Titus 1:9 - Holding to the faithful word, which is according to the teaching of the apostles, that he may be able both to exhort by the healthy teaching and to convict those who oppose.

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Concerning Rumors Spread About the Present Litigation
by "Concerned Brothers"

To all those who love the Lord Jesus in incorruptibility:

We are brothers laboring in the US litigation against the book, Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions ( ECNR), written by two self-appointed "gatekeepers" of Christendom, John Ankerberg and John Weldon, and published without review by Harvest House Publisher. Recently a Texas Court of Appeals made an erroneous ruling in our case. We are writing to you to clarify the facts 1 and to put you at ease regarding a number of rumors that have begun to be circulated by some who anonymously identify themselves as "concerned brothers" (henceforth, CBs) regarding the meaning and effect of that ruling. We will address the following seven matters:

  1. The case is NOT over; the court's ruling is being appealed by us.
  2. The court did NOT say that we are a "cult."
  3. Our lawsuit is NOT concerning the word "cult."
  4. The court did NOT say that we participate in any of the evil practices associated with cults; rather, the court, the authors and the publisher all say that the words in the book about illegal and immoral acts associated with cults are NOT about us.
  5. Responsible Christian evaluations of our teachings and practices have concluded we are NOT a cult or heretical.
  6. The source of the false and evil rumors should be REJECTED.
  7. The "concerned" opinions and "observers" oppositions have one source.

1. The case is NOT over; the court's ruling is being appealed by us.

Contrary to some concerns, the recent ruling is not at all the final ruling in this case. In fact, this matter was previously ruled in our favor three times by the trial court. Therefore, we are seeking a rehearing with the Texas Court of Appeals and are also ready to appeal the decision to the Texas Supreme Court and then to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary. We believe the recent decision will be reversed based on the facts of the case and the law. We remain steadfast in our commitment to establishing the truth and protecting the legacy of a godly Christian ministry and the reputations of countless Christian churches and believers.

2. The court did NOT say that we are a "cult."

The court's decision stated that the word "cult" is solely an expression of opinion about one's beliefs and is therefore protected speech. Therefore the truth or falsity of the charge of being a "cult" is not an issue that can be decided by the court. The court did not say that we are a cult.

3. Our lawsuit is NOT concerning the word "cult."

Our lawsuit is not about the biblical truths we teach or the false accusations ECNR makes against those truths. In America, the proper teaching of the Bible is a matter for open debate without any government regulation or condemnation. The US Constitution does not allow its courts to rule on the validity of any religious teaching. The Appeals Court, however, relying on legal briefs filed by organizations in Christianity friendly to Harvest House, went beyond this restriction. They in effect created new law by deciding that the label "cult" can only have a doctrinal meaning. Then, based on that understanding, they ignored the book's association of those they label "cults" with crimes and immorality. In doing so, they took the position that, since it would be illegal for the court to decide a religious dispute, the case could not go to trial. In other words, the court said the book only accuses us of wrong teachings, something which, by law, the courts can not evaluate.

The issue the trial and appeals courts have disagreed on is simply this: Can the language in ECNR be understood to accuse the churches and Living Stream Ministry of illegal or immoral activities? We believe the court made a serious error when it decided to ignore the accusations of criminal and immoral behavior which ECNR says are "characteristic" of the groups in the book, including us. Such an understanding on the court's part is inconsistent with the understanding of the term in society generally, as well as the operative definition adopted by the book, the catalog of horrors associated with "cults," and the authors' stated reasons for adopting that term. In addition, many governments on this earth understand the word "cult," not just as theology, but as a threat to their society and a justification for persecution. For the sake of our brethren throughout the earth, we are pursuing to have this decision overturned.

4. The court did NOT say that we participate in any of the evil practices commonly associated with cults; rather, the court, the authors and the publisher all say that the words in the book about illegal and immoral acts associated with cults are NOT descriptive of us.

  • The authors and publisher have admitted repeatedly to the court under oath that they have NO evidence of any illegal or immoral behavior.
  • The authors and publisher claim they do NOT intend anyone to think that the local churches or Living Stream Ministry engage in illegal or immoral behavior (although they still refuse to retract their book).
  • The appeals court's ruling says that the book does NOT accuse us of any wrong behavior. It simply says that, in their opinion, "cult" is solely a theological term and, therefore, outside the court's jurisdiction.

5. Responsible Christian evaluations of our teachings and practices have concluded we are NOT a cult or heretical.

"Lost a battle but won the war"

As we all continue to trumpet the New Testament ministry of our brothers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, the truth vindicates itself in the hearts of seeking believers. Despite evil writings such as ECNR, which misrepresent our teaching and practices, the Lord has gained a number of very significant victories over the past five years in both the East and the West. These victories have caused many brothers outside the churches to tell us: "You may have lost a battle [the Appeals Court ruling] but you have won the war [no responsible person would consider you a cult]."

Recent victories the Lord has won

Some of these victories in the West include, for example:

  • Evangelical Christian Publishers' Association

    In 2001 the Evangelical Christian Publishers' Association (ECPA), after carefully evaluating that LSM publications adhere to the New Testament faith, voted unanimously to accept LSM into membership in ECPA and to receive us as their brothers in Christ. The ECPA includes several Christian publishers who published against us in the 1970's or early 1980's. It is a clear victory of the Lord that today these publishers consider us as their brothers in Christ and LSM publications as biblical teaching.

  • Fuller Theological Seminary

    In 2006, Fuller Theological Seminary completed a two year "thorough review and examination of the major teachings and practices of the local churches, with particular emphasis on the writings of Witness Lee and Watchman Nee." Fuller Theological Seminary found that:

    1. Our teachings have been "grossly misrepresented" by others (e.g. ECNR),

      "One of the initial tasks facing Fuller was to determine if the portrayal of the ministry typically presented by its critics accurately reflects the teachings of the ministry. On this point we have found a great disparity between the perceptions that have been generated in some circles concerning the teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee and the actual teachings found in their writings. Particularly, the teachings of Witness Lee have been grossly misrepresented and therefore most frequently misunderstood in the general Christian community, especially among those who classify themselves as evangelicals."

    2. Our teachings match the biblical Christian faith, and

      " It is the conclusion of Fuller Theological Seminary that the teachings and practices of the local churches and its members represent the genuine, historical, biblical Christian faith in every essential aspect."

      "In regard to their teaching and testimony concerning God, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, the Bible, salvation, and the oneness and unity of the Church, the Body of Christ, we found them to be unequivocally orthodox..."

    3. We are not a cult in our teachings or practices, saying:

      " Moreover, we also can say with certainty that no evidence of cultic or cult-like attributes have been found by us among the leaders of the ministry or the members of the local churches who adhere to the teachings represented in the publications of Living Stream Ministry. Consequently, we are easily and comfortably able to receive them as genuine believers and fellow members of the Body of Christ, and we unreservedly recommend that all Christian believers likewise extend to them the right hand of fellowship." 2

  • Christian Research Institute

    In 2004, Christian Research Institute (CRI), the best known Christian anti-cult organization in the US and in times past a critic of the local churches, after a period of re-evaluation removed all their critical articles from their web site. This year, 2006, Hank Hanegraaff, the President of CRI and host of the popular "Bible Answer Man" radio program, wrote to Chris Wilde at LSM:

    "I am consistently impressed with the integrity, forthrightness, and care you demonstrate in both theology and personal relationships. In interacting with you and your colleagues for some three years now I have been humbled and blessed by your Christian character on a personal level and your convictions and clarity professionally. You have demonstrated a care and concern about essential Christian doctrine that is increasingly lacking within evangelicalism... Please give my best to Andrew, Benson, Dan and the rest."

  • Christianity Today

    This year Christianity Today, the leading Evangelical Christian magazine in the world, also published its conclusions of our biblical teaching, stating:

    " Just to be clear, the Local Church/Living Stream is not even close to being a cult—so their indignation is understandable... [Christianity Today] editors have asked Local Church leaders doctrinal questions, and their answers were straightforward and satisfying. We agree with a Fuller Theological Seminary study that concluded the Local Church represents a 'genuine, historical, biblical Christian faith in every essential aspect.'"

6. The source of the false and evil rumors should be REJECTED.

The CBs' article says that, because of the recent court loss, "people can now respond, 'Yes, you are indeed a cult.'" Not even our opposers have presented the court's ruling in such a negative light!

The CBs' statement that we can now be freely labeled a "cult" is reckless.

The CBs' statement that we can now be freely labeled a "cult" is reckless and untrue:

  • The court's ruling directly conflicts with precedence set by another Texas Appeals Court ruling which said that "cult" can be found to be defamatory. This conflict between two appellate courts in Texas needs to be resolved by the Texas Supreme Court.
  • Courts in other states in the United States have ruled that "cult" can be found defamatory, as has the Federal court. Their rulings are not overturned by the recent Texas court decision.
  • Our case is not over and, according to the law and the evidence in the case, the court's ruling can and should be reversed. We should be praying in one accord for the ruling to be reversed, not giving the enemy ground by lawless accusations against His interest.

LSM and the co-workers—the real focus of the CBs' attack.

Every major storm in the Lord's recovery over the past 30 years has focused its attention on maligning LSM, its publications, and those bearing responsibility for the ministry of the word to the recovery (whether Witness Lee or today's co-workers who "closely follow"—2 Tim. 3:10).

2 Tim. 3:10 - But you have closely followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, endurance.

It seems however that the CBs can hardly hold back their glee that we lost in the appeals court. The CBs invent so many rhetorical questions to accuse and confuse (Gen. 3:1; 1 Tim. 6:4) and make so many false and maligning statements (Gen. 3:4-5), that, in addition to what we have covered above, we feel we should set the record straight:

Gen. 3:1 - Now the serpent was more crafty than any other animal of the field that Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, 3Did God really say, You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?

fn. 3:1 3 - In tempting the woman, Satan first touched her mind by questioning God's word, causing her to doubt God's word. The serpent's question stirred up Eve's doubting mind and prevented her from using her spirit to contact God. Satan's evil thought entered into Eve and contaminated her mind even before she ate of the tree of knowledge.

1 Tim. 6:4 - He is 1blinded with pride, understanding nothing, but is 2diseased with questionings and contentions of words, out of which come envy, strife, 3slanders, evil suspicions.

fn. 6:4 1 - See note 6 2 in ch. 3. Teachings that differ from the healthy words of the Lord always issue from people's pride and self-conceit, which blind them.

fn. 6:4 2 - To question and contend about words is a disease. Diseased here is in contrast to healthy in v. 3.

fn. 6:4 3 - Lit., blasphemies; referring here, as in Col. 3:8, to slanders and railings toward man, not blasphemies toward God.

Gen. 3:4-5 - [4] And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die! [5] 1For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil.

fn. 3:5 1 - This slanderous word from the evil one caused Eve to misunderstand God's love and to doubt God's heart in His forbidding man to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16-17). It poisoned Eve's emotion, causing her to dislike God.

  • Who Filed the Lawsuit?—The CBs focus the title of their article against Living Stream Ministry. This focus exposes the enemy's activity. The decision to file the lawsuit against ECNR was fellowshipped first during the international co-workers fellowship and then in a meeting with all the elders and co-workers present during the 2001 winter training. Many others participated in the decision-making by phone. The decision to file was the common feeling of all of the brothers, without dissent. The brothers agreed that, in addition to many individual churches, all of the churches in the US would also be represented by their association, a principle which has legal standing in Texas. In just a few days, ninety-six (96) individual churches in the United States also made the decision to join the lawsuit. Living Stream Ministry's decision to join the lawsuit came after most of the churches had joined.
  • Why Attack the Co-workers?—The CBs also recklessly focus their attack on the co-workers from around the world who remain in blending fellowship. Again we can see the hand of God's enemy at work. The CBs arrogantly pronounce that the blended co-workers have "failed" and are responsible for the recovery suffering what we pray is only a temporary loss in court while they fail to address the many positive things the Lord has gained over recent years. Instead of railing on the co-workers and regardless of the result of this lawsuit, let us all stand in one accord and testify "the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus," even if it is from "Patmos" (Rev. 1:9; c.f. Dan. 3:16-18).

    Rev. 1:9 - I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus, was on the island called 3Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

    fn. 1:9 3 - The island of Patmos was the place where John had been exiled for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus when he received the revelation of this book.

    Dan. 3:16-18 - [16] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, there is no need for us to give you an answer in this matter. [17] If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the blazing furnace of fire, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. [18] But if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods nor worship the golden image that you have set up.

  • What was the Basis of the Court's Decision?—The CBs claim that "the court's decision focused exclusively on the contents of the book" (emphasis theirs). This is false. In fact the points addressed in the court's decision were provided by some legal briefs submitted by political and religious allies of the publisher and authors. Had the court focused on the contents of the book they would have had to deal with language stating the word "cult" was used for its secular value and that "cults" are characterized by crimes and immorality. The court's reliance on the briefs by ECNR's religious and political allies (Matt. 27) appears to be the reason for their wrong ruling. Let us pray!
  • Do Christians Perceive Us as a Cult?—The answer to the CBs' question is clearly "No." As shown in item #5 above, believers without "an axe to grind" and who take the time to know us and our writings welcome us as brothers. However, because the CBs are bent on attacking LSM and the blending co-workers as "cultic," the last page of their writing is an onslaught of subtle and not so subtle rhetorical questions, false and misleading statements (Gen. 3:1, 4-5).

    Gen. 3:1, 4-5 - [1] Now the serpent was more crafty than any other animal of the field that Jehovah God had made. And he said to the woman, 3Did God really say, You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?... [4] And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die! [5] 1For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil.

    fn. 3:1 3 - In tempting the woman, Satan first touched her mind by questioning God's word, causing her to doubt God's word. The serpent's question stirred up Eve's doubting mind and prevented her from using her spirit to contact God. Satan's evil thought entered into Eve and contaminated her mind even before she ate of the tree of knowledge.

    fn. 3:5 1 - This slanderous word from the evil one caused Eve to misunderstand God's love and to doubt God's heart in His forbidding man to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16-17). It poisoned Eve's emotion, causing her to dislike God.

7. The "concerned" opinions and "observers" oppositions have one source.

Opening the Gates of Hades!

Finally, one further observation is warranted. At the end of their article, the CBs make a plea for an openness to "alternative 'points of view' within the Lord's recovery." In spite of the sweet sound of that expression, we find no basis for it in the Bible or in the ministry of the two brothers who brought the Lord's recovery to us. We are mindful that the name of the church in Laodicea which the Lord strongly rebuked means "opinion, judgment, of the people or of the laymen" (Recovery Version, Revelation 3:14, footnote 1). Our practice has always been to receive other believers in fellowship who may differ with us in their understanding of items that are not an essential part of the faith based on Romans 14 and 15. Furthermore, when a matter is under consideration among the responsible brothers, open and frank fellowship is encouraged. However, it is an entirely different matter to openly oppose the teaching and leadership in the ministry or in the churches.

Whether out of "concern" or malice, good will or evil (Gen. 2:17), the CBs' expressions of opinion (Matt. 16:18, 22-24) has opened the door for the "gates of Hades" to attack the Lord's recovery as a "cult". As Brother Lee pointed out in the Life-study of Mark (Mark 3:21-22), an expression of "natural concern" by the Lord's "relatives" "opened the way for the scribes to blaspheme Him." Although they are "related" to the Lord's recovery, the CBs natural expressions of "concern" have indeed opened the "gates" for both foreign governments and opposers in the United States and elsewhere to slander His move.

Gen. 2:17 - But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, of it you shall not eat; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

Matt. 16:18 - And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the 6gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

fn. 16:18 6 - Gates of Hades refers to Satan's authority or power of darkness (Col. 1:13; Acts 26:18), which cannot prevail against the genuine church built by Christ upon this revelation concerning Him as the rock, with stones such as Peter, a transformed human being. This word of the Lord's indicates also that Satan's power of darkness will attack the church. Hence, there is spiritual warfare between Satan's power, which is his kingdom, and the church, which is God's kingdom.

Matt. 16:22-24 - [22] And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall by 1no means happen to You! [23] But He turned and said to Peter, Get behind Me, 1Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me, for you are 3not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men. [24] Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny 2himself and take up his cross and follow Me.

fn. 16:22 1 - The natural man is never willing to take the cross.

fn. 16:23 1 - Christ perceived that it was not Peter but Satan who was frustrating Him from taking the cross. This reveals that our natural man, which is not willing to take the cross, is one with Satan.

fn. 16:23 3 - When we are setting our mind not on the things of God but on the things of men, we become Satan, a stumbling block to the Lord on His way to fulfill God's purpose.

fn. 16:24 2 - Three terms in vv. 23-25 are related to one another: mind, himself, and soul-life. Our mind is the expression of our self, and our self is the embodiment of our soul-life. Our soul-life is embodied in and lived out by our self, and our self is expressed through our mind, our thought, our concept, our opinion. When we set our mind not on the things of God but on the things of men, our mind grasps the opportunity to act and express itself. This was what happened with Peter. Hence, the Lord's subsequent word indicated that Peter had to deny himself, i.e., not save his soul-life but lose it. Losing the soul-life is the reality of denying the self. This is to take up the cross.

Mark 3:21-22 - [21] And when His relatives heard about it, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, He is beside Himself. [22] And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, He has Beelzebul, and the the ruler of the demons He casts out the demons.

According to 3:21, the Lord's "relatives went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, He is beside Himself." This exclamation expressing natural concern on the part of the Slave-Savior's relatives regarding Him opened the way for the scribes to blaspheme Him. Verse 22 says, "And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, He has Beelzebub, and by the ruler of the demons He casts out the demons." This was a word of blasphemy ushered in by the expression of natural concern in verse 21.

Because the Lord's relatives could not understand Him, they said that He was beside Himself. This saying opened the door for the scribes, the opposers, to defame the Lord. The scribes could have said, "You see, even his relatives say that he is beside himself. Do you know why he is beside himself? He is beside himself because he has a demon, and this demon is Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." The Slave-Savior cast out demons, the evil workers for the dark kingdom of Satan; yet the opposers said that He did it by the ruler of the demons. What subtlety of the evil one, who motivated these evil opposers to say this! They were his co-workers and were even one with him....

We need to remember that the door for such a defamation was opened by the word of the Lord's relatives, their word that He was beside Himself. They accused the Lord of being abnormal, and this gave opportunity for the scribes to defame Him. ( Life-study of Mark , pp. 109-110)

Strange Bedfellows--the "Concerned Brothers" and the Opposers of the Lord's Recovery

Near the end of their article, the CBs attack LSM and the co-workers again. This time they aim at " The Ministry magazine" (emphasis theirs), saying that "some observers" wrote that we "wish to be accepted by evangelical Christianity" and that to get that acceptance we should deal with " unorthodox teachings that exist in [our] publications" (emphasis theirs).

Who are the "some observers"? The words quoted by the CBs are from a Harvest House press release quoting "observers" John Ankerberg and John Weldon, the authors of ECNR, a book which attempts to malign Brother Lee as demon possessed! Just as the CBs hide their own identity by anonymous postings under the name of "Concerned Brothers," they also attempt to hide their oneness with Mr. Ankerberg and Mr. Weldon, quoting their words but hiding their names under guise of "some observers."

"Observers" Ankerberg and Weldon's claim is that "to be accepted" we need to abandon Witness Lee's teachings on the Triune God, the mingling of God and man, the degradation of Christianity, etc. Their statement, which the CBs quote, is mainly attacking the writings of Witness Lee! Yet the CB's "borrow" or twist Ankerberg and Weldon's words attacking the ministry of Brother Lee and try to make them imply that they only object to the blending co-workers. How despicable!

In fact Mr. Ankerberg is not an "observer" in the any ordinary meaning of the word. He put his name on ECNR without ever attending a meeting of the churches and without talking to any co-worker, leading brother, or member of any of our churches. He relied solely on his co-author, Mr. Weldon's writings. Mr. Weldon, however, also failed to ever attend any of our meetings or talk with any co-worker, leading brother or member of any of the churches. Instead, Mr. Weldon wrote relying heavily on uncorroborated material from a book held libelous in 1985, The God-men.

Some dissenting publications by the CBs are also posted on opposers' web sites. Thus, the CBs attack LSM and the co-workers while being joined with long-time opposers of the Lord's recovery. They make "strange bedfellows," but bedfellows nonetheless because they share the common aim to tear down the ministry the Lord raised up through our brothers and now desires to continue through those who seek to closely follow them.

In relation to those who carry on in such a divisive manner, we should apply Paul's word in Titus 3:10: " A factious man, after a first and second admonition, refuse."


Your brothers in Christ,

Dan Sady      Bill Buntain


Note:

1 Regarding this litigation, please refer to http://contendingforthefaith.org/libel-litigations/harvest-house-et-al/progress.html.

2 The complete statement from Fuller Theological Seminary is available on a new site entitled The Testimony of the Local Churches and Living Stream Ministry.

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