Mark and Jen Epstein Seek Reconciliation with Doug PhillipsPosted: January 16, 2007 Filed under: Doug Phillips, Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul, Vision Forum 31 Comments
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I write this sincerely, and I think this is worthy of serious evaluation and response. Is the premise that there is a need for reconciliation a true premise? If there is no change in the ravening wolves, and they continue on in their false ways and deeds, does “reconciliation” do anything more than to help to cover and enable their false ways and deeds against the testimony of the truth we profess and against the sheep, God’s people? Remember John Steinhausen’s comment in December about the wolf and the sheep. If what has been written is accurate (I think that it is accurate), what is needed is not reconciliation but exposure, reproof, and a call for repentance. Certainly not in a trace of vengeance nor anger, but in true forgiveness and love (which Mark and Jennifer showed in their deeds and words — they showed true forgiveness and love). Where in Scripture do the true men of God even want reconciliation with false prophets and with destructive leaders? Of course we should love Doug Phillips, and also love the many others who have closed with him, and genuinely pray for their repentance and salvation, but according to Scripture, such people and deeds should be exposed, reproved, rejected, and called to repentance, not pursued in an effort for reconciliation with them. Today I spoke with a former missionary to Morocco, who had just yesterday sent me an e-mail about a serious missionary effort he knew and helped in Darfur. I wanted to tell him about the problem with the film that caused deaths of Christians in Darfur, and now the article is removed. If that article is accurate (I think it is accurate), does the removal of facts and the alternative effort for “reconciliation” help the people of God who are again vulnerable to only further repetition of what was done in the past? or does that only cover and further enable the false doers of those things? I am strongly reminded of Bill Clinton in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, waving his finger and putting on the fiercest countenance he could make, denying any inappropriate behavior. If those who said the truth concerning him later went silent about the truth of what he did and instead wanted to reconcile with him, how quickly would Bill Clinton have wanted to reconcile, “Yes, I’ll forgive them for everything, and we will make up and pretend none of this was ever done.” If Doug Phillips — and also many of those on his side in these things — is what he has been and has done the things described (accurately), how is reconciliation with such a false prophet and leader right? Mark and Jennifer, this man and his servants have viciously attacked and harmed both of you and also your children: besides a repetition of such against yourselves, what about others who will not realize the truth and can be harmed as badly as you have been harmed? Not only harmful to the sheep and the flock of God’s true people, reconciliation would convey that he is acceptable and accepted, the worst thing true believers could do to a man still lost in his sins and grossly misleading others. Will the same reconciliation be pursued with R. C. Sproul, Sr., John Duncan, and others who so falsely and wickedly did their deeds against a child of God, against the Lord, against His people? I think that this is a false way, though I do not doubt the sincerity and love of Mark and Jennifer Epstein. What wolf would not accept reconciliation from those who have discovered and confronted the wolf? To reconcile with the Phillips or with the Sproul family would only leave them more able to continue the same against others.
Since R.C. Sproul is also a member of the PCA (If I correctly understand his ordaination charge), it’s evident to me that part of joining a PCA church will also entail the Epsteins reconciling with him. Will this not also involve taking down their blog postings about Ligonier Ministries?
I’ll have to say that after seeing some of the things that I’ve seen posted on a couple of attack the Epsteins blogs last night I’ve got serious reservations that Doug Phillips is at all interested in reconciliation. He may think that he can hide behind Chancey and his “former interns” and claim some plausible deniability, but we all know that all it would take is a call from him to silence them. He obviously hasn’t done that, and this is something that they can only take as a green light.
The Epsteins took down their blog articles in obedience to their elders, and to make a good faith gesture to Doug Phillips that they’re serious about reconciliation. We’re not interested in standing in their way, so I complied with their request to take down our articles too.
It’s obvious to me that there’s no hope of reconciliation if everyone isn’t willing to turn down the rhetoric, and that includes Ministry Watchman.
Almost immediately after the Epsteins made their overtures of reconciliation the Phillips/Chancey cabal actually intensified the rhetoric. One could easily interpret this as a deliberate attempt to sabotage reconciliation, and just more payback. I find this very troubling, and so far this only serves to confirm the validity of the Epsteins’ articles.
Doug Phillips could immediately instruct his operatives to cease their campaign of the “politics of personal destruction.” He could also agree right now to enter into Christian conciliation with the Epsteins. If he did those things it would demonstrate that he’s not one of those “ravening wolves” you mention.
I think the Epsteins are being very gracious by giving Phillips the opportunity to do the right thing now, even though he may not have done right by them in the past. Phillips is now faced with a choice — doing the righteous and biblical thing, or doing the political thing by continuing the attack campaign. Lots of people are paying close attention.
Interesting question, Reformed Calvinist. I guess that remains to be seen. I don’t know if the Epsteins believe that they need to be reconciled with Ligonier. The situation with Doug Phillips is entirely different from Ligonier. As far as I know the Epsteins haven’t claimed that they were ever personally harmed by Ligonier.
The same is the case with us. Frank Vance has never claimed that he was personally harmed by Ligonier. In my article above I didn’t say that Ligonier would need to enter into conciliation with Ministry Watchman and/or Frank Vance for us to be willing to take down our Ligonier articles. My suggestion was that Ligonier do that with Don Kistler.
One thing I’ll say to Ligonier’s credit that I can’t say about Doug Phillips. They learned a valuable lesson from suing Frank Vance. All it did was bring them disastrous PR results. They backed off and let the story die. We’re not getting nearly as much traffic to those articles as we once did. Ligonier didn’t do the biblical thing, they did the political thing, but at least they learned a few things from their mistakes. Now they’re being politically savvy by just ignoring us and letting the story die.
Doug Phillips isn’t stupid (even the Epsteins have acknowledged how smart he is). He’s not likely to repeat Tim Dick’s lawsuit debacle. But he still isn’t getting it. He doesn’t seem to perceive how his unbiblical, politically motivated retaliations against the Epsteins, and against Ministry Watchman, and against any high-profile politically incorrect blogger that has ever said anything negative about him, is already starting to create a PR debacle for himself.
Frank Vance expressed early on in his writing about Ligonier Ministries that he had no interest in seeing Ligonier ruined. He’s openly stated how much he’s admired RC Sproul. All he ever wanted was to see Ligonier act consistent with their biblical teaching toward others, especially their donors and employees. Ligonier retaliated with a lawsuit, which proved disastrous for them, but they learned from their blunder, or at least as of right now it appears they learned (actually, we’re not even so sure of that — after all they did threaten to sue again if they ever found Frank).
I know that Charles Fisher has no ill will toward Doug Phillips, and I have no ill will for him either. We’d just like to see him operate consistently with the biblical values that he teaches, just as any prominent Christian leader should. But that’s not what’s happening.
What’s happening right now isn’t just unbiblical, it’s not even politically smart. The retaliations of Phillips’ political henchmen are just fueling dramatically more interest in the story. The more the interest in the story the more broadly the story gets spread around. Rather than learning something from what happened with Ligonier, Phillips is actually making the same kinds of mistakes by helping to disseminate the story. How any of that could be beneficial to Vision Forum is beyond me. But then I never could understand why Tim Dick did what he did either.
I have a couple thoughts…
First of all, I honestly do not believe that Doug Phillips will subject himself to the final ruling of Peacemakers or anyone else. While I have the greatest respect for Ken Sande and the others who have worked long and hard in the past for reconciliation, with much success in some cases, in thinking about this, I think Doug Phillips willturn down this opportunity because he has much more to lose if he is found guilty than the Epsteins do if they are found guilty. If he agrees to abide by their ruling, it might involve confession of sin via his blog (I believe it must). If he is willing to submit to these authorities, which is doubtful since he doesn’t seem to submit to authorities now, then perhaps there is hope for him.
Nonetheless, the willingness of the Epsteins to submit to the authority of a church and Peacemakers really does make their case for them. I wish them well and pray that justice and mercy will reign.
Watchman, you wrote, “What’s happening right now isn’t just unbiblical, it’s not even politically smart.”
Ya know…. when Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, even after a number of plagues fell on his head, that wasn’t very smart either. But Pharaoh kept right on in the path he had chosen.
God isn’t blind, and when a ministry starts teaching unbiblical things and abusing people, He sees what is going on. Sometimes He brings the erring minister back into line, and sometimes He just puts a stop to the whole mess.
This is speculation on my part, but, maybe this denseness on Phillips part is a little bit like Pharoah’s selective stupidity, and for the same reason.
I couldn’t disagree more. Christian conciliation, at least with a group like Peacemaker Ministries, isn’t like going to court, and the conciliator isn’t a judge that pronounces a sentence. The parties themselves control and determine the outcome. It’s up to them to decide the best way to resolve their dispute. The conciliator can’t make the Epsteins or Phillips do anything. All he does is help facilitate the process of reconciliation.
Phillips has everything to gain and nothing to lose by agreeing to Christian conciliation. If he doesn’t agree it’s very likely that he’ll suffer a great deal of harm to his public reputation.
Concerning the PCA church’s conditions for “reconciliation….
Frankly, I am appalled.
It looks to me like it’s Phillips and Co. who need to repent. The fact that PCA is willing to consider these people as Christian brethren at all is unsettling; moreover the Epsteins are not the only ones who have been hurt by Phillips and their like. The Epsteins “outed” Phillips, and did the Body of Christ a favor by doing so. They have certainly done nothing wrong. IMO, the Epsteins deserve a medal, and PCA ought to be ashamed of themselves for sweeping this back under the rug instead of addressing the problem for what it is.
The Bible says,
2Cr 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
Cynthia, I recognize that there may be many people like yourself who have that opinion, which is the very reason why I struggled with whether or not to even approve your comment. I approved it only so that I could address it and hopefully head off any other similar comments.
Alleging that we have the right to judge the condition of another man’s soul and not “to consider these people as Christian brethren at all” puts us in the place of God.
I take as much offense with that as I have in seeing John Duncan and others claim that “because Frank Vance doesn’t act like a Christian he therefore isn’t a Christian.” Frank Vance’s personal testimony is that he is a Christian. Doug Phillips personal testimony is that he’s a Christian. We have a biblical obligation to take them at their word. It’s not for us to say that merely because a man has sinned that he’s not a brother in Christ. If that were the case then none of us would ever qualify as Christians.
I recognize that there are probably many who will question the wisdom of what the Epsteins are now doing. They’re taking a risk. I’m not sure I’d be willing to do it if I were in their position, but I’ve never been in their position and it’s best that I not speculate.
From what I understand about Peacemaker Ministries they do everything possible to make the process of reconciliation as “peaceable” as possible, and it’s not the sort of thing where the Epsteins are at all likely to get burned. It doesn’t even need to take a lot of time. It seems to me that it’s worth a try, and if Phillips refuses or ignores the offer then it will only reflect all the more negatively on him.
M.W., In a certain and ultimate way, no one can see another’s heart except the Lord. Also, every one of us is utterly unqualified and also clearly forbidden to judge or condemn anyone. I am the worst sinner I have ever met. Charles Spurgeon was the worst sinner he had ever met. Each one of us is the worst sinner each one of us has ever met, after Matthew 18:21-35. The truth of Scripture also says that we can know others by their fruit. A good tree produces good fruit, and there is an abundance of corrupt fruit in these people. Not only an abundance of corrupt fruit, but over a long period of time. David did extreme sins, but he did not continue in his sins for years. He repented in truth (he didn’t attack Nathan), and David’s life was not an ocean of unbroken sin for years or decades. When Bill Clinton was the President, years before his involvement with the young intern, I and many others became convinced that he was not a true believer, though he specifically claimed to be a born again man and was ready to quote Scripture. The conclusion was caused by Clinton’s fruit. M.W., I don’t mean this at all provocatively nor unkindly: after all the deeds we know about Doug Phillips and the Sproul family, do you think that it is right to view them as believers? Your own identity (and mine the same) is not openly known, because of concern for what they may do if they could find you (or me). These men have strongly proven themselves to be vicious, very wicked men. There seems a strong similarity in this to Alexander the coppersmith. If you were a pastor dispensing the bread and juice in communion, could you righteously hand the communion elements to Doug Phillips or Dr. Sproul, Sr., knowing the many things you know about them? I don’t mean a judgementalism that says you are better, nor remotely any such pride or lack of true love toward them, but knowing how they would further endanger themselves if they partook of communion with your agreement. I sincerely ask you, please tell me if you think I am missing things in this. One of the strongest things that moved me in all of this was Jennifer Epstein’s genuine love and desire for Doug Phillips to repent. Remember how she wrote about him, and about Ryan Phillips and others, wanting the best for them, for them to be conformed to Christ. Also, I genuinely want Doug Phillips to repent in truth, and to be conformed to Christ. There must be reality. To treat Doug (or Dr. Sproul, Sr. as he now is) as a believer, and as an equal in a pursuit of reconciliation, is a false way to go, I think. Wrong for the testimony of the truth we profess before the world, wrong for the true children of God, and wrong in the communication to the false men that they are not so greatly needing to repent. If Doug, and Dr. Sproul, Sr., and their allies, truly repent, the reality will be very clear and unmistakable. Paul wept over those whom he described in Philippian 3:18,19.
So, Watchman, are you saying that this is not a binding arbitration? In other words, there will be no deciding who was right and who was wrong? Then I am wondering what the point will be. I mean, the BCA pronounced judgement on the Epsteins and why would they care to put themselves in a position of having to back down on that? I am missing something here.
I agree that there are some “fruit” issues to be examined. But that’s just the problem. Many have defended RC Sproul on the basis that he and his ministry have produced a lot of good fruit, and I’d agree that he has. I like Dr. Sproul’s teachings too, which just makes it all that much more difficult to try and reconcile those good fruits with the bad fruit that we’ve seen exposed here in recent months.
Doug Phillips could also be defended on the basis of the fruit of his works. However, there is one obvious difference between the two. Sproul has seldom ever been a controversial figure, whereas Phillips has often caused controversy and even divisions in the church because of some of his views. But I’m not going to say that just because he’s controversial that disqualifies the good fruit that he’s produced.
So the problem that we must confront when examining fruit for the purpose of determining whether or not someone is a brother in Christ is one of personal perceptions and even personal preferences. Those who like Sproul have made this very argument of justifying him by his good fruit. To them they see thirty years of good fruit through his ministry and believe that warrants ignoring the last couple years altogether.
The biblical solution would be to have a church authority that these men are accountable to do the fruit examining, not us. But that’s just the problem. Phillips isn’t accountable to any church authority, and so long as Sproul continues pastoring an independent nondenominational church, parking his ordination in the PCA doesn’t give him any real accountability either.
I’m not an expert on how Peacemaker Ministries functions and what information I do have I won’t claim that I can present flawlessly. If we have any Peacemaker conciliators who want to weigh in on this I’d welcome that.
From what I understand, Christian conciliation isn’t the same thing as arbitration, which is another form of conflict resolution. Arbitration is a lot more formal and can be legally binding. An arbiter acts as kind of a judge and has authority to impose judgements.
I believe that Peacemaker may offer that too, but I don’t think that’s what the Epsteins have asked for. They’re probably trying to keep it as simple as they can. I haven’t asked them this but if Doug Phillips were to insist on binding arbitration they’d probably be willing to do that too.
I can’t answer your question about “deciding who was right and who was wrong.” I’m not sure about that. I agree that BCA pronounced judgment on the Epsteins and excommunicated them. I don’t think that Peacemaker Ministries gets into challenging the validity or invalidity of an excommunication. They just attempt to reconcile the parties.
My question for you is do you consider excommunication to be a lifetime sentence? Shouldn’t there be some biblical method of restoring the excommunicant, where it’s deemed appropriate? If you know of a better way of doing that than Christian conciliation I’d like to hear about it.
As I understand church discipline, churches expect other sound, Biblical churches to uphold their discipline. In this case, the PCA church would be bound, according to the BCA, to also acknowledge their discipline. As I can see it, the only options are for 1) the PCA church to look at the evidence and state that the Epsteins were falsely and illegally excommunicated and state so 2) uphold the excommuniation and then work to bring the Epsteins to repentance, as required by the BCA. If the latter is the case, then a second church would either have 1) abused the Epsteins or 2) accurately disciplined them, too. If the former is the case, then how can there be any reconciliation between the Epsteins and the BCA?
What I am trying to say is that in order for reconciliation to happen, this matter of the excommunication, its validity, which as been brought into question on this site, must be established. So saying that there are steps being taken to reconciliation seem to me to be putting the cart before the horse. What am I missing?
Doug P is going to take unlawful advantage of this as best he can. Stuff exposing his treatment of the Epsteins will be to a large extent unavailable now while his minions continue to attack the Epsteins. When the whole effort fails to move DP to repentance will the Epsteins put their posts back up for the sake of the truth and protecting potential future victims? I hope so. – Dennis
I’m sure that they do recognize that BCA excommunicated the Epsteins. That’s not in question.
BCA isn’t a Presbyterian church, so FPC (PCA) wouldn’t have any authority to function in this case as an appellate court. In fact BCA isn’t even part of any denomination at all, which means that Doug Phillips is the Epsteins’ only court of appeal. This puts the Epsteins into a real bind. If BCA rebuffs their efforts at reconciliation, how could the Epsteins ever have this blot of excommunication removed from them? Obviously they have no choice but to seek other avenues.
FPC is giving the Epsteins the opportunity of demonstrating the sincerity of their desire for reconciliation. That in itself could be interpreted as an indication of past and present repentance. If Phillips doesn’t reciprocate it’s likely to only confirm what the Epsteins have already said about the injustice of their excommunication. If Phillips doesn’t even show up to protest the Epsteins’ application for FPC membership, that too would probably mean something significant to the FPC session.
“We have a biblical obligation to take them at their word.”
“The biblical solution would be to have a church authority that these men are accountable to do the fruit examining,not us.”
I’m not sure of the Biblical support for either of these comments.
Christ’s direction for us to examine fruit was not given to the church, but to his followers. Nor do I see Paul ever make the case that only those in “authority” are able to do said examining.
Likewise, I do not ever see a Biblical injunction to take people “at their word.” I do see warnings to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Also, to “test the spirits” and we are warned that in the last days there will be deceptions to the extent that even Believers could be deceived.
I don’t think we simply take people at their word simply because they have born what appears to be “good fruit.” The antichrist will have the power to even resurrect from the dead. While I am NOT (repeat NOT) drawing any sort of comparison between Phillips (or Sproul) and the antichrist, my point is that why do we think that our enemy Satan cannot give someone the power to do what *looks* like good fruit? I’m not even saying that Satan is what is behind Phillips/Sproul. I hope everyone can see that my point is that I personally cannot accept Phillips’ (or Sproul’s) word that he is a believer simply because it looks like he has done good things in the past.
As to the requirements for the Epsteins, I too stand in bewilderment. I guess my bewilderment comes from when in the world did the Church start needing “certified” reconciliators?
Just adding to my above comment, it seems to me that trying to say that Doug Phillips is the Epsteins only court of appeal is about like “straining at gnats and swallowing camels.” I appreciate the Epsteins’ desire to honor God in all things, and the PCA’s desire as well. I’m just not sure this is the way. But that is my opinion which with $1 can’t even get you coffee these days (unless McDonalds counts.). I am not Presbyterian and so therefore do not understand this binding to the law in the same way as it appears my Presbyterian brothers and sisters do. I do pray that if any sort of reconciliation does occur on Phillips behalf that it is genuine and not just more smoke and mirrors, deceiving even more to a greater degree.
I think it is very hard to find the balance between warning the flock (which is how I viewed all that the Epsteins and others have written) and turning the other cheek (pulling the blogs and seeking reconciliation). May God bless these efforts and may Phillips/BCA truly repent for their actions, without which I don’t see HOW there can ever be true reconciliation – not forgiveness (which is always required on our part and which the Epsteins have granted by God’s grace) but reconciliation.
One would think if Phillips were serious about reconciliation, he would ask his colleague and friend, Matthew Chancey, to take down his ridiculous website.
Well, “JenEpstein- JusticePrima- formerly-known-as- FrankVance- MarkEpstein- HarrySeabrook- Watchman” and anyone else you are pretending to be, I don’t think that this will make it, but I was a supporter of yours before and even posted a few times here as Kate.
You’ve dragged Indelible Grace into this mess and countless others. When will you stop? I’m even convinced you called me this week at my home. Please for the sake of everyone involved (which would include Natasha, your other children and anyone who has ever been associated with you – stop the lying.
It’s sad to hear that you’re convinced that anyone from Ministry Watchman called you at home. We didn’t. I don’t know if that’s a good enough answer for you since you’re already convinced otherwise. How do you convince someone otherwise who’s already made up their mind?
Maybe one way is to tell you that I’m confident that Jen Epstein isn’t Justice Prima. How do I know? Because Justice Prima has posted on Ministry Watchman a total of nine times, all from the same IP address, from an SBC residential account, and from a state far, far away from Texas, and far away from anyone from Ministry Watchman as well.
Kate, if you had just had the courtesy of emailing me I would’ve been happy to have cleared this up for you. But instead of attempting to get the other side of the story you have falsely accused Jen Epstein. You’re also falsely accusing Ministry Watchman. Much of what you’ve recently written on your blog is a correct interpretation of the Bible, but you’ve done a bad thing but failing to get both sides of the story. You’re jumping to conclusions. You need to go back and review the 9th commandment.
You’re convinced that Jen Epstein is all these various internet identities. From what little I know about Jen I’m impressed with her. But I’m not impressed enough to believe that she’s some kind of internet wonderwoman who’s capable of impersonating numerous personalities. Jen not only did an incredible job of writing her story (no doubt very time consuming in itself), she was even willing to take her articles down in order to prove the sincerity of her willingness to be reconciled with Doug Phillips. Do you now think that’s a bad thing?
“When will you stop?” Well as far as articles about Doug Phillips go, Ministry Watchman has agreed to cooperate with the Epsteins by taking down those articles. Is that a bad thing? The Epsteins took down their articles so that they could best pursue reconciliation with Doug Phillips. Is that a bad thing?
I don’t understand why you’re being critical and what it is you think we’re supposed to stop doing.
Kate, I’m surprised about your allegation that Ministry Watchman has “dragged” anyone “into this mess.” I give my fellow Christians far more credit than that. Do you really believe that anyone but the most naive would be gullible enough to not examine the facts for themselves and come to their own conclusions?
Kate, are you the same person who already made false accusations against Jen, claiming that she was posting as Spunky on your blog?
I am not Jen, I have never met her, I don’t know anything about her I haven’t read on the same websites you have, and I don’t have anything to do with Ministry Watchman.
You are making false accusations. I think you need some help.
“Kate, I’m surprised about your allegation that Ministry Watchman has “dragged” anyone “into this mess.” ”
Uhhh, Kate, I am Lynn from indelible grace. I drag myself around where I choose to go, and I am thankful for the freedom I have to do that.
I thought you would have learned your lesson when you falsely accused Spunky of being Jen Epstein and called
her a “liar”. It is obvious you haven’t learned. How
I agree with Justice Prima. It sounds like you need
to get some help.
Kate, since I sent a comment to your blog which was by no means inflammatory or over the top, and you didn’t approve it, I’m writing one here. I don’t mind that you didn’t approve my comment, mind you. It’s your blog and that is your privilege. My comment — after reading your blog, and seeing the wild accusations you made against Spunky, Jen, and Justice Prima, you are NOT doing Matt Chancey any favors by being one of the very few I have read who supports what he is saying.
It is very possible for people to fake internet IDs and have multiple identities, and it happens all the time, but your suspicions go way over the top. The writing styles of all three of these women are different, for one thing, and for another thing, what does it matter, in the final analysis? You know that the Epsteins are real people, and you have seen the primary documents of BCA and the letters, which are still up on Jen’s site, and you know what their complaints are about BCA. Why not just focus on the issues that are known entities, and stop worrying about all the things you can only guess at?
I have been checking my site meter against my blog comments, and it is my thought that Justice Prima is very, very far away from Texas, which is where the Epsteins are. I agree, you owe her an apology.
And if you don’t have one, get a site meter on your blog, or some kind of free counter. It will help you sort out fact from fiction.
It’s interesting that you are forgetting that I admitted my MISTAKE of not believing SPUNKY and even admitted that on my blog. Why do you not go there and see for yourselves? Karen (Spunky) is not being maligned at all. I have nothing but respect and admiration for her, she has been, as far as her comments on her blog over the year I was reading SpunkyHomeschool, nothing but helpful, especially when she did the expose on the Pearls and their teaching. Why, why would I say anything about her. No, I thought someone was using her name to get me to believe a certain way.
Read my posts, and see that I did apologize to Spunky for not believing it was her real, honest-to-goodness self.
I do not forget or ignore that you apologized to Spunky. My point is, you did not apologize to the person you wrongfully accused of being a poseur- Jen.
You accused JEN of posing as Spunky. You were wrong. Jen did not pose as Spunky, so you falsely accused Jen and owe Jen an apology more than you owed one to Spunky. You don’t seem to realize that your false accusation of Jen reflects badly on you- not on Jen.
You also don’t seem to realize that your big goof up with Spunky ought to prove to you that you really aren’t very good at this guessing game. It should have prompted an attitude of humility; instead, you’ve come out swinging with more unfounded attacks against Jen, and new attacks against me.
I also think it is the height of cowardice to publish false accusations against me on your blog and then refuse to publish my comments defending myself.
Kate, you gave an apology to Spunky, after you accused her. But you have not apologised to JP. You made the insinuation she is being played by liars. You won’t let my comments through on your blog, so I will discuss the matter with you here, of course, at the discretion of this blog team:
“Exposing liars can be a tiring task”
“*UPDATE: Innocent people are being played by players who want to sow discord among the brethren. JUST WHO IS JUSTICE PRIMA? It seems I’ve seen that identity wherever Jen-you-know-who is being discussed and the new victim seems to be Matt Chancey that they’re trying to direct their attention to. What a very sad state of affairs. I even suspect Jen is the one who called me earlier to try to dig up dirt, or find connections.”
Matt Chancey is not an internet “victim.” He has come out with so far unproven accusations and smears, and a ridiculous assertion that we all need to see that the nose in MW’s masthead is the same as Jen’s nose in her picture. He is so using so many political logical fallacies you can’t help pay attention to him, and if he is in any sense a “victim,” it is his own fault, regardless of whether any of what he says is true or not.
It is not Matt Chancey we are *trying* to direct our attention to, btw. That is Matt’s desire, in case you aren’t politically saavy. He wants to get people to read him and he wants to deflect attention off the original issue of pastoral abuse and unjust church discipline. . . .
Your blog title about “liars” and your comment about JP being “played” by them is a bad insinuation, so bad you really need some concrete proof before you accuse known people, such as Jen Epstein, a liar. PROVE IT. WHAT ARE THE LIES, number one, and number two, WHO ARE YOUR WITNESSES? Jen has provided lots of signed primary documentation for her testimony. She has told us the church they are joining and the organization that is currently working with them. You have provided NOTHING. You were not one of the witnesses to these things, and this is not your testimony, so come out with the evidence so we can believe what you say.
I have seen nothing from JP but a desire for truth and an ability to be logical about things, and a willingness to admit she is in error, that quite frankly, warms my heart. And she owes no one on the internet detailed personal information. I’m getting tired of that red herring. If a person wants to post his real name and address and phone number and personal details down to giving details of his sex life, that is his business. He has NO business telling other people their arguments have no merit because they use pseudonyms, in the case when the people are discussing matters of public record.
Yes, everyone saw your apology to Spunky. That is NOT the point. The point is that you are appearing to have a pattern of blaming people of being Jen who are NOT Jen. You jump out in a most bizarre way and accuse people of being Jen (as in Spunky’s case). It would be better NOT to do that in the first place rather than having to keep apologize for committing the same error.
I have no doubt that you admire Spunky but that isn’t the point. You keep on blaming people of being Jen in an odd knee-jerk fashion. You seem to doubt anyone, even Lynn, is who they say they are. I don’t get it.
I think that Lynn had some wisdom for you in her post above. Just focus on the issues and stop making wild guesses (so far always wrong) about things you don’t know for certain. Also, get a site meter.
Do you know see that if you were so very wrong about Spunky you could also be so very wrong about Justice Prima and others you accuse of being Jen?
Okay, will you now apologize for your MISTAKE (which is a generous term at best in this case it would seem) in regard to your false accusations of Jen Epstein and others? If you did or will at your blog you ought to do so here as well since you falsely accused them here. – Dennis
Just an FYI. Reconciliation with Phillips is DOA. Phillips needs to repent…period.
BTW, seems Kate is at it again. She really should stop reading the “fiction” at SFU. 🙂