EMNR – Evangelical Ministries to New Religions – organizes an annual conference at which Christian apologists, cult experts and countercult ministers speak on a wide variety of topics.
For instance, topics that will be addressed at the 2014 conference include:
- Same Sex Marriage – The End of Religious Liberty in America?
- Family Relationships in Buddhism: Some Narratives as Paradigms
- Evangelicalism and the Word of God
- Does Mormonism Really Teach That Faithful Mormons Receive Their Own Planets?
- Cultic Missionary Movements Outside the United States
- Biblical Propositions Supporting the Trinity
- Freemasonry: It’s Not Just for Men
- An Exposition and Refutation of the Key Presuppositions of Contemporary Jesus Research”
- The Apologetic Power of Sacred Music
- Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriage Legacy – Past, Present, and Future
- Contemplative Prayer: Its History in the Church, Its Manifestations in the World Religions, and How It is Bringing the Religions Together
- Discernment, Deception and Donuts — Alternative Medicine, Bible Diets and the Pursuit of “Optimum” Health
- … etcetera
The 2002 Controversy
No Christian organization is perfect (by virtue of the fact that there are no perfect Christians), and EMNR is no exception. As the coalition brings together a diverse collection of ministries and individuals conflict can not always be avoided.
This was the case in 2002, when – at the request of then EMNR president John Morehead – two cult apologists were invited to speak at that year’s conference. Morehead had asked J. Gordon Melton and Douglas E. Cowan to address the question, ‘If the Christian countercult wants to be taken seriously by secular academics, what does it need to do differently?’
However, most Christians involved in apologetics and countercult ministry do not take J. Gordon Melton and Douglas E. Cowan seriously – for good reasons:
- J. Gordon Melton‘s self-confessed inability to discern between orthodoxy and heresy has led him to support various groups and movements considered by experts to be, theologically, cults of Christianity. Some of his work reads like made-to-order PR material for the religious movements he studies. While most people acknowledge Melton’s expertise at gathering and organizing research data, many religion professionals and secular anti-cult activitists believe he does a poor job at interpreting that data. For this and other reasons J. Gordon Melton has deservedly gained a reputation of being a cult defender.
- Douglas E. Cowan, a self-proclaimed agnostic, has taken it upon himself to criticize countercult ministries and ministers. In the process he acts as somewhat of a cheerleader for cult apologists. Cowan’s book Cowan has written a book on the subject, titled, “Bearing False Witness? : An Introduction to the Christian Countercult.” The title is ironic, given the fact that Cowan frequently misrepresents those whom he criticizes.
Most EMNR members and other interested parties did not think such men ought to be given a pulpit at a conference by and for Christians on subjects related to Biblical discernment and countercult ministry. [As an aside, criticism from the Melton/Cowan corner might make a bit more sense if they showed a willingness to seriously address significant problems within their own community of New Religious Movement researchers].
John Morehead stepped down as president of EMNR in Jan. 2003 and has since pursued what he considers to be a different approach to apologetics.
In November, 2005, John Morehead noted on his blog that he is “no longer a part of the evangelical countercult community”. Later he explained:
In the past I served on the board of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR), a membership organization for evangelicals involved in countercult ministry. For two years I served as president, and during my involvement with the organization I presented two papers that attempted to move the organization into healthy critical self-reflection in order to engage other disciplines in their understanding of new religions, most notably that of missiology. Unfortunately, these papers and my subsequent efforts generated more heat than light for some on the board, and their membership, so I resigned in an effort to develop my missional paradigm apart from the organization.
– Source: EMNR Annual Conference: Any Shifts in Perspectives?, MoreheadMusings, Jan. 17, 2006
Meanwhile no cult apologists have been invited to speak at subsequent EMNR conferences.