Doug Phillips: Will He Ever Be At Peace With His Brethren?Posted: April 10, 2007 Filed under: Doug Phillips, Vision Forum 8 Comments
It was on January 16 that I received an email from Mark and Jen Epstein, requesting that we take our Doug Phillips articles offline. The Epsteins made this request in the spirit of seeking reconciliation with Doug Phillips.
At the time I was very sceptical that reconciliation was even possible with a man like Doug Phillips, but I also didn’t think it appropriate to deny the Epsteins their request. After all, what the Epsteins sought to accomplish by requesting reconciliation through Peacemaker Ministries was entirely biblical. Besides which, if things didn’t work out (and I was reasonably confident that Doug Phillips would do what he wound up doing), it would take me all of just a few minutes to put the articles back up.
In the end my scepticism was more than warranted. Doug Phillips sabotaged reconciliation. After exhausting all their other remedies, the Epsteins put all their “Exposing Doug Phillips’ Ecclesiastical Tyrannies” articles back up, and I put our own articles back up too. Now the Epsteins have come out with another chapter to their saga. This latest story only confirms just how incredibly vengeful and vindictive that Doug Phillips really is. The Epsteins have dropped some hints about this before, but until now they didn’t name names.
Now the Epsteins have named Little Bear Wheeler as the pastor they went to after they were unjustly “excommunicated” from Boerne Christian Assembly by Doug Phillips’ personal Kangaroo Court. Little Bear Wheeler isn’t just a nobody. Little Bear Wheeler is the founder of Mantle Ministries. He’s been active in the home school community for a number of years, and he’s a highly respected leader in the home school movement. Little Bear Wheeler has been active in the home school movement at least as long as Doug Phillips has, and probably longer. It speaks very badly of Doug Phillips that he chose to dis an honorable man like Little Bear Wheeler.
Pastor Wheeler suggested that the Epsteins attend his church for six months while he worked at facilitating reconciliation between Doug Phillips and the Epsteins. However, Pastor Wheeler actually attempted to do so for fourteen months, all to no avail. In the end he had no choice but to abandon his reconciliation efforts.
The Epsteins later moved on and then attempted to join Faith Presbyterian Church of San Antonio. FPC also attempted to facilitate reconciliation. The Epsteins appeared to have greater hopes in reconciliation through the FPC session than through Little Bear Wheeler because several elders at FPC are “certified Christian conciliators” with Peacemaker Ministries. But if Doug Phillips would spurn a close personal friend like Little Bear Wheeler, why would he treat the FPC session any better?
At least Phillips knew not to ignore the FPC session for fourteen months, the way he did Little Bear Wheeler. Rather than ignoring FPC’s overtures, Phillips decided he’d better waste no time. Rather than postponing one meeting after another for fourteen months, Phillips met with the FPC session promptly, but just like Phillips did with Pastor Wheeler, he called the FPC session “wicked sinners for fellowshipping with excommunicants.”
What is the purpose of church discipline, and of excommunication as the most severe form of church discipline? According to the Westminster Confession of Faith:
Of Church Censures
I. The Lord Jesus, as king and head of His Church, has therein appointed a government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.
II. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the Gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.
III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the Church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.
Rather than acknowledging that church discipline is for the benefit of the sinner, to bring him to repentance so that he can be reclaimed by the church, Doug Phillips treats church discipline as a means of accomplishing his personal political agenda. Doug Phillips told Jen Epstein, “You’ll pay for this” and that’s exactly what he did. Church discipline isn’t about making someone “pay for this.” It’s for the purpose of bringing about repentance and reconciliation.
The London Baptist Confession of Faith (which was derived from the Westminster Confession), which Doug Phillips claims he subscribes to, makes it plain that church discipline decisions are to be made by church officers. Church discipline isn’t done by mob rule and Kangaroo Courts. It’s not something that’s put to a congregation to decide by majority vote, especially when the majority of a church are the pastor’s personal employees, as was the case at BCA (many of the BCA members were Vision Forum employees).
When other church officers have attempted to reclaim the Epsteins for the church of Jesus Christ, Doug Phillips has sabotaged those efforts through intimidation and allegations that having anything to do with the Epsteins makes them “wicked sinners.” Phillips’ objective isn’t about reclaiming the Epsteins for Christ, but relegating them to a perpetual state of punishment by shunning. Even the Epsteins’ children, which were never charged with any sin and were never the subject of church discipline, have been punished by Doug Phillips and the entire BCA congregation, by shunning. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses, which are notorious for shunning, know better than to do that.
The church of Jesus Christ is to be an instrument of Christ’s grace and mercy. Doug Phillips appears to know nothing of mercy. Rather, he is driven by entirely by personal agendas, and vengeance is one of his tools of that agenda.
What has Doug Phillips accomplished in the process? Did his vengefulness improve his reputation? Was anybody (besides Matt Chancey and his “former interns”) impressed? Has his church grown? Have sales at Vision Forum improved (the answer below)? If Doug Phillips had more common sense than pride he would have told the Epsteins, “It’s been two years since I disciplined you. Two years is long enough. We don’t want you back at BCA, but I’m pleased that you want to make yourselves accountable to a session of church elders. Accountability is good and they’re in a good position to examine you and determine your fitness to become members of their church. They’re in a good position to minister to you and help your family. I mean you no ill will, so go in peace. I won’t interfere with your plans.”
Doug Phillips didn’t need to agree to reconciliation, but he also didn’t need to sabotage the Epsteins wanting to become members of a Reformed church. Instead, Phillips undermined the Epsteins’ hopes of becoming FPC members and he even called the FPC session “wicked sinners for fellowshipping with excommunicants.” Are the FPC elders “wicked sinners”? That seems doubtful. What seems far more likely is that Doug Phillips is a self-righteous Pharisee.
I received an email from Ann. She gave me permission to post her email, provided I don’t use her full name. Ann has some good insights and I think her email deserves to be posted. Her email also addresses the question, “Have sales at Vision Forum improved?”
Dear Ministry Watchman,
I’m on Vision Forum’s email list and have been for a long time. If you ever order anything online from them (and I’ve ordered a lot of things from them before) you’ll wind up on their email list. In the past few months, including since prior to Christmas, I’ve been amazed by how many emails I’ve gotten from Vision Forum. Some weeks I’ve gotten an email from them almost every day, and practically all of them are sales discount notices. What gives with Vision Forum? I’ve never seen anything like this from them before. It’s obvious that their sales are way down and they’re getting desperate.
I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation between all the “exposing Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyranny” articles and the fact that Vision Forum is having to beg for orders. If there is then I hope that he comes to his senses and changes his ways soon. I’d hate to see Vision Forum brought to their knees. Doug Phillips still has some good things to say. He just needs to repent of being such an arrogant jerk and start serving the Lord and the Lord’s people in humility.
On Jen Epstein’s blog there are comments now about how Doug Phillips is retaliating against Mr. “Little Bear” Wheeler. Phillips has dropped Mr. Wheeler from the Vision Forum catalog, and he won’t even talk to Mr. Wheeler any more. It’s all over the fact that Little Bear welcomed the Epsteins into his church. Phillips is punishing Little Bear financially for not shunning the Epsteins. Now I’m seeing blog comments calling for a boycott of Vision Forum.
I don’t think an official boycott is necessary. It’s obvious that VF is feeling the sting already of families like ours using good stewardship over our finances. Probably all Jen Epstein or anyone else really needs to do is suggest that people exercise good stewardship by not supporting abusive ministries. I see that Jen did that on her other blog with Ligonier Ministries. Jen used to financially support them but now it sounds like she no longer does. It’s a question more of exercising biblical stewardship, not boycotting.
Our family is probably a lot like other Christian families. We’re careful to not financially support Christian ministries and businesses that get themselves embroiled in problems that they could have easily avoided. Doug Phillips is a controversial man, but it’s not controversy that we run from. What we don’t like are troublemakers, and Doug Phillips is obviously a big troublemaker, and very arrogant one too. It looks to me like just about every problem he’s gotten himself into was of his own making. The Ministry Watchman article exposing Phillips’ “Raising The Allosaur” video fraud is a good example. I deeply resent the fact that he used home schoolers to push his personal agenda with lies and lined his own pockets from it. I’m sad to say that we purchased that video. We won’t make that mistake again.
I’m impressed that the Epsteins offered Phillips a biblical way out of his conflict with them. I’m bothered that he refused their offer. It tells me a lot about what he’s made of. The man isn’t fit to head up a church, and he’s not fit to head up a Christian ministry. I’m not taking sides with the Epsteins. I’m sure they’ve made alot of mistakes along the way, but I also don’t think they deserve to be treated this way. No one deserves to have done to them what Doug Phillips has done to them.
In her latest article Jen Epstein has pointed out that Little Bear Wheeler also has a ministry to home school families, and that he sells a lot of the same items that Vision Forum does. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that Little Bear has been selling those items for a lot longer than Vision Forum has, and that rather than finding unique things to sell himself, Doug Phillips went into direct competition with Little Bear Wheeler by selling a lot of the same exact things. Given the choice our family will patronize Little Bear Wheeler rather than Doug Phillips. Needless to say, we also won’t be ordering anything ever again from Doug Phillips.
I’m also going to make a point of not attending any conferences where Doug Phillips speaks. I’m also going to send those conferences letters telling them my objections to their having him speak. I’ll send you a copy of my letter and you can post it if you like. Please just don’t use my full name. We’re very active in home schooling and even exhibit at home school conferences. I’m sure that Phillips would like to use his influence to hurt us (like he’s hurt Little Bear Wheeler) if he knew I was going to write some of the conferences he speaks at. If others would like to use my letter to send to home school leaders that they know they’re welcome to do that. If you have a big list of email addresses for home school leaders I’d like to get a copy of it.
I don’t think it’s right for any home school groups to be giving a man like Doug Phillips a platform to promote his personal ambitions. He’s become too much of a liability. I think a lot of home school groups don’t even understand Phillips’ agenda and they need to know about it.
Thanks for everything you’ve done.
Doug Phillips’ influence in the world of home schooling is considerable. Ann is well justified in her concerns and it makes a lot of sense that she wants to email home school leaders. I don’t have an extensive email list like what she’s asking for. If anyone does and they’d like to make it available, please email it to me and I’ll pass it along to Ann.
I hope that one day soon Doug Phillips will get smart and find a way to be at peace with his brethren. Doug Phillips has a lot of potential to do many good things for the church of Jesus Christ, as well as for Christian home schoolers. But unless Doug Phillips repents he also has the potential of doing us all great harm.
It was a sad day in Christendom when a younger man (this is relative in context) displays more godly wisdom and understanding than a man whose moral cowardice to confront Phillips leads him to participate in a Kangaroo Court.
Little Bear Wheeler is a courageous man. He lives the virtues he extols in the historical presentations he is famous for and presents unashamedly to homeschool families.
Were the men he portrays sinless or flawless? Absolutely not! Little Bear understands the sinfulness of man. However, he also understands what a regenerated man is capable of though he stumble in the path God lays before him.
Unfortunately, the young Doug Phillips does not (apparently) appreciate this concept. At the present time, Phillips is about vengeance. Phillips is about control. Phillips is about self-justification. Phillips is about taking unbiblical dominion. Phillips is about Phillips.
In a recent post on your site I asked Doug to repent. Jennifer’s and my fervent prayer is that he will heed this request. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God who will harden a man’s heart (Pharaoh being the classic example).
This is NOT to say that Jennifer and I are without fault. We have made it very clear that we made mistakes. Jennifer addressed those mistakes with specifics.
Moreover, this is NOT about the Epsteins “winning.” It is about brothers and sisters being RECONCILED.
Christ suffered the shame of death on a cross so that a holy God could be reconciled to sinful man. Are we to ignore this sacrifice on our behalf? Certainly not! In fact, to quote from Paul, “God forbid.”
Although Paul used these words in a different context, I do not think these words are out of place within the context of this situation.
Doug, if you or your supporters are reading these words, then please hear my heart: I LOVE YOU, Doug. I LOVE your family. I LOVE the brothers and sisters of the church you shepherd. Despite all that has transpired, I WILL CONTINUE TO LOVE YOU.
Doug, please, please, for the sake of peace and purity of Christ’s bride, let US glorify God together. Let us be reconciled. You know we reached out to you this past July. It was a genuine and humble request to HEAR YOUR HEART in full. Doug, you have so much to offer God’s people if you will only join with us in mutual submission to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This does NOT have to end in destruction. The Creator of the Universe is ON OUR SIDE. He is more than capable and He is more than willing to use our reconciliation for HIS GLORY.
Doug, please come; let us glorify the Lord together.
“Even the Epsteins’ children, which were never charged with any sin and were never the subject of church discipline, have been punished by Doug Phillips and the entire BCA congregation, by shunning. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses, which are notorious for shunning, know better than to do that.”
I agree. That’s a sure sign that Doug Phillips is only an amateur cult leader. It’ll be awhile before he graduates to the big leagues.
Big league cults like the JW’s have been around for over a hundred years. It took them a long time to figure out what to do and not to do. They’re professional cultists that have turned themselves into a multi-national multi-billion dollar business. When it comes to cult leaders, Doug Phillips is the new kid on the block. Be patient with him. Give the guy some time to properly develop into a professional cult leader. He’s already well on his way.
I just read an article about cult leaders and couldn’t help but think of how much it seems to apply to Doug Phillips. Scary.
How evil must a person who claims to be a Christian have to be before one stops referring to him as a brother in Christ? Mark, honestly, how much more does Doug Phillips have to do? Aren’t you risking making the word “Christian” a joke and/or undermining the credibility of your and Jen’s testimony against him? Aren’t we called by scripture to judge the credibility of the Christian profession of others *ever*?
Would Doug’s alleged misconduct mean less if Little Bear was “a nobody”? Surely what matters is that he is an honourable man? And doesn’t it also need to be taken into account by all the people posturing and “defending” him that he apparently has no problems with Doug and Vision Forum and says so here: “http://www.lwfchurch.org/statement.html?
The Little Bear stuff is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the misconduct of Doug Phillips. And, who knows, maybe Little Bear is a little clueless and/or chicken. People have been cowed by vicious cult leaders before. Regardless, nothing LB has done negates the enormity of DP’s evil even nearly enough to invalidate my question.
Little Bear is not “clueless and/or chicken.” He made his bed and now he will have to enjoy its “comfort.”
I just stumbled upon this website and article, and was compelled to comment. I have no affinity for or connection with Doug Phillips, and I have mixed opinions about Vision Forum products.
All I have to say to whoever Watchman is, and to the rest of the commenters is….step back and listen to yourselves. If I didn’t know that this was a supposedly Christian site, I would never, and I stress, NEVER, would have guessed that there was anything Christian about this site.
The bitterness, slander, and back-biting here is palpable and overwhelming, and I am sure that it profits noone anything.