MR. MORGAN: Doctor, I have marked as Exhibit 10 a curriculum vitae, and I will just ask if you can identify that.
DR. MELTON: This is the curriculum vitae which I sent to you.
MR. MORGAN: Is it up-to-date?
DR. MELTON: Not quite.
MR. MORGAN: I will offer that into evidence, Your Honor.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: May I see it for just a moment?
MR. MORGAN: Certainly.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: In evidence.
MR. MORGAN: Doctor, just a few questions about that. First, what is your present occupation?
DR. MELTON: I am the director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and the pastor of the Emmaus United Methodist Church in Chicago.
MR. MORGAN: Can you tell us what the Institute for the Study of American Religion is?
DR. MELTON: The Institute for the Study of American Religion is an independent research facility founded in 1969 for the purpose of studying, providing public information, and research on the smaller religious groups of America.
MR. MORGAN: How long have you been involved in it?
DR. MELTON: I was one of the founders.
MR. MORGAN: Will you tell the court a little bit about your educational background so that the court will know what your qualifications are for this field?
DR. MELTON: I have a Master of Divinity degree from Garrett Theological Seminary with a concentration in church history and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in the history and literature of religions with a specialty in American history.
MR. MORGAN: Doctor, have you also done some teaching?
DR. MELTON: I have taught at Garrett Theological Seminary and at several universities around the country. I have never held a teaching position up until just immediately in the future. I have just accepted a position with the University of California in Santa Barbara and am in the process right now of moving there.
MR. MORGAN: What will you be teaching?
DR. MELTON: Church history. I will be in their Religious Studies Department. My concentration will be in the area of minority religions in America.
MR. MORGAN: Now you have listed in Exhibit 10 as publications the Encyclopedia of American Religions. Can you tell the court what that is?
DR. MELTON: Encyclopedia of American Religions is the standard reference book surveying American religious groups.
MR. MORGAN: I am holding up two volumes of it, and is that the book or the books?
DR. MELTON: That’s two-thirds of it. The third volume is ready to appear.
MR. MORGAN: What is your function with this Encyclopedia?
DR. MELTON: I am the author of it.
MR. MORGAN: Just generally, what does the Encyclopedia purport to present to the reader?
DR. MELTON: It presents a write-up on each of about 1,500 denominations, religious groups, currently alive and well in America. It presents their doctrines and beliefs in their historical context, how they are related to other religious groups.
MR. MORGAN: You say you were the author. Can you tell the court what was the scope of the work you did in preparing this Encyclopedia?
DR. MELTON: Well, up until the time it appeared, it had consumed most of my adult life. I did a great deal of research on it. I spent three years on the road gathering material for it. The actual writing took about five years.
MR. MORGAN: Can you give the court some indication of the size of your library dealing with religious books?
DR. MELTON: At the time the book appeared, my library was about 18,000 volumes. It is now about 25,000.
MR. MORGAN: Doctor, there is just one other thing I wanted to ask you about the American Academy of Religion that you have indicated that you are a member of. What is that?
DR. MELTON: The American Academy of Religion is the prime scholarly association for religious scholars.
MR. MORGAN: Can one join it just by paying a membership fee or is there some criterion?
DR. MELTON: You have to have academic credentials and pass a review board, as with most scholarly associations.
MR. MORGAN: Fine. Doctor, do you know an organization entitled Spiritual Counterfeits Project?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: How long have you been aware of that organization?
DR. MELTON: Since its inception. I became aware of its predecessor organization, Christian World Liberation Front, in the early seventies.
MR. MORGAN: And how well do you know the organization?
DR. MELTON: Well, I followed its publications since I became aware of it around 1970, 1971. I have a fairly complete set of the material that they have published. I have visited with them. I know most of the leadership, some of them on a first-name basis.
MR. MORGAN: Have you made a study of the history of SCP?
DR. MELTON: Not particularly what we’d call a formal study. I have just been aware of it by receiving its publications, which I have read regularly for nine years.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Dr. Melton, are they listed in your Encyclopedia of American Religions?
DR. MELTON: No, they are not what I call a primary religious group. They are not a denomination. They are an organization made up of people who are members of other churches. They are not listed there.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: They are, in a sense, not a formal religion, per se?
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: Let’s talk about the “Local Church.” Is the “Local Church” listed in your Encyclopedia?
DR. MELTON: Oh, certainly.
MR. MORGAN: Can you tell the court under what category it is listed?
DR. MELTON: It is listed under what I call Independent Fundamentalist Churches and the subcategory under the Plymouth Brethren.
MR. MORGAN: Can you explain to the court what you mean when you say Independent Fundamentalists?
DR. MELTON: Well, fundamentalism is the thought world that runs through much of the evangelical church in America. Mainline Christianity in America is the evangelical movement. The main part of that movement grew out of the British movement called the Plymouth Brethren, started by a man named John Nelson Darby.
Both Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, who are among the founders of what we call the “Local Church” here, were formerly members of one branch of the Plymouth Brethren, so the thought world is very much the same.
MR. MORGAN: Let me go back to SCP now. Could you give the court a brief history of how it came into being?
DR. MELTON: Christian World Liberation Front was originally a part of the Jesus People Movement in the San Francisco Bay area. It started in Southern California and spread up the coast.
That movement had a crisis in the mid-seventies and split into several factions, one part of which became what today we know as the Evangelical Orthodox Church. Another part became the Berkeley Christian Coalition, and SCP was a part of the Berkeley Christian Coalition and gradually emerged as the dominant part, as the Christian Coalition faded away.
MR. MORGAN: The Evangelical Orthodox Church you referred to, was there some individual who was a leader?
DR. MELTON: Jack Sparks is the prime one who is known as the continuing person. He was a very prominent leader of Christian World Liberation Front and is one of the bishops of the Evangelical Orthodox Church.
MR. MORGAN: Let’s talk about SCP again. What does SCP represent to be its purpose or function in this country?
DR. MELTON: SCP carries on a function that the Christian World Liberation Front had begun before it, namely to become Christian apologists on the campus where a number of different alternative religions had arisen to do evangelism. They were trying to do Christian apologetics, both to refute the teachings of non-Christian groups and to present Christianity in a light that was both evangelical and acceptable intellectually in a campus situation.
MR. MORGAN: Can you explain the term apologetics?
DR. MELTON: The traditional sense of apology, of presenting your teachings in a most attractive way to your audience and explaining to them clearly.
MR. MORGAN: At some point did SCP become known as an anti-cult organization?
DR. MELTON: As the SCP grew and became affiliated with other groups that are also doing Christian apologetics in this area, in general, they took on a popular image as an anti-cult group. There are a number of Christian ministries that are also engaged in Christian apologetics in this area. Those ministries have become associated, in the public mind, with secular groups which arose during the mid 1970s and are generally all lumped together as anti-cult.
MR. MORGAN: Can you give the court some indication as to the visibility or the awareness of the religious public about SCP? Is it well known?
DR. MELTON: SCP is one of the two or three best-known groups who are working in this area. They are not the oldest by any means and probably not the single best known, but they are certainly one of the best known, and their reputation has been built upon the quality of their material. The quality has been much higher than most of the groups working in this area.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Doctor, if I may ask you, where did they get the word Counterfeits Project? How did that happen to get in their name? Do you know?
DR. MELTON: It is part of theological jargon. The idea is that non-Christian religions are a counterfeit product of the devil, of God’s true religion, and their project is to define and refute the counterfeit and present the truth.
It is a theological term. It does not carry, at least in the theological jargon, the connotation that the people involved in the other religion are frauds or putting out fake money. It is a spiritual counterfeit. One of the problems that they have is that most people are not aware of that jargon.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: So the name in effect refers to what they are so-called fighting against rather than what they believe in themselves.
DR. MELTON: Right.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: The counterfeit part is what they oppose.
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: Has it been your observation that to the average person, when SCP goes against a particular organization, the person then envisages that organization as a counterfeit or a fraud?
DR. MELTON: That’s been some of the problems with SCP all along.
MR. MORGAN: Has it been your observation that when SCP goes after an organization, they are given a lot of credence; in other words, people accept what they say about organizations?
DR. MELTON: Right. SCP has overall, through the last decade, done the best work in this area. The quality of some of their books is quite good. Their book on Reverend Moon, their book on Buddhism, and their book on Holistic Health, these have all been quite well received; and they are, from an evangelical Christian point of view, excellent books.
MR. MORGAN: Can you make the same statement for the books that are the subject of this lawsuit?
DR. MELTON: No, I can’t.
MR. MORGAN: Let me digress for a moment. Can you tell the court when you first became aware of the “Local Church”?
DR. MELTON: I first became aware of it in the early seventies when I was still in seminary. I discovered some of Watchman Nee’s materials and purchased them in a Christian book store.
MR. MORGAN: What is it about Watchman Nee’s material that attracted you?
DR. MELTON: I originally was attracted because I had never heard of it, and I just bought one of his books to read it, to see who he was, what he was all about. The book had an intriguing title, The Normal Christian Church Life, and I was pastoring a small church at that time. I wanted to see what he had to say. It was shortly after that I became aware that he was also the leader-founder of another movement.
MR. MORGAN: Can you give the court some indication of the acceptance of Watchman Nee’s writings in the United States?
DR. MELTON: Watchman Nee’s writings are fairly well accepted. Most Christian bookstores still carry his writings to this day.
MR. MORGAN: How about Watchman Nee? Did you make any study of him?
DR. MELTON: Eventually, I tracked down a biography of his life, actually several books about him, and, yes, I made a study in preparation for the article on the “Local Church” for the Encyclopedia.
DR. MELTON: Watchman Nee was a third-generation Christian; his grandfather was a Congregationalist minister in China. He grew up in a Christian home, went through his adolescent rebellion period, but then professed conversion. He then became associated with a number of people who had broken away from the formal Christian missions in China and were operating as independent evangelical Christians.
As he continued to move in those circles, he eventually encountered the Plymouth Brethren and became affiliated with them. They brought him to England where he fellowshipped with a branch of the so-called Exclusive Plymouth Brethren. As he was wandering around, he began to fellowship with some other evangelists, people who had in the nineteenth century been associated with the Brethren but had broken away. Because of his association with them, the Exclusive Brethren broke their tie with him. At that point he became fully independent because he was back in China and he was not geographically close to the other independent evangelicals except through their books, and he began his own movement. He also, at that time, developed several peculiar ideas that were kind of exclusive to him, the main one being the idea of the local church, that the unity of Christianity, which was a problem on the mission field because there were so many different groups, was best established by a New Testament principle, as he put it, of having only one church in each geographic location or each city. That is how the group eventually got its name. It was a name put on it rather than one that it had accepted.
MR. MORGAN: What happened to Watchman Nee?
DR. MELTON: After World War II he was arrested by the communists because of some of his activities, and he spent the rest of his life in prison. He died in the early seventies in a prison.
MR. MORGAN: Did you also learn about any relationship between Witness Lee and Watchman Nee?
DR. MELTON: Witness Lee had also been a member of the Brethren and had been attracted to Watchman Nee’s movement. I think in part because it was an indigenous movement rather than a missionary movement. He joined it, became an elder and a leader in the movement, and eventually became one of Watchman Nee’s right-hand men, so to speak, and was sent by Nee to work with the churches in Taiwan.
MR. MORGAN: You have told us that was your first experience with the “Local Church.” Did you ever have an occasion to actually come to meet an actual “Local Church”?
DR. MELTON: In 1972 the “Local Church” became an object of interest in some of the evangelical press in Chicago. I discovered there was a congregation there and over the next several years attended it on a number of occasions. It was on those occasions I first became aware of Witness Lee, purchased some of his books and read them, and gathered the material that allowed me to write the item in the Encyclopedia.
MR. MORGAN: You mentioned purchasing books. Was there some facility for that?
DR. MELTON: They had a book table, a literature rack, and I purchased some. I don’t know exactly when, but within a few years they had opened up a Bible and book store which is still in existence in Chicago, a very fine Christian bookstore. They have a wide variety of Christian evangelical material, and being an evangelical myself, I have stopped in regularly and purchased items.
MR. MORGAN: You used a term in talking about Watchman Nee of fellowship. Can you explain to the court how that term is being used by you and people generally in the evangelical field?
DR. MELTON: Well, it has a peculiar meaning among the Brethren. To fellowship means that you are essentially in communion with them, that you go on Sunday and break bread. You can participate in the Lord’s supper, and among the Brethren that is a sign that you are accepted, that you are allowed to fellowship at the Lord’s table.
The problem that Watchman Nee had is that he went over to Austin-Spark’s church, and he fellowshipped with Austin-Sparks. He broke bread with them. And when the Exclusive Brethren found out about that, they would not break bread with anyone who also broke bread with Austin-Sparks.
MR. MORGAN: Okay.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Is Austin-Sparks related to Jack Sparks at all?
DR. MELTON: No. It is Austin dash Sparks, he’s Austin-Sparks. That is his last name. He is a Britisher, and he is dead now.
MR. MORGAN: Now, did you at our request, in the latter part of last year and in preparation for the trial of this matter, undertake to do certain projects for us?
DR. MELTON: Yes, you asked me to look over Duddy’s book in some depth and to evaluate it.
MR. MORGAN: Did we also ask you to make any evaluation of the “Local Church” and Witness Lee’s writings?
DR. MELTON: At the same time the two projects went hand in hand. You had to do one to do the other, and I was also invited to come to California and to see some of the local churches in action there.
MR. MORGAN: Incidentally, prior to our requesting that, had you seen Mr. Duddy’s book, The God-Men?
DR. MELTON: I purchased a copy soon after it came out and read part of it, skimmed through it, and put it on the shelf. It was not a matter of particular concern at that time.
MR. MORGAN: Will you tell the court what you did by way of performing the assignment that we asked you to do?
DR. MELTON: I attended some more “Local Church” meetings in Chicago to see that they were still doing what they were doing in the mid-seventies when I had attended a number of times. I attended some house fellowships. I did the same on a stay in California and also toured the offices of Living Stream. I went over one Saturday morning to see a work session for the members that gathered to clean the church and had a short devotional period before that.
I read more of Witness Lee’s books than I ever thought I would have to and plowed through sets of periodicals from the various “Local Church” congregations as well as other publications from different “Local Churches.” I read a set of material from Bill Freeman’s ministry in Seattle. It amounted to about six feet of books that I plowed through as well as going through Mr. Duddy’s transcript.
MR. MORGAN: Did you also have an occasion to look at some videotapes?
DR. MELTON: I looked at a whole set of videotapes that were supplied to me. There were six in number. They were anywhere from an hour to two hours in length. That’s been my major contact. I have never met Witness Lee, but I did see him on tape.
MR. MORGAN: These tapes, were they of meetings where Witness Lee participated?
DR. MELTON: Most of them were, yes. They covered a wide variety of sessions; sometimes he was lecturing, and sometimes he was interacting with the audience, doing various things.
MR. MORGAN: Did these tapes also show the members of the church?
DR. MELTON: Right. The members were always there, pictures of them, and there was one tape in particular where the major part of the tape had the members interacting with Witness Lee.
MR. MORGAN: And were these tapes purporting to be back in the 1970s.
DR. MELTON: They covered several years. I don’t remember the exact dates, but they went from the mid seventies seemingly into the late seventies.
DR. MELTON: The same opinion I had at the time that I wrote the Encyclopedia article, that Witness Lee was a variety of the Plymouth Brethren, that it very much fit into that stream of Independent Fundamentalist Christian history, and that it was an orthodox evangelical group. As an evangelical, I think the main opinion was that I don’t have any problem fellowshipping with him.
MR. MORGAN: When you use the term orthodox, can you tell the court what is meant by that?
DR. MELTON: It means that they hold to the basic orthodox statements of Christian faith concerning God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. They believe the Bible to be the word of God.
DR. MELTON: I formed the overall opinion that Mr. Duddy had completely misunderstood what was happening in the “Local Church” and had completely misrepresented both their history and their beliefs and their practices.
MR. MORGAN: What is the significance of misrepresenting the history of the church?
DR. MELTON: Essentially Duddy’s history of the church begins in the 1920s when Watchman Nee formed his own independent movement. There is no mention of his prior affiliation with the Brethren or any mention of his taking over from the Brethren their long history, the major part of their doctrine, or any understanding of how Witness Lee and the “Local Church” see themselves historically as fitting into the mainstream of evangelical Christian history.
This in effect cuts them off from the Christian tradition that they are very much a part of, and he presents them as something new and different. While they have a couple of differences, the overwhelming amount of their church belief and their church life is taken directly out of the mainstream of evangelical thought.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: I want to ask a question, Doctor. In reading The God-Men, did you check some of the material that was stated there to see whether or not the statements, as made, were true or not?
DR. MELTON: No, I did not. The first time that I read The God-Men I was involved in some other projects. I got it; I read it. I read the biography of Watchman Nee that Angus Kinnear had written, and there is another book on Watchman Nee that a fellow named Roberts had written. Reading The God-Men, the presentation in the early chapters was shallow. As I got into the book I recognized some of this just didn’t fit with my experience, but I didn’t have time to check it out, so I just put it on the shelf.
MR. MORGAN: What I think the court is asking is, when you started to do the work for us, did you do that?
DR. MELTON: Oh. I have read the book three or four times.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: What I am saying is, “It is your testimony that there are certain statements in The God-Men book that are not correct regarding the ‘Local Church.’”
DR. MELTON: Yes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Did you do anything actively to check those statements to verify whether they were true or not?
DR. MELTON: Oh, yes. Over the past year I have gone through The God-Men in some depth, taking individual statements and checking them against Witness Lee’s material.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you a couple of questions before I get to specifics here. You have mentioned that Mr. Duddy, in addition to misrepresenting the history, has misrepresented the beliefs and practices. Can you tell the court just in a general way, and then we will get into the specifics, in what way Mr. Duddy misrepresented the beliefs and practices?
DR. MELTON: Mr. Duddy has fairly consistently taken statements, usually individual sentences from the middle of paragraphs, out of context and made them to appear to say things that they were not even talking about.
He has done that consistently through the book. He has misrepresented the piety of the “Local Church,” most particularly in terms of the pray-reading, which is one form of prayer in the “Local Church,” and has presented it as a kind of an Eastern form of mantric prayer. He has not understood the organization of the “Local Church,” which they took over from the Plymouth Brethren and which no one has ever questioned, though it is much more autocratic in the Plymouth Brethren than it is here. He has turned it into kind of a hierarchy, which doesn’t really exist. So in those ways, overall, he’s misrepresented it.
Primarily, underlying all of this is that Witness Lee is a teacher-preacher. He speaks extemporaneously at best from notes. In looking at the tapes, he will frequently stop and make a point that does not seem to even be in his notes, that he just all of a sudden thought up that he needed to make at this point.
Like most preachers, he speaks with images, and he speaks with hyperbole. He overstates cases to make a point and particularly with hyperboles, as any preacher, you can pull them out, put them in another context, and make them appear to be quite opposite of what Witness Lee was talking about. Witness Lee has a theology which underlies his thought, but it is not readily evident because he is preaching to lay people most of the time. He does not preach theology. He is not a great theologian or a systematic theologian, so his theology is not readily evident and he does not speak in abstract theological terms.
Very rarely does he talk theology as, say, a seminary professor would talk it. It does not mean he does not believe it. I get up on Sunday morning to preach to my people. I don’t give them a lecture on the abstract doctrine of the Trinity. It is not particularly relevant to what they are going to do that afternoon.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Mr. Morgan, will there be some of the material that is presented in The God-Men and how that has been taken out of context?
MR. MORGAN: Absolutely, Your Honor, with this witness and other witnesses also.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: I’d be interested in hearing that.
MR. MORGAN: We will get to that very quickly, Your Honor. One more thing. Is there any thrust in Mr. Duddy’s work that the “Local Church” is a cult?
DR. MELTON: The thrust is twofold. In the introduction there is the discussion of the cult problem. It is left undecisive. It raises the issue, is it a cult or not? We are not ready to decide. The real problem is that SCP is identified as an anti-cult organization, and any group that they treat in depth is going to be identified in the public mind as a cult group, and if you go to Christian bookstores, where the book was sold, where I purchased it was at the Moody bookstore in Chicago, and it was on the shelf of books plainly marked as anti-cult books.
MR. MORGAN: Can you explain to the court the dilemma of a group such as the “Local Church” when it is called a cult as to how it can erase that charge?
DR. MELTON: It is very, very difficult. It is like opening up a pillow to the wind and then trying to reclaim all the feathers. It is a very difficult thing to do. They will be a long time, at best, erasing that image.
MR. MORGAN: Is one of the problems that cults are claimed to be deceitful?
DR. MELTON: Cults are claimed to be deceitful. They are claimed to be harmful to their members. They are claimed to be undermining American values. Cults are claimed to be just about every bad thing in the book these days, and with the pervasive images of Manson and Jim Jones hanging over us, any group that is called a cult is immediately associated with those two people.
DR. MELTON: My working definition of a cult is a group that you don’t like, and I say that somewhat facetiously, but at the same time, in fact, that is my working definition of a cult. It is a group that somebody doesn’t like. It is a derogatory term, and I have never seen it redeemed from the derogatory connotations that it picked up in the sociological literature in the 1930s.
MR. MORGAN: Has the term cult gone through all sorts of changes?
DR. MELTON: It began as a sociological term in the twenties and thirties. It was used to describe leftover groups after sociologists had talked about churches and sects. They were a group that just didn’t fit, and they were termed cults. They were treated primarily as esoterica in American religion.
Then in the thirties Christian apologists picked up the term and used it to describe groups that were either not orthodox in their theology or were not Christian at all. That became the most popular use of the term up until the l970s.
Then in the seventies the secular anti-cult movement came along. America has experienced a great pluralism and a marked jump in pluralism in religion, and it has come to mean something actively destructive, not just something wrong but something destructive, psychologically so.
MR. MORGAN: When a group like the “Local Church” protests and says, “We are not a cult,” does that fall on deaf ears?
DR. MELTON: Most of the time it does.
MR. MORGAN: And is that because the charge had been made that they are deceitful?
DR. MELTON: That is one of the reasons. Certainly in the case of the “Local Church,” the charge has been made that there are two levels of theology: a public theology and a private theology. If you have a public theology that seems to be somewhat acceptable, but people say, “Well, your private theology is not acceptable” and “This is what you really believe,” then it is very difficult to deal with that.
MR. MORGAN: In your study of the “Local Church,” have you found any evidence of two different theologies in the church?
DR. MELTON: No. The material that is given to leaders in the church is published, available to anyone, and is sold and marketed quite freely.
MR. MORGAN: Are most of Witness Lee’s teachings reduced to writing?
DR. MELTON: Overwhelmingly. Within a very short time, much of his material first appears in a pamphlet form and circulates as individual pamphlets and then is compiled into books. Almost all of his books are transcripts of his talks.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Is The God-Men entirely devoted to the “Local Church”?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: The book is approximately how many pages long? I haven’t seen it.
DR. MELTON: A couple of hundred.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Is there anything in the book that you would say is accurate and some portions that are not accurate, or would you say the book totally seems to misstate the principles of the “Local Church”?
DR. MELTON: There are certainly some accurate statements in the book, but overall the book totally misrepresents the thought. I don’t think Mr. Duddy ever understood Lee’s theology.
Lee is basically a dispensationalist. That idea is never presented in the book. If you are going to do a picture of Lee’s theology and not discuss dispensationalism, I don’t see how you can do it.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Does Duddy say he wrote this book based on his readings of Lee’s writings, or is it based on being a member of the church?
DR. MELTON: He wrote it based upon his study of the church and reading a number of Lee’s books, which are footnoted in the back.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Does he ever, to your knowledge, claim that he attended their meetings and their sessions?
DR. MELTON: Yes, on several occasions.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: He says that?
DR. MELTON: Not in the book but in his deposition.
MR. MORGAN: You have had an opportunity to review his deposition also, have you not?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: Let’s go first to a paragraph from The God-Men I, where it says:
Witness Lee’s statements reveal that the Local Church’s use of “the name of the Lord” stands clearly in this same tradition and is technological and pagan rather than biblical and Christian.
First, what is Mr. Duddy purporting to say to the readers there?
DR. MELTON: He is purporting to say that a particular prayer practice of the “Local Church” is likened to an Eastern technique of spiritual growth.
In a number of Eastern religions, the structure is such that the individual goes to a guru, and the guru gives him one or more techniques which he is to practice over and over and over again, and those techniques become a means of altering the consciousness and of eventually receiving mystical enlightenment. That is what a guru does.
MR. MORGAN: That doesn’t play any part in Christian prayer, does it?
DR. MELTON: There are within the monastic tradition and within Eastern orthodoxy guru-like structures. If you joined a contemplative order, you would have among the people you associated with a spiritual director who would oftentimes give you disciplines and practices to help you to gain a mystical oneness with God.
MR. MORGAN: Let’s talk in terms of evangelicals.
DR. MELTON: In evangelicalism, that kind of practice has been looked upon with great disdain, and within evangelicalism you would not find that practice.
MR. MORGAN: In the evangelical religion would it be considered as non-Christian?
DR. MELTON: Certainly in many branches of evangelicalism. Among the majority of evangelicals, the practice of a kind of Eastern discipline would be very much looked upon with askance. Even meditation is looked upon with some askance.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you. The prayer practices of the “Local Church,” are they technological and pagan?
DR. MELTON: No, they are not. The main prayer practices of calling upon the name of the Lord and pray-reading are quite vocal, quite communal. They involve the use of the mental faculties in a way that the prayer practices, say, of Hinduism do not, which are designed to quiet the mind and alter consciousness.
If one participated in a pray-reading session, for example, it is very loud, very boisterous; people are jumping up and down. They are communicating with each other through their words. The words take on a great deal of importance.
You have to stay in a fairly normal state of consciousness to participate in this. Unlike, say, for example, a mantra in Hinduism, where you repeat a word over and over again, and it alters your consciousness and puts you into a meditative state. That doesn’t happen. It is quite the opposite of pray-reading.
MR. MORGAN: If Mr. Duddy had in fact studied the “Local Church,” as he represented, and attended meetings, is there any basis for him making that statement?
DR. MELTON: The only basis is that in pray-reading and calling upon the name of the Lord, certain words are repeated more than one time. That is the only slim thread of connection. The whole atmosphere of pray-reading and the dynamics of the group at the time it is done are just completely different. You could not meditate while pray-reading was going on.
MR. MORGAN: Is there any basis, then, for saying it is technological and pagan?
DR. MELTON: No, it is spontaneous. When you start pray-reading, you don’t know what is going to happen by the time it is over with.
MR. MORGAN: Is this something that Mr. Duddy, in your opinion, could misunderstand, or is he doing something else?
DR. MELTON: It is something he could misunderstand because as far as I can tell, he’s not done any study of Eastern religions. The attempt to equate pray-reading with Eastern mantric practices has been something that has appeared in writing by other authors in SCP literature. He could have misunderstood it, but he certainly had no knowledge of what he wrote; that is, he could have misunderstood it. He could have deliberately misrepresented it at this point, but he had not done any study of Eastern religions in order to make this kind of statement.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: At the time did the SCP only write books regarding cults, or did they just do general religious articles?
DR. MELTON: No. That is primarily their only literature. At the time that they were founded, Your Honor, they were one segment of a group that had five or six compartments, and other compartments were writing other kinds of literature of a more general nature. SCP had a special task assigned to it.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: It is like a mission that they had?
DR. MELTON: Right, that was their mission. As they have emerged as a separate organization, they have continued that mission, and among Christian evangelicals there are over a hundred groups like SCP that have that one mission and see themselves doing that one thing. Some of them are even specialized to the point that they do literature only on one group, such as Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses or one of the other larger groups.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: When they are attacking, and you use the word cult as the way they attack them, is that your original definition or more modern definition? The original one was, “Anything I dislike or bothers me.”
DR. MELTON: That is a modern one.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: They are using the modern definition of a cult, is that correct?
DR. MELTON: No, their definition of a cult is a group that either is non-Christian in its teachings or is an unacceptable variation of Christianity because of its doctrinal deviation from orthodoxy.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Do psychological forms of the religion have anything to do with whether they are a cult or not, in other words, whether they work on your mind, either captivate you, control you, or control your actions?
DR. MELTON: In the best of the traditional literature since the thirties, no, it doesn’t. It is strictly a doctrinal matter. Since around 1974 as the secular anti-cult groups have emerged, psychological issues have come to the fore, and unfortunately some of the Christian groups have always accepted those kinds of psychological and pop-sociological observations as additional ways to attack the cult.
MR. MORGAN: Can you explain a little more about that? Can you give us an example of that?
DR. MELTON: Well, when the secular anti-cult movement emerged in the early seventies, it began to attack groups such as the Unification Church and the Children of God. The secular anti-cult movement quickly saw that it wanted to take court action and that religious issues had little or no effect in court.
So they developed a hypothesis that those groups were brainwashing the members. They were deceitfully recruiting them and brainwashing them, and what has happened is that hypothesis has come into some of the Christian literature. The Christian counter-cult ministries and secular anti-cultists saw themselves as fighting a common enemy at times, and on a very personal level have developed relationships and networks. That secular thought world has now entered the Christian counter-cult literature, which was at its best purely doctrinal polemics.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Does SCP, when fighting or attacking cults in their writings, refer to those groups that in a sense do a certain amount of brainwashing of their members?
DR. MELTON: SCP in its literature has primarily been doctrinal, but at various points it has also said that not only is this group doctrinally wrong; it is also psychologically harmful, and it has in certain places brought in the secular critic of cults to supplement its attack on specific groups.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Then their biggest objection is more doctrinal than it is brainwashing?
DR. MELTON: Overall, it has been.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Well, now with respect to a doctrinal attack to these groups, is it certain teachings that these groups maintain that they oppose? In other words, is it some fundamental stream that runs through these groups that they seem to oppose?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: What is that?
DR. MELTON: Their opinion of the Bible.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: No, wait. These cult groups, are they based basically on the teachings of the Bible too?
DR. MELTON: There are a set of them that profess to be Christian and to derive their teachings from the Bible.
For example, Mormons profess to believe the Bible. But Mormons are attacked because not only do they believe the Bible, but they put beside it a second and third revelation, namely, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants. These are seen as equal in authority with Scripture just as Science and Health is seen as equal in authority by Christian Scientists.
Evangelicals would attack these groups, if attack is the right term, I think it is, based on their doctrine of the Bible. Their understanding of the Bible is faulty because they put beside the Bible something else of equal worth, so that any group that questions the absolute and unique authority of the Bible would be subject to critique by evangelicals.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: So the SCP technically could attack the Mormon Church.
DR. MELTON: And do.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: It would be, in your opinion, like an attack on a cult in a sense.
DR. MELTON: Oh, yes. The Mormons are a classic cult. They are one of the groups that were used to define the term cult originally.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Oh, really?
DR. MELTON: Yes. The Mormons, Christian Scientists, Seventh-day Adventists, Theosophy, Spiritualism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those were the original cults in the 1930s.
MR. MORGAN: That was when you were dealing strictly with doctrine, right?
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: That has evolved to where a cult now is something equivalent to a Jonestown?
DR. MELTON: That is the extreme.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Jonestown was the brainwashing type, wasn’t it?
DR. MELTON: That’s right.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: If anybody can get people to kill themselves, I suppose there is a certain amount of brainwashing, because isn’t there something about all of us that has a will to live, will to survive; and then you have to overcome that, don’t you?
DR. MELTON: I don’t know that I am the best one to speak to that, but I think there are a number of incidents where apart from brainwashing, just by a social conditioning, a group could accept that their best means of survival is bodily death. We have seen it quite recently in Lebanon. The people who blew up the embassy there drove a truck in. They willingly committed suicide. That was their means of immortality.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: So they believe that they move on to the next life?
DR. MELTON: Right, but it takes a certain community training over a period of time to do that.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Does it take brainwashing to do that?
DR. MELTON: I would not call it brainwashing. I would call it social conditioning. I have been socially conditioned all my life to put my life on the line if my country was threatened. I was taught, and I believe, that if this country was threatened and my life stood between it and its survival, I would be willing to give my life for its survival and put on a uniform and go do my thing. That is a matter of training from the time that one grows up in values and what is valuable.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Do all the evangelical groups look upon certain of these groups, such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the others, and all classify them as cults?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: That is not something unique with SCP?
DR. MELTON: No.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Has that definition of what is a cult continued to the present day or is that the old teaching?
DR. MELTON: It’s grown. As I say, during the thirties you could find four or five books. During the fifties you could find fifteen or twenty books. Today you can go to any Christian bookstore and find two or three shelves of books under anti-cult materials.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: What I am trying to understand is what the average person believes, who is not familiar with theology and maybe the teachings of the evangelical church, when you refer to some of the cults you are talking about: the Moonies and the Mansons and the Jim Joneses and so forth. But as I understand what you are telling me now, it goes beyond that into a doctrinal teaching type of thing, and some of these other churches fall within that same definition as far as the evangelical people are concerned, just as Lee is labeled a cult. Whether that is bad or good is to be questioned.
DR. MELTON: This is the situation we are into. Up until 1970, let’s say, there was a set of Christian literature aimed at a specific set of around twenty-five or thirty organizations that were labeled cult, and it very plainly stated that by cult we mean those groups that deny the essentials of the Christian faith and are operating in the United States and in the West.
During the 1970s the secular anti-cult movement, the deprogramming movement grew up, became nationally based, and received a tremendous amount of publicity, especially in the late seventies after the Manson and Jonestown incidents. They have created a pervasive image of what a cult is in popular culture.
The Christian anti-cultists have continued to produce the doctrinal material. In part, they have absorbed the additional polemics of the secular anti-cultists. In the public mind they cannot be separated from each other. For the public to go buy a Christian anti-cult book and to buy secular anti-cult books, there is very little way to tell the difference unless you are thoroughly specialized and understand what you are buying and reading. They are frequently on the shelf right next to each other.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: So on this shelf you talked about in Chicago where you found The God-Men, you could find books about the Mormon Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses?
DR. MELTON: Half of the books there were about Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, which are the two prime targets of anti-cult literature. The rest would cover everything from the Moonies to the Hare Krishnas, the Children of God, and then this one.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Let me just ask one other question. Would the SCP be an evangelical group? Do they call themselves an evangelical group?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: And again the definition of an evangelical group is what?
DR. MELTON: A group that flows out of the Protestant Reformation and accepts the basic teachings of the Bible as their authority and is orthodox according to the Chalcedonian Creeds, the early creeds of the church, and is literally evangelical. That is, it is out to try to gain converts.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Is the evangelical group as compared to other groups more heavily influenced by the Bible? In other words, is their teaching centered around the Bible exclusively?
DR. MELTON: They are the people of the Book.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Now, with respect to these other groups that we have mentioned as cults, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Moonies’ Unification Church, do they all have some connection claiming that they are Christian and that they have some connection with the Bible?
DR. MELTON: Some do and some don’t. You have one group of them, Unification Church, Children of God, that would fit into that. Christian Science and the Mormons, who claimed Christianity as their own but put beside the Bible other materials of equal authority. Then there is a second set, Hare Krishnas, Transcendental Meditation, Zen Buddhism, which make no claims to being Christian but have a complete alternative revelation.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: I appreciate all you are saying because I am getting a world of education.
DR. MELTON: Oh, certainly. There was an attempt to attack the “Local Church” for psychological manipulation, to question its financial dealings.
MR. MORGAN: These attacks on the psychological manipulation, that is just the very thing his Honor was talking about that people think in terms of a cult, that they are manipulating the minds of the people, is that right?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: And did you find that those kind of statements by Mr. Duddy were false as they relate to the “Local Church?”
DR. MELTON: I could find no evidence of it. The leadership of the church at one level, in terms of those who have independent ministries, such as Witness Lee and Bill Freeman, operates outside of the local congregations. They perform ministries which the local congregations then make use of.
The local congregations then buy their literature and attend their conferences. For example, Witness Lee would not be able to go into a local congregation and do anything locally in the affairs of that congregation.
The local congregations are run by elders, usually anywhere from two to five elders at any given local congregation. The mere fact that there are so few elders limits any ability they have to do any manipulation. If you are going to be manipulative, you have got to have more leaders to keep up with people over a period of time.
The church in Chicago with four or five elders has three or four hundred members. You just cannot keep up with people day after day and control their lives if you have that few leaders.
I might also add that there has been developed in the church a tremendous amount of lay responsibility. Their offices and functions are being turned over all the time so that people are always moving in and out of leadership positions in the local church administratively in terms of running the building and doing the affairs of the local church, and in Chicago handling the bookstore matters. So it is always changing so that no hierarchy gets established.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: I don’t know exactly how you did your investigation. It would seem to me to be a difficult task, not being a member of the church where you are day to day, week to week, year to year, where you would know for yourself because you have been a member. And you are given this task to try and interpret a book and decide whether it is valid or not valid. Your job was a difficult one; I appreciate that.
But on the other hand, just briefly from what I have heard, some of the things that Mr. Duddy is relying on are some dissidents who left the church and apparently are dissatisfied.
In your investigation did you also check with these people to see whether these are in fact true dissidents that have a gripe for some reason, or maybe there are two sides to every story? Like in a dissolution you hear the husband’s side of the dissolution, and you can’t see how he could live with her until you talk to the wife, and you find out that maybe he was equally at fault.
DR. MELTON: No, I did not have a chance to meet personally with ex-members.
MR. MORGAN: To allay your thoughts, we have an expert who did just that.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: You are reading my mind.
DR. MELTON: It was one of my tasks, Your Honor, to take the testimony of ex-members that I was given and to check them against my experience.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Okay.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you this. Is there some basic rule, though, in the field of religion about reliance upon ex-members?
DR. MELTON: When you are investigating groups such as this, you never rely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members.
MR. MORGAN: Why?
DR. MELTON: To put it bluntly, hostile ex-members invariably shade the truth. They invariably blow out of proportion minor incidents and turn them into major incidents, and over a period of time their testimony almost always changes because each time they tell it they get the feedback of acceptance or rejection from those to whom they tell it, and hence it will be developed and merged into a different world view that they are adopting.
Reliable sources tell us that Lee himself does rule with an iron rod.
First, what is the import of that statement? What is Mr. Duddy conveying to the reader?
DR. MELTON: That Witness Lee rules with an administrative authority that has real power and that he does it in a kingly sort of way, arbitrarily and at his own whim.
MR. MORGAN: Is that some analogy to the psychological cults that we have been discussing?
DR. MELTON: Later on as he begins to discuss psychological issues, a person who rules with an iron rod would be liked to an authoritarian guru who runs his disciples’ lives.
MR. MORGAN: How about a Jim Jones?
DR. MELTON: Very much so.
MR. MORGAN: Okay. Now, is that a correct statement?
DR. MELTON: I have found no evidence to indicate that it is. Lee has a lot of authority within the church. Most of it is the authority that he has brought unto himself through years of people reading his books and listening to his teachings and accepting them. So he has earned his position by his labors over the years, and the respect and authority he has are primarily that.
His authority is at one level, that is as a teacher and as a trainer within the church. His authority is strictly limited in that he cannot go into a local congregation and begin to run the affairs of the “Local Church,” and he has kept himself pretty much separated from being a congregational leader himself, so he does not have any direct leadership role over people.
MR. MORGAN: Has Mr. Duddy then quoted from a couple of statements of Witness Lee on the next page, to sort of support his position?
DR. MELTON: He has. He has built an argument on the next page that Lee is not only the leader of the church, but that he sees himself as God’s oracle.
The import of seeing himself as God’s oracle is twofold.
Number one, if you are speaking God’s word, then your word carries authority, and you are an authoritarian figure who must be listened to.
Secondly, if you are speaking as God’s oracle, you are putting your words as authority beside or above the Bible; therefore, you are moving yourself outside the evangelical camp by denying the absolute unique authority of the Scripture.
MR. MORGAN: By oracle, could I reduce that to a simple term, that Mr. Duddy is representing that Mr. Lee is contending that he is God’s mouthpiece?
DR. MELTON: That is an apt paraphrase.
MR. MORGAN: The two quotes on the next page made the representation that Witness Lee was saying that he was God’s oracle or God’s mouthpiece. Is that a fair and accurate representation of what Witness Lee is saying?
DR. MELTON: No, it isn’t.
MR. MORGAN: Is it completely distorted?
DR. MELTON: Completely.
MR. MORGAN: Now can you tell the court where the quotes come from?
DR. MELTON: In The God-Men II you will notice that the two sentences are separated by ellipses:
“When I command in my spirit, the Lord commands with me, for I am one spirit with the Lord.” “… Is this my teaching? No! This is the revelation of God in the Bible. It was buried, it was covered for centuries, but by His mercy it has been discovered.”
MR. MORGAN: Is this supposed to be taken from some of Witness Lee’s writings?
DR. MELTON: Both quotes, and there are two quotes instead of one, are taken from a book entitled How to Meet.
MR. MORGAN: Let me show you what has been marked as Exhibit 11, and does that contain the pages from which the quotes were taken?
DR. MELTON: Yes, it does.
MR. MORGAN: I’d offer that into evidence, Your Honor.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: May be received.
MR. MORGAN: Can you identify for the court where the quotes are that are used?
DR. MELTON: The quotes are out of order. The second quote appears first in the book beginning with the words:
Is this my teaching? No! This is the revelation of God in the Bible. It was buried, it was covered for centuries, but by His mercy it has been discovered.
That quote appears on page 94 at the beginning of the last paragraph. The previous quote:
When I command in my spirit, the Lord commands with me, for I am one spirit with the Lord.
appears on page 97 at the end of the first paragraph in that new section ” One with the Lord in Spirit.”
MR. MORGAN: What Mr. Duddy has done then is he has taken one quote and put it ahead of another quote when it wasn’t that way in Witness Lee’s writings, is that right?
DR. MELTON: Mr. Duddy has taken two widely separated quotes from the middle of paragraphs and reversed them in order and rammed them together so to speak. The ellipsis implies that one quote follows the other one in fairly close proximity with only irrelevant material being deleted. You would not use an ellipsis to follow a quote several pages later. It might be in the next paragraph but certainly not much further than that.
MR. MORGAN: The impact created in Mr. Duddy’s book is that Witness Lee is saying, “I am speaking for God and I am Him speaking, and therefore what I am saying is more important than the Bible.” Is that basically the thrust?
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: In How to Meet, is that what Witness Lee is saying?
DR. MELTON: Not at all. He is saying something quite different.
MR. MORGAN: Let’s take the one on page 94 of How to Meet. What is Witness Lee saying there?
DR. MELTON: Witness Lee has in the seven or eight pages preceding this been doing a commentary on First Corinthians 12, 13, and 14.
MR. MORGAN: Those are books of the Bible?
DR. MELTON: And specific chapters of the books. The material in those chapters concerns the gifts of the Spirit, and in those chapters Paul is talking about the most important gift of the Spirit, which is prophecy, and what he calls the more excellent way, which is love. What Lee has been doing is explicating those two ideas: what is the major gift of the Spirit and what is love. Then he sums up all that he’s discussed of Paul and he says, “Is this my teaching?”
The “this” is Paul’s teaching on the gift of the Spirit and love. Is this Witness Lee’s teaching? No. Paul’s teaching is the revelation of God in the Bible. It was buried, it was covered for centuries, but by His mercy it has been discovered.
That is what he is saying. He is not talking about himself at all. He is talking about Paul’s discussion of the gifts of the Spirit and love.
MR. MORGAN: This is just exactly the opposite of what Mr. Duddy is portraying, is that correct?
DR. MELTON: Right. Witness Lee is putting forth the Bible. He is holding up a Bible and saying,”Believe the Bible.”
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: I am having a little difficulty here. Doctor, maybe I am not reading all of what Duddy says here, but as I understand it, he is simply quoting in context from what is in this book that is written by Witness Lee. Does he someplace before that mention that it is quoted, “Is this my teaching,” and it says no. How do you interpret from what appears here in Duddy’s book that what he is saying is that this is what Lee is saying?
DR. MELTON: In Duddy’s book he’s just been saying that the “Local Church” teaches that Witness Lee is an oracle of God and that Witness Lee agrees with that.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: What you are saying is that this context doesn’t make reference to chapters twelve, thirteen, and fourteen of Corinthians but rather Witness Lee’s teachings?
DR. MELTON: Right. What it is made to say here is that, “Is it merely Witness Lee’s teaching that he is an oracle of God? No, it is the biblical teaching that Witness Lee is an oracle of God.” That is what the text says.
MR. MORGAN: In effect he is saying that Witness Lee is saying that the Bible says, “I am the oracle of God.”
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: And that is not at all what Witness Lee was saying, is that right?
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: Now let’s go to the quote on page 97. What is Witness Lee saying there?
DR. MELTON: Okay. Witness Lee is commenting upon a verse in which Paul says, “And unto the married I command yet not I but the Lord.” In other words, those are Paul’s words.
And he discusses that, and then he closes his sentence by paraphrasing Paul’s words, “When I command in my spirit the Lord commands with me for I am one with the Lord.”
Now in Duddy’s text it is made to appear that the “I” in that sentence is Witness Lee. It is very obvious from reading the text of this that the “I” is Paul and by implication each and every believer who can be like Paul. But it is primarily Paul.
So it is Paul who is saying, “When I command in my spirit, the Lord commands with me,” not Witness Lee. And it is made to appear in the text that it is Witness Lee who is claiming authority for himself when he is in fact holding up Paul’s authority.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Do you feel, Doctor, that someone of Mr. Duddy’s background and his studies and his experiences could have made this as just a mistake or an error, or do you feel that this is a form of intentional misrepresentation? Is this a reasonable misreading of this?
DR. MELTON: That is the question I started out with and have pondered through this whole thing. The conclusion I have come to is, I don’t see how he could have misread it. I quite honestly don’t see how. Here is a man, he’s got a seminary degree. He concentrated in theology in seminary.
While he doesn’t have a doctorate, he certainly is not an unintelligent man. That was shown throughout his deposition. I don’t see how he could have done it.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: In other words, the way these have been changed is not just a careless or quick reading of it, but it would be something way beyond that?
DR. MELTON: I thought that at first; I was willing to grant him that point. But after reading his deposition and his pointing out that he had gone over this material in some depth, he didn’t just do a quick reading of it.
When I went back over the book again, I realized he could not have constructed the book off of just a quick reading. The book is too sophisticated for that. And this kind of thing happens too many times in Duddy’s book. That is the real problem.
MR. MORGAN: Then as roughly as you like to say it, must you say that it appears to be deliberate?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
DR. MELTON: Well, had this charge been substantiated, I as an evangelical would no longer be able to fellowship with the “Local Church.”
I would not feel comfortable going there and being myself as a Christian and participating in their prayer life and further developing any friendships with members in the church. Witness Lee’s books would now take a different position on my bookshelf. They would no longer be considered books that I would read as books written by a fellow Christian. They would now be books that I strictly studied as a scholar.
MR. MORGAN: Are you saying then that you would want to avoid being around this group and this man?
DR. MELTON: As a Christian, yes, I could not participate with them anymore.
MR. MORGAN: Why?
DR. MELTON: Because as an evangelical I want to worship with people with whom I agree in faith and in thought. I could not honestly sit down and have deep prayer with people who question the authority of the Scriptures.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Would the average person reading this, someone who doesn’t have all the degrees and background and experience that you have, do you think they would come to the same conclusion?
DR. MELTON: Yes, I do. The point that Duddy is making at this point is stated several times rather bluntly. These quotes are merely used to illustrate the charge that is being made. I don’t think most people would follow up and see if these quotes really said that. They would just accept what has happened. It’s been my experience that most people do not check footnotes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: In your experience and in going through all this material and background and so forth and doing the studying, have you been able to find anything that would give you a reason why Mr. Duddy would have done this? Why would a man like Mr. Duddy do this? Was there anything you found? Was there some break or friction? Was there some problem that occurred between the “Local Church” or Witness Lee?
DR. MELTON: At one point, early in their life, the Christian World Liberation Front and the “Local Church” had their headquarters in Berkeley right across the street from each other, and there were several incidents of personal confrontations.
There was also an incident in Dallas, in later years, shortly before The God-Men I appeared, in which there was some personal confrontation and SCP came out second best.
Every piece of literature I have been able to find on the “Local Church”—Jack Sparks’ book The Mindbenders, the material the SCP put out, and a number of items derivative of SCP material; and my library is growing all the time—can be traced to that one incident or to the confrontations in Berkeley. I don’t know what happened. But that’s the best I can make of it.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: By the way, we were talking earlier about the stigma in the evangelical movement of being in a cult. Do you remember the time McCarthyism was going on and on about communism? Even though you could prove you were not a communist, you still had the same stigma.
DR. MELTON: Some of my earliest memories are watching the McCarthy hearings.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Mine too. Do you feel there is that same stigma that once accused there is something that remains?
DR. MELTON: I think I have put in print on more than one occasion that to call someone a cult is the 1970s equivalent of labeling them a pinko.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you this, sir. First, how many evangelicals would there be in the United States?
DR. MELTON: Forty million is the usual count.
MR. MORGAN: As a Christian and as an evangelical, are you concerned about this book?
DR. MELTON: Very much so.
MR. MORGAN: In what respect?
DR. MELTON: As an evangelical I am very much concerned about issues of truth. While I am concerned that, as an evangelical, our position is clearly stated and differentiated from those who disagree with us, I feel that in this case we have defamed some of our own Christian brethren and sisters and have pushed them aside. People that we should be seeing as our friends and allies are being shoved out the door. I am very much concerned about that both as a justice issue and the fact that I as an evangelical and as a Christian have found some communion in meeting with people in the “Local Church.”
Because the epistemological schism affects Lee’s view of God’s written Word, the Bible assumes a subsidiary position in his sensuous theology. The words of Scripture have meanings, including references to certain facts and events of history, but meaning in general and factuality in particular have less significance for Lee than the personal, subjective experience of Christ in the human spirit. This experience can be opened up to us through reading the Bible, but it occurs through a process of spiritual osmosis which has nothing to do with understanding what we read. The written Word is a shadow, not a reality. A higher spiritual Word exists behind the rational meaning of the written Word. The written Word acts like an erratic compass rather than a definitive guide to reality. Commenting on Romans 2:29 and 7:6, where Paul writes that Christians are released from the penalty of the law (the letter), Lee writes: “Now we know what the word ‘letter’ here refers to-it is the written Bible. Today we must serve the living Lord with newness in the spirit, not according to the oldness of the written Bible. Everyone must admit that the word ‘letter’ in these passages refers to the written Scriptures. There can be no argument.”
Can you tell the court what significance that has to a reader of this type of material?
DR. MELTON: Well, the significance of this is to suggest that Lee, while he uses the Bible, places it in a secondary position, that the Bible is a useful tool to get something else that is more important.
MR. MORGAN: How significant is that in the evangelical religion?
DR. MELTON: Well, the Bible’s our authority, and certainly there is a place for saying that the Bible is to help us gain faith in Jesus Christ, but we would never degrade the Bible. We would never downplay its significance. It is always there. It is not merely a tool to get somewhere else.
MR. MORGAN: Then is this part of the book telling the readers that Witness Lee is downgrading the Bible?
DR. MELTON: It is telling them, the reader, and it says it in very specific terms in Duddy’s text, that Lee downgrades the authority of Scripture.
MR. MORGAN: What effect would that have on Witness Lee and members of the “Local Church” in the evangelical community?
DR. MELTON: It would make them anathema.
MR. MORGAN: Does that mean they are not wanted?
DR. MELTON: Very much so.
MR. MORGAN: Again, does Mr. Duddy purportedly rely on certain quotes from Witness Lee in this regard?
MR. MORGAN: Showing you what’s been marked as Exhibit 12, can you identify what that is?
DR. MELTON: These are some pages from Witness Lee’s book, Christ vs. Religion. The two quotes at the end of the paragraph under discussion were taken from two sentences on pages 152 and 153.
MR. MORGAN: I will offer that into evidence as Exhibit 12, Your Honor.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: May be admitted.
MR. MORGAN: First let me talk a bit about that title. That sounds kind of blasphemous, Christ vs. Religion. What does that mean?
DR. MELTON: It means that in Witness Lee’s view, human beings make up religion. All human beings are religious, and they will make up things to do and to be and believe and follow which are religious and that Christ as the living presence of God breaks through that manmade religion and becomes a living reality to the Christian. Faith in Christ stands over against manmade religion.
MR. MORGAN: In manmade religion, are we talking about practices and temples?
DR. MELTON: We are talking about codes of law and practice. We are talking about ritual. We are talking about church structures, particularly bishops and priests. We are talking about all the things that people do to be religious.
MR. MORGAN: Is there something wrong about saying that?
DR. MELTON: I don’t think so. It has been a fairly popular idea in twentieth century theology. A number of twentieth century theologians, some evangelical, some not so, have proposed that idea. Karl Barth is probably the most famous theologian that has written a massive volume on the same theme.
MR. MORGAN: It is not something that is totally new or way out or anything; it is something that’s already been expressed. Is that right?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: Let’s go to the quotes in Christ vs. Religion. Let’s take the first one on page 152:
Romans 7:6 says, “But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.” Now we know what the word “letter” here refers to-it is the written Bible. Today we must serve the living Lord with newness in the spirit, not according to the oldness of the written Bible. I can say this boldly, because I am a little follower of this most bold one, the Apostle Paul. Now we serve not according to the oldness of the written code, the written Bible, but according to the newness of the spirit. Why? Because in the spirit is Christ, while in the written code is religion. This is Christ versus religion.
What is it to be religious? To be religious is simply to be sound, scriptural, and fundamental, yet without the presence of Christ. If we lack His presence, regardless of how scriptural we are, we are simply religious. Paul in these two verses of Romans laid a solid foundation for Christ versus religion. Today our service, our work, and even our life must be altogether in the spirit, not merely according to the letters of the written Bible. I know that when I say this I run a risk. I will be charged with the heresy of turning people away from the Bible. But I simply refer you to these two passages of Scripture, Romans 2:29 and Romans 7:6. Everyone must admit that the word “letter” in these passages refers to the written Scriptures. There can be no argument. Christ is versus religion; Christ is versus the written code. We may have the right quotation from the written code, yet miss Christ, just as the Pharisees and scribes in ancient times. We must be alert not to pay that much attention to the written code. If we do, it is altogether possible and extremely probable that we will miss Christ. The only way of safety is to behold “with unveiled face the glory of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18).
Tell the court what Witness Lee is saying there.
DR. MELTON: Witness Lee is discussing a particular point of religion, namely the Old Testament codification of the law. We think of the Old Testament law as being the Ten Commandments. In actuality, it covers a couple of books of the Bible and is a very detailed presentation of the law. And then the Jewish continuance of the codification in the Talmud and in their writings.
What he is talking about here is the attempt to codify religion into a written code, and he is using this as an example. The Old Testament law, that is what he is discussing at this point.
MR. MORGAN: What does he say there?
DR. MELTON: He is saying that the Old Testament written code has been set over against Christ, that Christ has put it behind us and is opposed to it.
MR. MORGAN: When he says, “Now we know what the word ‘letter’ here refers to-it is the written Bible,” what is he talking about there?
DR. MELTON: Well, I suspect if I could see a movie of this that what Witness Lee is doing is he is holding up a Bible in his hand, and he is referring to the front of it or to the Old Testament portion of it and saying, this becomes a written code for us, and we must not let the written code get in the way of our faith in Jesus Christ. That is simply, pretty much what he is saying.
MR. MORGAN: Is that saying that the Bible takes a secondary or inferior position?
DR. MELTON: No, it is saying something that evangelical dispensational theology and what most of Christian theology has said through the years. It agrees with Paul. The law had its purpose. It was a schoolmaster. It led us to Christ, and Christ nailed it to the cross, and we are now Christians, and we do not follow that Old Testament code anymore. It is something that Christ broke through.
MR. MORGAN: When you say you don’t follow it, are you saying you ignore it?
DR. MELTON: The greater part of it, yes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Is it supplemented by the New Testament?
DR. MELTON: No. The following of the greater part of the Old Testament code has simply been set aside. Remembering that there is a small section of it which we call the Ten Commandments, that is generally considered to be the moral code which he treats elsewhere, but the greater part of it has to do with ritual performance, the keeping of feasts, what food you can eat. That all has been set aside. That was all religion, and that is what Witness Lee is saying.
MR. MORGAN: Just so we don’t leave this dangling, what does Witness Lee say about the Ten Commandments?
DR. MELTON: He says the Ten Commandments are God’s immutable laws, that they are for all times and all places, and that they must be followed.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: The evangelical movement, do they believe in both the New Testament and the Old Testament?
DR. MELTON: Both.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: When you refer to the Bible you are referring to the combination of the Old and the New Testament.
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: Now let’s go down to the next one at the bottom of the page which says:
Everyone must admit that the word “letter” in these passages refers to the written Scriptures. There can be no argument.
Again, what is Lee saying there?
DR. MELTON: He is making the same point over again that we do not follow the letter of the law. The letter of the law is found in the Old Testament. Paul didn’t have a New Testament, so when Paul refers to the written Scriptures, he is referring to the Old Testament. That is where the rules and regulations about ritual and diet are found.
MR. MORGAN: You have told us that Duddy has used these two quotes to say that Witness Lee put the Bible in a secondary or inferior position, is that right?
DR. MELTON: That’s right.
MR. MORGAN: Those quotes don’t say that, do they?
DR. MELTON: No.
MR. MORGAN: They say just the opposite again, don’t they?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: Again, is this something that an individual like Mr. Duddy, assuming he read the materials of Witness Lee that he says, that he could ever make such a statement?
DR. MELTON: This one is somewhat harder than the others. The quotes here are very strong and especially taken out by themselves are very strong. I could see where Mr. Duddy could have read the book, and those quotes could have jumped out at him. But, no, Mr. Duddy is an intelligent, trained person. He should have understood how Witness Lee is using the material here and the analogy that he is making.
It is obvious that Witness Lee is speaking hyperbolically, that he is not stopping to say “what I mean” or the Scriptures in Leviticus and Numbers and these specific points. He is just saying the Scriptures. That is a hyperbole, but it is obvious from the context what he is doing.
MR. MORGAN: And if one were to read the rest of his writings, is it obvious that Witness Lee hasn’t said that?
DR. MELTON: Certainly it is. You read Witness Lee’s writings over and over and over again, and Duddy would have encountered these facts in his vast reading. Witness Lee holds up the Bible, the written Bible, the written word, and tells people that it is to be believed and to be studied and to be learned, and how Duddy could have missed those; he doesn’t quote any of those passages, but they are scattered so much through his writings.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Let me see if I understand what you are saying. Are you saying that in Duddy’s word he is saying that Witness Lee is almost putting the Bible aside, whereas Witness Lee in his writings is saying that the letter is reference to the Old Testament which we put aside and look to the New Testament?
DR. MELTON: No, that is not what he is saying. What Witness Lee is saying is that there is a portion of the Old Testament which is merely the codification of the law that God gave to the Jews at a specific time and place. That code, that written code, has been put aside. That is all Lee is saying.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: But Duddy says his reference is to the entire Bible, the New Testament as well?
DR. MELTON: The context with which it appears in Duddy is a reference to the entire Scripture, and it is not just putting aside-it is downgrading all of Scripture.
MR. MORGAN: Then does Mr. Duddy work this ultimately into his book to create an idea that because of this Witness Lee somehow encourages immorality?
DR. MELTON: That is where this is leading. If the Bible and particularly the legal parts of the Bible have been put aside, then they no longer have to be followed. Duddy has created the image that Witness Lee is teaching a spiritualized theology, where the only thing that is important is your relationship spiritually to God and that the moral code has been set aside so that you are free to do various immoral things.
In actual fact, over and over again in his writings, Lee says that the Ten Commandments are for all times and all places and all people, and he has one rather humorous item where he is talking about prayer and seeking personal guidance through prayer. He says you don’t go to God and pray, “God, should I steal” and seek guidance on that matter.
He says, “No, the law has been given; it says don’t steal. That is it. You don’t even ask God about that because God has already spoken on that issue.”
In another place where he is discussing Christ fulfilling the law, he says, “Why did the Ten Commandments have to be fulfilled in Christ? He said because they were incomplete. The Ten Commandments said don’t murder. That means don’t murder. It didn’t say anything about anger. You can get angry, and Moses didn’t have anything against you. Christ said now you can’t even get angry.”
That is law. You’ve got to follow that. It’s for all times, all places, all people.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you to turn to another quote from The God-Men, where it says:
Consistently, Lee’s counsel steers parishioners away from biblical ethic regarding behavior and teachings which encourage responsibility and affirmative action. Paul’s counsel to Timothy as cited earlier (II Timothy 3:16-17) heralds Scripture as being useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”-a counsel which lies dormant in Lee’s sensuous theology.
Again, that is the end of the part I am quoting. Is this again where Mr. Duddy is conveying the idea that Witness Lee’s teachings are leading towards immorality?
DR. MELTON: That is the exact point he is making. He is saying that Lee discounts following moral law, and therefore breaking moral law is okay for a member of the “Local Church.” That is just totally the opposite of what Lee consistently teaches through his books.
MR. MORGAN: We have on the board here pages 150 and 155 from Christ vs. Religion. Witness Lee says:
I do have scriptural ground to say that what we need is something in the spirit, not anything merely in the letter according to the written Scriptures. Who can argue? Please do not misunderstand me: I am not saying, nor have I ever said, that we should not care for the Scriptures. [page 150]
Some may charge us with being too liberal; they may call us “liberal Christians.” But be careful: this term “liberal Christian” refers to the modernists who do not believe that the Bible is the divine revelation, nor that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who accomplished redemption, was resurrected, and ascended to the heavens. They are the liberal ones; we are not. We would die for the Bible. We believe that the Bible is God’s divine Word, and we believe that our Lord Jesus is the very God incarnated to be a man, who died on the cross for our sins, and was resurrected physically, spiritually, and literally. [page 155]
He is saying that the Scriptures are up there, is that right?
DR. MELTON: Right. At this point he is discussing, as he discusses throughout the Scripture, that there is the problem of people who know Scripture from a rather secular, studious point of view but have never inculcated in their lives the substance of what Scripture is talking about.
It is like a person who could quote the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians about love but who doesn’t know how to love; they’ve never experienced love. They know the letter of Scripture, but they don’t understand what it is all about. He is saying we not only must know that letter of Scripture, but we must experience it and make it a part of our lives. That is what he is getting to.
MR. MORGAN: Now that is on page 150 which is from Christ vs. Religion, so that is just a matter of two pages before the part that Mr. Duddy took out of the quote is that right?
DR. MELTON: That’s right.
MR. MORGAN: So Mr. Duddy had to have read right from the start what Witness Lee was saying?
DR. MELTON: That’s right.
MR. MORGAN: Does that indicate to you that in this instance it was deliberate?
DR. MELTON: It indicates it to me. The second quote you have up there indicates it a lot more, because in the second quote he is talking about people who are liberal Christians and he specifically says that liberal Christians are people who do not believe in the revelation of the Bible as God’s Word. We are not that. We would die for the Bible. That is such a clear and blatant statement of his position that even if Duddy was a little sleepy when he got to page 150, there is no way to miss the implication on page 155.
MR. MORGAN: And that is when he said he would die for the Bible.
DR. MELTON: Right.
Biblically, God manifests perfect holiness because he is self-consistent, not because he obeys an extraneous, higher law. Lee reasons that because Christians, too, are divine, they should not be bound by external moral laws.
Again, what is that saying?
DR. MELTON: It is saying that you don’t have to follow the Ten Commandments. You don’t have to follow the Sermon on the Mount.
MR. MORGAN: That is entirely contrary to what Witness Lee says, is that right?
DR. MELTON: Exactly.
MR. MORGAN: In that instance he says, “…because Christians, too, are divine.” What is the significance of that?
DR. MELTON: This has to do with the doctrine of God that the “Local Church” uses, their particular use of a language around the term mingling. It has been Duddy’s interpretation that the use of that language implies that once one becomes a member of the “Local Church,” it is Lee’s conception that they mingle with God in such a way that they become something different than human, that they are now a kind of human-divine hybrid. That is the import of the name of the book, The God-Men; they are a different species because they have mingled with the divine. What he is saying here is that because they are this different species that is why they have been released from the law.
MR. MORGAN: Are you saying then that the title of the book, The God-Men, is implying to the readers that the people of the “Local Church” are in fact a different form of species because of their belief?
DR. MELTON: Yes, that is the implication of the title.
MR. MORGAN: All right. Did you come across some evidence of what Mr. Duddy did as far as this divine concept in altering a diagram of Witness Lee’s?
DR. MELTON: The main place that this happens, again it relates to biblical authority and law. It has to do with Lee’s book Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms. There is a diagram in there that appears around page 41 or 42 in Duddy’s book.
MR. MORGAN: Let’s mark this as Exhibit 13 and ask you if you can identify what that is.
DR. MELTON: Exhibit 13 is two pages, pages 40 and 41 from Witness Lee’s book Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms, and the book itself is a commentary on the book of Psalms.
MR. MORGAN: Is that referred to by Mr. Duddy in his book?
DR. MELTON: Yes, it is. And in the middle of page 40 there is a diagram which Duddy purports to reproduce in his book.
MR. MORGAN: I will offer that into evidence as Exhibit 13.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: May be accepted.
MR. MORGAN: First, Doctor, can you tell us what the diagram in Witness Lee’s writing is supposed to indicate?
DR. MELTON: Witness Lee divides the Psalms into two classes. First, those that primarily refer to upholding and celebrating the Old Testament law and God’s covenant with Israel. A second set of Psalms primarily foreshadow and look toward the coming of Christ, and what Lee does is to suggest that the Psalms that look toward Christ are of a higher quality. He uses the term higher. How would we describe it? They are of more spiritual import to the Christian today than those which celebrate the law.
MR. MORGAN: Let me do this. Let me hold up a copy of Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms and ask you to look at page 40, Doctor. Now we have, right down at the bottom it says Psalm 1, then up at the top it is Psalm 2 and Psalms 3 to 7, Psalm 8, Psalms 9 to 15, Psalm 16, and then Psalms 17 to 21.
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: Is there some significance there between Psalm 1 and Psalm 2?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: And what is the significance?
DR. MELTON: Psalm 1 and Psalms 3 to 7 are on the lower level. They are Psalms which are seen as celebrating the law and the Old Testament. The Psalms on the higher level are those that are celebrating the coming of Christ and the church.
MR. MORGAN: Duddy on page 42 of The God-Men II apparently attempts to create that, is that correct?
DR. MELTON: He claims that he’s reproduced that diagram.
MR. MORGAN: Just by looking at it we can see it is not the same, is that right?
DR. MELTON: Right. He’s deleted material in the diagram.
MR. MORGAN: First, what is the significance of the deletion of material?
DR. MELTON: The most significant thing is it is simply changed. He’s claimed he’s reproduced the diagram and he hasn’t.
MR. MORGAN: In addition, has he added something to it?
DR. MELTON: He’s added two lines to it.
MR. MORGAN: What are they?
DR. MELTON: If I remember correctly, ” Divine Inspiration” and “Human Inspiration.”
MR. MORGAN: They are off to the side, is that right?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: What is the significance of adding those words there?
DR. MELTON: The significance is that Duddy is telling the reader that some Psalms are merely humanly inspired, and some Psalms are divinely inspired. Therefore, there are some parts of the Bible which we don’t have to pay attention to because they are merely human inspiration; and there are some Psalms that are divinely inspired, and those we should pay attention to.
MR. MORGAN: Is Mr. Duddy representing that Witness Lee says that?
DR. MELTON: Yes, and by putting those words in the diagram, he is representing to the reader that Lee has those words either in the diagram or at least in the text of the chapter.
MR. MORGAN: Does Witness Lee have those words in there?
DR. MELTON: He not only does not have those words; he has nothing that even remotely resembles those concepts.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: I thought you said that Witness Lee does say that the ones on the upper level are more spiritual. They have more of a spiritual import than the ones on the lower level and that the lower level are more like the Old Testament.
DR. MELTON: That is right, but they are no less godly inspired. Lee is a dispensationalist, and dispensational theology says that God has acted at different periods of time in an evermore inclusive sense.
In other words, revelation has been added to through time, and dispensationalists would say that the revelation of Christ is more universal and supersedes the revelation of the law. But the revelation of the law is no less divinely inspired. God gave the law, God made the covenant with Israel, and God led Israel.
What a dispensationalist would say is that Christ’s revelation supersedes that revelation, and that is what Lee is saying. It is not that the law is humanly inspired, is a human product. It is of God; it is divine just as the New Testament is, but it has been superseded.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Is Lee saying that, or is he saying that these Psalms, that it had on the lower level, where Duddy says human inspiration, are a human translation of those Psalms?
DR. MELTON: What Duddy is saying is that it is inspired out of human experience, not out of God’s experience, and, therefore, that part of the Bible is to be discounted and no attention paid to it because it is merely of human inspiration. An evangelical would say the entire Scripture is inspired by God.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Duddy seems to infer that it is Lee’s teaching that Christ is supreme even over above the written text. If you take the Bible up here, and you take Christ up here, Christ has to be above the Bible because it is His teachings. What he is saying, at least this is what he ascribes to Witness Lee, is that sometimes it is not what is written but it is what Christ’s teachings are that is the most important. Do you get that feeling?
DR. MELTON: Yes. I get that feeling.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Is that what Witness Lee says?
DR. MELTON: No. Witness Lee would say that the most important thing in life is our faith and relationship for saving faith with God. The Bible is integral to that experience because it is the Bible that is the way we learn about that experience and make our connection. It is not a mere intermediary between us and God, but it is integral to that, and it is the entire Scripture that was given to us by God.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: There is someplace I read in here that Witness Lee says it is not the man who holds the Bible up that is important if he doesn’t believe in the living Christ.
DR. MELTON: That’s right.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: So it is not all important just simply holding the Bible in your hand, but it is believing in the teachings of the living Christ. Isn’t that what Lee teaches?
DR. MELTON: That is exactly what Lee and evangelicals teach, totally. As I said before, it is important that we know the thirteenth chapter of Corinthians about Paul’s teachings on love. It is equally important that we be loving people.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: What is the feeling of the evangelical if you get a person who quotes the Bible, holds the Bible in their hands, but doesn’t practice what it says?
DR. MELTON: They would tend to look down upon that person.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: It is not the holding of the Bible or being able to quote it or being familiar with it, but it is living it, isn’t it? Or do they believe in it?
DR. MELTON: Living the Scriptures is one sign that you really believe it. Hypocrisy, of course, is a great sin in most religions: to say “I believe it” and go out and do the exact opposite.
This is one of the things that amazes me about this particular set of charges about Lee. Here is a man who has spent his entire adult life getting up in front of people and teaching on the Bible.
If he did not believe the Bible was the written word of God, he would be one of the most unique men in history. I have never heard of anyone who has spent his entire life doing biblical exposition who didn’t believe that the Bible was the most important thing going. That is one of those things that amazes me.
MR. MORGAN: Doctor, there is nothing in Witness Lee’s writings or words upon which Mr. Duddy could say that Witness Lee is placing the Bible in a lesser position, is there?
DR. MELTON: No, I don’t think so. I have read twenty or so of his books, and I have not found anything that implies remotely that he degrades the Bible.
MR. MORGAN: Just to the opposite, he is saying things such as, “We would die for the Bible,” is that right?
DR. MELTON: Yes. It is also the church’s official position in their statement of faith, which Mr. Duddy had access to. The very first statement is, “We believe that the Holy Bible is the complete divine revelation verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Is it your feeling that an average person, not one educated like you, the average person reading Duddy’s book would get the idea that Witness Lee downgrades the Bible?
DR. MELTON: Duddy says it over and over so many times, I don’t see how it could escape even the most ignorant of readers.
MR. MORGAN: And that would go in here where Mr. Duddy is purporting to say or is saying that Witness Lee says the Bible is not inspired, am I right?
DR. MELTON: Right.
MR. MORGAN: Let’s move on, then. You will see the words, “Charles Finney and Asa Mahan” and then Mr. Duddy says,
Evidently, Lee incorporates moral pygmyism in his discussion on ethics. Moral pygmies are believers whose standard of conduct plunges far below the ethical code of the law, while remaining oblivious to the disparity.
First, what is that saying to the reader?
DR. MELTON: It is saying that Witness Lee’s presentations of moral standards are stone age: moral pygmies, people who haven’t grown up, pre-civilized, have not yet heard the law.
MR. MORGAN: And is it saying, then, that these people can do immoral acts and actually be oblivious to the fact that they are committing immoral acts?
DR. MELTON: They would have no conscience about them. Certainly, yes.
MR. MORGAN: Is there anything in Witness Lee’s teachings that indicates that?
DR. MELTON: Not at all.
MR. MORGAN: Is there anything that indicates to the contrary?
DR. MELTON: There are numerous quotes. The one you have from The Economy of God is just one of many in which, as we said earlier, the law, the Ten Commandments, is a set of fixed rules which cannot be changed. That is the quote concerning prayer. Don’t pray for guidance and of whether or not the Ten Commandments still hold for you.
MR. MORGAN: Would you agree that the term moral pygmy, as used here, is a pejorative term, a damaging term?
DR. MELTON: Oh, very much so.
MR. MORGAN: Again, would you agree that in this instance Neil Duddy is deliberately distorting Witness Lee’s teachings?
DR. MELTON: He is not only distorting Witness Lee’s teachings; he is distorting Benjamin Warfield’s teachings too.
MR. MORGAN: Who is Benjamin Warfield?
DR. MELTON: Benjamin Warfield is a very conservative, outstanding, Presbyterian theologian from the early part of this century. He’s one of the people strongly referred to at the seminary where Mr. Duddy attended in Philadelphia.
MR. MORGAN: What part does Mr. Warfield play in this citation?
DR. MELTON: Mr. Warfield wrote a book on sanctification in which he opposed the Presbyterian ideals of sanctification against those of the Methodists and the Holiness people.
MR. MORGAN: The word sanctification, what does that mean?
DR. MELTON: You really want to get into that?
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: That may take us a while.
MR. MORGAN: Can you give it to me in simple language?
DR. MELTON: Sanctification means holy. How is the Christian made holy? How is he sanctified? Presbyterians essentially say, “In this life one is made holy only by faith. One becomes truly holy in the next life.” The Holiness and Methodists said, “No, one can become holy in this life.”
Asa Mahan and Charles Finney were two Congregationalists who were strongly affected by Methodist doctrine and became leaders in the Holiness movement. What Warfield was doing was opposing these ideas.
The Methodists had accused the Presbyterians of anti-nomianism, that is, being people who do not follow the law. It was part of the particular term they had picked out: “To be a Presbyterian is to be an anti-nomian, without the law.”
What Warfield is doing is returning kind for kind saying, “To be a member of the Holiness movement and teach their view of sanctification is to be a moral pygmy.” Moral pygmyism refers to their interpretation of the doctrine of sanctification as being “something that we can work towards rather than something God has to give us.” That is what Warfield is saying about the Holiness doctrine.
MR. MORGAN: Are you saying that Mr. Duddy even made up the definition of moral pygmyism here?
DR. MELTON: He certainly changed it from that which Warfield had used. Warfield uses the term in a massive theological tome which only ten people have ever read. It is buried in the middle of it. It is one of his minor words, and he is using it as part of a scholarly theological polemic about people who aren’t alive anymore.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you, would Mr. Finney and Mr. Mahan actually be moral pygmies according to Duddy’s definition?
DR. MELTON: I would not think so. It should be pointed out that Warfield did not accuse either Mahan or Finney of immorality or of being less than staunch, full members of the Christian community. By moral pygmies he is accusing them of theological defect in their doctrine of sanctification.
Asa Mahan and Charles Finney are two of the finest Christians this country ever produced. Finney wrote the first, the original, systematic theology of the Protestant church after the American Revolution.
Mahan and Finney were the leaders of Oberlin Theological School, which was the bedrock of the abolitionist movement. During the years they were there, it was about the only place a black man could get a theological education or a woman a college education. They developed a whole theology about the moral government of God. They were some of the people who made American theology with its imprint of integrating moral categories into political life. Woodrow Wilson’s idea of waiting to get into World War I until he had a moral reason comes out of Finney’s ideal.
No, Warfield was not accusing them of immorality or of moral pygmyism in the sense of doing immoral things or teaching immoral things. He was accusing them of a defect in the doctrine of sanctification.
MR. MORGAN: Again, without belaboring it, to charge that Witness Lee is teaching people so that they can be immoral and be oblivious to it will obviously have a devastating effect on Witness Lee and the “Local Church,” won’t it?
DR. MELTON: To say the least. His reputation in the church would be damaged beyond measure, but even his public reputation outside the church. Here is a religious leader teaching people to be immoral or teaching you can be immoral.
MR. MORGAN: I want to go to another quote from The God-Men:
Second, the Anaheim official pointed out that other Christian churches are riddled with similar improprieties and transgressions. Whereas the Christian community has witnessed moments of division and immorality among its members, characteristically biblical discipline has been exercised to exhort such members to repentance. Within the Local Church, however, sensuous theology tends to enhance this type of social interaction because Scripture is relegated to a non-valued position and is not revered as the voice of authority that traditional propositional theology assigns it.
The words sensual theology, what is that?
DR. MELTON: It is a fairly complicated concept that Duddy developed. It is his description of Witness Lee’s theology. It carries several imports to it, among them being that one’s experience of the divine life is more important than the teachings of Scripture. Secondly, it carries with it the idea that the metaphors that one uses to describe the Christian life are taken from sense experience. They are sensuous. Those are the basic imports of the concept.
MR. MORGAN: Does Witness Lee teach that?
DR. MELTON: He certainly draws some metaphors from sensual experience. In that way he is following some traditional theological lines. If Duddy had been aware of his own tradition a little more, he might have known of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon in which he compares the Christian life to the taste of honey for the first time, a very sensual concept.
I cannot explain faith to you. It is like trying to explain what honey tastes like if you have never tasted honey. So in that sense Duddy complains about something that Lee is doing that the best of theologians have always done. On the other hand, Lee does emphasize the experience of Christian life, but he does not do it in such a way that it downgrades the Scripture or puts aside scriptural authority. As a matter of fact, he does it because of scriptural authority.
The Scripture does emphasize that we must live the Christian life and that we must experience the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our communal life. That is not downgrading Scripture as Duddy implies. It is living Scripture.
MR. MORGAN: Continuing on that same page, Duddy says:
Not only is the Local Church unwilling to exercise discipline, but, by intrinsic theological design, its ability to do so is foundationally inadequate because authority rests in conscious sensations from the Spirit-spirit whose voices may be many and varied.
What is he saying there?
DR. MELTON: He is saying a couple of things. Number one, he is saying, Forget for a moment that I said Witness Lee runs the church with an iron hand and that he controls everybody and manipulates everybody, because what really is happening is there is chaos in the “Local Church,” and they are all doing their own thing because they are spirit-led. So he is basically contradicting his own self.
But the point he is trying to make here is that Witness Lee has built a theology, and the “Local Church” has accepted a theology where individual spirit guidance is the way you make decisions rather than applying to the Scripture for guidance.
MR. MORGAN: Is he saying that you really don’t realize that you are approving immoral acts, as an example?
DR. MELTON: That’s right. You are approving acts that you have been taught in childhood were immoral because everybody is a convert. But now they no longer appear immoral to you because you have gotten the word from inside yourself and from your spirit that what you want to do is okay.
EDITOR’s NOTE: Dr. Melton was asked about the following incident only to establish that a reader would falsely understand it as a consequence of Witness Lee’s teaching. Other witnesses at the trial testified, proving the falsity of the alleged incident. See Dr. Saliba, page 97.
MR. MORGAN: Now this is following a story about a child rape, is it not?
DR. MELTON: As best as I remember, it is.
MR. MORGAN: So in effect, then, Mr. Duddy is saying that Witness Lee’s teaching in this regard bears some responsibility for this child rape, is that correct?
DR. MELTON: It would free someone to do immoral things without a guilty conscience.
MR. MORGAN: Isn’t he also saying that the people in the church aren’t even prepared to discipline one for that because they don’t accept it as wrong?
DR. MELTON: That’s right.
MR. MORGAN: And that’s totally false as far as Witness Lee and the “Local Church,” is that right?
DR. MELTON: Totally false.
MR. MORGAN: Again, in your opinion, making this kind of a charge against Witness Lee and the “Local Church,” was this something that had to have been deliberate?
DR. MELTON: Certainly the charge was deliberate. To connect the charge with these teachings that ignore what Witness Lee has said about the necessity of members following the law, had to be either deliberate or some kind of reckless disregard of what Lee had obviously said.
DR. MELTON: Yes, there is. In particular, there is a charge that members of the “Local Church” have a loss of mental acuity.
MR. MORGAN: And what in the world is mental acuity?
DR. MELTON: They have a loss of ability to deal rationally with what most of us think of as the real world.
MR. MORGAN: In your interrelation with the members, have you found anything of that sort?
DR. MELTON: Not at all.
MR. MORGAN: Can you tell the court what you have seen in Witness Lee’s writings regarding education?
DR. MELTON: There is in several places a strong admonition of the members to use and develop their minds. In one place in particular he points out to the younger members of the church that we are no longer living in Israel, we are not farmers, and he equates going to college as planting a crop and getting a degree as harvesting it. He admonishes all of them to go to college and to get their degree.
MR. MORGAN: I am going to ask you to look at another Duddy quote, where it says:
Public humiliation occurs sporadically and for varying reasons. One case in point was the arrangement by Lee to have an elder denounce the Rapoports before an audience of 1,000 plus Anaheim parishioners. The family was cited for deserting the faith, analogous to Hymenaeus and Alexander, who “suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (I Timothy 1:19, 20).
Then Duddy goes on and talks about another person, and when we get over to this page, he says:
Rapoport confirmed that this fear of being “singled out,” or the actual event itself, has contributed to the emotional breakdowns of a disconcertingly high number of Anaheim church members, necessitating their hospitalization in psychiatric wards.
In your study of the church, have you seen any evidence of that?
DR. MELTON: No.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you, in either the reading of Witness Lee’s writings or looking at the videotapes, is there anything that you see there that would be a singling out or an ostracizing that would cause people to be hospitalized in psychiatric wards?
DR. MELTON: Nothing.
MR. MORGAN: Was there a cult leader who became known for singling out and ostracizing people and in effect harming them psychologically?
DR. MELTON: There have been several. Of course, the most famous one is Jim Jones.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you again, and it may be belaboring the issue. What impact does that kind of language have upon the Christian community when there are writings saying that a man is creating this psychological damage to people?
DR. MELTON: Well, the main impact concerns a family member who might join, and it raises a specter of fear. For example, if my daughter became a member of the “Local Church,” and I believed this, I would be fearful of her health and welfare.
MR. MORGAN: Is this the sort of thing that we are reading about in the newspapers where families are trying to get their children out of various groups and are using deprogramming?
DR. MELTON: Deprogramming is certainly one of the things that some parents who have developed this kind of fear have used against various groups.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask another question now. How are Witness Lee and the “Local Church” able to counter this charge?
DR. MELTON: It’s almost impossible. It’s like charging them with witchcraft. You can deny it, but it is such a nebulous thing, and it is very difficult to deal with, especially with the press.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: I have a question, Doctor. I was going to ask you it earlier. Trying to get back again to understand what you did, because you are not a regular member of this church. I understand you read a lot of the writings of Witness Lee and that early in 1970 you attended some of the “Local Church’s” meetings. About how many would this have been at that time that you attended?
DR. MELTON: It was in the mid-seventies that I actually attended the meetings. I attended ten or twelve over a period of a couple of years.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: You weren’t a real active participant, and you’d come and go, I take it?
DR. MELTON: Right.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Obviously a good member of the “Local Church” would attend more than ten or twelve in two years, right?
DR. MELTON: Right.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: You were retained to do some checking to see the truth or untruth of the statements that were in this book, The God-Men, and in that regard you then went back to the “Local Church,” didn’t you?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: About how many more meetings did you attend?
DR. MELTON: I attended three or four more in Chicago and three or four more in Southern California.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: What else did you do in your investigative processes? Obviously you compared the writings. Did you talk to any regular members?
DR. MELTON: Oh, yes. That’s one of the things I made my original evaluation on, because my original visits to the church in the mid-seventies had occurred just as the deprogramming, brainwashing scare had come along. In my first visits I just went as a person off the street; I did not identify myself as anyone special.
I sat in the congregation. I talked to people. In one instance I went to a weekend event where members from around the Midwest had gathered in Chicago, and there were people there from many “Local Church” congregations. That was an all-day affair.
I stayed, and after the morning meeting I ate lunch with people. I talked to them, and more importantly I listened to their conversation and what they were talking about. Now, the meeting was out, and it was informal time, and I made some judgments about it. I found in talking about things like baseball scores yesterday and a movie one of them had seen, that these were just kind of normal things that my own church people would talk about over a church supper while they were drinking their last cup of coffee.
So those are the kinds of observations that I made.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Did you take any of the local members and just simply say, “Look, I am doing a check, and I’d like to know your opinion. I don’t want to take one of the elders. Do you feel you are held to this church by any forces? Do you think anything is being practiced upon you against your will?”
DR. MELTON: I did that one night at a gathering where no elders were present, at a small group gathering. I have not done it particularly with one on one.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: How many were in that group?
DR. MELTON: About ten people, and I asked them, and most of them had been converts from other groups.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: What was your evaluation to the answers that you got from these people?
DR. MELTON: That they were fairly unsophisticated, and they did not know ahead of time that I was coming or who I was until toward the end of the meeting where something was said.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Did they know anything about The God-Men?
DR. MELTON: Oh, yes, they were quite aware of The God-Men, and they were quite aware of the case, but they seemed to be quite open.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Did they feel very comfortable about that?
DR. MELTON: Oh, very much so.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: So you would have an assessment that they weren’t being held against their will, but they were there voluntarily?
DR. MELTON: Oh, very much so. The group that met that night was quite varied. Two or three of them were businessmen and executives. One of them I know was running his own business. Another one was an owner of a print shop.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Certainly nothing affecting their ability to earn a living and do well in that regard?
DR. MELTON: The home we met in that night, I wish I lived that well.
MR. MORGAN: Let me ask you a couple more questions along that line. In attending these meetings, can you describe generally the attitude of the people? Is it one that they appear to be happy, or do they appear to be under some form of bondage?
DR. MELTON: Oh, they are definitely of that wing of Christianity that enjoys their faith. They do have a good time at worship. They have a much better time at worship, I must admit, than my Methodist Church on Sunday morning. I envy them in that.
MR. MORGAN: Do they appear to be enjoying it as opposed to, as his Honor said, being there because they figure that will get them into the pearly gates?
DR. MELTON: They are very much participating in the meetings. It is not a coerced participation. They are there because they want to be there and because they enjoy the worship experience. No, they are not being coerced. There is no sign that they are being coerced.
MR. MORGAN: Have you had any opportunity to form any opinions as to the level of moral integrity of the people in that church?
DR. MELTON: I have never had any reason to question it. Certainly there have never been any reports of members being involved in scandal or involved in criminal activity or anything that you would think of along this line.
I am currently investigating another group in Chicago right now which has a high percentage of members who are involved in some form of criminal activity. There is nothing like that that’s ever even been hinted about the “Local Church.”
EDITOR’s NOTE: Dr. Melton was questioned concerning accusations of financial mismanagement only to establish the effect of such charges upon a reader. The charges were proven false by other witnesses involved in the financial transaction and also confirmed by the regional director of a Big Eight accounting firm, who reviewed the financial transaction in question and had full access to the records.
MR. MORGAN: Let me go on now to something else. Are you familiar with the allegation that talks about the $235,000 of Stuttgart?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: Can you tell the court in your opinion what impact this charge and the statements that are made in there would have on Witness Lee?
DR. MELTON: Well, the charge is basically that he is taking money given to the church for a church project and using it for his own or for a small group in Anaheim’s personal betterment, that there is a charge here of malfeasance, improper manipulation of funds.
MR. MORGAN: What impact is that going to have on somebody like Witness Lee?
DR. MELTON: Well, no church leader can survive for very long if the church members think he is using their money for purposes other than what they have been told they are giving it for.
MR. MORGAN: You will notice also that immediately before that paragraph there is a mention of some other business transactions. Do you see that?
DR. MELTON: Yes.
MR. MORGAN: As an author can you give the court any opinion as to the effect that the paragraph about the $235,000 has in relation to these other events?
DR. MELTON: Well, the implication-there is nothing said about Day Star of California [a defunct California corporation] that is particularly offensive in and of itself, but placed in the context of discussing financial matters, particularly Lee’s personal financial matters, the accusation of malfeasance in this one case would tend to say, well, there is probably something going on in the financial matters discussed earlier. He’s maybe siphoning off church funds to use in his personal business venture or something.
MR. MORGAN: In your opinion, would that be a natural reaction for an average reader to think that, well, maybe there was something wrong with these other transactions as well?
DR. MELTON: Certainly, given the continual accusations of so-called cult leaders; that is one of the things they do.
DR. MELTON: I have been monitoring for at least a year now other anti-cult materials. As they have come out, they have continually quoted from or drawn from The God-Men. They are not fresh studies of the “Local Church.” They are merely repetitions of material that’s taken more or less blatantly from The God-Men.
MR. MORGAN: In other words, whatever the lies are that are created here are being perpetuated by others just accepting that?
DR. MELTON: Yes. I have a fairly thick file now of other materials that have been drawn directly from The God-Men, the Inter-Varsity edition.
MR. MORGAN: Do you have an opinion as to why these other writers would just blindly accept what is in this book?
DR. MELTON: This book is the only book-length study of Witness Lee by an outsider, that has had any kind of commercial publication. They have accepted it as authority, based in part because it is the only book available and also because it comes from SCP. SCP has built a good reputation overall in Christian circles.
MR. MORGAN: Finally, could you kind of sum up in your opinion what the overall effect of this book has had and will have on Witness Lee and the “Local Church”?
DR. MELTON: The effect of the book on Witness Lee is to have branded him as a false and deceptive teacher. The branding has gone on primarily among evangelical Christians where that is an important issue and to isolate him and his followers from the larger flow of the mainstream of the Christian church.
It has branded the “Local Church” as an heretical group which Christians should not get involved in and has led to, in particular, trouble on college campuses where they have tried to establish groups and evangelize.
MR. MORGAN: That’s all the questions I have.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: I have just one question. To your knowledge, has anything been written and published that goes contrary to The God-Men?
DR. MELTON: Not by anyone outside the church.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Has there been anything published or written that’s been by someone in the church?
DR. MELTON: Oh, yes.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Many or one or what?
DR. MELTON: There are a handful of booklets. Mr. William Freeman has published several book-length manuscripts, but they were very informally published and not very widely circulated. The two main items are two books that he wrote and Living Stream published answering charges of deviation of doctrine on the idea of mingling and the Trinity.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Do those books challenge Mr. Duddy’s statements and so forth?
DR. MELTON: Both Mr. Duddy’s statements and some of the earlier books were dealing directly with Jack Sparks’ book which had become a matter of controversy a year or so before this one had. Jack Sparks’ book was named The Mindbenders, and there was one pamphlet written in response called Who Is the Real Mindbender? The real problem is that these pamphlets are written and published within the confines of the “Local Church.”
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: In other words, they don’t get a wide circulation.
DR. MELTON: Christian bookstores would not carry them, not because of what they say, but because of who published them. Therefore, they could not get into bookstores to reach the people who The God-Men had reached.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: In other words, the Living Stream could not have the stature of SCP to get their books published like The God-Men was published?
DR. MELTON: To a certain extent, SCP has the power to veto the circulation of material by their labeling of a group deviant or a cult.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: So the bookstores wouldn’t carry their books?
DR. MELTON: Bookstores won’t carry it. The material of Watchman Nee that they carry is published by standard evangelical publishers. They will carry those items, but they would not carry anything that came from Living Stream.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Do you feel that had it not been for The God-Men that Living Stream could have published a lot more books and gotten a wider circulation in their books?
DR. MELTON: I don’t know if they could have published a lot more titles. They could certainly have gotten a wider circulation. Christian bookstores would have found them, I think, acceptable books.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Do you know whether or not The God-Men has had any effect on the growth of the “Local Church”?
DR. MELTON: Only secondhand. I have heard reports that it has had effect. I know that it has blocked their growth on several campuses.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: In your Encyclopedia you don’t do studies with respect to numbers as to how many members they have at this time, how many members at another time, or anything of that type where you would know something about whether or not the publication of this book has stymied the growth of this church?
DR. MELTON: The Encyclopedia came out right at the same time that The God-Men II did, so in it there was not yet a chance to check to see if it had stymied growth or cut the trend of growth. There was a steady growth in the church up until the late seventies. I do not know from any research I have done as to exactly whether or not their growth overall has been stymied. I do know on several college campuses, where the book was distributed, their ability to evangelize was cut.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: In your opinion, knowing the structure of this church, do you feel that the members reading a book like The God-Men would cause them to turn away from their church or to have questions about their own church or to raise issues that they otherwise wouldn’t have? In other words, do you feel that there was an effect within the “Local Church” itself by reason of the publication of The God-Men?
DR. MELTON: No, I don’t. I think the members of the “Local Church” were just offended by it.
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: They were offended but didn’t believe a word of it.
DR. MELTON: “Why would somebody write a book that is so contrary to what we are doing and experiencing” would be their thinking. I think probably with those who were already members it may even have strengthened their faith. It is to the person on his way in who hasn’t had a chance to experience what life is like inside the “Local Church,” that is where it would raise questions, such as, “I don’t want to get involved, with that much question.”
JUDGE SEYRANIAN: Yes, I understand. Thank you very much, Doctor.
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