NCFIC: A Vision Forum Retread

Andrew McDonald has been reading and commenting here for the last year, and partially because of his involvement here, he has encountered his own story of church discipline which he would like to share with us here.  While there have been many, many people and families who have been hurt in various ways through the years by Doug Phillips, Vision Forum, Scott Brown, NCFIC, and others associated with these men and their ministries, most have chosen the easy road of just keeping quiet.  It takes real courage to speak out publicly about what is happening, to warn friends and family that their house is on fire!  Patriarchy, and the abuses within its walls, is still alive and well.  To those who are still in the patriarchy movement, and/or the NCFIC movement: Your house is on fire!  The time to act is now!

Here is Andrew’s story, in his own words:

Some of you know my concerns as I have written on Jen’s Gems a bit. People are still suffering from Doug Phillips’ abuse and speaking out is part of the process of healing. I began thinking about those like him: Men desiring control. I’ve posted about that and gave details of the past and present situations in my own life and church. Some details were specifically about Scott Brown and as a result someone alerted the leader of my church and I was eventually called into a private meeting and confronted. I do not deny that some good has come alongside the wrong teachings, there has been much good done, but the wrong teachings are never justified by adjacent successes. Successes are really God’s department and to His credit not ours. He gets the glory. Justifying the error by mention of the benefit only makes the situation more tragic, it does not validate the error. Since the leader knows I post here I’ve decided to respond here. You may well ask what is my background and how dare I say these things? Glad you asked! I am a great sinner who has a greater Savior, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and trying to follow after the Great Shepherd who invites us all to follow Him. I say these things not because I am worthy; I say them because the TRUTH is worthy and, lastly, because folks need to be warned.

An Open Letter to my former leader:

When you confronted me about posting on this blog, you showed up with a stack of paper and mentioned over 100 pages written. I thought that seemed like a lot. In order to get an accurate idea of what I said in the posts and the volume of the entries, I went through the site and copied them all. I posted 66 messages, printable in less than 23 pages, not even close to the ‘over 100 pages’ mentioned. Most posts were short and, contrary to your ‘concern’, took little time away from my family. Some were late at night as the matter was heavy on my heart.

No posts were purposefully inflammatory; they were my experiences or opinions tempered with prayer and investigation. That the posts were truthful is bolstered by the fact that they eventually identified me. Most were inquiries about Doug Phillips’ close associate, Scott Brown. Scott Brown was initially my concern. Some posts were sincere inquiry seeking counsel.

a-weed-in-the-churchI contacted people who knew Scott Brown to confirm that he had problems; the events were confirmed by personal testimony and church records. These events were never cleared up.

As it turns out, your belief that Scott Brown is ‘one of the godliest men’ you know is based solely on your experience with him. I continued to research and began to post in December of 2013. NONE of the posts were made until after I’d spoken with you. My concerns were effectively dismissed. After I told you that the posts were mine, you moved to the old standby tactic of all authoritarian leaders: accuse and intimidate. You accused me of being a gossip and a busy body even though you knew that I came to you with each concern and you also knew I had not broadcast it about the church. Am I a gossip? Like Doug Phillips has said, ‘He who defines the terms wins.’ But my intent was not to get the ‘juicy stuff’ as you said; it was only to get at the truth, to protect against wrong teachings and to warn you.

I am sure that I am not the only one with concerns over these matters. Yet many will say nothing as they understand the reception and repercussions of doing so. This lack of freedom to speak is not surprising to anyone on this blog. It thrives in all cultish environs where perfunctory dismissal of differing opinions seems to be the order of the day. I am not sure who told you about this blog, but it really matters little to me. I imagine it is another concerned person in the church and I am glad they are concerned. I hope they continue to dig into the details. If they do they will discover the truth. I do not regret warning others or checking into folks presented as ‘teachers’ or ‘authorities’; it is the obligation of any follower of Christ and especially one who leads in any capacity to ‘know the well from which they drink.’ We are charged to be Bereans, to see ‘if these things be so.’

I went through the NCFIC site to see just how deeply entrenched you were. It was a task to be sure. I found your presence pervasive and realized your course had been set firmly. I discovered that the beliefs along these lines were nothing new, they began even before you came here. You testified to that in your phone interview on the NCFIC blog. The beliefs were fostered, in part, by and through Doug Wilson and his disciples.

At your first church experience you expressed frustration at trying to ‘replicate the ministries’ of your sending church. You say it caused burn out and ended with the eventual abandonment of Junior Church. In the phone interview with Scott Brown, you said a youth pastor gave you a booklet by Christopher Schlect. The pamphlet explained why people should remove their children from Sunday School and youth ministries and how such activities are anti-Biblical.

When I researched Schlect, I found he was a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Christians. (CREC is a denomination/sect started by Doug Wilson in 1998 surrounded by dubious activities and shenanigans.) I saw that he was a teacher at New Saint Andrews College (Doug Wilson’s college). His pamphlet was published by Canon Press (Doug Wilson’s company). Then I recalled your response when I tried to caution you about Doug Wilson, after you gave out one of his books at a men’s retreat. I researched Doug Wilson, and then came to you. I warned you and you said he was a friend. I thought you were just trying to get a book published. Now it makes sense, you were already a follower. My warning was years too late.

After your church plant, you found an established church to implement your newly adopted ideas. In the interview you declare that you came to the church and began your ‘5 year deprogramming’ plan. You followed exactly Paul Washer’s counsel on his You Tube video for ‘Reforming a Church’. Gaining their confidence, by teaching on relevant issues like the family, you moved right along ‘letting some ministries die gracefully’ rather than axing them. Although I’m not sure how any ministry dies gracefully, that is what you said in the interview.

You have also followed the example of Scott Brown. When he got in a tight spot, he called for a ‘vote of confidence’ . I recalled the same ploy used at church when people voiced concern at a congregational meeting just after Scott Brown had been there. You called for a vote of confidence and it worked. In retrospect, that was a sad, sad day. If the vote had been the other way, the church would have been saved from much trouble. The whole event seemed out of place, the timing of the ploy may have been a tad off, perhaps a bit overplayed, but hey, it worked. It was a watershed moment.

Those who knew something was wrong likely knew they’d just lost their church. Trouble was that they lacked the expertise of the better communicator. Mark this, they did not lose because they were wrong, they lost because they were not as articulate, as organized, as winsome and because they got too emotional over the issue. They had the disadvantage because they did not really know what was being played at. Few did. They were colorfully painted as aggressive, arrogant, close minded, slightly ignorant and off base. Some colors were slightly true and that lent credence to the accusations; yet who is perfect, don’t we all have some of these traits? The flesh is hard to capture and, as Christians, we are all in the process.

After this event you, more firmly, established your authority; after all the church is a ‘pastor rule’ church and it was your prerogative. When this all started I wonder if the congregation saw the big picture. I wonder if they knew about the ‘5 year plan’ or about ‘letting ministries die gracefully.’ I am sure the idea of changes for the ‘good’ of the congregation seemed good. Some, in fact, were good; that they were based on an unbiblical foundation was far from their minds. Did they know they were involved in ‘worldly practices’? I doubt it. Scott Brown was the first real clue but it was already too late, the wheels had been set in motion. I have to respect what you’ve accomplished even though the church had to split to get there. I have learned from this: I will NEVER attend a ‘pastor rule’ church again; sadly human nature is just too corrupt for such a rule.

I did consider revealing myself on the blog. I thought it was perhaps even courageous since you implied that to be posting on the blog under a pseudonym was cowardly and sinful. Blasphemous, you said about the site, although I still cannot see that one; I see no contempt or lack of reverence for God on the site. Yet I’ve decided not to reveal myself as it would reduce this to a personality contest. The contest should be the truth against falsehood. It may take awhile but the truth will always win. Some do not think too deeply about much and it is not their fault. If it wasn’t for Scott Brown, I would not have thought more. Not knowing was far more comfortable.

When I first began all this, I did it because I thought you were being charmed or won over by these people. I wanted to warn you. I was wrong. I was quizzical at the reception of the information I had retrieved, for two reasons: first, it is very, very likely true; and second, I thought you’d appreciate the time and effort involved in an effort to warn you. Instead, you told me I should be a ‘spy or a detective’, that I should stay off the internet.

Your challenge to pray about what I was doing caused me to go to prayer and to the NCFIC site again. I combed through it and found the phone interview mentioned, then I knew by your own admission, you had come to the church with a preconceived notion, inspired by the followers of the beliefs espoused by NCFIC. Unbeknownst to the church membership, you began to work it out. They should have known the whole plan, they did not. Doing it this way was wrong. An announcement posted by NCFIC, about the telephone interview you and two other pastors participated in, stated, ‘What these men dared to do was not easy. But, with much prayer, teaching, and faithfulness these pastors have made significant strides in dismantling various worldly practices in their churches!’  I do not think that the church you came to, after a failed church plant, had ‘various worldly practices’ going on. I know you could say, ‘Well, that’s what they wrote; I never said that.’ That fits nicely with the plausible deniability that the NCFIC and all their followers always seem to have.

Your accusation of my demeaning you (by mentioning that you were young) is not fair, as if I am against you personally. I am not. The fact is, you are young, you are just as susceptible to spiritual deception as anyone else, and as a leader you’re even more likely to be targeted than others for deception. On this site, I said you were young and asked people to pray. As I told you, this was not meant as a slam. I still ask that, now even more fervently.

In researching this situation, I can’t tell you how many people sounded like Sgt. Shultz from the old Hogan’s Heroes show, ‘I know nothing!’ or the TV evangelist’s ‘Don’t touch God’s anointed.’ If I did not know the people involved, I might ask, ‘Who has bewitched you?’ Except I know who bewitched you for I was bewitched by the same crowd.

In 2006 the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International said Family Integrated Church practices were ‘errant and schismatic.’ They pretty much sum it up:

• It encourages schism in the local church bodies by encouraging its adherents to change the theology and philosophy of the churches of which they are members.

• It does violence to local church authority, calling on local church members to leave their churches when the church does not bow to the philosophical demands of the movement.

• It espouses an ecclesiology based upon the family that is not based upon the New Testament but rather is an adaptation of Old Testament patriarchy.

• It falsely lays the claim that the destruction of the family in the U.S. is solely the fault of age-graded ministries in local churches. We contend that this is a simplistic and therefore false accusation.

• It espouses a postmillennial theology that is contradictory to a dispensational understanding of Scripture.

• It is oddly inclusive, basing fellowship on a particular philosophy of ministry rather than on the great fundamentals of the faith.

I do not say that anyone involved in the NCFIC is lacking salvation. Salvation does not hinge on these things singularly but the efficacy of the salvation message can be clouded by them, the Christian walk can be hindered by them and unity will certainly suffer from them. I urge you to step down from involvement with these people, as Kevin Swanson has done, and just pastor your church; the people love you, they do not need someone in ‘substantial’ agreement with NCFIC. (Gotta love those nebulous words; they always provide a convenient back door if things get hot!) The people need you to stand for God, for His Word and lead. And be honest with them, if they want to go the direction you intend then great but give them a voice in the matter.

God Bless,

Andrew

For more information about:
Scott Brown look here.
Doug Wilson look here and here.
Doug Wilson’s school.

UPDATE: This letter will certainly identify me as I put it into the hands of church leadership before I decided to post it and parts of it (like the statement from the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International) were given to alert leadership to the hazards of the NCFIC. Already my family has been turned away from by some folks who will no longer come to our home because of, as one dear saint said, some ‘offense.’ Naturally unexplained. Another hung up their phone when we called. We are funny and predictable creatures upon which God has lavished his love. We should do likewise even in the face of shunning. In the end, God will prevail and we will understand, one day, just why we did the things we did and how it was right or wrong; for God’s glory or our own. In the meantime we must continue to look to Jesus.

I was told yesterday that the pastor called a congregational meeting where they were told that I’d posted ‘lies’ on the web about him and the church. That explains the responses we’re getting. Oh well. Funny thing is just before I got the phone call about the meeting I’d told my wife we were probably excommunicated in abstentia; not too far from wrong on that one! Explains the cold shoulders we’re getting.  I wonder why no one is thinking about how so many folks who’ve left could all have been wrong?

Doug Phillips: Peace Maker or Truth Silencer?

02-07-13-saicff-beallOne year ago, the theme of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival seemed to be “Defending the Defenseless.”  This festival came only days on the heels of Doug Phillips being found in a compromising position with “Cassandra” and the subsequent sudden departure of her family from the beloved church they had attended for nearly thirteen years.  Putting women and children first, and defending the defenseless, seemed to be the farthest thing from Doug Phillips’ mind as he stood front and center on the stage and continued to hide his deep, dark secrets from his adoring fans. At that time, no one knew he had quietly stepped down as elder, stating that he wanted to spend more time with his family.  The reality is that he probably turned on the charm in order to save his marriage after having been caught.  He waited until after the film festival to “confess” his sins to Bob Sarratt, the only other elder at BCA, a “yes man” who was very good at keeping Doug’s sins secret for the next nine months.

saicff postponedWhen Vision Forum Ministries announced online last October that the 9th annual San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival was first postponed, and then cancelled, it sparked waves of confusion and frustration for the filmmakers and their families who had worked so diligently to meet the film submission deadline which was only days away.  Rather than emailing those on the SAICFF list and telling them of the postponement and cancellation, and with absolutely no explanation of why Vision Forum Ministries’ most popular annual event was being suddenly dropped at the last moment, the grapevine soon became the de facto form of communication within this small, but tightly knit, troop of independent Christian film makers.  One by one, they contacted each other in utter disbelief: “How could this happen?  We just spent the last year of our lives working on making another film, and now what?”

Ten days later, when Doug Phillips announced his resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, it began to make some sense.  But did it really?  Or did it actually cause more questions and more confusion?  After all, according to World Magazine’s April 5, 2014 cover story article about Doug Phillips, the five men who confronted Doug Phillips on his doorstep did so the day before he resigned, which was October 30, 2013.  If that is true, why did Vision Forum cancel the film festival ten days prior to Doug being confronted?  I’m guessing there’s a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye, including why Scott Brown knew, at the latest, by September 9, 2013, and still allowed Doug Phillips to continue on with his duties as normal.

At this exact same time, a pastor in Illinois, Philip Telfer, was moving his family down to the San Antonio area to become the new pastor at Living Water Fellowship, which is Little Bear Wheeler’s church in the “community” here.  Although Pastor Telfer had gone to a couple of the film festivals put on by Vision Forum and submitted a couple films himself, he had no interest in patriarchy whatsoever.  Coming from an inner-city youth ministry in Chicago, patriarchy was a totally foreign concept to Pastor Telfer. Like so many other filmmakers and individuals who were just there to observe, they attended Vision Forum’s San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival simply because it was the only game in town for Christian films.

Not desiring all that work and talent to be wasted and discouraged, Pastor Telfer naively thought that it shouldn’t be too difficult to put together a new film festival for everyone who was already expecting one, so he went to Little Bear with his idea of simply providing an avenue for a film festival.  In his mind, he just needed to find a venue, pick a date relatively close to the original date, and organize it.  Little Bear thought he was nuts!  He had no idea of the politics behind Doug Phillips’ resignation and that he would now be painting a large target on his back for stepping on such sacred ground.  Not to be daunted, however, Pastor Telfer set out to provide a safe place for Christian filmmakers to gather and continue their annual film festival traditions.

CWFFWhen I first heard of this initiative, I was a bit dubious.  What were his real motives?  Is this just another ministry rising up to promote more patriarchy?  Is this man trying to make a name for himself on someone else’s coattails?  The only thing I knew about him was that one of our mutual friends was in ministry together with Pastor Telfer, in a ministry called Media Talk 101.  That was encouraging enough to me to check it out since I knew my friend, a humble man who dearly loves the Lord, was definitely not into patriarchy, although he is a godly family man.  I considered attending the new Christian Worldview Film Festival, held March 11-15, 2014, but I wasn’t really interested in just being a spy.  That didn’t seem like a good idea, so I thought about it for a long time.

I have been going to school for quite a while now to become a certified health coach and my area of emphasis is in learning how to help people who are going through traumatic events, or who have not healed from the stress and trauma and pain of past events in life.  Not only have I experienced much trauma and pain from the excommunication and all the aftermath from that, especially with my children, but I have also experienced a tremendous amount of agonizing and heartbreaking ordeals and upheavals in the last decade or so.  God has taught me many ways to not only handle the stress and emotion and pain that accompany these difficulties in life, but also how to bring about the level of healing that actually makes me stronger and a much better person because of attending the University of Hard Knocks.

With Doug Phillips’ resignation came a mass of chaos, confusion, pain, and deep wounds within the “community,” both local and nationwide.  Even many of those who thought they had finally put their differences with Doug Phillips in the past and had moved forward in life suddenly found themselves looking hurt in the mirror one more time.  And it was very confusing.  As TW Eston and I continued to write articles here after Doug’s resignation, the comments, both here and elsewhere, were filled with, first, denial, then anger accompanied by deep hurt.  In any grieving process, these two are the first stages of how we respond emotionally in any situation where we have loss.  Bargaining and depression are the next stages before finally coming to terms with accepting the loss.  For some, going through these five stages of grieving happens very rapidly, but for others, it takes a very long period of time, while there are many who never reach the last stage of acceptance, allowing one to move forward in life.  When we “bury” our feelings and emotions from a hurtful experience in life, we find ourselves stuck somewhere in this grieving process, unable to truly move forward freely in life.  Others remain in the anger stage forever.

Telling my story online seven years ago was a cathartic process for me, and for those who followed along, many saw me go through these stages right in this blog.  I am grateful that God brought me through the grieving process to the healing point of acceptance so that I could move forward in my own life, partly because I was able to respond to this whole recent debacle without personally involving myself the way I did the first time around.  This allowed me to be much more objective.  It also allowed me to be able to empathize with those who just had the rug pulled out from underneath them.  I have read the comments and followed the conversations here and there, both online and in real life, with greater insight and compassion.

Healing from emotional pain is one of the life’s most transforming events ever.  It is more powerful than the initial trauma.  So, as I considered whether or not I should attend this year’s new Christian film festival, I realized that what I most wanted to do was to help bring healing to a hurting community.  How could I do that?  I decided to sign up as a volunteer and see what happened.  Although I could have used a fake name to get in the door, I knew that if I was going to bring healing to this hurting community that I needed to be just me, so I signed up online with my real name.  When the volunteer coordinator called me to talk to me about volunteering, I was surprised to find that she also attended BCA, but I was just going to go with the flow here, since my only goal was to bring healing to a hurting community. After we talked, she decided to have me “manage” the registration desk for the majority of the film festival.  That meant that my face would be the first one everyone saw when they entered the front door.  I knew I could use this opportunity for good!

With less than two days to go before the film festival began, I got the phone call.  I’ve heard this so many times before.  I either get a letter, an email, or a phone call, but they all say pretty much the same thing:  “Don’t ever darken the doors here again.”  I was fully prepared for the fact that this may be just another door slammed in my face, but when Philip Telfer called me to tell me that someone had emailed him, concerned about what might happen if I showed up at the film festival, I was pleasantly surprised when, instead, he asked me to have dinner with him and his wife that evening.  I knew they were super busy getting ready for the film festival, so I was honored that he would give me his time and give me the opportunity to speak for myself.  I found both Pastor Telfer and his wife to be wonderful people, and we easily fell into much laughter and a delightful conversation together!  It turned out that we both had the same goals in this film festival:  to bring healing to a hurting community.

HEROI am happy to report that the first annual Christian Worldview Film Festival was drama-free.  There was no idol who everyone was clamoring to see, but rather a servant-leader who was not only available whenever he was needed, but also just milled about and interacted with everyone in attendance.  If there was a mafia dressed in black, packing pieces, I did not see them.  What I did see were hundreds of happy people, excited to see old friends again, enjoying all the workshops, films, and special events that filled the week!  And I enjoyed being there to greet every single person each day.  As I saw those I had not seen in 8-10 years, I attempted to go out of my way to give each one of them a hug.  My goal was to hug every person I knew from my days in the “community.”  But what I found instead was that most of those who I had not seen in a long time were the first to want to give me a hug instead!  There was even one family that currently attends BCA who wanted to hug me.  Although I was not wearing a name tag, apparently, there were some who recognized my picture from online and came up to speak to me.  One lady, upon confirming who I was, gave me a big hug and just said, “Thank you!” with tears in her eyes. One small step for healing, one giant leap for the “community.”

I really did have a wonderful time there.  There were a few conversations about Doug Phillips and Vision Forum, but for the most part, these people were here to focus on moving forward, not looking backward.  I went to a few films.  I really enjoyed a couple, like Hero and Creed of Gold.  There were a few I didn’t care for as well, but for me, that was not the main point.  I also attended a lecture by Rich Christiano because I heard he was controversial.  I wanted to hear that for myself. It was sad to see that certain young filmmakers did not show up, simply because it was not organized by Vision Forum.

Imagine the irony, then, of coming off the high of the first step toward healing, the first step toward making peace in this hurting “community,” of finding out in World’s article that Doug Phillips sent a letter, through his attorney, of course, threatening to sue three of the men who showed up on his doorstep that fateful day in October, 2013.  This letter was mailed March 13, 2014, right smack in the middle of the Christian Worldview Film Festival.  While many of us were working to bringing healing to a hurting community, Doug Phillips, obviously hurting himself that he was not the star of the show this year, was busy stirring up strife instead. The letter to Bob Renaud and Peter Bradrick (Doug Phillips’ former personal assistants) and Jordan Muela (former intern/VF employee) stated, in part: “the three of you have conspired together, and with others, in an attempt to destroy Doug Phillips, his family and Vision Forum Inc.”

internsThis immediately brings to mind several questions.  If there were five men standing on Doug Phillips’ doorstep on that red letter day in October, why were only these three threatened with a lawsuit?  Why not Dr. Joe Morecraft, who immediately preached a sermon about Doug Phillips’ fall, although he did not name him by name; and Mark Weaver, Doug’s close college friend?  I would posit that it has everything to do with the tiny little word found at the end of the sentence quoted above — “Inc.”  It seems readily apparent to me that while Doug Phillips rightfully acknowledged his responsibility to step down from ministry (albeit months and years too late, and only under duress), that he had every intention of keeping the business side of Vision Forum going strong, while he took a breather for a year or so from public speaking, and then he would pick up the reins once again, ready to lead the charge of his Vision Forum Ministries brigade, onward to victory over the evils of the real world.

Apparently, Doug Phillips believes that these three young men, whom he personally trained, not only in the patriarchal way of life but also in how to use any means possible to attain the desired results, were somehow responsible for destroying his business.  Pragmatism ruled the day in this business/ministry of Vision Forum, while love, respect, relationship, and all ethics were thrown to the wind.  So what did these three young men do to merit the threat of Doug Phillips suing them?  They broke the “No Gossip” rule.  Never mind that the “No Gossip” rule is not to be found anywhere in Scripture.  Never mind that there is no law that contains this supposed “No Gossip” rule.  Never mind that one current BCA member recently stood up and said that this “No Gossip” rule does not exist, even in the face of hundreds of others who state otherwise.  The “No Gossip” rule was originally put into place to keep people from speaking about what was happening between Doug Phillips and Joe Taylor, and it grew in intensity and reach ever since.  The “No Gossip” rule has kept hundreds of hurting people, and families, from sharing their pain and hurts with anyone, for fear of retribution for breaking the “No Gossip” rule, even long after they left BCA or the “community.”

So what was this great sin that Bob Renaud, Peter Bradrick, and Jordan Muela committed?  What was this juicy gossip that they shared, that would merit the level of a defamation lawsuit?  Although Peter Bradrick’s Facebook page has since been closed, Peter shared his pain of being disowned by a man he considered to be both a father and a mentor to him.  Bob Renaud shared a few other details, showing that he and Peter had worked together to confront a man they both deeply loved.  Jordan Muela wrote a heartfelt Facebook article, “How Silence Enables Abuse.”  Although he did not name Doug Phillips (if I remember correctly), everyone in the community knew who he was speaking about.  (He has since hid his Facebook page, so I do not have access to the article now.)

ndarnlIn addition to these three young men speaking out, there were a few others who have spoken publicly as well.  Apparently, Doug Phillips does not consider the others to be a threat, but one that has spoken out in favor of everyone keeping silent is Nathaniel Darnell.  His most recent article about how to respond to the allegations of the nature being made against Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard caused quite a stir when he suggested that the young women should go to their elders if they were sexually abused.  I guess he forgot that that’s exactly what got them into that situation to begin with.

Although no one I personally know from BCA and the community has publicly apologized to me, nor even really said anything about my situation, there have been a handful who have privately apologized. On a personal note, I will say that as I read each of the articles and comments above, as well as those by Nolan Manteufel and Ryan Short, that I have shed many tears.  For me, they were healing tears, because at least I was not the lone person out here warning those I love that danger lurks nearby.  Finally someone else was seeing it as well.  It is truly tragic that it had to come at such a heavy price.  Nathan Barnes, another former VF intern/employee, posted this status on Facebook recently:

The laws of friendship require a discovery of that which endangers one another. You would count him unworthy the name of a friend, who knowing a thief or an incendiary to lurk in your family, with a design to kill, or rob, or burn your house, would conceal it from you, and not acquaint you with it on his own accord. There is no such thief, murderer, incendiary, as sin: it more endangers us, and those concernments that are more precious than goods, or house, or life; and that most endangers us, by which the Lord’s anger is already kindled against us. Silence or concealment in this case is treachery. He is the most faithful friend, and worthy of most esteem and affection, that deals most plainly with us, in reference to the discovery of our sin. He that is reserved in this case is but a false friend, a mere pretender to love, whereas, indeed, he hates his brother in his heart.  Clarkson, David (1865). The Practical Works of David Clarkson Retrieved from http://books.google.com

gobobSo why are all these statements made by Bob Renaud, Peter Bradrick, and Jordan Muela libelous to the point of warranting a lawsuit? Apparently, I Cor. 6 is magically erased from Doug Phillips’ Bible, but beyond the “sin” of violating the “No Gossip” rule, Doug Phillips seems to think that these three men conspired together to destroy the business half of Vision Forum.  By Doug’s own actions, he destroyed Vision Forum ministries, which closed on November 11, 2013, although he has threatened to make legal claims against the remaining Vision Forum Ministries board as well.  At first, he made it known that Doug still owned the business side of Vision Forum, but by November 27, 2013, we announced on this blog that Vision Forum, Inc., the business, would be closing permanently by December 31, 2013.  Unless Doug Phillips was actually following our lead, we correctly reported this event.  Most likely, we were not the first to know that Vision Forum, Inc. would be closing their doors, so this decision was probably made several days earlier than November 27, 2013.  Look at the comments made by Peter Bradrick and Bob Renaud again. The only comment made publicly before we announced that Vision Forum, Inc. was closing was made by Bob Renaud on October 22, 2013: “Your sins will find you out so it’s best to follow Lanny’s advice: ‘Tell it early. Tell it all. Tell it yourself.’” (This comment causes me to question World Magazine’s timeline for the front door confrontation, unless Bob was just sending a message out ahead of time.)  But all those other comments and articles were posted after Doug Phillips had already decided to close his business.

The only person who destroyed Vision Forum, both the ministry and the business, was Doug Phillips himself.  The only person who destroyed Doug Phillips’ reputation was Doug Phillips himself.  While the words of his former interns and close associates deeply hurt him, they were the wounds of friends who loved him enough to publicly rebuke a sinning leader, in the hopes of restoring him to his senses, and to a right relationship with God.  As Doug Phillips once stated in church, when a man falls for a woman, all common sense goes right out the window.  How prophetically true, in his case.

On August 7, 2013, Doug Phillips wrote a brilliant article about “True Repentance.”  What happened that prompted this article we’re not sure at this point, but now seems like a good time to remind Doug of some key points that he made: “Those who remain unrepentant should not expect the blessing of the Lord. Unrepentance is not only an impediment to the very object of our life—true unity with God—but it leads to the judgment of the Lord. It is the single greatest roadblock to family vision.”  Doug goes on to list six elements of godly sorrow that produce true repentance: brokenness, forsaking sin, truth telling, acceptance of responsibility, restitution, and peace.

From day one, we have been saying that Doug Phillips did not show any evidence of true repentance in his public statements.  I know him well enough to read between the crafty wording clever disguised as godly sorrow.  If Doug’s recent threats of legal action against his close friends and his former board members are any indication of where his heart is right now, these acts of retribution rather than restitution openly belie his words of resignation that are still publicly displayed for all to see.  Although I had held out a tiny spark of hope that Doug Phillips would truly repent, in the manner he himself prescribes, his blame shifting, his arrogance, his refusal to accept responsibility for tearing down his own house and ministry, and his insistence that others pay him restitution instead, all point to his stirring up even more strife rather than being the one who brings peace and healing to a hurting community.

In his latest article, TW Eston presciently stated:

Doug Phillips is hasty to resort to legal intimidation. He has legally threatened dozens of people. To my knowledge Doug Phillips has never actually taken anyone to trial. Rather, he only threatens to take them to court, but out of the goodness of his heart he agrees to settle with them out of court, provided they keep their mouths shut, i.e. they must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Are Non-Disclosure Agreements biblical? In certain cases an NDA may be appropriate, and they may not necessarily in all cases be expressly unbiblical. However, they should never be used if the underlying motive is to silence critics and cover up unrepentant sin. The purposes for which Doug Phillips has so frequently coerced the signing of NDA’s is only intended to silence those who would speak out against his egregious sins and hold him accountable for his duplicity and corruption. Doug Phillips’ habitual use of NDAs has allowed him to cover up a huge amount of sin, both his own sins and the sins of his accomplices.

But let us not be too hasty to judge Doug Phillips’ latest attempts to take his brothers to public court.  Perhaps he has found I Cor. 6 in his Bible after all, and has mentioned the possibility of Christian conciliation instead. On the surface, appealing to Peacemaker Ministries sounds promising, but what is Doug Phillips’ track record with these types of situations? The first instance of using Peacemaker Ministries, that I am aware of, was when Mark and I asked Doug Phillips to go to mediation with us, through the trained Peacemaker counselors at Faith PCA here locally.  The first thing we were required to do was to clean up all derogatory comments, whether they were ours or others, to refrain from saying that we were repentant, and to be silent.  Since I had diligently sought to fully forgive Doug Phillips, and all those involved, privately in my heart before telling my story publicly (a public leader’s sins need to be made known to the same degree that their teachings are), and I was already extremely cautious in using my words carefully, it was a difficult decision to abide by these rules during the conciliation process.  But for the greater good of bringing healing to the situation at hand, we did so willingly.

A couple months later, after an emotionally charged meeting between Doug Phillips and the elders at Faith PCA (two of whom were also the Christian conciliators for Peacemaker Ministries), we were informed that Doug Phillips refused any reconciliation with us. Doug Phillips told the elders that there is only one way for the Epsteins to be reconciled with me; they must come to me and repent fully without any equivocation of everything that we excommunicated them for, and they also have to repent for blogging about me. We were also invited by these Christian conciliators to never darken the door of their church again.  When asked about the situation privately, one of the Christian conciliator elders remarked, “We f***ed up.”  That was Doug Phillips’ first interaction with Peacemaker, that I am aware of.

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

But what happens when Doug Phillips decides he wants to be the one to call for mediation through Peacemaker Ministries?  Rumor has it that Beall Phillips asked Peacemaker to mediate between Doug Phillips and Cassandra and her family before this all went public.  Knowing that Peacemaker always requires silence on both sides during and after conciliation, this would have been a perfect way to forever keep Doug Phillips’ adultery hidden, allowing the family to continue their opulent lifestyle and the public fame and glory that they so enjoyed.  However, Cassandra was wise enough to decline such an arrangement, and so was Peacemaker Ministries.  Having met with Doug Phillips before, they probably knew it would not be a prudent case to take on. Three strikes.

Doug Mac girlsAs I consider the possibility of Peacemaker having taken that particular case, I cringe at the tremendous amount of damage that would have mounted had Doug Phillips been allowed to continue on as if nothing had ever happened.  This is one of the reasons why using Peacemaker Ministries can be a very bad idea.  While I readily acknowledge that many people have been helped through this ministry, I wonder how many others have actually been allowed to cover their sin, or worse yet, continue in their sinful lifestyle, because of this requirement of forever remaining silent.

In my training as a professional health coach, I have found that unresolved emotional pain causes more health problems, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well, than any other aspect of health.  I remember when Mark, my first husband, required me to never speak about my adultery in the first couple years of our marriage, even though I had fully repented from it.  There were times during those fifteen years of silence when I wanted to be able to share with others how God brought me through that time in my life and what I learned and how I repented and moved forward in life (although Mark never found it in his heart to forgive me).  As the years went on, that enforced silence built up inside me and caused me deep turmoil.  When Doug Phillips took it upon himself to tell the church about my adultery, which had happened 15 years earlier and for which Doug Phillips himself agreed that he saw true repentance in me, and I was now free to talk about it, it was like a load of bricks was finally lifted off my back.  While Doug Phillips certainly had no business sharing a pastoral confidence which Mark had shared with him privately, it ended up being one of the most freeing things that ever happened to me, and I was now on the road to being healed emotionally.

Peter BradrickTo Peter Bradrick, Bob Renaud, and Jordan Muela:  Don’t fall for it!  You all know Doug Phillips well enough to know that his offer of going to Peacemaker Ministries is for one purpose only:  to shut you up.  Confidentiality rules the day in Peacemaker’s mediation process.  While a public trial can bring to light every single detail and expose all the dirt on every side, Peacemaker goes to the opposite extreme and covers up all sin.  Bob, with your legal training, you know that Doug Phillips does not have any legal grounds against you three.  Yes, the easy thing to do is to settle quietly behind the scenes and go on about your life.  But the right thing to do takes much more work, and only a man with great integrity will do the right thing.

This is not about making peace.  This is all about silencing the truth.  “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” is a principle that applies to many different aspects of life.  Everyone who sat under Doug Phillips’ teachings and ministry needs to know the truth now so that each person, each family, each BCA member, each VF employee and board member, can be set free, emotionally and spiritually, to begin healing that will lead to acceptance of what has happened, in order to move forward in life.  May we all we be stronger and wiser for having walked this journey, but may we learn to love and forgive as we begin our new paths in life.

The Christian Post: “Christian Family Ministry Leader Doug Phillips Resigns After Admitting to ‘Inappropriate Relationship'”

The Christian Post weighs in:

The leader of a conservative Christian family organization has resigned from the non-profit after admitting to having an affair, however, he will still maintain ownership of the related for-profit company.

Doug Phillips, whose organization Vision Forum advocates for “Biblical patriarchy,” admitted to having committed a “serious sin” and claimed that he had confessed it his “wife and family, [his] local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries.”

“I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not ‘know’ each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate,” wrote Phillips.

Despite the fact that Phillips asserted that he would no longer be “giving speeches or running conferences at this time of my life under the banner of VFI or VFM” and leading “a quiet life focusing on my family and serving as a foot soldier,” he also explained that he had not completely divorced himself from influence within the organization.

“I retain ownership of Vision Forum, Inc,” he wrote on the organization’s blog on November 6.

 

To read the rest of the article, which quotes one supporter and one ex-supporter, here is the rest of the article.

Huff Post: “Doug Phillips: The Big Scandal You Didn’t Hear About and Why It Matters”

Huff Post reports this today:

Doug Phillips, the Home School Movement’s leading Quiverful Patriarch resigned from Vision Forum Ministries, admitting a “lengthy inappropriate relationship” with a woman. It appears that while as he has been fighting homosexuality and feminism as threats to marriage, he has actually been the threat.

His supporters are lauding his resignation letter as appropriately contrite repentance and arguing that this has no bearing on the validity of Biblical Patriarchy. But actually it does, making this more important than another hypocritical cheating scandal.

Phillips is a key figure bringing Christian Reconstruction into the larger home school world. Building upon R.J. Rushdoony’s postmillennialism and “Biblical Philosophy of History,” he teaches home-schooling families to “exercise dominion” through 200-year plans, “multi-generational faithfulness” and “Biblical Patriarchy.”

His influence is hard to overstate; there is barely a part of the home-school movement his empire has not touched. He started as an attorney at the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), is a sought-after speaker at home school conventions and Vision Forum sponsors well-attended conferences of its own. Phillips was a founder of the patriarchal Family Integrated Church Movement. He has close partnerships with Henry Morris at Institute for Creation Research, the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting and actor-turned-Christian activist Kirk Cameron.

 

To read the rest of the article about how Doug Phillips’ resignation fits into his 200-year plan, read here.

How Patriarchy Itself is the Slippery Slope that Led Doug Phillips to Serious Sin With Another Woman

Speculation is running rampant right now regarding Doug Phillips’ recent admission of a lengthy, inappropriate relationship resulting in “serious sin” with another woman.  Doug Phillips claims that he behaved without proper accountability, but how much do we really need someone else to hold our hands to keep us from “serious sin” in life?  Is Doug Phillips really going to place the blame for his “serious sin” upon the shoulders of dozens and dozens of men who do hold him accountable each and every day of his life?  In his statement of repentance, does he truly take responsibility or is this yet another deflection?

Let’s take a look at Doug’s daily life and see how this could possibly happen.  Is it possible that the lifestyle and rules of patriarchy itself are exactly why Doug Phillips found himself on a slippery slope from which there was no return?  Does patriarchy in fact encourage this kind of temptation?  I believe it does and it did, in Doug Phillips’ case.

First, let’s go to work with Doug Phillips.  Vision Forum’s offices and warehouse are located smack in the middle of San Antonio, TX.  The men who are employed there all hold to Doug Phillips’ strict views and rules of patriarchy.  Any women who work at Vision Forum come to work with their husbands, fathers, or brothers.  There are no unrelated women working there.  There are a dozen or so men surrounding Doug and his office at any given moment.  To reach Doug’s office, one must pass by several other men’s offices.  It is practically impossible for any inappropriate relationship to take place at Vision Forum, and knowing Doug Phillips’ extremely high standards against sexual sin, this simply wouldn’t not happen at the office.

Doug Phillips attends dozens of homeschool conferences, and hosts many fabulous homeschool events put on by Vision Forum.  His family attends nearly event with him, and if his whole family does not go, at least some of his children are always with him at these events.  Doug Phillips is also always surrounded by his Vision Forum interns and staff at each and every one of these events and conferences.  I cannot for the life of me envision Doug looking at another woman while attending these events, and he is never left alone, so I think we can cross this off our list as well.

How about doing errands around town?  Not likely and not often.  Doug Phillips would have absolutely zero interest in the “worldly” woman, so I do not believe that would ever happen.

Counseling?  Doug Phillips was always very careful never to counsel a woman alone.  I am sure that he continued that rule.

So where does that leave us?  I can think of only one situation and it is not only plausible but also nearly inevitable in many patriarchal families.  Patriarchy itself lends itself to this situation.  Large families require a huge amount of work.  Many mothers within patriarchy are worn to a frazzle and if they can afford it, they seek extra help.  There are many types of help available but the most prevalent type is to hire a nanny, another young lady within the patriarchy movement who holds all the ideals of patriarchy, but is patiently waiting to get married, so she “serves” her father by serving another man and his family, taking care of his children.

In “The Return of the Daughters,” a young lady states that she cannot serve in her father’s business so she serves God and her father by serving others in the community (“community” is a codeword for those who belong to Doug Phillips’ church).  The way that she serves the “community” is to be a nanny for Doug Phillips’ eight children.  She is not the only nanny that the Phillips family has employed over the years, but she was featured in this documentary.

Let’s look at the type of “nanny” the Phillips family would employ.

Natasha Phillips GirlsDresses modestly (long, full dresses

Homeschooled

Obeys her parents, even as an adult

Obeys her elders (at church)

Courtship only (no dating or relationships with men)

Gentle, quiet spirit

Respectful

Resourceful

Has no opinions in her own right

Does not go to college

Good with children

Cooks and cleans

Loves God

Now, this is not your typical 13-year-old babysitter.  This nanny is often a full-time position for a young woman in her late teens or twenties.  This young woman, who most certainly has natural hormones for this age, has no outlet for relationships with men.  This young woman, under the encouragement of her father, idolizes Doug Phillips.  This young woman is the epitome of everything Doug Phillips preaches.  She is the standard that all other young patriarchal ladies wish to aspire to.  And this young woman does so with the full blessing of her father.

And she spends most of her time with the Phillips family.  She is there while Doug is at work.  She is often there when Doug is at home.  She will even spend the night there sometimes.  She is there when the family travels to homeschool conferences and Vision Forum events, where Doug has the opportunity to watch her perform her duties in a fashion that makes Doug Phillips very proud.  She even goes on family vacations with the Phillips, occasionally, to help with the tremendous amount of work of taking care of eight children.  She is like a second mother to the Phillips’ children.

Is it any wonder that she also becomes like a second wife to Doug Phillips as well?  Here is this young woman, in her twenties, beautiful inside and outside, blindly obedient to everything she is told to do, never questioning, and absolutely idolizing this man in his forties.  If this young woman spends several years practically living with the Phillips’ family, are we really so surprised that a lengthy, inappropropriate relationship develops between these two that eventually leads to serious sin?

Patriarchy itself, with all its rules and legalism, is such a heavy burden on a large family that they absolutely do need extra help.  The kind of help that leads to such a slippery slope, however, goes against everything Doug Phillips preaches.  Perhaps we need to go back to square one and decide if this was such a good idea.

I do not blame Doug.  I do not blame this woman. I am not saying that I know who the woman is, but if anyone knows anything different from what I have presented here, I will retract my thoughts.

This is not about needing more accountability in life.  Doug Phillips has more men to keep him accountable than does the president of the United States.  This is not about needing more rules in life.  Rules do not change our heart.  This is about having a change of heart.  This is about coming to realize that keeping a long list of rules just doesn’t work.  No one can perfectly keep a long list of rules and God does not intend for us to do so.

In the Bible, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the “patriarchs.”  Look at what happened to Abraham when Sarah’s household help was called upon to help progenate Abraham’s descendants.  Look at what happened when Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachel, couldn’t get along and asked their household help to help progenate their families as well.  Perhaps, in the true sense of patriarchy, this is just a natural extension of patriarchy.

Or, perhaps, we need to reevaluate the value of patriarchy to begin with.

Vision Forum Views on Women: Monstrous Regiment and Baby Dolls

From Doug’s Blog today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life in Perfect

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

Here’s a small sample from the article:

Where the children are seen and not heard.

And so are the women.

Where vile American Girl dolls are banned.

Where people talk and write like a walking 1865 dictionary.

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