There was a time when journalists or church leaders in search of a thoughtful critique of up-and-coming religious movements turned instinctively to the Berkeley, California-based Spiritual Counterfeits Project (SCP). When Time magazine ran a story on actress Shirley MacLaine’s New Age spiritual views, it quoted an SCP spokesperson for an evangelical response.
But today the organization is only a pale reflection of what it once was. According to several people close to SCP, part of its demise is attributable to a defamation lawsuit in the early 1980s that cost it $400,000 and sent it into bankruptcy.
In the ensuing years, the group has been hampered by internal conflicts, including differing concepts of what the organization should be. William Kellogg said he was warned before becoming an SCP board member last year that it was at times a “traumatized organization.”
Last fall the turmoil grew especially intense between two camps with differing visions for the group’s future. By the time the dispute had ended, all three of the ministry’s top staff members had departed, as had two board members. No remaining leader has been with the organization officially as long as two years.
The stage was set for last fall’s turmoil early in 1988 when the ministry’s entire board of directors stepped down. In their place came new board members, including Westmont College professor Ronald Enroth, who had served an earlier stint on SCP’s board; and author Tal Brooke, who played a major role in bringing others to the SCP board in the summer of 1988.
Amid disagreement between the staff and the board over how the organization was being run, the staff last summer drafted a proposal outlining its views of what the organization should be.1