Doug Phillips “Excommunicates” Children for the Sins of Parents

Doug Phillips’ Peculiar Interpretation of “Covenant Theology”

When Mark and I were “excommunicated” from Boerne Christian Assembly in 2005, we were “disciplined” individually. In theory, we could be restored individually. In other words, if I were to repent of whatever it is that I’m supposedly guilty of (we’re still trying to figure out what that could be), but if Mark were not to repent, then I could return to membership in BCA and would not have to wait until Mark repents of whatever it is that he’s supposed to repent of. The inverse would also, supposedly, be true. This is born out in Section X of the Disciplinary Action Statement against us from January 23, 2005. It states the following:

X. Individual Discipline
For this purpose of this disciplinary action, both of you are being treated as individuals. Restoration of one spouse is not contingent on the restoration of the other. Your past and future conduct is evaluated on an individual basis. Either or both of you may request restoration of fellowship, and your request will be evaluated on an individual basis.

Mark and I were “excommunicated,” and we were excommunicated as individuals. Our entire family was not excommunicated. Our children were not excommunicated. Our children were not under any form of church discipline whatsoever. In practice, though, BCA has treated our children as though they too were excommunicated. BCA has shunned and punished our entire family. What sin are my children guilty of? None that anyone has ever stated. Only in the past couple months has anyone from BCA said anything about any alleged sins that my children are guilty of, and in both cases those alleged “sins” occurred just within the last couple months.

Joshua’s “sin” is that he assisted me with passing out fliers at the Arlington home school conference. Natasha’s “sin” is that she went to Vision Forum to assist the process server in identifying Doug Phillips, after Doug’s employees had already lied to the process server and told him that Doug wasn’t there. Also, shortly after that incident, one or more of Doug’s employees alleged that Natasha had “flipped them off.” Natasha denies this. However, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that Natasha did “flip off” Vision Forum employees. What does that have to do with the shunning and “discipline” that she’s been subjected to for the two years prior to that incident? The same goes for Joshua. Even if assisting me with handing out fliers at a home school conference were a “sin,” what does that have to do with the prior two years of shunning and “discipline” that Joshua has been subjected to by everyone at BCA? Doug is now grasping for excuses after the fact for punishing my children.

Shunning and punishing my children for my own “sins” doesn’t in any way inspire or compel me to want to repent. Just the opposite. Scripture forbids punishing children for the sins of the parents, and visa versa:

Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. Deut. 24:16

But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. Jer. 31:30

The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. Ezek. 18:20

Even if Doug Phillips were capable of complying with my repeated requests to furnish me with a specific and detailed list of my sins, supported by evidence and testimony of witnesses (rather than the vague, unspecific, and unsupported general list of charges that I can’t comprehend how I’m guilty of such things, nor will anyone even attempt to explain the charges), punishing my children for my alleged “sins” only confirms the fact that Doug Phillips is an ecclesiastical tyrant — a bully. Isn’t this exactly what a bully does? Pick on and punish people who are smaller and weaker and unable to defend themselves? Bullies are also cowards, and it doesn’t get any more cowardly than what Doug Phillips has done, but to punish children when they’ve done nothing wrong.

After having spent five years of their young lives totally enveloped in BCA, and all their friends at BCA, and knowing very little outside of BCA, my children suddenly had all their friends and all their social lives ripped away from them. BCA members were ordered to shun Mark and me. However, in practice, they shunned us all. How has that affected my children? It’s been absolutely devastating to them. If my children pull through this with their Christian faith intact, it will only be by the grace of God. It certainly won’t be because of any kindness and compassion of Doug Phillips. There have been many times that I have genuinely feared for Doug and the judgment awaiting him. The Lord Jesus showed a very special care and compassion for children, and obviously he expects His under-shepherds to follow His example:

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matt. 19:14

In a very practical way, Doug Phillips has censured my children for no sins of their own. In so doing, he has hindered and undermined my children’s walk with the Lord. Doug’s unjust punishment of my children has seriously hampered their Christian faith. My children have greatly struggled with the implications of fellow believers treating them so cruelly, all sanctioned by a “pastor.” Unless Doug repents, he may one day pay a very heavy price for it:

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 18:6

If Doug Phillips would do it to my children, he can and probably will do it to others, as well. But he can only do so if he’s given other opportunities. It is for this, and other reasons, that I’ve gone public with my story. If I can do anything to prevent Doug Phillips from injuring the lives and undermining the faith of anyone else, and children in particular, I believe that I have a moral and a biblical obligation to do so.

Here’s a peek into just one weekend of my children’s lives. First, Natasha:

If there is one thing young ladies love to do, it’s to plan their weddings. For years, girls in their teens and early twenties will giggle and whisper and share secret plans for that special moment — someday. This is often a time of choosing bridesmaids and flower girls as well, and many girls make promises to one another to have each other be attendants in their weddings. This everyday scenario takes place just as often in Family Integrated Churches as well, especially where courtship is taught and practiced. But what they don’t plan on, maybe, is outside interference, outside meddling.

My daughter, Natasha, was very good friends with Little Bear Wheeler’s daughter, Aimee, for seven years. Natasha and Aimee fellowshipped and spoke often. Not only did they plan their weddings together, but Aimee was the one person who was there for Natasha when it seemed that all the other Christians were only interested in judging her. Being a pastor’s kid (PK) isn’t easy. It put Aimee in the spotlight, always under the scrutiny of other church members, both inside and outside her own father’s church. Natasha stood by Aimee through thick and thin. So when Aimee recently announced that she was getting married, Natasha expected that they would go through with the plans they had made for Natasha to be Aimee’s bridesmaid. Disappointed, but not really surprised, Natasha soon realized that Aimee’s attendants did not include her after all, but she was still looking forward to attending the wedding of one of her best childhood friends. However, Natasha’s invitation never arrived.

Seeing how desperately Natasha desired to go to her friend’s wedding, a mutual friend ran interference and was able to get Natasha an invitation to the wedding that was to take place on Saturday, July 28. Natasha was so elated! But that joy lasted only a few hours before being dashed by a phone call from Aimee, uninviting Natasha to her wedding. Devastated, Natasha asked why. It turns out that Doug Phillips’ “influence” (and meddling) reaches a long way. Apparently, some people at BCA read Still Fed Up and they weren’t pleased with the pictures of Natasha that the SFU boys stole from Natasha’s private website and posted on SFU. Then there was the false accusation that Natasha “flipped off” the Vision Forum folks when she was at Vision Forum, assisting the process server. These two incidents seemed to be enough to provoke Doug Phillips into convincing Little Bear Wheeler to not only ban the entire Epstein family from attending Aimee’s wedding, but also to hire policemen to keep us all out, on threat of being arrested if any of us showed up.

Natasha asked Aimee if she had ever given her reason to believe that Natasha would lie about flipping people off at Vision Forum. No, Aimee didn’t have any reason not to believe her, except that certain people from Vision Forum (Peter Bradrick was standing there the whole time) had stated such. Aimee didn’t know who to believe. Natasha asked if she had ever caused a scene before, and if not, why would Aimee think that she would do so at her friend’s wedding? Aimee had no answer except that a certain person had convinced her father that Natasha should not be allowed to attend. In the end, Aimee really had no choice but to submit to the edicts of Doug and her own father.

Natasha felt betrayed by the fact that shortly after our “excommunication,” Doug removed any mention from Vision Forum’s web site that Natasha had won runner-up in a Vision Forum writing contest. This was her first indication that she too would be punished for her parents’ “excommunication.” The punishment has continued to this very day, and from all appearances, she will continue to be punished for the “sin” of being an Epstein.

The fact is that none of the other Epsteins had been issued an invitation, and we wouldn’t have “crashed” Aimee’s wedding. There was no need for Doug to hire police officers to keep us out. Apparently though, he still believed it necessary to hire policemen for the sole purpose of keeping out just one twenty-year-old girl. This goes to show just how fearful Doug really is, and it’s that same fear that caused him to hire police and other “security” for his recent open house at Vision Forum.

Now to fourteen-year-old Joshua:

Joshua has also been very lonely since the whole family got kicked out of BCA. Joshua is very shy to begin with, but he did have a very good friend at BCA. He’s seen him a couple times at various events since January 2005, but averaging once a year to see a friend just doesn’t seem to fulfill those social needs. We have tried finding other friends, but other churches, which don’t seem to last very long either, haven’t had any boys close in age who were willing to be his friend either. He’s quite a likeable guy; we’ve just been stymied in our attempts to find even one friend for him.

So when our recent houseguest said that he would like to visit BCA this past Sunday, he asked if Joshua could come with him to keep him company. Joshua was so excited about seeing his one friend again that he was willing to risk pretty much anything for the opportunity to spend time with a boy his age for a few hours.

I asked Henry Johnson, our friend, why he wanted to visit BCA. Henry is Joe Taylor’s digging partner and works at the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum with Joe. Henry has witnessed Doug’s treatment of Joe and Henry is also the videographer who was with me at the Arlington Homeschool Conference in May. He saw how I was treated there. So I wondered why Henry wanted to visit BCA. He said there were a couple reasons. First, even though he knew what had happened to both Joe and me, Henry is the type of person to give someone the benefit of the doubt. I had also told Henry of the incredible sense of family (Family Integrated Church) that we felt for the five years we were at BCA. I had explained about how we would stay at church all day fellowshipping after the service. Henry had such a strong desire to a part of something like that all his life that he was grateful if he could just experience it, even for one day. I had described the service to him and it seemed like the type of church service Henry would greatly enjoy. BCA would also line up well with Henry’s own theology. Henry has not been able to attend church for a long time, for various reasons, so he was excited to be a part of a service like this, even if it was just for one day. Living out in the boonies, Henry gets lonely sometimes, so he, too, was looking for church fellowship for the day.

So, with much anticipation for a pleasant day, Henry and Joshua drove an hour to visit BCA. Accidentally parking on the wrong side of the building on someone else’s land, they were greeted cheerfully by Bob Sarratt, who asked them to please park in a different location. After pulling in next to a whole line of white 15-passenger vans, Doug Phillips got out of his van right next to them and Henry greeted him. Doug returned his greeting. When the church bell rang announcing the beginning of the service, Henry and Joshua made their way to the building to find a seat. As they passed the annex building, Joshua noticed Doug Phillips speaking with Mo Gill, one of the deacons. It soon became clear what they were discussing. Walking up onto the porch, Henry and Joshua greeted several of the men and young men there, who also greeted them in return. Joshua knew a couple of them very well and spoke for just a moment with them.

Shortly thereafter, Steve Ringer came up and asked to speak to Henry. Steve wanted to know why they were there. Henry explained that Joshua had a friend there and that Henry had come just to enjoy the service and to be with Joshua. Steve wanted to know if Henry was the man doing the videotaping in Arlington and Henry said that he was. Steve said that Henry and Joshua had “shown an aggressive nature” toward them, but Henry replied that he was only there to listen to the sermon, that he was not there with any kind of aggressive intentions at all. He explained that rather than taking someone else’s word for what church was like at BCA, that he desired just to worship with them for a day. “I have no desire to do anything else except listen,” he said.

At this point in the conversation, Wesley Strackbein joined them and said that Henry couldn’t be trusted to act in an appropriate manner, so he asked Henry to leave the premises. After verifying that he was indeed being asked to leave, Henry asked if Josh could just stay there and Henry would pick him up later. Wesley responded that since Josh is part of the same family that caused a great deal of harm to BCA, that even though he didn’t have anything against Joshua personally, that given Joshua’s family’s involvement, “covenantally, that would not be acceptable.”

The term, “covenantal,” is significant. We can only interpret this as meaning that since Mark and I had been excommunicated, all our children are “covenantally” subject to the same punishment. Unless Mark and I are restored to fellowship, all our children are to be treated as though they, too, have been excommunicated. For all practical purposes, Doug expects, and even demands, that all other churches treat us all in the same manner. An example of this is what happened to us at Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA). We were initially all welcomed there. Later we were all asked to leave together. No option was ever afforded us to just bring our children to FPC, so that just their own spiritual needs for hearing the Word preached, and Christian fellowship, could be met. Just like BCA, FPC punished not only us, they punished our children, too.

Wesley Strackbein introduced Bob Sarratt to Henry as an elder for Boerne Christian Assembly. Although Bob’s name appears on the document that BCA wrote against us when we first went public, he was not an elder at that time, but he was a deacon. I also noted when I wrote my response to that article that even though Bob Sarratt’s name appears on the document that it had to have been written by Doug. It appears that Doug has since appointed Bob Sarratt as an elder.

Henry then explained that he had heard a lot about BCA and he wanted to come and share in their worship. Interrupting him, Bob Sarratt said, “That may have been the pretenses, Sir, but Joshua Epstein has been publicly crying out against this body, handing out fliers, being interviewed on the internet, and saying slanderous things, along with his family, and as such, he is not our welcome guest.” Bob went on to say that if the Epsteins wanted to meet with the leadership and settle all that that BCA would love to have us back. In the meantime, Joshua would not be allowed to stay and he asked Henry to leave as well. He said if Henry were there by himself sometime, he would be welcome to stay. However, since BCA was leasing the facility, they had the right to ask people not to stay if they were seeking to disrupt the meeting of the church.

Henry assured Bob that he was not there to disrupt anything but had only desired to quietly participate in the service. However, he said that he understood what Bob was telling him. Bob continued on that the Epsteins’ actions had proven time and time again that they must be there to disrupt the service. Bob went on to say that Henry was complicit in Arlington as well and Wesley said he had witnessed that as well. Again, Henry said that he understood that they didn’t approve of his videotaping at Arlington.

Then Bob asked where Joshua was. Joshua had been waiting several feet away, on the front porch, during this conversation. At one point, Doug Phillips and his son, Joshua, who is the same age as my Joshua, and who also used to be very good friends with him, passed right by Joshua Epstein, but refused to even look at or speak to him. It wasn’t as if they just didn’t notice; they had to have passed within just a few inches of him, and they had seen him as they walked up. There was no mistaking the obvious shunning of a fourteen-year-old boy. His own father had set the example. Like father, like son?

As Bob Sarratt then approached Joshua, he told him that he had seen him protesting and bringing accusations against BCA. He said he had also seen Joshua “on the interviews and in the commentary.” Bob told Joshua that although he wasn’t personally excommunicated, that Joshua was complicit in the acts of slander and had had a very negative impact against BCA and therefore he wasn’t welcome there until that was settled. But that wasn’t enough for Bob. He continued, “We could call the sheriff’s department and they’ll remove you from this body and we do have the right as leasees. We have the domain of this property right here that you’re on.”

Again, Henry expresses his understanding, “I’m sorry we couldn’t stay, but I understand.”

But Bob Sarratt still isn’t finished with them and tells Joshua that he can’t come back until the excommunication of his parents is taken care of, as well as the issues that have arisen since the excommunication which “pale by comparison.” As Henry once again agrees, Bob has to threaten them one last time: “I’m going to have to ask you to leave or we will be calling the sheriff’s department and have them remove you.”

Henry finally shakes Bob’s hand and tells him he’s sorry and he appreciates it. After Henry shakes hands with Steve Ringer and Wesley Strackbein as well, Joshua puts his hand out to Bob Sarratt as well, who had already put his hand back in his pocket. As Joshua stands there with his hand out, waiting for Bob, Bob finally and reluctantly agrees to shake Joshua’s hand.

As Henry and Joshua walk toward the truck, Joshua remarks to Henry, “That was real Christian love, wasn’t it?” Laughing, Henry simply replies, “No!”

So what did this fourteen-year-old do to be openly shunned like this by Doug Phillips and his son? What did Joshua do to be threatened twice with calling the cops on him? How has Joshua slandered BCA? I seem to recall that slander involves saying something that is not true. When has Joshua protested and brought accusations against BCA? When was he interviewed and what commentary has he provided?

Joshua is my son and that is the real reason he was not allowed to worship at BCA on Sunday. Doug Phillips is the one who taught me to take my children with me wherever I go, so naturally I would have brought them with me to Arlington. I did not go there to cause trouble. I went there to speak with Doug. When Doug refused to meet with me, I used my time there to warn others about Doug Phillips. Since Doug encourages us to “teach our children real life,” that is exactly what I did. Joshua helped me pass out a few papers, legally, to some attendees. He was not interviewed by the police, nor did he protest, slander, or bring accusations against anyone. He has never done anything to cause Doug Phillips to think that Joshua will ever do him any harm. I have never done anything to harm Doug Phillips, nor will I. That is not why I am here. I am here first to call Doug to repentance (which I did for a number of months), and second, to warn fellow believers about a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I have never had any intention of bringing harm to Doug or anyone at BCA or Vision Forum, nor will I ever. These acts of calling the authorities, or threatening to call the authorities, are simply Doug’s overreaction to his own refusal to meet with a woman to discuss the issues.

Doug and BCA’s latest claim that they’re now willing to meet with us is just another ruse. For two years we attempted to meet with Doug. In every case we were told, “Talk to my attorney.” I’ve never heard of such a thing. In the first place, our “excommunication” isn’t an attorney matter. It’s a pastoral matter. Secondly, we weren’t “excommunicated” from Vision Forum, and Doug’s attorney is Vision Forum’s attorney. He’s not BCA’s attorney, nor does he even attend BCA.

Is it appropriate to punish the children for the sins of the parents? Under Doug’s bizarre interpretation of “covenant theology,” yes, apparently it’s totally appropriate, and it’s consistent with Doug’s views on covenant theology. However, it’s not in any way biblical. Perhaps in the future, I’ll do an exposé of Doug Phillips’ strange views of covenant theology.

And by the way, what were those sins again, those sins that I’m allegedly guilty of?

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Little Bear Wheeler Caves In To Doug Phillips’ Scare Tactics

Epsteins Grateful For Richard Little Bear Wheeler, But Disappointed

By: Mark Epstein

Immediately after our “excommunication” from Boerne Christian Assembly, we began attending Living Water Fellowship. LWF is pastored by Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler. Little Bear is also a prominent home school leader and had a long standing friendship with Doug Phillips and business relationship with The Vision Forum.

Living Water Fellowship has long been considered to be part of the informal alliance among four churches in the area, one of them being BCA. These four churches were known to us all as “the community.” In spite of our “excommunication,” we were openly welcomed at LWF, whose elders made it known to us that they weren’t in agreement with Doug Phillips over our “excommunication” and that they desired to see it overturned and our relations with BCA restored. Little Bear went so far as to tell us that he saw many similarities between our “excommunication” and the Salem Witch Trials. LWF wasn’t the only church in the community that had serious misgivings about our “excommunication,” and for a time our “excommunication” threatened to cause a split in the community, and in some respects it did cause a split.

Little Bear asked us to remain at LWF for at least six months while he and the LWF elders worked behind the scenes on our behalf. Though we had a number of theological differences with the teaching and worship there (LWF is Arminian and very Charismatic, if not Pentecostal), we kept our theological differences to ourselves and remained there in hopes that Little Bear would be successful in his reconciliation attempts. We stayed for those six months. But even after our departure we remained in contact with Little Bear and Al, and they continued in their reconciliation attempts for a total of fourteen months.

Elders Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler and Al Mendenhall sacrificially invested a great deal of time and energy in their attempts to work through the Doug Phillips’ orchestrated Star Chamber excommunication, including examining any available records. Little Bear and Al attempted repeatedly to set up meetings with Doug about our “excommunication.” Doug evaded all such attempts. Ultimately, it became apparent that Doug would never agree to speak with them about it. Doug had communicated his message loud and clear: The subject isn’t open to discussion.

In March 2006, Al Mendenhall asked me to quit copying him and Little Bear on my correspondence with Doug Phillips because Little Bear wanted to pursue restoring his personal relationship with Doug. That couldn’t be done if there was any appearance that the LWF elders continued siding with the Epsteins. We were informed that because of Doug’s position on the matter, the relationship between Little Bear and Doug had become quite strained. Doug was extremely displeased that Little Bear had welcomed us to his church with open arms, and even less pleased that the LWF elders had worked diligently for fourteen months to reason with Doug. Little Bear’s personal relationship with Doug Phillips had been not only completely cut off by Doug, but Doug had even become adversarial toward Little Bear, as evidenced by his refusal to even speak with Little Bear when they led a Father-Son retreat together in August 2005.

In spite of Little Bear and Al’s inability to broker reconciliation between Doug and the Epsteins, had Living Water Fellowship been a church that we felt ourselves in accord with, we probably would have remained there. However, because of the Charismatic worship and the Arminian theology (as well as some other serious theological differences), we just didn’t see how we could remain long term. So we left for good at the end of August 2005. However, we did remain in regular contact with Little Bear and Al after our departure. It was important to us to depart peacefully, and we did. We were grateful for the kindness and pastoral care they’d shown us.

My own attempts to contact Doug Phillips were met with a response that I would not be permitted contact with Doug, and that any communication must be only with Doug’s attorney, Don Hart. Needless to say, coming from a so-called “pastor,” this is a very strange and unusual demand. Don Hart is Vision Forum’s attorney and a Vision Forum board member. Don Hart isn’t even Boerne Christian Assembly’s attorney. Nevertheless, I complied with Doug’s edict. When I wrote my July 2006 letter to Don Hart, which asked Phillips and BCA for the specifics of our alleged excommunicable sins, because of Al’s earlier request, none of the LWF elders were given a copy of that letter. I asked for this list of sins so that we could come to a clear understanding of what specific sins we were allegedly guilty. I’ve always held that if we were indeed guilty that we should and would repent. Despite contacting Don Hart and receiving his assurance that he would speak with Doug about the letter, we never heard from Phillips, or BCA, nor did we receive a reply from Don Hart.

In November 2006, Jen and I had lunch with Al Mendenhall to obtain the return of some papers related to our excommunication. During lunch, Al told us that the leadership of Living Water Fellowship finally met with Doug Phillips and his so-called “leadership team,” which is now calling itself a “session” — a very Presbyterian term for a Baptist church (“session” is used to give the appearance of a plurality of elders, when in fact Doug was the only elder, and an unordained one at that). Al emphasized that Doug Phillips made it perfectly clear that he felt Al and Little Bear had violated the letter of the law by taking us in when Doug had declared us to be “heathens and publicans.” In return, Al and Little Bear made it clear to Doug that if Doug ever excommunicated anyone else at BCA, that Living Water would do the same thing all over again, taking them in and loving them in their sin, attempting to restore them to both God and man.

Despite Doug’s accusation that Al and Little Bear had violated the letter of the law, Al sincerely believed they had followed the spirit of God’s law, which is actually comprised of God’s grace and Christ’s atoning work on the cross, which Christ made clear during His earthly ministry when confronting the Pharisees and their graceless interpretation of God’s Law. On the other hand, not only do Doug’s words to Al and Little Bear stand as an indictment of Doug for legalism on steroids, his actions in our unjust excommunication and the vile and vicious actions of his proxies (e.g. Matt Chancey and the Still Fed Up boys) also indict Phillips for legalism as well; the combination of those words and actions serve to demonstrate Doug’s hyper-legalistic view of Holy Scripture. Doug’s view of Scripture is the root of the problem. Doug misused Scripture to justify ravaging and betraying sheep instead of loving, feeding, and caring for us.

Almost immediately after we began to tell our story a number of folks began to contact Jen offline inquiring as to the name of the church that took us in. Some already knew it was LWF, and others accurately guessed that it was LWF. Many others have also contacted Jen to offer their prayers and words of support. Jen has received numerous emails from people who have their own “Doug Phillips stories” of abuse and harassment. As much as we’d like to see these people step forward and tell their own stories, they’ve made it plain that they’re afraid to. Phillips’ treatment of Little Bear Wheeler only serves as a confirmation for their fears.

It seems a contradiction to some that there are those who support the Epsteins, but that they do so silently. On the other hand, it has never ceases to amaze me that many publicly vocal people have demanded transparency from the Epsteins (documentation, naming names, etc.), but have simultaneously found it quite acceptable for Phillips and his proxies to remain anonymous; to engage in ad hominem attacks; to fail to provide specifics; to avoid placing any source documents on the web (despite the claim they were actually referencing these documents); and to refuse to accept comments on their blogs so that they can be questioned about their allegations. Oddly enough, such behavior displays a wanton disregard for the biblical admonitions concerning the higher degree of responsibility associated with those who teach. However, in the upside down world of hyper-patriarchs and hyper-legalism this pattern actually does make perfect sense. Hyper-patriarchs and hyper-legalists are all about hypocrisy and double standards.

Despite a desire to leave Living Water Fellowship and its leadership out of the discussion, we finally made a decision to go ahead with an article about Living Water Fellowship’s involvement in our excommunication. When Jen did write her article, she took great pains to demonstrate the difference between the unaccountable Phillips at BCA and the plurality of elders LWF enjoys. Though we do have some significant theological differences we, nevertheless, do consider Little Bear and Al and LWF true brethren in Christ. Contrary to BCA, we see no evidence at LWF of cultish hero-worship.

Imagine our surprise, then, when Little Bear’s Living Water Fellowship placed a statement on their website declaring that our email to homeschool leaders in America contained “inaccuracies” and “misleading information,” and that it “discredits its authors.” Since we have taken great pains to be factually honest and accurate in everything that we have reported and commented on regarding Doug Phillips, we were eager to correct any possible mistakes we might have made. We had also spent a great deal of time on the phone with both Little Bear and Al during the writing of our story to make sure that we had every facet of LWF’s side of the story completely accurate. So we were determined to do whatever was necessary to go about setting any “misleading information” straight.

Another issue that startled us was LWF’s statement that “The pastors of Living Water Fellowship desire that it be known that no issue exists between Living Water Fellowship, Boerne Christian Assembly or its leadership.” Although it is true that there were not as many problems among the congregants of the entire four-church community as there were between the leaders of BCA and LWF, our excommunication ultimately split the entire community. There were several churches that formed from the original BCA fellowship. These were friendly multiplications of the body of the Christ and we often fellowshipped together. At the time of our excommunication, there were four churches in what we called “the community.” We would often get together for all day picnics/potlucks and most baby showers and bridal showers and weddings were four-church affairs. In fact, the week after we were excommunicated, there was a community baby shower. Little Bear asked Jen not to attend the shower so as not to cause division at that time. Unfortunately, that was the last community-wide event, as far as we are aware. Doug Phillips asked the other churches to honor his excommunication of us and that split the community grievously.

Furthermore, one of the larger issues between Phillips and Wheeler was Little Bear’s dressing down of Doug Phillips over the phone not long after we began attending Living Water Fellowship. Little Bear’s first attempt to talk to Doug about our excommunication resulted in many hurtful words between the two of them. Little Bear talked to us constantly about God’s love and loving one another. LWF’s motto is “In honor, preferring one another,” and Little Bear truly sought to live that out. He could not possibly justify “shunning” in light of that Scripture and he made it very plain to Doug how he felt about BCA’s dealings with us. Additionally, Little Bear personally told me that he was genuinely concerned he would lose his ministry to financial ruin if his name was dragged into the public dispute between Phillips/BCA and the Epsteins that erupted when Doug’s shills outed the “Jacksons” in November 2006. Our concerns for Little Bear were one of the main reasons why we tried to tell our story anonymously. We didn’t want to see Little Bear get dragged into it if that could be avoided. As we understand it, Ministry Watchman agreed to not bring Little Bear’s name into it.

Little Bear did have good reason to worry. For years, he derived substantial financial gains from his relationship with Doug and Vision Forum. The loss of that relationship would cost Little Bear many thousands of dollars. Apparently this was not the first time Little Bear felt his ministry was threatened by Doug Phillips either, and he knew full well how tenuous his relationship with Doug was. Thus, LWF posted a statement which allows for the inference or appearance of mutual agreement and friendly relations with the leadership of BCA. Unfortunately, this is disingenuous and it shows that Little Bear Wheeler has misrepresented the facts in this matter.

As Jen has noted in her posts, Doug Phillips resorts to a fairly standard play book: Demand the name of his perceived opponent’s ecclesiastical authority, threaten the opponent with church discipline, threaten the opponent with a secular lawsuit, threaten the opponent with the loss of their job through proxies, viciously attack the opponent with false ecclesiastical and secular charges, and smear the reputation of your opponent using any and all means available, including logical fallacies. And who are Doug’s opponents? Anyone who disagrees with him for any reason, or anyone who fails to obey his dictates (such as shunning the Epsteins). Needless to say, it is not too far fetched at all to think Doug Phillips could engage in the financial ruin of Little Bear Wheeler if Little Bear publicly took sides with the Epsteins. It’s bad enough to disagree with Doug in private, but it’s quite another thing to defy Doug publicly — as our readers have witnessed.

Al called me on April 26, 2007, just after Vision Forum and LWF released their public statements about this situation. Al invited me to lunch with him and Little Bear. In several subsequent phone calls, as we were attempting to set up a date to meet, Al kept using the word “restoration” in reference to what LWF was trying to accomplish between the two churches’ leaders. Of course, as the word “restoration” conveys, something obviously bad had to have happened to bring about a need for restoration. In the case at hand, it was a restoration of the personal relationship between Doug Phillips and Little Bear Wheeler, which was damaged when Doug “dressed down” Little Bear on the phone because Little Bear refused to shun us in accordance with Phillips’ demands, and which was obviously not restored in the least by this date; and the relationship between the “leadership team/session” at BCA and the elders at LWF, which was damaged as a result of Little Bear and LWF’s leaders taking in “excommunicants.” Both of these relationships were strained to the point of being completely severed during the prior two years. When I pressed Al to clarify why he said no issue exists between their two leaderships, he evaded answering any of my questions about the rift between Doug and Little Bear personally, and the rift between the elders at LWF and the “leadership” at BCA. He simply refused to talk about it. To state that no issue exists between them is ludicrous.

Al and I talked on the phone several times in the next few days, attempting to set up a lunch date. During those phone calls, Al repeatedly raised the issue of our websites. He made it perfectly clear that he thought they should be taken down. However, as I explained to Al, we already did that once for the purpose of laying the groundwork toward seeking reconciliation, all to no avail. I repeatedly pressed Al for the specifics of the “inaccuracies” and “misleading information” that he and Little Bear had alleged that we were guilty of. Al repeatedly dodged my questions about these details and refused to give me a straight answer, or even just one example. Furthermore, I told Al that Doug Phillips had his last chance to be reconciled outside of a full public apology, and public lifting of the excommunication, and that there was certainly a lot more that we needed to write about.

As Jen has asserted before, the answer to Phillips’ dilemma is simple: Doug Phillips — a man that threatens professing Christians with unjust and unbiblical lawsuits and church discipline, and who evidently is responsible for creating the fear factor in Little Bear Wheeler — simply needs to repent of his gross ecclesiastical tyranny and the aberrant behavior of his proxies which he has sanctioned. Moreover, Phillips owes Little Bear and the leadership of LWF an apology for the fear that Little Bear suffered when he thought Mantle Ministries would be financially ruined because he previously sided with the Epsteins. Al Mendenhall personally told me Little Bear feared losing his business when we spoke shortly after Phillips’ proxies outed Jared and Mary Jackson. Therefore, it is little wonder to me that Little Bear willingly posts a statement on his church website that he refuses to back up with any specifics of “inaccuracies” and “misleading information.”

When Al and Little Bear realized that we were not going to take down our blogs again, the invitation for lunch with Al and Little Bear was suddenly withdrawn, almost as suddenly as Little Bear’s renewed interest in developing a relationship with Doug again or, should I say, Doug’s renewed interest in developing a relationship with Little Bear. After Jen wrote an article exposing Doug’s wicked treatment of Little Bear, it didn’t take long for Doug to (presumbly) contact Little Bear and profess a desire to restore their relationship. Again, if there was no known problem between them, why the need for restoration? Little Bear was forced into making a decision at that point: continue to support the Epsteins, or attempt to recoup some of that financial loss he suffered at the hands of Doug Phillips when Doug turned on him and shunned him when Little Bear did the right thing before God. It became readily apparent that Little Bear thought he could get back into Doug’s good graces by being the one person to convince us to take down our blogs. When Al and Little Bear failed to keep us quiet about Doug’s ecclesiastical tyranny, they suddenly wanted nothing to do with us again.

I fully appreciate Little Bear’s desire to have his relationship “restored” to Doug Phillips, as we, too, have had the same desire. However, I’m deeply disappointed to see that Little Bear has placed his financial interests over the very biblical principles that he had previously stood for. For the many who have yet to come forward and tell their own stories of Doug Phillips’ threats (others besides Little Bear have had their financial interests threatened, and worse), I fully understand their reluctance. However, it nonetheless is a sad state of affairs when we come to a point of fearing a man more than we fear God.

For those who want to now raise the Matthew 18 objection, let me assure you we took steps to privately confront Little Bear and Al Mendenhall, the LWF leadership’s “point man,” on the issue of their public statement, via email and snail mail. Below is the text of the email and letters sent to both men, along with the July 2006 letter to Phillips’ attorney, Don Hart. Although Al accepted delivery of the certified mail containing the letter, Little Bear “refused” delivery of the letter. It would appear Little Bear is learning much from Doug Phillips’ evasion techniques, which is tragic indeed.

May 3, 2007

Dear Little Bear and Al,

This is a follow-up email to Al’s and my conversation this morning. Since you’ve told me you don’t read our websites, I am attaching the July 2006 letter that Jen and I sent to Doug’s attorney, Don Hart. This letter was written long before we wrote one word about the Ligonier lawsuit targeting Frank Vance. Moreover, as you can clearly see from the letter, we were willing to submit to Doug despite his malicious treatment of us. However, once Doug and Don Hart refused to answer us, it became obvious Doug was not interested in our repentance or reconciliation.

Just so we all understand what is at issue, let me summarize what I was attempting to convey to you, Al.

We sincerely want to know what “inacurracies” and “misleading information” was contained in our email to the homeschool leaders. If we know what is wrong, we are more than willing to correct it. Yet, it is important we do not speak in generalities. Jen and I do not do this on our blogs; we attempt to be precise and painstakingly honest in what we write, and we will not write anything we cannot document. Unfortunately, this is not true of Doug and, just as with Doug, we cannot repent of generalities. Doug refuses to provide specifics. For example, Doug says Jen must repent of her rebellion, but he provides no examples of rebellion. As Jen has repeatedly noted, an accusation of sin by an elder or any believer should be something along these lines: “Jen, on such and such a date, you displayed a rebellious spirit (or committed the sin of rebellion) when you did such and such.” Specific sins need specific repentance, but generalized unsubstantiated accusations of sin cannot be repented of. Does God forgive generalized confessions of sin? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) is a call to confess specific sins that we have committed against specific people, or against God Himself. God’s Son shed his blood to cover sin and God wants a believer’s heart to be tender enough to acknowledge specific sin against Him and our fellow man, as well as being willing to confess sin and repent when confronted by other believers for specific sin (Matthew 18).

Another issue we have with your public statement is the line that could be construed to infer that there are no issues between the BCA and LWF leadership. Al, you related to me today that what you really meant to say in your public statement is that while the LWF elders have nothing personally against Doug Phillips or any other leadership at BCA, that Doug Phillips does have issues with the LWF elders and his perception of how the LWF elders handled our excommunication. If that is so, I think the statement needs to include something that fully explains the need for Doug’s recent request for a “restoration process” between the BCA and LWF leaderships. If Doug has issues with the LWF leadership, then I think it is only honest of the LWF leadership to make this clear in their public statement. Obviously, there is a rift between you two or Doug wouldn’t be now be seeking “restoration” of your relationship.

Al, before we were cut off, I heard you say that someone told you Natasha flipped-off the Vision Forum employees on Saturday, April 21, 2007. I spoke with Natasha shortly after our call was inadvertently terminated, and she denies using profanity or flipping off anyone that day. I believe her and I do not believe her accusers. Phillips has multiple lies posted on his church blog, all of which we will be dealing with in the future. Gentlemen, please ask yourself this question as dispassionately as you are able: Why didn’t Doug or his attorney respond to our July 2006 letter? We waited until November 26, 2006, for an answer. We even called Don Hart six weeks after sending the letter to see if we were going to receive a response. Don Hart stated he had failed to give Doug the letter, even though they spoke together at the same conference only a few days after receiving our letter. Therefore, we graciously offered Don another two weeks to respond since our phone conversation took place during the time Doug puts his catalog together. Little Bear, Al, we leaned over backwards, yet Doug still just blew us off.

Little Bear, Al, I think the two of you need to step back and look at what is the real issue here — Doug’s pride. When Doug humbles himself, perhaps we can be reconciled. However, just so you know up front, this will not happen until Doug repents for his gross violations of the biblical standards required of a pastor and teacher. His unjust, unbiblical, and malicious excommunication of the Epsteins and the vengeful reading of Jen’s pre-conversion sins must be publicly repented of by Phillips, his deacons (including Bob Sarratt), and the BCA congregants. If Doug humbles himself, the Lord will lift him up. If Doug does not humble himself, I am sure the Lord will deal with him accordingly.

As far as any perception that I may have unwittingly given you of an “ultimatum,” I apologize if I came across in that manner, Al. Will you please forgive me? That wasn’t my intention, and I’ll be more careful in my dealings with you to not come across that way. As I’m sure you know, this whole process has been incredibly frustrating for us. Two years have come and gone and we’ve been unable to make any headway. We’ve done our best to be patient, but it hasn’t been easy, and I’m sure there have been times where our patience has been worn thin. Would it be possible for either of you to respond by this coming Monday, May 7, 2007, with the specifics of the inaccuracies and misleading information contained in our email?

Lastly, it is far past the time for Doug to display some biblical behavior. He supposedly is an elder. Therefore, Jen and I expect him to meet the biblical standards of eldership (1 Tim 3) and take responsibility for his egregious behavior. Gentlemen, Doug Phillips abused the sheep. He is accountable for his behavior not only when he is supposed to be ministering to the sheep, but in his personal life as well. He is an elder and he must meet a higher standard of conduct in this life. The evidence clearly shows that he’s fallen far short of that.

We look forward to your reply.

In His Love,

Mark Epstein

We’re surprised by what Little Bear has done. We’re surprised by this sudden reversal because not only does it demonstrate a lack of honesty on his part, it also demonstrates a lack of wisdom. Little Bear is as aware as anyone about Doug’s propensity of turning on his own friends should they ever disagree with him. Doug takes disagreement very personally, and he doesn’t just take it quietly. He retaliates with anything he can find to hold over you. If it involves a friendship, then he’ll terminate it and even shun you. If it includes a business relationship, he’ll terminate it. Little Bear should know that if Doug did it to him before, he might find reason to do it again. From here on out, Little Bear will have to work very hard to always be in agreement with Doug about everything. Little Bear has caved in and Doug knows it and he’ll no doubt use it against Little Bear again.

Despite the untruthful and highly misleading nature of Living Water Fellowship’s public statement, we will forever be grateful for the season we spent at Living Water Fellowship under the loving leadership of Richard “Little Bear” Wheeler, Al Mendenhall, Michael Bakke, and Doug Swanson. Their original willingness to stand for truth and principle will always be an inspiring memory of godly men relying on God and His Holy Spirit. Their willingness to patiently sacrifice their personal time and invest a godly love in a marriage on the verge of divorce stands in stark contrast to the abusive manner in which Doug Phillips chose to exacerbate the comparatively minor problems affecting our marriage in October 2001.

Doug Phillips had a marvelous God-given opportunity to impact our marriage for God’s glory. Instead he chose to betray us and squander the opportunity in the most shameful manner.

The Doug Phillips’ School of Logical Fallacies

From the time that my husband and I were “excommunicated” from Boerne Christian Assembly we have repeatedly requested that Doug Phillips provide a specific and detailed list of the excommunicable offenses of which we were found guilty. We don’t believe this to be an unreasonable expectation. After all, how are we to ever be able to repent of sins if we don’t even know what they are? Repentance of specific sins necessitates naming specifically what those sins are. We can’t repent of vague and broad generalities.

When someone is tried in a secular court, the charges are clearly and specifically stated, the charges must be supported by evidence and testimony, the accused has the right to examine their accusers, and the court functions according to established rules that everyone (especially the accused) has available to them. These are some of the most basic and essential requirements to ensure that justice can be carried out. Without these things there can be no justice.

To this day the best that Doug Phillips can do is to vaguely allege,

“Mark and Jennifer Epstein were excommunicated by Boerne Christian Assembly for habitual lying, railings, contempt of authority, cruelty, gossip, revilings, and other sins for which they were patiently and lovingly admonished by numerous brothers and sisters in Christ at BCA and their church leadership.”

Since that time we have asked for no more than what any secular court knows that justice requires: a specific, detailed accounting of our sins (excommunicable offenses), supported by evidence and testimony of witnesses. We’ve also asked for Doug to provide us the rules by which we were tried, since he claims that we received “Excommunication With Due Process.”

“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.”

If that were true, then why won’t he specifically name the “doctrine and confession” that BCA holds to? We certainly knew that BCA subscribes to The Second London Baptist Confession Of Faith, but that Confession doesn’t at all address the specifics of the “Due Process” that Doug claims that he gave us. Where is the Book Of Church Order, the Book Of Church Discipline, or the Church Constitution that spells out how BCA was supposed to conduct a church trial? There wasn’t one, and as far as we know BCA has never had one, and they still don’t have one. If BCA has since adopted one, we’d like to examine it to determine if our “trial” conformed to it.

The fact is that Doug fabricated the “rules” out of thin air, and the rules didn’t in any way “follow biblical procedure.” Our trial was a Kangaroo Court, and no Kangaroo Court can render a just verdict.

In recent weeks, Doug Phillips has employed the “bandwagon” logic of trying to get as many people as he can to disparage us. Doug’s first bandwagon ploy was to publish the fact that our “excommunication” was voted on by the BCA congregation, and they voted unanimously in favor of Doug’s excommunication. Other than showing that BCA probably has a herd mentality, what does this prove? One of the things it proves is that our trial was a sham of justice. At least half of the BCA congregation were Vision Forum employees. Any votes from Vision Forum employees would have been a major conflict of interest. Not one of them was free to vote their conscience. To go against Doug might have cost them their jobs. They should have abstained, but they didn’t, and the result was totally predictable.

In recent weeks Doug has continued with his bandwagon logic. He obtained a brief letter from Living Water Fellowship which appears to support Doug. But again, what does this prove? Little Bear Wheeler would very much like to get back into Doug’s good graces. He stands to benefit financially if he can patch up the relationship. Just like Doug’s own vague allegations, the LWF letter doesn’t give us anything specific that we can work with. How are we to repent from such vague allegations as “the e-mail contained inaccuracies and misleading information?” We asked to meet with Little Bear and his elders so that they could give us specifics. They initially agreed to meet with us, but then they cancelled our meeting, and it doesn’t look like they’re now willing to meet with us at all.

Also now jumping aboard Doug’s bandwagon are Gavino and Ruth Perez. In their letter, this couple gave the impression that they personally knew me. Yet, that’s not the case at all. The Perezes allege, “Jennifer Epstein has engaged in unethical practices toward our own organization during the years of 2005 – 2006.” In a style all too typical of Doug Phillips, the Perezes fail to specify what my alleged “unethical practices” are. I’ve responded to Ruth in the spirit of step one of Matthew 18, but I didn’t write to Gavino, since I don’t ever recall even meeting him. Ruth Perez is the director of FEAST. I asked for Ruth Perez’s reply. She’s failed to do so, and so I’ll post my letter to her here:

Dear Ruth,

I’m very troubled by the ramifications of your recent public statement. Most people reading it would presume that you have had some sort of personal relationship with me. Yet, I think you know perfectly well that we’ve barely had any personal interaction at all. We have chatted only briefly at various occasions throughout the last several years, but we have never really even had what could be called any substantive dialogue about any subject. Aside from greeting one another when we cross paths, we’ve barely said much of anything to one another.

The only possible exception I can think of to this is an incident in which you called me to express a concern over a particular situation. I had been in the FEAST bookstore, showing some missionaries to Korea some books from your store that I recommended for homeschooling. Knowing that money for them was scarce, I recommended to them that they might be able to save a little money by buying some of the same books from CBD for substantially less. Apparently, my conversation with them got back to you. You called to tell me that FEAST had a price matching policy. When you made me aware of that, I immediately apologized to you and subsequently retracted my advice to my missionary friends to Korea and encouraged them to buy the books from FEAST. That is the only actual conversation of any kind that I can recall ever having with you.

Imagine my utter surprise, then, when I saw that you had written a defamatory statement about me and posted it on the internet. You speak as though you know me personally and that you’ve had sufficient interaction with me to make conclusions about my character, when the fact is that you barely know me at all.

Ruth, if I have offended you in any way, I would fully expect you to come to me in the spirit of Matthew 18, privately, and to have done that a long time ago. Ruth, I will not claim that I believe that I am without any faults. I am a frail human with many failings. Obviously I’ve done something to offend you. Just how long have you been carrying this antagonism against me? Why have you waited so long to bring your concerns to my attention? Actually, you didn’t really ever bring them to my attention at all, did you? Rather than confronting me in my alleged sins and giving me the opportunity to hear you, be convicted of the Lord, and repent of them, you paraded them out for the whole world to see.

Your actions cause me to suspect that you never really have had an issue with me at all, and certainly not serious enough to confront me privately about. More than likely your only real beef with me is my blogging about Doug Phillips. If your goal was merely to side with your friend Doug Phillips, without hearing the facts, you are certainly free to do so, and state that as your opinion. But to blatantly tell these falsehoods about me the way you have isn’t just unbiblical, it’s libelous. If I have done any of the things which you have accused me of, you must now provide specific and detailed evidence, not vague and baseless rhetoric.

I will list your public accusations against me and ask you to address each of them, point by point, by responding to me with specific and detailed testimony in support of your accusations.

1. The Epsteins are a disgruntled family.
2. The Epsteins decided to aggressively attack Doug Phillips and Vision Forum.
3. Email lies
4. I insinuated that HSLDA was critical of Doug.
5. I launched an all out internet/email war to destroy Doug and Beall.
6. Terrible accusations against them
7. I engaged in unethical practices toward FEAST during 2005-2006
8. Past offenses dealing with deception
9. My deceptive character was not unknown to you
10. Attacks on Doug Phillips
11. My self-appointment as a home school leader is misleading
12. I have a Charlotte Mason business
13. My leadership consists only of my customers
14. The Phillips battle false accusations from us.
15. We are a troubled family
16. We are bitter
17. We are full of hate
18. We were excommunicated for serious sins.
19. We have an email hate campaign

The accusations that you have made are the same kind of general and unspecific accusations, and the very same tactics, that Doug Phillips used against me and my family, and that he continues to use. Of course, Doug went far beyond what you have done, by “excommunicating” me and my husband, and shunning my entire family, including my children. We’ve been asking for a list of specific and excommunicable sins that we’re guilty of for over two years now. Doug has never provided it. Do you think that by joining Doug’s little chorus of, “The Epsteins are liars and unrepentant sinners,” without ever providing even a single specific example of our alleged sins, and not a shred of evidence, that you can help bolster Doug’s unsupported and vague accusations?

I ask that you now make your allegations with some specificity, and furnish the specific and detailed evidence to back up your accusations. If you’re not able to do so (and we both know that you can’t), I’m asking you for a public apology and retraction for the falsehoods and unsupported (and unsupportable) accusations you have told about me, and I am asking you to send that apology and retraction of your public statement to me, as well as to everyone you sent the original libelous comments to.

Please respond to me at your earliest opportunity. If I hear nothing from you by Monday, May 7, 2007, I’ll assume that your intention is to ignore this request.

Hopeful in Christ,
Jennifer Epstein

Doug remains popular with at least a few, and so I’m not surprised that the cast of characters on Doug’s bandwagon continues to grow. But bandwagon logic is still a logical fallacy. Doug knows that. Doug even teaches logic to his interns. However, Doug is also aware that even though logical fallacies are often dishonest, they still often work with large segments of the population. They often even work with people who should really know better, people like Christian home educators.

The Doug Phillips’ School of Yellow Journalism

Regular readers of this website will know that Doug Phillips has made strenuous efforts to stop my husband and me from reporting the truth about his ecclesiastical tyranny. Doug has tried to shut us up and take us down by launching personal attacks against us, spreading rumors, leaking pastoral confidences, and using his lackeys to do his dirty work for him by posting malicious and anonymous websites dedicated to fabricating falsehoods about us. The next step was an even broader smear campaign of employing the logical fallacy of guilt by association to try and taint us with the smear of racism. Doug Phillips’ latest attempt to discredit us involves wild and exaggerated criminal charges against not only my family, but against others who are critical of Doug because of his treatment of us. No one may dissent against Doug. No one may disagree. Or they will pay. Just like Doug said to me after I disagreed with his political views, “You’re going to pay for this.”To make his opponents “pay,” Doug has made lies and wild conspiracy theories part and parcel of his M.O. He has set this example for his friends and “former interns,” some of whom have been eager to join the fray. Matt Chancey, with his “Mrs. Binoculars,” has been posting yellow journalism for months, and Doug Phillips has endorsed it by repeatedly linking to Matt’s experiment in tabloid-style conspiracy theories and falsely characterizing his close personal friend, Matt Chancey, as an “independent investigator.”

Doug Phillips’ recent articles and latest charges have just handed me more to report on, not only exposing his ecclesiastical tyranny, but also exposing his duplicity. There’s so much more, in fact, that it’s getting kind of hard to decide what to write about next. I have several articles in the works, so keep checking in regularly. Today, I want to briefly address Doug’s outrageous accusations against some of my friends, and in particular the accusations that Doug has just made against one friend, David, attacked by name earlier this week on a Vision Forum webpage.

Before attacking David by name on the Vision Forum website, Doug carefully set the stage with an anonymous accusation on the Boerne Christian Assembly blog:

“In at least one case, a conspirator was apprehended and formally punished for helping Jennifer Epstein with an act of public fraud that included the misappropriation of government property and gross violation of cannons of ethics. This conspirator has currently fled the country to a non-extradition nation.”

The anonymous posting was reinforced by a whisper campaign that further set the stage such that, by the time David’s name was released, few would be prepared to consider him in a good, or even neutral, light. Without a name attached, the charges are outrageous; with the name, they are libelous as well. Note how Doug’s choice of language is carefully calculated to portray David in the worst possible light and make him out to appear to be a criminal on the run from the law. Words like “apprehended,” “public fraud,” “gross violation of cannons of ethics”, “fled the country”, “non-extradition nation” sure sound scary. But they aren’t matched by the facts.

To give some background, I was put in contact with David by a mutual acquaintance, who thought he could encourage us during a time we were not going to church. David did encourage my husband and me. He focused on urging us to keep going to the Scriptures for guidance in all that we did. He also urged us not to give up on God’s church but to keep looking for a place we could worship in spirit and in truth and be accountable to godly elders who could help us grow in the knowledge of Christ and in our efforts to be reconciled with Doug Phillips. One of the ironies of Doug’s current attack on David was that David was one of the few people at the time who discouraged us from going public and one of the few people who thought we should give Doug and those involved at BCA another chance. As a result, we delayed going public for longer than would have been the case without David’s admonition.

As I understand it, because David worked for an elected judge, he was an “employee at will” rather than a career public official. That made it easy for David to work flex time, meaning that his schedule could vary some each week so long as he did his work rather than clock in at a specific time. David took advantage of that flexibility to take a family member who has been ill for an extended time for medical care nearly every week and often more than once a week. David also worked from home on occasion when that family member was feeling particularly ill. The downside of at will employment is that it meant David could be dismissed without the level of justification required to dismiss regular government employees. So if you thought David had to have done something as bad as insinuated by Doug Phillips to get dismissed as a government employee, you are mistaken.

So what did David do? Although I have never met David or seen his office and have no inside knowledge of what he did at work (I also have not discussed with David the particulars of why he left the judge’s employment), I do know the limits of my interactions with David. As best as I can tell reading between the lines of the accusations Doug Phillips published on the Internet, David’s “vile” deeds justifying dismissal boil down to communicating with me using a personal email address during office hours and correcting a document from me, part of which was on his office computer. There’s nothing else he did that comes even close to the charges being made against him as the reason for leaving his work for the judge. And yet even reduced to this, the charges make no sense to me.

For example, given the fact that David worked on a flexible schedule, it doesn’t make sense to me to claim “that he edited, on State time.” As long as David did his work for the judge, he could take a personal break at the office and email me or anyone else or edit a non-work document. This is what Doug means by “misappropriation of state property,” the sort of thing that millions of government employees do every day without any criminal infraction. Doug’s “gross violation of cannons [sic] of ethics?” charge is also misplaced. Doug appears to be assuming that David gave me legal advice, but that’s not the case. David was careful in specifying that he would not offer me legal advice, and he didn’t. My husband and I had, and have, our own legal counsel. The “public fraud” charge seems to be a guilt by association tactic. Doug has already accused me of fraud, and now he wants to make David guilty of it as well by liberal use of the word “conspiracy”. The “extradition” claim is just the same: The only reason that no extradition is possible is because no crime justifying extradition has been committed.

So just what was David’s sin for which he had to go? Not for job performance reasons. Even Doug doesn’t try to claim that. No, David had to go because he committed the great sin of befriending me, and I was someone who Doug Phillips had decided to make his sworn enemy. The reality is that what little interactions David had with me from his office did not interfere with his work. The reality is that even if David had never used his office computer to communicate with me, and if he had only communicated from home, he might very well have had to go anyway, once it was discovered that he had communicated with me.

Doug Phillips is out for his pound of flesh, and anyone who in any way communicates with me is a potential target. Doug’s latest attack, his malicious and libelous criminal accusations, against a man who hasn’t even been in contact with me for months, shows just how far Doug is willing to go in harming others out of vengeance against me. It’s apparently not enough to get a someone fired if you can also kick him when he’s down.

But as bad as Doug’s behavior against David is, apparently Doug has been working overtime to make others pay as well. As Doug says on his church blog,

“At the time of this writing, yet another Jennifer Epstein collaborator awaits formal judicial punishment for behavior directly connected with the Epstein conspiracy.”

I’m not entirely clear about who Doug might be referring to. I have several friends and acquaintances who have helped me in this difficult time. Yet whatever they have done — whether prayer, encouragement, or spiritual counsel — Doug calls them “co-conspirators” with me, the “ringleader”. Given how preposterous Doug’s allegations are against David, I would expect him to make the same kinds of accusations against any of these others, too. One thing is certain, though: I know of no one who “awaits formal judicial punishment for behavior directly connected with the Epstein conspiracy.”

So, after filtering out the lies and exaggerations against friends and acquaintances, I’m left with the question: Why is Doug so desperate that he is pulling out all the stops to try and destroy everyone with any connection to me, however tenuous? Is it because his empire of lies is crumbling beneath his feet? Is it because the deceptions are all spinning out of control? Is it because fewer and fewer people will put up with the spiritual abuse anymore? Whatever the case, I’m convinced that Doug’s latest defensive attacks are doing more to undermine the remnants of his credibility than anything I can report about him.

Vision Forum: Culture of Deception by Doug Phillips’ Example?

“Mom, that was such a great birthday present!” ~~Natasha Epstein

Vision Forum’s widely advertised Open House on Saturday, April 21, 2007, promised lots of excitement and fun. With exclusive book signings, clearance specials, and workshops planned, this event portended a large turnout. Complete with refreshments and decorations and cops, it was a gala event.

Wait a minute! Did I say “cops?” What were the cops doing at a Vision Forum Open House? The last time we went to one of their Open Houses, there were several hundred people in attendance, but I don’t remember seeing any cops. In fact, I’ve attended many Vision Forum events and I don’t recall ever seeing any cops.

Oh, well, let’s get on with our coverage of this grand event. It seems that things were a little slow ’round about mid-afternoon. Vision Forum announced on their web site and their email list that Doug would be doing a book signing from 2:00 PM to 4:30 PM. Anyone who wanted to meet Doug should have had no trouble doing so between those hours. Then the excitement suddenly began to pick up. In fact, for Doug Phillips, things suddenly got very exciting. Exciting as in heart-pumping, adrenaline-rush “Oh no! What do I do?” exciting. They say that a man’s true character is best shown when the veneer of his superficial exterior is suddenly stripped away by an event that catches him totally off-guard. That’s exactly what happened to Doug last Saturday.

The significant thing that I want my readers to see from this story is the fact that not only is Doug Phillips a deceiver, and that he told a whopper of a lie, Doug Phillips has created an entire culture of institutionalized deception within Vision Forum. Not only did perpetrate a deception last Saturday at the Vision Forum offices in front of multiple witnesses, including his own wife, he orchestrated the broader deception by instructing his staff that were present to lie for him, too. They all knew that he was on the premises, but they deceived someone who came there looking for him with “He’s not here.” Like the “honorable” people that Doug has trained them to be, they were only too eager to assist with Doug’s duplicity.

The following is the story of two people who were in attendance Saturday afternoon with Doug Phillips, ever so briefly, prior to being escorted off the premises. The one was a legal process server. The other is my daughter, Natasha. At the request of the process server and his company, I have blurred their names on the official notarized legal affidavit.

This entire incident took place on Natasha’s birthday. She called to tell me that Doug had given her one of the best birthday presents she’d ever received. Natasha now wants to reciprocate Doug’s thoughtfulness by including her personal testimony in this article.

Process Server: “Location is a business, Vision Forum. I first arrived at 3:07 PM. It appears they were having an open-house style function to develop more business. A man wearing a yellow Polo-style shirt greeted me as I entered the main entrance. The man appeared to me to be a security person. I mentioned I had a delivery for Mr. Phillips and he directed me to a young man named Peter [Last Name Unknown]. When I told Peter I had a personal delivery for Mr. Phillips, I was escorted down a few stairs into a warehouse-looking storage area. A table was positioned sideways in front of where I stood. There, I met Joshua Wean, CFO for Vision Forum, Inc., standing with three ladies. He stated he could sign for anything being delivered. At this point I informed him I was a process server and needed to deliver to Doug Phillips personally. I was escorted by Peter and Joshua into an office, apparently so as not to disturb the function and to discuss the situation privately. A person dressed in a Hollywood Park Police Officer uniform also stood inside the office door as we spoke. Joshua insisted he was able to sign for all company business. I informed him that what I have is addressed to Doug Phillips, not Vision Forum, therefore, as a process server I could not and did not feel comfortable leaving the package with him, since I did not know the contents of the documents being delivered. I then stated, “All I need to do is hand Mr. Phillips the letter and depart. Mr. Phillips won’t have to sign for anything.” Joshua and Peter wanted to know what the letter was about. I stated that it had something to do with a dispute over a movie or video, but that I didn’t know the specific details since I hadn’t read the letter. (I had put the letter it into an envelope and sealed it, before making the delivery.) At this point, Joshua discussed scheduling the delivery for Sunday or Monday. I said it would be illegal for me to deliver the documents on Sunday; however, I would make a call to get permission for Monday. I made the call and was told the package needed to be delivered that day because Doug Phillips was supposed to be there. I asked if Doug was on the premises and Joshua stated “Doug was scheduled to leave at 2:00 PM for another engagement”. By this time it was already approximately 3:15 PM, well past the time that Joshua told me that Doug was scheduled to leave. However, I was suspicious about this, since I had been specifically instructed that my best time to catch Doug Phillips at the event would be between 2:00 and 4:30 PM. It was because of that information that I arrived at 3:07 PM, to make sure that I would make an attempt during the time specified in my instructions. Joshua then made a phone call. Based upon the content of the conversation, it appeared to me that he was talking to Doug Phillips. Joshua asked him, “Are you still here?” After a few moments while Joshua listened, a response was relayed through Joshua, who asked, “Where are the documents from?” I informed them that I didn’t know for sure, but I could open the letter in front of everyone to determine where it was from if that would be agreeable to Mr. Phillips. (I made this offer with the understanding that the person on the phone was Doug Phillips, and that he was giving his permission for me to open and read the document). It was relayed through Joshua that I should open and read the letter to find out who it was from. I opened the letter and said it was from Joe Taylor at Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum. After a few “OKs” and “That’s what I needed,” Joshua hung up the phone. Joshua then stated “Mr. Phillips is not here.” He also said Doug Phillips would not be accepting anything from Joe Taylor and that all documents needed to be directed to their attorney. Joshua looked up and gave me the info for the attorney on a sticky yellow note. Don Hart, 7389 FM 3405 Liberty Hill, TX 78642. I shook hands with Joshua and Peter, thanked them, departed and called my superiors.”

Natasha: “The process server came and went, and then a friend and I showed up and walked in the doors around 4:15 PM. The first people we saw were the Ringers. I spotted Doug right behind them signing a book. I only saw one other family in attendance. The Ringers kept staring at me and whispering, and right after that, Doug looked my way and immediately bolted into his office. Some guy I didn’t recognize followed him. Beall peeked around the corner and saw me and whipped out her cell and started talking on it while she looked at me a couple times. This all happened within 2 minutes of my walking in the door. As soon as that all happened I called the process server’s boss while I was still standing by the front door and she said the process server was going to call me. So I moved and browsed around and Peter Bradrick came and said hello to my friend and me. The process server called at that time and I told him that Doug was in the building but he was hiding and I gave him a description. He showed up a few minutes later and two little girls at the front door asked him to fill out some sheet to enter in a drawing, and then I showed him what Doug looked like in a video that they had playing on a TV in the lobby and he took description notes.”

Process Server: “Around 4:00 PM I received a call from my superiors, directing me to return to Vision Forum and meet with a young lady, last name of Epstein. I was told that Ms. Epstein knew for certain that Doug is at the function now and she could point him out to me. When I arrived at 4:15 PM, I met Miss Epstein inside the foyer entrance. She said that Doug Phillips had spotted her, recognized her, and immediately ducked inside the office to the right. Miss Epstein also said she was seen by Doug’s wife and would probably be asked to depart at any minute. Miss Epstein pointed to a video playing on the lobby TV. She said it was Doug, so I studied the video for a few moments.”

Natasha: “We stood there for about two minutes when Josh Wean and three other Vision Forum employees came over and Josh said that this was private property and was going to have to ask us to leave.”

Process Server: “Just as I was about to fully enter the main area, another man dressed in a yellow Polo-style shirt (security?) approached us, said that this was private property and that we would have to leave. As instructed, Miss Epstein and I quickly left the building.”

Natasha: “So we exited the building and I turned around as I was walking out the door and said, ‘Nice seeing you again, Josh.'”

Process Server: “Once outside, Peter, the man who asked us to leave, and another man stood in front of the doors as if preventing entry back into Vision Forum. I spoke to Miss Epstein and told her the parking lot was also considered private property and that we should leave before anything else happened.”

Natasha: “Then we walked over to the process server’s car and talked about it and he said there was nothing he could do at the the moment because private property trumped what he was doing and that maybe he could have someone else come over and give it to him now that he had a description and all. Peter Bradrick and two others stood outside this whole time watching us and waiting for us to leave, so then we got in our cars to leave.”

Process Server: “As I was driving away, Peter flagged me down to ask why I came back for a second time. I said someone had identified Doug Phillips at the function, after I had departed the first time, and was told they would identify him to me so that I could make the delivery. Peter asked who hired me to which I could not give him the answer since I did not know. I showed him the top portion of the letter addressed with Joe Taylor’s contact information. Peter then asked for my business card, which I gave him; then I drove away.”
__________________

The process server’s boss appreciated Natasha’s assistance in verifying that Doug was indeed on the premises, and visually identifying Mr. Phillips for the process server, since both the VF employees and Doug Phillips lied about him not being there.

According to the Texas Rules of Civil Process, a process server has every right and reason to be on a property to do the job they are appointed to do. As a lawyer, Doug knows that. Doug also knows that a process server is an “officer of the court.” Doug orchestrated a deception on an officer of the court.

What I don’t understand is why he was asking the process server to leave, based on the private property trump card, when he was supposedly conducting a business function that was open to the public.

With all Doug’s talk last week about Christian men needing to be armed, I wonder why he was so afraid of a 20 year old young lady that he felt the need to run and hide in his office when Natasha arrived. What also doesn’t make sense is why he would run away and lie, and have his employees lie for him, over a letter from Joe Taylor. Joe isn’t even suing Doug. But this kind of avoidance is SOP for Doug.

Doug’s deceptive actions, and the deceptive example he sets for his employees, should really make people wonder whether anything he says can be trusted.

Doug Phillips Shuns “Little Bear” Wheeler

What is the difference between this year’s Vision Forum catalog and those of the last several years? Little Bear Wheeler is AWOL. He’s not there. He’s simply disappeared from Doug’s catalog, and from Doug’s life entirely.

Hasn’t Little Bear Wheeler and his Mantle Ministries always been a major part of Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum catalog? Wasn’t his whole history section always centered around his very good friend, Little Bear? Didn’t they used to put on Father/Son retreats together? Weren’t they close personal friends?

Little Bear Wheeler and Doug Phillips only live a few miles apart. Why is Doug now refusing to have anything to do with Little Bear? What’s the big rift over? It’s over me. Us. The Epsteins.

I told a little bit of that story in a comment recently, but I didn’t name names. A few people have accurately guessed who I was talking about, in some comments that they posted here (which I didn’t approve). It’s probably just a matter of time before a lot more people figure this out too, so I am going to go ahead and tell some more of the story here, including the names. I have decided to come forward with Little Bear’s name because of what he did for us. Little Bear Wheeler went way above and beyond the call of duty. Little Bear Wheeler deserves to have homeschoolers know that he is a loving, selfless and biblically-minded man who is worthy of their support.

When we were first excommunicated, we went to visit Little Bear Wheeler’s church. This church was also in what we all called “the community,” a group of churches that all started from BCA. They were not church splits, but were started as a result of some differences of personalities. All four churches in “the community” loved one another. We all fellowshipped together often. But that all changed when the Epsteins were excommunicated. Then it all stopped. It stopped because Doug Phillips required that all the other churches shun us as well. But not everyone agreed with Doug, and that included Little Bear Wheeler.

We were upfront with Little Bear about our being under “church discipline” from the moment we arrived. Little Bear not only welcomed us with open arms, he immediately took time to find out what was going on and asked me over the next day. Being the history buff that he is, when I told him my story, he said, “This sounds just like the Salem Witch trials.” He then asked us to stay at his church for six months while he and the other three elders attempted to clear up the situation with Doug Phillips. We agreed.

It was a time of being greatly loved by this church and by Little Bear and another elder in particular, who took us under their wing and spent time with us daily. They did all that they knew to do to help us with our marriage. This in itself was in huge contrast with what we experienced at Boerne Christian Assembly where, rather than helping our marriage, Doug’s so-called “marriage counseling” only made things much worse. Little Bear and his elders also attempted to contact Doug many times for the express purpose of facilitating reconciliation. The problem was that Doug refused to cooperate.

Little Bear was one of Doug’s best friends for many years (see here and here and here), but when Little Bear took us in, Doug Phillips became extremely angry with him and refused to have anything to do with him and his family again. They were already scheduled to speak together at a Father/Son retreat six months after our excommunication, and although they spoke at the same retreat together, Doug absolutely refused to speak to Little Bear the entire time they were there. Little Bear even left a note for Doug under his door asking to speak to him, but Doug refused to even acknowledge Little Bear.

Although we only attended church there for six months, Little Bear and his co-elders worked for 14 months trying to get Doug Phillips to reconcile, but Doug refused even to meet with any of them. When Doug finally did meet with Little Bear, after some 14 months, Doug accused Little Bear of sinning for “fellowshipping with sinners.” Little Bear and the other elders did say that if they had it to do all over again, they would do the same thing. We are grateful to them.

Little Bear’s business/ministry, Mantle Ministries, was directly linked to Doug Phillip’s Vision Forum as well. They run in the same circles, they speak at the same conferences, and they sell some of the same products. They used to work together on numerous projects. Since Doug had the upper hand business-wise, Little Bear was very concerned that Doug would ruin him financially when we started telling our story through Ministry Watchman, and he was distressed at the thought of his name being made public. At that time, we decided not to publicly use Little Bear’s name, for fear of what Doug might do to him. We know that Doug is very much about vengeance, not just because of what he’s done to us, but what he’s done to so many others, as well. We didn’t want to see Little Bear hurt, but the fact is that Doug Phillips paid back Little Bear long before we went public with our story anyway.

I think it’s time to publicly thank Little Bear Wheeler for the incredibly selfless man that he is, and the kindness that he’s shown us. His charity has cost him dearly. He truly lives out the verse, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Little Bear loved us when we were beaten down and deeply disillusioned with the church. He loved us as a true under-shepherd of Jesus Christ at a time when we had grown skeptical of pastors. He tried all he could to bear our burdens. He welcomed those who were deeply hurting and had no place else to go. He even went so far as to continue helping us for eight more months after we left his church. Little Bear was willing to risk losing his friendship, and a profitable business relationship, with a man who had been his good friend for a long time. He truly loved God more than “mammon.”

Little Bear Wheeler is a truly honorable man, and this is the honorable man that Doug Phillips is shunning because of us. Little Bear Wheeler is now paying a heavy price for having done nothing more than loving and caring for us — for being pastoral. For fourteen months Little Bear Wheeler attempted to facilitate reconciliation between us and Doug Phillips. For all his charitable efforts, Little Bear has been subjected to a dose of The Phillips Treatment.

When you see Little Bear at a homeschool conference this year, or one of his incredible retreats, please encourage him and let him know that he did the right thing in the eyes of God. His reward will be an eternal one.

“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” I Cor. 3:11-15