Ligonier Ministries Responsible for Federal Vision Converts?Posted: July 9, 2007 Filed under: CREC, Doug Wilson, Federal Vision, Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul, RC Sproul Jr 39 Comments
“Back in the 1990s, Senior Sproul was an outspoken critic of Charles Colson’s, J. I. Packer’s and Cardinal Cassidy’s cult, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, but in the twenty-first century, he remains silent on the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, both forms of heresy rife in his denomination, the PCA; and he is silent on Norman Shepherdism, the form of Neo-Legalism rife in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Junior Sproul, while he was editor of Table Talk, the monthly devotional publication of Ligonier Ministries used to advance its theological agenda, made sure that Douglas Wilson appeared in the magazine monthly, and that his friends, Steve Wilkins and Steve Schlissel, appeared occasionally…
“The silence of the shepherds in dealing with the heresies in their own churches stems from their compromised philosophy and theology. They cannot clearly articulate their differences with Rome, or practice what those differences require, because at bottom they agree with Rome.”
The Silence Of The Shepherds, The Trinity Foundation
The Federal Vision / New Perspectives On Paul / Auburn Avenue theology controversy has been raging in Reformed circles for several years now, and especially so since the 2002 Pastor’s Conference at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Monroe, Louisiana, pastored by Steve Wilkins, where the theme of the conference was Federal Vision.
I view Federal Vision as one of the most divisive and dangerous doctrines that has ever been introduced into the Reformed church. Federal Vision is a deceptive assault on the doctrines of grace, and in particular the doctrine of justification by faith alone — Sola Fide. As such, Federal Vision is a pernicious belief system with eternal consequences. It’s made just that much more insidious because of the fact that all of it’s leading spokesmen hold themselves out as “Reformed.” Indeed, it’s not outsiders who have crept into the Reformed church to subvert it and lead it back to Rome, but rather insiders.
All of the key Federal Vision spokesmen have come from Reformed backgrounds, and all of them claim that they are still “Reformed.” They say they still believe in the Five Solas, but they have deceptively redefined them. Many of them claim to adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Yet, Federal Vision doctrine is contrary to the Five Solas, and contrary to the Westminster Confession on some of the most significant issues that the Confession expounds, such as the covenant, election and justification.
We haven’t dealt with Federal Vision here before, mainly because others are far better qualified to address it than we are, and some have. If you’re not familiar with this controversy, let me just say that it’s one of the more important theological issues to have confronted the church in many years. There aren’t many theological issues that can be as significant as soteriology — how man is saved.
Federal Vision has already infiltrated many Reformed churches. I say “infiltrated” because quite often the ringleaders would prefer to operate surreptitiously, rather than openly and honestly. If Federal Vision hasn’t already infiltrated your church, you should be prepared for it, and the way to be prepared is to study the issue for yourself. I’ve provided a list of some references at the end of the article, but this is by no means exhaustive. There is also much more available, both online, and in various books.
Reformed Presbyterian churches and their denominations have especially felt the impact of Federal Vision, particularly the PCA and the OPC. Many of their members, and even some of their pastors and elders, have started embracing Federal Vision, and many more embrace it privately and covertly. Indeed, the covert nature of Federal Vision, and the way that its promoters seek to stealthily infiltrate Reformed churches, is one of the things that troubles me so much about it. Its spokesmen have often shown themselves to be crafty and cunning infiltrators, rather than honest and straightforward about what they believe. They often twist words and meanings in a manner that bears striking resemblance to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In response to the onslaught of the Federal Vision within it’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America determined at their 34th General Assembly to appoint an “Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology.” The Report was finalized on May 11, 2007 and presented to the PCA at their 35th General Assembly. The Report was overwhelmingly approved by the GA. Only about 50 out of 1400 delegates voted against it).
It remains to be seen what will become of prominent Federal Vision spokesmen who pastor PCA (e.g. Steve Wilkins) churches. For the present things appear to remain in the “discussion” and “recommendation” stages. However, at some point the discussion will need to come to an end and action will need to be taken. The PCA cannot permit heresy in its midst. If it does then it will render itself irrelevant and little better than the PCUSA. The Truly Reformed will have no choice but to leave, and they will leave in droves. The PCA cannot and must not permit its own pastors to be guilty of promoting heresy.
At some point, and hopefully sooner than later, those PCA pastors who are guilty of Federal Visionism will either be required to recant and repent of Federal Vision, or they will be brought up on charges of heresy. Since it’s unlikely that any of them will recant, they’d be wise to flee those Truly Reformed denominations, such as the PCA and OPC, and escape to someplace that’s “Reformed” in name only. Doug Wilson’s Federal Vision boutique, the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, comes to mind.
Timing here is crucial. What they don’t want to do is to force their Presbyteries into a position of having to defrock them, and then they have no choice but to flee to the CREC. That’s what RC Sproul Jr did, and that was a big PR mistake. Better to flee before being defrocked.
It’s not that being defrocked makes any difference to the CREC. They have, and they will continue, to gladly welcome defrocked Presbyterian ministers, even if they were defrocked for very serious things like ecclesiastical tyranny and tax fraud (as was the case for RC Sproul Jr). So being defrocked as a heretic surely won’t pose any obstacle to getting into the CREC. Nevertheless, from an appearance standpoint, it would be wise for all the Federal Vision heretics to flee to the CREC before they wind up getting defrocked.
No doubt Doug Wilson is licking his chops now. The PCA’s Federal Vision Report can only mean one thing for Doug Wilson — church growth.
I recently came across an interesting statement on a blog run by Federal Visionist, Mark Horne:
Great stuff from Ligonier Ministries on the Lord’s Supper
Published by Mark, July 2nd, 2007 in Bible & Theology
Here is a an article from Ligonier Ministries’ TableTalk magazine on the Lord’s Supper. It is really good.
Mark Horne’s blog entry directs his readers to an article on the Lord’s Supper, originally published in Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine. The article was written by Federal Visionist, and PCA Pastor, Jeffrey J. Meyers. Mark Horne himself has had articles in Tabletalk.
Both Horne and Meyers are PCA pastors, and both pastor at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church, Saint Louis, MO. Jeff Meyers is also the author of The Lord’s Service, a favorite book among the Federal Vision crowd, and considered among many of them to be essential reading.
Jeff Meyers’ article had been written for Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine, during the time that RC Sproul Jr was Tabletalk’s editor. RC Sproul Jr not only tapped Jeff Meyers to write for Tabletalk, he also procured writing gigs for multiple Federal Vision / New Perspectives On Paul / Auburn Avenue Theology leaders Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, and Steve Schlissel. These and other Federal Visionaries appeared in Tabletalk during the time that RC Sproul Jr was editor. RC Sproul Jr also arranged for various Federal Vision spokesmen to speak at Ligonier conferences.
Not everyone would appreciate the significance of a Jeffrey Meyers article appearing in Tabletalk magazine. However, Mark Horne certainly appreciates it, and he recognizes what a coup it was to have a prominent Federal Vision spokesman’s articles appearing in the “devotional” magazine of the nation’s leading Reformed ministry. Others too had no trouble picking up on the message:
I have enjoyed telling people (especially in the last few weeks) that I first discovered both Biblical Horizons and Credenda/Agenda through Ligonier Ministries back in the early 90’s. R.C. Sproul is the reason I’m FV.
I’ve assumed for quite some time that Ligonier Ministries has had a hand in making Federal Vision converts. However, not many people like Sean have been willing to go public with such confessions. So for the Federal Vision converts that converted as a result of the articles that appeared in Tabletalk by Federal Vision authors, we can thank RC Sproul for that. In fact someone else commented on Mark Horne’s blog to do just that:
Mitch Jul 8th, 2007 at 9:56 pm
“R.C. Sproul is the reason I’m FV.”
Sean, I’m with ya bro!
Stop and think about the irony though. The publication of the most Reformed ministry in the country responsible for making Federal Vision converts. Too cool! I knew it was happening. It’s just refreshing hearing someone thank Ligonier Ministries for it.
As much as thanking R.C. Sproul we need to thank R.C. Sproul Jr. I don’t think his old man is FV. I don’t think so, but anyone who’s followed R.C. Jr knows he’s FV. I don’t understand why he tries to hide it. I just wish he’d come out of the closet about it.
However, is it reasonable to just “thank” RC Sproul Jr? Didn’t his father have a hand in his son becoming the editor of Tabletalk? Of course he did, just as his father continues to play a role in ensuring that the defrocked RC Jr continues to speak at Ligonier Ministries conferences. So why would Dr. RC Sproul have permitted his son to invite men who hold to such errant and even heretical theology to publish their articles in Tabletalk?
Was, and is, RC Sproul really ignorant of one of the biggest theological controversies to hit the Reformed world in years? No, he clearly is not. In fact RC Sproul attended the 35th PCA General Assembly, and rose in opposition to a motion to postpone a vote to adopt the Committee’s Report. His speech was compelling. So how could RC Sproul have permitted Federal Visionaries to write for Tabletalk and speak at Ligonier conferences, and yet not also understand that such men deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone? It simply appears inconceivable that one of the most knowledgeable and insightful Reformed theologians of our day could be knowledgeable and insightful, while at the same time being so incredibly ignorant of what those men represent and their attack on a doctrine which is key to the Gospel itself. It’s just not adding up.
RC Sproul is one of the leading champions of the Reformed Faith in the world today. He even wrote a book expounding the Reformed doctrine of justification entitled, “Faith Alone.” Federal Vision is one of the greatest threats to the Reformed Faith today, and especially the Reformed doctrine of justification. One would think that RC Sproul would have a vested interest in speaking out long and loud against Federal Vision. Yet, for the most part, he remains strangely silent. Why? If you search Ligonier Ministries’ web site you won’t find one mention of Federal Vision. Yet, his ministry has given a platform to the Federal Visionists. Why?
And what about RC Sproul Jr? Is he too really that ignorant? How can he claim to be “Reformed” while countenancing the very men who assault the very foundations of the Reformed Faith? How can he claim to be Reformed and yet some of his closest personal friends are prominent Federal Vision spokesmen? And why did RC Sproul Jr jump ship to join the one and only “confederation” that has dedicated itself to advancing the Federal Vision?
I just wish that RC Sproul Jr would start being honest and, in Mitch’s words, “anyone who’s followed R.C. Jr knows he’s FV. I don’t understand why he tries to hide it. I just wish he’d come out of the closet about it.”
RC Sproul Jr has already been defrocked for goodness sake. So it’s not like anyone in the Reformed world respects him anymore anyway. With the exception of Doug Phillips, the only friends he’s got left are in the CREC. Why not just admit to being Federal Vision?
Update, July 10: And Federal Vision Is Responsible For Roman Catholic Converts
I received an email from a gentleman, concerned that it took RC Sproul years to respond to the assault against the Reformed faith by the Federal Vision. However, it could be argued that Sproul’s brief little two-minute speech he gave at the PCAGA could hardly qualify as a genuine and substantive response at all, especially in light of the fact that he permitted his Ligonier Ministries to be used as a platform for Federal Visionaries for so long.
The gentleman had an additional concern — the fact that so many Federal Visionaries have become Roman Catholic converts. I too have heard this very thing, and I even know of several people who have become RC (that’s Roman Catholic, not Robert Charles) as a direct result of first embracing the Federal Vision.
Below is a video clip by a Roman Catholic who gloats over this very thing, and who thanks the Federal Visionaries for helping to make Roman Catholic converts. In his words:
“I rejoice with the Federal Vision because I believe that it’s a golden brick road to Rome… So I thank God for the Federal Vision because it’s a termite within Protestantism, and it’s tearing away at the structure, and everything that’s falling out is coming to the Roman Catholic faith.”
I’m sad to have to agree with this Roman Catholic. However, he’s not entirely correct when he says that “everything that’s falling out is coming to the Roman Catholic faith.” There are also numerous accounts of those who embrace the Federal Vision, and then go on to become Greek or Russian Orthodox. Not that there’s even much of a difference between the RCs and Orthodox.
Presbytery Reports On Federal Vision:
- Review & Critique of the Federal Vision / Auburn Avenue Theology
- Analyzing the Federal Vision
- Federal Vision Refutation
- Refuting the Federal Vision Heresy
- Paul’s Perspective
- Providence OPC Spring Conference on Federal Vision
- Covenantal Universalism: New Form of an Old Attack on Sovereign Grace
- The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis
- Justification And The New Perspectives On Paul: A Review And Response
- Getting the Gospel Right: Assessing the Reformation and New Perspectives on Paul
- The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision
Ligonier Ministries Recap and a Farewell From Frank VancePosted: February 4, 2007 Filed under: Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul 34 Comments
Periodically it’s wise to take stock of one’s pursuits and accomplishments. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of that. Prior to taking up blogging I lived a quiet life and I enjoyed my life very much. Since taking up blogging my life has changed dramatically and not in ways that I’ve enjoyed. The best that I could say about it is that it’s been stressful and less than rewarding.
This may sound selfish to some but I’d just like to have a “normal” life again. With this article I announce my departure from Ministry Watchman and from blogging. This will be my final blog entry and I doubt that I’ll be posting even any further comments here or anywhere else.
Exposing Ligonier Ministries, and then being on the receiving end of their unbiblical response (i.e. being sued by them) only proved to me how corrupt an organization they really are. But witnessing what’s now going on between Ministry Watchman and Doug Phillips strikes me as what it must have been like for the FBI to take on Al Capone. Things have gotten ugly and they could easily get a whole lot uglier. My greatest concern is that it may soon just be totally out of control.
Up until recently I’ve generally been okay with the way Ministry Watchman has functioned. The system hasn’t been perfect, and there’s a lot of room for improvement, but at least I wasn’t losing any sleep by being affiliated with Ministry Watchman. But when Joe Friday commented on 1-26 about Reagan’s policy of “mutual assured destruction” that’s when I start to get nervous.
I want to go on the record as saying that I’m not in favor of any tit for tat. Doug Phillips is playing dirty pool with his pal Matt Chancey accusing me and anyone affiliated with Ministry Watchman (no matter how loosely) of being racists. But regardless of what Phillips and Chancey have done I don’t think it’s appropriate to respond in kind. I’m very concerned that will happen and if it does I don’t want to be around for it. I don’t expect that just because I retire from blogging that it will stop the Phillips/Chancey/VF “Former Interns” cabal from hurling their “racist” grenades, and I’ve been informed that the very next grenade that they hurl will be immediately responded to by Ministry Watchman with the equivalent of a nuke. Make that several nukes in quick succession.
Joe Friday has shown us three articles that he’s written so far (and he’s working on more) in his “Is Doug Phillips A Racist?” series. I didn’t know anything about the things that Joe’s uncovered and now that I’ve seen it I’m deeply concerned. I fear that things could get extremely ugly and that’s not what I signed up for. I’ve been thinking for weeks about leaving the blogosphere anyway. I haven’t particularly got much more to write about anyway. The Ligonier debacle is pretty much over and blogging about Ligonier was never even my intention in the first place.
Ligonier is obviously not going to repent. What more can I do? As far as I can see my work is done anyway, and when people start talking about “mutual assured destruction” I know it’s time for me to get out of the way. It’s time for me to start living a quiet life again and I look forward to it.
As my final article I’ve been asked to give a brief recap of the Ligonier Ministries debacle. Given that this will be my final blog entry that does seem appropriate. So I’ll give a recap and then close with some personal thoughts about Christians and blogging.
The Ligonier Ministries Saga
My short-lived blogging “career” began in May 2006. I never intended to become a blogger. The only reason I started a blog at all was to have a place to repost a rather lengthy forum thread from the Tim Challies forum that Challies suddenly and without any warning took down. Someone who’d been monitoring that forum thread had the foresight to save the thread, and she emailed it to me and asked me to “please do something with this.” So I did.
In part I’d been motivated by RC Sproul’s public comments in defense of his defrocked son. RC Sproul defended the sins of his defrocked son and effectively mocked the church discipline of the Presbyterian denomination that exercised church discipline over RC Sproul Jr. Dr. Sproul claimed that his son’s name would be cleared by the CREC, but that never happened. In fact when the CREC Report finally did come out they said, “It is our finding that there were significant pastoral mistakes, errors and sins by the former Session.”
RC Sproul never did apologize for his public statements. Rather than ridiculing the Presbyterian Elders who disciplined “Precious,” RC Sproul should have called his wayward son to repentance. Like many others I was disappointed by these events, as well as Sproul’s eagerness to put RC Jr behind the pulpit at a Ligonier conference barely a month after he’d been defrocked. Initially I chose to believe that what Sproul did in defending his son was misguided but just the natural response of a caring father toward his son.
Some have since accused me of being “bitter” or having a “chip on your shoulder.” But the reality is that I’d been a big fan of RC Sproul’s. His teaching has helped me immensely in my appreciation for the Word of God and instilling in me a passion for studying the Word. I also credit Dr. Sproul for giving me a deeper appreciation for Reformed theology. I never set out to “ruin Ligonier” or “ruin RC Sproul” as some have accused me. In fact I was so eager to avoid blaming RC Sproul that I chose to believe that Ligonier was being ruined only because of Timothy A. Dick, Ligonier’s President/CEO/CFO and son-in-law to RC Sproul. In my admiration for RC Sproul I chose to believe that the solution was for Tim Dick to go. However later I began to realize that the problems at Ligonier had been there long before Tim Dick arrived on the scene.
After posting my first blog article I started receiving comments. I was surprised by this because I didn’t expect that anyone would even find my little blog. Reposting that Challies forum thread seemed to strike a nerve with a lot of people, or at least what to me seemed like a lot of people. Soon my StatCounter showed that I was getting over 100 unique visitors a day. The word apparently got out about my blog and it started spreading. But the most amazing thing of all was when I started getting emails from Tim Dick.
At first I just couldn’t believe that this was actually the President of Ligonier Ministries. I thought it must be a hoax. Much of Tim Dick’s correspondence was incoherent and his writing skills were on a sixth grade level. How could this have come from the President of a ministry that I’d had so much respect for? A friend later showed me how to check for the IP address in the email headers and, sure enough, it was Ligonier Ministries’ IP. I knew that something had to be seriously wrong at Ligonier, and so I made the decision to repost Tim’s emails.
I started receiving emails encouraging me to further expose Ligonier. This resulted in a third article that I posted on June 27. That article resulted in multiple emails from former Ligonier employees telling me in considerable detail some of the dirty deeds of Tim Dick.
After that my blog started to take on a life of its own. Comments started pouring in and other blogs started talking about it too. Among other disturbing stories there’s the hedonistic lifestyle of Ligonier employee and Sproul grandson Ryan Dick, who grew up in Sproul’s home and still lives there. “Partyboy” and his blog was first exposed by Pastor Steve Cavallaro (“Cavman”), another former Ligonier employee (Cavman subsequently deleted the article). Others later picked up on the shocking Partyboy story, including Jen Epstein.
I also reported on the nepotistic practices of Ligonier in which godly and competent Ligonier employees, some of whom had worked for Ligonier for decades, were fired by Tim Dick to make room for his unqualified and overpaid family members. I reported that between the Sproul and Dick families they are taking in excess of $1 million dollars in Ligonier “compensation” per year.
These and other related articles received wide attention and I started receiving numerous emails from current and former Ligonier employees, all of them extremely critical of Tim Dick. Many of them included very specific and detailed accounts of Tim’s misdeeds. It was also disclosed that Tim had a lot of very colorful nicknames. I even received emails from members and former members of Saint Andrews Chapel. Some of these emails described an entire culture of corruption, cronyism and nepotism within Ligonier and even Saint Andrews Chapel. Those emails continued coming in for months. For some time I struggled with knowing what to do about them but ultimately I realized that with such compelling testimony from so many different insiders, Tim Dick needed further exposure and perhaps others needed exposing too.
For the record, Don Kistler never was, and never did become, one of my sources (more on that later).
Tim Dick continued making his presence known by sending incoherent emails to other bloggers, as well as posting strange comments on multiple blogs (including even on Little Geneva) claiming that people were attacking him when often no one had even mentioned him on those blogs at all. Ligonier’s Executive Producer John Duncan also posted numerous blog comments under “Passerby” and other aliases, many of which he posted right from his Ligonier office.
The emails kept coming and the stories that were laid out painted a picture of not just one corrupt man, Tim Dick, but of an entire corrupt organization. At first I just couldn’t believe that RC Sproul could even be aware of these things. At the time I still very much admired Dr. Sproul, so I chose to believe that the real problem was limited to Tim Dick and that Dick was so effective with his corruptions that he’d successfully concealed them from the presumed “hands-off” management style of RC Sproul.
In early August I learned from several insiders that Ligonier Ministries had defrauded Dr. Don Kistler in their “acquisition” from him of his Soli Deo Gloria Ministries in 2004. On August 18 I informed Tim Dick about what I’d discovered and I repeatedly asked him the question, “Did you or did you not defraud Don Kistler?” My emails also contained other questions, each and every one of which he promptly responded to. But he never did answer the question about his part in defrauding Don Kistler. Others too subsequently emailed Tim Dick about the same thing and got the same exact evasive results. At no time did Tim Dick ever deny that he’d defrauded Don Kistler.
I gave Tim Dick a ten day deadline to restore to Don Kistler what he defrauded him of or I’d take the story public. On August 28 I made good on my promise. However unknown to me Ligonier Ministries and Tim Dick had filed a lawsuit against me on August 25 for an injunction, as well as $15,000 in “defamation” damages. Among other things Tim Dick sued me for calling him a “nincompoop.”
Ligonier never did inform me of the lawsuit. But the Press got wind of it, so word got out fast. In fact it was from a newspaper reporter that I was first informed on September 1 that Ligonier had sued me. Rene Stutzman interviewed me for an Orlando Sentinel article, so obviously it wasn’t at all hard to contact me. But Ligonier lied to Judge Nelson and asked her to move the case forward without me even knowing about it because they said it was “impossible to contact Frank Vance.” This proved to be the first in an entire series of lies that Ligonier would tell not just the judge, but even their own financial supporters.
Ligonier Ministries had other options than suing me. They could have tried Christian mediation, but they didn’t even attempt that. It became obvious that they weren’t interested in a resolution, only in silencing me.
Thanks to all the publicity I was bombarded with emails from First Amendment attorneys from all over the country, each offering to represent me pro bono. These attorneys all characterized it as a SLAPP lawsuit intended to intimidate me into silence. However the fact that so many attorneys were willing to stand with me had just the opposite effect on me. They all characterized it as a “dream case” that they’d be able to play up in the media as “David vs. Goliath,” a small-time blogger vs. a multi-million dollar corporation of religious hypocrites.
New blog articles started popping up every day about the lawsuit and the traffic to my blog went through the roof. That lawsuit even later put Ligonier on the front page of USA Today, giving Ligonier all the wrong kind of Press, and me all the right kind. It quickly proved to be a public relations disaster for Ligonier.
Calls poured into the Ligonier Ministries office, many from their own donors angry that a Christian ministry that they’d financially supported would be using their donations to sue a brother in Christ. Many wanted to know how a Bible preaching ministry could blatantly violate 1 Corinthians 6. Many wanted to know how a donor-funded ministry could justify spending donor funds to hire not just attorneys but even private investigators to go after a brother in Christ. Ligonier took quite a beating over it.
Ligonier’s customer service representatives were instructed by “senior management” (Tim Dick, John Duncan) to tell callers, “There is no lawsuit. We don’t know how that story got started.” In other words they were instructed to lie. But maintaining the lie after I posted a copy of the lawsuit became untenable, so Ligonier changed their story again, and again, and again.
Then on September 22 at 5:27 PM (EDT) I received an email from Tim Dick with links to two public statements informing me that Ligonier “had withdrawn” the “legal complaint.” The public statements had actually been posted on Ligonier’s web site two days prior, so I found it very suspicious that I was being informed late on a Friday, and too late to call the court and find out if the “legal complaint” had in fact “been withdrawn.”
Loyal Ligonier courtiers like Tim Challies thanked the Lord that it was all over, but I had my doubts, and my doubts were confirmed Monday morning. Ligonier had not withdrawn the lawsuit at all. In fact on September 21, only one day after Ligonier had originally posted their two public notices, they were back in court attempting to get another secret “ex parte” hearing with the judge to move the case forward!
On September 28 I responded to Tim Dick’s Public Statement.
More than a week went by, after Ligonier had publicly announced that they “had withdrawn” (past tense) their lawsuit, before they finally got around to actually filing the paperwork with the court. What they filed was a dismissal “without prejudice.” In other words they sent a message loud and clear that they might very well sue me again! If their intention had been to not sue me again they would have withdrawn their case “with prejudice.”
On September 29 the Orlando Sentinel ran another article in which they interviewed Ligonier Ministries’ attorney Dan Brodersen. Brodersen acknowledged that Ligonier might sue me again. In other words Ligonier learned absolutely nothing from the scandal they’d created. Because of the national publicity that Ligonier brought on itself they brought shame and ridicule on the church of Christ by unbelievers. Even atheists had a good time mocking the body of Christ over it. Ligonier Ministries has yet to repent for anything and they probably never will.
I’m dismayed that not only are so many Christians willing to turn a blind eye to the sinfulness of Ligonier’s lawsuit, but even apparently a number of well known Reformed ministers are willing to condone Ligonier’s lawsuit as well. They know better but they’re willing to put their personal friendships ahead of faithfully applying the Word of God.
On November 28 Ligonier Ministries fired the Founder of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, Don Kistler. Ligonier hired Kistler two years prior, and with Kistler they “acquired” his Soli Deo Gloria Ministries. However the acquisition contract was to have contained a reversionary clause permitting Kistler to leave Ligonier any time he wanted to for any reason and to take SDG with him. The reversionary clause never made it into the contract, and as I exposed in my August 28 article this was done deliberately and fraudulently. Kistler and others brought the matter up repeatedly to Ligonier’s “management” but his pleas were ignored.
With Kistler’s firing Ligonier now has what they were after all along, total control of the ministry that had become a goldmine for Ligonier. SDG may be the only venture Ligonier has that currently turns an impressive profit. Greed can make men do very wicked things. Ligonier got SDG by deception and they paid nothing more than two years of a modest salary to Don Kistler. Now Kistler is out on the street and he’s lost twenty years of his life’s work for his troubles at Ligonier.
The excuse provided by the Ligonier Board Of Directors, chaired by RC Sproul, for Don Kistler’s firing was a complete sham. My sources tell me that the real reason that Don Kistler was fired is because Sproul and Dick had become convinced that Don Kistler was one of my primary insider sources. As I said earlier, Don Kistler was never one of my insider sources. At no time did Don ever contact me, and I knew better than to contact Don at a Ligonier Ministries email address, which would have been the only way I would have known how to contact him.
It wasn’t until Don put up his own web site that I obtained a “safe” email address to use for him, and the very first time I emailed him was on October 3, 2006. I’d like to be able to say that Don was helpful and informative, but the fact is that although he was very cordial, he wasn’t at all disclosing. Even after Don’s firing Don hasn’t been particularly informative to me. I’m sure he’s got quite a story to tell, but for whatever reason he doesn’t want to tell it. My belief is that Don is reluctant to talk because he knows he’d probably get sued, and unlike Ligonier he doesn’t have unlimited financial resources to see him through a costly legal battle. This is the game that Ligonier has been playing for years with its former employees and it’s proven very effective at silencing them.
Like every other godly person that Ligonier has done dirty over the years they unjustly fired Don Kistler on a bogus charge. The only difference is that none of the other unjust firings got any publicity. I hate to have to admit this but I don’t think that all the bad publicity has changed much of anything at Ligonier, and it certainly hasn’t changed any hearts.
This concludes my summary of the Ligonier Ministries scandal. I don’t anticipate doing any more blogging about Ligonier, or any other topic for that matter. Now I’d like to briefly discuss my views on Christians and blogging.
It was in late September that I was approached by a newly forming ad hoc Christian accountability group called Ministry Watchman. As they explained they had been motivated in part by my own Ligonier exposés. They saw the need for a more formalized system of holding corrupt Reformed ministers and ministries accountable. I was impressed by their goals and agreed to join them. They believed that we could accomplish far more by collaborating together, and by having several different authors it would likely draw a bigger audience. On October 7 I publicly announced the transition of my writing to Ministry Watchman.
I continued providing articles, mainly focusing on Ligonier Ministries. Other Ministry Watchman authors contributed some additional articles of interest to Reformed Christians. Some of the articles I thought were very good. Ministry Watchman has consistently brought in a lot more traffic than my own blog did. The problem though has been that I’ve been the primary article contributor. Now that I’m out of things to contribute, and now that I’m leaving Ministry Watchman, I hope that other contributors will be able to pick up the slack. I also hope that the kinds of articles that are featured on Ministry Watchman in the future don’t include the sorts of things that Joe Friday has been digging up. No insult to Joe but I just can’t see any good coming of that.
When Watchman approached me and several others about his idea of launching this experiment, we all had what we thought was a good plan, and we certainly had the best of intentions. But the best of intentions don’t always produce ideal outcomes. What’s been the outcome here? Not the one I’d hoped for.
The single most important thing that I personally wanted to see Ministry Watchman accomplish was to bring corrupt Reformed ministers and their ministries to repentance. That has yet to happen.
We all agreed that in every case the criteria would be that we would only expose men who had already been confronted per Matthew 18, but who refused to listen and submit. The same kind of men often establish an appearance of accountability, but in reality they’ve just surrounded themselves with yes-men. Their “accountability” is too often just a sham.
That’s just one of many things that I exposed about Ligonier Ministries and even RC Sproul’s Saint Andrews Chapel. Not only is Ligonier Ministries a parachurch ministry that’s in no way accountable to any denomination or any Elder oversight, it’s not even accountable to it’s own Board Of Directors, as we all plainly saw in the Ligonier Ministries vs. Frank Vance lawsuit. None of the Board members, other than RC and Vesta Sproul, knew anything about the lawsuit!
I made certain assumptions that if anything would bring such men to repentance it would be a strong dose of public exposure. Ethically I didn’t have a problem with doing that. After all, they’re public figures and they’ve worked very hard to put themselves into the limelight. I also believed that the Bible supports this too. I anticipated the likelihood that public exposure would humble them and bring about contrition, repentance, and even reconciliation with those that they’d harmed. However, that hasn’t yet happened, even in spite of enormous public pressures, including even the loss of substantial portions of their support base.
One thing I’ve learned from all this is that corrupt men are inevitably proud men, very proud men, and it will obviously take a lot more than a Ministry Watchman to humble a man with a massive ego.
There are other corrupt Reformed ministers that I also thought about exposing, but the likelihood is that the outcomes of further public exposures will just be more of the same hard-hearted unrepentance. If a man is going to repent at all he’ll probably do it relatively quickly, such as we saw Ted Haggard do.
I’m not too proud to admit that my personal contribution hasn’t proven very effective at accomplishing what I had in mind. Perhaps it’s time for a different strategy, but I’m not at all sure what that strategy should be. All I know is that I can’t continue doing things the way I have just so I can continue getting the same less than effective results.
This isn’t to say though that I believe that I’ve accomplished nothing, and that Ministry Watchman has accomplished nothing, or that this experiment has been entirely ineffective. They may not have repented, but we’ve certainly gotten their attention.
One very significant thing we accomplished was to inform donors of the significant responsibility they have for becoming informed about how to make sound stewardship decisions. The fact is that there are many Christian ministries that squander donor funds like they were drunken sailors, and with Ministry Watchman’s support I was able to expose one especially significant one here. Some of those “ministries” are even members of ECFA. Ligonier Ministries is an ECFA charter member “in good standing,” which just goes to show how worthless the ECFA seal of approval is. Ligonier Ministries proved to be a good object lesson for the many thousands of Christians who have read my articles here. Many of my readers commented favorably and wrote emails to thank me for that.
But still I find it very unsatisfactory knowing that there’s been no repentance, and that from all appearances there may never be any repentance. I find it even more dismaying that in spite of the stacks of evidence that I’ve presented here not one single prominent Reformed minister has made a public statement regarding the sins that I’ve exposed. They’ve all turned a blind eye. It would be fair to say that I’m experiencing some disillusionment over this.
I recognize that I’m not the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit can convict a man of his sins and bring him to repentance. But does God also use men to rebuke sinners? Yes, of course, and God uses many different means of doing that, sometimes perhaps even including an ad hoc watchdog like Ministry Watchman.
I’d like to see Ministry Watchman head in a new direction, but whatever direction it does take I know that I can’t be a part of it any more. That’s no slam against Watchman and the other authors. I think they’ve done a fine job. But their resources are limited and it’s inherently dangerous taking on corrupt multimillion dollar corporations.
I’ve also come to have a few misgivings about the use of blogs to hold Christian ministries and ministers accountable, at least in the way that I went about it. I never put up a blog with the idea of holding Ligonier accountable. That just developed over time, and it wasn’t very well planned out. That put me at a distinct disadvantage. It’s not smart to fly by the seat of the pants. I believe that the Ministry Watchman idea was better planned, but it could have stood a whole lot more planning.
I especially am frustrated over the fact that so many of my sources were unwilling to go on the record and tell their stories themselves. This created a lot of additional work for me. Even more disconcerting to me is the fear that they each expressed of using their own names. In hindsight though we should all appreciate their fears. Ligonier has threatened many people many times with “legal action,” and in my case they made good on it. They used me as an example and no one will soon forget it.
I’ve heard many stupid statements from Ligonier defenders about Ligonier’s lawsuit against me, but seldom a condemnation of the lawsuit itself. “Frank, why don’t you just come forward and tell us where you live. Why won’t you just go to court with Ligonier? Obviously you must not trust the Lord very much. The Lord will protect you Frank.” Such talk reminds me of those Christians who put God to a foolish test by handling poisonous snakes. Even though I had a number of attorneys agree to represent me pro bono, which would have saved me potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, that doesn’t in any way change the fact that lawsuits are stressful and very time consuming.
After what I’ve been through I know perfectly well why so many have been eager to tell me their stories but they’ve all insisted on confidentiality. At the same time though I don’t like the fact that it’s put me on the front lines to draw all the fire for people who should have had the courage to tell their stories themselves.
Since I started blogging the thing that’s bothered me the most is how it tends to bring out the worst in people. I too haven’t been immune from this. There have been times where I’ve been cross and grumpy in my responses to various posted comments. It’s too easy to do that from behind a keyboard and much less likely to happen when dealing with someone face to face. Blogging is impersonal and that’s something that I especially don’t like about it. For any offense I’ve caused (and I’m sure there’s been some of that) I’m truly sorry.
Another thing I won’t miss about blogging are all the unethical practices perpetrated by so many bloggers. Tim Challies is one of the best examples I can think of. Challies wrote an article ridiculing me and exaggerating my previous statements. Several people showed up to defend me and he not only deleted their comments he even banned them. Mind you these were people who were making very civil and well reasoned statements. They weren’t banned for bad manners. They were banned for merely disagreeing with the great Challies. I saw this kind of dishonest behavior on a number of blogs and it’s one of the things that bothers me the most about blogging.
One thing I really appreciated about Watchman’s comment rules is that he’s maintained such a liberal comment approval policy. He’s a firm believer in free speech. Too many other bloggers operate just the opposite and I’ve been on the receiving end of some of it myself. I look forward to taking a long break from looking at any blogs at all.
I should have realized much sooner that if you’re going to do exposés about a popular ministry that you’ll make enemies, and those enemies often refuse to honestly and consistently apply the biblical standards that they profess to live by. In fact just about everything that I’ve been ridiculed for by my detractors they themselves turned right around and did the same thing themselves to me. Obviously they must not really believe what they claim to believe. Either that or they think that two wrongs make a right.
Sadly I don’t see these problems with blogging improving anytime soon. In fact I think it’s likely to only worsen. I’m not sure what the solution is but I don’t think it’s more blogging. It’d be great if we could look to our ministry leaders, seminary professors and various church denominations for some guidance, but I’m inclined to think that many of them are incapable of providing wise and practical counsel in these matters. If they don’t have the courage and integrity to confront a corrupt organization like Ligonier Ministries I doubt they have the ability to provide godly leadership to the blogosphere.
Please pray that the Lord would bless Ministry Watchman and other similar blogs that are exposing wickedness and corruption within the church with an abundance of His wisdom. Please pray especially for Ligonier Ministries that the Lord would be pleased to convict their hearts and bring them to repentance.
Farewell dear friends.
Christian Leaders Ignore Sin (When It’s Advantageous)Posted: January 30, 2007 Filed under: Doug Phillips, Doug Wilson, Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul, RC Sproul Jr 2 Comments
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.”
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.
Congratulations Ligonier Ministries!Posted: December 26, 2006 Filed under: Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul 86 Comments
RC Sproul, Tim Dick, and Ligonier Ministries Make the Reformation: 2006 Hall of Fame and Shame
FreeGoodNews.com has published their second annual Hall of Financial Fame and Shame for major media ministries.
Ligonier Ministries takes number five out of six for the nation’s “top scandalous ministries.”
Needless to say I’m not surprised. RC Sproul and Tim Dick have worked hard to earn it, and Tim has fired many good Ligonier employees in order to make room for his own family members (nepotism) and improve his own standard of living.
As I’ve said many times before (and this has yet to be denied by anyone at Ligonier Ministries), the Sproul and Dick families combined Ligonier salaries are over a million dollars a year.
Congratulations on the award Ligonier Ministries! You definitely deserve it.
Ligonier Ministries Fires Don KistlerPosted: November 30, 2006 Filed under: Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul 105 Comments
Don Kistler Terminated Under Very Questionable Circumstances; Ligonier Keeps Soli Deo Gloria Ministries
Some of the more devout Ligonier Ministries supporters have been hoping that they would’ve heard the last of my reporting on Ligonier Ministries. Ignorance is bliss.
In a way I’d very much like to be able to stop reporting on Ligonier. It brings me no pleasure (in fact it’s downright disillusioning) to have to keep exposing the never-ending internal corruptions of a Reformed Christian ministry that had, for several years, been such a blessing to my spiritual growth.
Just when we started thinking that maybe the end of the Ligonier Ministries scandals was in sight, now there’s a new scandal. Even I didn’t believe that Ligonier Ministries would ever be foolish enough to do something this lowdown. Never underestimate the total depravity of man.
Yesterday Ligonier Ministries fired Dr. Don Kistler. On November 28 Don Kistler was informed of his immediate termination. No severance package of any kind was offered, and his health insurance has been cancelled.
The decision was made by the Ligonier Board Of Directors. RC Sproul is the Chairman of the Board. Don Kistler has for years been under the impression that he and RC Sproul are friends. Yet his friend has now kicked him to the curb. This is all that Ligonier has to say about it:
In November 2006, the Board of Directors for Ligonier Ministries voted unanimously to dissolve our employment relationship with Don Kistler, Managing Editor of Soli Deo Gloria Publications.
Ligonier Ministries continues to be committed to publishing and distributing classic Christian literature, including Puritan works.
The “official” reason, given in writing to Don for his firing, is that he was deemed to be “in competition” with his employer by having recently set up a web site promoting his teaching ministry. Don was never given any warning that his web site was a violation of Ligonier policy, or that there even was such a policy. Don was never told that he had to take the web site down, even though donkistler.org had been online for three months. He was just fired with no warning and no opportunity to correct this terrible offense.
For years Don has had a very full teaching and preaching schedule, both before and after coming to work for Ligonier two years ago. Don has averaged over forty events per year. None of it has been in conflict or “in competition” with Ligonier. When he speaks for a church or conference he leaves and returns on weekends, which in no way interferes with his Monday through Friday 9 to 5 Ligonier work schedule. Don does sell some books and tapes, but again these aren’t “in competition” with Ligonier, as Ligonier doesn’t offer those materials.
It’s clear that the “official” reason that the Ligonier Board Of Directors has given for Don’s firing is a sham. What’s the real reason? I’ve been informed that at least one actual reason for Don’s firing is that he was accused of being the source of insider leaks to Frank Vance.
Of course, I find this all very unjust because the fact of the matter is that Don Kistler hasn’t been what any reasonably minded person could consider to be a Frank Vance insider. Yes, I have contacted Don via email on several occassions, and yes Don has replied to my emails. But that hardly qualifies Don as a source. I would have appreciated it had Don ever become a source, but he was anything but cooperative.
Once it became apparent to me that Don would never be a source for me, my objective then in contacting Don was to have him confirm or deny the information provided to me by my actual insider sources. The fact of the matter is that Don has very adroitly avoided providing confirmations, but he has issued some denials. Not only has Don carefully avoided becoming one of my information sources, he’s still doing so even today after he’s already been fired! In fact just this morning he responded to one of my emails with:
“I think that if I give you the reasons, it will show that I’m the source, and I don’t want to do that. Can’t your ‘inside source’ give you that?”
Don has never been one of my sources. If anything Don Kistler has only defended Ligonier in his email replies to me, albeit in my estimation rather naively so (now that he’s been fired perhaps such undeserved loyalties will change). For his defenses Ligonier has rewarded Don by firing him. But there’s nothing new about that. Firing faithful employees is the Ligonier way.
I’m quite confident that significant additional details will be surfacing in coming days, but here’s something else that I was informed of by one of my sources yesterday. Immediately after Don Kistler’s stroke in August, Tim Dick ordered his Information Technology Manager to pull the hard drive from Don Kistler’s office computer and scan it for any incriminating information. In other words Ligonier’s “senior management” was already as of at least last August looking for an excuse to get rid of Don.
In reality Ligonier has been looking for quite some time for an excuse to give Don the ax (more details on that will be forthcoming). However Don has never done anything that Ligonier could have used as a valid justification to fire him. Then came his stroke. Don was given three weeks sick leave and told he must return to work after that or there would be no more pay. Don was ordered to remain at home by his doctor to convalesce. This was the perfect opportunity for Tim Dick to yank Don’s hard drive and probe for incriminating evidence. Don himself was unaware that this had happened, until last night when I informed him.
So what exactly did they find on Don’s computer? Porn? No. Emails to Frank Vance? No, that’s unlikely. In order to prevent that very potentiality I never emailed Don at the Ligonier office but used an alternate email address.
For some weeks it had been reported to me by a number of insider sources that there had been an intense “witch hunt” by Ligonier’s “senior management” (Tim Dick and John Duncan) to identify anyone who was leaking information to me. Don Kistler was also subjected to the witch hunt. As such I took special pains to ensure that the content of our emails could not be readily recovered by Ligonier.
However, the fact of the matter is that even if Ligonier did recover the content of our emails there was nothing in them that would have implicated Don as one of my sources. In fact our emails would have only confirmed to Ligonier that Don was not one of my sources. They would have also confirmed that the first time that I ever communicated with Don Kistler wasn’t until October 3!
It’s been reported to me by multiple people that they were threatened by Tim Dick and John Duncan that if they were ever caught communicating with me there would be serious repercussions. Don himself has also told me that he too was threatened.
Were Don Kistler’s communiques with me (instigated entirely by me, by the way), the reason that Ligonier Ministries fired Don Kistler? No, but they could have been a contributing factor. There are much more significant factors behind why Don Kistler was fired, factors which I’m not at this time at liberty to discuss, but that I’m confident will sometime soon be coming to light.
The documents on Don’s hard drive at work so drew the ire of RC Sproul and the Ligonier Board Of Directors that they wanted to find some excuse, any excuse other than the documents themselves, to get rid of Don, and those documents had likely been there for some months.
What they found were things that related directly to Ligonier’s “acquisition” of Soli Deo Gloria. Not surprisingly Ligonier won’t disclose the specifics of those documents, and they’re not about to state that what they found on the hard drive is the real reason they fired Don.
There are several men (and one in particular) who have first-hand knowledge, men who know the real story behind the “acquisition” of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, and I’ve got something to say to those men: I’m aware that you’ve been threatened with “legal action” should you come forward to tell the truth. I can hardly blame you for your fears. One need look no further than the case of Ligonier Ministries vs. Frank Vance to see what Ligonier can and probably will do to any who expose their corruptions. But your bigger concern should be how will you stand before God and answer to the charge that you remained silent in the face of wickedness? Does not your silence make you complicit?
Don leaves Ligonier Ministries in exactly the same way that so many other faithful and devoted employees have left — tossed out like trash. However in Don’s case he sacrificed far more than just having faithfully and loyally served Ligonier for two years. Don also leaves Ligonier with Ligonier in ownership and control of his ministry, a ministry that he devoted some twenty years of his life to, Soli Deo Gloria Ministries.
In an email response to me in October, Dr. Kistler stated, “I need to be focusing on my recovery and getting back soon to my life’s work and passion, SDG.” However, as several witnesses have testified, Don’s passion was swindled away from him two years ago. With Don’s firing from Ligonier that puts the nail in the coffin for Don’s “work and passion.” I doubt that Don Kistler will ever be so naive and trusting again.
Please support Don Kistler in prayer, and support Don’s ministry. After all he’s supposedly in competition with Ligonier! In all seriousness, Don is now in dire straights financially and he really does need your support. You can send your gifts in care of:
Christ Presbyterian Church
P. O. Box 6321
Lakeland, Florida 33807
On the memo line of your check write “DKMIN” and it will be directed to Don.
(Ministry Watchman is in no way affiliated with Christ Presbyterian Church)
RC Sproul Makes Saint Andrews Chapel Pay For Tim Dick’s Folly?Posted: November 14, 2006 Filed under: Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul 93 Comments
Frank Vance received some emails recently from several Saint Andrews Chapel members asking for some assistance with their concerns over church financial issues. Since I’ve got some expertise in church and ministry finances Frank turned it over to me to investigate. My investigation is probably far from over. However, I thought it worthwhile to post what I’ve uncovered so far while waiting for insiders to contact me with additional information.
Many people know that R.C. Sproul is the founder of Ligonier Ministries. However, what a lot of people are unaware of is that R.C. Sproul is also the Pastor of Saint Andrews Chapel. His official title is “Minister of Preaching and Teaching.”
The Session of Elders of Saint Andrews Chapel recently decided, much at R.C. Sproul’s insistence, with little or no congregational input, that they would purchase some land from Ligonier Ministries.
R.C. Sproul is joined in the leadership of Saint Andrews Chapel by a Session of Elders. However, from all appearances the role of the Elders is largely symbolic rather than to exercise genuine authority. They have little say in (other than to agree with), and no real veto over, the actions and decisions of R.C. Sproul. They owe their positions entirely to Sproul and are his yes-men.
R.C. reportedly hand picks and then ordains the St. Andrews elders himself. The elders are not ordained in the PCA in which Sproul “parks his ordination,” or into any other denomination. Sproul’s elders are in no way accountable to other elders outside the congregation. They are only accountable to Sproul and from all appearances Sproul is in no practical way accountable to them. The lack of genuine authority of the office of Elder at Saint Andrews Chapel, in the way of accountability, is evident by the fact that nowhere on Saint Andrews Chapel web site are the Elders (or the Deacons) even mentioned. However, the office staff is listed.
It is this Session, dependent entirely on R.C. Sproul for its existence, that recently announced its intentions to purchase an expensive parcel of land from Ligonier Ministries. Sproul’s plan is to build a new church building on the land to replace the existing church. The land purchase will mean that the church will be co-located at the new Ligonier Ministries / Sproul Bible College campus (that’s another financial quagmire story that I’ll have to save for another time).
Sources tell me that there are many in the church who are deeply troubled over the ramifications of this, not to mention the serious conflicts of interest. Some are concerned that this gives the appearance that Saint Andrews Chapel might soon be a subsidiary of Ligonier Ministries. Then there are those who have said that this will only make obvious what many have known for years — that it goes well beyond mere appearances — that Saint Andrews Chapel already is a de facto subsidiary of Ligonier Ministries.
Just one of many examples to substantiate that is the fact that church members cannot obtain sermon tapes from the church. They have to order them, and pay for them, from Ligonier Ministries. Always looking for a new revenue stream the opportunistic Ligonier CEO Tim Dick (son-in-law to R.C. Sproul) controls the entire process. Tim Dick has stated that all of Sproul’s talks and sermons are the property of Ligonier Ministries, including the ones he gives at Saint Andrews Chapel, and this in spite of the fact that Sproul receives a very generous salary (sources indicate well over $100,000) from Saint Andrews Chapel for doing little more than preaching a sermon on Sundays. Rather than conducting himself as a minister of the Gospel, Sproul demands to be treated as a celebrity who “owns the rights” to everything he utters, even if he’s already receiving a very generous salary to utter it.
The land which Sproul intends to sell Saint Andrews Chapel is located on the 32 acre “mansion” property that Ligonier president Tim Dick purchased in 2005 for $8 million. Some have referred to the mansion purchase as “Tim’s Folly.” Almost immediately after the purchase of Tim’s Folly a dozen Ligonier employees were let go due to “cash flow problems.” Squandering that kind of money will do that. Most of those employees had been long-term with Ligonier, some for as long as thirty years. Tim Dick served as the stonyhearted hatchet man while R.C. Sproul remained in his gated-community manor, not even making an appearance to wish his faithful employees goodbye.
The exact purchase price of the “mansion” is unknown. Some of the details are still sketchy. This remains one of the more troubling aspects about how Ligonier is run — sketchy financial details, and it appears to be a problem with Saint Andrews Chapel as well. R.C. Sproul is apparently quite adverse to all forms of accountability, and so no one should expect to find financial transparency within the offices of any organization that he rules. However, even without transparency, what we can readily ascertain about Sproul’s methods and agenda is more than troubling enough.
R.C. Sproul is beating the drum with Saint Andrews Chapel members to pony up some $2 million to hand over to Ligonier Ministries in exchange for an eight acre parcel of land on the Ligoner Ministries/Sproul Bible College campus. This would be a very good deal for Ligonier which has been experiencing cash flow problems and desperately needs the $2 million, but not everyone agrees that this is such a good deal for Saint Andrews Chapel. Considering Saint Andrews Chapel will only receive a small portion of the $8 million property, and just the use of Ligonier’s parking lot on Sundays, and no use of the mansion, it doesn’t appear to be a very equitable arrangement.
However, that financial burden doesn’t just end with a $2 million land purchase from Ligonier. The total building project budget is estimated to run $12 million. Many at Saint Andrews Chapel are questioning the fiscal prudence of such a lavish building project when something more modest could easily suit the needs of the church. Many view it as little more than the attempts of one man to gratify his image of being the successful pastor, and what Sproul himself has communicated regarding the building project only confirms those beliefs.
One of the greatest concerns of the Saint Andrews congregation is for how R.C.’s health is likely to affect the long-term viability of the church. Many are aware that the biggest reason that people attend Saint Andrews and tithe there is because Sproul is the head pastor. Sproul is a celebrity draw and the proof of that is what happens when Sproul isn’t in his own pulpit — attendance at Saint Andrews is always down — way down. When Sproul passes on it’s a foregone conclusion that church membership and attendance will decline, perhaps dramatically. Then the church would be saddled with a huge financial debt burden that, with an ever decreasing membership, they may not be able to pay off.
Sproul himself is concerned for his own health, which in a very odd way is actually a significant contributing factor in why he’s pushing for a new church facility, as well as why he’s very intent on Saint Andrews Chapel being co-located on the new Ligonier campus. What Sproul has conveyed is that he wants to keep Saint Andrews Chapel “in the family.” Moreover, Sproul has also expressed that one of his highest priorities is to “leave a legacy.” Apparently his idea of a legacy is an impressive campus with his name all over it. He knows he may not be around much longer so he’s in a big hurry to get it done.
It’s been pointed out that R.C. Sproul has already left a great legacy, in the form of his books and teachings. However, a legacy that satisfies the demands of Sproul must include the expenditure of many millions of dollars on impressive edifices built to glorify his memory (the $12 million for the new church facility comprises just a small fraction of the overall costs of the new campus).
Some have alleged that Ligonier Ministries isn’t a ministry at all, but a business, and since businesses aren’t expressly prohibited in Scripture from suing Christians, it was perfectly fine for Ligonier Incorporated to sue Frank Vance. Maybe they’re right. Maybe Ligonier is indeed nothing but a business, and apparently Saint Andrews Chapel is just a part of Sproul’s business plan, and his legacy. But if Ligonier really is just a business, and a multimillion dollar one at that, on what basis do they have a right to come to Christians asking for donations?
R.C. Sproul professes to be a Presbyterian. Yet many are unaware that R.C. is a Presbyterian in name only. Sproul “parks his ordination” in the PCA, yet the church that he pastors is an independent nondenominational church, and from all accounts Sproul has dissuaded his church from entering the PCA or any other Presbyterian denomination. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries is an independent non-affiliated parachurch ministry, not accountable to any Presbyterian denomination. In PCA vernacular, “Sproul is ministering out of bounds.”
Reports about Sproul’s method of governing his church don’t portray him as a good accountable Presbyterian at all, but rather an autocrat. Sproul is used to getting what he wants, and what he really wants right now is a lavish new church facility co-located with his planned Sproul Bible College legacy. The decision to purchase the land was initiated entirely by Sproul and then foisted off on his Session, who in turn are foisting it off on the congregation. Not very Presbyterian. Ordinarily a Presbyterian minister operates under a process of advise and consent, particularly where the decision involves a significant financial burden that will be borne entirely by the congregation. But in this case the Saint Andrews congregation is being given no real say in the matter. All that matters is that R.C. Sproul wants it, and what Sproul wants Sproul usually gets.
I mentioned earlier the problem with a lack of financial transparency at Saint Andrews Chapel. I’ve personally experienced a taste of that myself. At the request of a Saint Andrews Chapel member I contacted the Saint Andrews office and asked for a copy of their financial statement. The member informed me that they didn’t want to have to ask for it themselves because, “There’s a witch hunt going on here already. If I start asking for financial records I’m sure it’ll get back to R.C., and then I’ll get confronted by him over it. He suspects everybody now because of all the problems over the Ligonier lawsuit scandal.”
I find it completely contrary to what I’d consider to be healthy church life to hear of church members who are afraid of their own pastor, but apparently R.C. Sproul is used to getting what he wants through intimidation. We’ve been hearing about witch hunts at Ligonier Ministries, but maybe our impressions that they’re being instigated and carried out by Tim Dick and John Duncan aren’t the full story. It’s not unlikely that the Ligonier witch hunts have been entirely instigated by R.C. Sproul, and Dick and Duncan are merely Sproul’s henchmen. Sproul has been accused by several of personally instigating witch hunts right within his church so it’s not implausible that he’s also responsible for the Ligonier witch hunts. At the very least Dick and Duncan may just be following the example Sproul appears to have set for them.
I don’t know R.C. Sproul, and besides which I’m not one to be easily intimidated anyway, so I sent an email to the Saint Andrews office to see what would happen:
Sent: Wednesday, November 08, 2006 12:53 PM
To: Saint Andrew’s Chapel
Subject: Contact Us Form
Name: Henry Barnes
I was recently asked a financial question about Saint Andrews Chapel. I’m not a member of your church. However, I’d like to be able to review your church’s financial report. Would you be able to email that to me?
from: Saint Andrew’s Chapel “email@example.com”
to: Henry Barnes
date: Nov 8, 2006 2:53 PM
subject: RE: Saint Andrews Financial Statement
We’re glad to provide this information to our members who would like to stop in to our office and review the financial information. If you were asked this question by one of our members, we’d be happy to review this with them.
Saint Andrew’s Chapel Staff
Thanks for your prompt reply. However, the person who inquired isn’t capable of interpreting financial statements, any more so than would most people be. That’s why they asked me to obtain a copy and review it for them and give them a critique of their church’s stewardship. They’re especially concerned now that Dr. Sproul has announced his intentions to have Saint Andrews purchase land from Ligonier Ministries to build a new church building. It would seem that there are some members who have concerns over various conflicts of interest and that it might not be such a good deal for Saint Andrews. I can understand why you might not want to release the church’s financial report to me, especially if there’s something to hide. If the member himself came to the church office and asked for a copy of the financial report would you give it to them, or are they only permitted to review it in the office?
Saint Andrew’s Chapel Administrator, Randy Johnson, asked me to pass along that members can review a summary income statement and balance sheet by coming to the church office. If you have further questions, please give him a call at (407) 328-1139.
I’ve had to deal with church and ministry financial hanky panky before, so I know when something doesn’t smell right. This one smells real bad.
One way a church or ministry demonstrates that they’re operating legitimately is with transparency. While I can appreciate why a church wouldn’t be eager to provide detailed financial records to a non-member, I find it troubling that they won’t even do so with a member. Lisa is attempting to portray a spirit of cooperation, but in reality she’s being used by her church management to obstruct and conceal.
Lisa’s response is making the alarms go off in my head (this isn’t to blame Lisa, she’s just following orders). What she’s saying is that while I can’t have access to the records, a member can “review” them, meaning they have to go to the church office and look at them there. Furthermore, the office staff would “be happy to review this with them.” In other words, “When you get here we’ll tell you what the numbers mean.”
Saint Andrews members can’t take copies and review them at their leisure in the comfort of their own home. They especially can’t take them and show them to their accountant to get a professional opinion on whether the information is thorough and meaningful, or perhaps just a sham printout that conceals disturbing fiscal practices. What they’ll be shown isn’t detailed information. It’s a “summary.” This is standard practice in churches and ministries that are attempting to cover up financial abuse.
This smells very bad to me, but it’s entirely consistent with the smell of Ligonier Ministries selling a portion of it’s property to Saint Andrews Chapel. It smells bad because it is bad. It’s a major conflict of interest that’s being done for one reason — to personally benefit the “legacy,” and thus the ego, of R.C. Sproul.
- Seminole County Development Order: Sproul Bible College
- Ligonier Mansion: facing north
- Ligonier Mansion: facing south
- Property Appraiser: 5481 Wayside Drive, Sanford, FL 32771
- Warranty Deed: 5481 Wayside Drive
- Satellite map: 5481 Wayside Drive
- Property Appraiser: 5555 Wayside Drive
- Satellite map: 5555 Wayside Drive
- Parcel: 30-19-30-300-032E-0000
- Parcel: 30-19-30-513-0000-0010
With Apologies To Don Kistler (But He Doesn’t Want One)Posted: November 9, 2006 Filed under: Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul 83 Comments
In the last few weeks I’ve received a number of emails, some of them quite hostile, demanding that I issue a public apology to Tim Dick, and to Ligonier Ministries, and in particular to Don Kistler, for having alleged that Tim Dick defrauded Don Kistler in the Ligonier Ministries acquisition of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries.
It’s been alleged by several witnesses that, at best, a key reversionary clause was deliberately omitted from the contract which Dr. Kistler had been assured would be included, and at worst Tim Dick was responsible for at the last moment switching out the contract for one which didn’t include the agreed upon reversionary clause. This “discrepancy” was promptly pointed out to Tim Dick immediately after it was discovered.
There’s no dispute over the fact that the reversionary clause had been agreed to by all parties prior to the contract signing. The only point of contention is over whether there was an administrative error or a deliberate bait and switch fraud. At least one person present at the contract signing ceremony claims to have overheard Tim Dick whisper to another Ligonier employee, “He thinks the clause is in there.” Regardless, all subsequent efforts to amend the contract to include the reversionary clause have been evaded by Ligonier “senior management.”
With Don Kistler’s recent public statement disavowing the allegation that Tim Dick perpetrated a fraud, demands continue to mount for an apology from me. There’s just one problem — Don Kistler himself doesn’t want an apology, nor does he believe that he’s owed one, and he’s told me so. The fact that Don Kistler himself has told me that he doesn’t believe that I owe him an apology is significant. If Don Kistler himself doesn’t believe that I owe him an apology then why would anyone else?
I care a great deal about what Don Kistler thinks. If Don had told me, “Yes, I believe you owe me an apology” then I’d issue a public apology. I don’t care as much about what others think, and I especially don’t care what Tim Dick’s defenders think. Nevertheless, it would seem that their demands have escalated, and will continue to escalate, and so a public response at this time appears to be necessary. So here it is:
Don Kistler has stated that I don’t owe him an apology, and on that I take him at his word. Therefore I won’t be apologizing to Don Kistler.
Tim Dick and his defenders believe that I owe Tim Dick an apology. However, everything that’s transpired is entirely Tim Dick’s own fault. I won’t issue an apology to the man that caused the scandal in the first place. Furthermore I won’t apologize for standing up to a bully who picked a fight with me.
Anyone who’s taken the time to review the events knows that Tim Dick and Ligonier’s “senior management” (John Duncan) are bullies and liars. They’ve lied regularly and repeatedly, including and especially to their own financial supporters. They even lied to the judge. I will not issue apologies to bullies, liars and perjurers.
Don has expressed concerns to me that it might become problematic for him if it were known by Tim Dick that he was even talking to me. This too is very significant. Why should the founder of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries have to be fearful of Tim Dick for talking to me? Don has a vested interest in attempting to bring some closure to the discrepancy between his recently issued public statement and what several witnesses claim that he’s told them in the past, regarding the SDG acquisition by Ligonier.
But it’s not just Don who wants to bring this matter to closure. I’d like to do the same. We should both be free to work toward that end, and we shouldn’t have to go about it in secret. But with the witch-hunt climate at Ligonier overshadowing everything else it’s a little hard to accomplish that. Don’s fears are justified, and they’re confirmed by the numerous emails I’ve received from even former Ligonier employees who tell me that there’s been an active Ligonier witch hunt, headed up by Ligonier General Manager John Duncan, threatening anyone who’s even remotely suspected of speaking with me. At this point just about everyone is a suspect.
Should Don Kistler have to be fearful of Ligonier “senior management” for speaking with me? No, but he is, and the fact that he is says a great deal about the fearful working climate at Ligonier. John Duncan bears responsibility for creating fear and even some hysteria. His stories are nothing short of bizarre, including even telling callers that there are death threats against the Sprouls and Dicks. John Duncan is so caught up in his own paranoia that he’s having trouble with being able to think through rationally just how far he can reasonably push the envelope of his silly fear-mongering.
The fearful working climate at Ligonier should also tell you something about the likelihood that Don was coerced into issuing his public statement. Those who’ve been carefully following this story recognized that for themselves weeks ago. For example Hank Barnes posted this insightful comment in response to comments by “Mike” and “FVS”:
As I communicated to Don Kistler very recently not one of the original witnesses who came to me and told me that Tim Dick had defrauded Don Kistler in the Ligonier Ministries acquisition of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries has changed their story. According to them it was Don Kistler who came to them in the first place and complained that key language that Don was promised was in the final contract (the reversionary clause) in point of fact wasn’t in the contract at all.
Don was not himself present for the signing. He delegated that responsibility to his brother Rev. Dan Kistler, who was also an SDG board member. It was also Dan’s understanding that the reversionary clause was in the contract. It wasn’t. Granted, it was Dan’s (and Don’s) own fault for not carefully reviewing the actual physical contract before signing it. Bad things can happen in contract signings, some accidental and some deliberate. It’s never wise to make assumptions, especially with such significant decisions, and especially when dealing with a guy like Tim Dick. Too bad no one warned them.
I’m quite aware that Don Kistler didn’t appreciate my intervention, but as Don knows I didn’t start this fight. Tim Dick provoked the whole thing, and once Tim decided to start swinging I wasn’t about to just walk away. Tim Dick is a bully and the worst thing you can do with a bully is to back down. But especially once I started receiving such incredibly damning emails from Ligonier insiders about Tim Dick there was no way that I could just walk away. As I told Don recently,
“My intention was never to put you in a bad light, and I trust that you’d be in agreement that nothing that I’ve done to date has in any way reflected negatively on you. I want that to continue. As far as I was concerned, and as far as I’m still concerned, you were always the victim and Tim Dick was the perpetrator. But you’re far from being the only victim. Tim Dick has caused considerable damage in the lives of many people, all for the sake of pursuing his selfish ambitions. The testimonies of multiple witnesses all confirm that Tim Dick is a self-serving duplicitous man who is completely unfit to be heading up a Christian ministry of any kind.
“Yes, I recognize that you never wanted me stepping in as a whistle blower. But what you fail to acknowledge is that others did, and those others were people (witnesses) that all claim that you repeatedly came to them and complained about Tim Dick screwing you over. If you didn’t want something to be done about it you should have kept it to yourself. The same goes for your private statements that Tim Dick compelled you to issue that sham public statement — that he was standing over your shoulder watching you the whole time that you wrote it. The message that you communicated was obvious — you wrote it under duress.”
If anyone is due an apology it’s me. I’m due an apology from Tim Dick for:
- His repeated evasions of my question, “Did you or did you not defraud Don Kistler in the Soli Deo Gloria acquisition?” Tim Dick did reasonably and timely answer all my other questions. However, he repeatedly evaded the SDG question.
- After multiple evasions on August 18 I issued him a ten-day ultimatum to make things right with Don Kistler or I’d publicly expose his fraud. At no time prior or subsequent to August 18 did Tim Dick deny the allegations. Had he at any time simply said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about Frank. Your sources have got the story wrong. I didn’t do it,” then I never would have published the story.
- In an email on August 22 Tim stated, “I want to address all these issues with you Frank, but think it may be wise to wait until next week because of time constraints. I want to be thorough in my response yet have a full schedule this week so, I’ll try again next week. Unless of course, you can free yourself up to make a visit this week?”
- The only reply I received from Tim the following week (which also happened to be the last email I ever received from him) was on August 26, and it too was completely evasive of the fraud question. There was only one “issue” to be resolved, and that was the issue that Tim repeatedly evaded answering. He could have easily answered with a simple “No.”
- I declined Tim’s offer to go to Orlando, noting that nothing that I was looking for couldn’t be handled by email. The fact that Tim was so eager for me to come to Orlando, when it could have all been easily addressed via email, only increased my suspicions of him.
- I was informed on August 24 that Don Kistler had suffered a stroke on August 15. The fact that I’d been in contact with Tim Dick subsequent to August 15 regarding issues that pertained directly to Don, and the fact that Tim never mentioned anything about Don’s stroke, only elevated my suspicions. It appeared to me that Tim was acting opportunistically in Don’s absence.
- It later became only too obvious that Tim’s invitation for me to “make a visit” to Orlando was nothing but a ploy to stall for time while he was getting his lawsuit prepared.
- Tim signed the lawsuit on August 24 and it was filed with the court August 25. No doubt Tim would have been thrilled for me to make a personal appearance in Orlando so that he could have the lawsuit served on me.
- Tim failed to notify me that he’d sued me. I only found out about it later by the Orlando Sentinel.
- Tim lied to the judge by saying that there was no way to contact me, thus trying to get the judge to issue an injunction to shut down my blog through secret ex parte hearings.
- When the Orlando Sentinel exposed the lawsuit and angry calls started coming into Ligonier from their own supporters Ligonier lied and said, “There is no lawsuit. We don’t know how that story got started.”
- When I was able to get my hands on a copy of the lawsuit and publicly post it so that Ligonier could no longer get away with lying about it, they changed their story, but they only lied again by claiming that “It’s not a lawsuit, it’s an injunction” failing to acknowledge that an injunction is a form of lawsuit, and also the fact that they’d sued me for $15,000 for defamation.
- Tim Dick and John Duncan lied again when on September 20 they posted a public statement claiming that the lawsuit had been “withdrawn.” Yet on September 21 they were back in court, not to drop the case, but for another secret ex parte hearing to figure out how to move the case forward. It wasn’t until September 27 that they finally withdrew the case.
- Tim Dick lied in his September 20 public statement when he claimed that he had “refuted the accusations,” not to mention all the other lies in his statement.
- On September 29 the Orlando Sentinel ran a story in which an interview with Ligonier attorney Dan Brodersen it was acknowledged that Ligonier would likely sue me again if they could track me down.
It shows a remarkable degree of willful ignorance for anyone to think that I owe the liar Tim Dick an apology, or that I even owe Ligonier Ministries or RC Sproul an apology. RC Sproul is the one who appointed his lying son-in-law to be President/CEO/CFO. He bears full responsibility for the disastrous consequences to Ligonier.
However, I can appreciate why there are still some who legitimately feel that I owe Don Kistler an apology. It seems to me that Don Kistler himself is the best authority on that subject. Given that he’s told me that he doesn’t believe that I owe him an apology I think it best to follow that advice.
Rather than issuing a public apology I will issue, once again, a public call for the repentance of Tim Dick and John Duncan, and I call on them to prove the sincerity of their repentance by resigning their Ligonier “senior management” positions immediately. I also call on RC Sproul to repent, for by his own silence he’s demonstrated his complicity in their sins.
Accountability: Why is the Reformed Community Getting it Wrong?Posted: November 7, 2006 Filed under: Doug Phillips, Doug Wilson, Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul, RC Sproul Jr 8 Comments
It is with a profound sadness that I find myself writing yet another piece on repentance so soon after the recent post concerning the leadership of Ligonier Ministries need for resignation and repentance. Yet, it would be exceedingly unseemly to refrain from confronting the evil residing amongst believers subscribing and adhering to Reformed theology by failing to so do.
Unlike the recent resignation of Rev. Ted Haggard, his subsequent deposing, and the personal humiliation and accountability before pastors willing to hold him accountable, his own family, and the flock he shepherded, there are far too many contemporary Reformed teaching elders and leaders caught up in sin that rivals or exceeds Rev Haggard’s.
One of the reasons this is true is based in this regrettable reality: Far too many of our contemporary Reformed elders and leaders have become Christian Celebrities and, in so doing, demand their followers subscribe to the leader’s own view of their absolutized power, thus rejecting any accountability for their actions. As the Rev. Brian Abshire noted in his article, these leaders form an emergent Christian Mafia
In addition to this rejection of accountability providing a prima facie example of imperious behavior, many of these leaders engage in a pattern of authoritarian, even totalitarian leadership; leadership that is not only high-handed, but is often times arbitrary, even to the point of ignoring God’s Word. Although unthinkable outside the Salem Witch Trials (despite one Reformed leader’s attempt to even portray the cessation of the trials as an example of godliness), some of today’s sin-laden Reformed Christian Celebrities have more in common with dictators than loving and accountable shepherds.
Why is this so? What is occurring within the minds of the Reformed leadership, which works itself out in such excesses, and why do these leaders portray a seeming inability to police their own ranks, holding one another accountable?
Perhaps the following may provide a few answers to these questions.
Playing at Orthodoxy
Believers who engage the tenants of Reformed theology do so because they understand the clear biblical dictate to renew their minds through the whole counsel of God. Moreover, these same adherents recognize God’s adamantine requirement for so doing. Yet, when leaders refuse to adhere to accountability in their own lives, they are not subscribing to a presuppositional belief in orthodoxy; rather, they are playing at orthodoxy, and give all the appearance of basing their rejection of orthodoxy in a humanistic rationale founded more on Mencken’s attitude toward the booboisie than in any demonstrably sound biblical reasoning.
Likewise, as one writer noted, there appears to be a divorcing of orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the lives of these leaders. However, if there is an obdurate resistance in the hearts and minds of these leaders to personally following the God-articulated path of orthodoxy, then there was never a marriage from which orthopraxy is suddenly divorced. Rather, in despising orthopraxy, one must initially reject orthodoxy at its most fundamental level – God’s Word. In so doing, these leaders reject accountability.
Though there may appear to be a seemingly foundational lust for power that drives the rejection of orthodoxy in these leaders’ lives, we must not dismiss man’s selfish nature as a root cause. Evident from even birth, mankind’s inherent selfishness can project itself in a number of behaviors, not the least of which is the aforementioned lust for power, a lust that must ultimately reject accountability in order to come to full fruition.
Another motivator for avoiding accountability is the coupling of the increasing recognition and awareness of personal depravity with the dread of any other human knowing of one’s sick soul. Yet, the Scriptures repeatedly admonish each believer to fear not, particularly as it relates to man. Furthermore, a true adherence to Reformed orthodoxy demands we confess our sins one to another, and this applies to leadership and laity alike. Thus, no Machiavellian machination can ever justify a leader’s refusal to submit to biblical accountability.
Freedom in Repentance
Lastly, it is important to reflect on the following truth. Dr. RC Sproul Sr, Dr. RC Sproul Jr, Mr. Tim Dick, Mr. John Duncan, Rev. Doug Wilson, Mr. Doug Phillips, Esq., and a host of other Reformed “Christian Celebrities” contradict their public teachings about important doctrines or practices by their personal behavior. This list includes those who refuse to hold the aforementioned celebrities accountable, regardless of the size of the pond in which some of these “celebrities” swim. On the other hand, Ted Haggard is now enjoying the freedom of confession, repentance, and God-ordained discipline. Unfortunately, today’s group of Reformed “celebrities” that appear so willing to engage in or provide the rationale for disciplining others outside the constraints of the Holy and Infallible Word of the Most High God, also appear to avoid any type of accountability themselves, preferring the bluster of threats or the filing of actual lawsuits against fellow believers. This increasingly persistent sinfulness is a stain on the visible church and our Reformed leaders can certainly learn from the non-Reformed example of those willing to hold Ted Haggard accountable for his egregious behavior.
May God quicken the hearts of those Christian Celebrities who currently besmirch God’s visible church, and may we all seek to lovingly hold our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus accountable, as we discipline and restore those in need, in accordance with God’s economy.
Honor As A Defining Principle Of Life: What Should Ligonier Leaders Do?Posted: October 30, 2006 Filed under: Ligonier Ministries, RC Sproul, RC Sproul Jr 35 Comments
During this year, much has been written on the topic of honor in Reformed circles. In fact, in May of this year, Ligonier Ministries Chairman RC Sproul spoke at a conference on the fifth commandment and honor, hosted by his son, RC Sproul, Jr. The conference was entitled “Generations: Giving Honor to Whom Honor is Due.”
Ironically, just shortly prior to the conference RC Sproul, Jr. had been defrocked for a number of dishonorable and remarkably unpastoral acts, including ecclesiastical abuse against several families in Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, stealing and illegally using another church denomination’s tax identification number, and a list of additional charges constituting insubordination and vow breaking against the Presbytery that ordained him.
Many were deeply offended that a newly defrocked Presbyterian minister was hosting a conference on “honor” when he had just received the military equivalent of a courts martial and dishonorable discharge.
Unfortunately, some of the recent writing and teaching by several Reformed leaders on the subject of honor has focused almost exclusively on the responsibility of the sheep to act honorably to their shepherds, while largely ignoring the responsibility of the shepherds to lead as honorable examples. Several of these Reformed leaders have openly and publicly sided with the defrocked RC Sproul Jr, not the least of whom was his father.
Frank Vance was ultimately sued by Ligonier Ministries in an effort to silence his criticisms of the dishonorable way that Ligonier Ministries has conducted itself, as well as Ligonier’s obvious lack of accountability. Based upon the Ligonier Ministries lawsuit against a man who professes Christ as Savior, filed only three months after the Honor conference, perhaps it is time to correct the balance of the teaching on this subject by focusing on honor as it applies to leaders.
As one blogger on the subject of the Ligonier Ministries lawsuit noted, America’s future military leaders (whether saved or unsaved) are expected to adhere to an Honor Code (a code that begins with the words “a cadet will not lie”), while receiving a taxpayer-funded education at our country’s military academies. If unbelieving leaders are expected to uphold such a standard, should not we have even higher standards and expectations of our religious leaders?
The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes.” We should expect more from our religious leaders because the very nature of spiritual leadership involves entrusting the leader with the care and concern for our very souls.
So what is wrong at Ligonier? There are many problems, but one thing in particular especially stands out: a lack of accountability. There is apparently no genuine accountability at Ligonier Ministries, and certainly no accountability comparable with what we would expect to see were Ligonier an integrated ministry of a church denomination, such as the PCA where RC Sproul parks his ordination. One has to wonder why RC Sproul believes his PCA ordination has any real value at all (other than perhaps strictly for image purposes) when he’s done nothing to make himself accountable to the PCA, either through his ministry, or even in the independent nondenominational church that he pastors. In PCA vernacular, RC Sproul is “ministering out of bounds.” In RC Sproul’s case, “Presbyterian” is an impressive label with no real substance.
Just as apparent with Ligonier is the lack of accountability that’s in any way comparable to what we find in our country’s service academies. That begs the question: Why do the unsaved recognize the necessity for accountability in a secular Honor Code, but the ministry led by one of the elder statesmen of Reformed theology has no genuine accountability system in place?
The first part of this answer begins with the rejection of biblical standards: Ligonier’s leaders have tossed aside the Holy and Infallible Word of God. The best current evidence for this is that they filed a lawsuit against a fellow believer. After the fact, when their phones started ringing off the hook with angry calls from their own financial supporters, then they started practicing a form of Pharisaical contortionism in order to justify their unbiblical action. Had Ligonier Ministries been under some form of genuine accountability, it’s unlikely that they would have been able to file the lawsuit in the first place. Until such time as they are brought under biblical accountability, it’s very likely that there will be additional abuses in the future.
During the Exodus, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, suggested a solution to dealing with the disagreements of the Hebrew slaves recently liberated from Egyptian bondage. The system that spared Moses from settling every dispute personally ensured multiple levels of review and accountability. This pattern of biblical accountability, including appeal to higher church “courts” (with “appellate review” capability), is healthy for the church, and for church ministries, for it establishes a hierarchical system of decision-making review.
Again, the secular legal system incorporates just this type of process to protect the rights of either the criminal or civil defendant. Interestingly enough, a good deal of our nation’s Constitutional Republic system of checks and balances, accountability, and right of appeal came as a direct result of the influence of the Presbyterian clergyman and Founding Father, John Witherspoon. Yet the church in America in recent years has, on the whole, largely abandoned these principles of justice that made America the envy of the world, principles that originated back in the time of Moses.
From all appearances, it seems the lack of decision-making review in the Ligonier vs. Vance lawsuit is responsible for the ministry’s failure to examine the second and third order effects of suing Frank Vance. One has to ask “why” no one in Ligonier saw the obvious repercussions associated with suing a fellow believer. The failure to consider fully the ripples emanating from the filing of a lawsuit is a failure of leadership at the highest level of Ligonier, not just the CEO and senior management positions, because it exemplifies the aforementioned lack of accountability and review process.
Moreover, to suggest the organization did not believe Vance to be a Christian is disingenuous at best and, at worst, a lie. Vance has referred to his elders on his website which, by definition, means he is a member of a church with elders and thus should be a presumed believer. If Ligonier had any doubt, they should have just emailed and asked him: “Are you a Christian?” before filing suit. Regardless of Vance’s eternal state, the mere filing of a lawsuit by a Christian ministry is a serious matter, and RC Sproul, Tim Dick, and senior management (John Duncan) should have considered the full range of possible ramifications, as it pertained to their stakeholders (donors and fellow Christians) before acting in such an unchristian manner.
Another serious failure that must be placed at all the leadership’s feet is the lack of a dismissal of the lawsuit while simultaneously reporting the suit was dropped via email to a select group of bloggers. Who is in charge at Ligonier – management or the lawyers? The lawyers work for Ligonier, and any senior manager could have easily picked up the phone (even in the middle of the night) and told their attorneys to draft the requisite paperwork for a dismissal and file it when the court opened the following morning. This could have and should have been initiated before releasing a statement claiming that the lawsuit had been withdrawn.
At the very least, Ligonier could have honestly stated, “We have requested our attorney to submit the appropriate paperwork; it is in process, and will be completed soon.” Instead, every member of senior management is now further suspect in light of the blatant distortions surrounding the alleged dismissal, as well as that Thursday’s maneuvering by Ligonier’s lawyers seeking a way to legally serve Vance and thereby prolong the lawsuit.
So what is the solution to the debacle at Ligonier?
To answer this question fully we need to review the chronology of the lawsuit.
- Ligonier Ministries and Tim Dick, filed a lawsuit against Frank Vance, a professing believer in Christ and author of the Contending for the Truth website, on August 25, 2006, for alleged defamation. (Note that the suit was filed before Vance posted about Don Kistler, so the statement released by Ligonier on this subject is not related to the lawsuit.)
- Ligonier and Tim Dick requested from the court as relief (1) monetary damages of at least $15,000 plus costs and attorney fees, and (2) an injunction to stop Vance from posting more critical comments on his website in the future (this is known as prior restraint).
- Along with the lawsuit, Ligonier and Tim Dick filed an “emergency” motion with the court without Vance present (an “ex parte hearing”) to try to obtain an immediate temporary injunction to shut down Vance’s website. The lawyer who signed the emergency motion certified, as an officer of the court, that Vance need not be present to present his side of the story because there was no way to contact him. This, of course, was a lie.
- Ligonier Ministries personnel repeatedly changed their stories as to the existence of and the nature of the lawsuit. Some even went so far as to deny the existence of the suit, even though it had been reported in the Orlando Sentinel (does anyone read USA Today at Ligonier?).
- Tim Dick sent an email to a select group of bloggers after close of business on Friday, September 22, 2006, with links to two statements on a private part of the Ligonier website, statements which had been posted two days prior on September 20. Those statements, issued nearly a month after the filing of the suit, included a claim that the complaint had been “withdrawn” which, as we know now, was a blatantly false statement. However, the statements did not include any language of repentance for filing the lawsuit in the first place or for false statements made subsequently.
- Not only had the lawsuit NOT been dismissed by September 20, 2006, but, based on a court hearing in the case file at the court, Ligonier’s lawyers were petitioning the judge about how to advance the pace of the lawsuit as late as Thursday, September 21, 2006 (the day after Ligonier’s public statements announcing that they had withdrawn the lawsuit).
- Ligonier ultimately did withdraw their lawsuit, but not until September 27, a full week after they had posted their public statements stating that the lawsuit “had been withdrawn.”
- Ligonier withdrew their lawsuit, but also stipulated that they did so “without prejudice,” meaning they reserved the right to sue again. Based upon an interview that Ligonier’s attorney, Daniel Brodersen, gave to the Orlando Sentinel, suing Frank Vance again does indeed appear to be their intention.
Regardless of when the lawsuit was finally withdrawn, it is clear that Ligonier management has been the source of too many conflicting accounts and outright lies about the lawsuit. This isn’t just a failure of leadership, it’s a crisis of leadership. No one else is to blame; the lawyers cannot be blamed, the junior-level employees cannot be blamed, the customer service representatives do not share the blame. It is solely the failure of the Ligonier management – including Dr. RC Sproul, Sr. – to provide Christian leadership and to conduct their actions in a biblical and Christ-honoring manner.
So what is the succinct answer to the problem at Ligonier? The leadership needs to do the honorable thing – they need to resign.
If the CEO (Tim Dick) and the General Manager (John Duncan) of a Christian parachurch ministry don’t know the Sacred Text well enough to know that Christians do not sue Christians; if the CEO and General Manager can’t inform the ministry’s lawyers (who allegedly recommended the lawsuit) that Christians do not sue Christians (Are Ligonier’s lawyers professing Christians and if not, why not? And if they are not, then why is Ligonier concerned about Frank Vance’s relationship with the Most High God?); and if the board members are not willing to hold the CEO and General Manager responsible by demanding a public apology (not an unrepentant, self-justifying apology hidden in a special link on the Ligonier website), as well as public repentance, and public contrition on behalf of the ministry; then all the leadership has but one choice: They are duty bound to do the honorable thing, and the honorable thing in this situation is resignation.
A Final Word Concerning Dr. RC Sproul
One of the definitions for honor includes “a keen sense of ethical conduct.” Not only do the machinations associated with Ligonier’s lawsuit demonstrate a complete lack of ethical conduct, the resultant obfuscation, “spin,” and morally bankrupt blame-shifting on the part of Ligonier’s management team demands these individuals do the honorable thing in this instance – resign en masse and spare Christendom any more pain and embarrassment.
However, even if all of Ligonier’s senior managers resign, including Tim Dick and John Duncan, there is still the issue of Dr. Sproul’s, as well as America’s other Reformed leaders’, silence. These men and women (Joni, do you hear this?) need to publicly repent for their poor examples of leadership and failure to hold their fellow leaders at Ligonier accountable for their gross public sin and besmirching of Christ’s visible church. If they do not, then perhaps we need to worry more about the state of their eternal souls than we do about whether these leaders were responsible for filing an unbiblical lawsuit or providing tacit approbation by their silence.