Christian Leaders Ignore Sin (When It’s Advantageous)

A failure to hold church and ministry leaders accountable seems to be endemic among Christians of this generation. One of the biggest problems is that pastors and ministers often aren’t holding their ministry friends accountable.

By now just about everyone has heard about the outing of the closet homosexual and drug abuser Ted Haggard, ex-pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the ex-President of the politically influential National Association of Evangelicals.

But what many people don’t realize is that Haggard’s sex and drug problems were well known to his closest friends, including Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition. In a recent interview with Lou Sheldon some truly astonishing things came out:

Then, as if things could not get worse, there was the disgrace of Sheldon’s own friend and colleague, Rev. Ted Haggard, the Colorado mega-church leader and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an even bigger pillar of Republican support on the Christian right. Sheldon disclosed that he and “a lot” of others knew about Haggard’s homosexuality “for awhile … but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it.”

Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard’s secret relationship with him, and the reverend’s drug use as well, “Ted and I had a discussion,” explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”

His friends knew that Haggard was a pervert and a drug abuser. What did they do about it? They kept silent. They were more concerned about preserving their own positions and power base than they were about preserving the peace and purity of the church. Too many Christian leaders are pragmatists and pragmatists will always compromise.

Confronting a powerful and influential friend about his sins, unethical conduct or hypocrisies could cost them. It could cost them the friendship itself, and all the “benefits” that go along with it. The loss of that friendship could be the loss of the influence, and perhaps even money, that that friendship buys them. So they keep quiet rather than risking the friendship.

Influential men who don’t want to be held accountable will choose their friends based upon what they can get out of the friendship. One of the things they expect is to not be held accountable. They also surround themselves with yes-men in systems that have the appearance of accountability, but which in reality are nothing but shams. They’ll ask close friends and yes-men to sit on their board of directors, which serve as nothing more than rubber stamping committees.

Needless to say such “friendships” are really no friendships at all. A friend who won’t confront a friend in his sin is no friend, but rather a deceiver and a user: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Prov. 27:6

Far too many church and ministry leaders today are very selective, and even opportunistic, about who they’ll confront in their sins. If it’s a close and influential friend they’re far less likely to confront them than if it’s just an ordinary church member.

Many church members have experienced being confronted by their pastors and elders when they’re in sin. That’s never a pleasant experience, but if indeed we’re in sin then we should be grateful for those pastors and elders who have the guts to confront us and call us to repentance. The Word says that they keep watch over our very souls:

Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17

We all need this accountability in our lives and even when it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable we should be grateful for it.

Unfortunately there are those who abuse their positions of trust and lord it over those souls that have voluntarily submitted to their pastoral care. If there wasn’t such pervasive ecclesiastical abuse there wouldn’t be so many books about it, but even though there are at least a dozen books written by Christians on the subject of ecclesiastical abuse the market hardly seems crowded at all.

Ecclesiastical bullies however are very selective in who they abuse. Of course, they don’t see it as abuse. Rather, they call it “church discipline.” Their “discipline” however is enforced very selectively, and they uphold the discipline of their friends, or against their friends, in a very selective manner. In other words they employ a double standard based entirely on whether you’re a friend or family member, versus the standard they impose for anyone else.

Take for example the recent defrocking of R.C. Sproul Jr. Sproul was deposed from office by the RPCGA for, among other things, “abuse of authority in an inexcusable manner” against several Saint Peter Presbyterian Church families, as well as identity theft and tax number fraud (Sproul stole and illegally used the EIN of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church). Sproul even confessed to the charges, but it appears that the only reason he confessed is to avoid a church trial that would have subjected him to even much greater scrutiny.

Upon being defrocked R.C. Sproul Jr could have appealed the decision (a unanimous one at that) of his Presbytery. If he disagreed with the decision that’s what he should have done. Instead he pled to be released from membership in the RPCGA. Upon his release Sproul immediately whined publicly on his web site that some great injustice had been committed against him — and this after he’d already confessed to the charges!

Sproul is just like the whiny criminal who gets busted by the police in the very act of his crime. He even admits to the cops that he’s the perp. Then when the cops attempt to cuff him and take him into custody he resists arrest. So in order to protect themselves and safely subdue him they mace him. But he still resists. So they tazer him and he whines, “I’m innocent! This is police brutality!” Yet he continues fighting them the whole time, after he’s just confessed to the crime.

R.C. Sproul Jr. wasn’t alone in his whining. He was joined in a chorus of whiny abusive ecclesiastics. It’s not that any of them are inherently opposed to church discipline. No, in fact they love church discipline, so long as it’s them that are wielding it. Tyranny loves company and bullies love other bullies (it’s for good reason that Hilter and Mussolini were pals).

Among the first to join the chorus of whining ecclesiastics was Douglas Wilson. In fact Doug Wilson started whining even before R.C. Sproul Jr started whining! Doug Wilson saw the handwriting on the wall for his good friend R.C. Sproul Jr. He attempted to influence (read “meddle in”) the RPCGA’s internal matters by starting a series of blog articles entitled “A Justice Primer,” articles which clearly attempted to manipulate the unfolding Sproul church discipline matter.

After Sproul was defrocked Doug Wilson continued publicly defending his pal R.C. Sproul Jr, often going to extraordinary lengths to bend and twist justice like a wax nose. Thankfully however a number of commenters showed up on Doug Wilson’s blog to publicly challenge Wilson’s very creative definitions of “justice.” It’s not clear when Wilson rolled out the red carpet to Sproul and offered him a home in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. It might very well have been before Sproul was defrocked. But in any event Sproul’s tax fraud and ecclesiastical abuse of several Saint Peter families was certainly no impediment to entering the CREC.

Wilson orchestrated the formation of a CREC Commission ostensibly “to provide pastoral oversight.” Yet no one really believed that the real agenda of the CREC Commission just ended there, regardless of the fact that the CREC publicly stated that the Commission “is not judicial in nature ” (original underlined). In spite of the CREC’s proclamations that their Commission wasn’t just a Kangaroo Court, Wilson had for weeks been telegraphing his intentions, and no one had any trouble picking up on it either. Some openly stated that the purpose of the CREC Commission was to “clear RC Sproul Jr’s name” and that article was posted by an ally!

Many were shocked and dismayed that R.C. Jr’s father publicly accused the RPCGA of taking a “fraudulent” action against his son that was based upon nothing more than fraudulent charges and the testimony of false witnesses. At the time many attributed it to the emotional outburst of a deeply hurt and embarrassed father. However, as time has gone on and we have now seen so much sin and corruption being exposed within the ranks of Ligonier Ministries I can only conclude that Dr. R.C. Sproul himself is an autonomist and eagerly turns a blind eye to sin, when it’s personally advantageous to do so.

When the CREC Commission released their Report Doug Wilson publicly thanked the Commission. That brief statement resulted in Wilson being immediately hit with a flurry of comments and questions, virtually none of which he responded to. Instead, he just moved on and posted a new article related to the previous one. This too resulted in a flurry of questions and negative comments and, once again, Doug Wilson failed to respond.

How could Doug Wilson possibly respond? It was all too apparent that his boutique “confederation” had largely glossed over the great sins that R.C. Sproul Jr and his session had been disciplined for. The CREC treated Sproul as though he’d never been defrocked at all. Their Report states of Sproul, “. . .he shall not be required to fulfill the process for ordination and shall be considered ordained within the CREC accordingly.” Huh? How can a defrocked minister “be considered ordained”? In Doug Wilson’s loony world this is called “justice.”

Doug Phillips and Why “People In Glass Houses Shouldn’t Throw Stones”

I received an email today from Joe Friday. He gave me permission to post his email as an article. I’ve also included my response.shattered-glass

from: Joe Friday
to: Watchman
cc: Frank Vance
date: Jan 24, 2007 1:38 PM
subject: Doug Phillips and racism


I’m outraged by all the “racist” slams by Matthew Chancey against you and the Epsteins. Little Geneva can take their lumps because obviously they ARE kinists, and they don’t even try to deny it. But I don’t see anything in Matt Chancey’s “investigation” that leads me to believe that any of the rest of you are kinists, or racists, or anything of the kind.

Frank, did you notice that Chancey even quoted an email from you to Michael Metzler in which you deny being a kinist? But then Chancey goes right on to accuse you all of being kinists anyway, with no proof, and in spite of your denials!

Despite Seabrook’s “wink-wink” implying that “Vance”‘ had solid Kinist credentials, “Vance” himself continued to vociferously deny any connection with Seabrook and his fellow white separatists. When Michael Metzler asked this genuine question of “Vance”—”I have a friend who is convinced you guys are kinists. Could you help me out here?”—he gave this angry reply:

Good grief! You too Michael? You’ve got to be kidding me! Why don’t you just have your friend contact me himself? What’s his agenda Michael? Trying to find some foolish ad hom excuse to derail us? Are you really so certain he’s a friend? If he wants to find some lame and completely baseless justification to dis Ministry Watchman then watch out! He might do the same to you.

Are we kinists? No. Is any Ministry Watchman writer a kinist? No.

Feel free to email any of the other Ministry Watchman authors and ask them that question.

On second thought, DON’T. It’s getting really old. If I never get asked that question again it’ll be too soon.

Yet, the ties between Ministry Watchman and Little Geneva were as strong as ever.

Your denials mean nothing to Chancey and the lack of proof means nothing. The guy’s got an obvious agenda and the truth be damned! This has got to be some of the most outrageous behavior that I’ve ever seen professing Christians perpetrate. The entire premise for Chancey’s story is guilt by association, and as far as I can see the proof for the association is weak at best. I’m having a hard time believeing that Phillips and Chancey could be Christians at all. What they’re doing is so incredibly evil.

The whole thing is so repulsive. But what makes it even more repulsive is that Doug Phillips is probably a racist! Did you know this? I’ve been suspicious of Phillips, and especially of his father, for a long time. They both have a lot of personal friendships and close ties with notorious racists, and they both have often publicly sung the praises of notorious racists! If anyone could be rightly accused of being a racist because of guilt by association it would be Doug Phillips. Matt Chancey has got his own racist connections too, including right in his own family. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

I emailed some of what I found to Lynn at Indelible Grace and she’s posted it as an article. But what I’ve sent her is just the beginning. It really hasn’t taken me much time at all to find a whole lot more. I’ve already got enough material for a few more articles. What I’d like to know is if you’d be interested in posting what I’ve uncovered? See the enclosed text file and then let me know if you’d like to do anything with it.

As far as I’m concerned Phillips could stand a big dose of his own medicine. Phillips and Chancey need to be taught to never pull a stunt like this again.

God Bless,



from: Watchman
to: Joe Friday
cc: Frank Vance
date: Jan 24, 2007 6:02 PM
subject: Re: Doug Phillips and racism


I’d like your permission to post your email on Ministry Watchman. I’m also going to give you a far more extensive reply than what I’d normally do, with the idea in mind of posting this on Ministry Watchman as an article.

Someone else had already sent us a link to your article on Indelible Grace. In fact we’ve gotten a number of emails about this. Needless to say we’re all shocked. I’m even more shocked by the Word document you sent us. For us to be accused of a sin, and falsely so, when the accuser himself is very likely guilty of that very same sin, is a very hypocritical thing.

I’ve talked this over with Frank Vance. Neither one of us are enthusiastic at this time about going down this path. I don’t want to say that what you’ve assembled is gossip, or that it’s factually wrong. You seem to have really done your homework, but it still just doesn’t seem right to us, even in spite of what Phillips is doing to us and the Epsteins. To me it seems like hitting below the belt. Just because Doug Phillips, through his “former interns” and Matt Chancey, are all hitting below the belt, it doesn’t give us the right to respond in kind.

If at all possible I’d really like to avoid our having to stoop to that level. I’m not going to say though that I’ve ruled out the possibility that it could come down to that, but I’d like to hold off for at least for a few more days to see how things develop.

Phillips is obviously now engaged in the “politics of destruction.” He’s set this up through his close friend Matt Chancey in such a way that he thinks he’s got some plausible deniability. But the reality is he doesn’t have any more plausible deniability over Mrs. Binoculars than he does with the Still Fed Up “former Vision Forum interns.” It would take a very naive person to believe that he doesn’t exercise significant influence, if not outright control, over them all. Anybody who knows the relationship between them knows that all it would take to stop this war of words is a phone call from Doug Phillips. The only reason it hasn’t stopped is because Doug Phillips doesn’t want it to stop.

Joe, let’s keep all this in perspective. The real target of these “kinist” slurs isn’t Ministry Watchman or Frank Vance. The real target isn’t even Little Geneva (like you say, Little Geneva has always acknowledged that they’re kinists, and they seem proud of it too). The only reason Little Geneva ever got thrown into Phillips’ war of words is because they are a kinist blog, and any alleged “association” with them could be spun into a guilt by association story by Chancey.

The real target of all of this is the Epsteins. Phillips did them dirty by unjustly excommunicating them. The Epsteins spent almost two years trying to be reconciled. Phillips repeatedly refused the Epsteins’ overtures. The Epsteins then took their story public, first through Ministry Watchman, and then directly with their own blogs. Phillips is now intent on destroying the Epsteins and anyone that he perceives as having aided them.

Matt Chancey is Phillips’ primary hatchet man in his political war. Here’s how Chancey’s “logic” and political strategy progresses:

  1. Chancey overlays a picture of Jen Epstein on top of Ministry Watchman’s masthead. Voila! Jen is “Mrs. Binoculars.” Any objective-thinking person with reasonably good vision can plainly see they’re not the same person. I have rebutted that Jen is “Mrs. Binoculars” as has Jen herself. For us we thought the whole story was funny. But Chancey had already made up his mind about it, and therefore that makes it so. It’s essential to Chancey’s political strategy that he be able to merge Jen Epstein with Ministry Watchman, regardless of how thin the evidence. For Chancey the facts don’t matter, so he continues on with the next in his series of conspiracy theories.
  2. Having unequivocally established to the satisfaction of his own brain that Jen Epstein is the force behind Ministry Watchman, Chancey then moves to discredit Jen Epstein, and therefore also the Ministry Watchman that she is allegedly the force behind. To do so Chancey uses an old political trick of smearing the opponent with an allegation that the public would find morally reprehensible — racism. Racists are viewed by many as being as loathsome as wife-beaters and pedophiles. The very term “racist” is emotionally charged. The same applies to the term “anti-Semite.” Brand someone a “racist” or “anit-Semite” and many people will immediately take up a “you’re guilty until you prove yourself innocent” position.
  3. Chancey makes his “racist” accusation against Jen Epstein through guilt by association. The only “evidence” of an “association” comes from a couple of comments that Jen posted on Little Geneva, as well as favorable comments by Little Geneva of the Epsteins, and links from Little Geneva to the Epsteins’ blogs.
  4. Chancey applies the same guilt by association logical fallacy to Ministry Watchman. Little Geneva has spoken favorably of Ministry Watchman and linked to Ministry Watchman, and even before Ministry Watchman existed Little Geneva linked to Frank Vance’s blog. As far as evidence goes that’s not much to go on, but in Matt Chancey’s conspiratorial world that’s all that’s necessary to brand someone a “kinist” and therefore a “racist.”

Doug Phillips’ use of “former interns” and close personal friends masquerading as “independent investigators,” who in reality are nothing but political hatchet men, is malicious and vindictive. In my view Doug Phillips has accomplished nothing but to prove what the Epsteins were saying all along — Doug Phillips refuses to be held accountable, and anyone who attempts to do so will receive a “You’ll pay for this!” response.

The Epsteins have paid, and now Phillips is trying to make us pay too for agreeing to tell their story. Even the mere act of agreeing with the Epsteins in their efforts to seek reconciliation and peacemaking with Phillips just provoked an even more vindictive response.

Where do we go from here? Right now I’m not exactly sure, but here’s some things that I am sure about:

  1. Peacemaking and reconciliation is the biblical path for the Epsteins, Doug Phillips, and Boerne Christian Assembly. Regardless of anything that’s happened in the past, differences need to be set aside and reconciliation needs to occur for the sake of the peace and purity of the church.
  2. The Epsteins have agreed to peacemaking and reconciliation as a condition of becoming members at Faith Presbyterian Church, San Antonio.
  3. In order to best facilitate reconciliation, the session of elders at FPC have required that the Epsteins take down their blog articles. The Epsteins not only did that they even requested that Ministry Watchman do the same, and we have complied.
  4. Instead of responding in kind, Doug Phillips’ cohort has only escalated their ad hominem attacks.
  5. The Epsteins have, per their elders mandate, stayed off the blogosphere, not responding to the numerous attacks against them. They’re taking a verbal lashing without defending themselves, and in so doing demonstrating their sincerity for reconciliation.
  6. The Phillips cabal has only taken advantage of the Epsteins’s weakened strategic position by escalating their attacks while the Epsteins are unable to respond.
  7. One can only conclude that Doug Phillips’ intention, and the intentions of his “former interns” and Matt Chancey, is to sabotage reconciliation.

As I said over a week ago, “I’m more than just a little skeptical that further attempts at reconciliation with Doug Phillips will be productive. But I can also appreciate that if that’s an obligation that the Epsteins’ elders have for becoming members, and if the Epsteins really want to join Faith Presbyterian Church, then they at least have to make a good faith effort.” The Epsteins have now more than demonstrated a good faith effort, and just as I suspected would happen I now have even more cause to be “skeptical that further attempts at reconciliation with Doug Phillips will be productive.”

Joe, you might be able to soon convince me that Ministry Watchman should run your “Doug Phillips Is A Racist” articles, but for right now I’m still holding out a teeny bit of hope that Phillips will come to his senses and put a stop to this vicious slander. If we continue seeing the Epsteins being slandered as “kinists” and “racists,” and if Frank Vance and others continue being slandered, then there will be no doubt left in my mind that Phillips’ intentions are to sabotage reconciliation with the Epsteins. What incentive would we have left to cooperate any further? We’re certainly not going to continue being silent while we’re being slandered.

If the slander continues I may very well be forced into reevaluating the propriety of posting your articles. But I pray it won’t ever come down to that. I really wouldn’t like having to do something like that. I don’t want to see Doug Phillips ruined, and I’m afraid that the evidence that you’ve gathered could very well do that.

I’m very confident of one thing — if what you’ve assembled were to be widely disseminated to the home school moms that are the very lifeblood of Vision Forum, it would probably be devastating to Vision Forum. So far what you’ve written hasn’t been very widely disseminated. I’m familiar with how much traffic Indelible Grace gets (Lynn has shared that information with us), and I’ll just say that Ministry Watchman’s readership is multiple times more. Giving wide dissemination of the information that you’ve documented about Phillips would not be my first choice. My first choice would be for Phillips’ reconciliation with the Epsteins and repentance.

Joe, I trust that you’re a brother in Christ and that you will be praying along with us for a successful and Christ-honoring remedy to these matters.

Yours in the bonds of Christ Jesus,


Ministry Watchman Hacked and Highjacked

Sometime around 3:00 PM yesterday the Ministry Watchman site went down. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the site had been hacked. When I tried to log into the hosting server my password didn’t work. When I tried to reset the password that didn’t work either. I called the hosting company and had to spend a good deal of time on hold in the phone queue to get to a tech support person.

Tech support verified that the site had been hacked and all the WordPress application files had been deleted. Thankfully the hacker wasn’t able to get into the database files, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he was in the process of working on that too.

After verifying that the site had been hacked I sent emails to several other bloggers who have been covering the same story that we have (yes, I think there is probably a connection), as a warning:

About an hour ago the Ministry Watchman site went down. Here’s the only thing that now shows up:

Not Found

The requested URL / was not found on this server.

Apache/1.3.31 Server at Port 80

I’m on the phone right now with our hosting company. They verified that the site has been hacked. My password to the server no longer works. They’re trying to figure out how it happened. It’s hosted on a Linux server which they tell me is more secure than Windows servers. All of the WordPress application files have been deleted. Thankfully the database tables are still intact.

The hacker also got into the server control panel, unlocked the domain name and transferred it to a “George Gilbert”. They can’t tell me now how long ago he actually first got in. I don’t know how quickly the Whois info updates, but as soon as I get full access again I’ll be changing it back.

He used an email address of Tech support has relocked the domain name so that it can’t actually be transferred. They’re going to reset username and password so I can get back in. The hosting company maintains backups and hopefully they’ll be able to get everything back online tonight.

They’re going to try and figure out how this happened, but right now they’re just not certain. I’ll reset my server password to something a whole lot tougher to hack. I’d recommend you all do the same. Also, be sure you don’t use the same password for WordPress as you do for accessing your server.

Tech support tells me that they’re aware of some security vulnerabilities in WordPress and advised upgrading to the latest version. Considering the present climate I’d urge you all to take added precautions.

I’ll update you as I get new info. If you feel it would be beneficial to post this on your blog you have my permission. You’re also free to forward this to anyone that you think needs to see it.


It’s now almost 24 hours after I first noticed that the site had been hacked. I’ve regained control of my server account. The hosting company was able to restore the application files from a backup. However, that didn’t resolve other technical problems that were created by the hacking, so they had to spend additional time resolving those things too. I’ve had to go through my account settings and put them back the way they were. Whoever this George Gilbert is he put a lot of time and effort into trying to steal my site.

I’ve asked the hosting company to investigate this. If George Gilbert could do it once he may be do it again. Hopefully the hosting company will be getting back to me with additional recommendations on beefing up security. I also welcome input from any technically savvy webmaster types.

This obviously isn’t just the run of the mill hacker. As far as I know the typical hacker doesn’t try and also steal domain names. This is someone who’s probably a “professional” and someone who intends to steal my entire site. That would be the only logical reason why George Gilbert attempted to transfer the domain name.

Needless to say that’s a criminal act. I’m weighing my options.

I’ll leave it to others to speculate about who’s behind it.

Mark and Jen Epstein Seek Reconciliation with Doug Phillips

Charles Fisher and I received an email from Mark and Jennifer Epstein regarding an article that they’ve posted on their blogs (Peacemaking: The Biblical Response to Our Conflict With Doug Phillips and The Path of Peace and Purity). They gave us permission to repost their email here.

Dear Ministry Watchman,

Jen and I appreciate everything that Ministry Watchman has done for us in giving us the opportunity to tell our story. Now that the story has been told, we believe that it’s time to move on to a new phase.

We’ve just posted a new article on our respective blogs. As the article explains, we’re seeking membership at Faith Presbyterian Church in San Antonio. We’re also very grateful for the kindness and compassion that FPC has shown to our family. However, the issue of our “excommunication” from Boerne Christian Assembly needs to be resolved before FPC can admit us as communing members.

Our elders believe that as a prerequisite for becoming members we need to demonstrate a good faith willingness to be reconciled with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly. Our elders are very committed to Christian reconciliation. They’ve demonstrated that commitment by going through the Peacemaker Ministries training program, and several of our elders are “certified Christian conciliators.”

As you know, we’ve spent a good deal of time in the last two years attempting to be reconciled with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly. Obviously, we’re not at all opposed to reconciliation; for the sake of the peace and purity of the church that’s what we really want. But so far, our reconciliation efforts haven’t been fruitful.

Some of that is probably our own fault for being ignorant of the best way of going about seeking reconciliation. This is all new to us and there have been things that we just haven’t known to do. The elders that we first turned to to help us are very loving and sincere Christians, but they had no formal training in Christian conciliation. That’s not the case with our new elders. We believe that if anyone can help us our new elders can. They’ve been formally trained and they have a lot of practical experience.

As part of demonstrating our good faith intent toward seeking reconciliation, our elders are requiring us to cease blogging, as well as take down any of our existing articles, about anything negative having to do with Doug Phillips and Boerne Christian Assembly. After much prayer and receiving additional counsel, we agree that this would be the best approach. This is a very difficult decision on our part, but we believe that our elders are genuine about seeking what’s best for us, so we’re willing to submit to them.

We’re planning on taking our articles offline today. Those articles will remain offline in order to eliminate any factors that could potentially undermine or interfere with the reconciliation process. In doing this, we’re told that this will be “taking the high road” by demonstrating our willingness to submit to godly church elders, as well as our willingness to seek reconciliation through a formal, structured, and biblical process, guided by a Christian ministry that has a proven track record.

Jen and I have a request to make of Ministry Watchman, and particularly of Mr. Charles Fisher, who put so much time into interviewing us and reviewing documents to tell our story. We are not requesting this of any other bloggers who’ve been covering our story because we don’t have that kind of relationship with any other blogs. But we did develop somewhat of a collaborative relationship with Mr. Fisher and therefore we feel that we have a moral obligation to make this special request. In order to be consistent about “taking the high road,” we would like to formally request that Ministry Watchman take offline the articles by Mr. Fisher about our situation with Doug Phillips, thereby setting the most favorable environment toward reconciliation. We’d be extremely grateful if you’d do that for us.

Yours for the Gospel of Jesus,

Mark and Jennifer Epstein

As anyone who’s come to this blog in the past month would know, the Epsteins were excommunicated from Boerne Christian Assembly two years ago. Having been excommunicated obviously creates a serious problem for them trying to become members of any other church, especially when the church that excommunicated them has shown so little interest in reconciliation.

It’s important that churches honor one another’s discipline of their members, but that can only be ensured when churches discipline their members justly. But even where an excommunication was biblically just and followed due process, there always has to be a method for restoring the excommunicant. Excommunication isn’t permanent, at least for the repentant. The purpose of church discipline is to restore the sinner, not to permanently punish them.

I’m more than just a little skeptical that further attempts at reconciliation with Doug Phillips will be productive. But I can also appreciate that if that’s an obligation that the Epsteins’ elders have for becoming members, and if the Epsteins really want to join Faith Presbyterian Church, then they at least have to make a good faith effort.

The elders who are helping the Epsteins facilitate reconciliation with Doug Phillips and BCA are certified by Peacemaker Ministries. I’ve read some of the Peacemaker Ministries materials and respect what Peacemaker does. The Epsteins’ prior attemps at reconciliation with Doug Phillips probably didn’t include anyone from Peacemaker Ministries. Maybe this time they’ll have better success than the last. But even if they don’t at least the Epsteins are doing several significant things that their critics should take note of:

  1. The Epsteins are willing to submit to the authority of ordained church elders. Contrary to the accusations of their critics, the Epsteins are obviously not rebels, unsubmissive to godly authority, or attempting to avoid accountability.
  2. In spite of everything they’ve already gone through they’re willing to try reconciliation again. That should say a lot to their critics who have accused them of being angry, bitter, vengeful, etc. If they were any of those things they wouldn’t be attempting reconciliation again, especially through a group as serious about reconciliation as Peacemaker Ministries.
  3. The Epsteins are giving proof of their sincerity in reconciliation. Anyone who’s read their articles knows that they must have put many hours into them. The fact that they’d be willing to now take those articles down only a few weeks after putting them up, and so soon after Jen’s blog became one of the most popular WordPress blogs on the internet (out of hundreds of thousands of WordPress blogs), says a lot about how serious they are about seeking reconciliation.

I’m not sure I could ever do what the Epsteins are now attempting to do, but I do appreciate the sincerity of their desire to be reconciled. After everything the Epsteins have been through I think this says a lot about their character. What they’re doing is remarkable. They put a huge effort into writing their articles. Their blogs have attracted many thousands of visitors, and now they’re willing to take it all offline. What an example!

I’ve talked with Charlie Fisher about the Epsteins’ request to take down his Ministry Watchman articles. As far as I’m concerned the decision is his to make. We’re just a bit skeptical about all this, but for the sake of the Epsteins we’re willing to cooperate. Far be it from us to do anything that might stand in their way. So as of today I’m removing all our articles about Doug Phillips. To be especially charitable I’m going to also take down the article about Brad Phillips (I don’t want Doug Phillips to be able to use that as an excuse for not cooperating with the reconciliation).

As I got to thinking about this I realized what a fine example the Epsteins are now setting. In doing what they’re doing maybe there really could be some hope of reconciliation. Maybe the Lord will honor their obedience. Maybe theirs is an example that we should follow here at Ministry Watchman.

So what we’ve been talking about today is not just pulling Charlie’s articles offline but many of our other articles too. Our ultimate objective isn’t to expose corrupt ministers, but to see these men come to repentance and be reconciled with those that they’ve injured.

I think it’s worth a try, and if it doesn’t work we might come up with something else later on. Many of the other articles are about Ligonier Ministries. Out of all of those the one that continues to trouble each of us the most is Frank Vance’s exposé of the shady acquisition by Ligonier Ministries of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries. Ligonier’s recent firing of Don Kistler only confirms what Frank had alleged all along, that Ligonier Ministries had defrauded Don Kistler out of Soli Deo Gloria.

Nothing would please us more than if we were to receive word that Don Kistler and R.C. Sproul had entered into Christian mediation through a competent Christian mediation ministry (like Peacemaker Ministries). If that were to happen we’d be willing to do the same thing for Ligonier Ministries that we’re now doing for Doug Phillips. So what do you say Ligonier?

Please pray for the Epsteins, and pray for Doug Phillips and the members of Boerne Christian Fellowship. It sounds like the Epsteins have no intention of ever going back to BCA, but that should have no bearing on the obvious need for them to all be reconciled. Pray for the peace and purity of the church.

Doug Phillips: Villainy Behind the Mask of Virtue?


More Than Two Years After News Release Many Allegations Still Go Unanswered

I just received another comment from Terry, who according to his own testimony, and as confirmed by Joe Taylor, is “a friend of Joe Taylor and Dana Forbes, and was a member of Joe’s dig team that actually did raise the allosaur.”

Included with Terry’s comment is a copy of a Press Release from November, 2004, which Terry says that he personally assisted in writing. Because of its length, and because of it’s applicability to the current controversy surrounding Doug Phillips’ fakeumentary, Raising the Allosaur, I’ve elected to post the News Release as its own article here.



November 5, 2004

Villainy Behind the Mask of Virtue: Vision Forum Unmasked

The man behind the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, a project of Vision Forum Ministries that is supposedly “taking dominion for Christ in film,” owes homeschoolers all across the country an apology for violating their trust.

Vision Forum’s first film, Raising the Allosaur, is Phillips’ main credential for being a film festival sponsor and judge, all the while grossly violating #8 & #9 of his own 10 commandments for entering a film in his festival. Respectively they state: “Don’t steal other people’s work” and “Truth is essential to Christian films.” Doug Phillips calls his film a documentary, but it is misleading and grossly misrepresents the truth and steals from the hard work of others. The promotions and the jacket on the film itself begin the lying in order to sensationalize Phillips claims. In order to exercise his so-called “dominion,” Phillips has unethically stepped on the heads of several other Christian creation ministries and individuals, employing threats of legal action, making accusations and through innuendo.

This debacle surrounds an allosaurus story that Wendy Rigby of KENS TV first reported on two years ago. The film Raising the Allosaur catapulted the financially troubled Vision Forum into the lucrative market of films and dinosaur digs, offering outings for those that can afford $999/person among the homeschool community. Rigby’s story put Phillips on the media map—a huge benefit to the struggling outfit—but unfortunately (through no fault of Ms. Rigby) was highly misleading.

Phillips’ Vision Forum was over a million dollars in the red, according to a Dunn & Bradstreet report when Phillips met the Peter DeRosa family, which Phillips features in his film. Doug Phillips’ involvement with the Allosaur has been immersed in duplicity, slanderous lies, murky dealings and divisiveness.

In short, the controversy surrounds the excavation of an allosaurus discovered in northwest Colorado by landowner, Dana Forbes. Forbes, who originally found the allosaur in October, 2000 and is featured in the beginning of Doug Phillips’ film, was not given credit for the discovery. The Forbes abandoned both their land, and their dream of blessing the creation community through tours and scientific studies on the land, because of the deceitful actions of Doug Phillips.

Vision Forum deceived and bullied many parties involved in order to profit from the exciting discovery. Chief among them is Joe Taylor, who owns perhaps the largest creation fossil museum in the world, which is located in Crosbyton, Texas. Taylor, the lead site manager for the allosaur excavation, is not featured in Phillips’ film at all. Most of the allosaur featured in Phillips film was removed, plaster cast and sent to Taylor’s Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum in September of 2001.

Tom DeRosa, president of Creation Studies Institute and Mike Zovath, field representative for Answers In Genesis were part of the original dig. When the Vision Forum group came to the Forbes property in May of 2002 to film Raising the Allosaur over four partial days of digging, all that was left of the allosaur was the end of the tail, which had been plaster cast the year before to protect it from erosion.

By the time the Vision Forum group (composed primarily of homeschool families that paid $999.00 per person) had departed, the skull had not yet been found. This is why there is no footage of it being excavated in the film.

Based on notes which Taylor had made and shared of where the skull would likely be located if it had not eroded away, the Vision Forum group exposed a bit more bone. Dr. Bruce Bellamy, given credit in Phillips’ film for finding the skull, did in fact dig where he was told to and found the first articulated neck bone. But the Bellamy family has told witnesses that they tried to tell Phillips they didn’t find the skull as stated in the movie. At the time of this dig, Phillips and his tour group had no idea what it was that they had found. Others present concur.

Taylor’s professional excavation crew came in after Phillips’ tour group left and a member of Taylor’s crew, homeschooler Jordan Hall, digging in the company of other Mt. Blanco team members, Phillip Hall, Don Yaeger, Dave Babbit, Chantell Lines, the Forbes family and others, actually found the skull after several days of digging. Along with the rest of the bones, the skull was field-jacketed and taken to the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum. Subsequently legal demands and threats were made against Taylor to surrender the bones. Under threat of a lawsuit, and believing it wrong to sue a brother, Taylor reluctantly let them have it. The bones were taken to a makeshift “lab” owned by Doug Phillips.

Consequently, Taylor suffered devastating financial losses and has had to shut his museum down several times as well as sell his museum displays just to survive. Answers In Genesis Ministries and Creation Studies Institute have supported Taylor and tried to help him survive. Friends of Taylor agree that he suffered extreme financial and emotional hardships due to the self-serving actions of Doug Phillips. Phillips even used his Internet site to intimidate Taylor, calling him an enemy of homeschoolers and accusing him of persecuting the DeRosa paleo “prodigies” and being a greedy and jealous man. But these comments are contradicted by statements from many witnesses who were there.

The lies, misrepresentations and fraud surrounding the making of Raising the Allosaur instead raise serious questions about the character and integrity of Doug Phillips, who claims to be the “moral voice” of some 600,000 homeschoolers across the country. The Vision Forum website showcases Doug Phillips and his family as at the forefront of “taking dominion for Christ.” However, Doug Phillips appears to be far from the man he purports himself to be. Behind his mask of virtue hides a mean-spirited, dishonest man who uses his legal skills to bully those that dare to get in his way. Doug Phillips has always been right there with his legal team to protect these matters from coming to light, thus preserving their bad character as well as his lucrative “documentary.”

In a few days the faithful will gather at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival to hobnob with some of the most well-known Christian film makers around, and Doug Phillips will be basking in glory and hyping his fraudulent film. On the Raising the Allosaur film jacket, Phillips states “What happens when a group of home school boys and girls travel to the badlands of Colorado with their parents in search of adventure and the hope of finding ancient treasures buried in rock? They make the biggest dinosaur discovery of the year…They raise from the ground what appears to be the most complete Allosaur ever found in the history of paleontology, including the monster’s giant skull complete with rows and rows of once-razor sharp teeth.” However, one might better ask, “What happens when a supposed moral leader resorts to deception, fraud, threats and strong-arm tactics to deny others their rights and to produce a film that is full of half-truths and outright lies?”

Many in the Christian and homeschooling communities would like answers to this and a host of other questions surrounding this story. They would like to see this situation investigated and proper restitution given to the victims. It remains to be seen how much longer the Christian community will allow itself to continue to be duped by Doug Phillips, but it would only add insult to injury if Raising the Allosaur brought further fame and fortune to a man who seems devoid of conscience through the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.

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