Contending For Truth - Ligonier Ministries Lawsuit Scandal

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ligonier Ministries Requires Biblical Instruction

Ligonier Ministries Balaam's Ass
Will It Take a Balaam's Ass To Speak Before They'll Listen?

For most of my life I've professed Christ as my Savior, and for a number of those years I've also held to Reformed theology as what I believe to be the purest expression of the Christian faith. Because of Dr. RC Sproul's own commitment to Reformed theology, and the lucidness with which he expounds the Word of God, I've for years been appreciative of his labors through Ligonier Ministries, particularly for his books and his radio ministry. I give Dr. Sproul some credit in motivating me in "renewing your mind."

Imagine my shock at discovering that Ligonier Ministries doesn't practice what it preaches. Perhaps the most obvious example of that is their recent lawsuit against me. I wouldn't think it necessary for a layman like me with no formal biblical education to have to expound the Word of God to Reformed theologians like RC Sproul, but evidently that's the case.

Christians shouldn't be suing Christians. 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 not only states that plainly, it even explains why:

1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life? 4 If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6:1-7)

If Ligonier Ministries as a Bible teaching ministry didn't know the Bible well enough to have figured that out before, then they've probably figured it out by now (whether or not they're willing to admit it is a different matter altogether). After the withering criticism they've come under in the past month they could've figured it out without ever reading the Bible at all. Even if Ligonier as a Bible teaching ministry had never seen 1 Corinthians 6 before, just good old common sense would've by now taught them that suing a fellow Christian isn't a smart public relations move. But even if I weren't a Christian (as some now ex post facto wish to allege in order to find some elusive biblical escape clause), or even if I were a "Muslim" as Doug Wilson has alleged, suing me would still have been an incredibly stupid move.

Prior to suing me hardly anyone had even heard of Frank Vance and his little dispute with Ligonier's President Tim Dick. Suing me has just turned my obscure little blog into front page news in the biggest newspaper in the United States. If I could afford to match Tim Dick's $230,000 salary (2004 figure, probably much higher now) I'd hire him as my PR director. Great job Tim (for me anyway -- not so good for Ligonier)!

RC Sproul's good pastor friend John MacArthur certainly seems to understand why Christians shouldn't sue Christians. In his Study Bible John MacAurthur says:
6:1 Dare. Suing another believer in a secular law court is a daring act of disobedience because of its implications related to all sin -- the displeasure of God: a matter against another....
6:4 ...the basic meaning is clear; when Christians have earthly quarrels and disputes among themselves, it is inconceivable that they would turn to those least qualified (unbelievers) to resolve the matter.
6:5,6. Shame. Such conduct as suing a fellow believer is not only a sinful shame, but a complete failure to act obediently and righteously. Christians who take fellow Christians to court suffer moral defeat and spiritual loss even before the case is heard, and they become subject to divine chastening.
6:7 why...not...accept wrong? ...Christians have no right to insist on legal recourse in a public court. It is far better to trust God's sovereign purpose in trouble and lose financially, than to be disobedient and suffer spiritually.
One of the reasons that we as Christians shouldn't "dare to go to law before the unrighteous" is because it's a lot like disrobing in front of strangers, or as others have put it, "it's like airing our dirty laundry for the whole world to see." Tim Dick and his defenders would argue that it was I who was responsible for airing Ligonier's dirty laundry by posting my articles on the internet. He'd argue that because of my blog anyone in the world could see his dirty laundry and that the Ligonier lawsuit was merely a method of pulling the dirty laundry off the line. In theory that might be true... in theory. In practice however that's completely ridiculous.

Prior to Ligonier suing me no unbeliever had any reason or inclination to go searching for my blog, and the same also applies to the vast majority of Christians. In order to search for something, anything, you first have to know that it exists. Then you have to know how to search for it. Prior to Ligonier suing me hardly any Christians knew about my dispute with Tim Dick, let alone any unbelievers. It's only because of the lawsuit that many thousands of people now know, including a lot of unbelievers who should've never found out.

I'm in no way pleased that so many unbelievers have now found out. In fact I'm very troubled by it. But there's only one reason they did find out -- the lawsuit. My blog comments brought some personal embarrassment to Tim Dick, but on an extremely limited scale. Even Tim Challies is now admitting this. However, Ligonier's lawsuit against me brought shame and reproach to the entire body of Christ and it also reinforces the preexisting biases of many unbelievers that "the church is full of hypocrites." As one "atheist (an agnostic when facing surgery)" put it:
So as you do, I had a little google. And lo, a whole can of worms came forth... and particularly slimy, wriggly ones at that, considering these are supposed to be the 'moral' people. The blogger, Vance Tribe, has issues with the financial management of Ligonier Ministries.

His criticisms are not only managerial, but spiritual and theological, and he's been unafraid of saying so on his blog. Ligonier Ministries is a massive moneymaking publishing affair largely exempt from tax and public scrutiny and it appears that in this instance, as they always do, the leeches have battened onto the credulous faithful. There's defrocked priests, nepotism, hypocrisy and greed, and bad behaviour by the bucketful if you don't mind wading through the sanctimony. Juicy.

It's a interesting story, and doubly so for bloggers, because this religious business is trying for prior restraint to stop blog criticism before it even happens. That has implications for many bloggers if it's successful. If they can do it, so can other churches, and a lot of churches have a lot to hide.
Christians shouldn't be giving atheists cause to rejoice over sin and hypocrisy in the church. Ligonier's lawsuit has brought shame and reproach upon many thousands of Christians and rather than repenting for it they've issued pubic statements full of excuses, self-justifications and more lies. Furthermore, by his actions Tim Dick has just reinforced in the minds of many the fact that he's a thin-skinned crybaby. No doubt the judge thought much the same. One of the running jokes now is that Tim Dick sued me because I called him a "nincompoop." Amazingly enough though it's not just a joke. Tim actually lists that in the lawsuit as one of the reasons he sued me!

Tim Dick is trying to make this whole thing out as a purely honorable act on his part in defending the good name of Ligonier. But anyone who's actually taken the time to read the lawsuit knows that Tim's motives were only about himself:
"8. VANCE has published several false statements about Plaintiffs on his blog including, but not limited to:"
"Plaintiffs" is plural, meaning both Tim Dick and Ligonier. Yet every single one of the thirteen alleged "false statements about Plaintiffs" are about Tim Dick, and practically all of them are only about Tim Dick, and if they refer to Ligonier at all (which is debatable) it's only by extension and the fact that Tim Dick is Ligonier's President/CEO/CFO. Tim Dick didn't act to defend Ligonier's honor. He sued me only because he's a thin-skinned crybaby who was too cheap to hire his own attorney to sue me. So he used Ligonier donor money instead to sue me.

One of the more remarkable aspects of Tim Dick's lawsuit is that he brought matters that are clearly of a religious nature before a secular court. For example:
f. VANCE's August 14, 2006 statement that "Incompetent and unqualified family members are to be found running around (or sleeping on the desk) everywhere in Ligonier, often in key positions, with little or no understanding or appreciation for the Reformed theology championed by Dr. Sproul.

j. VANCE's July 18, 2006 statement that "From everything I've heard, Tim Dick is a very corrupt man. Some have told me that based on his behavior they don't think there's any way he could be a converted Christian. To have such a man heading up an honorable Christian ministry is an embarrassment to the church of Jesus Christ."

l. VANCE's June 27, 2006 statement that "It would be one thing if Tim Dick were qualified for the position... it's self-evident that the man is as unfit to head Ligonier Ministries as is RC Sproul Jr to be a pastor."
Tim Dick alleges that those are "false statements." But no judge is just going to take Tim Dick's word for it, especially through some sneaky ex parte procedure. In order to grant Ligonier's request for a temporary injunction, and then a permanent injunction, the judge would have to first determine if my allegations were false by examining various evidence and the testimony of witnesses. Just one of many problems with doing so is the fact that the above statements touch on questions of faith and religion, and no civil judge in his right mind would get anywhere near trying to determine the veracity of religious opinions.

Judge Nelson likely knew her own jurisdictional limitations, both civil and ecclesiastical and she wasn't willing to touch this case with a ten foot pole. I don't know if Judge Nelson is a Bible believing Christian, but odds are she's not. It wouldn't surprise me if she was mystified over why a Christian ministry was bringing a religious dispute before the civil magistrate.

If nothing else this entire episode has proven to be a valuable learning experience for many other ministry leaders. If ever there was a practical example of the folly of Christians suing Christians this would be it. Unfortunately there are still some who in their pride, and their blind defense of Ligonier, won't take heed.

If there are those who remain sympathetic to Ligonier Ministries (and there are) the vast majority of them are smart enough to keep their unbiblical opinions to themselves. But there are a few noteworthy exceptions. In an article this coming week I'll give honorable mention to at least one of them.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

RC Sproul Sinning By Silence

"Could it be that too many of God's true children are sinning against God by guilty silence? When those whose eyes are opened by the touch of Christ become vocal and active God may begin to fight again on the side of truth. There are moral situations where it is immoral to say nothing and basely immoral to do nothing."
A.W. Tozer

Over a month has passed since Ligonier Ministries violated 1 Corinthians 6 with impunity and filed a lawsuit against me. In that time not one word has been publicly uttered by RC Sproul, the Founder of Ligonier and current Chairman of the Board, not to mention the official Minister for the ministry. In short, it's his ministry and he's nowhere to be heard from.

Ligonier Ministries and its senior management has come under withering criticism over this lawsuit and yet its founder hides in the home that his donors paid for, refusing to comment, refusing to provide leadership, and refusing to be held accountable.

By his month-long silence RC Sproul has sent a message -- RC Sproul appears to be in full agreement with the unbiblical and very foolish actions of his "senior management" -- Tim Dick and John Duncan. Furthermore RC Sproul appears to be in full agreement with the pathetic public statements issued by Tim Dick and Ligonier's senior management. To assume otherwise would be naive.

What was called for was thorough and unequivocal confession, contrition and repentance. Instead what we got were just more excuses, lies, cover ups, blame shifting and self-justification. As a donor-funded Bible teaching ministry Ligonier needs to do one of two things:
  1. Publicly explain how its lawsuit is biblically defensible and why 1 Corinthians 6 doesn't apply to Ligonier Ministries or apply in this particular case.
  2. Publicly acknowledge that Ligonier's lawsuit isn't biblically defensible, issue a public apology, and restructure Ligonier in such a way that such abuses can never happen again.
The public statements issued by Ligonier Ministries should have never been penned by Tim Dick and John Duncan. They should have come from RC Sproul. In the midst of such a crisis what's called for is strong principled leadership. Tim Dick has more than amply demonstrated that he is an unprincipled man. For RC Sproul to hide out in the midst of a crisis and fail to accept responsibility and exercise manly leadership only makes him look like an abdicator.

In his public statement Tim Dick "accepted responsibility" but he failed to admit any wrongdoing. At best all that Tim Dick has confessed to is that he might have "caused confusion," which is to say he doesn't think he's done anything unbiblical, unethical or sinful at all. Nor is Tim Dick willing to come to grips with the fact that he has terribly offended a large portion of Ligonier's donor base.

However the greater responsibility falls to RC Sproul, for it was he who appointed Tim Dick, a man who clearly has no professional or ministerial qualifications whatsoever. Worse yet Tim Dick has no moral and ethical qualifications. Tim Dick does need to accept responsibility for his own moral shortcomings and incompetency, but far more importantly RC Sproul must accept responsibility for appointing Tim Dick in the first place. RC Sproul must accept responsibility for the consequences to Ligonier and to the body of Christ as a whole for appointing an unprincipled nincompoop.

In the past several weeks many have asked the question, "When will RC say something? When will he issue a public statement?" Ligonier's supporters are looking to RC Sproul for leadership, but he's nowhere to be found. This only tends to confirm the suspicions that many now have that the problems at Ligonier don't just begin and end with Tim Dick.

Several prominent Reformed ministers are personal friends of RC Sproul and regularly share the podium with him at various conferences. These include John MacArthur, John Piper, Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan (brother to Ligonier General Manager John Duncan). I've received a number of emails from people who are mystified over the silence of these men regarding the Ligonier Ministries lawsuit. It seems that many people are having a hard time knowing what to think about the silence of these men. Many Christians look to them for leadership and from all appearances there doesn't appear to be any of that being exercised right now.

I've been asked repeatedly about that. All I can say right now is that I do find their silence at a time like this to be strange if not inexplicable. I'm reasonably confident that if it were anyone other than one of our own they'd have something to say about it. Reformed ministers find it all too tempting to criticize the failures of the leadership of Evangelicals and Charismatics and Fundamentalists. How they love to point out that "Bad theology produces bad leadership." The interesting thing about that though is that the Evangelicals and Charismatics and Fundamentalists themselves generally seem to do a reasonably good job of policing their own ranks. They're generally not afraid to hold one another accountable and, if necessary, publicly rebuke one of their own. But for some odd reason it seems that the Reformed leadership are often unwilling to hold one of their own accountable.

We can say the same of Christian publications that cater to Reformed Christians, such as World Magazine. World Magazine has yet to mention anything about RC Sproul Jr and his entire Session of Elders being defrocked. When's the last time anyone has heard of an entire Presbyterian Session of four Elders being defrocked? If that's not newsworthy for the Religion section of World Magazine then I don't know what is. If Ligonier Ministries suing me isn't newsworthy for the Religion section of World Magazine then I don't know what is. Yet once again Marvin Olasky and his "objective" editors have proven how compromised they are. They're eager to report on gay alcoholic Episcopal Bishops checking themselves into rehab, or the foolish public statements uttered by Pat Robertson, but they carefully avoid reporting on the scandalous lawsuit of a prominent Reformed minister and his ministry (and even of his son's defrocking). I'm sure it's just all a mere coincidence that that same ministry that World Magazine has turned a blind eye to also just happens to have spent many tens of thousands of dollars advertising in World.

I find it remarkable that the secular Press started contacting me just a week after Ligonier had sued me, yet the Christian Press is either too embarrassed, too intimidated or too compromised to devote one drop of ink to it. Now just this morning USA Today gave prominent mention to the Ligonier Ministries lawsuit in a front page article. Tim Dick is doing a wonderful job of making Ligonier famous. The problem is that it's the wrong kind of fame.

As for the silence of various prominent Reformed ministers, I hadn't particularly thought much about it until just this past week. My assumption was that they probably were doing something behind the scenes and that it might take some time before the rest of us knew what they'd been doing. But now that five weeks have transpired since Ligonier first sued me, and not one prominent Reformed minister has publicly challenged Ligonier over it (or for all we know even privately challenged them), despite two secular newspaper articles, dozens of blog articles and hundreds of blog comments, I have to admit that I'm growing increasingly concerned by the Reformed leadership's public silence.

Of course it could very well be that some or even all of these men have contacted RC Sproul and advised him to drop the lawsuit. But because they haven't publicly said anything we just don't know. For the sake of argument let's just assume that they all did contact RC Sproul and told him he needed to drop the lawsuit. That would've been the right thing to do, but would it have been adequate? Would that have been enough to fulfill their obligations as fellow ministers and personal friends of RC Sproul? No it would not. In addition, a rebuke of their friend and calling him to to repentance -- public repentance, is needed and also biblically mandated.

Ligonier's sins are public sins and therefore public repentance is necessary. Not only has that not occurred but through Ligonier's "senior management" we've heard nothing but excuses and more lies. RC Sproul isn't ignorant of what's been going on for the past month, and by permitting it to go on for so long, and by doing nothing to put a stop to it (at least that anyone can see) he's complicit in Ligonier's sins. That calls for public repentance and it calls for those closest to RC Sproul to call him to public repentance.

Again, it could very well be that some or all of those Reformed ministers have called RC Sproul to repentance (Matt 18:15-17). But if they have isn't it now more than obvious that he hasn't publicly repented? What are they to do now? Are they biblically permitted to maintain their silence in the face of a public scandal? To be silent about sin is to condone sin. The Reformed leadership needs to take cognizance of the fact that they're setting an example. RC Sproul has set an example that now communicates loud and clear that it's perfectly acceptable for Christians to be suing Christians.

If RC Sprouls' minister friends and associates continue to remain silent they'll be sending a very clear message that they agree with RC Sproul that it's perfectly acceptable for Christians to be suing Christians. The inevitable result will be that many of those who admire those Reformed ministers will follow their example and they'll come to believe that it's perfectly acceptable for Christians to sue Christians. They shouldn't be surprised when one day it's one of them who gets sued by another Christian and the plaintiff uses Ligonier vs. Vance to justify it.

Perhaps these Reformed ministers believe that it's still too soon to speak out publicly, and perhaps they may even be justified in their beliefs. The problem for them is that there are too many troubled Christians looking on who disagree and believe that too much time has been wasted as it is. The continued silence on the part of Reformed ministers is calling into question if any of them can be trusted. As one blogger put it, "This latest scandal has really made me wonder if there are any good ministries out there anymore." It's those kinds of doubts that will cause financial supporters to not just cut off Ligonier but also any other Reformed ministry that fails to speak out against the Ligonier scandal.

Some have suggested that I post the names, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers of RC Sproul's preacher friends so that they can be contacted and asked what they've done to call RC Sproul to public repentance. After giving the matter much consideration I now agree that, in the interest of accountability, that's probably a prudent thing to do:

Dr. John MacArthur
Grace Community Church
13248 Roscoe Blvd
Sun Valley, CA 91352
phone: 818-909-5500
fax: 818-909-5712

John Piper
Desiring God Ministries
2601 E Franklin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55406
toll free: 888-346-4700
phone: 612-435-2401
fax: 612-338-4372

Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
First Presbyterian Church
1390 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39202
phone: 601-353-8316
phone: 601-973-9104

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
2825 Lexington Road
Louisville, KY 40280
phone: 502-897-4011

C.J. Mahaney
Sovereign Grace Ministries
7505 Muncaster Mill Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
phone: 301-330-7400
email form

Mark Dever
Capitol Hill Baptist Church
525 A Street Northeast
Washington, DC 20002
phone: 202-543-6111
phone: 202-543-1224
fax: 202-543-6113

If you call or write any of these ministers please show them due respect: "Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren." (1Tim. 5:1) Here's an example of a letter that you might want to send them, or use for talking points if you call them. It might be useful at the top of your letter to include the names of all of them so they all know the others have received copies too:
Dear ____________,

My understanding is that you're a friend and ministry associate of RC Sproul and that you've spoken at some of the same conferences. As you no doubt already know Dr. Sproul's Ligonier Ministries sued a Christian blogger on August 25. That lawsuit was withdrawn "without prejudice" on September 27. What that means is that Ligonier reserved the option of suing Frank Vance again and in fact in an article in the Orlando Sentinel it stated that, "Ministry attorney Daniel Brodersen said Thursday that if the group does find Vance, it may file a new suit."

To date Ligonier has issued two public statements, neither of which offer any apology for Ligonier's unbiblical and unchristian conduct. Regardless of Mr. Vance's allegations and methods I'm far more concerned about Ligonier's unbiblical response and the terrible example they've set and the terrible testimony for Christ that they've been.

As a personal friend and ministry associate of Dr. Sproul's I'm wondering where you stand on all this. Do you side with RC Sproul and Ligonier Ministries and believe that their actions can be biblically justified in light of 1 Corinthians 6:1-7? If not I'd like to know what you've done to encourage RC Sproul to issue a public statement of repentance. If you've already done that then I'd like to know why you haven't issued any public statements yourself. My concern is that your continued silence will be viewed as an endorsement of Ligonier's sinful behavior.

In the unlikely event that you're unaware of these significant events please see the following links:
Ligonier Ministries Sues Frank Vance
Public Statement by Tim Dick
Public Statement by Ligonier Senior Management
Ligonier Ministries: More Lies Exposed By Orlando Sentinel

You should also take note of the fact that on the front page of USA Today, October 3 edition, Ligonier Ministries was prominently mentioned in an article about lawsuits and bloggers. This Ligonier scandal requires immediate damage control and any continued silence by Reformed leaders such as yourself will likely only make things much worse.

Thank you in advance for your concern about this matter and for the godly leadership that I'm confident you will soon begin to publicly demonstrate. I appreciate receiving a timely response to the concerns that I've raised here.



If you've been a donor to any of the above ministries, or you've supported these ministers or their ministries in any other way (purchased their books, attended their conferences, etc.) make that known in your letter or email. Demonstrating a personal connection makes it more likely that your letter will get by the screeners. As you receive responses from these men, please post those responses as comments to this thread, or if a response is very long then email it to me.

Friday, September 29, 2006

More Ligonier Lies: Exposed By Orlando Sentinel

Newspaper Reports Ligonier Dropped Suit Only Because It Couldn't Collar Vance; Ligonier Tips Hand About Intentions To Refile Lawsuit

World Magazine Blog and Christianity Today Blog have both made passing mention of the Ligonier Ministries lawsuit story, but they have yet to commit a drop of ink to it in their magazines, this in spite of the fact that this story is more than newsworthy. Thank God however for the secular Press who obviously aren't so timid.

Today Orlando Sentinel staff reporter Rene Stuztman wrote a new article published in the Orlando Sentinel about the latest on the Ligonier's lawsuit against me:

Posted September 29, 2006

Sanford -- The Lake Mary religious group that sued a blogger, trying to limit what he could put on the Internet, has dropped its suit.

Ligonier Ministries Inc. voluntarily dismissed the case Wednesday against Frank Vance, who published remarks critical of the ministry and its president, Timothy Dick, on the Web site "Contending for the Truth."

That's because the group couldn't find Vance, so it couldn't officially notify him that he was being sued, something judges require to make sure defendants have the opportunity to defend themselves.

The group tried to find Vance, whom it accused of posting false and defamatory statements. It hired a private detective, companies that specialize in tracking e-mail and Internet postings.

It even sent Vance an e-mail, asking him to disclose his whereabouts, but none of that worked, according to court records.

Ministry attorney Daniel Brodersen said Thursday that if the group does find Vance, it may file a new suit.

Rene Stutzman, Erin Ailworth, Christine Dellert and Kristen Reed of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

What a story! It's almost better than a PI novel, Pinkerton Detective Agency and all!

"That's because the group couldn't find Vance" says it all. Nothing about, "We came to our senses and realized how inappropriate it was for a Christian ministry to be filing lawsuits, especially against professing Christians. It wasn't right and it's cost us dearly, especially among our loyal supporters. Regardless of what Mr. Vance has said about our President we regret what we did and express our sincere apologies." Tim Dick and his lying lawyers just blew a great public relations opportunity to show some Christian humility and contrition and instead just tipped their hand that this legal war is far from over.

Filing a new lawsuit is precisely what I expected that Ligonier would probably do, if only they are given the opportunity. This is exactly why I'm not responding to any demands for personal information.

There are several things that tipped me off that Ligonier's intentions over dropping this lawsuit was probably just a ruse:
  1. The fact that they publicly announced that the lawsuit had been "withdrawn" when they hadn't even filed the legal paperwork yet.
  2. The fact that after publicly announcing that the lawsuit had been "withdrawn" it took them a week to actually file the paperwork.
  3. The likelihood that had there not been significant public exposure to their lies over "withdrawn" the lawsuit they likely never would have filed the paperwork at all to withdraw it.
  4. The fact that once they did file the paperwork to withdraw the lawsuit they only withdrew it "without prejudice," thereby tipping their hand that they wanted to reserve the opportunity of suing me again.
  5. The fact that at the same time that Ligonier publicly announced "having withdrawn" the lawsuit I started being daily bombarded with blog comments and emails from obvious Ligonier shills in what can only be characterized as a coordinated front to obtain my personal information.
  6. The fact that a Christian attorney -- we'll call him Jack -- on Tuesday spoke with Ligonier attorney Dan Brodersen and discovered that Ligonier hadn't dropped the lawsuit last week, and hadn't even intended to drop the lawsuit at all. Jack told Brodersen that the lawsuit was groundless and that "it's going to ruin Ligonier. You have a professional responsibility to tell your client to drop it." Brodersen did NOT then say, "I realize that, Jack. In fact, we've already released a public statement saying that we've withdrawn the suit, and I'll be filing a the Voluntary Dismissal with the court soon." Instead, Broderson told Jack, "We haven't been able to serve Vance yet, and if we can't serve him real soon then we'll have to drop it. But we just got a lead on Vance so we might be able to serve him now."
The lies and the cover ups only grow and only continue to be exposed.

Ligonier Ministries has obviously learned nothing from this tragic saga. They're still out for their pound of flesh. They've repented of nothing, owned up to nothing, and learned nothing. They're still not getting it.

Ligonier Ministries still doesn't comprehend how offended most Christians are to see them suing a brother in Christ. Even if they want to now ex post facto allege that I'm not a brother in Christ their lawsuit would still be unwarranted and offensive because it's a horrible testimony for Christians everywhere. Furthermore Ligonier still doesn't comprehend how offended most Christians are that they have repeatedly lied about every single aspect in every single phase of this lawsuit.

As to Ligonier's claim that their attorneys emailed me, that could very well be true. If they did though they never identified themselves, nor did they specifically ask me to "disclose my whereabouts," at least in the conventional sense of that term. However, I do recall receiving several emails from an "Amber" offering to mail me a copy of the lawsuit. She seemed quite eager to obtain my address, but as I explained to her, my present location doesn't afford me the opportunity of readily receiving postal mail. I asked her to scan the case and email it to me. She declined, claiming that her scanner was broken.

I'm predicting that Ligonier's next move will be to call off the dogs who've been daily badgering me for personal contact information. They should already have figured out that won't work. In fact that strategy has just backfired by causing me to be just that much more suspicious. So they'll change the tactic from bad cop to good cop.

Their next move may be to hire a "Christian mediator." It might be an actual bona fide mediator, or it could be just another Ligonier shill. Either way it won't matter. Through the mediator they'll make appeals for "biblical reconciliation" and once I agree to enter into Christian mediation they'll just take the contact information that I'll be obligated to furnish to the mediator and use to file another lawsuit. The problem for me is that if I refuse to enter into mediation it'll make me look bad, but the potential consequences of agreeing to mediate would be far worse. So unless Ligonier first legally promises in writing to never sue me again there's no chance that I'll agree to being setup for another Ligonier lawsuit by a Ligonier ploy for "mediation."

Irrespective, the issue anymore isn't even about brokering some peaceful resolution between me and Ligonier Ministries. The issue is about Ligonier's very obvious and very public sins of suing fellow Christians and then repeatedly lying about that lawsuit. Everything else is just a side-show. Christians are a very forgiving people, if that is they see some indications of contrition and repentance. When will Ligonier repent?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ligonier Ministries Lawsuit: Tim Dick's Public Statement

If you haven't already done so let me recommend that you first read Ligonier Ministries: "Withrawal Of Legal Complaint" as it will put this article in the proper context.

In his Public Statement, Tim Dick says of the Ligonier Ministries, Inc. and Timothy Dick vs. Frank Vance lawsuit (case no. 06-CA-1669-16-K):

"On August 24, 2006 a complaint was filed in a Judicial Court of Seminole County, by Ligonier Ministries seeking injunctive relief because of the significant threats and allegations being made by a "blogger" under the name Frank Vance, whose true identity is yet unknown."
If Tim Dick had any common sense he would have made an attempt to ascertain my "true identity" (I assume by that he means my address, phone, etc.) before he sued me. Nevertheless, as everyone can plainly tell, that lack of identity information didn't prevent him from suing me anyway. Mr. Dick offers no explanation for why he sued a fellow Christian and thereby violated 1 Corinthians 6 with impunity.
"The decision to take this step was extremely difficult."
Yeah, sure Tim. There's just one problem with all that "extremely difficult" stuff. It's called your reputation. You've got quite a reputation for issuing legal threats against potential whistle blowers, especially employees that you kicked to the curb like so much rubbish. You've never found it "extremely difficult" to call up your attorneys and tell them to fire off a letter threatening to sue anyone who rubs you the wrong way. In the year you became Ligonier's President your judicious use of lawyers resulted in Ligonier's attorney bills exploding from zero to $64,350.00. The public doesn't know yet what Tim Dick's lawyer bills are for 2005 because as CFO Tim is way behind on getting the tax returns done.
"The intention of the complaint was simply to respond to the unfounded, slanderous attack of our accuser, and to seek an objective response."
Such a claim is absurd on its face. One doesn't file a lawsuit for an injunction to "respond" or "to seek an objective response." In this case Tim Dick sued for an injunction to completely silence me as a whistle blower in what is commonly known as a SLAPP lawsuit.
"I attempted to resolve this in private, as my beliefs require. Each time I refuted the accusations, he refused to listen."
At no time did Tim Dick "refute the accusations." Let him now produce the evidence in the form of the original emails, or any other documentation he possesses, in which he refuted any of the allegations that I brought privately to him. I have copies of all my email correspondence with Tim Dick. At no time did he ever "refute the accusations," particularly of the most serious allegation that he'd defrauded Don Kistler in the Soli Deo Gloria acquisition. If he had just once ever said, "Frank, you're mistaken. It never happened," that would have been the end of it and I never would have gone public. This wasn't an issue of I "refused to listen." It was an issue that Tim Dick evaded either admitting or denying the allegations. He was responsive and timely in answering many other questions, but on the SDG issue he consistently evaded an answer. He evaded, he stalled for time, and then when I issued him a ten day deadline he immediately filed a SLAPP lawsuit to silence me.
"My denials were then used by the accuser to perpetuate his blog commentary. At that point, I stopped interacting with the accuser, who again escalated his attack, continuing to exhibit, by his public and private conduct, a testimony inconsistent with that of a Christian."
At best Mr. Dick appears to be terribly confused about the chronology of events, and at worst he is once again lying. It appears that this statement is referring all the way back to when he first started emailing me out of the blue, back in May. I found his behavior to be irrational if not bizarre, and completely inconsistent with how the President of a prominent and highly respect ministry should be conducting himself. I soon discovered that Tim has frequently engaged in this same behavior with a number of other bloggers as well. So I took our email exchanges and created an article from them. I find it more than just a little ironic, and certainly hypocritical, that someone like Tim Dick thinks himself qualified to judge my "testimony inconsistent with that of a Christian." But then I should also expect someone like Tim Dick to play the "he must not be a Christian" card. That's the only card he's got to play if he wants to justify suing me while ignoring the biblical prohibitions of 1 Corinthians 6.
"In light of Don Kistler's statement and our concern for the health of the church, I have asked that our complaint be withdrawn."
Why isn't the Kistler statement posted anywhere other than on Challies? Why didn't Ligonier post it on their own web site? Is there a legal reason they're afraid to do so? Why was the Kistler statement posted on Challies on September 21 and then the very next day the announcement was made public that the lawsuit "had been withdrawn"? Is that all just a coincidence? Is the timing of that all just a big coincidence? How very convenient that the SDG fraud allegations will never be able to be examined under by discovery and under oath.

Tim Dick should have thought about "the health of the church" before he sued me, not after. This lawsuit has brought reproach not just upon Ligonier ministries but on the body of Christ as a whole. I've already seen blog comments from unbelievers shaking their heads at those foolish and thin-skinned Christians who will file a lawsuit at the drop of a hat rather than resolve their disputes privately. I hope that Ligonier's lawsuit won't prove to be a stumbling stone of offense, but the fact is that Christians and non-Christians alike are greatly offended. Some are evidently even now offended by the very Reformed theology that Dr. Sproul espouses. In their minds if this is the fruit of Reformed theology they don't want any part of it. As one commenter put it:
"This episode and others have made me rethink the reformed position. There are enough verses in scripture to make me rethink it but mainly because these people think they are elect, they think they can live and act anyway they want? They think they can lie, spin, take donor money to live in luxury? They think they are not accountable to anyone? They have made a mockery of God's Word and don't even seem to see it. They have sown seeds of confusion and chaos...on purpose."
It's hard for me to even know how to respond to that commenter. I've been a Christian most of my life, and I long ago embraced Reformed theology. But I've also seen a great deal of pride in my Reformed brethren, and it saddens me. How we love to study, but when it comes to putting it into practice the orthopraxy and orthodoxy are too often divorced form one another. The best I can hope to do is to tell that commenter "The theology is sound, even if the life of the one who preaches it isn't. The message is still correct even if the messenger is flawed. Our faith isn't in any man, but in Christ alone -- Sola Christos." But it's not just RC Sproul's Ligonier Ministries that's being a stumbling stone of offense. At least one other professing Reformed minister is claiming that it's perfectly acceptable to sue me, and there may be others. But just as significant are all the prominent Reformed ministers who've looked on and said absolutely nothing, challenging nothing, sinning by their silence, and all the while the world looks on in amazement.
"I regret any confusion this may have caused to our constituents, staff, Board of Directors and our friends and colleagues in the Christian community."
The problems that you have caused Tim are a whole lot bigger than mere "confusion." This is called "sin" and you more than anyone else are the responsible party.
"As the President and CEO of Ligonier Ministries I accept full responsibility for the decision and consider the matter closed."
Whoa! Hang on there Tim! You consider it closed? Have you considered that maybe you'd better ask your "constituents" if they consider it to be closed?

If it's "closed" then why was the lawsuit withdrawn "without prejudice"? If it were really closed you would have withdrawn it "with prejudice" so that you couldn't sue me again. Based on that alone I have serious doubts that you really consider this to be "closed." If you really wanted to send a message that you'd learned your lesson -- that you'd repented -- you would have had that lawsuit dismissed with prejudice. Instead you've reserved the right to re-file a lawsuit against me anytime you want, when no one is paying attention, especially me. Maybe next time even the Orlando Sentinel won't be paying attention.

You didn't withdraw the lawsuit Tim because you had a sudden epiphany and were pricked in your conscience and recognized how unbiblical your conduct was. You did it only because you came under withering criticism and you started losing financial supporters in droves. If you could sue me again and keep it all hush-hush I have no doubts that you'd do it in a heartbeat.

You haven't repented Tim, and you haven't even owned up to anything. Accepting responsibility without admitting you've done anything wrong is a charade. You've practically ruined Ligonier Ministries and this is the best contrition you show? All you've done is offer cheap excuses and self-justifications. At best all you've owned up to is causing "confusion."
"I pray that in the days ahead, God will be glorified as we continue to serve Him."
I pray so too Tim, but I can assure you that God isn't being glorified by your self-justifying Public Statement. This is a complete sham and only adds to the evidence that you are entirely unfit to oversee a Christian ministry.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ligonier Ministries: "Withrawal Of Legal Complaint"

On Wednesday September 20, 2006 Lignonier Ministries posted a "Withdrawal Of Legal Complaint," as well as a "Public Statement From Tim Dick", on their web site. Two days later on Friday September 22 at 5:27 (EDT) I received an email from Tim Dick which included links to Ligonier's two public statements regarding the lawsuit itself, as well as the alleged "withdrawal" of their "legal complaint" against me. I say "alleged withdrawal" because as of the date of this article the court has yet to receive any paperwork from Ligonier Ministries motioning the court to withdraw the lawsuit.

It's good that Tim emailed me those links because without them it'd be impossible to find those documents. Even though the lawsuit against me is a very public matter they've very carefully avoided drawing anyone's attention to it by not posting any links to those documents anywhere on their web site. Obviously Ligonier is ashamed and embarrassed of what they've done, and they should be.

In a subsequent article I'll address Tim Dick's Public Statement. In this article I'll comment on Ligonier's "Withdrawal Of Legal Complaint":

"On August 24, 2006, Ligonier Ministries filed a legal complaint and a request for an injunction since no ecclesiastical court could be found."
"Legal complaint" is just another way of saying "lawsuit," although for some odd reason Ligonier has been careful to avoid the use of the term, correcting anyone who calls it a "lawsuit." They've also termed their lawsuit an "injunction," again refusing to acknowledge that an injunction is in fact a lawsuit. Additionally, they've also avoided acknowledging that they've sued me for defamation and that they're seeking monetary damages.

The excuse that they sued me because they were unable to identify a suitable "ecclesiastical court" is a sham which in no way absolves them of their Christian duty to not file lawsuits against Christians (1 Corinthians 6). Furthermore, as I've already explained there are multiple Christian organizations readily available which specialize in Christian mediation. Ligonier did have biblical alternatives readily available for resolving this dispute and for them to claim otherwise demonstrates either gross ignorance or blatant deception.
"The filing was an attempt to stem the slanderous and reckless allegations being made about Ligonier and its leaders on the Internet by an individual known as Frank Vance, whose true identity is still unknown to us."
Stemming the allegations could have been easily accomplished had Tim Dick just answered my questions in the negative regarding the Soli Deo Gloria acquisition, "Did you defraud Don Kistler?" Tim repeatedly evaded answering that question, even though we exchanged multiple emails. Had he just simply said, "No, it never happened" then I never would have gone public. Just so Tim would know I wasn't bluffing about giving him a deadline of ten days to correct the SDG issue I posted a comment on August 21 on my blog and also emailed Tim Dick a link to that comment:
"For example something that Tim Dick perpetrated a couple years ago was just brought to my attention (keep those emails coming folks). This is VERY significant news that only confirms that Tim Dick has earned his reputation for being a "shark." This past Friday Tim and I dialogued via email about it. I told Tim about what I now know about how he defrauded a minister. The incident is extraordinarily troubling and if publicly exposed would be devastating not just to Tim Dick personally, but to the entire Ligonier organization. I don't want to see Ligonier harmed. Just the opposite. But I can't in good conscience just stand by and not blow the whistle on a lying thieving con artist like Tim Dick.

"I've communicated my concerns to Mr. Dick along with a proposed resolution. He hasn't got much time. If Tim fixes it then I've committed to not say anything more about it. But I don't give Tim much credit for common sense so don't be surprised if he leaves me with no other choice but to expose it all here. We'll see what happens. Stay tuned."
Tim continued to ignore me and thus he gave me no choice but to go public. He refused to deny the allegations that had been brought to my attention by several men who had first-hand knowledge of what they believed to be an acquisition by fraud of Soli Deo Gloria, a fraud which they blamed entirely upon Tim Dick. Had Tim even once just said, "Frank you don't know what you're talking about. Your sources are misinformed" I never would have gone public. But Tim didn't do that. Rather than denying the allegations he instead used the ten-day deadline as a window of opportunity to SLAPP me. Moving our dispute into the civil courts rather than seeking to resolve it privately as Christians proved to be fatal, not just for Tim Dick personally, but for the entire Ligonier organization. The damage that he has caused Ligonier by his foolish and reckless behavior could prove catastrophic.

As to my "true identity," any such newfound Ligonier excuses obviously didn't hinder Ligonier's ability to sue me. As to these new allegations that I've been operating under an assumed name see my response here.
"The accuser's malicious attacks culminated with the accusation that Ligonier defrauded Soli Deo Gloria, in our recent acquisition of it. This has been categorically refuted by Don Kistler, SDG's founder."
I'll have to reserve comment on the Kistler statement until it can be thoroughly investigated and shown to have actually originated from Don Kistler, and if Dr. Kistler himself did produce it that he wasn't coerced into it. It would be nice if I could say there isn't a cloud of suspicion hanging over that statement, but there is, and I'm far from the only one who's suspicious about it. Among the cloudiness in the Kistler statement is the issue of Dr. Kistler's stroke which allegedly prevented his timely response to my allegations. Yet as of August 20 Dr. Kistler had been released from the hospital and was already publicly posting comments about his recovery. Strokes can be quite serious, but from some accounts Dr. Kistler's health couldn't have been nearly as severely impacted by the stroke as certain Ligonier "senior management" have been leading us to believe. To at least one caller John Duncan described Dr. Kistler's condition as precarious. This has made for an effective cover story as to why it's taken so long for the Kistler statement to be released, but those who are aware of Dr. Kistler's remarkable recovery know that the cover story lacks credibility.

If the cloud hanging over the Kistler letter can be removed then I'll make a point of issuing an apology to Don Kistler. However, no one should expect me to issue an apology to Tim Dick. By refusing to deny the allegations that were brought to me by several credible witnesses Tim Dick brought everything on his own head. Furthermore he could have and should have gotten Don Kistler's statement to me prior to my August 28 deadline, rather than waiting an entire month to arrange for it. Again, everything about the Kistler letter is suspect, but hopefully that can all be cleared up.
"Threats to Ligonier and its leadership have continued to escalate, with the accuser issuing deadlines for Ligonier to answer his non-credible charges. At one point our president was told he had “put a knife to his own throat,” by ignoring the accuser."
If the SDG allegation was "non-credible" then Tim Dick should have just said so. He should have denied the allegations, but he never did. As to the "knife to your own throat comment," I did in fact use that figure of speech, and that's all it was, a figure of speech. Here's what I said in one of my August 18 emails to Tim:
"Tim, you're a bigger fool than I thought. Playing dumb or ignoring me is like sticking a knife to your own throat. You understand perfectly well what I'm talking about, which is exactly why you addressed everything in my email with the obvious exception of the most important issue of all, your theft of SDG by fraudulently switching the contract. Ignore me at your own peril... Ten days Tim."
For Tim to now make an issue of that only underscores how thin-skinned he is, and it's consistent with his suing me for defamation for calling him a "nincompoop."
" Throughout this entire ordeal, numerous emails and posts refuting the accuser were ignored by him."
What emails? I've already gone on the record flatly denying that I ever received any emails of any kind from anyone at Ligonier, Tim Dick or otherwise, "refuting the accuser." As for blog comments, yes I received a number of those, specifically from "Passerby" who claimed to be "Ligonier senior management." However, Passerby refused to give himself any credibility by identifying himself by name or to even privately email me as I suggested he do so that we could dialogue. It was I who sought an opportunity for fruitful dialogue. Passerby repeatedly ignored my publicly-posted offers. Moreover for Passerby to now claim that his rantings could in any way constitute "refuting" is absurd.
"Mediation through ecclesiastical means is always preferred. On at least six occasions, we have sought information from the accuser as to how we might contact his pastor or session. The accuser has refused all requests, publicly scoffing at the notion."
How very godly of them to only now make an appeal to Christian mediation a month after they'd already sued me! Yes, I did refuse to furnish the name of my church and pastor, and I also explained why.
"Having withdrawn the complaint, we ask friends and fellow believers to pray that we will have wisdom as this matter comes to a peaceful end."
That statement was posted one week ago and publicly released two days later. "Having withdrawn" is past tense meaning that as of a week ago it had already been done. A prerequisite for withdrawing a lawsuit is to file the necessary motion with the court so the court can then act upon it. My legal counsel informs me that it would've taken Ligonier's attorneys all of just a few minutes to draw up the necessary paperwork. But to do that it would've first required Tim Dick calling his attorneys and telling them to withdraw the lawsuit. Did that ever happen? Then it would take a day for the mail to arrive at the court, or approximately thirty minutes if Ligonier's lawyers hand delivered it to the court. Ligonier didn't say, "We're going to withdraw the complaint but it might take us a week or three before we get around to it." They publicly announced that it was withdrawn. No doubt the next Ligonier public statement will be all about blaming their attorneys.

The fact that an entire week has gone by after Ligonier's "senior management" publicly announced that the lawsuit had already been withdrawn, and they haven't so much as even filed the paperwork with the court yet, only further undermines the credibility of Ligonier's "senior management." Either they have once again lied, or they are bunglers (and probably both), but neither is befitting for the management of a donor-supported $10 million ministry.

In conclusion I'd assert that Ligonier is in desperate need of a major upper management shakeup. Tim Dick has more than proven that he's unfit to oversee a Christian ministry. He lacks both the ministerial and professional qualifications. Family connections do not a ministry CEO make. But there are others who are complicit in the Ligonier lies and cover ups as well, including John Duncan. They too must go. Ligonier's staff also include at least one who publicly boasts of squandering the salaries they receive, thanks to the financial support of Ligonier donors, on drunk binges and fornicating.

It's time for some major house cleaning. It's time to haul out the trash.

Then there's the matter of the outrageous "compensation" being taken by the Sproul and Dick families, between them over $1 million/year combined. For the Board of Directors to continue turning a blind eye to so many abuses is inexcusable. Just as extraordinary is the silence of RC Sproul himself during this time of crisis. Unless RC Sproul acts swiftly and decisively, and unless RC Sproul himself issues a public statement, Ligonier's credibility will continue to erode. RC Sproul's silence for the past month only sends the message that he fully supports and condones the behavior of his son-in-law.

Please note that Frank Vance's articles are now hosted at Ministry Watchman. New comments are no longer being accepted here.