Doug Phillips: Peace Maker or Truth Silencer?

02-07-13-saicff-beallOne 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.

saicff postponedWhen 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.

CWFFWhen 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.

HEROI 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.”

internsThis 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.)

ndarnlIn 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

gobobSo 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.

In his latest article, TW Eston presciently stated:

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.

PeacemakerEncouraged by even the thought of Christian conciliation, Joe Taylor thought he would attempt the same offer of mediation through Peacemaker. As you can see by TW Eston’s latest article on Joe Taylor, not only did Doug Phillips refuse Joe Taylor’s offer of using Christians to mediate, but he also took him to court.  Two strikes for Doug Phillips.

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.

Doug Mac girlsAs 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.

Peter BradrickTo 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.

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Church Elders Criticize Epsteins But Offer No Viable Solutions

Jen,

I appreciate the productive email dialogue that I’ve been able to have with you. You strike me as a very reasonable person. This isn’t to say that we’ve always agreed on things, but where we’ve disagreed you’ve always done so cordially. In fact you’ve taught me some valuable lessons about the proper way to disagree with people.

I’ve had some ongoing dialogue with a number of Presbyterian Elders about your excommunication case. Even though many of them aren’t particularly familiar with Doug Phillips, some of them had been following your case closely, even before I mentioned it to them.

I’m in the PCA, so that’s been the primary extent of my discussions. We Presbyterians tend to take a lot of pride in our penchant for “Let all things be done decently and in order. ” (1 Cor. 14:40) All of the PCA Elders I’ve spoken with are in agreement that had you been in a PCA church this sort of thing probably never could have happened to you. This isn’t to say that PCA Sessions aren’t capable of doing some really foolish things, including pronouncing unjust excommunications. However, Presbyterian churches always guarantee your right of appeal to a higher court, all the way to the General Assembly, if necesary. This in itself often serves as a strong deterrent to ecclesiastical tyranny at the local church level. The only unjust excommunications that I’ve ever heard of in the PCA have occurred because the excommunicant didn’t promptly appeal their case to Presbytery. In other words they lost by default because they failed to appeal.

Presbyterian churches are also governed by a Book Of Church Order. BCO’s do a lot in the way of guaranteeing certain important rights to both church officers and members. This isn’t to say that Elders always follow their BCO. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they don’t even bother to read it. But at least if they get out of line they can be called to account for it. The problem is that many church members don’t know their BCO any better than their Elders do. How can you hold your Elders accountable if you’re ignorant? You can’t, and this just serves as an invitation for ecclesiastical tyranny.

I’ve heard many people complain about Presbyterian polity, but the problem isn’t Presbyterianism but ignorance of it. Presbyterianism is a good system for holding everyone accountable, but it doesn’t work any better than the knowledge of the people functioning within it. It’s a lot like our U.S. Constitution. Most of our government officials are very ignorant of the Constitution, and the people are even more ignorant. Our constitutional system is a good system for holding our government accountable, but it’s only as good as our knowledge of it, and our willingness to hold our government accountable.

One of my main interests in talking to various church Elders about your case is to try and figure out what kind of a remedy there could be for you. Their responses to me have been dismaying. None of them have a solution. Most of them have just said, “Too bad they weren’t in the PCA.” Then I point out the fact that you briefly attended a PCA church earlier this year (Faith Presbyterian Church), and that FPC did nothing but “honor” the unjust “excommunication” of BCA and threw you out the door. Is this a problem with the PCA, or is this just a problem with one local PCA church who botched up giving you a review of your unjust excommunication? Hopefully it’s the latter. I can tell you that had the Epsteins applied for membership in my own PCA church there is no way you would have been treated like that. My Elders understand justice and they understand grace. They bow the knee to no man, least of all Doug Phillips.

In reviewing many of the comments on your blog, I’ve been amazed by the simpleminded statements that so many have made to you. But they’re far more than just statements. They’re advice. This advice has often been offered up as solutions, but the reality is that no one has offered you a viable solution at all, a viable alternative to what you’re already doing. What you’re doing now, and what you’ve been doing for months, may be your only real option, and even what you’ve been doing may not be a real solution. However, it’s a lot better than doing nothing. It’s a lot better than sweeping it under the carpet.

To paraphrase your detractors, “Get a life. You’re wasting your time. This is just dragging you and your family down. You need to just move on. Get over it. Stop being bitter. Just forgive. If Doug Phillips refuses to be reconciled with you, there’s nothing more you can do. Take down your blogs. Just put it behind you.” These statements are statements of denial, a denial of your predicament. Moreover, they appear to be intended to beleaguer you into taking your blogs down, which is of course exactly what Doug Phillips would like to see happen.

You’ve been censured with the most severe censure that a church can impose, excommunication. You’ve been censured and punished and, in my opinion, unjustly so. Phillips claims to have given you “due process,” but that’s clearly not the case. By definition, a Kangaroo Court is incapable of exercising due process. Due process would never permit a trial in absentia. Due process guarantees the right of self-defense. Due process guarantees the right to examine witnesses. Due process guarantees you the right to defend yourself, and a reasonable amount of time to prepare your defense. Due process guarantees the right to appeal. Due process guarantees the right to have specific, enumerated offenses presented with evidence and testimony, not vague unspecific categories of offenses that the accused can’t comprehend.

Phillips claims you were excommunicated on biblical grounds, yet he can’t specifically identify even one excommunicable offense, let alone provide the evidence to back it up. Phillips himself is the final court of appeal. Yet he won’t even permit you to even talk to him. “You’ll have to talk to Doug’s attorney” is an entirely unacceptable response for a pastor. No real pastor would ever refer an ecclesiastical matter to his attorney. As I understand it Don Hart isn’t even BCA’s attorney. Don Hart is Vision Forum’s attorney and a Vision Forum board member. Your excommunication has nothing to do with Don Hart. Phillips is hiding behind his attorney, using Hart to run interference and prevent you from speaking with him.

Phillips has rejected all offers of reconciliation. Where else are you to go to have your case reviewed? To whom can you appeal? You tried Living Water Fellowship. Apparently they were sympathetic and they tried to intervene, but Phillips refused to meet with their elders. Then you tried Faith Presbyterian Church. They, like LWF, initially welcomed you in, but their elders refused to examine and review your case. Because of this blot of “excommunication” you not only couldn’t be considered for membership, they told you to leave. This is the dilemma you face, and that you will continue to face until Phillips lifts his censure.

Your story reminded me somewhat of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Many have said that Hawthorne got the inspiration for his novel from the Puritan trial of Anne Hutchinson. Like Hester Prynne you’ve been accused of adultery, only in your case it happened fifteen years before you came to faith in Christ. Anne Hutchinson was excommunicated and exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for “blasphemy” and “lewd conduct.” No one could ever show how Anne was guilty of blasphemy, and her “lewd conduct” was over her having men and women in her house at the same time during her Sunday meetings (talk about “hyper-patriarchy”!).

Like Anne Hutchinson you’ve been accused of many vague and general things that your Pharisaical hyper-patriarchy accuser can’t provide any evidence for. Hester Prynne was ordered to wear a large red “A” on her chest, signifying “Adulteress”, a form of public shaming and humiliation. Little did anyone know that the child she was carrying was conceived by their own beloved pastor! Rather than allowing herself to be publicly shamed by a cadre of self-righteous Pharisees, Hester not only wore her “A”, she decorated it with ornate lace and ornamentation.

Jen, next time you go to a home school conference, whether Doug Phillips is there or not, I think you need to sew a big ornately decorated red letter on your chest. In your case make it an “E” for “excommunicated.” Just like with Hester Prynne, the Pharisees would like nothing more than to shame you into silence. Don’t let them do it.

Is there a remedy for your predicament? Justice demands a remedy for injustice, but Phillips refuses you one. He holds you in a form of spiritual bondage. Those who say, “Just get over it,” are living in denial of the serious implications of excommunication. Perhaps you could start attending a church that doesn’t have membership. That would be the easy way out. There are probably many non-membership churches where you’d be welcome. The problem is that there probably aren’t any Reformed non-membership churches, and it sounds like you’re Reformed. You need to be in a church that shares your theological beliefs. That excludes all the broadly evangelical, charismatic and certainly Pentecostal churches that don’t have church membership.

You already know what to expect if when you try to even just attend another church, let alone try and join another church, just as soon as they find out that you’ve been excommunicated. And they will find out because you’re just honest enough to tell them. LWF already knew of your excommunication. Apparently FPC didn’t. You did the honest thing by informing FPC, and no doubt any church in the future that you attempt to join you’ll also be honest with them too.

One of the church Elders that I’ve been dialoguing with epitomizes why I’m so frustrated. I’ll grant you that some PCA Elders are ignorant men. This particular Elder (I’ll call him “Gene”) isn’t. Gene is a very educated and thoughtful solutions-oriented man. I also believe him to be a man of strong personal integrity. But it’s also obvious to me that he’d just like to see this all go away. That’s probably the sentiment of the vast majority of Elders who know anything about your story. Few of them are likely to be sympathetic to you. They can’t help but be sympathetic to Doug Phillips. Many of them are guilty of making some major blunders themselves, and the last thing they’d want to see is one of their members blogging about their blunders, especially if it goes beyond mere blundering and includes outright tyranny. What you’re doing, Jen, scares them. So don’t expect to make any allies with church Elders. I can tell you that you haven’t with Gene my PCA Elder friend.

Although I’m frustrated by my dialogue with Gene, I also appreciate the fact that he’s at least been willing to dialogue at all. Many others have not been so willing. I’ll include below some of our dialogue (I’ll paraphrase some of his own statements, since he may not appreciate me giving you direct quotes). Because Gene had also made some comments in defense of FPC I had to address that issue with him too:

Gene: I don’t see any good coming out of the war of words between BCA and Mark and Jennifer. Both of them have forgotten Jesus’ words in Matt 5:11-12. They both sin as they refuse to be glad and rejoice at what the other party is saying about them.

Me: Wrong verse to apply to Phillips. Here’s the correct one: “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?” (1Pet. 2:20) Matt 5:11-12 doesn’t apply to Phillips because no one is speaking “evil against [him] falsely, for my sake.” Phillips is not suffering “falsely,” and he’s not suffering for Christ’s sake. He’s suffering for his own tyranny and duplicity. Perhaps Matt 5:11-12 applies in some measure to the Epsteins, but I think you’re oversimplifying things. I wish there were a simple answer, but I don’t think there is one.

This isn’t just a matter of the Epsteins being able to cease exposing Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyrannies. If they’d just been told to leave BCA, without being censured, none of this would probably be happening now. But Phillips is responsible for their present “excommunicated” status. That goes far above and beyond “men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” If we’re going to be consistent with our Reformed theology, Gene, then being excommunicated has eternal consequences.

Gene, you’ve told me that, as a Reformed Presbyterian, you subscribe to the Westminster Confession. Do you believe what it says about church discipline and censures? (WCF, Chapter 30):

I. The Lord Jesus, as king and head of his Church, hath therein appointed a government in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.

II. To these officers the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are committed, by virtue whereof they have power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the word and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel, and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.

BCA placed the Epsteins in a catch-22, and FPC only confirmed the catch-22. Their only way out is “to return to the elders of Boerne Christian Assembly to express your true repentance with broken spirits and contrite hearts, including recognition that matters rightly belonging in the Church should not be aired in public via the Internet.” But what are they to repent of? From the time of their “excommunication” they have pleaded for a specific, detailed list of excommunicable offenses that they are guilty of, and they have continued for over two years to make that request. None has been provided, and I don’t believe one ever will be. The fact is it can’t be provided, and the reason why is self-evident.

Adding to the catch-22 is the fact that Phillips refuses to sit down and talk with them. Even if he could identify any specific and detailed unrepentant sins, he won’t permit them to talk with him about it. Every time they’ve attempted to talk with Phillips his reply has been, “Talk to my attorney.” Pastors don’t hide behind their attorneys, Gene. This isn’t a civil legal matter, it’s an ecclesiastical matter. How could such a man even be considered to be a pastor? Phillips has misappropriated the keys of the kingdom to consign the Epsteins to Hell. He’s tyrannically “excommunicated” the Epsteins, he’s refused to meet with them, he hides behind his attorney, thus making it impossible for them to ever be restored. Catch-22. FPC tells the Epsteins, “Go and repent.” Double catch-22.

If ever there was a plan devised that had the highest potential for causing a Christian to abandon the faith, this would be it. In fact it’s worked! Natasha Epstein has rebelled! FPC had a golden opportunity handed to it to restore some battered sheep and nurse them back to health. No one can with certainty make predictions about what would have happened in Natasha’s case had FPC done it’s Christian duty, but it’s reasonable to expect that she wouldn’t be where she’s at today.

Even a secular law court would never do to the Epsteins what Phillips has done. No secular law court would charge and convict anyone of general, unspecific, and ambiguous offenses. That would be unjust. Even a pagan judge wouldn’t be a party to that (at least not in America).

Gene, I’m in agreement with FPC that “matters rightly belonging in the Church should not be aired in public via the Internet.” I doubt that the Epsteins would argue what should be the proper way of resolving this dispute. This matter does rightly belong in the Church. The problem is that the Church has completely screwed this up. The Church unjustly “excommunicated” the Epsteins (if we agree that BCA is “the Church,” and based upon BCA’s cultish behavior, I don’t necessarily agree that it is “the Church”). BCA completely failed in its duties, and broke all promises to the Epsteins. So Gene, what are the Epsteins to now do?

Is this a case where they can merely apply Matthew 5:11-12? Does that resolve things? They’ve been “excommunicated,” and Phillips won’t permit that censure to ever be lifted. How are they to ever be restored to fellowship in any church while they’re under the censure of excommunication when there’s no circumstances under which Phillips will ever lift that censure? It’s ludicrous for FPC to tell them to return to the brute who unjustly “excommunicated” them and “repent” to him of things that they’re not guilty of, and things that are so broad, vague and ambiguous that they can’t even comprehend the charges. The Epsteins have no court of appeal, other than the court of public opinion.

Gene, the issue has never been about the Epsteins’ blogging, and I think you know that. They weren’t “excommunicated” for blogging. They were excommunicated because Phillips had it in for Jen. She disagreed with him that it was a “sin” to vote Republican, and Phillips threatened, “You’ll pay for this.” He’s certainly made them “pay.” The Epsteins didn’t start blogging until they’d spent two years exhausing every other possible remedy. They showed their sincerity in seeking reconciliation, and they showed good faith in submitting to the FPC session, by taking down their blog articles. What did that earn them? They got thrown out by the FPC session. Even if they now permanently took down their blogs Phillips will probably never lift the censure.

Gene, I don’t like the Epsteins’ blogging any more than you do. There’s got to be a better way. The problem is I can’t think of one. If I knew of one I would have written the Epsteins myself and requested they consider doing it a long time ago. The Epsteins strike me as very reasonable people, and I think they listen to reason. Give me some reasonable advice, Gene, and I’ll pass it along.

Gene: And that is my major problem with what Jennifer and Mark are doing — they do so from the position of individuals (excommunicated ones at that, completely without ecclesastical authority).

Me: Gene, the Epsteins were more than willing to stop the blogging, and they did, per the request of the FPC Elders. I doubt they’re blogging again because they want to. They’re blogging because FPC, the guys with the “authority” that they submitted to wouldn’t exercise it. You can blame the Epsteins about this all you want, but with authority comes responsibility (Jam 3:1), and a much higher standard.

Gene: Although I have serious doubts about the way BCA handled the Epsteins, I recognize that the excommunication was rightly in their court and that FPC could not pre-empt their decision.

Me: No way Gene! It was not “rightly” in their court. It was an absolute sham of a trial, a Kangaroo Court. One of the three marks of a true church is “the rightful exercise of church discipline.” How can you view one of the marks of a true church in such a trivial fashion? Study your history of the Reformed Church, Gene. Unjust excommunications and censures served as a significant catalyst for the Reformation. Doug Phillips is as big a tyrant as any 16th century Catholic bishop. Phillips has had far more influence than you’re aware of in his circle of “family integrated churches,” and his influence is tyrannical. There wasn’t a thing “right” about this excommunication. The FPC session, due to reasons and rationale which I can’t even begin to comprehend, sanctioned an unjust excommunication. The FPC Session could have elected to examine the facts in the Epstein case. They could have stood for the principles of the Reformation. They could have been champions of Christian liberty, but instead they turned a blind eye to injustice.

Gene: So, if blogging about sinful men as undershepherds brings glory to Jesus, blog away. If blogging about their failure to protect them brings honor to the King of Kings, blog away. I will stand up and admit that I am a sinner. The cross has already given us all a horrible reputation — the only critique of me is that I am so bad that only death can deal with it. But, the Cross says the best that anyone can say about us. It says that God chose to place His love on us at the cost of His Son and that His Son’s righteousness was enough for Him. Our own righteneouss is as offal and filthy rags.

Me: Yes, Gene, you and I and the Epsteins and Doug Phillips are sinners, and the cross condemns us as such. The cross condemns us all, and the cross can condemn us just on the general principle that we are fallen and have a sin nature. But when it comes to human affairs of justice, none of us are condemned for general sins. In the human realm we are judged and condemned for specific transgressions of the law. A consistent application of your logic would dictate that no civil court judge, and no church session, could ever sit in judgment against anyone, because they’re not perfect men themselves. However, they’re not sitting in judgment of any man’s “fallen nature.” They judge specific transgressions of the law.

The Epsteins have been absolved of their sins by the cross, but Phillips has “excommunicated” them for general and ambiguous sins, thereby repudiating the work of the cross for them. That’s not justice, it’s tyranny, but you seem to be rationalizing their “excommunication” on the basis that because they’re sinners they deserve to be excommunicated. In principle we all deserve death and Hell. While that may be a valid theological statement, it is not a statement about justice, nor does it trump ecclesiastical tyranny. The keys of the kingdom are not entrusted to the officers of the church to capriciously lock out sinners out of vengeance — “You’ll pay for this.” The keys of the kingdom should never be entrusted to tyrants, and when a tyrant appropriates the keys he is a thief.

Phillips is playing God, and FPC has confirmed Phillips’ tyranny by telling the Epsteins that they must return to BCA and “repent” of sins that they can’t even comprehend because the charges are so broad, vague and ambiguous that they don’t know what they’re supposed to repent of.

Jen, I don’t think Gene and any of the other church Elders that I’ve talked to even fully appreciate how foolishly and vindictively Doug Phillips has handled your “church discipline.” Perhaps you and Mark deserved some form of church discipline. I don’t know that. I’ve never been a BCA member to be able to witness how the Epsteins conducted themselves there. But one thing I’m confident of is that the way that you were “disciplined” was unpastoral, unjust, malicious and excessive.

Doug Phillips’ blogging response to your blogging (which you didn’t start doing until two years after your “excommunication”), both directly, and through his proxies (Mrs. B, SFU, etc.) has meant that he’s become his own worst enemy. I can’t imagine that any of the Elders that I know of would ever retaliate as Phillips has, if they found themselves in a similar situation. Yet, many of those Elders condemn you, even though none I have talked to can offer you a viable solution. They criticize you and yet they can’t offer even one viable alternative to what you’re now doing. If any of them ever do come up with a viable alternative, you can be sure that I’ll pass it along.

May the Lord bless you and your family,

T. Reformed

Doug Phillips Refuses Reconciliation With The Epsteins

“This is not about reconciliation; this is only about the Epsteins repenting.”

We were informed last week that Doug Phillips has refused to be reconciled with us.

Doug Phillips has rejected the peacemaking/reconciliation proposal that the elders at Faith Presbyterian Church of San Antonio attempted to facilitate. As I wrote previously, we were very encouraged to know that all the FPC elders have gone through the Peacemaker Ministries training and that several of them are “Certified Christian Conciliators.” We were led to believe that if anyone could help us, these men could. We also believed that Doug would be hard pressed to refuse to enter into Christian conciliation when it was to be facilitated by men who are certified with a conciliation ministry that is as highly respected as Peacemaker Ministries. 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.

Doug Phillips told the FPC session that our blogging about him “hurt him.” We’re not exactly sure what that means (did we hurt his feelings?), but that’s obviously just a smoke screen and a means of shifting focus from the original issues. We weren’t excommunicated for blogging about Doug Phillips, so even if we were to now “repent” to him for blogging about him, as far as he’s concerned, it wouldn’t change anything anyway. He remains convinced of all of his original allegations against us, and he sees no problems with his Kangaroo Court excommunication of the Epsteins.

From Doug’s perspective, the Epsteins are 100% wrong, he’s 100% right, end of discussion. We have to admit to everything he accuses us of, we’re not allowed to accuse him of anything, and if we won’t do that, he won’t ever lift the excommunication judgment against us. In other words he seeks to hold us as hostages in a state of perpetual spiritual enslavement.

Although many others have commented that Doug’s behavior is “cultish,” we ourselves have avoided making those allegations. However, in the future we may not avoid making those kinds of allegations ourselves. Doug has now more than proven to us that he’s completely devoid of any character attributes that would qualify him as a shepherd, and it would seem that he does evidence all the character attributes of a (sociological) cult leader.

For those who’ve been following this story, you already know why Doug’s dictatorial formula for reconciliation can’t possibly work, and why reconciliation by such autocratic edicts is futile. Doug Phillips’ latest decree requires that we lie. We would have to lie because what Doug demands is that we confess sins and beg forgiveness of things:

  1. That we’re not guilty of and that no one can provide any evidence that we’re guilty of.
  2. That I committed years before I even became a Christian, and that I confessed and repented of years ago.
  3. That are so vague and ambiguous that we can’t possibly comprehend what they even are.
  4. That in the case of the few charges that we were guilty of, we confessed and repented of those things, but Doug excommunicated us any way.

In other words we’d have to lie. We’d have to bear false witness about ourselves. We’d have to break the ninth commandment. Furthermore, we’d have to lie by saying that our blogging about Doug is sinful. We have no such convictions and no one has provided any credibly biblical support to show that our blogging about Doug was a sin.

We didn’t take our blog articles offline because we believed that our blogging about Doug was sinful. We took them down only because the FPC session asked us to as a means of paving the way for reconciliation. They also told us to refrain from any further blogging about Doug and BCA, as well as commenting on other blogs, during the time they pursued peacemaking and reconciliation with Doug on our behalf. We complied with everything we were told to do (and no, we didn’t comment anywhere under aliases either). We complied fully with every single thing the FPC session required of us, and we did so without a complaint. In so doing, we hoped to demonstrate that we’re not rebellious and we’re quite capable of submitting to elders. We also wanted to demonstrate our sincerity in seeking reconciliation.

Obviously, though, Doug shares no such interest. During the time of our compelled silence, Doug Phillips’ close personal friends and “former interns” continued their assaults against us with a string of false accusations and weird conspiracy theories. It was no easy thing for us to keep quiet while we were being falsely accused. Our compelled silence only served as an opportunity to show the world Doug Phillips’ true nature. Doug Phillips is a master saboteur. When he was our pastor, we came to him for help with our marriage, but instead of helping us, he effectively sabotaged our marriage. In fact, he sabotaged our entire family. Our children have yet to recover from the betrayal they were subjected to by Doug Phillips.

It therefore came as no surprise to us that Doug would employ the services of his close personal friend and political hatchet man, Matt Chancey, and his “former interns” (often used as code language for “current Vision Forum employees”) in particular, to keep up a steady assault against us during our time of compelled silence, in an all too obvious attempt to sabotage our relations with Faith Presbyterian Church. With two phone calls or emails, Doug could’ve called for a cease fire. But continuing to smear us by his internet assassin friends and “former interns,” while he knew we had to remain silent, gave him a huge advantage. We believe, however, that many were paying close attention and that all Doug’s tactics really accomplished were to confirm what a bully he really is.

Not only is Doug a bully but he’s a politician. He was raised by a politician and has been well trained in political scheming. Tragically, it appears now that Doug Phillips has successfully sabotaged our formerly good relations at Faith Presbyterian Church. Make no mistake, it took more than a couple of attack-blogs by his friends and “former interns” to accomplish that. Doug himself was personally and actively involved in that.

Unless we’re provoked into making additional disclosures about that situation, we’re not likely to blog about FPC. At this point we’ll just say that we’re very disappointed with the FPC session, and their apparent lack of courage in standing up to a bully. We did warn them that Doug can be not only cunningly persuasive but that he will resort to threats and intimidation to get what he wants. It appears now that the FPC elders were cowed by Phillips in a similar way that the pastor of our previous church was cowed. He, too, attempted to facilitate reconciliation on our behalf, but he proved himself less than manly.

The only bright spot in all this is that it didn’t take two years like it did last time. Last time, Doug agreed to meet for reconciliation. In fact, he agreed multiple times, only to cancel every single meeting at the last minute. After 14 months of attempting to set up a meeting with Doug Phillips, he finally met with the elders of our last church, only to accuse them of sinning as well. We warned the FPC session of Doug’s MO of cancelling meetings and using intermediaries and blaming everyone but himself. FPC agreed with us that they wouldn’t wait around for months for Doug to make an appearance, and they agreed with us that they couldn’t negotiate with Doug’s intermediaries. Reconciliation can only occur with the parties who were directly involved in the original offense.

This time, after only a few cancellations, Doug actually did meet with the elders. But just like he did with the previous church session, he called the FPC session “wicked sinners for fellowshipping with and entertaining ex-communicants.” Apparently that may have been all it took to cow the FPC session.

We had been told not long ago, “Doug Phillips apparently expects everyone to have to shun you. If he expects the FPC session to do that he’s going to be disappointed.” In the end, though, it was the FPC session that bent to Doug’s will. Through political arm-twisting, or threats, or whatever other pressures he brought to bear, Doug Phillips “won.” Doug Phillips sabotaged our peacemaking efforts. But is Doug’s refusal of peacemaking and reconciliation really a “win” for him? We don’t think so. In fact, it’s likely to only hurt his reputation even more.

In spite of our great disappointment with the FPC session, we don’t intend to speak further about them. We therefore would prefer to not address any questions regarding FPC. Our blogging is going to remain focused on the problem, and the problem is Doug Phillips.

We won’t be making any more attempts at reconciliation with Doug Phillips. Having now exhausted every conceivable avenue of reconciliation with Doug Phillips, we believe that we have no choice but to re-post all our former articles.

More to come… soon.

Peacemaking: The Biblical Response to Our Conflict With Doug Phillips

To all our readers, greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose blood is sufficient to atone for even the vilest sins of any who truly thank Him for His righteous life and substitutionary death.

We’ve requested membership at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) in San Antonio, Texas. We have fully described our excommunication by Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA) to our Session of Elders. The Session has agreed to work with us toward reconciliation and restoration, and we have agreed to submit to their authority as ordained Elders.

There are certain terms and conditions that the Faith Session will place upon us to begin the process of restoring us to communicant church membership. In fulfilling these obligations, the Session will have evidence we are sincere in our desire to become members of Faith Presbyterian Church under the authority of their Session. The very first of those issues is that we demonstrate a willingness to be reconciled with our brethren at BCA.

Faith Presbyterian Church considers reconciliation and peacemaking to be a Biblical mandate for the whole Body of Christ. Several FPC members are certified Christian conciliators with Peacemaker Ministries. FPC has agreed to do everything possible to assist us in being reconciled with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly.

In the view of our elders, the fact that we are unlikely to attempt to become members of BCA again is irrelevant to the necessity for brethren to seek reconciliation with one another. Though we have made attempts at reconciliation before, perhaps with many of you fervently praying toward that end, God will be pleased to unite the injured parties together again in Christ and to demonstrate His peace before a watching and skeptical world.

In order to lay the groundwork toward reconciliation, the Session has requested we take offline any of our blog articles, links and feedback comments on any website of our creation, or under our control, that contain accusations against Doug Phillips, members of his family, or BCA. Although Ministry Watchman isn’t under our control, we will formally request that they likewise take offline the articles about us by Charles Fisher.

This request by our Elders was made primarily for two reasons:

  1. Removing accusing words from the public forum greatly increases the opportunity for reconciliation and restoration. Removing the accusations from the Web will allow each side to be heard without the on-going offense of public rebuke while pursuing private reconciliation.
  2. Removing the accusations from the Web will provide evidence that we are repentant, that we are willing to submit to the ecclesiastical authority of the Elders of Faith Presbyterian (PCA) church, and our willingness to allow those Elders to work with the leadership of BCA to restore us to communing fellowship within a local evangelical church.

In submitting to our Session of Elders, we will no longer comment publicly about our conflict with Doug Phillips, or others at BCA, on any website or blog, while the Session of Faith Presbyterian Church seeks the peace and purity of the Church of Jesus Christ through reconciliation.

We ask all our readers to pray for a successful reconciliation. Sin is not absent from any of us in this life, so please pray diligently for the Holy Spirit to move sinners to repentance at the foot of the Cross.

Pray also that the Lord would calm our fears. After what we’ve already been through, it’s not an easy thing for us to submit to church elders. We want to trust these men and to believe the best of them. They’ve shown themselves to be caring and compassionate towards us. We do believe that they’re sincere, and that they intend God’s best for us. But we have to admit that there are times that we still feel intimidated and afraid of a process that we’re unfamiliar with. This is, after all, the very first Presbyterian church that we’ve ever been in, and Presbyterians do things a lot differently from what we’re used to.

Our hope is that we will be able to soon report a complete reconciliation between the Epstein family and the brothers and sisters at Boerne Christian Assembly. At that time, perhaps web sites that once held accusations can be filled with rejoicing and details of revival in relationships, offering hope for others in conflict, and giving honor and glory to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the name of the Prince of Peace,

Mark and Jennifer Epstein

Preparing the Way for Reconciliation

Mark and I have recently established relations with several Christian conciliators certified through Peacemaker Ministries. We’re very encouraged by the wise counsel that they’ve given us.

Because of their strong convictions about reconciliation, they’ve told us that there are certain things that they request to be done about our blogs. The first issue that needs to be dealt with is to edit and or delete any comments which might be viewed as personal attacks on Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly.

We’ve solicited some outside help to assist us with the editing process, somebody who can probably be a bit more objective than we can. The fact is, though, that we’ve rejected a number of comments already that were quite inflammatory and uncharitable against Doug. However, we’ve been told that there is still editing that needs to be done.

So, as a first step in submitting to these conciliators and working toward reconciliation, we ask that everyone please understand why this needs to be done. Although you may fully believe what you have written here, we ask that you would be willing to join with us in prayer for reconciliation with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly and trust us, as we trust these conciliators, to be as charitable as possible in editing all comments already approved on this site. We hope to ensure all comments comply with the requirements of Eph 4:29 – “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

We sincerely thank you for your many prayers and concerns and for all the encouraging comments, and we pray that this situation would be used ultimately for the glory of God.