Doug Phillips Promotes Pagan Authoritarianism

The following article has been republished here with the permission of the author, Don Veinot. The original article appears on the Midwest Christian Outreach Blog.

Don Veinot has also published an exposé about Doug Phillips and his Patriarchy entitled, Who Will Be The First in the Kingdom? The article appears in the current edition of the MCOI Journal. Jennifer Epstein previously posted an article about it entitled, Cult-Watch Ministry Publishes Article Exposing Doug Phillips.

Doug Phillips – New Paganism?

by: Don Veinot, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc.

A number of years ago Dr. Albert Mohler spoke at an EMNR conference and in his talk shared a story about Bishop John Shelby Spong. According to Mohler, at the Lambeth Conference, Spong had committed a cultural and political boo-boo. He had been pressing for the ordination of homosexuals but was unable to get the majority to agree at the time because the bishops from Africa held firmly against it. In a moment of frustration Spong lashed out with, “The reason the African bishops believe the Bible to literally is because they have been so recently converted from paganism.” To which the Bishop from Uganda responded, “The reason Spong doesn’t believe the Bible is because he has so recently been converted to paganism.”

I have thought a lot about this exchange lately. It is easy for many of us to write off liberalism, the Emerging Church and Postmodernism as an embracing of paganism by church leaders and their followers. And, to be sure, it is. But, do some segments of conservative believers embrace other forms of paganism that may be promoted by some of their leaders? I would suggest this is the case with Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard.

Bill Gothard embraces and promotes the pagan view of authority as being the Christian view of a top down authority based on a misuse of the story of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-10. The story was about who Jesus was and His ability to heal long distance but Gothard makes it a story about authority and wrote in his Basic Seminar Textbook:

After the centurion asked Jesus to come and heal his servant, it occurred to him that just as life was structured around a “chain of responsibility,” so the kingdom in which God operates must have a similar structure of authority.

Jesus directly inverted this idea in Luke 22:25-26:

And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

Rather than the leader being less or not accountable and each one below them in “authority” being progressively more accountable to a larger number of people above them Jesus turned it around and made the leader the most accountable. God’s leaders live in glass houses and everyone else has Windex!

But how does this reflect upon or answer the question about Doug Phillips and Vision Forum? There are a number of areas that could be looked at, including his view of authority which, like Gothard’s derives from First Century paganism. We have looked at his promotion of his concept of patriarchy in our current Journal article, “Who Will Be First in the Kingdom?” (Vol. 13, No 2). Another area is Vision Forum’s view of women. How does it compare with First Century paganism?

Moya K. Mason points out in her “Ancient Roman Women: A Look at their Lives.”:

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In that culture aristocratic woman may have received some education but that was primarily for use in educating their children. Most women received little or no education. Men were the ones to receive higher education. It was considered a waste of time and financial resources to educate a woman in the same way. After all, her use was to have children and stay at home to care for them. The husband owned the wife and children. If she had a baby girl he had the choice as to whether the female child would live or die. He was more interested in having a son to carry on his name but the son too was property until he attained adulthood. The daughter could be sold or bartered with. She lived with the father until he decided to marry her off, or perhaps not marry her off and she was under his authority until he died.

Alvin J. Schmidt in his book Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization points out how the church elevated the status of women by addressing many of these issues. He also comments on the church having to go back and address this issue as various church leaders have reintroduced this pagan view of women back in to the church. As we look at Vision Forum are we seeing yet another attempt at bringing the pagan view of women back in to the church? In their statement The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy we read:

Until she is given in marriage, a daughter continues under her father’s authority and protection

But what of education? Like the First Century Romans, Vision Forum in their article ”Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” considers educating females a waste of time and money:

And does it really make economic sense to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a woman to get an advanced education (often having to go into debt to finance that education) that she will NOT use if she accepts that her highest calling is to be a wife and mother?

In his excellent book Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” Timothy Paul Jones addresses Bart Ehrman’s claim that some passages were modified to oppose women and Jews:

A handful of changes could potentially relate to the role of women in churches today. It appears that women played more prominent roles in the early church than they did in the later eras. As a result some scribes in late ancient and medieval times seem to have altered texts that seemed to place women in prominent positions.

For example, in the most ancient manuscripts of Acts 18:26, a woman named Priscilla seems to be the primary teachers of Apollos. Centuries later, a copyist switched the order of names, placing the name of Pricilla’s husband, Aquila, first. In Romans 16:7, someone named Junia – a woman’s name – is said to be “significant among the apostles,” but a later scribe turned “Junia” into “Junias,” a man’s name. In Acts 17:4, another scribe changed “prominent women” into “wives of prominent men.” In each of these cases, however, it’s possible to look at the manuscripts and recover the original wording.

Similarly, Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum is clear in their article ”Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” of the wrongness of a woman having an individual personal view and taking any sort of participation or prominent role which may be viewed as competing with her owner, er, I mean husband:

In regards to a woman’s right to vote; if husband and wife are truly “one flesh” and the husband is doing his duty to represent the family to the wider community, then what PRACTICAL benefit does allowing women to vote provide? If husband and wife agree on an issue, then one has simply doubled the number of votes; but the result is the same. Women’s voting only makes a difference when the husband and wife disagree; a wife, who does not trust the judgment of her husband, can nullify his vote. Thus, the immediate consequence is to enshrine the will of the individual OVER the good of the family thus creating divisions WITHIN the family.

Is Doug Phillips just the latest incarnation of this infiltration? I am not sure but it seems worth thinking about.

Vision Forum’s Jamestown 400: An Epic Week For Doug Phillips

Doug Phillips “Utterly Shatters The Nonsense” About Misrepresentations On Patriarchy

Last week was an epic week for Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Ministries. Mr. Phillips was at the center of what was touted to be the most significant event in Vision Forum’s history, the hosting of a 400th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Jamestown Virginia Colony. Doug Phillips promoted his event as a “celebration,” whereas the “official” government sanctioned event last month was called a “commemoration.” The most politically correct called it an “invasion.” Doug Phillips is correct to call it a “celebration” for there is indeed much to celebrate.

Speakers for the event included respected Christian historians and scholars such as Gary DeMar, Marshall Foster, John Eidsmoe, Joe Morecraft, Paul Jehle. And then there was Doug Phillips.

The Jameston Quadricentennial: A Celebration of Our Providential History was the most significant and far reaching event in the history of Vision Forum Ministries.”

A former Vision Forum intern by the name of C.S. Hayden was gracious enough to post a number of event photos and offer some personal commentary. Some of what Caleb Hayden shares, however, is significant in conveying the fact that Doug Phillips was faithfully checking certain blogs last week to see how he was faring in the court of public opinion. For example, here’s a portion of his account of Doug Phillips’ talk from Saturday, June 16:

Doug Phillips encouraged us throughout the day as he shared stories of God’s Providence in planting and sustaining the Jamestown settlement. At the end of the day, he implored all of us to raise up an army of many children for God’s glory, which aroused great cheers and applause from the crowd (including from yours truly). He also said that we must return to biblical manhood and womanhood, and at this point, he utterly shattered the nonsense that some people falsely propagate about the teachings of the “patriarchy” movement. He said that we need visionary daughters who are capable, intelligent, well-trained, and love being women. Doesn’t sound like Mr. Phillips thinks women are “doormats,” as some misguided souls have suggested. He also said we must have sons of honor who will be raised to become patriarchal leaders of their households, with love, sacrifice, a vision for discipleship, appreciation and honor for their wives, and willingness to lay down their own lives. Doesn’t sound like Mr. Phillips thinks men are exalted as tyrannical dictators over women, as some misguided souls have suggested.

Apparently, this was very significant, or at least it was significant to C.S. Hayden, because it’s one of the very first things he mentions in his article. This appears to be a clear reference to Jen Epstein’s three-part series, “Are The Biblical Tenets Of Patriarchy Biblical?“, and perhaps a lesser reference to my own article, “The Vision Forum: Patriarchy Weirdness Exposed.” Other blogs and forums too have picked up on Jen Epstein’s Patriarchy critiques and, no doubt, Doug Phillips is under some pressure to respond.

Vision Forum’s “The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy” appear to be a vital document — absolutely vital to Vision Forum’s “vision.” As Jen pointed out last week, Patriarchy is central to so many of Vision Forum’s events. Without Patriarchy Vision Forum’s “vision” is no more, and unless Vision Forum can continue to claim that Patriarchy is “biblical” they won’t have any basis to continue pushing it with any legitimate authority.

It’s remarkable that such a significant document could have been posted for several years on Vision Forum’s web site and, apparently, no one has ever publicly challenged it in any substantive way as being extra-biblical and unbiblical. Then along comes Jennifer Epstein, not a biblical scholar but just a simple Berean, and with relative ease she begins to cast serious doubt on “The Tenets.”

How will Vision Forum respond? According to C.S. Hayden, Doug Phillips has already “utterly shattered” Jen Epstein’s arguments. But the problem is that no one has seen any evidence of it. Furthermore, Jen Epstein isn’t arguing against “a return to biblical manhood and womanhood.” In fact it’s apparent that this is exactly what she is arguing in favor of. What she’s arguing against is calling The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy “biblical,” when so much of it appears to be so seriously lacking in biblical support. Worse yet it does appear that Doug Phillips has engaged in a great deal of prooftexting and taking Bible verses out of context to try and make his case. Rather than handling the Word of God with respect and treating it as sacred, Doug Phillips appears to have used God’s sacred Word in a self-serving manner to push his personal and very profitable agenda.

I assume that C.S. Hayden isn’t a Vision Forum employee. However, as a “former intern” he would have been personally trained by Doug Phillips in such things as debate and logic. Therefore, one would suppose that Caleb would have at least some abilities to defend statements that he makes on his own blog. Caleb did receive some comments on his blog. However, Caleb’s “response” was most disconcerting.

Tammy C said….
What a good ending.I am sure we will be reading about this celebration on many blogs for weeks to come.

Enjoy your visit with the family from Mountain Musings.
6/17/2007 7:09 AM

Nate E said…
What? No Jamestown 400 finalist pictures? -)

Thanks for covering the event. Looks like it was an excellent “building up” time.
6/17/2007 7:45 AM

Joshua said…
I really wish we could’ve gone. I’m jealous. Our family just couldn’t afford it. It sounds like it was awesome.

“He also said that we must return to biblical manhood and womanhood, and at this point, he utterly shattered the nonsense that some people falsely propagate about the teachings of the ‘patriarchy’ movement.”

We need to hear more on this! Patriarchy is definitely under attack, and not from the typical non-Christian feminists, but from Christians who claim that they’ve believed in Patriarchy and practiced it. This has got me worried.

I’ve been following the articles on Jen’s Gems this week critiquing The Biblical Tenets Of Patriarchy. I have to admit that I’ve been very bothered about it because it does appear that there may be some theological holes in some of the tenets. I haven’t seen anybody step up to the plate to defend it. At this point I’m not really sure what to think.

Do you know if Vision Forum will be responding? If Doug can “shatter the nonsense” then I hope he does it really soon where we can all see it, like on his blog. This is really important.
6/17/2007 4:33 PM

Spunky said…

I share your thoughts when you say, “it does appear that there may be some theological holes in some of the tenets.”.

We are a family that believes in Biblical patriarchy. Which at one time we believed was the same thing that men such as Doug Phillips believed. (We were very early supporters of Vision Forum.) However, having read the tenets shortly after they were first published and some recent writings by men within Vision Forum such as Mr. Abshire, we began to see that what they purport as biblical patriarchy isn’t exactly what we see in Scripture. There are places where their scriptural justification is not sufficient for the claims they are making.

Which in and of itself would be fine. This wouldn’t be the first time that disagreement occurs between believers over doctrine. What is troubling to us is that any disagreement is seen by those that ascribe to their viewpoint as an attack on THEM. Those who have supported and encouraged the various ministries over the years are surprised to see that those who disagree are viewed as “the enemy” simply for saying perhaps this isn’t quite right or supported in Scripture. Don’t misunderstand I’m not saying that must see it our way. But isn’t there something between total agreement and total enemy?

Can sensible bible-believing Christians disagree with the tenets of patriarchy as written by Doug Phillips and Phil Lancaster without being considered a effeminate or thwarting God’s restoration of Western Civilization?

The fact that you or others are looking to Doug Phillips for a response which will “shatter this nonsense” is also a troubling thought. Why must Doug Phillips respond? Rather, let each of us, study the Scripture and decide who is actually moving into nonsense. Relying on men such as Doug Phillips to do the work of the fathers only proves that possibly the men who have written the tenets have become more important than the Truth they seek to teach us.

Let each father become a Berean and see that if what is taught by Godly teachers is actually true.

Isn’t that what a true Patriarch would do to protect his family from possible heresy?
6/17/2007 7:33 PM

Joshua said…
“Why must Doug Phillips respond?” He needs to respond because The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy are being accused of being unbiblical and extrabiblical.

We’ve shared The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy with a lot of other families because we want to see a lot of Christian families doing patriarchy. Some have been open to becoming patriarchal too, especially when they see that it’s biblical. It’s hard to argue against something that’s biblical.

Until this week we’d never even heard anyone say that The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy aren’t biblical. We really need some help with this. We believe that God has raised up Doug Phillips as a great teacher. He’s one of the smartest men we’ve ever heard. Even the people attacking patriarchy probably see that he’s really smart. So we’re looking to him to help us with this. He’s been so helpful to our family. Why is it wrong for us to look to him for help with this? We’re really grateful to Doug Phillips. He’s done more for the patriarchy movement than anyone.

6/17/2007 10:17 PM
Anonymous said…
As far as Doug P. not thinking women are doormats, I submit that actions speak louder than words. God bless him for proclaiming otherwise, but how does he behave? That’s far more telling.

I agree with Spunky – I am a women with a graduate professional education, raised in a patriarchy family. Why is it the patriarchy movement condemns me for living my calling, just because it includes higher education and doesn’t fit some kind of cookie cutter mold? Honestly, I’d have fewer problems with it if people would stop telling me I’m going to hell or can’t possibly be in God’s divine will because I think women should be allowed to go to college if it fits in their life plan.
6/18/2007 1:30 AM

Anonymous said…

Your sad comment is exactly why it is an awesome thing that people are starting to sit up and take notice of the heresies being promoted as “biblical truth” in patriocentric circles.

God hasn’t called you to wait around for Doug Phillips to tell you what to believe. Paul commended the Bereans for searching the Scriptures themselves. If all you have to offer your own children is what Doug Phillips thinks or believes, why should they follow you as their patriarch?

I offer this challenge to you….set aside any tapes, books, or writings of any kind written by someone in a patriocentric camp. Pick up your Bible and start reading the Gospels. Take notes as you read, paying particular attention to what Jesus says. Then, compare His writings with those of the patriarchs.

It will take a while to detox…believe me, I was there. But when your patriocentric delerium tremmens have passed, all you will have left is God’ precious grace and you can move on to a living relationship with the Lord, as can your family.
6/18/2007 4:25 AM

Spunky said…
Joshua, you said “Why must Doug Phillips respond?” He needs to respond because The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy are being accused of being unbiblical and extrabiblical.

I understand that the Tenets are being accused of being unbiblical or extrabiblical. But the question for those of us who believe in Biblical patriarchy shouldn’t be “How does Doug Phillips respond to this?” Instead we should ask, “What does the Scripture say? Are the tenets Biblcial?”

If the Biblical Tenets are indeed bilbical they will hold up to the strongest scrutiny. We have heard from Doug Phillips and what he believes on Biblical Patriarchy, now is the time for every man to examine those tenets as a Berean and see if they are indeed true. Don’t let your supposition be that they are, but test them to see if they are indeed True. Scrutinizing the Tenets is not the same as challenging Doug Phillips personally. It’s obeying the Scriptural instruction to study to show ourselves approved unto God. Paul was scrutinized by the Bereans, surely we are permitted to scrutinize the Godly teachers of our day as well.

You asked, “Why is it wrong for us to look to him for help with this?”

I’m not saying it’s wrong, but troubling when a believer looks to a man FIRST to see what he thinks rather than looking to Scripture to see what God reveals. Doug Phillips is fallible, just like you and I. Yes, he is smart and gifted in many areas. But that doesn’t make him right in all areas. You are free to ask him what he thinks about the criticism. But that doesn’t excuse you from your first obligation which is to search the scriptures yourself to see if the things any teacher teaches are indeed true, that must be done independent of Doug Phillips.

Our focus as believers should be on Truth. Truth will stand up to the toughest scrutiny. It is we who must have the courage to accept what Truth reveals about us and what we believe. Clinging to an idea simply because the messenger has been right in other areas in the past, or his idea has personally helped you, is insufficient to believe the idea is Biblical or that the teacher is consistently right in all areas.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying Doug Phillip’s Biblical Tenets are wrong. He could very well be right, and those that critize need to adjust. But how will we know unless we ALL are studying for ourselves and not relying on someone to study it for us and telling us where the flaws are? Study the Truth of Scriptures and build your own defense for why these Tenets are true. Then when you have exhausted yourself in the effort, petition many great biblical scholars to examine what you have found. And then compare what you have found with the Tenets themselves. See where you agree and where you disagree. Then go back and study some more attempting to resolve the areas of difference.

But of course, that all takes work. It is so much easier to just have someone tell us what to believe. Following someone else who has studied and found what they believe is easier than doing the work ourselves. I’m not trying to be hard on you. It’s true of all of us. But a Christian man or woman will study the teachings of others for the greater good of themselves and their family. And in return, the great teachers will know that they are indeed accountable for the words they teach. And in the end the Body of Christ benefits.

Accountability isn’t to be feared it is to be embraced. For in true accountability, the purity of Truth shines forth. Truth cannot be hidden from view is inescapable. It is we who must have the courage to accept what Truth reveals. That is a harder task than even studying. But in the end it is the right choice.

George Grant wrote recently, “None of us like to hear that we are wrong, that we have to make changes in our lives, that we have to adjust our way of thinking, or that we have to admit our faults. We are loathe to confess that are in need of repentance, forgiveness, or forbearance. And we persist in our pride even when we know the truth.

The truth demands something of us. It may or may not demand something of us as dramatic as what it demanded of the passengers of Flight 93. Though the truth ultimately sets us free, it does so at some cost.”

And that cost is usually our pride. We don’t want to admit that we or someone we admire might be wrong. But the Truth will set us free. And I am glad I have freedom in Christ and not bound to the claims of any earthly teacher however smart or talented they appear to me at first.
6/18/2007 7:31 AM

Spunky said…
Lastly Joshua you said, “Even the people attacking patriarchy probably see that he’s really smart.”

Not all who are examining the tenets are attacking patriarchy. That gets back to my first comment. Joshua, why do you view those who question what Doug Phillips teaches as Biblical Patriarchy, as an attack on patriarchy itself?

Brian Abshire warned in the article Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation, “There is also the danger that some men will over-react against the common emasculated concept of the modern “father” and will overcompensate by denying any authority other than their own; including lawful authority in the church and State. The simple fact is that ALL Men will sin; they will sin against God and they will sin against their families. However, the divinely required methodology of dealing with that sin is by meditating and applying the unchanging standards of God’s law, being humble before Him, recognizing and confessing that sin, and then through repentance, taking the appropriate course of action.”

I believe Mr. Abshire is correct in that regard. There is a danger for any man not correctly defining or applying what the Bible says about Patriarchy. That includes Doug Phillips. The remedy is each of us applying the unchanging standard of God’s Word to our lives and those we allow to teach us. This should not be viewed as an attack or threat by anyone truly seeking God’s Truth and His alone.
6/18/2007 8:38 AM

Spunky said…
Let me clarify, I am NOT accusing Doug Phillips of sin with his tenets of patriarchy. But that ALL men do sin in their lives. We cannot see the words of any man as infallible, the claim of perfect truth is for God’s Word alone. Sola Scriptura. Therefore the possibility exists that in writing his tenets he MAY have erred just as all men are capable of erring. The only way we will know for certainty is by doing what Mr. Abshire exhorts and that is comparing Doug Phillips words against the unchanging Truth of God’s Word.
6/18/2007 8:44 AM

How did Caleb Hayden respond? Caleb “responded” by deleting all but the first two comments. Thankfully, Spunky saved the comment thread and reposted them on Jen Epstein’s blog.

Caleb may or may not know know who Joshua is. Perhaps Joshua’s questions and concerns embarrassed Caleb. Perhaps Caleb just didn’t now what to say. But is that any cause to just delete his comments? Joshua’s comments do appear to be a sincere plea for assistance. Is this how Doug Phillips trains his interns to respond to people who are begging for help?

Spunky, on the other hand, is someone that, if Caleb doesn’t know who she is, he really should. “Spunky” is no obscure unknown figure in the home schooling sector of the blogosphere. Given that home school moms probably comprise at least 50 to 70% of Vision Forum’s business, that was a very foolish thing for Caleb to delete Spunky’s comments. Spunky is a very thoughtful and circumspect lady, and not one to quickly take sides in a controversy or dispute.

It troubles me to see the way that C.S. Hayden treated Joshua. It would be nice if we could all assume that just because Caleb Hayden isn’t a Vision Forum employee that his behavior isn’t a reflection on Vision Forum. But the fact is his behavior is a direct reflection of the culture that is Vision Forum, a culture of Doug Phillips’ creation. Caleb was trained by Doug Phillips. Caleb is just “responding” as he’s been taught, and by what Doug Phillips has personally modeled for him.

Joshua, keep pressing for answers. Contact Vision Forum directly. However, don’t be surprised if their response isn’t any different than Caleb Hayden’s “response.” That will tell you something: You’re permitted to agree with Doug Phillips. You’re not permitted to disagree, or to so much as even ask him questions that might embarrass him. That’s all part of the hyper-Patriarchy package.

Spunky had some very good insight and suggestions. I’d like to suggest, Joshua, that you carefully consider what she said. In fact I’d like to just recommend what she said to anyone who’s now looking for answers about this Patriarchy thing. I don’t believe we’re going to find any answers by looking to Doug Phillips and Vision Forum. I think they’re part of the problem.

The Vision Forum: Patriarchy Weirdness Exposed

If you haven’t been following Jen’s Gems, and the ongoing exposés of Doug Phillips there, you’re missing out on some fascinating discussion. One of the subjects that I’ve personally been following with great interest is “Patriarchy.” Prior to reading about Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyrannies I’ve never really given much thought to the Patriarchy movement. However, in following this story it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that the Patriarchy movement leadership has got some serious problems when it comes to the proper and biblical exercise of authority.

There also seems to be a certain “weirdness” factor about Patriarchy, at least with the leadership of the movement. For example, one of the commenters on Jen’s Gems made mention of some weird goings on at The Vision Forum’s annual Father and Daughter Discipleship Retreats, including “unity” events such as “daughters shaving their daddies” and “daughters dressing their daddies.”

When I first read that comment I thought, “Surely you jest! That’s just too weird!” Unfortunately, the commenter really was telling the truth. It didn’t take me long to find specific references on Vision Forum’s web site to these weird goings on. I’m sure that there are a lot of nice and proper things that happen at these Vision Forum events, and no doubt I’ll get some commenters now telling me how wonderful these events are. But regardless of all the nice and proper things that may happen there, the daddy-shaving and daddy-dressing isn’t proper, at least in my book. It’s creepy.

Some photographs from the Vision Forum daddy-shaving sessions are provided below, and below them are the photo captions from the Vision Forum web site:

The Father and Daughter Retreat was not only a time to serve (and shave) Daddy, but to dress up pretty as a picture.
Our girls competed to see who could do the best job at grooming, shaving, and tying a tie on their father.

And of course after shaving daddy we must also dress daddy:

This young lady made her first attempt at helping Daddy get ready in the morning.

In a video from Vision Forum’s web site highlighting their Father-Daughter Discipleship Retreat, with commentary from Doug Phillips’ daughters, they say, “Our weekend began with Father-Daughter unity games. Each of the games was designed to teach us a principle about our relationship with our fathers.”

What, pray tell, does shaving daddy have to do with teaching principles about a daughter’s relationship with her father? What has this got to do with “discipleship”? I guess I must not be a “Patriarch” so I’m having a hard time with grasping all this. In fact the whole thing just seems creepy. But it doesn’t end with just daddy-shaving. It also includes daddy-dressing, and that seems even more creepy.

I’ve got daughters and I’ve never, ever, had the notion that they should “serve” me by daddy-shaving or daddy-dressing. I wouldn’t even ask my wife to do that! Apparently all this shaving and dressing stuff is supposed to prepare a daughter for marriage:

“Hearing and seeing the example again this weekend confirmed in their hearts that this is the direction they want for their lives. They have both given their hearts to me and I intend with all my (and the Lord’s) strength to guard them and nurture them until such a time as I give them to a godly man in marriage.

“My older daughter is already taking the initiative to learn more on the domestic front and her spirit is noticeably softer now that she has a direction in life that coincides with the way God naturally wired her as a woman. My younger daughter is watching intently the example of her older sister. And both have turned to me as their Dad and their head. It is a beautiful and lovely thing to be a father of daughters when we do things according to Scripture.”

I’m having a hard time seeing how daddy-shaving and daddy-dressing prepares a young lady for marriage. Apparently this is all part of Vision Forum’s Patriarchy package. To me all this appears to do is to prepare a young lady for a life of obsequious bondage to a master, not marriage to a husband.

Apparently, this is supposed to create some sort of a “bonding” experience between daddies and daughters. Why not then have a Vision Forum Mother and Son Discipleship Retreat? And what sort of “unity games” might it include? What about moms shaving their sons? What about moms dressing their sons? Weird? Yes, that would be weird. But to be logically consistent about it we’d need to have sons shaving their moms, wouldn’t we? Daughters shave daddies, so sons shave mommies? So would sons shave mom’s legs? Creepy, right? Of course it’s creepy! And what about sons dressing their moms? So what makes it acceptable for daughters to be shaving and dressing daddies? The only answer is Patriarchy. Only in Doug Phillips’ Land of Patriarchy could such weird things be going on, year after year.

When men want to be shaved they go to a barber. When women want the hair removed from their legs they go get a “wax job.” Fathers don’t solicit their daughters (or even their wives) to shave their faces anymore than do mothers solicit their sons (or even their husbands) to shave their legs.

Fathers should not be soliciting their daughters to dress them, anymore than should mothers be soliciting their sons to dress them. It’s weird and creepy, and it says something about Doug Phillips’ notions of “unity” and “discipleship.”

To me this is just more evidence with what’s wrong with the Patriarchy movement, or at least the direction that Doug Phillips and Vision Forum are taking the Patriarchy movement.

Does Patriarchy Produce Ecclesiastical Tyrants?

“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).” Christian Leaders Ignore Sin (When It’s Advantageous), by Henry Barnes

One of the hottest blogs right now is “Jen’s Gems; Exposing Doug Phillips’ Ecclesiastical Tyrannies.” I don’t mean that Jen Epstein’s blog is hot just in Christian circles. I mean her blog is hot in cyberspace in general. Jen’s blog has gone from obscurity to being listed several times now on the WordPress Blogs Of The Day. May 2nd found her listed #89 out of over 900,000 WordPress blogs! And that was a low point. She’s been as high as #26! The number of comments she’s getting on some of her articles also boggles the mind. For example, her article “Vision Forum: Culture of Deception by Doug Phillips’ Example?” currently has 560 comments! Surely that’s got to be some kind of new blog record!

All the commotion over Jen’s blog has helped to shed some light on some other things beyond just Doug Phillips and his tyranny. In order to better understand Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyranny, and why he refuses to repent of it, it might be helpful to examine some of Phillips’ values and beliefs, especially where any of those values and beliefs are the very thing that may be motivating and justifying (in his mind) his tyranny. For example, there’s the doctrine of “Patriarchy.”

Doug Phillips RC Sproul Jr patriarchyDoug Phillips is a prominent leader of the “Patriarchy” movement. So is RC Sproul Jr. Phillips and Sproul teamed up with the publisher of Patriarch magazine, Phil Lancaster, to produce The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy. Though “The Tenets” contain numerous Scripture references, a careful read of those references will in some cases show that those verses do not make their case at all. While there may be some desirable aspects to Patriarchy, given the dubious character of the authors of “The Tenets,” we might want to proceed with great caution.

Both Phillips and Sproul are ecclesiastical tyrants. Sproul was defrocked over it (and some other things too). Phillips can’t be defrocked because he’s never been frocked in the first place (he’s a self-appointed non-ordained “pastor” accountable to no one). Phillips and Sproul are apparently very close friends. Doug Phillips says of RC Sproul Jr, “My heart beats to the same drum.” I’m not surprised to hear it.

Patriarchy is starting to find itself more and more under the microscope, and Doug Phillips’ unjust excommunication and shunning of the Epstein family is a major reason for it. Some folks are assuming that there must be a direct cause/effect between Patriarchy and ecclesiastical abuse. I haven’t yet reached a firm conclusion on this, but I do have some thoughts that I’d like to share that I hope will stimulate some productive discussion here.

A number of people have alleged that Patriarchy is inherently a misogynistic extrabiblical belief system that subjugates women and children to autocratic men. If that were true then the potential for abuse would be high and perhaps even commonplace.

It seems logically consistent that autocratic and authoritarian men may not be content to rule merely over their own homes. They would seek to rule over other people as well. As the scope of such a man’s “authority” increased, and particularly where he actively sought out additional positions of authority, the opportunity for his abuses would grow exponentially.

The office of Pastor would be an ideal position for such a man to seek out. The office of Pastor is a position of trust, and it also carries an inherent authority. The Bible has much to say on the qualifications of pastors and elders (1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 5) and how they are to govern the church of Jesus Christ as His under-shepherds. They are to be servant-leaders, compassionate, caring, and edifying. But because of sin there will always be exceptions, and sometimes bad men will seek to become pastors who have no business being pastors.

God has ordained that we have pastors. Therefore, the office of Pastor does not create bad men. Usually the opposite is the case. Many less than exemplary men have become pastors, and they have soon discovered that the demands and responsibilities of the office compel them to completely change their lives, and for the good. Either that or they soon realize they lack the qualifications and they leave the pastorate for good.

This isn’t to say though that bad men aren’t occasionally tempted to become pastors. However, they were bad men before they became pastors. They sought out the office of Pastor not because of God’s calling, or because of a desire to humbly serve and minister, but because they crave the personal attention and “authority” that comes with being a pastor. It wasn’t the office of Pastor that corrupted their character; they were corrupt long before they became pastors.

I’m currently unable to say the same thing of Patriarchy. I’m concerned that Patriarchy has great potential for taking otherwise good men and making something bad out of them. Again, I’m not decided on that issue, and I welcome more discussion here. However, one thing I am decided on though is that the influence of Patriarchy is the worst possible thing for a man to get involved with when he already has problems with loving his wife and kids, anger management, etc., or if he already has a tendency to govern his home as a dictator. Entrusting an angry man to be a “Patriarch” is like entrusting rebellious teenage boys with whiskey and the car keys.

I can’t think of a more ego-gratifying position for an autocrat like Doug Phillips to seek out, for the purpose of expanding his “dominion,” and the number of people that he can dominate and abuse, than the office of Pastor. Who appointed, who anointed, who commissioned, who ordained Doug Phillips to the office of Pastor? Doug Phillips did. Doug Phillips is an “authority” unto himself. When you add “the tenets” of Patriarchy to that kind of mix you’ve got the makings for a very volatile situation.

Over on Jen’s Gems, Esther posted an interesting comment, and then she asked a question which got me thinking:

Esther Says:
April 28th, 2007 at 12:16 pm
Mark, what I do not understand is the glaring hypocrisy for anyone with eyes to see.

Doug Phillips had no problem with the RC Sproul, Jr. defrocking. Like Sproul, Sr, he ignored church authority and held teaching a teaching conference with Jr. soon after the defrocking.

Yet, you and Jen are excommunicated and shunned for not repenting but are not told your offense that you must repent?

It really does boil down to Doug Phillips’ opinion…not scripture.

Folks, if that is not a cult, I don’t know what is.

Since I do not come from patriarchal type circles, I was wondering if it is normal to ’shun’ children in these situations?

Esther asked an important question that really needs to be addressed. I don’t come from a patriarchal background either, so I’m probably not the best one to answer her question. However, one thing I do know is that it’s not the first time shunning entire families for the alleged sins of the parents has been perpetrated by a prominent figurehead in the Patriarchy movement. The unjust excommunication and shunning of the Austin family by RC Sproul Jr is another recent example of a prominent Patriarchy leader who’s shown his penchant for being an ecclesiastical thug. Apparently Sproul’s thuggery was a major factor in why he and his entire session of elders were defrocked:

Another significant factor in the deposing of the St. Peter Session is the ecclesiastical tyrannies they perpetrated against several families over several years. Noteworthy among these is the John Austin family because it was the first that had been documented, and the first which had petitioned to Presbytery for redress.

On April 17, 2005 John Austin sent a letter to the Elders of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, informing them that he was withdrawing his membership at St. Peter over doctrinal disagreements, and that he would be seeking out another church in the area more in accord with his Reformed Baptist views. In his letter he stated, “We in no way want to cause problems or divisiveness,” and for his desire to be at peace with the brethren:


On May 14, 2005 the Session of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church voted unanimously to censure John Austin “for contumacy (failure to repent) by breaking his vows of membership.” John’s punishment included, “The refraining from all contact with your family by the other families in our church.” In other words, the congregation of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church was ordered to shun the entire Austin family, including the Austin’s five children:


The incident with the Austins is an obvious example of an ecclesiastically abusive church. But it might also be fair to refer to St. Peter as a “Patriarchy Church” since its head [defrocked] pastor is a prominent leader in the Patriarchy movement. Are Patriarchy leaders more prone than other pastors to engage in unjust church discipline? There does appear to be a pattern to indicate so.

The Austin family excommunication and shunning sparked debate about the nature of church membership. Doug Phillips had this to say:

Biblically leaving a local church involves transferring covenant duties and privileges from one local body to another. It does not involve breaking a covenant.

To put it another way, the believer’s covenant with the local church can be transferred to another Christ-honoring local church, but it cannot be “resigned,” abandoned, or simply disregarded without the professing believer becoming a covenant-breaker.

But what happens when the pastor refuses to permit a church member to “be transferred to another Christ-honoring local church”? And how can you even have an opportunity to be transferred if your pastor won’t allow you to even check out any of the other local churches so you can figure out which one you’d like to transfer too?

Just how far does a pastor’s authority legitimately extend? Can he actually prohibit you from leaving his church, even when you have just cause for wanting to leave? And if you leave anyway does he really have the spiritual authority and the biblical support to “excommunicate” you, such is in the Austin case, thereby putting you outside the visible church and cutting you off from the grace of God? The RPCGA completely disagreed with RC Sproul Jr about his “excommunication” of the Austins, and he wound up being taken to the woodshed for it.

As the Austin family found out, even though they did their best to leave St. Peter Presbyerian Church “honorably,” and even though they did nothing in violation of the church’s Book Of Church Order, it still wasn’t good enough for RC Sproul Jr and his session of ecclesiastical bullies. The Austins were unjustly excommunicated, and Sproul ordered the St. Peter congregation to shun them, and that included even the Austin children. Punishing entire families by shunning, including even small children, for the alleged “sins” of their parents, is an extremely cruel and wicked thing to do. Punishing children for the sins of their parents is also expressly prohibited by Scripture:

The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. Ezek. 18:20

What was done to the Austin family bears striking resemblance to what was done to the Epsteins. In the name of “church discipline” Doug Phillips abused the Epstein family, the entire family, in much the same way as Sproul abused the Austin family. If ever there could be an act that a pastor could commit that carries with it the risk for causing children to stumble and lose their faith, it would be to punish them for the sins (real or imagined) of their parents. RC Sproul Jr, Doug Phillips, and other Patriarch leaders of their ilk, should take the frightening ramifications of Matthew 18:6 to heart.

Even a pagan knows how unjust it is to punish the children for the sins of their parents. Even cults that are renowned for shunning, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, don’t shun entire families. When it comes to church discipline, these two “Patriarchs” are guilty of perpetrating more injustice and wickedness than any JW pastor ever has. This isn’t to say that a JW pastor wouldn’t be capable of doing the same thing. But even JW pastors have some accountability that prevents them from getting away with it. Sproul was disciplined for his abuses by the Presbyterian denomination that he was ordained by. Doug Phillips hasn’t been disciplined for his tyrannies because he’s not ordained by anyone, and not accountable to any ecclesiastical authority. Doug Phillips is a law unto himself.

Ecclesiastical thugs are prone to defend and support other ecclesiastical thugs. That’s why Doug Phillips continued supporting RC Sproul Jr after he’d been subjected to the severe church discipline of being defrocked. Phillips demands that all churches honor the “church discipline” that he meted out against the Epsteins, without so much as even being permitted to question him about it. But why should anyone honor Doug Phillips’ church discipline when he openly defies the church discipline that was meted out against RC Sproul Jr? Doug Phillips’ hypocrisy should surprise no one. Ecclesiastical thugs demand respect and honor, but they only give respect and honor to others when it advances their personal agenda. To quote Esther again:

“Doug Phillips had no problem with the Sproul, Jr. defrocking. Like Sproul, Sr, he ignored church authority and held teaching a teaching conference with Jr. soon after the defrocking.”

Only several weeks after RC Sproul Jr’s defrocking, Doug Phillips and his father Howard Phillips spoke at a conference hosted by RC Sproul Jr’s Highlands Study Center, an event directly affiliated with St. Peter Presbyterian Church, the church that Sproul continued pastoring, even though he’d been defrocked. Hypocrisy was manifested in full force by the very title of the conference, Generations Conference, Giving Honor To Whom Honor Is Due.

RC Sproul Jr - Doug Phillips Honor Conference

By speaking at that conference, Doug Phillips sent a message loud and clear. By speaking at a conference on “honor” with the newly defrocked RC Sproul Jr, Doug Phillips thumbed his nose at the Presbyterian denomination that had disciplined his pal. But defiance of church authority isn’t the whole of it. As others have already pointed out, RC Sproul Jr had just suffered the military equivalent of being court martialed, found guilty, and receiving a dishonorable discharge. Then he has the nerve to host a conference on “Honor”? The magnitude of this hypocrisy just boggles the mind!

For anyone who’s read the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment they shouldn’t have any trouble figuring out exactly why the Saint Peter elders were defrocked. The list of charges was very detailed and specific, and apparently there was a lot of evidence to support the charges. Not only that but Sproul even confessed, effectively pleading “Guilty as charged.” Sproul received due process according to the well documented disciplinary procedures of the RPCGA’s Book Of Church Order. Sproul had sworn an oath to obey that BCO, and to be held accountable to it.

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that RC Sproul Jr received justice. But oddly enough there is some defiance of the RPCGA’s discipline, at least among a few of Sproul’s fellow Patriarchal ecclesiastical buddies. Aside from Doug Phillips, there is also Doug Wilson. It may not just be a coincidence that Doug Wilson is another prominent Patriarchy leader. Not long after being defrocked, Sproul was welcomed by Doug Wilson into his Confederation Of Reformed Evangelical Churches, a place where other defrocked ministers have also been warmly welcomed. Sproul is “considered ordained in the CREC,” even though he’s defrocked. Go figure. The CREC supposedly has some rules and even makes their ministers swear vows to obey the rules, just like real denominations do. But Doug Wilson appears to be a lot like RC Sproul Jr, in that neither one of them believe the rules actually apply to themselves.

Not that I’m in any way surprised that Doug Wilson has broken his vows to obey the CREC’s Constitution. In fact vow breaking is entirely consistent with how Wilson operates, and he’s very comfortable welcoming into the ranks of the CREC fellow vow breaking ministers who play fast and loose with the rules, including even the defrocked. Witness RC Sproul Jr.

Men of Doug Wilson’s ilk when given any authority at all will always attempt to seize more authority, whether their constitution that they have sworn to obey grants them that authority or not. Doug Wilson, Church Splitter

The disciplinary case against the Epsteins is in stark contrast to the Sproul case. According to the Epsteins, and the primary source documents they posted that back up their story, they were tried in absentia, without any due process, according to procedures that Doug Phillips fabricated out of thin air. The list of charges were vague and unspecific. No evidence was presented. No witnesses were called. The Epsteins weren’t permitted to cross-examine their accuser. The Epsteins pleaded, “Not guilty” and have continued pleading “Not guilty” ever since. The Epsteins have called their “church trial” a “Kangaroo Court” and a “Star Chamber.”

In spite of the sham justice that Doug Phillips meted out against the Epsteins, he demands that all other churches respect his “church discipline.” Yet Phillips has shown no respect toward the church discipline of the RPCGA, a discipline that even he apparently can find no fault with, or at least any fault that he’s willing to make a public statement about. Yet he, just like Doug Wilson, has continued treating RC Sproul Jr as though he’d never been disciplined at all. Yet these Patriarchal ecclesiastics expect and demand that others honor the church discipline that they mete out, even though their own form of church discipline breaks every rule in the book.

Returning now to my original question, “Does Patriarchy Produce Ecclesiastical Tyrants?” Is it Patriarchy that turned men like Doug Phillips and RC Sproul Jr into tyrants, or were they tyrants and bullies all along? Probably the only people who could answer that with some measure of certainty are those who have known these men long enough to know what they were like before they became Patriarchs.

What about at the grass roots level of the Patriarchy movement? Are there a lot of bad Patriarch husbands and fathers? My personal exposure to Patriarchy is somewhat limited, and the only Patriarchs that I personally have known appear to be fine brothers in Christ who treat their wives and children well. They’re true servant-leaders and they’re very biblically minded men. There are probably many godly men involved in the Patriarchy movement who would never be abusive toward their families or anyone else.

Patriarchy, or at least the biblical aspects of Patriarchy (and yes, I believe there are some), has the potential to motivate men to become strong and active leaders in the home, the very sort of thing that many wives often desire that their husbands would be. Weak and ineffective male leadership in the home is an all too common problem and valid complaint among many wives. Someone may yet be able to convince me otherwise, but at least at the grass roots level I don’t think Patriarchy is much of a problem, and there may be many husbands and fathers that have benefited from it. If there is a problem with Patriarchy, the problem is with Patriarchy leaders like Doug Phillips.

The more I look into Patriarchy the more I’m convinced that men like Doug Phillips are giving a movement that has a lot of good potential a bad name. So we should really label them “Hyper-Patriarchs.” Just like so many other extremists, Doug Phillips appears to be hyper about a lot of things, including church discipline. The leadership of the Patriarchy movement are practicing an extremist and extrabiblical form of Patriarchy. Where his Patriarchy touches the church it becomes ecclesiastical tyranny. The church of Jesus Christ needs loving and compassionate discipline, not ecclesiastical tyrants that masquerade as pastors and shepherds. Doug Phillips is an ecclesiastical thug — a brute, a bully, and that’s not the same thing as being a Patriarch.

Doug Phillips Uses Virginia Tech Shootings To Promote Agenda

Doug Phillips Vision ForumDoug Phillips has posted a blog article about the Virginia Tech school shootings. Even I could have never anticipated that Doug Phillips was this cold and calloused. Even before the blood had been cleaned from the classroom floors, even before any of the funeral services had been performed, even as twenty gunshot-wounded students still lay recovering in their hospital beds, Doug Phillips was preparing another one of his “See I told you so!” sermons.

Just to ensure that his article received the widest possible exposure, Doug Phillips’ Vision Forum also emailed the article to thousands of recipients. Upon seeing Phillips’ article two days ago I was completely stunned and words failed me. Now that I’ve had a little time to absorb it I’ll try and communicate my thoughts about it.

Others, however, wasted no time in communicating their sentiments to Doug Phillips. One reader wrote in to say:

“Please remove me from your mailing list. The use of this tragedy by any organization to promote an agenda is unconscionable.”

After reading Phillips’ article I had exactly the same sentiment. What he has done is unconscionable.

Phillips entitled his article, On the Horror at Virginia Tech; Finding Eternal Hope in Present Sorrow. But how exactly does Phillips offer hope? He doesn’t. In point of fact his article is a rather gloomy and fatalistic “See I told you so.”

“When people ask: ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?’ or ‘How can such a terrible thing happen?’, we must point them to the fundamentals. First, all of us deserve death and all of us will die.”

Now there’s some “hope” to offer a grieving mother and father who have just lost their son or daughter in a senseless slaughter! Saying such a thing to grieving families, or even to those who haven’t been directly impacted by the Virginia Tech shootings, like the millions across this land who are questioning, “Where is God at a time like this?”, isn’t a message of hope at all. Phillips’ article is likely to be interpreted by many as a message that God is cruel, unloving, uncaring, judgmental, and only too eager to destroy sinners.

This isn’t to say that I disagree that “All of us deserve death.” While being a valid theological statement, is this a message of hope? Are these words of comfort? Is this the Gospel of Jesus that Christians are to share with the disillusioned and suffering? No, it’s not, nor is it a message of comfort.

Tragedy and “horror” isn’t a time for preaching “fundamentals.” This is a time for mourning and, therefore, this should be a time of “comforting the afflicted”:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2Cor. 1:3-4)

Doug Phillips pastors Boerne Christian Assembly. Pastors are called upon to provide “grief counseling” and even perform funeral services. I cringe to think of the “comfort” meted out by this man to his own church members should any of them ever have an hour of personal crisis.

Phillips says:

“Thousands will be deeply affected, probably for the rest of their lives. The most serious pains belong to the mothers, fathers, and sisters and brothers of the murdered victims. What shall we say to them? What are we to learn from these events?”

Those two questions address very different issues, or at least they should. But it’s clear from his article that Phillips would encourage us to take the practical and theological lessons that he believes we are “to learn from these events” (according to him), and “say to them” those same hard and ponderous theological “fundamentals.” I would submit that to do so would be to beat a wounded person over the head with a message that they’re simply in no position to hear. The harm and injury that could come of it could be catastrophic.

This would be an absolutely horrible time to be sharing any of the things that Phillips talks about in his article with those that mourn at Virginia Tech or, for that matter, anywhere else where unbelievers are present. For Phillips to call these shootings “God’s judgment” is anything but a message of “hope.” However, that’s one of the things that Phillips informs us that they are “to learn from these events.”

“Second, we must acknowledge that the rise of community violence is a judgment of the Lord.”

Can you imagine telling a grieving father and mother who has just lost their son or daughter, “What you need to learn from this is that this is the judgment of the Lord”?

Is this what Jesus did to Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died? Did he say, “This is the judgment of God. He deserved to die”? No, Jesus comforted them. “Jesus wept.”

Some of the things that Doug Phillips has to say in his article are worth hearing. But why does anyone need to hear them now? Phillips’ timing and his approach are absolutely atrocious. This isn’t the time for lectures or posturing. This is a time for grieving, and grieving people need to be comforted, not beat over the head with “fundamentals.”

I received an email from a home school mother in Virginia about this article. She gave permission for me to post her email.

Dear Watchman,

I’m surprised that more blogs haven’t taken Doug Phillips to task over this. What he’s done is sick. A lot of people got that Doug Phillips’ spam email about the VT massacre. It looks to me like he deliberately sent it to a lot of home school families here in Virginia. Talk about pouring salt in the wound. I know I’m not the only one who’s outraged to get his spam. Just check this out from the Home Educators Magazine Yahoo Group.

RE: [HEM-Networking] Forward to Christian Homeschool leaders

Is this online any where?

This is so weird that this has come up now as I had never heard of Vision Forum until they added vahomeschoolers emails to their email list (unrequested) and we started getting spam from them. I then found out that Doug Phillips is a featured speaker at the Home Educators Association of Virginia convention this spring.

As a Va Tech grad, I was absolutely appalled at their response to what happened. Really, really scary stuff… you know that people that think like this are out there, but to actually have it show up in my inbox was eye opening. It is scary that these people are representing homeschooling.


I don’t know Stephanie personally, but she’s saying exactly what I think of this too. Watchman, thanks for what you’ve done. This Doug Phillips is a sick man. He needs to be stopped.

Doug Phillips: Will He Ever Be At Peace With His Brethren?

It was on January 16 that I received an email from Mark and Jen Epstein, requesting that we take our Doug Phillips articles offline. The Epsteins made this request in the spirit of seeking reconciliation with Doug Phillips.

At the time I was very sceptical that reconciliation was even possible with a man like Doug Phillips, but I also didn’t think it appropriate to deny the Epsteins their request. After all, what the Epsteins sought to accomplish by requesting reconciliation through Peacemaker Ministries was entirely biblical. Besides which, if things didn’t work out (and I was reasonably confident that Doug Phillips would do what he wound up doing), it would take me all of just a few minutes to put the articles back up.

In the end my scepticism was more than warranted. Doug Phillips sabotaged reconciliation. After exhausting all their other remedies, the Epsteins put all their “Exposing Doug Phillips’ Ecclesiastical Tyrannies” articles back up, and I put our own articles back up too. Now the Epsteins have come out with another chapter to their saga. This latest story only confirms just how incredibly vengeful and vindictive that Doug Phillips really is. The Epsteins have dropped some hints about this before, but until now they didn’t name names.

Now the Epsteins have named Little Bear Wheeler as the pastor they went to after they were unjustly “excommunicated” from Boerne Christian Assembly by Doug Phillips’ personal Kangaroo Court. Little Bear Wheeler isn’t just a nobody. Little Bear Wheeler is the founder of Mantle Ministries. He’s been active in the home school community for a number of years, and he’s a highly respected leader in the home school movement. Little Bear Wheeler has been active in the home school movement at least as long as Doug Phillips has, and probably longer. It speaks very badly of Doug Phillips that he chose to dis an honorable man like Little Bear Wheeler.

Pastor Wheeler suggested that the Epsteins attend his church for six months while he worked at facilitating reconciliation between Doug Phillips and the Epsteins. However, Pastor Wheeler actually attempted to do so for fourteen months, all to no avail. In the end he had no choice but to abandon his reconciliation efforts.

The Epsteins later moved on and then attempted to join Faith Presbyterian Church of San Antonio. FPC also attempted to facilitate reconciliation. The Epsteins appeared to have greater hopes in reconciliation through the FPC session than through Little Bear Wheeler because several elders at FPC are “certified Christian conciliators” with Peacemaker Ministries. But if Doug Phillips would spurn a close personal friend like Little Bear Wheeler, why would he treat the FPC session any better?

At least Phillips knew not to ignore the FPC session for fourteen months, the way he did Little Bear Wheeler. Rather than ignoring FPC’s overtures, Phillips decided he’d better waste no time. Rather than postponing one meeting after another for fourteen months, Phillips met with the FPC session promptly, but just like Phillips did with Pastor Wheeler, he called the FPC session “wicked sinners for fellowshipping with excommunicants.”

What is the purpose of church discipline, and of excommunication as the most severe form of church discipline? According to the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Chapter XXX

Of Church Censures

I. The Lord Jesus, as king and head of His Church, has therein appointed a government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.[1]

II. To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the Gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.[2]

III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honor of Christ, and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.[3]

IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition; suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the Church; according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.[4]

Rather than acknowledging that church discipline is for the benefit of the sinner, to bring him to repentance so that he can be reclaimed by the church, Doug Phillips treats church discipline as a means of accomplishing his personal political agenda. Doug Phillips told Jen Epstein, “You’ll pay for this” and that’s exactly what he did. Church discipline isn’t about making someone “pay for this.” It’s for the purpose of bringing about repentance and reconciliation.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith (which was derived from the Westminster Confession), which Doug Phillips claims he subscribes to, makes it plain that church discipline decisions are to be made by church officers. Church discipline isn’t done by mob rule and Kangaroo Courts. It’s not something that’s put to a congregation to decide by majority vote, especially when the majority of a church are the pastor’s personal employees, as was the case at BCA (many of the BCA members were Vision Forum employees).

When other church officers have attempted to reclaim the Epsteins for the church of Jesus Christ, Doug Phillips has sabotaged those efforts through intimidation and allegations that having anything to do with the Epsteins makes them “wicked sinners.” Phillips’ objective isn’t about reclaiming the Epsteins for Christ, but relegating them to a perpetual state of punishment by shunning. Even the Epsteins’ children, which were never charged with any sin and were never the subject of church discipline, have been punished by Doug Phillips and the entire BCA congregation, by shunning. Even Jehovah’s Witnesses, which are notorious for shunning, know better than to do that.

The church of Jesus Christ is to be an instrument of Christ’s grace and mercy. Doug Phillips appears to know nothing of mercy. Rather, he is driven by entirely by personal agendas, and vengeance is one of his tools of that agenda.

What has Doug Phillips accomplished in the process? Did his vengefulness improve his reputation? Was anybody (besides Matt Chancey and his “former interns”) impressed? Has his church grown? Have sales at Vision Forum improved (the answer below)? If Doug Phillips had more common sense than pride he would have told the Epsteins, “It’s been two years since I disciplined you. Two years is long enough. We don’t want you back at BCA, but I’m pleased that you want to make yourselves accountable to a session of church elders. Accountability is good and they’re in a good position to examine you and determine your fitness to become members of their church. They’re in a good position to minister to you and help your family. I mean you no ill will, so go in peace. I won’t interfere with your plans.”

Doug Phillips didn’t need to agree to reconciliation, but he also didn’t need to sabotage the Epsteins wanting to become members of a Reformed church. Instead, Phillips undermined the Epsteins’ hopes of becoming FPC members and he even called the FPC session “wicked sinners for fellowshipping with excommunicants.” Are the FPC elders “wicked sinners”? That seems doubtful. What seems far more likely is that Doug Phillips is a self-righteous Pharisee.

I received an email from Ann. She gave me permission to post her email, provided I don’t use her full name. Ann has some good insights and I think her email deserves to be posted. Her email also addresses the question, “Have sales at Vision Forum improved?”

Dear Ministry Watchman,

I’m on Vision Forum’s email list and have been for a long time. If you ever order anything online from them (and I’ve ordered a lot of things from them before) you’ll wind up on their email list. In the past few months, including since prior to Christmas, I’ve been amazed by how many emails I’ve gotten from Vision Forum. Some weeks I’ve gotten an email from them almost every day, and practically all of them are sales discount notices. What gives with Vision Forum? I’ve never seen anything like this from them before. It’s obvious that their sales are way down and they’re getting desperate.

I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation between all the “exposing Doug Phillips’ ecclesiastical tyranny” articles and the fact that Vision Forum is having to beg for orders. If there is then I hope that he comes to his senses and changes his ways soon. I’d hate to see Vision Forum brought to their knees. Doug Phillips still has some good things to say. He just needs to repent of being such an arrogant jerk and start serving the Lord and the Lord’s people in humility.

On Jen Epstein’s blog there are comments now about how Doug Phillips is retaliating against Mr. “Little Bear” Wheeler. Phillips has dropped Mr. Wheeler from the Vision Forum catalog, and he won’t even talk to Mr. Wheeler any more. It’s all over the fact that Little Bear welcomed the Epsteins into his church. Phillips is punishing Little Bear financially for not shunning the Epsteins. Now I’m seeing blog comments calling for a boycott of Vision Forum.

I don’t think an official boycott is necessary. It’s obvious that VF is feeling the sting already of families like ours using good stewardship over our finances. Probably all Jen Epstein or anyone else really needs to do is suggest that people exercise good stewardship by not supporting abusive ministries. I see that Jen did that on her other blog with Ligonier Ministries. Jen used to financially support them but now it sounds like she no longer does. It’s a question more of exercising biblical stewardship, not boycotting.

Our family is probably a lot like other Christian families. We’re careful to not financially support Christian ministries and businesses that get themselves embroiled in problems that they could have easily avoided. Doug Phillips is a controversial man, but it’s not controversy that we run from. What we don’t like are troublemakers, and Doug Phillips is obviously a big troublemaker, and very arrogant one too. It looks to me like just about every problem he’s gotten himself into was of his own making. The Ministry Watchman article exposing Phillips’ “Raising The Allosaur” video fraud is a good example. I deeply resent the fact that he used home schoolers to push his personal agenda with lies and lined his own pockets from it. I’m sad to say that we purchased that video. We won’t make that mistake again.

I’m impressed that the Epsteins offered Phillips a biblical way out of his conflict with them. I’m bothered that he refused their offer. It tells me a lot about what he’s made of. The man isn’t fit to head up a church, and he’s not fit to head up a Christian ministry. I’m not taking sides with the Epsteins. I’m sure they’ve made alot of mistakes along the way, but I also don’t think they deserve to be treated this way. No one deserves to have done to them what Doug Phillips has done to them.

In her latest article Jen Epstein has pointed out that Little Bear Wheeler also has a ministry to home school families, and that he sells a lot of the same items that Vision Forum does. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that Little Bear has been selling those items for a lot longer than Vision Forum has, and that rather than finding unique things to sell himself, Doug Phillips went into direct competition with Little Bear Wheeler by selling a lot of the same exact things. Given the choice our family will patronize Little Bear Wheeler rather than Doug Phillips. Needless to say, we also won’t be ordering anything ever again from Doug Phillips.

I’m also going to make a point of not attending any conferences where Doug Phillips speaks. I’m also going to send those conferences letters telling them my objections to their having him speak. I’ll send you a copy of my letter and you can post it if you like. Please just don’t use my full name. We’re very active in home schooling and even exhibit at home school conferences. I’m sure that Phillips would like to use his influence to hurt us (like he’s hurt Little Bear Wheeler) if he knew I was going to write some of the conferences he speaks at. If others would like to use my letter to send to home school leaders that they know they’re welcome to do that. If you have a big list of email addresses for home school leaders I’d like to get a copy of it.

I don’t think it’s right for any home school groups to be giving a man like Doug Phillips a platform to promote his personal ambitions. He’s become too much of a liability. I think a lot of home school groups don’t even understand Phillips’ agenda and they need to know about it.

Thanks for everything you’ve done.


Doug Phillips’ influence in the world of home schooling is considerable. Ann is well justified in her concerns and it makes a lot of sense that she wants to email home school leaders. I don’t have an extensive email list like what she’s asking for. If anyone does and they’d like to make it available, please email it to me and I’ll pass it along to Ann.

I hope that one day soon Doug Phillips will get smart and find a way to be at peace with his brethren. Doug Phillips has a lot of potential to do many good things for the church of Jesus Christ, as well as for Christian home schoolers. But unless Doug Phillips repents he also has the potential of doing us all great harm.

Doug Phillips Torpedoes Reconciliation With Epsteins

With Frank Vance’s recent departure things have been a little slow lately.

I just checked on our comments and noticed that there had been about twenty pingbacks that came in this morning, all from Mark and Jennifer Epstein’s blogs! Here I thought things have been quiet for them too, and then blammo! Obviously they’ve actually had a lot going on behind the scenes, and they just couldn’t talk about it.

The latest word from the Epsteins is that Doug Phillips torpedoed the Peacemaker Ministries reconciliation that they were trying to get him to participate in with them. Phillips apparently told the Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA) elders, “This is not about reconciliation; this is only about the Epsteins repenting” and “There is only one way for the Epsteins to be reconciled with me; they must come to me and repent fully without any equivocation of everything that we excommunicated them for, and they also have to repent for blogging about me.”

I don’t thnk that anyone should now have any doubts about the true nature of Doug Phillips. I remember that in one of Jen Epstein’s early stories that she said that Doug Phillips told her, “You’ll pay for this!” Phillips was true to his word. He made the Epsteins pay, and three years later he’s still making them pay.

It must have taken a lot of effort for the Epsteins to arrange for that peacemaking, and it must be a huge disappointment to have Phillips arrogantly rebuff the offer. But one good thing about it is that the Epsteins have just further confirmed what Doug Phillips is really all about. Doug Phillips is a vengeful, self-righteous, unforgiving man.

Here’s a copy of an email I just received from Mark Epstein:

Dear Ministry Watchman,

We appreciate your cooperation with us in honoring our request to take your articles about Doug Phillips down while we sought to enter into Peacemaker Ministries reconciliation with Doug. We know that you were all very concerned for us, and that you believed that the prospects for reconciliation were remote. Your scepticism was well justified. In spite of your scepticism you still agreed to cooperate with us by taking the articles down, and we appreciate it.

Last week we were informed that Doug Phillips refused the efforts of Faith Presbyterian Church to facilitate reconciliation on our behalf. We’ve posted articles on our blogs describing what happened at:

Doug Phillips Refuses Reconciliation With The Epsteins, and

Doug Phillips Refuses Reconciliation.

Doug told the FPC session, “This is not about reconciliation; this is only about the Epsteins repenting.” He also told them that there was only one way that we could ever be reconciled to him. We’d have to come to him and repent of everything that he’s accused us of. That’s simply not possible for us to do. Doing that would mean that we’d have to lie and bear false witness against ourselves. We’d have to lie because what Doug demands is that we confess sins and beg forgiveness of things:

  1. That we’re not guilty of and that no one can provide any evidence that we’re guilty of.

  2. That we committed years before we even became a Christian, and that we confessed and repented of years ago.

  3. That are so vague and ambiguous that we can’t possibly comprehend what they even are.

  4. That in the case of the few charges that we were guilty of, we confessed and repented of those things, but Doug excommunicated us any way.

We’re disappointed but not surprised. We’re also disappointed with the FPC session. Doug did everything that we expected he would. We didn’t however expect that the FPC session would cave in the way they did. Three of their elders are “Certified Christian Conciliators” with Peacemaker Ministries. In our estimation they could have done much more than they did. Nevertheless, the FPC session isn’t the issue and we’re unlikely to discuss them or respond to comments about that issue, unless we’re forced to. Our focus will remain on Doug Phillips.

We won’t be making any more attempts at reconciliation. We’ve done everything that we possibly can.We request that you put the articles back up that we previously asked you to take down.

Thank you for everything that you’ve done for us.

Mark and Jennifer Epstein

I never much liked the idea of taking down all our Doug Phillips articles, but I also didn’t want to get the blame, or give Phillips any excuses for not meeting with the Epsteins for their reconciliation meetings. In the end it didn’t make any difference.

So Mark and Jennifer, as soon as I post this I’ll start reposting all our Phillips articles (look for pingbacks comin’ back at ya!).

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless,



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in the bonds of Christ Jesus,


Mark and Jen Epstein Seek Reconciliation with Doug Phillips

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

Dear Ministry Watchman,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours for the Gospel of Jesus,

Mark and Jennifer Epstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug Phillips: Villainy Behind the Mask of Virtue?


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

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

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



November 5, 2004

Villainy Behind the Mask of Virtue: Vision Forum Unmasked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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