In April, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:
Orange County's ''Bible Answer Man''--whose radio show, heard on 125 stations nationwide, has long been a thorn in the flesh of televangelists--is facing a new battle, criticism from within his nonprofit organization.
Relatives of the late Walter Martin, founder of the Rancho Santa Margarita-based Christian Research Institute, contend that Hank Hanegraaff has departed from the organization's mission of debunking unusual religious claims. They are demanding his resignation.
Hanegraaff, 50, was Martin's handpicked successor when the founder retired in 1979. But in recent years, Martin family members have expressed concern about Hanegraaff's leadership.
After a public rift with Hanegraaff in 1996, Darlene Martin, widow of Walter Martin, resigned from the institute's board. Last October, the family sent Hanegraaff a letter detailing objections to his leadership.
''He's not the man we believed him to be,'' said Jill Martin Rische, Martin's eldest daughter and executor of his estate. ''We just want someone in charge who will continue the clear vision my father had for CRI.''
That vision, to be a leading think tank with a focus on evangelizing, has floundered, according to Rische, 42, who lives in St. Paul, Minn.
Instead, she claims, Hanegraaff has used the nonprofit CRI as a platform to sell his books and promote his two for-profit organizations. She also said Hanegraaff hasn't returned some of her father's personal belongings and claims he has mismanaged personnel at CRI.
In a subsequent letter to the Editor, Darlene Martin, Walter Martin's widow, clarified:
After reading your article ''Casting Stones'' (April 15), I am writing to clarify several issues.
First, my husband, Walter Martin, never ''handpicked'' anyone to succeed him at Christian Research Institute and ''The Bible Answer Man'' radio program.
This claim was handed to me by someone I thought I could trust as I approached the lectern at my husband's memorial service.
I read it for the first time--aloud--while standing in front of 1,500 people. It took me completely by surprise and put me in a very awkward position. I wish to take this opportunity now to apologize for allowing this statement to stand for so many years.
At the time of my husband's death, I believed Hank Hanegraaff was a man God could mold into a strong Christian leader, one who could play a positive role in leading CRI. I supported him loyally for six years before I came to see he was not the man I believed him to be.
Secondly, one of our family's main objections to Hanegraaff's continued leadership is his mistreatment of fellow Christians. He has left a trail of wounded people behind him since the takeover of CRI in 1989. The testimonies against him include those who are his ''right-hand'' people, people who worked closely with him.
Hanegraaff has called repeatedly for accountability in other Christian leaders and should be held accountable himself.
San Juan Capistrano
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