Article Summary:

This 2008 book contains statements from Hank Hanegraaff, President of Christian Research Institute; Gretchen Passantino, director of Answers in Action; and Fuller Theological Seminary that attest to the orthodoxy of the teaching and practice of the local churches.

The Local Churches: “Genuine Believers and Fellow Members of the Body of Christ”

This book contains statements from leaders of three prominent Christian organizations concerning the orthodoxy of the local churches:

  • Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute (CRI),
  • Gretchen Passantino, Director of Answers in Action (AIA), and
  • Fuller Theological Seminary, represented by:
    • President Richard Mouw,
    • Dean of Theology Howard Loewen, and
    • Professor of Systematic Theology Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

Their statements affirm that those in the local churches are, in the words of the Fuller scholars, “genuine believers and fellow members of the Body of Christ.”

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Hank Hanegraaff, President, Christian Research Institute:

“First, the local churches are not a cult from a theological perspective…. Furthermore, the local churches are not a cult from a sociological perspective…. Finally, the local churches are an authentic expression of New Testament Christianity. Moreover, as a group forged in the cauldron of persecution, it has much to offer Western Christianity.”

Gretchen Passantino, Founder and Director, Answers in Action:

“The local churches are a legitimate, theologically orthodox, spiritually faithful involvement by means of which your offspring can develop genuine Christian commitment and maturity.”

“The most significant re-assessment from my career concerns the teachings and practices of a movement of Christians with its origins in China popularly described as the local churches, founded under the teachings of the two Christians from China, Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.”

“Church life in the local churches is primarily distinguished from typical American evangelicalism because of the local churches’ attempts to experience church as they think it was in the New Testament.”

“A Christian believer who joins the local churches will find sound theology, enriching worship, challenging discipleship, and enthusiastic evangelism opportunities. After 40 years of Christian faith, I have not lost my ‘first love’ of Jesus Christ. I recognize that same vibrant Spirit in the local churches.”

Fuller Theological Seminary:

“Fuller conducted a thorough review and examination of the major teachings and practices of the local churches.”

“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.”

“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. We consistently discovered that when examined fairly in the light of scripture and church history, the actual teachings in question have significant biblical and historical credence. Therefore, we believe that they deserve the attention and consideration of the entire Body of Christ.”

“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.”

For more information concerning these dialogues and their outcomes, please refer to:

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