[Vision2020] The Seeds are Sown for Moscow's Culture War

nickgier at adelphia.net nickgier at adelphia.net
Thu Dec 27 17:43:17 PST 2007


I've been invited to write a series of columns for "Talk to Action: Reclaiming Citzenship, History, and Faith," which is dedicated to tracking and critiquing the Religious Right. It can be found at www.talk2action.org.

Below is the first installment.

Happy New Year,


Preface.  Douglas Wilson of Moscow, Idaho has established a very impressive religious empire, about which I will write a series of columns.  Wilson is pastor of Christ Church, which together with a sister church Trinity Reformed, has about 650 adult members in a town of 21,000 (including 10,000 University of Idaho students). He is founder of the Classical and Christian School Association, which, beginning with Moscow's Logos School, now has 204 affiliated schools in the U.S., Indonesia, and Nigeria.  

Wilson is also founder of New St. Andrews College in Moscow, on which the City Council has placed an enrollment cap because of its central downtown location.  Wilson also runs a 3-year seminary program Greyfriars Hall, the graduates of which are sent to plant new churches after the Christ Church model.  Furthermore, Wilson co-founded the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, a small denomination that follows the “Federal Vision,” a theology now rejected by every major conservative Presbyterian denomination. Finally, Wilson has his own publishing house, Canon Press, which at one time grossed an average of $1 million per year. 

The articles that follow will reveal that Douglas Wilson embodies all the qualities of the discredited evangelical pastor, everything except having a TV program, great hair, and sexual escapades.


After retiring from the Navy, James Wilson was active in the Officers Christian Union during the 1950s. His vision of a "literature" ministry led to the founding of many Christian bookstores in college towns all over America.  In 1971, Wilson started One-Way Books on the Washington State University campus, 8 miles across the border, and then Crossroads Bookstore in Moscow not long after. 

In 1954 Wilson started writing a small book that would have the title "Principles of War: A Handbook on Strategic Evangelism."  He thought that college towns, especially those with state universities, would be both strategic and feasible evangelistic targets.  In a recent interview, Jim Wilson said that he was fortunate to find two such towns and universities so close together.  With some relish he recalled a thought he had then: "We could fight one battle and win two states [for Christ]!"

I told Jim Wilson that I thought that upraised sword on the front cover of his war book was rather provocative, but he just shrugged his shoulders and said that it was only a symbol. (A very dangerous symbol I was tempted to add.) Wilson argued that even though the methods of warfare should not be used to evangelize, its principles could be applied very well. I missed another chance for a comeback as I thought about the Christian Taipings in the 1850s having altar calls with the aisles guarded by soldiers with upraised swords. 

The New York Times Magazine carried an article (9/30/07) entitled "Onward Christian Scholars," which featured New St. Andrews College, founded by Wilson's son Douglas.  In it Father Wilson took issue with his son's application of his evangelical war principles: "The object was to take over the town with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but to do it in an underground fashion.  One of the principles of war is surprise.  You don't tell people what you're going to do.  Douglas told them, and he gave them someone to shoot at."

I first met Douglas Wilson after the first session of my “Introduction to Philosophy” class in late August, 1975.  He introduced himself and asked me one question: “Is it OK if I defend the faith in this class?”  I answered with a fate-filled Yes. When I told this story to faculty and students at Wilson's New St. Andrews College in April 2000, I got a big laugh when I said that saying No would not have made any difference.

While Jim Wilson sold his religious books and started a congregation in a local Grange, Doug and I were having friendly debates in and out of the classroom. Wilson took nearly every course that I offered, but we agreed that I would not be the best person to chair his thesis committee. Wilson wrote a fairly respectable M.A. thesis on free will and then returned to his local ministry at Faith Fellowship, later renamed Community Evangelical Fellowship (CEF).  Faith Fellowship started as sister church of Pullman's Evangelical Free Church.

In the early 1980s Wilson and I team taught (along with two other people) a course on 20th Century theology, and then we had a debate on abortion in February of 1983.  (My side of the debate has developed into the essay at www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/103/abortion.htm.)  Wilson had a regular column in what was then called The Idahonian, and he came out with a piece that listed points that I tried to refute in the debate.  In a letter to the editor, I cried foul, not because I could claim that my refutations were necessarily sound; rather, because Wilson did not mention my responses at all.  It was at that point that I began to question Wilson’s intellectual integrity, and subsequent actions and events have convinced me that he and his closest associates are not honest men.

In December 1993, the CEF elders, concerned about doctrinal shifts in Wilson's theology, presented him with an ultimatum that he either conform to the CEF statement of faith or resign as pastor. (There was also a dispute about Wilson mixing church and non-church funds.) Wilson organized church members against the elders and successfully outmaneuvered them. 

In order to validate his usurpation of power, Wilson drafted a letter attesting to his godly character and his qualifications to remain pastor. Even though the elders refused to sign the document, Wilson and his closest associates continued to swear that the signatures were obtained. Two of the three elders then resigned in disgust.

With the dissenters gone, Wilson moved forward with changing the name of his church to Christ Church, and he pushed his own doctrinal agenda, including infant baptism and padeo-communion, the rare practice of giving children the consecrated wine and bread.  This was a dramatic change considering the fact that, from its very beginnings CEF was Arminian (non-Calvinist) and Baptist.  

In February, 2003, two Christ Church members brought "Solemn Charges" (a 108-page document) against Wilson for maladministration, pastoral abuse, and doctrinal errors, and the unsigned document of December 1993 reemerged as an issue. Wilson demanded that members of Pullman's Evangelical Free Church (EFC) investigate some of the charges.  When EFC members asked to see the "signed" letter, no one in Christ Church could produce the goods.  Six months later the Christ Church website contained a statement conceding that the CEF elder signatures were never obtained.  

To this day, all that Wilson can muster as an explanation is that he corrected the "mistake" as soon as it was discovered—"soon" defined in this case as 127 months.  See Wilson's convoluted defense of January 31, 2006 at www.dougwils.com. 

As I conclude Part One of this series, I will only note, because I cannot fully explain, what I call "The Navy connection." Jim Wilson, Christ Church elders Dale Courtney and Patch Blakely are retired naval officers.  (There are undoubtedly more.) Jim Wilson brought Doug Busby out from Annapolis and he now is pastor at Pullman's Evangelical Free Church, estranged from Christ Church because of the crisis explained above.  Douglas Wilson and Michael Lawyer, Wilson's administrative assistant and Christ Church elder, met on a submarine during the early 1970s.  We know that the Air Force Academy is a veritable den of conservative Christians.  Does the Naval Academy also have its fair share?

Stayed tuned for Part Two: Pastor Wilson becomes a Calvinist and a Neo-Confederate. Wilson describes the Antebellum South as the most harmonious multiracial culture in human history.

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