It took a lot of courage, but after an intense six year investigation the world’s most respected counter-cult organization, the Christian Research Institute (CRI), issued an apology under the heading: “We Were Wrong.”
President Hank Hanegraaff summarized the findings of his organisation’s research in a 50 page treatment of the matter (Christian Research Journal, Issue 32-06. See http://journal.equip.org/articles/we-were-wrong). Under scrutiny was a movement simply known as the “local churches” (without capitilisation), associated with the work of the Chinese Christian Witness Lee, who worked with and under the direction of the legendary Chinese martyr Watchman Nee.
Nee sent Lee to Taiwan in the late 1940’s to expand the work there, and was imprisoned for his faith soon after. Lee carried on with the work, which experienced tremendous growth under his leadership, and took it to the United States in the 1960’s. Today there are thousands of local churches worldwide.
For years many churches in the West called Lee’s work sectarian and even cultic, hence the investigation by CRI. Some of the accusations against Lee included anti-Trinitarian views and the “deification” of man, but both were refuted by the investigation.
The real unhappiness, it would appear, stems from Nee and Lee’s teaching that denominationalism is sinful and divides the one body of Christ. As with the churches in the Bible, each town or city should have only one local church, named according to location (e.g. The Church in Bloemfontein), even if they meet in different venues for practical purposes. Nee was so slandered for his criticism of denominational division that he once wrote “The Watchman Nee portrayed by them I would also condemn.” And Lee is still called a heretic by thousands, in spite of CRI’s findings.
Cultic? Perhaps we should not shoot the messenger because we do not like the message.