Local Church Allegations

Local Church controversies

Non-Theological Controversies

Naming Issues

Internally, the Local Church movement generally refers to itself as "The Lord's Recovery". Some critics claim that, as Watchman Nee and Witness Lee never claimed the name "Local Church" for the movement, and since the name was applied by those outside the movement, the term "local church" cannot be considered a trademark or service mark of any organization and remains in the public domain. See local churches for further explanation of the name(s) of the group.

Despite the general rejection of the name The Local Church; on May 23, 2001, the Church in Houston (TX) began attempts to seek WIPO mediation in order to acquire the domain name from Jim Moran of Light of Truth Ministries, a ministry critical of Witness Lee and the Local Churches based on "trademark rights" based on other's referral to "the Church in Houston" as the "local church".

The WIPO mediation panel found that the Church in Houston's claim to the domain name was not valid, due to several factors including that many more local churches besides the Church in Houston could claim usage of the service mark The Local Church, and thus rejected their claim to the domain name WIPO


In the early days of the Local Churches, a need to generate money to support full-time workers led some in the leadership to seek out money-generating businesses to invest in. A struggling RV company (Daystar) was purchased. To acquire and run the business, members of the Local Churches were invited to invest in the business venture as the Lord led them but were not required to do so. Witness Lee was the chairman of the board of the company. Shortly after the business was started, the oil crisis of the 1970s sent gas prices soaring and the market for gas fell drastically. Only 16 RVs were built and sold around $70,000 each before 1975. Later the Daystar factory located in Kaohsiung Taiwan was converted into a chairs manufacturing plant. Several churches then purchased their meeting chairs in the meeting halls from Daystar. Eventually, Daystar did close their business. Some of the members who could afford to, decided to consider their business investment a donation while others who chose to, were fully paid back. The remaining Daystar debts were paid by Witness Lee so they could recover their investment. Witness Lee reportedly expressed regret for the mistake. In 1988 an anonymous pamphlet written by an "ex-member" who to this day refuses to identify himself entitled Reconsideration of the Vision brought forth unsubstantiated allegations related to Daystar including coercion and the spiritual intimidation of some members who invested as well as the misappropriation of money that include members of Witness Lee's family. (1988). Reconsideration of the Vision.

Theological Controversies

Allegations against the Local Churches

This section attempts to summarize a number of allegations against the Local Churches theological stand. The Local churches differ from other Christian groups in the interpretation of a number of points, as does most of Christianity with itself, but they claim fully to agree with everything in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

Some of the critics of the local churches argues on the uses and practices in the local church such as of "Calling on the Name of the Lord" and "Pray-Reading (the verses of the Bible)" as they resemble Buddhist style mantras. However, for many Christians the practice of praying while reading the Bible is perfectly normal. Even Martin Luther wrote about his practice of turning passages of the Bible into prayer. Yet some critics argue that local church members worship the published words through their practice of Pray-Reading.

Critics claim that the Local Church reverses the meaning of such essential beliefs as salvation, redemption, divine love, human nature and the Name of Christ. For example, the central doctrine of the group is "God became man that man would become God in life and nature, but not in the Godhead." As taught in the Local Church, this means that man must grow in the life of God until he is completely transformed into Christ's image, fully expressing God. Some critics claim that the local churches reverse the meaning of "Unchristian doctrines", however the result of this double-negative is in fact to proclaim "Christian doctrine".

Some critics claim that the local church hates Christendom and affirm their disdain for traditional denominational Christianity as a religious system. Critics points to footnotes in the Recovery Version of the Bible stating both the Protestant and Catholic Christianity as a tool of Satan to destroy God's economy.

In 1977, two books, The Mindbenders and The God-Men were published accusing the "Local Church" of being a cult. Churches and individuals associated with "the Local Church" have successfully sued certain critics for libel on these and different occasions. After defendants exhausted their finances and resources, The Mindbenders was eventually retracted and withdrawn from publication with a public apology, and The God-Men was determined in court to be “in all major respects false, defamatory and unprivileged, and, therefore, libelous.” However, the trial was uncontested when the defendant declared bankruptcy the day of the trial, and could not appear in court. Also, the author of The God-Men moved to Denmark immediately before the trial. The decision was thus delivered in default.


The Mindbenders

In 1980, four separate lawsuits were filed against Thomas Nelson by the local churches in Anaheim, Dallas, Atlanta, and Cleveland, for a total of $37 million. When Thomas Nelson's liability insurance was near exhaustion, Thomas Nelson opted to settle out of court and issued a retraction as part of the settlement, which appeared in several newspapers. This retraction does not commented on alleged errors in the book; neither does it apologized for its content. The retraction was issued by Thomas Nelson, whereas Jack Sparks (author of the book) did not issue any retraction.

Harvest House Publishers

In 1999, an entry on the local churches and Living Stream Ministry was included in the book The Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, published by Harvest House Publications. The local churches and Living Stream Ministry sued the publisher for $136 million dollars.

Texas Judiciary Opinions

On January 5, 2006 the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas issued this opinion In conclusion, the court stated:

"Because the allegedly libel statements are not defamatory, as a matter of law, we sustain the publisher and authors’ first issue on appeal. Accordingly, we need not address the remaining issues and decline to do so.

"We reverse the judgment of the trial court and render judgment that the church take nothing from the publisher and authors."

On December 1, 2006, the decision was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

U.S. Supreme Court

On May 16, 2007 the Local Church and Living Stream petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. On June 18, 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition by Living Stream and the Local Church


External links

Related to Controversies

  • Concerned Brothers Site by dissidents and ex-members
  • Harvest House Publishers Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Harvest House
  • An Open Letter To the Leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the "Local Churches" by more than 70 evangelical Christian scholars
  • Response to the Open Letter A Brief Response to “An Open Letter to the Leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the Local Churches”
  • A Faithful Word Accusations Against LSM and What Is Behind Them
  • Contending for Faith This Web site addresses controversies that have arisen from time to time concerning the ministry of Watchman Nee, Witness Lee, and the local churches

Regarding Lawsuits

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