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The Christian Research Journal, Volume 32, Number 06 (2009)

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04 From the President
We Were Wrong!

06 Effective Evangelism
Spiritual Boot Camp

07 Cultic, Aberrant, or (Unconventionally) Orthodox?
A Reassessment of the “Local Church” Movement

by Elliot Miller
New Religious Movements/Doctrinal Discernment: One of the largest and most dynamic Christian movements in China, the “local churches” (LC) of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, planted churches in the United States beginning in the 1960s. It was greeted with suspicion by the evangelical community, and it was not long before CRI and other discernment ministries began labeling it heretical. But, after a six-year reevaluation, CRI has concluded that the LC has been misunderstood and is neither cultic nor aberrant, but merely different. Learn the reasons why in this special five-part article, along with some valuable lessons on how to do—and not to do—discernment ministry

08 Part 1:The “Local Church” as Movement and Source of Controversy
The LC have persevered through persecution in China and charges of cultism in the West. Here is an overview of their history, from the conversion of Watchman Nee in 1920 to the release in 2007 of an “open letter” calling on them to withdraw three of the teachings of Witness Lee and to renounce their use of litigation against Christians

14 Part 2: Addressing the Open Letter’s Concerns: On the Nature of God (see download above)
Witness Lee said that Jesus is both the Father and the Holy Spirit. He also denied that he was teaching the ancient heresy of modalism. Lee’s critics insist that these two statements are contradictory, but have they missed something in Lee’s writings that would reconcile them?

24 Part 3: Addressing the Open Letter’s Concerns: On the Nature of Humanity (see download above)
Witness Lee taught that the culmination of God’s salvation plan is for believers to become God. This sounds heretical, but before setting Lee’s books on fire (or adding our names to an open letter), shouldn’t we first find out what he meant by that?

32 Part 4: Addressing the Open Letter’s Concerns: On the Legitimacy of Evangelical Churches and Denominations (see download above)
Witness Lee wrote that “the denominational organizations have been utilized by Satan to set up his satanic system to destroy God’s economy of the proper church life.” By this many Christians assume Lee is claiming that only his movement has true churches and that denominational Christians are lost and outside the universal church; but these have never been Lee’s claims

38 Part 5: Addressing the Open Letter’s Concerns: On Lawsuits with Evangelical Christians (see download above)
The “local church” movement has sued evangelical publishers and authors three times in the past three decades. To many evangelicals this makes the LC aggressors and the authors and publishers victims. Again, however, things are not as simple as they seem

47 The Conclusion of the Matter: We Were Wrong (see download above)

48 No Longer a Heretical Threat; Now Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: Why, concerning the Local Churches, I No Longer Criticize, but Instead Commend (see download above)
by Gretchen Passantino
New Religious Movements/Doctrinal Discernment: The coauthor of the first published critique of the LC in America explains how it was possible for researchers and ministries with well-earned reputations for accuracy to get it so wrong when it came to the LC

52 Reviews
A Summary Critique: The Case for God: A Tolerant Condescension…Signature in the Cell: Intelligence or Chance?Only a Theory: Darwinism in the Public Square… Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion

60 Viewpoint
Abortion and Health Care Reform: Knowing Right from Wrong

62 Ask Hank
Are the Local Churches, Founded by Watchman Nee and His Protégé Witness Lee, a Pseudo-Christian Cult?