An Open Letter from Jeff Phillips to Brian Smith, Pastor of Hope Church ASU

Posted: August 30, 2016 in Hope Christian Church, Spiritual Abuse
Tags: , ,

Dear Brian,

This is an open letter that I am posting publicly in addition to emailing to you due to the fact that accusations against me have been shared with Christian leaders in the community. Since I do not know how many people have received these accusations, and I may not have opportunity to explain myself to each of them, I feel the necessity to respond to the accusations publicly so that anyone who hears them and cares to investigate may find this letter and read my side of the story.

I am writing, because for the second time in a month someone with whom I have a professional relationship has approached me to ask whether a slanderous accusation they heard about me is true. (I use the term “slander” advisedly fully aware of its legal connotations.)

The accusations are threefold: 1) that I publicly criticize Hope Church at ASU on the internet; 2) that I have emailed members of Hope Church with criticisms of the church; and 3) that I have hacked Hope Church’s website. I will address each of these accusations in reverse order, because the last accusation is the most serious, being criminal in nature.

I am not entirely sure what the hacking accusation refers to, but I am guessing it is in reference to a Prezi presentation authored by a staff member of Hope Church that has been posted on the blog, “” I have no official connection to the blog, nor did I have anything to do with the discovery of the presentation or it being posted on the blog. A former student member of Hope Church who claims to have experienced spiritual abuse there informed me that he had performed a Google search and found the presentation online, accessible to anyone on the Internet, since the presentation’s author did not have a premium membership with same student is the one who created the blog and posted the presentation. I did not instruct him or influence him in any way to create the blog or to post the presentation.

Regarding the second accusation, again I am left to do some guesswork, as I have emailed no one (members of Hope Church or otherwise) with criticisms of the church. However, the same former student member mentioned above is also responsible, along with more than a dozen former members, for the creation of a report detailing the spiritual abuse they claim to have experienced at Hope Church that they have submitted to the ASU dean’s office. The student told me that he had emailed current members of Hope Church to tell them about the report and that it was being submitted to the dean’s office.

As for the first accusation, I assume that this is in reference to the Facebook page, “Former Members of Faith Christian Church Tucson and Its Offshoots.” For the record, I did not create the Facebook page. However, I was invited to be a page administrator early on in its existence by the creators. Currently, there are five page administrators, including me. From its inception, we have striven to avoid making false accusations against FCC and its offshoots. We have encouraged everyone who participates simply to share the stories of their experiences in these churches. The many stories shared on the page, representing former members from FCC and almost all of its offshoots, recount similar stories of abusive experiences. Those who share their stories and those who read the stories have found tremendous healing in the process. I take strong exception to the mischaracterization of this as unfair or irresponsible public criticism of a church. To accuse victims of abuse for being in the wrong to share their experiences is to heap further abuse upon them.

I assure you that besides contributing to and administrating the Facebook page in an effort to keep it up to date and factually accurate, I have not organized any efforts to proactively approach your church’s members, the ASU dean’s office, or anyone in the Phoenix community with criticisms or accusations against you or Hope Church. The main activity that I exert regarding Hope Church is to respond to people who come to us in a desperate search for help and answers regarding their experiences.

Brian, I do not know whether you or someone in a leadership position in your church is responsible for the spreading of these accusations against me. However, based on the nature of the accusations and their informational content, I cannot see how it could be otherwise. If you have played any role in falsely accusing me, especially of criminal conduct in hacking a website, I call on you to repent and to stop slandering me before I am forced to take whatever steps I can to publicly defend my integrity.

If you had contacted me to ask whether or not I had done any of these things, I would have told you that I have not talked to any of my bosses or colleagues about you, Hope Church, or the spiritual abuse that I experienced in Hope Church. However, since someone has gone to my bosses/colleagues with accusations against me, I have been forced to tell at least three people the full story of our Facebook page, the stories of abuse we continuously hear from former members of FCC and its offshoots (including Hope) and their families, and the abuse that I and my wife experienced in Hope Church.

Recently, you reached out to me in an effort to reconcile. As I said in email correspondence to you, the advice that I have been given from multiple people including friends, a pastor, a professional counselor, and an abuse trauma specialist is to keep our correspondence limited to email for the time being. I reiterate my offer to you to correspond via email about any issue you feel needs to be reconciled between us. I especially encourage you to correspond with me by email if you believe I have done anything to wrong you, such as the accusations that have been spread about me, so that we can both make sure we have the most accurate information possible.



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