The Christian Research Institute (CRI), is a Christian organization devoted to apologetics (the logical presentation and defense of the Christian faith), and counter-cult ministry.
Founded in 1960 by Dr. Walter Martin (1928 - 1989), CRI has grown into what is billed as the largest and oldest cult apologetics and evangelism organization (Note 1) in the world. The organization is currently headed by Hank Hanegraaff.
The Christian Research Institute publishes a high-quality magazine (Christian Research Journal) and produces a daily radio program (Bible Answerman). The program is broadcast by more than 100 radio stations in the US and Canada, as well as live via the Internet.
Like any organization involved in countercult ministry CRI frequently comes under attack from the groups, movements, and individuals whose beliefs and actions it addresses. But unlike most other so-called discernment ministries, CRI has, over the past decade or so, been involved in several "in-house" conflicts and controversies.
After the death of Dr. Walter Martin (June 26, 1989), Hank Hanegraaff became president of the Christian Research Institute. Many feel Mr. Hanegraaff was (and is) not the right man for the job. One claim is that he runs the organization more like a business venture than a Christian ministry. Another is that Hanegraaff
Others cite ethical issues.
Under Hanegraaff's leadership, the staff of the Christian Research Institute was decimated. Over 100 workers left or were fired - among them many established, respected researchers, apologists and cult experts, including Paul Carden, Rich Poll, Craig Hawkins, and Ron Rhodes.
Not every one who left did so because of disagreement or other conflict. However, in 1994, some 35 ex-CRI employees formed the Group for CRI Accountability. Citing Hanegraaff's lack of theological training, poor interpersonal relationship skills, questions regarding his business dealings, and a number of ethical issues, they demanded his resignation.
In 1997, Christianity Today published an article titled, "When Christians Fight Christians" (Part 2) A case study mentioned in the item is widely recognized as referring to the situation that, over the years, developed at CRI. Tim Stafford's article offers sound suggestions on how to deal with these type of situations.
While Christian organizations answer to a higher calling than their secular counterparts, they have this in common with the latter: imperfect people, who'll make mistakes that need to be corrected. Yet to-date these controversies remain unresolved.
The publishers of Apologetics Index believe the controversies are best handled by those directly involved and affected - with the help of impartial Christians who are recognized to be in a position to request and receive accountability from all parties concerned. Professional Christian meditation is offered by, for example, such organizations as EMNR and the Christian Legal Society
That said, over the years a number of interested parties have tried different approaches to try and hold the Christian Research Institute - and in particular its current president, Hank Hanegraaff - accountable.
These approaches have included the formation of the Group for CRI Accountability, some legal wranglings, and private peacemaking attempts by individuals. They have ranged from the mature, Biblical approach taken by Walter Martin's family, to the publication of error-filled hit-pieces by anonymous critics.
Sadly, thus far all attempts to arrive at a private solution appear to have failed. This is one reason why many of the issues have become public knowledge.
In April, 2000, the controversies spilled over into the media...
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