Vision Forum Views on Women: Monstrous Regiment and Baby Dolls

From Doug’s Blog today:

The “Best of Festival” Jubilee Award — a $10,000 grand prize — went to The Monstrous Regiment of Women, a fifty-four minute documentary directed and produced by the Gunn Brothers. Featuring an all star, all female cast — including Phyllis Schlafly and F. Carolyn Graglia — the film demonstrates how feminism has restricted choices for all women, brought heartache to the lives of many, and perpetuated an unprecedented holocaust through legalized abortion.

“We made Monstrous Regiment because we believe that feminism is one of the most detrimental philosophies effecting our church, family, and government,” remarked Colin Gunn, whose wife Emily co-wrote and narrated the film. “We want to thank the [Festival] for recognizing the importance of this message. We are privileged and honored to receive this award.”

This marked the second Jubilee Award for the Gunn Brothers. In 2004, they won “Best Political” for their film, Shaky Town. In addition to landing the festivals’ top honor in 2007, The Monstrous Regiment of Women took runner-up for “Best Documentary.”

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From a Vision Forum email advertising their new baby doll today:

The way a child plays will influence who that child will become. And the tools of play are an important part of the equation.

Play is preparation for adulthood. Play can prepare a child for maturity or for teen rebellion. Play may breed noble dreams and actions, or it may reinforce dark and unhealthy attitudes. Play may reinforce biblical gender roles (women as mothers and homemakers; men as defenders and protectors of women; etc.), or it may supplant them with the stereotypes perpetuated by modern feminism.

But one thing is certain — play (like the rest of life) is never neutral.

Our culture is engaged in a battle for the heart and soul of the family. It is even reflected in the present doll wars. At stake is whether the play life of our children will reflect efforts to rebuild a culture of virtuous boyhood and girlhood, or whether it will focus on training the next generation of me-centered, empowered, feminists.

There is a reason why feminists hate the message of the Beautiful Girlhood Collection. They hate it because so many of the contributions to this collection emphasize a message of holy submission to the priorities of the Lord and not the feminist empowerment model. They hate it because it represents many of the historic family values of the old era of Christendom. And they hate the constant emphasis that a girl’s play should pave the way for her to better embrace the feminine models and admonitions presented in such Scriptures as Proverbs 31, Titus 2, and I Peter 3. We disagree with the feminists. We also disagree with any corporate model for success which capitalizes on the most negative influences in modern youth culture to market products to children. And we take seriously our mission to encourage, bless, and promote Christian family culture for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Here we are with a typical either-or dilemma from Doug Phillips and Vision Forum: all women either hold to Doug’s version of patriarchy or they are feminists. Which camp are you in? Are there really only two choices biblically?

Life in Perfect

I was going to wait a few more days to open my blog back up again, but I just read an article called “Life in Perfect” that is simply too good to pass up! Warning: Don’t read this article while drinking hot liquids. Too much laughter while drinking hot liquids can cause damage to your computer components.

Here’s a small sample from the article:

Where the children are seen and not heard.

And so are the women.

Where vile American Girl dolls are banned.

Where people talk and write like a walking 1865 dictionary.

I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I won’t post any more of it here. What a great satire, “Ingrid”!

Doug Phillips Attacks Midwest Christian Outreach Counter-Cult Ministry: Vision Forum Staff Used for Libel Campaign

Misplaced principles

Several years ago I read a very disturbing book. It was so disturbing that I could not read more than a few pages at a time, and I had trouble sleeping every night I read it. The book was an examination of a very popular teacher, and it reported that not only were his teachings far from biblical but that he practiced things that I could not believe that any Christian could do. Even worse, most of my friends and acquaintances hung on every word the man said. That man was Bill Gothard and the book was “A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life” by Don and Joy Veinot and Ron Henzel.

Greatly distressed and wondering what to do to help my friends, I decided to turn for counsel to Doug Phillips, the pastor of my church Boerne Christian Assembly. I told Doug that I had read the book, that I was very concerned that so many members of BCA were caught up in Gothardism, and that I wondered what he thought should be done. I was greatly taken aback by Doug’s answer, as he said that although he didn’t agree with the way Bill Gothard got there, he did agree with Bill’s conclusions, and that was all that mattered. He also told me to just leave the matter alone and not discuss it further with other people. I was puzzled by Doug’s response, since he often taught that the ends never justify the means. I found out a little while later that he was already scheduled to speak and sell Vision Forum products at Gothard’s annual conference that year.

Fortunately, I didn’t let Doug’s response keep me from using my brain to find out that the authors of this book were also part of an apologetics ministry, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc., which provided teaching and training to pastors and laymen. At the time, I didn’t see how their work could have anything to do with me, apart from their exposure to Gothardism, which Doug had already forbidden me to speak of, so I filed them away mentally for future reference.

After I went public last December with my story of the years of ecclesiastical abuse my family suffered at the hands of Doug Phillips, I recalled the ministry of of Midwest Christian Outreach. I decided to contact them to see if they knew anything about Doug Phillips and Vision Forum. As it turned out, they had already received numerous inquiries about Doug Phillips and/or Vision Forum and were considering whether to conduct an investigation of them.

After that contact, I generally put MCOI out of my mind. When I didn’t hear anything else for a while, I thought perhaps they weren’t really interested in investigating Doug Phillips or Vision Forum. So when I found out a few months later that they were almost ready to publish a whole article about Vision Forum, I was very surprised. I was particularly curious to find out if they had uncovered and were reporting on another story of ecclesiastical tyranny similar to mine.

I received the article “Who Will Be First in the Kingdom” shortly before the Arlington homeschool conference. I was quite surprised to see that it was about Patriarchy. At that time, I was still in love with Patriarchy and had no intentions of giving it up. When I read the “Top 10 Biblical Ways to Acquire a Wife” in their article, I thought it was funny, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. How dare they make jokes about what I considered to be a sound biblical principle! In fact, the more I read the article, the more sick to my stomach I became. I realized Don Veinot wasn’t talking about any of the issues I had with Doug Phillips and Vision Forum at all. He was talking about areas that were near and dear to my own heart! However, I was not going to complain at all; I was just grateful that someone else was speaking up about Vision Forum.

The timing of publishing this article happened to be the same as when I was already planning on going to the Arlington Homeschool Book Conference to try to meet with Doug. I thought that passing out copies of Don Veinot’s article on Saturday of the conference would be a good back-up plan if Doug refused to meet me on Friday. With that possibility in the back of my mind, I asked Don Veinot if I could hand out copies of his article at the conference. He agreed. As it turned out, Doug did refuse to meet with me, so I did follow my back-up plan. Doug was not happy about that or about the contents of Don Veinot’s article, and you can read about what happened at the conference here.

It turned out that there were others who also didn’t like Don Veinot’s article. Brian Abshire took great offense at Don’s analysis of an article by Dr. Abshire posted on the Vision Forum website. Dr. Abshire and Don have exchanged several letters on the subject, and caused a lively debate. Perhaps because they hoped Dr. Abshire could deal with Don for them, Vision Forum did not contact Don Veinot directly until nearly three months after the article came out and long after he originally contacted them. At that time, Don was sent a 15-page letter describing what Vision Forum had against him and his ministry. Vision Forum subsequently sent a follow-up letter as well.

Personal attacks

A few weeks later, Don decided to send us a copy of this correspondence from Vision Forum because so much of what Vision Forum wrote to Don Veinot consisted of personal attacks against Mark and me, and Don thought we deserved to see them in case we wished to respond. I appreciate this old-fashioned courtesy very much, because the general lack of it is one reason Doug Phillips’ continual whisperings often travel so far without challenge.

When we received our copies of Vision Forum’s correspondence with Don, we immediately saw that it was very typical of the way they deal with critics. First, as usual, the letters are not signed by Doug. He gets someone else to do the dirty work. In the past, it has been a BCA deacon signing an attack on behalf of the non-existent “Session” of BCA, or Doug’s lawyer threatening legal action, or another prominent patriarchal figure such as Kevin Swanson or Dr. Abshire weighing in for Doug. This time, it was Doug’s long-time assistant, Wesley Strackbein.

Something else about the letters to Don that are typical of Doug’s MO is that, while they invoke the name of Christ, they are highly accusatory of the personal character of those they attack. They also employ guilt-by association tactics such as trying to taint what Don says by claiming he is associated with others (Mark and me) that they have already smeared.

Another characteristic of Doug’s MO that you can see clearly in the letters is an effort to avoid facing the main issues by changing the subject. Don’s article was entirely a critique of Vision Forum’s theology of patriarchy. If you don’t believe me, go back and read it for yourself. You will see that it relies for its sources entirely on publicly available information on Vision Forum’s own website. You will also see that it says nothing about me or about Vision Forum’s or Doug Phillips’ treatment of me. In fact, Don did not consult with Mark or me about any aspect of his article before it was published. That being so, isn’t it curious that most of Vision Forum’s 15-page letter was devoted to attacking Mark and me?

I think the reason for Vision Forum’s misplaced attacks is that this is their best (only?) ammo. They have no credible answers to Don’s theological critique. So they have to change the subject. The fact that I handed out copies of Don’s article was just the fig leaf of an excuse they needed to change the subject to what has lately been their favorite rhetorical whipping boy, the Epsteins. When I see this kind of thing I keep asking myself: Do they really think their followers are so stupid that they won’t see through the tricks?

I’m still not sure of the answer to that question. So I’ll write about things I do know. The main purpose of Vision Forum’s letter was to address two issues, what they called “Misrepresentations and Alliance with Renegades.” Since the supposed “misrepresentations” have some connection to Don’s theological critique, I’ll leave them to him to address publicly if he wants to. I’ll address Vision Forum’s effort to avoid the theological debate by claiming Don has allied himself with renegades. I won’t be able to address all of Vision Forum’s numerous errors and outright libels, but I will address a few of the main ones below, enough for you to get the point.

Renegade rhetoric

Vision Forum’s renegade rhetoric begins from the very start of the letter. So before you read further, make sure you’re sitting down and, if necessary, buckled in. You’re in for a wild ride. After identifying himself and thanking Don for taking the time to read the letter, Doug’s mouthpiece, Wesley Strackbein, immediately accuses Don of “join[ing] hands with a lawless couple who have become notorious for their prolonged campaign of gossip, lies, cruelties and deceptions” For stating that the purpose of the letter was to make peace, Wesley was off to a great start!

A few paragraphs further, he affects to soften the blow a bit by saying that “we also realize that unscrupulous individuals may have taken advantage of your good intentions or even sought to curry favor with you by manipulating you into believing that their cause is your cause.” Telling someone that they’ve been duped will probably not win them over either.

After stating that they are willing to disagree on many theological and practical issues, Vision Forum says that “we do not believe that this spirit of equanimity is possible if Christians resort to libel and internet assassinations” I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. The definition of “libel” is to publish in print an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his reputation. The key word in this definition is an untruth. If I have said anything untrue, why hasn’t Doug Phillips posted anything to the contrary? Not only has he not published any documentation disproving anything I have said, he has also not stated any place specifically where I have lied. That is because I have told the truth. Therefore, there is no libel. This line was directed to Don Veinot, but it carried clear implications for every other Doug Phillips critic as well.

The bulk of the letter addressed the issue of the alleged alliances with renegades, which Vision Forum summarizes as follows:

You Have Publicly Aligned Yourself with and Drawn Support from Individuals Who Have Been Excommunicated for Ongoing Unrepentant Sins and Who Have Demonstrated a Pattern of Continued Sinful and Lawless Activities Since their Excommunication, as Affirmed by Several Jurisdictional Entities

and was followed by: “Your active association with individuals whose pattern of egregious, sinful behavior is far-reaching, well-documented, and confirmed by the testimony of several distinct church bodies as well as a presiding Justice of a State Supreme Court.” I am trying very hard to figure out who these several jurisdictional entities are who have affirmed our excommunication. Jurisdictional must mean that they have jurisdiction over us. We have attended two churches since our excommunication for any length of time. We did not join either of these two churches. Does that mean that they still have jurisdiction over us? If so, is two the same as several? If so, how did they “affirm” our excommunication? Did they acknowledge that we were excommunicated? Yes. But we also acknowledge that. No one denies that fact. Did they review the evidence for themselves? One church did and Little Bear Wheeler then spent the next 14 months trying to get Doug to repent from excommunicating us. Faith Presbyterian did not ever review any of the evidence. Did they send us back to BCA? Faith Presbyterian did, and when we asked them what we were supposed to repent from, they had no answer for us. I really see no evidence for this claim that several jurisdictional entities have affirmed our excommunication. This fallacy is a faulty appeal to authority and designed simply to overawe Don with their impressive list of authorities.

As for a Justice of a State Supreme Court confirming anything about me, let alone my sinful behavior, well, Doug is really confused about his jurisdictions here, because although he has threatened to sue my husband and me, he hasn’t yet, so the jurisdiction of the state hasn’t been involved to confirm anything.

While such ignorance, if founded, is inexcusable on your part, it could explain how you were led astray to conspire with these renegades” And now Wesley lists only a “partial summary” concerning the “misbehavior of this embittered couple.” I will just deal with the items that address me, for the sake of brevity here.

Been excommunicated and adjudged to be treated as “heathen and publican” with the unanimous affirmation of a confessional church for ongoing (sometimes public, but always) serious sins, including habitual lying, revilings, and cruelty on the part of both husband and wife directly related to Mrs. Epstein’s past adultery with a Muslim which produced a child out of wedlock.

This is what I was excommunicated for? I was excommunicated for sins I committed before I was a Christian, now 17 years ago, and for which I fully repented a year later? I later put that repentance into writing and Doug Phillips agreed that I had fully repented. And now Vision Forum is stating that my excommunication and all my sins are directly related to my pre-conversion past. I’m pleased to see that Vision Forum has finally admitted in writing what I have said from the beginning. I am also pleased that, although Doug Phillips and Vision Forum do not appear to understand grace and the forgiveness of sins, the Lord did not need their mediation to give it to me.

Been reproved and admonished by multiple ministries, churches, and ministers for their unrepentant sins, spirit of vengeance, deceptions, etc.

The footnote states that these multiple churches are BCA, Faith PCA, and Living Waters Fellowship. I’m not sure who the ministries are, but I assume the ministers are the elders of these respective churches. I understand BCA’s stance on this very well. Faith PCA told us to reconcile with BCA first. When we asked what we should repent from, they had no answer. LWF took our side for a long time. We prefer not to speculate on why they had a sudden change of heart. Even so, when we asked them what “inaccuracies and misinformation” they were referring to, they had also had no answer. I do not believe I have done any of this in a spirit of vengeance. If I had wanted revenge, I could have gone public much earlier than the almost two years we waited, trying to reconcile. I spent much time praying about it and I still do, as I want to make sure my heart is right in all that I do here. I have been very careful with my words as well. If I had a spirit of vengeance, I would think it would be quite noticeable after all I’ve written here. As for the deceptions, I stand willing to be corrected on anything I’ve written on this website and elsewhere. However, in this charge, like the vast majority of such charges, Vision Forum has declined to offer any examples that can be tested or confirmed. Why? Because no such examples exist.

Been formally banned as a vendor from participation in conferences with FEAST, a regional home school organization, because of “unethical practices” including “deception” toward this group in the years 2005-2006.

It is true that Ruth Perez of FEAST issued a letter critical of me. She did not contact me first, however. And, as soon as I learned of the statement, I immediately wrote her a Matthew 18 letter, asking for more information about my alleged sins. She never responded. I don’t know if her long-standing association with Doug is the reason she has followed his example in making broad charges while refusing to back them up with specifics, but that is what has happened here as it did with Doug.

Of course, even if all of these charges against me were true, they would still do nothing to undermine or taint Don Veinot’s powerful theological critique of Vision Forum, which was the only point of the article in the first place.

Worked with “Christian” White Separatists to advance their agenda of gossip and lies against men and ministries.

The footnote here includes a link to a site set up to attack me by long-time Doug Phillips buddy, Matt Chancey. They may call him an “independent investigator,” but it isn’t so. The fact that Vision Forum was willing to lie about Doug’s relationship with Matt in a desperate effort to give the site some legitimacy is enough to know that it’s nothing more than a political damage control effort by this professional political consultant and long-time Phillips pal. It’s called “playing the race card.”

Been upbraided by a State Supreme Court Justice [for] activity which the Justice characterized as “vile schemes.”

Huh? I’ve never met a State Supreme Court Justice, nor have I ever had any dealings with one. Another misplaced appeal to the wrong authority.

Been exposed for their efforts in a conspiracy to destroy the good name of Christian leaders that has involved using the cover of proxy servers, writing under numerous anonymous and pseudonymous names, launching websites which perpetrated frauds, and even conspiring to spy on the homes of pastors like RC Sproul, Sr. and to interview neighbors under false pretenses for the purpose of gathering damaging information to be used in public smear campaigns.

Absolutely not. I have never been involved in a conspiracy to destroy the good name of any Christian leaders. I was a long-time donor to Ligonier Ministries. I felt a moral responsibility to investigate reports that the money I donated was being squandered. I found that to be true, and I posted several blog articles on that subject under my name. I make no apologies for that. In fact, I still pray for R.C. Sproul, Sr., although I no longer donate to his ministry.

Publicly (through the Internet and written correspondences they have widely distributed) called no less than two hundred men and women to repentance before their personal tribunal of justice. To accomplish these ends, they have trafficked in unrelenting gossip, have deliberately posted pictures of the Sproul family designed to humiliate them and have become a clearinghouse for gossip for anonymous internet assassins with an axe to grind. They have not only demanded the repentance of RC Sproul, Sr. and Doug Phillips, but of entire congregations, of multiple ministers of the Gospel, and of no fewer than ten members from their former local church whom they have charged with wrongs against them; and have called no less than three Christian ministries to repentance.

I have publicly called for the repentance of public figures who have sinned against me and refused all private efforts (including independent mediation) to resolve the matter. I’m sorry that this is a sensitive subject for Doug, but I think that’s probably because he has a guilty conscience. At least I hope so.

Been complicit in emailing numerous vindictive and false charges about Doug Phillips to home school leaders, government officials, and friends and business associates of Vision Forum as part of a coordinated campaign to besmirch Doug Phillips’ name and unlawfully interfere with business and ministry interests of which he is a part.

Mark and I wrote a carefully constructed letter that we emailed to homeschool leaders. Everything in it was well documented. Doug Phillips is welcome to provide his own evidence to try and counter any of my claims at any time. He has not done so, because there is no such evidence. So all he has left is this kind of strong rhetoric.

Mass-disseminated numerous outrageous and calumnious articles, including one which accused godly missionaries of complicity in the murder of Christians.

I have to give Wesley credit for variety in his choice of words to attack me, even though he does so in a letter supposedly about an article that I had nothing to do with. I don’t think I have ever before seen “calumnious” used in a sentence. I’m even a little embarrassed to confess that I had to look it up. Seriously, though, the footnotes to this charge keep referring to “Jennifer and other Ministry Watchman co-conspirators.” Clearly, Vision Forum is trying to turn all of its critics into conspirators and blame each act of “conspiracy” on every “conspirator.” I don’t know which logical fallacy that is, but I know it is one, or maybe two or three together.

Have posted offensive and inappropriate photo-shopped images of Doug and Beall Phillips on the Internet as part of their smear campaign.

I’m sorry that Wesley’s legalism has stifled his sense of humor. That’s not good for his health. I really don’t think this picture is that bad:

Have relentlessly ridiculed, mocked, and borne false witness against the women of Boerne Christian Assembly, both individually and collectively.

To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t said anything untrue about BCA women. As far as I know, I have not said anything true in a mocking manner. I have tried to be kind and fair in my portrayal of them, but I have used them as examples for my thoughts on how women are not valued as they ought to be in Patriarchy. I think the problem is that they have been led to a position that attracts the ridicule of the world, and I am being blamed for that.

Have conspired to secretly tape record conversations with the individuals they seek to defame.

Huh? I have no clue about what Wesley is talking about.

Have (between the two of them) operated, founded, or helped to establish no less than five attack-sites against Doug Phillips which have collectively published tens of thousands of words and untold hundreds of lies, while “exposing,” harassing, and defaming Christian ministers.

This charge begs the question. Doug says that what I say is a lie. I don’t agree, and I support what I say with documents. The length of those documents doesn’t matter, except that if Doug Phillips has done as much harm as I believe, then it makes sense that there would be many words needed to report on that harm. The truth is that all that Mark and I have written is far outweighed by the quantity of comments made by others on my blog, who share their own experiences with Doug Phillips or Vision Forum or offer their own theological critiques. In fact, so far there have been nearly 10,000 comments posted on my site. That’s a remarkable number for such a short time. Instead of blaming me for everything, Doug should ask himself why so many people besides me feel the need to express their concerns about him in public.

Staged publicity stunts (using [Don’s] materials), for which Jennifer Epstein was cited by police for criminal behavior.

My son and I passed out fliers on a back sidewalk until the police were called and all the commotion was brought to the front of the building. Standing on my First Amendment rights is not a crime last time I looked, but it is often a right that is trampled on.

Wesley ends this particular list by stating that “the evidence proving Mark and Jennifer’s complicity in unlawful and potentially criminal activity is voluminous, and we are personally in possession of hundreds of pages which document their role in a far-flung Internet conspiracy to discredit Reformed ministers and ministries.” Sometimes Doug gives me so much credit I have to be careful not to get a big head about it. When I take a reality check and realize that I haven’t actually done these things, I just have to shake my head in wonderment.

Wesley goes on to tell Don Veinot why his “alliance with notorious Internet assassins and church excommunicants is irrefutable,” naming all types of “incontrovertible facts.” These include Don giving me his “diatribe article” for me to use as a “publicity stunt” to “facilitate [my] campaign of hatred” and stating that I claimed that I was working directly with Don; I published private letters from Don on my website; and that Don allowed me to comment on his website, among other allegations of proof of our working together against Doug. I am sorry that I caused Don to sin by my posting a comment on his website. Maybe someone can help me find that verse in Scripture.

Finally, Wesley asks Don some questions about his alliances with “lawless individuals,” stating that he has been “in communication with the Epsteins’ small group of Internet malcontents [that’s you, dear reader] (some of which may be Mrs. Epstein under one of her multiple Internet personalities)…” and why would he “team up with unscrupulous individuals?”

Wesley ends his libelous letter by claiming “this letter is an attempt to restore peace. It is an olive branch…

I end this true article by asking you whether Vision Forum’s letter has really extended an olive branch or actually fired both barrels of a shotgun?

How I Became a Two-Fold Son of Hell

And How God Bestowed His Grace Upon a Pharisee Like Me

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Matt. 23:15

The word “Pharisee” means one who is separated for a life of purity. Oh, that described my intentions to the fullest as a believer. I wanted to be pure and holy. The Pharisees probably began with pure motives and good intentions. They so desired to please God. They wanted to love God with all their heart. They wanted to obey Him in everything they did. But even though the Law of Moses was rather stringent, there were still many areas of freedom, such as what it meant not to do any work on the Sabbath. So the Pharisees began to add to the Law, to make it even stricter than what God had intended, even going so far as to prescribe where one could spit on the Sabbath, for example: It was fine to spit on a rock because the spittle just sat there, but if you spat on the dirt, the dirt had to absorb the liquid, so that was considered work. Oh, we look at that now and laugh, but do we do the same things in our desire to be pure and holy? I know I do.

When we are truly sold out for Christ, it is a wonderful thing. It is a goal worth obtaining to be everything that God wants us to be. But in so doing, sometimes we lose our first love. Sometimes the pursuit of holiness begins to take precedence over our relationship with Christ. Sometimes the rules begin to rule in our own hearts. Sometimes we forget the grace of God toward us while we were yet sinners and we “work” to please the Lord. We don’t even realize it is “work.” We think that we are pleasing the Lord by living a life of holiness and obedience to him. And we may be. If our motives are right.

When we see a pattern or principle in Scripture, that can be a good thing, if we understand how to properly use it. There is much to be learned from these biblical principles. But there is a world of difference between using a biblical principle as a guide and using the principle to define sin. Some Christians have falsely elevated principles in Scripture to make them the equivalent of commands. When we see a principle in Scripture, I think it is intended to help us make wise decisions. Often people will call them guiding principles, and that they should be. They should be there to guide us in life, but they are not there as a rule of law for us. We get into trouble when we elevate even Scripturally-based guiding principles into a rule of law for our life.

When we discover principles in Scripture, we make our own preferences in life based upon these principles. After a while of living out these preferences, they may start to become convictions for us. After having our own convictions for a while, they can then be falsely elevated into convictions that we put upon others, often without ever meaning to do so. When we expect others to follow these same convictions, we elevate what started out as merely a guiding principle for life to the status of a command or law for us. To violate this “law” now becomes a sin. Sometimes these violations are even then elevated to the level of being an excommunicable offense. How did we get from a basic guiding biblical principle all the way to an excommunicable offense? I saw this happen in my own life.

These last few months were excruciatingly painful for me as I realized what I had bought into all these years. Until very recently, I was bound by legalism, but I didn’t know it. I have just recently had many “convictions” stripped away from me as I saw that God does not give us explicit commands in His Word regarding these areas. I am not advocating antinomianism in any way whatsoever; we are under the Law of Christ, and as such, there are plenty of commands for us to obey. We just need to be very cautious not to elevate principles to the place of a direct command.

Having been a part of the Patriarchy movement for seven years, even after our excommunication, I was surprised when some here started challenging this movement. These were not egalitarians or feminists, and they appeared to believe in biblical roles, so I didn’t understand what they had against patriarchy. I was suddenly faced with the realization that Patriarchy may not be as biblical as I’d always believed it to be. I loved the lifestyle of Patriarchy, in spite of my story.

When I first set about to write about patriarchy, my thoughts were that I would start by listing everything in patriarchy that I found to be biblical. The second part of that series was going to focus on what seemed to be hyper-patriarchy, or extra-biblical. As I read through the “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy,” I thought that, overall, they sounded fine. There were a few minor areas of concern, however, so I decided to look up those verses to see why that tenet was stated in that particular way. Expecting to find biblical language being used in the tenets, I was surprised to find that the first few Scriptures I looked up did not provide the biblical support I anticipated. As I looked into the Scriptural support further and further, I began to see a pattern emerge, a pattern of tenets without the requisite biblical support. Still, I reasoned to myself, these tenets aren’t really that bad in and of themselves. They just need a little more Scriptural support. Even after writing out all the lack of biblical basis found in the “Tenets,” I was blind to what it all meant.

I believe these tenets were originally written in 2001, which was a time when I found Patriarchy to be much more loving and not nearly as extreme as it is currently. While I am sure that many patriarchists still believe these Tenets as written, how they play out in real life has become a huge concern to me.

When it comes to God’s Word, truth is all important. I am sold out for the truth of God’s Word, even if it means that I have to make changes in life in order to line up with the truth of God’s Word. We naturally gravitate toward positions that favor our personal inclinations. Sometimes we do so without searching the Scriptures for ourselves. But a diligent search for the truth of God’s Word demands that we be willing to let God rip away our emotional attachments.

When we first attended a patriarchy church, I was attracted to the like-mindedness of the other families there. I had always had a strong desire to live in a Christian community with other people who believed the same things I did, who lived a similar lifestyle, and who worked and lived and fellowshipped together on a regular basis. I wanted more, so much more, than what a normal church has to offer. I wanted that New Testament church where they had all things in common, where they broke bread together daily, where they met together in homes to study and fellowship. I wanted to be with people who believed in following the roles for men and women that God laid out for us in His Word. I desired to be with families who wanted to stay together as a family and weren’t separated every time we walked through the doors of a church. I really wanted to meet other families who believed in a reasonable amount of training and discipline for their children, so that children are a pleasure to be around, and not terrors.

I also crave structure. I’d been in churches where they just “let the Holy Spirit lead,” and we never knew what was going to happen from week to week. That was too touchy-feely for me and I created my own boundaries instead. Although I don’t need liturgies, I enjoy a highly-structured format to the service. I like predictability. I thrived under the discipline of military life and was drawn to memorizing all the rules and regulations. I carried that desire over into real life as well, feeling safe inside my man-made boundaries. As long as I could see a solid reason for them, I was willing to submit to all kinds of rules, and delighted in having that same kind of structure at home. I never felt I was too extreme in all this, as I didn’t lay out a schedule for every adult and child in my family for every fifteen minutes of the day, as did some of my friends. But I still advocated basic time management.

So I didn’t know anything about Patriarchy when we first started attending this church, but I was so desperate for a “godly” church that I was willing to follow just about any set of rules in order to be a part of one. In fact, had we not gone here, I was ready to go to the Mennonite church the following week. I told my daughter that I was willing to give up my wardrobe of normal clothes and wear plain, drab dresses, no make-up or jewelry, and I would even wear a head-covering, if I could just find a godly church. When the elders started preaching on different aspects of Patriarchy and these different tenets would come up in everyday conversation, I thought this was what was necessary in order to be holy. I had previously thought that maybe I was the only person in the world who was concerned with holiness, but once I started attending this patriarchy church, I realized that I didn’t even begin to meet their standards of holiness. I arrived there full of pride at my own holiness, but I soon had that pride dashed, as I suddenly felt myself fall to the bottom of the barrel, spiritually, in comparison to these other godly families there.

I worked real hard to make the necessary changes to fit in. I wasn’t about to change just to fit in, though, so I set about to pray and asked God to reveal to me all the sin in my life. My husband did the same. Together, we began to listen to dozens of sermons by various speakers about this new kind of lifestyle. After each tape, we would discuss the message as a family, evaluating whether it lined up with Scripture or not. If we agreed that it was biblical, we would cry and repent and make major changes in our family. Looking back now, I can see that nearly all these messages were based on biblical principles, often taken out of context, rather than on direct commands of Scripture. We listened to most of these on a 6,000 mile cross-country trip, so we sometimes listened to three or four sermons a day. That meant three or four major changes in our family a day. That was pure hell for our thirteen year old daughter and she hated all the changes, but she eventually just got used to them, since everyone else at church lived the same lifestyle. So, it wasn’t too long before we were on par with the rest of the families at church regarding Patriarchy or, at least, as much as we could figure out without having it demonstrated to us. I did have some concerns about the level of submission that was taught and the emphasis on not allowing girls to attend college and some of the extremes for the women, such as not being allowed to introduce my own parents at church, but for the most part, they were small differences that I could live with. Or so I thought.

Years later, I told my story. And I was still dedicated to Patriarchy. In fact, I said as much in many of my comments here. I wasn’t even ready to give it up when I posted that series of three articles exposing how extra-biblical “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” really are. But God was ready for me to nail that coffin shut on that part of my life, so I believe that He led Corrie to post some articles here by Jonathan Lindvall. I said I didn’t want any off-topic comments on the “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” exposés, so I had some complaints about letting those comments stand. But as I read through those comments by Jonathan Lindvall, I suddenly realized that while the words on “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” sounded polished and full of vision, what Jonathan Lindvall was talking about was what my real life was like in Patriarchy. That hit me like a ton of bricks and I was forced to examine the fruit of Patriarchy in my life.

But something really significant happened along the way, something that made me willing to examine Patriarchy. The more I think about this particular experience in my life, the more I am able to empathize with those who are still caught up in Patriarchy, especially hyper-Patriarchy, and the more I understand why they just don’t see what we are talking about. As I share a really personal part of my heart with you now, I hope that this will help us to be able to pray for those who are still blinded to extra-biblical teachings of hyper-patriarchy.

As many of you know, Mike is my Bible study teacher. But we did not get off to a very good start last March when I argued incessantly with him about the definition of the words “observe” and “keep.” I don’t know why Mike gave me a second chance, but he began to systematically teach me about the Law of Moses in the Bible. I didn’t get it. I liked being under the Law, all the while insisting that I wasn’t actually under the Law, but was merely following the Law. We spent hours and hours and hours going through Galatians, but I just didn’t understand what Mike was trying to say. At one point, in exasperation, I said, “Do you know how many times I’ve read Galatians in the last several days?” Mike merely responded, “Not enough,” so we went back to the drawing board. I averaged 8-12 hours of Bible study a day for weeks, trying to find the truth. I knew my position was wrong by this point, but I wasn’t ready to concede. I had to be convinced of the truth; I had to see it for myself. So we studied many, many passages on the Law. And I still didn’t get it.

I woke up on March 25 this year at 3 in the morning with two words racing through my mind: authority and jurisdiction. All of a sudden, I realized that the Law has no authority over me because I am not under its jurisdiction. (I realize that this is a very simplified version of hundreds of pages of teaching. Mike also taught me later which law I am under.) Mike had been saying that all along, but my mind was blinded. As Mike encouraged me to go back over all the previous lessons again, I suddenly realized that I understood them all clearly. They were as obvious now as the nose on my face. What changed? Why did those two words keep my stomach in knots for weeks? Why did this Bible study consume my whole life? Why was I so driven to study about the Law of Moses, of all things?

I didn’t understand why then, but as I recently studied II Corinthians 3 again, a passage that Mike taught me in great detail previously, I saw something that explained the radical change in my life from that day I woke up shouting “Authority! Jurisdiction!” This passage is talking about the veil that Moses wore over his face, even as the glory was passing away, the glory that came from the Old Covenant, also called the ministry of death or the ministry of condemnation. Then it talks about how much more glorious the New Covenant is. Now look at verses 14-16:

But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

When I saw this two weeks ago, I noticed something new to me. Both thoughts are repeated twice, which gives meaning to the context. Before we look at that, though, we need to understand what the veil does. Verse 14 states that their minds were blinded and then goes on to show why. The veil over the heart represents a blind mind, one that cannot understand the Scriptures. The first idea expressed here is “the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament” and “when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.” Obviously God is not telling us that just reading the Old Testament causes a veil to remain unlifted. That wouldn’t make sense. The second part tells us that it is specifically when Moses, or the Law of Moses, is read. But does reading the Old Testament or even the Law of Moses cause a veil to be over our hearts? Let’s look at the other thought here to find out. Now we see that “the veil is taken away in Christ” and “when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” When we turn to the Lord, when we are in Christ, the veil is taken away and our minds are no longer blind. Would it mean that when we became a Christian that we would still have a veil over our heart when we read the Law of Moses? No. Of course not. So, it seems to me that since the whole chapter is talking about comparing and contrasting the Old Covenant, that ministry of death and condemnation, with the New Covenant, the ministry of the Spirit and of righteousness, that that contrast is continued in these verses. When we turn to Christ, we are under the New Covenant; we are no longer under the Old Covenant. The veil of the Old Covenant is taken away in Christ. The veil of the ministry of death and condemnation is lifted when one turns to the Lord of the New Covenant.

So what am I saying? I now know that I lived under the Law of Moses. I tried to keep that Law. Even though that Law had no authority over me, no jurisdiction over me, I wanted to obey that Law of Moses anyway. I put myself under the Law of Moses and that is what this passage is referring to when it says “when Moses is read.” And so my mind was blinded. I could not understand the Scriptures. I thought I understood them, but Mike kept assuring me that I did not. And then, all of a sudden, that veil was lifted and my mind was no longer blind. I could see! I could understand! When? When I turned to the Lord. The passage tells us that the veil is lifted when we turn to the Lord, that our minds are no longer blind when we are in Christ.

Was I truly saved before that day? Maybe. Maybe not. I thought I was. I loved God with all my heart and I desired to please him. But I know of another Pharisee who loved God with all his heart and desired to obey God also — Saul, before he became Paul. And after his conversion, it was as if scales fell from his eyes and his mind was no longer blinded. He, too, was living under that old Law, the ministry of death and condemnation.

Legalism brings a lot of condemnation. Legalism is adding to what God has told us to do. Legalism places heavy burdens on us that God never intended us to carry. Legalism is the burden of the Pharisees. Just as Saul was a Pharisee before he came to Christ, so I was a Pharisee. The verse I began with in this article says that Pharisees make their converts into two-fold sons of hell. That simply means that the new Pharisees are twice as fit for judgment as those who taught them to be so legalistic. Why am I so dedicated to exposing extra-biblical Patriarchy? Because I am concerned about all the two-fold sons of hell that are being converted along the way. And sometimes, when we overcome particular sins of our past, we become zealous with a zeal against what we ourselves were bound up in. I was bound up in Patriarchy and I was bound up in legalism, and now God is birthing a zealousness in me to help free those who are bound, but don’t even realize it. I don’t have all the answers for those who are in bondage, but I’m willing to share what I know so far. Liberty is too sweet to keep it all to myself!

Doug Phillips and Brian Abshire Team Up Against Cult-Watch Journal Article

I think Doug likes giving me more things to write about. I just couldn’t pass up this latest blog entry from Doug:

(Here is the original article Doug is referring to.)

How to Respond to a Tale-Bearer: Dr. Brian Abshire Models an Apologetic of Sound Reasoning and Christian Charity for Family Reformers

A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector, with the authority and mandate to direct his household in paths of obedience to God. (Gen. 18:19; Eph. 5:22 – 6:4) A man’s authority in the home should be exercised with gentleness, grace, and love as a servant-leader, following the example of Jesus Christ. Leadership is a stewardship from God. (Ps. 103:13; Mal. 3:17; Matt. 11:29-30; Col. 3:21; 1 Pet. 3:7) The authority of fathers is limited by the law of God and the lawful authority of church and state. Christian fathers cannot escape the jurisdiction of church and state and must be subject to both. (Rom. 13:1ff.; Eph. 5:21; 6:4; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13ff.) Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy

The Bible rejects the egalitarian doctrine of feminism. It expressly teaches hierarchy within the home, including the servant-like, Christ-honoring leadership of fathers. It expressly teaches differences of roles and responsibilities between men and women (although there are many areas of overlap). (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6)

The Bible does not, however, teach (a) the subjugation of women under the oppression of men; (b) the right of parents to brutalize or dominate children; or (c) the inferiority of women to men.

Nor does the Bible teach or encourage the notion that (a) women are barred from Christian ministry; (b) that the mind of a woman is inferior to that of a man; or (c) that women should not benefit from advanced training and higher education.

Yet the fact that there are no orthodox Evangelical ministries or preachers of note (of whom I am aware) who teach such things does not prevent immature, hateful, or merely misguided individuals from leveling all sorts of fantastical and sometimes humorous charges against ministries who fight for the biblical family and hold to historical Reformation views of male leadership within the church and home. (See the The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy, Marriage and Family in John Calvin’s Geneva, The Role of Women in the Church, An Exegetical Defense of Women as Keepers at Home, Making Wise Decisions About College and Life After Home School, The Blessed Marriage, Discipline: The Biblical Doctrine, etc., etc., etc.)

We at Vision Forum have raised serious objections to: (1) the working-woman philosophy of the late 20th century; (2) the cultural depravity of the modern university; (3) the feministic philosophy of the anti-complementarian, pro-egalitarian household leadership; (4) the culture of death and self-gratification, with its emphasis on closing the fruitful womb; and (5) attempts by liberals or vendetta-driven individuals to viciously mock fruitful mothers as baby machines, etc.

While raising these objections, we have also discussed and published material addressing: (1) alternatives to traditional college for both men and women; (2) the importance of cultivating the minds of both men and women to the fullest (for example, training both to be vigorous entrepreneurs); (4) the necessity of holding abusive husbands (and wives) accountable through the local church; and (5) the biblical imperative that men act nobly and sacrificially for women and children first. (See So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God, The Wise Woman’s Guide to Blessing her Husband’s Vision, Strength and Dignity for Daughters, Defending the Fatherless: How the Body of Christ Can Help Single Mothers, Suffer the Children: The Blessing of Imperfect Children, Raising Maidens of Virtue, etc., etc., etc.)

These positions may be distasteful to some, but they are neither novel nor innovative.

Furthermore, we have stood with those men and women who are part of the growing chorus of concerned Christians who are exposing the deception perpetrated by “Christian” leftists, Marxists and/or feminists of many shades, as well as Internet assassins, dishonorable tale-bearing gossips and blog gangsters who have unscrupulously attempted to silence real debate and lodge their opposition by aggressively bringing a false witness against defenders of biblical principles of patriarchy and by attributing to them views which they do not believe and attitudes which they detest, as part of an effort to objectify individuals by painting Christian mothers as mindless drones and fathers as wife-denigrating tyrants.

Such behavior is nothing new to Bible-based reformation movements. Within the last fifty years alone we have seen similar tactics lodged against six-day-creationists, home educators, advocates of the fruitful womb and parents concerned about the modern birth control ethic, and others seeking to recapture the historical biblical principles of orthodoxy and orthopraxy embraced by Church fathers and Reformers alike.

And we believe that the message of Scripture is as true and applicable today as it was when the words were first penned by divine inspiration:

These six things doth the LORD hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

But Christ’s message is not merely condemnation for the sowers of discord, the gossip-mongers, and the dividers of the brethren. Scripture exhorts a holy boldness for every mother and father who must endure the revilings of the Sandballats and Tobiahs (Nehemiah 4:1-7) of their day, while they as visionary parents seek to rebuild the walls of their family for the glory and honor of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel message:

Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. (Nehemiah 4:14)

Towards the Self-Government of Our Collective Tongues

Cults do exist. They are wretched abominations, which rightly should be denounced. But if people are going to raise the “C” word publicly, they had best be prepared to defend such a charge before the world, and if found guilty of defaming a legitimate work of Christ, they must be prepared to face the consequences which are rightly due to those who divide brethren and slander the servants of the Lord. Doug’s Blog, August, 2005

I wrote that comment more than two years ago, and I stand by it today. I stand by it because as a former attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, I have defended parents whose families and basic parental rights have been placed in jeopardy by reckless, talebearers who throw around such language before the world. (I watched innocent mothers and fathers undergo tremendous persecution at the hands of professing Christians who believed that it was weird and cultic to home educate.) I stand by it because, as Geoff Botkin pointed out, it is the tool of “infantile Christians” to send those brothers with whom they differ to the coliseums of the 21st century. I stand by it because one need only watch the news to see the comparisons that some in the Press are trying to make between Christians who teach role distinctions between men and women and militant extremist groups like the Taliban. Nor do we have to think hard to remember at least one case where American children were sent to their deaths by the Clinton administration because their parents were part of real cult groups.

Finally, I stand by my statement of more than two years ago because our ministry receives too many reports of mothers and fathers who are mocked, belittled, and accused of being “cultic” by fellow Christians, because these parents home school by conviction, or actively desire the fruit of the womb, or spank their children, or educate their college-age daughters at home instead of thousands of miles away at a defiling university, or embrace courtship and betrothal over the dating model when it comes to their children’s marriages, or believe men should be leaders in the church and the home, etc., etc..

This brings me to the heart of the article before you:

For all of the above reasons, I applaud men like Dr. Brian Abshire who help the Christian public understand the tactics of “infantile Christians” who lightly use the “C” word to discredit those Christians with whom they personally disagree.

I applaud him for many reasons, one of which is Geoff Botkin’s point: If men like Dr. Abshire do not take the time to address the reckless public name-calling of undisciplined, professing Christians, tension within the Body of Christ is likely to escalate. If the Body of Christ does not learn to control our collective tongues and be a self-governing household of God for the glory of Jesus Christ, there could be very hard days ahead of us. History is replete with stories of the inhumanity of professing Christians against professing Christians. It may very well be that the immature or unscrupulous “Christians” — filled with self-righteousness, intolerant of differences that clearly fall within the pale of orthodoxy — will be the ones who pave the way for a new wave of statist tyranny and destructive family intervention. And if the Lord is merciful, and none of this ever happens, we would be foolish to believe that there will be no spiritual consequences on a Church so immature that the viciousness among professing members towards each other exceeds anything directed at the world itself.

Dr. Brian Abshire Helps Christian Students, Parents, and Pastors Model a Charitable Response to Tale-Bearers and False Accusers of the Brethren

Enter Dr. Brian Abshire — pastor of Highlands Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Abshire recognizes that the plague of talebearing is a heartache to the Church, and that those who use the Internet to traffic in tale-bearing, as well as those who receive the tale-bearing, are guilty of breaking the Ninth Commandment.

He finds especially distasteful talebearers who use words like “cult” or “cultic” as a fear-mongering tactic and to attack the credibility of ministries, mothers, fathers, and pastors who reject feminism and hold to historic Reformation doctrines of the family. In fact, he finds their behavior sufficiently distasteful that he has authored a devastating response to one of them.

In the course of his article, Dr. Abshire defends himself, Vision Forum Ministries, and, indirectly, innocent men and women who embrace the same principles of family leadership, honor, and generational faithfulness advocated by the Reformers and embodied in documents like this.

In my view, Dr. Abshire’s article is a charitable, logical, and an accurate response to an individual who has set aside fundamental rules of brotherly conduct and journalistic integrity to traffic in accusations which are characterized by imprecision and falsehood.

And because this sort of behavior is becoming so very commonplace — especially on the Internet — articles like this are instructive. Dr. Abshire has given parents, pastors, and students a helpful model of how to respond to reckless, uncharitable, ungoverned Christian brothers who err by using the Internet and other means to bring a false witness against their neighbor in violation of the Ninth Commandment.

Specifically, Dr. Abshire’s rebuttal is quite instructive because he exposes the numerous basic fallacies, errors in logic, research omissions, unbrotherly conduct, lack of elementary principles of academic and journalistic integrity, and outright falsehoods employed by an individual who was unwilling to retract his accusations after being confronted in writing and verbally. And Dr. Abshire makes his case with manly firmness, but genuine Christian charity, ever willing to give the benefit of the doubt to an accuser who was most certainly not willing to do the same for him.

Below are just a few samples of the categories addressed by Dr. Abshire in his response:

Dr. Abshire on Equating Personal Differences with Cultic Teaching

…you declare Christian brothers to be teaching “false doctrine” when in reality, they are simply teaching something that you may not personally believe. You then imply that they are “cultic” using a pejorative term that you deliberately associate with heretics and false religion. This is NOT fair, equitable or honest; it is propaganda — it is the straw man argument. Simply because YOU disagree with an interpretation of the Scriptures (and as will be shown later, an “application” of the Scriptures) does not necessarily mean that those who propose it are “false teachers.”

Dr. Abshire on Accusation without Attestation

…most of your essay makes accusations without attestation; in other words, you SAY that someone believes “such and such” but provide no actual quotes from essays, articles, lectures, books, etc., where the person actually makes such statements. And since when you DO actually make an attribution, as in the case of my unnamed essay and you leave out important qualifying statements or ignore the context, it leaves me wondering just how accurately you have represented other people’s views.

Abshire on Talebearing, the “C” Word, and Willful Misrepresentation

You take statements out of context, ignore qualifying statements that actually DENY what you say we believe and implicitly call us “cultic” when our views are Right Square in the middle of historic Christian orthodoxy. I am afraid that I must say that it appears you either did not understand the issues, or you deliberately misrepresented our views for some reason…My point is that you declare Christian brothers to be teaching “false doctrine” when in reality, they are simply teaching something that you may not personally believe. You then imply that they are “cultic” using a pejorative term that you deliberately associate with heretics and false religion.

Dr. Abshire on the Duty to Perform Basic Research

There is a recurring problem in your essay; a failure to do basic research…It is basic scholarship that if a statement is controversial, especially critiquing another person’s view, you MUST show that this is what the person actually said. This you fail to do throughout your essay.

Dr. Abshire on the Misrepresentation of Actual Citations

…you write, ‘…women cannot be trusted as decision makers but are at their best when micro-managed by their fathers or husbands.’ You then give a long quote which has NOTHING to do with your assessment. The quote simply does not say what you said it says. In fact, the quote rejects autonomy, especially in regards to a girl following her ‘heart’ and affirms her trust in her father to help her make decisions on some basis other than emotions. Nowhere does this quotation imply, necessarily or otherwise that fathers are to “micro-mange” their daughters or that women are not trusted to make decisions on their own…Therefore, the question becomes this; if when you DO give an actual citation, your assessment is clearly contrary to fact, how can anyone trust your assessments when you do not provide the citations? You either horribly misunderstood the quotation, or you deliberately misrepresented it.

Dr. Abshire on Historic Doctrines vs. Modern Feminist Assumptions

…the view that you propose here is at best about forty years old, originating in Liberal universities and mainline theological seminaries in the late 1960’s and filtering into evangelical ones in the 1970’s…

Dr. Abshire on Tale Bearing, the “C” Word, and the Duty of False Accusers to Repent

Will you repent of your false accusations, or maintain them? Please remember-this is not an attack against you… you have publicly accused us of being cultic and teachers of false doctrine… If we do not believe it, then you have born false witness against us, breaking the Ninth Commandment and slandering the brethren. Therefore, you need to recant here, publicly and confess your sin to your readers.

The War against 1900 Years of Established Church Orthodoxy

Multi-generational faithfulness is not a new concept. Male leadership in the family, church, and state is not a new concept (Ex 18:21ff; Prov. 31:23; 1 Cor. 11:3ff; Eph. 5:23). Biblical femininity(Prov. 31; Eph. 5:22-24; 1Tim. 2:9ff), women as “keepers at home” (Titus 2:5ff) and helpmeets to their husbands is not a new concept. The duty of fathers to protect their daughters until they are “given in marriage”(Dt. 7:1-3; 1 Cor. 7:37-38) is not a new concept. The importance of seeking the Lord for children as His reward is not a new concept(Ps. 127:1-5). All of these are important elements of principles of biblical patriarchy.

These are not new concepts, nor are they concepts rooted in cultural traditions or pagan precedents. We maintain that they are exegetically defensible, biblical concepts rooted in the creation order itself, communicated through the dominion mandate and subsequent law revelations of God, and reflective of His transcendent character and eternal righteousness.

And the weight of church history and biblical scholarship favors these understandings.

Critics of these principles who claim to be Christian within the historical Reformation tradition, but who don’t want to be called “feminist,” have their work cut out for them. Because, in the end, they have to pick a fight with scholars and teachers far more astute than most of the best ones alive today: They have to pick a fight with the likes of John Calvin, John Knox, Martin Luther, and Martin Bucer— just to name a few. (Frankly, the positions adovcated by Vision Forum Ministries are mild and tempered compared to some of the conclusions advocated by these men.)

But these critics appear disinclined to do so. At least no credible individuals have done so to date. True, there is a spate of liberal university scholarship arguing for an anti-hierarchical, anti-patriarchal, anti-complementarian, pro-egalitarian view of Scripture. (And much of it follows the rules of civil dialogue and discourse.) But most of these individuals do not claim to be within the pale of the historic, conservative, reformation or evangelical tradition. They are liberals, and they are honest about that fact. They are honest about their feminism. Some of them are even excellent scholars — like Gordon Fee (Author of numerous books on evangelical feminism). I just happen to disagree with them.

My criticism goes out to those who pretend to be neither feminist, nor liberals, but who have adopted the premises of both and who resort to the type of disreputable tactics, which Dr. Abshire has rightly censured. These are the half-cocked and sometimes agenda-driven commentators. From such we have come to expect an avoidance of documented, confirmable facts, in favor of ad hominum attacks, caricature, and whopper stories which appear designed to present as freaks and cultic those proponents of family reformation who sympathize with the type of ideas summarized in the first paragraph of this article.

At this point, more and more people realize that there is a big difference between a sloppy diatribe, on the one hand, and a real argument marshaled by reputable sources who have done their homework, on the other. Brian Abshire’s exhaustive refutation of an episode of serious talebearing demonstrates that people who resort to shadowy tactics have disqualified themselves from the right to be taken seriously — at least until they clean up their act and turn over a new leaf.

Dr. Abshire’s article accomplishes one other important goal: It brings encouragement to fathers and sons, moms and daughters committed to family reformation — and there are many — who have been subject to unfair harassment or vicious talebearing. It should encourage them, not only because of his charitable spirit and reasoned argumentation, but because his article is a sign of what can be — reasoned, brotherly discourse for the glory of God.

Click here to view the article.

Vision Forum: The Biblical Picture of a Virtuous Woman Is Against a Woman Holding Civil Office

Part III:

In Proverbs 31:10-31, we are given the biblical picture of a woman who fears God and walks in His ways. The passage begins with a question: “Who can find a virtuous woman?” The question implies that such a woman is rare and precious, just like rubies. The description of the virtuous woman shows her to be an industrious, loving woman who devotes herself to the well-being of her husband and children. The center of her interest and the place of her ministry are in her home. God has called her to be “a keeper at home” (Titus 2:5), and she willingly and joyfully fulfills her calling to the great blessing of all who depend on her piety, wisdom, and homemaking skills.

Of great importance to the issue before us in this essay, are these words concerning her husband: “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land” (Prov. 31:23). The “gates” in Old Testament times referred to the place where the leaders of the city (i.e., “the elders of the land”) would gather to discuss community affairs, administer civil law, and judge in criminal and civil cases. The “gates,” therefore, is a reference to the “city hall,” the “capital building,” the “courthouse” or, in short, to the seat of civil government. The key for us is to note that, in the case of the virtuous woman, it is her husband who is active in the gates; the virtuous woman is not herself seated in the gates — she is active in her home. This should not surprise us, for the order of creation and the law of God establish the fact that men are to bear rule in civil government. The virtuous woman understands this, and takes the vital place that God has assigned her in the home and with her family; she does not try to intrude herself into a seat in the gates. However, we need to note that the virtuous woman’s works are to praised in the gates (Prov. 31:31). Her works are not in the gates, but they are to be praised in the gates; that is, those who are leaders in the community ought to recognize the great work that she is doing in support of the community by faithfully fulfilling her duties as a wife and mother (1 Tim. 2:15; 5:10, 14; Titus 2:3-5). This is her glorious work for the Lord and His kingdom. It is of the utmost importance!

Furthermore, it should be recognized that the virtuous woman does make her presence felt in community concerns. But it is through the influence that she has on her husband (and mature sons) that her wisdom and knowledge will help to direct the affairs of the community. Yes, it is her husband who sits in the gates, but his renown and ability as a civil leader is due, at least in part (if not largely), to her help and support. Yes, it is the husband who speaks and judges in the gates, but it is his wise and godly wife who is his chief counselor.

Let no one speak lightly or disparagingly of the woman’s appointed role and her service to Christ and His kingdom! And let no woman set aside the example of the virtuous woman and seek to sit in the gates with the rulers of the land. And let no Christian have any part in putting her there.

Vision Forum: The Biblical Qualifications for Civil Office Require Civil Leaders to Be Men

Part II of the same article by Bill Einwechter:

Every time the Scripture speaks to the subject of the necessary qualifications for those who will bear rule in the civil sphere, it always speaks in terms of men and never in terms of women. This is significant, and based on point number 1 above, it is not hard to understand. The consistent assumption of Scripture is that men are to be the civil magistrates; and, as we have seen, this is not based on culture but upon the created order. Since God is both Creator and Lawgiver there is never any contradiction between the created order and the law of God. And as creation establishes the headship of man in the civil sphere by means of man being created first and the woman being created for man, so the law of God sets the headship of man in the civil sphere by means of the stated qualifications for civil rulers. God set forth the essential qualifications for civil magistrates for all people and for all time when He spoke through Jethro to Moses: “Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers…” (Ex. 18:21; emphasis added). And Moses himself said to the people as they were about to choose their civil magistrates, “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you” (Deut. 1:13; emphasis added). Importantly, the word for “men” chosen by the Holy Spirit in both of these texts is the Hebrew, gender specific word for a man, i.e., a male as opposed to a female.

Furthermore, the directions that God gives concerning the establishment of a king in Israel requires that a man, and not a woman, be chosen (Deut. 17:14-20). The king was to be a “brother,” and he was not to “multiply wives to himself.” Clearly, a man is in view here. The law of God commands us, therefore, to choose men to be our rulers! Likewise, in every other passage of Scripture dealing with the civil magistrate and his qualifications and duties, men are in view (2 Sam. 23:3; Neh. 7:2; Prov. 16:10; 20:8, 28; 29:14; 31:4-5; Rom. 13:1-6; etc.). Therefore, the standard of God’s law that men be our civil rulers upholds the order of creation. God has spoken to us in His Word, and there He commands us to set men, not women, into positions of civil authority. To consider these texts (Ex. 18:21; Deut. 1:13; 17:14-20) irrelevant in regards to what they say about setting men in civil office, would logically require us to consider the other qualifications listed as being of no account as well. The rejection of these Scriptures would leave us with no biblical standard for citizens in choosing their rulers. This may suit some, but for those who are the disciples of Jesus Christ and love the law of God, such a position is abhorrent.

Vision Forum: The Headship of Man Disqualifies a Woman for Civil Office

Taken from this article by Bill Einwechter from Vision Forum Ministries:

The scriptural revelation of the creation of man and woman, and the scriptural commentary on their creation establishes the headship of the man over the woman. The text of Genesis 2:7 and 2:18-24 teaches us that man was made first, and then the woman was made to be man’s helper and companion. The Bible instructs us that this order of creation was by God’s design, and that it establishes the positional priority of the man over the woman in regards to authority and leadership. In setting forth the authority of the man over the woman in the context of the local church, Paul appeals to the creation order saying, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13). In another passage, Paul states the divinely ordained order of authority and headship: “But I would have you to know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Therefore, the Apostle Paul teaches that God has decreed that the order of authority be as follows: God-Christ-Man-Woman. Each one in this “chain of command” is under the headship (i.e., authority) of the one preceding him or her. Later on in this same text, Paul, as in 1 Timothy 2, calls upon the order of creation to show man’s headship over the woman. He says, “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9). The Bible explicitly states that the man has headship over the woman, and that this headship is not based on cultural factors, or even the fall; rather, it is based on the created order established by God Himself.

Now it is also plain in the Bible that God has ordained that the order of the headship of man must be maintained in each governing institution set up by God. There are three primary institutions established by the Lord for the ordering of human affairs. These are the family, the church, and the state. Each of these institutions has authority to govern within its appointed sphere. We could say, then, that there are three “governments” in the world: family government, church government, and state government. In each of these governments, God has commanded that men bear rule. The man has headship in the family (Eph. 5:22-24), the church (1 Tim. 2:11-14; 1 Cor. 14:34-35), and also by implication and command, in the state as well (1 Cor. 11:3; Ex. 18:21; see point 2 below).

Could it be that the man has headship only in the family and the church but not in the state? No, this could not be, lest you make God the author of confusion, and have Him violate in the state the very order He established at creation and has revealed in Holy Scripture! If one is going to argue for the acceptability of women bearing rule in the civil sphere, then to be consistent, he or she also needs to argue for the acceptability of women bearing rule in the family and the church. Now it is true that some attempt to do just that; but their denial of male headship for the family, church, and state is really a rejection of the Word of God and is a repudiation of God’s created order. And it is not sufficient to contend that it is acceptable to support a woman for civil ruler when she is the best candidate, unless you are also prepared to argue that it is acceptable to advocate a woman for the office of elder because she is better suited than the available men in the church; and unless you are also prepared to say that the wife should rule over her husband if she is better equipped to lead than her husband is.

Vision Forum: God Does Not Allow Women to Vote

Lynn brought this up in a comment and I wanted to show the entire context of this statement on the Vision Forum website that “God does not allow women to vote.”

Until the twentieth century, Americans almost universally held to this doctrine of representation in some form or the other. The reason why women were not allowed to vote had nothing to do with women being considered “inferior” or “too emotional” (these values arose during the Victorian era and were themselves theologically and socially deviant) but rather because the husband and father was ASSUMED to represent the family to the broader community. By definition, there could only be ONE representative of the family just as there could only be ONE representative of the Human Race to God!

However, by the end of the 19th century, American Christians had largely stopped thinking in theological terms. Instead, an emotive, subjective religious “experience” (called Pietism”) emphasizing individual conversion replaced the comprehensive Christian worldview of the Reformation. As Christians failed to think biblically about all of life, they were unable to withstand either the new philosophies gaining ground in the universities or deal effectively with the changing social conditions of the Industrial Revolution. By the 20th century, American Christians saw the “height” of Christian activism as banning alcohol while at the same time affirming a woman’s right to vote. Both ideas were unmitigated disasters; God has not allowed the civil magistrate to outlaw wine and God does not allow women to vote (cf. 1 Tim 2:11ff). But by ignoring God’s law, American Christians both destroyed their own credibility (the Prohibition era is STILL a matter of public ridicule and repealing prohibition set the legal precedence for pornography, sodomy and the acceptance of other moral failures) and the integrity of own families.

In regards to a woman’s right to vote; if husband and wife are truly “one flesh” and the husband is doing his duty to represent the family to the wider community, then what PRACTICAL benefit does allowing women to vote provide? If husband and wife agree on an issue, then one has simply doubled the number of votes; but the result is the same. Women’s voting only makes a difference when the husband and wife disagree; a wife, who does not trust the judgment of her husband, can nullify his vote. Thus, the immediate consequence is to enshrine the will of the individual OVER the good of the family thus creating divisions WITHIN the family.

From Doug’s Blog: The World Needs Him

From Doug’s Blog today:

 

Critic to Mrs. Howard Phillips: “You’re having another baby. Don’t you know that the world has too many children already?”

Mrs. Howard Phillips: “The world is in need of my children.”

That sums it up. Thank God for mothers who see the potential for changing the world which lies in the lives of the children God gives them.

Christian mothers and fathers, listen to Peggy Phillips—the world needs your children!

Read the article and then notice why Doug thinks women are important, and who he is really complimenting. What humility.

Thanks to Doug Phillips, Cult-Watch Journal Experiences a First

I recently wrote about an article that appeared in the Midwest Christian Outreach Journal entitled, “Who Will Be First In The Kingdom?” The article is an exposé on several of the unbiblical, extrabiblical and legalistic doctrines being pushed by Doug Phillips via The Vision Forum and Vision Forum Ministries.

The author, Don Veinot, gave me permission to quote from his article. However, I was not at liberty to post the entire article itself. Even if I had been given permission, I probably wouldn’t have done so. Instead, what I wanted to do was to encourage Christians to subscribe to the hardcopy edition of the MCOI Journal. This is a ministry that deserves the support of many Christians, and especially those who are concerned for how legalism and Phariseeism have infiltrated the church, thereby undermining the doctrines of grace.

For a number of years, Midwest Christian Outreach has been exposing cults, as well as harmful, legalistic Christian leaders, such as Bill Gothard. Don Veinot has also co-authored an outstanding book on Gothardism, A Matter Of Basic Principles. I’ve been reading this book myself and have been astounded to see just how similar so many of Doug Phillips’ teachings are to Bill Gothard’s. I’ve known for some time that Doug has been heavily influenced by Gothard, but Don Veinot’s book really makes it too apparent for me.

Don also recently posted an article on the Midwest Christian Outreach blog, entitled, Doug Phillips — New Paganism?

Don just contacted me to let me know how pleased he’s been by the response to his article on Doug Phillips, “Who Will Be First In The Kingdom?” In fact, he told me that it’s been the single most popular and most requested article that MCOI has ever published in the twelve years they’ve been publishing their journal. My hope is that this will serve to encourage MCOI to publish additional articles exposing the legalism of Doug Phillips.

Greetings Jennifer,

As you are aware, we had an MCOI first with this issue of the MCOI Journal. We do not put the current issue on line until the next issue is released. However, we have been contacted by a number of people, lay people, pastors and seminary professors who have read the article on Doug Phillips and Vision Forum or G12 and need to refer others to it right away. Since we are here to serve the Body of Christ the simplest and most efficient way seemed to be to put it on line which we did yesterday.

Blessings,

Don

Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc.
L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr., President
www.midwestoutreach.org

Here is another letter by Don Veinot to Cindy Kunsman:

Dear Cynthia,

I have not only been surprised at the responses on this latest Journal on the Doug Phillips/Vision Forum article but also from the recent blog I did on him. I am receiving emails and phone calls from pastors and seminary professors expressing their appreciation that we would take this on. It is all a bit humbling to me. I am also being swamped by Christians attending churches that are tied in to Phillips teachings. They are desperate for information as they watch their churches split apart by this.

I received a letter from Doug Phillips personal assistant answering the questions that we had sent to them a few times prior to publishing the article. They mailed it rather than responding to the email and said that it was just brought to their attention. It sounds like they are getting heat from their followers about the current Journal article on him.

I am really thankful for your support. It is especially critical at this point, due to the 25% shortfall in the fiscal year that just ended. I know that God is able to raise up the needed funds with special contributions and we are seeking that He will. Thank you for your prayers to that end.

Don Veinot

Doug Phillips’ Parallel Universe of Reformed Legalism

Peddling Legalism as “Reformed Theology”

“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

God has been using many of my commenters to help push me into becoming a Berean. I still have a long way to go, but I’m excited about the things I’m discovering. As a direct result of this blog, I’ve also made some dear friends. By studying the Word together, those friends have also provoked me into looking deep into the perfect law of liberty. I especially want to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to our Bible study teacher, Mike, whose teachings have exposed a number of harmful, unbiblical and extra-biblical doctrines in my own life. I haven’t made Mike’s life easy. I know there are many times that I have frustrated and annoyed him. But Mike has always shown himself to be a gentleman and a scholar. I will always be indebted to him. Thanks, Mike.

In the past several months, I’ve found myself having to confront many of the beliefs that I had long held dear. I’ve come to recently recognize that some of my beliefs are rooted in legalism. Patriarchy is an example of this. Other examples include homeschool-only, dresses-only, etc. This has been hard for me to confront. I’ve had to admit to myself and to some close friends that I’ve not only been a legalist, but that I even like legalism. Legalism for me is safe. It provides me with a sense of comfort. Having a list of dos and don’ts to live by has kept my life orderly and structured, and given me a sense of security.

Being a legalist is something that I’ve long lived by. This is why I was drawn to a life of military service. Everything about the military is structured and regulated, a veritable legalist’s paradise. It’s also why I was later drawn to Boerne Christian Assembly. Legalistic churches attract legalistic members. I don’t blame Doug Phillips and BCA for turning me into a legalist. I was a legalist long before I arrived. Personal liberty and freedom have long been alien concepts to me. In the last month, in particular, confronting my own legalism has been a gut-wrenching process. God has been revealing to me, on an almost daily basis, new areas of my life He wants me to face head-on. This story is one of those areas where I had previously not seen anything amiss. Now I can plainly see it.

God has recently shown me how deep into legalism Doug Phillips and BCA are. Having been such a legalist myself, I couldn’t see it before. It’s no wonder God has so much to work on in my own life as I attempt to leave all my legalism behind. It hasn’t been easy. It’s also cost me nearly every friend I’ve had in San Antonio. We tend to make friends with people who are much like ourselves, which means that many of my local former friends are also legalists. Losing all my legalistic friends has been the hardest part, and even though they’re legalists, I still miss them. My public exposure of Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyrannies is, for my former legalistic friends, far more than what I had intended it to be. I thought it was just about exposing Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyrannies; but for them it was much more. For them, it’s an assault on the legalistic worldview that Doug Phillips represents, a legalism that they personally hold very dear.

Doug Phillips is revered by many legalists because he’s such a smooth promoter of legalism. No legalist, however, wants to see their own legalism as legalism; and so we never call it “legalism.” We call it other things. Doug Phillips is a very slick promoter, and so he dresses it up and disguises his legalism in noble-sounding pseudo-biblical terms like “Patriarchy.” It sounds even more biblical when he calls it “Biblical Patriarchy.”

Doug Phillips doesn’t stop there though. In some ways Doug is truly ingenious when it comes to promotion and marketing. It doesn’t get any more ingenious than to repackage legalism as “Reformed theology.” As one of my commenters, “T. Reformed” put it recently:

The very cornerstone of the Reformed faith are the doctrines of grace, rooted in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

John Calvin called Ephesians 2:8-9 “the hinge of the Reformation.” Martin Luther called it, “the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” These leading lights of the Reformation also used the terms “Sola Fide,” faith alone, and “Sola Gratia,” grace alone. In other words it is only by faith, and only by God’s grace that we are saved, and nothing else, ever.

Doug Phillips claims to be Reformed, and his church blog says, “Boerne Christian Assemnbly Affirms the London Baptist Confession of 1689.” The LBC was taken largely from the Westminster Confession of Faith.

However, I don’t see how Phillips could be Reformed while also embracing Gothardism… Doug Phillips appears to be a very mixed bag of “Reformed,” and some other things like Gothardism, which would be incompatible and even a contradiction to the Refomed faith. It sounds as though Phillips holds to a pseudo-orthodox soteriology, except when it comes to “the perseverance of the saints.” If this is true then he doesn’t really qualify as being Reformed.

It never dawned on me until this week what a major coup it’s been for Doug to portray himself as “Reformed,” yet for all practical purposes deny the doctrines of grace. There’s a major disconnect between what Doug Phillips professes to believe and what he actually practices. I’m amazed that he’s been able to get away with it all these years. Doug Phillips appears to live in some sort of a theological parallel universe where legalism = grace, man-worship = honor, bondage = freedom, and ecclesiastical tyranny = church discipline.

Repenting is often hard, and my legalism is something that I’ve recently had to repent from. The fruit of my legalism has caused great harm, especially to my own family. I’m just now beginning to see its magnitude. I need to repent to my family, and especially to my husband, for my legalism. I’m not ashamed to do so, and I’m not ashamed to do it publicly, right here. Mark, children, I confess my legalism and I repent of it. Please forgive me, and please be patient with me as I continue to work through the process of walking out of legalism into a life of grace.

Because of my blindness to my legalism, there was a significant part of my story that I had earlier failed to tell. I didn’t perceive when I was originally telling my story months ago just how significant this part of the story was. I not only thought it was insignificant, I didn’t even see it. Now I recognize just how significant it is. As God continues to convict me of this and other things, there may be other issues and events that come to mind that I may need to go back and tell, things that I had earlier missed. I’ll add these to the sidebar in chronological order, e.g. “Chapter 4-B,” etc.

And now to the story.

Most people at BCA didn’t seem to want much to do with our family outside of regular church activities, so we were thrilled when the Shorts decided to befriend us after we moved nearby in the summer of 2003. We quickly got into a weekly routine of having dinner together at our home nearly every Friday evening, with their family often leaving around 3 a.m. We would enjoy a nice meal together and then Mark and Richard almost always took a long walk together. Richard soon volunteered to mentor Mark. As Mark and Richard walked and talked, the rest of us generally played board games together.

I appreciated Richard’s willingness to counsel Mark, as times were pretty tough then. However, it seemed to be a rather superficial relationship. Because we were having marital problems, I ultimately asked Richard and Reba to be witnesses for me when I confronted Mark in step two of Matthew 18. At this point, our relationship with the Shorts noticeably changed. Richard began to focus on deeper issues with Mark, and Reba proceeded to tell me that “the problems in marriage are always the woman’s fault.” This later became the very basis of the three counseling sessions I had with Beall and Reba. The entire focus on every meeting was on my “faults.”

“The woman is always at fault for all of the problems in every marriage” is a belief held strongly in many Patriarchal churches, like BCA. However, since leaving BCA, I’ve discovered that there are Patriarchal churches which also teach just the opposite. “All of the problems in every marriage are always the husband’s fault” is taught by R.C. Sproul, Jr. Neither position is biblical, nor are they even logical or consistent with the reality of any Christian marriage. Because husbands and wives are both sinners, the truth falls somewhere in the middle. However, Patriarchy, being an extremist belief system, lacks the biblical balance necessary to correct marital problems. In too many cases, Patriarchy just exacerbates marital problems. Telling a husband that “All of the problems in your marriage are your wife’s fault” is every bit as harmful as telling a wife, “All the problems in your marriage are your husband’s fault.”

In our own case, the Shorts approached our marital problems with the unbiblical presupposition that all of the Epsteins’ marital problems were “the wife’s fault.” Not only was this untrue, it only served to make our marital problems much worse. Whereas before, Mark had started to recognize that he had areas in his life that needed to be repented of, now he was being told that it was all my fault and, therefore, he had no need of repentance at all. When I was told it was all my fault, I knew this couldn’t be true. This only made it harder for me to begin to take responsibility for those things that really were my fault. This is the fruit that comes from such extremism. To this day, Mark and I are both still struggling with the aftermath of this.

For approximately eighteen months, we’d been having dinner together with the Shorts, on a fairly consistent weekly basis. One Sunday after church in January 2005, Mark and Richard took a long walk. But when they returned to church, something seemed quite different. Richard said he wanted to talk to both of us, which was quite unusual. He then informed us that he had come to the conclusion that neither Mark nor I were true believers. In his view, we were unsaved. I was quite taken aback, as I knew that I deeply loved the Lord and desired nothing more than to please Him. But that was essentially the end of the conversation and we went home from there. I was also confused over the fact that Richard and I had spent very little time talking. Most of Richard’s time had been spent with Mark, and I couldn’t understand how Richard could come to the conclusion that I was unsaved when he’d never even asked me about my faith.

That Thursday morning, January 20, 2005, Mark had what I would describe as very broken spirit and a contrite heart. He desired to repent and seek futher counseling, with a focus on marital counseling. Mark was convicted by the Holy Spirit that there were important areas in his marriage that he needed to work on. He emailed Richard Short asking if they could meet and talk about Mark repenting. Mark also emailed another man at church who was known for giving good counsel in difficult marital situations and he agreed to counsel us. The Shorts live only about a mile or two from us and Mark works only about ten minutes away from Vision Forum, where Richard Short works. The two of them could have easily gotten together at a moment’s notice. Distance never posed a hardship. However, on this occasion, Richard said that he would not be able to meet with Mark before Monday. He wasn’t even willing to talk to Mark on the phone.

I could not understand this because, at the time, I assumed that this repentance was the fruit Richard had been working toward all these months. In reality, it was entirely the work of the Holy Spirit, in spite of Richard’s counsel to Mark. Looking back on it now, I can see that Mark’s repentance wasn’t at all what Richard was looking to accomplish, just the opposite. Remember, “All of the problems in every marriage are always the wife’s fault.”

Later that day, we received a request from BCA “leadership” to meet with them an hour before church began that Sunday. They did not tell us what the meeting was going to be about, so I assumed that since Richard Short had told Doug that I wasn’t a converted Christian. I assumed that I was going to need to defend my testimony and offer a credible profession of faith. I looked up a plan of salvation and made sure I had all my verses ready to show that I understood and could explain why I knew I was saved.

When we showed up early on Sunday morning, however, they did not ask me to defend my faith. They didn’t ask me to give a credible profession of faith. That didn’t even come up. Instead, we were read the disciplinary action statement, which I’ve described before. Although we do not have proof, we are almost certain that Richard Short is the one who recommended our discipline and excommunication. Doug has stated that he did not initiate our disciplinary action himself. Someone was responsible for that, so it’s reasonable for me to assume that the party chiefly responsible for our “counseling,” the Shorts, were the responsible party. The other people present who agreed to discipline us knew nothing of our situation, save one man, whom I know did not recommend this discipline, but who went along with it in the end.

Richard Short spent many months with us, mostly with Mark, and then he comes to the conclusion that neither of us is saved. Immediately after Richard comes to this conclusion, we find ourselves together at church on a Sunday afternoon, but Richard doesn’t bother to share the gospel with us, nor even ask us if we understand it. Mark then tells Richard that he wants to repent, but Richard suddenly doesn’t have time for Mark, when he always has before. Although Richard has stated that he doubts our salvation, he pushes for us to be disciplined and eventually excommunicated. That Sunday morning before church would have been a good opportunity to share the gospel with us, or to at least ascertain if we were true believers at that time. But even though Richard doubted our salvation, and even though Mark offered to repent, Doug chose to discipline us instead of sharing the gospel with us.

And what gospel would that be? I am just now learning that it is the gospel of grace. Grace. That is an almost foreign word to me. I did not hear the doctrines of grace preached at BCA — ever. I never heard the gospel preached at BCA. I am not saying that they preached another gospel, but that they simply didn’t preach the gospel at all. What was preached at BCA? For the most part, the Old Testament was preached at BCA — the law. We spent years studying the Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles, patterning our lives after what we found there. And what did we find there? For one thing, Patriarchy. We spent an inordinate amount of time studying Patriarchy. For a legalist like me, it never really surprised me how often and how easy it was to find Doug’s version of Patriarchy in the Bible, even in the “non-normative” stories. Looking back on it now though, it does surprise me how many years of Sundays we spent studying nothing but the law, but never anything about the doctrines of grace. Now I can plainly see that Doug Phillips is not a Reformed Bible expositor, nor is Boerne Christian Assembly a Reformed church.

We did have topical preaching. It just was never about the doctrines of grace. Those sermons were long on vision and short on Scripture and practical application. Legalists are big on dos and don’ts. However, this doesn’t mean that legalistic preachers are always helpful when it comes to practical application. This was one of our biggest frustrations with Doug. He would never hesitate to tell us what to do, but he seldom ever had any suggestions on how to practically do it. If you asked for practical examples he usually couldn’t offer any. Doug’s sermons and teachings that are sold through Vision Forum reflect this as well. Doug Phillips is a pie in the sky visionary, a warm and fuzzy motivational speaker; but when it comes to practical application he’s got little to offer. Now combine that with the legalism and you’ve got a formula for disaster. “Do this, don’t do that. However, you’ll have to figure out all on your own how to do it. Don’t expect any help from us. If (and when) you fail, you’ll be filled with guilt and shame, and we’ll do what we can to help reinforce your guilt and shame. We might even tell you that you’re not even saved. Then we’ll discipline you.”

Why aren’t the doctrines of grace preached in a church that states they “affirm the Second London Baptist Confession Of Faith” and that Confession itself so strongly affirms the doctrines of grace? Actually, I never once heard the term “grace” used at BCA. As I come to examine the teachings of patriarchy, I am coming face to face with more and more legalism. Legalism doesn’t have room for grace. Legalism doesn’t have room for mercy. Mark begged Doug for mercy that particular Sunday when he asked him not to read the part of the disciplinary statement about my sins prior to my becoming a Christian. No gospel that Sunday. No grace. No mercy. Just the sound of the hammer falling. Judgment. Condemnation. Shame. Guilt. Legalism.

Legalistic churches are all about image. It’s all about maintaining appearances. The Epsteins posed some major problems for BCA. We didn’t fit the image. We not only arrived with marital problems, we were just foolish enough to believe that church is the ideal place to confront marital problems by receiving competent, biblical counsel. No doubt there are other BCA couples that have marital problems, too. However, even with their marital problems they still fit the image, and in a legalistic church that’s really all that matters. They maintain the image by keeping their problems to themselves. We weren’t smart enough to know how to do that, and we weren’t good at pretending. Mark and I are still useless when it comes to pretending. (Natasha is no better)

Our marriage posed a huge threat to the image that Doug was trying to maintain. I’m quite confident that the thought crossed Doug’s mind more than once that we might be headed for a divorce. Such a thought would terrify a man like Doug Phillips. A divorce in his church would have been devastating to his image, especially when he held the “Uniting Church and Home” conferences. Doug decided that he needed to get rid of us. The expediency with which Doug dumped us, and the unbiblical and unjust way he went about it, only confirms that the only thing he was interested in was maintaining his image of the perfect church — a church where every marriage is perfect — or at least a church where there is the appearance that every marriage is perfect. Doug couldn’t risk the potentiality of a divorce happening on his watch. The Epsteins were expendable, and so we were expended.

I’m now baffled, though, over how a church can excommunicate a couple shortly after they just said that couple wasn’t even saved.

I pray that as God continues to lead me on His path of grace that He would also show His grace to all those at BCA. May God deliver them as He’s now delivering me. God wants us all to be free from the bondage of legalism and condemnation.

Doug Phillips Refuses To Hire Women At Vision Forum

But If Doug Phillips Says He Doesn’t Hire Women, Then What Are All Those Females Doing Working At Vision Forum?

Doug Phillips has a policy against hiring women employees. In fact, he’s privately boasted to various men, “I don’t hire women.” If you ask him why he doesn’t hire women, you’re likely to get a very Bill Gothard-like response about the sin of females being out from under the “umbrella of authority” of their husbands or fathers.

Doug Phillips has often been heard to say, “Your wife is your helpmeet, and not another man’s.” What he means by this is that if a wife, or even a daughter, is employed by “another man,” then she becomes that man’s helpmeet. Doug Phillips has also been heard to say, “Too many problems with having women in the workplace.”

Most people wouldn’t be aware of Doug’s anti-female hiring policies. After all, even though he’s privately quite proud of himself for it, it’s still not something that he’d probably want to advertise.

Doug Phillips knows that women are the primary readers of his Vision Forum catalog, and women place most of the orders from his catalog. Just imagine what might happen if he had a statement in the Vision Forum catalog, “Vision Forum is an all male employee business and does not hire females.”

Even though many of the women who patronize Vision Forum know that Doug Phillips is one of the chief spokesmen for the Patriarchy movement in America today, I seriously doubt that many of them are aware of Doug’s anti-female hiring policies. I think it only reasonable that this become common knowledge.

However, if you ever happen to visit The Vision Forum, don’t expect to see only males working there. In spite of what Doug Phillips privately boasts to various male colleagues and friends, you will regularly see female workers at The Vision Forum. They’re just not thought of by Doug as “employees.” In this way Doug gets to boast to fellow Patriarchs that he doesn’t “hire females,” and yet he still gets the benefit of their very competent labor. With such “straining at a gnat but swallowing a camel” thinking, Doug Phillips epitomizes the very reason why Jesus said, “Woe unto you lawyers.”

So if there are women workers at Vision Forum, but they’re not classified as “employees,” what are they? Some are unpaid volunteers. Others, however, are paid. They’re probably just not paid directly. Doug probably pays their husbands for their wives’ and daughters’ labor, or he makes some other arrangements so that he doesn’t have to pay them directly. That way Doug gets to say that he doesn’t hire women. This is just another expression of Doug’s Phariseeism — his Gothardite hyper-patriarchy.

Being a Pharisee can be challenging. It’s hard juggling all those legalistic balls and not dropping any. It becomes especially hard when Doug suddenly finds himself needing a bunch of additional workers. For Vision Forum, this happens very predictably, every year. Vision Forum’s busiest time of year is the Christmas season. Doug himself doesn’t celebrate Christmas. In fact, he disdains Christmas. He calls it a “Catholic holiday.” Doug hates Catholics in some ways even more than he hates pagans, atheists and feminists. When we were members of Boerne Christian Assembly we often heard Doug express his contempt for Catholics. This has never dissuaded him, though, from going all out in promoting this “Catholic holiday,” at least in the commercial sense.

Christmas for Doug isn’t a time to celebrate our Savior’s birth, but it is a time to celebrate other things, like, for instance, being able to rake in a big pile of cash. Christmas is big business, and in order to make that big business flow smoothly, and keep those shipments flying out the door, Doug has to hire a lot of extra help. Where does he get that help from? I’ll share that part a little later.

Several years ago I noticed the very obvious need that Doug had for additional workers to cover the Christmas season. Just like any other retail mail order business, Vision Forum’s Christmas-season business suddenly skyrockets, starting immediately after Thanksgiving. I wasn’t impressed at all with how Doug was addressing that short-term labor need. In fact, it appeared to me that the way that he went about addressing that labor need was a public image disaster just waiting to happen. So I made a suggestion to him: Organize home school families in the San Antonio area to come in and cover the short-term need. To me this made perfect sense. It would be a true win-win, and just about any of the work that needed doing could be easily accomplished by some home school families.

Doug is supposedly a big proponent of internships, cottage industry, family businesses and entrepreneurialism. He even offers an Entrepreneurial Bootcamp. What better way for Doug to promote his entrepreneurial internship vision than to hire home school kids and offer them a seasonal internship program at Vision Forum? In some cases it might be wise to also hire some moms, so that they could also supervise the kids.

To me it seemed like a great idea, but Doug hated it. Why did Doug hate it? For the same reason he hates having women employees. In Doug’s Gothardite Patriarchal view, females should never be out from under the “umbrella of authority” of their husbands; or if they don’t have a husband, then out from under the “authority umbrella” of their fathers. Hiring home school kids, supervised by their mothers, apparently violates this Gothard/Phillips principle. Doug preaches that it is a sin for a female to work outside the home, because in doing so she’s coming out from under the authority of her “head.” “Wives and daughters shouldn’t leave the home to be under the authority of another man. Females must remain under the authority of their husbands or fathers.” Doug could have hired just home school boys and then hired a home school dad to supervise them, but he wouldn’t consider doing even that.

So what about those women who do work at Vision Forum? Why, in Doug’s view, are they not out from under their “authority umbrellas”? Apparently the reason why is because some of them are probably just unpaid volunteers. It’s not clear to me why that logically should make any difference, but apparently it’s logical in Doug’s mind. Even the Phillips’ family nannies, maids, and maintenance workers are often unpaid volunteers. Several young ladies have worked in the Phillips’ home for many years, unpaid. From all accounts, most of these young ladies are anything but financially well off. Sometimes, though, Doug does pay their travel expenses to send them on a Faith and Freedom Tour with him and his family, so they can take care of his children there as well.

One poor family has the mother, daughter, and son all volunteering at the Phillips’ home on a regular basis. Doug appears more than pleased to daily “oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy” (Deut 24:14) and have them come out from under their “authority umbrella” to come and help raise Doug’s children. There are also other women who work for Doug as unpaid volunteers. They do so at Vision Forum’s facilities. Just like with his unpaid poor nannies and maids, Doug sees no inconsistencies between what he preaches and what he practices.

Some of the other women who work at Vision Forum are the wives and daughters of male Vision Forum employees. Rather than legally hiring the women, Doug probably pays their husbands or fathers for the time that they work there. In Doug’s mind, those women don’t work for him — they’re working for their husbands or fathers, who in turn work for Doug. In order for that to make any sense, the first thing you’ll have to do is disregard the fact that most, if not all of those women, aren’t working for their husbands or fathers at all. In most cases their husbands or fathers don’t supervise them at all. In most, if not all cases, those women are clear on the opposite side of the building and their husbands or fathers may not see them at all, but perhaps at the lunch break.

Back now to the “Catholic holiday” season. How does Doug cope with the sudden demand for additional labor? He hires employees through a Temporary Agency. Does Doug get to tell the Temp Agency to only send him male workers? No, that would be job discrimination. Doug could get into big trouble for that. Does he get to tell the Temp Agency, “I don’t want any Catholics or pagans. We’re a Christian business, so I only want Baptists”? No, again, that would job discrimination. Doug could get into trouble, so he doesn’t do that.

Christmas season at Vision Forum is truly a sight to behold. The warehouse is full of foul-mouthed, scantily-clad, non-Christian males and females processing orders for this so-called family-friendly Christian business. Break times and lunch time are an even more disturbing sight. Many of the temp workers go out into the alley in back of Vision Forum’s building to puff their cigarettes. After a few weeks, the alley literally piles up with cigarette butts and even empty beer bottles.

To me it’s very sad that Doug never took my advice about hiring home school kids instead of temps from a Temp Agency. Perhaps he rejected the idea only because it came from a woman? I don’t know. What I do know is that this is just another one of the many examples of Doug Phillips’ hypocrisy.

A Father’s Day Poem

by Doug Phillips

The Patriarch

More noble than the valiant deeds of shining knights of yore,
More powerful than earthly plights that make the rich man poor,
More kingly than a royal throne or a lion with his pride,
Is he whose babes sleep well at night sure Daddy will provide.

There is a spirit in this land and Jezebel’s her name.
She’s calling you to leave your home for power, fun, and fame.
She wants your wife, your children too — she’ll never compromise,
Until your house is torn in two by listening to her lies.

But though a hundred thousand million men may fall prey to her lures,
And wives en masse leave home in search of “more fulfilling” chores,
Though preachers praise, and friends embrace, her pagan plan of death,
Stand strong and quit you like a man with every blessed breath.

Stand strong and rise, O man of God, to meet this noble call,
The battle is not new you see, it’s been here since the Fall.

Your wife is your helpmeet, my friend, and not another man’s,
So care for her and keep her far from Mistress Jezi’s plans.
Protect, provide, and give to her your undivided life,
This is the dear one of your youth, your precious bride, your wife.

And rally to those tiny ones who trust you for their care —
A lifetime spent discipling them’s a lifetime pure and rare.
For when they put their hand in yours and know a Daddy’s love,
You’re showing them a picture of the Father from above.

Look not toward worldly goal or gain, or for your liberty,
Look only into their sweet eyes to find your ministry.
Devote your heart and sacrifice and make your manly mark —
There is none so great as he who finds his call as patriarch.

Posted by Doug Phillips on June 19, 2005

Are “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” Biblical? Part 3

Part 3

This is the third in a three-part critique of The Biblical Tenets Of Patriarchy. If you haven’t read Part One and Part Two already, please do so before reading this article.

After posting Part One in this series, I came to recognize the centrality of Patriarchy to some homeschoolers’ entire “vision,” referring to Patriarchy as a “Gospel centered doctrine,” when it is nothing of the sort. Much of Patriarchy is just extra-biblical legalism, and legalism is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Christ is about grace, not legalism.

Why then do patriarchists claim that Patriarchy is “Gospel centered”? Certainly, Patriarchy is “centered” to something, but not to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Did Jesus or any of the Apostles ever teach Patriarchy? Did they ever command Patriarchy? No, in fact, the Apostle Paul explicitly warned the Corinthians that they should beware of anyone who came and preached “another Gospel.”

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! (2 Cor. 11:3-4)

Paul likewise gave a similar warning to the Galatians:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9)

Some claims that Patriarchy is “Gospel centered” when, in point of fact, it is not. Patriarchists, just like the Judaizers that Paul proclaimed to be “accursed,” have added to and perverted the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what, then, is Patriarchy “centered” to? Patriarchy is “centered” around the family and, more specifically, around the “patriarch.”

Several years ago Rev. Pete Hurst of Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) preached a series of sermons on Patriarchy. Rev. Hurst had good reason to preach on Patriarchy, but that’s another story for another day:

Patriarchy: A New Legalism?
Patriarchy And Education
Patriarchy and the Family
Patriarchy and the Church

I don’t necessarily agree with everything that Rev. Hurst has to say, but as a pastor who almost had his church split over Patriarchy, he does have some good insights about how divisive Patriarchy can be.

Education & training of children

16. Education is not a neutral enterprise. Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world. Christians should not send their children to public schools since education is not a God-ordained function of civil government and since these schools are sub-Christian at best and anti-Christian at worst. (Deut. 4:9; 6:6-9; Rom. 13:3-5; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:15)

Deut. 4:9 – Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,

Deut. 6:6-9 – And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The favorite verses that support home education. While I agree that it is difficult to teach our children these things when they are not with us, I wonder if they fulfill the rest of this verse as well: “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Or maybe they just pick and choose the parts that they like.

Rom. 13:3-5 – For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

I’m trying to see “public school” in these verses. I think that is why they use these verses. It’s mighty hard to see it, though.

Eph. 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

II Tim 3:15 – and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Since Timothy learned the Scriptures from his mother and his grandmother, this is an odd verse for the Patriarchy camp to use. I am sure that any child, no matter what form of education he has, can know Scripture from childhood. This verse doesn’t prove their point.

While I personally agree with this tenet, I find this biblical support to be very weak.

17. Fathers are sovereign over the training of their children and, with their wives, are the children’s chief teachers. Christian parents are bound to obey the command personally to walk beside and train their children. Any approach to Christian education ought to recognize and facilitate the role of fathers and mothers as the primary teachers of their children. (Deut. 4:9; 6:6ff.; Ps. 78:3-8; Prov. 1:8; Eph. 6:4; )

Deut. 4:9 – Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,

Deut. 6:6-9 – And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

I agree that this is a command to walk alongside children, but this command was given to Israel. We cannot confuse a command to Israel with a command to us as believers under the New Covenant. And if we are to follow this command, then we must fulfill the whole command: “And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

Ps. 78:3-8 – Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Again, this verse tells us that this law applied to Israel. We must be careful not to take Scripture out of context.

Prov. 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother;

Eph. 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

It is the father’s responsibility to bring the children up in the training and admonition of the Lord, and as his helper, the wife does as well. While this tenet is certainly my personal preference, I do not see enough biblical support here to justify saying that parents are the primary/chief teachers of the children.

18. Educational methodology is not neutral. The Christian should build his educational methodology from the word of God and reject methodologies derived from humanism, evolutionism, and other unbiblical systems of thought. Biblical education is discipleship, a process designed to reach the heart. The aim is a transformed person who exhibits godly character and a trained mind, both of which arise from faith. The parents are crucial and ordinarily irreplaceable in this heart-level, relational process. (Deut. 6:5-7; Lk. 6:40; 1 Thess. 2:7-12; 2 Tim. 1:5; 2 Pet. 1:5-8)

Deut. 6:5-7 – You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

Relationship.

Lk. 6:40 – A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.

If a student becomes like his teacher, this verse is clear support for only using teachers that the parents would want their children to emulate.

I Thess. 2:7-12 – But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy treated the church at Thessalonica as a father does his own children. This is a good example, but not a command.

II Tim. 1:5 – when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

Timothy also had a good example growing up, but this is not a command.

II Pet. 1:5-8 – But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These are good things to teach and I can see that this verse is saying that knowledge should be built upon faith and virtue, but it does not say that there is no knowledge outside of faith and virtue.

I agree that we should be very careful what we teach our children. One thing we should definitely teach them is not to take Scripture out of context. A favorite mantra of some patriarchists is that education and its methodology is not neutral. If it doesn’t fit their description of the biblical form of education, they reject it. I just don’t see that in Scripture. There are definitely some methods that are more effective than others, but this premise is not supported by these verses.

Their Conversion

19. Since the educational mandate belongs to parents and they are commanded personally to walk beside and train their children, they ought not to transfer responsibility for the educational process to others. However, they have the liberty to delegate components of that process. While they should exercise great caution and reserve in doing this, and the more so the less mature the child, it is prudent to take advantage of the diversity of gifts within the body of Christ and enjoy the help and support that comes with being part of a larger community with a common purpose. (1 Cor. 12:14ff.; Gal. 4:1,2; 6:2; Eph. 4:16)

I Cor. 12:14 – For in fact the body is not one member but many. …

Since this verse is talking about the body of Christ, the Patriarchists are saying that if we are going to have others help us teach our children, it should come from the body of Christ.

Gal. 4:1,2 – Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.

This passage has a double meaning. It is talking about the oldest son who is going to inherit his father’s estate when the father deems he is ready. It is also talking about our relationship with the Lord and how we were under the Law before we came to Christ. This passage gives an example of a father using a tutor. So much for home education only!

Gal. 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This passage is talking about how to treat a brother who is in sin. This is not about helping teach someone else’s children.

Eph. 4:16 – from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Yes, we can help each other out.

Since they used the words “it is prudent,” I will give them leeway on this one. I do not see any Scriptures here that say that parents ought not to transfer responsibility for the educational process to others. In fact, one of the verses in this section talks about a father appointing guardians and stewards. I am pleased that this section at least gives parents a little liberty to delegate.

20. The age-integrated communities of family and church are the God-ordained institutions for training and socialization and as such provide the preferred pattern for social life and educational endeavors. The modern preference for grouping children exclusively with their age mates for educational and social purposes is contrary to scriptural wisdom and example. (Deut. 29:10-11; 2 Chron. 20:13; Prov. 22:15 with 13:20; Joel 2:16; 1 Cor. 15:33)

Deut. 29:10-11 – All of you stand today before the LORD your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives—also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water—

A good example, but not a mandate for us.

II Chron. 20:13 – Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the LORD.

Another good example.

Prov. 22:15; 13:20 – Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him. … He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.

This was preached to us a lot. We were told not to let fools hang out together unless we wanted them to become more foolish. Since foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, children are fools, and therefore should not hang out together. I always wondered why they didn’t separate the brothers and sisters in large families then.

Joel 2:16 – Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.

Another example.

I Cor. 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

I guess the Patriarchists are using this verse to say that all children are evil and shouldn’t be with each other.

Since this is based on Scriptural wisdom and example, I am willing to give them this point. I just don’t know if it is strong enough to be called a “tenet,” though.

21. The Bible presents a long-term, multi-generational vision of the progress of God’s kingdom in the world. Christians parents need to adopt this perspective and be motivated by the generational promises of Scripture, and church shepherds need to promote this outlook within their flocks. By the grace of God, as fathers faithfully turn their hearts toward their sons and daughters and the youths respond in kind, the next generation will build upon the faith and improve upon the faithfulness of their parents. (Ps. 78:1-8; Is. 59:21; Mal. 4:6; Lk. 1:17; Gal. 6:9)

Ps. 78:1-8 – Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

This passage could be used to support telling our own children about the Lord.

Is. 59:21 – “As for Me,” says the LORD, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the LORD, “from this time and forevermore.”

This is the Lord’s covenant and what He will do. God has a multi-generational vision!

Mal. 4:6 – And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

Lk. 1:17 – He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

These are both talking about John the Baptist.

Gal. 6:9 – And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

While this is a good verse for perseverance, this is also proof-texting for trying to show support for multi-generational vision.

The problem here seems to be that patriarchists desperately want this vision, as this is foundational to many of their businesses. Look at that last part of this Tenet: “the next generation will build upon the faith and improve upon the faithfulness of their parents.” Anyone see any problems here? As parents, we are responsible to bring our children up in the training and admonition of the Lord, but that is where our authority stops. I am grateful for godly grandparents who care for and love their grandchildren, but this Patriarchy movement is really a power trip at this point.

Let’s think this one through logically. Dad and Mom get married and have ten children. They have this kind of vision. For argument’s sake, all descendants are half boys, half girls. So Dad passes his vision on to his ten children. These five girls, though, marry five boys who also had their father’s vision passed on to them, so the girls give up their fathers’ vision and go with their husbands’. So these five boys all have ten children each, five of which are boys, who now carry on Granddad’s vision. Five boys from the first generation and twenty-five from the next generation. Multiplying this, we would have another 125 boys in the third generation, and another 625 boys by the fourth generation, for a total of 780 boys in just four generations, all carrying on the vision of that first “Patriarch.” And if the Patriarch is the one with the vision, what does that make those 780 other boys? Are they still Patriarchs, too? Do you see why patriarchy is so important to these first generation Patriarchs? Wow! 780 men just following in your footsteps, following your vision. I know one patriarchist who has a 200-year visionary plan for his descendants. He has it all laid out in detail. And 200 years is much longer than four generations.

How does this practically play out when two families marry off their children to one another, but there are significant theological differences between the two families? For example, let’s take one Patriarch who is adamantly opposed to infant baptism (paedobaptism) and another Patriarch who is opposed to believer’s baptism (credobaptism) and anabaptism (re-baptizing paedobaptists as adults by profession of faith). The second Patriarch is a paedobaptist and his children have (presumably) all been baptized. Yet, his oldest daughter has been arranged to marry the first Patriarch’s eldest son. Will Patriarch II’s eldest daughter be required to be re-baptized before she can marry Patriarch I’s eldest son and renounce the paedobaptist beliefs of her father? Will their children not be baptized as infants? Presumably so. But won’t that likely cause serious theological differences between them? How can Patriarch II carry forward his “covenantal” and “dominionist” views generationally when his infant grandchildren aren’t baptized?

A father and his older children

22. Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection. Fathers release sons from their jurisdiction to undertake a vocation, prepare a home, and take a wife. Until she is given in marriage, a daughter continues under her father’s authority and protection. Even after leaving their father’s house, children should honor their parents by seeking their counsel and blessing throughout their lives. (Gen. 28:1-2; Num. 30:3ff.; Deut. 22:21; Gal. 4:1,2; Eph. 6:2-3)

Gen. 28:1,2 – Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.

Here is an example of both a father blessing his son and giving him counsel about finding a wife. Should we use this as an example that men should marry their cousins?

Num. 30:3-5 – Or if a woman makes a vow to the LORD, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will release her, because her father overruled her.

This is a command that Moses gave to the tribes of Israel regarding vows.

Deut. 22:21 – then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house. So you shall put away the evil from among you.

This passage has some alarming implications for how we are to apply it today. Are the patriarchists recommending stoning immoral young women here? Why else would he quote the passage unless he intends that we are to exercise it?

Gal. 4:1,2 – Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.

This passage is talking about the firstborn son getting his inheritance, and how we are no longer under the Law when it comes to Christ.

Eph. 6:2,3 – “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

While I am not at all advocating that young people disobey their fathers (or their mothers), I’m not sure that these verses support Patriarchy’s viewpoint that daughters are to remain under their father’s full authority and control, living in their father’s homes, until they are married. If a family decides in favor of such an arrangement, that is not necessarily a bad thing in all cases, but neither is there a biblical mandate to do that. I’m especially concerned, though, with the implications of Patriarchy’s opposition to daughters receiving a college education, especially if it means that in order to pursue that education she must move away from home. Some patriarchists may not necessarily be opposed to distance learning for daughters. However, they still seem to view higher education for daughters as a waste of time, since in their view a wife and mother doesn’t need a degree. Patriarchists are especially opposed to a daughter moving out of the home to go study on a college campus.

In the same way that I haven’t seen the biblical mandate that daughters must live in their father’s home until they are married, I haven’t seen the passages that tell us that fathers are free to release sons from their jurisdiction to undertake a vocation, and prepare a home to take a wife either. Where does Scripture teach that a father is free to release his sons, but not release his daughters? This tenet seems to be more about control and less about what God’s Word instructs us to do. Also, to be consistent with all of God’s Word, this tenet needs to include mothers as well, since wives are to be their husband’s helper.

23. Fathers should oversee the process of a son or daughter seeking a spouse. While a father may find a wife for his son, sons are free to take initiative to seek and “take a wife.” A wise son will desire his parents’ involvement, counsel, and blessing in that process. Since daughters are “given in marriage” by their fathers, an obedient daughter will desire her father to guide the process of finding a husband, although the final approval of a husband belongs to her. (Gen. 24:1ff.; 25:20; 28:2; Ex. 2:21; Josh. 15:17; Jdg. 12:9; 1 Sam. 18:27; Jer. 29:6; 1 Cor. 7:38; Gen. 24:58)

Gen. 24:1 – Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. So Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had, “Please, put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; but you shall go to my country and to my family, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” …

Gen. 25:20 – Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian.

Gen. 28:2 – Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.

Ex. 2:21 – Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses.

Josh. 15:17 – So Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife.

Judg. 12:9 – He had thirty sons. And he gave away thirty daughters in marriage, and brought in thirty daughters from elsewhere for his sons. He judged Israel seven years.

I Sam. 18:27 – therefore David arose and went, he and his men, and killed two hundred men of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full count to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Then Saul gave him Michal his daughter as a wife.

Jer. 29:6 – Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

I Cor. 7:38 – So then he who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.

Gen. 24:58 – Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.

This Tenet is about “betrothal,” a system that is far more about a cultural system that was commonplace two thousand years ago, than it is about any biblical mandates. Patriarchists are seeking to reestablish a system whereby the father becomes the ultimate authority and arbiter on making the most important decision that his children will ever enter into — their marriage partners. Two thousand years ago this may have made a lot more sense culturally than it does today. Two thousand years ago sons generally took wives right from within their own communities. Sons also often took wives from among their own cousins. Today we know that such “inbreeding” often produces disastrous results. They also frequently took wives that were in their early teens (e.g. 14 year olds). Betrothals were also often arranged for a young man to take more than one wife. Today we know better than to encourage that. Not everything recorded in Scripture (polygamy, marrying cousins, etc.) can or should be interpreted as a biblical mandate for us today. God gave us an intellect and He expects us to use it.

Under Patriarchy’s system, the objective is not for a son to seek a wife that will please him, but for the prospective daughter-in-law to please and impress her prospective father-in-law so that she might obtain his favor. The father is in charge and the expectation is that he must be pleased with the choice of a spouse and that the spouse lives up to his expectations. If this is the objective before the marriage, why would it change after the marriage? In such a Patriarchal system, isn’t it likely that the father-in-law will continue to exercise control? One of the most common problems in new marriage is that in-laws meddle and interfere in their children’s lives. Patriarchists need to really add Genesis 2:24 to this section as an admonishment to fathers (and mothers) that when a young man does take a wife, he “leaves” his parents and “cleaves” to his wife. This is a reminder to parents that their married children are no longer under their control.

Although there is no clear mandate here of sons taking and daughters being given in marriage, there is a pattern. However, it is a great leap from giving and taking to fathers “overseeing” the process of their children seeking a spouse. If they happen to have a wise father and mother, then certainly they should seek the counsel of their parents. This tenet also attempts to describe what wise sons and daughters will do, although there is no biblical support listed for wise sons desiring their parents’ involvement, counsel, and blessing in that process; or that obedient daughters will desire their father to guide the process of finding a husband (but not their mother). This is clearly adding to Scripture.

The sufficiency & application of Scripture

24. Scripture is the believer’s sufficient guide for all of faith and practice, and Christians must believe and obey whatever it teaches and commands. The Bible provides the Christian — through precept, pattern and principle — all that is necessary to make wise decisions concerning the many ethically complex issues of life. (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3)

II Tim. 3:16-17 – All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

II Pet. 1:3 – as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

When Scripture gives us a clear mandate for how we should live our lives, we ought to obey. We can also gain much wisdom and understand principles from God’s Word as well. What we should not do, though, is take examples from Scripture and put them on the same level as being commands. That is the pattern that is described here. Showing a pattern in Scripture does not make it a command for us.

25. Fathers need to exercise discernment in the choices they make for their families and not simply drift with the cultural tide. Egalitarian feminism is an enemy of God and of biblical truth, but the need for care goes beyond this threat. The values of modern society are often at odds with those that accompany a biblical worldview. For example, fathers need self-consciously to resist the values of individualism at the expense of community, efficiency at the expense of relationships, and material well-being at the expense of spiritual progress. The world and the worldly church will cheer many choices that are detrimental to family sanctification. (Rom. 12:2; 1 Jn. 2:15)

Rom. 12:2 -And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

I John 2:15 – Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

While this is an important biblical concept, I don’t understand what this has to do with fathers. Wouldn’t these same principles apply to mothers and children and all Christians? This is one of the problems of patriarchy — elevating the father above everyone else. This is simply adding to Scripture. And where is the Scripture that tells us not to be individualistic? I heard that so much when I was into Patriarchy when I had a thought that was different than the norm.

26. While God’s truth is unchanging, the specific application of that truth may vary depending on facts and circumstances unique to each believer. Also, those who are further along in sanctification will see some issues more clearly than those who are less mature. For these reasons great charity must be maintained between believers who have differences of application, and liberty of application must be respected. However, an appeal to the doctrine of Christian liberty must never be used in an effort simply to avoid submitting to what Scripture plainly teaches. Believers should also bear in mind that things which are lawful may not be expedient if the goal is personal and family holiness. The biblical rule in judging behavior is charity toward others, strictness toward oneself. (Gal. 5:2-3 with Acts 16:3; Phil. 3:15; Rom. 12:10; 1 Cor. 1:10; 6:12; 9:27; 10:23; Gal. 5:13)

Gal. 5:2-3 – Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

Acts 16:3 – Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

This is Doug’s support that specific application of God’s truth may vary depending on facts and circumstances. It appears that he is trying to say that while one verse tells us that becoming circumcised requires one to keep the whole law, that there are also appropriate times to be circumcised as well.

Phil. 3:15 – Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

Rom. 12:10 – Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

I Cor. 1:10 – Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

I Cor. 6:12 – All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I Cor. 9:27 – But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

I can’t quite figure out what this verse is intended to support — strictness toward oneself?

I Cor. 10:23 – All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

Gal. 5:13 – For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

I’m not sure what following the Second Greatest Commandment has to do with Patriarchy exclusively, but this is important to remember.

Are “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” Biblical? Part 2

Part Two

This is the second in a three-part critique of The Biblical Tenets Of Patriarchy. If you haven’t read Part One already, please do so before reading this article.

Critiquing The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy has been anything but a pleasurable experience for me. In fact, it’s brought me much sorrow. The reason why is because I’ve been such a strong proponent of Patriarchy. It’s not an easy thing to have to come to grips with the fact that I can no longer subscribe to a belief system that I had long held so dear. This isn’t to say that I now completely reject all aspects of Patriarchy. I still believe that certain elements of it may in fact be useful and even helpful to many families. Perhaps some of it is even biblical. However, I’ve also come to see that many elements of Patriarchy are, at the very least, extra-biblical, and perhaps even errant theology, if not heretical. As Bible teachers, patriarchists should be far more careful in “rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)

Patriarchy leaders have pawned off Patriarchy as not merely being “biblical,” which even that is very debatable, but they have pawned off Patriarchy as being a “Gospel centered doctrine.” For a long time, I treated Patriarchy as though it was “Gospel centered” — that it was an essential and indispensable aspect of my walk with Christ. Now I recognize that it’s not “Gospel centered” and may even in some ways be contrary to the Gospel message, especially when it comes to the Gospel message of grace. I’m starting to see that many elements of Patriarchy are legalistic and, therefore, contrary to grace. Elevating any doctrine to a level of being “Gospel centered,” when the doctrine may, in fact, just be legalism, is Pharisaical.

Once again I would ask that any comments you post here only address “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy.” The authors have invited feedback on these tenets and I would like feedback on these verses as well. What do you think? Do these verses support these tenets as being biblical? Does the Bible teach these tenets? Which of these verses are on point and actually support a Tenet? Which of these verses are off point? Which of these verses are prooftexting?

When you leave a comment, to help us follow your thoughts, please address the Tenet number and the Scripture reference as well. If you have additional Scripture you would like to add to help Doug support these tenets, please do so. This is NOT a debate about personal beliefs, but only how these tenets can be supported biblically.

Family, Church, and State

8. Family, church, and state are parallel institutions, each with real but limited authority in its ordained sphere. As the keeper of the keys of Christ’s kingdom, the church is the central and defining institution of history. As the primary social group, the family is the foundational institution of society. (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; Acts 4:19; 5:29; 25:11; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13ff.; Eph. 1:22-23; 1 Tim. 3:15)

Matt. 16:19 – “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Matt. 18:18 – “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

And this is why it is vital that we take church discipline seriously. I reject the thought that elders have any authority over the status of another believer’s soul to unilaterally and unjustly pronounce them to be worthy of being a “heathen and a publican,” as sometimes happens. However, I do acknowledge that the true church of Jesus Christ is given authority here on earth to exercise the “keys of the Kingdom.” However, the keys of the Kingdom must always be used in such a way as to honor Christ. They must never be used or abused to seek personal vengeance.

Acts 4:19 – But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge.

Acts 5:29 – But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

This defines the state. I wonder if it could be used to define when we should obey God rather than an abusive elder or an abusive husband who ask people to sin as well, or who pronounce unjust judgments? I believe it does.

Acts 25:11 –“For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

Here is an example of Paul using his rights as a citizen of Rome, but it is nothing more than an example.

Heb. 13:17 – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Again, this is presumably referring to elders and how they are to lead and guide those in their care.

I Pet. 2:13 – Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,

Eph. 1:22-23 – And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

I agree that Christ is the head of the church, but I don’t see how this supports this “tenet” of Patriarchy.

I Tim. 3:15 – I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

It’s important that we conduct ourselves right in the house of God, but again, what does this have to do with the church, state, and family being parallel institutions?

Let’s see what’s missing here. Did we find any verses on family? If one of Patriarchy’s biblical tenets is that the family is the foundational institution of society, I would hope to see some verses to support this. And if family, church, and state are parallel institutions, I would think we could find that in Scripture as well. And what do they mean by “the church is the central and defining institution of history”? I thought history was HIS-story, not the church’s. Maybe history that doesn’t include the church is irrelevant. I think this point needs a lot of work.

9. Every Christian father and family ought to be a submitted and committed part of a local church, subject to the authority and discipline of the church through its elders. (Heb. 10:24-25; 13:17)

Heb. 10:24-25 – And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

One another. Not father. Not family. Just one another here.

Heb. 13:17 – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

They sure do like this verse, these three elders who wrote this!

Why do these Patriarchs put words in here like “father” and “family,” when that is not what the Bible says? Is it just to bolster their claims of Patriarchy? I also notice that the discipline of the church is to be done through a plurality of elders, not just one.

10. The church is defined by its orthodox confession and faithful teaching of God’s word; by the presence of the Holy Spirit; by the rule of qualified elders; by the biblical administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper; by regular meetings for worship, instruction, breaking bread, and fellowship; and by the exercise of discipleship and discipline. (Gal. 1:8; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:1ff.; Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:20ff.; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 5)

Gal. 1:8 – But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

Would that include the “Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy”?

I Tim. 3:15 – I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

I Cor. 12:13 – For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.

I Tim. 3:1 – This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.

There are actually verses that tell us about the role and qualification of elders in the church, but this isn’t one of them!

Matt. 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

I Cor. 11:20 – Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.

I don’t think I would have picked this one!

Acts 20:7 – Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

I Cor. 5:7-8 (These verses are not listed, but I heard them every week, so I know they are the ones they are referring to here.) Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

This is the verse that some elders use to use to say that we should have communion.

This section is very disappointing. I would probably agree with this particular tenet, but it is sorely lacking in Scriptural support. These are supposed to be “biblical” tenets.

11. Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.(1 Tim. 3:5)

I Tim. 3:5 – (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)

The wording of this tenet is quite misleading. Based upon this verse, the first part of the tenet should read something like “An elder must rule his own house well.” This verse is not telling us that if a man leads his family, he will carry that leadership over into the church. This is kind of a weak verse to use to say that only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church, but I will give it to them. I would like to see much more Scripture on this point, however.

Now, here is where Patriarchy gets itself into trouble. Where does the Bible say anything about preferring male leadership outside of church or that such a thing makes a God-honoring society? Or where does it say that by having only men being in positions of leadership (in all of life apparently) supports God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church? Proof, men?

Men & Women: Spheres of Dominion

12. While men are called to public spheres of dominion beyond the home, their dominion begins within the home, and a man’s qualification to lead and ability to lead well in the public square is based upon his prior success in ruling his household. (Mal. 4:6; Eph. 6:4; 1 Tim. 3:5)

Mal. 4:6 – And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

What does this have to do with men working outside the home, or dominion, or ruling his household?

I Tim. 3:5 – (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)

Do you see the heavy pattern of ruling in this document? i am not even going to give them credit for “ruling his household” on this one because this verse is referring only to an elder’s qualification and has absolutely nothing to do with leading in the public square.

What verse tells us that men are called to public squares? To dominion? Beyond the home? That their dominion begins within the home? That prior success in ruling his household will qualify him to lead? That prior success in ruling his household will give him an ability to lead well? This one’s looking real weak.

13. Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, the bearer of children, and a “keeper at home,” the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home, although her domestic calling, as a representative of and helper to her husband, may well involve activity in the marketplace and larger community. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Prov. 31:10-31; Tit. 2:4-5)

Gen. 2:18 – And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

Prov. 31:10-31

Tit. 2:4-5 – that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

Notice that this verse seems to be directed at young women.

Although I didn’t list everything in Proverbs 31, isn’t it interesting that in that whole passage and this partial Titus 2 passage, that the only word the Patriarchs choose to use to define a wife’s role is “homemakers” or “keeper at home.” It sure seems that the Proverbs 31 woman is out of the house a lot!

Which verse tells us that the woman is the bearer of children? I know that is true, but these are biblical tenets nonetheless. Which verse states that the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home? Which Proverbs 31 verse tells us that a woman’s activity in the marketplace and larger community is as a representative of and helper to her husband?

14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Josh. 1:14; Jdg. 4; Acts 16:14)

Gen. 2:18 – And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

While I agree that most women will get married, this verse does not support that. Patriarchy would have us believe that women were created only for the purpose of “helping” men.

Josh. 1:14 – Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side of the Jordan. But you shall pass before your brethren armed, all your mighty men of valor, and help them,

This verse is about the Israelites going to war, not about single women.

Judg. 4 – the story of Deborah

Some patriarchists’ favorite term for Deborah is “non-normative.” And in their book, anything that is non-normative is not biblically supported. It is a word that, to them, means that it goes against the normative pattern of Scripture. Therefore, patriarchists would not support what Deborah did.

Acts 16:14 – Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

Was Lydia single or married? She had a household; does that mean anything? And what does this verse have to do with the role of unmarried women?
Notice which passage regarding a young unmarried woman’s duties in life is clearly missing from this list.

Which verse tells us that women should not work alongside men? Which verse tells us that single women were created for a domestic calling? This tenet needs a whole lot of work!

Procreation

15. God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples, and He “seeks godly offspring.” He is sovereign over the opening and closing of the womb. Children are a gift of God and it is a blessing to have many of them, if He so ordains. Christian parents are bound to look to Scripture as their authoritative guide concerning issues of procreation. They should welcome with thanksgiving the children God gives them. The failure of believers to reject the anti-life mindset of the age has resulted in the murder of possibly millions of unborn babies through the use of abortifacient birth control. (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; 29:31; 30:22; Ex. 20:13: 21:22-25; Ps. 127:3; 128:3-4; Is. 8:18; Mal. 2:15)

Gen. 1:28 – Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Gen. 9:1 – So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.

God told Adam and Eve, and Noah and his sons (and their wives, presumably) to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. It looks like He also told Abraham. If I were a Patriarchist, I think I would have used the command to Abraham for this one. But I just don’t see that God gave this command to everyone. There are three distinct circumstances here, three distinct beginnings of a people, three distinct times when it was necessary to “multiply.” I think we should be careful when we claim that a command to someone in the Old Testament applies across the board to all Christians.

Gen. 29:31 – When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

Gen. 30:22 – Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.

Ex. 20:13 – You shall not murder.

Some Christians are unaware that some forms of birth control actually cause abortions within hours of conception. This is murder.

Ex. 21:22-25 – If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

This verse shows the value God places on the life of unborn child.

Ps. 127:3 – Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.

I don’t deny that children are a gift and a blessing, but that is not what this passage says. Biblical tenets require biblical words.

Ps. 128:3-4 – Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants All around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.

The man who fears the Lord will be blessed with a wife and children. Let’s not read too much into this.

Is. 8:18 – Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the LORD of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion.

Children. Plural. More than one. Isaiah had more than one child. Is this referring to literal children or the children of Israel? Does this verse tell us to have lots of children?

Mal. 2:15 – But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

In the Patriarchy movement, there is a heavy emphasis on having lots of children. I just don’t see the Scriptural support for it here. I wonder why they will say that it is the Lord who opens and closes the womb, yet we should have as many children as the Lord allows, and be fruitful and multiply? Which one is it?

Are “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” Biblical?

Part One

In recent months, I’ve found myself re-examining a number of doctrines and beliefs that I’ve held closely for years. I’ve learned many valuable things recently, including the need to critically examine what we believe and why we believe it, as well as to ensure that what we believe lines up with Scripture.

One of the things that I’ve long believed in is Patriarchy. I’m embarrassed now to have to admit it, but I came to believe that Patriarchy was biblical without ever first having done a critical examination on my own of the supposed “biblical” support for Patriarchy. I just took the word of certain Patriarchy leaders that Patriarchy is biblical. Recently, I started doing an examination and found that the biblical support for Patriarchy is actually quite weak, or at least the biblical support that is used in the official “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” is weak.

This isn’t to say that I believe that Patriarchy is necessarily un-biblical or anti-biblical. However, I am starting to wonder if much of it isn’t extra-biblical. I’m starting to think that Patriarchy probably falls more into the category of a personal lifestyle decision, rather than something that’s biblically mandated as many patriarchists would have us believe. Patriarchy is a personal lifestyle decision which may work well for some Christian families, but I no longer believe that Patriarchy is something that’s biblically mandated. Those who believe that Patriarchy is biblically mandated I would refer to as “hyper-patriarchs.”

Unfortunately, many of the hyper-Patriarchy leaders have attempted to make Patriarchy a necessary component of the Gospel message itself:

Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers. In conscious opposition to feminism, egalitarianism, and the humanistic philosophies of the present time, the church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.

In other words, for the hyper-Patriarchist, Patriarchy is a “Gospel centered doctrine.” To not embrace Patriarchy is to reject the Gospel. I believe this is errant teaching, if not heretical. In some Patriarchy circles, those who don’t go along with their agenda are consigned to the status of a “carnal” or non-normative Christian. In many hyper-Patriarchy circles, to reject Patriarchy is to be “feminist” or “egalitarian.” For them it’s an either/or. Either you embrace Patriarchy or you’re an egalitarian feminist. However, I can no longer view this as an either/or position.

Even if Patriarchy can be supported biblically, does that make it mandatory for all Christians? I don’t believe that Patriarchy can be mandatory unless the Bible specifically mandates it. But from my read of the Scriptures, I see no such mandate.

In this article, what I’d like to do is examine a document prepared by Doug Phillips, Phil Lancaster and R.C. Sproul, Jr. entitled The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy. In the Editor’s Note to The Tenets it states, “We view this as an accurate working document, and invite feedback from anyone as we attempt to improve this statement over time.” I’m grateful that they have extended the offer to provide feedback. Apparently this offer is open to anyone. My goal is help them sharpen their iron here.

The Editor’s Note in The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy also states:

Central to the crisis of this era is the systematic attack on the timeless truths of biblical patriarchy. This attack includes the movement to subvert the biblical model of the family, and redefine the very meaning of fatherhood and motherhood, masculinity, femininity, and the parent and child relationship. We emphasize the importance of biblical patriarchy, not because it is greater than other doctrines, but because it is being actively attacked by unbelievers and professing Christians alike. Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers.

Egalitarianism and feminism are clearly humanistic philosophies, and humanists would not deny it. In my personal view, humanism often becomes an attack on biblical Christianity. There’s nothing new about that, nor is that a “crisis” that’s unique to “this era.” Humanism has been with us for many centuries, and we should always be prepared to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Patriarchists have attempted to “give an answer” to a number of important issues, including the cultural influence of humanism. However, as I’ve come to see, this is a reactionary position, and reactionaries often tend to become extremists. Rather than seeking balance, it is all too easy to take things to the opposite extreme. I believe that these views of Patriarchy are an example of this reactionism, and these views are extremist, rather than biblically balanced.

In principle, I agree that radical feminism and egalitarianism have done much to undermine the family, the church, and society on the whole. The easy thing to do would be to blame women, and I know from personal experience that’s exactly what some patriarchists do. But in my view, radical feminism and egalitarianism cannot be blamed entirely on rebellious women (“Jezebels”), and their penchant for doing so only further harms families and churches, rather than restoring them to biblical balance. Rather than being Patriarchal, this is just misogyny.

Feminism and egalitarianism cannot be laid entirely at the feet of women. Much of the blame must also go to men, men who are either abusive and tyrannical, or on the other end of the scale, men who abdicate their duties and responsibilities to be godly servant-leaders in their homes and churches. Egalitarianism and feminism are often a reaction to abusive or derelict men. The solution isn’t in more extremism — reaction to egalitarian feminism. The solution will come by restoring biblical balance. I believe that rather than being part of the solution, Patriarchy is part of the problem.

“The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy” make numerous bold claims about Patriarchy, including that Patriarchy is “Biblical.” The Tenets purport to be biblical because, supposedly, each of its doctrinal points is supported by multiple specific scriptural references. But as we shall see, quite often the scriptural references don’t make the case that patriarchists attempt to portray that they do. Many of the verses cited simply do not belong under the category that they were placed in because they have little or nothing to do with that particular issue. This may have been done in order to give the false impression that there is strong biblical support for the point being made, when in fact the biblical support may be quite weak, if nonexistent. Needless to say this practice of throwing Bible references like so much spaghetti against the wall to see what might stick, when many of those verses may have little or nothing to do with the “tenet,” is dishonest. Another problem that I discovered is that there has been quite a bit of prooftexting done in order to achieve the desired outcome. This, too, is just more dishonesty.

When I started going through the verses referenced in “The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy,” and I discovered these discrepancies, I found myself becoming very offended. I cherish God’s Word as holy and sacred, but these tenets do not seem to take God’s Word as seriously as I do. This is not a situation where Christians are conforming their lives to God’s Word, but rather they are conforming and contorting God’s Word to their personal preferences.

If patriarchists wish to continue calling Patriarchy “biblical,” then it seems to me that they need to work harder on finding Bible references that actually do support Patriarchy. If they’re then unable to identify specific biblical support for any of their “tenets,” then they need to withdraw those particular tenets entirely. Either that or they need to change their title to just The Tenets Of Patriarchy (my personal preference would be The Tenets Of Hyper-Patriarchy). It’s not for me to say that these aren’t the Tenets Of Patriarchy. I’m sure they are. I do think, however, that they haven’t made a very good case for saying that all these Tenets are biblical.

God as Masculine

1. God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine. God is the eternal Father and the eternal Son, the Holy Spirit is also addressed as “He,” and Jesus Christ is a male. (Matt. 1:25; 28:19; Jn. 5:19; 16:13)

Matt. 1:25 – and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Matt. 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

John 5:19 – Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

John 16:13 – However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

So far, so good.

The Image of God and Gender Roles

2. Both man and woman are made in God’s image (their human characteristics enable them to reflect His character) and they are both called to exercise dominion over the earth. They share an equal worth as persons before God in creation and redemption. The man is also the image and glory of God in terms of authority, while the woman is the glory of man. (Gen. 1:27-28; 1 Cor. 11:3,7; Eph. 5:28; 1 Pet. 3:7)

Gen 1:27-28 – So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

I Cor. 11:3 – But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

I agree that God created man and woman in His own image. This isn’t said of any of God’s other creatures. Mankind also is unique in that we are the only of God’s creations with a soul. Mankind therefore has a special obligation to bring glory to God. I can only assume that these verses are included to show that the man is the image and glory of God in terms of authority. I’m not sure I understand the need to talk about authority structure in the section on being created in the image of God.

I Cor. 11:7 – For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

Eph. 5:28 – So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.

This is a good verse, but I don’t see how it relates to being created in the image of God. To me, this seems confusing to speak of mankind being created in God’s image, while at the same time talking about “gender roles.” Are we trying to say that since a man was created in the image of God, that he should love his own body, and therefore he should love his own wife? If so, this should be stated as such. This verse probably belongs in a different category.

I Pet. 3:7 – Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

This verse seems to support the statement that they share an equal worth as persons before God in redemption, not that women are subordinate or in any way inferior to men.

So, in this category, we find clear biblical support for nearly everything except the clause (their human characteristics enable them to reflect His character), which is meant to be a logical inference of what it means to be created in the image of God, although I find no clear Scripture listed for this. Since these are “biblical tenets,” I would like to see some Scriptural support for this as well.

3. God ordained distinct gender roles for man and woman as part of the created order. Adam’s headship over Eve was established at the beginning, before sin entered the world. (Gen. 2:18ff.; 3:9; 1 Cor. 11:3,7; 1 Tim. 2:12-13)

Gen 2:18 – And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

I think this verse is clear that God intended for wives to help their husbands. I like this translation; wives are comparable to their husbands. Interesting. I wonder how difficult it is for an undereducated wife to help a highly educated man?

Gen. 3:9 – Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

This was right after they both ate the fruit. Does this determine headship? Or is it just inferred here?

I Cor. 11:3, 7 – But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. … For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

I Tim. 2:12-13 – And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

If we put these Scriptures together, I think it is clear that the husband is the head of his wife, and that the wife is to help her husband. I’ve been taught to look at things in light of all of Scripture, so remember this point later on.

4. Although sin has distorted their relationship, God’s order of authority for husbands and wives has not changed, and redemption enables them to make substantial progress in achieving God’s ideal for their relationship. (Gen. 3:16; Eph. 5:22ff.)

Gen 3:16 – To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

Eph. 5:22, 25 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

This is basically sound, but this interpretation sounds almost defeatist to me that we can only make substantial progress in the marital relationship. What of those who aren’t called to marry? What hope do they have of their personal sanctification? In the world of hyper-Patriarchy, daughters must remain under the “headship” of their fathers in perpetuity.

The Authority of Fathers

5. A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector, with the authority and mandate to direct his household in paths of obedience to God. (Gen. 18:19; Eph. 6:4)

Gen 18:19 – For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

In context, God says here that He knew Abraham in order that Abraham should become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. This is a promise given specifically to Abraham. Is Patriarchy claiming Abraham’s promises for themselves? Is that why they call it Patriarchy? They want to be like Abraham? Abraham is certainly seen as the Patriarch in Scripture. Are all men commanded biblically to be patriarchs as well? If they are, then it seems to me that, in order to be biblically consistent, all men would have to do everything that Abraham did, including taking multiple wives (polygamy), have servants (slaves), etc.

Eph. 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

This one applies to at least one aspect of this point. In light of all of Scripture, since a wife is to help her husband, I think it would include helping to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord as well.

It seems that Scriptural support is missing for a great deal of this particular point. Is the father really the head of his household? Is he the family leader? Is he told to be the provider? Is he to be the protector? I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree with this. I’d just like to see the verses for these since these are called “Biblical” Tenets.

This section is about the authority of fathers. Why is the husband part included here? Surely they don’t mean that a husband is to exercise the same authority over his wife as a father would over his children, do they?

6. A man’s authority in the home should be exercised with gentleness, grace, and love as a servant-leader, following the example of Jesus Christ. Leadership is a stewardship from God. (Ps. 103:13; Mal. 3:17; Matt. 11:29-30; Col. 3:21; 1 Pet. 3:7)

Ps. 103:13 – As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.

This verse speaks of the natural pity a father feels for his children, a prime example of prooftexting. Mothers, too, obviously pity their children.

Mal. 3:17 – “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”

These are not “tenets.” These verses are simply stating how things are. In fact, these verses are really about God’s attitude toward us.

Matt. 11:29-30 – “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus is gentle. This verse does not tell a man to be gentle. This verse does not even specifically tell us to be like Jesus, although certainly Jesus is our example. More prooftexting.

Col. 3:21 – Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

I Pet. 3:7 – Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Finally, we get to two verses that are direct commands to men. While I agree with this principle of men being a servant-leader, the Scriptural support here is very weak. I would think this section could be bolstered quite a bit with appropriate verses.

7. The authority of fathers is limited by the law of God and the lawful authority of church and state. Christian fathers cannot escape the jurisdiction of church and state and must be subject to both. (Rom. 13:1ff.; Eph. 5:21; 6:4; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13ff.)

Rom. 13:1 – Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

This verse says “every soul.” I wonder why in Patriarchy only the fathers are to be subject to the jurisdiction of church and state?

Eph. 5:21 – submitting to one another in the fear of God.

In context, this is a “one anothering” passage written to believers on how they are to treat one another. This has nothing to do with being subject to authorities of any kind.

Eph. 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

If this is the passage that limits a father’s authority, then it is greatly limited indeed. I wonder why they don’t follow these limits.

Heb. 13:17 – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

The word “rule” is this verse actually means “to lead or guide.” “Those” is probably referring to elders, hence this verse is talking about the church part.

I Pet. 2:13 – Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,

And the government.

I agree that fathers should be subject to governing authorities. I just wonder if the mothers and children and all men and women everywhere ought to be as well. Are you seeing the pattern here of the heavy emphasis on verses that seem to elevate men to a degree higher than God intended?

(The other tenets will follow later in a later article.)

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This is an interesting hermeneutic. Some patriarchists teach that if we see a “pattern” in Scripture, we are to follow the pattern. They teach that patterns in Scripture are as binding as direct commands, unless those patterns are what they would call “non-normative.” What I didn’t perceive while I was in patriarchy is the glaring weakness in this hermeneutic — there are so many “non-normatives.” They can’t clearly explain why there are so many “patterns” in Scripture that, in a patriarchist’s view, are non-normative. They can’t clearly explain why some “patterns” are “normative” and other “patterns” are “non-normative.” It just seems to come down to a matter of personal preferences, and twisting Scripture to comply with those preferences.

Just a few months ago, I probably would have looked at these verses and said that they did fully support these “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy,” and largely because I had unwittingly adopted this hermeneutic. However, because I’ve become involved in an intensive Bible study group, I’ve learned how to study Scripture more accurately and to more rightly divide the Word of Truth. I still believe that we must base our lives upon Scripture, but I no longer believe that we are commanded to live our lives according to all “patterns” that we find in Scripture.

We also need to differentiate between commands that are for us as believers today and those that were given specifically to others. Furthermore, just because God may have permitted the Patriarchs to engage in certain kinds of behavior four thousand years ago doesn’t mean that we too are permitted, let alone commanded, to do as they did. Just because God gave certain commands to Abraham does not mean that all Christian men suddenly become patriarchs as well. In fact, I find it quite arrogant that some men have decided that God is speaking directly to them when He commanded Abraham to do certain things in order to establish a new nation.

I do not see that God is suddenly establishing multitudes of new nations, all stemming from the new group of “patriarchs” today. In fact, even the definition of “patriarch” is quite arrogant to apply to a Christian father today. I like to quote from Webster’s 1828 dictionary to define terms because this is a favorite dictionary of patriarchists:

Patriarch:

1. The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right. Usually applied to the progenitors of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, or to the heads of families before the flood.
2. A learned and distinguished character among the Jews.
3. In the Christian church, a dignitary superior to the order of archbishops. (Webster’s 1828 dictionary)

I wonder which of these three definitions applies to the “Patriarchs” of today?

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For this article only, I would like to request that comments here only address “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy.” The authors have invited feedback on their tenets and I would like feedback on these verses as well. What do you think? Do these verses support these tenets as being biblical? Does the Bible teach these tenets? When you leave a comment, to help us follow your thoughts, please address the tenet number and the Scripture reference as well. If you have additional Scripture you would like to add to help patriarchists support these tenets, please do so. This is NOT a debate about personal beliefs, but only how these tenets can be supported biblically.

Home School Leaders Warned About Doug Phillips

The following letter went out to a number of home school leaders across the nation and abroad. A copy was also sent to Doug Phillips asking for his response.

We know that there are many more leaders, home school groups, and home school families out there who need to hear this, so if you would like to forward this to them yourself, please feel free (just be sure the links are included). Or you can send us their email address and we would be glad to send it to them.

Dear Home School Leader,

I’ve been a Christian home educator for twelve years now and have been president of a local home school group for seven years. I’ve been active in the home school community for quite some time and have helped to coordinate numerous home school functions and co-ops in the San Antonio, Texas area and have worked at many homeschool conventions.

Home schoolers have worked very hard for a number of years to earn a good reputation for Christian home education. Our proven track record of educational excellence has largely overcome the criticisms of the government educrats. However, we need to remain ever vigilant to maintain that good reputation. If our reputation is undermined by any among us who have divisive and potentially harmful agendas, we stand to lose much.

It’s vital that the most prominent of our home school leadership be men and women of impeccable reputation and strong moral character. We’re very concerned that one of the most prominent of our home education leaders runs the risk of causing the entire home school movement great damage. We speak of Douglas W. Phillips, the founder of Vision Forum. We believe that Doug Phillips’ intentions may be good for his attempts to shed light on a number of wrongs that have crept into the Christian home, the church, and society on the whole, in recent decades. However, a number of Doug Phillips’ methods and ambitions for correcting these problems are seriously flawed. Rather than working to bring about reformation, Doug Phillips embraces opinions and methods which are reactionary, harmful and even potentially dangerous to the family and the church.

Home schoolers are already considered by many to be “radicals” and “extremists.” Of course, we know that most Christian home educators are actually very moderate and do their best to “live at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18). However, Doug Phillips, even by many Christian home schooling standards, is very much an extremist. We’ve known Doug personally for many years and have spent much time studying and analyzing his opinions, as well as his actions. As a result, we’ve become increasingly concerned that Doug Phillips may be far more a liability than an asset to the Christian home school movement.

There is much to show how unhealthy and problematic Doug’s views are, and in this brief email we hope to demonstrate just a few of those. Our goal is to warn you as a Christian home school leader so that you can take any precautionary steps you deem appropriate to minimize any adverse impact to your own family and home school organization. In order to protect the Christian home school movement, we believe it is important that Doug Phillips be isolated and relegated to the outer fringes where he properly belongs, and where he can do little harm. We believe that it is risky for your organization to be identifying yourself with Doug Phillips, and to give him a platform from which he can promote his views. Please now allow us to explain why.

Doug Phillips has just expressed his views publicly on the massacre at Virginia Tech in an article entitled On The Horror At Virginia Tech. Though Doug makes some valid theological observations, his timing couldn’t have been worse. Doug is taking considerable heat over how insensitive and calloused his remarks appear to be. Most troubling is the fact that Doug is publicly advocating arming students. This is a classic example of Doug’s reactionary thinking. Because gun control advocates are calling for further gun control legislation, Doug reacts by saying the solution is to permit students to bring guns into the classroom. This isn’t to say that he wants all students armed, though. In Doug’s patriarchal world, only male students would be armed.

Doug Phillips is known as a significant leader of “Patriarchy,” a movement which seeks to restore homes and churches to an idyllic antebellum image, a time of chivalrous gentlemen and ladies in fluffy dresses. However, just below the surface of this superficial “Gone With The Wind” veneer lurks a far less honorable side. Doug Phillips often challenges radical feminism, and he’s right to do so. However, the solution to radical feminism isn’t a shift to the opposite extreme. Phillips’ views aren’t “complementarian,” or even just patriarchal, but rather hyper-patriarchal, a world in which women are effectively treated as doormats and not permitted to have any opinions of their own. Phillips’ patriarchy vision is an autocratic pseudo-feudal world in which women are completely dominated by husbands, and daughters are deprived of higher education and careers of any kind.

Doug Phillips’ jaded view of women is no more clearly evidenced than the way that he directs his own church, Boerne Christian Assembly, as its self-appointed and unordained pastor and sole elder. At BCA, “Let your women keep silence in the churches” (1 Cor. 14:34) is interpreted in such an extreme manner that women aren’t even permitted to introduce guests, women aren’t permitted to make prayer requests, and women aren’t even permitted to get their own communion (if her husband isn’t present, she must be served by another man, or one of her own sons, even if that son is too young to partake of communion himself). We were members of Doug’s church for five years, and so our comments about this are based on personal experience.

Doug Phillips takes his low opinion of women into the marriage counseling setting as well. Where marital problems are brought to his attention, he’s known to avoid any judicious examination of underlying issues, but rather immediately side entirely with the husband and seek out any excuse to blame the wife for any problems. We know this not only because of what’s been reported to us, but because of what we personally experienced. Some of Phillips’ more common questions to husbands of troubled marriages are: “Isn’t your wife a dripping faucet and a nag?” “Isn’t your wife rebellious?” “Isn’t your wife a Jezebel?” In Doug Phillips’ world, the wife is always to blame. Doug Phillips is not known to have ever asked a wife, “Does your husband love you as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her?”

Considering the fact that women quite often are doing the majority of the practical teaching at home, and also making many of the decisions about home school curriculum, we consider it remarkable that Doug Phillips evidences all the tendencies of a misogynist. Since women are probably making many of the decisions about what materials to order from Vision Forum, and women make up such a large percentage of the home school leadership, one would think that Doug Phillips would want to treat women with much more regard than he does.

Doug Phillips is an attorney and claims to have a biblical world view about law and justice. He even sponsors an annual law conference. This is one of the reasons that we recently exposed Doug on the internet for having conducted a Kangaroo Court in his own church, Boerne Christian Assembly. For those who will take the time to carefully examine the facts, they will come away deeply troubled by the huge disparity between what Doug publicly espouses about justice versus what he actually practices when given the opportunity to exercise justice himself. Without any due process whatsoever, Doug Phillips unjustly excommunicated us for sins that we’d already repented of, as well as sins for which there wasn’t a shred of evidence to support. In fact, one of Doug’s charges against Jen was over a sin that she had committed years before she had even become a Christian, and years after she had repented of that sin! The Lord Jesus forgave her of that sin over seventeen years ago, but apparently Doug Phillips’ standards of forgiveness are far higher than the Lord’s.

After leaving Boerne Christian Assembly, we were welcomed into a church led by Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler. Pastor Wheeler’s church is a “sister church” to BCA. Aside from being a pastor, Little Bear Wheeler is a prominent home school leader and the founder of Mantle Ministries. Doug and Little Bear were close personal friends and have spoken from the podium at many of the same home school conferences and retreats. Little Bear Wheeler worked diligently for fourteen months to reconcile our relationship to Doug Phillips and BCA, but Doug refused to make an appearance for any of the numerous meetings that Little Bear arranged between us. Doug rebuffed all efforts at reconciliation. Worse yet, Doug retaliated against Little Bear by terminating their long friendship, and he even removed most, if not all, Mantle Ministries products from the Vision Forum catalog. For his kindness toward us, Doug Phillips shunned Little Bear Wheeler.

Doug Phillips is a significant leader in the “Family Integrated Church” movement. Many churches do indeed segregate family members by age and pressure parents to have their children participate in youth groups which, though often consistent with the values of public school parents, are often at odds with the values of “family integrated” home school parents. While well intentioned, the family integrated church movement, much like the patriarchy movement, has too often shown itself to be extremist, self-righteous and divisive. Rather than seeking to reform churches from within and wean them from being “programmatic,” the Family Integrated Church movement has become a “program” in itself and has caused a number of church splits. Though Doug Phillips has spoken on “how leave a church honorably,” much of the fruit of the Family Integrated Church movement has been anything but honorable.

Most troubling in its ramifications for how it could adversely impact the cause of Christian education is Doug Phillips’ video documentary “Raising The Allosaur.” Some have referred to this video as a “fakeumentary.” Indeed, there is overwhelming evidence that many of the claims made by Phillips in “Raising The Allosaur” are blatant fabrications. Phillips has never been able to provide any reasonable explanations for the glaring inconsistencies and serious allegations that have been put to him as a result of his video production, masquerading as a documentary. Phillips suffered so much negative public exposure for his fakeumentary that he withdrew it from the Vision Forum catalog, without any public explanation, and he did so in spite of the fact that “Raising The Allosaur” had been a very lucrative product for Vision Forum. Phillips’ fakeumentary has greatly harmed the cause of creationism. If even just a few of the allegations against this video are true, then Doug Phillips is guilty of perpetrating a huge fraud against many thousands of Christians, and especially against Christian home schoolers (in the video Phillips falsely credits home schoolers as having been responsible for finding the allosaur). Phillips owes the Christian public either an explanation or an apology. However, after many such demands, he has completely evaded doing either one. There are numerous other issues that call into question Doug Phillips’ integrity, but “Raising The Allosaur” may be the most glaring example yet.

Perhaps the single greatest risk of all though, in associating with Doug Phillips, are the numerous concerns expressed that he may be a closet racist. We ourselves are not prepared to make such an allegation. We believe that some of these allegations are based on the logical fallacy of “guilt by association.” The problem for Doug, though, is that some of the things that he has said and written do tend to cast strong suspicion on his views of race. Many of Doug Phillips’ personal heroes are notorious racists. As just one example, Doug has written a poem about Robert L. Dabney in which he says, “Hail Dabney, defender of the South!” This is an obvious reference to Dabney’s book, “A Defense Of Virginia and the South.” If you’ve read Dabney’s book, you already know that it was written for one purpose only — as a defense of Southern slavery. Dabney was the South’s strongest apologist for slavery. Dabney had an extremely low view of Blacks, believing that their only appropriate station in life was in perpetual servitude to Whites. For Doug Phillips to “Hail Dabney!” seems extremely problematic.

Doug has left himself wide open to scrutiny on the question of racism. This isn’t to say that we personally believe that Doug is a racist. We do believe, however, that Doug has been very foolish by using his close personal friends to make “racist” allegations against others, based on nothing but guilt by association, when his own associations with known racists are so problematic. We haven’t and we won’t accuse Doug being a racist. However, we believe that the allegations against him of racism are potentially very dangerous to the home school movement.

We would ask that you carefully consider the ramifications of your organization’s relationship with Doug Phillips, through his serving as a speaker at your conferences or otherwise, and the great harm that it could cause to not only your organization’s reputation, but to Christian home education in general, by promoting him and giving him a platform to advance his extremist views.

We recognize that some will choose to immediately dismiss our concerns on the assumption that this is some kind of “personal vendetta motivated by unforgiveness and bitterness.” That’s simply not the case. We both worked for nearly two years to privately reconcile with Doug. We attempted to do so by going through appropriate ecclesiastical channels with not just one, but two different different churches and their elders in our area. In both cases, Doug refused their offers of reconciliation. We’re not motivated by vengeance. We’re motivated by a genuine concern for the well-being of the Christian home school movement.

Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

Yours for Christian Education,

Mark and Jennifer Epstein

_________________________

*Our concern about Doug Phillips’ blog article on Virginia Tech is not that Doug is a proponent of the Second Amendment. We are, too. But we also believe that Doug should be consistent. What Doug advocates is a disparity, based on gender. Men are free to carry guns anywhere, including to their college classes, and they do so allegedly to protect the poor, helpless women, while not allowing for women to carry guns for self-defense as well. What would happen if a public university was full of armed men and unarmed women? What would happen if everyone was armed and a debate ensued in a classroom? How long before the first gun came out? Or maybe we have a problem with the hypocrisy of Doug espousing that only the young men be armed, when we see this video of his daughter?

Jen Epstein Responds to Doug Phillips / BCA Statement

Is the Doug Phillips / Boerne Christian Assembly statement against me “rife with pure fabrications, dangerous half-truths, malicious innuendo, and vicious personal attacks?”

Read and decide for yourself.

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

Just one month ago, in an article on Ministry Watchman, Charles Fisher introduced to the public the story of my family’s mistreatment by Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly. Three days later, BCA issued a public response on a brand new church website. Rather than reply to their statement, I decided to first finish telling my story, which I continued on this site after Charles finished a second article on Ministry Watchman. Because my own account is now complete, I will now respond to the BCA statement, section by section. This article is a little longer than my recent posts, so please be patient as you read it, but I do think you will find it well worth the time. Please note as you read that the excerpts of the Doug Phillips/BCA statement are indented, with my responses following.

Boerne Christian Assembly is a ministry whose primary effort is to broadly declare the gospel-good news of Jesus Christ and to teach the full counsel of God, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20).

I find it sad that the BCA statement begins with a needless falsehood — the claim that Boerne Christian Assembly is a “ministry.” If BCA is just a ministry, by what authority do they claim to have exercised church discipline on Mark and me?

The distinction between a church and a ministry may seem like a small matter to some readers, but the fact is that the church is a God-ordained institution that lasts forever, whereas a ministry is man-made and finite. So it is not a small matter to blur the distinction.

Response of Boerne Christian Assembly to a Defamatory Attack Circulated by an Anonymous Source Against Church Leadership, Church Families, and Women of the Congregation

BCA (actually Doug Phillips, who has done most if not all of the drafting of this statement) uses the legal term “defamatory” from the first part of its statement to send a message that Doug is still considering suing us and to warn potential supporters of us of possible legal consequences of their support. Doug made clear in a blog post he made just a few weeks ago and before we went public with our story that he feels free to sue us because he excommunicated us. The truth is that such a lawsuit is highly unlikely to get very far, because “defamatory” means an untrue statement, and nothing that Charles Fisher or I have written has been untrue. So the use of the word is little more than an aggressive rhetorical device.

The truth is Doug Phillips has done far more to attack my family than we have done to “attack” him by taking our story public. The road to the present began in 2002, when Doug Phillips refused to help me even as I pleaded with him to intervene on behalf of our marriage. Not long after, Doug Phillips launched his attack on me by promoting a theology that says problems in the marriage are always the woman’s fault, by refusing to forgive me when I apologized for “gossiping,” by retaliating against my personal political belief that it is not immoral to vote Republican, and by refusing to protect a woman and children in his own congregation.

The fact that we are now going public, after exhausting all private avenues for reconciliation under Matthew 18, does not constitute our own attack at all; rather, we are merely warning fellow believers about a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

1. Background: Boerne Christian Assembly (hereafter cited as BCA) is a duly constituted local assembly which has, since its beginning, been governed by plural leadership….

As Doug Phillips knows, the term “plural leadership” does not reflect a biblical principle of church government. The BCA statement uses this term solely to disguise the fact that they are not governed by a plurality of ordained elders. I used to always consider it the height of hypocrisy when BCA would begin services every Sunday with one of the deacons proclaiming that we believe in a plurality of elders, while year after year we only had one unordained elder, Doug Phillips. The Bible is clear that there should be a plurality of elders, not a plurality of “leadership” — as Doug Phillips himself teaches at the Vision Forum Uniting Church and Family conferences that he organizes and hosts. This example of Doug not practicing what he preaches is just the first of many that will be noted in this article.

2. Purpose: We have received notice that a highly defamatory article laced with personal character attacks has been widely disseminated by e-mail from an anonymous source.

My story is true. So by definition it is neither defamatory nor an attack on Doug Phillips’ personal character beyond revealing what that character truly is. Search through Charles Fisher’s or my story for evidence of any name-calling, pejoratives, hyperbole, or use of ad hominem attacks; you won’t find any. And, as our own websites make clear, Mark and I are public, not anonymous, sources for Charles Fisher’s story, although Ministry Watchman did originally refer to us as Jared and Mary Jackson in the interest of protecting us from possible litigation.

We also understand that it has been posted on a website run by individuals acting under pseudonyms.

This statement is deliberately misleading, as though BCA was not informed of the story when it was published and as though they only heard of Ministry Watchman through the rumor mill. This is not true, as Ministry Watchman sent Doug Phillips a courtesy copy of the story to his personal email two hours before the story was posted (and Doug’s personal assistant would have seen it almost instantly on his Blackberry). At that time Doug was invited to supply any corrections or clarifications to the story. He declined to do so. Ministry Watchman also offered a standing invitation for Doug Phillips to set the record straight on any errors he subsequently identified. Doug Phillips has declined to do so for over a month so far.

Although I don’t know if the authors at Ministry Watchman write under their own names or under pseudonyms as alleged in this statement, I do know that RC Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries filed a lawsuit against Christian blogger (and Ministry Watchman writer) Frank Vance. I also know that Doug Phillips has threatened to sue us and others. Under the circumstances — Christian public figures who refuse to obey the command in I Corinthians 6 to refrain from suing fellow Christians — it could be very prudent for Ministry Watchman contributors to write under pseudonyms. I certainly don’t fault them if they have chosen to do so.

Furthermore, we only have to look to the first two “We hate the Epsteins” websites to see that Doug Phillips’ own close associates chose to “attack” us using pseudonymns as well, all while they were exposing our names to the whole world, not to mention revealing pastoral confidences and using foul language in the process. Since Doug Phillips did nothing to stop this, I must therefore conclude that he gives them his implicit approval for what they have done. In my opinion, this is blatant hypocrisy.

The defamatory article has been sent by e-mail throughout our own church community and across the nation.

My true story has been read by many people who have emailed links to friends and associates. There are many concerned readers who are forwarding this important information to others. Doug Phillips uses email himself. I see no special problem with the medium.

The article involves numerous fictitious accounts of events, malicious accusations against BCA elder Doug Phillips and his wife Beall, the families of BCA, and its leadership.

“Numerous,” “fictitious,” “malicious,” and “accusations” are all broad and inflammatory but unsubstantiated words Doug Phillips often uses, which is one reason I know he probably wrote this statement (and not the person who signed it). These words don’t really say anything at all of substance. Why doesn’t Doug Phillips just address even one aspect of my story specifically? Maybe because he can’t refute it? Maybe because if he says anything at all falsifiable that it will be proven false?

The numerous accusations center around the relationship of BCA with a couple biblically and lovingly disciplined for gross, unrepentant sin in the beginning of the year 2005. The purpose of this letter is to offer a brief response.

Actually, my story is primarily about Doug and Beall Phillips individually, not about BCA. Notice how this statement tries very hard to take the focus off these two Phillips family members, where it belongs.

Now that I have completed telling my story (If you haven’t read it, you may want to do so, beginning here, before continuing with this article), it should be clear that the BCA “discipline” was neither biblical nor loving. In fact, the manner in which it was conducted would not even hold up to the much lower standards of the secular justice system, let alone to the higher standards of God’s Word. Doug, do you really think the way you have treated my children and me is loving? While I realize you think that this kind of discipline is meant to produce repentance in its rightful place, since you cannot clearly provide me with anything I need to repent from, you have effectively put me in a lose-lose situation: If I don’t repent, I am forever deemed an excommunicant; If I do confess, it would be a lie.

3. Summary: The article attacking BCA is a work of fiction. It is rife with pure fabrications, dangerous half-truths, malicious innuendo, and vicious personal attacks.

Here are more sweeping and unspecific charges. I have plenty of documentation that supports the truth of my story; BCA has offered nothing to disprove it. This type of language serves only to incite the reader’s emotions, something Doug Phillips taught us never to do. This is more of Doug holding others to a standard he does not follow himself.

It attributes to BCA leaders statements they never made, actions they never committed, and beliefs to which they do not subscribe.

Precisely which statements, actions, and beliefs might these be? I notice that the BCA statement is very careful, for example, to avoid denying that Doug Phillips called me a “whore” and a “Jezebel.” The BCA statement is also careful not to deny any of the other particular facts that I have put forward. Doug knows there are too many witnesses to deny such things. That’s why he resorts to denying, in a morally outraged tone, unspecified things he was not accused of committing.

The article demeans women in so far as it viciously attacks Beall Phillips and presents the women of BCA in a most unflattering and defamatory manner.

Beall Phillips has been a true helpmeet to Doug — helping him place blame where it doesn’t belong, helping him to manipulate my words into something they were never intended to mean, helping manipulate me into a situation where Doug Phillips could excommunicate me for what Beall herself recommended I do. Telling the truth about her role as a de-facto female elder is not “vicious,” unless what she has done is vicious (in which case it cannot be avoided). Furthermore, if the most extreme aspects of patriarchy as practiced by many at BCA appear unflattering, it is because of the subject matter, not because of the reporter. Criticizing Ministry Watchman’s reporting in this regard is merely blaming the messenger.

The article is undocumented, unsubstantiated, and unbiblical in so far as it is the result of a cooperative effort with an excommunicated couple to bring a false witness against Christians contrary to the Ninth Commandment and to the biblical requirements pertaining to those under church discipline.

Here is another example of a boldfaced lie. The original story by Charles Fisher WAS documented. In fact, that document includes Doug Phillips’ own signature (plus the signatures of other witnesses). See it for yourself right here. After that first story many more documents have been released. The first document supports my story, which, in fact, closely tracks the rest of the documentation. I find it very odd that the official BCA statement would find it so easy to lie about something that anyone can easily disprove. So I ask you readers, if BCA’s “leadership” will lie about this, why not about other things as well?

Furthermore, to call us “excommunicated” is to beg the question. That is precisely the matter under dispute. We deny that we were excommunicated, not only because Doug Phillips denied us due process but also because he refused to supply the appropriate grounds for excommunication. In fact, to this day, we have yet to receive any particulars about the sins we allegedly committed to justify the excommunication.

We deny the vicious charges presented in the document, stand by the character of the men and women defamed, and affirm the propriety of the excommunication both as to the substance and as to the procedure.

Which “document” is he referring to? Perhaps Charles Fisher’s original story? If so, I believe anyone would have a difficult time finding anything “vicious” in this rendering of my story. And if BCA has denied anything specific in that report, I would like to see it; a broad, general denial of “vicious charges” doesn’t amount to anything.

4. Excommunication With Due Process and Unanimous Approval of the Voting Church Body: Contrary to the claims made by this couple and the publishers of the defamatory article, the excommunication of the family followed biblical procedure consistent with our doctrine and confession, procedures which we believe to fairly represent the parameters laid out in Scripture.

I believe I made a clear case that this excommunication was both unbiblical and without due process. I have yet to hear one specific charge against me, although there have been very broad allegations without any examples. None of these broad charges, even if true, are an excommunicable offense. I was not provided time to prepare a defense, to gather witnesses, to even have a trial. I was tried and convicted by secret star chamber, and I still don’t even know the charges! There was no place and no person to whom I could appeal. I would like to know the Bible verses that describe using this kind of railroading to excommunicate.

Tremendous patience, longsuffering, and love were shown to the couple even in the face of violent railings, vicious accusations, cruelty and threats on their part directed at each other, other women at BCA, the families coming alongside of them in counsel and prayer, and the church leadership.

I would agree that Doug Phillips was patient with my husband’s anger even to the point that he refused to protect my children and me when our lives were in danger. However, I don’t think that is the kind of patience our Lord advocates. While Doug Phillips certainly had somewhat of a good relationship with Mark, his obvious disdain for me as a woman is what led to his very unloving and unbiblical treatment of me. At no time did I knowingly treat anyone, man or woman, at Boerne Christian Assembly with anything other than Christian charity, even when Beall Phillips tried to back me into corners, or when others told half-truths about me, such as when Kathleen Turley told Doug Phillips that I was gossiping, which was not the full story and certainly not my intent. In other words, to claim that Doug Phillips in particular was patient, longsuffering, and loving toward me is simply not true.

The initial reason BCA intervened with this couple was to prevent their divorce in light of the husband’s constant threats to divorce his wife.

True. It had absolutely nothing to do with me. So why was I punished by being banned from the Lord’s Supper as BCA’s first act of intervention?

Just prior to their formal excommunication, the acrimony and venom between the couple was at such a level that the wife suggested her husband was guilty of attempted murder and of psychological instability, while the husband presented compelling evidence of ongoing cruelty on the part of the wife.

As a former lawyer for HSLDA, Doug Phillips knew that he had a responsibility, both as an elder and as a lawyer specifically trained for these types of situations, to investigate my daughter Natasha’s and my allegations that our lives were in danger rather than laughing them off. I have even spoken to a well-known lawyer at HSLDA about this situation and he verified that Doug Phillips should have known better. Bob Sarratt is the one who suggested that Mark might be bi-polar, but even so, wouldn’t that be a logical concern in a situation like this?

As for the charges against me, I invite you, Doug, to give me even one example of my being cruel to my husband. The truth is that my husband made up charges against me, which you did not test but instead used as an excuse to discipline me. In fact, even after my husband recanted of his false charges in front of the whole church, you still used his false testimony to condemn me! So much for your advocacy of “Biblical law,” which does not permit judgment based on false testimony. Doug, why don’t you practice what you preach?

When confronted for sins, the wife insisted on a novel and unbiblical variation of the doctrine of sinless perfectionism to justify her claim that she had essentially not sinned in her home for close to half of a year.

The question was, “Have you sinned in your marriage in the last 24 hours?” I answered that I could not recall doing so. When Beall Phillips kept pressing, asking me about the last 48 hours, the last week, or the last month, I merely replied that I had not sinned recently in my marriage. In fact, Mark was so rarely home at this point, that I didn’t even have many opportunities to sin directly against him. I was not claiming sinless perfectionism but rather that, although I certainly had sinned in my marriage, as in all of life, I did not have some particular pattern of sin that Beall had been looking for to point to as the cause of our family’s marital problems.

Over a period of years leading up to the excommunication, the elders of BCA and appointed families from the local church logged hundreds of hours counseling both the husband and wife in the Word of God, sometimes with signs of hope, and other times with none.

While Mark was certainly afforded much counseling, although of mixed quality, I was counseled by Beall Phillips and Reba Short for a total of six hours over five years. Mark and I met with Doug Phillips for a total of four hours in five years, but I don’t consider his name calling and kangaroo courts to be “counseling.” Doug knows of this wide disparity, and he knows there is no good excuse for it, so he tries to obscure this to the readers of the BCA statement by combining my situation with Mark’s.

At no time was inappropriate language leveled against the couple by leaders of BCA.

Since there is no denial of using any specific words, I can only assume that Doug Phillips considers it appropriate pastoral behavior to call me a “whore,” “Jezebel,” “wicked,” “rebellious,” and “churlish,” even without supplying any examples of these charges. I guess that’s his view of how to shepherd a member of the flock.

The gradual and patient process involved counsel, appeals, confrontation, admonition, warnings, censure, discipline, and, ultimately, excommunication with the full consent of the church.

Let’s look more closely at each of these alleged steps:

Counsel – The only counsel I received was six hours worth by two women who thought problems in the marriage were all the woman’s fault and therefore could be solved in three weeks by following a list of submission guidelines.

Appeals – When Doug Phillips excommunicates you, there is no one to whom you can appeal.

Confrontation – I would describe my relationship with Doug Phillips as mostly confrontational.

Admonitions – “Jennifer, you are very wicked.”

Warnings – “You’re going to pay for this.” [For disagreeing in a private email that it is immoral to vote Republican]

Censure – When I ask for help in my marriage, I am not allowed to take communion for over a year.

Discipline – The whole church shunned me for something I didn’t do.

Excommunication – In a secret meeting, the whole church (half of which are Doug’s employees and thus had a major conflict of interest and incentive to vote as desired by the man paying their families’ incomes) voted to excommunicate me for submitting to Beall Phillips’ recommendation to put in writing a defense against false charges made against me?

As the final stage of a lengthy disciplinary process, the couple was brought before the church where they were admonished by the body, including men and women.

The disciplinary action in January 2005 was the final stage of discipline? Exactly how was I disciplined prior to this and for what? The suspension from the Lord’s Table in 2002 had been for my husband’s threats of divorce, as was stated just above, and it was supposedly resolved one year later when we were permitted to return to the Lord’s table. The only other “discipline” that occurred was that pre-conversion sins from which I had previously repented were read before the men, women, and children of the congregation, despite my husband’s pleading that they not be.

One other thing readers should take note of in this statement is that Doug Phillips is confessing here that there was no due process in his discipline. Instead of a trial with advance notice at which we could testify ourselves, present our own evidence, and cross-examine the witnesses supplied by the prosecution as a means to better discover the truth, we are presented to the congregation in a meeting at which our discipline which was pre-ordained.

The response of the wife in particular was to bring many hateful railings and false testimonies against women of the church and against the leadership.

My “defense” to this disciplinary action did not include railings, hate, or any false testimony. My defense was similar to what I have written in my story. My husband’s “railings” included confessing to giving false testimony, unsuccessfully pleading with the leadership not to discipline me based on the false testimony, and unsuccessfully pleading with the church leadership to not tell the whole church of my pre-conversion sins. Is this what Doug Phillips means by “railings”?

The husband was admonished for his violent anger, his lack of loving leadership, for unrepentant anger and hatred, and for bringing a false witness.

While Mark certainly confessed to and repented from his anger and lack of love, I can find no record of his being accused of bringing a false witness in the disciplinary action document we have from Boerne Christian Assembly. Certainly, the false testimony was still used by the BCA leadership as grounds for disciplining me, so criticizing Mark for such false testimony would not have been consistent, if it ever happened.

The wife was formally admonished for habitual dishonesty and lying, for railings and reviling against both her husband and church authorities, for cruelty, gossip, and attempted division of the brethren.

On this particular day, of this particular list, I was charged with gossip, of which I asked Doug Phillips for forgiveness but he refused to forgive me. I was not charged with dishonesty, lying, railings, revilings, cruelty, or attempted division. Nor have I done those things. You may check for yourself on page 5 of the Disciplinary Action to see that I was not accused of these things. I am once again mystified that the BCA “leadership” thinks they can get away with a lie that can so easily be caught.

Despite fervent and loving appeals on behalf of individual brothers and sisters, men and women within the body assembled, and the leadership of this church, the couple hardened their hearts to God and defied the admonition of the church.

Mark confessed his sins before the congregation that day and he was still excommunicated shortly thereafter. I merely asked, “What have I done wrong specifically, so that I can repent?” I was given no answer.

After careful prayer and deliberation, and pursuant to the clear commands of Scripture which states, “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matthew 18:17), the couple was afterward excommunicated from BCA.

Even though we were told that we had six months in which to repent (I’m still not sure from what), we were suddenly and without notice excommunicated less than two weeks later in a secret meeting to which Mark and I were not invited. All that had happened during those two weeks was that I had written up, as advised by Beall Phillips, and circulated, a defense to members of BCA in response to the charges laid against me, as I had been given no advance warning or opportunity to do so at the previous disciplinary meeting (while my accusers had been informed weeks in advance and been able to prepare written statements). That was my only new offense and one that had been directed by Beall Phillips, the person designated by the “leadership” to counsel me. All I can conclude, then, is that submission to Beall in this was deemed the final, excommunicable offense and that her helpful “counsel” had been a set-up.

It should be noted that Doug Phillips did not make the initial recommendation to excommunicate this wayward couple. The motion for excommunication came from another member of the church body, and the BCA congregation voted unanimously in approving it.

I am very sure this is true. Doug Phillips is quite careful about not putting his name on anything and letting other people take the fall for him when things backfire. This BCA statement is another such example. Doug Phillips wrote nearly all, if not all, of it and as the sole elder of BCA, he should have signed it and taken responsibility for it, not Bob Sarratt. Some of Doug’s defenders who are foolish enough to put their names on their attacks against me would be well advised to follow Doug’s example and keep silent. If he won’t sign his own name to his own defense, why should you sign your name to a defense on his behalf?

5. Tactics Rooted in Dishonesty: The decision to isolate and attack Doug Phillips, both as an elder and also as the head of a ministry unconnected to the local church, is reprehensible.

My story focuses on Doug Phillips precisely because he is the one who was directly responsible for everything that took place. If Doug is isolated as the sole elder at BCA after teaching for years on the biblical requirement of church government by a plurality of elders, that is his personal responsibility, which should not reflect on me. Furthermore, there is nothing dishonest or reprehensible about pointing out that Doug Phillips does not practice in his own church what he preaches about church government at his Uniting Church and Family ministry conferences.

As the Bible says in James 3:1, those who presume to teach will be judged more strictly. Apparently, Doug Phillips interprets this verse as those who presume to teach shouldn’t be judged, or even criticized, at all.

It is a strategic tactic, the goal of which appears to be to confuse uninvolved third parties and to deflect attention from the real sin of the couple and the due process of accountability brought against them by a covenanting body that knows them very well and has walked with them for many years.

My goal here is to warn fellow believers, both those still at BCA and those who are in any way influenced by Doug Phillips, and his teachings through Vision Forum, that the man you see in public is not the same man in private, that you need to be aware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing who preaches due process to others but denies it to those under him. He holds up his own congregation as a national model, and he is seeking to spread that model across the whole country through his Uniting Church and Family Conferences and his National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, which, with more than 500 member churches, is looking more and more like a new denomination every day. It is Doug Phillips who has the strategic ambition to spread what he preaches across the country and around the globe; unfortunately, he does not practice what he preaches. Our response to this hypocrisy is very modest by comparison and comes nowhere near to grand strategy.

The facts are these: There was unanimous agreement on the part of the more than half a dozen families who had been privately involved in helping the family prior to their excommunication, on the part of the church leadership, and on the part of the entire voting body present (around twenty-five families) on what the outcome should be.

There were actually five couples who decided to discipline us initially in January 2005. Of these five couples, two couples and another of the wives had had little to no interaction with us. Beall had not spoken to me for years at this point, except for the six hours of counseling. So, six out of the ten people responsible knew almost nothing of us personally. The one man that did know me best in fact questioned why I was disciplined because he did not see the evidence for it. One couple, who work for Doug Phillips and are very close to him, came over to our home every week for dinner, and that man had counseled Mark extensively. That leaves Doug Phillips as the prime mover by a large margin.

Another odd aspect of this statement is the claim that “families” rather than heads of household decide on church matters. Doug does not believe in women voting, in church or state, and he also does not permit women to speak at all in church, so the claim that families decided is another example of deceptive reporting, as it is designed to give the impression that the women of the church had some formal say in the matter. They did not.

The decision was this: that for the good of the body and the spiritual good of the couple, excommunication was necessary.

While our family certainly has grown spiritually since we were “excommunicated,” I don’t think it has anything to do with being treated as heathens and publicans and the whole family being shunned. Maybe it would have been better for the body to not hide problems of this magnitude and allow others to come alongside and attempt to help us and to hold Mark accountable. In the end, because God is sovereign, I have no doubt that He will turn the evil done at BCA in the name of church discipline into good for purifying His bride. I think that is already happening through this site, as people are being warned to beware the pied piper and his “new Reformation” tune.

Concerning leadership: From its first days as a constituted assembly, BCA has maintained plural and equal leadership in the governance and oversight of the local body.

When BCA first started, it had three elders. About one year later, there were just two. Two years after that, and ever since the end of 2002, there has been only one unordained elder (unless there has been some very recent new promotion in response to the public criticism of the lack of multiple elders). BCA has always had 2-3 deacons, but deacons are not the same as elders. The truth is that it has been many years since anyone with knowledge of BCA could claim honestly that there has been “equal leadership” — unless “equal” is defined strictly as equally unordained to any office.

Even during times of transition, men have always stepped up into leadership.

Other men have preached, but everyone who is a member of BCA knows full well that no decision is made without Doug Phillips’ approval. Besides, leadership roles are not the same as offices. Many men have led in some way at BCA, but Doug Phillips has made sure for years that he was the only one holding the office of elder.

The suggestion that BCA is run by one man, or that the excommunication process was managed or run by one man, is a fraud and contrary to the clear facts.

BCA has long had one elder, one unordained elder – Doug Phillips. As the sole elder, Doug Phillips was solely responsible for the so-called excommunication as well, as he would have been the only one with any biblical authority to carry it out. The Bible does not give the “keys to the kingdom” to the heads of household of a church collectively but rather to a plurality of elders.

The isolation of Doug and Beall Phillips for censure, the connection with Vision Forum Ministries, and the absurd charges leveled against their character are tactics used by a couple who has become notorious for extreme behavior within their marriage and towards others, for gossip in the congregation, and for dishonesty.

My story about Doug and Beall Phillips involves Vision Forum to the extent that our second meeting with Doug Phillips took place in his office at Vision Forum, my three mandatory counseling sessions took place at Vision Forum, and I have been barred from the premises of Vision Forum due to the circumstances surrounding my story. But mostly, I was ultimately excommunicated because I responded, with my husband’s permission, to the open invitation of the President of Vision Forum to present to him my view of politics, which focused on the idea that it is not immoral to vote for Republicans (specifically Bush in 2004). Doug Phillips disagreed with my opinion, and for expressing it and refusing to recant without being persuaded by reason, he promised that I would pay.

If we were notorious for extreme behavior within our marriage, then why were so many BCA members shocked when the disciplinary action document was read in church on January 23, 2005? To any extent that we have become notorious since, it is no doubt due to frequent whisperings, including broken pastoral confidence about exaggerated misdeeds and sins from before conversion that have been confessed and repented of long since.

In fact, at one point their behavior was so extreme that a shepherd from a nearby congregation who also had counseled this family strongly advised Doug Phillips to get a court restraining order for his physical protection, a recommendation he declined.

We have never given any indication that Doug Phillips needed physical protection from us. This statement is designed to create sympathy where none is due. It also ignores the fact that multiple shepherds from other congregations have refused to go along with Doug Phillips’ star chamber approach to church discipline imposed on us and have told him so.

6. Ongoing Sin and Unrepentence: Subsequent to their excommunication, the couple published lengthy defamatory letters and disseminated them widely, bringing numerous false and railing accusations and demands against specific and numerous men and women of BCA.

Actually, before we were excommunicated, but immediately after the disciplinary action statement, at the advice of Beall Phillips, I wrote out a defense and sent it to the five men who decided to discipline me. After that seemed only to bring more shunning upon us, I appealed to the rest of the members of BCA as well, sending them a copy of my defense. We also gave a copy to the elders of the new church we were attending and to Bob Welch, who was involved in the excommunication. We did not take it outside the immediate group of people directly involved in one way or another. As I have already said, the substance of that communication was very similar to what you see on this site. Judge for yourself: Does what you read here sound like the BCA statement describes it?

They also raised the issue of a lawsuit against BCA.

Using correct legal terms in responding to an attorney such as Doug Phillips is not raising the issue of a lawsuit; that is, pointing out that something he said was egregious enough to be “actionable.” Making that observation is not the same as threatening a lawsuit. On the other hand, Doug Phillips did actually retain a personal attorney, Bobby Don Hart, who threatened to sue us. For months, our only interaction with Doug Phillips was through his attorney, and during that time we did not retain our own legal counsel or seek legal advice. That being so, which party — Doug Phillips or the Epsteins — has demonstrated a greater likelihood of initiating a lawsuit?

They further sought and were successful at using the spread of falsehoods to create active divisions within the community.

Not only did we not create divisions within the community, we actually recommended to certain families that they should visit BCA. When asked, we told the truth about our situation, but never in a manner intended to cause divisions. To be sure, the truth sometimes divides, but that is not always a bad thing. For example, being divided from false teaching has been good for my family.

Next, they began to launch hateful and slanderous websites comparing Doug Phillips and Vision Forum to Nazis, among other unkind and defamatory representations.

It is not true that Mark and I have launched such a website, and I certainly have not compared Doug Phillips or Vision Forum to Nazis. Readers are invited to double-check for themselves by reading through my site. But even if there is such a comparison, perhaps expressed tongue in cheek, so what? I’ve had several good laughs at being called much worse things on blogs run by supporters of Doug Phillips, and I don’t see why Doug should be so thin-skinned, unless something hit close to home. A true shepherd should be more tolerant and patient than a member of the flock, not less.

Next, they attempted via letter to blackmail Doug Phillips by threatening to destroy him via the internet unless he capitulated to unbiblical demands.

Mark offered to go to arbitration (such as Peacemakers) and explained that if Doug Phillips refused his efforts at reconciliation, that Mark would then take what we saw as the next logical step, which would be to send an email to several prominent pastors, asking for their help. That is all the charge of “blackmail” amounts to.

The unlawful nature of their behavior was explained to them, as was the fact that they have no protection under I Corinthians 6 against lawsuits should they persist in such behavior.

Mark’s request for arbitration was met with Doug Phillips’ lawyer, Bobby Don Hart, threatening to sue us instead. The only time Doug Phillips addressed his unbiblical interpretations of I Corinthians 6 not applying to excommunicants was when he said as much in his own blog. This was published on October 11, 2006, after Doug’s attorney had broken off all communications to us. I guess this is Doug’s way of admitting what BCA and Vision Forum insiders have known for years — that Doug Phillips uses his blog to communicate to people without naming names but still in a way that those in the know will know precisely the target and the message.

Next, they specifically positioned themselves as Internet whistleblowers against ministries that sue bloggers.

I wrote articles on my blog about the grievous sins of Ligonier, a Christian ministry which had sued a believer in direct violation of I Corinthians 6. I did this as a long-time monthly donor to Ligonier and as someone who believed proper stewardship of those donations required me to investigate the reports of the lawsuit when I heard of it. This was in no way related to Doug Phillips or Vision Forum or BCA — although we did eventually learn that the false church discipline against us, including pre-conversion sin relayed in pastoral confidence, had been brought to the attention of Ligonier senior management by Doug Phillips or his authorized staff during that time. So, to the extent there is a connection, it is one that Doug Phillips himself initiated.

Finally, they worked in conjunction with the website to mass disseminate rank lies and slanders against one of their former elders and to disparage the congregation that loved them.

When Ministry Watchman approached us about telling our story, we prayed about it and checked them out thoroughly. Satisfied that Frank Vance’s reporting in particular was seen to be accurate and well-documented, and impressed with the biblical standards of the website, we agreed to tell our story to one of their reporters, Charles Fisher. We have tried our best to tell the truth in every respect and cannot be held responsible for the fact that Doug Phillips treats any and all criticism of him or his leadership practices as “slander,” “lies,” “defamation,” etc.

As a part of their most recent actions, they have facilitated the posting of doctored and misleading documents onto the internet.

The first document that Ministry Watchman posted in support of our story had our names covered to protect our identity. They also blurred the names of the signatures of some witnesses as well since they were not implicated in the story. Doug Phillips’ signature, however, was not blurred. In any case, if you compare this first document that was redacted only to protect certain names to the second copy that is not altered in any way, you will clearly see that the names were the only thing changed, as was fully disclosed. Consequently, it is dishonest to call the document “doctored.”

By the way, since Doug Phillips drafted that document, and not Mark or me, if it is “misleading,” it is the responsibility of Doug Phillips, not Mark or me. At the time of this BCA statement, we had published only one document on the Internet. It was only later that it would have been accurate to say that we posted “documents.” This is not a big deal by itself, but it does provide additional evidence that the BCA statement was not drafted with scrupulous accuracy being a high priority.

In sum, their ongoing behavior has been consistent with some of the very issues for which they were excommunicated by the BCA congregation without a single vote in opposition.

In sum, you will see that Doug Phillips’ ongoing behavior has been consistently abusive not only throughout my story, but throughout the many lies and exaggerations presented in this very statement. I have already explained the unanimous vote (half of which constituted employees of Doug Phillips) and how it is not, in any case, the place of the congregation to do the work of the elders, so I won’t cover that again.

7. How Should the Church Respond to the Couple: In order to preserve the flock of God from damage caused by railers, extortioners, disorderly, disobedient, unruly, unrepentant and dishonest individuals, as well as to encourage such individuals to flee to Christ while there is yet time, the Bible offers the following directives:

The list of sins here grows to now include us being railers, extortioners, disorderly, disobedient, unruly, unrepentant, and dishonest. It should be clear by now that these terms do not describe us at all and are merely designed to draw attention away from the truth of our family’s five years of ecclesiastical tyranny and abuse under Doug Phillips. If these were true, one would think that given literally years to produce specific instances of these sins, in order for us to fully repent, the fact that he has not done so despite our repeated requests, tells me he either cannot produce such specifics or he will not because he is not interested in giving us any opportunity to be reconciled. My own view is that both are true.

Romans 16:17-18: Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Mark and I are aware of no divisions or offenses that we have committed contrary to proper doctrine. If we have committed any, we certainly have not been informed of these with sufficient specificity to make repentance possible.

I Corinthians 5:11-13: But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

This new list of “offenses” seems to be added just so Doug Phillips can use another verse to justify excommunicating us. In any case, this list of charges is simply not true.

II Thessalonians 3:6-7: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;

We do not walk disorderly, but attempt to emulate the apostles and follow their teachings as closely as possible in our daily lives, especially regarding such passages as I Corinthians 6.

II Thessalonians 3:14: And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

I have done nothing for which I should be so ashamed that no one should eat with me. I have sinned, as has every other person in this world, but I am not an unrepentant sinner.

Psalms 101:5: Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.

Slander always involves lies and falsehoods, neither of which have I told.

Proverbs 22:10: Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.

None of these apply to us either.

8. Conclusion: Recognizing that church discipline, like all godly administrations of discipline, is to be an act of love, the families of BCA have for nearly two years been praying for this couple and for their children.

And we have been praying for Doug Phillips and those at BCA as well.

It is our heartfelt desire to see love return to their family, hope to their children, and lasting harmony between husband and wife.

While this is certainly our desire also, I would not have known this was Doug Phillips’ desire by the way in which he treated my children and me. My children are still devastated by how Doug Phillips treated them. Doug Phillips has done far more to undermine harmony in our home than to promote it.

Though we cannot capitulate to their extortions, condone their ongoing destructive behavior, nor remain silent in the face of the spread of divisive falsehoods which they continue to propagate, we remain constant in having a genuine spirit of love toward them and earnestly desire their reconciliation through repentance first with God, and second with the families and loved ones who have poured out their hearts and lives for them.

Requesting first reconciliation, then arbitration, and then mediation is not extortion. I have been very careful to be truthful throughout my entire story. I do believe that in some odd way, Doug Phillips truly thinks he is doing the right thing in all this and that this is the way he is to love us, but by refusing to supply any specifics of our alleged sins he has made it impossible for us to be reconciled, if any true repentance is still needed on our part. His words of love and his deeds do not match.

We encourage those who desire the best for this couple, as well as the peace of the Body of Christ, neither to receive their slanders and false reports, nor to set aside Christ’s commands in dealing with them as an unrepentant man and woman under formal censure.

If I ever slander or give a false report (which are the same thing), I would encourage you not to receive them either. However, since my story is both true and well documented, it should be obvious by now that the circumstances leading up to and including my excommunication, and even our attempts at reconciliation since then are not the actions of “heathen and publicans” deserving formal censure.

Bob Sarratt, on behalf of the BCA session

It is telling that this statement is signed by long-time deacon Bob Sarratt, not Doug Phillips, who more than anyone else is responsible for what happened to my family. So why didn’t Doug Phillips sign his name and take the kind of personal responsibility that he requires of everyone else?

It’s unfortunate that the BCA statement ends as it begins, with a falsehood. This final falsehood is the claim that the statement was issued by the BCA “session,” a presbyterian term for a board of ordained elders that rule a local congregation together with equal authority. BCA is far from presbyterian but appears to seek the sympathy of presbyterians by giving the impression that BCA is ruled by a plurality of equal, ordained elders. It is not. The truth is that Doug Phillips has been the sole unordained elder at BCA for almost four years now, and nothing major is done at BCA without his personal approval (whether he permits his name to be used or not).

***

The above is my personal assessment of the Doug Phillips/BCA statement. I welcome constructive feedback on it, including correction of any errors I may have made. Or if you think I missed something in my analysis, let me know. I’ll be glad to receive correction and acknowledge it publicly. My hope is, with your help, that this article will be the most thorough and accurate, yet concise analysis of the BCA statement possible, to the glory of God and the edification of His people.

Doug Phillips’ Stubborn Silence

We Finally Go Public After Doug Phillips’ Lawyer Mouthpiece Refuses Additional Apologies and Efforts at Reconciliation

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

When Natasha was 15, she decided to enter the Elsie Dinsmore contest by Vision Forum in 2002. Having never written an essay before, she was excited and worked hard on it. She was very pleased when she won first “Runner-up” in her age category (13-18), and that recognition afforded her many opportunities to meet people all over the United States. Inevitably, when we would travel, or especially when we would attend a Vision Forum event, Natasha was often asked if she was the girl who won the Elsie Dinsmore essay contest. Unfortunately, however, Doug Phillips decided that our excommunication should extend to treating Natasha like a heathen and a publican, and sometime after April 1, 2006, Doug dropped her from the list of winners. You can see the cached Vision Forum page of Natasha winning here, and the current Vision Forum page here.

Shortly thereafter, upon receipt of Don Hart’s letter, Mark replied to Don on June 15, 2006, beginning with confessing whatever new sin he was aware of:

There is no doubt I owe your client [Doug Phillips] an apology for the letter sent the week following your client’s deliberate public humiliation of my wife that he, and now you, refers to as “church discipline” followed by excommunication. I should have confronted your client a second time (on a one-to-one level) before sending a letter to every covenanting member of Boerne Christian Assembly. I also owe your client an apology for my actions in November 2005, after previously learning your client, or those vested by your client, related our excommunication to non-members of the covenanting community, which is anything but the “charitable treatment of two excommunicated individuals” you reference in your letter. In each case, I was wrong, it was sin on my part, and I am profoundly sorrowed by my actions. However, though sinful, in neither case do my actions rise to the level of actionable libel or slander.

Mark then gave Don Hart a little history of our situation, giving his opinion that the underlying reason for Doug Phillips excommunicating me is my comment on his blog about voting. Here is why Mark is convinced, as he tells Don Hart:

  • Your client [Doug Phillips] refused to accept my wife’s apology for speaking about him behind his back.
  • Your client has refused to accept a written apology from my wife in May 2005 for sending out the letter of January 2005 to all of BCA.
  • Your client told my wife if I had written the political email, it would have been acceptable.
  • Your client told my wife she would “pay” for her email.
  • Your client’s “leadership team” and hand-picked “counselors” worked with me to develop the areas of counseling for my wife, none of which included adultery or the bed you mention in your letter.
  • Your client personally warned me my wife would be publicly disciplined, which preceded my inclusion in the discipline.

Your client could have been sued for his intentionally tortious conduct, as well as the violation of the counselor/counselee confidentiality relationship violated during the public reading of counseling notes, while your client and members of his leadership team (two deacons) imposed formal church discipline upon my wife and me. However, my understanding of Holy Scripture forbids a Christian from suing another Christian under all circumstances. Furthermore, I wish to underscore that I am referring to man’s lower standard of professional behavior and confidentiality in both the actionable tort-violation and privacy issue – not God’s higher standard of conduct to which an elder must conform.

Mark went on to explain that the excommunication was not only unbiblical, but that Doug Phillips was accountable to no one, and therefore there was no way to appeal the excommunication. Mark listed several verses in Scripture that deal with excommunication and showed that none of them applied to us.

Gal. 1:8 – “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”

We did not preach a different gospel; at no time did I ever claim “sinless perfectionism” or anything similar. Reading Romans 6 and 8 in conjunction with Romans 7 is not a different gospel; it is the same gospel that Paul preached.

I Cor. 16:22 – “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.”

We both love the Lord with all our heart.

I Cor. 5:9-11 – “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 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.”

We were not excommunicated for being sexually immoral; we were not covetous, idolaters, revilers, drunkards, or extortioners.

Mark then reminded Don Hart of II Cor. 2:6-8, in which Paul is talking about a man in the church who was previously disciplined:

“This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.”

Mark also gave fair warning that Doug Phillips has plenty to lose:

Should your client avail himself of your services in a civil suit, you need to be aware that no matter the result, your client will be tainted with the public image of a pastor, a pastor who is a public figure, suing a parishioner….The media, as well as the majority of female jurors, will be quite interested in a handpicked female counselor’s comments about marital problems always being the fault of the wife.

Another issue Mark clarified for Don Hart on behalf of Doug Phillips was that it was not Mark’s intention at that time to take this story to the internet (push of a button).

If I did not hear from your client, then I would take this issue to the next logical step, that step being sending all the relevant information I had to a minion of America’s pastorate. {Mark is saying that he was going to ask for help from a couple well-known pastors.}

To show how far Mark was willing to go in meeting Doug Phillips’ terms, Mark bent over backwards to effect reconciliation:

It is my fervent prayer and hope that your client and I can be reconciled as brothers in Christ. This is my desired end state, for I love your client, I respect his devotion to God, and I appreciate his ministry to the family. To accomplish this, I am willing to take two steps backward by dropping binding arbitration from the current discussion. If your client is willing to have Rev. Bob Welch function as an intermediary between us, then I am willing to meet with Rev. Welch and your client, even though Rev. Welch gave his approval to the excommunication. I am willing to begin the meeting by humbly apologizing to your client and asking for his forgiveness for the two sins articulated in this letter. I am even willing to keep this meeting private and never speak of it, if we can come to a mutually agreeable outcome, thereby allowing your client to address this issue, as he desires, with the congregants of BCA.

Mark asked three things of Doug Phillips in return: that he drop the excommunication and restore fellowship with Boerne Christian Assembly members, but not restore our membership; that Doug write a letter releasing us to attend another church in good standing; and that Doug Phillips would give his assurance that he would never try to excommunicate someone again without an ecclesiastical court.

Mark ended his letter to Don Hart with this:

Of course, I would prefer your client and I fall upon each others’ necks and publicly apologize to one another in front of BCA.

Following a lengthy phone call with Don Hart a few weeks later, in which Don insisted that the excommunication was biblical, although he could not articulate why, nothing was resolved, so Mark decided to try one last time. This last letter of July 31, 2006, was quite different:

After much prayer and study, … we do not fully understand or comprehend what BCA alleges our offenses to be.

In the disciplinary action letter of January 23, 2005, we are both accused of:

  1. Unconfessed sin
  2. Lack of repentance
  3. Bitterness
  4. Lack of love
  5. Jurisdictional abandonment and/or usurpation
  6. Using children as weapons against each other

As individuals, [Mark] is accused of:

  1. Unforgiveness and lovelessness*
  2. Not being under authority
  3. Threats of divorce*
  4. Anger*
  5. Lack of family leadership*

Jennifer is accused of:

  1. Rebellion against her husband and local church
  2. Gossip spreading
  3. Mean-spirited treatment of others
  4. Refusing to acknowledge sins
  5. Claiming a near sinlessness

(Note: 4 of 5 of (Mark’s) personal sins are marked with an asterisk (*). I am fully aware of these sins, I have publicly admitted my guilt, and have repented to God, my wife, and my family.)

The following is what we need to know in order to begin to understand the totality of the sin BCA says we have committed, in order to confess said sin and repent:

  • What are these biblically defined unconfessed sins that we committed?
  • What verses define the behavior as sin?
  • When and where, specifically, did the sins occur?
  • Who was or were the witnesses to each specific instance of sin?
  • What did the witnesses do, for each specific sin, to confront Jennifer or Mark in the spirit of Matthew 18?
  • What counseling (by whom, when, where, etc.) was provided for each sin?
  • What are the who, where, and when of each specific refusal to repent from each instance of a specified act of unrepentant sin?
  • Which specific sins rise to the level of an excommunicable offense?
  • What are BCAs definitions of “biblical repentance, restitution, and restoration to the body,” as stated in the excommunication email?

We take this excommunication very seriously, we want this issue resolved, and we wish to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. However, since our right relationship with God is priority number one, then we need to know the specifics of our … behavior … for which God’s representatives are holding us accountable in order to be reconciled to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Mark asked for a reply by August 15, 2006, two weeks later.

When Mark did not hear anything from Don Hart for over a month, he was courteous enough to call him up and ask how the answers were coming along. Don Hart explained that he had been out of town and hadn’t been able to get the letter to Doug Phillips. While it was true that Don Hart was out of town, however, according to Doug Phillips’ own website, Don Hart was out of town with Doug himself, being a speaker at the Vision Forum Entrepreneurial Boot Camp during the month of August, 2006. Even though not delivering legal communications to your client can be considered malpractice, being gracious, Mark asked if three more weeks would be sufficient for Doug Phillips to provide an answer. Nevertheless, the mutually agreed upon deadline of September 29, 2006, came and went with no word from either Don Hart or Doug Phillips. And there has been no word since.

All we were asking was what would be expected in any court of law. Can you imagine a prosecuting attorney going before a judge and accusing the defendant of breaking the law? The judge would ask, “But what did he do?” The attorney would respond, “Well, he is violent and abusive.” Judge: “But what exactly did he do?” Attorney: “Well, he is violent and abusive.” Judge: “Prosecutor, he surely must have committed some crime. On what date, at what time, when, and where did the incident take place?” Attorney: “Well, I really don’t have that information, Your Honor. I just know that he is violent and abusive.” Judge: “Who did he abuse? How was he violent? What exactly did he do?” Attorney: “Well, all I know is that he was violent and abusive.” What judge would ever convict anyone based on that testimony? And yet that is exactly the kind of testimony that was used to excommunicate and discipline me. All I want is specifics. How can I possibly repent if I don’t know what I’ve done in the first place?

We were in a catch-22. We could publicly confess to broad, general sins we were accused of, both real and false, pay restitution, and put ourselves under the authority of a sole, unordained elder who had already abused us for five years. Or we could pretend that this whole situation didn’t exist and go to another church. Or we could just stay home and isolate ourselves. We prayed about what to do next.

It seemed that it was time to ask for help, so Mark asked me to call Dr. S.M. Davis, who had such an impact on our family and was a business associate of Doug Phillips. I called, but Dr. Davis doesn’t counsel people outside his own church anymore, so his daughter spoke with me. She did not understand what “excommunication” meant, so she thought it was merely a case of forgiving and going on with life. While we have forgiven all involved, however, that does not release those responsible from repentance and it does not change the fact that Doug Phillips has a track record of hurting many people and will continue to do so if he does not repent.

Shortly thereafter, a friend talked to us about our need to be in a church. We believed that we were putting ourselves under proper authority by staying home, since we were excommunicated and told that we were to be treated as heathens and publicans, but this friend gently rebuked us that since the excommunication was both unbiblical and without due process, we were in fact under no obligation to Doug Phillips regarding it and he encouraged us to find a church home. We have been attending church for a few months now.

In God’s providence, Ministry Watchman contacted us a while ago and asked if we would be willing to go public with our story, promising us anonymity. After much prayer and checking them out very carefully, we agreed to take the risk of telling our story to the public, in the hopes that we could warn fellow believers about this wolf in sheep’s clothing. As you can see, Doug Phillips immediately allowed others to expose our real names, so the protection offered by Ministry Watchman was no longer of any real use. We are grateful for Ministry Watchman’s continued support of our family, but it has been good for me to write this all out myself.

For the last two years, we have prayed every day about this situation, especially that our hearts would be right before God and that we would forgive Doug Phillips and those at Boerne Christian Assembly. We have forgiven them. We have sought to submit to their judgment even though we knew our treatment was unjust both in the substance of the accusation and in the lack of due process. Because Doug Phillips is the sole (unordained) elder at BCA, he is totally unaccountable in the church as well as outside of it, making a normal appeal to a higher church court impossible. We still tried to be reconciled as the Bible commands, working on an ad hoc basis with four elders from another church for 14 months. We wrote letters of apology for even the smallest offenses that we could think of, but Doug Phillips refused to forgive us of even those offenses. We wrote letters requesting explanations, but Doug Phillips refused to answer our questions. We offered to go to arbitration and mediation, but were met with threats of a lawsuit instead. You can see by Doug Phillips’ personal silence himself on the web that he will not answer us and that he has left us with only two options: slink away silently or go public.

We do not believe that slinking away silently is a biblical option. We are commanded to expose the evil deeds of darkness. And we are commanded to warn others of danger. That’s what we’ve been doing these past couple of weeks. Now the outcome of this situation is, as it always has been, in the hands of the Lord.

**********************************************

Although this is where our story ends for today, this is not where this blog ends. I will be providing commentary and analysis on not only different aspects related to our story, but also responding in a Christ-like manner to my detractors, who desperately tried to get my focus off my story.

I welcome questions and comments regarding everything on this blog in my story. I pray that God will give each reader discernment regarding Doug Phillips as you read my story, and I will do my best to clarify anything that is still unclear.

Thank you for your time and consideration in reading my story. May God bless you and your family.

Doug Phillips Threatens to Sue Us

In Response to Mark’s Request for Arbitration

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

When Hurricane Katrina hit, many of the refugees came to San Antonio and we donated many, many items to help get them back on their feet. When Doug Phillips mentioned on his blog that Vision Forum was collecting clothes for affected homeschool families affiliated with Vision Forum, I decided to help out in this way as well. I was going past Vision Forum that day anyway, so I decided to drop off several bags of clothing. I went to the retail store, where I knew Kathleen worked (the same “friend” I gossiped to about Doug Phillips previously) and greeted her warmly as I arrived. This was the first time I had seen her since the excommunication seven months earlier.

She did not know about the clothing drive, so I directed her to Doug’s blog. She then called Perry, who told me to come around back. I went around back, where Ryan asked me if I needed anything. I mentioned that I was waiting for Perry, who thanked me very kindly when I dropped off the bags of clothing. End of story. Or so I thought.

The next day, September 2, 2005, I received an official letter in the mail from Vision Forum Management (not signed). It said:

Dear Jennifer,

We received a report today that you came to our offices without making an appointment with the director of distribution for Project Katrina, and that you proceeded to act in a rude and harassing way to members of our staff.

Given this action, your formal state of discipline with a local church, and your unrepentant slander and criminal charges widely distributed by you against members of the Vision Forum staff, you are officially barred from the Vision Forum property until all above matters are appropriately addressed to our satisfaction.

I can be certain that Perry did not tell a lie about me, since he has never treated me with anything but kindness. Given Kathleen’s previous distortion of our discussion one year earlier (when I “gossiped” about Doug Phillips not protecting my children and me), I can probably guess where this twisting of the facts came into play here. I asked my son, who was with me, if I was in any way rude or harassing, and he assured me I was not. I hope you, my readers, can see by now, that that is not my style. So, now I am officially barred from Vision Forum property because I wanted to help fellow Christians in need.

Not being ones to repay evil for evil, however, as soon as we were released to pursue reconciliation with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly, Mark wrote a brief letter to Doug on March 10, 2006:

Dear Doug,

I pray that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ continues to bless the work of your hands, as well as you and yours.

I am writing today for a very simple reason – to ask you, on behalf of my family, to articulate the specifics of what you deem necessary to effect reconciliation between us. Upon receipt of your list, I will seek to be humble in response and actions, realizing that reconciliation between us will undoubtedly be a process.

Endeavoring for the name of Christ, I await your response.

In His Love,
Mark

PS I thought your piece on Dr. Morris was an excellent tribute to a great man of God.

I was very proud of him for writing such a penitent letter and felt sure we would make progress now. Not hearing anything though, Mark sent him another copy on March 23, and then a reminder again a week later. Still no reply.

Mark then wrote to Bob Welch in April, 2006, asking him to intervene with Doug Phillips. Bob Welch was an elder at Boerne Christian Assembly several years earlier, and we heard through the grapevine that he was present at the excommunication “star chamber,” where all the Boerne Christian Assembly members voted us out. Mark told Bob Welch that while “we do not intend to seek any restoration to BCA as covenanting members, our sole intent is to be obedient to the Scriptures in seeking reconciliation with Doug and the members of BCA, as brothers and sisters in Christ, this side of heaven.”

Shortly thereafter, on May 4, 2006, Mark received a letter signed by Bob Sarratt on behalf of the Boerne Christian “leadership:”

Dear Mark,

On behalf of Boerne Christian Assembly I am responding to your communications to BCA via Doug Phillips. {Notice how Doug Phillips never takes responsibility himself, even though Mark’s letter was addressed specifically to Doug.}

For gross, habitual and unrepentant sin, both you and Jennifer were formally excommunicated from your local church. There was 100% head of household affirmation of the excommunication by the families of the congregation. Since that time the families of BCA have been diligently praying for your repentance.

The issue at hand is not primarily about reconciliation with any man or even with a local church, but reconciliation with God through repentance and submission to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Should you genuinely turn from the sins that have enslaved you, including demonstrating evidence of true conversion through public confession and restitution for wrongs, the people of BCA would joyfully accept your repentance and the leadership would work with you in supervising the restoration process. At present, there is no indication that you acknowledge your sins, let alone have repented from them. Also, your public actions in the community and through your shameful use of the Internet to slander and defame reveal the same pattern of ongoing wickedness for which you and Jennifer were excommunicated. {Mark’s request to Doug Phillips said, “I will seek to be humble in response and actions.” What more proof did they want? This was the most contrite letter I had ever seen from Mark, yet Doug Phillips (who we think really wrote this letter) insists that there is no indication of acknowledgement of sins or repentance from Mark.}

Reconciliation with God and the earthly removal of your status as a heathen and a publican requires evidence of conversion. It is not a matter of negotiations or bargains, but of heartfelt biblical repentance. Please consult with the documents we gave you in January of 2005 for more information on any of these details.

Sincerely,
Bob Sarratt for the BCA Leadership

There were no specifics given for how that repentance was to be demonstrated, so Mark again wrote Doug Phillips a lengthy letter on May 22, 2006. First, he confessed his sins:

My habitual sins included my failure to love my wife, my family, and myself as God commands, as well as failing to lead my family – my gifts from God. Not only have I confessed these sins before God and man, I daily seek God’s grace to remain in a state of repentance by completely turning from sins of anger and selfishness that found their outworking in my failure to love and lead my family.

Mark also stated why we did not want to return to Boerne Christian Assembly:

I do not intend to place myself or any of my family members under the authority of a church whose leader is unaccountable, who has engaged in a demonstrable pattern of abusive behavior toward those who legitimately question some of his specific actions, or who continues to use men too weak to hold him accountable to the duties and responsibilities of biblical eldership. As you are fully aware, Bob Sarratt publicly confessed in the June 2004 men’s meeting to not acting within the parameters of a quasi-elder and, therefore, not holding you accountable as the realistically sole elder of BCA. … I would be less than a God-ordained leader to my loved ones by placing them under your so-called leadership for any “restoration process.”

Mark then offered Doug Phillips mediation:

I am willing to seek resolution of our differences through a mutually agreeable arbitrator from outside the community. Moreover, I am willing to make any public apology for any sin not yet confessed that this mutually agreeable arbitrator would recommend.

Mark explained how unbiblical this excommunication was and how it was without due process, summarizing it thus:

You cannot invoke biblical passages providing you protection as an elder when you conduct yourself outside the God-ordained behavior that constitutes the parameters within which an elder must conduct his office. As an attorney, you know this.

Mark asked Doug for a response:

I suggest a personal response from you by June 6, 2006, regarding a willingness to engage in arbitration. If I do not hear from you by then, I will assume that you desire I take this issue elsewhere. Doug, I will beseech you once more in all humility – as I beseeched you regarding the unmerited and vicious public reading of Jennifer’s pre-conversion behavior – to arbitrate this dispute.

I think Doug Phillips misunderstood this next section:

Doug, you know it only takes the touch of a button to find yourself in a similarly embarrassing situation as RC Sproul, Jr. Ask your IT folks how easy it is to reduce the BCA writings and subsequent USPS and electronic correspondence between us to Adobe files, and then ask yourself if you want Jennifer’s letter of May 2005 seen side-by-side with your response, the tone of which embodies an almost palpable hatred. {At this time, we had no intentions of going public with our story, but were seriously considering telling our story to some other pastors and/or speakers who had a relationship with Doug Phillips, in the hopes that they could help us. Thus, the touch of a button to send the emails.}

He ended:

Lastly, please know that, despite our serious differences, I love you and my brothers and sisters at BCA. Yet, God did not make this image bearer a “yes” man to any man but, rather, a man who seeks to love God, love the wife he received as a gift and the children He chose to bless us with, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and the sinners He places in my path. As Martin Luther supposedly said, “Here I stand; I can do no other; God help me! Amen!

In the meantime, Mark and I weren’t the only ones being shunned, though. The shunning extended to our children, as well. Natasha, 17 at the time, suddenly had every friend ripped away from her. Some spoke to her once or twice at a public occasion, but for a social butterfly who was already struggling with her father’s anger, this was devastating. She soon left home. Joshua, a shy boy, lost all his friends as well. And Alicia, now 11, who is severely disabled, but loves to hug and greet everyone she sees, was even shunned. With the mind of a two-year-old, she didn’t understand why people who used to come over to her house every week now refused to hug her and turned their backs on her. The shunning was particularly difficult for all the children, but Mark and I took the opportunity to teach them forgiveness toward those who hurt them and to always take the high road. I taught them to greet those who turned their backs on them, to be kind to those who were mean, to love them unconditionally. We still pray every night for a spirit of forgiveness toward those who shun us and that we would love them as we should.

We never heard again from Doug Phillips, but on June 13, 2006, Mark received a letter from Don Hart, general counsel for Vision Forum:

Dear Mr. Epstein,

This letter is to advise you that I represent Doug and Beall Phillips. It is my view that under Texas and Federal law, your statements about the Phillips and your widely distributed letters of February 2005 and May 22, 2006 constitute actionable slander and libel. Were you convicted in a court of law for libel and slander, damages could be substantial.

{So, in response to Mark’s request for arbitration (Peacemakers, etc.), Doug Phillips “hires” an attorney to threaten us with legal action instead. Not only does he threaten us with a lawsuit, but he already talks about our conviction in the opening paragraph! And lest he forget to cover all the bases, he throws in a potential judgment as well. All this is in response to a request for mediation. Never mind the fact that as general counsel for Vision Forum, this constitutes a conflict of interest legally to represent Doug and Beall Phillips personally as well.}

Your recent letter of May 22, however, goes beyond defamation. You have formally attempted to blackmail my clients. Specifically, I refer to your threat of a public internet attack and your statement that Mr. Phillips will find himself in a “similarly embarrassing situation as RC Sproul, Jr.” unless he agrees to your demands. Like slander and libel, blackmail is unlawful and actionable.

{Blackmail? The legal definition of blackmail is the crime of threatening to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful or damaging facts (or rumors) about a person to the public, family, spouse or associates unless paid off to not carry out the threat, but that obviously isn’t the case here. Maybe he is talking about emotional blackmail, which is the stirring up of uncomfortable feelings in somebody, especially sympathy or guilt, in order to persuade that person to do something; but a request for arbitration could not be considered in that category, nor is this illegal. We know that Doug Phillips almost never responds to people unless he is given a deadline. He will put it off and put it off, as you’ve seen time and again just in our own story. This is what Mark said: “I suggest a personal response from you by June 6, 2006, regarding a willingness to engage in arbitration. If I do not hear from you by then, I will assume that you desire I take this issue elsewhere.” Mark then described the power of the internet, the power of email. He did not at any time say that he would do something to attack Doug Phillips if Doug did not meet his “demands.” This was not blackmail or a threat; this was merely an option that Mark reserved if Doug Phillips refused arbitration, which he did. He merely beseeched him to go to arbitration, asked him to respond by June 6, and told Doug Phillips that he would have to assume Doug refused arbitration if he didn’t hear from him. We know Doug Phillips well enough to know that if Mark did not put that clause in, Doug would have drug this out as long as possible, and we would be left dangling still.}

Since you are an excommunicated man under continuing church discipline, … it is not biblically permissible for Mr. Phillips to engage in the private arbitration you demand. Nor will Mr. Phillips be intimidated by your sinful and illegal attempt at blackmail.

{Since there was no ecclesiastical court for either the initial excommunication or for appeal, we offered what we thought was a reasonable alternative under the circumstances – arbitration. Again, there is no blackmail on Mark’s part.}

At this point, I am advising my client to consider practical and legal options.

It is the purpose of this letter to inform you that, should it become necessary to present a public or legal response to your slander, libel and blackmail, it will become necessary for Mr. Phillips and others to squarely and publicly address issues concerning your integrity and character. {This sure sounds like a threat to me.}

  1. The accusations by your wife and daughter to numerous witnesses that you are mentally unstable and in need of psychiatric treatment. {First he lies about who said this. Again, Bob Sarratt was the one who suggested that Mark was bi-polar. Then he lumps Natasha in there as saying this as well. Then he says there are numerous witnesses that can testify that I said this. If they do, they will be lying. And now he exaggerates the whole situation into “needing psychiatric treatment.” That is quite a leap from Bob Sarratt first asking if I thought Mark was bi-polar.}
  2. The accusations by your wife and daughter to numerous witnesses that you attempted to commit murder against your wife and children, and pose an ongoing threat to the lives and safety of your family due to uncontrollable rage and physical demonstrations of lack of self-control. {Doug Phillips did not take us seriously when Natasha and I brought these charges to his attention, but he will conveniently use them to discredit Mark if it comes down to going to court? He forgets that I made a written memorandum stating that I had come to him and the deacons asking for his help in this situation and he refused to protect a woman and her children then. Now he wants to turn around and “blackmail” Mark with threats of telling the world about what he did.}
  3. The decade long battle between you and your wife relating to her adultery which resulted in the conception of a child, and her refusal to remove the bed in which the adultery occurred from the home. This battle continued throughout the time leading to your excommunication and was a continual issue in our counseling of your family. Multiple parties can and will testify if necessary to these ongoing adultery-related sins between you and your wife. {This sounds like more threats, more exaggerations, and certainly a breaking of pastoral counseling confidences in telling this highly inaccurate story to his lawyer and threatening to tell it to the world, which as we see, he already did.}

It is a violation of both the civil law and the law of God to seek to coerce a man to set aside a biblical, lawful act of church discipline by threatening to defame him. Your libel and slander, which has been both private and public, has done much harm to the families of BCA and my clients. Despite this fact, Mr. Phillips and the leadership of BCA has chosen to suffer your harm and to continue to limit their conversation about your excommunication to a “need to know basis” instead of making widespread dissemination of those facts which prove your lack of credibility and the validity of your excommunication. This charitable treatment of two excommunicated individuals will not continue if you proceed on the course you have described. In any trial, the credibility of the witnesses is of paramount importance. For the good of your family I strongly urge you to reconsider your position.

{Don Hart needs to understand that the excommunication was both unbiblical and unlawful, so Mark was not violating either civil laws or the law of God. He did not seek to coerce Doug Phillips to set the excommunication aside; he merely asked to go to arbitration. Mark did not threaten to defame him, but merely stated the facts of what he would do if Doug Phillips refused arbitration. And now he is ending by threatening us with the possibility of a lawsuit again (in any trial).}

Sincerely,
Don Hart, Esq.

The overall tone of Mark’s letter was pleading with Doug to do anything to move forward on this, but Doug Phillips’ reply was to hire an attorney and threaten Mark with legal action instead, refusing his offer of arbitration.

But we are not put off by these threats and continue in our pursuit for reconciliation.

Doug Phillips Ends Friendship Rather than Admit Excommunication Error

Elders From Another Church Wash Their Hands of Him for His Refusal to Repent

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

The elders of this other church were quite eager to help us and quickly set up a phone call to Doug Phillips on Wednesday of that week, February 9, 2005. Although Doug Phillips talked on the phone with these four elders, it was only to accuse them of violating Matthew 18. Despite the fact that Matthew 18 is a passage about how Christians should seek to resolve personal offenses and does not prevent elders in one church from trying to reason with an elder in another church over a disagreement about a church disciplinary matter, Doug Phillips was insistent that this church was sinning by harboring “heathens and publicans.” Doug Phillips insisted that these four elders should have come to him alone first, then to some larger group apparently, and then to all of Boerne Christian Assembly. Since these other elders were not the ones offended, but were merely trying to be peacemakers between brethren, Matthew 18 clearly did not apply in this situation. Although some of these elders were long-time friends with Doug Phillips, Doug was willing to break off these precious friendships rather than work together on this issue of our excommunication. He was only interested in them admitting that they had sinned by allowing “heathens and publicans” into their church. These four elders worked hard to get an appointment to actually meet with Doug Phillips but, as usual, Doug was too busy and could not meet with them for eight or nine more months. One of the elders expressed it this way: “A priority issue of this nature did not receive the attention it should have.”

Meanwhile, a dear friend suggested that I write a letter to Boerne Christian Assembly asking forgiveness for anything I could think of, so I prayed about it and decided to apologize for defending myself in writing, when Mark had already come to my defense by taking full responsibility at the congregational meeting for discipline. While I still maintained the truthfulness of my original letter, I did apologize for inadvertently hurting the five men involved and their wives by writing about them, but emphasized that my main intent was only to help prevent others from being hurt. I offered them my forgiveness, my love, and my fellowship, asking them to forgive me in return. This letter was written under the authority of the four elders as well, and sent with their blessing.

The next morning, May 20, 2005, the Boerne Christian Assembly “leadership,” which consisted of one unordained “elder,” Doug Phillips, and two deacons, sent an email to us (and copied to the whole congregation), reminding us that we were excommunicated and stating, “The excommunication took place according to Holy Scripture” {I’m still waiting for the verses that say I did something serious enough to warrant excommunication}, “with the 100% approval of the household heads of BCA” {I know this is not true, because at least one family didn’t know about it for months. Of course, even if it were true, it wouldn’t mean much, as fully half of the families who are members of Boerne Christian Assembly are employed by Doug Phillips, creating quite a conflict of interest}, “and only after the church which loved you and cared for your soul had demonstrated tremendous longsuffering and patience to you and Mark after five years of working with you, and in the midst of your longstanding and grievous sin” {For some reason, I think Doug Phillips truly believes he did the right thing, but I hope seeing it all here in writing will prick his conscience.}

“As you know, the Bible requires that excommunicants are to be treated and understood as ‘heathens and publicans.’ This is your status. All faithful believers of the Lord Jesus Christ will honor Christ’s command neither to eat nor fellowship with you as long as you remain excommunicant.” {Note what he is saying between the lines about the other church that took us in, as we had a potluck meal with them each Sunday. He is also warning the members of his own congregation that they will be regarded as faithless if they have any interaction with us.} “Though you may not understand this, your formal disfellowship and excommunication is an act of true love.” {In cases of true rebellion, this would certainly be true. But I was now in a lose/lose situation, and rebellion did not factor into it at all.} “Your life will in large part be defined by the way you respond to God’s discipline in your life through His local church.” {This is very true; our lives have in large part been defined by this situation, especially the lives of our children, who had every friend suddenly taken away from them.}

“When a person has been formally adjudicated ‘a heathen and a publican,’ and cast out of the body in the hope that they will flee to Christ under His kind discipline, the only way for such a person to be restored is to demonstrate true repentance by humbly returning to the local church, publicly and genuinely repenting for all sins which were the basis of the excommunication and seeking restoration under the oversight of the church leadership…” {In other words, my letter wasn’t good enough; I had to come in person and confess to all the false accusations in the original excommunication, and do whatever Doug Phillips wanted me to do. My husband has a favorite saying: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I had already foolishly gone into that second meeting with Doug Phillips when I knew what had happened in the first meeting with him. Doug Phillips refused to forgive me when I asked for forgiveness, both for gossiping the first time, and now for this very letter. Doug Phillips called me names, lied about me, falsely accused me, preached against me, refused to protect my children and me, and looked down on me just for being a woman, in addition to not allowing me due process in any stage of discipline, and now he expected me to seek restoration under the oversight of the church leadership, which I know means Doug Phillips. Not only do I have no desire to be in an abusive situation like that again, but I hope to warn others of the potential abuse of Doug Phillips if they find they ever need help from him or they even disagree with him. I do not think it would be in anyone’s best interest to be under the oversight of Doug Phillips at this time.}

Something else that Doug Phillps’ comment here reveals is the claim that the local church is an absolute authority in matters of church discipline and that the leaders of that local church need not themselves be under any authority or accountable to anyone else. This is in direct contradiction to what Doug Phillips, Scott Brown, and others teach at the Vision Forum Uniting Church and Family Conferences. But imposing limits on others that he refuses to submit to himself is something Doug Phillips does all the time.

“Today, members of our local church received a letter which claims to offer some qualified repentance.” {I was extremely careful to ensure that my apology was without excuse, summarizing it thus: “I am sorry for responding when I should have kept quiet. I am sorry for saying hurtful things about others, especially the leadership. I am sorry for responding in less than a gracious manner. I was wrong to fight back in the manner in which I did, even though my intentions were to help others. Will you each forgive me?” I think that is a completely unqualified apology. However, what Doug Phillips is probably referring to here is when I say, “I will not be apologizing for the accusations brought against me. I am not seeking to be in covenant with BCA anymore…” Rather than accepting what I do apologize for, he is expecting me to apologize for things that I did not do.} “The letter continues to justify your sinful behavior” {doctrinal differences?} “and fails to address the issues for which you were excommunicated.” {I am still waiting for Doug Phillips to specifically address these issues as well.}

“Moreover, the fact that you would bypass the local church leadership and urge members of the local church to disregard the judgment of the local church is evidence of continued unrepentance.” {I said in my letter to them: “I consider each one of you brothers and sisters in Christ and have already forgiven everyone involved. I hold no bitterness nor grudge toward anyone and pray for you often. I hope that when we see each other, which we will, it will be with open arms and joy! … I know that Christ would be glorified if the world knew we were Christians by our love for one another.” And this is how Doug Phillips believes that I urged BCA members to disregard the judgment of the local church, by extending an offer of Christian love to them. Even though I knew that they were turning their backs on my children and me in public, I was offering them love instead.}

This is another example of Doug Phillips trying to have things both ways. He claims that the excommunication was decided by a unanimous vote of the heads of household at Boerne Christian Assembly. That means they exercised the disciplinary authority. Now he says I cannot repent to them and they cannot consider my repentence because they aren’t the church leadership? Make up your mind, Doug: If you want democratic church government (i.e., the heads of household voting for discipline), then they also get the right to independently evaluate a letter of repentance. But if you believe in republican church government (i.e., as in a presbyterian church where the elected and ordained plurality of elders decides on discipline), then the “leadership” at Boerne Christian Assembly needs to stop avoiding responsibility by hiding behind a heads-of-household vote. That kind of abdication of masculine responsibility goes straight back to Adam. It is unworthy of any self-respecting patriarch, let alone anyone who claims to be a church shepherd.

“Since defying the church discipline” {I still don’t know what that refers to}, “you have continued to lie and to slander as well as cause division within the community of believers, thus adding to the sins for which genuine repentance and restitution would be necessary.” {I have not lied or slandered, but I did tell the truth of the situation to the elders of the other church. I guess that attending another church is causing a division. Actually, it was Doug Phillips himself that was causing division within the “community,” by requiring the other churches to treat us as “heathens and publicans,” and coming against them when they refused to treat us that way, embracing us as Christians instead.}

“Should you truly repent for your sins, turn to the Lord, submit yourselves to Christ’s authority, and in humility seek restoration through the proper channels of the local church, we will welcome you with open arms.” {In other words, if I agree with everything Doug Phillips says, and I admit to doing things which I didn’t really do, and come crawling back to BCA and pay restitution (see above), and keep my mouth shut forevermore, then I can get back into this spiritually abusive church.} “Until that time, no true believer is to treat you as a Christian.” {For anyone who has treated me as a Christian, I fear for your soul, as Doug Phillips would say that you are not a true believer. I wonder how Jesus would treat me, if He were here.}

The timing of Doug Phillips’ email was somewhat significant, again, as it was sent at 12:32 a.m. on Friday. That particular weekend was the annual homeschool conference in San Antonio and we both knew that I would see many BCA members that weekend for the first time since the excommunication. I had a booth there selling an algebra program, which is the only homeschool business activity I have ever engaged in. My booth was very close to Vision Forum. The day before the conference (the same day I sent the letter to everyone at Boerne Christian Assembly), while we were all setting up for the conference, Vision Forum deliberately blocked my truck so that I couldn’t leave for an hour. Some teenage boys who used to attend Boerne Christian Assembly came over and helped me unload my truck and carry boxes to my booth. Upon seeing this, some Vision Forum employees made some very snide comments to these teenagers about helping a “heathen and a publican.”

The next day, several of the Vision Forum young ladies, when they had to go past my booth during the conference, would start running at full speed in their long skirts when they reached one edge of my booth, and then sprint to the other end of the booth, where they would then resume walking. That was my comic relief for the day. Most others would just turn their head away as they passed so they wouldn’t have to see me.

Due to significant doctrinal differences, we left the church at which the elders tried to assist in dealing with Doug Phillips after the requested six months, yetwe willingly remained under their authority in the area of the excommunication as they continued to try and reason with him. These four elders had requested that we let them take the lead in dealing with Doug Phillips on behalf of the Epsteins. Having a true desire to submit to authority, we both felt that since we were excommunicated, by biblical standards the church was to treat us as “heathens and publicans,” so we thought the best way to submit was by staying home on Sundays, as unbelievers would, while the elders of this church continued pursuing reconciliation with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly. We recognize now that such submission was not necessary, but I point this out to stress that we were willing to go to great lengths to try and submit to church authority, even when we believed it was wrong.

We were blessed to be able to watch sermons each week on video from Dr. SM Davis, who deals extensively with solving family problems. Not long after beginning to watch these videos, Mark decided to fully repent from his sins toward our children and me. The more counsel we received from Dr. SM Davis’ sermons, the closer we began to grow as a couple and as a family. Even though we do not recommend home video or TV sermons as a legitimate substitute for church membership and regular attendance, we do believe that God honored our intentions in doing the right thing in our special circumstance, and He used the biblical teaching in the SM Davis videos to transform our family for the better.

In the fall of 2005, Doug Phillips and some other Boerne Christian Assembly “leadership” finally met for the first and only time with these four elders from the other church. Doug Phillips’ main concern still appeared to be that he wanted these four elders to admit they had sinned by taking excommunicants into their church and that they had violated the “letter of the law” of Matthew 18. Even if Matthew 18 had applied in this situation, which it did not, the “spirit” of Matthew 18 was never violated. These four elders were gracious and patient with Doug Phillips, going to him privately to work things out. By the close of the meeting, these four elders told Doug Phillips and the others present that they still love the Epsteins and would do the same thing if they had it to do over again. In fact, they told Doug Phillips that they would do the same for any other person from Boerne Christian Assembly if they were hurt by Doug as well, taking in the wounded family and loving them as Christ would.

Unfortunately, this resulted in severed long-term relationships on the part of Doug Phillips and the other elders, and between Boerne Christian Assembly and this church. There are now many divisions in what used to be a very tight-knit community. This is probably what distresses me most about this whole situation – that other relationships had to be torn on our account. I would never have wanted that. Of course, the division was not my choice but that of Doug Phillips, after he insisted on maintaining his autonomy and refused the loving admonition and wise counsel of elders from another community church.

In March, 2006, nearly 14 months after this other church began attempting to work with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly on our behalf, and having repeatedly pursued reconciliation with Doug, they finally gave up and washed their hands of any further responsibility in attempting reconciliation on our behalf, leaving us free to now pursue the matter ourselves.

Doug Phillips Excommunicates by Star Chamber

Submitting to Beall Phillips is an Excommunicable Offense

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

After no one in the congregation could give me even one example of the sins for which I was being disciplined, I had a long chat with Beall Phillips outside. She apologized for not speaking to me all those years, for which I immediately forgave her. (It was, however, necessary to bring it up again in this story in order to show the proper context of the whole scenario.) When I tried to explain to her that I just didn’t see anything I had done wrong, Beall Phillips encouraged me to write my concerns to the five men who put the disciplinary action document into place.

The next day, following Beall Phillips’ counsel, I wrote my “defense.” It was similar to what I had said in church that Sunday, but better organized, more detailed, and better presented, as I actually had time to work on it. I mailed it to Doug Phillips, the sole (but unordained) elder; Bob Sarratt and Mo Gill, the deacons; Rick Huber; and Richard Short, the new member; and all their respective wives as well, since I was informed that all ten of these people were in agreement with disciplining me (I’m not sure how this occured since women are supposed to be literally silent at BCA, but this is what I was told). I believe they would have received it that Friday, January 28, 2005.

That Sunday, January 30, I noticed that several of these people brought my letter to church with them. After the service, everyone except our family had another meeting. I don’t know what happened during that meeting, only what happened afterward. We ate our lunch in the truck, since we were not allowed to fellowship with anyone anymore. When people started trickling out nearly an hour later, I had a present from a baby shower I was unable to attend and so I tried to give it to my friend with triplets. She refused to take it, however, and turned her back on me.

Confused, I went into the building to locate my children. As I approached the building, everyone started backing away from me, as if I were a leper. As I entered the building, everyone not only backed off, but also started turning their backs to me as well. Apparently, “how to shun the Epsteins” had been one of the topics of the meeting.

Seeing that the letter of defense Beall Phillips had advised me to draft had not softened the hearts of those five men, I decided to appeal to the congregation as a whole as well, sending each covenanting member a copy of my “defense.” I did this because the BCA form of government was something like a democracy, with the heads of household being called to ratify sensitive decisions by Doug Phillips, rather than a church ruled by a plurality of elders, the biblical norm as taught by Doug Phillips at his Vision Forum Uniting Church and Family conferences. My naive hope at the time was that some head of household might be considerate enough to read the defense and try to intervene on our behalf. Each family would have received it the following Saturday, February 5, 2005.

Although it usually took Doug Phillips about six weeks to find time to meet with us, even when it was a life or death matter, somehow he managed to pull together an emergency meeting of the whole congregation of Boerne Christian Assembly that Saturday afternoon when everyone received my “defense” in the mail. Everyone was required to come to the Star Chamber except the Epsteins, who were neither invited to, nor informed of, the meeting.

Because Mark had decided that we would not attend where we were obviously not wanted (a public turning of their backs to us gave us a clue), we went to another church that Sunday, February 6, 2005. We arrived early in order to speak with one of the four elders there, informing him that we were under discipline at Boerne Christian Assembly. He immediately invited us to come worship with them anyway, saying he would find out more later. Although we had significant differences in doctrine with this church, we were amazed at the love we were shown as we walked in the door, with many people excited to see us. We knew about half the congregation already from other associations we had with them. We met afterward with the one elder and his wife, telling them our story so far, and with Mark again taking full responsibility for everything that happened.

I don’t often read email on Sundays, so it wasn’t until late that evening, after Mark was already in bed, that I saw an email from Boerne Christian Assembly, written at 8:15 that morning. Curious, I opened it up to discover that Mark and I had been excommunicated.

I was informed that my “sins were very clearly and specifically spelled out” (in the discipline document) and that “the truth of the charges (against me) were confirmed not only through multiple witnesses and written documentation, but through your highly self-incriminating testimony which consisted of railing accusations against the local church and multiple examples of slanders and falsehoods which were then refuted to your face.” {Instead of answering my question of what specific sins I had committed, because it is already supposedly in the discipline document, Doug Phillips again makes broad charges that I testified against myself and railed against my church with “slanders and falsehoods.”}

My best friend of nine years responded to the charge of railing in a recent comment on Ministry Watchman:

“First, I want to say that I was shocked when I read this on BCA’s statement. ‘The response of the wife in particular was to bring many hateful railings and false testimonies against women of the church and against the leadership.’

In all of the many years I have known Jennifer, I have NEVER ONCE heard her “rail.” In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her so much as raise her voice! She is NOT a person to be given to much emotion, as anyone who knows her can attest.

I have also NEVER known Jennifer to tell any sort of lie. She is extremely honest—sometimes brutally honest, which I’m sure was her REAL fault. Add her honesty to the fact that she is both outspoken and opinionated, and you can see why a controlling man would have a problem with her.”

I stay at her home for about a week each year, so she’s seen me at my best and at my worst; if I were a railer, she would have seen it.

The excommunication letter goes on to say, “Since that moment (of the discipline letter two weeks prior), you have comprehensively defied the discipline of the local church, and you have both promised to do so.” {I am still trying to figure out how I either defied their discipline or promised to do so.}

“You have both actively waged a campaign of division among your body.” {This must be the letter of defense that Beall Phillips encouraged me to write immediately after apologizing to me.}

“You have both born false witness and disseminated slanders horrible and numerous.” {I try very hard to be 100% truthful in everything. This is a slick way of not addressing the specific allegations regarding Doug Phillips’ behavior. Note that I did not bring charges against an elder, but rather my story was completely wrapped up in the words and deeds, or lack thereof, of Doug Phillips. I could not possibly tell my story without relating the facts of his involvement in it. Rather than refuting my accusations with clear testimony, as a lawyer normally would do, Doug Phillips chooses instead to broadly accuse me of “slanders horrible and numerous” and bearing false witness in general. Blackstone defines slander as “a false tale or report maliciously uttered.” There is not one thing I said, or have written here, that is false; therefore, there are slanders neither numerous nor horrible; there are no slanders at all.}

“You have tolerated and even encouraged similar unruly behavior from your eldest daughter.” {I told Natasha that I was proud of her for taking a stand against lies from the pulpit when she got up and walked out of the sermon that Sunday in December 2004. I hope she always stands against evil. Why is this being brought up in an excommunication letter?}

“You have both railed against your local church, and again violated God’s Holy Word which prohibits you from bringing accusations against your church leadership without two or three witnesses to substantiate your claims. {I think it’s time for a Webster’s 1828 definition of the word “rail:” to utter reproaches, to scoff, to use insolent and reproachful language. Using this definition, I would have say that although Doug Phillips railed against me in both meetings, rather than attempting to restore me in a spirit of gentleness, I don’t believe I have ever railed against anyone in my life, and certainly not my church elder. Again, I did not choose to bring accusations against Doug Phillips, but I could not give my “defense” without specifically refuting his false accusations against me. At least I gave specific details, dates, and examples of that which I “accuse” Doug Phillips.}

“You have made implied legal threats and raised false criminal charges against your local church.” {The last time I checked, using precise terms such as “character defamation” and “slander” to describe falsehoods is not the same as implying legal threats. If that were so, this very excommunication letter would constitute a legal threat against us as well. Neither is it correct for Doug Phillips to call them “criminal charges.” Defamation and slander (verbal defamation) are fundamentally torts, not crimes, as Doug Phillips would have learned during his first year in law school. Thus the fact that he calls an observation of an offense in tort an outright “criminal charge” can only be interpreted as hype to make him look like a poor victim of wild accusers.}

“In short you have despised the chastening of the Lord and His Love as demonstrated through the counsel and discipline of the local church.” {Therefore, although the only thing I did in the previous two weeks was to put my “defense” in writing, at the suggestion of Beall Phillips, that act alone constituted “despising the chastening of the Lord.” Notice how the local church demonstrated His love to us by publicly turning their backs on us as well. Notice also how Beall Phillips was silent as our discipline was upgraded to excommunication, even though I wrote my defense at her suggestion.}

Doug Phillips then relates the secret star chamber meeting of the evening before, in which all the Boerne Christian Assembly members voted to excommunicate us, without our being present, because of our “defiance of discipline, implied legal threats, acts of division, and continued slanders.” {You may read my “defense” for yourself and see if it was defiant – on the 4th page of this document, in the 3rd full paragraph, I state: “Frankly, I think you expect the Epsteins to leave and not to submit to church discipline; however, we are people under authority.” Again, proper use of legal terms does not constitute a legal threat. This “defense” was not intended to divide, but rather simply to tell the truth, none of which was told in the disciplinary action against me. I did not slander anyone in the first place, nor I did continue to slander anyone in my “defense,” as all I did in it was to tell my side of the story as accurately as possible.}

Based upon these manipulations of the facts, “effective immediately, you are excommunicated from fellowship, and according to Holy Scripture, are to be treated as heathens and publicans. … The members no longer are in fellowship with you.”

“The Scripture explicitly calls upon the body of Christ to mark those which are unruly and have nothing to do with them. Accordingly, you are strictly prohibited from attending the meeting of the church of the Boerne Christian Assembly, setting foot on the BCA church building or grounds, or attending any functions sponsored by the assembly.” {It is our opinion that, given the timing of the email at 8:15 on a Sunday morning, and knowing that we attend services every Sunday morning faithfully, and knowing how long it takes us to get to church, that Doug Phillips fully expected us to show up at Boerne Christian Assembly that Sunday morning, February 6, 2005, only to be publicly humiliated by surprise discovery of our excommunication in the presence of the whole congregation. But, in the Providence of God, He led us to another service that fateful morning.}

“Mark and Jennifer, only through biblical repentance, restitution, and restoration to the body can you hope to have any fellowship ever again with the local body. But more importantly, you must fear for the state of your souls.” {Ordinarily, a biblically accurate excommunication would indicate such rebellion that the status of the person’s soul should be in question. However, since I have not refused to repent from any sin, precisely because I have yet to be told of any specific sin I need to repent from, I cannot be in rebellion, so I will trust in the Lord for the state of my soul. I will not let this be a scare tactic to admit to doing something I haven’t done.}

“Your only hope is to repent and flee to Christ. Should that day come, we will welcome you back with open arms.”

When I met with the elder of the other church the following morning to give him copies of all the documentation, and showed him this excommunication letter, all he could say is, “This is just like the Salem witch trials in which several innocent women were accused of being witches. Those who lied and confessed to being witches were spared. Those who told the truth and denied being witches were executed.” This elder then, on behalf of the four elders of his congregation, asked us to stay at his church for the next six months and let him and the other elders try to handle this situation with Doug Phillips.

The problem was that matters had been arranged in such a way that neither of us could qualify as sufficiently “repentant” and also maintain our integrity. In my case, I was being called to repent for unspecified sins that I had not committed. In Mark’s case, the charges against him were true, but although he confessed and repented of them, he was still excommunicated. Apparently for both of us there was just no way to avoid excommunication by Doug Phillips: Refuse to repent of sins that you’re not guilty of and you’re excommunicated. Confess and repent of sins that you are guilty of and you’re still excommunicated.

Given the manner in which the substance of the charges was handled, it is no surprise that the procedure for the discipline was equally unjust. In fact, not only was there no actual trial prior to excommunication, but there was also no due process whatsoever, despite the fact that Doug Phillips, as a former practicing attorney, was very familiar with the vital necessity of due process for any trial.

In the end, the decision to excommunicate was ratified by “mob justice,” with the men in the congregation itself (half of whom were employed by Doug Phillips) being called to vote to excommunicate us without us being permitted to be present to hear the charges against us or to defend ourselves. Even if all the charges against us had been true, it’s not clear that any of them were grounds for excommunication and, in any case, there was no due process to test and prove the charges.

Tomorrow, we will examine what it is like to be treated as heathens and publicans attempting reconciliation.

Doug Phillips’ Political Payback

Disciplines Wife for Broad, Unsubstantiated Charges

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

Life continued on as usual until we received a request to come to church early on January 23, 2005. The previous Sunday, Mark had told Richard Short that I was not a believer, so in my naiveté, I thought we were going to be asked to defend our faith at this meeting. When we arrived, however, there were five men waiting for us: Doug Phillips, the sole elder; Bob Sarratt and Mo Gill, the deacons; Rick Huber; and Richard Short, a brand-new member. They then proceeded to read us a document entitled, “Disciplinary Action of BCA for Mark and Jennifer Epstein.” (I would encourage you to read it now.)

There were many problems, inconsistencies, and lies in this document. For instance, in Section III A, there are four reasons listed for why Boerne Christian Assembly (read: Doug Phillips here) is going public. 1. “Your own lack of self control and inappropriate public behavior among the local church…” {I guess this means the time I talked to Kathleen about Doug Phillips not being willing to protect us.} 2. “Both of you are guilty of making misleading comments to your brethren bound to cause confusion to the saints.” {Notice how there is a pattern of broad charges, but never saying anything specifically. I have no clue what this is.} 3. “Your resistance and inappropriate response to shepherding” {I asked to bring a friend to the counseling sessions}, “confrontation (and even this disciplinary action).” {Here Doug Phillips assumes beforehand how we are going to respond to this very document even before he reads it to us; this is very similar to the document he presented at the first Kangaroo Court.} 4. “Under the circumstances, the Bible expressly requires that such matters be told to the church. (Matt. 18:15-17)” {Doug Phillips cites Matthew 18, step three, but he hasn’t used steps one and two yet.}

You will notice throughout this document that both Mark and I are addressed together as if we had either conspired to sin together, or as if we received the same treatment throughout our time at Boerne Christian Assembly. For instance, in section III B, it states that we “collectively received hundreds of hours of counsel from leaders and brethren.” {This is very deceptive, as I received a total of six hours of “counsel” from Beall Phillips and Reba Short, and four hours of name-calling and false accusations from Doug Phillips, during my entire five years at Boerne Christian Assembly. I shouldn’t forget the three times I asked Beall for advice on how to be a submissive wife to an angry husband as well. That probably equaled about 30 more minutes, for a total of 10 ½ hours altogether. Mark, on the other hand, did receive much more counsel than I did, but lumping us together in this group of “hundreds of hours” of counseling is quite deceptive.}

In Section III C of this document, Doug Phillips brings up, again, sins I had committed in 1989 and fully repented from in 1990 when I came to know the Lord. Not only had I repented then, but the letter of repentance I had written Mark almost three years prior was the very one that brought tears to Doug and Beall Phillips, causing them both to acknowledge that this was proof of my full repentance. However, Doug Phillips again chose to bring up my past again. Mark pleaded with Doug not to read this portion to the whole congregation, but his pleas fell on deaf ears and this was read to a congregation who knew nothing about this and who had no need to know, especially the children.

Also in Section III C, Doug Phillips accuses me of making “accusations about Mark’s mental state” {which was in fact initially brought up by Bob Sarratt}, “broad charges about Mark’s propensity to harm his family” {which shows exactly how concerned Doug Phillips was about our physical safety}, and “constant digs against Mark” {again with no specific example of what those were}.

In Section III D, Doug Phillips states that “after you came to the church leadership stating repentance and revival, you were released to return to the Lord’s Table.” {This is simply not true. I had no input whatsoever in this decision and I had no conversation with Doug Phillips or anyone else regarding this matter. Mark simply came home one day and told me I could take communion again.}

At the top of page 3, Doug Phillips says that we were “formally admonished and rebuked by the church leadership for ungodly behavior” on October 5, 2004. {You will recall that that was the time when Doug Phillips said to me, “Mark is an angry man, and that is wicked; but you, Jen, you are very wicked, you are rebellious, and you are a Jezebel.” I asked for specific examples then of what I was doing, so that I could change, but none were forthcoming.} Doug Phillips goes on to say that I refused “to take responsibility for (my) actions” {even though I kept asking what those actions might be} “or to honor the directives of the leadership” {again, I asked to bring a friend to the counseling sessions}.

There is an excerpt of a letter on the third page, of which the second paragraph states: “Your unwillingness to be under authority or counsel,” {which again refers to Beall Phillips showing up at the meeting when I had specifically requested that she not be there because she had refused to speak to me for the previous two years and because I asked if a friend could come to the counseling sessions}, “to repent for sinful attitudes” {I keep asking what these were}, and your spreading of untruthful gossip {my pleas for help were certainly truthful; to the extent that Doug Phillips considered them gossip, I did apologize, but he blatantly refused to forgive me}.

At the top of page 4, Doug Phillips lists many lies, such as “You refused to follow the basic directives which were given to you.” {This is the list of 14 suggestions to make your husband happy, of which I did all 14. I used email instead of writing it down on a piece of paper for one of the suggestions. I even refrained from talking to men about theology during that timeframe, even though I did not see that as being biblical. I did what they asked me to.} You “claimed a startling new doctrine of near sinless-ness as it applied to your own conduct in marriage.” {The last time I checked, Romans 6 and 8 were not new. I merely explained that I had not sinned recently in my marriage, nor did I have a pattern of sin in my marriage from which I needed to repent.} You “claimed a near sinless-ness in interactions with church leaders.” {I guess that must be the voting paper I wrote to Doug Phillips – which is the real reason for this whole “disciplinary action.”}

In the second paragraph of page 4, Doug Phillips says that Mark has “again raised the threat of divorce.” {This simply shows how little Doug Phillips really knew about us, as this threat was almost daily for nearly our entire time at Boerne Christian Assembly.}

The last sentence of Section IV states that “brothers and sisters have been engaged in formal individual counsel with you including the Shorts and the Hubers.” {Although Mark was in an accountability relationship with Richard Short, I had no formal individual counsel with any of these people. Notice how we are lumped together again as if everything were equal.}

Section V starts out by saying, “Though we are not present in the Epstein house, we have been able to confirm the factuality through … our own observations and interactions with you, each of the concerns mentioned below.” {When I asked for examples, even just one example, Doug Phillips was unable to provide me with any. In fact, I asked the whole congregation for even just one example, but I have yet to hear any. However, here Doug Phillips insists that they have “observed” each of these different sins.} “Each concern has been confirmed in the mouth of multiple witnesses {we asked for a list of those witnesses, but they were unable to provide even one witness to any of these sins}.

Here is what I am charged with: {Notice the lack of specificity.}

Unconfessed sin {Writing a letter to Doug Phillips about voting?}
Lack of repentance {Writing a letter to Doug Phillips about voting?}
Bitterness {Toward whom, I’m not sure. But I prayed for a spirit of forgiveness every day toward both Doug and Beall Phillips and Mark, because I did not want to have any unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart.}
Lack of love {I loved Mark through the good and the bad, but it was hard.}
Jurisdictional abandonment and/or usurpation {Doug Phillips is saying that I did not fulfill my duties as a wife and mother. I certainly tried my best to do so in a very difficult situation.}
Using children as weapons against each other {Not only did I not use my children against my husband, but I taught them every day to honor their father, no matter what he did.}
1. Rebellion against authority
a. A rebellious and unsubmissive attitude and response to the authority of your husband. {I was as submissive as I knew how to be under the circumstances.}
b. A rebellious and unsubmissive attitude and response to the authority of the local church. This includes open hostility to the church leadership and those assigned to work with you, as well as ongoing, substantive rejection of attempts by the church leadership and their delegates to work with you. {Again, I asked Beall Phillips not to come to the meeting and I asked to bring a friend to the counseling sessions.}
2. Covenant breaking
a. Willful and constant disrespect for authority, non-responsiveness to appeals for honorable behavior in the body of Christ, gossip spreading, and efforts to wrongfully manipulate facts and individuals, contrary to the terms of the BCA covenant. {Other than telling Kathleen about Doug Phillips refusing to help protect us, I don’t have a clue what all this is about.}
b. Dishonorable and mean-spirited treatment of the your brethren in Christ, contrary to the terms of the BCA covenant. {When Beall Phillips informed me that she purposed to point out all my sins, after she refused to speak to me for two years, I requested that she refrain from further contacting me unless she had something kind to say.}
3. Unrepentance
a. Habitually refusing to acknowledge sins when confronted for them by your brethren and church leadership. {My voting letter to Doug Phillips again.}
b. Unbiblically claiming a near-sinlessness in your marriage in the recent past, and justifying such a claim by various attacks on the confessional understanding of the doctrine of sin and depravity. {Again, I never claimed any such thing as near sinlessness, nor did I attack the doctrine of total depravity. I merely requested that we read Romans 6 and 8.}

In Section VII, Doug Phillips states that “biblical efforts at loving confrontation have proven unsatisfactory.” {At no time did I ever feel that any of this confrontation was loving. I have since been confronted by elders and friends on other issues, and not only were these confrontations done in love, but I repented and changed my ways because of the Christian love that was shown in a rebuke. Maybe one of those friends will testify to that here.}

Section VII details the discipline that we were to receive at this point. We may not take communion; we are to attend the meeting of the church (Sunday services), but we may not fellowship with anyone; and all membership privileges are suspended. The only interaction we are to have with anyone from Boerne Christian Assembly is for them to tell us to repent. Some have excelled at that.

We were given six months to formally repent, accompanied by a formal request for restoration, or we would be excommunicated.

“Evidence of repentance would include an acknowledgement of specific sins for which you have individually been confronted, a fundamental heart turning which is proven over a season of time, a willingness to make restitution for wrongs done, and public (supervised – ie, in consultation with the church leadership) repentance before the Church.” {It is interesting that while Doug Phillips mentions no specific charges or sins in this entire document, that he fully expects us to tell him what they are.}

This document was read to us immediately before church. We were then asked if we wanted to plead “guilty” or if we wanted to “appeal.” Those were the only two options afforded us. Mark, realizing his guilt, chose to plead guilty. I asked to appeal. I was told that I would have an opportunity to speak right after the service, which was to begin in a few minutes. Even though Doug Phillips had taken weeks to prepare this document, I was given a few minutes to prepare my “defense,” and I was not afforded the opportunity to bring any documents or witnesses with me.

We immediately went into the service and, after the sermon, all the men and women and older children listened to Bob Sarratt read this entire document. Mark was then given a chance to speak first. He confessed his sins and asked for forgiveness. He then explained that he had falsely accused me and that I had done nothing wrong at all. Apparently, that admission wasn’t good enough, so I had my opportunity to speak. I told my story, much as it is on this website, although I didn’t have dates or documents with me. At the end, I asked, “What sin have I committed? How can I change if I don’t know what I’ve done?” No one answered.

After that Doug Phillips called forward some witnesses who had prepared statements. Bob Sarratt lied and said that I had been the first one to suggest that Mark might be bi-polar. Kathleen Turley told the story of our conversation about Doug Phillips not protecting me. She told the exact same story as I did, but it was told in a derogatory manner, making it seem as if I approached her solely for the sake of gossiping, which simply wasn’t true. Beall Phillips then proceeded to read all six hours of counseling notes, which any professional counselor would never dream of doing, ethically or legally. I believe Doug Phillips made a denial of one of the names I accused him of calling me, but I cannot remember which name.

Richard and Reba Short then got up and spoke about how they would come over to our house every Friday night for dinner, but before they would leave home, they would always pray that I would ask Reba how to be a submissive wife. This was their testimony against me. Since I knew that Reba believed that almost all problems in a marriage were the wife’s fault, she was the last person I would have gone to with marriage difficulties.

That was all the evidence that was presented against me. Nothing substantial. Nothing specific. Certainly nothing to be disciplined for. I was not given a chance to ask any of the “witnesses” any questions or to respond to what they had to say.

The men in the congregation were then given a chance to say something. Several of them stood up and said how surprised they were to hear this, that they had good memories of time spent with me. One man stood up and questioned if they were doing the right thing; he wondered if maybe I hadn’t done anything wrong after all. Doug Phillips immediately put him on the spot and made him take sides. I understand the pressure he faced when he decided to side with Doug Phillips after all.

But this discipline was nothing in comparison to what was to happen next.

Doug Phillips: “You’re Going to Pay For This”

Voting For Republicans is an Excommunicable Offense

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

Knowing that I was at a loss as to how to biblically respond to Mark by this point, a friend had loaned me a book about submission and how it relates to wives who are abused, either emotionally or physically. Ironically, the foundation of the book was the story of Abigail and Nabal when David and his men wanted food. The book clearly exposited, verse by verse, how Abigail was still a submissive wife to a very angry husband. It was ironic to me because about one year earlier, Doug Phillips had preached on that very passage. In our ladies’ meeting after the service, I had asked if we should emulate Abigail’s behavior if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation. Beall Phillips immediately responded that this was a non-normative situation and that Abigail was not being submissive.

Greatly encouraged by this book, however, I shared it with Kathleen at church that Sunday after the second meeting with Doug Phillips, since Kathleen worked for Vision Forum and often counseled women with abusive husbands. In the course of the conversation, Kathleen stated that we were so blessed at Boerne Christian Assembly because if we ever had problems like that, Doug Phillips would help us. I didn’t know how to respond to that. I couldn’t agree with her because I knew it wasn’t true. Yet, I didn’t really want to tell her what was going on either, since I was forbidden to talk about Mark with anyone (other than Beall, who refused to speak to me anyway). Sensing my hesitation, she kept pushing for an answer. Thinking that someone finally cared, I eventually told her a bit of my situation, explaining that Doug Phillips refused to help us even when our lives were in danger. After listening for a while, she informed me that she was going to talk to Doug Phillips. I thought that she meant she was going to ask him to help, and pleaded with her not to talk to Beall about it. However, Kathleen told both Doug and Beall Phillips about it, not in a way that was helpful to me, but rather accusing me of gossip.

The next day, I received an email from Doug Phillips accusing me of broad sins again such as being unwilling to be under authority or counsel (requesting not to have Beall present in the meeting), to repent for sinful attitudes and spreading of untruthful gossip (Kathleen). I had asked repeatedly at that second meeting: “What exactly have I done? How can I change if I don’t know what my sins are?” I was accused again of being unsubmissive, disrespectful, and unloving. These seemed to be catch-all terms Doug Phillips often used in dealing with women. Then I was told that I was building a public case against my husband, when all I was doing was practically screaming for someone to help us!

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Mark was working behind the scenes with Doug and Beall Phillips to discipline me. Now their plans included three mandatory counseling sessions at Vision Forum, two hours each, with Beall Phillips and Reba Short, the two women who had already made it known to me that problems in the marriage were almost always the woman’s fault. They were going to help me work on the sin issues in my life in regard to my marriage. Beall Phillips had not spoken to me for two years, so I knew she didn’t know anything about me personally. Reba Short came over to my house nearly every Friday, but I don’t recall ever talking to her about our marriage, except for that one hour phone call, in which she attempted to get me to take all the blame.

Not trusting the motives of these two ladies, I asked if I could bring a friend. Beall Phillips replied to my request that “the terms of the meeting are not subject to debate. If you are formally refusing to follow the direction of the church leadership, then I will communicate that to them and they will take appropriate action.” I agreed to meet on their terms.

Nothing was done regarding Mark after that second meeting.

At the first counseling session with Beall Phillips and Reba, Doug Phillips had written a memo of understanding that Beall read aloud to me first, outlining why I was in breach of the covenant of the church for talking to Kathleen. The second document I was given was called:

Ways to Make My Husband Successful
Ways to Demonstrate a Submissive Heart
Ways to Bless My Husband

I was not told at the time that these fourteen items were mandatory, but rather I thought they were suggestions for how to be a submissive wife. Nevertheless, I took them home and read them aloud to my children, asking them to please evaluate me honestly in light of each of the fourteen items. I asked them to tell me whether or not I did each of those things on the list and to give me specific examples of how I was either submissive or unsubmissive according to this list. I did not have the conviction that women couldn’t speak to men about theology, and told Beall Phillips and Reba Short this in the first counseling session. Other than that, my children both agreed that I already did everything on that list anyway, to a degree. Although it was not clear to me at the first counseling session, by the third session I was told that it was mandatory that I completed them exactly. Nevertheless, I had fulfilled them in what I considered to be the spirit of the matter, including not talking to men about theology for the duration of the three counseling sessions.

Another issue that came up in the first counseling session was the doctrine of the total depravity of man. It soon became apparent that Beall Phillips and I did not agree on this point. In talking about sin in the marriage, Beall Phillips kept insisting that I must be sinning rather constantly. I explained to her that I believed in verses where Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” I don’t believe that Jesus would have told us to do something He didn’t expect us to do or that was impossible to do. I found this pattern to be consistent all throughout Scripture. These verses impacted my life greatly and I tried to obey the Lord daily, with the Holy Spirit’s help. Beall Phillips, on the other hand, said she believed that we couldn’t help but sin, and that she sins at least every 30 minutes, or more, in her own marriage. This was quite confusing to me, as I couldn’t understand why we were bothering with marriage counseling then, if we couldn’t help but sin all the time anyway. In fact, why we were bothering raising our children in certain ways if they couldn’t help but sin anyway. This defeatist attitude about life made me feel real sorry for Beall Phillips. I cannot imagine going through life as a Christian, thinking that I am doomed to sin every few minutes, whether I want to or not. What is the point of salvation then? Eternal security? We left that counseling session with me volunteering to go home and study this in the Scriptures.

I spent about 20 hours that week studying certain words and seeing what the whole Bible said about this subject. I also studied what Boerne Christian Assembly’s statement of faith said about it, and finally I looked at a commentary by Matthew Henry that I know Doug Phillips uses as well. I discovered that Beall Phillips seemed to be basing her beliefs on Romans 7, so I looked extensively at Romans 6 and 8 as well, to put it in context. While Romans 7 explains our fallen nature, Romans 6 and 8 give us hope as Christians, clearly showing that we are no longer slaves to sin, having victory through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Excited, I went to the second counseling session eager to share several hundred verses on this topic, and firm in my convictions that we no longer have to sin as Christians, with the power of the Holy Spirit, although we are still fully capable of choosing to sin. After listening to several verses on the topic, when I came to Romans 6 and 8, Beall Phillips absolutely refused to listen to me, stating that I was preaching a new doctrine of “sinless perfection.” At no time did I ever claim that I had never sinned or that I was perfect.

Beall Phillips then began to question when was the last time I had sinned in my marriage. In the last 24 hours? 48 hours? Week? Month? I only answered that I didn’t remember sinning recently in my marriage, with the power of the Holy Spirit in my life. While I do still sin, I emphasized that I do not have a pattern of sin in my marriage.

After the first counseling session, Beall Phillips wrote me a summary email of her perspective of how it went. It was filled with many exaggerations or total falsehoods and was quite harsh. Here is an excerpt of that email:

“You said that this new belief in sinlessness might change. I pray that it does. If it does, will you still emphatically assert that you have not sinned recently in your marriage and that you did not sin in the meeting with the men last week? You must realize the implications of the beliefs you espouse. If your doctrine changes, will you start to sin again? Will you then realize that you did sin during the time you held to this doctrine of perfectionism? Or will you have stopped sinning only while you held to this doctrine?”

By the third counseling session, I was getting tired of being treated like dirt, so I read the verse in Galatians to Beall Phillips that says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” I asked her how I could respond cheerfully when she was constantly backing me into a corner. She softened up for a few minutes, but still continued to insist that I was preaching “sinless perfectionism.” I tried to explain that I had to walk on eggshells in my marriage anyway and that I would do almost anything not to invite more anger, that I tried very hard not to sin in my marriage or in life. We were at an impasse by the end of the third counseling session.

The next day, October 29, 2004, I read on Doug Phillips’ blog about a voting scenario that he had written about candidates A and B in the land of Baal, actually inviting his readers to respond, which he normally doesn’t request. He also had a voting debate going on between Dr. Ken Gentry and William Einwechter. These two articles were designed to show that voting for either Kerry or Bush was a sin for a Christian. Since this was just days before the Presidential election, and since I was growing tired of hearing from the pulpit each Sunday how we needed to vote for Peroutka, the Constitutional Party candidate, I was glad for a chance to respond. Since Doug Phillips sometimes points out logical fallacies of other Christians, I took this opportunity to carefully point out seven logical fallacies in Doug’s little voting scenario as well. While I was at it, I responded to Bill Einwechter’s article on why we should vote for Peroutka as well. Not wanting to embarrass Doug Phillips by sending it to his personal assistant, I sent it privately to Doug’s own email instead, with my husband’s full blessing. This did not go over real well, starting with Beall Phillips immediately sending me an email in which she said, “I purposed to bring to your attention those areas of continual sin about which we have appealed to you.” She then listed my five sins in writing this letter: Doug did not give me permission to write to him (?); I had been formally directed not to rebuke or instruct men (not true); I had a mean spirit; I was rebuking my elder; I have a hard heart. The email was so harsh and critical toward me that I simply asked her to refrain from contacting me any further unless she had something kind to say. I also stated, “I sincerely hope that the people in our church do not have to agree with the “elder’s” position in politics; if so, we are no longer a church, but a cult.”

Two days later, we went to church. In the three counseling sessions, Beall Phillips kept stressing that I had sinned by gossiping about Doug in my conversation with Kathleen. Although I hadn’t considered it gossip, I was willing to apologize anyway. Doug Phillips is hard to get hold of, so this particular Sunday was the first time I had seen him since I spoke with Kathleen. I wanted to take care of the situation before church, but Doug Phillips arrived late, so I went up to him when he came in and asked if I could speak to him before we took communion, as was our practice at Boerne Christian Assembly. He did not want to talk, but I insisted, so we went outside. I apologized for gossiping about him and asked his forgiveness. Doug Phillips wanted to know if I was going to apologize for writing the voting paper as well. I explained that I didn’t see that I had sinned in doing so, so I didn’t see anything to apologize for. He then said that he would not forgive me for gossiping either and, glaring at me, said, “You’re going to pay for this.

After we went back inside, Doug Phillips began to preach. His two hour sermon that day was to read my voting paper, refuting it point by point. Although Doug Phillips and I did not see eye to eye on voting ethics, his main concern seemed to be that a woman in his congregation had written him this paper. I looked on his blog and could not find anything that said women couldn’t respond or that Boerne Christian Assembly women couldn’t respond, but Doug Phillips made it clear that if Mark had written that paper instead of me, it would have been all right.

Two months later, Doug Phillips decided to preach about me again, although I was home sick that day. Doug Phillips began talking about an unsubmissive woman in the church who was under church discipline (if I was, I didn’t know about it) and her repentant husband. My daughter, Natasha, then 17, was so frustrated by the lies emanating from the pulpit, that she got up and left in the middle of the sermon. When she told me about it afterward, I wrote Doug Phillips and asked him if he was preaching about me, knowing full well he was. Doug Phillips replied, “The Bible says that if any woman has a question about the preaching of the Word she is to ask her husband at home.” Doug Phillips then stated that he had already talked to Mark about this, but Mark denies talking about this subject with Doug.

Wanting to hear this message, I asked for a copy of that day’s sermon and I was told that everyone at Boerne Christian Assembly would receive it in the mail. While this was odd, I waited, but it never came. I called and asked for it several times, but although it was promised, I was never given a copy of that tape.

I was soon to find out just what “being under discipline” meant.

Doug Phillips Refuses to Protect Woman and Children

Former HSLDA Attorney and Founder of the Christian Boys’ and Men’s Titanic Society Knows What His Duty Should Have Been

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

Reserving Matthew 18 for only very serious offenses, I had only officially used it once, with Doug and Beall Phillips. Things were becoming so bad at home, however, as the emotional abuse escalated to new heights and we began fearing for our physical safety, that I decided to formally approach Mark in March 2004 in the spirit of Matthew 18 as well, pleading with him to repent from his anger and to turn his heart toward his family again. My words fell on a cold heart, however, so about six weeks later, I asked two witnesses to stand with me while I asked him again to repent. Richard and Reba Short, close friends with Doug Phillips and who both work at Vision Forum with their children, agreed to stand by and listen.

This attempt backfired as well, though, when Reba called me the next morning, strongly pressuring me to admit that it must all be my own fault, since problems in a marriage are almost always the woman’s fault. Although Richard agreed to counsel Mark after that, I later found out that his counsel was mostly along the lines of: “If you show Jen that you love her, then Jen will see how wrong she is and she’ll stop sinning.” Again being given an opportunity to blame the wife, Mark only continued to grow even worse.

By August, 2004, he had moved into the spare bedroom. Since Mark came to church every Sunday when he was in town, one family noticed that he wasn’t there that particular day and asked me where he was. Still not wanting to violate the rules laid out for me in that first meeting, I evaded answering them, several times. Finally, grateful that at least someone cared, I replied that Mark didn’t want to be a part of our family anymore.

Somehow this got back to the deacons, who pulled me aside to talk to me after church, reminding me that I promised not to say anything negative about Mark. By this point, Beall was refusing to speak to me at all, Doug Phillips was totally inaccessible, and I felt like no one cared. The deacons began asking some questions about the situation, apparently not realizing that anything was wrong. In a small church like that, when we would spend ALL day together every Sunday, they didn’t know anything was wrong. Although it took us an hour to drive to church, as it did most everyone when Boerne Christian Assembly moved to its third location way out in the boonies, not one person asked why Mark and I started driving in two separate vehicles each week. After almost one year of Mark leaving early after the service, one man did ask where Mark went after church. I replied that he went to the same place Doug Phillips did each Sunday after church.

But I digress. Upon finding out about Mark’s anger, Bob Sarratt, one of the deacons, asked me if I thought Mark was bi-polar. Not being fond of pop-psychology myself, yet being at a total loss for what to do, I had asked the other deacon, a medical doctor, if he knew if the term “bi-polar” was accurate biblically. He did not know. I told both deacons that I did not know what was the source of Mark’s anger: if it was mental illness, if it was demonic, or if it was just plain sin. Bob Sarratt then suggested that we get Doug Phillips involved. Not wanting a repeat of that first meeting, I declined. The deacons persisted, however, so I agreed as long as Beall Phillips was not going to be present. They both agreed to those terms. When they asked Mark to attend the meeting, he also emphasized that Beall Phillips not be present.

In the interim, however, two weeks before this proposed meeting, Mark nearly killed his whole family, late one Saturday night. Screaming for Mark to stop, my children were absolutely terrified. At church the next day, we attempted to ask for help. One man was greatly concerned and tried to help both my daughter and me, although since he was not in “leadership,” there was nothing he felt he could really do. When my daughter went to ask Doug Phillips for help, he did not believe her and laughed it off. Bob Sarratt merely suggested that we not get in the car with Mark for two weeks (the situation involved road rage, of sorts). Even when our lives were in danger, nothing was done.

Six weeks after suggesting a meeting, on October 7, 2004, Doug Phillips agrees to meet with us for precisely two hours in his office at Vision Forum. After greeting the two other men in attendance, we walked into Doug Phillips’ office and saw Beall sitting there as well. I did not say anything until Doug Phillips gave me an opportunity to speak. Then I kindly asked why Beall Phillips was present, when it was made clear all around that she would not be in attendance at this meeting, because of her refusal to speak with me for the last couple years. Doug Phillips assured me she was there to help me, so I asked Beall what her intentions were. When she assured me she only wanted to help me, I agreed to let her stay. Sensing the tension, Doug Phillips asked Beall to leave anyway. Not off to a very good start, I was then given an opportunity to talk. Knowing that I wasn’t prepared for the first meeting, I had taken the time to gather some evidence for this meeting. I shared with Doug Phillips about how Mark had nearly killed his whole family two weeks prior, but he just laughed at me. I brought an email where Mark was describing in detail how he would kill someone in a particular group. I brought the lyrics to a song Mark would sing about killing people, but Doug Phillips refused to let me read the lyrics. I described how he would attempt to teach the children specific methods for killing “enemies,” which had nothing to do with war. I described his constant talking of killing, especially around the children. I told how we each would greet Mark at the door when he came home from work, only to have him shove us out of his way. This was all in addition to the tremendous amount of screaming and yelling and constant false accusations we endured. I also told Doug Phillips of my attempts at following Matthew 18 so far, and asked for the church to please step in now. Doug Phillips listened, but he didn’t say anything.

After Mark spoke, Doug Phillips started asking Mark why he thought there were problems in the marriage, giving Mark plenty of opportunities to put the blame on me again, even though Mark was extremely angry in this meeting as well. I was not given another chance to talk. In the end, Doug Phillips said, “Mark is an angry man, and that is wicked; but you, Jen, you are very wicked, you are rebellious, and you are a Jezebel.” I still couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

There were no decisions made, no instructions given. No plan was discussed, no protection offered. I went home with no hope left, fearing for my life.

Doug Phillips in the Eye of the Storm

Lulled into a False Sense of Security

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

The first meeting with Doug Phillips seemed to only make things worse at home. Mark did not leave us, but still threatened divorce nearly every day. Outbursts of anger were frequent and prolonged. Adding to all this, Doug Phillips’ suggestions to Mark that I had never repented just fueled the fire all the more.

Always trying to be a peacemaker, I asked a friend for help in knowing what true, biblical repentance was. She told me of a sermon by Dr. SM Davis about true repentance, so I bought the tape and listened to it several times, praying for wisdom. Concluding that I had already done everything possible, I determined to write Mark a letter of repentance. Although there was nothing new in that letter of February 2003, it seemed to salve his wounds at the time. Delighted, he brought the letter to church and showed it to Doug and Beall Phillips, who were both so moved by its contents they had tears streaming down their faces, assuring Mark that this was truly evidence of full repentance. I thought things might be on the mend; surely I could take communion now. But communion was not restored, and within a week, life was back to extreme anger again at home.

That June, 2003, Mark had been talking to Beall Phillips about something that bothered him. Wondering if something she’d done bothered me as well, Beall emailed me asking me that very question. I replied that, yes, she had offended me (at the first meeting) and requested that we get together that day, if possible, to talk about it. She did not think that was possible, so I suggested getting together as soon as possible, even offering my oldest daughter to watch her children so we could go out somewhere together. Beall Phillips then professed to be “afraid” of me, although I had never given her any reason for that, so Doug decided that both couples should meet. Feeling that the situation was getting out of control, I finally agreed to meet with both Doug and Beall Phillips after church one Sunday, which meant that my severely disabled daughter would need to be with me.

It was six to eight weeks later, however, before we finally met, which, you will see, is a pattern with Doug Phillips. Knowing that she offended me, I began the meeting by asking Beall Phillips why she had continued taking communion during this time. There was no answer. Doug Phillips did give me an opportunity to say whatever was on my mind, then, so I confronted both Doug and Beall about their behavior toward me in that first meeting. I asked them why they called me names such as “whore,” “Jezebel,” a liar, churlish, wicked, disrespectful, and unsubmissive, when in fact, there was not only no basis in fact for those terms, but they were also totally unnecessary in a counseling setting. I also confronted them for their three lies about me in that meeting and asked that they consider using a gentler counseling technique in the future.

Doug and Beall Phillips’ first reactions were quite vehement in denying everything, but Doug soon regained his composure and calmed down. Although we had a pleasant talk for the most part, in the end, we agreed to disagree. Not realizing at the time that this appeared to be a pattern for Doug and Beall Phillips, I didn’t think any more of it. Doug Phillips continued to greet me when he saw me, but Beall Phillips refused to speak to me at all after that meeting.

Since the Lord’s Supper is a weekly ordinance at Boerne Christian Assembly, the minor excommunication (being denied communion) was ever before me. I really had no idea how I was to prove all those things in the “Guidelines for Accountability” document, but I just continued trying to be a godly wife. Some people might think that in a small church, I could just ask Doug Phillips any Sunday about it, but that was not the case. Each year, Doug Phillips’ speaking schedule took him away from church on Sunday more and more often. By this time period, he usually showed up about once per month, and when he did, he rarely stayed for the fellowship time, often leaving even before the service was over. Since he usually arrived just when the service was starting, this didn’t leave much time to talk to him, and there was usually a crowd vying for his attention anyway. As a woman, I had no opportunities to speak to him, about communion or about much else.

However, Mark did have a relationship with Doug Phillips and had a long walk with him one fine autumn afternoon. Mark came home one Sunday in the fall of 2003, just over one year since that first meeting, and told me I could take communion again. There was no proof of my “repentance” (other than my letter nine months earlier), no meeting to settle the matter, no questions, no anything. Just, communion restored. Although the situation appeared dire enough to Doug Phillips initially to warrant a minor excommunication (suspension from the Lord’s Supper), and although there was no proof of any change whatsoever, communion was just restored. In reality, things were no better at home and in the next few months even grew drastically worse.

Doug Phillips’ Kangaroo Court Cancels Communion

Convicted of Pleading for Help

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

When Mark and I arrived at Boerne Christian Assembly in 2000, our marriage was the best it had ever been. We had seemingly put the past behind us and were spending a lot of time praying that God would show us all the sin in our lives, both individually and together as a family. We were listening to dozens of sermons on topics that related to family life and theology, repenting together as we learned so many new things. When we arrived at Boerne Christian Assembly, Doug Phillips continued teaching us many incredible things about what the Bible says regarding families and daily life.

And while I appreciated much of what he taught us, I began to notice that he used very little Scripture and a lot of “vision,” very little practical application, but lots of theory. Some people can easily translate vision into reality, but in my own teaching experience, I’ve found that most do much better learning from actually doing it themselves, from demonstrations, and from stories or examples. For example, Doug Phillips often preached about men leading their families in “family worship.” I am in full agreement with that, and think it is a vital teaching. However, in my five years of listening to Doug Phillips, I cannot recall one specific example, one demonstration, one story about the specifics of “family worship.” I know there are many different methods and ways of carrying that out, but if you have never seen it done, it is a scary step for a man to attempt to try something he’s not only never done, but really has no clue about how to do it anyway. Mark described this as “frustrating.”

While much of what Doug Phillips teaches regarding Patriarchy sounds biblical, because of the lack of practical application, his teachings are often taken to extremes. Sometimes, men just hear his vision of men always “leading,” and they become domineering and demanding, causing undue stress on the wife. I know of one family that divorced precisely because of hearing this teaching and not understanding what it really should be. Sometimes, men will try to emulate what they see in Doug Phillips, and start requiring their families to have all the same rules as the Phillips. Unfortunately, if there are no personal convictions behind the rules, they soon become extremely oppressive and smother the family. Some men just have no clue about how to “lead” their families; they just know that it’s being constantly preached at them from the pulpit. Having come from a home without a godly leader, these men need lots of practical examples.

As Mark sat under this teaching, knowing the right thing to do, but not knowing how to do it, he began to get frustrated and angry. Our marriage began to deteriorate. I went to Beall Phillips on three occasions, in their new home now, asking her help in how I could be a submissive wife to an extremely angry husband. She reminded me of a gentle answer turning away wrath and how wives can win their husbands without a word. On each occasion, I went home and tried even harder, but to no avail.

Mark continued to grow increasingly angry, threatening divorce almost daily, until one day it seemed as if it would become a reality. Retiring from 20 years in the Army, he had a job offer in another state and decided to leave us for good. Standing by the pool that Sunday at church, I briefly closed my eyes in prayer, asking God for help. When I opened them, Doug Phillips was walking past me at that moment so, sensing that this was from the Lord as I never had occasion to really speak to him before, I asked if I could talk to him for a moment. Explaining that Mark was going to leave us the next day, I asked if Doug Phillips would be willing to talk to him. Doug Phillips then started asking me if I was fulfilling I Peter 3: “Are you submissive? Are you trying to win him without a word? Do you have a gentle and quiet spirit? Do you obey him?” Why was I getting the third degree when all I did was ask for help? Assuring Doug Phillips that I was doing all these things to the best of my ability, Doug then went outside after Mark.

Finding Mark just getting ready to leave, Doug Phillips approached him by his car and started peppering him with questions as well: “Is Jen a nag? Is she a dripping faucet? Is she disrespectful and unsubmissive to you? Is Jen rebellious and churlish?” Desperate to justify his own actions, Mark clutched onto these inappropriate adjectives and agreed with Doug. Rather than trying to find the root cause of Mark’s obvious anger that day, Doug Phillips immediately jumped to the conclusion that it must all be my fault for causing Mark to be so angry. Then when Mark starts spewing forth bitterness and unforgiveness about my past sins before I was a Christian, Doug Phillips suggested that maybe I hadn’t fully repented after all, and that must be the problem. Although Doug Phillips convinced Mark not to leave the next day, he did not use this occasion to even speak to him about his own sin in threatening divorce.

Doug Phillips is highly inaccessible, even to his own small congregation, but I did think that imminent divorce and abandonment might be cause for at least some quick intervention. Six weeks later, however, in October 2002, Doug Phillips was finally available to meet with us. Bob Welch was also there, but I believe it was his last official duty as an elder because he left right about that time, if I remember correctly. There was also one deacon present, as well as Doug’s wife, Beall, and Bob’s wife. When I entered this meeting, I had no clue that Mark and Doug had this conversation previously, so I came with hope that someone was going to be able to help us.

After giving an appearance of being fair by letting us each tell what was going on, Doug Phillips then quickly turned to an obviously prepared line of interrogation, bombarding me with questions about my pre-Christian behavior thirteen years earlier and from which I had already fully repented in 1990, when I came to know the Lord. Doug Phillips kept wanting to know details about what had happened, (which he has since told some of his supporters, who have posted them online for everyone to see – although the online versions are greatly distorted and untrue). Doug Phillips kept pressuring me to admit that I had not repented from my sin, behaving very much like a prosecuting attorney trying to get the witness to plead “guilty,” calling me a “whore” and a “Jezebel” (which to Doug means a woman who tries to rule over her husband in rebellion). Beall Phillips chimed in by totally misrepresenting our three conversations in which I asked her for help in being a submissive wife, and instead she said that I was disrespectful and unsubmissive in my attitude toward her. Shocked at her total change of attitude, I could hardly believe it when Doug Phillips joined her in calling me name again and added his own terms of endearment such as “churlish.”

Doug Phillips then proceeded to tell three outright lies about me as he totally ignored Mark’s extreme outbursts of anger right in the middle of the meeting turned Kangaroo Court. Doug Phillips stated that I said no one was counseling me; no one was, although Bob Welch was counseling Mark at the time. Doug Phillips stated that I said no one was holding Mark accountable; although Bob was counseling Mark, he was clearly not holding him accountable in any way. Although I cannot remember the third lie, I clearly remember Doug Phillips calling me a liar while he sat there and falsely accused me himself. Although Doug and Beall Phillips accused me of being unsubmissive and disrespectful, they could not give me any examples of that in my life when I asked for them. The truth was that because of Mark’s extreme anger, I tried extremely hard to do my best at all times to be a godly wife. I had enough anger from my husband as it was; I didn’t need to invite anymore.

As if playing the role of prosecuting attorney instead of shepherd and counselor wasn’t enough, Doug Phillips then declares himself to be the judge as well, deciding that it must be all my fault, and pulls out my sentencing papers, which he already prepared before the “court” began. Although Mark is listed on the “Guidelines for Accountability,” this was mostly a sham, as Mark was never held to these standards. Because there are so many spelling errors in the paper, I will list my requirements here for you, but you may see the original document with all signatures here as well to verify it.

Jennifer may not:

1. Ever question, contradict, criticize, correct or end-run any communication or decision by Mark to Mark or to anyone else.
2. Speak ill of her husband or family matters to third parties.
3. Speak critically of Mark to the children.

Jennifer must:

1. Agree to submit to the guidelines for accountability of the leadership of the local church with a full heart as unto the Lord, recognizing their goal is to facilitate obedience to the Lord and help rescue a marriage.
2. Demonstrate genuine reverence and submission to her husband in all things as unto the Lord.
3. Examine herself for unconfessed, or inadequately confessed, sins against her husband from any time during their marriage.
4. Not take communion until love is once again restored in the family, or on an individual basis, until the spirit and letter of the above is followed, and deemed such by the leadership of the local church. (Minor excommunication)
5. Forgive and love one another.

Accountability:

In the case of violations of the “may not” guidelines listed above, Jennifer will be willing to submit to reasonable accountability reporting guidelines to be determined.

These “reasonable accountability reporting guidelines” consisted of each of us being assigned people to whom we could call 24 hours a day to “tattle” on each other if there was a problem. Mark was told he could call Doug Phillips on his cell phone, although Doug never answered. Mark did talk to Jeff, the deacon, a couple times. I was assigned to call Beall Phillips, but since I don’t let my children “tattle” on each other, I did not feel it was right to “tattle” on my husband either, so I never called her. In turn, Beall Phillips never once asked me how my marriage was going or why I hadn’t called her.

Making himself prosecutor, judge, and jury, Doug Phillips orchestrated the whole Kangaroo Court in a fashion that seemed designed to be a quick fix to a serious problem. As one friend commented, Doug Phillips liked putting bandaids on open, oozing wounds. The outcome of this Kangaroo Court was that Doug Phillips determined that I had not fully repented for sins committed thirteen years earlier, before I was saved; that it must be my fault that Mark was so angry and wanted a divorce; that I now had strict “rules” to follow; and that I could no longer take communion each Sunday — indefinitely.

These guidelines were not temporary guidelines, something that would go away when communion was restored. These guidelines turned out to be what is generally expected of every wife according to Doug Phillips’ hyper-Patriarchical view. Men are in charge, and as such, wives are never to question them. There is the occasion for an appeal, as if we were little children, but these guidelines were never intended to be temporary in nature. Even after communion was restored, and even though my family was in danger, I was reminded that I could not speak ill of Mark to anyone. But that’s another story for another day!

Doug Phillips: Muzzling Women

Well, most of the them, at least.

(Start with chapter one, if you are new here.)

On our second Sunday at Boerne Christian Assembly, Doug and Beall Phillips introduced us to a special guest – Jennie Chancey. After the meeting of the church (the worship service), Doug invited Jennie Chancey to formally meet with all the women and talk to them about college. Jennie Chancey began relating why it was so evil for women and girls to go to college, especially outside the home. She related some of her own experiences at King College, where she received a BA in English, but in a way that was intended to warn others not to let their daughters attend institutes of higher learning. On her bio page, (since removed) very near the top, Jennie Chancey lists her educational qualifications for the business she runs out of her home. I guess that degree wasn’t so bad after all!

I was bold enough to ask the obvious: “What do unwed young ladies do all day?” Jennie’s answer, and the answer of every young lady in that congregation was, “Serve her father.” Some had family businesses and that was a great answer. They were working hard all day, learning skills, and helping the family to earn a living. But I know many that don’t fall into that category. Don’t get me wrong, nearly all the young ladies at Boerne Christian Assembly are wonderful young ladies, and would make great stay-at-home wives. But are they prepared to homeschool sons someday? How are their sons going to learn to do great things for the Lord if the moms aren’t educated enough to be able to teach them?

Beall Phillips also has a bachelor’s degree in education from William and Mary College, where she met Doug. From there, she attended law school classes with Doug Phillips at George Mason. I understand she did quite well. I asked her once if she ever regretted her higher education and she said that God can use every experience we have in life. I am grateful for my degree and am currently studying (dare I say it?) to be a naturopath. Doug did tell me once that I would make a great lawyer; maybe I’ll take him up on that suggestion as well!

Several months later, we had another guest, Jeff Pollard, come to speak to us about his new book, “The Public Undressing of America.” Since I was very new to the study of modesty, I asked Doug Phillips if the women of the church could meet together after the service to discuss the practicalities of the sermon and how it related directly to us. Doug’s terse answer was, “That would not be biblical. Women are to be silent in the church.” As some of you may have guessed by now, I wasn’t satisfied with that answer, so I reminded him that it was going to be after the service, like Jennie Chancey had done earlier. But, no dice.

(Some of these stories will be repeats for those who have read Ministry Watchman, but I want to put it all together in one place, so bear with me as I retell my whole story.)

Boerne Christian Assembly tends to have some extreme views regarding what it means for women to be silent in the church. I’ve had several occasions where I wished I could introduce visitors who were friends or family. When my mom came to visit once, and my husband was out of town on business, another man tried to introduce her to the congregation, except that he didn’t know who she was. He couldn’t ask her, because women are to be silent in the church. Flustered, he finally introduced her as “Jen’s mother.”

A similar situation happened when my dad came from Scotland, and since he was wearing a kilt, and one of the men tried to introduce him as one of the Scottish Covenanters. My father used to be a Baptist pastor before he turned atheist, and he knows both church history and Scottish history extremely well, so he was not at all pleased by that label.

On another occasion, I had some friends come to visit. Although I was friends with the whole family, but Mark had never met them. Mark was there that day, however, so he introduced them (leaning over to ask me their names). Afterward, the husband (friend) told me how uncomfortable he was when Mark introduced them and he didn’t even know them.

Prayer requests are also a time for women to be silent in Boerne Christian Assembly. This was a major chunk of the service, sometimes lasting up to an hour. The men give all the prayer requests. If my husband wasn’t there, my son could give it, even though he wasn’t old enough to take communion. If you don’t have a husband or a son there, you can write it out and give it to another man to read to the whole congregation. After a few attempts at that, I finally just gave up and would tell my friends about my prayer request privately. It wasn’t worth the humiliation.

So, women being silent in the church at Boerne Christian Assembly includes not being able to introduce your own guests, not being able to ask for prayer yourself, not being able to have a discussion after the service, and not being able to make announcements – unless your name is Jennie Chancey.

Join me tomorrow for the first Kangaroo Court.

(For a humorous version of this episode, watch this video.)

The Search For the Perfect Church

Beginning at the Beginning

When Mark and I met, we were both living quite wicked lifestyles as unbelievers. We were both soldiers in the US Army stationed in Germany and we ran off to Denmark on a “Darling Denmark” tour to get married in 1985, just four months after we met. Getting married does not change a wicked lifestyle, however, and we continued on in our wickedness. One of the ways in which I was wicked was in committing adultery against my husband, and that sin led to a child, who was given up for adoption. Still, our marriage survived, and I repented of my adultery when I became a Christian not long afterward. It was in the midst of all this wickedness, at the bottom of the barrel for both of us, that God reached down and saved us both in 1990, Mark first, and then me six months later. Although Jesus’ blood atoned for all our sins, there were still many consequences, some of which are life-long, that needed to be dealt with.

During most of the 1990s, we were stationed in Germany for the second time. Although there were a few difficulties here and there, for the most part our marriage was very sound. We were in a wonderful church there for over six years, and it was there that God taught us to be Bereans and search His Word for ourselves.

We moved to San Antonio in 1999 and searched for a similar church, but there is nothing like a military church, and only those who have been in a military church can understand the closeness of the family we had in our church in Germany. We so desired those close relationships again, but we ended up in a mega-church instead. After only a few months, not being able to tolerate the rampant sin in that church, we left and began an intense search for the “perfect” church in 2000.

I had never heard of a home church before, but for some reason, that term kept coming to my mind. I started asking around everywhere I went if anyone knew of a home church in the San Antonio area. I asked people at the grocery store, on the street, friends, everyone. We were desperate. Finally, a friend of a friend of a friend told me about a “home” church an hour away. I called, but was told simply, “No.” Crestfallen, we continued visiting various churches in the area, but – nothing.

Several weeks later, I called this lady back, practically begging to be allowed to visit. She was immediately apologetic, explaining that she had met several friends of mine in the meantime, who all vouched for me. (I later learned that another lady, whom I did not know, in a homeschool group I belonged to had attended one of these two home churches — the Wednesday church — for a while and caused lots of problems, so she was hesitant to invite others from that homeschool group.)

As she was describing the church to me, she let me know of their conservative values. “If they insist that I can’t wear colorful clothes,” I thought, “I’ll be content to wear tan and gray. If I can’t wear make-up or jewelry anymore, I’m willing to give them up, if only I could find the right church. I might even be willing to wear one of those “head coverings” if it came down to it. This church was such a well-kept secret, it must be quite remarkable!” Desperate enough to give up just about anything, we wore our most conservative clothes that Sunday, arriving at this country home way out in the Hill Country of Texas. With goats and chickens in the front yard, as well as swings, a large wooden deck, and lots of grassy areas for the children to play, it seemed an ideal location for a family friendly church.

A bit anxious, we arrived early while Beall Phillips was still painting her nails red. She greeted us warmly and asked, “Do you home educate? Do you belong to HSLDA? Have you heard my husband speak?” It was a bit unusual, I thought, but we settled down in our seats for the service. After some worshipful hymns, Doug Phillips began to preach. And preach and preach. We took an intermission after two hours and came back for more. Even though it was long, we loved every minute of it and the hour-long discussion of the men that followed.

As we had a “pot-providence” meal and fellowshipped for hours afterward, we knew this was home. The perfect church at last! Beginning this church plant with a series on “one anothering,” the fellowship was indeed sweet our first year there. I do not recall any bickering or gossip amongst the fast growing group of believers, all like-minded in so many ways.

Shortly before we found Boerne Christian Assembly, Mark and I had been praying together that God would show us all sin in our lives, as we desired to be pure before Him. God was so faithful in answering that prayer, bringing several preachers into our lives through audio tapes and radio. After every sermon we listened to, God refined another area in our lives. On a long trip, sometimes we would listen to several a day. Feeling purged, we returned to Boerne Christian Assembly only to have God use Doug Phillips and Bob Welch to reveal more areas in our lives that were not pleasing to the Lord.

By the time we started attending Boerne Christian Assembly in 2000, our marriage was the best it had ever been. But that was soon to change.

Next Chapter

Women, Know Your Limits!

[https://youtu.be/LS37SNYjg8w]