THE BLOG
11/18/2013 04:30 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

More on Doug Phillips and Vision Forum: More Than a Scandal

There are important and disturbing developments in the Doug Phillips scandal that has rocked the Christian home school movement. As I noted in my earlier post, Phillips' carefully parsed initial resignation statement admitting to an "inappropriate relationship" raised more questions than it answered.

Now reports are circulating that the scandal may well have multiple levels including claims that the "relationship" was with a nanny, lasted between six and 10 years, and likely began when she was in her late teens. This would make biblical patriarchy's emphasis on authority combined with the way in which girls are intentionally kept vulnerable, dependent and submissive, crucially important. The young woman may or may not have been technically old enough to consent in Texas, but the context of biblical patriarchy would make this an abuse of power if not a crime.

You can visit these sites to see examples of the reports and discussions: No Longer Quivering; Spiritual Sounding Board; Homeschoolers Anonymous; Love, Joy Feminism; Rethinking Vision Forum. This is just a sampling and there are many others but it's worth noting that many sharing their stories on these sites are still conservative Christians and even home schoolers.

Phillips (trained as an attorney) is well known for his authoritarian and litigious style that permeates the organizations with which he has been associated and which results in carefully controlled messaging and image management as well as the silencing of critics. I have first-hand experience with this from my own fieldwork, but you can read about it in Kathryn Joyce's important book Quiverfull as well at those sites noted above.

Phillips has been owner/founder/leader of a number of organizations the boundaries of which have been blurry. Vision Forum Inc. is a privately held business that sells home schooling materials and Vision Forum Ministries,a tax exempt charitable enterprise; a 501(c)(3). Phillips resigned only from the tax exempt "ministry" on October 30 and shortly thereafter VFM announced that it would close completely. That leaves the business promoting biblical patriarchy fully operational.

Phillips was a founder and elder/pastor at Boerne Christian Assembly. He resigned from that post some eight months ago, a fact which has come to light only recently but which does imply that at least a small circle of men have been aware of Phillips' hypocrisy and the details of his failing. It is telling that those closest to Phillips who likely know the details, are not rushing to his defense. One example would be Phillips' friend with whom he co-founded the National Center for Family Integrated Churches, Scott Brown. Brown's public comments have been in the form of a highly critical sermon.

Even in a second public statement from Phillips seeking to clarify the circumstances of his resignation he still has not apologized to the young woman. He asks for prayers for his "family, the Board, and the men of Vision Forum Ministries," but she is not on that list. She remains invisible. Worse yet at least one well-known Reconstructionist leader has publicly compared her to a stripper and a Delilah, predictably blaming her as a temptress for the fall of the mighty leader.

Critics have complained that there is too much conversation about this situation with limited access to provable facts. While certainly some of the discussion of the scandal can be characterized as gossip and innuendo there has also been a sustained, engaged, reflective and concerned conversation on a variety of blogs and discussion boards in which people have shared what they know about this specific situation, their own experiences as part of this world, insightful reflections on the impact of Quiverfull on those raised within it, as well as resources for those damaged by (or seeking to leave) that world.

If there is too much discussion without evidence, Phillips can resolve that. If a conversation about the inherent problems in biblical patriarchy highlighted by this scandal cannot be had until the facts are known with certainty, and those in power can prevent those facts from being known, then they can prevent the conversation. That this situation points to a carefully constructed set of institutions and rules designed and exploited to protect one in power from criticism is one more example of why this is more than a sex scandal.