Contending For Truth - Ligonier Ministries Lawsuit Scandal

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.

14 Comments:

Blogger CraigS said...

I pray so too Tim, but I can assure you that God isn't being glorified by this kind of a Public Statement.

I can assure you that nothing on "Contending for the Truth" has glorified God.

9/28/2006 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Itsabouttime said...

Frank, you should keep blogging until justice prevails not only for Don but for all previously wronged employees. In fact, you should setup an email for those that have been bullied and shed light on those cases. These people have no place to go but now that you have stood up to Lig, there's a place for them to contact for at least some sort of justice. Supporters of Lig such as 'Craigs' and the like have absolutely no idea what goes on @ Lig. I don't blame them because Lig keeps intimidating people w/ their unethical tactics and lawyers. It's time to serve justice until Lig repents.

9/28/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

I've had several nuisance commenters and emailers badgering me daily, particularly in the past week, for personal information, as well as a myriad of other ludicrous irrelevant questions, not to mention quesitons that I've already answered on my blog. These people could easily find the answers to their questions if they would just look, but it's obvious that answers aren't what they're after. What they're after is an opportunity to harass me. That's to be expected. Tim Dick just attracts those sorts.

One of the bigger nuisances is an Australian blogger who goes by CraigS. Here's my email to him of last night, and also the very last email I'll send him:
__________________________
Craig,

You have permission to post this email on your blog, but only if you post it in its entirety.

As a courtesy to you I answered your last email by furnishing you with links to where I'd already answered your questions. Once again you pose questions which I've already answered, but as a courtesy let me direct you here.

It's apparent that either:
A. You're too lazy to follow this story on your own and require someone to hold your hand for you.
B. You see only what you want to see and believe only what you want to believe and ignore everything else (it's called "willful ignorance").
C. When you don't immediately receive the answer that you demand to hear you throw juvenile temper tantrums, e.g. "If you do not answer this letter, I will publish that fact on my own blog."
D. All of the above.

Twice now I've extended you the courtesy of responding. However, now I'm through responding to your childish demands for information that's readily available if you'd just open your eyes and look for it. If you email questions to me again and I don't respond at all you may safely interpret that as me sending you a message, "You're wasting my time again Craig. Go read my blog. Your questions are already answered there."

In Christ Jesus,

Frank Vance
__________________________

Craig just doesn't know how to take a hint. Today he attempted to post two completely irrelevant posts and he sent me three foolish emails. Craig, I'm done with you. Don't attempt to waste any more of my time. I won't be responding any further to you.

9/28/2006 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I am so glad to see you dissect this statement line upon line, Frank. I was very concerned when I first read that Tim said that he accepts full responsibility - but of what? What are you responsible for, Tim? Does that include confession? I John 1:9 tells us that if we "confess" our sins, He will forgive us. What have you confessed, Tim? What, specifically, are you owning up to? Does that "responsible for" include contrition? Where is the remorse for what you have done? Are you humbly asking for any forgiveness, and if so, from whom? Have you asked for forgiveness from Frank, for suing a fellow believer? Have you asked for forgiveness from the Ligonier donors and supporters, for failing to uphold the standards of God's Word, to which Ligonier professes to hold? Does that "full responsibility" include repentance, Tim? Have you truly turned in the opposite direction and did EVERYTHING you could to make things right? How about restitution? What harm have YOU caused Frank and the other Ligonier donors and supporters? Do you owe restitution, Tim? Oh, forgive me. Certainly I am asking too much!

Please forgive my expositing Scripture on your blog, Frank. I shall try to restrain myself next time!

9/28/2006 10:06:00 PM  
Anonymous liz said...

dear mr vance,
I do not understand the exact details of all that has gone on - and so certainly understand that you may be correct in some or even all of your allegations regarding ligonier ministries.
however i am saddened to see that while you quote bible passages at the other party and call them to repent, it would seem that you also have a need to have a heart and action turn around.
Telling the truth does not mean being nasty. We are called to use words that build up, that our words might give grace to those who hear. If you believe that you are partaking in a ministry of the gospel, then please consider following the example of Paul. "Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
Please Mr Vance, have your tone, method and actions give credibility to your words.
In order that the other party might repent where needed and be brought to full maturity.
Having visited this site, I am becoming more and more convinced that it is a dangerous place, where the gospel is being brought into disrepute. Please begin to change...

9/28/2006 11:18:00 PM  
Anonymous David Castor said...

Craig just doesn't know how to take a hint. Today he attempted to post two completely irrelevant posts and he sent me three foolish emails. Craig, I'm done with you. Don't attempt to waste any more of my time. I won't be responding any further to you.

Hi Frank,

You might be interested to know that I first heard of this issue was on Craig's blog. I've tried to be fairly circumspect about the whole thing, preferring not to jump on any bandwagon before I knew all the facts. As an individual deeply committed to the rule of law, I was more than happy for individuals to presume the innocence of Ligionier until such facts were established in a court of law. That said, I found Craig's rather cavalier and triumphalistic rejection of your accusations rather off-putting and suggested as such.

More recently, Craig's criticism of you have escalated dramatically. Notably, he affirmed that you admitted that your name was not Frank Vance - I'm sure you can recognise where he would have pulled that argument from. Indeed, the blog entry in which this assertion was made was entitled "His Name is not Frank Vance". I suggested that he either publish your comments in full or place a link to the specific comments if readers were interested in understanding the context of what you were saying. Apparently, according to Craig, this was absolutely unnecessary.

Another claim made by Craig was that you refused to allow his posts. As I understand, both from his representations and from yours, this claim is true. Unfortunately, I'll never know whether refusing these posts was reasonable or not. This is merely a suggestion which you may choose to take onto board or not, but perhaps it might be wise to adopt a more liberal editorial policy than has currently been the case. I suggest this for two reasons. Firstly, when you reject the posts of some writers who disagree with your sentiments (however vehemently), this only angers them further and in their own eyes justifies the stance they have taken. Secondly, you have criticised Tim Challies for his editorial policy. To adopt a similar editorial policy may provoke the reaction that you are being hypocritical, and perhaps with good reason.

The flip side to this previous consideration is that Craig had been very critical of your editorial policy (and to some extent, I empathised with him in this respect), but has mentioned nothing of Tim Challies' trigger happy tendencies with the delete button. Since raising this observation a few hours ago, I have noticed that this thread (the "His Name is Not Frank Vance" one) has mysteriously disappeared. Now, I don't know computers very well - so this may be a glitch that will work itself out in the next few hours (In which case I unreservedly apologise to Craig for my next comment). However, if it's not, is it possible that Craig is guilty of the same things of which he accuses you?

9/29/2006 01:06:00 AM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Mr. Castor, one of the tactics being employed by Ligonier shills like CraigS is to show up on blog discussions that they don't like and, rather than engage in cogent debate, do nothing more than start the equivalent a junior high school cafeteria food fight. Some blog admins don't mind food fights -- they don't moderate any comments and they never delete any comments, even if it's obvious that the only reason they were posted was to sabotage the dialogue and take the discussion off topic.

CraigS himself permits foods fights on his own blog, and from what I've seen he even encourages it. I however do mind food fights. If CraigS would just put down the 12-pack of chocolate pudding cups, start acting like an adult and engage in cogent debate then he'd be welcome here.

Tim Challies is in another category altogether. He rightly steps in to ban food fights. However when he started deleting comments and banning users like Michael Metzler it wasn't over a food fight. Since the subject concerned me I was paying close attention, and no one was throwing any chocolate pudding cups. The only reason that Tim Challies deleted comments and even banned commenters is because he was incapable of responding rationally to their cogent arguments. In Metzler's case he has his own blog so he had the luxury of reposting his comments in the context of the entire discussion thread, thereby proving his case that Challies doesn't just ban foods fights, he bans all cogently argued debate. Others who were banned on Challies however don't have their own blogs, and so they just disappeared into the memory hole, which is exactly what Challies wanted.

Metzler considered his treatment by Challies to be newsworthy, and he's created several interesting articles from the experience. CraigS may want to consider doing the same thing. If he believes he's been mistreated here then he should tell his story, just like Michael Metzler told his story. But he'll have to do it on his own blog, not mine.

9/29/2006 06:49:00 AM  
Anonymous always batya said...

Liz wrote: Having visited this site, I am becoming more and more convinced that it is a dangerous place, where the gospel is being brought into disrepute. Please begin to change... >>

Liz, Ligonier has withdrawn the suit "without prejudice" which means they reserve the right to sue in the future. Tell me, is that action bringing the gospel into disrepute?

Biblically, how does Mr. Vance's tone and words have anything to do with helping Ligoneir, teachers of the Word, repent and brought to maturity? Are we talking about the same Ligoneir...expositors of scripture?

One thing this whole scandal has brought to light is almost complete spread of 'feelings' based Christianity. People cannot seem to reason anymore or stand total truth. If something is not said in a way they believe is a loving tone, then it has no merit. Facts do not matter. Only how something is said. And if they do not like what is said, they fall back to not liking 'how' it was said. It is like dealing with adults who still think like children.

This is tragic because the Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things. That is why we have the Word to live by. We cannot trust our feelings or emotions. But so many people these days seem to not know how to live any other way than by their feelings. We certainly have femininized Christianity beyond all point of recognition.

Also liz has not read the entire site or she would realize she has misspoken about the way Frank has handled things. But from a touchy feely perspective, of which I cannot relate, I doubt she would understand that.

I would also like to point out that Frank did not have to post any comments from dissenters. He has posted more than I probably would have in his place. Some of them are just more of Ligonier lackeys calling Frank a sinner instead of calling for Ligonier to take the lawsuit plank out of their own eye.

9/29/2006 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger John Steinhausen said...

Always Batya, I don't like your tone. You really hurt my feelings. You must have some anger problems. You must be bitter. That makes me sad. Jesus never hurt anyone's feelings. Jesus always made everyone happy. Happy Jesus.

You must not be a Christian.

9/29/2006 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger APinkFan said...

Frank;
According to today's Orlando Sentinel, "if Ligonier Ministries finds Frank Vance, they may file a new suit".
You are such an elusive character, 'their private detective, who specializes in tracking email and Internet postings' cannot find you.
...WHAT A JOKE!!! They're jumping right back into the quicksand.
I hope the 'DONORS' are watching this comedy that the attorneys are orchestrating with their funds which was supposed to be used to 'Declare the Holiness Of God' to the world.
Dear Lord...Forgive them [Ligonier], for they know not what they do.

9/29/2006 08:12:00 AM  
Anonymous jimmy olsen said...

In his statement what did Tim accept responsibility for? In context he is accepting responsibility for deciding to withdraw the lawsuit - nothing more. Please be careful reading this - he is not apologizing for bringing the suit in the first place.

He "regrets" the confusion, not having done something strictly admonished against in scripture. This is like someone punching you in the face and then saying "I'm sorry that hurt" but not "I'm sorry I hit you." He's learned a lesson from the Pope.

Once again Tim Dick dodges the responsibility that rests solely on him and does not repent of the deceit that runs throughout his dealings with Vance.

9/29/2006 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous ReformedCalvinist said...

Having spent the last 3 days catching up on 6 months worth of scandal, I have a couple of comments:

1) There is hope for "partyboy" Ryan Dick. He's in the same place that Franklin Graham was in 1974: working for his dad's multi mill ministry, living like the devil, and all the while thinking he's a Christian. We now know how that turned out, beginning with Billy & Ruth in Lusanne telling their son that he needed to let God do a work in his life soon or it would be too late*. Maybe Tim has told his son the same thing, but doesn't have the moral authority that Billy did. At any rate, the same solution exists for both boys: Regeneration. Or we can call it by a more comfortably Calvinist term, "Getting right with God." God probably doesn't care what he calls it, as long as he truly repents. Ryan can start by listening to youth speaker Paul Washer (click on my pseudonym to go to the 64-minute SermonAudio file--the first 5 minutes should be long enough to get the message, or get hooked on hearing the rest).

2. So Frank Vance has not been absolutely above reproach in his handling of this scandal. But who would be, given the flak he's received? Other than having a little cleaner vocabulary, I can't say I would have come across as any less harsh at times if I'd been the one in the hot seat. So give him a break. I believe he's doing the best he can, and the Body of Christ must have its Excretory System, so somebody's got to do it.

*"Rebel with a Cause" by Franklin Graham

9/29/2006 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Always Batya said...

Thanks alot, John. I almost blew my coffee all over the keyboard reading your comment. LOL! You crack me up.

Hope my 'tone' was not too harsh:)

9/29/2006 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs Pilgrim said...

"Liz,"

How about the following words?

blind, hypocrite, generation of vipers, serpent, fool, child of hell

Not very nice, are they? Give a bad witness to Christianity, don't they? Pretty harsh and judgmental, yes?

Tell that to Jesus. He used them all in Matt. 23, of the learned "scribes and Pharisees," who had long since betrayed God and refused to live by His Law.

So, "What Would Jesus Do?"

9/30/2006 12:42:00 AM  

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