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CORRESPONDENCE WITH CHALCEDON
CONCERNING RECOMMENDATIONS OF DOUG PHILLIPS
Why I No Longer Support Chalcedon Financially
Original post 16Jun07 0600
Addendum posted 20Jun07
* Addendum posted 22Jun07: Substantial editing; redundant content removed: See Jen's Gems web article entitled "Chalcedon Foundation Back Peddles On Defending Doug Phillips" via link noted below.
* UPDATE ON CHALCEDON AND DOUG PHILLIPS
On June 21, 2007, Jennifer Epstein posted all of the Chalcedon Foundation's inflammatory and defaming blog entries made by Chris Ortiz, both the Editor-in-Chief and the Communicatons Director on her website. Link to it HERE.
Although my correspondence with Chalcedon that follows on this webpage primarily addressed the cultic practices of Phillips' perverted patriarchy, much of the discussion that follows here concerns the Epsteins. You, the reader, may wish to read Chalcedon's statements in the web article before reviewing the material here. The Epstein website presents a more direct and concise statement of the events that both triggered and contributed to our decison to withdraw our financial support.
Please note that my concerns regarding financial support of Chalcedon and other ministries mentioned on this website concern my convictions regarding the fringe doctrine, cultic social practices and history of the aggressive and unchristian responses of Doug Phillips and Vision Forum. Any finances contributed to ministries that support or employ participation of Phillips vicariously support him and his endeavors, also lending my vicarious endorsement of his legitimacy. My support of Chalcedon and other ministries has been an ongoing dilemma because of their support of Doug Phillips, long prior to my knowledge of Vision Forum’s legal dealings with the Epsteins or any of their activities.
Please also note that I make reference to "legal proceedings" in my correspondence. At the time of this writing/post, VF has not formally filed any charges in a court of law (which I refer to the "court of Caesar" in my perspective as a layman). When I make mention of "things legal" I allude to the threatening letter from the attorney on behalf of VF as the first intervention towards the end of filing suit. As fellow Christians in this matter, is there any ethical difference between threatening a law suit and actually filing one? I think not, and the use of the fact that VF has not actually formally filed a suit to defend VF seems manipulative. As I state later in my detailed letter to Chalcedon, to make the distinction is like the Pharisaical straining of gnats and swallowing camels.
Information concerning BCA’s position can be found at both Vision Forum Ministries and on the church website that was created in order to post the excommunication and position statements. The Epstein’s account of their excommunication and their detailed documentation of evidence for their position that these matters were handled irresponsibly can be found on the Jen’s Gems website.
Links to Referenced Info
* CHALCEDON’S SECOND STATEMENT ABOUT DOUG PHILLIPS
* JENNIFER EPSTEIN’S LETTER TO HOMESCHOOLERS
MY INITIAL CONTACT WITH CHALCEDON
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2007 06:08:39 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Cynthia Kunsman"
Subject: Concerns about Chalcedon's position on Doug Phillips and hyper-patriarchy
To Whom It May Concern:
My husband and I have regularly supported Chalcedon for many years, so I was disappointed to note a Chalcedon blog from early May recommending that your readers disregard information concerning Doug Phillips. I find this very disturbing, in light of the fact that Doug has initiated legal proceedings against the Epsteins, the excommunicated family from Doug’s church. Your position is equally disturbing considering that the Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. has announced that they will soon publish an article exposing the cultic aspects of Doug’s hegemonic and extra-Biblical ideology in their upcoming newsletter entitled “Who Will Be First in the Kingdom?”
Andrew Sandlin, once the Vice President of Chalcedon, published several articles countering Doug’s dangerous hegemony and cultic characteristics in 2004. I have posted his article, “Hegemonic Patriarchy,” and an article that I authored “New Cults of Biblical Christianity…” along with other information concerning Bible-based cults online at http://www.ourchurch.com/member/u/UnderMuchGrace/. I urge the staff at Chalcedon to thoughtfully read these articles and to take note of the email also posted on the website that I sent to American Vision following withdrawal of financial support for their regular and repeated use of Doug Phillips at their conferences. This financial support was withdrawn prior to my knowledge of Doug’s recent challenges concerning the “internet attacks,” and was based upon my knowledge of Doug’s practices circa 2004.
I urge Chalcedon staff to reconsider their position concerning Doug, giving special consideration to his false doctrines and strict legalism. Please also consider how Chalcedon can justify Doug’s legal action against fellow believers contrary to God’s Word. Is Chalcedon willing to defend Doug’s behavior in violation of the Scriptural mandate to keep matters between Christians out of the courts of Caesar? Is Chalcedon willing to ignore the growing body of criticism of both Doug’s practices as well as his doctrinal excesses?
Both my husband and I suffered painfully in a similar cultic church in suburban Baltimore many years ago. This fellowship that Charles Simpson played a role in founding was also attended by several followers of Bob Mumford. After these men renounced their cultic shepherding/discipleship doctrines, many of the churches and leaders that they influenced did not follow their recommendations. My former cultic church, in the absence of guidance from the Florida Five, replaced their legalism with the teachings of Bill Gothard. Doug Phillips, the keynote speaker at a recent Gothard conference also perpetuates the same style of distorted doctrines of submission and authority that Gothard and the shepherding movement promoted. Chalcedon could intervene by critically examining these doctrinal abuses and calling for Doug to show himself accountable in both word and deed. Chalcedon could act as a potent agent of positive change, admonishing Doug’s reconsideration of his distorted views of Scripture. Please make a stand on behalf of all who have suffered under the abuses of shepherding and patriarchy so that these legalistic abuses will finally cease.
"It is one thing to show a man that he is in error,
and another to put him in possession of the truth."
RESPONSE FROM CHRIS ORTIZ
NOT POSTED PER HIS REQUEST
MY DETAILED RESPONSE TO CHRIS ORTIZ
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 02:59:09 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Cynthia Kunsman"
Subject: Open letter to Chris Ortiz and Chalcedon
To: "Chris Ortiz"
CC: "Jennifer Epstein", "ForTox Consulting" , "P. Andrew Sandlin"
Thank you for so thoughtfully responding to my email. Clearly, you have invested a great deal of time and effort evaluating my concerns and I am humbled by your efforts. I am grateful that you state acknowledgement of my "genuine appeal" as well.
You say that you doubt that I will find your answers satisfactory: I'm not sure that I find anything satisfactory about the whole affair. It's very nasty from just about every perspective one could take. I'm deeply grieved about it, regardless of whether we see resolution or reconciliation of some sort. I pray that we can somehow, by God's generous grace and great mercy. I would really love to be presented with convincing and solid evidence that Doug Phillips is above reproach, for it would make all of this a simple matter. I will sing his virtues from every "forum" I can find and repent beyond repentance (should there be such a thing). I would rejoice to do so. It is my sober concern that I may not have that opportunity.
I didn't list Chalcedon on my site since it's only existed for about 72 hours! (I still haven't figured out this hypertext language that these blogs and such use. I spent an hour yesterday trying to make that link sight look better! Ugh.) I've corresponded with Andrew and talked with him personally at length about Doug over the past several years, so he was one of the first on my mind. (Actually, I specifically included him because he originally published two of the articles that I posted on my site.) Your suggestion to include Chalcedon is well noted and very appropriate. We support both Chalcedon and CCL concurrently (I would not have misrepresented so in my initial contact with you if it were not currently true), adding Andrew's work to the other ministries that we support when he started CCL.
A bit more BACKGROUND: I do not know if I can parse this in a manner that will soften my language or tone, so I ask that you keep mindful of your esteem of my "genuine appeal." I still have reasonable concerns that Doug makes a habit of threatening his critics with innuendo, negative connotative language and legal action. I also cannot "shake" the money and power motive conveyed through Doug's harsh reactions to his critics. From our introductory meeting with him (and Beall) at Grace OPC in San Antonio (a very sad disappointment for both my husband and me) before he started BCA, we've had serious concerns that Doug espoused ideas similar to that of Mumford's original concept of shepherding. (I refer not to the “elite elder rule” as you mention in your reply but to the preoccupation with authority within patriarchy in exclusion of other doctrines, the exclusivity of a more enlightened manner of living, strong control of the flow of information, and legalistic focus on works/outward demonstrations of salvation.) Hoping to disprove that this was the case, both my husband and I also observed Doug's interactions with the homeschooling families at Grace OPC (and their esteem of his ministry) and became more persuaded that Doug upheld many of the same doctrines that precipitated the abuses that we both witnessed and endured in a former cultic church. (Let me just say that Grace OPC did not "largely favor" Doug's endeavors while we were in attendance there and after Doug left to found BCA formally.)
"DOUG'S EXCESSES": The significance that I find in the Epstein situation concerns the already established pattern that I see in Doug which parallels the dynamics of groups such as Bill Gothard's IBLP (with whom Doug has shared a lectern). The degree of truthfulness of the Epsteins pales in contrast to Doug's aggressive responses to them and other critics. Does Doug's love and zeal for the system of his patriarchy supersede his love and care for family and for individuals, especially those under his care in the church (demonstrated by his aggression)? The utopian qualities of his model of family and ministry to families in exclusion of other groups evidenced in his responses to those who hold to standards that differ from his own suggest the type of intolerance strongly characteristic of totalistic authoritarianism. He does not easily entreat fellow believers through "agreements to disagree", but rather perpetuates hegemonic and very gnostic practices that alienate him and his followers from the larger body of Christ. You may have only entertained Doug’s accounts of his dealings with his critics, excluding other perspectives. You may neither agree nor find these perceptions of mine very satisfying. (Had I not walked the path that I've described, I probably wouldn't either. These are very staid concerns and my evaluation quite trenchant -- one of the traits of Chalcedon's literature that I find so endearing.)
THE ELEMENT OF SECRECY, be it for legal reasons or personal trust makes this a very difficult and convoluted situation to evaluate. This also suggests concealment which may be very true of any or all of the parties involved in this debacle. In consideration of all I've mentioned, prior to any knowledge more current than 2004, I am persuaded by my experience and observations that Doug's BCA is strongly cultic and practices the same abusive dynamics as Bill Gothard, shepherding groups and similar Bible-based cults. Please be mindful that I do not enjoy the benefits of renown within Christendom so I cannot speak from a position of authority. My perspective is lowly in comparison, and as a reasonably good presuppositionalist :), I cannot speak from a different one! I am not influenced by the factors of long-term friendship with Doug and Beall, so I lack that unique insight; however, I fear that you may not be well disposed to appreciate my insights as I've stated them.
On my website, I've posted a second article that you may not have had the opportunity to read entitled "New Cults of Christianity" which CCL featured in the Jun-July 2004 issues of their newsletter (hence my reference to more than one article connected to Sandlin). Doug and patriarchy are not "specifically" referenced in either article, but I wrote mine (with my hubby's editing of the Thought Reform section!) in response to the initial "Tenets" that disappeared from the VF website and were subsequently replaced. My husband contacted Andrew in the wake of the “tenets” and the nasty internet traffic that Doug encouraged via his blog in 2003 and 2004, discretely expressing his (very strong and informed) opinion that Doug was in fact "running a cult." Andrew asked him to essentially write an apologetic suppoting the existence of cultic churches within Biblical Christianity which my husband delegated to me. I embarked on the endeavor shortly before Sandlin's somewhat sarcastic "Hegemonic Patriarchy" was published. Later that year, it was also released by the "Biblical Examiner."
Although you would need to confirm this with Andrew, I believe that Doug is not specifically named in the patriarchy article because at the time, I think that Andrew saw no need. Based on the strong language in the original (soon retracted) "tenets" and the references to criticism in Doug's blog and other such sites that I read over that period, the references were obvious. You may not have seen these original documents I chose to refrain from naming Doug in my writing to capture the many groups that possess cultic elements and thus reach the widest possible demographic. (Doug may have been the impetus for the writing of it, but I also wrote to address the larger issue.) That is to say, I did not want to limit the topic to Doug and the patriarchy issue only, nor did I wish at that time to target him specifically. Three years later and several threats of legal action against his critics however, I am persuaded otherwise and have acted accordingly.
I urge you to read the "New Cults" article that is also displayed on my site (the primary purpose for creating the website). My concerns about Doug are well expressed in that work although he is not specifically named. (I wrote it and you have my word that the article addresses the issues that I have with Doug.) What Sandlin didn't include in that article (due to length) was a table comparing Robert J. Lifton's criteria/techniques of thought reform, paralleled with the similar models described in the Christian literature concerning "spiritual abuse”
(, Johnson and VanVonderan, Enroth, etc.)." I do not have that table on the website (now corrupted floppy disc!) and the text of the article does not discuss these techniques; however, I do have a page on the site that details Lifton's criteria. I believe that all eight of Lifton's criteria (which most groups do not obviously recognize) are employed to varying degrees and manners at BCA. My evidence for my position again comes from the patterns of behavior that Doug has established, and we both may be misinformed concerning the nature of them. I am willing and desirous of evidence to either side, but not from those under Doug’s authority. Essentially, I have the opposite side of the coin regarding opinion about the validity of the evidence. Another page on my site describes a number of characteristics of cult leaders that apply to Doug, without any consideration of the Epstein story (although, I am more strongly persuaded of my opinion based on their claims, even if they are distorted). I base this not on their claims but on Doug's responses to the situation in light of his previous responses to similar issues of which I have first-party corroboration.
CONCERNS WITH OTHER AUTHORS: I noted the announcement of the release of the MCOI article because it establishes that other sources believe that Doug's claimed orthodoxy and claimed orthopraxy of patriarchy in concert with his behavior demonstrate false doctrine and its sequelae. I am familiar with MCOI, probably from my arminian/semi-pelagian background as well as my familiarity with their many expose's on Bill Gothard. They are preterist in doctrine [EDIT ON 28Jun07: they are not specific about eschatology/CMK] and have long standing relationships and affiliations with Norm Geisler, Wheaton College and many others that are available on their site with many more listed in the expose on Gothard (A Matter of Basic Principles by Veinot).
I noted Sandlin's article as a critique of the stranger aspects of Doug's ever evolving patriarchy and for other reasons previously stated. I find the whole representation of "Doug's patriarchy package" to be very unconvincing and the connotative weight and use of the terms (patriarch, Biblical, etc.) very misleading if not fallacious. (This should not override my commitment to my obedience to the Word and the true, individual elements from which Doug draws some of his concepts. My opinion concerns those distortions created by the moral imperatives that Doug intermingles with the foundational and true Biblical standards, thus using the true standard to represent this intermingled product.) Criticism of the label of the "tenets" and the language therein suggests rejection/rebellion against the true great patriarchs, all things Biblical, man's true headship within home and church and the participation of family in the life of the church through the use of this strong connotative language. It exploits both the actual Biblical concepts as well as the emotions of those who read the “package” in a very subtle, insidious and manipulative manner. Although I truly appreciate your thoughtful and detailed responses to elements of patriarchy sardonically referenced in Sandlin's article, I did not intend to debate the finer points. :) (Perhaps after the MCOI article...?) :)
You ask if there are EXAMPLES OF THE EXAGGERATIONS from Sandlin’s article in response to the original “tenets”. (Andrew's article cites extreme, and undocumented, examples of alleged patriarchal abuse. Who is he writing about? Are there names, dates, and times? Does he cite any written documents?) Things have become quite forensic here. The evidence does not come from those in Doug’s confidence, nor does it come from anyone of special authority, so such critics are very easily dismissed by people such as you. It is a great challenge, as you state, to honor the word of strangers on an equal level with those with whom you share relationship. The Epstein’s, many of their supporters that have responded on their site, other people in very patriarchal churches with whom I’ve corresponded relate accounts of cruelty and prejudice. I’ve wept much (on the day that I met Doug and often since then concerning what I knew of his actions prior to 2004). But you don’t know me either, another person of no authority and another would be gossip? Those who are known to Doug from BCA fear making public statements because of Doug’s pattern of vindictive retaliation. I rely on the paralleled patterns of pastors, ministries, families and individuals and their personal accounts found in the Christian literature on spiritual abuse as evidence. Likewise, I rely upon my own experiences. My experiences and observations, criticized because I did not personally attend BCA, corroborate those with similar experiences. To those critics however, I would state that one does not have to enter a burning house to verify that it is on fire or that it presents an obvious danger. Such discounting of critics is highly characteristic of the milieu control of legalistic and totalistic groups. Accusation of lies, exaggeration and other ad hominem arguments provide “damage control” to lessen the credibility of dissents. Loaded language and thought-stopping clichés (connotation of gossip, rebellion, etc.) suspend critical thought by baiting and inciting emotion, manipulating a reasonable person’s tendency towards behavioral consistency. Please consider that these factors may have influenced those who voted in excommunication and people like the Living Waters Fellowship pastor “Little Bear” Wheeler who initially supported the Epsteins.
You state that “Doug has NOT INITIATED LEGAL PROCEEDINGS against the Epsteins.” The Epsteins display several letters on their website including letters from an attorney, documentation that states that all communication with BCA (including attempts to open discussion concerning repentance and reconciliation) flow only through Vision Forum’s attorney and a notarized report documenting non-service of mediation papers to Doug Phillips (following and in response to the letter from the VF attorney). If they employed the services of a lawyer, VF initiated proceedings, even if they have not filed with a court. To say that “legal proceedings” have not been initiated sounds very much like (from my perspective) straining gnats and swallowing camels. Here is a fine example of “patriarchal abuse.”
You ask what was probably a rhetorical question: “With all due respect, HOW DOES ONE RESPOND TO THIS?” By showing “all due respect” to the Epsteins, just as you have shown Doug. Your language, phraseology and references echo those of Doug’s statements, so it is clear that you obtained a great deal of information from VF, etc. It is very clear in your language and in your tone. You state that you have additional information that is not common knowledge, but that does not help clarify anything from my perspective. Again, that raises flags of concern about the necessity for the secrecy and convoluted communication about this whole matter. I suggest that you speak with Jennifer and Mark Epstein personally if you have not already, especially in light of the inequitable weight that you place on the opinions of your friends and those whom you owe duty. If you make statements about the character of people whom you do not know, you have a duty to them and to God as well. You have a duty to those who support and rely upon your ministry for instruction and guidance. Consider that you may have received a great deal of bias from those sources that you trust based on their reputations and affiliations. If you and Chalcedon “put yourselves out there” making statements concerning the character of individuals who appear otherwise cooperative and forthcoming to those who are not involved or unduly influenced, then I believe that you owe “all due respect” to those individuals. The book of James comes to mind, “Be ye warmed and filled. Go in peace.” I pray that out of your duty to Doug that you haven’t said as much to the Epsteins and all those like them. And perhaps to me?
Toward the end of your letter to me and in the epilogue, you rely upon references to your relationship with Doug and family, that you have been “treated marvelously.” You mention Doug’s affiliation with Dr. Joe Morecraft and the “fine leadership of the RPCUS” as if it was evidence of Doug’s behavior in this matter. Could you, for just a moment, consider that just as Doug uses connotative language that he could likewise be relying on affiliation to lend legitimacy to his credibility with you? Could his treatment of you be like that in book of James, where you have been marvelously invited to the front of his forum in the fine regalia of your association with Chalcedon? Credibility by association, like his use of both negative and positive connotative language correlates somewhat with the appeal to authority. I beg that you soberly ask yourself if this has not unfairly influenced your opinions concerning these matters. As I mentioned concerning the concealment of questionable doctrines, could Doug be likewise using connotative connection and vicarious affiliations with reputable public and powerful leaders to fuel and consolidate his own ends?
In closing, we agree on these points: “We can't please everybody. At the risk of violating the Ninth Commandment, I recommend we all handle these matters patiently. Time will bear things out. I cannot rush to judgment when all "evidence" is contained on blogs. I prefer that we err on the side of caution.” I am most certainly glad that Chalcedon is not about the business of pleasing anyone but God (and hopefully, your board). Rush would surely roll over in his grave, as the silly saying goes. I believe also that time bears things out, but leaning to the side of caution on behalf of those who are tormented and harassed, I pray that the matter does not drone on indefinitely. At the risk of violating the second greatest commandment, decisive action should not be spared in favor of patience, if there is any degree of credibility to the claims made by the Epsteins. I hope and pray that I am very wrong, but I’m not persuaded that way at all.
Thank you again for your great forbearance in this lengthy tome and this heart wrenching matter. I am very grateful for your very devoted response to me. Pray, pray, pray for me as I will for you and all concerned herein for revelation, repentance, restoration and reconciliation. Pound heaven as I do likewise.
CONTINUED CORRESPONDENCE WITH ME
For the benefit of the reader, I will post my final communication with Chris Ortiz, Director of Communications for the Chalcedon Foundation HERE near the top of this webpage. All remaining pertinent information will follow this final communication with Chalcedon in chronological order with links to other pertinent information referenced therein.
I copied all those persons who I referenced within the body of my correspondence so as to be open and honest (with the exception of Doug Phillips). As recommended by exit counselors and within the cult literature, I do not correspond with Doug Phillips (who I identify as a cult leader). Because his history demonstrates that he operates a CLOSED SYSTEM that counters all critics with aggressive slander and threatened lawsuits, etc., I did not copy my email to Vision Forum or Phillips.
I did not at any time realize that any of this very public matter or any of the comments made by Rev. Ortiz were personal. At no previous time did he state that our correspondence should remain private concerning these widely known issues. I am also confused by his concern that I have copied certain individuals named within our correspondence seemingly superseding his concern over what I declared to be an “open letter.” According to his wishes stated below, I have not posted what he refers to his “personal” response. I do however include his response to my “Open Letter to Chalcedon” which states that he will no longer correspond with me. (Later that afternoon, my husband cancelled our monthly contributions to Chalcedon.)
From: "Chris Ortiz"
Subject: Re: Open letter to Chris Ortiz and Chalcedon
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 08:05:41 -0400
To: "Cynthia Kunsman"
In all honesty, I'm disappointed. Not about your position with the Epsteins, but with your copying these pertinent others with my correspondence to you. I wish you would have consulted with me first. You've now made my personal sentiments public. I won't correspond any longer.
Rev. Christopher J. Ortiz
Director of Communications
The Chalcedon Foundation
Editor, Faith for All of Life Magazine
"Proclaiming the Authority of God's Word Over Every Area of Life and Thought"
DAMAGE CONTROL EMAIL
After posting this open letter online, I did hear back from Chris Ortiz in a "damage control" email, thanking my husband and me for our years of support, among other things. Because of Chris Ortiz has concerns about privacy concerning these matters, and because the letter does not portray him favorably, I do not post it here. (Contact him for a copy.)
I will however include this excerpt from that letter:
"I have no intention of attacking either you or the Epsteins."
(Seems like a thinly veiled insinuation that he has considered attack or warns me that he can attack me, doesn't it?) With all probability, this was likely just poorly worded, given the history of Chalcedon. It does not excuse it, however.
For those who have not been manipulated by a highly restrictive and shame-based religious system, this may seem like an absurd assumption. My husband and I have been criticized for this perception, but such back-handed and passive-aggressive threats are very typical of spiritually abusive systems. I understand if you, the reader, find this perception exaggerated or offensive.