Nigel Tomes' Deceptive Appeal to Watchman Nee
to Defend Titus Chu's Divisive Work in Uganda
The selective editing of a quote of Watchman Nee in an attempt to justify a divisive work being carried out in Uganda 1 by workers associated with Titus Chu is a telling example of dishonest treatment of Brother Nee's ministry that should thoroughly discredit that work, the article defending it, and its author, Nigel Tomes. 2 The article defends Titus Chu's ongoing divisive work in Uganda using the following excerpt from The Normal Christian Church Life 3 :
The church has the full authority either to receive or reject a worker… Should he know unmistakably that God has led him to work in that place, yet the church refuse to welcome him… then he must obey the command of God and go and work there despite them. [Nigel's emphasis]
Nigel claims that the workers associated with Titus Chu were sent to Kampala, Uganda, by the Lord and thus whether the church in Kampala welcomes them or not, they must remain there and carry out their separate work. This misrepresentation of Brother Nee's ministry demonstrates a complete lack of integrity on Nigel's part. He has excerpted a few phrases (note his use of ellipses) that appear to justify Titus Chu's continued divisive work in Uganda and completely neglects the full context of Brother Nee's fellowship. If you compare the facts concerning Titus Chu's work in Kampala with Brother Nee's fellowship in its full context, it is more than clear that Titus Chu's work is sectarian and divisive.
The undisputed facts concerning the church in Kampala are these:
- Two brothers, Tim Knoppe and Steve Lietzau, and their wives were sent to Kampala to raise up the church there. 4 They labored faithfully and brought the saints in the church in Kampala into the unique New Testament ministry brought to the Lord's recovery by the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, primarily by using the Life-studies and the Recovery Version.
- Approximately two years after the church in Kampala was established, Titus Chu sent other brothers to Kampala with instructions to change the direction of the work. At their insistence, the church was divided into three groups. A new worker sent by Chu re‑directed the labor to work on the campus and brought a number of saints from the church in Kampala into that work with him. As the nature and fruit of that change was manifested, the local brothers taking the lead in the church along with the saints who had first established the church in Kampala could not agree with the direction the workers were taking or with their interference in the church.
- When Tim Knoppe learned that Titus Chu was directing this work apart from the common fellowship and agreement of the co-workers, he withdrew from it, and he and his wife moved back to the United States. Steve Lietzau and his wife later did the same.
- As the rift between the work and the church widened, the worker sent by Titus Chu to carry out the campus work wrote to Tim, Steve, and the two leading brothers in Kampala, Godwin Kihuguru and Sam Mpuga on March 27, 2006. 5 He told them that the work would go its own separate way. Contrary to every scriptural principle, he asked them "not to contact those who we are laboring with." He promised not "to use the name ‘the church in Kampala'," a promise that was soon broken. 6 Since that time, the workers sent by Titus Chu have gathered a group of believers around their work separate and apart from the church in Kampala.
- The next day Godwin Kihuguru and Sam Mpuga wrote to Titus Chu, telling him that:
- "[Y]our work has brought in a different direction that was not in fellowship with the church and that has not been received by the church.
- "The church in Kampala finds that this work has proven to be divisive and contrary to the church. Even claiming some of the younger members as belonging to the work."
- "We therefore ask you to remove your co-workers from the city in Kampala to avoid further damage to the saints under our care." 7
- Titus Chu disregarded the request of the leading brothers in Kampala. Instead of withdrawing his workers, he sent more.
If you read just the elided excerpt quoted by Nigel, it might appear that Titus Chu's independent work in Africa is justified. However, if you read Brother Nee's fellowship in its full context, quite the opposite is true. Here is what Brother Nee actually said (the portion in italics is what Nigel excerpted; boldface has been added for emphasis):
When an apostle comes to a place where a local church already exists, he must never forget that no church authority rests with him. Should he desire to work in a place where the local church does not wish to have him, then all he can do is to pass on to some other part. The church has full authority either to receive or reject a worker. Even should the worker in question have been used of God to found the very church that rejects him, he can claim no authority in the church on that account.
Should he know unmistakably that God has led him to work in that place, yet the local church refuse to welcome him, if they persist in their attitude, then he must obey the command of God and go and work there despite them . But he must not gather believers around him, nor must he on any account form a separate church. There can only be one church in one place. If he forms a separate company of believers where a local church already exists, he will be forming a sect and not a church. Churches are founded on the ground of locality, not on the ground of receiving a certain apostle. Even if the local church refused to receive him, and his work had to be done without its sympathy and cooperation, or even despite its opposition, still all the results of his labors must be for their benefit. Despite its attitude toward the apostle personally, all the fruit of his labors must be contributed to that church. The sole aim of all work for God is the increase and up-building of the local churches. If they welcome the worker, the result of his labors goes to them; if they reject him, it goes to them just the same.
We require deeper spiritual experience and clearer spiritual light if we are to be workers acceptable to God and to His Church. If we wish to overcome difficulties, we must learn to overcome by spirituality, not by official authority. If we are spiritual, we shall submit to the authority of the local churches. It is lack of submission on the part of God's servants that is responsible for the forming of numerous sects. Many so-called churches have been established because workers have been rejected by the churches and have gathered groups of people around them, who have supported them and the doctrines they taught. Such a procedure is sectarian. ( The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 30 , pp. 111-112)
According to Brother Nee, the fruit of any work carried out in Kampala should accrue to the church in Kampala. Contrary to this basic principle, Titus Chu and his workers have instead pursued setting up a separate and in fact rival group in that city. This practice is sectarian. It is divisive for the workers to gather a group of believers unto themselves as Titus Chu's workers have done. According to the truth as Brother Nee presented it, the standing of a church does not depend on whether the church receives the ministry of a particular minister or not. However, the continuation of Titus Chu's work in Kampala is clearly driven by the desire to establish a work there based on Titus Chu's ministry. This practice is precisely what Brother Nee labeled as a "ministry church".
… [W]e must bear it well in mind that if God commits a specific ministry to any man relating to certain truths, he must not make his particular ministry, or his particular line of truth, the basis of a new "church." No servant of God should cherish the ambition that his truth be accepted as the truth. If doors are closed to it, let him wait patiently upon God who gave it until He opens doors for its reception. No separate "church" must be formed to bear a separate testimony. The work of God does not sanction the establishment of a church for the propagation of any particular line of teaching. It knows only one kind of church—the local church; not a sectarian church, but a New Testament church.
Let us lay it to heart that our work is for our ministry and our ministry is for the churches. No church should be under a specific ministry, but all ministries should be under the church. What havoc has been wrought in the Church because so many of her ministers have sought to bring the churches under their ministry, rather than by their ministry serve the churches. As soon as the churches are brought under any ministry, they cease to be local and become sectarian. ( The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 30 , pp. 112-113)
When Titus Chu's workers in Kampala separated themselves from the church there, they said it was because "among us there are radical differences in the view, direction, and practice of the church in Kampala." Brother Nee's fellowship makes it clear that the workers have no say in the view, direction, and practice of the local church. To use a difference in view, direction, and practice as an excuse to establish a separate group of believers to bear a different testimony is sectarian. 8 Titus Chu and his workers apparently feel justified in pursuing such a course because they claim to have a greater apprehension of the truth and of the Lord's way, yet Brother Nee's fellowship makes it clear that even if they were right, that gives them no ground for their divisive actions.
When a specific ministry has been raised up of God to meet a specific need in His Church, what should be the attitude of the minister? Whenever a new truth is proclaimed, it will have new followers. The worker to whom God has given fresh light upon His truth should encourage all who receive that truth to swell the ranks of the local church, not to range themselves around him. Otherwise, the churches will be made to serve the ministry, not the ministry the churches, and the "churches" established will be ministerial "churches," not local ones. The sphere of a church is not the sphere of any ministry, but the sphere of the locality. Wherever ministry is made the occasion for the forming of a church, there you have the beginning of a new denomination. From the study of Church history we can see that almost all new ministries have led to new followings, and new followings have resulted in new organizations. Thus ministerial "churches" have been established and denominations multiplied. ( The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 30 , p. 113)
Actually, Titus Chu and Nigel Tomes proclaim no new truth. Every bit of their dissent has been toward the end of justifying their carrying out their different work through their different ministry with their different teachings, teachings that for private aims distort the truths brought to the Lord's recovery through the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. By their continued divisive work, Titus Chu and his co-workers merely seek to demonstrate their own self-assumed superiority in Christian work and to propagate the sphere of influence of Titus Chu's ministry. It is the single-minded emphasis by Titus Chu and Nigel Tomes on their right to carry out a separate and independent work that has carried them and those who would follow them into a divisive and sectarian stand. Brother Lee warned all of the co-workers and leading ones about this in 1983:
To care for the spread of our work is dangerous. It will produce different works to build up different ministries. Then division will result. ( Practical Talks to the Elders , p. 62)
Tomes's twisting of Brother Nee's ministry to support his own agenda is unconscionable. His deceptive use of selective quotation from Brother Nee's writing raises many questions and concerns about his character, conscience, and spiritual measure in that his complete misrepresentation of Brother Nee's fellowship is unquestionably intentional. Tomes carefully chose words that appear to justify Titus Chu's divisive work in Africa and deliberately omitted and ignored those words which clearly point out the serious error of the way in which that work is being carried out. As Brother Nee's fellowship elucidates, even if Titus Chu and his co-workers did have some new truth, it would not justify the divisive work they are carrying out. Far from vindicating Titus Chu's divisive work in Uganda, Brother Nee's fellowship in its full context explicitly reproves the way in which that work is being carried out and exposes that work as being not a work of the Lord's recovery but simply a common work among the many works that tear down rather than build up the Body of Christ.
1 See the book Concerning Titus Chu's Divisive Work in Africa or " An Account of Events in Kampala by Tim Knoppe" and " Confirming Testimonies from Saints in Kampala, Uganda" on this Web site.
2 We have no burden to answer every diseased questioning and contention of words that proceeds from this source (1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:23). To attempt such a task would be unprofitable and interminable (2 Tim. 2:14; Titus 3:9; 2 Tim. 3:7).
4 The fact that the group of saints raised up through the labors of Tim Knoppe and Steve Lietzau were recognized as "the church in Kampala" by Titus Chu's work is confirmed in numerous articles in Fellowship Journal beginning from vol. 3, no. 2, February 2004, p. 9.
5 E-mail from Keith Miller and George Kiiza to Tim Knoppe, Steve Lietzau, Godwin Kihuguru, and Sam Mpuga, March 27, 2006.
6 The promise not to refer to the division formed around Titus Chu's work as "the church in Kampala" was broken as early as Keith Miller's report entitled "…And You Shall Be My Disciples," in Fellowship Journal, vol. 5, no. 3, May 2006, pp. 6 and 7. This promise was again broken in "Uganda News," Fellowship Journal, vol. 5, no. 4, July 2006, p. 39. Titus Chu's followers have since begun to refer to their group as "the church in the city of Kampala" ( Fellowship Journal, vol. 6, no. 5, September 2007, inside front cover and p. 5; however, this article also refers to "the church in Kampala" on page 6) in order to maintain a façade of standing properly on the ground of locality, even though there was already a properly standing local church from which that group divided through the instigation of Titus Chu's workers for the sole purpose of perpetuating Titus Chu's private work in Uganda.
7 E-mail from Godwin Kihuguru and Sam Mpuga to Titus Chu, March 28, 2006.
8 Contrary to what some may have been told, the co-workers' warning letter did not quarantine any local churches. The warning statement was concerning Titus Chu and "certain of his co-workers," such as Nigel Tomes, who aggressively promote Titus Chu's divisive work. Since the warning was issued, however, the sectarian stands and actions of some loyal to Titus Chu have resulted in the deviation of the groups under their direct influence from a proper standing to that of a sect. The same sectarianism evident in Kampala, Uganda, was manifested in Toronto, Canada; Columbus, Ohio; and Mansfield, Ohio.