THREATENED LAWSUIT AGAINST THE
SOUTHWESTERN CALIFORNIA CENTER FOR CHRISTIAN STUDIES
THREATENED LAWSUIT AGAINST A HOMESCHOOLING FAMILY
(previously under the “shepherding”/eldership of Doug Phillips)
MEDIATED LAWSUIT AGAINSTJOE TAYLOR
(an archeologist with whom Vision Forum collaborated on a creation science project)
DOUG PHILLIPS INITIATES BLOG CAMPAIGNS
Entry A: Andrew Sandlin's Reference to Phillips' Legal Threats
David Bahnsen’s incisive 2004 response to Doug Phillips is once again available here. [Blog host: Text appears below on Under More Grace.]
My own brief comments on the situation surrounding that article are posted here (scroll down).
One Response to “Bahnsen on Phillips”
Entry B: Bahnsen's Blog Post (Referenced in Entry A)
It appears that one of the constants in my life is the ability of people with substantial abilities and gifts to just floor me at times with their audacity, impulsiveness, and general lack of restraint and Christian love. I believe part of my hyper-sensitivity in this arena comes from my commitment (imperfectly executed) to reading one Proverb per day (coinciding with the calendar of the month) for the rest of my life. I am so continually convicted, challenged, and devastated by the way the Proverbs speaks to me that it humbles me. Nonetheless, it has also created a particular sensitivity to those who demonstrate a contentious spirit, who do not conceal a matter in love, who do not pursue unity, who stir a pot prematurely, and who exercise a complete lack of wisdom.
Of course, I also am particularly sensitive to anything that I consider a poor witness to the world, being personally committed to a Christian culture and being emotionally involved in seeing unsaved folks come to know the Lord. In my particular circle, which is by no means exhaustive or impressive, no single factor has been a larger impediment to people’s views of the gospel than this charge (paraphrased): "My goodness, you people are a nasty, cantankerous bunch. I thought you guys were supposed to get along?"
I do not believe that one person’s sin, or even the sin of 5 billion people, ought to keep someone from coming to know the Lord. Nevertheless, when a Christian continually fails to show the fruits of the spirit, or demonstrate a spirit of peace, maturity, wisdom, etc., it is inevitable that such failure by us will impede gospel progress. Indeed, Pastor Joe Morecraft says of such folks, "The world will look at you, and it will laugh" [his emphasis].
I could not agree more.
So, with these thoughts and emotional undertones in view, allow me to reply to the gifted Doug Phillips’ recent blog attack on the Southern California Center for Christian Studies. Indeed, whether it was unbeknownst to him or not, his attack was much more than an attack on SCCCS. Here is Doug’s quote in its entirety:
"One of my favorite unsung heroes of the home school movement in attendance this last week is Kevin Swanson, pictured above with his wife Brenda. Kevin is a man of many talents. He serves as a pastor in a family-integrated assembly which is part of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the host of a radio show called Generations, and the leader of one of the most influential home school organizations in America, the Christian Home Educators of Colorado. Kevin is simply off-the-charts fantastic. A man of tremendous creative energy, indefatigable optimism and passion for biblical patriarchy, he and the outstanding men and women of CHEC are helping to craft one of the most influential and Christ-honoring state home school movements in America. (Kevin reported that he recently returned from keynoting at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies (SCCCS) conference, a conference which sadly spent much of its time besmirching the legacy of its now-deceased founder (Dr. Greg Bahnsen) by disparaging those Christians standing for presuppositionally biblical methods of political activism in the gates of our land through organizations like the United States Constitution Party. I guess Kevin -- an advocate of biblical methods of political activism -- was the skunk at the garden party.)"
I should start by concurring with Doug’s assessment of Rev. Kevin Swanson. A graduate of the SCCCS’ seminary program, in my brief time with him throughout last weekend, and particularly as I listened to his presentation, I found him to be a man of action, a man of principle, and a man committed to Christian unity and faith. I will quote from Kevin later in this article as a means of contrasting him with Doug Phillips.
So, Doug and I share the same view on Kevin Swanson. But let’s look at the rest of this quote:
"... SCCCS, which sadly spent much of its time …."
Excuse me, Doug. In the spirit of academic honesty (not to mention that thing called the 9th Commandment), would you mind putting up on your website right now the answer to this question: How much of the SCCCS conference tapes have you heard (or had you heard when you’d written this)? Tell your readers and adoring fans how you got your information that preceded this statement. If you got an advance copy that I, the conference coordinator, do not know about, and have been able to do a wise and patient critique of what we "sadly spent much of our time" talking about, please clarify. If, on the other hand, you are lying about what we spoke about, or rather, making it up out of thin air, please protect the credibility of your own writing and teaching by saying so. I am sure that people, myself included, would love to know what you have heard that tells you what we spent "much of our time" talking about. Since you were not at the conference, and I turned down CNN’s offer to broadcast it live on cable television (kidding), I would like your readers to be made aware that you either (a) Got tapes before they have been made public, or (b) Are speculating, or sharing gossip, as opposed to actually writing with a sense of credibility and honesty. The 9th Commandment is still in effect.
"... besmirching the legacy of its now-deceased founder (Dr. Greg Bahnsen) by disparaging those Christians standing for presuppositionally Biblical methods of political activism"
Herein lies the rub. This is the line that rubs me right where I hate being rubbed. I am Greg Bahnsen’s middle son. I am on the Board of SCCCS. I was the individual conference coordinator. I emceed the event. I approved the speakers. I assigned the speaker topics. And I take offense at such an outlandish, preposterous, and inaccurate accusation. I take great pains to protect and uphold the reputation of my late father. He is my hero, mentor, and Dad. If I were going to "publicly besmirch his legacy," it would require a great deal of meltdown in my own life. Indeed, if someone were to publicly accuse me of something as this, they have an awfully high burden of proof. I will even add that someone else such as Doug Phillips writing such a thing has a particularly great need for caution here: no one knowing a public figure whom they deeply respect ought to throw around reckless words like this about him unless they are prepared to back it up. As it turns out here, Doug’s comments are not only patently false. They are antithetically false.
Doug Phillips likely does not need to apologize for what he said SCCCS did to Greg Bahnsen’s legacy; he simply needs to cross Greg Bahnsen off his list of "approved scholars," and move on. Allow me to explain ..
What the Speakers Really Said
As someone who was at the conference, allow me to break down for you what was presented at the conference. I will compare this to the publicly-held viewpoints of my late father.
Jeff Ventrella opened the conference with a brief apologetic for the way in which the pulpit and the world of politics do mix. He stated that Christian leadership can and should participate in the civil realm, and that the first amendment never precludes ministers and congregations from exercising their faith in the town square. So far, the people who agree, are: SCCCS, Doug Phillips, and Greg Bahnsen.
Steve Wilkins (the actual keynote speaker, by the way) proceeded to provide an outstanding address on problems in the conservative "movement," faulty expectations many politically active Christians have, and the desperate need for reformation in the church. He scolded those who believe salvation can be found in politics, and challenged the church to "get our affairs" in order. So far, the people who agree, are: SCCCS, Doug Phillips, and Greg Bahnsen.
Andrew Sandlin opened our Saturday morning dialogue with an outstanding talk on the need for a Christian culture before a Christian political society is achieved. He reminded us that our battles are fought in a multitude of arenas (media, education, entertainment, etc.), but that politics is "but one of many" forums for Christians to exercise dominion in. Now, for some unbeknownst reason to me, Doug Phillips may very well disagree with the view of Christian culture Andrew Sandlin holds to, but I doubt very seriously that any objective person could state that the basic premises of Andrew’s talk contradict the philosophies we all hold to. I am once again willing to confidently declare that SCCCS, Doug Phillips, and Greg Bahnsen are all in agreement with this talk.
Kevin Swanson went on to argue for the need for "localism" in our political struggles. He shared some of the success stories his organization and efforts are seeing in his home state of Colorado. He exhorted us to place 99.9% of our political efforts in city and state causes. He pleaded with Christians to begin their efforts in their families and in the church. It was just a fantastic reminder. My tally: SCCCS, Greg Bahnsen, and Doug Phillips -- in unison.
Jeff Ventrella brought us back from lunch with a "down and dirty" synopsis of the attack on marriage we are seeing. He provided strategies to fight such an attack, exposed us to some of his involvement with secular liberals on the subject matter, and provided a practical and legal explanation for how we ought to respond. I do not hesitate to take inventory and say, SCCCS, Doug Phillips, and Greg Bahnsen -- in unison again!
So now, we get to the heart of the matter: the "much of our time" Doug refers to ... My dear friend, the extremely talented lawyer and politician, the splendid Reformed Baptist activist -- my dear Christian brother, Rod Martin. He was assigned to speak about the current state of affairs, and provide some guidance and principles as it pertains to this year’s election. He spent his 45-60 minutes explaining some of the Constitutional realities of partisan politics, provided in-depth summary of our system vs. that of a parliamentary system, and gave extensive defense of our President George W. Bush as a splendid choice of a man to vote for as President. Rod’s talk was preceded by my own carefully and clearly crafted words, "Not all speakers necessarily speak for each other, or for the personal opinions of the Board members of SCCCS" (of course, you would have to hear the tapes to have heard that). Rod is not a third-party advocate, and he is deeply involved in Republican politics. Some probably dislike that (as Rod himself said humorously in his talk, "Some of you are probably ready to kill me”).
Having provided a summary of this concluding talk, I will provide the vote count again: Doug Phillips (opposed), SCCCS and Greg Bahnsen (supportive).
So herein lies the rub: Doug Phillips brashly accuses the Study Center of besmirching my father’s legacy because one out of six lectures did not agree with Doug Phillips’ teachings, while six out of six lectures agreed with Greg Bahnsen’s. If Doug Phillips would like to publicly make the argument that I am lying, and my father was a closet third-party advocate, I dare him to do this! It is an outlandish lie; it is nonsense; it is directly in the face of what my father always wrote, talked about, and advocated. As it pertains to this "Constitution Party" that Doug is referring to, he specifically found their view on criminalizing drugs and destroying free trade to be abhorrent (shouldn’t we all?). But even apart from those differences, he simply found third party votes to be throw-away votes. I do not even feel a need to argue if that position is a good one, or a bad one. My own views of partisan elections are known, and publicly available. My father could be completely wrong, or completely right. That’s irrelevant. He was very, very sympathetic to the ideology of someone like Howard Phillips (with a few issue-by-issue disagreements), but his exact words were that they were "throw-away votes" and that we were perfectly within ethical boundaries to cast a vote for "the relevant good," and if need be, "the lesser of two evils." In his case, that meant twice voting for Ronald Reagan, and twice voting for George Bush, Sr. (keep in mind, in 1991 he publicly lectured against the first Iraq war, yet in 1992, still voted for Bush I).
What Doug Phillips Needs to Do
I really hope people do not miss my point: I do not care if someone wants to dispute the arguments that people like myself, Rod Martin, and Greg Bahnsen put forward for voting within a two-party system (at least not in this forum). It is a different subject for a different day. But, given the words of Doug Phillips, he either needs to retract his statement about SCCCS and Greg Bahnsen, or he needs to add my late father to his list of "branded" scholars. I hate to disappoint people, but sometimes we make someone to be something they are not (I think of last summer’s SCCCS conference, after which I received e-mail correspondence and read chat room postings from a few Internet junkies determined to separate Norm Shepherd’s views from those of my father, no matter how much indisputable evidence was provided to the contrary).
Kevin Swanson was not the "skunk at a garden party." This conference was a group of Christian men, who fight similar battles, and wage similar wars, in different parts of the country, and in different forums and platforms. Most of the men mostly agree on most issues. Where we do disagree, it is not an assault of anyone’s legacy. It is not an assault on anyone’s father. It is acceptable and common Christian disagreement. Doug Phillips and the 22-member Constitution party (it could be a few more now) do not have an exclusive market on good ideas, or presuppositional political activism. Sorry, they just don’t. Christians can disagree on matters of application. They can even discuss these disagreements (I will let readers of this article guess how much effort Doug Phillips expended as far as contacting anyone in SCCCS before posting his absurd blog). [Since this article was first written SCCCS has gone to great pains to deal with this conflict; he has completely ignored us, prompting the unarchiving of this article].
Contrast Kevin Swanson with Doug Phillips
Kevin Swanson said this recently:
"Those who disagree with me on the issue of third party are good brothers in our band of brothers. I look at this as a tertiary issue. Why? Its strategy. Application is tricky, and requires wisdom, which requires character. That’s our challenge today. BTW, a little graciousness, hoping all things, oil down Aaron’s beard, and that sort of thing... between those that pick slightly different strategic approaches, I think should be in order.
As I see it, the first generation of reformers brought some great ideas to the table. The second generation is having a harder time making application, because application requires wisdom, which requires character. Ultimately, we will make the most progress as we raise children of faith and character who can carry these ideas to fruition. This will be a generational project, friends. Buckle up. It’ll be a long, hard ride."
I, for one, prefer to be buckled into this ride with like-minded folks who know how to treat each other. I am tired of the world looking at certain Christian people, and being able to laugh. If we want to advocate the King of Kings and Prince of Peace in the hearts and minds of men (let alone in the political sphere), it is high-time we start acting like we care what He taught.
"Peace" begins at home ...
Entry C: Sandlin's Comment (Referenced above)
P. Andrew Sandlin Says:
June 11th, 2007 at 11:13 pm
It is encouraging to see more sites calling these ecclesial tyrants publicly to account. There is room for reasonable disagreement in the church, of course, and many divisive church issues won’t — and shouldn’t — be settled this side of Heaven.
But certain men like Phillips have a history of ecclesial bullying and autocracy. David Bahnsen and I experienced first-hand his and his boy-staff’s bullying when we publicly exposed his erroneous statement uttered about a conference hosted by the Southern California Center for Christian Studies that both David and I attended and supported.
Phillips wrote that a true apologetic presuppositionalist (like Bahnsen’s late father Greg) must be a third-party supporter (as in Phillips’ own father’s Constitution Party) and that SCCCS was betraying its legacy by not endorsing third parties.
When David responded publicly that his father was a true apologetic presuppositionalist and a dedicated Republican his entire life, calling Phillips to account for his misleading comments, Phillips threatened to sue the Study Center.
One of the SCCCS trustees, a godly and patient man, asked us to remove David’s response to Phillips so that the matter could be privately settled, a course on which Phillips had agreed.
No sooner had Bahnsen’s exposé of Phillips been removed than he lost interest in pursuing the matter and simply slammed the door in the face of this godly trustee, who sadly acknowledged to Bahnsen and me, “You and David were right about Phillips.”
Make no mistake: I respect principled third-party supporters.
I have no respect for Phillips, in my opinion an unprincipled and unethical man.
Too many churchmen refuse to speak out against such tyranny; thank God for the faithful few who stand with God’s law-word against such ubiquitous evils.
(When I engaged Ms. Epstein, I was completely unaware of Kinism or her association with that whole belief system which is popular among a contingent of Theonomists and Christian Reconstructionists. For a time in the past, while I believed in error that their approach was decentralization of the federal government through libertarianism and not theocracy, I identified with with this general group. I never identified with kinism or racism of any variety, though it was often difficult to discern.
Doug Phillips Attorney Sends Threat Letter
to Improperly Excommunicated Family
This article refers to matters widely discussed on this website under Open Letter to Chalcedon. You may link to it HERE for a more detailed account and additional links to pertinent information.
Doug Phillips who serves as the sole elder at the Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA), a church that neither has nor seeks a senior pastor, excommunicated a family that he/they deemed as “non-normative.” The family maintains that they were wrongly charged with confabulated and exaggerated offenses and recalcitrance to all counsel. In the process of all of this, even their pre-conversion sin was offered as evidence against them. As an independent denomination (a blend of Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian ideals) assumed to operate under the Family Integrated Church group also run by Phillips as a ministry and project of Vision Forum/Vision Forum Ministries, Phillips operates without accountability as an elder, a role that he calls “shepherd.” He denies that this is a pastoral role, however.
Some local churches, one in particular, helped to mediate and reconcile the family and the BCA leadership, giving the appearance that Phillips submits to a local presbytery. [Update 5Jul07: Refer to new documentation at the end of this post and link to the main article for a critique of one of the two churches acting as presbyters for BCA.] After working with the family for some time, Phillips allegedly met with this pastor and leadership privately, and then all mediation mysteriously stopped. Phillips is not accountable to this group either but actually manipulates them as well.
Because the family had no legitimate recourse to pursue mediation or to challenge the legitimacy of the excommunication, they took matters to the internet at www.jensgems.wordpress.com. They also sent a letter of appeal to many homeschooling families to appeal to them to reconsider their support of Doug Phillips and his associated organizations (?some type of "holding companies?"). As a result, Doug Phillips conferred with an attorney to write the famed “threatening letter” to the family to intimidate them. Find the ORIGINAL PDF FILE HERE! Please read the following excerpt from that letter:“It is my view that under Texas and Federal law, your statements about the Phillips and your widely distributed letters of February 2005 and May 22, 2006 constitute actionable slander and libel. Were you convicted in a court of law for libel and slander, damages could be substantial.
Since you are an excommunicated man under continuing church discipline….it is not biblically permissible for Mr. Phillips to engage in the private arbitration you demand. Nor will Mr. Phillips be intimidated by your sinful and illegal attempt at blackmail.”
The letter goes on to threaten the Epsteins that if they do persist in their public exposure of Doug Phillips, their alleged lack of character and integrity will be publicly exposed. The letter goes on to enumerate several specifics concerning the alleged misconduct and sin.
I assume, that like the “Local Church” and the followers of cultist Watchman Nee, Mr. Phillips believes that it is appropriate to sue fellow Christians under such circumstances. I Corinthians 6 states that we should refrain from suing fellow Christians, but it does not address suing excommunicated Christians who have been deemed publicans. Matthew chapter 18 speaks about excommunicating those who refuse to hear and respond to reason, but it makes no reference to lawsuits against those people. Phillips apparently uses these passages to build his argument from silence to defend his actions.
Which believer will he sue next?~~~~~~~
UPDATE 5Jul07 from the "CHURCH DISCIPLINE" WEBSITE:
Note the key point. FPC [Faith Presbyterian Church] is required to
1) Receive a specific report
2) Take into consideration the contents of that report
3) Verify that restitution has been made and/or reconciliation has been seriously attempted
However FPC did not choose to do that. What they did do was:
1) Faith PCA verbally and in writing affirmed the legitimacy of the excommunication process of BCA
2) Faith PCA affirmed the exclusive jurisdiction of BCA, both to give and to remove the censure of excommunication from the Epsteins, "Knowing that Boerne Christian Assembly is an orthodox evangelical Christian church, we recognize your excommunication of Mark and Jennifer as a valid ecclesiastical act with continuing effect.”
The PCA does not recognize any notion of exclusive jurisdiction. FPC's act here was a blatant violation of presbyterian legal structures.
Link to the full posting at Church Government HERE.
TEXAS SUPREME COURT CASES THAT MAY WEAKEN VISION FORUM CLAIMS AND CASE AGAINST THE EPSTEINS
**Woman permitted to sue Pastor for breaking confidentiality:
*Attorney's summary of the case HERE. (Note links to Vision Forum's distorted report of the court's ruling via links embedded in this summary at the Church Discipline site.)
*Link to original information HERE.
**Court rules in favor of Harvest House Publishing against "The Local Church" (followers of Watchman Nee) libel and slander charges for inclusion in the "Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions"
-Link to Havest House petition "Call to Keep Theological Disputes Out of the Courts" HERE.
-Link to Norm Geisler's Statement HERE.
-Link to the Appelate Court Documentation HERE.
-Link to Living Stream/The Local Church's press release in response to the Appelate Court Decision HERE.
ARCHEOLOGIST JOE TAYLOR
VISIT HELP JOE TAYLOR.COM,
and visit Raising the Truth.com
for the in-depth account of the Allosaur dig.
Link tho the ORIGINAL PDF FILE HERE!
Synopsis:Cindy: “I’m not sure how he justifies suing Joe Taylor”
Lynn: “but just to clarify it was binding arbitration, and Doug was not one of the parties the first time around.”
Cindy: “It was a legal matter requiring arbitration wherein Doug actually avoided service of legal documents (per Jen’s documentation.) The services of an attorney were employed to deal with matters among Christians.”
Actually, Doug repeatedly threatened to sue Joe Taylor, but he did not. He did set up a mediation, which was really a sham, and was a gross conflict of interest for all those involved except Joe Taylor. Joe was coerced into agreeing to something that he never should have agreed to. Doug’s name was on that mediation agreement, but Doug REFUSED to sign it. Later on, there was an arbitration ruling as well.
The episode that Cindy is talking about involved Joe’s request to Doug Phillips to take this to Peacemakers, since Doug refused to sign the mediation. However, Doug also refused to go to Peacemakers with Joe, just as he refused to go to Peacemakers with us.
April 20, 2007
Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum
124 W. Main, P.O. Box 550,
Crosbyton, TX 79322
Douglas W. Phillips
Vision Forum, Inc.
4719 Blanco Rd.
San Antonio, TX 78212
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Matt. 5:23-24
I apologize for this request being served to you during your busy schedule, but you are gone a lot, and hard to reach.
In addition, the recent judgment from arbitration with the Pete DeRosas and myself has only served to heighten the unresolved conflicts between you and me.
In 2003, you wrote me to complain of my privately exposing your “documentary” video, “Raising The Allosaur.” This review was not actually made public then. However, why shouldn’t it be? Every film that comes out is reviewed and often very negatively.
In your letter to me of January 20, 2003, as well as other correspondence, you have taken the position that my exposure of your video somehow makes me guilty of “slander” and that what I have done “would be actionable defamation in any court of law.” You have accused me of “speaking evil of brothers without working through the biblical guidelines for conflict resolution.” You have accused me of many other things as well, all without any supporting evidence. For example, you’ve accused me of “blackmail.” You’ve even accused me of “anti-Semitism,” a truly outrageous allegation. I have many hundreds of pages of evidence, not to mention hundreds of photographs and many hours of video tape that I believe unequivocally makes my case.
You accuse me that, “You have consistently and willfully refused to follow any biblical guidelines for conflict resolution, notwithstanding our repeated recommendations to you to do just this.”
Yet, many of the very things that you have accused me of are the very things that you yourself are guilty of. And contrary to your accusations, I tried many times to meet with you and practice Matthew: 18, which you so often and loudly demand.
I agreed to mediation with you and Pete DeRosa both. You agreed as well. The problem is that while Pete and I made an appearance and signed the mediation agreement, you never even showed up. And you, Doug, the one who was so insistent, never signed the agreement. Needless to say, nothing has truly been “resolved” by the alleged “conflict resolution.”
It appears to me that the mediation was more a means to silence me and prevent further exposure of un-Christian deeds than it was to resolve conflicts.
I’ve attempted to resolve my differences with you many times. The fact that you evaded signing the mediation agreement doesn’t mean that our issues are resolved or that these problems have just gone away. I’m sure that you’re more than aware of the need to address our disputes. The Word tells us, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Rom. 12:18)
Many friends and associates in the past several years encouraged me to sue you, but I did not because I thought you were a Christian brother. (I Cor. 6:1-8)
Your January 20, 2003 letter states, “We are committed to following biblical guidelines of conflict resolution, arbitration and church discipline.”
I’d like to give you the opportunity to prove that you are sincere about that by extending the offer to you to discuss biblically-based Christian conflict resolution with me.
I’m told that Peacemaker Ministries claims that both their mediation and arbitration are biblically-based. Decisions can also be binding, and it is recommended that we agree to the details of this in advance.
All I’m asking you for at this time is a simple written “yes, I will discuss this with you,” or “no, I will not,” answer. The details would be worked out later. Please have a written response in my hands by May 5, 2007.
My offer is genuine, and made in the interests of the whole creationist as well as the home school community.
Doug, there has been entirely too much strife between us. It should be put to an end. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Phil. 2:3
In the bonds of Christ Jesus,
* Doug Phillips refuses to accept mediation documentation from Joe Taylor. See the notarized document of non-service HERE!
* Read the whole story HERE and HERE!
* Vision Forum posts their documentation HERE.