When I first told my story about Doug Phillips, nearly seven years ago now, it caused a bit of a stir. At the time, I felt like I had done nothing worthy of excommunication, I had exhausted all efforts to reconcile with both Doug Phillips and BCA, the church I was excommunicated from, and I had forgiven everyone in my heart of hearts. The reason I went public with my story was because Doug Phillips was a very public leader in the homeschooling movement and was primarily responsible for the patriarchy movement. This was not just a personal issue between Doug Phillips and me, this was a case of a very public leader who preached “Family First” everywhere he went, yet he totally destroyed and devastated my family. I felt it was important to warn others that their number one leader in the movement was not really about putting family first (after God, of course).
I was surprised, I suppose naively so, to begin to hear privately from person after person after person who told me stories of abuse by Doug Phillips and how he had threatened to harm their families, their career, and their church life if they did not keep quiet about what had taken place. Any anecdote or story told within those circles was immediately put into the “gossip” category and was severely dealt with. Legal means were often employed to keep people quiet. I heard many stories of men “dressed in black,” carrying pieces (or so I was told), who used mafia-like techniques to make sure any and all stories involving Doug Phillips in any way other than idolizing him were decidedly dealt with, quickly and severely.
And so, when I was threatened with the same types of actions, as I realized how many people cowered in fear for their lives and their families’ lives, I stood up against such tyranny and abuse and fought for freedom from ecclesiastical terror. Doug Phillips and his cohorts put up multiple websites about me, dedicated solely to attacking my family and me. Many were outright lies; some were twisted truths, while others were simply about airing my personal “sins” for the whole world to see. While that was not enough to stop me from telling my story about Doug Phillips truthfully and respectfully, it was enough to stop nearly everyone else from considering telling their stories publicly as well. As I promised them all so many years ago, I will keep their secrets secret, but it was just all the more reason for me to proclaim to the world that Doug Phillips does not practice what he preaches. And there is a time and a place to warn people against impending danger.
Statistics say that for every one person who writes a letter to the editor, or for every one person who writes a letter to a corporation, there are probably one hundred other people who feel the same way. So, if a corporation gets one letter complaining about the taste of their peanut butter, for example, they may just blow it off and send them a voucher for a new jar of peanut butter. But if they receive ten such letters in a short period of time, the peanut butter manufacturer will not think that ten people are complaining about their precious commodity, but rather that those ten are representative of one hundred people each, so that would be the equivalent of one thousand people probably feeling that same way.
I found those statistics to hold true for my blog. For every one hundred readers, I had one comment, almost exactly. It was eerily accurate. But those were just the public comments. I also received many, many private emails, especially that first year when I told my story. In the first year my blog was up, I had over one million readers. I also received approximately one thousand emails from people who were involved in patriarchy who had decided to leave the legalism and judgmentalism of patriarchy because of my blog. If statistics hold true, and I do believe they do, that equates to about 100,000 families who decided to leave patriarchy because I told my story about the ecclesiastical abuse and tyranny of Doug Phillips.
If I could go back in history and be anyone I wanted to be, I have often dreamed of being Susan B. Anthony, because she freed women from the prisons of their lives then. While it cost me nearly everything I had and nearly every friend in life, I believe God used me to be a modern-day Susan B. Anthony of sorts, leading women and their families out of the legalism and bondage of patriarchy. And that made it all worth it.
Let me be clear that I am still strongly in favor of homeschooling. I think that for a mother to be able to stay at home and raise her children and homeschool them is the best of all worlds for a child. I believe that children should have two parents at home, that an intact family is a strong and healthy family. I believe that husbands should love and cherish their wives, and wives should love and respect their husbands. I believe that many, many of the things Doug Phillips taught in the patriarchy movement are good, valuable, honorable, necessary aspects of a strong family.
But it doesn’t come through legalism. We don’t need a long list of rules to tell us how to love. Doug Phillips wrote up several lists of “beliefs” that patriarchal families were to hold to, with each one being more and more restrictive. Doug Phillips also insisted that the Law of Moses applied to us today. I wish I could share with him the truth that Jesus came to free us from that bondage!
Love. Or rules.
Which one binds us together? Which one holds the family together? Which one holds the church together? Which one is written on our hearts now?
Early in my marriage, I committed adultery. I repented from that many years ago, but what keeps me from committing adultery again? Love? Or rules? Which is a stronger bond?
When we live our life by rules, which are just another form of legalism, we will stumble and fall. We can’t help ourselves. However, when we live our lives by LOVE, it is a whole different story. Today, I don’t need a rule to tell me not to commit adultery. Love for others keeps me from even thinking in that direction. But even if I were to commit adultery again, love would bring me to repentance, not rules.
I still do not know why my adultery of 25 years ago was brought up in the excommunication, and why Doug Phillips found it necessary to tell the whole world about something I long ago repented from, but the Bible has a verse that seems rather appropriate to all this today:
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7)
Today, Doug Phillips announced his resignation from Vision Forum, a ministry and business that is the culmination of his life’s work, his passion and love that he has given himself fully to for the last twenty years or so. I do not rejoice in this announcement, as I realize how devastating this must be for Doug Phillips and his family, but I cannot help but think that today, Doug Phillips is reaping what he has sown.
Here is his announcement:
With thanksgiving to God for His mercy and love, I have stepped down from the office of president at Vision Forum Ministries and have discontinued my speaking responsibilities.
There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance. I have confessed my sin to my wife and family, my local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries. I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not “know” each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate.
There are no words to describe the magnitude of shame I feel, or grief from the injury I caused my beloved bride and children, both of whom have responded to my repentance with what seems a supernatural love and forgiveness. I thought too highly of myself and behaved without proper accountability. I have acted grievously before the Lord, in a destructive manner hypocritical of life messages I hold dear, inappropriate for a leader, abusive of the trust that I was given, and hurtful to family and friends. My church leadership came alongside me with love and admonition, providing counsel, strong direction and accountability. Where I have directly wronged others, I confessed and repented. I am still in the process of trying to seek reconciliation privately with people I have injured, and to be aware of ways in which my own selfishness has hurt family and friends. I am most sensitive to the fact that my actions have dishonored the living God and been shameful to the name of Jesus Christ, my only hope and Savior.
This is a time when my repentance needs to be proven, and I need to lead a quiet life focusing on my family and serving as a foot soldier, not a ministry leader. Though I am broken over my failures, I am grateful to be able to spend more time with my family, nurturing my wife and children and preparing my older sons and daughters for life. So, for these reasons I want to let my friends know that I have stepped down as a board member and as president of Vision Forum Ministries. The Board will be making provision for the management of the ministry during this time. To the friends of this ministry, I ask for your forgiveness, and hope that you will pray for the Phillips family at this time, and for the men who will be responsible for shepherding the work of Vision Forum Ministries in the future.
This is the difference between a life of love versus a life of legalism. The rules were too heavy, too burdensome for him to bear. No one could continue under all those rules and experience the abundant life God has for us. This is very sad.
I pray that Doug Phillips will use this time to do some serious soul searching, not just in this one area, but in the burdens of life that he has put upon himself and his family and thousands of other families who have looked up to him for so many years. Now is the time to reevaluate rules in favor of love.
Beall, I love you. My heart hurts for you.
Someday, I hope to hear Doug Phillips preaching that not only does love cover a multitude of sins but that life is all about love. Period.