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Doug Phillips was a powerful man. He used “godly” power and control to silence, to man the ship of his business, ministry, church, home, women, employees, and everything around him.
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As we slowly watch the demise of the Doug Phillips empire, it’s important to ask the tough questions:
Who put Doug Phillips on his throne? What is the driving force behind all of this? How could he stay on his throne for so long if he’s had this “lengthy” affair? Why was he out speaking at a father’s conference in September if he had stepped down from his pastoral role at Boerne Christian Assembly? Why did he publish a blog post on repentance in August and then issue a public statement late October? What’s with all the flip-flop business? Why didn’t the board shut down Vision Forum Ministries at the same time the public statement came out? What were they waiting for? Why was Doug Phillips listed at one time as the President AND treasurer of the board? Does that sound right to you?
I’ve been watching some interesting dynamics. I posted a comment at the Wartburg Watch blog as I was thinking how Phillips seems to have always been in a position of authority:
1. President AND treasurer at Vision Forum Mininistries
2. Owner of Vision Forum
3. Founder of San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival
4. Founder of The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC) and was on board until recently
5. Was pastor at Boerne Christian Assembly (one of two teaching elders until he allegedly stepped down or was forced out in February)
6. Patriarch of his home.
Ok, that was just off the top of my head. Has Phillips ever been “under” anyone? Wait a minute – – he did work for HSLDA as an attorney, and interestingly, I recently saw a public comment by Mike Farris (head of HSLDA) about Phillips which surprised me:
“Phillips was NOT the architect of the HR 6 fight in 1994. He was a foot soldier. I know he has been telling this story for years but it is just another example of his tendency to exaggerate his role in everything.”
Maybe things didn’t work out so well for him being “under” Farris at HSLDA?
The pattern we see here is that Phillips is a man who is very used to being in control of everything.
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I think Farris’ comment is revealing considering he is founding president of both HSLDA and Patrick Henry College.
I’ve been waiting for key people within Phillips’ close circle to come out and say something publicly. Kevin Swanson aired a podcast on his radio show, Scandal Among Christians in which he mentions the Phillips situation. As I listened to this podcast, it’s interesting how it seemed like the relationship between Swanson and Phillips was minimized. I took notes and I was struck by this quote, “I know these people.” He then said he was sad and concerned for Phillips and the family, that God would bring repentance and restoration, would protect, save, and preserve the family. That was about it. It seemed as if Swanson was minimizing their many years of working side by side in many venues promoting the same Homeschool Movement agenda. I found myself saying, “Really, Swanson, that’s all you can say about your BFF, Mr. Phillips?”
And then last Sunday, there were some strong words in a sermon by Scott Brown, director of NCFIC. Keep in mind, NCFIC branched out from Vision Forum. Doug Phillips has been highly influential in Brown’s life and Brown was on the board of Vision Forum Ministries at the time the Phillips’ statement was released and also when the announcement came yesterday about the organization shutting down entirely. Here is an excerpt from Brown’s sermon, The Smell of Apostasy (special thanks to commenter T.W. Eston for transcribing this):
39:37 — “One of my dear friends has fallen into a great sin. And there are many people that say, ‘Oh, that could have been me.’ But the truth is I hope not, because one falls into that kind of sin after many, many small compromises long before. No one just immediately falls into that sin. They fall because they have been falling. My friend Paul Washer says, ‘You don’t fall into sin. You slide into it.’ Because every public sin is a private sin beforehand. I was telling our interns the other day that I could take everything I’ve done over forty years and destroy it in one second. All I would have to do is kiss a girl and in one second it would all be over. Everything. It would all be burnt to the ground. But let me just make this point. You do not kiss a girl without doing many other things beforehand. You do not fall into sin. You slide. You make one compromise after another. Every public sin is a private sin for a very long time before… Brothers, mortify, expunge, every vestige of lust that would inflame it… But you would not do it [immorality] if you did not cultivate it. So do not cultivate it… Please do not burn everything to the ground. Please do not destroy everything that you’ve worked for your entire life. Everything you’ve ever done will be compromised and everything you’ve ever done will be burned to the ground.”
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Do you get the idea that there has been a struggle of power going on with Phillips when looking at the sequence of events and how events have played out recently? If Phillips is over all of these entities (church, VF ministry, VF business, etc), who has the authority to challenge him, to remove him from those positions? Who can question him? This is Patriarchy at its core. You do not get to question or challenge Patriarchs, period.
And that leads to another important point. We can gather from Phillips’ own words and also the implied words of Brown that the relationship with the woman was lengthy, romantic, and ongoing. The phrase that continued throughout Brown’s sermon was that every public sin is a private sin for a long, long time before it is finally exposed. Multiple sources have told me (and I have read several places) that this affair had been going on for 6 years. Six years in silence? Ok, now look at the fact that he no longer had his pastoral position at Boerne Christian Assembly allegedly in February (whether he was forced out or voluntarily resigned remains unanswered). Voddie Baucham somehow found out he was no longer pastoring, but only discussed this publicly after Phillips’ public statement. How in the world does something like this stay under wraps for 9 months?
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I will tell you how: the no-talk rule. Patriarchy is about control. To keep this silent, there must be a captain tightly controlling that ship. In high-controlling spiritually abusive churches/cults, you simply do not talk negatively about your leaders. This is called gossip. It is a sin to gossip. Furthermore, in this Patriarchal environment, women do not have the freedom to challenge men, to question their authority. They must remain silent, check their heart attitudes, and learn to submit in all things. If there is a problem, they must ask God to change their husband’s hearts.
Since most of Phillips’ life/work/ministry was around Christians, it’s highly probable that this woman whom he did not biblically know, but was romantically involved with was part of the Patriarchal system. She would be a nobody. She had no voice. If she were to cry out to another woman, who would believe her? Where would she go? No man would believe her. The system of Patriarchy puts all problems back onto the woman and usually spiritualizes it. It wasn’t her place to speak out. She might hear these words:
- where was your heart?
- did you gaze at him suggestively?
- did you walk seductively?
- did you dress provocatively?
- how could you tempt someone of his stature?
- why were you alone with him?
- why would you want to compromise God’s work by tempting him?
- you must repent
- you must forgive him in your heart
- pray for his soul
- pray for your soul
I also want to point out that in Phillips’ doctrinal world, God is Sovereign. He knew this was going to happen, so in this theology, the woman is taught: who is she to question what God has ordained? She needs to suck it up.
So . . . . she remains silent . . . . and if she tells someone, they likely remain silent, too. This can last for years. And that is one possible explanation for the silence and how it might be difficult for a woman to speak out in that environment.
While trying to make sense of this scandal, it’s important to identify patterns we see in spiritually abusive churches. What have we seen so far?
- no-talk rule
- cannot question authority or challenge authority
- pastor has little to no accountability
- extra-biblical rules/legalism
- damage control and image control - always giving the appearance that everything is fine
- elitism – - they do things the godly/biblical way and others don’t
Can you identify any others I haven’t listed?
As this story unfolds, please be mindful that this is not just a person that has sinned, this is a corrupt and harmful system. This system protects the leaders/patriarchs. This might explain why we have seen leaders within this movement distancing themselves from the situation.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch at the Vision Forum for-profit store, things seem pretty normal. The “deal of the day” is: “Building a Godly Home Collection, 2 Books:”
Learn what the Bible has to say about marriage, love, the relationship between parents and children, Christ’s bond with His people, and much more. The truths you find in these handy hardback editions of Gouge’s Puritan classic may very well change your vision of family life.
50% off for the sale price of $18. I don’t know – - it seems to have lost some of its mojo, huh?