Thoughts on the Resignation of
Doug Phillips from Vision Forum
By Mary Stephens
LAST EDITED: Jan. 2014
Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the
The real problem comes when it is
a lot of folly in him that is in reputation for
For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
There are some who will accuse me of "attacking a man when he's down" by addressing this subject now. However, it's my hope that some people who may be questioning the whole "patriarchal" and "Quiverfull" movement may start to figure out some things through this debacle. So here I wish to specifically give some observations relating to the resignation of Doug Phillips from Vision Forum Ministries on October 30, 2013.
Please take the time to read the entire resignation statement here.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Psalms 38:18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
In this day and age it is generally to a man's credit when he stands up and takes responsibility for sin publically. In this case, Mr. Phillips is quite hard on himself by modern standards. He tells us frankly that there has been "serious sin" in his life. He acknowledges his injury to his family. He admits that he thought too highly of himself, and did not have proper accountability; that he was a hypocrite in respect to the things he has taught, abused his trust, acted inappropriately for a leader, and hurt his family and friends. He expresses shame, repentance, and grief and admits that his behavior was dishonoring to God and the Lord Jesus Christ. He claims his determination to prove his repentance and to withdraw from leadership in the ministry while focusing on his family. He also claims that he has confessed his sin to his wife, family, church and the board of Vision Forum Ministries.
This is all commendable in as far as it goes (and if it is true).
Some people have taken exception to the statement that the board of Vision Forum will make provision "for the management of the ministry during this time." Those objecting to this seem to think that it is inappropriate for Mr. Phillips to ever want to be involved with the ministry again. I can't agree with this for the simple reason that King David wrote, "Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." Psalms 51:9-13 David fully desired to return to a teaching role and asked God to allow that. God obviously did allow it as we see Psalms written after this event in scripture.
Based upon how the Lord dealt with David (and some other Bible characters), I feel it's unfair to expect a man to stay away from the ministry indefinitely because he sinned once. Certainly there must be a clear separating from sin, obvious repentance and a higher level of genuine accountability at what time he may return to the ministry. That's obvious. But, to insist that he's never "qualified" to teach again is not biblical. If it were a case of child molesting and he was involved in a children's ministry that would be another matter, and it would be better for a man in that situation to find another line of future ministry altogether. It is true, however, that a period of living a quiet life and focusing on his own family is very much in order. And, it doesn't hurt to recall that David suffered a lot of family problems later, as God promised Him he would.
Having said all this though, there are some numerous causes for concern in this matter.
For What It's Worth
In thinking about King David's sin and repentance, I don't want to be guilty of requiring more than what God did. (See Forgiven article.) Consequently, I don't want to make too big of a deal out of this, but considering all of the people that Mr. Phillips has injured who are followers of him and his ministry, it seems to me that he might should have made this a public confession rather than a "statement of resignation".
When a man puts himself into a position of power and authority in a specific area - such as the "restoring of the family", marriage and courtship relationships and the other ideologies - as Mr. Phillips has, and then he falls into sin in an area that is directly related to this subject (adultery/sexual abuse, in this case), it really seems that he should offer more than a statement of resignation to all his followers. Mr. Phillips has been very forward and outspoken in his leadership on many fronts of the (alleged) "Biblical patriarchy" world. There are many people that rely on his materials and have followed his teachings regarding the family, marriage, betrothal/courtship and the church (for better or for worse). Many of these people will now suffer in some way or another because of his sin. Many fathers will find it hard to explain to their young adult children. Many young people will be confused and hurt. Many wives (dare I say it?), who have been forcing "patriarchy" upon their husbands will find it hard to continue to convince their husbands and possibly themselves of these doctrines. [Which may or may not be a bad thing depending upon whether they come to a knowledge of God's truth.] It seems that some sort of apology toward these people would have been appropriate as well - nay, is essential from a truly repentant man. (Jan. 4/14)
Speaking of the confused young people, this brings to mind the fact that there will be considerable consequences for Mr. Phillips' sin. As with David, it is impossible for a man of leadership to get into this kind of sin and not leave a trail of problems behind for years to come. The word of the Lord that was spoken to David through Nathan the prophet was clear enough on this point. 2 Samuel 12:10-14 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
I am not suggesting that all these specific things will happen to Mr. Phillips and his family, but he has certainly opened up a large excuse to his children (and others) for abandoning the faith, and certainly his teachings. He has also given the enemies of Christ, as a whole, great opportunity to mock, specifically those who have left the "Quiverfull" and "patriarchal" movement in favor of full blown unbelief. There are likely to be parents who will find it hard to convince their children to "stay in the faith" after seeing the "man at the top" fall in the very type of sin that they have been warned against repeatedly. The consequences of this will probably be quite grave and far reaching, which is very sad.
In considering the statement of resignation and other surrounding items, there are some questions that come up. Some of these seem to warrant further consideration.
1. Semantics or inattention?
First of all, I take some exception to some of the wording in his "statement of resignation". While his language is plenty strong in many respects (he states that he was selfish), it is curious that he does not clearly call his sin adultery. He is willing to own that it was sin, but he seems to hesitate to name what kind of sin it is.
I suppose that the reasoning would be that he didn't "know" her in the Biblical sense of the word, so it wasn't actual adultery. Some people only define marriage as a physical relationship, so perhaps they also don't consider it adultery unless intercourse occurred. This is not what Jesus taught.
Matthew 5:28 But I
say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her
hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Mr. Phillips is to be commended for calling what he did "sin", but we question the integrity of defining what happened as an "inappropriate relationship with a woman". Jesus Christ calls it adultery. Since it was a serious enough situation to require a public statement and resignation, it is serious enough to be called what it is. Based on Mr. Phillips' knowledge of Biblical terminology and the fact that he is a lawyer, I think know he's smart enough to figure that out, so I have to assume that it was an intentional avoidance of reality, or an attempt to reduce personal damages.
It's also disturbing that he avoids naming the sin when one reflects that Mr. Phillips has "taken the moral high ground" and "talked down", as it were, to so many people about his very high standards and views.
NOTE: See update in box below.
2. Who is the Woman?
In the statement we are told that he had an "inappropriate relationship with a woman" and that it was "inappropriately romantic and affectionate." One disturbing point in this is that we're not given any information on who the woman was. Was she an adult? Was she a minor, and thus is he guilty also of a crime? Was the woman "consenting" or was she being victimized by an authority figure? (As has been the case with Bill Gothard and others.) Was she one of the "shining lights" connected with Vision Forum Ministries - one of the "great, godly women" who is held up as a model and teacher for all women to follow? These are all serious questions and do make a difference in the situation.
For example, if the woman was one of the female leaders of the "patriarchy" movement, she most certainly should be removing herself from any position of teaching or instructing as well!
My husband and I feel that more detail needed to be given. If the situation was purely a flirtation between a grown man and a willing grown woman it is quite different than if he was molesting a minor! It would certainly make a difference in the matter of future ministry, and according to the laws of the land he may be in a position of having committed a prosecutable crime.
Another thing that should be mentioned here is the matter of defrauding a brother in the realm of sexual things. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 tells us, For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. Hopefully Mr. Phillips' comment, "I am still in the process of trying to seek reconciliation privately with people I have injured..." means that he is trying to address the issue with the defrauded woman and her husband and/or family, but it doesn't seem likely in light of further "clarifications" (see box below). His comments come off sounding just a bit too much like those of another lawyer who got himself in a mess - "I did not have sex with THAT woman." It is rather a serious matter, however, to confront the Lord as an avenger, and as a professed "brother" in Christ this is where Mr. Phillips stands!
Aren't you thankful that the Lord told us all that we needed to know about King David's sin so that we knew that his sin was not with a little girl or some unwilling victim? There are reasons why God tells us the grubby details of some things in scripture. It keeps us from having to ask a lot of very unsavory questions.
He says in his statement, "I engaged in a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman. While we did not 'know' each other in a Biblical sense, it was nevertheless inappropriately romantic and affectionate." Well, you can call me a cynic if you like, but I'm married and I know there's a lot that can happen in a "relationship" before reaching the point of "knowing" in the Biblical sense (intercourse). Considering the fact that he refuses to call it "adultery" as Jesus Christ does, it seems quite disturbing that he is so careful in his use of terminology here. (Remember, this man is a lawyer - he knows what he's doing.) Since he has seriously compromised his trust, it's a bit dubious of him to expect us to trust his integrity at this point. Most of us have no personal knowledge of his personal life and habits.
NOTE: See quote in update above.
Is he hiding something? Was it a nanny who served his family, as some are suggesting? Was it his own daughter? Was it "sexting"? (Which brings us back to the unpleasant question as to whether one of the women leaders was involved.) While plenty is admitted, it seems like more is hidden than revealed. One could even wonder if this statement is a toned down admission designed to placate offended parties while still covering for Mr. Phillips.
Curiously enough, while I was in the process of researching and writing this article, Vision Forum Ministries actually announced that they are closing (Nov. 11, 2013). Their statement and decision to close entirely is quite odd if the relationship was no worse than he described. They write, "In light of the serious sins which have resulted in Doug Phillips’s resignation from Vision Forum Ministries, the Board of Directors has determined that it is in the best interests of all involved to discontinue operations." [sic]
Do you note that they call them "serious sins" (plural), not "sin" singular as he described it? Also, the tone of their post is not one of thankfulness for repentance and forgiveness received as his is. The board's announcement has a very somber sound to it. It gives the appearance that there is much more to all of this than has so far met the eye. One wonders if other revelations are possible and the men left in charge do not wish to deal with them on behalf of the ministry. One could hardly blame them. Whether they are entirely innocent or not is still uncertain.
4. Was he really able to have a "lengthy relationship" with another woman without his wife suspecting anything?
Some may think this an unfair question. However, due to the nature of the teachings of extreme "patriarchy" which makes the father the central figure in the home and the absolute authority for the wife and children, it is fair to ask if his wife knew and if she was able to do anything about it. Or, was she a victim within her own marriage and to the teachings of "patriarchy" which required her silence in the face of her husband's unfaithfulness? Some people might not see this as a likely problem, but for those who have been inside extreme "patriarchy" or who have done much reading about it, it is quite concerning realizing the huge fear factor that controls so many of these women and children on the inside. From reports given by various sources, it seems rather obvious that there is much suffering in silence on various levels within this movement.
It is a curious thing that in so many legalistic "Christian" groups where women are downtrodden, minimalized, highly protected, and/or heavily ruled by the men, there so often follows some sort of sexual sin or abuse - of the women or of the privileges of marriage and/or of the children. When a man is convinced that he has the "God-given" right to absolute and silent obedience it seems to often follow that he will presume upon that to excuse himself in breaking the very rules and regulations he forced on others. It reminds me of something Jesus said, "...Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." Luke 11:46
Women are not stupid. Wives are not stupid. Could he possibly have had a "lengthy relationship" with another woman without causing any concern, fear or suspicion in his wife? If the answer is "yes", that is in some ways more disturbing than if she knew and felt she couldn't say anything.
5. Are they going to continue to sell and disseminate all the materials he wrote, preached, etc. while he was living in sin?
This is a tough question that some people don't like to deal with in relation to prominent Christian figures who get into gross immorality. It is perhaps the most important one, though, for those of us outside the situation so it needs to be asked.
Psalms 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
Years ago there was a church in Michigan that discovered their pastor was having affairs with several women in the church. (I want to say five, but the actual number may have escaped my memory.) As I recall, when he was caught and exposed, he made a confession and also assured the people that all the preaching he had done during that time was perfectly good. A leader from that assembly had opportunity to consult my dad on the subject and my dad's advice was to burn all the tapes from that time period. Why? Because when a man is living in willful sin, knowing full well that what he is doing is wrong, how can he possibly be preaching and teaching "in the Spirit" and with the wisdom of God? Is it not quenching the Spirit for a man who knows the word and preaches it regularly to live intentionally in sin? 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Quench not the Spirit.
Mr. Phillips is without excuse. He has preached, published and taught things relating directly to relationships between men and women, marriage, purity, and honor. He knew better! How can we accept the things he has written and spoken during a "lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman" as being faithful to the truth? We cannot.
As of this writing (Nov. 12, 2013) the situation is somewhat complicated. Vision Forum Ministries has only just announced they are closing their main ministry. Mr. Phillips has not stepped down from Vision Forum, Inc., which is the "for profit" part of the organization. As we have since seen (Nov. 26), Vision Forum, Inc. is not closing, and things written during this time of living in sin are most likely continuing to be sold.
The situation gets more muddy and confusing.
SpiritualSoundingboard.com relates that apparently Voddie Baucham (a friend of Mr. Phillips, and fellow "patriarchy" proponent) admitted that Mr. Phillips stepped down from his position as teaching elder (pastor) in the Boerne Christian Assembly in February (approximately 9 months before his resignation, which is, um, a curious number). An anonymous commenter also claimed this. The question is, was this in relation to the adulterous relationship, as some are claiming, or was it not? Baucham seems to claim not, but then why did Phillips step down? If it was related to this situation, why would the church allow Mr. Phillips to continue till October in the leadership of Vision Forum Ministries? Why would he also continue speaking engagements? [There was at least one speaking engagement - a homeschool/fatherhood conference on Sept. 5-7 at Kerrville, Texas, sponsored by FORGE Ministries.] The author at Spiritual Sounding Board, "Julie Anne", also claims that she checked the web page at the Boerne Christian Assembly as soon as the statement of resignation came out and that Mr. Phillips' name was still listed as an elder. She posted a screen shot of this, but unfortunately it did not include a date.
Also, we find on the Vision Forum Ministries' web page, at the time of the resignation, an article published on August 7, 2013 by Douglas Phillips, Esq. on the subject of repentance. What is the meaning of this? If the man just recently acknowledge his sin then it would seem August is rather a recent date for him to have been writing anything we should be reading, particularly on the subject of repentance. If indeed Doug Phillips entered upon repentance back in February and is now considered qualified to write on repentance again - then why did they wait so many months allowing him to continue in leadership of the ministry, speaking engagements, etc.? And, what is the intension in posting this particular item so soon before the statement of resignation? It seems more than likely it was obviously to prepare the way for the resignation itself, but was it wise to use something by Doug Phillips himself on this particular subject? I think not.
As mentioned before, if the situation is only as bad as described in Mr. Phillips' statement of resignation, why are they closing everything? It is very strange. The whole situation is disturbing and complicated to say the least. As I said before, there appears to be much more hidden than revealed.
In the same context, I would remind you that if the woman who was involved in this sin was also a writer, speaker, and/or promoter for Vision Forum, her materials from that "lengthy" time ought also to be pulled from his "for profit" branch of the ministry (or from an other ministry in which she was involved).
1 Corinthians 10:12-14 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.
The only encouraging facts in all of this are that a) Mr. Phillips did in fact acknowledge sin and Doug Phillips has closed his deceitful business; and b) that the board, in closing their branch of the ministry down, seem to be responding in a wiser manner than many have done in similar situations and have removed a source of error-filled teaching from some people's lives.
This has not been a pleasant article to write. As the situation develops there may be corrections and/or additions made here. But, if there is nothing further that needs to come to light I'll be very thankful.
When a man lifts himself up and promotes himself into a position to become a "great leader" of the church, ruling many with his doctrines and teachings, he often finds himself tempted to become a Nicolaitan ("conqueror of the people"). Jesus Christ tells us in Revelation chapter 2 that He hates the deeds and the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
Revelation 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Revelation 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
This is strong language from the Prince of Peace! It is a fearful thing to lift oneself up above the people, commanding them to keep certain doctrines or laws that are either contrary to scripture, or not clearly supportable by scripture (this is a topic for another discussion). Doug Phillips set himself in a dangerous place, and he did not do well with the responsibility he took upon himself.
Dear ones in Christ, please, please do not follow man! Follow the Lord Jesus! Only He will lead you ...in paths of righteousness for His name's sake, Psalm 23:3. Man will fail you. He is but flesh and ...All flesh is grass..., Isaiah 40:6. Only the eternal Son of God, sinless and holy in His entirety, is worthy of our unquestioning trust and belief. He only is named Faithful and True!
Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Poem - Follow Thou Me