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A discerning look at 'Biblical Patriarchy' and those who abuse it

By Angela Wittman
While much of what Doug Phillips teaches regarding Patriarchy sounds biblical, because of the lack of practical application, his teachings are often taken to extremes. Sometimes, men just hear his vision of men always “leading,” and they become domineering and demanding, causing undue stress on the wife. I know of one family that divorced precisely because of hearing this teaching and not understanding what it really should be. Sometimes, men will try to emulate what they see in Doug Phillips, and start requiring their families to have all the same rules as the Phillips. Unfortunately, if there are no personal convictions behind the rules, they soon become extremely oppressive and smother the family. Some men just have no clue about how to “lead” their families; they just know that it’s being constantly preached at them from the pulpit. Having come from a home without a godly leader, these men need lots of practical examples.
(Taken from: Doug Phillips’ Kangaroo Court Cancels Communion by Jen Epstein, written Dec. 13, 2006)
For Husbands.
Ye husbands, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. 1 Pet. 3:7. And be not bitter against them. Col. 3:9.
For Wives.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord, even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Pet. 3:6; Eph. 5:22.
(Taken from the section Table of Duties in The Small Catechism by Martin Luther)
"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve."
(Romans 16:17-18 ESV)

It recently came to my attention that Doug Phillips, a popular leader in the home school and patriarchal movement, resigned his position at Vision Forum due to marital infidelity:
With thanksgiving to God for His mercy and love, I have stepped down from the office of president at Vision Forum Ministries and have discontinued my speaking responsibilities.

There has been serious sin in my life for which God has graciously brought me to repentance. I have confessed my sin to my wife and family, my local church, and the board of Vision Forum Ministries.  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.

My first response was to make a point to not "add fuel to the fire" by refusing to post any coverage of this event at any of the blogs I own and edit. I then proceeded to chastise those who were talking about it as "gossiping" on various other blogs.  And while my intentions were well-meaning, they only served to encourage suppression of the truth and for this I am sorry.  Because while the recent actions of Mr. Phillips disgust me, the knowledge that others have been maligned for sounding an unheeded alarm regarding Vision Forum and Doug Phillips to the greater Christian community for years disgusts me even more.  And those who have served on the board of directors at Vision Forum and in leadership/fellowship at Boerne Christian Assembly are in grave error for not practicing church (or Christian) discipline when allegations of ungodly, bullying behavior by Doug Phillips was first brought to their attention (I found blog posts documenting his strange behavior dating back to 2006!). Perhaps they should take a good hard look at themselves in accordance to Scripture and discern if they are partly to blame for his most recent scandal which not only hurts their cause, but brings shame to the Name of Jesus Christ.

So, what practical "patriarchal" instruction does our God give to both husbands and wives? In the book of Ephesians, chapter five, God says:
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Frankly, I am not hearing much about husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for us... Instead I am hearing of men who pull rank on their wives and daughters in a worldly manner.  Where is the biblical message of loving your wife with gentleness, kindness, respectfulness and actually laying down your life for her? Instead the message has become worldly and one of "don't do this" and "don't do that" and "don't question men in authority over you."  Have you forgotten that it was a woman who first suckled our Lord at her breast as a new born babe? Or the respectful way He spoke to the ignorant woman at the well? What about His humility in allowing a sinful woman to wash His feet with her repentant tears and then lovingly dry them with her very own hair?  Or perhaps you have forgotten that it was a woman who our Lord first revealed Himself to after His resurrection?

Oh men who abuse Biblical headship, you should tremble with fear at the thought of facing our Redeemer and King! I believe He takes special care of His female followers and will soundly rebuke those men who have treated them shamefully.

I am posting some links to blogs that will more fully reveal the abuse that has been going on for years in the name of Jesus Christ and my advice is for the reader to truthfully search their heart to see if they have been guilty of destroying their family with abuse in the name of "Biblical Patriarchy." If so, may you truly repent of abusing the precious, sacred trust given to you by God Almighty to protect, love, and respect your wives and children. After all, He is their Sovereign - not you. You are His steward.

In Lord Jesus Name, I pray this message brings revival to Your Church and families all across America. I pray to hear reports of men falling on their knees before You and humbly asking Your forgiveness. And may You show them grace and mercy that will truly give them new hearts, changed lives and godly love for their wives and children. Amen.

Additional information:

Updated 1.16.2014


  1. Angela, thank you for doing the hard work necessary of research to find out what was really going on, and thank you for being open-minded and humble enough to change your mind when the evidence weighed heavily in favor of warning people of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Blessings to you, my friend.

  2. Jen, you are welcome. :) I hope the men reading this won't be offended that a woman is rebuking them. The good Lord sure has a sense of humor! :)

  3. Dear Jane, You are most welcome! As a woman involved in explicitly Christian politics for 20+ years, I've encountered quite a few bullies.

  4. I'm incredibly sadden by Doug's life. I have benefited in the past one or two interviews I've heard (believe it was at Generation Radio) and can't think of the black eye it gives Jesus. I never knew much about Vision Forum other than the catalogs I got every year selling their products. Thank you for this article.

  5. I recommend following the blog "Jen's Gems" ( as she and another author are examining financial documents pertaining to Vision Forum.

  6. The Christian churches here in the U.K. and across the pond are in the most disagreeable shambolic state. There is a theological ignorance and apostasy on all points. No real Calvinism, No real Presbyterian church and no heads covered by the Christian ladies. This means Christians do not know how God's church should be governed, how to behave when they get there, and who should and who should not take the pulpit. We can not expect the Holy Ghost to be any thing other than grieved. Yes I know he is sovereign and cannot be effectively resisted in his works of effectual grace, yet our churches are falling apart because we are not Applying the revealed will of God. Since the Reformation our hermeneutics have for the most part been in decline we are doing and saying things in the name of Jesus Christ the great head of the Church which a 5 year old at the time of the Reformation from Popery would have laughed at. The middle classes have played with Protestantism until they made ineffectual.

  7. "As in all your churches " The Holy Ghost by pen of Paul" Godhead (Father Son & Holy Ghost) takes the line that women should not hold the teaching office in the church. Paul tells us that the man was made first then the woman. And he says as "says the Law."

  8. Correct! You are probably already aware of Dr. FN Lee's work, but for the readers who aren't or perhaps who want to review the proper roles of women in ministry and the Church, please visit: and scroll down to "Women and Church Eldership" and "Biblical Ministries for Women." Years ago Dr. Lee counseled me on these issues. Dr. Lee was a true Christian gentleman, husband and father; he is one other men would do well to learn from as his work is still freely posted on-line.

  9. Dear Readers, While I abhor bullies of any type - especially those in the pulpit - I am not going to completely dismiss the so-called "patriarchy movement" as Christians do need direction on how to raise godly families. So, my indictment does not include those men who belong to or lead healthy churches - which IMO excludes home churches - there is just too much potential for abuse. I sincerely recommend folks look for accountability when joining a church - you really can't go wrong with the Presbyterian style of church government. May God give you wisdom in this matter and direct your steps to a healthy body of believers. Amen.

    Here's the latest bombshell regarding the lack of church discipline at the Boerne Christian Assembly:

    The predatory, wicked woman spoken of in this account should have been severely disciplined instead of tolerated. Whatever on earth was the church (?) leadership at Boerne Assembly thinking of? The place needs to be shut down and the congregation directed to healthy, Biblical churches where sin is not tolerated and the Eldership is held accountable.

  10. […] A discerning look at Biblical Patriarchy and those who abuse it ( […]

  11. Angela,
    This is very well written, you are to be commended for your work. This is all so shameful, such a horrific mark on Christianity. The world looks at us, mocks and laughs. May our gracious God bring about healing for all the women who are abused by men like Phillips.

    Blessings to you this day,

  12. Thanks Lyn... I will "amen" your prayer.

  13. Frankly, I never heard of Doug Phillips or Vision Forum. Since I don't everything I should know I suppose that's not saying much. Moreover, there are stories running about this Doug Phillips scandal on news blogs with national followings. So I suppose the mess Phillips has made is somewhat significant. As stories go, this is definitely a juicy one. Add an attractive man hunter to the mix, and the Christian-hating news media will probably make it play for awhile.

    Nevertheless, we should not let the news media make too much of this story. The Bible says bad men will try to deceive us and misrepresent themselves as being the Christ or of God, and perhaps that is the sort of thing this Doug Phillips did. Nonetheless, that only applies to how Christians might be deceived. I suspect non-Christians are more routinely deceived by that vast array of ungodly things we call idols.

    Let's go for some perspective. While it is not clear who or what happened to put Doug Phillips out of business, we can readily see that our nation's biggest idol, Big Government is still in business. When we idolize our government, it is much more of a threat to both the souls of our people and our nation's material wealth than Doug Phillips ever could be. To be hurt by Doug Phillips, we have to overtly join his church. To be hurt by our government, we just have to be an American.

  14. Thanks Tom! I appreciate your perspective and godly advice. :)

  15. Elaine Pagels writes extensively role of women in early church and attempts by early church fathers cover up. Thanks visit my blog.

  16. Thanks! Please feel free to share any links you might have. :)

  17. I would be so interested to know what type of abuse you discerningly refer to and also the affect that a wife who follows scripture pertaining to how wives are to behave within marriage either shew that or prove it. It is true that many men have no idea how to biblically lead their wives, and it is also true that many wives who profess Jesus with their lips, forget that they also are mandated as to how to live, and that regardless of what a husband does or does not do, EACH will give an account to the Lord for how they obeyed HIM and followed HIM in thier marriages and in their lives in general. May we never be guilty of the "Adam defense"...."The spouse You gave me...", but may we all earnestly contend for the word of God in it's whole counsel and in context, and never pull in the vain self centered thinking of the world that is perishing, the lie of feminism that has so egregiously infiltrated the Body, and the thinking that what God has said anywhere in His word somehow is not good, perfect and right to live by because WE are not "treated" as we think we "deserve" under the guise of discernment or anything else. So often "abuse" is cited when in reality it is nothing more than a disgruntled wife who is neither getting her own way nor Loving the Lord through her own obedience to the word in dying to self and living for HIM, and recognizing that all that God says to BOTH husband and wife is excellent in marriage as He created it to be. Without a wider definition of both "Biblical Patriarchy" as scripture would define it, and how "abuse" is defined, it is very difficult to really know whether what is being cited is scripturally abhorrent or Christian "politics" (how those two things go together I cannot find in scripture) that is no more than feminism couched in godly concern. Thanks!

  18. Hi abbasgirlme. Thanks for commenting. This post was written regarding a movement (or cult) in a subculture of Christianity led by Doug Phillips who has admitted to unfaithfulness in his marriage. Mr. Phillips' abuses have been documented at Jen's Gems ( I think you will find the answers to your questions there.

  19. Hi Angela. Seeing as you gave me so many likes today, I thought I'd better return the favor for your excellent post. :-) I really liked your Ladies of the Covenant blog that you used to have. It taught me a lot!

  20. Dear Sister Meg,
    Praise the LORD! I am blessed to have been of service to you! When I saw your blog, I thought here's someone of like-mind. :) I retired the LOTC blog and started a new one about the Covenanters here:
    I am looking forward to reading your blog. Be blessed, sister. :)

  21. Excellent! That one's going on my blogroll too. It's such a blessing to be able to follow in the footsteps of someone who knows so much more about our Protestant heritage. It's been amazing uncovering the history I was never taught in school.


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