Concerning the Public Response of the Elders in Akron
to a Private E-mail from Benson Phillips
Elders in some churches in the Ohio area, perhaps out of misplaced personal loyalty, have chosen to publicly oppose the quarantine of Titus Chu. That quarantine is being carried out by the churches based on the fellowship of the co-workers. Such opposition to the quarantining of a divisive member is in contradiction to the standing of oneness in the Body of Christ and is heart-rending to those who know and care for the Body. That brothers should become so insensitive to the feeling of the Body is a real loss, to them personally, to the church in which they are serving, and to the Body.
Feeling such a loss, although he did not know them personally, Brother Benson Phillips privately wrote to the elders who had made public statements against the quarantine urging them to not simply react on Titus Chu's behalf, but to carefully read the four sets of documents handed out at Whistler and to listen to the video of the sharing by the co-workers and other brothers concerning the divisive work of Titus Chu. The brothers in Akron responded to Brother Benson's private correspondence by publicly posting a harshly worded response. Because their public response does not properly represent the content or spirit of Benson's concerns, we have received permission from Benson to publish what he wrote.
The following is Benson's email to the leading brothers in Akron:
Although I have not had the privilege of knowing most of you intimately nor have I coordinated with all of you within the Lord's recovery, my heart is broken. Why? It is because I love the recovery with all the churches and the saints very much as you do, yet I have seen the stand that you brothers have taken representing the church in Akron, declaring your oneness with Titus and your continuing support of him after the current situation regarding his teaching and practice in the Lord's recovery was made abundantly apparent by the clear presentation in Whistler, Canada in a five-hour fellowship with over 900 elders and responsible ones from local churches throughout the earth. By taking the stand you are taking which has been made clear over the internet, it seems that you all have not listened to the five-hour fellowship nor read the four handouts that were distributed, but are only reacting to the warning statement concerning Titus. While we were in Whistler, the present facts concerning his teaching and ways of working in Taiwan, Korea, China, Australasia, and the United States were made very clear and unambiguous.
From the rebellion in the late 1980's, remember well Brother Lee's words in answer to a dissenting brother's question regarding John Ingalls when he asked Brother Lee why in the past he had spoken well of John but now he was warning others concerning him. Brother Lee answered in two words, "People change." My prayer is that the Lord would be merciful to you all that the action to quarantine Titus and the warning statement that was written and signed by many co-workers throughout the earth would not become grounds for some to do something in the Lord's recovery in the nature of what Korah, Dathan, and Abiram did in Numbers 16 and 17. Because this rebellion is referred to again in Jude, it is clear that in principle certain New Testament believers can become involved in the same. We stand with you all and are praying in these days for you and all the saints in the church in Akron. Before the Lord, your responsibility is great.
A Mocking Response
Out of his deep care for the Lord's recovery and for the leading ones and the saints in Akron, Brother Benson Phillips made a personal plea to these brothers to respect the quarantine on Titus Chu and certain of his co-workers. In contrast to the tone of concern in Benson's letter, the response of the brothers in Akron can only be characterized as caustic. That in itself would be cause for alarm, but the brothers in Akron went further by publicly posting their response to Benson's private e-mail. In doing so, they did not even let people know what he had, in fact, written to them. By examining elements of the respective communications and the history leading up to them, it is clear that the elders in Akron have publicly misrepresented many points in Benson's appeal.
In what follows, words from the Akron elders' letter are in brown:
Thank you for your "form letter" of concern for us. (At least 5 other churches received virtually identical letters - probably more. Only the name of the locality was changed.)
The scornful tone of the opening portion of their letter deserves some comment. Benson is not a young brother. He has served faithfully in the Lord's recovery for many years, including among the churches in Texas, New England, Russia and now Southern California. He travels not only to speak in conferences and trainings but to shepherd many churches and brothers with personal care. He wrote to the brothers in Akron at a time when he was under a doctor's orders and the fellowship of the brothers with whom he co-labors to rest for the sake of his health in order to preserve his usefulness in his service to the Lord for the long term. In our view, his adult life has been a living sacrifice to the Lord and His Body. Whether or not that is the view of the Akron elders, Benson wrote to them privately and in a respectful and loving tone. In the Akron elders' letter they claim: "We love the ministries of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. They brought us the truth according to the Bible, and they taught us to live according to it." Sadly, their public exhibition of a despising and mocking attitude does not bear witness to their claim.
Because Benson Phillips did not know the brothers personally and because his words were equally fitting in each church, he used the same text in each of his letters. That does not make his words any less heartfelt or any less relevant to the elders in Akron.
An Ill-founded Complaint of No Fellowship
If you had really read our letter, you would realize that our response was based on more than your "Warning letter." It was also based on your refusal to fellowship over the many genuine concerns that we expressed to you in our earlier correspondence. Once again, your email fails to respond to those concerns.
"If you had really read our letter"—Benson did read these brothers' letter rejecting the quarantine and that letter's ill-founded complaints claiming that the co-workers had failed to fellowship with Titus and themselves. The Akron brothers' initial letter rejecting the quarantine only states that they considered two documents: "A Warning to All the Saints and All the Churches..." and "Different Teachings and Dissenting Views..." Therefore, Benson's email repeatedly referred them back to all of the materials presented in Whistler and to the video of the meeting itself. Those missed or neglected resources clearly establish the extensiveness of the fellowship that took place between the co-workers and Titus Chu concerning his deviations and clearly explain why the co-workers' attempts to resolve them through fellowship with Titus were eventually halted. (See, for example, the co-workers letters of June 4, 2005 and June 27, 2006 to Titus Chu and listen to the sharing in the Audio/video recording of the ITERO special meeting.)
These materials should address any sincere concerns as to whether the co-workers were proper in conducting both their fellowship and cessation of fellowship (first in person and then in writing) with Titus Chu. The private fellowship between the co-workers and Titus took place repeatedly over a significant period of time, during which time Titus did not request that the Akron elders be included. The only remaining complaint these brothers seem to have is that for some reason they felt that they should have been included.
The elders in Akron claim that their requests for fellowship have been rejected. In fact, the Akron elders have insisted, despite the co-workers' entreaties for times for fellowship, that they would only fellowship with the co-workers if Titus Chu was present. Personal loyalty to one worker over all others is not healthy. Such loyalty appears to be one factor that has led these elders to reject sober fellowship from the 63 co-workers and many churches whose quarantine they openly oppose.
The co-workers' reasons for not continuing fellowship with Titus are well-documented. In the co-workers' letter of June 27, 2006, to Titus Chu, the co-workers made very clear why they felt continued "fellowship" would not be profitable unless there was first some repentance on Titus' part. This pre-condition was set for several reasons, including:
- In speaking to others, Titus had misrepresented prior times of fellowship with the co-workers, in some cases representing his independent and divisive work as being covered under the fellowship of the blending brothers.
- In speaking to the co-workers, Titus did not tell the truth about his own activities and deliberately concealed his independent and divisive work.
- Titus did not keep the promises he had made to the co-workers in those times of fellowship and so had proved himself untrustworthy.
- Titus was dismissive of the co-workers' concerns, continuing in his destructive behavior even when it was pointed out by the co-workers.
- Titus justified himself by appeals to biased understandings of Brother Lee's ministry, based on whether the words could be made suitable to his own ends, while tearing down the genuine heart of Brother Nee and Brother Lee's ministry, which is by one work and one ministry to build up the one Body of Christ.
- Titus carried out activities in rivalry with the general ministry in the Lord's recovery, despising and poisoning others concerning that ministry.
- The increasingly blatant rejections of the co-workers' fellowship and attempts to help him were an open manifestation of a long history of divisive behavior dating back to Brother Lee's attempts to adjust Titus' work at a time when his deviation was much more hidden.
Therefore, the co-workers told Titus:
Because of this we can agree to have a further time of fellowship only if you are willing to have a genuine, substantive, and open change in the matters we have brought up above and in many times of fellowship we have had with you in the past.
In the light of the issues the co-workers raised in person and in writing, Titus' complaint that there should have been more fellowship can only be seen as an attempt to avoid dealing with the serious problems concerning which he had already been made aware. When a brother exhibits no willingness to have genuine fellowship, but merely seeks a way to perpetuate his own independent, damaging and divisive activities without being adjusted or limited in any way, further fellowship is not profitable. It only enables the contentious one to continue to carry on his divisive work unchecked. The blending co-workers and the elders have a responsibility before the Lord to protect the saints in the churches from being damaged by such activities.
The Whistler Meeting Carried Out Under the Pattern of Witness Lee
We find it hard to believe that you were willing to waste the time of 900 elders and responsible brothers to publicly roast Brother Titus for 5 hours. It is even more outrageous that you would circulate a DVD of this event. Problems you had with him should have been dealt with in private fellowship. He requested such fellowship, and so did we. You chose to ignore our requests and go public. The day will come that you will have to answer to the Lord for the division that your action is causing.
This section of the Akron letter is best answered by asking our readers themselves to listen to the meeting being criticized. The special fellowship at the International Training of Elders and Responsible Ones in Whistler, Canada, was conducted in an exceedingly sober atmosphere based on prayer, Scripture and the testimony of many co-workers regarding the damage and division caused by Titus Chu in the work and in the local churches around the world. This atmosphere was certainly evident to those of us who were present, and it should be apparent to those who watch the meeting over the internet or on DVD. That fellowship included reports from Taiwan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the United States, as well as 4 sets of handouts, all of which substantiated the need for Titus Chu to be quarantined. Furthermore, this meeting was carried out according to the pattern which Brother Lee established in dealing with previous rebellions (see, for example, Elders' Training, Book 10: The Eldership and the God-ordained Way (2), chapter 6).
Loyalty to One Worker and Rejection of 63 Co-workers
The five hours given to the fellowship in Whistler were necessary to demonstrate to all the saints and to all the churches the source and extent of the problems caused by Titus Chu and the need for the co-workers' action in calling for a quarantine of him. To reject the co-workers' quarantine of Titus Chu is to also reject the testimonies given by many brothers who bear responsibility for the Lord's work throughout the earth concerning the damages Titus Chu and his work have caused. Whether or not the brothers in Akron listened to that fellowship is one matter; whether they will heed anyone outside their own circle is another critical question.
We agree with Brother Lee's statement that "people change." We have known Brother Titus intimately for many years. He has not changed. It is our feeling that it is you who have changed...
As seen here, these elders have rejected the testimonies from brothers around the world because they feel so intimately familiar with Titus. They assert that Titus "has not changed," and it may be that nothing has noticeably changed in their local dealings with Titus, but we are in the Body. The testimony of others in the Body is that Titus Chu's work has damaged the oneness in many parts of the earth and he therefore must be quarantined. Instead of hearing and receiving others' fellowship, the brothers Akron have relied solely on their personal experience and subjective impression— "our feeling"—to make further accusations.
Whose "Exclusive Denominationalism"?
Their charges continue: "It is our feeling that it is you who have changed, and that you are today leading the churches into exclusive denominationalism. We do not wish to follow you there." Later in their public letter they also assert: "You have narrowed the scope of fellowship to the point that we are in real danger of becoming a denomination." This subjective "feeling" of "danger" expressed by the elders is more clearly stated by other followers of Titus Chu. Their stand has cut off all of the local churches who quarantine and will not receive the ministry of Titus Chu, declaring that they are no longer local churches at all, but "ministry churches," i.e., "exclusive denominationalism."
This charge is based in part on the false charge that the co-workers and Living Stream Ministry have "insisted" on the churches and the saints being restricted in one publication. In their published statement on that subject the co-workers' statement clearly demonstrates there is no "exclusive" element or "narrowed" "scope of fellowship":
Finally, all the churches and saints everywhere must understand that the matter of one publication is not a matter of the common faith but something related to the one ministry in the Lord's recovery. The ministry is the sounding of the trumpet among us in the Lord's recovery, and there should be no uncertain sounding of this trumpet, as Brother Lee has mentioned on a number of occasions. However, the one publication should not become the basis of our accepting or rejecting any persons in the communion of faith or in the fellowship of the churches; it should not be insisted on as an item of the faith. If any are not inclined to be restricted in one publication, these ones are still our brothers; they are still in the genuine local churches. Publication Work in the Lord's Recovery, p. 9.
The accusations of exclusivity and that the co-workers have "narrowed the scope of fellowship" are wholly unsupported by facts. In the Lord's recovery we receive all believers, but, as the New Testament teaches, we do not receive all ministries. We specifically do not receive ministries that teach differently (1 Tim. 1:3-4; Rom. 16:17) or which build up personal followings, thereby becoming factors of division in the Body. It is not the co-workers' reaffirmation of Brother Lee's fellowship concerning being restricted in one publication that has caused division. That fellowship made it very clear that adherence to one publication work is not a condition of receiving either believers or churches in fellowship. One cause of the present turmoil in the Lord's recovery is the strident and public attack by a few against the general ministry being carried out by the co-workers in following the pattern of Brother Nee and Brother Lee to build up the one unique Body of Christ expressed as many local churches throughout the earth. The fact is that apart from the churches under Titus Chu's influence, there are thousands of local churches with tens of thousands of believers throughout the earth going on in one accord for the accomplishment of God's goal, the building up of the Body of Christ.
An Appeal to Hear the Voice of the Lord in the Testimony of Many Co-workers
Your thought that some could act in the nature of Korah indicates that you think of yourself as acting in the nature of Moses. Let us assure you, Brother Benson, that you are not Moses.
Here the Akron elders accuse Benson of personally equating himself with Moses. In fact, Benson said no such thing. They are also implying that the quarantine of Titus Chu carried out by the co-workers is Benson's personal attack upon Titus. Neither of these accusations is true.
Their mocking word, "Let us assure you, Brother Benson, that you are not Moses", is in response to Benson's sober exhortation, not to heed his personal warning, but to heed the warning "written and signed by many co-workers throughout the earth":
My prayer is that the Lord would be merciful to you all that the action to quarantine Titus and the warning statement that was written and signed by many co-workers throughout the earth would not become grounds for some to do something in the Lord's recovery in the nature of what Korah, Dathan, and Abiram did in Numbers 16 and 17. Because this rebellion is referred to again in Jude, it is clear that in principle certain New Testament believers can become involved in the same. We stand with you all and are praying in these days for you and all the saints in the church in Akron. Before the Lord, your responsibility is great.
The rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was against God's government, not merely against some person. Benson's reference to Jude should make this clear. There no "Moses" is identified, but there was nevertheless a rebellion against God's deputy authority in the Body. The quarantine of Titus Chu was a collective action of the co-workers as the representative members of the Body of Christ. We believe, as does Benson, that the government of God is very much related to His ministry and to the Body. When co-workers, elders and churches around the earth rise up to mark a person and a work as divisive, the Body and God's government are involved. The rejection of a quarantine carried out by the ministry and so many churches is a rejection of the feeling of the Body, as Brother Lee stated:
Both the ministry and the many churches in the recovery made a decision to quarantine certain divisive ones. Some did not accept this decision and have even joined these divisive ones. They have disregarded the feeling of the Body. How we behave ourselves depends upon the degree of our seeing the Body. (The Problems Causing the Turmoils in the Church Life, p. 29)
By directing their criticism at Brother Benson Phillips, the brothers in Akron disregard the fact that the quarantine was the result of much prayer and fellowship among many co-workers over several months based on attempts to resolve the issues with Titus and his ministry stretching back over several years. The quarantine of Titus Chu was not the decision of a few individuals, but of a large group of senior co-workers representing the leadership in the Lord's work over large parts of the globe.
Imagining that 63 Co-workers "Looked for Reasons" to Exclude Titus Chu
The tragedy is that the Akron elders imagine so many evils against the co-workers from around the world. In their first letter, published to reject the co-workers' call to quarantine Titus Chu, these elders claimed "It is obvious that you never had the intention to include Brother Titus Chu as a fellow worker, but have instead persistently looked for reasons to defame him and discredit his portion, labor, and ministry before the Lord." It further accuses those co-workers of carrying out "a methodical process to bring about your predetermined intention to exclude brother Titus Chu and others."
This assertion is contradicted by the facts. Read the three letters written by 21 of the co-workers to Titus Chu and listen to the speaking of the co-workers at Whistler. Since Brother Lee's passing, the co-workers have gathered over 70 times to pray and fellowship together concerning the direction of the Lord's recovery. Until very recently Titus Chu was invited to those gatherings, as were many serving in the churches receiving his ministry. He was included among the speakers in trainings and conferences until his insistence on speaking differently caused many brothers to feel that it was inappropriate for him to minister there. In fact, it was Titus who withdrew himself and discouraged his workers from attending the blending fellowship of the co-workers generally.
We put you more in the category of those Paul wrote about in Galatians 2:4-6, 4:17, and 6:12-13.
First the Akron elders accuse Benson Phillips of thinking he is a "Moses". Then they quote verses to label him a "false brother" "zealous" to oppose the gospel of grace and avoiding "the cross of Christ." They claim:
We have witnessed the many fleshy, divisive attacks you have directed against the churches in Mansfield and Columbus through your subordinates Chris Yap and Tim Knoppe.
These brothers have not witnessed Benson Phillips or any other co-worker doing such things. Their mind seems to have become so influenced against the co-workers that what is imagined in their minds becomes what they believe they "have witnessed". What they may have heard about second hand and reinterpreted in their minds are examples of dear saints in Mansfield and Columbus refusing to go along with some authoritarian elders who have demanded obedience to their directives, even in matters as private as offering to the Lord or listening to tapes of the co-workers in their own homes. In both churches the leading ones who follow Titus Chu have carried out mass excommunications of saints who desire to follow the ministry of Brother Nee and Brother Lee as continued by the blending co-workers. The Akron letter falsely labels Cres Yap and Tim Knoppe as "your subordinates". That accusation is false. Neither has Benson given any directives to Brother Tim Knoppe or to Brother Cres Yap. We have spoken to Brother Cres Yap and find that he is very burdened for the saints in Columbus. He was a member and elder of the church in Columbus early in its history until he migrated for a time to eastern Europe. He maintains a residence today in Columbus and continues to care for the saints there.
Brother Tim Knoppe served under Titus Chu's oversight in Mansfield, Uganda, and other places. Before going to Uganda, Tim was assured by Titus and the workers with him that his moving there to seek to raise up a church in Kampala was covered in the fellowship of all the co-workers. Brother Tim resigned after he confronted Titus with the co-workers' statement that the work in Africa had not been brought into fellowship. When confronted, Titus retorted, "I don't have to fellowship with those brothers." After Titus Chu's deception was uncovered, Tim Knoppe departed from the work in Kampala, Uganda. The nature of Titus' work was further exposed when the church in Kampala asked Titus to withdraw all of his workers because they were carrying out a divisive work. Rather than respecting the feeling of the local brothers, Titus sent more workers to carry out a work independently of the church in Kampala. After returning to the US, Brother Tim has been full of burden to continue his shepherding of the saints in both Elyria and Mansfield.
The elders from Akron distort the situation in both Mansfield and Columbus. In Mansfield four so-called elders, all newly appointed by Titus Chu, asserted their personal "authority" and proceeded to excommunicate twenty saints who they claimed were not making sufficient offerings to the Lord and would not recognize their "authority." These saints, some of whom had been in the church life for nearly 40 years, have been locked out of the meeting hall of the church in Mansfield.
In Columbus a group of elders appointed by Titus Chu ex-communicated 23 saints for carrying out "a parallel administration" because they gathered to listen to the audio tapes of the Summer 2006 Training. Contrary to the assumptions of the elders in Akron, these divisive acts are directly traceable to the leadership of Titus Chu. In both cases, the saints affected have taken the appropriate action of initiating fellowship with some of the co-workers, churches and saints to cover their situation. The Akron elders may think they know of many other evil reports, again aided perhaps by their own suppositions and imaginings. The Akron elders sum up these other accusations claiming, "The things that you do in secret we hear from the rooftops." Rather they should say, "The things we imagine in secret we publish on the Internet."
The response of the brothers in Akron to Benson Phillip's private entreaty is shameful. There is a stark contrast between Benson's entreaty for the brothers to soberly consider the entirety of the co-workers' fellowship as well as the feeling of the Body in exercising a quarantine over Titus Chu and the Akron brothers' acerbic public denigration of one who would earnestly plead with them out of his care for them and for the Lord's interest.