CWLF, SCP & the Local Churches

In the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s, many young people became disillusioned with traditional Christianity and began searching for answers elsewhere. In an effort to reach the radical subculture at the University of California at Berkeley, Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored a pilot experiment called the Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF) under the oversight of Jack Sparks. The CWLF tried to project an image of radical Christianity, frequently repackaging the language of the radical subculture around a Christian message. Many of those who joined CWLF had dabbled in Eastern mystical religions. In 1973 the CWLF spawned the Spiritual Counterfeits Project (SCP), a group formed initially to confront New Age, occult and cultic groups active on college campuses at that time.

Another group of young Christians was also trying to reach students at UC-Berkeley. These believers had been inspired by the ministry of Witness Lee, a co-worker of Watchman Nee who had immigrated to the United States in 1962, to practice the oneness of the Body of Christ on the ground of oneness as the church in Berkeley and to pursue knowing Christ as their life. At one time the headquarters of the CWLF was directly across the street from the meeting place of the church in Berkeley. When some members of the CWLF left it to join the church in Berkeley, Jack Sparks denounced Witness Lee as a “wolf” and attacked the local churches as a cult. After Sparks’ denunciation, researching and writing material to counter the impact of the local churches became a high priority of SCP.

Initially, SCP wrote and distributed tracts denouncing what they claimed were “Eastern mystical” teachings promoting “mindlessness.” On the weekend of July 4-6, 1975, the church in Berkeley sponsored a conference that was attended by several hundred people. As they were leaving the Friday night meeting, the first of the conference, those attendees were met by a loud and confrontational group, one of whom had a bullhorn, stationed at the entrance to the auditorium, handing out these leaflets and denouncing Witness Lee and the “Local Church”.

In October and November, 1975, SCP sponsored workshops in 19 cities across America. SCP’s advertisements indicated that the SCP workshops would include “The Local Church.” SCP members, including Brooks Alexander, the director of SCP, were confronted by members of the local churches in Atlanta, Dallas, and Austin. In April 1977 an SCP Newsletter admitted its material on the local churches had been “misunderstood” and asked for no further distribution of it until “a new booklet” was complete.

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This new booklet was to be based on a manuscript which SCP had commissioned a young man named Allan Wallerstedt to draft. When Jack Sparks left the CWLF in 1975 because of conflicts over his leadership, he took a copy of Wallerstedt’s in progress manuscript with him. This became the basis of his chapter on “The Local Church” in his book The Mindbenders. Wallerstedt submitted his paper to SCP in May 1976. SCP developed Wallerstedt’s manuscript into its own book, The God-Men. The appearance of both of these books in 1977 gave added force to the attack on the local churches because it appeared they came from two independent sources, when in fact they both initiated from the same one source, carrying out a private but hidden agenda.

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