Contending For Truth - Ligonier Ministries Lawsuit Scandal

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ligonier Ministries Sues Frank Vance

RC Sproul Ligonier Ministries Sues Christian BloggerI was recently warned that this might happen. Now it has. Tim Dick and Ligonier Ministries have sued me somewhere, apparently in Florida. I say somewhere because I haven't been contacted by Tim Dick, Ligonier's attorneys, or anyone else who'd have legal responsibility for notifying me, with any specifics.

This past Friday, September 1 I received an email from Orlando Sentinel reporter Rene Stutzman. Rene asked me to contact her for an interview. You can see the first of her stories on the Ligonier Ministries vs. Frank Vance lawsuit here. The Orlando Sentinel may very well have additional stories about this. If they do I'll be sure to update my blog and provide links to those articles as well.

In her article Rene says, "Vance learned about the lawsuit from the Sentinel," which is true. Rene informed me that Tim Dick and Ligonier Ministries filed its lawsuit on Friday, August 25.

In light of how many emails that Tim Dick has sent me in the past, and the fact that I've responded to each and every one of his emails, I find it more than just a bit strange that he wouldn't even attempt to inform me that he's filed a lawsuit against me. My understanding is that when someone sues you they have a legal obligation to make a reasonable effort to notify you of the lawsuit. Rene Stutzman informed me that Tim Dick and Ligonier told the judge that it was impossible to contact me. Of course that's a blatant lie.

So what's Tim up to? Is this part of some duplicitous legal strategy to win a lawsuit against me that I have no knowledge of? An attorney friend informs me that what Tim Dick is doing by suing me, and then not informing me of the suit, is that if I don't show up to defend myself (and it would be hard to show up for a lawsuit that one had no knowledge of) he just might win by default. It's highly unethical but who ever said that Tim Dick has any ethics? Did I mention that another one of Tim Dick's nicknames is Tim "Tricky" Dick?

Tim Dick is a creature of habit, which makes him all too easy to predict. Since moving up two years ago from Ligonier Executive V.P. to President/CEO/CFO, Tim Dick has successfully silenced whistle blowers and anyone else who'd hold him accountable by issuing threats of litigation. All it seems to take to silence disgruntled employees, former employees, and other whistle blowers is a threatening letter from Ligonier's attorneys. This is the Tim Dick way. Evade accountability and if anyone presses a matter too hard then just sue them. With Ligonier's multi-million dollar budget they've got an almost unlimited war chest for law suits, and Tim well knows it.

It's expensive retaining law firms, but Tim Dick probably just considers it "the cost of doing business." Ligonier's 2004 990 tax return (the most current year available) shows Ligonier paying $64,350 in "legal fees." Those are legal fees that Ligonier donors pay for. Prior to 2004 and Tim becoming President, Ligonier's tax returns back through 1999 don't indicate that Ligonier had ever hired a law firm at all. Under Tim Dick's new litigious direction donors can expect to have to pick up numerous attorney fees. It's just the way that Tim does things.

Could something short of a lawsuit have resolved our differences? Absolutely. I sent multiple emails to Tim Dick informing him of my knowledge of the fraud that he perpetrated against Don Kistler in Ligonier's "acquisition" of Soli Deo Gloria Ministries. I asked him if he had anything to say about it, any defense at all. If there was no substance to the allegations then Tim could have and should have refuted them. Tim replied to each of my emails. However not once did he even come close to broaching the SDG subject. Instead, he evaded it by talking about other things quite unrelated. If Tim wasn't guilty as charged why didn't he ever just say so? Why won't he say so now? After having exchanged multiple emails, all to no avail, I issued a final demand to Tim Dick:

"I'll give you ten days Tim to take care of it and to FULLY and COMPLETELY restore the man and make him whole. Otherwise I'm going public and I'm quite confident that there are others who'll quickly pick up on the story as well."
Tim did respond, but only to stall for more time. He never denied the allegations, but he also never made any commitment to make things right with Don Kistler.

Tim Dick's latest strategy with me (litigation) only proves how foolish he really is. Tim's hoping to shut me up but all he's doing is gathering media attention for my blog. Thanks Tim! If you think I'm intimidated and that I'm going to now cave in think again.

The Press seems very interested in this case because it's a First Amendment freedom of speech issue, and few things are of such strong personal interest to the Press as freedom of speech. Even more significant is the fact that you asked the court to issue the equivalent of a prior restraint on my free speech. Rene Stutzman tells me that's unusual and that judges seldom if ever grant those. You're even more arrogant than I thought Tim.

At this time I'm weighing my options and haven't decided what my next move is. One thing is for certain though, I won't be backing down. If Tim Dick wants a fight then I say "Bring it on."

If this blog does go down it won't be because I've gotten scared, and it wouldn't happen without my first issuing a public statement. If the court orders me to take it down then we'll cross that bridge when we get there, but as far as I can tell we're still a ways off from having to cross that bridge. If for some reason this blog does happen to disappear it's not at all unlikely that you might just happen to find other mirrored sites pop up. After all I have made a few new friends that have already told me they'd be willing to pitch in and help. Google Blog Search might come in handy.

There's a lot more that I could say about this, but for the sake of not tipping my hand I'll keep it to myself for now. Feel free to comment or ask questions. However please understand that if I don't answer a question, or if I don't post your comment, it's likely because I'm just trying to not harm my position. Emails are always welcome.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lawsuit is a completely unscriptural way to handle any dispute between believers. The apostle Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 6.

For Ligonier Ministries to disobey the Word of God in such a public and flagrant manner is shocking and heartbreaking.

While I have no source of facts to confirm or deny your criticisms of Ligonier, I will say that their use of a legal strategy to silence you frankly gives your criticisms more credibility -- not to mention a bigger platform from which you can articulate your concerns.

Myself, for example.. I knew nothing about your blog until I read the article in the Orlando Sentinel today.

May the truth be revealed and may the Lord be glorified.

9/05/2006 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Thanks for your post. However, Anonymous posts cause confusion, especially if in short order I've got a dozen different people all posting as "Anonymous." To prevent confusion I ask that everyone please select "Other" and choose a name. I don't care what name you adopt, just use a name.

I did what I could to resolve things peaceably with Tim Dick and a lawsuit is his response. It can't help but reflect very poorly on Ligonier and confirm the validity of my allegations.

9/05/2006 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Lawsuit Seeks To Block Blogger, from Media Bloggers Association

Lawsuit Seeks To Block Blogger, from Flying Hamster

9/05/2006 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Scorebored said...

Mr. Vance, congratulations on being counted worthy to suffer for telling the truth. Grit your teeth, keep your shoulders back, trust in the Lord, and let right be done. We'll be praying for you.

9/05/2006 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Carson Allen said...

Wow! what can I say

As of now: I have lost any and all respect for R.C.Sproul. I loved this man's ministry so much. Not anymore. For him to allow this to take place speaks volumes about his character.

Just mayby Frank; Al Mohler or MacArthur will catch wind of this and call him on the carpet. They should.

9/05/2006 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Carson, the way that Mohler, McArthur, Piper and other of Sproul's preacher friends will catch wind of this is if folks like you email and write them and ask them what they're going to do about it. Be sure to include a link to this blog. The more people that do that the better.

9/05/2006 05:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Friend said...

"If for some reason this blog does happen to disappear it's not at all unlikely that you might just happen to find other mirrored sites pop up." That's actually REAL likely to happen Frank. For every blog this Tim Dick jerk wants to sue to take down it can easily be arranged to have ten more take its place.

I took the hint Frank and mirrored your site. It hasn't got all the comments in it yet but all your articles ready to post from a brand new blog site. If your site disappears I know exactly what to do. Keep up the fight Frank!

9/05/2006 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Michael Metzler has posted a very amusing article, RC Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries Files Law Suit ??.

I've been intrigued for the past few months by Michael Metzler's blogging, particularly his exposés on Doug Wilson. Mr. Metzler has years of close and personal experience with "cultmaster" Wilson and he didn't seem the least bit surprised by the intrigues of the CREC RC Sproul Jr Name Clearing Committee. Mr. Metzler did admirable work of exposing Doug Wilson's Commission for what it really was, a complete and utter sham.

The way Metzler describes Wilson makes me think that Wilson and Sproul Jr were really meant for each other, and both are meant for the CREC. I hope they find true happiness together.

However I wish to go on the record and state that I don't believe that Tim Dick and Ligonier are meant for each other. This is clearly not a happy relationship at all and Tim Dick is destroying a fine Reformed ministry. The Dick needs to leave and go back to being the only thing he was ever qualified for, a headhunter.

9/05/2006 07:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Charles said...

Tom Dick has a napoleon complex of the worst sort. This is incredible..if he sued as Ligoneir and not just as plain old Tom Dick, then SR and the Board are supporting this. Scary stuff when you think they are to be men of God.

They have probably strong armed Kistler....or else they would not dare do this.

Mr. Kistler, if you are reading this...stand for truth only.

9/05/2006 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Dominion Family comments about the Ligonier lawsuit.

9/05/2006 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger dug said...

Do you live in a state with an Anti-SLAPP statute? It looks like Florida has one, if that is relevant.

9/06/2006 01:49:00 AM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Ligonier Ministries Sues Blogger, World Magazine

9/06/2006 07:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Stewart said...

Mr. Vance I don't necessarily condone what you've done or the way that you've done it but I'm not going to criticize you either because it looks like you made an honest effort to resolve things privately with Tim Dick but he just wouldn't cooperate. But right now you're not my concern. My big concern is Ligonier's response. I think their actions are despicable. What an awful testimony to unbelievers this will become. What a hypocritical thing for a "Bible believing ministry" to do.

1Cor. 6:6-7 But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Aside from the obvious biblical violation this just seems real stupid. Prior to filing this lawsuit who even heard of Frank Vance? Probably hardly anyone even knew about your obscure blog. I didn't know and none of my friends knew either. Now thanks to Ligonier's lawsuit hundreds of thousands of people will know, including a lot of unbelievers.

If Ligonier continues to push this litigation it'll just get more and more press everyday and do more to harm Ligonier's reputation. Worse yet it'll harm the testimony of Jesus and his church. What is Ligonier thinking? It doesn't get any more stupid than this. I think you've now proven your case that Tim Dick is an idiot and he's ruining Ligonier Ministries. He needs to go.

9/06/2006 09:06:00 AM  
Anonymous jimmy olsen said...

As a member of FLEA (Former Ligonier Employee Assn), this lawsuit does not surprise me in the slightest. As for R.C. not knowing about this or any other underhanded activity of TD (and other CEOs, CFOs etc. in the past), it would be yet another case of willful ignorance or turning a blind eye. Howerver, I'm convinced he does know and doesn't care to do anything about it, as usual. The list of people who have been defrauded by this ministry grows daily. Thank God that He knows all the details and will hold all to account. I say this not out of self righteousness (I know I will also stand before the throne), but my sphere of influence is much smaller than the large influence that R.C. and his reformed cronies have. They will endure much chastisement for the what they have done in this life. R.C.'s teaching is masterful and his mind is keen, but he lacks common sense and any sort of compassion or conscience toward those he calls "friend".

9/06/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Vance,

I agree with Stewart. I believe Ligonier's lawsuit will prove counter-productive to whatever end they were hoping for.

As for you, though I'm not a lawyer, I'd recommend refraining from any more comments about the matter now that you're a defendent in a legal case.

9/06/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous formlessandvoid said...

Mr. Vance,

Did you take up this issue with the PCA, of which Sproul is a minister? I humbly submit that would be the right thing to do.

9/06/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Formless, the dispute isn't with RC Sproul, it's with Tim Dick. I'd agree that RC is ultimately responsible since he appointed Dick as President/CEO/CFO (that's a lot of unchecked power in one guy's hands!). The problem is that since RC's stroke (which was rather serious as I understand it) RC doesn't have much to do with Ligonier anymore. His wife Vesta, as any good protective wife would probably do, insulates her husband from the stresses of the office, and as a Ligonier Director she's got the authority to do it. That may be best for Sproul's physical health (stress needs to be avoided by stroke victims to prevent recurrences), but everyone will have to draw their own conclusions about whether or not RC's lack of oversight of Ligonier has been good for Ligonier.

I don't know one way or the other but it's not at all unlikely that RC knows nothing about this lawsuit. Lawsuits are stressful, even for the plaintiff (especially with all the publicity they're now getting from it), and they'd probably want to insulate him as much as possible from all that stress. The problem is that RC's health also becomes the perfect excuse to justify keeping him in the dark.

Let's just say for the sake of argument that the Soli Deo Gloria issue were directly with RC Sproul. Is he in fact a Presbyterian? Is he in fact accountable? As I understand it RC Sproul isn't a real Presbyterian at all, or at least not what I understand Presbyterianism is. Sproul only "parks his ordination" in the PCA. The church that he pastors, Saint Andrews Chapel, is an unaffiliated independent nondenominational church. I'm told that Sproul likes it that way and he's discouraged all serious talk of his church going into the PCA or any other denomination. Why would a professing Presbyterian do that? In fact on what basis could such a man even claim to be a Presbyterian in the first place?

I'm not a member of a PCA church. I don't have any more standing to file a complaint against Sproul in the PCA than any of the members of his own church have. For all intents and purposes Sproul has little or nothing in the way of genuine church accountability.

9/06/2006 02:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Charles said...

Stewart, You have a very low view of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This will hurt our witness? Are you kidding? If He wants, because He is Sovereign, He could turn all all into dust.

What hurts our witness more, is to turn a blind eye to corruption within our churches and para church ministries.

9/06/2006 03:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Charles said...

Formless, Are you kidding? They just sued him in a secular court! A little late for such 'sage' advice. Besides that, I do believe that SR has opted out of the PCA.

Nice try with the 'Christian guilt' angle though.

9/06/2006 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Charles, I'm not perceiving that Stewart has a low view of our Lord's sovereignty at all. I share his concern that unbelievers will look on this Ligonier lawsuit as just another justification to mock the Christian faith. Of what value is our faith if our own highly esteemed leaders aren't capable of any better form of conflict resolution than this? Of what value is our Christian faith when our own leaders are so thin-skinned that they'll file a lawsuit at the drop of a hat?

I trust that no Christians will be stumbled and lose their faith over all this, but I'm confident that non-Reformed believers (Arminians, etc.) are delighted to see this happening. It'll only prove in their own minds that for all their theological studies those Reformed theologians don't have any serious interest in making practical application of the Word.

When Ligonier was under Dr. Sproul's oversight it was a shining testimony for Christ and Reformed theology. Ever since Sproul turned over the reins to Tim Dick, a man who from all accounts doesn't even have any serious commitment to or credible knowledge of Reformed theology, that Ligonier testimony has only dimmed.

Dr. Sproul is no Spring chicken. What will Ligonier's testimony look like when Dr. Sproul departs the scene entirely? If Tim Dick is still at the helm it won't be pretty.

9/06/2006 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous passerby said...


Now that your misjudgment has gotten you in trouble, your situation is deteriorating rapidly.

The First Amendment does not grant you the right to accuse a Christian father and brother of fraud (and countless other abuses) without cause or evidence.

For you to attempt to characterize what you have done, as a First Amendment matter, is insidious.

Suddenly, now, you are a martyr. Martyrs don’t spend all their waking hours making libelous accusations about matters of which they have no knowledge.

What a colossal failure of character you represent to the faith. You would be shunned by every Church Father you claim to follow.

You represent no one. You have no cause and no purpose for your misspent time. You and your group of online malcontents have horrific judgement. Do not count yourself among the ranks of the reformed, you cannot wear that badge. You walk alone.

I personally don't care what happens to your reputation. You deserve any shame which falls on you.

I do care about the state of your profession, which I believe has lapsed (if it was ever credible). Beyond your crusade against Tim and Ligonier, there is the more important question of your standing with God.

What you have done is shockingly unchristian. You must relent of your fictitious ranting .

Here is your public apology :

(1) I have no evidence for the SDG fraud I allege. I have built my case on secondhand information and hearsay (gossip).

(2) I have said things about Ligonier, RC Sproul, Tim Dick and members of the organization that are unkind, uncharitable, false and slanderous.

It is wrong to slander fathers and brothers without evidence or cause.

(3) My assessments of Ligonier finances are based on my speculations about their public records. I have made inferences and judgements which are, at best, misinformed and at worst, malicious.

I have not been privy to any information which would confirm my charges. Indeed the one I claim to be defending has disavowed my charges and methods.

(4) I have drawn countless other people into my false representations, leading them to conclude that there has been actual illegality at Ligonier. There has no such thing that I can testify to, with any conscience.

(5) I have allowed my personal preferences and opinions (to which I am entitled) to rise to the level of wild, public speculation and prideful accusation.

(6) My misuse of the internet has caused me to publish things which are not consistent with a Christian testimony and are at odds with Biblical prescriptions for how I should handle actual grievances.

(7) I have aided others in this sin, through erroneous reporting and manipulation of secondhand information.

(8) Others, who feel they have genuine grievances with Ligonier, should go to the leadership there, earnestly and privately.

9/06/2006 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Christianity Today gave me today credit for their Quote Of The Day.

Quote of the day:
"To prevent me from publishing I view as a very serious breach of First Amendment rights."

—Blogger Frank Vance, who has reportedly been sued by R. C. Sproul's Ligonier Ministries because of his repeated criticisms of the organization's president, Timothy A. Dick. Ligonier Ministries is seeking a full publishing ban on Vance's blog, which is titled Contending for the Truth.

9/06/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

From the National Journal:

Florida Blogger Faces Defamation Lawsuit

They got that part wrong. I'm not from Florida and I've been informed today that there's doubt as to whether a Florida court could claim jurisdiction over me. They clearly have jurisdiction over Ligonier, but it's questionable about their jurisdiction over me.

9/06/2006 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dont know the story and, frankly, don't care. Free speech is just that. Good luck

9/06/2006 07:07:00 PM  
Anonymous mosaic said...

When Ligonier was under Dr. Sproul's oversight it was a shining testimony for Christ and Reformed theology.

Vance, I beg to differ. Things were rotten waaaaay before Tim Dick. RC's teaching is incomparable, but poor judgement and shameless actions happened pre-TD, and never has there been any repentance or remorse over what was done to the careers and reputations of those who have been thrown under the wheels of Ligonier.

This is definitely in the top 5 incidents in the history of this ministry, but certainly not the first, nor, I am sad to say, the last. Someday I should write a book - "fiction", of course.

9/06/2006 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Mosaic I'm always willing to stand corrected on all things Ligonier, at least from employees, former employees and other insiders. Sending me an email though is a whole lot more effective since it gives us an opportunity to go into details privately. I heard from a person just today, an insider, who shared with me some very interesting Dick facts. They did so from a hotmail account that they said they just created today. That person wanted to correct me on a few minor Dick details, but they first required assurances of confidentiality. Here's how I responded:

"Thanks for contacting me. I've been contacted by several former Ligonier employees and several friends of the Sproul family. You'll notice that I've never mentioned anyone's names nor will I ever. My policy is to never disclose my sources. It's important that I give those assurances, and that I never violate them. Otherwise no one would ever talk to me again. I'm more than happy to give you my personal assurances that I'd never disclose your name, and I'd never post anything you tell me without your prior permission."

Mosaic, if you haven't already made contact with me via email I'd welcome that. Who knows, you might be a big help. Feel free to remain anonymous if you like.

9/06/2006 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

My goodness! What a hullaballoo this Ligonier lawsuit has caused! Articles are popping up all over the internet. I'm overwhelmed by people's interest in my little blog, and I'm amazed by all the traffic! Up until the past couple days this didn't take hardly any of my time at all. But now I've been answering lots of emails from legal experts and First Amendment gurus and media types. I really don't think Tim Dick had any idea what he was getting himself into by suing a Christian blogger. Not smart Tim.

There's too many blogs and other web sites out there posting things about my blog for me to mention them all here. But I will periodically mention some of the more noteworthy. Here's one that I found to be very thought provoking, and yes also a bit convicting:
Standing On Grace Or Just Being a Loudmouth

9/06/2006 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Fred Butler says I'm a "crackpot." He also says, "This Vance fellow apparently has issues with Sproul, I mean some real deep down in the heart kind of hang-ups." Other than trying to shoot the messenger it's a pretty good article.

9/06/2006 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Carson Allen said...

Frank I just posted on Fred Butler's Blog. Sorry I don't know how to link it to this post. You can if you would like.

The guy has a lot of nerve calling you a crack pot with out knowing you. Heck; I used to think you were. He is probably just jellous because your blog is geting pounded with hits all day long. Unlike his

9/06/2006 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Hardy said...

The obligation of a plaintiff is to have the defendant served with papers (a complaint and a summons to appear -- not literally -- and defend) within so many days (in my state, it must be served within 120 days). So it's not unusual for a suit to be filed and you not to know of it for a while. Depending upon the rules, it might come by certified mail or by a local process server.

The constitutional limitations upon a defamation suit are pretty strict. If he's a "public figure," he pretty well has to prove you consciously lied. If it's a matter of public concern, he has to prove it was no matter of opinion (you can call a man a crook, so long as you don't call him a convicted felon when he isn't).

The really messy part is discovery, where you get to find out anything that would argue your statements are true. Oh, that can get messy. Financial records, answering questions, very messy.

And never overlook the possibility of transferring to federal court, if he is a citizen of a different state. Diversity jurisdiction is the term, and removal the means. Depending on judges, it may be an advantage.

9/06/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this doesn't come out looking like "big, bad, Ligionier" beating up on "poor little blogger", I for one will be shocked.

I think Ligonier is in a lose/lose situation. Not to mention I feel they have crossed biblical lines to get there.

9/07/2006 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous TheIronHare said...

[I'd be surprised if Fred Butler publishes this but in any case, here's what I wrote to him]

Forgive me, but it's odd how people think it's okay to misrepresent people and situations as long as they admit their ignorance regarding the people and situations! The RC "Jr." (RCraig son of RCharles) squabbles were by no means "petty denominational bickering." And it wouldn't take much research to see that. And I don't see how you could presumptuously portray Frank Vance as you did even while, as you said, "the jury is still out." I hope you are not just taking out on Frank ill feelings you might have toward those who may have behaved in an ungodly manner toward another ministry. To be honest, it rather looks that way at this point. But I'll try not to assume a root of bitterness on your part as you did in regard to Frank. Even if there might be more evidence for it that what you presume about Frank. I may not succeed, but I'll try.

Yes, I'm angry. Frank deserves better. And the situation deserves more fair and thoughtful commentary. Should the whole thing be swept under the rug while blatant corruption continues? Please, don't just admit your ignorance then blaze away anyway, Fred. Get informed or show appropriate restraint in light of your admitted ignorance. - Dennis

9/07/2006 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Thanks Carson. You're right. It's funny now to think that it was only a few months ago that you thought that I was a crackpot too! Given a little time and reflection you thought better of me. I appreciate your willingness to listen to reason. But I'm afraid with many Ligonier fans that may not happen. As long as they continue attacking me rather than holding Ligonier accountable they're just condoning Tim Dick's actions.

RC Sproul has a big fan club. I used to be part of it myself. It wasn't an easy thing for me to come to the place of recognizing that Ligonier, though it produces and distributes a lot of very fine Reformed theological works, many of which I've been personally blessed by, is by and large a business organization (notice I didn't say "ministry") whose nepotistic self-serving management is unaccountable to its donors, and has far more abuses of power than the typical secular for-profit business. The lawsuit against me is just the latest example of that.

Fred Butler and others have alleged:
1. I've got a personal vendetta against RC Sproul.
2. I'm motivated by a root of bitterness.
3. I'm trying to destroy Ligonier.

Now of course no one who says such things has ever first asked me. In fact it's apparent they'd rather not even know my motivations. They just accuse without knowing anything about me. I'm not particularly surprised by that. They're just defending a man that they love and admire, this in spite of the fact that it isn't even Sproul that's the target of the fraud allegations, but Tim Dick.

The allegations against me of ulterior motives do nothing to serve as a defense for Ligonier, other than in the minds of Ligonier's diehard cheerleaders. Any other objective onlooker can see right through it. Even if their accusations about me were true (and they're not) that does nothing to take away from my allegations of Tim Dick's fraud and all of his other wrongdoings.

Far from having a vendetta to destroy Ligonier, my motivation is to save it and see it not just return to what it was prior to the Tim Dick era, but to become even more of a shining testimony of the grace of Christ Jesus to the world.

Tragically now however with Ligonier fast earning a worldwide reputation for being a thin-skinned litigation machine that may simply never be possible.

9/07/2006 08:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

What is really sad is that all of this is being aired in public for all to see. This is exactly what Paul was telling us not to do in the first 5 chapters of Corinthians. I would hope that you and RC Sproul's ministry would deal with this a different way. You are not only hurting each other but the rest of us too!

9/07/2006 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a person who has watched, from the inside, Tim Dick's wanton disregard for the ethical treatment of others (to say nothing of his un-Christian conduct), my hope is that he will end up in the same way as Kenneth Lay . . . on the way to jail as he drops dead. There are many in the chorus of Christendom who will not shed one tear.

9/07/2006 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it really appropriate for Tim Dick to earn a $230,000 salary? That was 2004, and more than his father-in-law. Seems a little much for a not-for-profit organization of that size.

9/07/2006 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger David Finnamore said...

The whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. - the apostle Paul

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell... It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so...

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? ...

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? - the epistle of James

9/07/2006 04:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to be a great admirer of RC and Ligonier until I got to know the people that are associated w/ them, both former employees and current employees as well as some @ St. Peter's congregation. It's about time this comes out and am thankful that you have stood up for the truth and against injustice.

The $230K annual salary is outrageous for a non-profit which is why I'm glad I have not contributed to this org for ten years now.

9/07/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Chris' comments, this should not be out for the public to see if there was a posture to resolve differences but to file a lawsuit and not sending the plaintiff notice so it can be defended is no way Biblical whatsoever. This is a SHAME for an org that "holds to the truth of Scriptures". There are so many others out there that we do not even know about that have been treated like this.

If Ligoneer wants the truth, then let's put it out there for everyone to see rather than pulling schemes to hide it.

9/07/2006 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

For those who've missed it I've been getting pilloried much of the day on Challies. Well, not entirely, just partially. Some of the commenters there have actually been quite fair and balanced.

Then this afternoon I was contacted by Carla Rolfe (what a dear lady) about it. She brokered a peace deal between me and Tim Challies (if you ever need a mediator Carla is the go to gal). We exchanged multiple emails, all very civil. Things turned out well enough that I was permitted to post a comment on Challies in response to his article. In the end we agreed to disagree.

All in all it turned out pretty well. Too bad Tim Dick couldn't have been as reasonable a guy to deal with as Tim Challies.

9/07/2006 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Another brilliant article by Mr. Pooh:

"But what of the scandalous cover up or irrational smugness to this entire thing from those who will enable all this to keep going down the tracks? What of the current employees who are just now buying their time silently so that they can get out? This is even more difficult, and leads one to a bit of depression. Where are the courageous whistle blowers? Where are the Ligonier supporters who care how their money is getting spent?"

I've heard from some of those folks Mr. Metzler, but I know there's a whole lot more out there that need their stories told. This is the place to do it.

9/07/2006 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Instapundit is talking about Ligonier's lawsuit against me. Just take a look at their Sitemeter. An average of 122,532 visitors a day!

9/07/2006 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger a modern voltaire said...

In tracking wrong doing you always follow the money. In the case of Ligonier & Tim Dick you start with his outrageous salary and move to the fact that they have not yet released their 2005 financials. What are they hiding?

9/08/2006 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Hugs, Not Blogs said...

Ligonier, I think, did do something wrong in pulling this thing into the realm of litigation. The court system, for all sorts of reasons, is not suited for disagreements between believers. For starters, it is not subject to God.

But for the love of Pete, could we be reasonable about all of this? It's not like a blog railing against a man fits cleanly with Matthew 18, and it's not like the "bring it to the public" attitude of defending "truth" is the most upright way either. Mr. Vance, you have put Mr. Dick on trial also, in a public court with NO RULES whatsoever. People all over this nation are being sullied by the foodfight. The First Ammendment is a crock. The Constitution is not a Trinitarian Document. Your rights extend so far as your speach is loving to your brother. Not a consonant further.

The internet is bad for Prebyterians. We did just fine being reactionary schizmatics BEFORE the internet allowed us to be impersonal, insensitive, and publish unsubstantiated criticisms for a whole world of disconnected computers to see.

I don't mean to suggest that your accusations are lies. I have no idea. I don't know any of you. You may be dead on: Mr. Dick may be an evil evil man worthy of the death a commenter suggested earlier. But he's a CHRISTIAN. The name of the Triune God was given to him in his Baptism. He deserves some dignity. Sheesh. I'm sick of having my face rubbed in other people's sins. Sins that should be dealt with cleanly, quickly, in a structured and loving fashion. I see no love on this blog.

And, worse comes to worse, Mr. Dick is a bad man and doesn't repent, "let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." Namely, don't blog about it. Let it go.

9/08/2006 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger David Finnamore said...

They have released the 2005 financials. They're contained in the 2005 President's Report:

9/08/2006 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Sheldon said...

David, inside the report the heading is "2004 Financials." I'm not a businessman, so I don't know if this is typical or not, but it seems very strange that we're now in September of 2006, but the latest information we can find on Ligonier is from 2004. Isn't that illegal?

Plus, as someone else pointed out, non-profit organizations are simply not designed for the exorbitant salaries that these men are taking. They're using the gospel, and the traditional tax-exemption of ministers, to enrich themselves. Gasp! What have I said? I might get sued for language like that!

9/08/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Brandon Giromini said...

In the 2005 President's reports, it says clearly that it is the 2004 financials, top of page 24. They still have not provided the 2005 financials. I too am interested to see how much in the the increase in salaries has continued.

9/08/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Beloved said...

Is it not a loving thing for the rest of Christendom and for the souls at stake when such atrocities occur within the Church? Paul spoke rather harshly about certain specific individuals within the church who claimed Christ but who were steering others astray, as well as about groups of individuals guilty of the same sin. When a Christian sees injustice and turns a blind eye, it's one of the most unloving things he could do.

9/08/2006 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Hugs, you've made a few good points, as well as a few astonishingly ignorant points. I don't mind being criticized. Where it can be shown that I've erred I'm willing to acknowledge it, but please attempt to criticize by first having some reasonable knowledge of what you're talking about.

"Mr. Vance, you have put Mr. Dick on trial also, in a public court with NO RULES whatsoever." Obviously Madame (I'm assuming you're a women given that "Hugs Not Blogs" wouldn't be a particularly masculine moniker) you haven't spent much time reviewing the facts here. The rules were simple, fair and clearly stated for Mr. Dick. He failed miserably to comply, and he also never denied the charges to me or to anyone else. Prior to my coming on the scene other godly men repeated sought to bring Mr. Dick to the bargaining table to right his wrong. They attempted, as best they could, to follow biblical procedure. He evaded them for two years, just like he evaded me.

"The First Ammendment is a crock." I'm horrified to hear you say such a thing. Madame you need a little history lesson to determine the origins of the First Amendment. Our right of free speech is a gift to us from our Christian forefathers, virtually all of whom were Reformed and Calvinists. That's certainly the case of George Mason and others who significantly influenced the drafting of the First Amendment.

"The Constitution is not a Trinitarian Document." I'm not sure what you mean by "Trinitarian Document." However I will say that practically all of the architects of the Founding Documents were themselves Trinitarians, and most all of them were Reformed as well (Thomas Jefferson being one of the very few exceptions). If you mean to say that the Constitution doesn't trump the Bible then I wholeheartedly agree. But if you mean to say that the Constitution should be cast aside in such cases as mine then I wish you well if you ever find yourself a defendant to a lawsuit.

Michael Metzler has some interesting things to say about your comments as well: The Reformed Tradition v. US Constitution (!)

9/08/2006 03:44:00 PM  
Anonymous David Castor said...

I'm all finding this quite interesting as a soon to be solicitor in Australia. From the sound of it Frank, you are welcoming the lawsuit for the potential to bring these allegations to light. However, I am wondering whether we will all be further enlightened after the conclusion of the litigation, considering that the case will revolve around your conduct and not of Ligionier. Perhaps your legal contacts have advised you in this regard?

The other thing I am wondering about is whether Kistler will be a compellable witness. Do you know whether he will be required to take the stand in his current state of health? I merely know the Evidence Act in New South Wales and not the relevant provisions in the jurisdiction of Florida.

9/08/2006 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

"From the sound of it Frank, you are welcoming the lawsuit for the potential to bring these allegations to light." I don't think that anyone really "welcomes" a lawsuit. But I'm not intimidated by it either. If Tim Dick insists on it then he'll have quite a fight on his hands. See Ligonier Ministries Lawsuit, Recaping The Week. I believe there are much better ways of resolving this than a lawsuit. Apparently Tim Dick doesn't agree, and I can only assume that's because he's only evading a resolution.

"However, I am wondering whether we will all be further enlightened after the conclusion of the litigation, considering that the case will revolve around your conduct and not of Ligionier." Wrong. I'm surprised a soon to be Australian Solicitor would say that. I don't think Australia and America's legal systems are all that different, are they? I'm not going to tip my hand as to legal strategy but I can assure you that there will be a great deal of compelled digging into Ligonier's records and testimony taken from witnesses that have everything to do with Tim Dick's conduct and nothing to do with mine.

As to Kistler himself I'm confident that all necessary accommodations can be made for him, taking his health into consideration. It may not even be necessary for him to make a court appearance for his testimony to be entered into the court record. I'd just as soon see him not get put through any more stress. He's suffered two years of extreme stress at Ligonier already. But stress issues are out of my control and this lawsuit isn't my decision.

9/08/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Anonymous David Castor said...

I do apologise for the inadequate way in which I have expressed myself. Just to clarify:

(1)I'm not necessarily suggesting that you see litigation as the most favourable option. However, you seem to desire the truth of the matter to come to light and if this can only be done through litigation, then so be it.

(2) I was suspecting that since establishing the truth of your comments is not necessary to maintain a successful defence, the defence strategy may revolve around whether the statements were made in "good faith" or not. However, as I said, I may very well be wrong about this.

(3) I know that in New South Wales, serious illness may mean that a witness that does not wish to testify will not always be compellable. However, determining whether this will be the case is determined by a number of factors, not least of all the probative value that this witness can raise for consideration. Since Kistler is quite central to the allegations being made, I wouldn't be surprised is Kistler was made to testify, notwithstanding the current state of his health.

Don't get me wrong Frank - my comments are not intended as criticisms. I am merely interested in seeking clarification on the legal issues involved.

9/08/2006 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Thanks again for your comments David. I didn't take any of it as criticism. In fact your being a lawyer I very much welcome your input. I wouldn't doubt that this case will draw some interest from Down Under. Feel free to email me with any suggestions you might have.

"However, you seem to desire the truth of the matter to come to light and if this can only be done through litigation, then so be it." Actually the truth has already come to light and no litigation was necessary to accomplish that.

The ironic thing about all this is that I have no doubt but that if it had been me that had sued Ligonier to get at the truth, rather than just exposing Tim Dick on a blog, there probably wouldn't have been a single person who would have supported me and I would have been universally condemned. But the inverse isn't the case. Some are willing to say that Ligonier is justified in suing me. Quite the double standard.

"I was suspecting that since establishing the truth of your comments is not necessary to maintain a successful defence, the defence strategy may revolve around whether the statements were made in "good faith" or not." Thank you for restating that. As they say of Americans and Aussies, "Two people divided by a common language."

You're absolutely correct. I haven't seen the suit yet but from what I understand of it they're going to have an incredibly difficult time making their case.

9/08/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

After all the effort made yesterday to make peace with Tim Challies now things have taken a sudden reversal. Last night Michael Metzler posted two comments to Challies. I thought both were cogent, well reasoned and polite. Then a short while later when I refreshed my browser, Poof!, they were gone. This morning Tim, Michael and myself exchanged a few emails. The end result was, to put it only too politely, very disappointing. It's proving to be quite challenging maintaining peace with a guy like Tim Challies.

See Michael Metzler's article on this at Tim Dick: Bad Men Don’t Attract The Best Apologists

9/08/2006 08:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Hugs and Football, not Blogs said...

Mr. Vance,

I'm going to apologize for a few things here at the outset. First, I don't really want to get involved in any sort of protracted debate here; I've followed your story since the beginning with detatched interest, and I'm very familiar with Mr. Metzler's work. My motivation for commenting was sheer frustration at seeing many good men being torn town by people who have no idea of who those men are or what they are doing. I don't mean to accuse you of being one of those men: you have done your homework, you have been careful, and you have kept your head. The thrust of my post was this: I'm a kid thousands of miles away from all of this, and I am ill equipped to make any sort of good decision regarding this matter. I have a plate full of Mr. Dick's sins before me. A wise man hears both sides of the story, and that is just plain difficult to find in many situations on the internet. I regard it as a poor forum for dealing with issues in the Church.

So, first apology: I'm sorry for starting something I didn't want to finish. I'm replying because you took the time to reply to me and I appreciate it. But really, I don't think it's my place to get knee-deep in it with you folks here.

My second apology is this: I was worked up and said some things rashly. A little explanation will bear out what I said. I think that Mr. Metzler's comments are inaccurate, and his selections from what I said a tad bit unfair, but perhaps understandable. I'll try to remedy that briefly.

To your first point, I have done my homework. I've followed your story since you first posted, actually. I was thinking about this whole mess today. It is indeed sticky stuff when you deal with discipline within a parachurch sort of business like we have here. I tried to qualify my statements, and say "doesn't exactly line up with" and "most upright," because I really do believe this whole trial-by-blog business is new and not very clear-cut. I do believe your intentions are noble. I do not, however, believe that the blogosphere is equipped to mirror that nobility. I'm open to argumentation that this was our last remaining choice, but I fear the day when the last recourse of church discipline and accountability is hosted by Blogspot.

I was terribly rash in calling the First Ammendment "a crock." Forgive me and please allow me to explain. Again, here I've done my homework. I've studied First Ammendment law, the guts of the constitution, and free speech / libel / slander laws. I've tried to think through this stuff. My comment was directed more at those who like to hide behind rights rather than exercise duties toward Christian brothers. I fear that your situation could develop into Reformed bloggers getting ever more frothy and vitriolic, and then hiding behind free speech when they're brought to the carpet. If we're concerned about the testimony your lawsuit is presenting to the outside world, I'm concerned that the knife cuts both ways. The world will know us by our love for one another. Many of the commentors here and elsewhere have done poorly.

To finish with your comments, I'll address my shot about the Trinitarian Document bit. I can say a lot here, but I'll try to be brief. Our Constitution is failing us. It is not perfect. It does not confess The Lord Jesus Christ. It is that way by design, and I believe that design is lacking. I am thankful for our system and our founding fathers, but I have no illusions about American Democracy being perfect. Far from it. If I ever end up party to a lawsuit, Lord help me. The system is as corrupt and sinful as the men who sit over it, the same men who are legalizing all sorts of reprehensible things and who are stealing my money to subsidize the murder of unborn children. I'm just giddy we've come this far, but we still have a long way to go.

I do not believe the constitution should be cast aside in your case. I believe, however, that free speech is not the issue. Loving your brother is the issue. We can moan and complain and spit and hate at each other all day and be within the bounds of free speech. But God won't be judging us against the constitution on the last day.

As regards Mr. Metzler I say this: I don't think he's taken what I said quite correctly. I was not railing against the bloggers themselves as being slanderous. I tried to admit quite frankly that you could be correct. And I do not have a problem with publicity, so long as that publicity is sought correctly. And I most certainly want judicial exposure of sins. He misses my point, and says some bluntly incorrect things about me in the process. My point was this, and I've said it before: blogs are not the correct vehicles for this type of justice. A public arena is fine, so long as there is some ecclesiastical presence. Kids my age learned this about the internet a long time ago: it breeds flames, it creates trolls. Those are not things that help us toward a fair, loving, swift solution to sin. They don't help healing. They get a lot of people worked up who have no business knowing about it in the first place.

And for the record, I think there is something deeper behind all of this. Reformed people generally and Mr. Metzler in particular have way too much faith in their brains and syllogisms. Intellectual rigor is fine. But we've been debating theology for ages, and we still have a bagillion denominations. We've been debating politics forever, and we've still got a whole spectrum on our hands. Truth, when it concerns people and motivations, often can't be truth-treed and syllogized and agreed upon by hard-thinking folks. We have small brains, flawed brains, and brains quite incapable of objectivity. Mr. Metzler, I hope, appreciates that, given his appreciation for PoMos and Wittgenstein. This condition of ours is only exaggerated when you put us behind keyboards, thousands of miles apart. I'd much rather nail Mr. Dick to the wall after having coffee with him. Forgive me if I can't quite take your word for it, if only because I think it's my responsibility to hear both sides.

So thanks, and sorry for all the words. I do hope you at least consider what I've said. I've thought long and hard about a lot of these things, and I've been around this internet business long enough to know that if justice comes here, God has visited upon us in a very real, very special way. Blogs and comments are not the components of a healthy church body.

God bless you sir. Just so you know, I'm a guy. The name was a joke. Well, at least it made me chuckle. I find it's always good to be able to laugh at yourself in times like this.

9/09/2006 02:22:00 AM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Hugs and Football, you've articulated some important issues very well. In fact I have to agree with just about everything you've said. I can't speak for Michael Metzler but it wouldn't surprise me if he'd agree with much of it too.

"Blogs and comments are not the components of a healthy church body." That pretty well sums up why this is all now happening. Ligonier Ministries isn't a church, it's an autonomous independent unaccountable parachurch (whatever that's supposed to mean) that's governed by a man (Tim Dick) who himself is autonomous, independent and unaccountable, who answers to a Board Of Directors of yes-men, Vesta Sproul being chief among them. RC Sproul claims to be a Presbyterian but he even as the Pastor of Saint Andrews Chapel has no genuine Presbyterian accountability (SAC is an independent nondenom church), and Ligonier has even far less accountability. If they were accountable they never would have or could have filed this lawsuit.

Prior to Ligonier's lawsuit against me this blog's readership was limited and quite small and probably close to 100% Christian. It's doubtful that anyone who didn't have a direct interest in Ligonier would have stumbled across it. But now thanks to Ligonier's lawsuit it's getting hits from all over the world, including no doubt from many unbelievers. Some will want to blame me for that, but just remember that I'm not the one who filed the lawsuit and therefore I can't be held responsible for all the publicity that comes from it.

9/09/2006 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Lin said...

I visited Pooh's Think and read about Tim deleting Michael's comments. He did the same to me within 5 minutes of my posting! Literally...5 minutes. No wonder he closed the thread. Someone had to sit there and delete comments coming in before they could be read! I have to wonder how many more were deleted?

My comment was very measured and only contained only FACTS of what we know about the 990's and the huge salary increases over a 5 year period. That is not gossip it is public information and points to a serious integrity problem. My post also defended you.

It is starting to look as thought Challies does not want even pertinent information to surface on his blog about this issue. In light of the pattern of questionable behavior and scandals concerning this family, this makes me wonder.

I noticed something similar to this behavior about Challies a while back on another issue and quit going there for a long time until this post. I have to agree with another commenter about his discernment in what he wrote about you. I thought what Challies posted about you was very slanted, cruel and dishonorable. It really painted an unfair picture and he was using his considerable blog influence to promote his blind view even going as far as to tell his readers what to do which was to ignore you!

And, I think it was dishonorable for him not to let people know he was deleting comments from people who disagree and why. People going to his site see only one side. This is his right but again he is using his considerable influence in the blogosphere to try and destroy YOU. The irony is poetic. Has he ever thought his post may be used in court against you?

There are some men who want to ride the fence all their lives thinking this is wise But,in the end that is not wise but cowardly. Then there are other men who stand on truth and principle no matter what. And in the end, that is wise. They are never universally liked. (I know you understand that and probably do not care)

I did not always think this way. Then came a time of scandal in my church. The scandal involved: Money, immoral behavior, lying, cheating. I saw Elders using the tactic of riding the fence and anyone questioning the sinful behavior of staff must be the real sinner. However, they continued to allow this evil to flourish right under their noses. Those who were the whistle blowers crumbled in light of the Elders not caring because they had mortgages to pay and families to feed. Truth was the casualty.

I could hardly believe it. Truth, integrity and our Christian witness was lost to so many. It was all so blatant...just like the ongoing saga of the Sprouls. It all boiled down to the fact they did not want to deal with the discomfort of taking a stand. But these same people publically demanded accountablity for the President!

God will hold people accountable for this. Especially those in positions of leadership and influence. And, where is the love of rebuking? Has Sproul become such an icon to people he cannot be approached? He is just a man.

Had Challies just written that he does not know what the truth is and not painted you in such a horrible light, I would think differently. But he has the facts of a defrocking, the father, a teacher of scripture, calling the charges of church elders fraudulent! He has the facts of the astonishing 990's at his disposal and the unbiblical stance of a ministry suing. What more does he need to see of a pattern of behavior from this family and questions must be asked. Yet, he chose to try and destroy you.

I do not know Challies motivations for what he did to you except perhaps he does not like your vocabulary and style which may be more important to him than truth. We do have a whole generation that believes 'how' something is said is more important than 'what' is said.

But in any event, I prefer the guys who stand on truth, justice and principle no matter what.

God Bless you,


9/09/2006 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Thank you Lin. Your comments only confirm what I was hoping was not the case about Tim Challies.

It would appear that the only reason that Challies has commenting enabled at all is so that he can hear his fans sing his praises. Any alternate opinions get shouted down (deleted and banned).

In his article blasting me any discerning reader can tell how thin-skinned Challies really is. He creates an entire character assassination story against me based up my merely having stated that the timing, method, and explanation for taking down of his forum was "suspicious." He's so thin-skinned that he can't tolerate one iota of disagreement.

Challies is starting to remind me a lot of Tim Dick, another really thin-skinned guy. At least to Challies credit he hasn't sued me. Then again if he had Ligonier's millions who knows what might happen?

Tim Challies & His Blog

9/09/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous billm said...

I read the exchange of emails between Frank and Tim (challies) that Michael Metzler posted at pooh's think, and I think its very wrong to say "He's so thin-skinned that he can't tolerate one iota of disagreement". Tim said that he didn't want the discussion to go downhill, by which I think he means he didn't want his comment thread to turn into a courtroom (which it would have become if people were posting the 'facts') with the blogosphere as the judge. I regularly differ with Tim on issues but I think that he is wise to not make forums and comment threads courtrooms. And to be honest, I like Tim a lot and am very put off by the reactions here. Take a deep breath, Tim's not the devil.

Heres my perspective with Ligonier (and Doug Wilson/Metzler as a subset of that): if there is known, proveable corruption, and irrefuteable proof of that, I haven't seen it. Part of that may be that it seems that there is a lot of noise of anger-maybe a list of proofs would help. And why all the anger? If all this is true, it remains that Ligonier didn't sin against you Frank in the first place.

9/09/2006 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Michael Metzler said...

Thank you Hugs & Football,

I agree with much of what you say in this post. Unfortunately, I was not graced by discussion partners like you when I was getting pounded by those in positions of power over me while they sought to suppress evidence and discussion. I’m not sure precisely what I got wrong in my analysis, but you should know that I was using your post more as an illustration of a common theme I have been tracking. When using something as an illustration, it is easy to unwittingly transfer connotations from the broader sampling and the current example. I apologize if I have done this. Of course, the primary claim that I was commenting on you have recanted and apologized for, so perhaps my posting on your comment was ultimately helpful?

I applaud your ideals of a public judicial setting with an ecclesiastical presence. But this is often not available, if it ever really is; this is after all, a high ideal. There are many problems with churches claiming judicial procedure and protection when those involved are often incompetent; in fact, what is often the case, as was in my case, the claimed judicial setting is little more than the group of the “accused” wanted to hold their own trial. If you look at some of the links and writings associated with all this so far, you will find a theme developing about spiritual superstars gaining control of their ecclesiastical in-grown groups, fostering pride in the leader and subservience and sociological cowing from the “laymen,” or in fact “co-elders.”

Stable society is a very fragile thing to begin with, and unfortunately, the church is not leading the way in the preservation of accountability, truth, and justice. Just the opposite. This is what was so important about your claims about the constitution and our legal tradition. The problem is that reformed “leaders” such as Douglas Wilson and RC Sproul Jr love to prattled away about the stupid culture God has placed their holy and brilliant minds into. And the fact is, these men, and men like them, don’t know what they are talking about and in practice act very abusively, arrogantly, and unaccountable when the rubber hits the road on practical matters. It is a well known problem in reformed circles these days that emphasis in the supposed “authority” of elders along with “covenant membership” breeds tyranny. Wilson and Sproul Jr are just feeding from this problem as well as feeding it. If our culture was left to their leadership personalities and intelligence, we would be in a dark age within one or two generations.

The legal tradition in which we move is an amazing accomplishment, unparallel in world history, and remains highly successful at deterring and punishing evil and protecting from harm. After living in a “reformed community” and seeing the judicial “wisdom” there, I am certainly proud to be an American. It is a sad state of affairs when incompetent church leaders rail against that which is actually good, and better than their perceived ideals. Particular moral skirmishes are not a sign that our system is falling apart, but rather demonstration of its successful bending to custom. The abortion issue is highly complex, and it is not always what some fundamentalists frame it to be, whether or not early abortion is a permitting of literal murder. Let me make this point clear: medieval warlords like Wilson, Sproul Jr, and Dick are what our legal tradition is here to protect us from; they are not here to save us from our legal tradition.

As for my faith in my brains and my syllogisms, I really don’t know what to say, precisely. I wonder if you have been following my web site as you claim. I have talked a lot about the necessity of ecumenical discussions and traditions and warned against men who trust in their own brain, such as Douglas Wilson. I am also not anywhere near a “rationalistic” attitude in my theological and philosophical assumptions, as my work in metaphor, narrative, and emotion reveal plainly. What I have been very concerned about is the wild, very wild, irrationality of those within sub-communities trying to protect their leaders and their very narrowly defined social identities. Rarely do folks on the outside of Wilson’s sub-community, for example, not show appreciation for the work that I and others have done in the “Wood.” From within the pseudo-cult, however, I am often seen as some kind of raving, immoral, sub-human, idiot that doesn’t know how to read a book or decipher a piece of evidence.

You are right to be worried about syllogisms, you should be looking at the Story. And in this case, just what that Story is is becoming clear, and as one Chief Justice said, it is this kind of story that is sufficient to force a judicial decision of just proportions.

9/09/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Michael Metzler said...


In light of all the evidence and argument now brought to light, I don’t take this as a serious argumentative challenge; but then again, perhaps that not what you wanted it to be, since you don’t like the idea of blogs becoming overly judicial and disciplined by argumentative structure. I don’t know how you could come up with your opinion here after reading the fun discussion between Frank, Tim, and myself, but I won’t worry about it; it is there for everyone to view for themselves – thankfully, we are online! : -) I did want to point out two factual problems however: Tim said that he did not want his Blog going down hill, and he defined this explicitly as the blog becoming nothing but utterances of slander and gossip. I addressed this point directly already. Second, folks with your kind of attitudinal frame seem to not like the judicial setting, while also liking some kind of indirect explanation for the general “feel” of criticism. This usually boils down to “you are just bitter,” or something like that. But his is unjust; in the case of Vance, he was already in the thick of removing deceit over the RC Sproul Jr scandal before having to deal with Challies and Dick; so prima facie it is entirely unreasonable to assume something like this about Vance. He has a captivating rhetorical style that helps bring folks into the real evidence and argument, that’s all. As a concluding note: There has been plenty of corruption shown and proof provided; there is no such thing as irrefutable proof, but folks like Sproul Jr, Wilson, and Dick progressively fail to provide counter-proof. Judicial decision is inductive, and any newly revealed fact could reverse an otherwise just ruling. So let Sproul Jr, Wilson, and Dick provide it; if they refuse, then they are only heaping up more evidence progressively that they have no excuse, evidence, argument, or justification.

Michael Metzler

9/09/2006 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Lin said...

bllm wrote: Tim said that he didn't want the discussion to go downhill, by which I think he means he didn't want his comment thread to turn into a courtroom (which it would have become if people were posting the 'facts') with the blogosphere as the judge.

I do not understand this at all. Challies purposefully tried to destroy Frank in his post. This is exactly what he was accusing Frank of doing to Tim Dick. Does anyone not see the irony in this? Challies WAS being the courtroom of the blogosphere in his original post!

Truth is, Challies main post was already downhill and invited exactly what he is now saying he does not want! What did he expect?

Challies has total rights to do whatever he wants with his blog. I also have the right to come here and let those who care to know that there are people who disagree with what he wrote who then try to post facts related to the situation but were deleted.

Basically, your arguement is also flawed because Challes did all he could to turn people against Frank.Even advising them to not visit this site!

Also, This idea that the Blososphere is the judge is frankly, immature and ludicrous. Sounds so much like Dan Rather's arguement against blogs when he was caught red handed. Reasonable people read, research and conclude or reserve judgement. Should information be withheld because many are not reasonable? Heaven help us if you think that.

You can defend Challies all you want. The truth is he did exactly what he accused Frank of doing.

Quite frankly, I found Frank's comments there very gentlemanly and tame compared to what Tim wrote about him in the post. Then Challies starts censuring anyone defending Frank with facts. Something is rotten in Denmark. But, he has every right to do what he wants with his blog. We have the right to let people they are not getting all the facts at Challies. And that Challies is playing the role of..dare I say...hypocrite?

The subsequent e-mail exchange between Metzler, Frank and Challies after the censure is posted at Pooh's Think and is very enlightening.

Also, one last thing. Challies says in his post that he counseled with several godly men before he posted. Should we all demand he make the names of these counselors public so we can conclude whether they are really godly? I find it incredible that they would counsel him to post what he did in light of the fact that Ligonier SUED Frank. Should their counsel have been to refrain from posting about this issue at all since what Ligonier did is totally unBibical? Or to post that he does not know what is going on? I would think so.

I pray he finds better counselors.

9/09/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Bashful Mother said...

Challies says in his post that he counseled with several godly men before he posted. Should we all demand he make the names of these counselors public so we can conclude whether they are really godly?,

For all we know, those 'godly men' might have been R.C. Sproul, Jr, Douglas Wilson, and Tim Dick.
Challies seems to take it for granted that we should take his word for it that these anonymous figures exist and are truly godly men, even while insisting that it would be wrong to take Vance's word for anything.

It is obvious from reading the Challies thread that he misrepresented this site so badly that many people have taken away a completely false idea of what Vance is posting here.

While I find, forgive me, Vance, your tone sometimes too abrasive and gruff for my tastes, it's simply false to characterize it, as Challies' commentors do, as harsh towards R. C. Sproul, SENIOR.
I don't understand how anybody ignore the facts that:
Tim Dick contacted you first, and was rude and incoherent.
Ligonier Ministries sued you without even notifying you.

9/11/2006 02:54:00 AM  
Anonymous billm said...

Michael, I wasn't trying to make an argument regarding the evidence against Tim Dick. I think what I'm more interested in is 'dispassioned analysis'. Like a list or timeline of exactly what happened with Ligonier, rather than having to wade through how offended Frank and others are as well. I read Franks latest post, and it mentioned that the men he knows are attempting to deal with Tim Dick 'in-house'. So why is Frank dealing with it out of house? It would seem he is subverting the work of those men.

Regarding Challies, I think everyone needs to chill. The three way interaction did not strike me as fun. It struck me as strained, and Michael, you seemed especially angry. I do believe that if the men that are working with Tim Dick are in-house and unnamed by Frank, then to talk about the issues is more speculation and close to gossip. Slander and gossip can work very much like a prosecuting attorney.

Lin, I don't believe that Challies was seeking to 'destroy' Frank. I think he was bringing an observation that Frank is being uncharitable and needlessly harsh, and essentially unchristian.
My observation of what Frank is doing (and michael by extension with Doug Wilson, and this relates to what michael said about having an attitude of 'you are just bitter'. I do think theres more to it--we MUST love each other as God loves us, and love our enemies. I DON'T think that that means we never expose others' sins. But it is just my observation that Frank is failing woefully in this (and by extension, Michael with Doug). I didn't say that Tim Dick and Doug Wilson haven't sinned, I'm not commenting on that right now. But I am saying that I see a lot of anger, and lack of humility. I can only point these things out because I'm a sinner (and I'm not just saying that, I could outlast this comment thread just talking about my sins with anger when I drive, and also keeping up at work, to name a couple areas). I just think that angry tones, and taking offense (and a lot of loud discussion over something we would probably all want to see dealt with in house) are killing your claims, and chasing people away like Tim Challies, who would otherwise probably listen a little more closely. Contending for the truth is good, but its easy to cover that with noise about how we are angry.

9/11/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous billm said...

Lin said: 'You can defend Challies all you want. The truth is he did exactly what he accused Frank of doing.'
Two things about Challies:
First, like you said, he has the rights to do what he wants with his own blog. Which means that I think that its wrong to imply that he sinned by shutting down comments, either in the forum a while back or the comment thread recently. For him to try and get Blogspot to end this blog would be wrong, but theres nothing wrong at all for him to cut comments that he thinks are unhelpful. He may not take Frank's position on Ligonier, but that doesn't mean he intends to let no one speak about the issue. If i have a forum, and someone gets on it talking about how they love cats and don't like dogs, theres nothing wrong with me ending the forum to prevent that person from talking. Incidentally, Tim says Frank had nothing to do with shutting the forum down. But even if it was that way, Tim did nothing wrong, because it was his blog. I do not believe that shutting down the forum and blog was an impugning of Frank or Michaels character.
The post did involve Michaels character, and yes, Tim did the same thing Frank did if all this involves is one person making a judgement and another person making a judgement. My understanding was that Tim was primarily addressing his own involvement, and secondly mentioning his doubts and concerns about Franks blog. Yes that is a kind of judgement, but as I read the post, I didn't sense the vehemence that I sense in Frank's and Michael's writing (and some comments here). But differing levels of vehemence is just my observation, take it or leave it.

9/11/2006 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

I've received several comments in this thread today from various folks, including another one from Billm, on this Tim Challies thing. Needless to say I was surprised, especially after Billm said, "Regarding Challies, I think everyone needs to chill." The last thing you tried to post Billm was anything but "chill."

At this point it's getting a bit too petty. The title of this thread is "Ligonier Ministries Sues Frank Vance." I take full responsibility for making a comment about Tim Challies, only because I wanted to report what I at least initially thought was a peace deal between us. However it soon enough proved to be anything but that. A few additional useful comments about Challies ensued here. But now things are breaking down into bickering between a couple of commenters that are only just barely germane to the Challies issue, let alone to the subject of this thread. The Challies issue is side-show that's now threatening to supplant this thread altogether. Billm yours will probably be the last post on this Challies thing (unless MM wants to make a final statement, but I think he's probably done). So let's move on and get back to the subject at hand. Thank you.

9/11/2006 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Billm said: "I read Franks latest post, and it mentioned that the men he knows are attempting to deal with Tim Dick 'in-house'. So why is Frank dealing with it out of house? It would seem he is subverting the work of those men."

The answer lies within the very statement that I originally made (reading things in context helps): "Those witnesses have at this time chosen to remain unnamed while they work to resolve matters with Tim Dick "in house"... It's been confirmed to me this week that the exposure that's come because of this blog has compelled Tim Dick back to negotiating table. Considering the fact that Tim Dick has evaded responsibility for two years that's a very positive sign... maybe. On the other hand Tim may just be stalling for time."

It's self evident Billm that it's only because of this blog that Tim Dick is willing to even discuss these things "in house." He wasn't before. It's also self evident that if external pressure ceases to be applied he'll have no incentive to resolve things. Rather than "subverting the work of those men" this blog has, for the first time in two fruitless years, started producing some fruit. Tim Dick is hoping he can make this blog go away so that he can go right back to business as usual.

As far as your silly allegations of my being "angry" and "angry tones" etc. it's sappy and irrelevant. Even if it were true it still has nothing to do with the issues here. I can assure you that when we go into court that Ligonier's attorneys won't be accusing me before the judge, "Your Honor, Frank here is just bitter and angry! He's a hateful man and he's got some kind of personal vendetta! His motives are bad so that discredits all his allegations." Any attorney who'd say something so stupid would get thrown out of court because it has nothing to do with the facts in the case.

So let's please stick with the facts, shall we?

9/11/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger Michael Metzler said...

Dear bllm,

((thanks Frank for the opportunity to respond))

I think Vance’s second response scratches just where your latest post made me itch. I agree with Vance that the claims are inaccurate; and in general I am saddened at how often folks within our current Christian culture take firm, rigorous challenge as somehow “immoral,” and then seek to replace such rhetoric, along with the truth claims under investigation, with sentimental prattling about hidden motives, bad vibes, and “tone.” In the case of Vance’s conduct on Challies blog, I think we are in the twilight zone while concerning ourselves at all with this subject, since Vance clearly made steps towards unnecessary kindness in return to Challies’ slap in the face.

However, I do feel the need to comment further with respect to your references to my treatment of my pastor – well, would be pastor if my family wasn’t kicked out of the church against our will. I don’t want the peculiar story going on in the Wood to be unnecessarily conflated to the very professional work Vance has done here, thereby damaging his efforts in any way. My blog was first a tool of survival and only secondarily an attempt to provide a useful service to the public – a rope I needed to climb out of my pseudo-cult and back into the real world. It also put me into contact with many people that could help while I climbed. I appreciate Vance’s nice comments about the work that I and others did at Pooh’s Think, but the whole project was originally centered on me trying to grasp the real nature of my situation, on me emotionally and socially getting out of the cultish aspects of my “community,” while keeping my sanity. Vance’s project does not suffer from this kind of weakness, and so I want to encourage you and others not to put our two web sites in a blender as you judge what is going on here.

The other important distinction I think is important to note about my project in the Wood and Vance’s investigative journalism revolves around way I have sought to deconstruct Wilson’s “Serrated Edge.” Early on I explained to Douglas Wilson that he was the only person in Moscow who deserved the serrated edge that he had devised, and that I was not going to hold back in using it on him. I agree fully with Brian McLaren’s criticism of conservative American Christianity, and its schismatic, unloving way of speaking in-house. I do believe that true reformation in the church today will only come about if we can adopt a “hermeneutic of love,” and with humility draw from what all creedal participants might have to offer. In this respect, “tone” can become very important, but the person not sentimentally or hypocritically concerned about tone will realize that confronting someone about their “tone” is not in the service of furthering this hermeneutic of love. Let it go, sympathize the person’s concerns; if they have made a good argument, acknowledge it. If there is anything true to what they said, agree with it. What we have been seeing here is not anything like this; rather, concern about “tone” is continuously used to cover up the truth, to silence the evidence and argument, to attack the “person and not the message.”

I treat Douglas Wilson the way I do because he is the arrogant Pharisee that Jesus would rebuke, and I didn’t do so until after months of being sickened by the way him and other kirkers where treating local non-Christians in Moscow. During my first meeting with Peter Leithart after I started Pooh’s Think, I was asked many interrogative questions, and I answered them as honestly as I could. I stayed perfectly calm. I doubt my pulse even went up at all. However, once we got onto the topic of the Serrated Edge, and as I started talking about mercy, love, and our treatment of local non-Christians I started weeping and I couldn’t stop for some time. The concern about deep seated bitterness, envy, or hostility is simply off base. In sum, please do not confuse my treatment of Wilson with my treatment of others, and more importantly, don’t unnecessarily conflate my project with Vance’s. That would be doing Vance a great disservice.

I have already said enough about what I think of Challies. If you would like to further respond to this, you have a warm invitation to post something at

Michael Metzler
Covering the story live here at Moscow,

9/11/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Anonymous billm said...

I recognize that lawyers in a lawsuit will probably not play games about the tone of the blog. And if the blog brought Tim Dick to the negotiating table thats a good thing. But talking about tone is not sappy. God hates pride and arrogance and judges it. If you're not angry or prideful in this issue, good, I'm glad. But its no sappy thing to question it, because loud pride gets in the way of God's glory, and gets in the way of understanding the truth about public accusations.

9/12/2006 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

"But its no sappy thing to question it, because loud pride gets in the way of God's glory, and gets in the way of understanding the truth about public accusations." The problem isn't that you "questioned," the problem is that you accused, "you are just bitter" and "And why all the anger?" Putting a question mark there doesn't make it any less an accusation, and it doesn't make it any less false. But again I'd reiterate that even if I were angry, even if I were bitter (and I'm neither one), how does that in any way alter the issues?

It's a pity that so many Christians today are fixated on their personal feelings (comfort level) rather than using their minds. They're thinking from their hearts rather than their brains. Some will no doubt will now also want to interpret my motive for saying that as "anger" and "bitterness." But if anything it's just frustration with being on the receiving end of such silly, and yes sappy, excuses that Christians contrive for avoiding the facts.

Nevertheless I'll take to heart your emotional concerns about my "tone." If in fact it gets in your way of your ability to critically examine the issues then perhaps that's my own shortcoming. I'll see what I can do about that in the future. Now can we please get back to the issues?

9/12/2006 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Brandon Giromini said...


Please contact me by clicking on my name through my blog so we can discuss and share research.

9/13/2006 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Roman said...

Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?

Trust the LORD.

Romans 12:19-21

9/14/2006 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a person very aware of the love of other Christians and the fellowship that is so rich and full of the spirit. I can give you some advice when in disagreement with a fellow follower of the Prince of Peace.


9/18/2006 09:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." -- Winston Churchill

9/30/2006 04:58:00 PM  

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