LETTER OF FELLOWSHIP AND WARNING
April 4, 2009
|From:||The co-workers in the Lord's recovery|
|To:||The saints and churches in the Lord's recovery|
|Concerning:||The deviations in teaching and practice of Dong Yu Lan and his co-workers who promote his divisive work|
We are writing this letter to the saints and the churches throughout the Lord's recovery because of the widespread proliferation of a serious problem caused by the work and ministry of Brother Dong Yu Lan and his co-workers who promote his deviant teachings, aberrant practices, and divisive work. In June 2005 twenty-one co-workers in the Lord's recovery, representing all the co-workers from Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America, wrote a letter to Brother Dong to express concerns regarding his serious errors in teaching and practice and the problems those errors were causing in the recovery (see attached letter). Despite repeated attempts to address these problems with Brother Dong and his co-workers, it is now evident that they have no intention of changing their course but instead are becoming more and more aggressive in propagating their erroneous and divisive teachings and spreading their divisive work.
In recent months public statements have been issued by co-workers and leading brothers serving inMexico,Spain,Central America, the Caribbean,Canada,Colombia,Germany, Italy, and Switzerland warning the saints in those places concerning the work of Dong Yu Lan. We agree with what is written in these letters, and we agree with the brothers' burden in issuing them. These warnings should be heeded by all of the churches throughout the Lord's recovery in the principle of being one Body. We have also received many reports from other countries of problems caused by Brother Dong's work and ministry [for examples, see the Reports and Documents sections of this site]. Because Brother Dong and his co-workers are aggressively propagating their erroneous teachings and spreading their work apart from and in rivalry with the Lord's present recovery as raised up by the New Testament ministry brought to us by Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, we are burdened to issue this letter of fellowship and warning to all the churches and the saints.
We ask all the leading ones and saints to read this letter carefully with much prayer and much intercession. We particularly ask the leading ones in places where these teachings and practices are spreading to warn the saints against these errors and to inoculate them with the unique New Testament teaching of the apostles. To any saints who may receive this letter and have been influenced by these teachings and practices, in love we urge you to soberly read and pray over the contents of this letter.
"Even as I exhorted you, when I was going into Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus in order that you might charge certain ones not to teach different things." (1 Tim. 1:3)
"And from among you yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverted things to draw away the disciples after them." (Acts 20:30)
Now I exhort you, brothers, to mark those who make divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and turn away from them." (Rom. 16:17)
"A factious man, after a first and second admonition, refuse." (Titus 3:10)
Background Leading to Deviation and Division
Brother Witness Lee initiated the work of the Lord's recovery in South America, including Brazil.
In 1958 and 1959 he charged the saints in Taiwan to migrate to the West for the spread of the Lord's recovery.1 Some saints responded to Brother Lee's fellowship by migrating to Brazil for the Lord's move in those
years.2 Brother Dong Yu Lan also moved there as a businessman in 1960.3 When Brother Lee visited Brazil in 1965, Brother Dong was serving with other brothers in the leadership of the
church in Sao Paulo,4 which at that time consisted entirely of Chinese-speaking saints.5 Brother Lee told them that the church must bring in the local people.6 According to Brother Dong's published testimony, "In those years, however, we were unable to bring in local
people," so beginning in 1970 "the Lord sent Brother Chang Wu-Chen to Brazil, thus opening the door to the
local people" (Dong Yu Lan's testimony as recorded in
History and Testimony by Witness Lee, translated from Chinese, p. 272).7 Brother Chang Wu-Chen visited Brazil often, and Brother Samuel Cheng
Before 1985 the spreading of the Lord's recovery in South America was carried out through the propagation of the printed ministry of Brother Nee and Brother Lee, particularly the Life-study of Genesis and the Life-study of Exodus.11 When Brother Lee visited Brazil in 1984, he was favorably impressed by the saints' use of the Life-studies.12 This matched the crucial practice in the recovery of all the churches on the earth participating in the common fellowship of the Body of Christ, enjoying the ministry of the age, and carrying out the Lord's move in one accord. Such a practice would properly represent the Body of Christ and open the door for God's manifested blessing. To the degree that the churches, the ministry, and the work in South America were one with the Lord's recovery, they were kept at that time in a healthy condition and enjoyed growth and increase. We acknowledge, as Brother Lee did, the contribution that Brother Dong and others made in the spread of the gospel in the early years of the Lord's recovery in South America.13 However, since that time Brother Dong's work has increasingly deviated in both teaching and practice from what Brother Lee commended in 1984.
Brother Dong and his co-workers claim that he was the source of the work in South America. This is simply not accurate. The work in South America preceded him,14 and the churches in many parts of South America were not produced by his work.15 In fact, in 1991 Brother Lee strongly charged him not to give others the impression that he was the "overseer" of the churches in Brazil and Argentina.16 However, Brother Dong and his co-workers increasingly asserted his authority as "the apostle"17 and even the "Father" of the churches in South America.18
For many years Brother Dong and his co-workers have claimed that Brother Lee repeatedly told Brother Dong not to invite the co-workers from outside South America to minister to the saints and churches there.19 They have used this claim to isolate the churches and the saints in South America from the general ministry and fellowship in the Lord's recovery.20 It is clear from Brother Lee's spoken and published ministry that those claims do not represent Brother Lee's express leading regarding South America. Many published statements from the 1960s until his departure in 1997 show Brother Lee's desire for the free and full circulation in the fellowship of the Body, including visits by the co-workers to the churches in the Lord's recovery throughout the earth.21 From 1985 through 1995 in particular, Brother Lee repeatedly spoke of the need for the co-workers and saints to take the ministry to South America.22 Many of these exhortations are in his books. Two examples are as follows:
All of Central and South America have opened to the truth, especially to the truth among us. Even if we were to send two hundred full-time workers to Central and South America, that would not be enough. Everywhere there is a reverberating cry for the truth. (Speaking for God, spoken in 1985, p. 19)
In the region of Central America and the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, Belize, etc., and South America, the door is open everywhere and there is the need for people to go. (A General Outline of God's Economy and the Proper Living of a God-Man, spoken in 1994, p. 64)
Many more examples could be given. Contrary to Brother Lee's fellowship, Brother Dong and his co-workers have hindered many churches in South America from receiving the co-workers and from participating in the common fellowship of the churches in the Lord's recovery.23 Instead, they have made those churches a private domain of their work and ministry. Such private work and closed fellowship, being contrary to the principles of the Body of Christ, always result in discord and division.
In such a state of isolation, the work centered in Brazil under Dong Yu Lan has increasingly deviated in both truth and practice. As early as 1985 Brother Dong began to reinterpret and alter the ministry in the Lord's recovery, publishing his own speaking instead of simply feeding the saints with the New Testament ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee.24 To justify his actions, he claimed that the people of South America needed him to "digest" Brother Lee's ministry and then to present it to them in a simplified form in order that they could understand.25 Thus, the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee was subtly replaced by the speaking and publications of Dong Yu Lan as the primary diet in most of the churches in Brazil and in other countries and continents to which his work spread. 26 Brother Dong used Editora Árvore da Vida, which was set up to translate and publish the writings of Brother Nee and Brother Lee,27 to propagate his own divergent views.
Over the years, Brother Lee personally warned Brother Dong concerning his different speaking, his publication work, his unscriptural visions and revelations, his work of regional isolationism, and his exercise of dominating control over the churches in South America. For example, in 1991 Brother Lee was forced to address problems concerning the abuse of authority, regionalism, and unprincipled publication work with Brother Dong personally and in the presence of co-workers, as well as other brothers from Brazil.28 In the mid-1990s Brother Lee told Brother Dong in the presence of some of the co-workers that he would not go to Brazil, because to do so would be to build up Brother Dong's work.29 Rather than receiving Brother Lee's rebuke and corrective fellowship, Brother Dong and his co-workers continued in their errors. In 2005 Brother Francis Ball recounted to a group of co-workers, with four of Brother Dong's closest co-workers present, that Brother Lee had directly said to Brother Dong, "Brother Dong, you are not doing in South America what I am doing."30
Since Brother Lee's departure in 1997, Brother Dong's teachings and practices have become decidedly more deviant and divisive. In spite of repeated admonitions by many co-workers in the Lord's recovery, both in writing and in person,31 Brother Dong and his co-workers have been unrelenting in the propagation of their teachings and practices. It was because of increasing problems caused by Brother Dong's work that twenty-one co-workers sent a personal letter in June 2005 to Brother Dong on behalf of all the co-workers to express their grave concerns regarding his teaching and work. Rejecting rather than receiving the brothers' fellowship, Brother Dong misrepresented the tone and content of the letter in his public speaking and suggested that the co-workers had blasphemed the Holy Spirit by writing it.32 In recent years Brother Dong and his co-workers have intensified their assertions of authority. They have also made numerous public statements and taken many actions in the work in rivalry with and even in opposition to the churches, the ministry, and the work of the Lord's recovery.33 In 1984 Brother Lee spoke positively of the Brazilian saints' appetite for his ministry and the increase to the churches that it produced.34 Brother Dong and his co-workers have repeatedly miscast this speaking as an endorsement of Brother Dong's current deviations in teaching and work.35
Dong Yu Lan's teaching has deviated to the point of directly violating some of the most basic principles of the foundational faith of all Christians, including the divine inspiration of the writers of the New Testament. In addition, his teaching contains serious errors concerning the place of the apostles' ministry and teaching, the oneness of the Body of Christ, the one work to build up the Body, and the proper standing of the local churches.
Different Teachings of Dong Yu Lan and His Co-workers
Throughout the centuries, the advancement of the Lord's recovery has always been based upon the truth. Our experience of the Spirit and the divine life is firmly founded on the proper apprehension of the truth. In our practice of the church life in the Lord's recovery, we must be absolute for the truth and uphold the absoluteness of the truth, as taught by the apostles Paul and John (2 Tim. 2:15; 3 John 3-4, 8). We should take the way of the truth and not compromise the truth in any way (2 Pet. 2:2), knowing that the truth safeguards us from error. Any teaching that depreciates the truth is dangerous, and we should not accept it.
Someone has even said that we should care only for the Spirit, not for principles. How subtle! Anyone who knows the truth realizes that this means to accept only the Spirit and to reject the Bible, for all the principles are derived from the Bible. It is very dangerous to have only the Spirit, but not the principles of the Word. (Truth Messages, p. 12)
Furthermore, the leadership in the New Testament is actually the controlling vision of the truth concerning God's eternal economy.
The leadership in the New Testament ministry in actuality is not the leadership of one controlling person. In the Lord's recovery we reject the notion of one person controlling persons and matters. We do have some leadership, but not the leadership of one controlling person.... The leadership is not the leadership of any single person who is controlling people in the Lord's recovery. The leadership in the Lord's recovery is the leadership of the God-given revelation that restricts us, directs us, and controls us so that confusion and division can be avoided. (The God-ordained Way to Practice the New Testament Economy, p. 172)
Undermining the inspiration and authority of New Testament writers: In his International Conference at Estancia Árvore da Vida in February 2005, Brother Dong said that when Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote their Gospels, "they were not in the Spirit."36 In their June 2005 letter, the twenty-one co-workers strongly admonished Dong Yu Lan regarding this speaking, pointing out that such speaking casts serious doubt on the divine authority, and even the divine inspiration, of the first three New Testament Gospels. The co-workers wrote in their letter, "It has long been our testimony in the Lord's recovery that the entire Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, as the Scripture itself affirms. It is simply against Christian truth to say that Matthew, Mark and Luke were not in the Spirit. We all must reject and condemn such speaking among us" [p. 5].
In spite of the co-workers' admonition, Brother Dong has continued to speak in a way that depreciates large portions of the New Testament and undermines the authority of the New Testament writers. For example, in 2006 he said that "all of the twelve apostles" applied the training they had received from the Lord "according to what was most beneficial to them, while neglecting the inward life and Spirit."37 In 2007 he referred to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as "traditional and judicial."38 In 2007 he also repeatedly demeaned the ministries of Peter and Paul, saying that Peter's ministry was "traditional" and Paul's ministry was "judicial."39 While Brother Lee used the word "judicial" to refer to redemption as the procedure that qualifies and positions the believers to enjoy God's organic salvation, Brother Dong uses "judicial" to mean "doctrinal," "legal," and "in letters."40 Because Paul's ministry was judicial, according to Brother Dong, it brought people into the mind to argue over the truth.41 In his fall 2007 International Conference at Estancia Dong Yu Lan said,
What God commissioned him [Paul] with was His New Testament, but he wrote it down in his epistles in a judicial way and sent it to the churches. He failed to figure out a way to practice it in the church. Therefore, he lost his commission from God, and God let him go. Later he was killed by the Roman prince, by the Roman army. We can say that his judicial ministry was terminated right then. 42
Brother Dong's evaluation of Paul's Epistles contradicts Peter's word in his Epistle, in which he commended Paul's writings, saying that "all his letters" should be regarded like "the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Pet. 3:15-16).
Replacing the "judicial" ministry of Brothers Nee and Lee: Brother Dong teaches that God allowed Peter and Paul to be killed in order to terminate their "traditional" and "judicial" ministries, respectively.43 Further, he teaches that the ministry of the apostle John was "organic,"44 and only this "organic" ministry can continue to the end of this age.45 Brother Dong claims that today only he and his co-workers are carrying out John's "organic" ministry of Spirit and life.46 Dong Yu Lan's denigration of the apostles' teaching and ministry is used to justify his own displacement of the New Testament ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee and to assert his overriding authority and the supremacy of his own teaching. He and his co-workers assert that Watchman Nee's ministry was "judicial";47 Witness Lee's "judicial" ministry, like the "judicial" ministry of Paul, has "passed away";48 the "old messages" in the recovery are "doctrine";49 and the saints in the "judicial" recovery are in the mind and do not deny their soul because they study the truth.50 Based on points such as these, Dong Yu Lan and his co-workers maintain that Brother Nee's and Brother Lee's messages are no longer applicable today51 and that what Brother Dong teaches is "the present truth."52
Defending and exalting the "organic" recovery of Brother Dong: Brother Dong and his co-workers claim that he and the churches in Brazil have left the "judicial recovery"53 and have become the "organic recovery,"54 which is "the last recovery."55 He claims that only South America will carry out God's commission56 while the rest of the recovery remains in the "judicial" realm.57 Brother Dong says that he has gone higher and further than Brother Nee and Brother Lee58 and that his ministry is the unique continuation of the "organic" ministry of John.59
Propagating strange "visions" and teachings: Brother Dong and his co-workers propagate strange teachings that are not part of the divine revelation in the Holy Bible. For example, he teaches, with no biblical or historical evidence, that the apostle John found Paul's fourteen Epistles while he was in Ephesus.60 He asserts that Paul's teaching in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9-10) made studying the truth "a substitute for a living touch with the Lord's name and the Word."61 The young people in South America were taught that "the way that Paul took to help the churches in Asia, teaching daily in the school of Tyrannus for two years, was not adequate. For this reason in his last epistle he records the result of that way: all those in Asia abandoned him."62 This kind of teaching causes people to despise the study of the truth. One of Brother Dong's co-workers taught that believers are misled by the Bible's "apparent praise" of the Bereans in Acts 17. In fact, he contended that the Bereans lost God's blessing because they "examined the Scriptures daily" to see if the things Paul was teaching were so.63 This contradicts the clear word of Acts 17:11-12. Such teachings undermine the authority of the Scripture and encourage uncritical acceptance of deviant teachings that are without scriptural basis.
Brother Dong claims to have received a "vision of Revelation 12" based on the shape of the continents on a world map. This "vision" has been widely promoted by Brother Dong and his co-workers. Its effect is to exalt the role of Brother Dong's work. For example, Brother Dong's interpretation of Revelation 12 gives South America a central role in God's move both now and in the end times. He teaches that South America will be the "wilderness"64 where God's people will find refuge during the great tribulation. Based on the world map, Brother Dong teaches that the shape of the combined continents of Europe and Asia resemble a dragon,65 and that the outline of Africa resembles a fetus, which he claims indicates that Africa has a particular relationship to the producing of the man-child in Revelation 12.66 Based on this he claims that South America has a special commission to spread Brother Dong's teaching and work to Africa.67 On maps created to depict this teaching, South America is portrayed as a cluster of grapes, the emblem of Brother Dong's publishing enterprise, indicating that his ministry will be the source of food for the entire earth.68 In November 2007, in a conference in Boston, Brother Ron Kangas publicly besought Brother Dong and his co-workers to stop teaching this, saying:
Finally, I would appeal in love with an aching heart to those who are responsible for actively propagating this teaching: "Please stop. For the benefit of the Lord's recovery and of all the churches with the dear saints, stop." In particular, I appeal to the one who showed this [caricature of the world map] to Brother Lee, and to whom Brother Lee charged, saying, "Do not show this to anyone." (Ministry Magazine, vol. 12, no. 3, March 2008, p. 163)
Brother Dong ignored Brother Ron's charge, re-speaking and expanding upon his "vision" in a conference in Lima, Peru, just seven weeks later. In that speaking Dong Yu Lan said:
The Bible tells us that the dragon was mad at the universal woman and was therefore trying to put her to death. First, it caused the water in the Mediterranean Sea to overflow and flood the coastal region. Because of this, the woman, signifying the churches, died. Thank the Lord, the Bible also tells us that there was an opening. God made an opening at the Strait of Gibraltar, so that the water was drained into the ocean. The Mediterranean Sea could never be filled, because there was the opening of the Strait of Gibraltar. When the dragon saw that the woman was not dead, it continued seeking to kill her. 69
One common theme in Brother Dong's speaking is to uplift his own work and the churches under his work. He claims that only the churches in Brazil have advanced to the "organic" stage70 and that "God has revealed to the churches in South America His highest purpose ... because He knows that only the churches in Brazil will put His word into practice."71 In his fall 2006 International Conference at Estancia Árvore da Vida, he declared, "Thank the Lord that He has preserved seven thousand that didn't bend the knees to Baal. Hallelujah! Hallelujah for us in South America."72 Brother Dong uses his "vision" and his strange interpretations to justify the global spread of his teaching and work in complete independence from the one work and one fellowship in the Lord's recovery throughout the earth.73
Expanding his presumptuous claim to the authority of apostleship from Brazil to the entire earth: Over time Brother Dong's claims concerning the scope of his assumed mandate have expanded from Brazil,74 to South America,75 to the Spanish language countries,76 to all the Latin languages,77 and today to all the earth.78 He has often maintained that Brother Lee gave him the work in South America,79 but that is not true, as many of us can personally bear witness.80 Neither did Brother Lee "give" him the work in Brazil. To have done so would have been against the biblical principles that Brother Lee taught and practiced concerning the Lord's work. While Brother Lee asked various brothers to labor in particular geographical areas, he never gave parts of the earth to them as territories, and he always taught that all the co-workers in the Lord's recovery should labor together in fellowship and coordination for the one work of the Lord's recovery.
Another hidden divisive factor is the tendency to keep separate territories. The Lord's work and move for the accomplishment of God's eternal economy is uniquely one. If we consider any region in which we are participating in the Lord's unique work as our particular territory, this will be a cause or a factor of division. (Elders' Training, Book 10: The Eldership and the God-ordained Way (2), p. 19)
In an elders' meeting on July 6, 1991, in which Brother Dong was present, Brother Lee said:
I am concerned that in the Lord's recovery, the brothers in a certain country may consider that the work there is their work. Then some brothers in another country may consider that the work there is their work.... There is a practical situation that is abnormal, and the biggest point of this abnormality is the different works. (Further Consideration of the Eldership, the Region of Work, and the Care for the Body of Christ, p. 19)
The next day, in a meeting with Brother Dong and others to address problems in South America, Brother Lee said:
According to the truth, the Body of Christ is one. We must preserve the oneness of the Body. This is Ephesians 4:2-4. You must keep the oneness of the Spirit: one Body and one Spirit. To keep the oneness of the Spirit is to keep the oneness of the Body. Obviously, to have so many sub-regions does not keep the oneness.
In that same talk Brother Lee blamed Brother Dong for being the cause of discord in South America and said directly to him:
Do not give people an impression that you are the overseer of the churches in Brazil and Argentina and that they have to ask your permission in everything.
After Brother Lee's passing, Dong Yu Lan proposed to two co-workers from different parts of the earth that they divide the earth into three regions of work, with the work in all the Latin language countries being recognized as his.81 There is no precedent in the Bible or in the history of the Lord's recovery for such a divisive proposal. It disregards the principles of one Body, one ministry, and one work to carry out the unique divine economy. After his proposal was rejected, Brother Dong expanded the scope of his claimed commission even further. Today he is actively exporting his work throughout Africa,82 Europe,83 Japan,84 North America,85 and South America.86
False teachings to justify the practice of division: Brother Dong has advanced distorted interpretations of the Bible to justify his work's divisive practices. For example, Brother Dong and his co-workers allege that only those saints and churches that follow him, his teaching, and his "orientations" (i.e., directives given by Brother Dong) are "Philadelphia."87 Those who do not do so have left the position of "Philadelphia" and have become "Laodicea."88 Furthermore, they teach that those in "Philadelphia" should not have contact with those in "Laodicea."89 This teaching has been used to sanction a different and rival work that has produced a separate circle of fellowship among saints and churches on at least four continents,90 the expulsion of saints from churches,91 and the establishment of separate, second "table meetings" in many cities where local churches already exist.92 Brother Dong and his co-workers have also made false accusations against individuals and churches publicly, in writing, and in private talks in order to undermine the saints' trust in and draw them away from the existing churches and leading ones.93
Criticism of the co-workers, the work, and the ministry in the Lord's recovery: Brother Dong and his co-workers vindicate the superiority of his ministry by spreading many false and evil reports. His co-workers complain that their attempts at fellowship have been frustrated since 1994,94 at which time Brother Lee was still with us and ministering. In fact, numerous attempts have been made to fellowship with them both before Brother Lee's passing and in the years since then.95 Rather than practicing oneness with the co-workers, Brother Dong and his co-workers have spoken against them in the most disdainful terms and have spread unfounded and false accusations to their fellow workers and leading ones in the churches both in their speaking and by email.96
Brother Dong and his co-workers have made numerous false and evil accusations against Living Stream Ministry,97 the Recovery Version,98 The Holy Word for Morning Revival,99 the international conferences and trainings,100 the full-time trainings,101 the publication work in the Lord's recovery,102 and individual elders and co-workers.103 Those things which they oppose, however, were initiated under the leading of Brother Lee and have become a source of rich blessing throughout the recovery today.
Many other strange and deviant teachings have sprung from the errors and biased views listed above. For example, Brother Dong and his co-workers have promoted shaking, jumping, dancing, making "trains," and "tap dancing" as practices needed to be delivered from the self.104 He teaches that "anyone who is filled with the Spirit must have jumped," and, "If you have not jumped, you have not been filled with the Spirit."105 He justifies such activities saying, "The Holy Spirit has led us to have something new."106
Practices of Dong Yu Lan and His Work Today:
Dong Yu Lan has built up a personal following based on hierarchy and claims of personal authority:
The exercise of authority in Brother Dong's work is in stark contrast to the biblical revelation concerning leadership and our practice in the Lord's recovery. Leadership in the New Testament is not vested in persons as their possession, but in the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42; Titus 1:9). Thus, in the Lord's recovery, the co-workers do not cultivate any personal following. Instead of following persons in an official or organizational way, we follow the healthy teaching of God's eternal economy ministered to us by the Lord's servants (1 Tim. 1:4; 6:3). According to the revelation in the Bible, no one other than Christ Himself has any personal authority (Matt. 28:18), and He alone is the Head of the Body (Eph. 4:15; Col. 1:18). The church shares in the authority of the ascended Christ through His divine transmission (Eph. 1:19-23). This authority is carried out in the mutual supply of life among the members of the Body (Eph. 4:15b-16). In all three aspects of the Body—the church, the ministry, and the work—there is no organization or hierarchy; there is only the mutual dispensing in the fellowship of the divine life.
The practice of Brother Dong and his co-workers violates these principles. They have taught a hierarchy of authority consisting of first God, then Christ, then "the apostle," and finally the elders.107 They have vested near absolute authority in "the apostle," Dong Yu Lan. They have taught that "if you go against Brother Dong, you are going against God."108 They have established a hierarchy of workers and elders to carry out the "orientations" (i.e., directives) of "the apostle." Brothers are assigned as "national co-workers" and "regional co-workers." 109 Among the elders, one may be designated in a locality as "the first elder."110 Such arrangements are organizational and hierarchical and are contrary to the organic nature of the Body of Christ. At every level of the hierarchy in Brother Dong's work, those bearing responsibility are expected to follow the directives of those above them, or they risk being put out. Many workers and elders have been dismissed for not being "one with the apostle."111
Dong Yu Lan and his co-workers have stressed unconditional obedience to his authority and have sought to intimidate any who would criticize their work. On the one hand, they have taught that as long as you follow Brother Dong's orientations, right or wrong, you bear no responsibility before God for the outcome. This teaching subverts the consciences of the saints and desensitizes them to wholesale deviations from the truth. On the other hand, Brother Dong and his co-workers have repeatedly said that those who express concerns about their teaching and work are at risk of committing the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.112 To instill fear in others, they have used tragedies that befell certain saints or their families as examples of God's judgment on those who are not one with Brother Dong.113 When some saints have turned away from Brother Dong's ministry, they have had curses pronounced against them by Brother Dong's co-workers and followers.114 Others have been subjected to vicious attacks concerning personal failures that were either fabricated by their accusers or dealt with many years ago, without concern for the damage caused to the accused ones or their families.115 We repudiate all such abusive, self-serving, and reprehensible speaking.
Dong Yu Lan and his co-workers carry out a secretive, deceptive, and independent work: Without fellowship with the leading ones or the co-workers, Brother Dong and his co-workers have traveled within North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Japan to contact saints in the local churches privately in order to entice them to follow Brother Dong's ministry.116 They have cultivated private relationships between their work and individual saints and churches and have scheduled their own conferences and gatherings in conflict with scheduled conferences in the recovery in North America, South America, and Europe, so that they could maintain a separation between the saints following Brother Dong's ministry and the general fellowship among the churches in the Lord's recovery.117
In many places they have secretively spread Brother Dong's publications in spite of direct requests from the brothers bearing responsibility in the churches that they not do so. Places in the United States where this has happened include Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, New England, and Florida.118 Brother Dong and his co-workers have similarly attempted to spread their deviant teachings through his literature in other parts of North America, as well as Africa, Europe, Japan, and South America.119 Recently Brother Dong and his co-workers called for many more young people to serve as "colporteurs" (traveling book sellers) to spread his teachings throughout the earth.120
Dong Yu Lan and his co-workers practice division: The ultimate issue of Brother Dong's work is division. In over thirty cities in twelve countries on four continents Brother Dong and his co-workers have established their own "churches" and "table meetings" in cities where properly standing local churches already exist.121 On this basis alone, the work of Brother Dong and his co-workers must be repudiated by all who care for the Lord's interest in His recovery. This practice violates the fundamental New Testament principle of the ground of oneness which both Brother Nee and Brother Lee taught as foundational truths in the practice of the Lord's recovery:
Setting up churches according to our own wishes is the greatest sin. We must fear founding a church more than anything else. Brothers, do we see the seriousness of this matter? Nothing is worse than setting up a church at will. We can found anything, but we must never establish a church in this manner because this involves the problem of the Body of Christ. We must be clear about this matter before God. Wherever we go, we first must find whether or not a church exists in that locality. It is not a matter of whether or not the church there is strong. That is another matter. It does not matter whether or not the church there is spiritual.... If there is a local church in a locality, we must not set up another. We must fear setting up another table for the breaking of bread. This is a terrible thing. (The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 56, pp. 379-380)
If I am in a certain city, regardless of how I feel about those who are meeting there as the unique local church and regardless of how they treat me, I have no choice. I have to learn the lesson of the cross. I must learn the lesson of brokenness and self-denial. I have no ground, no right, and no standing to start another church in that locality as long as a unique one is there already. I must be restricted and limited. This is the real lesson. (The Practical Expression of the Church, p. 30)
In some localities where there are established local churches, Brother Dong's co-workers have gathered saints to meet separately from the church.122 In other cases they have established "churches" in localities nearby existing churches—using the city limits as an excuse for division—and then recruited saints from those churches to join them.123 Both of these practices are contrary to the truth of the ground of oneness. Meetings set up for the purpose of establishing an isolated and separate fellowship are a division.
The one Body comes out of the one God, the one incarnation, the one Christ in His incarnation, the one crucifixion, the one resurrection, and the one Christ in His ascension. If we have seen this, do we dare to divide this Body, to create any division in this Body? Certainly not. Yet today some who were with us have dared to create division. A brother told one dissenting one that we cannot tolerate division. This dissenting one, who had created a division in Anaheim, then said that he would either dissolve that division or remove it out of Anaheim. When I heard this I said to myself, "If you could move that division even to Mars, it would still be a division." Division is division. Eventually, that division was moved out of Anaheim into a nearby city where a church had already been established. This incident shows how much the dissenting ones are in darkness concerning the Body of Christ. (One Body and One Spirit, p. 15)
In some cases Brother Dong's co-workers have fostered such divisions by sowing ethnic and cultural mistrust.124 Such sowing of suspicion among brothers is evil (Prov. 6:16, 19). Any appeal to ethnic, language, cultural, or national backgrounds as bases for establishing separate circles of fellowship is foreign to the very nature of the Body of Christ as the one new man created by Christ on the cross through His death (Eph. 2:15; Col. 3:10-11).
In places where Brother Dong's work has spread, the standing of the churches and the saints is measured by their oneness with his person, his teachings, and his "orientations."125 According to Brother Dong and his co-workers, for a church or a saint to reject Dong Yu Lan's orientation is tantamount to the church having lost its standing or to that saint having lost his or her standing to meet.126 In cases where the leading ones in churches have decided not to follow Brother Dong's work or ministry any longer, some among Brother Dong's co-workers have met this challenge to their dominion by going into those localities, overturning the leadership, and replacing the leading brothers with others whose sole qualification may be their loyalty to Brother Dong.127 Thus, Brother Dong and his co-workers have supplanted the truth of the ground of the church and have undermined the local administration of the churches, replacing the biblical standard with allegiance to Brother Dong's personal ministry and work as the governing factor in acknowledging a church.
For example, when the responsible brothers in one place opened their church to ministry from brothers outside the sphere of Brother Dong's work, three of Brother Dong's close co-workers, acting in his name, wrote, "Brother Dong annuls the action that these brothers made in the name of the church," declaring that only those who followed Brother Dong "remain firm on the ground of the church."128 In both Ecuador and Chile, it was taught that those who left Dong Yu Lan's "orientation" were in rebellion and therefore had lost the ground of the church.129 In other cases, a new "church" has been established in a locality where there is an existing church on the sole basis of maintaining "fellowship with the apostle."130 There are many cases of saints being expelled from churches and/or being severely persecuted because of their desire to follow the New Testament ministry brought to us by Brother Watchman Nee and Brother Witness Lee in the publications of Living Stream Ministry.131 These practices are abusive and divisive and have no place among the churches in the Lord's recovery.
The facts addressed in this letter are based on extensive research. The examples given of errant teachings of Dong Yu Lan and his co-workers are drawn from their own speaking and writings. The incidents of problems caused by their work are well-documented. For further information, see the website www.afaithfulwitness.org. Those who have questions about this and other warning statements are directed to that site.
We want to state clearly that the views and actions of Brother Dong Yu Lan and his co-workers as described in this letter do not represent those of the New Testament ministry brought to us through our brothers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. Neither do they represent the practice of the leadership in the Lord's recovery from the 1920s through today. We disagree with and condemn all teachings of error and work of division done in the name of the Lord's recovery.
If a person in a role of responsibility deviates from the truth, no matter who he is, the saints should not follow him, even if they have received help from him in the past. In order to be absolute to the truth and faithful to the Lord's recovery, we all must set aside personal feelings and relationships (Matt. 12:48-50; 1 Pet. 1:22).
Regardless of how much help we have received from a certain one in the past, if he does something that offends the Body, we must practice the truth [referring to the truth in Romans 16:17]. (The Problems Causing the Turmoils in the Church Life, p. 32)
Being absolute to the truth means that no personal feelings or family relationships are allowed to stand in the way of the truth. In spiritual matters, the truth is compromised as soon as human relationships are taken into account. (The Collected Works of Watchman Nee, vol. 52: The Character of the Lord's Worker, p. 152)
It is our genuine desire and prayer that, through the compassions of our Savior God, Brother Dong and his co-workers would change their course. We declare our openness to restore into fellowship any who genuinely depart from their deviation.
It is our earnest desire that the saints and churches in the Lord's recovery may be preserved from any further damages and be kept in peace for their building up (Acts 9:31). We ask all the saints to continue in prayers and intercessions to this end. To any who come in contact with the teachings, publications, or practices promoted by Brother Dong and his co-workers, we caution you to refuse them so you may be safeguarded and the Body may be spared from the confusion, damage, and division that will inevitably result when teachings contrary to God's economy are allowed to take root and grow. To those who are following such teachings and practices, we admonish you in the love of Christ to turn away from these things.
We encourage the saints to be at peace and be strengthened by the Lord's continued speaking in His recovery. As never before His testimony is shining and His move is spreading throughout the earth. May the Lord preserve all of the saints and churches in the genuine oneness and one accord (John 17:11, 21-23; Eph. 4:3-6; Rom. 15:5-6), granting us to think the same thing (Phil. 2:2) and speak the same thing (1 Cor. 1:10) so that together we may carry out the unique work of the New Testament ministry for the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:12).
On behalf of the co-workers in the Lord's recovery.