Jennifer Epstein of Jen’s Gems tells of her experiences during her time in Doug Phillips’ church, Boerne Christian Fellowship. Originally published here. Please remember that while the contributors to this website are united in our belief that there are problems with the teachings of Vision Forum, we come from a variety of perspectives and this is just one of them.
(Start with chapter one)
Lulled into a False Sense of Security
The first meeting with Doug Phillips seemed to only make things worse at home. Mark did not leave us, but still threatened divorce nearly every day. Outbursts of anger were frequent and prolonged. Adding to all this, Doug Phillips’ suggestions to Mark that I had never repented just fueled the fire all the more.
Always trying to be a peacemaker, I asked a friend for help in knowing what true, biblical repentance was. She told me of a sermon by Dr. SM Davis about true repentance, so I bought the tape and listened to it several times, praying for wisdom. Concluding that I had already done everything possible, I determined to write Mark a letter of repentance. Although there was nothing new in that letter of February 2003, it seemed to salve his wounds at the time. Delighted, he brought the letter to church and showed it to Doug and Beall Phillips, who were both so moved by its contents they had tears streaming down their faces, assuring Mark that this was truly evidence of full repentance. I thought things might be on the mend; surely I could take communion now. But communion was not restored, and within a week, life was back to extreme anger again at home.
That June, 2003, Mark had been talking to Beall Phillips about something that bothered him. Wondering if something she’d done bothered me as well, Beall emailed me asking me that very question. I replied that, yes, she had offended me (at the first meeting) and requested that we get together that day, if possible, to talk about it. She did not think that was possible, so I suggested getting together as soon as possible, even offering my oldest daughter to watch her children so we could go out somewhere together. Beall Phillips then professed to be “afraid” of me, although I had never given her any reason for that, so Doug decided that both couples should meet. Feeling that the situation was getting out of control, I finally agreed to meet with both Doug and Beall Phillips after church one Sunday, which meant that my severely disabled daughter would need to be with me.
It was six to eight weeks later, however, before we finally met, which, you will see, is a pattern with Doug Phillips. Knowing that she offended me, I began the meeting by asking Beall Phillips why she had continued taking communion during this time. There was no answer. Doug Phillips did give me an opportunity to say whatever was on my mind, then, so I confronted both Doug and Beall about their behavior toward me in that first meeting. I asked them why they called me names such as “whore,” “Jezebel,” a liar, churlish, wicked, disrespectful, and unsubmissive, when in fact, there was not only no basis in fact for those terms, but they were also totally unnecessary in a counseling setting. I also confronted them for their three lies about me in that meeting and asked that they consider using a gentler counseling technique in the future.
Doug and Beall Phillips’ first reactions were quite vehement in denying everything, but Doug soon regained his composure and calmed down. Although we had a pleasant talk for the most part, in the end, we agreed to disagree. Not realizing at the time that this appeared to be a pattern for Doug and Beall Phillips, I didn’t think any more of it. Doug Phillips continued to greet me when he saw me, but Beall Phillips refused to speak to me at all after that meeting.
Since the Lord’s Supper is a weekly ordinance at Boerne Christian Assembly, the minor excommunication (being denied communion) was ever before me. I really had no idea how I was to prove all those things in the “Guidelines for Accountability” document, but I just continued trying to be a godly wife. Some people might think that in a small church, I could just ask Doug Phillips any Sunday about it, but that was not the case. Each year, Doug Phillips’ speaking schedule took him away from church on Sunday more and more often. By this time period, he usually showed up about once per month, and when he did, he rarely stayed for the fellowship time, often leaving even before the service was over. Since he usually arrived just when the service was starting, this didn’t leave much time to talk to him, and there was usually a crowd vying for his attention anyway. As a woman, I had no opportunities to speak to him, about communion or about much else.
However, Mark did have a relationship with Doug Phillips and had a long walk with him one fine autumn afternoon. Mark came home one Sunday in the fall of 2003, just over one year since that first meeting, and told me I could take communion again. There was no proof of my “repentance” (other than my letter nine months earlier), no meeting to settle the matter, no questions, no anything. Just, communion restored. Although the situation appeared dire enough to Doug Phillips initially to warrant a minor excommunication (suspension from the Lord’s Supper), and although there was no proof of any change whatsoever, communion was just restored. In reality, things were no better at home and in the next few months even grew drastically worse.