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If you really Nee to know Who was Watchman Nee? Discussions regarding the life and times of Watchman Nee, the Little Flock and the beginnings of the Local Church Movement in Mainland China

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Old 11-08-2013, 06:57 AM   #1
aron
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Default 2005 Article: Watchman Nee and the Little Flock movement in Maoist China

There is an article on Watchman Nee in the magazine "Church History", which seems to be a fairly mainstream scholarly publication (American Society of Church History/Cambridge U. Press). The author is Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, who teaches history at Pace University.

Here is an interesting quote (among several):

"During the Hundred Flowers Campaign, a short period of liberalization in May and June 1957, some of the Little Flock members followed Mao Zedong's call "to criticize the Communist Party from without to let fresh air into its hermetic Leninist shell." Xia Xiulian of the Chongqing Assembly in Sichuan province published a letter criticizing the local bureaus of public security and religious affairs. But when the Anti-Rightist Campaign was launched to punish those who had spoken out against the Party, Xia Xiulian and most of the Little Flock leaders were arrested and condemned by the state as counterrevolutionaries."

Sounds like Steve Isitt's experience to me.

There is also information on Watchman Nee's "Jerusalem" model in which he consolidated power, overturning the principle of "locality" upon which he had established his church ministry. Many Protestant congregations had left their Western affiliations en masse and moved to the Little Flock, and now Nee was centralizing the program, and his hold on the reins.

There is also a part on the infiltration of the Communist Party by Little Flock members, and vice versa.

If you get access to the JSTOR program at your local library you should be able to find this article.

It amazes me how little we really know about what happened in China in the first half of the century. For example, the article says that WN was arrested and tried in 1956. I had assumed that this occurred immediately following the Chinese Communist take-over following WWII. But actually it seems that he was quite active there for a number of years following.
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: 2005 Article: Watchman Nee and the Little Flock movement in Maoist Chin

WN was arrested in 1952 in northeast of China, not in Shanghai, and tried in 1956. His coworkers were arrested and tried in 1956. In 1950 WN went to Hongkong and many saints including WL asked him to stay, but he insisted to go back to Shanghai.

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Originally Posted by aron View Post
There is an article on Watchman Nee in the magazine "Church History", which seems to be a fairly mainstream scholarly publication (American Society of Church History/Cambridge U. Press).

The author is Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, who teaches history at Pace University. The issue is in "Church History" issue 74(1) March 2005, pp. 68-96. His bias seems somewhat pro-LSM in that he often uses their jargon ("attack", etc). But it seems to attempt even-handedness.

Here is an interesting quote (among several):

"During the Hundred Flowers Campaign, a short period of liberalization in May
and June 1957, some of the Little Flock members followed Mao
Zedong's call "to criticize the Communist Party from without to let
fresh air into its hermetic Leninist shell." Xia Xiulian of the Chongqing
Assembly in Sichuan province published a letter criticizing
the local bureaus of public security and religious affairs. But when
the Anti-Rightist Campaign was launched to punish those who had
spoken out against the Party, Xia Xiulian and most of the Little Flock
leaders were arrested and condemned by the state as counterrevolutionaries."


Sounds like Steve Isitt's experience to me.

There is also information on Watchman Nee's "Jerusalem" model in which he consolidated power, overturning the principle of "locality" upon which he had established his church ministry. Many Protestant congregations had left their Western affiliations en masse and moved to the Little Flock, and now Nee was centralizing the program, and his hold on the reins.

There is also a part on the infiltration of the Communist Party by Little Flock members, and vice versa.

If you get access to the JSTOR program at your local library you should be able to find this article.

It amazes me how little we really know about what happened in China in the first half of the century. For example, the article says that WN was arrested and tried in 1956. I had assumed that this occurred immediately following the Chinese Communist take-over following WWII. But actually it seems that he was quite active there for a number of years following.
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Old 11-08-2013, 11:13 AM   #3
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Default Re: 2005 Article: Watchman Nee and the Little Flock movement in Maoist Chin

Quotes from the article in blue

Under the influence of Brethren ideas, Watchman Nee challenged the division between clergy and laity. Dissatisfied with the hierarchy that he saw in the Catholic Church and most of the Protestant denominations in China, he rejected the pastoral office partly because he felt that the office of the priesthood obstructed believers' communion with the Christian God and contradicted the biblical teaching that all God's people were priests, and partly because it kept ordinary Christians from service within the church. His rejection of the pastoral office also stemmed from the context of Western imperialism in China. For decades, Chinese pastors served as extensions of Christian missionary enterprises. They were employed by foreign mission societies. Many of the Chinese denominational churches reflected this dependent relationship of local workers on foreign missionaries. Therefore, Nee urged Chinese Christians to develop strong lay leaders and to break away from their dependence on foreign missionary enterprises for doctrinal instruction and administrative support.

And yet the "lay leaders" eventually became the de facto clergy. When Lily Hsu's book came out I noted that one objection to her account was that she wasn't from the cadre of "close workers" and thus her testimony was not that valid.

Other features that distinguished Watchman Nee from other Protestant denominations were his antagonism towards denominational affiliation and his emphasis on the church as a local entity. To Watchman Nee, the most vivid expression of Christian community was the local church (difang jiaohui) or local assembly (difang juhuisuo). He saw a local church or an assembly as "a spiritual body" composed of a group of Christians who were called out of this world—a concept derived from his interpretation of the Book of Acts in the New Testament. Strongly in favor of autonomous and independent local churches, he maintained that there should be "one church in one locality." .

Autonomous and independent local churches? Whatever happened to that idea? Oh yeah, we discovered "The Body of Christ". I forgot.

Calling for a return to the early forms of Christian fellowship as shown in the Book of Acts, Watchman Nee encouraged Christians to break away from the well-established denominational churches. He believed that the denominations had lost their faith in the biblical truth and become corrupted by their hierarchical structure. Apart from converting non-Christians, he "reconverted" regular churchgoers, members of denominational churches, and graduates of prestigious Christian mission schools. Many Chinese Christians left their denominations to join the Little Flock, to the extent that the Protestant missionaries in Fuzhou often accused the Little Flock of "stealing sheep." It was indeed very common for Christians of other denominations to "convert" to the Little Flock throughout the 1920s and 1930s. As Watchman Nee wrote on December 4,1932, "For three years now, more than ten places in Tsao Ning (Zaoning), of Kiangsu (Jiangsu), belonging to the [American] Presbyterians, more than ten places in T'ai Shuen (Taishun), of Chekiang (Zhejiang), belonging to the [China] Inland Mission, a number of places in Fukien (Fujian) of other sects, agreeing in doctrine, have already been amalgamated, have done away with their original name, changed the rules of pastors and leaders, and attached themselves to the Little Flock." Given his emphasis on the independence of local churches, many Chinese Christians found it irresistible to affiliate with the Little Flock. Thus, the theme of xenophobia and Western imperialism was a strong element in these conversions..

So if they belonged to the "foriegners" WN wanted them to "reconvert" and "amalgamate", but once they became local churches they needed to come under a national headquarters.

After his earlier success in Fuzhou, Watchman Nee went to Shanghai in 1928, where he built a three-thousand-seat assembly hall in the city center. He also published his most famous theological work at that time, The Spiritual Man, which shaped Chinese Christians' understanding of spirituality in the early twentieth century. Watchman Nee, in his late twenties, had become one of the most celebrated Protestant evangelists and writers in China. His ideas spread from Fuzhou throughout Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, from Shanghai into inland provinces, and from coastal China into the Overseas Chinese communities across Southeast Asia. His followers organized themselves into proselytizing communities and created a nationwide network of Little Flock assemblies with headquarters in Shanghai. As the number of assemblies increased and leaders tried to assert doctrinal orthodoxy, a series of internal disputes undermined the Little Flock, and Watchman Nee resigned from the Shanghai Assembly in 1942. But in 1948, he returned to take charge of the Little Flock by declaring that the Fuzhou Assembly would be called the "Little Flock's Jerusalem," which dismissed the original principle of one church per locality. Instead, he created a national center for coordinating evangelistic work across China. Other Little Flock leaders severely challenged this move, but the "Jerusalem" church growth continued...

So much for the "local" part in the "local church". Interesting how this parallels the U.S.A phenomenon: first it was "a local church in every city on earth", then once enough were established, who were "taking the stand for the local ground", then the centralization process inevitably started. Suddenly the theme shifted from "local" to "the Body". The old bait and switch trick. Gets 'em everytime.

Interesting, to me, that I gave every waking moment of my life to this movement without knowing or caring anything about its history. I was told that WN had gone back to China, been imprisoned and died there, and that WL gotten out and continued the movement. I guess the details were not helpful to the story, and I am amazed today by my total lack of curiosity. I guess I thought the details were "knowledge" that "would kill". Just be simple, just be stupid, don't be curious, and "eat that tree".
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Old 11-08-2013, 01:11 PM   #4
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Default Re: 2005 Article: Watchman Nee and the Little Flock movement in Maoist Chin

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Interesting, to me, that I gave every waking moment of my life to this movement without really knowing anything about its history. I was told that WN had gone back to China, been imprisoned and died there, and that WL got out and continued his work elsewhere. I guess the details were not helpful to the story, and I am amazed today by my total lack of curiosity. I guess I thought it was "knowledge" that "would kill". Just be simple, be stupid, don't be curious, and "eat that tree".
After attending a few meetings in the church in Cleveland, I purchased Nee's biography, Against the Tide, and began reading it. One of the Cleveland elders, James Yang, cautioned me not to read that book, since it had "over 200 major mistakes in it." Being a good little member, I threw the book away, considering it to be nothing more than persecution against the "faithful" ministers of God. Whatever curiosity I had was quenched by the elders.

After that, I learned that Lee was writing THE definitive story of Nee, which of course did not appear for 14 more years. For close to 30 years, the only Recovery history, I ever heard or read, came from within the Recovery.
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Old 11-08-2013, 04:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: 2005 Article: Watchman Nee and the Little Flock movement in Maoist Chin

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After attending a few meetings in the church in Cleveland, I purchased Nee's biography, Against the Tide, and began reading it. One of the Cleveland elders, James Yang, cautioned me not to read that book since it had "over 200 major mistakes in it." Being a good little member, I threw the book away, considering it to be nothing more than persecution against the "faithful" ministers of God. Whatever curiosity I had was quenched by the elders..
When I was a newbie, I heard two brothers discussing some "rebellion" in low tones. When I asked what they were talking about, they both looked down and one spoke monotonously, "We don't talk about it". Whatever "it" was, I wasn't supposed to know. Like you, I too was a good little member and tried to forget about what I'd heard. I had tearfully pledged allegiance to the cause, so what else could I do?

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After that, I learned that Lee was writing THE definitive story of Nee, which of course did not appear for 14 more years. For close to 30 years, the only Recovery history I ever heard or read came from within the Recovery.
In our defense, it's not like we had a lot of options, pre-internet. Post-internet, that was different.

As far as avoiding "death" and "the tree of knowledge", that is water under the bridge for me. I was inured (M-W 'to habituate to something undesirable') to it; I had heard a lot of "death" already from WL, from RK, from BP, from EM, and from the FTTA "trainers". So I already knew what "death" looked like.

If you don't know what I mean, just read FPR, or "Answers to the Bible Answer Man". Etc. Believe me, we got plenty of "death" from the LSM. They just repackaged and relabeled it, and called it 'taking up the cross', and so forth.
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:21 PM   #6
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Default Re: 2005 Article: Watchman Nee and the Little Flock movement in Maoist Chin

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Originally Posted by Ohio View Post
After attending a few meetings in the church in Cleveland, I purchased Nee's biography, Against the Tide, and began reading it. One of the Cleveland elders, James Yang, cautioned me not to read that book, since it had "over 200 major mistakes in it." Being a good little member, I threw the book away, considering it to be nothing more than persecution against the "faithful" ministers of God. Whatever curiosity I had was quenched by the elders.
Angus Kinnear was a reputable author. I think the main reason Witness Lee did not like the book is because it accurately described him as an authoritarian who thrived on organizing and controlling the church and work. When the book first came out Lee was still effectively hiding this about himself to Americans. It took awhile for his true colors to become manifest.
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Old 04-21-2018, 08:35 AM   #7
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Default Affirmation and Critique

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Originally Posted by aron View Post
Read an article on Watchman Nee in the magazine "Church History", which seems to be a mainstream scholarly publication (American Society of Church History/Cambridge U. Press). The author is Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, who teaches history at Pace University. Here's an interesting quote:

"During the Hundred Flowers Campaign, a short period of liberalization in May and June 1957, some of the Little Flock members followed Mao Zedong's call "to criticize the Communist Party from without to let fresh air into its hermetic Leninist shell." Xia Xiulian of the Chongqing Assembly in Sichuan province published a letter criticizing the local bureaus of public security and religious affairs. But when the Anti-Rightist Campaign was launched to punish those who had spoken out against the Party, Xia Xiulian and most of the Little Flock leaders were arrested and condemned by the state as counterrevolutionaries."
On a recent thread, I posted on opening Witness Lee's teaching to critical appraisal. WL was not a guru but a fellow learner. Jesus was the only Master. Another poster, Evangelical, replied, "You don't critique Jesus". I thought, Now this is strange - is WL today's Jesus?

Related to the above quote, my thought was that we may call ourselves "the Church" or "the Body" or "the Kingdom" but if you look at our repeated behaviours it's often "The Way of the Gentiles". Just like in the Little Flock experience in Maoist China cited above, the LSM/LC won't let anyone touch the Man at the Top, as their culturally-shaped social identity and collective coherence depends on affiliation with and obedience to group leadership. But my point is that this kind of slavish obedience is probably the way of the (oriental) gentiles, not the Way shown in the NT. Jesus taught, "It should not be this way with you." (Matt 10:5; cf Jer 10:2)

Here's an example - I don't have a RecV handy so let me paraphrase. In Romans 3 Paul was writing about the gospel of salvation, and he says, "All have sinned and fallen short; there is not one good; no not one". Of course he was citing extant [OT] scripture, e.g., Isaiah and Psalms &c.

But do you think Paul included Jesus Christ in "all have sinned"? Was Jesus also a sinner? Of course not! Yet when Witness Lee wrote the footnotes on the Psalms, and the psalmist is writing of obedience, and God's reward, WL says, "No, all have sinned". Therefore the psalmist is supposedly entertaining vain concepts about obedience pleasing God. No one is good, no, not even one....

But did Peter take this route, on Pentecost, standing with the eleven? He said, "David was a sinner, but his confident declaration of obedience and reward (in Psalm 16) was concerning his Promised Seed."

Yet Lee went through psalm after psalm without even considering this option. No, he says, just natural concepts of David. Everybody has sinned. Now, here's my question: how can hundreds or even thousands of people sit in a conference, or sit at home and watch a video training meeting together, and not even one of them raises their hand and say, "Um, Mr. Deputy God, don't you think Paul meant 'all have sinned EXCEPT JESUS' "? But our LC culture strictly forbade such critical reception, even when the messages begged for it. And I believe this LC culture was not divine but earthly in origin.

p.s. the Hundred Flowers Campaign and its back-lash seem like Max Rappaport & Young Galileans Affair of 1974-6. Pretend liberty, see who pops up, and chop off their heads as an example to any who'd be so bold in the future. Pretty effective tactic. Witness Lee taught us, "Learn from the Red Guards" and apparently he wasn't joking.
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Old 04-23-2018, 04:53 AM   #8
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Default Re: Affirmation and Critique

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p.s. the Hundred Flowers Campaign and its back-lash seem like Max Rappaport & Young Galileans Affair of 1974-6.
Is there a thread somewhere I can read about what happened with Max R.

There is an older sister who once mentioned Max R to me and the way his 'divisiveness' damaged the LC. It was the only time I heard him mentioned the whole time I was in LC and it makes me curious to know more as I have seen his name pop up a few times here.
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Old 04-23-2018, 06:33 AM   #9
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Default Re: Affirmation and Critique - Max Rapoport

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Is there a thread somewhere I can read about what happened with Max R.

There is an older sister who once mentioned Max R to me and the way his 'divisiveness' damaged the LC. It was the only time I heard him mentioned the whole time I was in LC and it makes me curious to know more as I have seen his name pop up a few times here.
There's not really a thread on this forum, but there are enough bits and pieces to get a picture of what happened.


Title: Max Rappaport’s (Rapoport) ‘Rebellion’
Posts by: Nell on June 23-24, 2005, 01:52:14 PM
After a brother (WP) walked into the Living Stream office of Phillip Lee and caught him "in the act" with a married sister who was not his wife, the brother (WP) went to Max. Max went to WL and "rebelled". WL predictably "shot the messenger" and Max was hung out to dry. I think that might the one piece of information that could make a lot of things fall into place for you.

This is the nutshell account that I've heard from several sources, more than once, over many years. In the last few months, I was visiting in a home where one of the guests was the very brother who walked in on Phillip and the sister. It was interesting hearing from him on the subject.

Don Hardy walked in on Phillip Lee in a compromising position. My only documents indicated that it was Warren Peterson. She confirmed that there were actually two occasions where brothers walked in on Phillip Lee in the Living Stream Office.


The context of this post, which originally appeared on another forum, is here:

A few more details here.

From Jessica Rapoport. Max and Sandee's daughter after Max's death.

I read through the original post again from the Bereans Forum and there's not much more before the trolls jumped in and hijacked the topic. Hope this helps.

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Old 04-24-2018, 05:14 AM   #10
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Default Re: Affirmation and Critique - Max Rapoport

Thank you sister.
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Old 04-24-2018, 08:02 AM   #11
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Default Re: Affirmation and Critique - Max Rapoport

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Thank you sister.
Under the forum section "Writings of former members" there is a thread, seven down from the top, entitled "Young Galileans Conference in NY" which has some commentary on the personalities and issues involved.
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