Pooh’s Think

… with comments

Ministry Watchman Replies To BCA Denial

Update #2: I have received some information that provides some clarification about the timing issue I comment to below. It might be the case that the BCA’s reply was written on Nov. 28th and Nov. 30th, as dated, but apparently the Watchman was not aware of them until late Friday evening. This original anonymous response from the Watchman was therefore an immediate reply; we have yet to see what the Watchman will come up with in the same period of time it took the BCA to post its public response to the allegations.

Update: I have received some concern about this post (below), and Phillips’ defenders are trying to create a sensational headline out of it: POOH BEAR LOOSES FAITH IN THE WATCHMAN. I’m not going to comment one way or the other to this politicized rhetoric; this sort of thing has no place in the Wood’s halls of justice.

It is all fairly ironic. It is only when I am willing to judicially handle the Watchman with equitable standards—applying the same impartiality to them as to Doug Wilson, Christ Church, Baylys, Burke Shade, or whoever—that I am qualified to speak to the issues. If I was just one more “ally” in some political movement, revolution, scandal, or agenda, or whatever, then what would my third party voice add to the Phillips or Ligonier cases? I have agreed with and defended 90 percent of everything the Ministry Watchman has done up to this point; by my willingness to question the justice of recent procedures I have simply grounded this 90 percent approval with judicial trustworthiness. If I was not willing to question procedures or claims by any “allies,” then I would just be one more person emoting one way or the other with half baked ideas, half skewed ideals, and a fraction of the available facts. My goal is to consistently rise just a hair above this status quo in order to continue the traditions of the Wood.

This is even how I hopped from Wilson’s Blog into the Wood. I argued on Wilson’s blog that Wilson’s handling of McLaren destroyed any foundation to criticize anyone; it was destroying the authority of any possible, future just censure. Here’s the original post:

Lynn wrote into Ministry Watchman wondering what their response was to the rigorous and aggressive denial from Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA) to Ministry Watchman’s allegations; I had already posted this response from BCA here. Two days had transpired since this response was made public, and my wife had located this monumentally important document by a series of links from the thread from Wacthman’s post. I was certainly anxious for the Watchman’s reply to this public statement. My wife was too, but I explained that they would probably just wait until a fresh article on Monday. However, Watchman responded to Lynn,

“Lynn, maybe you didn’t see it but here’s our response:”

It was a reply from “I Smell a Rat said.” I think I did see that response myself last night, but I did not take the time to read it since it was posted by someone criticizing BCA’s denial of the allegations without additional facts and without any relation to Ministry Watchman. It is therefore good that Watchman has informed us that the reply by “I Smell a Rat said” was indeed Ministry Watchman’s public reply to the BCA’s formal response to their allegations. It is good to keep the connections clear. I am glad that they are acting consistently with Frank Vance’s plea that folks at least use a consistent name so as not to create confusion.

After reading this reply, I was glad to find the final comment “There will be more, a lot more, this coming week.” I am looking forward to this, and I hope it comes very soon. Here again is Ministry Watchman’s initial reply:

I Smell a Rat said…
I read the BCA statement, including the “Excommunication With Due Process and Unanimous Approval of the Voting Church Body.” I see some major problems with it.
By the way it’s real obvious that the Boerne Christian Assembly web site was just tossed up within the last day or two and that it was only put up for one purpose, as a place to tack up a response to the Epsteins’ allegations (if indeed that’s their name). That sure seems like a lousy reason to create a church web site, wouldn’t you say?

I’ll have to say the same for your Tired Of Crap web site, which you put up for only one reason, to publicly shame and humiliate the Epsteins after their obvious wish was to not use their real names. Wouldn’t it already be obvious to every BCA member who the story was about? So why do you feel it necessary to be so vindictive and malicious as to publicly expose their names? Even the BCA site doesn’t do that. So what’s your next stunt? Are you going to post their home phone and address? Family photos?

There seems to be much made of the fact that the entire BCA congregation voted in favor of the excommunication, or at least the 26 men did (based on what I’ve read of BCA I can’t imagine the women were given a vote). But given the men’s devotion to Doug Phillips that certainly doesn’t seem like it would have been much of a challenge for him to pull off.

Now supposedly the excommunication occurred through “due process.” So where’s the due process documents? Where’s the list of specified charges? Where’s the written judgment? Does anyone just expect us to believe that the Jackson’s received due process based upon nothing more than the vague and indefinite statements that BCA just threw up today on their brand new web site? I guess what I’m asking is how do you demonstrate due process without something similar to the Declaratory Judgment that the RPCGA publicly released when they defrocked RC Sproul Jr? That’s what real churches do when they perform real excommunications with real due process.

I’m not saying that BCA ever should have publicly released a written judgment when they excommunicated the Epsteins. But I will say that they better have produced some kind of written judgment and furnished a copy to the Epsteins. Without it they haven’t got a leg to stand on if they now want to claim that they gave the Epsteins due process. Contained in that written judgment would be some clear explanation about how BCA followed due process, and what their standard for due process was (BCO, church constitution, etc.). Ian you don’t sound like you’d understand the first thing about due process so at this point you’re probably already getting dizzy by what I’m saying. I’ll just leave it at that now.

I realize that BCA is an independent Baptist church, and that Doug Phillips isn’t even ordained, and that some independent Baptists tend to fly by the seat of the pants and not document anything (I know, I used to be one myself), including usually not even having a church constitution at all, and therefore no standard by which to establish any due process. But if that’s the way that BCA excommunicated the Epsteins, if it was just the typical Baptist fly by the seat of the pants stuff that I’ve seen before then there’s nothing due process about it at all. This for example is not due process, “I move that we should excommunicate the Epsteins. Do I have a second?” “I second that.” “All in favor signify by saying aye” “Aye!” “The ayes have it. The Epsteins are hereby excommunicated.”

You’ve told us Ian that you’d provide the other side of the story. I’d really like to see that. So where’s the due process documentation?

That last question of course was a rhetorical one. There is no due process documentation because there was no due process, nor has there ever been any due process by Doug Phillips at Boerne Christian Assembly. Phillips knows what due process means because he’s a lawyer. He just doesn’t believe that, in practice, anyone under his alleged “authority” is entitled to it. Guaranteeing due process to his church members would make him accountable to specific documented standards of justice, and that would make it impossible to convene his Kangaroo Courts.

What Doug Phillips was counting on is never being challenged for his ecclesiastical abuse and tyrannies. What he was counting on was no one ever challenging him for, “It’s a local church matter. It’s nobody else’s business outside our church how we discipline our members. We say it was a lawful excommunication. We say we gave them due process. We say that it’s binding and that the only way it can ever be reversed is if the excommunicants come back to us and repent fully and unequivocally [of vague, indefinite sins, many of which may have never even occurred], and according to whatever standards that we determine.”
A Kangaroo Court judgment in any venue, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, is never binding and never has any force or authority, other than in the minds of those who believe in Kangaroo Court “justice.”

There will be more, a lot more, this coming week.

For the record, I wanted to express my way of taking this public reply from BCA until hearing further from either side. First of all, the BCA’s statement is not what we would have been expecting. The corrupt leaders taken on here in the Wood do not offer judicial public responses and often do not even bother to publicly deny allegations at all. The BCA’s reply, in form, was precisely what honest and just men would do. It is to be applauded in form—so much so that the BCA will stand or fall based on the accuracy of the content of the reply. They are either lying, which will hopefully be uncovered, or what they say is generally correct. If it is generally correct, then we would have to remain in praise of their willingness to offer such a public reply. This reply is not perfect for sure, but compared to the other tyrants we have dealt with so far, this was certainly a breath of fresh air.

I agree with Watchman that it is “real obvious” that this site was put up to reply to the allegations. But it is so obvious, that I am not sure what the concern here really is. There was no attempt to make the web site look like a “church web site.” This is therefore a criticism of the form of their reply, which I think is unhelpful and not entirely just. Certainly, it would be a lousy reason to create a church web site; but the BCA did not just create “a church web site.”

I am also confused as to why the Watchman says “if indeed that’s their name.” Does the watchman not know if the Epstein’s are these same people? As the Watchman observed, the BCA statement does not reveal any names.

I’ll also have to differ about the Tired Of Crap web site. It has been the absence of these kinds of web sites that presented more damning evidence against Ligonier. If the allegations are grossly libelous, then Ligonier defenders could have easily put up the other side of the story, which is precisely what Glen Reynolds explains always happens in situations like this; this is what illustrates the judicial protection on the level playing field of the internet. It is not clear at all that the sole reason of Tired Of Crap is to vindictively shame and humiliate the Epsteins. If the information on Tired Of Crap and the BCA’s statement is true, then this would simply be the Watchman and the Epsteins swallowing a bit of their own medicine. Given the track record of Ministry Watchman, which spans many months, we will assume until Monday that none of this is true.

I do agree with Watchman’s point about BCA’s success at getting all the voting men of the church to vote against the couple (women voting would not support Ministry Watchman’s first article). In small cultish groups – and I maintain that a significant percentage of reformed Baptist churches roughly fit this bill – it would not be hard for the leader to get the entire congregation worked up for a lynching. In fact, this is the very sociological problem that we are most concerned with here in the Wood. This unanimous vote is precisely what one would expect. For example, were there no careful dissenting labors from the congregation? Nothing like this post I’m writing right now?

Watchman’s point about “due process” is fairly vacuous. This seems more like a fight for the seminary classroom over church government theory. Presbyterians love that paper work. They used it to stifle the gospel while the Baptists where bringing it into the frontier; and they used it with great force to lynch their own beloved Presbyterian warrior Gresham Machen. We shall hope that the allegations against BCA do not amount to a concern over paper work, or equitably established sociological, baptistic procedures for counseling and discipline.

“Vague and indefinite statements that the BCA just threw up”? This doesn’t seem right. Take the following section for example:

Just prior to their formal excommunication, the acrimony and venom between the couple was at such a level that the wife suggested her husband was guilty of attempted murder and of psychological instability, while the husband presented compelling evidence of ongoing cruelty on the part of the wife. When confronted for sins, the wife insisted on a novel and unbiblical variation of the doctrine of sinless perfectionism to justify her claim that she had essentially not sinned in her home for close to half of a year. Over a period of years leading up to the excommunication, the elders of BCA and appointed families from the local church logged hundreds of hours counseling both the husband and wife in the Word of God, sometimes with signs of hope, and other times with none. At no time was inappropriate language leveled against the couple by leaders of BCA.

It would be interesting to know more about what the word “logged” here references.

The Watchman implies that the BCA’s statement is not the “other side of the story,” and points to the fact that they did not present formal “due process documentation.” This is not another “side of the story”? That it is an assertion, if true, that would be hard for me to understand. Should we apply the same standards to the Watchman’s original essay on Doug Phillips?

After no evidential response to the BCA’s statement, the Watchman informs us what Doug Phillips “was counting on.” And we are reminded of Doug Phillips’ many “tyrannies” even though we are here disputing the very first one.

Hopefully, some more substantive evidential replies will be forthcoming Monday.


December 4, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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