The daughter and son-in-law of Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, claims it is "fake news" that Hank Hanegraaff stole the CRI presidency, a charge now being inferred by Martin's eldest daughter, Jill Martin Rische.
In a statement posted last week on their ministry page on Facebook, Rick and Cindee Martin Morgan wrote of the ongoing controversy surrounding Hanegraaff who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy a few months ago, rising to his defense.
They responded to a 26-second video titled "Why Walter Martin Did Not Choose Hank Hanegraaff," which was posted on YouTube by Rische on July 24. It features the late Walter Martin speaking generally about the church being "overridden" with Christians who desire to be teachers but have no qualifications or education when it comes to the Bible. Hanegraaff does not have a formal theological education or any credentials.
Rick and Cindee Morgan called the video "divisive" and said that it amounts to "Fake News" and "appears to be an effort to mislead others and harm Hank's reputation."
Rische "has decided to resurrect the false accusations that Hank was merely hired by Dr. Martin for fundraising and that, following Dr. Martin's death, Hank stole the Presidency of CRI," the Morgans' Facebook statement reads.
"Whether or not you agree with Hank's decision to convert to Greek Orthodoxy, it does not change the fact that Dr. Martin responsibly planned who he wanted to lead CRI into the future. His own words prove his intent."
Hanegraaff, known for his nationallly syndicated radio broadcast the "Bible Answer Man," joined the Greek Orthodox church in April. Earlier this month, several family members of Walter Martin signed a statement asking Hanegraaff, who is battling mantle cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer, to resign as CRI president since they believe that an Eastern Orthodox Christian cannot lead a distinctly evangelical ministry. The statement asserts that Walter Martin "would be appalled" at Hanegraaff's conversion.
But Cindee Morgan disagreed and did not sign the statement. She maintains that her father clearly defined the position he chose Hanegraaff for nearly three decades ago, and linked to several videos, including this one, where he spelled that out in detail.
She also released a video subsequent to The Christian Post's coverage of the CRI family member statement asking Hanegraaff to step down. In it, she reiterated that although her father disagreed with some of the teachings in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, he believed it was possible to be a sincere Christian provided one had a relationship with Jesus Christ, and that all three groups contained the essential "core" of Christian faith.
In response to the fallout, Hanegraaff told NPR's Charlotte affiliate WFAE that for the most part, his theological beliefs have not changed and that he stands "shoulder-to-shoulder" in his Orthodox faith with both Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants "around the essentials of the Christian faith — meaning the main and plain things."
The Morgans added that no matter what people think of Hanegraaff's conversion to Orthodoxy, it is wrong to slander him regarding his CRI leadership post that he has held for nearly 30 years, referencing James 4:11.
"Dr. Martin should be given the credit and the respect of making preparations for CRI in the aftermath of learning he would not have long to live," they said.
"Dr. Martin chose a man with no earned degree. While he believed a degree was extremely important, in regards to teaching, he did make exceptions if he believed the person had gifts and was well qualified for a job as was the case with his friend, Hank Hanegraaff."