An ad hoc group of 60 evangelical leaders published an open letter in January challenging Living Stream Ministry (LSM) to disavow controversial statements from founder Witness Lee, who died in 1997. The open letter renews arguments hashed out for more than three decades about LSM and its Local Churches. Local Churches claim between 30,000 and 40,000 members in North America, along with at least 300,000 more worldwide.
Signers included noted evangelical scholars Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary; Gordon Lewis, professor emeritus at Denver Seminary; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson; and Earl Radmacher, president emeritus at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.
The letter asks LSM to disavow and cease publishing statements from Lee on the doctrine of God and doctrine of man. "The letter also asks LSM and the 'local churches' to renounce statements made by Lee that denigrate evangelical Christian denominations and organizations," a release from the signers said. "Finally, the letter appeals to the leadership of LSM and the 'local churches' to discontinue their use of lawsuits and threatened litigation against Christian individuals and organizations to answer criticisms or resolve disputes."
In response to a Harvest House Publishers suit against them, LSM/Local Churches sued the publishing house and authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon over the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions, a 1999 volume that included them. In December 2006, the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition to review the $136 million lawsuit, which a Texas Court of Appeals rejected in January 2006. A Harvest House spokesman said neither the firm nor authors Ankerberg or Weldon organized the open letter.
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