Sep 25, 2006

Those Who Confront LIgonier

Doug Phillips, who was my elder for several years, taught me that God’s Word addresses every situation in life, but that rather than looking for a single verse to support our “beliefs,” we must look at the whole counsel of God to determine precisely what God wants us to do and how we are to live our daily lives. As we consider this situation with Ligonier, I want to stay focused on our responsibility as Christians in these types of circumstances. Sola Scriptura.

If we are to develop a biblical worldview in life, it must differ from the world’s ways; as Christians, we should stand head and shoulders above the world in the way we conduct ourselves. Let’s take a look at a few of the world’s ways and see how we are doing.

“The West Point Military Academy has a Cadet Honor Code which is defined as "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." West Point expects that all cadets will strive to live far above the minimum standard of behavior and develop a commitment to ethical principles guiding moral actions. An officer who is not trustworthy cannot be tolerated. USMA expects its graduates and cadets to commit to a lifetime of honorable living.

“A leader of character knows what is right, and possesses the moral courage to act on that knowledge. The principles of truthfulness, fairness, respect for others, and a personal commitment to maintaining values constitute that fundamental ideal known as the Spirit of the Code. A leader of character will apply the Spirit of the Code when making decisions involving ethical dilemmas.

“The Corps of Cadets bears the responsibility to resolve all possible violations of the Code through detailed, independent investigations and, when required, Honor Investigative Hearings. If a cadet (or anyone else) suspects that a violation occurred, then she or he is expected to approach the individual to clarify what happened (this step is optional). If that approach resolves the issue; i.e., the cadet making the allegation realizes no Honor violation occurred, then the issue will be dropped. However, if the person making the allegation still believes a violation may have occurred, she or he is obligated to inform a member of the Honor Committee within 24 hours. Failure to do so is considered "toleration," which is itself a violation of the Honor Code (the 24 hour rule is a guideline, cadets are not automatically in violation of the Code if they take more than 24 hours to report a violation). Once a suspected violation is reported to a member of the Honor Committee, it must be investigated.” This investigation then leads to several levels of hearings and judgments, similar to our judicial system.

The US Army drills and instills seven core values into all its soldiers:




Selfless Service



Personal Courage

These seven character traits are not only inculcated in and demanded of each soldier, but they are also a foundation for promotion. All officers and NCOs are rated annually on how they embody these seven character traits, which then forms a basis for potential promotion.

How are we as Christians doing so far? Are we standing head and shoulders above the world’s ways? Have we all demonstrated God’s ways in our handling of the Ligonier situation?

I was having a conversation with a friend once and she had asked me a question. She said, “I know you are just going to ask me, ‘What does the Bible say about it?’ but I don’t know what the Bible says about it!” Maybe that is where we need to start.

What does the Bible say about this situation with Ligonier? First, we need to understand that it is our responsibility as Christians to judge one another. This concept of judging others has been greatly taken out of context in our day. This Scripture is not referring to a pharisaical “holier-than-thou” type attitude where we either think we are better than others or we put it upon ourselves to tell other Christians all their sins. The Bible never tells us to do either of those. This type of judging regards things that pertain to this life, even the smallest matters, Scripture tells us; it is the settling of differences, as we clearly see the connection to the previous verse that tells us not to take matters to the world’s courts. Not only is this verse a clear prohibition of lawsuits, but it appears to ban all forms of using the world’s courts to settle matters between professing Christians, such as injunctions. So our first point is that Christians are to judge one another in ALL matters, big or small.

Next, we are told that we should have nothing to do with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather to expose them. Since “deeds of darkness” is just another name for sin, we see that we are actually told to expose sin. There are certainly biblical times, ways, and means to do that, though, so we can’t put all our money on just this verse. But we do need to realize that there are definitely times to expose the evil “deeds of darkness.” We are having no problems following this Scripture lately!

Most people will probably think of Matthew 18 next, so let’s look briefly at its three steps.

First step: Go alone to the person who offended you.

Second step: Take one or two others with you. Notice that this verse does NOT say that the others must have witnessed the offense, but rather that they be witnesses to the conversation.

Third step: Tell it to the church. “Church” here does NOT necessarily mean the local body of believers you fellowship with. It MAY mean that, but it is not limited to that definition. The “church” here means to the extent that other believers are affected by this offense, or those who have a need to know.

Fourth step: Treat him like a heathen and a tax collector.

This situation with Ligonier and this verse reminds me of Martin Luther. Luther realized as he studied God’s Word for himself that he had a responsibility to judge what was going on in the church at that time. He realized that he had a responsibility to expose the “deeds of darkness” within the very church he loved. He also followed the steps of Matthew 18, but when he got to step number three, the “church” meant all the believers had a need to know. It is not easy to be the messenger and tell God’s own people to repent, and Martin Luther was not very well loved in his day. People today want to shoot the messengers that are exposing the “deeds of darkness” within Ligonier, but God clearly tells us in this Scripture to take it to the whole church, if necessary. To the extent that the sin is made public, exposure should be given to the same extent. I wonder where we would be if Luther didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to call the church to repentance.

Do we have an example in Scripture of exposing evil deeds to the whole church? This might seem like a really small matter, but it must have been important enough to not only confront the sinner, but also to take it to the whole church. Peter was eating with the Gentiles, as God had called him to do, but when James sent some visitors, Peter lost his first vision and withdrew from them and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. Paul says that he had to confront Peter to his face; but even that wasn’t enough. Paul then put it in writing for the whole church to see, for all time! Sometimes I’m glad I didn’t live in the Bible times, because I wouldn’t want my sin to go down in history for the whole world to continue to see for thousands of years! Anyway, Peter’s sin of fearing for his reputation doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to us, but Paul thought it serious enough to tell the whole church.

What is our attitude to be during all this exposure and confrontation? First, I think it’s important that we walk the very fine line of being as wise as serpents, yet as harmless as doves, since we are as sheep being sent out into the midst of wolves. I am not going to call anyone a wolf in this Ligonier situation, but let us say that God knows each of our hearts, and He knows His sheep, and He knows if there are any wolves. We do, however, bear a responsibility here to be wise in discerning when people are conducting themselves as Christians or not; the Bible says that we will know that they are Christians by their fruit, by the way they behave. While we are busy being wise, let us be just as busy being harmless. I fear there is much harm being done in this situation.

And not only are we to be harmless, but we are to restore those who are caught up in sin with a spirit of gentleness. You know, I think that old saying still rings true: You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! When we put others on the defensive, why are we surprised when they defend themselves? This is certainly one of the hardest areas for me, but I truly desire to have a gentle spirit so that I may help bring restoration where there is still sin.

Sometimes as Christians we are called to confront sin in other believers. The Bible tells us that Christians are to judge between Christians, in both small and large matters; that we are to expose the “deeds of darkness;” that we are to follow the three steps listed in Matthew 18, which include telling it to as many Christians as it pertains to; to be as wise as serpents in being alert for wolves in our midst, yet harmless as doves in dealing with them; and to restore sinning believers in a spirit of gentleness. For those who are doing the confronting, let us remember to do it God’s way.


Charitable Onlooker said...

The fact that an individual exercised bad judgment does not always mean they are guilty of committing a sin. And even if an individual was guilty of committing a sin - it is not necessarily the case that the organization they represent bears collective guilt for an individual’s mistake.

Those of us who support our military did not like it when journalists pointed to the terrible behavior of a few individuals in Iraq as evidence of systematic abuse of Iraqis by our military. We argued that individuals transgressed the rules, that the courts of military justice were addressing these abuses and that this institutional control showed that our system worked - not that it was broken. I use this as an analogy to the Ligonier situation.

Regarding the lawsuit. It was a failure of judgment to be sure - but was it a failure of the judgment of Ligonier or on the part of Tim Dick himself? That is a salient question. If Tim Dick rushed to conclusions and determined on this course of action without getting input from other godly fellows - he should be held accountable BY THE ORGANIZATION (LIGONIER). Not by the general public. If a lawsuit was the course of action determined upon by Ligonier itself (with board and general management approval) – that is another issue. But the fact is that Frank Vance and Jen Epstein DO NOT KNOW if this is true

Apparently (as evidenced by their announcement), what institutional controls Ligonier does possess (which I personally believe are insufficient) worked in this case and determined against a course of action that Tim Dick had chosen to pursue. It is too bad that Ligonier struck on this course of action AFTER the lawsuit had been filed, but the wrongful action has been withdrawn. Hopefully the management/board also privately exhorted Tim Dick to be careful about acting too independently in the future and placed him under greater institutional oversight. Hopefully this situation will also be taken into account by the folks who have been over-seeing the systematic reorganization process at Ligonier (which was begun before this mess and is continuing).

On this and other issues, Frank Vance (and others) have jumped to conclusions by speculating and drawing inferences from certain facts when they were not in possession of ‘the whole truth’. The former is not excusable and the latter is inexcusable if it is made public without further substantiation. Frank Vance should have known better than to publish the info about SDG before he had ironclad proof. And other bloggers should have jumped on his bandwagon without independent corroboration.

What concerns me about SOME OF Jen Epstein's posts on this issue - and many of Frank Vance's - are the complete lack of consideration for mitigating circumstances that could have suggested other scenarios or at least given reason for folks to be in less of a rush to judgment. Christians should be more charitable.

I imagine that everybody in a Reformed church has had disagreements at some time or another with the action, opinion or judgments of, say, a ruling elder or pastor. But do we immediately assume that this individual's point of view or actions are sanctioned by EVERY member of the church and the church as an institution? No. And often the matter is reflected on and dealt with and the individual concerned is covered with forgiveness as he submits as a servant-leader. However, from the beginning - with only a slight amount of documentary evidence - the SDG issue, Ryan Dick's spiritual immaturity and the lawsuit were sold as package-deal evidence of systematic corruption.

This despite the fact that people who knew a lot about the Ligonier organization and a lot of the principals in management at the organization (such as myself) informed Jen and Frank that there were a lot of reasons to be fore-bearing with Ligonier management and at least wait until the deadlines (that Jen and Frank themselves proposed) for a response before jumping up and down and spewing all kinds of information out on the internet. I agreed with the measured tone of the 'open letters' that Jen Epstein posted. But the post about Ryan Dick was not necessary. Nor was the suggestion that Ligonier was engaging in a big-time conspiracy that required them to apologize to everybody in Christendom.

Credible journalists often sit on a story - or on detailed aspects of a story - for quite some time until fact-checking is done and until they fully understand the context of the facts they are reporting. Frank Vance has lost a lot of credibility because of the publishing of Don Kistler's letter. It makes him appear hasty to publish the bad without weighing the evidence fully. This weakens his testimony on other issues about Ligonier.

The tone of Frank’s posts and some of Jen’s posts (and especially comments below posts) also are not helpful, as they make true reconciliation and forgiveness much more difficult when the well-meaning believers at Ligonier Ministries do what they can to rectify wrongs (where they actually do exist). I have to believe that Jen owes an apology to Meaghan May for not being as conscientious with her as Meaghan was with Jen (in terms of trying to do her job and get the facts as she knew them to Jen). I also believe that Frank and Jen should be prepared for a big mea culpa if they grossly misreported (or propagated) the facts about SDG as much as they apparently did – given the letter Dr. Kistler submitted via email.

Maggie said...

Charitable onlooker,

You use the name charitable onlooker, yet you also claim to be a senior manager at Ligonier. Interesting.

The problem with your Iraqi soldier analogy is that it was a few individual soldiers NOT the commanders that propogated the abuse at Abu Ghraib, at Ligonier the problematic individuals are the CEO/CFO and his family, in other words it is coming from the top, from those in charge. Completely different scenarios.

You claim to have asked Frank to at least wait until his self- imposed deadline to work "behind the scenes" with Ligonier, yet the lawsuit was filed BEFORE he posted about SDG being defrauded. He posted on August 28. He was sued on August 25.

As far as the email that Dr. Kistler submitted, can you verify for me that he was in Orlando last week? Thanks.

Can you also show a copy of the document that proves the lawsuit has been dropped?

What do you think about the fact that Ligonier's CEO lied about being able to contact Frank, whom he sued? Is that perjury, or are lawsuits not filed under oath? I don't know, I have no personal experience with the court system.

In my opinion, the information that Jen has posted here about Ryan, (which are HIS OWN words) is absolutely necessary and relevant. Donors have a right to know how their hard earned money is being spent. Ryan is living the good life, and expects to for the rest of his life, when he takes over the family business. Donors are probably assuming their dollars are going to further the Kingdom of God, not of Ryan Dick.

Wendi said...

Charitable, I just called the Florida court clerk and asked if Ligonier had dropped this lawsuit. She says that she has no information to that effect, that as of this moment the suit still stands.
Charitable, Frank Vance's allegations have revealed several things about Ligonier that are a matter of public record- Ryan Dick's disgraceful behavior, the disproprotionally high salaries Sproul family members receive, the lack of financial accountability- these are actions of Ligonier as a whole, not just one person (Ryan Dick is just one person, but his income comes from donor funds and he considers this ministry a family business he is entitled to inherit. Is Ligonier a ministry for Jesus or is a Dynasty for Sproul relatives?).

Ligonier's lawyers were not honest with the judge, and that's more than Tim Dick's actions.

I think the apologies owed here are primarily owed by Ligonier and its employees to their donors.

Practicing Attorney said...

Maggie to Ligonier Senior Manager: Can you also show a copy of the document that proves the lawsuit has been dropped?

That won't be possible, Maggie, because the lawsuit has not been dropped. In fact, as of this morning when I called the Seminole courthouse, Ligonier and Tim Dick hadn't even filed any motion to dismiss the case or withdraw the suit (and filing such a motion is the step before dismissal). I wouldn't be surprised if they are scrambling now to file something, but it's much too late to correct the lie in their public statement from last week that Ligonier had already dropped the unbiblical lawsuit against Frank Vance.

Charitable Onlooker said...


How in the world can anyone draw the conclusion that I am a senior Ligonier manager when I made no such claim? I don't work for Ligonier. I KNOW some people that do, including John Duncan.

Some of you folks are not even reading what anyone not lock-stock and barrel of your opinion are writing.

In Jens open letters, she clearly provided Ligonier with a deadline before which they could seek to satisfy her requests about information. Yet before that was up, she was dumping that Ryan Dick conversation on the web.

Please look up the 9th commandment in the shorter and larger catechisms or Philippians 4 or any number of other texts to figure out if there was a legitimate purpose to dump that stuff on the web without first talking to Ryan Dick, his pastor, or at the very least, a manager at Ligonier? It is totally unnecessary for that stuff to be publicly disseminated. Even if you do (as I do) find it very disappointing.

charitable onlooker said...

For the record, I share a lot of the concerns that Jen Epstein and Frank Vance have regarding Ligonier. I have spoken directly with Ligonier senior managers about them. I am not placated by all of their answers and I have fundamental disagreements with the accountability structure and oversight at Ligonier.

Despite these facts, I find myself forced to be more circumspect about approaching these brothers-in-Christ than either Jen or Frank apparently are.

I think that rather than "Oh so you want to play hardball!" that a brother (zealous but righteous) who wants to see a ministry like Ligonier improved and restored should seek to provide soft answers that turn away wrath.

Bad judgment and even sin by another believer does not give us license to shame them or commit sins of the tongue/pen in our response to them. I am sure that we have all seen legitimate, righteous indignation turn into outright malice in our local church settings. There is no need to perpetrate such errors here.

Jen said...

Charitable, I shall try to respond later with more information, but I wanted to clarify two things for you. "Frank Vance" can be, and has been, contacted on his website via an e-mail link. He is easily reached and Ligonier has contacted him through e-mail on numerous occasions. Although they may not know his physical location, it was not the truth when they told the judge that they had no way of contacting him.

The procedure for this particular court, according to the court's own people who answer the phone, is to open all the mail that comes in each day, as well as walk-in filings, and immediately enter them as "received" and the date in the computer. As of close of business Monday, Sept. 25, ALL mail had been opened and entered into the computer - but nothing from Ligonier. How many days does it take to go across town?

simplegifts3 said...

I am glad you put up the quotes from Ryan Dick on your blog.

I am interested that you like Kent Hovind, though. Answers in Genesis (Ken Ham's organization) has some difficulties with some of Hovind's claims, and hasn't he been shown to not be aboveboard in his dealings as well?

simplegifts3 said...

Here is what I mean. I read it on a Yahoo group, so you can verify the source if you want to:

"Evangelist arrested on federal charges"
Michael Stewart

"A Pensacola evangelist who owns the defunct Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola was arrested Thursday on 58 federal charges, including failing to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes and making threats against investigators.

Of the 58 charges, 44 were filed against Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, for evading bank reporting requirements as they withdrew $430,500 from AmSouth Bank between July 20, 2001, and Aug. 9, 2002."

Charitable Onlooker said...

"Frank Vance" can be, and has been, contacted on his website via an e-mail link. He is easily reached and Ligonier has contacted him through e-mail on numerous occasions.

That fact is not in question. But as I suggested in my post. Suppose you ARE trying to do Matthew 18 and contact a guy to speak to him. Would email be the medium you would want to work through? You personally tried to call and speak to Ligonier folks directly.

I would want to do the same if I were Lig folks. I am not suggesting that Ligonier did everything perfectly. Far from it. But if Frank Vance refuses to use his real name and refuses to speak directly to people whom he is accusing of gross sins - he is not encouraging proper resolution.

Jen -

In your heart of hearts:

a) Do you think 'Frank Vance' should have mentioned the SDG/Dr. Kistler stuff without more than 3rd party testimony - which is ALL that he has ever suggested he has?

b) Should Frank Vance use a pseudonym (which he has apparently done) if his primary motive is calling a self-professed believer to account before the Lord?

c) Should Frank Vance refuse to (privately) communicate, with the party he injured (whether justly or not) with his public charges, through any medium other than email?

You are a thinking person. These issues are clear. We ARE our brother's keeper. We must be on the lookout for error in our midst. But that does not mean that we treat offending brethren (of which many of the principals in this situation are) like enemies. That is indisputably what Frank Vance has done. EVEN IF it is also what Tim Dick has done.

If you or Frank or anyone else - at this point - want to seek true and righteous intervention for the problems at Ligonier Ministries - the prudent way to do it would be to find someone like George Grant or Sinclair Ferguson - a man who can look R.C. Sproul in the eye and ask him to hold his brother accountable for removing the appearance of evil from the ministry by publicly and transparently (without legally couched language) explain what has happened and explain why it won't and shouldn't happen again.

Because of the lack of ecclesiastical oversight, it is hard to apply Matthew 18/BCO type procedure to Ligonier. But if gracious Christians pray and seek for resolution and ask respected peers of R.C. Sproul humbly to encourage him to rise above the mechanations of his staff and the petards of all of the self-appointed prosecutors - maybe there will be a true resolution instead of this nasty, dirty and harmful example of calumny.

The MODE and TONE, as well as the MESSAGE, of the rebukes and exhortations against Ligonier Ministries and its principals must be covered in grace. But that is not happening.

The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things: Whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requires; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of: Whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calls for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice;speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, tale bearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults;hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession;unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering: What we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

From the Westminster Larger Catechism

I have seen people on this site, its comments and on the posts and comments at Frank Vance's blog succombing to the natural man in all of the areas I have emphasized from the Larger Catechism Q&As on the 9th Commandment.

Whether or not Ligonier Ministries is operating with arrogance and pride, exercising poor stewardship over its donated resources and wrongly filing and maintaining lawsuits against other believers - it is not right for even its righteous accusers to criticize it in the wrong fashion.

Practicing Attorney said...

Charitable Onlooker: How in the world can anyone draw the conclusion that I am a senior Ligonier manager when I made no such claim? I don't work for Ligonier. I KNOW some people that do, including John Duncan.

I apologize for repeating the error of another person who commented that you were a senior manager at Ligonier. I did so without double-checking your post myself, because it was not material to my point, but I certainly understand how such an error could be a serious charge, given recent behavior by actual Ligonier senior managers. Please forgive me.

Luke & Rachael said...

Does anyone know if Frank Vance himself has admitted to using a pseudonym? This seems like a highly relevant matter. I posted a comment on his blog this morning inquiring into the subject, but it has yet to appear (while others posted later than mine have shown up). He might just be typing up a response so that he can post both at once.

In the meantime, if Frank Vance is a pseudonym, it might be in his best interest to explain why he feels this is necessary. Maybe he's already done so and I've just missed it. I can think of reasons why witholding one's real name might be the best course of action in a scenario; but it would be nice to hear the actual reasons from Vance himself.

If Frank Vance isn't a pseudonym, then this merely compounds the dishonesty of the statements issued by Ligonier. Peace.

Maggie said...

Charitable onlooker,

I misread this quote and thus came to the conclusion you worked at Ligonier. My bad.

"This despite the fact that people who knew a lot about the Ligonier organization and a lot of the principals in management at the organization (such as myself)"

Practicing Attorney said...

Law Dude posted the following comment on Contending for Truth earlier today. It's worth repeating:

In all my years practicing law I can't say as I've ever seen a case where a plaintiff published a written notice claiming they'd withdrawn their lawsuit when they hadn't even drawn up the motion to withdraw it, let alone submit the motion to the court. To see a Christian ministry engaging in this sort of dishonest bahavior is scandalous.

I'm sure [Frank is] on top of this case but I just wanted to let [him] know that I just got off the phone with one of the judge's clerks. She confirmed that as of 4:30 today Ligonier still hasn't filed anything with the court to have the case dismissed. If others would like to verify it for themselves it's all public information. Anyone can call the clerk and ask:

Case No. 06-CA-1669-16-K
Court Clerk's Phone: 407-665-4378

In my professional opinion I don't think Ligonier ever had any intention of withdrawing the case. I think what they were hoping to accomplish is to con [Frank] into believing that they withdrew the case so that [Frank] wouldn't pay attention to their continuing motions and ex parte hearings in court. The fact that just last Thursday they had another ex parte hearing with the judge to figure out how to legally effect service is rather strong evidence that they're not planning on dropping this case. It appears that they're still lying to the judge and claiming that there's no way of contacting [Frank].

More than likely here's what Ligonier and their lawyers were hoping to pull off. Eventually if [Frank] didn't respond then they'd perhaps be able to get a default judgment against [him]. With that default judgment then they could get [his] blog shut down, and there goes [his] public forum: [he'd] have a hard time issuing a public statement on the deceptive way they went about getting a legal judgment against [him]. Very slick but also very unethical.

I'm going to make a point of calling the court every day until I know that the case has actually been dismissed. I also think it's important that this case be dismissed with prejudice. With prejudice means that it can't ever be brought again. I'd like to also suggest that your readers call Ligonier every day and ask why they still haven't filed anything with the court to withdraw the lawsuit they publicly said they'd already withdrawn last week. Why is a donor-funded Christian ministry publicly lying?

9/26/2006 3:14 PM

Charitable Onlooker said...

I misread this quote and thus came to the conclusion you worked at Ligonier. My bad.

Sorry that my phrase dangled. I still thought it should have been clear that I did not work for Ligonier from the fact that in the same post I criticized the organization's institutional control and said that I have concerns and disagreements with how they handle things - even as I seek to deal with those differences in a temperate and charitable manner.

At this point, the 'best case scenario' is that there are some disagreements within upper management at Lig regarding how to proceed and that some of the timing of these claims/incidents (such as filing and withdrawing the lawsuit) is being affected by this disagreement. It is hardly conceivable that Ligonier is not going to change the way senior management functions in the aftermath of all this stuff. Even if most of the staff at Ligonier have been completely aboveboard - the transgressions and bad judgment of a few has rubbed the 'appearance of evil' onto many (including the institution itself). Good stewardship demands that senior staffers be held accountable for that fact.

By the same token - those who seek to hold the ministry and its principals accountable must constantly examine and reexamine their own motives, actions and methods to ensure that they do not run afoul of the very serious exhortations and guidelines of Scripture regarding how we judge and criticize fellow believers.

Note for instance Christ's example to his disciples. When confronted with abject evil in His Father's temple - he was capable of tremendously zealous indignation - but you didn't see him passing out whips to every disciple and organizing a military campaign against the money-changers.

He exhorted his disciples to shake the dust from their feet when encountering persecution during their itinerant witness - but he did not charge them to bad-mouth those towns and individuals in the future.

When being arrested by unscrupulous Romans (under Jewish guidance) in Gethsemene, Christ showed compassion to the servant of a wicked man and instructed his disciples to forbear wrath. Many of the workers at Ligonier deserve similar charity from us EVEN IF their are leaders at Ligonier perpetrating sin.

Finally, when confronted by a vicious, political high priest (and his handler) in his own 'trial', Christ remained charitable and respectful in all of his statements. Even though they treated him unjustly. You never see Paul or Christ mocking the authorities in their various trials or conferences - despite the radical injustices and corruption of those situations.

I don't think there is anything wrong in coming to a personal decision to cease donating funds to Ligonier. Nor is there anything wrong with dessiminating (when confirmed to be true by more than hearsay) raw facts about the ministry ... as this gentleman

does seems reasonable and acceptable. But jumping to conclusions, promulgating innuendo, delivering imprecatory rebukes and slandering folks who likely are not doing anything wrong at all (such as the criticism of how Meaghan May spent her time during the Ligonier regional conference) just doesn't seem obedient to the 9th commandment. No matter what the Army handbook for drill instructors states.

Finally, doing so without a meaningful attempt to contact and communicate peaceably with the folks one is accusing (using your given name) and change erroneous statements as soon as mitigating circumstances or reasonable doubt regarding charges you have made (such as the SDG/Kistler thing - his letter does raise reasonable doubt as to Vance's assertions and Vance should withdraw his accusation UNTIL he has better, documented, primary evidence to the contrary) is FLAT-OUT WRONG.

I appeal to the catechism questions and answers I cited above as credible summaries of Scripture's teaching on sins of the tongue. If you are not a subscriber to the catechism - one only needs to look at James and Proverbs to see that sins of the tongue (even in response to real sin) are particularly odious to the Lord.

Truth seeker said...

Charitable: I can certainly understand where you are coming from but in this case, we are not dealing with the 'world', we are dealing with Pharisees. Religious people who teach and tell others how to live, what to believe the Bible says but do not practice it themselves.

Jesus was very tough on Pharisees.

Paul was pretty tough in similar cases, even putting NAMES in letters outing behavior for all to read and learn from for thousands of years.

In this case there are plenty of provable facts, as you mention, for many to question and withhold donations.

We would not have speculations if Ligonier had been forthcoming from the beginning. The microscope only brought more information to light.

Wendi said...

By the way, Charitable, are you aware that John Duncan and other Ligonier representatives have been posting at Vance's site or emailing him using pseudonymns?

And did you know that in the comments Vance has acknowledged that he may well owe Kistler an apology, and as soon as he finds out (by hearing from Kistler himself), he will issue him one?

Doesn't it bother you even a little bit that while Kistler was too sick to respond to Vance at the very beginning of this, during the same period he was posting and emailing others elsewhere?
Doesn't it worry you a little bit that the letter from Kistler originated from one location while he was supposed to be recovering at home in another location? It's quite possible that the reports that he was recovering at home (far removed from the source of the letter with his name) were mistaken, or our understanding of the sequence is at fault- but where was he when the letter was written and sent? that's not an accusation, it's a question- but why won't anybody answer that simple question? Maggie has asked about it several times.

Jen said...

Please forgive me, Charitable, and all, for taking so long to respond to these thought-provoking comments. My research and writing for this has been quite time consuming.

Charitable, you mentioned that good journalists "sit on a story" until they have more facts. You have no idea the stories I am currently "sitting" on! I believe that if you read carefully what is posted on this particular blog, you will only find documented evidence.

I actually have many stories that would be quite detrimental to Ligonier, but have chosen not to share them out of consideration for their forthrightness with me. You might be surprised at how "charitable" I actually have been with what I know.

You said that I should apologize to Meaghan May. May I ask on what grounds? I related a generic story about a Ligonier representative. She did not need to identify herself at all. I was quite fair with her.

Why did I post the story about Ryan Dick before the deadline in my open letters? The deadline in my open letters pertained only to their dropping the lawsuit. I discussed their lack of elder qualifications, but that had nothing to do with the deadline.

Why did I feel it was necessary to post the article about Ryan? When his My Space site had earlier been exposed, there was ample opportunity for repentance at that time, but none was forthcoming. The situation did not change. A sinful lifestyle was still being financially supported by donor funds, as well as discrediting both RC Sproul and Tim Dick as elders. This is still a huge issue that Ligonier needs to address.

You asked me three questions about Frank. Although I don't know Frank, I will answer what I do know. My understanding is that Frank has multiple witnesses to the SDG/Don Kistler incident. You will notice that I have not commented on this situation at all because I don't have any personal knowledge regarding it. But I think the Bible is pretty clear that we need 2-3 witnesses to accuse someone, especially an elder, and Frank claims to have at least that many.

If Frank Vance is using a pseudonym, I am sure he has legitimate reasons. Maybe he already knew the character of who he was dealing with here, and felt the need to protect himself ahead of time. Maybe he wants to protect his family. You are using a pseudonym here. That is perfectly legit in the blog world and I do not mind. Remember that your character will show through, no matter what your name is!

Should Frank only be willing to correspond via email? If he has legitimate concerns that he feels he needs to remain "out of reach," then email is a fine method of attempting to work things out. It doesn't appear that Ligonier exhausted their possibilities of corresponding with Frank via email, however. I think if they would have shown a true willingness to work through the ISSUES, that Frank would have done whatever was necessary to help facilitate that.

You mentioned that rather than going to the public with this information (even though Ligonier is publicly funded and the public needs to hold them fully accountable), that we should try George Grant or Sinclair Ferguson. Do either of these men have any authority over Ligonier, RC, or anyone associated with them? My guess is that at least one of these men would not hold RC's foot to the fire.

That's the problem here, though, isn't it? No accountability except to the donors.

As far as whether Frank should withdraw his accusations regarding the Don Kistler situation, have you read his posts about the two Ligonier statements? I think he did an excellent job refuting both statements line by line, and we have since seen that they turned out to be nothing but a pack of lies. That is why I "sat" on that story. I smelled something fishy in those statements and decided to bide my time while we checked them out. If both of those were lies, should we then assume that the letter from Don Kistler is on the up and up? I shall continue to "sit" on this one until I know the truth.

Charitable, I want you to know that I truly LOVE Ligonier. RC Sproul was our Reformed "father," so to speak. He was the first one to teach us so many biblical truths. That is why I am fighting so hard to see Ligonier come to repentance that leads to righteousness; I want to see them do ALL to the glory of God once again!

Jen said...

SimpleGifts3, thank you for the info about Kent Hovind. I would like to write an article about him later in the week. Remember that there are always two sides to every story!