The first time I laid eyes on the future Bible Answer Man was when I walked into chapel one day at Simon Greenleaf University. He made a good first impression. After all, the usual chapel speaker was either a lawyer or an academic-type theologian – two of the dullest stereotypical orators there are. Hank Hanegraaff, on the other hand, had a magnetic persona – handsome and engaging – like the recipient of the salesman of the year award.
His topic was out-of-the-ordinary – memory mnemonics. He prefaced his instruction by pointing out the value this could play in memorizing Scripture and in studying for tests. He had us sold. In one short lesson, he taught us tricks to recall people’s names by associating something that might trigger the memory. The one I came up with is a bit embarrassing, but for Hank I thought of ‘hunk.’ And I never forgot his name.
I soon found out that Walter Martin had hired him at CRI in an administrative position to help with foundation matters like obtaining grants and other fund-raising strategies. He was not on the ministry side of things, but he had communication skills that were in short supply at CRI.
I think at that time Dr. Martin was feeling his own mortality. He was a diabetic and had an injury to his foot that would not heal. His doctor wanted to amputate, but Walter would not go along with that. He turned to unconventional medicine and began a weekly routine of chelation therapy to try and save his foot. Perhaps in the back of his mind, he knew it was a risk and he was concerned about CRI and his work continuing without him.
In fact, Walter had a million-dollar life insurance policy with CRI as the beneficiary. I discovered one day when I was meeting my sister, Walter’s secretary, for lunch. I could feel the tension when I walked in the offices in Lake Forest. So many worried faces. The office manager had failed to make the payment on the premium and Dr. Martin received a notice that his policy was going to expire. He had passed the required health check when he took out the policy, but there was no way he could pass it now – and then of course it would have cost more than double.
At the end of the day, the payment got there in the nick of time. If my timeline is correct, it was after that that Hank Hanegraaff made his entrance.
So Walter had the administration side of things well in hand, but not the ministry. Even before he tested John Stewart as his back-up radio host, he had tried to get Dr. Robert Morey to move out west from his home in Pennsylvania. He got turned down – his wife didn’t want to move. I remember Dr. Martin saying at the time that the biggest problem for apologists is apologists’ wives.
It would be no easy task for any man to fill Dr. Martin’s shoes. He had no real counterparts in the church world that did not already have large ministries of their own. And his researchers would not even agree to do the radio show when he was away. After much prodding, the youngest researcher, Craig Hawkins, accepted the challenge. His undergrad degree in philosophy didn’t stack up to Martin’s credentials, but he was willing to take a stab at it. I remember several of us listening to him live when he first took his turn at the mic. A caller asked a question about an abusive cult leader and he responded with, “That really gets my dandruff up.” We all rolled on the floor laughing.
Craig got better with practice – a real trooper!
I recall the chatter when Hank first showed up at CRI. He was not initially well-received. Someone said they didn’t like the way he flirted with the prettiest office worker who will remain nameless. Some of the staff felt uneasy with his presumed authority over them – a guy who came out of nowhere and didn’t even have a college degree. (I’m sure Hank filed a mental picture of the naysayers using his mnemonics to his advantage.)
That didn’t affect my positive impression of him. The first time I saw red flags was when my boss Dr. Montgomery called me into his office to dictate a letter to Mr. Hunk Hanegraaff. He was red in the face and spit flew as he barked out the sentences – I could hardly keep up. His head jerked as he raved on and I feared his ratty toupee could fly off and hit me. I can’t recall all that he said, but he closed the letter threatening Hank to remove any mention of Simon Greenleaf from any of his materials or bios – or else.
I was shocked – but in no position to question what it was all about – Montgomery’s employees knew when to duck for cover. In retrospect, knowing now what I didn’t know then — I think I can put two and two together. Hanegraaff had dropped the name D. James Kennedy to everyone as a former employer. Doing so opened up a lot of doors. It just so happened that Dr. Montgomery was sometimes called upon by Dr. Kennedy to deliver his famous resurrection message during Lent. He used the famous sermon of Simon Greenleaf’s on proving the crucifixion and resurrection based on the eye-witness accounts in the gospels in the role of Jesus’ defense attorney.
I can surmise that at some point Montgomery spoke to Kennedy and got an earful of Hanegraaff’s involvement in Kennedy’s ‘Evangelism Explosion’ ministry. When he left Florida, he marketed his ‘Personal Witness Training’ program that appeared to be a very close match – even word-for-word in some instances. Kennedy would not seek damages in a court of law because of the Bible teaching that believers must not sue other believers. (I didn’t know about this until many years later – but hindsight is 20-20.)
A few months after Hank’s arrival, Montgomery got booted out of his own university. I won’t go into all the sordid details as he is not the topic of this story – maybe some other place and time. But in a nutshell, his wife Joyce found a legal document at their house giving her husband a final divorce decree. It was dated a year before, yet he continued to live in their house and sleep in their bed. She discovered he had forged her signature to the divorce papers that she didn’t even know had been filed. She made a stink of it – imagine that! That set off a sequence of events that uncovered many of her husband’s shady dealings and my fiancé wrote the story for a Christian publication. The publicity was too much for the Board – Good-Bye Dr. John ‘Warlike’ Montgomery!
The Alnors in Ministry
The mess with the Dean was still in play when I got married and left my home state of California and moved with my groom to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Martin got to know Bill during our prenuptial counseling sessions with him. Bill showed him some of his articles that had been published for various magazines and Walter asked him if he could use one of them in CRI’s magazine. From that time, Bill wrote regularly for CRI and co-wrote investigative reports with some of the researchers. Eventually he was assigned the position of news editor, although not as an employee, but as an independent contractor.
With me by his side, Bill and I worked together on many stories for many publications, including RNS, Religious News Service, the AP-style wire for religious news. We worked on a year-long series for his former employer, The Delaware County Daily Times, about a doomsday cult headed by a ‘prophet’ on shortwave radio who said that God told him there would be a nuclear war before the year 1988 was over. Everyone needed to sell everything, quit their jobs, and join up with him in his compound in South Carolina. A local misguided ‘church’ was making a hasty retreat with young people and many frightened parents wanting answers. We appeared on several local news programs with those we helped rescue.
That experience led us to write a book about the damages done by prophecy sensationalists to the lives of people and detriment of the name of Jesus and Christianity. Bill had been invited by a man he had worked with at Eternity Magazine to write a book. He was now an editor with Fleming Revell Publishers. I came up with the idea for the project and Bill wrote the proposal to Revell under both our names as co-authors. The contract came back but my name was not in the contract. Perhaps a woman’s name on such a book was seen as a liability – who knows. Bill signed the contract, and put a notice on the acknowledgment page that my name should be on it too since I wrote chapters in it and my documentation filled the footnotes. This would not be the last time my ideas and intellectual property were re-appropriated under another person’s name. More on that later.
Dr. Martin agreed to write the foreword to the book. We made arrangements to fly to the West Coast to sit down with him to discuss it. Revell had already sent Bill a facsimile of the cover with “Foreword by Dr. Walter Martin” at the bottom. The day before our scheduled flight, we got a disturbing phone call from someone at CRI. Walter had been found dead that morning by his wife – he was in a kneeling position and at first she thought he was just praying. We were devastated. He was one of my spiritual fathers. And to make matters worse, my earthly father passed away later that year.
Now our plans changed. Instead of seeing Dr. Martin, we got there in time for his memorial service[i]. Christian television celebrity John Ankerberg emceed it. So much of what took place fades in the background when recalling the shocker we were all in for. Martin’s widow Darlene came to the podium and introduced Dr. Martin’s “hand-picked successor” (drum-roll) — Hank Hanegraaff. You could hear the jaws drop and scattered whispers of “What?”; “No way.” The tension in the place was palpable.
We left that service in a state of disbelief. I didn’t have any personal reproach for Hank; it just didn’t make any sense that Dr. Martin’s replacement could be an uneducated newcomer with no background in apologetics or cult research. It didn’t add up. If anything, we were all just perplexed. Things didn’t look good for the future of the Christian Research Institute.
CRI and “Christianity in Crisis”
Hank asked me and Bill to come to his office before we headed back to Philly. Right away he allayed our concerns about how a guy with little or no knowledge of cults and dangerous religious movements could possibly lead such a ministry. I suppose that is the challenge he already got from the CRI research staff and he assumed we had the same concern – and we did. He looked us in the eye and told us that he was there for us and for the researchers – “you guys are the ministry, I’m here to promote your work.”
He asked us what we thought to be the most important thing the ministry should focus on. Without thinking twice, we said, “Christian television.” He said he didn’t know anything about the personalities on TV and asked us if we could give him a roster of who they are and what false teachings they promoted. We said we’d be happy to. And though I had that proverbial ‘check in my spirit’ as we walked out, I thought the man made a good case for being the one in charge.
I had been taping some of the programs that my friend Dave Hunt had already alerted the church to in his book, The Seduction of Christianity. I was getting proficient with my VCR and could even set it to record while away. When questionable things were taught, I would make copies and send them to Dave and also to CRI. I was doing that even before Walter’s passing. Bill and I had quite a collection of footage from TBN and intel on the televangelists not found among the research staff whose focus was primarily the cults and the occult.
We immediately got busy on our assignment when we got home. We wrote descriptions of all the shows on TBN that were of concern and listed them in a paper I called “TBN’s Cast of Characters.” It ended up six pages long, single-spaced. We sent it to Hank and he made copies for all the staff that answered the phones and responded to correspondence so they could give those concerned a run-down on each aberrant TV ministry. We also offered our help with documentation and intel in Bill’s cover letter dated January 11, 1990 which read in part:
“Jackie has been following the goings on at TBN for at least six years, and I have been intensely keeping up with it for the past three years…A book might be the way to go, providing that a Christian publisher has enough courage to publish it – which I doubt… I propose that CRI self-publish a book or an entire ‘special report’ Journal on TBN within the next two years… I believe CRI could do a valuable service to the church by putting out such a work because it’s bound to be referred to and ordered en masse by Christian churches worldwide… At any rate, Jackie and I have prepared an analysis of some of the more notable people in TBN’s cast of characters for your information. Feel free to share it with members of the research staff… We are also enclosing TBN’s latest television schedule… Of course, being that Jackie and I get TBN live 24-hours a day, we’d be glad to intensely monitor it for CRI. We just ask that you send us about $100 worth of video tapes so that we can carefully document any heresy or aberrations…We could then give the research staff detailed regular reports on what’s being said.”
And that we did. CRI supplied the VHS tapes and I diligently taped and screened the contents while being a stay-at-home mom for our three little ones. You can imagine my shock when my little 6-year-old daughter ran into my viewing room, excitedly handed me her new art work, and pronounced, “Look what I drew Mommy. That’s Jan and Paul going to hell.” (As you can see from her drawing, an angel is tossing them into the pit.) After that, I kept a tighter rein on my screening time, restricting it to while they were at school or watching Barney the Purple Dinosaur in the other room.
The Bible Answer Man radio program evolved, although it was a bit rocky for a while. The researchers were now more willing to participate and every Friday they would play a rerun of Dr. Martin’s episodes. Craig Hawkins no longer hosted and left CRI soon after Hank took over, as did the office manager. We assumed they just didn’t like him and left on their own accord. But that was just the beginning of the turn-over of Dr. Martin’s colleagues.
For the next couple of years a new CRI emerged. Dr. Martin’s tapes were found out in the trash – his old shows and messages were no longer heard on the radio. Hank started sharing the radio spot with two newer researchers, Paul Cardin and Ron Rhodes. Before long, Hank totally took over the program. One of the engineers told us how Hank answered the callers’ questions about cults. He would open Martin’s book, The Kingdom of the Cults, which he had highlighted, and read from the book, without giving attribution in a conversational tone as if the words were his own.
This is where his memory mnemonics served him well. He soaked up a lot of information from those around him which made him look like quite the expert and memorized standard responses to common questions. The researchers were his training wheels and once he could go solo he had no need of them.
Some of the discoveries we made from monitoring TBN included, Benny Hinn’s claim that there are “9 of them” in the Godhead; Kenneth Copeland’s “When God says I Am; I say ‘I am too.”; Marilyn Hickey speaking to her checkbook; Avanzini’s 100-fold fund raising tool; and on and on.
Hank did not take our suggestion to utilize the research department do a book for the next couple of years as we continued feeding CRI the TBN updates along with the video documentation. Then I had a brainstorm. I shared it on the phone with Hank and he was excited about my idea. He said, “Jackie, put together your idea in a general outline and send it to me and I’ll help you with it and find a publisher for it. I’ll call you after I get it and we’ll get started.” Wow – I was excited and got to work.
My idea was to put together an anthology that would show a collective stand among the major apologetics ministries in regard to the false teachings of the faith teachers on Christian television. I told him it would be a better collection than the recent book, The Agony of Deceit, in which Dr. Martin had a chapter. Hank agreed with my assessment that the Agony book failed in its use of experts – even having the then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop do a chapter. But if our anthology showed a consensus among all counter-cult ministries, that would show a united front that churches and seminaries would respect. He thought that was brilliant.
I sent the cover letter and general outline to Hank on May 10, 1991. It’s all too long for the available space here, but it read in part:
“Here’s the proposal for the anthology I discussed with you a couple of weeks ago. Forgive the delay, but I wanted to wait until I finished transcribing the John Avanzini stuff for you and send these things together…Feel free to alter the anthology proposal to suit your own vision on the matter. When Bill is finished writing his UFO book he says he will get more involved in any preliminary work that needs to be done.”
I gave a list of bullet points of topics needing to be covered by experts in various cult ministries and concluded with:
“Hank could write an introduction to give a defense for defending the faith and the reasons for the publishing of such a book. Something to the effect that in light of the fact that those teaching error refuse to repent and correct their false teachings to their audiences, it is necessary that the body of Christ be provided with biblical arguments for sound doctrine, refuting what they’re being taught on Christian television.”
While waiting for Hank’s response, I busily began working out what expert could be asked to write on what topic. I even had a working title: “Seeds of Apostasy,” a play on the words ‘seed-faith.’
Hank never did respond. A month or so later Bill found out that Hank had the entire staff at CRI scrambling to work on a book of the same subject matter. I suppose he was more excited about my idea than I had thought – he made it his own. I felt very betrayed, but then I made peace with myself about it because with the whole research department working on it, it had a much better chance of impacting the church than anything I could produce. What mattered the most to me was for the body of Christ to wise up to how they were all being taken in by “Christian” television. And I wanted CRI to thrive in its mission and without Walter Martin around, its viability was at stake. So when we’d get calls asking us for documentation on one thing or another, we cooperated.
One CRI employee in particular kept requesting certain clips from my video collection[ii]. Rolly said he was helping with the audio presentation of “Christianity in Crisis” and was having trouble finding some of the tapes, so going by the many transcripts I had supplied over the past couple of years, he would call me to get him the clips. I again cooperated.
The book was published by Harvest House in 1993. I was surprised to see Hank Hanegraaff as the sole author, when I knew it took the whole CRI village to write it. And I was shocked not to see any mention of the name Alnor in his acknowledgment page. Was that an intentional slight? Everything I listed in my book proposal got covered and then some. In fact, chapter one was titled, “Cast of Characters.” Ring a bell?
Rolly got an acknowledgment even if I was his main source of documentation – the majority of the clips that went into the audio presentation came directly from me. Again, my motivation was to raise awareness of the false teachings in the church. Today, Rolly is not only an atheist, but a staunch anti-Christian propagandist. He gives CRI credit for helping him come to his apostate conclusions on religion.
At a book signing, my sister Janet handed Hank her copy of “Christianity in Crisis,” and introduced herself as my sister. She said that he fumbled with his words and finally spit out, “This book would not exist if it weren’t for her.”
On a visit to the West Coast just after the book was published, I showed up unannounced at the Bible study Hank had taken over for Walter at Newport Mesa. Hank looked startled to see me. His wife Kathy walked up to me and said, “You’re not mad at us?” I said, “Aren’t we all on the same team? I’m glad to see the book have an impact.” She looked relieved and gave me a huge smile and a hug.
In an article from Charisma Magazine in 1994 reporting on a lawsuit filed by a former staff member of CRI, I was surprised to read: “The suit also alleges that Hanegraaff withdrew CRI from membership in the Evangelical Council for Accountability (ECFA) in 1992 so he could keep $500,000 in royalties from his best-selling book, Christianity in Crisis.” I had worked under the assumption that the proceeds would go to CRI. What a shocker! Instead, all that hard work of so many people only succeeded in putting Hank’s name on the proverbial map.
A decade later, I published my own book about Christian television called, The Fleecing of Christianity. It did not have the kind of professional marketing as CIC, but it reached into the spiritual level of the topic by putting it all into the context of Bible Prophecy and the Great Apostasy – something Hank would not be on board with. Brittany Crouch, the daughter of Paul Crouch Jr. wrote this endorsement of my book:
“Having grown up within the inner circle of televangelism’s largest player, TBN, I can say that Jackie Alnor’s book ‘The Fleecing of Christianity’ paints an accurate portrayal of the false hopes and distorted philosophies used by some of televangelisms largest players. Being the granddaughter of Paul and Jan Crouch, I had a first-hand experience witnessing how people can misuse and manipulate the Gospel for their own personal financial benefit and gain. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to better understand the inner workings and distorted philosophies used by some of our nation’s largest prosperity gospel preachers.”
EMNR Poses a Threat
In 1992, Bill caught the vision to resurrect a ministry of which Walter Martin had been one of the founding members. Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) was an umbrella group of counter-cult and apologetics ministries that held an annual conference. The networking with like-minded researchers and writers was valuable for the sharing of information and collaboration between ministries. Bill had attended the last one that was held in 1986, the theme of which was Satanism and Occultism. That is where he first met Dr. Martin a year before we met.
EMNR was also a vehicle to mediate any disputes between member organizations and maintain accountability as well. Board membership was held by representatives of major groups like CRI, Jesus People USA, Watchman Fellowship, and Personal Freedom Outreach, among others. Bill saw its importance and as its new executive director, he coordinated its first conference in seven years.
The 1993 EMNR conference held at our home church, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, is still remembered as the most successful one ever held. We had a lot of help with the details – many of the attendees of Bill’s weekly cults class at CC-Philly volunteered and even hosted speakers in their homes. Bill, as a locally known journalist, was able to get promotion of the conference out on local news channels, Christian radio and newspapers.
Hank was invited to be the keynote speaker. However, upon arrival he said that Harvest House instructed him to forbid the taping or selling of his keynote address for legal reasons as CIC was coming off the press. Only one other speaker asked not to be recorded at that event and that was Ole Anthony, founder of the Trinity Foundation, but his reason was a little more reasonable. He had a moral conviction about selling truth. He did not want to be marketed. [Later in the late 90s, Ole hired me as an expert consultant to go through my video collection and isolate tapes of crazy things said by televangelists. Unlike Hank, He actually paid me to do so and to continue taping and finding clips. Ole and his friend John Bloom were producing a segment shown on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, called GodStuff. That job ended when a new host, Jon Stewart, took over from Craig Kilborn, and gave us the boot.]
Around this time Bill was contacted by two apologists seeking mediation for serious disputes with other EMNR members. Unfortunately for Bill, he was put in the middle of some real ugly stuff. The two ministries being accused of atrocities each had an employee on the EMNR board. It would take a book to go over all the accusations aimed at these two ‘ministries’. So I’ll have to summarize for interest of space.
The first was from Ron Enroth, author of the books ‘Churches that Abuse” and ‘Recovering from Churches That Abuse.’ He supplied Bill with audio tapes and transcripts of some of his interviews with former members of Jesus People USA (JPUSA) in Chicago. This was a hippy commune, associated with the Evangelical Covenant Church founded by a female that held outdoor festivals every year in Pennsylvania called the Cornerstone Festival[iii]. Their festivals would feature speakers who were liberals and progressive anti-Semites such as Ron Sider and pro-gay activists like Tony Campolo.
Enroth had solid proof that JPUSA was an abusive shepherding group that practiced adult spankings, arranged marriages, and slave labor. EMNR board member Eric Pement wasn’t going along with that. After all, he wrote for JPUSA’s Cornerstone Magazine and created many of their gospel tracts. That was his bread and butter.
The EMNR board shut Bill down on that one.
During the Philly EMNR conference – the one where the keynote speaker delivered the unrecorded oration and was whisked away without speaking to anyone – Bill was handed a large manila envelope by apologist and former CRI researcher Rob Bowman.
Bowman headed up a group – most of Dr. Martin’s original staff – that called itself ‘The Group for CRI Accountability.’ They had a list of 99 former CRI employees that were systematically done away with under Hank’s presidency. One of the complaints was that many of them were fired by one of Hank’s henchmen while he was out of town. When they tried to arrange a meeting with Hank to redress their terminations, he ignored all requests. The Group was hoping that EMNR would be the catalyst for compelling Hank to face his wounded cast-offs.
Another bombshell Bowman had on Hank was line-by-line proof of his plagiarism in regard to both his ‘Personal Witness Training’ program and his Memory Dynamics. Bill went to the trouble of making the comparisons and found Bowman’s allegations to be accurate. Other items included Hank’s lavish lifestyle at CRI’s expense – he was said to have doubled Walter’s salary to himself within two weeks of taking over and ‘borrowed’ a huge sum of money from CRI for a down payment on a luxury home in the gated community of Coto de Caza. He also added his wife to the payroll although the employees reportedly rarely ever saw her at the office.
Bill wrote a letter to Hank on EMNR stationery with a plea for him to sit down with his accusers as it would be the right and biblical thing to do. He copied his letter and all materials and sent them to every member of the EMNR board. It caused a riot. After all, CRI Journal’s editor, Elliott Miller was on the board and wrote the reply to Bill’s letter on behalf of Hank. After much back and forth discussion among the board, Bill was actually threatened. The board majority ordered him not to speak of this anywhere and if he did he would be cast out of EMNR.
I sat in on that meeting as the secretary taking minutes. I was in total shock. People I thought I knew revealed some venom I didn’t know they were capable of. They acted like cornered wild animals. We didn’t know it at the time, but Elliott and Hank were hatching a plot against us to try and discredit us, to squelch any impact we might make if we opened our mouths. Hank made personal calls to our pastor and his pastor telling them that Bill was bringing division into the body of Christ. Our support from our church, which covered our children’s tuition at the Christian school was severed. We had to put our kids into public school.
After that meeting, I told Bill that I wanted to tell Dr. Martin’s widow Darlene what was going on. She had a right to know since Hank had appointed her to the board after her husband’s passing, although she was pretty much just a silent member. I knew her from the Newport Mesa study and she attended our wedding. After all, I was not ordered to keep my mouth shut – only Bill was.
Not long after that, an emergency meeting of the EMNR board was called. Elliott brought with him a hitman – Bob Passantino – who made ridiculous and false accusations against Bill. (Bob was a regular writer and speaker for JPUSA and his wife a long-time freelance editor for CRI.) Elliott had my letter to Darlene in his hand that she gave to Hank unopened. She didn’t bother to read it – she must have already gotten the memo that we were the enemy.
The board decided that my letter was a breach of Bill’s cone of silence – although I wrote every word of it. He was voted off the Board of EMNR – one member voted against it and another excused himself from the vote.
My unread letter to Darlene, dated September 19, 1995, posed the question how Hank could have been Walter’s hand-picked successor as she had said at the memorial service. I made my argument as to how unlikely a choice he was considering the high regard Dr. Martin placed on education and credentials. And I wrote in part:
“Gone now are almost all of Dr. Martin’s hand-picked comrades. Many of their lives have been devastated by Hank’s treatment of them. One of these people is John Teibe, the President of CRI-Canada, a personal friend of Billy Graham and dear friend to Dr. Martin…Where will it end? Will he keep on until he utterly destroys CRI? CRI-Brazil was so dear to Dr. Martin’s heart and I hear it is now defunct. If Walter is looking down I’m sure he is weeping!…According to our information, Dr. Martin wanted Hank to be an administrative leader, not the ministry leader, considering Hank was not even involved in apologetics before taking over CRI. We have heard that shortly before Dr. Martin’s home-going he spoke to both Hank and Dr. Tim Philibosian, the first executive director of EMNR,” (and Baptist theologian with a doctorate in theology) “about sharing responsibilities at CRI should anything happen to him. Dr. Martin wanted Tim to take the ministerial lead and for Hank to take the administrative leadership. Tim told Walter he’d pray about it and get back to him, but unfortunately, Walter passed away before he had the chance to give a positive response. When Tim approached Hank after the funeral” (a couple of days before the memorial service) “about Walter’s wishes, Hank acted like he didn’t know what Tim was talking about.”
“Darlene, I don’t even know if you’re in the position to do anything about this, at least not unilaterally. But I would be remiss of my responsibility toward you and toward God if I remain silent. Dr. Martin was such an inspiration to me and meant so much to me in my early walk with the Lord. He would be pleased with me even if Hank and his devotees would not. Please call if you need any clarifications.” Signed – In the service of the Master, Jackie Alnor
“Brother Against Brother”
It is often said that unprincipled men accuse others of doing the very thing they themselves are guilty of. Hank and his henchmen succeeded in getting my husband expelled from the ministry, EMNR, which he brought up from the ashes. He marked Bill as a trouble-maker to his own church fellowship. And then he turns around and distributes a big piece of propaganda marking Bill as CRI’s greatest enemy whose motives were to bring CRI down. And he does this while Bill is lingering in a hospice, dying of cancer, that he succumbed to in 2011.
I won’t go into all the ins and outs of the lies and distortions in CRI’s hit piece against Bill – again that would take more effort than I’m willing to put out. But I will address the grain of truth in it. After receiving so much misery from the hounds of hell unleashed upon him in his effort to stand up for the little guy, Bill certainly did obsess with monitoring the goings on of the spurious Bible-Answer-Man. As his wife, I could see the unforgiveness eat away at him. Hatred has a way of internalizing and causing great harm to oneself.
The tipping point came when he saw a fund-raiser Hank was doing to raise money under the pretense that the Post Office had lost donor mail causing CRI’s revenue to crumble. I sort of chuckled at it because I knew the real cause – Hank’s book, The Last Disciple, had just been released. It outed him as a preterist – one who teaches that the book of Revelation does not speak of future events but was fulfilled historically in the Roman sacking of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Well, that would not sit right with a large majority of CRI’s contributors: Calvary Chapel people. Hank stepped all over something very sacred to them – end times prophecy. So they voted with their checkbooks.
Calvary Chapel was a gold mine to many speakers at that time because their congregations always showed up for special events – unlike just about any other church group. I recall Dr. Montgomery getting excited when invited to speak at one of their Easter services because he always got a hefty honorarium. Yet, one time as he was leaving he made a wisecrack: “I’m off to Calvary Chapel – gotta dummy down my message.”
Hank too knew the value of Calvary Chapel to the extent that he even placed a CC pastor to his rubber-stamp board.
So Bill called the Post Office only to discover they did not lose any donations, just that a pack of mail had accidentally gotten into the wrong P.O. Box and that was corrected right away. They told him that they would look into the allegations.
Bill then wrote an article for the online Christian Sentinel, correctly reporting the incident. But his headline screamed Hank Hanegraaff Under Federal Investigation – or something to that effect. I cautioned him not to go with that sensational title, but he dismissed my concerns saying – the Post Office is a federal agency. And so the backlash didn’t take long. Hank filed a defamation lawsuit against him.
Many Christians came against Hank for suing a believer when it is forbidden in 1 Corinthians 6. This isn’t something that should be done by one with the title of Bible-Answer-Man. But he took the lawsuit all the way. It was eventually thrown out of court and CRI was ordered to pay all Bill’s attorney fees and court costs.
The next several years of his life, Bill focused on his career as a professor of journalism at a California State University. He turned his back on apologetics – and ministry as well. I continued in my calling which caused friction between us. Our marriage suffered greatly but we stuck it out, unlike other couples whose lives were touched by their association with CRI. Even the family of Walter Martin suffers estrangement over Hank.
Darlene Martin soon came to the realization that Hank had snowed her into introducing him as her husband’s successor and tells her story on the website run by the daughter of Dr. Martin, Jill Rische. The site, waltermartin.com is Jill’s contribution to her father’s lost legacy at CRI. She has rescued many of his teaching tapes and makes them available to all. Darlene also confirmed the fact that her husband was in contact with Dr. Tim Philibosian who called her house and asked to speak to him on the morning of his death. She said his name was written and circled on Walter’s calendar sitting on his desk.
Hank moved the Christian Research Institute out of the state of California, relocated it to North Carolina where Hank also has a share in an exclusive country club. Walter Martin’s brainchild, CRI, went from being a think tank of Christian scholars and apologists into a one-man-show of 1-800-ASK-HANK. Employees are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement so Hank can sue them if they speak against CRI after getting the axe.
The latest news is that Hank Hanegraaff left evangelicalism to join the Eastern Orthodox Church. By his own testimony, he began questioning his own salvation and found solace in the environment of iconology, works-righteousness and sacramental rituals.
Would there be a CRI at all if not for Hank taking the helm? Probably not. There was no man to be found that could have filled Dr. Martin’s shoes. Support would have altogether stopped without a charismatic personality drawing the crowds. And none of the researchers had what it took.
What will happen after Hank leaves the scene? That waits to be seen, but it looks like he might well crash and burn the ministry – or whatever is left of it — on his way out.
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”
— 1 John 2:19
Return to Part 1 – The Walter Martin Era
[i]More information on that memorial service can be found at http://waltermartin.com/cri.html
[ii] A compilation of some of my clips are in my 1999 production of The Great Apostasy: The Lost Sign — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7IIBh5YlYo
[iii] An eye-witness report of the evils of these festivals include acts such as placing the name of deceased apologist Bob Passantino onto a skull while they celebrated The Day of the Dead. https://crossroad.to/articles2/006/dwayna/cornerstone.htm