On paper, a September conference sponsored by Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) seemed to be a gathering focused on dealing with questionable religious movements. But behind the scenes, much more was accomplished. Countercult ministries that have been feuding with one another began steps toward reconciliation and mutual respect.
EMNR, a consortium of ministries, has operated in fits and starts since 1982, its efforts sometimes interrupted by disputes within its ranks. "I confess I failed to anticipate the problems that could arise in the simple idea of an organization to help others," says the organization's founder, Gordon Lewis of Denver Seminary.
Presiding over the summit in Atlanta, EMNR board member Craig Branch of Birmingham, executive director of Watchman Fellowship, told his fellow cult watchers, "Maturity and knowledge are much needed in order to have an effective front. There have been a number of Christians who, in zeal and sincere efforts, have caused problems."
The four-hour meeting preceding EMNR's annual conference produced rough ideas for ethical guidelines on everything from plagiarism to criticism of fellow ministries, which will be smoothed out by a committee within the next few months.
"People in countercult ministries have honest differences of opinion among themselves," says Rob Bowman, director of research for the Atlanta Cult Awareness Project. "We're going to have to learn to live with that."
BINDING UP WOUNDS: Bowman has firsthand familiarity with such disagreement. A former staff member of Christian Research Institute (CRI) in Irvine, California, Bowman served as spokesperson for the 35-member ad hoc Group for CRI Accountability, which made allegations against CRI president Hank Hanegraaff. ...1