“Because he told you that someone was potentially listening at the start of the conversation, I felt free to listen to it.” — Detective Douglas Wilson








“I am probably going to lose one of the best elders I ever had.— Detective Douglas Wilson


D E T E C T I V E      W I L S O N

Having already ordered the young gamblers to pay back their winnings to the casino house, Pastor Douglas Wilson took command of the scandal and appointed himself chief investigator of the MSC. Strike that. Pastor Wilson became the only investigator of the MSC.

Now, for most people, this would seem like an open-and-shut case — a real no-brainer. It’s not as though he had to explain the origin of Stonehenge or decipher some mysterious crop circle in the middle of Kansas. He didn’t even have to find the one-armed man. He simply had to cross-examine the players; interview the residents who lived in the house (not all the residents were players, but all of them were members of Christ Church); notify the gamblers’ parents, etc.; and then crack the whip to make sure that everyone paid up. And of all men, surely the author of Future Men would know how to hold the young bettors accountable. After all, he wrote the book.

Notwithstanding Detective Wilson’s simple assignment, some of the boys’ parents complained that Wilson failed to notify them of their children’s illegal conduct, and that they heard about the casino through the grapevine. Indeed, it is highly probable that some parents still do not know about these events. (Caveat emptor: it’s for good reason that the New Saint Andrews College catalog and its website states, “We refuse to act in loco parentis.”)

Furthermore, there is no evidence showing that Wilson bothered to interrogate any witnesses at all. In fact, several young men who lived at the house said that he never even asked them one question. Perhaps this explains the reason why two weeks into his investigation, Detective Wilson still didn’t have a clue. He was flat out of leads. The trail ran cold. Therefore he listened to a tape-recorded telephone conversation between the casino manager (Dr. Atwood’s son, Ethan) and the casino house (Brett).

In the following email (below), Detective Wilson admits listening to a secretly recorded telephone conversation between Ethan and Brett. Dr. Atwood’s son recorded the conversation without asking Brett’s permission and without informing him of the covert operation. The conversation took place after the casino was discovered, when both men were members in good standing at Christ Church, and, as noted, Wilson had no problem with Ethan’s behavior. He also had no problem listening to the tape.

Detective Wilson justified his unethical conduct by saying, “he told you that someone was potentially listening.” Of course Wilson couldn’t know that Ethan said this unless he first listened to the tape. But that doesn’t matter. The phrase “someone is potentially listening” is not the moral equivalent of “I’m recording you so that I can play it for Detective Wilson.” It’s not even close. No, Wilson couldn’t wait to feed on this tasty trifle, and “someone is potentially listening” gave him all the “plausible deniability” that he needed. Unfortunately, Detective Wilson gained no new information from the tape, and once again he had no more leads.

The propriety of Detective Wilson’s conduct is a matter for others to worry about, unless of course you’re a member of Christ Church. Then you have good reason to believe that eavesdropping is your pastor’s standard operating procedure. If he did it once, then he would do it again — and there’s no reason to believe that he hasn’t done it before. Worse yet, if he’s willing to invade the telephone privacy of a member in good standing, then what other violations would he commit at the drop of a hat? Put another way, if he seared his conscience here, then where else has he seared it?

(Please note that the unidentified “companion [who] was listening in unbeknownst to [Wilson]” was Dr. Atwood’s son, Ethan.)


From: Douglas <dougwils@moscow.com>
To: brett <bret—@com>
CC: nsadean@nsa.edu
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2001 10:15:46 -0800

Dear Brett,

This letter is to follow up on our last phone conversation, and to tie up some loose ends.

First, in our conversation you indicated some confusion about your status as a member. I checked on this, and in 1999 you signed a statement with the same vows now taken by those new members who go to the front of the church. You are in fact a voting member of Christ Church, in good standing. At the same time, our Constitution requires that when a member moves out of the area that we give them six months to find a new church home to which we can transfer them. If they have not done so, then we drop them from our membership roll with a strong exhortation to find a church. Since we are at that place with you, could you let me know if there is a church there you would feel comfortable joining? And if not, then you can consider this our exhortation for you to find one. In short, if you would like us to transfer your membership we will do so. If not, then please find one soon, and this email indicates that you have been dropped from our membership.

Second, I know that you know how unhappy I am with your role in the recent events. This unhappiness, however, is not church discipline, or a part of church discipline.

Third, I told Ethan he needed to break off his friendship with you. This was not church discipline of you, formal or informal. It was the result of a pastoral judgment on my part that given Ethan’s state of spiritual immaturity, and your unfortunate understanding of Christian liberty, a friendship between the two of you is a bad mix, not only for the two of you, but also for the whole church.

Fourth, Ethan told me after the fact that he had recorded his phone conversation with you, which I had not asked him to do, and did not know that he was going to do. Because he told you that someone was potentially listening at the start of the conversation, I felt free to listen to it. If he had not done so, I would not have listened to it — a standard which you apparently do not share. The line you took in our phone conversation was mystifying to me at the time, but the fact that your companion [Dr. Atwood’s son, Ethan] was listening in unbeknownst to me makes more sense of the situation. The deceptiveness involved is revealing to me. At the same time, this was not disconcerting to because of anything I said. I want to reiterate what I said there — you are playing the fool in this.

Fifth, we still need to sort out the financial details. You should soon receive checks from those or on behalf of those that you paid out money to. If you believe that you have not, by two or three weeks from now, please contact me.

And sixth, please bear with one last exhortation from me. The fallout from all of this is not yet complete. Roy Atwood has now submitted his letter of resignation from the board of elders, and that process is working its way out. Ethan has been suspended from NSA for Nicea and Chalcedon terms. I am probably going to lose one of the best elders I have ever had, and not because I have demanded it. And a good part of the reason the consequences are so significant is the attitudes displayed in the first few days after it came down. Please consider your ways, your demeanor, your heart, and your encouragement of those patterns of thought and speech that have created so much trouble here. The oath you signed, and apparently had forgotten, said that you promised submission to our government and discipline, while pursuing its purity and peace. I wish you had taken all this more seriously than you have, but I still encourage you to it now.

I am very unhappy with you, but still wish you the best.

[Douglas Wilson did not sign this email, and Dr. Atwood withdrew his letter of resignation because he believed that another Christ Church officer gave Ethan permission to open the casino.]

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