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  • Title:

    Harvest House – A Brief Chronology of Events (Nov. – Dec. 2001)

    Summary:

    A chronology of the events in November and December 2001 leading to the filing of a libel complaint against Harvest House, John Ankerberg, and John Weldon for the publication of the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions. The events in these two months show the local churches seeking Christian reconciliation versus the duplicity of Harvest House and its authors in negotiating in bad faith and initiating legal action.

    Harvest House – A Brief Chronology of Events (Nov. – Dec. 2001)

    An Accurate Timeline

    Harvest House attempted to portray itself as the victim in the dispute with the local churches and Living Stream Ministry (LSM) over the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (ECNR). Our hope is that this simple yet thoroughly documented account will dispel that distortion. The following is a brief chronology of events over the month starting from the submission a letter providing extensive documentation of our objections to ECNR. That letter and the supporting documents were prepared at the request of Bob Hawkins, Jr., John Ankerberg, and John Weldon.

    Chronology

    November Events

    November 20, 2001 — Representatives of the local churches and Living Stream Ministry send a letter with an extensive set of attachments documenting the distortions in ECNR to Bob Hawkins, Jr., John Ankerberg, and John Weldon.1 (view) In particular:

    • “Exhibit B: ECNR‘s Specific Misrepresentations Concerning the Local Churches”2 (view) exposes ECNR‘s inaccurate presentation of the beliefs of the local churches.
    • “Exhibit C: Quotation Abuse and Distortions in ‘Doctrinal Summary'”3 (view) demonstrates that all of the quotes used in the Doctrinal Summary in “The Local Church” chapter in ECNR were taken out of context.

    November 29, 2001 — Bob Hawkins, Jr., responds to the churches and LSM saying, “We will provide you with a response, though it will not be within the very short period of time demanded by your letter… I assure you that the points made in your letter will be carefully reviewed and evaluated, and an appropriate response will be provided to you as soon as it can be prepared.”4 (view)

    On the same day author John Weldon contacts a fellow opposer of the local churches (JM) and asks for his help.5 (view) At this point the nature of the help Weldon is soliciting is undefined, but over the next few days it becomes clear that he is seeking material to form the basis of a revised and expanded chapter on “The Local Church” for a new edition of ECNR needed to fill a large pending order. The revised chapter drops all of the quotes used in the previous edition, and the entire presentation of the beliefs of the local churches is rewritten.

    November 30, 2001 — Weldon admits to JM that “This chapter was one of 65 I wrote 15-20 years ago at a rate of (researching & writing) 100-200 pages per month, so it’s possible I made a mistake.”6 (view)

    During the next several days, Weldon’s further “research” consists of copying and pasting quotes from JM’s site. Based on that material, Weldon drafts a new version of “The Local Church” chapter for a planned reprinting of ECNR.

    December Events

    December 10, 2001 — Weldon tells JM:

    Because of the tight deadline, I decided to do the chapter first, then the notes. I will send the chapter to the publisher on Wednesday & then do the footnotes. They will probably be done Thursday evening & I can then send you the chapter, so you can check them. You can do this while the publisher is typesetting.7 (view)

    December 11, 2001 — An attorney representing the local churches writes to Harvest House’s attorney requesting a tolling agreement to extend the statute of limitations so that a negotiated settlement of the dispute can still be pursued.8 (view) This was necessary because all that was known at the time was that ECNR was printed in 2001 and there is a concern that the statute of limitations would expire at the end of the year or shortly thereafter and Hawkins had indicated that the churches should not expect a response before the end of the year.

    On the same day, John Weldon sends the first of the following series of e-mails asking JM to send him scanned copies of individual pages from books quoted on JM’s site.

    12/11/01 1:24 PM9 (view)
    12/11/01 5:14 PM10 (view)
    12/13/01 12:15 AM11 (view)
    12/13/01 10:43 AM12 (view)
    12/13/01 12:16 PM13 (view)
    12/14/01 2:46 PM14 (view)

    December 12, 2001 — John Ankerberg writes to a friend asking him to review the revised chapter.15 (view) In his letter Ankerberg says:

    We are going to put this into our Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions. They are taking legal action against us and Harvest House Publishers. I have gone ahead anyway, as I think they are wrong!

    Later Ankerberg and his attorneys will claim that this chapter was prepared for settlement purposes, not publication, but this claim is not supported by any of the contemporaneous correspondence. Ankerberg’s representation to his friend the local churches “are taking legal action” is also false, as no such action had been taken at this time.

    December 13, 2001 — Weldon tells JM:

    We decided to do a more extensive treatment for the next printing because of the suit. But the publisher was ready to go to print with the next edition, so they put the squeeze on. The publisher is demanding I recheck all quotatiions [sic] to be sure they are in context. The last minute thing was not my idea, but the result of the suit and the publisher going back to reprinting.16 (view)

    There was no suit at this point, unless he is talking about the one Harvest House has decided to file (see the next item).

    December 14, 2001 — Harvest House files suit against “The Church in Fullerton Corporation” in Oregon Circuit Court (signed by Harvest House counsel on 12/13/01).17 (view) No warning was provided that this suit was coming. In fact, at the time the churches and LSM were still seeking a negotiated settlement as evidenced by their request for a tolling agreement.

    December 14, 2001 — Harvest House sends the attorney representing the local churches a revised and expanded chapter on “The Local Church” along with some cosmetic changes to the Introduction which says:

    The Local Church, with about 2500 churches globally, is unique among the groups in this encyclopedia. It is not a cult in the negative sense of the term, nor do the characteristics of cults in the Introduction generally apply to them.18

    December 18, 2001 — Weldon admits to JM that he does not know if “The Local Church” is a cult.19 (view)

    Harvest House did, in fact, reprint ECNR, even after the Plaintiffs filed suit against them on December 31, 2001. They did not, however, incorporate the revised chapter, but retained their original material.

    Conclusion

    The only responses the local churches and LSM ever received from Harvest House were a lawsuit, a proposed expansion of the ECNR‘s distorted portrayal of the local churches, and a reprinting of the book. Far from being “carefully reviewed and evaluated,” the objections sent to the publisher and authors in November of 2001 were cast aside without consideration. Instead, Weldon busied himself with expanding his attack. His “research” was completed in a matter of a few days, much as his earlier research had been carried out at breakneck speed. His research “methodology” was to go to a Web site that shared his prejudices to pick out some quotes that fit his purpose and then ask the Web site owner to scan individual pages of books and send them to him.


    Notes:

    1Letter from Andrew Yu, Richard Taylor, and Daniel Towle to Robert Hawkins, Jr., cc’d to John Ankerberg and John Weldon, November 20, 2001.

    2Exhibit B: ECNR‘s Specific Misrepresentations Concerning the Local Churches.”

    3Exhibit C: Quotation Abuse and Distortions in ‘Doctrinal Summary’“.

    4Letter from Robert Hawkins, Jr., to Andrew Yu, Richard Taylor, and Daniel Towle, November 29, 2001.

    5E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, November 29, 2001.

    6E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, November 30, 2001.

    7E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 10, 2001.

    8Letter from Barry Langberg to Leonard DuBoff, December 11, 2001.

    9E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 11, 2001.

    10E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 11, 2001.

    11E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 13, 2001.

    12E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 13, 2001.

    13E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 13, 2001.

    14E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 14, 2001.

    15Letter from John Ankerberg to Dr. Norman Geisler, December 12, 2001.

    16E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 13, 2001.

    17Complaint — Declaratory Judgment, Harvest House Publishers v. The Church in Fullerton, filed in the Circuit Court for the State of Oregon, County of Lane, December 14, 2001.

    18John Ankerberg and John Weldon, draft revision of “The Local Church” chapter, sent to Barry Langberg on December 14, 2001.

    19E-mail from John Weldon to Jim Moran, December 18, 2001.