Thinking thoughtfully about Doug Phillips’ resignation, part five ~ praise where praise is due


our Ben tree

This week I am enjoying the last of fall colors on our street. Rains a few days ago shook the leaves from some of the trees but in our front yard, the two maples are still full and intense, casting a golden glow into the rooms on that side of the house. It is my favorite week of the year with the last bit of summer loveliness quickly fading and the coziness of winter promising to visit us soon. We planted the larger of these trees the year our son Ben was born and it serves as a daily reminder to me of God’s faithfulness to our family.

During the first four years of our marriage, we had three children and were pretty overwhelmed. During my pregnancy with the third, I told my doctor that I wanted to have my tubes tied right after delivery and still remember the look on his face and his response, “Mrs. Campbell!” he admonished. “You are only 25 years old! I would never consider doing such a thing! You may want to have more children in the future. I will not do this.”

Still determined to limit our family to three children, we were content for 7 years…until we attended a Basic Seminar with Bill Gothard. Only two years into his ATI program, he painted a vision for us that was forever to change our lives. Six weeks later we pulled our children out of public school and began homeschooling, six months later I was pregnant with child number four. Now, 28 years, 6 kids, and 14 grandchildren later, I am still grateful for the message we heard that late November night: that children are a blessing and we should consider having more, that homeschooling is good for children and parents, we should try it. God opened our hearts and minds to His will for our family.

We had to learn many lessons in the years that followed. We never fully bought into the Gothard paradigm, though I was the one who often wanted us to try. I was wooed by the navy neck bows and a 5000 member choir of spit-shined young people singing “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.” Clay, not so much. But our love of little ones and homeschooling never waned and the Lord blessed us in spite of many years when my family threatened to become a form of idolatry in my own life. When the pride of seeking perfection blinded me to real people and their real needs. When I didn’t realize that loving God really meant loving others more than myself.

This has been a difficult week for many moms. Doug Phillips is the man the Lord used to inspire their husbands to consider the value of being a dad. He is the one who painted a picture of motherhood for them that resonated with the God-given desire most women have to nurture and love children. He gave them hope for their families in a world that most Christians realize is increasingly post-modern if not downright pagan. He inspired families to love America and to see God’s sovereignty in many places we had forgotten it existed. And those messages are true and good ones.

But somehow hearing criticism of the man and his philosophies has translated to these wonderful moms that their choices have not been valid ones. And this is the real sadness of it all. Because God HAS used Vision Forum for good in many ways IN SPITE OF the bad theology, IN SPITE OF the dangerous teachings, IN SPITE OF the damage done to so many. But rather than minimize or ignore the false teachings and pretend it is genuine Biblical truth, now is the time to say, “God is good, He has led our family, not because of what Doug Phillips said but because God showed us these things by His grace alone!”

Now is also the time for families who have been caught up in the patriarchy paradigm to ask hard questions. It is time to put away the big red manuals, the endless CD’s of “encouragement,” the books and programs and conference paraphernalia and pick up the Bible. It is time for parents to humble themselves and seek forgiveness from their children, some of them long-estranged because the paradigm taught that they should be. It is time to repent of the pride of who has a larger family, who is interning where, who is courting whom, who has the most modest clothes, who God is blessing, who He is cursing, etc. Have you been blessed? Rejoice and be grateful! Are you struggling? Rejoice and be grateful! Reject the idolatry of the paradigm, embrace the relationships around you. Pull out one of the one anothering verses every single day, over and over again, and live them! Love God, love your children, love your neighbors. Welcome God’s grace and be thankful for how God alone, not Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, a patriarchal leader, radio teacher, or any man, has brought you to this point!

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” ~ Jonah 2:8


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  1. Heather says

    One of the most thoughtful responses I’ve read. Thank you for putting many of my thoughts in experience.

  2. Homeoccupied says

    Thank you so much, Karen, for this post! Thank you for the reminder that many of us get lured by outward appearances and Biblical sounding, but untrue ideas, but that “all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” Thank you Jesus, for Your grace!

  3. Shepherdess says

    Thank you, Karen, for all your thoughtful writing this week! I am one of those moms who has been spinning in circles this week since hearing the D.P. news. I recognize that this is because he was an idol to me. I am sure I could have walked away from everything good in my life, I was so angry! But God has restrained me by His faithful and loving hand. Thanks be to God that He has been merciful to me and many others during this time of trial.

  4. Anna says

    Excellent post! This how I feel about the years my family spent in ATI. Yes, there were some legalistic hang-ups to overcome, and no, I would not want to homeschool my children in the program, but God did use it for good in our lives.

  5. Liv says

    Kudos for sharing such important insights! When I read this part, tears came into my eyes:

    Quote: “But rather than minimize or ignore the false teachings and pretend it is genuine Biblical truth, now is the time to say, “God is good, He has led our family, not because of what Doug Phillips said but because God showed us these things by His grace alone!” ”

    In the early days the home school movement was birthed seemingly from out-of-nowhere with people feeling led to do it all over the country around the same time. We just felt a strong prompting to educate our children at home even though we knew of no one else doing this, nor had we ever heard the term “home schooling” before. No mere “man or woman” truly initiated the movement. I believe it started with people being led by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word, so to me it is very meaningful that this writer pulls it all back to where it began – God’s grace.

    I think home schooling started out as a very good thing (and continues to be), but a few men with really huge ego and control issues jumped in and turned it into a money-making opportunity. They advertised their ideas and everyone assumed that these men had good hearts following the Lord. That was the first mistake in my mind. We must always have our headlights focused with high beam on Christ and Christ alone.

    We live and learn; thank God for His mercy and compassion.

  6. Anthea says

    There are VF materials being sold here in the UK by little home education supply businesses. The Two Dougs have been taking their act on the road here in England (and other bits of the UK, I think.) So this is a big big story, y’know. There will be many confused people. Some will deny that it matters, perhaps …

    This story is a big surprise to me. I knew nothing about it until today. I popped in to the blog tonight after a long time not reading Thatmom. I do have a note from my mother, however: ‘Please excuse Anthea for her absence from Thatmom this past month. She has actually been home educating her children. She has also been OUTSIDE, to catch the sun before it disappears for eight months.’

  7. Anthea says

    BTW, Karen, I am truly sorry that you have had nasty emails. You do not deserve that. Thank you for all the hard work that you do in your writing and broadcasting. When it comes to Titus2 women, you are the real deal.

  8. says

    Absolutely, without a doubt, unequivocally, the most grace-filled, God honoring response to the Doug Phillips issue that I have read anywhere. “God is good, He has led our family, not because of what Doug Phillips said but because God showed us these things by His grace alone!”

  9. says

    “God HAS used Vision Forum for good in many ways IN SPITE OF the bad theology, IN SPITE OF the dangerous teachings, IN SPITE OF the damage done to so many.”

    Very true. Around the year 2000 I did a couple sessions of Weigh Down Workshop, run by Gwen Shamblin. I truly benefited from that program and Gwen’s books and grew closer to the Lord through that program. In the next year or so it became public that Gwen had some rather unorthodox beliefs and most churches (thankfully) dropped her like a hot potato. I don’t recall any bad theology being in her materials but it was probably there in various ways (I threw it all in the garbage when I learned that she denied the deity of Christ)…I think I just assumed she was OK and so I wasn’t looking for problems. I took the good stuff she had to say and added it to what I already knew was true about my relationship with Christ.

    I think a lot of people have the same story when it comes to Vision Forum, No Greater Joy, Above Rubies, etc. They are somehow able to just skim off the good and never really go deep enough to notice the darker side of the teachings. I think that’s a good thing? But it’s discouraging to hear these leaders defended by people who really don’t know the full extent of the patrio teachings and the harm it’s done. I think it helps to acknowledge that yes, there is SOME good in these teachings, like you have done here.

  10. TulipGirl says

    Karen, did you see that the Vision Forum MINISTRIES is being closed by the Board of Directors? Thoughts?

    “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. We have stopped receiving donations, and are working through the logistical matters associated with the closing of the ministry. While we believe as strongly as ever in the message of the ministry to the Christian family, we are grieved to find it necessary to make this decision. We believe this to be the best option for the healing of all involved and the only course of action under the circumstances.”

  11. TulipGirl says

    And, while I really am never surprised when leaders sin grievously. . . I am so, so sad about Doug Philips and how it is impacting his immediate and extended family.

    Sin hurts so much. Not just ourselves, but so many around us. Far-reaching.

    My displeasure with Vision Forum has, for years, been because it has elevated a lifestyle over the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I hate to see this happen to Doug, his family, and many families influenced by VF. And yet. . . if it truly brings him to repentance and a reawakening to the amazing, beautiful, GRACIOUS, gift of grace and the Gospel? Well. . . I can hope and pray it does and that it will have even more far-reaching impact than the lifestyle empire that was built by Vision Forum.

  12. Peter Mayo says

    Hi. I’m quite new to what Vision Forum is all about. In fact, the little I was exposed to, like the Amazon dvd series, and the History of Christianity dvd series, I learned a lot from.
    Can someone please explain to me the dangerous teaching, and bad theology you are talking about? I also have good friends who are big supporters of Doug Phillips as well.


  13. hrm? says

    Yes, I’m in Peter Mayo’s shoes. For only a couple months now, we’ve been listening to the Jonathan Parks radio drama cds. I’d never heard of Vision Forum before this, and really, haven’t had much exposure to this patriarchal theology. I’ve grown up in an evangelical Canadian church and did hear about Bill Gothard many years ago, but what he taught was so far afield from what my family believed that we hardly gave it any further thought. I’ve not sensed this patriarchal stuff in the Jonathan Park cds….perhaps I’ll listen a little more closely now….

  14. says

    Hi Peter,

    Years ago when I saw this movement taking off, I coined the word “patriocentricity” to define the way men are seen as being central to all family life. I would encourage you to listen to the second patriarchy series of podcasts to see how this works itself out in application. This first podcast gives a mini course in Rushdooney’s teachings and how they are central to this movement.

    Keep listening to the rest of the series to see how various teachers recommend this model be used.

  15. says

    Thank you for your thoughts.
    I grew up in ATI, was encouraged by some (not all) of what Vision Forum had to offer… but God also opened my eyes over the years to see that men and organizations like these have become idols in the hearts of many families. I know many may just see the sin that was committed and not see the goodness of God in toppling idols. He is jealous for His name to be hallowed, and instead of worshiping our worthy God we have worshiped unworthy men. We need to return back to lives of simple love and obedience with the Word of God central.
    I am single, 28, and now living completely outside of the “Daughter at Home” model…and yet experiencing the wonders of God as I have responded to His calling me to Cambodia. I am thankful for the 27 years of abundant ministry I did have at home with my family, but now my family has joyfully sent me to live in a third world country in response to God’s very clear call.
    It was this change in my life that opened my eyes to see the truth of Scripture clearly and to see that all of God’s people are to be obedient to His command and His commission to make disciples. When God first called me to Cambodia, I looked at Scripture through the Vision Forum lens that daughters should only be home until they are married. After truly studying God’s Word, I realized that I had idolized my earthly father above my Heavenly Father, and that it was Him I needed to obey. My dad, consequently, had been praying for years and years for unreached people groups around the world and it was his great joy to send me here.
    I am praying for the young people in America who were discipled by their parents to know the freedom of loving obedience to God’s commands, and for a movement of disciples making disciples in the US and in unreached places of the world beyond. It is much more freeing to obey God than to obey man, and God is so much more glorified!

  16. says

    Kristin, thank you so much for sharing your wonderful testimony.

    ” I know many may just see the sin that was committed and not see the goodness of God in toppling idols.” This is exactly right!

  17. Mandy N says

    After years of painful healing from a life full of Gothardism and Patriarchy, I finally was able to let all the pain go and fully move on. Deleted FB and stopped following all of the blogs that helped me come out of all of it as I just wanted to enjoy life beyond it and really didn’t want to read about it anymore. But now, coming across this whole D.P. scandal, it has me crying tears of joy. Over ten years ago with my own personal encounter with Doug Phillip and his pride I prayed he would be exposed. Glory to God for all of the twisted theology soon to be unraveled and all of the scales that will fall off. If it takes something as sad and heart heavy as this, so be it, for it is only the beginning of the real truth of God’s word reaching so many homeschool families and for Christ’s freedom to shine through a very dark and damaging tunnel. May this be the beginning of the end for hyper patriarchal homeschooling days.

  18. Mandy N says

    And for those who may think it is unbiblical for me to rejoice in this unfortunate situation. My heart is very burdened for the victims but those who put themselves on pedestals of authority and preach such a false doctrine, unfortunately, usually need to fall very hard in order to be humbled and repent and I fully rejoice in the falling of the FALSE DOCTRINE and damaging theology. I fully rejoice in wrongs being righted and God’s truth being revealed. I wish that none of this had happened. The years of patriarchy so many have suffered. I pray that IBLP will be exposed someday as well. Yes, it is so painful to walk out of it and see your beloved leader fall(and see all of the damage in it’s wake) but it’s necessary and there is a blessed freedom beyond I wish for everyone.

  19. Kris says

    I just checked out VF’s retail website. Looks like they liquidated everything and it closed Dec. 20th. Looks like everything is closing down not just the ministry. The fallout from this continues. I pray the truth comes out fully and there is true healing for everyone involved.


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