is the root of all evil”.
The very title of the movie, RaisingThe Allosaur, is duplicitous. We are never shown any video footage of any Allosaurus bones being excavated, let alone any bones being raised, nor of the other two dinosaurs mentioned in the video. There are a few still-photos inserted toward the end of the fraudumenatary, but for the most part they aren’t even representative of what Doug claims they are. For example a photo that Phillips claims is of “loading the skull” was actually taken the year before of the Mt. Blanco team moving the tail down the hill to be loaded on a truck and carried off to Mt. Blanco for restoration.
The strange absence of any video footage showing the raising of any allosaur bones isn’t due to any lack of video footage having been taken of those events. There is plenty of footage of the excavation, field jacketing, raising, and loading of Allosaurus bones into the truck to take them to the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum for restoration. The problem for Doug Phillips is that all that video footage was taken by the Mt. Blanco team, and it tells a completely different story from what Doug Phillips tells in his fraudumentary.
Doug Phillips knew of the Mt. Blanco team’s extensive video footage and photos but never contacted Joe Taylor to receive copies of any of it, and for good reason – it would have been impossible to use any of it while continuing to portray that Phillips and his home schoolers were responsible for discovering, excavating, and raising the allosaur.
In order to counter the lies contained in Raising The Allosaur, Joe Taylor began the process of creating his own documentary, The Truth About Raising The Allosaur. However, due to legal threats and coercion by Doug Phillips, Joe Taylor was prevented from releasing his own video documentary.
Further debunking Doug Phillips’ claim that, “They [the Vision Forum tour group] make the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year”, as well as the film’s subtitle, “the Home Schoolers Who Found It” is the fact that a large portion of the Allosaurus had already been removed in September 2001 when some 12 feet of the Allosaurus’ vertebrate was dug up, field jacketed, and transported to the Mt. Blanco Museum for restoration. The dig team consisted of Joe Taylor (Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum), Don Yaeger (Mt. Blanco), Don Ensign (Mt. Blanco), Dave Hall (Mt. Blanco), Phillip Hall (Mt. Blanco), Jordan Hall (Mt. Blanco), Chantell Lines (Mt. Blanco), Tom DeRosa (President, Creation Studies Institute, no relation to Pete DeRosa), Mike Zovath (VP, Answers In Genesis), Stephanie Zovath (AiG), Buddy Davis (AiG), Dave Babbitt (professional surveyor), and Terry Beh. Assisting and being trained by Joe Taylor were Pete DeRosa, Pete Jr. and Mark DeRosa. This happened some 7 months prior to Doug Phillips and his home school tour group even showing up. Doug Phillips knew this, and yet his “documentary” portrays that it was his home school group “Who Found It“.
“One of the greatest finds in the history of creationist paleontology was made in the ‘backyard’ of a Christian family living in a remote area of Colorado a few years ago. An Allosaurus skeleton, including one of the largest and most complete skulls ever found, was excavated from the jutting hills and up-tilted layers of prehistoric muds, clays and sandstones of the Jurassic Morrison Formation bordering Skull Creek Basin near the tiny and appropriately named town of Dinosaur. Beginning with what appeared as a series of ‘divine appointments’ and a historic show of unity, members of many different creationist groups were involved in the discovery and removal of these bones. Sadly, that togetherness soon deteriorated into partisan wrangling and selfish positioning for profit and control.” (pg. 1)
Douglas W. Phillips, Esq. was at the center of fomenting that “partisan wrangling and selfish positioning for profit and control.” Doug Phillips was the fly in the ointment that spoiled and ruined what should have been a significant paleontological discovery for the creationist cause.
“By spring of 2002, the clarity of purpose and vision—not to mention any semblance of unity—that had characterized the previous fall dig had become as murky as a Florida swamp. When Taylor and Yaeger arrived at the Forbes property separately at what they knew to be the agreed upon time (May 10th), each was intercepted by by Pete DeRosa and told that they’d come too early, that some filming was going on at the site, and that they’d have to go elsewhere for a couple of days. Scratching their heads, Taylor and Yaeger reluctantly withdrew and set themselves up elsewhere. They knew that the DeRosas had hooked up with Doug Phillips, head of a home schooling group called Vision Forum from San Antonio, and that 30 or so folks from VF had paid to work the dig site (and that this was partly how DeRosa had arranged funding for the excavation). However, the seeming ‘miscue’ made no sense to them.” (ibid. pg. 3)
It didn’t make sense at the time; but after the release of Raising The Allosaur it all started adding up. Doug Phillips had arranged to shoo everyone away from the dig site for two days so that he could get enough footage for his scripted and staged fraudumentary, minus all the numerous people who were actually responsible for the dig.
One of the most significant aspects of the Allosaurus discovery, especially for young earth creationists, was Doug Phillips’ claim that:
“The excavators found remarkable proof for a ‘recent’ death of the dinosaur. Buried
in and around this fully articulated dinosaur was unfossilized organic material. Because the evidence is that the material was deposited at the same time as the dinosaur, it points to the fact that the creature is not millions, but thousands of years old!” Vision Forum Catalog, 2003(pg. 48)
Given all the other lies that Doug Phillips told in Raising The Allosaur, how is anyone to believe that this claim of “unfossilized organic material” isn’t just another lie too? What evidence did Doug Phillips use to substantiate this claim? He used the testimony furnished to him by Joe Taylor, in an email Taylor sent Phillips on May 16, 2002, just four days prior to Doug Phillips’ news release:
“This is not all. There is wood from trees mixed with it. The amazing thing is that some of them are both petrified and un-petrified in the same piece of wood! The animal is lying on a bed of leaves and plant debris. On another dinosaur excavation of the same Morrison group of animals, a huge log was excavated. The log was totally petrified, but the bark was not. It was carbon dated at 5,000 years.”
Significant facts contained in Joe Taylor’s email found their way into the May 20, 2002 Vision Forum News Release. However Doug Phillips never once mentioned Taylor as his source, or any other members of the excavation team. Rather than crediting Joe Taylor for the very significant discovery he and his team had unearthed, Doug Phillips makes it appear as if it were actually a direct quote from Pete DeRosa:
“The evidence strongly points to a relatively recent and catastrophic event similar to that described in the Bible as the Flood of Noah’s day,” said Pete DeRosa.
“We found a complete section of vertebrae more than twelve feet in length which was fully articulated. The dinosaur appears to be in much the same position as he was at the time of his death and burial, which must have been virtually instantaneous, and caused by a catastrophic event. Not only was this fully articulated dinosaur found laying in a bed of leaves and plant debris, but there is wood from trees mixed in among the bones, some of which contains petrified and non-petrified elements in the same piece of wood. If this creature were millions of years old, the evidence would look quite different.” Vision Forum News Release, May 20, 2002
Doug Phillips also falsely credited Dr. Bruce Bellamy as the person responsible for finding the Allosaurus skull. But this has been refuted by many, including even the Bellamy family:
“Based on notes which Taylor had made and shared of where the skull would likely be located if it had not eroded away, the Vision Forum group exposed a bit more bone. Dr. Bruce Bellamy, given credit in Phillips’ film for finding the skull, did in fact dig where he was told to and found the first articulated neck bone. But the Bellamy family has told witnesses that they tried to tell Phillips they didn’t find the skull as stated in the movie. At the time of this dig, Phillips and his tour group had no idea what it was that they had found. Others present concur.”
Doug Phillips masquerades as a creation scientist, and in particular a young-earth creation scientist. However, because of his “selfish positioning for profit and control” he brought scandal, shame and disrepute to the entire field of creation science, like no one ever had before. Nobody has ever sabotaged creationism like Doug Phillips has. The Darwinists never had a better friend.
For the majority of Vision Forum patrons, the sudden disappearance of Raising The Allosaur piqued few concerns on their part. All was soon forgotten and anyone who continued raising concerns about it was branded “a gossip“, “hateful” and “bitter”. That’s exactly how Joe Taylor was portrayed. Doug Phillips even claimed that “internet assassins” were attacking not just him, but his family too. No one, other than Doug Phillips, had even mentioned anything about Beall and the Phillips children. They had nothing to do with Raising The Allosaur. Doug Phillips has made a lot of money marketing “women and children first”. Yet he won’t hesitate playing the victim by invoking the names of his wife and children, using them as human shields to deflect criticism away from himself. His whiny and unmanly family victimization stories were countered by accusations that he was just hiding behind his wife’s skirt. Indeed, that’s exactly what he was doing.
Vision Forum loyalists went right on enriching Doug Phillips for another ten years. Had they not been so naive Doug Phillips could have been stopped long ago. Raising The Allosaur wasn’t just an aberration, a rare and unusual departure from Doug Phillips’ true character. Nor was it just some temporary lapse of judgement. Rather, Raising The Allosaur is entirely representative of Doug Phillips’ ethics, morals, and his methods of “taking dominion”. Raising The Allosaur goes to prove several things:
Doug Phillips is a hypocrite and a fraud.
Doug Phillips is a self-serving man who is eager to steal credit from others.
Doug Phillips uses people for his own selfish gains, stealing credit for things he has no personal responsibility for. While using others they are made to feel like they are the best of friends. Once he’s done using them he discards them and treats them as enemies.
Being a religious sociological cult leader, Doug Phillips has often made a show of his religiosity. He rationalizes his sinful behavior by twisting and perverting God’s Word for his own selfish objectives.
Doug Phillips promotes/markets various causes, such as creation science and Christian home education, not out of genuine personal conviction, but out of greed and personal enrichment.
Doug Phillips has discredited the very causes that he claims to support, such as Christian home schooling and creation science. He has brought great shame and humiliation to those who support those causes.
When confronted for his duplicity and corruption Doug Phillips throws his “Esq.” around and threatens to sue for defamation. He is a litigious bully and makes a mockery of the American justice system, not to mention what the Bible has to say (1 Cor 6:6-8).
None of these things are recent developments. Doug Phillips has been this way since he arrived in San Antonio in 1998, and likely for some years prior. The fact that he stole the HSLDA mail list from which he launched Vision Forum is a clear indication of that.
Doug Phillips is hasty to resort to legal intimidation. He has legally threatened dozens of people. To my knowledge Doug Phillips has never actually taken anyone to trial. Rather, he only threatens to take them to court, but out of the goodness of his heart he agrees to settle with them out of court, provided they keep their mouths shut, i.e. they must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Are Non-Disclosure Agreements biblical? In certain cases an NDA may be appropriate, and they may not necessarily in all cases be expressly unbiblical. However, they should never be used if the underlying motive is to silence critics and cover up unrepentant sin. The purposes for which Doug Phillips has so frequently coerced the signing of NDA’s is only intended to silence those who would speak out against his egregious sins and hold him accountable for his duplicity and corruption. Doug Phillips’ habitual use of NDAs has allowed him to cover up a huge amount of sin, both his own sins and the sins of his accomplices.
I know of many people Doug Phillips has under Non-Disclosure, including former Vision Forum Interns, former Vision Forum employees, and former business associates. The total number is in the dozens, if not hundreds. These people live in fear that if they say anything derogatory of Doug Phillips, no matter how truthful and factual is it, he will sue them for defamation. Proving a defamation case is far more difficult than most people realize. Most plaintiffs lose such cases. Nevertheless, our “justice” system permits filing such lawsuits, no matter how lacking in merit a case may be, and many people have been financially ruined defending themselves in the process, even when they win. The mere threat of such legal action has frightened most people from coming forward and sharing what they know about Doug Phillips. Joe Taylor is one of those rare people who hasn’t been afraid to speak out.
I’ve spoken before of the fact that Doug Phillips is a religious sociological cult leader, and that like so many other cult leaders he employs various mind control techniques to keep his followers docile and compliant. Instilling fear is one of the most common control tactics used by cult leaders. One method Doug Phillips has used to instill fear at Boerne Christian Assembly and Vision Forum is imprecatory prayer. Anyone subjected to hearing their spiritual leader from his pulpit call down on his enemies the wrathful judgments of God is being subjected to a powerful form of mind control. Such cult members live in fear that, should they ever defy the will of the leader, they too will be singled out by name and cursed from the pulpit. Jen Fishburne has stated that, while she and her family were members, they regularly witnessed Doug Phillips leading Boerne Christian Assembly in imprecatory prayers, calling down the vengeance of God on numerous people, including Joe Taylor. I don’t believe that God answers such prayers, but members of religious sociological cults do.
This story is such a tangled web of duplicity and legal chicanery that I have found it quite challenging to cover the subject matter adequately in just one article. However, I’ve put forth my best effort to condense the most significant issues here.
With respect to the Allosaurus, it should be noted that Pete DeRosa of Creation Expeditions is probably as guilty of fraud and duplicity as Doug Phillips. Phillips couldn’t have pulled off his fraudumentary without the aid of DeRosa, and DeRosa couldn’t have pulled off his scams without the backing of Phillips. Indeed, not only were they co-conspirators in defrauding Joe Taylor and others of the notoriety and rights to the bones they deserved for discovering and excavating the allosaur, but from the significant amount of income that should rightfully have gone to them. On top of everything else they caused immense injury to the Forbes family, both financially and to their emotional health. The Forbes were ultimately forced to abandon their dreams and sell off their property.
Raising The Allosaur provided Doug Phillips, and to a lesser extent, Pete DeRosa, with a great deal of undeserved fame and fortune. To this date neither Doug Phillips or Peter DeRosa have ever admitted to their deception or confessed their sins related to this matter, much less repented, apologized and made restitution to those they so grieviously injured and robbed.
This blog is focused on Doug Phillips, which is why this article hasn’t gone into a great amount of detail on Pete DeRosa. Moreover, it’s not particularly necessary since Pete DeRosa has already been exposed through the efforts of Randy and Mary Gavin at Raising The Truth. Perhaps the single most valuable resource that the Gavins have provided are their Video Interviews With Those That Excavated The Allosaur. Those interviews directly corroborate this story and are well worth reviewing.
Some may ask, “Why are you telling this story when others have already told it before?” Yes, others have told this story before, but (with no disrespect intended toward anyone else) quite frankly, I haven’t seen anyone tell it very well. In my view it’s an extremely important story and it’s deserved considerably more effort than I’ve seen anyone else put forth so far.
Jen and I have received several comments and emails asking why we keep posting stories about Doug Phillips. “You’re just beating a dead horse. He’s down for the count. This just makes you look bitter. Let it go. You just need to forgive. Move on.”
Perhaps an entire article on the naive philosophy that inspires such questions might also be in order. For the time being let me just say that no one should be so gullible as to believe that Doug Phillips is “down for the count”, as though that means he will stay down. Doug Phillips will be back, or at least he will try very hard to make a comeback, and we should look for that to happen in 2-3 years. Make it one year if he’s especially audacious about it. Rather than being the time to “let it go” this is the time to draw attention to at least some of the most significant things Jen and others have been trying to expose about Doug Phillips for years, but for various reasons those warnings went largely ignored. Now is the time because now it’s not as easy for people to ignore those warnings, as it was in the past.
Many charismatic cult leaders, like Doug Phillips, have gotten away with horrendous sins and even crimes, often for many years, largely by maintaining a highly polished public image. Even when a scandal does erupt, such as the Raising The Allosaur scandal did back in 2004, a brilliant cult leader like Doug Phillips, with virtually unlimited resources at his disposal, and aided by his in-house PR team, can often clamp the lid down hard on a scandal and reduce to it a mere “misunderstanding.” In Doug Phillips’ case he can even turn it around and claim that he’s the victim, and that his family is being attacked (even though that never happened), thereby gaining him even more support from the gullible.
Because of the gullibility and trusting nature of many of his followers, it requires many proofs to convince them of the true character of Douglas W. Phillips, Esq. and, in my view, Raising The Allosaur is a key part of that. Cheating on his wife for a dozen years, all while making millions of dollars promoting marital fidelity and biblical family values, would be another such example of the magnitude of Doug Phillips’ hypocrisies. The problem is that in a year or two too many people will only remember it as an “extra-marital affair”, rather than the clergy sexual abuse that it really is. Even now there are too many claiming that, “It could have happened to any of us.” However, few of us could have perpetrated and profited from such a fraud as represented by Raising The Allosaur without a tinge of conscience, as Phillips has. It helps reveal a despicable pattern of abuse of power, deceit and manipulation, and I shudder when I hear people trying to trivialize such egregious sin by a “Christian leader”.
There are extremely valuable lessons to be learned from Raising The Allosaur, not only about Doug Phillips’ true character, but also about wolves in sheep’s clothing, in general. If Christians refuse to learn anything from stories like this, then it’s certain that Phillips—and others like him—will have no trouble making comeback after comeback, and continue to prey on the innocent. And that is neither just nor right.
How Doug Phillips and Scott Brown Promote Sin and Cowardice In The Church
“Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” –Charles Haddon Spurgeon
In 2007 Scott Brown, Director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, preached a sermon entitled, Gossip: The Plague of the Church. This sermon was preached to an audience of several hundred immediately following a conference on building businesses and entrepreneurialship. The audience also included some pastors.
Doug Phillips, President of Vision Forum Ministries, was at that conference and struck a deal with Scott Brown to sell the sermon as an audio CD on the Vision Forum web site.
Jen Fishburne informs me that it was no coincidence that Scott Brown preached this sermon at the time he did. It was at this same time that Doug Phillips was beginning to feel the heat from Jen exposing his ecclesiastical tyrannies and abuses on her blog. Jen had done everything humanly possible to seek reconciliation with Doug, but he sabotaged her every overture. As a last resort she published her story on her blog, not to shame and humiliate him but to publicly expose Doug Phillips as an ecclesiastical tyrant so that others might not fall prey to his abuses.
Jen has been accused many times of being “bitter and unforgiving”, but I know Jen well and I know that the opposite is the case. Her motivation isn’t a hatred for Doug Phillips but a love for the body of Christ.
As a direct result of Jen’s story going public, the home school community was asking questions, and even some members of his own church, Boerne Christian Assembly, were voicing concerns. In desperation Doug Phillips searched for a way of shutting down all inquiries into his abusive practices. The charge of “gossip” was a ready-made excuse for silencing all calls for his accountability and repentance. Scott Brown’s “Gossip” sermon was tailor-made to clamp the lid down hard on any challenges to the tyrannies of a spiritually abusive pastor.
It was Scott Brown’s “Gossip” sermon which launched the No Gossip Rule in the BCA community. By mass-marketing the CD, Vision Forum and the NCFIC have also effectively inculcated the No Gossip Rule within a large portion of NCFIC churches. Doug Phillips and Vision Forum have, likewise, indoctrinated thousands of Christian home school families with the No Gossip Rule. To quote from one of my previous articles:
Doug Phillips has railed against so-called gossipers for years, and gossip is whatever Doug Phillips defines it to be. As Doug Phillips has often said, “He who defines the terms wins”, and the way Doug defines gossip is by equating gossip with a violation of the 9th Commandment. This is quite typical of how Doug Phillips twists and distorts sacred scripture for his personal agenda. To Doug Phillips gossip is anything that anyone says about him, or about his friends, that he doesn’t like. It makes no difference to him whether the things said about him are true and already public information. Say something about Doug Phillips that he likes, even if it’s just complete lies and fabrications (and there have been plenty of his sycophants who have done so to feed his massive ego), but that’s not gossip. But say anything true about Doug that he doesn’t like and it’s not just merely gossip, it’s “wicked gossip” or the “horrific sin of gossip”…
This is one of the most oft-used mind-control tools Doug Phillips has pulled out of his toolbox, and he’s used it to tremendous effect. Doug Phillips injects massive doses of guilt and shame to prevent anyone from confronting him and holding him accountable, or even so much as reading anyone’s blog where they might find “gossip” about him. What few BCA members and Vision forum employees and interns that have read our articles and posted comments here have inevitably condemned it as, “I see your fruit on this site and it is wicked gossip.”
The fruit of Doug’s “no gossip” rule has created many more non-thinking people than just within the walls of BCA and Vision Forum. That mind-control influence has been spread to thousands of home school families too, and that mind-control prevents thousands from so much as looking at a blog of this nature lest their utopian home school dreamworld be contaminated.
Those indoctrinated in the No Gossip Rule can’t even question it, even in the light of the very Scriptures from which its teachers claim it originates. To my knowledge, the Phillips-Brown No Gossip Rule hasn’t ever been challenged. I intend to not only challenge it here, I intend to dismantle it, and the Code Of Silence that goes with it.
The Phillips-Brown No Gossip Rule contains a terrifying message. It is the VF/NCFIC equivalent of the Mafia’s Omertà. Omertà means “honor” in Sicilian, but the Mafia perverted the term into a Code Of Silence. The violation of Omertà has frightful retaliatory consequences. The power of the Mafia is real and only a fool would defy it. The power of Scott Brown and Doug Phillips is largely bluff and bluster. The threat of “excommunication” from a cult leader has no impact on the condition of one’s soul, nor does it carry any weight whatsoever with the Lord God. But as P.T. Barnum put it, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
Doug Phillips and Scott Brown have effectively created a Christian Cosa Nostra, complete with its Code Of Silence. Doug Phillips is all about drama and theatrics. He loves dress-up and costume parties, so it should surprise no one that he accessorized his Boss image by having VF employees and interns trained as “executive protection” agents. He periodically had them play dress-up as black-suited black-shade wearing armed enforcer goons. In several cases he’s sent his enforcer goons out (very likely at VFM donor expense) to threaten and intimidate people who dared to expose him. In at least two cases that we know of blog owners dramatically altered and removed content from their blogs, or shut them down altogether, as a direct result of those threatening encounters. Those strong-arm tactics have been well concealed and they are known in detail to only the perpetrators, victims, and a few others, like Jen and myself.
Multiple thousands have come under the influence of not only the Phillips-Brown No Gossip Rule, but also the cultish influence they have injected into dozens of other religious sociopathic leaders they have served to inspire within their VF/NCFIC subculture. Brown’s lecture wasn’t preached so much to his own church members, though some were there. He was addressing a larger audience of several hundred. There were pastors in that audience, and Scott Brown had an objective of influencing those pastors to become the same kind of autocratic tyrant that he and Doug Phillips are.
For those who have embraced the No Gossip Rule, violating it could have even worse consequences than what the Mafia imposes. This is because the consequences, as they have been led to believe, could be eternal. As I will demonstrate herein, that threat is a myth based on nothing more than Scott Brown’s clumsy and inept twisting of Scripture.
One thing that is not bluff and bluster, however, is the very real threat of “church discipline” (code word for banishment and shunning) for any who would dare to violate the No Gossip Rule, or challenge it, or challenge any of those other numerous cultish rules endemic in the VF/NCFIC subculture. In Gossip: The Plague of the Church, Scott Brown affirms that gossip warrants a “zero tolerance policy”. According to Scott Brown gossip is the worst and most destructive sin in the church. Gossip is due the harshest possible penalties. Gossip is due only one warning, and two at the most:
“I had a very interesting moment several months ago where I was speaking to a pastor friend of mine at my house and we were talking about the subject of gossip and he told me that in his church he has a zero tolerance policy for gossip, and he said that in his church in Wilmington, North Carolina, no one becomes a member of that church until they hear the sermon on gossip, and he delivers this sermon on gossip every September, and he makes two promises to the people in his church. The first promise is that whenever they come they are going to be taught scripture as best as he can in its context and, secondly, that no one will speak evil of you behind your back, and I was very interested in this policy because I’d never heard anything like that before, and I thought what a great policy and what a great practice in the church, and I said could you send me last year’s sermon, and he did… And he says that gossip is the chief destroyer of the church. And the destruction isn’t to brick and mortar but it’s to the souls of people…(4:20) Here’s what my pastor friend told me in his church. He said, You know Scott in our church if you commit adultery you get four warnings according to Matthew 18. But if you gossip you’re out of here by the first or the second warning. And that’s it. You will not survive in this church after the second warning, and maybe the first” (17:50)
Scott Brown goes on to state his approval for this “zero tolerance” policy, and it’s one that he apparently practices himself. He may be accurately representing his “zero tolerance” pastor friend for the tyrant that he unwittingly portrays him to be. On the other hand Scott Brown may be every bit the duplicitous liar that Doug Phillips proved himself to be when he lied for many years about his “mentor and spiritual father” Pastor Robert Gifford, and that Pastor Gifford allegedly commissioned him to start a church in San Antonio. Either way though, “zero tolerance” has some frightening ramifications.
Yes, we are to confront and discipline sin in the church, but we are to do so per Matthew 18:15-17, and that applies to all sins and all members of the local church, including to pastors, elders and deacons. Scott Brown singles out gossip as being the one sin that is unworthy of any Matthew 18 biblical due process because it is far worse than any other sin. Under Scott Brown’s tyrannical oversight, if gossip happens there’s only one warning, two if you’re lucky. Confession and repentance apparently count for nothing in such a case. You’re put out of the church and you’ll be shunned by all your friends. This sounds like an ironclad guaranteed way to shut everyone up.
Is gossip inherently so much more destructive to the church than other sins that it warrants a zero tolerance policy and immediate expulsion and shunning? Is gossip so horrifically sinful that it qualifies for sanctions that aren’t imposed even in cases of adultery, extortion, drunkenness, and idolatry? Is that really what the Bible teaches? Scott Brown claims as much:
“And so here in Titus 3:10 we read, reject a divisive man after the first or second admonition. I don’t know why this sternness is present here. It’s more stern than the sins that we might regard as even greater sins, like adultery, or like extortion, or like drunkenness, or like idolatry, or like covetousness, or all manner of idolatry. It’s right in the same plane and it’s categorized in the midst of other great evils.” (18:10)
Here Scott Brown makes a subtle and yet significant exegetical and logical error. He conflates terms. This is something he does throughout his lecture, and he does so with practically every verse he quotes. Titus 3:10 uses the term “a divisive man” which he conflates with “a gossip”. If not confronted, gossip in the church does have the potential to cause division. However, it is not gossip that the Apostle Paul is referring to when he speaks of a “divisive man”. What is a divisive man? Scott Brown doesn’t seem to appreciate the importance of interpreting scripture with scripture. The previous verse (9) clearly defines what a divisive man is by the activities he engages in:
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; (Titus 3:9)
Scott Brown and Doug Phillips claim to be Calvinists, so let’s see what John Calvin has to say of Titus 3:10. In Calvin’s Commentaries he likens the divisive man not to a gossip but to an argumentative, quarreling “heretical man”:
10. Avoid an heretical man. This is properly added; because there will be no end of quarrels and dispute, if we wish to conquer obstinate men by argument; for they will never want words, and they will derive fresh courage from impudence, so that they will never grow weary of fighting. Thus, after having given orders to Titus as to the form of doctrine which he should lay down, he now forbids him to waste much time in debating with heretics, because battle would lead to battle and dispute to dispute. Such is the cunning of Satan, that, by the impudent talkativeness of such men, he entangles good and faithful pastors, so as to draw them away from diligence in teaching. We must therefore beware lest we become engaged in quarrelsome disputes; for we shall never have leisure to devote our labors to the Lord’s flock, and contentious men will never cease to annoy us.
It’s debatable whether Titus 3:10 is even about church discipline at all since “have nothing more to do with him” implies that it is addressing someone outside the local church. If it applied to a member of the local church Paul would likely have said something like, “Rebuke him before the assembly and cast him out of your midst for an example to all”. That would be consistent with another of Paul’s pastoral instructions, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1Tim. 5:20). However, even if it could be reasonably argued that Titus 3:10 is addressing members of the local assembly it clearly only applies to the argumentative, quarreling heretical man, not mere gossips.
After conflating “divisive man” for “gossip”, Scott Brown goes on to say that failing to shun a gossip is sinful:
“Notice the last three passages of Scripture that we read say reject a divisive man, or to avoid them, or to not keep company with them. You might think about that on a practical level. Maybe on two levels. Is it possible that there are people in the body of Christ who are sinning by not avoiding you? They actually continue to relate with you and they should not because of this. Or is it possible that we are relating with and not avoiding those who gossip? These are beautiful and very simple passages of Scripture. They’re not complex. A six year old can understand them.” (18:48)
“A six year old can understand them” is a rather common tactic among intellectually dishonest men like Scott Brown. His message is transparent – “What I’m telling you is so obvious that even my little grandchildren get this. If you don’t get it you’re dumber than a six year old. Don’t even think about questioning me about this.”
Needless to say, any pastor who considers his own twisted interpretations of Scripture to justify his autocratic methods of ruling his church to be “beautiful” is no pastor at all. Like Doug Phillips, Scott Brown is a religious sociological cult leader.
Under the terms of this No Gossip Rule the accused gossiper is confronted with the frightful threat of “discipline”. Discipline in many NCFIC churches is accompanied by the implied threat of banishment (“excommunication”) and shunning. This is precisely what Scott Brown is advocating in the above quote. Banishment and shunning means being cut off from “the community of believers” and being cast out into “the world” where they are “lost”. The shunned are cut off from all their friends, and sometimes even family members, who will no longer so much as speak to or even look at them. They may even lose their job if their employer is a member of the same cult (I’ve seen it happen). They are forever a pariah.
The threat of being shunned is a powerful mind control tactic that keeps members passive and docile. This is precisely the demeanor that cult leaders demand of their followers – unquestioning servile obedience in all things. Obedience to the cult leader is the real standard in a cult, not the Word of God. The Bible itself is not the authority to the cult but, rather, it is what the cult leader interprets the Bible to mean for them. Any dissenting views are subject to immediate and harsh discipline. One cannot dictate efficiently as an autocrat without first silencing opposition, and Scott Brown’s sermon gives the alleged “biblical authority” to put down any and all dissenting views, as well as eliminating any and all accountability of themselves.
One of the indicia of cult leaders is their penchant for blowing minor sins and transgressions completely out of proportion with what the Bible says of them, while also often ignoring major sins (and especially their own sins). The sin of gossip is a perfect example of this. Of gossip Scott Brown says:
“The Lord hates it and He calls it an abomination… If we want to understand this subject we need to understand that God hates it.” (24:55)
Scott Brown makes this bold claim by conflating “gossip” for “sowing discord among the brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19) and completely ignoring the context of the passage of those things listed which God actually does hate. Gossip may be the vehicle through which some discord is sown, but sowing discord is a far more egregious act than mere gossip. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God hates gossip, nor does the Bible call gossip “an abomination”.
Abomination is one of those scary words that cult leaders love to recklessly toss around because “sin” just doesn’t have the punch they’re looking for to justify “disciplining” the alleged perpetrator. Once someone is charged with an “abomination” then all bets are off for any biblical due process.
The back cover of the “Gossip” CD case states:
“Gossip is the great destroyer of families, communities, and local churches. And the Bible has much to say about this form of verbal murder [emp. added]. Now, in this Scripture-saturated message, Scott Brown defines and diagnoses the problem of gossip, unveils the spiritual devastation it leaves behind, and explains the scriptural remedy and the blessings which accompany following God’s commands regarding the use of the tongue.”
Scott Brown’s message includes a number of quoted Scriptures, but it would only qualify as “Scripture-saturated” if the scripture verses he quotes were directly applicable to gossip and not distorted into something not intended by the authors. In his sermon introduction Scott Brown says,
“I’m not actually going to do an exposition of the book of James, but I’m going to give us lots scripture, lots of verses. I’m going to just wear us out with verses here this morning. I almost never do this but I’m going to do it this morning.” (3:30)
The following is the list of verses Scott Brown quotes from, given in the order that he quotes them. I’ve summarized the verses, not according to what Scott Brown claims they say about gossip, but what the verses plainly say for themselves:
Matt 5:21-26 “angry with his brother without a cause”, “whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool’, shall be in danger of hell fire”
Ps 15:1-3 backbiting, taking up a reproach against a neighbor
Prov 6:16-19 “A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.”
Prov 26:20-23 talebearer, contentious man, “Burning lips and a wicked heart”
Rom 16:17-18 “divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned”
1 Cor 5:11 “do not keep company with… a reviler”
Titus 3:10 “avoid a divisive man”
James 4:11 “Do not speak evil of one another”
1 Pet 3:8-12 “Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit”
3 John 9-10 “Diotrephes… prating against us with malicious words”
Prov 17:4 “An evildoer gives heed to false lips; A liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue.”
While we should all take heed of these admonitions, none of these verses have much if anything to do with the act of gossiping. Rather, they are about slander, lying, speaking deceitfully, backbiting, reviling, sowing discord among brethren, contentiousness, and listening to and giving credence to lies and liars. Yes, all of these things can be conveyed by means of gossip. But gossip can also occur without any of those other sins being perpetrated.
Scott Brown’s method of expositing Scripture is little different from throwing a big pot of spaghetti and meatballs at the wall and hoping something will stick. His exegetical skills really are that much of a mess. He twists and contorts Scripture, as well as the definitions of the terms used therein, while conflating one term for another, all to arrive at a predetermined outcome. Deception is always rooted in truth, or at least a half-truth because blatant lies would never have any chance of deceiving anyone but the most gullible. As such Scott Brown starts off his lecture by giving a half-truth:
“So I’d like to define gossip here a little bit with scripture. The terms gossip and slander occur around 56 times in Bible, and they’re often used interchangeably”. (7:10)
As Doug Phillips has stated many times, “He who defines the terms wins.” Scott Brown and Doug Phillips have defined gossip as slander and slander as gossip, when in point of fact they are distinctly different from one another. Slander and gossip are not “interchangeable” as Scott Brown claims, whether it be in the Bible, or anywhere else. If “gossip” were “interchangeable with slander”, as Scott Brown asserts, it would have to be, like slander, a violation of the 9th Commandment in all cases. Certainly gossip can be the means of facilitating these things, but gossip is not, of its own accord, a violation of the 9th Commandment. Gossip is, quite often, completely truthful, whereas slander is always lies, fabrications, and/or half-truths.
To conflate “slander” for “gossip” Scott Brown very early in his lecture uses a specific Bible version that he believes aids him in this error, the 1995 edition of the NASB. The editors of the NASB state: “Version Information – While preserving the literal accuracy of the 1901 ASV, the NASB has sought to render grammar and terminology in contemporary English.” While a modern English rendering may be beneficial to the casual reader, it’s hardly the basis for sound hermeneutics. In order to make his case that gossip = slander, Scott Brown quotes Proverbs 20:19 (at 7:30) from the NASB:
He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,
Therefore do not associate with a gossip.
The naive may suppose that Solomon himself is conflating slander for gossip. Wisdom literature, such as we see in the Proverbs, is often poetic, and often delivered in one sentence segments where the second part of the line may serve to contrast the first part or, as in this case, it may serve to reinforce the first part (see Prov 10:1 – 22:16 & 25:1 – 29:27). In all cases it is still a poetic literary form. We get into deep weeds quickly when we take poetical literature too literally by attempting to augur intention that isn’t there; and in the same way we also get into trouble by taking biblical parables too literally. It’s called “wisdom literature” for a good reason – not only may it impart wisdom to those who can receive it, it may also require a modicum of wisdom, or at least a bit of common sense, to properly understand it in the first place.
In no way does Solomon seek to make slander “interchangeable” with gossip. Scott Brown himself probably knows better. If not then he is a remarkably ignorant Bible teacher. Doug Phillips’ favorite Bible commentator is John Gill. Ironically enough John Gills says of Proverbs 20:19:
“It may be applied to false teachers, and their deceptions with good words and fair speeches; the word used signifies to deceive with the lips; see Romans 16:18”.
Nevertheless, this NASB rendering of Proverbs 20:19, or rather Scott Brown’s conflated interpretation of this rendering, forms the very foundation from which Scott Brown then proceeds to base his entire No Gossip Rule.
“So maybe we could define gossip like this: A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts, a rumor or a report of an intimate nature… But basically speaking negatively about another person without that person being present is gossip.” (9:05)
Here Scott Brown finally uses a reasonably honest definition for “gossip”. Yet he has already corrupted that definition by claiming that the terms “gossip” and “slander” are “interchangeable” when they are not. This is typical of what he does throughout his duplicitous sermon. Since Scott Brown has defined gossip as slander, he then must go on to define “slander”:
“So here’s a definition of slander: The utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation. A false and defamatory oral statement about another person. And this term in Hebrew would be translated typically with the word talebearer and in Greek becomes the word blaspheme or to speak against us.” (10:12)
Scott Brown offers up a reasonably accurate definition for slander, at least up until, like his definition for “gossip”, he conflates slander for “talebearer”. Yes, a slanderer is also a talebearer, but not all talebearers are slanderers. If Scott Brown were capable of an honest definition he would have equated the modern “gossip” for the biblical “talebearer”. I’d like to be able to say that Brown and Phillips are only ignorant Bible teachers; but knowing their character as I do I can’t chalk this up to mere ignorance. This is all quite deliberate on their part. They are guilty of conflating gossip with slander for a specific agenda – to silence any and all opposition to their abuses of authority. This Code Of Silence prevents anyone from holding them accountable.
In seeking out actual dictionary definitions, I purposefully quote here from Doug Phillips’ favorite dictionary, the Webster’s 1828. Of this dictionary Doug Phillips says: “When Noah Webster first published this book, he understood that whoever defined the words of a culture would capture that culture”:
1. A sponsor; one who answers for a child in baptism; a godfather.
2. A tippling companion.
And sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl.
3. One who runs from house to house, tattling and telling news; an idle tattler. [This is the sense in which the word is now used.]
4. A friend or neighbor.
5. Mere tattle; idle talk.
GOS’SIP, verb intransitive To prate; to chat; to talk much.
1. To be a pot-companion.
2. To run about and tattle; to tell idle tales.
BACK’BITE, verb transitive [back and bite] To censure, slander, reproach, or speak evil of the absent. Proverbs 25:1.
1. A false tale or report maliciously uttered. and tending to injure the reputation of another by lessening him in the esteem of his fellow citizens, by exposing min to impeachment and punishment, or by impairing his means of lining; defamation. slander that worst of poisons, ever finds an easy entrance to ignoble minds.
2 Disgrace; reproach; disreputation; ill name.
SLA’NDER, verb transitive To defame; to injure by maliciously uttering a false report respecting one; to tarnish or impair the reputation of one by false tales, maliciously told or propagated.
It’s interesting to note that “gossip” originally had a positive meaning, but over time it was corrupted to the point where today it is pejorative. The term “gossip” has changed a great deal over time. That is not the case for the biblical terms “slander” and “backbite” whose meanings have remained reasonably fixed throughout history. “Gossip” only came to be used in its disparaging form in relatively recent history. As such “gossip” appears not a single time in the King James Version (1611) or the Geneva Bible Translation (1599). The Geneva Bible happens to be the preferred translation of Doug Phillips and many others in VF/NCFIC circles. The ESV, which is highly acclaimed by Bible scholars, includes “gossip” only twice (Ez 36:3 & 2Chron 12:20). This isn’t much to go on to build an entire doctrine out of.
If Scott Brown and Doug Phillips were honest they would only use the terms “slander” and “backbiting” instead of “interchangeably” substituting the completely separate and distinct term “gossip”.
For those of us who have been on the receiving end of slander (and I’m no stranger to that myself), it indeed can be the murder of one’s reputation – “character assassination”. Through lies, fabrications and half-truths the slanderer with malicious intent sets about to cause severe damage and harm, and to divide friend from friend. Slander and backbiting are expressly condemned in scripture, not only for the harm they cause, but also because they are in direct violation of the 9th Commandment.
Scott Brown makes a case for speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil, and he equates the see no evil and hear no evil with sins that will “mar” the hearer permanently. Therefore, one must do everything possibly to avoid so much as even accidentally overhearing gossip, lest it corrupt and defile them:
“Once you hear gossip you’re marred. You are marred. That tasty trifle goes down to the inmost parts and you are never the same again. One little word and you’re never the same again regarding that person. It’s tragic. If you’ve ever listened to gossip then you just need to know that you’ve been defiled. Because it has gone down. It’s gone down, deep down into the inmost parts and it’s a danger to you.” (27:33)
“You’ve been defiled.” How terribly frightening! Fear of alleged “defilement” is a common tactic used by performance-based religious cult leaders to control their followers. Scott Brown then reinforces the policy of cutting off and shunning anyone who would dare to ever gossip:
“Note and avoid a gossip, and there are a number of passages of scripture that make this clear. Romans 16:27-18, 1Corinthians 5:11, and Titus 3:10 all say this. Let’s just sort of get some detail on this. Romans says to note such a one. Romans 16. Titus 3 says warn a gossip once and then twice. Titus 3 says reject a factious man. And in Romans 16 avoid, and 1Corinthians 5 do not keep company with. And then it gets even worse do not even eat with such a one in 1Corinthians 5. Well there’s just much evidence for the importance of avoidance and isolation of this sin. We’re not used to doing that, are we? It’s counter-intuitive to us. We don’t want to do this. But yet we have these very stern and clear warnings from scripture.” (28:10)
Scott Brown speaks “of how gossip is often disguised” as a prayer request, seeking counsel, or bearing one another’s burdens (21:50). True enough, this can happen. In a healthy church of compassionate believers it’s far less likely to happen than in an unhealthy dysfunctional church. Rather than addressing the problem in a biblical way, Scott Brown recommends the elimination altogether of prayer requests, seeking counsel, and bearing one another’s burdens:
“On the speaking side of the coin, first of all keep quiet. Zip it. Just zip the tongue. Remember what your mom used to say? It’s as simple as momma. Momma got it right, didn’t she? If you can’t say anything nice just don’t say it. Don’t share your pain. We live in a culture which teaches us to just share any old thing coming out of our black old heart. Well this isn’t the counsel of the Lord. This is the counsel of a wicked culture saturated in ungodly psychological principles. Don’t make your prayer requests. Have you ever heard of silent personal prayer? Do you have to bring everybody in the world in to prayer for a brother who might be having trouble? Couldn’t you just labor in your closet for him instead of speaking evil of him in the midst of it?” (33:10)
Is this what Scripture actually teaches? Is making a prayer request for a friend or loved one really gossip? Is coming to the pastor for counseling in, say, an abusive marriage, really gossip? What of “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”? (Gal 6:2). In Scott Brown’s church it appears that everyone is required to just stuff it and suffer in silence. Certainly that has also been the experience for members of Boerne Christian Assembly.
Scott Brown’s teaching on gossip is a gross misrepresentation of Scripture. It calls into question whether he is capable of honestly expositing any biblical topic or passage at all. Rather than guiding Christians out of sin, Scott Brown is actually teaching people to sin. In other words, the cure is worse than the disease. Many of Scott Brown and Doug Phillips’ followers have falsely assumed that obeying the No Gossip Rule will keep them out of sinful behavior in the church when just the opposite is the case.
A wooden compliance with the No Gossip Rule ignores the command of Jesus to “judge with righteous judgement” (John 7:24). Christians aren’t to live with their heads buried in the sand, ignoring sin in their midst. Gossip is hardly the only sin in the church, nor is gossip the “abomination” that Scott Brown makes it out to be, or the “horrific sin” that Doug Phillips makes it out to be. By complying with the No Gossip Rule one would, of necessity, not be able to do a number of things required in Scripture:
Mat 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
If only I am aware of a grievous sin in a brother’s life, how am I to obey this scripture and still comply with the No Gossip Rule? I can confront that brother privately about his sin, but what if he doesn’t repent? According to the No Gossip Rule I have to keep that brother’s sin a secret, thereby making myself complicit in his sin.
1Tim. 5:19-20 “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
How am I to accuse an elder of sin when I’m not even permitted to speak with and identity any other witnesses for fear that I will be charged with “gossip”?
Gal 6:1-2 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
How is one to obey this scripture in light of the No Gossip Rule? Also, how do we allow the brethren to fulfill the law of Christ (which is love) if no one ever shares their needs and can only “zip it”?
1Cor. 5:11-13 “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
This is one of the passages Scott Brown lifted out of context. What if I know that a man is sexually immoral and that man is my own pastor (such as Doug Phillips)? What if that man is also my employer because I work for Vision Forum? What if because I work for Vision Forum I also know the same man is covetous and an extortioner? I could try Matt 18:15, but I already know that everyone else who’s tried it before was fired, put under church discipline, and everyone was ordered to shun them for the rest of their lives. Maybe I could go to the elders of my church? No, that can’t work because they’re all just hand-picked stooges of the pastor. So how do I obey scripture and not violate the No Gossip Rule?
“Bearing one another’s burdens” may require listening patiently to a wounded brother or sister’s tragic story, not judging them over it, or fearing that we’ll somehow be “marred” by it. Requiring that Christians suffer in silence isn’t love but hate.
“Speaking the truth in love” sometimes means having to confront sin (as defined by the Word of God, not some twisted cult leader’s interpretation). The Code Of Silence implicit in the No Gossip Rule just creates a whole new level of sins far worse than the problem of gossip.
It’s been said that, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” How true. Doug Phillips through Vision Forum has marketed the image of inspiring “biblical manliness”. The reality is, however, that Doug Phillips has created hundreds, and perhaps thousands of cowardly men who remain silent in the face of terrible sin. Nothing could more clearly prove this point than the dozen years he spent cheating on his wife. Multiple men knew about it and said nothing and did nothing. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. That’s not manliness. That’s cowardice.
The No Gossip Rule that has been so successfully promoted by Scott Brown and Doug Phillips has had precisely the effect they intended – it’s shut everybody up. There has been much sin in the camp for years; but rather than confronting it to purify the church, sin is concealed. That Code Of Silence is a sure-fire recipe for concealing sin, when scripture commands that we expose sin and purge it from our midst:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph. 5:11)
Ever since the public revelation of Doug Phillips’ clergy sexual abuse Scott Brown has sought to distance himself from Doug Phillips. In a sermon Scott Brown gave immediately after Doug Phillips’ resignation Brown even referred to Phillips as an “apostate”. Yet it is by Scott Brown’s No Gossip Rule that he empowered Doug Phillips to get away with his apostasy for so many years, and those sins are far worse, and far more extensive, than have come to public light so far.
Until Scott Brown’s teaching on gossip is eradicated from all Vision Forum and NCFIC spheres of influence there will be more scandals and abuses of power that occur within those churches.
Like Doug Phillips, Scott Brown is a Pharisee and a hypocrite. We should all heed Jesus’ warning, and Scott Brown and Doug Phillips should take special note of it:
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:1-2)
One of our regular commenters here, who wishes to remain anonymous, emailed me an article that she wrote on gossip. It’s an insightful article and provides some practical guidelines for knowing what gossip is and what gossip isn’t. I believe her article complements my own and addresses several key areas that I have not. I hope everyone will also read it. I have her permission to share it here: Is it Gossip or Speaking the Truth in Love?
In the last three days Scott Brown and his fellow church Elder Jason Dohm have, between them, posted three noteworthy articles. Their articles seem inspired by the Doug Phillips sex scandal that resulted in his resignation and the closure of Vision Forum Ministries. No doubt there is much more than a mere adulterous affair that forced the closure of Vision Forum Ministries, but that story will have to wait for another day. Scott Brown and Jason Dohm are Elders at both Hope Baptist Church and Sovereign Redeemer Community Church. Both churches are in or close to Wake Forest, N.C.
Distancing oneself from Doug Phillips is all the craze these days. Multiple blog articles, Facebook posts, and even a sermon or two have been hastily thrown up by Vision Forum board members, employees, interns, and various assorted associates of Doug Phillips. The humorous part for me is they hardly ever mention the name “Doug Phillips”. It’s as though there is now an unwritten rule, Let not that name be mentioned. In this way they can circumvent the “no gossip” rule that is so widespread in Vision Forum Land, or so they at least rationalize. Since we all know who they’re talking about anyway, I’d much prefer they just stop pretending. Moreover, too many of those public postings smack of CYA and are no more genuine than was Doug Phillips’ True Repentance article that he posted in August 2013. In retrospect we can plainly see that article was an utter sham and a ploy to save his own bacon. It goes to show that even the most biblically valid article, written in the most eloquent prose, can be authored by a silver-tongued wolf in sheep’s clothing. We should never assume that good sermons only come from good men.
Doug Phillips and Scott Brown
Scott Brown features prominently in the Doug Phillips sex scandal. He is the Director for the Vision Forum Ministries Board of Directors and, no doubt, has good reason to distance himself from The Doug. Scott Brown is also the Director for the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. The NCFIC was handed over to Scott Brown by Doug Phillips.
Brown and Dohm’s articles are quite good. I especially appreciate Jason Dohm’s article, not only for his brevity and his insights, but for the fact that he’s one of the few that has actually used the forbidden name “Doug Phillips” (Scott Brown has yet to do that). Jason Dohm’s article is so good that I contacted him and asked permission to repost it here, in it’s entirety, thereby giving it far greater exposure than he has now. To put it in the politest possible terms (on my part) he declined my request.
Jason Dohm doesn’t permit comments on his blog, and perhaps that’s why he doesn’t want his article being reposted in it’s entirety here. Doing so might facilitate some discussion that he may not want to address. It might also necessitate his interacting with commenters here, something he may wish to avoid. Be that as it may I’ll only selectively quote from Brown and Dohm’s articles and link to them where they may be read in their entirety. Needless to say, any discussion is welcome here, as are Scott Brown and Jason Dohm themselves, should they wish to make an appearance to answer questions. Feel free to ask them questions regardless of whether or not they reply. I’m confident they’re reading. In fact Jason made an appearance here earlier today.
Regardless of their motivation in writing their articles, they are good articles, and worthy of our consideration and discussion. We should all take these matters to heart.
Even if all the signs were positive – granting that purely for the sake of argument – no one would really know for quite some time. Though Proverbs 28:13 doesn’t explicitly use the word “repentance,” it contains the best definition of true repentance that I know: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Did you catch that? Confession ≠ Repentance. Confession is a subset of repentance. The other active ingredient is the forsaking of the sin, and knowing whether or not that has really happened takes significant time. Part 1, confession, is super-easy for a skilled communicator – and Doug is a very skilled communicator…
Has Doug Phillips repented? Don’t count on it.
If we have learned anything from these revelations, it is that Doug is a very skillful deceiver and manipulator. He is good at it, and he has had a lot of practice. Knowing that, it would be foolish for any of us to put ourselves in a position to be deceived or manipulated by him now…
Which kind of shepherd has Doug been? For years now, Doug has been an Ezekiel 34 shepherd, exploiting and devouring for self-satisfaction. He was entrusted with sheep to be a blessing to them, and instead he has been a curse. Is this not beyond dispute? And has not the Chief Shepherd removed him?…
Has Doug really repented? Time will tell, as the saying goes. And as it relates to Christian leadership, that can’t mean a week, a month, a year, or a decade. When it becomes known that a shepherd has cultivated a life of deception and manipulation for many years, such a man may not have enough years to reestablish himself as qualified for leadership.
Should Doug be forgiven? Absolutely. Anyone who has been forgiven much by the King must stand ready to forgive his fellow servants (Matthew 18:21-35).
Should he be trusted? Not on your life. At least not now. At least not soon.
One of the most difficult things a church ever does is to discipline an elder. It is difficult enough to bring biblical discipline to church members, but it is even more difficult when elders are the ones in need of correction. There are so many conflicts and questions that are raised when an elder is caught in sin. When this happens, the church is in a very vulnerable situation. They are immediately subject to partiality, divisions, and even biting and devouring one another. Alexander Strauch has given me permission to post this from his book, Biblical Eldership. The quotation below is from chapter nine, following this citation is a link to the whole chapter.
Disciplining an Elder
How should an elder be treated if an accusation of sin is found to be true? Verse 20 provides the answer: “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all.” Some expositors think that verse 20 begins a new subject regarding the treatment of sinners in general, but this view is incorrect. Such a break in thought would be too abrupt and unexpected. Furthermore, it is clear that verses 19-25 deal with the topic of elders, particularly the sin of elders.
The clause, “those who continue in sin,” translates a present active participle (tous hamartanontas). The New American Standard Bible rendering stresses the persistent nature of the sinning. There is disagreement among commentators, however, as to what is implied by this present tense participle.
Some commentators believe that only those elders who stubbornly persist in sin after private warnings are to be publicly rebuked and that repentant elders need not be rebuked publicly. This interpretation, however, misconstrues the point of the passage…
The elder’s disposition toward his sin is not the issue here. The issue is: an elder’s sin demands public exposure…
First Timothy 5:20 provides additional biblical instruction on church discipline, specifically the matter of a church leader’s sin. Of course, if an elder refuses to repent, he would be disfellowshiped from the congregation according to Matthew 18. Paul’s instructions go on to add that an elder who has been proven to be guilty of sin by witnesses is to be rebuked before the church. The imperative verb “rebuke” translates the Greek word elencho, which is a rich term conveying the ideas of “exposing,” “proving guilt,” “correcting,” and “reproving.” In this context, “rebuke” includes the ideas of public exposure, correction, and reproof…
Each year we see new stories of Christian leaders who get entangled in scandalous sin. Our experience tells us that this has happened before and will happen again. Often we ask, “Who was holding this man accountable?” And, “If I can’t trust this seemingly godly man, who can I trust?” It is very common and very appropriate to also ask, “How are we supposed to hold leaders accountable?” If they are local church elders, the Bible speaks directly to the question…
Following are nine ways that 1 Timothy 5:19-21 shows how church elders are to be held accountable.
1. Personal responsibility
Paul makes it clear that church members have a very specific role. Every church member has the divinely appointed right and responsibility to bring a charge against a church elder when it is necessary. It is remarkable that woven into the very relational and sociological fabric of the local church is the assumption that at no time should elders be above the evaluation of the people they serve. Every person in the pew has this responsibility…
2. A stricter judgment
It is immediately evident from 1 Timothy 5:20 that the Lord has designed His church to have a very specific set of rules for dealing with church elders when they sin. These procedural commands are obviously focused on elders, not the wider church. Eldership carries with it greater risks for a greater number of people, and therefore they are subjected to a “stricter judgment,” (James 3:1)…
3. Multiple witnesses
Holding church elders accountable requires two or three witnesses, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.” Notice how the Lord has commanded that there be a careful process that includes the following elements. First there must be a personal witness. Then in order to bring an accusation, that person is obligated to bring a minimum of one other witness. This language implies a vigilant examination and verification process.
This procedure is designed to protect the elder from trivial, false or evil accusations. It also protects him from accusations based on rumors, gossip or internet slander. It is part of the territory: Church elders are often targets of criticism since they are all imperfect in their life and doctrine, and the best of men can be picked apart…
4. Partiality avoided
Paul makes it clear that there must not be any partiality, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.” Partiality has many faces. Sometimes it expresses itself when there is a very gifted elder and because of his charisma, persuasiveness and position, people actually hold him to a lower standard when they should be holding him to a higher one…
5. Accountability for what happened
Paul is advocating accountability for the sin, in the phrase, “Those who are sinning rebuke…’… In the case of sins of a financial or moral nature, for instance, the very act of getting caught almost always brings these sins to an immediate stop.
For example, if an elder is caught embezzling funds from his church, the ability to embezzle is taken away the moment he is found out. He is therefore no longer continuing in his sin. Does this mean that he should not be rebuked? Or if a man is caught in adultery, he usually stops. Does this mean there is no need to rebuke him?…
What if the man says he repents: does he then escape the rebuke? This passage gives no indication that repentance suspends rebuke. In fact, there is no mention of repentance in the text. Paul’s instructions are very clear. The purpose of this rebuke is not to produce repentance in the elder—important as that may be—but to cause all “to fear.” The issue here is not excommunication (whether that happens or not). The issue is the public exposure and reproof of one who holds a high office. No one gets a pass in Christ’s churches when it comes to sin, especially not its elders. While true repentance is a critical matter in the elder’s relationship with the Lord and His church, it is important to remember – the explicitly stated purpose of the rebuke is not repentance, but the causing of fear…
6. A rebuke
…The rebuke is designed to expose and bring the sin to light. The word that Paul uses here speaks of exposing, convicting, disapproving or punishing.”The rebuke should be delivered according to wisdom. It should be measured according to the severity of the sin and the disposition of the offender. There could be a simple public rebuke, or temporary removal, or even excommunication depending on the many factors involved. The punishment should be delivered according to wisdom…
7. A public rebuke
The rebuke is to be delivered before the whole congregation, “…in the presence of all.”There is the tendency in many situations like this to try to protect people from hearing. Sometimes, in an attempt to express sympathy or to act out of a sense of misplaced kindness, there is a private meeting for the church members only, or a subset of the church. It is difficult to see how these approaches are appropriate applications of the scriptural language…
8. The courage to cause fear
In today’s church environment, church elders and members often prefer a positive, upbeat church life; free from guilt, repentance or fear. In contrast to this, Paul’s stated purpose of the rebuke is so that “the rest also may fear.” Paul uses very strong language to communicate this. The word he uses to communicate the desired result indicates “alarm” and “fright.” Paul desires that there be a fear of sin in the congregation…
9. Trembling at the seriousness of the matter
The requirement to rebuke must be regarded with utmost seriousness. The gravity of handling the matter properly is identified by an unusually sober warning, “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”…
Is your church afraid to expose sin? Is there partiality? Are you personally reluctant to play your role for an elder trapped in sin? If so, the consequences can be terribly harmful for the purity of the church and the elder entrapped in sin. It easily blemishes the public reputation of the church as “pillar and ground of the truth.” It can muffle the proclamation that God saves and sanctifies sinners. In the presence of God, the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels, it hides an important expression of the redemptive power of the gospel itself.
On January 1, 2014 the remaining Elder, and the new Provisional Elder of Boerne Christian Assembly, the church founded by Doug Phillips, posted the following on their web site:
A Statement by the Elders of Boerne Christian Assembly about Former Elder Doug Phillips. Doug Phillips served as an Elder for Boerne Christian Assembly until January, 2013, when he resigned from his office. This resignation from the office of Elder was submitted prior to his confession to church leadership in February, 2013 of an inappropriate relationship with a woman (referenced in his Statement of Resignation from the office of President, on the Vision Forum Ministries website) and associated deception. In the months following, efforts were undertaken toward the goals of restoration and repentance between the parties involved and their respective families . As under-shepherds of a flock of Jesus Christ we take seriously the responsibility to confront those overtaken in a fault, in meekness, in pursuit of the purity of the body, healing for those wounded by the effects of sin, and restoration of those caught in fault, after display of repentance. Doug Phillips confessed these sins, professed repentance of these sins before his local church body, and has been publicly rebuked by the Elders of his church for those same sins. As shepherds and Elders of the flock of Jesus Christ at Boerne Christian Assembly we have sought to provide admonition, personal accountability, and to work toward sound Biblical thinking, repentance, and restoration with all those involved. Healing is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is our desire, as much as is possible, to promote unity within the body of Christ through Biblical counsel, instruction, and oversight, with Biblical pastoral care. The notoriety of this situation, due in part to the national exposure of Doug Phillips’s ministry, brings with it additional challenges and duties. The consequences of sin are great. We long for God’s blessing, preservation of His flock, and continued healing to be ministered by the Word and the Spirit of God unto to all.
Bob Sarratt, Elder
Jeff Horn, Provisional Elder
This is a blatant attempt by Bob Sarratt to cover his backside. Jeff Horn makes himself equally complicit. Note the response below by former Personal Assistant to Doug Phillips, Bob Renaud:
Bob Renaud January 1, 2014 Did you see the pathetic statement by the BCA elders? http://www.boernechristianassembly.org/…/statement-by…. This is terrible. I personally told Bob Sarratt he was negligent for not dealing with this issue for eight months and keeping it quiet. He never informed the VFM board of the infidelitiey. This is terrible that just now they are issuing a statement and trying to claim they did their biblical duty. It wasn’t until we exposed what was going of that they got serious. The statement is full of Bill Clinton like language. Just like Doug’s statement. It’s sad that these men are not heeding the counsel of wiser and more mature men that have been trying to come along side them. God have mercy.
I know that Bob Renaud is speaking the truth on this. Bob Sarratt was well aware of Doug Phillips’ infidelities, and he had known for a long time. Things came to a head in January 2013 when Doug and “Cassandra” were caught in Cassandra’s family home, in the act, by two of Cassandra’s family members. Given the nature of those shocking circumstances it’s difficult to comprehend how Doug is even alive today. At the very least one would have expected those family members to have beaten Doug Phillips to within an inch of his life. But remember we’re talking a cult here, and just like David Koresh was allowed to bed any woman of his choice, Doug Phillips was given an extraordinary level of leeway.
Bob Renaud was as well connected to Doug Phillips, and for about as many years, as was Peter Bradrick, who said of his mentor and “spiritual father”:
Peter Bradrick November 27, 2013 The past decade of my life has been defined by my close relationship with my mentor and former spiritual father. Those who know me recognize my longstanding, fierce commitment to his family, his work, and his legacy. As soon as I caught wind of what was going on, I became very involved in working towards fulfilling the duties of friendship and brotherhood – to confront a man who has been like a father to me for a third of my life and plead with him to truthfully confess, and to genuinely take responsibility for longstanding betrayal of everything we had fought together for with the hope of ultimate restoration.
Friends… truth and justice are mercy. Covering sin is not mercy. (Proverbs 28:13, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”) This was the message of the men that joined me to go in person to plead with him. Men he’s called “bosom brothers”, son’s in the Lord, close friends, and a mentor of his. What for us was a tender, emotional, mission of mercy and plea for true repentance was met with something, and by someone I never could have imagined. Instead of being received as the “wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6), I was formally disowned and declared to be a “destroyer” to my face.
There is no way to describe the soul crushing blow I was dealt that day and it’s overall impact on my life. It’s was like experiencing the scene from Braveheart… where William Wallace finds out he’s been betrayed by Robert the Bruce, over and over again. Walking away from that meeting, I couldn’t speak for hours I was so stunned. I am still physically, emotionally and spiritually broken and asking God to give me wisdom. I know many people are so very hurt and confused regarding what has transpired and my prayer for myself, my family, and everyone involved is that we look to Christ alone with hearts of love, mercy, and repentance seeking to root out the sin in our own lives. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
You’re not alone, Peter. Doug Phillips has betrayed dozens of people, and most of them in far more dastardly and devastating ways than you. You and Bob Renaud drank the Kool-Aid, but I don’t say that to slam you (I was a member of a cult once myself). I have prayed many times for you both, and so many others, that God would heal and restore you. I also pray for those few families that remain in BCA. May God deliver them.
Even though Doug Phillips is no longer an official Elder at BCA, he has as much influence and control there as he ever did, and certainly far more than Bob Sarratt. Doug Phillips is the puppet master and Bob Sarratt remains his puppet. It’s important to understand who Bob Sarratt is. Bob Sarratt was hand-picked to be an “elder” not because he in any way meets the biblical qualifications of the office per Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3. Indeed, according to scripture Bob Sarratt is disqualified, just as Doug Phillips is disqualified. Bob Sarratt is disqualified because he is not “apt to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). Doug Phillips is disqualified because he is not the husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2). He also fails the tests of: “above reproach, faithful to his wife, self-controlled, respectable, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”
Doug Phillips served as the sole elder of BCA for at least five years, even though he was frequently heard to say, “We believe in a plurality of elders.” When asked then why was he the only elder, Doug would reply, “When I find a man that agrees with me 100%, he can be an elder.” If ever there were a yes-man Bob Sarratt is him. Even long before Bob Sarratt became an elder, and during the entire time that he was a deacon, he started each Sunday service by going up to the pulpit and announcing, “We believe in a plurality of elders.” Needless to say this was all theatrics. Even Doug Phillips stepping down as an elder in January 2013 proved to be nothing but theatrics, and clearly it was not motivated by any genuine repentance. In fact his cover story was that he was stepping down to spend more time with his family.
It’s equally important to understand the “no gossip” rule at BCA and Vision Forum, as well as how far reaching the influence of Doug Phillips’ “no gossip” rule has extended. Doug Phillips has railed against so-called gossipers for years, and gossip is whatever Doug Phillips defines it to be. As Doug Phillips has often said, “He who defines the terms wins”, and the way Doug defines gossip is by equating gossip with a violation of the 9th Commandment. This is quite typical of how Doug Phillips twists and distorts sacred scripture for his personal agenda. To Doug Phillips gossip is anything that anyone says about him, or about his friends, that he doesn’t like. It makes no difference to him whether the things said about him are true and already public information. Say something about Doug Phillips that he likes, even if it’s just complete lies and fabrications (and there have been plenty of his sycophants who have done so to feed his massive ego), but that’s not gossip. But say anything true about Doug that he doesn’t like and it’s not just merely gossip, it’s “wicked gossip” or the “horrific sin of gossip.”
In the religious sociological cult world that is Boerne Christian Assembly there are few sins that are as grave as the sin of gossip. Marital infidelity is comparatively minor and can easily be covered up for months and years on end, and I’m not just speaking of only Doug’s infidelity. In 2004 a 17 year old BCA girl got pregnant*. She was forced to confess and repent before the entire church by Elder Doug Phillips and Deacon Bob Sarratt. However, the identity of the man who impregnated the girl was kept a secret and limited to the knowledge of a few key men. Infidelity has been repeatedly swept under the BCA carpet, as is also clearly evidenced by the fact that Jennifer Billings Grady remains an active member at Boerne Christian Assembly.
Yet the so-called sin of gossip is termed “horrific” by Doug Phillips. This is one of the most oft-used mind-control tools Doug Phillips has pulled out of his toolbox, and he’s used it to tremendous effect. Doug Phillips injects massive doses of guilt and shame to prevent anyone from confronting him and holding him accountable, or even so much as reading anyone’s blog where they might find “gossip” about him. What few BCA members and Vision forum employees and interns that have read our articles and posted comments here have inevitably condemned it as, “I see your fruit on this site and it is wicked gossip.”
The fruit of Doug’s “no gossip” rule has created many more non-thinking people than just within the walls of BCA and Vision Forum. That mind-control influence has been spread to thousands of home school families too, and that mind-control prevents thousands from so much as looking at a blog of this nature lest their utopian home school dreamworld be contaminated. They will remain in a state of blissful ignorance for months, and perhaps even years, to come, remarkably like the remaining BCA members.
Bob Sarratt and Jeff Horn claim that “we take seriously the responsibility to confront those overtaken in a fault”. How exactly did they do so? By permitting Doug Phillips to continue with his public speaking engagements at conferences on biblical family values, godly living, etc.? Did they do so when they permitted him, without any objections, to continue selling recorded sermons that he had preached at BCA on the Vision Forum web site and Blue Behemoth, which he continues selling to this very day? Did they do so by concealing from the Vision Forum Ministries board of directors the fact that Doug had been cheating on his wife for 12 years?
Bob Sarratt and Jeff Horn are liars and deceivers. They learned from the best. That is a statement of fact. It is not gossip.
*Editor’s Note: After further investigation, I’ve revised the article to remove a reference that stated that the girl was impregnated by another BCA member. The assumption by a number of BCA members had been that the father must have been another BCA member because of the secrecy with which the matter of the father had been treated. If the father had not been a BCA member, common sense would have dictated that the BCA Elders would have simply said so. They didn’t need to identify the father by name, but they certainly needed to provide some assurances to the members that the father wasn’t one of their own. Evidently that didn’t happen, and there were only a few who knew anything at all. It should have been common knowledge, not a secret.
This is an excellent example of how the “no gossip” rule can easily backfire. Secrecy fosters speculation; disclosure prevents it. For years there has been speculation that even Doug Phillips himself might have been the father of this “love child”. Doug was very foolish to have not put that speculation to rest long ago. The solution to gossip isn’t to brow beat church members into silence. The solution is reasonable disclosure on a need-to-know basis by church leadership, coupled with true biblical instruction. There was a genuine need to know in this case. BCA members didn’t need all the details, but they certainly needed to know more than they were told.
Please don’t throw out your Doug Phillips and Vision Forum CDs, DVDs and books. Jen and I are doing a research project and hope to write a book. Please send those materials to Jen. You can email her for a mailing address.
Negative comments appeared here recently regarding Doug Phillips’ “spiritual father” Pastor Robert Gifford. In response we received word from Pastor Gifford, via one of his daughters and one of his church members, that Pastor Gifford is in no way pleased to be portrayed by Doug Phillips as his spiritual father, and that he is in no way responsible for teaching Doug Phillips Dominionism, Patriarchy, Family Integrated Church, home school elitism, etc. According to these commenters Pastor Gifford has for years been openly confronting Doug Phillips for his unbiblical and extra-biblical positions.
I was subsequently asked to interview Pastor Gifford for this article. Interspersed in this article are direct quotes from my interview with Pastor Robert Gifford, including this statement which explains his motivation for giving me the interview:
“I grieve over the way Doug Phillips has misrepresented me. But that doesn’t bother me the most. God will vindicate me. What bothers me the most is how Doug has defamed the testimony of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It breaks my heart the way he’s discredited and maligned the Word of God. He twisted the Word of God for his own advantage. I also grieve that so many people have been harmed by Doug’s teachings that I think it’s necessary for me to speak out. Doug has a dual personality. He’s been leading a secret life. It’s like the movie Catch Me If You Can.”
Doug Phillips has often made mention of Pastor Robert Gifford, crediting him as his “spiritual father and mentor.” He has done so numerous times from the podium at various venues, as well as in print:
“When I was a young man, my spiritual father, mentor, and pastor gave me a copy of John Gill. He told me it was the most trustworthy and foundational commentary in print. He explained to me that my hero Charles Spurgeon had feasted on John Gill’s writings when he was a young man. Nearly twenty-five years later, I want to once again publicly thank Pastor Robert Gifford for introducing me to the great John Gill who has remained my constant companion in my life.” 2007 Vision Forum Catalog, pg. 38
“It was during those days that two men helped transform my boyhood dreams into the vision of a man. One was my father, and the other was my pastor, Robert Gifford. Both men gave me many books which fueled my interest in the story of Creation and even the quest for dinosaurs. They practiced discipleship and communicated a Creationist message of dominion.” 2003 Vision Forum Catalog, pg. 2
Robert Gifford taught Doug and Brad Phillips, both as their church pastor, and beginning in their 8th and 7th grades, respectively, when they were students at Fairfax Christian School in Vienna, Virginia. FCS is a prestigious school that has attracted many Washington politicians, local celebrities and famous athletes who have sent their children there for a Christian education. Five FCS parents have run for President of the United States, including Howard Phillips.
When Doug and Brad first began attending FCS, “They were deep into Roman Catholicism. Doug also believed in theistic evolution.” Through the influence of Robert Gifford they turned from Roman Catholic evolutionists to make professions of faith in Christ and becoming creationists.
“As a young man, Doug was also discipled by Robert Gifford, a great preacher of the Word and pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, who communicated to Doug a passion for Christian apologetics and the sovereignty of God.” Vision Forum Ministries, About the President
I asked Pastor Gifford, “Why do you think that Doug has so often claimed you as having been such a significant influence in his life, right along side his natural father, crediting you as his spiritual father and mentor?”
“I think that I most definitely influenced him in regard to the fundamentals of the faith. I taught him biblical doctrine. I taught him in school and at church. But I also taught him one on one, in my home. I taught him the doctrines of grace. I taught him soteriology. I taught him creationism. So I taught him the fundamentals in his early age, I was influential in that. Secondly, my family had a big influence on him. He was over at my house a lot. He saw the way my family operated and he liked that. I have seven kids and my family had a big impact on him. I think Doug is sincere about my influence, but I also think he’s being dishonest about some of it too. I think part of why he uses my name is to establish credibility within the evangelical world. Look at me. I’m under a spiritual father. I think it’s also his way of trying to cover up, camouflage, some of the aberrant doctrines that he has.”
Doctrinally, Pastor Gifford is and always has been an evangelical Baptist. He is Dispensational and Premillennial. This demonstrates how highly the Phillips family has always respected him because doctrinally Howard Phillips, after converting from Judaism, became a Reformed Covenantalist, Postmillennial, Reconstructionist, Theonomist and Dominionist, and his sons Doug and Brad later followed after their father in doctrine. Though Doug and Pastor Gifford are at opposite ends of the theological spectrum, in all these years Doug Phillips has always spoken with great fondness of Pastor Robert Gifford.
The Phillips family became members of Pastor Gifford’s church, Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Woodbridge, VA (not affiliated with Sovereign Grace Ministries). Pastor Gifford was a significant influence in teaching the Phillips family the doctrines of grace, both from the pulpit, and in the Christian school.
Doug Phillips would go on to graduate high school at FCS and then attend the College of William and Mary. It was while Doug was at William and Mary that Pastor Gifford started noticing troubling changes in Doug, and Pastor Gifford often addressed his concerns with Doug.
Doug then attended George Mason School of Law. While in law school he married Elizabeth Beall Dewey. Pastor Gifford performed the wedding ceremony.
Perhaps one of the reasons Doug Phillips has admired Pastor Gifford is because he has been so direct with Doug. According to Pastor Gifford he warned Doug Phillips many times about problems that he saw developing in Doug’s life, both in the doctrines he began to embrace as a young man, as well as his immense pride.
If anyone deserves credit for indoctrinating Doug Phillips in Patriarchy, home school-only elitism, and family integrated church it would be John Thompson. Among other things Thompson is the founding director of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches. While Doug Phillips was a staff attorney at Home School Legal Defense Association, he invited Pastor Gifford to his home to introduce him to John Thompson:
“I was supposedly Doug’s spiritual father, but he invited this man, John Thompson, to come and instruct me about marriage and family. Doug knew I’d been teaching what the Word has to say about marriage and family for years. I had over a hundred messages I’d given on marriage and family. Doug orchestrated this whole evening so that Thompson could indoctrinate me in Patriarchy. We sat around the table while everyone listened to this man lecture me. After he got done Doug had us all move into the living room where the men all sat down on the couches. My wife sat next to me; but I noticed all the other women stood behind their husbands, including Beall. It was very strange. They just stood there the whole time behind their husbands. I thought we were going to have a nice conversation. But it wasn’t a conversation, and it was very uncomfortable. This guy Thompson took over and started asking me questions. The last thing he asked me was, ‘If you were in a grocery store and your children started to act rebellious, how would you respond?’ So I said, ‘I don’t go shopping. My wife shops. Honey, what would you do?’ So my wife starts to answer and this Thompson guy cuts her off and says, ‘Excuse me! I’m speaking to the men!’ At this point I really had to hold myself back. Doug just sat there the whole time and said nothing. It was obvious that Doug set this whole thing up. At this point we got up and left.”
“When Doug left Virginia to move to San Antonio to start Vision Forum, I warned him to stay away from John Thompson and Patriarchy. I told him ‘It’s a tyrannical way to lead the family. It’s not biblical’.”
“I think men like Doug get into Patriarchy because they’re weak insecure men. So they gather a bunch of other men around them to figure out how to make their wives do what they want. They don’t know how to lead their wives. All they know how to do is force them. A man is supposed to lead his wife lovingly, sacrificially. unreservedly. It’s clear from Ephesians 5. The Bible calls the wife a ‘helpmeet’. What that means is that she’s a counselor. She’s supposed to give counsel to her husband, and the husband is supposed to listen to her. I’ve taught this for years. We men have blind spots. We need godly women to give us counsel. She’s a counterbalance to us.”
On Family Integrated Church:
“Doug was going around behind my back in my church telling people that Sunday school was evil. I confronted him about it and he lied and said he hadn’t. But I confronted him with the fact that ten families had come to me and told me he’d told them that Sunday school was sin. He told me, ‘I never said that. You’re misrepresenting me’. Doug was very divisive of the church. Several families left because of him, but I was able to prevent a church split. But that’s only because I put a stop to what he was trying to do behind my back. I kept catching him doing dishonest things like that where I’d confront him for something and he’d lie about it. It happened four times in a row.”
On Women Working Outside the Home:
“It’s not a sin for a woman to work outside the home. In fact there are times where it may be necessary for a woman to work outside the home to show her love for her husband and to complement him. This idea that a woman has to remain within the four walls of the home is nowhere found in Scripture.”
On Dominionism and Quiverfull:
“Doug has misrepresented me in the worst sense. He’s made me out to be a Dominionist. He’s put it in print. He’s said it many times. It’s libel. Dominionism is completely contrary to everything I taught. I think that much of Doug’s views of Dominionism came from the Shepherding movement. There’s a lot of similarities. He also teaches the same thing the Muslims teach which is you take over the world by having lots of babies. You establish an army through your children. It’s important to understand this. If you look at Doug through all his advertisements, the Vision Forum, he’s got his kids on the covers dressed in armor. This is what they’re doing. They’re forming armies through their families. I’m just the absolute opposite of all that.”
On Home Schooling Elitism:
“Doug and his brother Brad came to my home and told me, ‘Pastor Gifford, we believe that the qualifications for membership in the church are wrong. We believe that only home schoolers should be members of the church’. I told them, ‘Do you realize what kind of elitist attitude you have? Do you realize what you’re doing? This is totally anti-biblical. This is the problem that the early Jewish converts had when they thought only they could be members of the church and the Gentiles had to be excluded. What you have is an elitist mentality, and it’s going to turn into a cult if you’re not careful’. It was over that issue that Doug left my church and moved to Texas to start Vision Forum and his own church.”
On Moving to San Antonio To Start Vision Forum:
” ‘Doug, you’ve got a lot of natural talents and pride. Prideful men who rely on natural talents don’t depend like they should on the Holy Spirit. If you get prideful you also won’t rely on God’s Word to lead you. Pride goes before a fall, and that’s what concerns me. You’ve got to be very careful that you don’t do this in the flesh. You need to learn wisdom from above rather than the wisdom that comes from the world. You need to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you. I’m concerned that in your pride you’ll just rely on your charisma and natural abilities’.”
” ‘Doug, don’t mix business with church. It always ends up that the business controls the church’.”
“I saw Doug’s abilities and charisma all along, and I always saw those more as a danger than a help. I told my wife that Doug was going to depend on his performance, and his charisma and his persona, more than on the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit.”
On Doug Phillips After He Started Vision Forum:
“Doug sent me some of his Vision Forum materials. I listened to them and was really disappointed. I called him and said, ‘Doug, where in any of this are you speaking of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ? All my teaching on the family always points people to Jesus Christ. You’re just teaching moralism. If we don’t lead our children to Jesus we fail. Moralism isn’t enough Doug. You’re de-emphasizing the gospel of salvation. You’re preaching moralism and Dominionism, not Jesus Christ’.”
“I’m not a Dominionist but even I can see that Doug’s militant form of Dominionism is extreme. I also confronted him about his Patriarchy. I pointed out to him that even the Dominionists weren’t teaching the kind of extreme Patriarchy that he does.”
Warning To Doug Phillips At Howard Phillips’ Funeral (May 2013):
“Doug, I’m really concerned for you. You’ve gotten far away from the Word of God by creating this Dominionist/Patriarchy/Family Integrated Church/Home School thing. You need to get back to the gospel of Jesus and stop being a moralist or everything you’ve done is going to fall. Point people to Jesus or your ministry will collapse.”
Pastor Gifford On Doug Phillips’ Infidelity
“All the these issues cause me great heartache, but nothing is so dreadful to me as Doug’s infidelity. In his pride Doug came to believe that he could live like a king with no accountability to anyone, even to God. The result is always immorality. Doug was taught in word and deed to live a pure and holy life that honored our triune God and His Word. He’s “turned from the holy commandment delivered unto him” (1 Thes 4:1-8) to a system of belief and practice that justifies immorality. May the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ quicken Doug and bring him to a place of true repentance and faith.”
Robert Gifford is an elderly man who, of his own admission, isn’t computer literate. Pastor Gifford has reviewed and approved this article for posting. He’s informed me that he likely won’t be monitoring comments to this article or responding to questions here. However, his daughter Grace, has informed me that she likely will.
Throughout November the internet exploded with the news of Doug Phillips’ recent public resignation from Vision Forum Ministries. Even though it’s been a little more than a month, various comments to my articles, as well as blog stats, clearly show that many are just now finding out. Many more will continue finding out in weeks to come.
Quite a few people initially equated Doug Phillips’ Statement Of Resignation with “repentance.” However, as I explained in a previous article, it was no such thing. Doug Phillips was duplicitous and evasive in just about everything he said in his public statements. However, he did at least tell the truth about one thing. He got the title right. It was a “Statement Of Resignation”, and nothing more.
Too many of the blog and newspaper headlines were along the lines of, Doug Phillips Extramarital Affair Forces Resignation From Vision Forum Ministries. I too made the mistake initially of using the term “extra-marital affair” to describe this scandal. However, I quickly came to see that, although it was indeed extra-marital and, therefore adultery against his wife, “affair” is an inappropriate term to use in this context. Worse yet it excuses what is, in reality, criminal conduct.
Herein I will use the term “adultery” to define Doug Phillips’ betrayal against his wife, and “clergy sexual abuse” to define his criminal actions against the young lady who, for purposes of this article and future articles, I will call “Cassandra.” Doug Phillips would object to my application of the terms “adultery” and “sex” in much the same way that Bill Clinton objected to those terms. As lawyers they use “adultery” in the strict legal sense of only constituting sexual intercourse, and if it’s not sexual intercourse it’s not even “sex.” For Doug Phillips’ it was just “an inappropriate relationship.” Such parsing leaves a lot of wiggle room, although I won’t get any more graphic than that (this is a G-rated blog).
Doug Phillips also interprets “biblically knowing each other” as sexual intercourse, and only sexual intercourse. In his way of thinking he can perpetrate any physical act, with any woman not his wife, short of actual sexual intercourse, and it’s not adultery against his wife. In his mind he hasn’t cheated on his wife and he’s not an adulterer. This gives him the escape clause he needs from being subject to the same terrible judgment that he’s pounded the pulpit with for years: “The Bible requires that all adulterers be stoned to death.” Regardless of his rationalizing, Doug Phillips is an adulterer and worse. However, I don’t believe he should be stoned to death. Doug Phillips should be grateful that our criminal justice system is rooted in English Common Law and not Sharia.
Here’s the problem with the term “affair”: It defines a relationship based upon free will and informed consent. Such a relationship is one in which both parties are fully willing to participate — where there is no coercion, manipulation, or control, and where there is a reasonable expectation that any promises made can be realistically fulfilled. Both parties are in full control of their mental faculties and emotions, and remain free moral agents. They are free at all times to say, “No” without fear of retaliatory consequences; or if after they have said “Yes” they are free to later say, “I made a mistake. This isn’t right. It’s gone too far. I want out.” Lastly, and most importantly here, an “affair” can only happen where the two parties have relatively equal “power” in the relationship. None of these things occurred in the Doug Phillips/Cassandra case because, as I’ve explained in my previous article, Boerne Christian Assembly is a religious sociological cult and Doug Phillips is the cult leader.
Doug Phillips characterizes his relationship with Cassandra as an “inappropriate relationship”, but this strains all credulity. Let’s just call it what the Bible calls it: adultery against his wife. Doug Phillips clearly demonstrates his lack of remorse (and therefore lack of repentance) when he trivializes the gravity of his offenses in Clinton-esque we didn’t go all the way terms. Even Doug Phillips’ strongest supporters didn’t buy it for long.
Cassandra was in the Phillips home every day for at least 12 years, and probably longer. It started at the time she was a young teenager, all with her parents’ consent and encouragement. She and her family were members of Doug Phillips’ religious sociological cult, masquerading as a church, Boerne Christian Assembly. Cassandra quickly became highly valued by Doug Phillips, who said of her, “In fact, we consider her to be a member of the family, and her parents to be the dearest of friends.”
Cassandra began serving part-time in the Phillips’ home when she was 15, and was there full-time from the age of 17. Even though Cassandra came from a very poor family, Doug Phillips didn’t pay her. No one, other than Doug and Cassandra, know exactly when the sex began but, at best, Cassandra was barely at the age of legal consent (17 in Texas). Some have argued that it likely started when she was under the age of consent. For Doug Phillips’ sake he’d better not have done anything at all “inappropriate” if she was under the age of consent. Texas has no statute of limitations in certain cases of sexual acts with a minor under the age of legal consent. He also better not have paid her off the buy her silence, for that too would have onerous legal consequences. But even if the sex started at 17 this wouldn’t necessarily leave Doug Phillips clear of the possibility of criminal prosecution, both in Texas and under federal statute.
Because of her age, as well as the BCA cult training, which conditioned BCA girls to “submit” to fathers and elders (i.e. passive obeisance), she would have been extremely vulnerable to Doug Phillips’ advances. The daily contact, coupled with Doug Phillips’ charm, would have softened her up.
BCA may have been a reasonably healthy and normal church when it was first started by Doug Phillips and three other church elders. There was genuine pastoral accountability and a divergence of opinions among the elders. But as those other elders started leaving to start their own churches closer to their own home towns, ultimately leaving only Doug Phillips to rule the roost, it left a vacuum of accountability and diversity of doctrine. The power soon went to his head and Doug Phillips was left unchecked to rule as an autocrat. The authoritarian Hyper-Patriarchy doctrines he continuously taught of unquestioning loyalty and submission of wives and daughters to husbands and fathers, and each of them in turn in complete subservience to their church elders (of which Doug Phillips was the only one for most of BCA’s history) served as a powerful form of mind control, as evidenced in most all religious sociological cults.
At BCA the mind control was reinforced by the terrifying prospect of excommunication, and the inevitable shunning of the entire family for one member’s excommunication. Those who have never been in a cult, or who have never studied the sociological structure and psychology of cults, find it difficult to comprehend how otherwise intelligent people can give up control over their lives, their freedom of will, and even their freedom of thought, to a charismatic leader; but the fact is it happens all the time. Most assuredly it happened to Cassandra, as well as to her parents. They all were swept up in the excitement of following a home school rock star.
Doug Phillips’ cult leader powers of persuasion add another strong argument against Cassandra having entered into a sexual relationship with Doug Phillips of her own free will, anymore than did the multiple women that David Koresh bedded. The sociological structure of Doug Phillips’ power-cult, along with his idol status among his followers (especially among the women), made it inevitable that he could, if he wanted to, bed almost any of his followers, including teens, and married women.
There are numerous reports of women flirting with Doug Phillips, both in BCA and elsewhere. This would be consistent with the behavior of “groupies” who follow rock stars. Indeed, prior to his fall Doug Phillips had a rock star status among his followers, and he had his groupies. Is a man responsible for a woman flirting with him? If he encourages it, yes, especially if he holds a position of authority over her. A man in a position of authority, and particularly pastoral authority, should do everything in his power to dissuade flirtation, not encourage it. From all reports Doug Phillips encouraged the flirtation. He, thereby, invited temptation, both to himself and to the women that he exchanged flirtations with. No doubt the cumulative effect of all that flirtation was that it went to his already inflated fat ego. In his pride Doug Phillips encouraged, rather than discouraged, his own adulation. The inevitable result was his self-destruction:
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
It’s likely that Cassandra did flirt with Doug Phillips, and for that she is probably now blaming herself. She does bear responsibility for her part in this but, in my view, her part is almost inconsequential to the sin that resulted. Doug Phillips was the moral leader and had the responsibility to rebuff any flirtations that were directed at him; but that not only didn’t happen, Doug Phillips has been seen many times in public encouraging the flirtations of his adoring female fans. As this illustration shows, the religious leader always has the weight of responsibility for preventing marital infidelity because he holds the role of leader, plus he has the advantage of experience, knowledge, authority and power, and the victim generally holds little if any of those things:
These relational imbalances are the reason why various licensed professions, such as Psychiatrists, Counselors, Therapists, Doctors, and Nurses are held to strict professional standards of conduct which govern their relationships with clients and co-workers. In all cases sexual relationships with clients and patients are prohibited. The same applies in the military where superior ranking officers and enlisted personnel aren’t permitted to “fraternize” with subordinate ranking personnel. Numerous professions have such restrictions, including clergymen. One problem, however, is that too many clergymen don’t think such standards should or do apply to them. This is especially true of those in “independent non-denominational” churches where they often have little to no accountability. However, in many states there are laws governing the conduct of clergymen with their church members. Texas is one of those states:
Sec. 22.011. SEXUAL ASSAULT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(b) A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the consent of the other person if:
(10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser;
(f) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree, except that an offense under this section is a felony of the first degree if the victim was a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.
Sexual abuse by a clergyman has sometimes been prosecuted as a federal crime, as was Pastor Jack Schaap who received a 12 year sentence for engaging in sex with an underage girl. Schaap was initially investigated in his home state of Indiana but was cleared when it was found that the girl was of the age of consent (16 in Indiana) when the sex started. The FBI later picked up the case when it was determined that Schaap had traveled with the girl to at least two other states where they engaged in sex. Those states’ age of consent was higher. Furthermore, the federal age of consent is 18.
Doug Phillips treated Cassandra as “a member of the family” and she routinely traveled with him all over the country, and out of the country, often without Beall. With all the out of state travel it could easily change the question of age of legal consent considerably. However, this issue of legal age of consent is still separate and apart from the matter of criminal sexual abuse by a clergyman, and it’s entirely possible that Doug Phillips may be guilty of both.
In the Phillips sociological cult structure Cassandra would have been conditioned to act exactly as she did. In other words, if she did flirt with Doug Phillips, it was only after she had witnessed other young ladies doing the same, and his favorable responses to them. Her flirtations toward him also would not have happened until after he had directed signals of his interest at her first. He wanted her attention and, in her teenage ignorance, she gave it to him. Once he got it he rewarded her with special favors and privileges, including further access to him. Since she knew that he carefully guarded his access to himself, she would have felt highly favored to get to spend time in his exalted presence. That access was in itself a huge reward. Once it turned physical this would have been interpreted as an even greater reward. This is all part of what cult experts and psychologists call “grooming.” Cassandra’s attraction to Doug served to cloud his already self-aggrandizing judgment as he sought to rationalize what turned into years of cheating on his wife.
Sociopaths, with their lack of conscience, can readily do that. For a sociopath it’s not about having to deal with a guilty conscience because they, quite literally, have no conscience. But sociopaths are keenly aware of the importance of conforming to social norms within their particular sub-culture. So in Doug Phillips’ case it was just a matter of not getting caught. Add narcissism and a lawyer’s craftiness to the mix and you have a toxic recipe. That narcissism ultimately led to Doug’s downfall. He started to get sloppy. Most adulterers work hard to conceal their cheating, but a narcissist who has so long gotten away with his transgressions will tend to get more brazen about it.
In February 2012* Doug wasn’t even trying to conceal his “inappropriate relationship” with Cassandra. He was parading her around the San Antonio Independent Film Festival (Feb 23-25) as they walked as lovers, hand in hand. Eye witnesses were stunned and assumed Doug Phillips had just completely lost his mind.
In January 2013 Doug was literally caught with his pants down, in his home, by one or more Phillips family members. To the best of our knowledge it was Beall and or Josh who caught them.
Prior to this point the relationship had been an open secret. As long as Doug kept it in the closet no one at BCA or Vision Forum would hold him accountable. But for Doug to openly flaunt his adultery put everything in jeopardy, including many people’s jobs. Something had to be done. Doug was finally confronted in an “emergency BCA meeting” in February where he allegedly confessed and repented and stepped down as Elder of BCA. Doug promised the relationship would end. It didn’t. It just went back into the closet.
By September 2013 Scott Brown and the Vision Forum board members were informed of Doug’s cheating, either directly or indirectly. Pastor Joe Morecraft and Peter Bradrick flew to San Antonio in the later part of October to confront Doug Phillips for his sin. As Peter Bradrick articulated on his Facebook, things didn’t go well. However, they did go exactly as anyone should expect when confronting a sociopathic narcissist. The Notice Of Resignation followed shortly thereafter.
This entire saga makes for a textbook case of clergy sexual abuse. It is, therefore, not an “extra-marital affair.” Tragically, cases like this one are not rare. Instances of clergy sexual abuse are rampant. They must be exposed and the perpetrators must be prevented from ever again being welcomed into positions of power and trust where they can prey on the vulnerable. This especially applies to Doug Phillips who is guilty of many more betrayals than just this one case of clergy sexual abuse.
Numerous have been the comments requesting prayer for Doug Phillips and his family. Strangely absent are prayer requests for Cassandra and her family. No doubt they’re just following the example of Doug Phillips who, likewise, makes no requests for prayers for Cassandra and her family. It’s as though they don’t even exist and Doug Phillips isn’t guilty of betraying any family other than his own. I can only conclude this is because they view Cassandra as an adulteress, and likely a temptress who bears responsibility for the downfall of a great Christian leader. Clearly they don’t view her as a victim, but they really need to. If it was one of their daughters who had been caught up in such a cult I can guarantee they’d be blaming no one but the cult leader for it.
Some have asked, “What sort of a future could Cassandra see with Doug Phillips? She stuck with him throughout her later teens and the whole of her 20’s – the full span of time when all the other BCA girls are the most eager to marry. Why did she sacrifice all those years for a man who, by all appearances, couldn’t offer her marriage? The fact of the matter is he did offer her marriage, and she believed him.
Some bloggers, such as Doug Wilson, have alleged that Cassandra was some sort of “Foxy Bubbles” seductress. Far from her being the tempting seductress, it was Doug Phillips who seduced Cassandra with charm and promises. His promises included marriage and children, and his promises were sealed with what can only be viewed as an engagement ring. As confirmed by this image from 2010, Cassandra has been wearing an engagement ring for a minimum of four years.
The implications of this need to be understood in the context of the cultish culture of Boerne Christian Assembly. Many BCA girls are given “purity rings” by their fathers, which they wear on their ring finger until it is replaced with an engagement ring given to them by a fiancé. Purity rings are always simple plain bands of silver, and occasionally gold. Never would they resemble an expensive engagement ring with a large multi-caret diamond, such as the one seen here. No one in BCA could have failed to see such an expensive engagement ring on Cassandra’s ring finger. No one would have believed that it was a promise ring, especially since her father was too poor to afford it. It should have been obvious that Doug Phillips had plans for Cassandra of a permanent nature. But when you’re a cult member you just don’t question such things, and that even includes the cult leader’s wife. Whether it makes any sense to us or not, the fact of the matter is that Cassandra has believed for years that Doug Phillips would make good on his promises to marry her.
There’s one major impediment to fulfilling that promise – his marriage to Beall. Doug is deep into Patriarchy, and there are those who call themselves Patriarchs who are also into polygamy, but it’s unlikely Doug will go that far. Divorce would settle Doug’s problem but Doug doesn’t have any biblical grounds for divorcing Beall. Beall, however, certainly has biblical and legal grounds for divorcing Doug. Unfortunately Beall shares Doug’s beliefs that divorce is never permissible.
This prohibition of divorce in all cases only makes sense in light of Theonomy. But even most theonomists disagree with Doug’s extreme position on divorce. Theonomists generally hold to the more conventional view that divorce is permissible only in cases of adultery and abandonment. As an extreme Theonomist Doug Phillips would have all adulterers put to death. Thus, if your wife cheats on you, you stone her to death, leaving yourself free to remarry, without the inconvenience of having to divorce, or the stigma associated with being a “divorcee.” This also leaves you free to continue being a pastor or elder (many churches ban divorcees from being pastors and elders).
Why would Doug Phillips make promise after promise, year after year, of marriage and children to another woman when, by his own doctrinal standards, he could have no lawful means of getting out of his current marriage? His only out is if Beall were to die.
Several people, knowing Doug’s extreme views on divorce and remarriage, have emailed Jen and I expressing their deep concerns for Beall’s safety. It would be hard to miss the implications of where Doug Phillips’ extremist views might ultimately lead, and for those who have been following my articles you already know my take on Doug Phillips’ mental condition. Those already familiar with such personality disorders know what a narcissistic sociopath is capable of.
Compounding our concerns is the fact that Doug Phillips has had to confront such desperate times, and may soon be confronting even more desperate times. The old adage, “Desperate times call for desperate measures” seems ready made for an already mentally imbalanced man.
The worst possible scenario for Beall is if Doug’s exit strategy includes moving the family to some obscure place, in some obscure country (like Kenya with Brad, or maybe Peru), out of the public eye, where Doug is no longer subject to scrutiny, and Beall is cut off from all outside communication.
Pray for Beall Phillips and for the Phillips’ children. May God preserve them and protect them from all harm. And don’t forget to keep Cassandra, and her family, in your prayers, as well.
*Author’s Note: I had previously stated this occurred in 2013. After checking again with my sources I realized that my chronology was inaccurate. The circumstances remain unchanged, but the chronology of events was out of order. I apologize for any confusion. If anything this creates an even more problematic situation. What this means is that key Vision Forum people had first hand knowledge that the “inappropriate relationship” had been going on for even far longer than we even realized and, apparently, little or nothing was done to confront it.
The public exposure of Doug Phillips’ clergy sexual abuses have had the net effect of Toto pulling the curtain back on The Great and Powerful Wizard Of Oz. With the exposure of his colossal hypocrisies, Doug Phillips has lost all credibility, along with all his close personal friends and most of his admirers. Even several former Vision Forum employees and interns are posting articles and Facebook comments that clearly target their former boss, Jordan Muela’s article being the best example so far. Though in most cases they fail to mention Doug Phillips by name, everyone gets the idea anyway.
Doug Phillips has also lost his ability to control and intimidate through scare tactics. The level of fear from current and former members of Boerne Christian Assembly — “The Community”, as they call it — is not completely evaporated, at least not quite yet; but it’s been rapidly diminishing in the past month.
Seldom has any man fallen so abruptly from such a high and respected position to such a low one. With his public plunge comes the abrupt loss of Doug Phillips’ power over others, in particular his power to dominate Boerne Christian Assembly and Vision Forum employees. The fear of Doug Phillips has diminished commensurate with the plunge in his public image. With the loss of that fear more and more people are willing to come forward to tell their stories.
Those who have never been in a mind control cult themselves, or who have never studied the psychology of religious sociological cults, will have difficulty believing that one 5’4″ man could wield so much power and control over one church, not to mention tremendous influence over thousands of his adoring followers. But for those who have gone through a cult experience yourself you’ll very much relate to this exposé, just as you’d relate to The Village.
When people who have never been in a cult themselves hear accounts of a cult they typically exclaim, “Why didn’t those people just get out of there? What held them back? Have they all lost their minds?” The answers are somewhat complex, except for this one: Yes, in a sense, they did lose control over their otherwise very sane minds. That’s not to say that any of them ever were or became stupid or crazy or mindless drones. They’re not any of those things. Anyone who believes they are too smart or invulnerable to coming under the mind control of a master manipulator, such as a Douglas W. Phillips, Esq., may be a prime cult group recruitment candidate themselves. Millions of people have gone through experiences just like the people of Boerne Christian Assembly. Those millions would have no trouble at all believing the stories of BCA victims.
What sort of people join cults? If BCA is any indication then it would seem that surprisingly intelligent and successful people often do. In BCA’s case they have included:
Military officers and enlisted
I may not have believed their stories myself had I heard of them as a younger man. I’ve since experienced the devastation of joining what I thought was a perfectly normal church, only to recognize some six months later that I was actually in a religious sociological cult. I very much relate to BCA members because my own cult had been heavily influenced by the teachings of Doug Phillips and his fellow Patriarchy/Quiverfull/Home School/Stay At Home Daughter/Family Integrated Church gurus. My cult was led by a man who suffers from the same personality disorders as Doug Phillips (most cult leaders are sociopathic narcissists).
Cults are generally categorized as religious, sociological, and sometimes both. Religious cults are typically benign in practice and aberrant in doctrine. In other words they’re often non-abusive. Sociological cults are highly manipulative and often abusive. Religious sociological cults are the worst of both worlds. The abuses in these cults often manifest in clusters — various combinations of:
Every cult will manifest at least one of these forms of abuses, and where one abuse is manifest it’s common to see additional forms manifested too. The fact that Doug Phillips has been publicly exposed for clergy sexual abuse means there is good cause to scrutinize him for perpetrating other forms of abuse. In my previous article I exposed a very perverse form of clergy sexual abuse that Doug Phillips is directly and personally responsible for. In this article I’ll address the emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuses that Doug Phillips is guilty of. It is only by the methodical and repetitive application of these other abuses that Doug Phillips was able to condition and control BCA members, thereby making them vulnerable to the clergy sexual abuses which followed.
Cult leaders generally have an entire toolbox of manipulation and control tools that they rely on. Charm is generally the first choice of Doug Phillips’ manipulation tools, and he’s a very accomplished charmer. Charm usually does work for him. However, “charm is deceitful” (Prov 31:30), and charm will only take a man so far. When charm doesn’t work Doug Phillips can abruptly shift to scare tactics. He can transform from friendly soft-spoken charmer to furious red-faced screamer in half a heart beat. An example of this is how he could charm the audience at the San Antonio International Christian Film Festival, yet go back stage and scream at the young BCA volunteers who were helping there. This Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde whipsaw effect is a classic cult leader conditioning technique. Not many people have personally witnessed Doug’s explosive rage, but those who have will never forget it.
As a religious cult leader Doug relies on the authority of the scriptures to give him an air of legitimacy. Like all other religious cult leaders, Doug Phillips cherry-picks scripture, twisting and perverting for his own manipulative agenda. The Doctrines of Grace don’t make for particularly effective tools of mind control, which is why Doug rarely, if ever, preaches on grace. But in the right hands the “Law-Word” can be terrifying. It doesn’t get any scarier than the prospect of eternal conscious punishment in the lake of fire. Law in the hands of a religious sociopath can be a terrifyingly effective mind-control tool. Doug Phillips preaches Old Testament Law every Sunday, and rarely ever exposits anything from the New Testament (with the exception of a brief homily during communion). Grace is given little more than a passing nod. Ironically enough, throughout the entire time Doug Phillips was cheating on his wife he was also preaching, “The Bible requires that all adulterers be stoned to death.”
To any casual observer BCA would strike them as having an appearance much like any other conventional family-friendly church. In fact BCA members have consistently praised the genuine “community” atmosphere that is hard to find in so many other churches. Sunday church often turns into an all-day affair, just like church typically was a hundred years ago, with services lasting 2-3 hours, and then a dinner on the ground “pot-providence” (pot-luck is evil). BCA families become intimate friends, fellowshipping not just at church on Sunday but also throughout the week. Children grow up together and some have married, making the bonds of family friendship just that much more intimate. For most BCA members these become the closest friendships they have ever known. That level of family investment in any church would make it extraordinarily painful to have to leave. This too can be another tool in the toolbox of the cult leader, and in the hands of a malicious man he can easily rip families to shreds.
In those times where there were no causes for conflict, things tended to operate much at just like other family-friendly churches. But every church still has problems arise from time to time, and every pastor must have some conflict resolution skills. Doug Phillips is woefully equipped in this department, and he has a penchant for turning a conflict into the makings of a church split. When conflicts have arisen at BCA Doug Phillips has often resorted to resolution by threat. Fear, if not terror, is the emotion that has overwhelmed many under Doug Phillips’ pastoral care. Doug Phillips has used threats and intimidation to great effect — to control The Community.
At BCA one can come under “church discipline” for practically any reason at all. One does not need to be guilty of any particular sin, as the Bible defines sin. All that is necessary to come under “church discipline” (a euphemism for the wrath of Doug) is to say or do anything contrary to Doug Phillips’ personal preferences. Such was the case for Jennifer Epstein. According to Doug no Christian should or could vote for George Bush. Doug held that, as pastor, it was his prerogative to coerce his church members to vote for Constitution Party Candidate Michael Peroutka (Doug’s father, Howard, is founder of the Constitution Party). Anyone who disagreed was subject to church discipline. Jen dared to write Doug Phillips a letter expressing an opinion contrary to his. She believed that it was acceptable to vote for the Republican candidate. She was wrong. She found out that voting Republican was an excommunicatable offense. In response to Jen’s letter Doug snarled, “You’ll pay for this!” She was excommunicated by Doug’s Star Chamber proceedings absent any due process. The church was then ordered to shun Jen and her entire family.
Shunning is the big stick in most cults. However, religious cults, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, only shun the accused sinner. A sure sign of a religious sociological cult is that they will shun an entire family for the sins of just one member of the family. Not only were Jen and her husband treated as pariahs, so were the Epstein children. Their friends could no longer so much as say, “Hello.” Natasha Epstein experienced the devastation of having her best friend fold her arms and turn her back on her. If ever there were a system intended to destroy the Christian faith of children and teens, Doug Phillips has perfected it.
Another sure sign of a religious sociological cult is what happens when anyone tries to leave. In a normal church, if a member wants to leave, they can just leave. More formal churches have more formal expectations, such as requesting a letter of transfer to another church. But in all cases, real churches will always permit members to leave for any cause, at any time, with relative ease. A sure sign of a cult is that the cult leader makes it difficult to get out. If a request is made to leave, or for a letter of transfer, and the response is a threat, you know it’s a cult. Like all other cults it’s relatively easy to join BCA. One attends a membership class and then signs “The Covenant.” The problem is that Doug views The Covenant as being akin to marriage: ‘Til death do us part. To quote Doug Phillips: “There are only two ways you can leave BCA. You can die or the Elders can agree to transfer you to another church.”
Multiple BCA members have tried to leave over the years and there have been multiple threats. The threats get especially ugly if a member wishes to transfer their membership to another church because they are displeased with Doug in any way. It’s unacceptable to ever show any displeasure or disapproval in a cult leader. Doug Phillips has seldom permitted a transfer to another local church, even under the best of circumstances, but leaving because someone is displeased with him is rarely ever permitted. Transfers are usually only permitted if you’re moving out of state, and a move out of state must be for a reason that Doug approves of. Any who try and leave without first obtaining Doug’s permission are “put under church discipline,” a preliminary sanction intended to dissuade the member from departing. If that doesn’t work the member is excommunicated.
Excommunication from BCA is emotionally and spiritually traumatic enough as it is. But Doug Phillips has often shown himself to be a very vindictive man. In Doug Phillips’ way of thinking excommunication is often insufficient punishment. Like so many other ecclesiastical bullies, Doug recruits teams of men as enforcers. At BCA it’s been Bob Sarratt, and Michael Gobart. At Vision Forum it’s been his interns and a few select employees. Through his henchmen he has proactively meddled and interfered with various “excommunicants” ability to join any other church, and he will keep up the harassment for years after an excommunication. Doug Phillips is also known for meddling and interfering in excommunicants livelihoods, including their businesses and employment. If he can ruin excommunicants financially he will. Last but not least is the threat of litigation which Doug Phillips has made against many.
As is the case in most religious sociological cults, conditioning through repetition is a key component of successful mind control. Squelching any and all complaints necessitates fabricating a plausible biblical doctrine. Labeling all grievances, legitimate or not, as “gossip” is a ready-made excuse for stifling complaints. Gossip is a subject Doug has harped on many Sundays, labeling it a “horrific sin.” Any gossip is subject to “church discipline.” This includes even listening to “gossip” or looking at “gossip” on the internet. Any web site that ever says the least thing unfavorable towards Doug Phillips is especially “horrific”, and any bloggers who have ever said anything negative of Doug have been branded “internet assassins” (such as Jen’s Gems). BCA members have been threatened with church discipline should they so much as look at any such blogs. So-called gossips have been made examples of by Doug to maintain control through instilling fear. BCA members have lived in mortal fear of speaking or listening to one another about any problems they have witnessed in the church, regardless of their severity.
However, everyone has their limits, and that limit is usually reached where it concerns the safety of one’s own children. Doug Phillips’ refusal to take charge of the Jennifer Grady issue ultimately pushed numerous BCA parents past their limits. Every BCA member has witnessed many examples of Doug Phillips meddling, interfering and being a control freak; and yet he wouldn’t take control of the Jennifer Grady sexual harassment. It remains a great mystery to this day.
Group conformity is another significant psychological factor of mind control in religious sociological cults. Even outside of cult settings, group conformity can be an enormous influence, as the Asch Conformity Experiments in the 1950’s proved. As the group grows in numbers the influence of conformity grows with it and it becomes ever more difficult for individual members to voice dissent. Any nonconformity is dealt with swiftly, and nonconformists often won’t even have to be corrected by the cult leader — the members themselves will often put down any nonconformity. An example of this is the BCA dress code. BCA women must wear dresses, not just to church, but at all times. Several of the BCA women are so observant that they can actually tell when a woman walks into church if she’s been wearing pants that week. One woman in particular won’t hesitate to call any such nonconformists out back of the church and give her a shaming session.
One would think that a cult leader’s influence would extend only as far as the four walls of his “church.” However, the power of group conformity is sometimes so significant that it can easily extend far beyond those four walls. Doug Phillips’ influence has extended coast to coast, largely through the micro-culture of the Christian home school community. It’s primary platform for leaders like Doug Phillips are its various state conferences and conventions. As a gifted and charming orator, thousands have hung on Doug Phillips’ every word. Being enamored by his charm, eloquence and gushing, an audience’s logic and common sense often goes right out the window. They become easy candidates for indoctrination. Even in spite of Doug Phillips’ public disgrace, many are still hearing his voice in their heads saying, “As Christians we must hate the horrific sin of gossip.”
For years many conference attending home schoolers have, because of Doug’s programming, lived an almost neo-Amish existence, viewing the internet as an evil promoter of “horrific gossip” with blogs like this one being run by “internet assassins.” No truth or insight can be found here because, as everyone knows, Doug Phillips is a godly righteous servant of Christ worthy of only praise and adulation. To go anywhere near a blog that mentions Doug Phillips by name without praising him to the heavens is “horrific sin.” Naturally, they also refuse to listen to any of the numerous home schoolers who feel betrayed and feel compelled to talk openly about it.
Preaching against the “horrific sin of gossip” has proven to be an effective mind-control tool. In spite of the magnitude of the Doug Phillips’ sex scandal, a scandal one would easily assume that everyone by now is up to speed on, we know from the numerous emails we’ve received that there are likely still thousands of Doug Phillips fans that refuse to inform themselves on Doug’s self-destruction.
A Cult Leader Destroys Himself, Yet His Followers Remain Under His Influence:
Jen was sent via email a newsletter from CHEF, a Missouri-based home school organization with a large membership. In it they plead with members to contribute generously toward “a special care package” for Doug Phillips and family. I thought this a nice gesture, at least up until I got to the part of the obsequious praises they sing to “our hero.” It makes me wonder just how odious Doug’s sins would have to be before they’d stop worshiping him. Be forewarned — it takes a strong stomach to read this:
As many of you know by now, on October 30, Doug Philips resigned from Vision Forum, with Vision Forum Ministries dissolving on November 11. Like most of you, we are deeply grieved over this tragedy. On behalf of Doug, we would like to say that in all our years of leadership, we have never known another man with such a brilliant mind, clear reasoning, great wisdom, passion for God’s Word, courage and fortitude in fighting for the family, an innovative mind in creating tools for equipping families for the cultural battle, and who possessed a genuine love for his family. Nor have we known another man who has produced so much fruit for God’s kingdom. Just think of all the fruit Doug created and spearheaded. It is truly phenomenal! He deeply cared for the flock and labored continuously to feed the flock God’s best. He protected many from continuing in their sin of neglecting their duty as fathers, mothers, and children. He fed; he fed; he fed. He took God’s people to the choicest of pastures and the purest of waters. He elevated their sights to the heavenly throne of God and labored to keep them there. Doug had been given a vision and mission from God.
Doug was clearly raised up for such a time as this. He was our hero—the man who could lead us to victory through this horrific war. We revered him, loved him, and cheered him on. He was family. Furthermore, in all the years we worked with Doug, we have never known another man who adhered to such high standards in keeping himself above reproach. He always traveled with his family, or at least one of his children, and surrounded himself with interns and staff. Doug told us that he went so far as to refrain from entering an elevator alone with a woman. So you may wonder, with all this protection, how did this great sin occur?
From our study of history, we know that the enemy always works at destroying the very thing that leaders boldly proclaim—the very principles upon which the fortress is built— and like a lion ferociously devours his prey. Doug built his ministry on Christian marriage, Christian patriarchy, the Christian family, virtuous boyhood, virtuous manhood, virtuous womanhood, virtuous families. Boldly engaging in the cultural battle for the family, Doug was winning victory after victory, so naturally, the foundational truths upon which the ministry was built was the area that Satan must destroy.
Everyone knows that the best strategy for winning a war is to concentrate all efforts against the leaders of the battle. You simply take out the generals, the captains, the colonels—those who lead the fight—and you demoralize the troops to the point of total defeat.
Doug Phillips was the general in the homeschooling community. He led the battles, so it comes as no surprise that Satan pointed his biggest guns against him—to silence the voice of hope and destroy the heart and soul of the ministry. Although God is mightier than Satan, we must never underestimate the power of the enemy and the endless legions he has for fighting his battles. Although the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, leaders always suffer heavy losses because they are in the forefront of the battle for life.
So if God is greater than the enemy, why did He give Satan permission to sift him and allow this to happen?
This is a perfect illustration of the magnitude of willful ignorance that often comes of following a cult leader. Their hero has fallen but they remain in abject denial of the fact that he isn’t just an adulterer, he’s an abusive narcissistic sociopath. They are prime candidates for blindly following after the next charismatic home school guru that rises to the top, only to repeat the cycle of abuse. And who will that next guru be? Voddie Baucham? Scott Brown? Peter Bradrick? Gregg Harris? Geoffrey Botkin? R.C. Sproul Jr? Kevin Swanson? Most of them, with the likely exception of Voddie Baucham, are already skilled manipulators and just a hair’s breadth away from being cult leaders, if they’re not that already. The last thing their overinflated egos now need is to assume Doug Phillips’ mantle.
Sadly, there remain thousands of home schoolers who just don’t get it. They’ve learned nothing from the example of the disastrous life of Doug Phillips. They don’t recognize they were conned by a huckster, a carnival barker, a facile manipulator. As such, they’re almost certain to get conned again.
Thankfully there are those who see clearly that Doug Phillips is nothing more than a master manipulator. To quote Nathan Huber, a former Vision Forum intern and BCA member:
“I thank God that I experienced the art of manipulation from a master and can now spot it a 1,000 miles away.”
A Unique Case of Clergy Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment
This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. The names of the guilty have not.
For several years I’ve been hearing rumors of clergy sexual abuse at Boerne Christian Assembly. Those rumors, if true, would prove far worse in their ramifications than Doug Phillips’ so-called “extra-marital affair” that resulted in his resignation from Vision Forum Ministries. I say “so-called” because, although many have termed it that, including the Press, in point of fact it was a classic case of clergy sexual abuse. The name of the young lady victim should remain confidential with those who know her, and unknown to those who don’t.
However, the name of the woman who is the subject of this particular story will be divulged herein, since she is guilty. Likewise the name of Doug Phillips is disclosed herein since he is directly responsible for all the sexual abuse, as well as the sexual harassment, that took place at Boerne Christian Assembly. In anticipation of the Matthew 18 Police, yes, numerous BCA families did everything possible to follow the dictates of Matthew 18:15-17 to put an end to the rampant sexual abuse and sexual harassment in their midst.
Bob and Cathy Johnson recently emailed me a lengthy and detailed narrative of the years-long unimpeded sexual exploits of Jennifer Grady at Boerne Christian Assembly. Their narrative completely confirms the shocking rumors I have long heard. Upon reviewing their narrative I arranged a phone interview to clarify some key points of their story and to discuss the specifics of how they wanted their story told.
In writing the Johnson’s story I realized that many people would be shaking their heads in disbelief while muttering, “Why didn’t those people just get out of there? What held them back? Have they all lost their minds?” Those are questions that don’t get asked by anyone who’s ever been in a religious sociological cult. They can easily relate to the Johnson’s story. For those that haven’t been in a cult before it will require some explaining. As such, this will be a two part article. This first part focuses on sexual abuse and sexual harassment at Boerne Christian Assembly, as well as the actions Doug Phillips took that ensured it would continue long term. The second part, which will be posted later in the week, focuses on the other clergy abuses perpetrated by Doug Phillips — emotional, psychological, and spiritual — that enabled him to create an environment ripe for sexual abuse and sexual harassment. The second part will also show why Boerne Christian Assembly is not a church but a religious sociological cult.
Any number of current and former BCA members are likely to read this story. This may be difficult for them by bringing up painful old memories. To them I wish to express my deepest sympathies for what you have endured. Most of you have suffered in silence, trying hard to forget the nightmare that is BCA. But you need not suffer in silence, fear, and shame any longer. You too have stories to tell, and friends here who deeply care for you. Each former BCA member has their own vantage point and own unique history. In telling your story you can help others in their recovery, and by doing so you will find it therapeutic for yourself, as well. As any competent therapist knows and would tell you, sharing your story is a vital part of abuse recovery.
To quote from Bob and Cathy Johnson’s narrative:
“What we are about to share further supports T.W. Eston’s ending to his article stating this is only the tip of the ice burg. Well here is another huge chunk we will drop in the sea and expose. This is related in many ways to Doug’s ‘romantic and affectionate relationship with another woman other than his wife.’ It also shows an abusive pattern in the way he treated Jen Epstein, Joe Taylor and countless others including those of us who are now sharing our stories.
“Our purpose in sharing is not to gossip, nor to try to ruin Doug Phillips, but to make sure that Doug is held accountable for all he has done and not think he can only confess to part of his sins and state he is contacting those he has offended to make amends when to our knowledge no one we know he offended has been contacted in any way…
“Unfortunately this man’s actions have been so severe we must bring out our stories in order for Doug to not think he can confess to just part of what he has done to hide his sins.”
The Johnson family became members of BCA in 2007 by signing a document known as “The Covenant.” It stipulates various terms and conditions of BCA membership. According to Doug Phillips’ broad interpretation of The Covenant, “There are only two ways you can leave BCA. You can die or the Elders can agree to transfer you to another church.” If you want to leave BCA to join another church you must first obtain a letter of transfer from Elder Doug Phillips and/or Doug’s sycophant-Elder Bob Sarratt. However, church transfers are seldom granted unless you have a job-related or other necessary reason to move out of state.
Upon arrival at BCA, Jennifer Grady, with her husband and seven children, were warmly received. The family became members and took up an active part in the life of the church. In the fall of 2007 Jennifer’s brother, Michael Billings, was killed in an automobile accident. This was immediately followed by a drastic change in Jennifer’s behavior. She became inappropriately friendly with the men. Jennifer’s behavior stood in stark contrast to all the other BCA women, this in a church where modesty and a decorum of distance between the sexes was expected.
Stan Rogers, father of 18 year-old Joe Rogers, found evidence of an inappropriate romantic relationship going on between Jennifer and Joe late in 2007. He took the matter to the elders of BCA, Doug Phillips and Bob Sarratt. Stan complained repeatedly to Doug and Bob about Jennifer Grady coming on to young Joe. Stan had cause to believe that Joe had succumbed to Jennifer’s seductions and was involved in an adulterous affair with her. From all appearances Doug and Bob took no action.
In the Spring of 2008 Doug Phillips called the BCA men together for, what the men later described as, “a secret members-only camping trip.” Once secured on the private property, the men were informed that all the gates would be locked and no one could leave until Doug said they could. That evening in the cabin Doug spoke cryptically to the men of his doomsday end of the world prognostications. They were each to prepare their families for the resultant societal meltdown. Paranoia of an uncertain future is a common mind control technique used by cult leaders. Things were getting more cultish by the month at BCA.
Stan Rogers and son Joe were not at that secret camping trip. Stan was at home, remotely keeping an eye on Joe, and he had good cause. Stan Rogers was convinced that Joe was being bedded by Jennifer Grady. He’d provided evidence of the affair to Doug and Bob in the form of dozens of emails. Once again, nothing was done by the Elders. In desperation Stan hid a GPS tracking device in his son’s car. Shortly after the conclusion of Doug’s doomsday talk that evening, Stan had tracked his son’s car to the Grady’s tiny home. Stan called Elders Doug Phillips and Bob Sarratt and pleaded with them to meet him at the Grady’s home. Bob agreed to come but Doug dismissed Stan’s pleas for help. Bob Sarratt, Michael Gobart (Elder in training) and Mr. Grady raced to the Grady home and surrounded the house. Young Joe, in a panic, attempted to sneak out the back window of Jennifer’s bedroom where his father was waiting. Busted! The Elders soon claimed that Jennifer had “repented.” She apologized to the Rogers. However there was no indication of genuine repentance, and this was soon proven by her continuing predations.
Jennifer had morphed into a cougar — a woman who preys on younger men. But she also wasn’t always that particular. Her advances often occurred in the homes of BCA families. Fathers complained to Doug Phillips and Bob Sarratt, but they did nothing about it. This encouraged Jennifer to bring her predations right into the church Sunday morning where she became ever more overt in her intentions. Neither Doug Phillips, Bob Sarratt, or Michael Gobart dissuaded her in any way. Her favorite come-on was, “All great men have many women.” She would touch and caress the men inappropriately, run her hands through their hair, stroke their faces and necks, and rub her body up against theirs. Fathers were outraged and mothers were afraid for their sons.
Within the same time frame that Stan had brought his complaints to Doug, at least seven other fathers also made the same complaints to Doug and Bob about Jennifer’s advances on their respective sons. Neither Doug or Bob did anything about the men’s complaints, other than to warn the men from even speaking to one another about it lest they be brought under “church discipline.” By that point most of them were eager to leave the church altogether, and some did request letters of transfer, but all were denied and told they would be excommunicated if they attempted to leave. All the men could do at the time was exclude Jennifer from their homes.
Jennifer Grady should have been the talk of the church as she escalated her seductions with more of the men and boys and became ever more brazen about it. But as is typical of religious sociological cults, no one was permitted to talk or complain about it for fear of being “put under church discipline” as “gossips.” The sin of gossip is frequently preached on at BCA by Doug Phillips as being “one of the most wicked of all sins.”
Jennifer Grady found herself excluded from one home after another. But it’s hard to stop a determined cougar. Jennifer Grady found other ways of accessing the young men — what some might perhaps characterize as “stalking.” For example, she would find out where the Vision Forum Interns, and other young men (all of them BCA members), would have their outings and join them, uninvited. In one case Jennifer showed up at a VF Intern rock climbing/repelling excursion in a skirt. I’m a rock climber myself, so I have no idea how a woman in a skirt can strap on a climbing harness at all, let alone do so without indecently exposing herself. Perhaps that was the whole point. Later at church she showed the pictures of the outing to the young men and stated they were getting a “free show of my legs.” One young man replied in shock, “Mrs. Grady!” Complaints were directed to Doug Phillips but, again, he did nothing about it. The message to Jennifer Grady was loud and clear: she was free to seduce and sexually harass any BCA men.
By this time more than a full year had passed of BCA having to endure Jennifer Grady’s brazen seductions. Fathers, mothers and children had been conditioned by Doug Phillips’ to trust their Elders. Everyone wanted so very much to believe that the Jennifer Grady problem would be taken care of. But as month after month crept by it became more apparent that Doug Phillips would not intervene. Multiple attempts were made by multiple fathers to seek Doug’s intervention. He evaded all such attempts by the fathers to meet with him by subterfuge and failing to show up at church for weeks at a time. In one case he finally did agree to meet with a father, telling him, “I’ll meet with you in four months.” But shortly thereafter the man received a letter informing him that he was under church discipline and would be excommunicated if he didn’t repent. No explanation of what he was to repent of was named.
Early in 2011 a father confronted Doug and Bob and pleaded with them to discipline Jennifer Grady. He was excoriated (in a manner similar to what Peter Bradrick described on a November 27 posting on his Facebook). The father tried again later, this time by appealing to Matthew 18:15-17, saying that the Bible required him to now bring his witnesses, but he was forbidden by Doug to bring any witnesses, thereby preventing the father from confronting Doug with the other fathers. This was the last straw for this father.
It also proved to be the last straw for eight other BCA fathers who had personally witnessed many of Jennifer Grady’s predations. Some of these eight fathers had also been sexually harassed and/or their sons sexually harassed. They had repeatedly complained to Doug, but they were threatened with church discipline, and this only because they had pleaded for protection from a cougar. One by one they just stopped attending BCA without formally announcing their intentions. But after several months of absence they were each threatened with church discipline if they didn’t start attending again. Ultimately the families all left for good, some by announcing their intentions to become members of other churches whether or not they ever received a letter of transfer, some by asking for transfers which they never received, and others just refused to come back again. They are technically, still to this day, considered “Members not in good standing, under church discipline.” They lived for many months under the constant threat of being excommunicated at any time.
BCA was already a small church and the departure of eight families qualified as a significant reduction in the size of the congregation. The lives of each of these “dishonorable covenant-breaking” families (the label given to all who leave BCA without Doug’s permission), from adults to small children, have been devastated emotionally and spiritually. Most of them are still deeply wounded and grieving years after the fact. This is a textbook case of the devastation that so often happens at the hands of a religious sociopathic narcissist.
Like all gifted cult leaders, Doug Phillips is all about image. It, therefore, is completely consistent that this hypocrite of hypocrites would include this photo on the BCA web site. It portrays a kind and benevolent shepherd watching over and guarding his sheep, protecting them from predators — like cougars, for example. Needless to say, Doug Phillips is no shepherd at all. He is, at best, “a hireling” (John 10:13). But even that is too kind. Doug Phillips is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15), a predator animal who aided and abetted another predator.
Most anyone would have to ask, “But why? Why would Doug Phillips allow that to go on for years? What was his incentive? What did he get out of it?” This is a unique case of clergy sexual abuse and sexual harassment that would necessitate that Doug Phillips be in full-time psychiatric care for months before anyone could really know the answers for sure. At this juncture all anyone can say with any certainty is that Doug Phillips’ conduct is completely consistent with other sociopathic narcissistic abusive cult leaders.
Needless to say there will be much speculation. The first question I would anticipate in the comments below might be “Were Doug Phillips and Jennifer Grady having an affair?” The answer is I don’t know. Plenty of people at BCA were suspicious of that very thing. Flirtation is one thing. But catching two people in the act can be quite a challenge (just look at all the trouble Stan Rogers had to go through to catch his son). The necessary eye witness testimony hasn’t come forward yet. If there was an affair between Doug Phillips and Jennifer Grady, or even just a one night stand, it might have made it impossible for Doug Phillips to ever get rid of her for fear of her publicly exposing him.
The next question I might anticipate is, “Did Jennifer Grady have something on Doug that made it impossible for him to make her leave BCA?” There remains considerable speculation in BCA over that very thing. There’s also been much speculation over the fact that the impoverished Grady family, deep in debt and struggling to pay bills, suddenly and inexplicably enjoyed a dramatic increase in their standard of living. With Doug no longer an Elder, the term “Payoff” can now be spoken of at BCA without fear of Doug’s reprisals. But there may be other reasons than sex and payoffs for why Doug Phillips acquiesced to a cougar remaining while he threatened excommunication against members for leaving. The whys aren’t nearly as important as the whats.
Doug Phillips’ behavior in the Jennifer Grady case stands in stark contrast to his reactions to far less egregious transgressions within the BCA congregation. In other cases Doug never hesitated to accuse any woman of being a “Jezebel”, women who were never guilty of anything even remotely approaching the sins of Jennifer Grady. Jennifer Grady likely had something very damning on Doug Phillips, and perhaps on Doug’s hand-picked yes-men Elders too. That most certainly is the case with Michael Gobart (Elder in training) who made a regular habit of “counseling” Jennifer Grady after church in his Suburban. Quite often they would disappear together down to the river five minutes from the church. Those “counseling sessions” often lasted several hours each, and many at BCA knew it was going on, including Doug Phillips.
In January 2013 another mass exodus occurred when half of the remaining church (approximately ten families) left BCA. Around the same time, the young lady that Doug Phillips had been carrying on a long-term “inappropriate relationship” with also left BCA, as did her family. In February Doug Phillips stepped down as Teaching Elder.
To the best of our knowledge Jennifer Grady remains “a member in good standing” at Boerne Christian Assembly, to this day.
For current and former BCA members:
For any who do want to tell your BCA stories, feel free to email me, just as the Johnson family has done. As always, I never divulge the identities of my sources unless they specifically request to be identified. For any current or former BCA members who would like to comment below on the Johnson’s story, if you’re comfortable doing so please let everyone know your BCA membership status (past, current, excommunicated, etc.), and feel free to use an alias if you’re not comfortable using your real name.
For current and former VF employees and Interns:
There is one significant element to this story which I must leave unnamed at this time, and can only allude to. It concerns a key piece of physical evidence that exposes Doug Phillips to significant additional public shame were the contents of it to become widely known. That evidence confirms what some insiders already suspected — Doug Phillips’ clergy sexual abuses had been going on for years even prior to the discovery of that physical evidence in 2007. That evidence first came into the hands of a VF employee who, through reviewing it, found out about Doug Phillips’ “inappropriate relationship” with the young lady. Other important facts are also revealed by that physical evidence. That piece of evidence is now in the hands of someone unknown to me. It might even be in the hands of Jennifer Grady, and if it were it would explain a lot as to why Doug Phillips sacrificed the sheep to save his own skin. One or more VF employees and perhaps one or more VF Interns know exactly of the evidence I now allude to. They are the only ones who know, and who need to know about what I speak of, and they require no further clarification.
I’m now making a formal request to receive either the original or a copy of the original. Please contact me via email (anonymously, if you prefer) and we can make arrangements. Whoever now possesses it should understand that if they were to destroy it, there could be serious legal consequences.
With the announcement on November 11, 2013 of the closing of Vision Forum Ministries numerous employees were terminated, leaving only a skeleton crew. Shorty thereafter a number of Vision Forum Inc employees were also terminated, signaling the imminent demise of VFI.
There were numerous signs even prior to the public announcement of Doug Phillips’ clergy sexual abuse (I won’t dignify it with the term “extra-marital affair” as many others have) that Vision Forum Inc, the for-profit business venture solely owned by Doug Phillips, was in serious financial trouble. Most telling of all was the absence in our mailboxes this year of the colorful Vision Forum catalog. The VF catalog has been the pride and joy of Doug Phillips for years, and it’s a significant element of his personal identity.
On the non-profit ministry side of the house, Vision Forum Ministries “postponed” the 2014 San Antonio Independent Film Festival, and the Christian Filmmakers Academy. The SAIFF was Vision Forum Ministries’ most perennially popular event ever.
Many other highly successful events, such as the Witherspoon School of Law and Public Policy, also weren’t rescheduled for this year or next year, and some stopped being rescheduled from several years ago, even though they’d been well attended and profitable. From reviewing the tax returns that are still publicly available (2009, 2010, 2011) one can easily determine that millions of dollars poured into Vision Forum Ministries. The last tax return available (2011) shows:
That left $1,610,165 surplus at year’s end. That kind of money could have funded any number of VFM conferences and events but, instead, we saw multiple cancellations and postponements. Where have all the donations disappeared to? It would appear that Doug Phillips may have been feathering his nest for over a year in anticipation of his downfall. Either that or he might perhaps have just been squandering it on himself. The numerous lavish foreign Phillips family trips would be indicative of that, and Doug routinely also brought along his paramour on such trips, paid for out of Vision Forum Ministries donor funds..
Throughout this same period Doug Phillips and his family were living the life of Riley. Multiple lavish trips to exotic lands, the best of accommodations, always dressed to the nines, all paid for by Vision Forum Ministries tax-deductible donor funds, including the luxurious Ancient Greece Tour barely one month prior to Doug’s resignation. Noticeably absent as a speaker was Doug Phillips (though Doug and his family were there enjoying themselves). Rev. Joe Morecraft was informed after arriving that he would have to fill in for Doug on the tour for unexplained reasons. Eventually he determined what the real reason was. Dr. Morecraft’s discovery of the sex scandal was, from all reports, personally “catastrophic” to him.
The timing of the sex scandal couldn’t have been worse for Doug Phillips. If he could have just kept the lid on it through the Christmas season it might have made a huge difference to his bank account and it would have saved many jobs, at least for a few more months.
Although Doug Phillips forbids his family from practicing Christmas because, as we know, it’s a nasty Catholic holiday, he doesn’t mind capitalizing on it to plunder the rest of us who do celebrate Catholic holidays. Vision Forum Inc rakes in huge profits at this time of year, and upwards of 90% of VFI’s annual profits happen in the fourth quarter of the year. Starting this Black Friday it will be make it or break it for Vision Forum Inc. Or will it?
Actually it won’t make any difference for the future of Vision Forum Inc. Doug Phillips intends to permanently close VFI effective December 31, 2013. In all likelihood, most if not all of the liquid assets have already been secreted away and non-liquid assets will soon be sold off. When Doug Phillips or his legal representative do formally announce the dissolution of Vision Forum Inc it will likely come with a notice of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This will afford Doug Phillips the opportunity to legally stiff any of VFI’s creditors.
The Doug Phillips family will also have to find different living accommodations, perhaps more modest, or perhaps not, depending on how well Doug has plundered the ministry and business coffers. Vision Forum Ministries owns the lavish house, as well the furnishings in it, and the family automobiles, and a great many other things, allegedly including even clothing. In effect, Doug Phillips has used Vision Forum Ministries as his personal piggy bank for years, straining all credulity when it comes to filing an honest tax return.
The board of directors has given until the end of the year for Doug and his family to move out of the ministry-owned house. The VFM board of directors will repossess (and may have already repossessed) any and all assets that Doug purchased with VFM monies for his personal use. This includes everything from automobiles, home furnishings, and perhaps even clothing. Some may view this as retaliatory on the part of the board (and perhaps it is to some degree), but the fact of the matter is they have a legal obligation to do everything they can to remedy any tax fraud and fiduciary malfeasance that Doug Phillips may have perpetrated.
The VFM board will be liquidating all VFM assets, including the house, home furnishings, office equipment and furnishings, all remaining inventory, and the Vision Forum office building at 4719 Blanco Road, San Antonio, starting January 1, 2014.
Doug’s prospects of providing for his family in Texas seem bleak. Doug’s mother is in Virginia, as are Beall’s parents, so Virginia might make an appealing place to make their next abode. Beall’s father is also an attorney.
None of this debacle came upon Doug Phillips unexpectedly. He’s been in damage control mode throughout this year, and perhaps long before this year. He’s had ample time to plan his exit strategy. With all the cash and liquid assets that Doug Phillips has likely stripped from Vision Forum Ministries Ministries and Vision Forum Inc, the Doug Phillips family will, in all likelihood, be able to live quite comfortably for the foreseeable future. Certainly long enough for the dust to settle and, in a year or two, for Doug to execute his “restoration to ministry” plan.
However, it could very well be that, in his arrogance, Doug Phillips might have come to believe that he was invincible and, thus, he may not have planned for his eventual downfall. We also need to consider the possibility that Doug may be encouraged by his family to give them some extended time away from him. Very far away. Beall’s father is an attorney, after all, and the fathers of betrayed daughters do sometimes tend to get ugly. An extended time cooling his heels in Africa with missionary brother Brad Phillips would give the wife and kids some time for healing. It could also afford Doug the opportunity of evading any government agencies that might have already opened investigations against him.
Doug Phillips is probably eager to liquidate and get out of San Antonio, posthaste. Any who have unresolved business with Doug Phillips would be wise to act accordingly.
The recent revelation of Doug Phillips’ long-term sexual relationship with a young lady has served to inspire a great many of his loyal followers to respond along the lines of, “We don’t know enough about it to have an opinion. It could have happened to any one of us, so far from me to judge him. Let’s just pray for Doug Phillips and his family.” Noteworthy in each and every one of these comments so far has been the total disregard for the young lady that Doug Phillips had a multi-year physical relationship with, and even any suggestion that she and her family need our prayers too. They too were betrayed, but they aren’t so much as mentioned.
Certainly prayer is an honorable thing to do in many of life’s circumstances, so I in no way find fault with that alone. However, what I do find fault in are the numerous blog comments posted not just out of ignorance, but out of what too often is a call to willful ignorance. Perhaps the single best example of this glut of sudden willful ignorance comes from Stacy McDonald. This author of Passionate Housewives, Desperate for God (published by Vision Forum, Inc.), and a regularly featured conference speaker, expert on all things “Biblical Patriarchy” to Stay At Home Daughters, recently posted this comment on Doug Wilson’s blog:
November 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm
And where in the Bible does it say that a man who has an inappropriate relationship with a woman must quit his job? – A man who is simultaneously called to provide for his wife and children? It’s all well and good for everyone to speculate over what they think he “should” do, but the fact is we don’t KNOW all the facts. And I’m sure there are numerous and far-reaching complications – details we know nothing about, and aren’t called to know. The man repented. He stepped down from ministry. And since I’m not a part of his life, that’s all I really need to know.
Two statements especially stand out here because the one contradicts the other: “we don’t KNOW all the facts” and “The man repented.” The fact that Stacy McDonald doesn’t KNOW negates the likelihood that she could know with any confidence that Doug Phillips has repented. All that anyone knows for certain is that Doug Phillips issued a Statement Of Resignation in which he confesses to something that no one can quite figure out. More is held back and concealed than is revealed. But even if Doug were to now provide a full, complete and thorough confession that would still be a long ways off from repentance. Confession and repentance are two very separate and distinct things. This first involves statements of fact, the second involves attitudes of the heart confirmed by expressions of contrition and acts of restitution. “For godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Cor 7:10).
All anyone knows with any certainty is that Doug Phillips confessed to some sort of nebulous “serious sin” that included “an inappropriate physical component with an unmarried woman”. If that wasn’t a pathetic enough confession, he adds the disclaimer, “While we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate”.
That’s a crafty lawyer’s confession, but it in no way qualifies as a biblical confession, much less a statement of repentance. It does, however, fully quality for what it is entitled, a “Statement Of Resignation.” It is exactly the sort of statement one would issue to a corporate board of directors and the company shareholders. But it is nothing more than that. If anything it’s quite a bit less than that, and not even as clear and convincing as what was offered up by Gen. David H. Petraeus and his own sex scandal, when in his statement of resignation he said, “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours.” He called it what it was: an affair.
Doug Phillips has often spoken of “honor.” He should have taken his example from Gen. Pattraeus in resigning like a man and not making excuses for himself like, “we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense.” Doug Phillips rightly suffered the backlash of considerable public criticism, as well as speculation that ran the gamut of “Just how far can you go without knowing someone in the Biblical sense?” to “Was there any sexual stuff at all, or did they just sort of maybe mouth-kiss and cuddle or something?” After having caused a mass of confusion and speculation, a week later Doug Phillips had to release a Clarification On Resignation. To his credit, Doug Phillips does at least accept responsibility, something he hadn’t done in his initial Statement Of Resignation. The second statement, however, was equally as vague and evasive in stating, “there was an inappropriate physical component with an unmarried woman”. He should have followed Gen. Petraeus’ example and just called it an affair. To refer to any of that as a “confession” is to pervert the very definition of the term. These statements aren’t genuine confessions at all. They are only what the titles purport them to be, statements of resignation.
Nevertheless, Stacy McDonald and other faithful followers of Doug Phillips and Vision Forum are eager to overlook these shams and presume that Doug Phillips must be repentant, merely on the basis that he claims to be repentant. James and Stacy McDonald have been close personal friends with the Doug Phillips family, sharing the podium with Doug at numerous home schooling events, etc. Yet, now all of a sudden Stacy McDonald, much like Sgt. Schultz, takes the “I see nothing; I know nothing” way out of the “far-reaching complications – details”. This is all very suspicious, and though Stacy McDonald intends to deflect everyone’s attention away from the Doug Phillips scandal, by her suspicious behavior she’s actually drawing more people’s attention to it. She’s not helping her friend Doug Phillips at all.
As a direct result of Stacy McDonald posting another one of her ludicrous comments at Doug Wilson’s blog, I posted the following reply:
@Alan D. Strange: “that unless we have intimate knowledge of these matters, and some here may have such, that we can say nothing more of these matters than that we ought to pray for the repentance/sanctification of all parties and the glory of Christ.”
While repeating the mantra of your peers, Alan, you are to be congratulated for at least doing something none of your peers here have done: you’ve acknowledged the possibility that there could be some people commenting here, and elsewhere, who do have intimate knowledge of Doug Phillips, his character, and the basis for his recent actions. There indeed are, and there are many more of us than you could imagine.
Among us are former business associates and partners whom Doug Phillips has defrauded by stealing our intellectual property and products, stealing our customer/donor email lists, former employees who left in utter disillusionment over the unethical practices they witnessed, former VF interns who witnessed first hand the astonishing hypocrisies and viciousness, former BCA members whom Doug has spiritually and emotionally abused, former victims of the philandering, and the many that Douglas W. Phillips has threatened to sue and intimidated into silence. Doug Phillips has accumulated many such victims for well over a decade.
Thank you Alan for at least thoughtfully considering the possibility that we do exist, which is far more than the non-thinking Stacy McDonald and others of her ilk have been willing to admit. To quote again from her comment above: “My point is we don’t know the back story – mostly because it’s none of our business.”
Her position is also a defense strategy, albeit an idiotic one: “I don’t know because I don’t want to know.” I can’t help but wonder where this woman got her education from. One thing is certain — she never took a class in logic. “I don’t know anything about it because it’s none of my business, and it’s nobody else’s business because, well, I say so. Don’t ask any questions about it so you too can remain blissfully ignorant like me. I’ve determined to bury my head in the sand and I’m instructing everyone (including men, which I’m not permitted to instruct since I’m into Patriarchy) to pay no attention to what you hear about my friend Doug Phillips. I routinely bash a lot of other people, but that’s okay because they’re bad people and it’s not gossip to publicly criticize bad people. But Doug Phillips is good because, well, I say so, and if you criticize Doug that makes you a hateful gossip who needs to repent of bitterness. I’m a really in-the-know person, and I normally have an opinion about everything, especially about people I don’t like; but that’s not hateful bitterness when I do it, because they’re bad people and deserve it. But Doug Phillips is a great guy and everyone else should like him too. But if you don’t like Doug, keep your big mouth shut and just pray for him. If I don’t know anything about this whole Doug Phillips kerfuffle, and I’m never going to know anything because it’s none of my business to know anything, that means no one else can know anything either. I’m not going to ask Doug or anyone else any hard and embarrassing questions because that would get really embarrassing for me and my husband James since we’ve been close friends with Doug and Beall all these years and we ignored all the warning signs because, well, that’s what good friends do — not say anything while their friends are sliding down the slippery slope of apostasy. So we’d better just sweep this all under the carpet. And since I don’t know anything, I can be 100% confident that Doug’s letter of resignation is sincere because, well, it’s Doug, and if Doug says so we can know it’s the truth.”
Stacy McDonald is a case study in Hegelian dialects, albeit a Three Stooges version of it, and some of the other comments here follow a similar pattern. Unlike Stacy McDonald and her ilk, there are many of us who actually do know Doug Phillips, and we know him very well. We know the back story with his so-called “repentance.” We know it’s a sham . We know he didn’t “confess” but was busted and forced to confess under considerable duress. We know that he’s already formulated his comeback plan, and we know the predictable outcome is that many thousands of gullible dupes will believe this silver tongued devil and resume sending him millions of dollars per annum, once he’s published his own Jim Bakker, “I Was Wrong” book and is “restored.” This Doug Wilson article that served to inspire the so many willfully-ignorant comments here, are proof that there can always be a bright future for religious hucksters and carnival barkers.
Thankfully a great many people aren’t following the bubble-headed example of Stacy McDonald. They’re angry because they feel betrayed by Doug Phillips and they’re not willing to just sweep this all under the carpet.
Doug Wilson uses the opportunity to define his own kinder and gentler form of Patriarchy which, he alleges, is nothing more than “Father rule. That’s the good part.” I’ll leave off, for the time being, addressing the numerous manifestations of Doug Wilson’s own ecclesiastical tyrannies and abuses, and various and sundry scandals he’s been embroiled in. After all, this blog is dedicated to Doug Phillips’ Ecclesiastical Tyranny and Abuse. I’ll leave it to someone else to dedicate a blog to Doug Wilson (oh, wait, there’s already been several of those).
What I do want to address is the propensity in what I term “Hyper-Patriarchy” (among whom I count Doug Wilson), that so often have implied that when a great Christian leader falls due to the sin of adultery, it’s the woman’s fault. Clearly, this is what Doug Wilson conveys in this article. In Doug Wilson’s world Doug Phillips isn’t necessarily responsible. More than likely he was led astray by his own masculinity and by a seductive woman’s blandishments:
Testosterone is a good thing, and can be used by God as part of His gifting men for leadership, but it is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. God uses gifts, but He blesses fruit.
A man with lots of testosterone is in a position to start a dynamic ministry that speaks to thousands, that fills conference halls, and that rivets people to their seats. Taking a hypothetical, that very same man is also in a much better position to succumb to the blandishments of a stripper with a stage name of Foxy Bubbles, and all in the settled conviction that his sin will not find him out. How could his sin find him out? He rivets people to their seats.
Samson eventually had his eyes put out, but even before he lost his eyes he was not able to see what Delilah was doing with and to him. The thing that God was using against the Philistines, his strength, was also the thing that Delilah was using in a series of sexual jiu jitsu moves against Samson. It is an old trick, and it still works very, very well.
Quite often these Hyper-Patriarchs will not just blame the other woman, they’ll also blame the wife: She didn’t keep herself up. She should have stayed pretty for her husband. She let herself go. She put on weight. She loafed around the house all day. She lost interest in her husband and didn’t want to do anything with him anymore. She got preoccupied with the kids and left no time for him. She stopped dressing pretty, putting up her hair and doing up her face. She wore a frumpy denim jumper around the house all day. She stopped putting out.
Now where these problems with a wife are true (and such things do sometimes happen) it’s time to seek marital counseling, or take the wife on a romantic date (or better yet a vacation, minus the kids), not use those excuses to justify seeking emotional and sexual fulfillment outside of the marriage.
Though Hyper-Patriarchs like Doug Phillips would never admit it publicly, and they would certainly never teach it, in practice Doug Phillips has proven himself to be a Victorian in his view of marriage: The wife fulfills her conjugal duties to be fruitful and multiply, but as she ages and has more and more children and isn’t quite so thin and shapely anymore, and because of being consumed and fatigued with raising children, the husband uses these to rationalize seeking out love and affection from a beautiful young mistress. The Victorians, for all their alleged virtue and morality, were notorious for marital infidelity. Victorian men held that you obtained a wife to have your children and secure your family lineage, but you kept a mistress for love. Victorian wives quietly accepted the arrangement because there was nothing they could do about it. Likewise, the wives of the Hyper-Patriarchs believe they too are powerless to do anything about the injustices in their marriages.
This Victorian pragmatic (loveless) view of sex in marriage is especially well put forth by Doug Wilson: “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1999), 86-87
In response to Doug Wilson’s article I posted the following comment on his blog:
Pastor Wilson, I appreciate the fact that you permit dissenting views, even from those who are less than tactful toward you. I’ll do my best to remain diplomatic. In your article “Doug Phillips’ Resignation from Vision Forum”, I posted several comments, one of which included, “Another article from you is in order, but I hope it will be considerably more circumspect and insightful than this one was.” You’ve done well in clarifying the biblical model of Patriarchy. It all sounds rather benign, and if in practice it really were that benign then I could largely agree with your interpretation. Doug Phillips too would claim to also fully ascribe to your interpretation that “Patriarchy simply means ‘father rule’.” But in orthopraxy it also means far more to Doug Phillips and his ilk.
Doug Phillips runs a power cult and what he preaches is not what he has practiced. The same goes for his fellow Patriarchy movement leaders. The problem you face in championing Patriarchy is that men like Doug Phillips have loaded the term “Patriarchy” with so much extra-biblical baggage that it’s forever tainted, if not ruined. The fruit of Patriarchy is that it’s directly responsible for driving many from the Christian faith. They didn’t stumble because of a healthy grace-filled interpretation of the holy Word of God. They stumbled because of a performance-based interpretation of Patriarchy which claims to derive its authority from the Word of God, when in point of fact it’s just modern day Phariseeism.
Various Christian leaders recognized this several years ago and sought to distance themselves with a more moderate and grace-filled form of patriarchy. They rebranded it with that “squishy” term you appear to dislike, “Complimentarianism.” I don’t believe their efforts have been particularly successful in winning back the stumbled. But it takes more than a polished marketing campaign to successfully call back the many sheep that were driven from the fold by domineering men and prideful manipulative women. Winning back the thousands, likely tens of thousand (and I’m in no way exaggerating here) of lost sheep — “little ones” as our Lord called them — home school kids that grew up under “Patriarchy” (I use the scare quotes deliberately because the very term is scary to them) and are now cynics of the Christian faith, will require a large doses of grace and compassion.
Yet all too often I see comments like ttpog’s: “They obviously have unresolved issues in their lives that has caused them much pain, but their angry insistence that is the fault of someone/something else at this point in their adult lives is quite juvenile. It is past time that they grow up, lay it at the foot of the cross, forgive and move on!” It pains me to see that, and I’ve seen such spiteful comments too often. All such comments serve to do is confirm in their minds that Christians are hateful, unloving, and that their God must be hateful and unloving too. ttpog goes on to ridicule the blog owners of http://homeschoolersanonymous.wordpress.com because they choose to be anonymous. What ttpog and your readers likely don’t know is they, and many others like them, have good reason for their anonymity — Doug Phillips is an attorney, as are others in the Patriarchy movement (such as Don Hart), and they routinely threaten litigation to silence opposition. Doug Phillips’ legal threats have silenced countless victims. The anonymity of those few who are publicly speaking out now isn’t bitter cowardice but prudent courage.
But there are other victims too besides the children who grew up under Patriarchy. I think especially of the mothers who bought into Patriarchy, many with good intentions of wanting to improve family life by obeying the Bible. They struggle as many wives have with coming to a healthy understanding of “Wives submit to your husbands.” Their own pastors usually fall short in explaining, so they look to some Christian guru that claims he or she has the answers. Doug Phillips and his cohorts claim they do, as do others such as Kevin Swanson, James and Stacey McDonald, and R.C. Sproul Jr. Many of these seeking women jump into the Patriarchy movement without any mention of Patriarchy, let alone any coercion, by their husbands. I dare say that the first place many Christian men hear of “Patriarchy” is from their wives.
Doug Phillips himself has acknowledged that well over 80% of his sales come from women. That would be consistent with what all Christian publishers say, including Focus on the Family. The vast majority of family and relational books, CDs, DVDs, homeschool conference tickets, etc., are purchased by women. I’d be interested to know Pastor Wilson what your own sales demographics look like. Women order the books and videos, go to the homeschool conferences and hear the lectures, and before you know it they’re caught up in all the extra-biblical baggage that goes along with it. The heartbreak these women face today is overwhelming as they witness first-hand the ruined lives of their children who have, because of the legalism and performance based acceptance, rejected any and all semblance of Christianity, rushing headlong into carnality as a direct result of Patriarchy.
Next we have the mothers/wives who embrace Patriarchy out of pride. These women cause the most harm of all and, my personal observation informs me that they are more numerous than those men who jump into Patriarchy seeking “biblical” justification for their preexisting entitlement to authoritarianism. I don’t speak as an outsider but as one who was in the middle of a Patriarchal power cult that was heavily influenced by Doug Phillips, Kevin Swanson, James and Stacey McDonald, and R.C. Sproul Jr. I’ve often heard it said “Women don’t dress for men, they dress for other women.” That same competitive pride drives Patriarchal women to compete in church through “militant fecundity”, submission to husbands through modest apparel (no jewelry, long dresses worn everywhere including while gardening, and headcoverings being the ultimate indication thereof), homeschooling, remaining silent in church, agrarianism, blanket training, breaking the child’s will with daily “discipline” (code language for beatings with welt-raising pain-inducing objects that might even include 1/4″ plastic plumbing hose), etc. Later when the kids go off the rails and rebel, she’ll engage in historical revisionism and blame her husband, telling the children, “It was all your father’s idea. He made me do it. I was just submitting to him.”
This social structure is far more Japanese than American. The public image of Japan is Patriarchal, but within the Japanese home it is Matriarchal. On the typical Japanese street you’ll see wives dressed modestly, walking subserviently behind their husbands, heads bowed low, hands folded in front. She is the very image of an obedient wife. She’s submissive because she looks submissive. But it’s all for show. Enter the home and you’ll see quite the opposite. She rules the roost and wears the pants. Papason comes home on payday and hands her the paycheck. Mamason makes all the family decisions.
This is the reality of many so-called Patriarchy homes, including the McDonald home (albeit not Doug Phillips or R.C. Jr. — theirs are “machismo” as you term it). Prideful women jump in and drag their passive husbands along for the ride, claiming all the while she wants to be biblical and submit to her husband. They boast (ever so humbly) to their friends in their “women’s prayer meetings” about how submissive they are to their husbands, boasting about all their children’s home school science fair accomplishments, and a plethora of other accomplishments. Their husbands are a mere fixture in the home. Everything really revolves around her. The children exist to make her look good through their accomplishments which she takes full credit for. It’s the epitome of performance-based acceptance. The leaders of this system are women like Stacey McDonald and Jennie Chancey.
Then there are the easiest targets of all for the wrath of the “gleeful feminists” — the chest-thumping (“men with lots of testosterone” as you put it) Patriarchs. I would be remiss though in failing to point out that “gleeful feminists” are also your easiest target and one which you habitually stereotype and reflexively throw anyone into who objects to Patriarchy (however it’s defined), regardless of the basis for their objections. To my knowledge, you have never addressed the matter of the women Patriarchalists that I’ve identified above. Nevertheless, I agree with your assessment that “some of the machismo patriarchalists that I described above gravitated to Vision Forum circles, and found what they thought was adequate cover there.” Where else are they going to gravitate to?
Vision Forum attracts many well-meaning people, but it inescapably attracts many unhealthy men (although you failed to mention the far more numerous unhealthy women it’s attracted). Not only is there adequate cover for abusive men, but Doug Phillips himself is such a man, as are his partners in Patriarchy. One needs to look beyond their eloquent home school conference speeches and see it in action to recognize it for how extra-biblical it is, and even toxic and destructive of healthy family life.
Especially problematic are your two paragraphs devoted to Foxy Bubbles and Delilah. Perhaps you didn’t intend to say what it sounds like you’re saying, but the inevitable takeaway is that you believe that Douglas W. Phillips didn’t woo and seduce a young lady (barely of legal age when the affair started), in a power-cult structure Phillips called “Patriarchy” that made it impossible for her to refuse his advances. Rather, in your view, by her female stripper-like “blandishments” and “sexual jiu jitsu“, and because of Doug Phillips’ “good thing” “gifting men for leadership” testosterone, Doug Phillips is an innocent victim of his God-given “strength”, taken advantage of by “an old trick, and it still works very, very well.”
On the whole your article provides ample evidence that you just don’t get it. Worse yet you completely blew a golden opportunity to serve as a peacemaker, calling back to the fold of God the thousands of victims of the Phillips/Swanson/McDonald/Sproul brand of Patriarchy. You fail to follow your own advice: “If you don’t want them whacking you, don’t hand them the stick.”
“Let it no longer be said that Chalcedon sat idly by and squandered its integrity by simply giving Doug Phillips a pass, or looking the other way.”
The evidence included two articles that critiqued various strands of “biblical patriarchy.” Also included was a revelation of a ten-year old secret: Chalcedon gave $5,000 to help defend “against the legal assault Doug Phillips had initiated” against Joe Taylor, of the Mt. Blanco creation museum.
This article is in response to comments posted by “Chalcedon Foundation”at the Spiritual Sounding Board. The opinions expressed herein reflect the views of this guest author and do not necessarily reflect those of the blog owner.
Dear Chalcedon Foundation,
I concur with your admonishment that we not engage in “broad brush” argumentation, especially when making public statements in opposition to (and I would add in defense of) a doctrine or philosophical position, or for or against the person advancing that doctrine or philosophy. We all need to guard against confirmation biases which can so easily make fools of us all.
Whether I personally agree with them or not, I don’t care to see any person, or the organization they represent, be unjustly and dishonestly maligned. It’s no fun being on the receiving end of unjust public criticisms of our statements that have been disingenuously lifted out of context, such as you claim your organization is suffering from.
However, be grateful that you at least are being afforded the opportunity to defend yourself at Spiritual Sounding Board, a courtesy which we all deserve. Julie Anne Smith isn’t afraid to accept comments on her blog from anyone, including from those that she may strongly disagree with. Jen Epstein has the same liberal comment policy on this blog too, and your response to this article is most welcomed here.
Many of those who unjustly paint Chalcedon Foundation with a “broad brush”, as you claim, effectively blaming you for all the evils they believe have come from Christian Reconstructionism, Theonomy, Calvinism, Patriarchy, etc., may be doing so out of ignorance, as you assert. Or maybe they really do know what they’re talking about. I’ll come to that issue later and explain your only remedy to that, and if you handle it well I’m confident that many of your detractors will begin to see that there is little to nothing in common between Doug Phillips and R.J. Rushdoony, just as there is little to nothing in common between Calvinism and the straw man its detractors assail which is, in reality, Hyper-Calvinism.
Many are assuming that because Doug Phillips says he was heavily influenced by R.J. Rushdoony, ipso facto, Rushdoony bears personal responsibility for the horrific fruits of Doug Phillips’ life. I don’t buy that leap of logic. Doug Phillips was infinitely more influenced by his father, Howard. Anyone who knew Howard Phillips knows that Doug Phillips fell very far from the tree (as did Brad Phillips). Children can be a direct reflection of their parents, but quite often that’s not the case at all. We do the best job we can in training up our children in the way they should go, but not each of our children always turn out as they should. I have yet to see anyone (at least publicly) blame Howard Phillips for how two of his six children turned out. And does anyone blame R.C. Sproul Sr. for how R.C. Sproul Jr. turned out? How much less, then, is R.J. Rushdoony responsible for Doug Phillips, or anyone else who claims that Rushdoony influenced their thinking.
Justly or unjustly, Chalecedon Foundation has been blamed as the source — the fountainhead, of so-called “Biblical Patriarchy” as we’ve come to know it today, and as advanced by Wilson, Phillips, Sproul & Swanson (might make a great name for an 80’s rock band). Whether they care to now admit it or not (and most of them have admitted it in the past), each of these men have been influenced by the teachings of R.J. Rushdoony. But they’ve also been influenced by many others too.
As I see it, there are various shades and gradations of Patriarchy and, in my view, R.J. Rushdoony seems to have propounded a form of it that was on the “benevolent” end of the scale — much like we think of a kindly old grandfather. In my view Rushdoony was the epitome of that grandfatherly type and he eschewed prideful, power-hungry men. On the opposite end of the Patriarchy scale is an autocratic power-hungry form, or what I term Hyper-Patriarchy, that is best represented by Doug Wilson, Doug Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr, and Kevin Swanson. Each of them is gifted, in varying degrees, with creating a public image of nice-guy; but the reputation they hold amongst those who have been under their “pastoral” care shows them to be ecclesiastical tyrants. As long as things are going rather smoothly, they can maintain the facade of nice guy, at least up until someone finds it necessary to challenge them about something. They have each hidden behind the cloak of pretended “accountability” which is, in fact, a small circle of hand-selected yes-men. Each of them have grasped after the seat of spiritual authority, and once they obtain it they abuse those under their authority. The label “Patriarchy” is another facade they hide behind, lending the needed appearance of “biblical legitimacy” to their authoritarian rule.
It seems to me that your organization should have been doing everything it could to distance itself from the Hyper-Patriarchs. To my knowledge it never has. I’m confident that if R.J. Rushdoony had been alive when the Christian home schooling movement started going off the rails (a movement which many credit Rushdoony as having been a founding father of) he would have publicly distanced himself from the young upstarts who co-opted it, most noteworthy among which are Doug Phillips, Kevin Swanson and R.C. Sproul Jr. These young men all saw an opportunity to cash in, and cash in they did. Doug Phillips, with his cunning business acumen and lawyerly skills, was able to cash in to the tune of millions of dollars per annum. Kevin Swanson and R.C. Sproul Jr. are comparatively inept and haven’t enriched themselves quite as handsomely, although they’ve still made a healthy living off of home schooling, and each have gathered a large and loyal following. They are The Home School Rock Star Band. They banded together and appointed themselves leaders of home schooling, a movement which theretofore had been autonomous and parent-directed, not unlike the home church movement.
These takeover artists were of a different breed from their forebears, men such as Raymond Moore, a man who truly deserved the title “The grandfather of Christian home education.” Unlike the young upstarts who came after him, Ray Moore wasn’t in it for the money, the notoriety, or to start his own cult group. He was a self-sacrificing man of God, as was R.J. Rushdoony who also sacrificed much as a pioneer of the modern home school movement.
In my view Rushdoony doesn’t deserve the guilt by association he’s been saddled with because of those corrupt men who came after him, men that he in no way trained or tutored, and yet these men claim him as the source of their theological inspiration. If I perceive Rushdoony’s views correctly, there is very little in common, other than the terms used (such as “Patriarchy”), between what he taught and practiced and what the Hyper-Patriarchs practice. That’s my perception, and I have good reason to believe it’s accurate.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that my perception is heavily informed based on what Chalcedon Foundation was during R.J. Rushdoony’s life, and not so much on what Chalcedon Foundation has become subsequent to his passing in 2001. Quite frankly I think your organization has done a poor job of carrying foreward the legacy of its founder, and what I’m about to say is a perfect example.
In 2007 your organization, via it’s communications director Christopher J. Ortiz, posted on its website In Defense of Doug Phillips to counter and put down Jen Epstein’s public warnings to the Christian home schooling community of the dangers of continuing their relationships with Doug Phillips. Chris Ortiz made no attempts to privately contact Jennifer prior to posting that article, although he did contact Doug Phillips, and even Matt Chancey. Hypocritically in that article, Chris Ortiz accuses Jen of being “one sided”, while making no attempt to get her side of the story. To his credit, Chris Ortiz did soon thereafter make his article go *POOF* from Chalcedon’s website. It was replaced with a much briefer article, but as Jen notes, with a “far more inflammatory and misleading title than the original article had”, Beware Agents Of Defamation. Jen saved both articles and posted them as, Chalcedon Foundation Back-Peddles On Defending Doug Phillips.
In a comment that Chris Ortiz posted in reply to Jen’s article he offers up as a defense, “We know Doug and VF. We were not aware of you and Mark (and this is not a fun way to meet!).” When we say “we know” someone in that sort of context, and with the sort of events that were transpiring at that time, it can only mean, “I vouch for this person’s character and integrity, and I’m so convinced of my position that I’m willing to publicly call you an ‘Agent Of Defamation’ and ‘irresponsible’.” Ortiz presumptuously and omnisciently dismisses Jen’s assertion, “We’re not motivated by vengeance. We’re motivated by a genuine concern for the well being of the Christian home school movement.” He dismissed the Allosaurus fakeumentary debacle, even though its public exposure as a fraud resulted in such a huge scandal that Doug Phillips immediately pulled it from his online catalog. Ortiz concludes In Defense of Doug Phillips with, “Mrs. Epstein has made a bold step in making these matters public. She better hope she’s right. The heavenly reciprocity may not be to her liking.”
Heavenly reciprocity? Now you’re sounding just as threatening as Doug Wilson. I’m confident R.J. Rushdoony would have never spoken like that. Rather than invoking divine threats, I’ll merely speak of personal responsibility. Your dismissiveness of the Epsteins’ charges provided cover for an ecclesiastical tyrant who had already destroyed the lives of many families, including the faith of many small children (see Mark 9:42, Matt 18:6) who have fled the Christian faith altogether. With your repudiation of the Epsteins’ public warning, and a public endorsement of Doug Phillips, you further empowered him to continue his abuses, at least up until just this past month, all based on a fatuous claim that you “knew” the man. You knew nothing.
You were at least correct about one thing: “Mrs. Epstein has made a bold step.” She is indeed bold, and she is courageous. Jennifer Epstein was out on the front lines seven years prior to Doug Phillips’ current sex scandal, warning the Christian home school community that Douglas W. Phillips is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That took an incredible amount of courage to go up against a man with the immense resources Doug Phillips had at his disposal. Jen was a mere home school mother going up against a very popular religious leader and attorney with millions of dollars at his disposal. He was supposedly “known,” but all anyone knew of Jen was that she had been forever tainted with “Excommunication.” The obstacles that Jennifer Epstein has had to overcome in order to bring the home school community’s attention to this wolf in sheep’s clothing have been enormous. Tragically, most, like Chalcedon Foundation, chose to remain blissfully ignorant and ignore the warning signs.
But a sex scandal isn’t so easily ignored, especially a sex scandal that was taking place for years, and throughout the entire time Douglas W. Phillips was lecturing and preaching to us about multi-generational faithfulness, Christian morality, marital fidelity, husbands loving their wives, fathers setting good examples for their sons, etc. We’ve all seen examples of hypocrisy in the church, but rare have been examples where the hypocrisy has arisen to this level.
Chris Ortiz and Chalcedon Foundation, you couldn’t have been more wrong. You didn’t “know” Doug Phillips at all. He was cheating on his wife at that very time in 2007 when you came to his public defense, and even long before that. If you were wrong about that you should really consider going back and reevaluating everything else you’d assumed about him. It would also be wise to carefully evaluate those men who claim to be carrying the mantle of R.J. Rushdoony but, who in reality, are merely using it as a pretext to abuse their authority. Jen called on you over 6 years ago to show your loyalties to the Christian home schooling movement by distancing yourself from Doug Phillips. You ignored those pleas and gave him cover instead. In the future I trust you’ll be far more careful before you stake your reputation on a man that you’ve been warned about. Warnings of that nature shouldn’t be so flippantly brushed aside.
Whether you like it or not you do face a guilt by association image problem, and you are largely responsible for it. You’re an educational ministry, yet you’ve failed to effectively educate on this issue, and there’s only one way to fix it. Please consider embarking on a thorough study and exposé of “Patriarchy” as it is espoused and practiced by Doug Phillips, Doug Wilson, R.C. Sproul Jr, Kevin Swanson, James McDonald, and others of their ilk. Then publish it as a report, as you have done with so many other important topics. The fact that you have failed to do so gives many the impression that you may agree with these “Patriarchs” (silence is acquiescence).
To my knowledge, Jen Epstein was the first to launch into a diligent survey of the “Biblical Patriarchy” espoused by Doug Phillips. Her multi-part series motivated other home school moms to do the same, moms just like her with no formal theological training. Even with her lack of formal training, Jen soon discovered that the so-called biblical support Doug Phillips claimed for his positions were largely bible verses taken completely out of context. She soon had completely collapsed Doug Phillips house of Patriarchy cards. But where was the leadership of organizations like Chalcedon Foundation at the time, and why the silence on this vital subject since then? If you continue with this silence it can only be interpreted that Chalcedon Foundation is on board with Doug Phillips and the Hyper-Patriarchs.
You were given a golden opportunity in 2007 and you completely blew it. Don’t pass up a second opportunity. As a courtesy I will send your organization an email notifying you of this article. Your comments here are welcomed.
Lastly, if you have a mind to issue some sort of retraction, or apology, or some other statement distancing yourself from Douglas W. Phillips, you might want to do so sooner than later. The sex scandal is just…
In an online public statement at Vision Forum Ministries, on October 30, Doug Phillips admitted to, and repented of, a “lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman.”
He stepped down as president of Vision Forum Ministries and stopped all speaking engagements. It is unclear if he has stepped down as an Elder at Boerne Christian Assembly (his name is still listed on the website).[UPDATE: sometime on November 4 the church website removed his name.]
“In light of the serious sins which have resulted in Doug Phillips’s resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, the Board of Directors has determined that it is in the best interests of all involved to discontinue operations. We have stopped receiving donations, and are working through the logistical matters associated with the closing of the ministry.
In a surprising turn of events, Doug Phillips, of the ultra-conservative Vision Forum Inc., posted a Clarification on Resignation, dated November 14, 2013. Desiring to “clear up some matters” surrounding the details of his extramarital affair that he repented of earlier, he wrote:
“Some reading the words of my resignation have questioned if there was an inappropriate physical component with an unmarried woman. There was, and it was intermittent over a period of years.”
As his previous resignation and repentance noted, the relationship was such that they did “not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense.”
With the recent resignation of Mr. Phillips and theclosing of his organization, Vision Forum Ministries, there is much speculation on how that will impact the greater homeschooling and conservative Christian communities.
The impact may challenge followers to rethink the practices and teaching taught by this organization. So for those pastors and families unaware of the views of Mr. Phillips and his organization, this top five list will help you evaluate their continued influence.
There are five claims summarized with a short rebuttal:
With Mr. Phillip’s recent public admission of an “inappropriate relationship” with another woman, there has been much speculation on internet websites and blogs.
Not all the speculation is coming from those who disagree with his approach to patriarchy,homeschooling or family integrated churches. Some who think well of him have assumed things not specifically written in his resignation letter. Of course, some who disagree with him have also assumed things not specifically written in his resignation letter.
But it is the local governing body that knows the details.
This particular news site has written many reviews and articles on Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, and other related ministries and conferences in the last several years, so they are well acquainted with Doug Phillips and his teachings. I would recommend exploring some of their related stories and links as well.
Former Vision Forum Ministries president Doug Phillips reiterated yesterday that his decision to resign from his leadership position was the proper outcome following his acknowledgement that he had “inappropriate relationship” with a woman who was not his wife.
“Some have suggested that my sin was not sufficiently serious to step down. Let me be clear: it absolutely does merit my resignation. My resignation is sincere and necessary given the weightiness of my sin,” Phillips said in astatement on the Vision Forum Ministries website on Nov. 14.
Phillips also elaborated on the details of his relationship which he had previously only disclosed as “inappropriately romantic and affectionate” and asserted that he had not known the woman in a “Biblical sense.”
“Some reading the words of my resignation have questioned if there was an inappropriate physical component with an unmarried woman. There was, and it was intermittent over a period of years,” Phillips wrote.
Julie Ingersoll, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Florida
Posted: 11/18/2013 4:30 pm
There are important and disturbing developments in the Doug Phillips scandal that has rocked the Christian home school movement. As I noted in my earlier post, Phillips’ carefully parsed initial resignation statement admitting to an “inappropriate relationship” raised more questions than it answered.
Now reports are circulating that the scandal may well have multiple levels including claims that the “relationship” was with a nanny, lasted between six and 10 years, and likely began when she was in her late teens. This would make biblical patriarchy’s emphasis on authority combined with the way in which girls are intentionally kept vulnerable, dependent and submissive, crucially important. The young woman may or may not have been technically old enough to consent in Texas, but the context of biblical patriarchy would make this an abuse of power if not a crime.
Phillips (trained as an attorney) is well known for his authoritarian and litigious style that permeates the organizations with which he has been associated and which results in carefully controlled messaging and image management as well as the silencing of critics. I have first-hand experience with this from my own fieldwork, but you can read about it in Kathryn Joyce’s important book Quiverfull as well at those sites noted above.
A major conservative Christian organization shuttered its doors on Monday after its president, Doug Phillips, resigned from his position in the wake of an extramarital affair. Phillips is an extremely influential leader in the “Biblical Patriarchy” movement, a wing of conservative evangelical Christianity that believes men should have “dominion” over women. Phillips and his organization, Vision Forum, are enormously active in a cluster of related ministries, including the Christian homeschooling movement. The group also advocates against access to birth control and abortion. Even if you don’t know Vision Forum, you know some of its friends: Kirk Cameron, for one; the Duggars, for another.
I would like to express my gratitude for the great kindness so many have shown to my family in the wake of my stepping down as president of Vision Forum Ministries. My family has been greatly encouraged by many loving notes we have received. With that in mind, I want to be so very clear about the rightness of this transition, and I want to clear up some matters which have been brought to my attention. My sin has resulted in great pain within the Body of Christ, some confusion, and has given the enemies of God reason to rejoice. This is heartbreaking to me. Some have suggested that my sin was not sufficiently serious to step down. Let me be clear: it absolutely does merit my resignation. My resignation is sincere and necessary given the weightiness of my sin. Some reading the words of my resignation have questioned if there was an inappropriate physical component with an unmarried woman. There was, and it was intermittent over a period of years. The local church, not the Internet, is the proper forum for overseeing the details of a man’s repentance, but I just want to be clear for the sake of peace within the Body of Christ, that the tragic events we are experiencing, including the closing of Vision Forum Ministries are my fault, and that I am sincere that I should not be in leadership, but must spend this season of my life quietly walking a path of proven repentance. Please pray for the Phillips family, the Board, and the men who have made up the staff of Vision Forum Ministries.
I want to be clear on my own part that I am NOT Doug Phillips’ enemy. I want God’s best for him and his family, which is why I am here. Sometimes tough love is necessary, and that is the kind of love I have toward Doug right now.
I also want to be clear that I am in no way rejoicing over this. What has happened has not only sent ripples throughout the “community,” and has affected the larger Christian homeschooling communities, but leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who are looking in from the outside as well. While I believe that Doug Phillips is reaping what he has sown, it brings me no joy whatsoever. I would much rather that he would have repented years ago when his sins and the consequences would have been smaller. But, they still continue to grow. And I still see no true repentance on Doug Phillips’ part.
Doug Phillips states his resignation is sincere and necessary. Of course it was necessary, but how can you have an insincere resignation? Did he really think through his words here? Did he mean that his repentance was sincere, but he was so focused on the devastation of his resignation that he said “resignation” accidentally? Or does he expect us to think better of him because he states that his resignation was sincere? Yes, the board “sincerely” forced Doug Phillips to step down!
I do agree with Doug that we should not be speculating on the specifics of what has happened. I sincerely believe that this woman should be the one to come forward and tell her story. It is no one’s business to postulate certain things about her that are not true. Speaking from experience, I know that the best thing I ever did was to come out and tell my side of the story here, admitting to my part and my sins, as well as telling the facts of the story. I hope this young woman will do the same. It will free her from the guilt and shame that she is unnecessarily bringing upon herself right now. I know that she will be amazed by the support and help that many, many others are willing to show her, that she will know the freedom of not having to live in “hiding,” and that she will be able to begin healing.
This “clarification” from Doug Phillips simply confirms that I still see no true repentance and that this is a slick political move that sets him up for a season of “repentance” before he makes a big comeback in a year or two. When Doug Phillips rights the wrongs he has committed against dozens and dozens of people, as well as this other woman, his wife and family, then I will begin listening to his words of repentance.
Wesley Strackbein, a spokesperson for Vision Forum, told The Christian Post that while the non-profit will cease to exist, the board is currently deliberating on whether the organizations’ conferences, workshops, film festival (which was canceled a week before Phillips’ announcement) and other programs, will continue apart from the organization.
It has also been confirmed that while Phillips’ former non-profit employer will shutter, he will maintain control of his for-profit company, Vision Forum Inc., which sells books, audio lectures, and toys that promote the organization’s conservative beliefs.
There are several news media sources who are reporting on what is going on with Doug Phillips and Vision Forum right now. I am getting multiple requests for more people who are willing to talk to the media. You may use your name or be anonymous. If you homeschooled your children or you were homeschooled, and you were impacted by patriarchy, and you are willing to discuss it with the media, or if you would like to tell your story here, please let me know. If you were impacted by Doug Phillips and you would like to talk about it, please let me know. I do NOT post anything here without permission first. I have had many phone calls, personal conversations, and emails in the last couple weeks, but I do not ever break a confidence.
Please consider if sharing your thoughts would help the community of homeschoolers to bring healing to this situation right now.
You may use this form to directly contact me (this goes ONLY to me) or you may click on the email below my pic to the right.
In light of the serious sins which have resulted in Doug Phillips’s resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, the Board of Directors has determined that it is in the best interests of all involved to discontinue operations. We have stopped receiving donations, and are working through the logistical matters associated with the closing of the ministry. While we believe as strongly as ever in the message of the ministry to the Christian family, we are grieved to find it necessary to make this decision. We believe this to be the best option for the healing of all involved and the only course of action under the circumstances.
The leader of a conservative Christian family organization has resigned from the non-profit after admitting to having an affair, however, he will still maintain ownership of the related for-profit company.
Doug Phillips, whose organization Vision Forum advocates for “Biblical patriarchy,” admitted to having committed a “serious sin” and claimed that he had confessed it his “wife and family, [his] local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries.”
“I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate,” wrote Phillips.
Despite the fact that Phillips asserted that he would no longer be “giving speeches or running conferences at this time of my life under the banner of VFI or VFM” and leading “a quiet life focusing on my family and serving as a foot soldier,” he also explained that he had not completely divorced himself from influence within the organization.
“I retain ownership of Vision Forum, Inc,” he wrote on the organization’s blog on November 6.
To read the rest of the article, which quotes one supporter and one ex-supporter, here is the rest of the article.
Our local paper, The San Antonio Express News, also published an article about Doug Phillips yesterday, although only subscribers can read the full article. Here is the beginning of the article:
SAN ANTONIO — A noted leader in conservative Christian home-schooling circles has stepped down from his San Antonio-based ministry after acknowledging an extramarital relationship.
Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Ministries said in an online statement that he resigned as its president and from its board and ended his public speaking schedule.
He founded the ministry and its affiliated for-profit business, Vision Forum Inc., which sells books, CDs, films, toys and other items for the home-school market.
The statement, which described “serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance,” sent ripples through the Christian blogosphere. Phillips, married with eight children, has a loyal following but also critics who consider him unaccountable and authoritarian.
To read the rest of Abe Levy’s story, trending in the Most Popular section right now, you must be a subscriber, but here is the link.
Second, these pictures were taken in February. If there was true repentance in February, why the need to step down in October?
Take a look for yourself, but just in case they come down off the blog, I will preserve them here for others to decide if Doug Phillips is confessing before his smiling wife on opening night of this grand event?
Doug Phillips, an outspoken proponent of male “dominion” over women and a leading home-schooling activist, has stepped down as president of his Texas-based Vision Forum Ministries after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a woman.
After cancelling all planned speaking engagements, Phillips, however, on Wednesday (Nov. 6) said he will still maintain ownership of the affiliated Vision Forum Inc., a for-profit company.
Phillips, who has eight children with his wife Beall, wrote on the ministry website on Oct. 30 that he would step down as a ministry leader.
“I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman,” he wrote. “While we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.”
Calls to Vision Forum Ministries were not returned.