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The Moving of “God’s Movement” The Past, Present and Future of the International Church of Christ A paper submitted to Dr. Doug Foster for the History of Christianity II BIBH 652.01 Abilene Christian University Graduate School of Theology By Travis Stanley April 26, 2003 Stanley 2 The Moving of “God’s Movement” “The future’s in the air-can feel it everywhere The blowing with the wind of change”1 November 6, 2002 “God through His Word, through circumstances and through true brothers has made it clear that my leadership in recent years has damaged both the Kingdom and my family…. Therefore, because I have so severely failed God and His movement, I have decided to resign from my role as World Missions Evangelist and leader of the world sector leaders.”2 With these words Kip McKean, founder and leader of the International Church of Christ (ICOC), resigned from the lead position of “World Missions Evangelist.” What began as a movement calling for change and reform in Churches of Christ, the International Church of Christ, referred to within as “God’s Movement,” is currently feeling the wind of change blowing again. McKean’s resignation has thrown the church into great disarray and has caused many leaders and members to rethink many of the tenants they have held so dear. The present situation is unfolding everyday and the future is uncertain. One things is certain, the ICOC is changing. In order to understand the recent events in the ICOC, one must first understand the history of the movement and of its founder, Kip McKean. 1 A song “Winds of Change,” by Scorpions, as quoted by McKean, Kip, “Revolution Through Restoration,” LA Story, 1, no. 10, (Jul 1994), 14. 2 “Kip McKean Resignation Letter,” Internet on-line, Available from <http://www.icoc.org/icocmain/Documents/11_02/mckean_resignation.htm>, [19 March 2003]. This is from the ICOC’s official website, UpCyberDown. Stanley 3 Beginnings, Growth and Expansion Since McKean’s baptism in the “early hours of April 11, 1972,”3 he embarked on a journey of understanding what Christ’s church should look like on earth. Prior to his baptism he attended a Florida Methodist church briefly, but did not commit his life to Christ until he became involved in Campus Advance, a campus ministry on the University of Florida’s campus led by the 14th Street Church of Christ of Gainesville, Florida (later known as the Crossroads Church of Christ).4 After being invited by a fellow fraternity brother, McKean became active in this Church of Christ campus ministry. McKean’s new found faith was put to the test shortly after his baptism. During the summer of 1972, while in his hometown of Chicago, McKean suffered from a terrible case of boils. For three months, McKean lived with bandages covering his face. While suffering from this grave illness, McKean claims that no member from the small Church of Christ he attended in Chicago came to visit him.5 This began McKean’s aversion to the spiritual condition of mainline Churches of Christ. Returning to Gainesville, against his doctor’s wishes, McKean once again experienced a close fellowship with the fellow members of his campus ministry. The strong fellowship of the Crossroad’s Church of Christ gave McKean a picture of what he thought a true church should be like. McKean’s time in Gainesville shaped his future as a minister and, consequently, the future of the ICOC, which he would begin. While a member of Campus Advance, McKean sat under the teaching of campus minister Chuck Lucas. Lucas’ teachings 3 McKean, “Revolution,” 4. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. Stanley 4 introduced McKean to the “innovations of ‘one another Christianity’”6 in which small groups of students would pray with one another and lead each other in spiritual growth and discipleship. These experiences were the root for the strong discipleship focus that the ICOC has been known for. After McKean’s graduation, he became the campus minister for the Northeastern Christian College, a mainline Church of Christ school near Philadelphia.7 Here McKean came into contact with professing Christian college students who lived sinful, indulgent lives. This gave McKean “a deep conviction that being religious is not the same as being righteous.”8 Ten months later, McKean left Northeastern and became the campus minister for the Heritage Chapel Church of Christ in Charleston, IL.,9 a campus ministry supported by the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Houston, TX..10 In Charleston, McKean met a man who would be a mentor for him, Roger Lamb, the minister of Heritage Chapel.11 McKean also married his “best friend in all the world, Elena Garcia- Bengochea”12 while in Charleston. Not all McKean’s experiences in Charleston, however, were positive. On April 14, 1977, the elders of the Memorial Church of Christ sent a letter to Heritage Chapel announcing that they would no longer financially support McKean’s ministry. Following a personal meeting that the Memorial Drive elders had with McKean and Lamb on April 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Burkhart, Delbert, “Letter to Wayne Geiling of the Heritage Chapel Church of Christ from the Elders of the Memorial Church of Christ,” Internet on-line, Available from <http://www.reveal.org/library/history/memdr.html>, [25 April 2003]. Reveal.org is a website dedicated to educating people about the questionable practices of the ICOC and helping former members get out of the movement. 11 McKean, “Revolution,” 4. 12 Ibid. Stanley 5 4, 1977, the elders concluded that “Brother McKean has brought unbiblical practice, peculiar language, and subtle, deceitful doctrines to Charleston from the Crossroads church at Gainesville, Florida.”13 Among these “unbiblical practices” cited as reasons for the removal of support were the “prayer partner concept” and “the judgment of humans that mature knowledge must be gained before one is allowed to be baptized.” Variations of these two critiqued practices are two of the main tenants of the ICOC faith today. As McKean has written, “I taught that to be baptized, you must first make the decision to be a disciple and then be baptized.”14 Concerning the “prayer partner concept,” McKean says: “I felt this approach [‘prayer partners’] was not directive enough. Building upon this concept, I came up with ‘discipleship partners.’ In these relationships, the evangelists, elders and women’s counselors, after discussion and prayer, arranged for an older, stronger Christian to give direction to each of the younger, weaker ones. They were to meet weekly, but have daily contact.”15 Memorial Drive’s removal of support from McKean and Lamb exemplifies the growing criticism that mainline Churches of Christ and outsiders voiced against the Crossroad’s movement. Many criticized their “prayer partners” and other aspects of their ministry as abusive, manipulative and even cultish.16 McKean’s Boston Movement officially began on June 1, 1979 when McKean met with 30 other Christians in the living room of Bob and Pat Gemple in Lexington, Massachusetts.17 Prior to this meeting, McKean had been invited to become the minister of the dying Lexington Church of Christ. With a membership of only 30, the church 13 Burkhart, “Letter to Wayne.” 14 McKean, “Revolution,” 6. 15 Ibid. 16 Paden, Russell, “The Boston Church of Christ,” from Timothy Miller, ed., America’s Alternative Religions, (Albany, New York: SUNY, 1995), 134. 17 McKean, “Revolution,” 5. Stanley 6 contemplated disbanding. Hearing of McKean and the growth that many Crossroad ministries were having, the elders felt that McKean could possibly save their church. McKean hesitated a response to their invitation for five months but finally agreed under the condition that once he got there “every member must vow to become (in the terminology of that day) ‘totally committed.’”18 McKean and his wife, along with 10 young adults who were training under McKean to serve in a discipling ministry, moved to Lexington in June of 1979 to being their ministry. 19 The changes that McKean brought to Lexington were not taken well by some. Half of the Lexington members were opposed to McKean’s discipling approach and left shortly after he became the minister.20 But this could not stop McKean’s drive. He was passionate about developing a church that was full of committed people. He had tired of the lax attitude that many had when approaching their spirituality. McKean was set on building a church full of committed disciples of Christ who took their Christian life seriously. During the first six months that McKean was in Lexington they had 68 new converts baptized. The following year yielded 170 new baptisms. In 1981 they had 250 baptisms and in 1982 they had 365.21 In 1983 a “very interesting and crucial event occurred”22 when the building that the Lexington Church owned burned down. What would have been a major set back for many churches McKean saw as an opportunity. He concluded that the first century church’s lack of a church building was an example to Christians in the 20th century. He decided that the Boston Church would not rebuild a building but, instead, rent their meeting facilities and use the saved money to invest “in 18 Ibid. 19 Yeakley, Flavil, Jr., The Discipling Dilemma, (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1988), 6-7. 20 Ibid., 7. 21 Ibid. 22 McKean, “Revolution,” 6. Stanley 7 people instead of mortgages, interest and stone.”23 They rented the Arlington Baptist Church building until they out grew it and rented the Boston Opera House.24 By 1987 they had around 2,500 members and had moved their Sunday services into the Boston Gardens. Sundays were not the only meeting time. On Wednesday evenings the church members would disperse to different house churches and on other days through out the week members and non-members would attend “Bible Talks.”25 The Lexington Church of Christ changed its name to the Boston Church of Christ to reflect their belief that each church should carry the name of its city, as churches did in the New Testament, and to also give the church the vision of becoming a church for Boston.26 The Boston Church grew greatly in only a short amount of time. McKean’s vision of building a church full of “disciples”27 was coming true. As the Boston Church of Christ continued to grow, McKean’s dream for the church also began to grow. “In 1981-82,” McKean says, “the Lord put on my heart a vision for the world.”28 This vision saw the Boston Church sending out church planting teams into “the key metropolitan centers of the world.” These churches would be “key churches,” or “pillar churches,” that would send out more church plants. The goal was to evangelize the world in this generation, as McKean believed the Great Commission of 23 McKean, “Revolution,” 6. 24 Yeakley, “Discipling,” 7. 25 Ibid. 26 McKean, “Revolution,” 9. 27 “Disciple” is the term used to distinguish a totally committed Christian who was chose to be a disciple prior to their baptism and who agree to be in one-on-one discipling relationships. Paden, “The Boston Church of Christ,” 135. 28 McKean, “Revolution,” 6. Stanley 8 Jesus called disciples to do. In June of 1982, the Boston Church sent out a team of 50 led by Cecil and Helen Wooten to make their first church plant in Chicago, Illinois.29 The next month, in July of 1982, the Boston Church sent out its second church plant to London, England. This team was lead by Doug Arthur, Jim Lloyd and ten others from Boston.30 This was not the end of the Boston Church planting. They continued to spread their movement across the globe until in 1994 the ICOC had congregations in 49 countries.31 On February 4, 1994, the ICOC announced that they had set a goal to plant churches in the 160 countries that contained a city of 100,000 or more by the year 2000.32 That meant that within 6 years the movement would send out 111 new church planting teams. By 2000, the goal was completed. Today, the ICOC is composed of 430 congregations in 170 countries.33 The rapid growth of the Boston Church of Christ caused many to flock to Boston to learn more about the Boston model. Beginning in 1983 and continuing through the rest of the decade, many Church of Christ ministers who were tired of their stagnant churches came to Boston to be trained by McKean and other church leaders.34 While they were being trained, Boston Movement leaders would take their place in their local churches and reconstruct the churches into the Boston model.35 McKean and other leaders challenged the Churches of Christ ministers to reevaluate their baptism to see if it 29 Ibid., 7. It is interesting that the first church plant was in Chicago, the city where McKean first began to feel that mainline Churches of Christ were not the church Christ desired them to be. 30 Ibid. 31 “Evangelization Proclamation,” Internet on-line, Available from <www.upcyberdown.ord/icocmain/Documents/Documents/EvanProc.htm>, [25 April 2003]. 32 Ibid. 33 Callahan, Timothy, “ ‘Boston Movement’ Founder Quits,” Christianity Today, (March 2003), Internet on-line, Available from <http://www.tolc.org/ct.htm>, [19 March 2003]. The “170 countries” figure may be a little off. The Christian Chronicle stated that the ICOC was represented in only 162 countries. Adams, Lindy, “McKean’s Resignation Signals New Chapter for ICOC,” Christian Chronicle, (Dec 18, 2002), Internet, on-line, Available from <http://www.tolc.org/cc1.htm>, [19 March 2003]. 34 McKean, “Revolution,” 8 35 Ibid. Stanley 9 was a “true baptism.” A true baptism, as taught by the Boston Church, was a baptism that was done after the person committed to be a disciple. If one felt they did not have this understanding at baptism, they were considered lost and needed to be rebaptized. It was during this time that prominent Boston leaders such as Al Baird, Sam Laing,36 Tom Brown, Nick Young, Ed Powers,37 Gordon Ferguson, Cecil Wooten, Marty Fuqua, Marty Wooten, Henry Kriete, Randy McKean, and Jerry Jones38 joined the Boston Movement. Controversy and Division Mainline Churches of Christ and the Boston Movement became more at odds with each other as the reconstructing of current Churches of Christ continued. Not every reconstruction attempt was met with one hundred percent approval. In July of 1987, the Boston Church of Christ announced that they would begin to reconstruct the Atlanta Highlands Church of Christ in Atlanta, Georgia.39 This congregation had previously followed the Crossroad’s Church of Christ model under the leadership of Sam Laing. When Sam Laing left to be trained in Boston, a portion of the Atlanta Highlands Church refused to submit to the Boston Church’s authority. The Boston Church began a new congregation called the Atlanta Church of Christ that consisted of Atlanta Highlands members who wanted to be reconstructed into the Boston model. McKean announced that the Atlanta Church would become a pillar church for the southeastern area of the 36 Sam Laing was the fraternity brother who first introduced McKean to Campus Advance at Crossroads. McKean, “Revolution,” 4. 37 Ed Powers was later “marked,” the Boston term for disfellowshipping in which Boston Movement members were forbidden contact with the marked individual, for questioning some of the Movement’s teaching while ministering at the Indianapolis Church of Christ. Hendricks, Roger, “A History of the Indianapolis Church of Christ Split from the International Churches of Christ,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://www.reveal.org/library/stories/churches/indy/history.htm>, [23 April 2003]. 38 Jerry Jones later left the Boston Movement and became one of its strongest critics. 39 Yeakley, “Discipling,” 13-14. Stanley 10 United States and would send out church plants into nine other metropolises in the southeast. 40 The official division between the mainline Churches of Christ and the Boston Church of Christ was on the horizon. The Boston Church taught that mainline churches were not true churches because they did not follow the discipling model and did not understand the need to be a disciple prior to baptism. Churches of Christ felt that the Boston Church taught dangerous and unbiblical practices that they could not support. Churches of Christ began to publicly denounce the Boston Church in Church of Christ bulletins, newspapers and journals. McKean states that in 1986 the Garnett Road Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Sunset Church of Christ “stopped considering us a part of the Church of Christ fellowship.”41 Howard Norton, former editor of the Christian Chronicle, a newspaper of mainline Churches of Christ, published in February 1987 an editorial entitled “Second Thoughts on Boston.”42 The Christian Chronicle spoke out against the Boston Movement again in January of 1988 when they published an article by Marvin Phillips, Richard Rogers and Jerry Jones, former Boston Church member, that listed their scriptural objections to the Boston Movement.43 In June of 1988 the Crossroads Church of Christ themselves spoke out against Boston’s teachings.44 This occurred three months after their minister had resigned and moved to Boston to be trained.45 The division became official when Mac Lynn was preparing for his 1994 edition of “Churches of Christ in the United States,” in which Lynn gives names, 40 Ibid. 41 McKean, “Revolution,” 9. 42 Adams, “McKean’s Resignation.” 43 Jones, Jerry, What Does The Boston Movement Teach, Volume II, (Jerry Jones, 1990), 8. 44 Ibid. 45 Ibid., 8-9. Stanley 11 information and statistics of all US Churches of Christ. According to Lynn, “I asked Kip [if he wanted to be included in the directory], he paused, and there was a period of silence. Then he said, ‘I guess not. I suppose the time has come for us not to be included.’”46 Throughout all the controversy, however, the Boston Movement continued to plant churches and spread its ministry. As the Church grew, new leadership models were implemented to handle the growing movement. Until this time McKean, his wife, the Bairds and the Gemples made the major decisions for the movement.47 In 1988, McKean decided that his attention needed to be on a few key men who represented the different sectors in which the movement was planting churches. McKean would devote his time to discipling these men. He chose nine men who formed the “World Sector Leaders.” This group became the governing body for the movement.48 Following the formation of the World Sector Leaders, McKean resigned his position of “Lead Evangelist” of the Boston Church of Christ and took on the title “World Evangelist” through which he would concentrate on leading the church planting and the reconstructions.49 Al Baird, a mentor of McKean and the editor of official publications of the movement, took McKean’s place as Lead Evangelist of the Boston Church of Christ.50 He continued in this role for one year until Baird stepped down and McKean’s brother Randy McKean replaced him on May 5, 1990.51 In January of 1990 McKean moved his family to Los Angeles where they became part of the Boston 46 Adams, “McKean’s Resignation.” 47 McKean, “Revolution,” 10. 48 Ibid. 49 McKean, Kip, “McKean Becomes Missions Evangelists,” Boston Bulletin, Volume 9, Number 25 (June 26, 1988). This article is reprinted in Jones, Jerry, What Does The Boston Movement Teach, (Jerry Jones, 1990), 106. 50 Jones, Boston Movement, II, 9. 51 Ibid., 9. Stanley 12 Movement’s new LA plant. McKean dreamed of making the LA Church into a “super church.”52 More organizational changes were made when McKean announced on July 22, 1993 that the Boston Movement’s name would be changed to the International Church of Christ. Following this decision, the LA Church set out new administrative policies that defined the hierarchy of leadership in the ICOC. As the World Sector Leader, McKean became the leader of the ICOC. The new policy also introduced the chain of command for the rest of the world sector leaders. Since McKean is the World Sector Leader and Lead Evangelist of the LA Church, the LA Church became by default the head church of the ICOC.53 Even though the ICOC continued to spread across the globe, still they were plagued with controversy from both within and without. Churches of Christ continued to write against the movement and developed ministries that sought to “deprogram” those who were leaving the ICOC. In May of 1992 Time Magazine published an article that discussed the ICOC’s opponents and claimed that the movement is a cult.54 The greatest source of criticism came over the ICOC’s evangelism strategy used on college campuses. A Recent article of the Harvard Crimson, the Harvard University student paper, gives insights into the way many colleges have responded to the ICOC’s aggressive evangelistic strategies. 55 The article states that the U.S. News and World Report reported that the ICOC was “explicitly banned from at least 39 college campuses.”56 Most 52 McKean, “Revolution,” 14. 53 Hendrick, “Indianapolis,” 2. 54 Ostling, Richard, “Keepers of the Flock,” Time Magazine, (May 18, 1992), Internet on-line, Available from <http://www.tolc.org/time2.htm>, [19 March 2003]. 55 Kitchen, Kristen, “What in the Lord’s Name is Going On?”, Harvard Crimson, (Friday, April 5, 2002), 1. 56 Ibid. Stanley 13 disputed of the ICOC’s approach to campus ministry is their recruitment tactics. They often go into the student’s dorms to aggressively recruit. Most colleges see this as proselytizing and invasion of privacy. The ICOC puts new members, both college students and anyone else who desires to be apart of the ICOC, into discipling relationships. The new Christian, a weaker Christian, is paired up by church leaders with a “disciple partner” who is a stronger Christian. These one-over-one discipling relationships often tell those being discipled how to dress, how often to have sexual intercourse with their spouse, who and when to date and many other things that critics feel should be kept personal.57 Within, the ICOC experienced controversy with Ed Powers, the Lead Evangelist of the Indianapolis Church of Christ (Indy Church). Powers raised objection to the ICOC’s teachings in four areas which he and his fellow evangelists agreed on. The points raised were: 1. Policy and Doctrine should not be legislated from Los Angeles. 2. The ICC are not the only ones saved. 3. Giving should not be under compulsion. 4. Legalistic system is robbing Christians of joy (i.e. Statistics, special contribution goals).58 On February 27, 1994 the Indy Church Evangelists shared these four points with the rest of the Indy Church, carefully stating that they had no intention of leaving the ICOC. The Church members were asked to vote in favor of these four points, to which all voted yes except for one “no” and six abstentions.59 When the LA Church heard about this, they immediately reacted. In the middle of the night after the vote was taken, several individual members were called by other ICOC members throughout the country 57 Jones, Boston Movement, 10-22. 58 Hendrick, “Indianapolis,” 4. 59 Ibid. Stanley 14 claiming they heard the Indy Church decided to leave the movement. Of course, no such decision had been made. The next day, hundreds of phone calls were made to Indy Church members. Evangelists throughout the country were informing their churches of the events in the Indy Church and encouraging them to get into contact with the Indy Disciples.60 McKean, Al Baird, Marty Fuqua, Roger Lamb and other key leaders of the ICOC came to Indianapolis by March 2, 1994. They had a meeting with the Bible Talk leaders to discuss the current situation, to which the staff of the Indy Church was not invited. At this meeting, the ICOC leaders attacked Powers and the way he delivered his four points to the Indy Church. By the end of the meeting, some of the leaders who had originally supported Powers began to have issues, not with the four points, but with the way the issues were raised. After a series of meetings, the ICOC leaders decide to form a new congregation of those committed to the ICOC that would meet at the Embassy Suites in downtown Indianapolis under the name Indianapolis International Church of Christ. On March 6, 1994, the Indianapolis International Church of Christ met in one place with approximately 200 in attendance and the Indianapolis Church of Christ met in their regular meeting place with 620 in attendance. The two groups continued to meet separately until all hopes of a reconciliation were gone. On April 24, 1994, the Indianapolis Church of Christ changed their name to the Circle City Church of Christ and the split was finalized.61 60 Ibid. 61 Ibid., 5-6. Stanley 15 Ed Powers, his fellow evangelists and all the members of the Circle City Church of Christ were marked by ICOC leaders.62 The following July after these events took place McKean published an article entitled “Revolution Through Restoration Part II” in which the following was said about the Indianapolis Church situation: A very sad chapter in our history was written in March of this year. Ed Powers…deceived the entire congregation and caused many to lose their faith and turn away from God…the victory is that 220 of 700 remained faithful to God, his church and his movement. As for those who continue to oppose us, they are lost—not because their baptism became invalid, but the Scriptures are clear that those who oppose and grumble against God’s leaders and divide God’s church are, in fact, opposing God (Exodus 16:8; Numbers 16). Thus, the rebellious become lost because they do not have a true faith.63 From McKean’s quote one can see the way McKean and the ICOC leaders treated those who stirred up controversy from within. Those who spoke out against the beliefs and practices of the ICOC were believed to be speaking out against God and his Church. Speaking out against God and His Church meant that one was lost. Resignation, Revamping and Reforms From the outside, the ICOC seemed to be doing fine after the Indianapolis incident, but big trials were on their way. More controversy arose in 1998 when McKean’s daughter publicly mentioned that she had at one time desired to leave the ICOC. “I thought that the only place I could find true freedom would be outside the church, and that’s the only place that I could be happy,” she said.64 Later, rumors spread that she actually left the ICOC. This created a big problem for McKean. In the past, 62 Ibid., 7. 63 McKean, Kip, “Revolution Through Restoration, Part II, ” LA Story, 1, no. 11, (Jul 1994), 11. 64 “Kip McKean Steps Down,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://www.rightcyberup.orf/news/resignation.html>, [25 April 2003]. RightCyberUp is one of the leading ministries in helping members leave the ICOC. Stanley 16 many leaders whose children had left the movement were asked to step down from their leadership positions. McKean himself said, “One of the greatest tests for any movement is its impact on the children.”65 McKean often parade his children as examples of great ICOC “Kingdom Kids,” as children of ICOC members are called. The desired departure of his own daughter contradicted McKean’s own teachings. On November 11, 2001 McKean and his wife Elena announced they would take a sabbatical which meant McKean resigned from his role as lead evangelist of the LA Church and left his day-to-day tasks of World Sector Leader to others. Kip and Elena said that since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, they had “been coming to grips with the need to address some serious shortcomings in our marriage and family.”66 This announcement did not mean that McKean was resigning from his leadership role of the ICOC, only that he and Elena would “step aside from their day-today ministry responsibilities in order to devote themselves to working on their marriage and family dynamic.”67 The elders in their response to McKean’s sabbatical announcement pointed out, “With any major decisions regarding the fellowship of churches the World Sector Leaders will consult them.”68 Also in 2001, several key leaders left the movement, including World Sector Leaders Doug and Joyce Arthur, Nick Young who was a Geographic Sector Leader and Lead Evangelist of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Church of Christ Jesus, and Mike Leatherwood, the evangelist of the New York City Church of Christ.69 65 Ibid. 66 McKean, Kip and Elena McKean, “Kip and Elena McKean to Take Sabbatical,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://www.upcyberdown.ord/KNN/archive/2001/11/11/20011111_001.htm>, [25 April 2003]. 67 Baird, Al and Bob Gempel, “Response to McKean’s Sabbatical Announcement,” Internet on-line, Available from, <www.upcyberdown.ord/KNN/archive/2001/11/11/20011111_001.htm>, [25 April 2003]. 68 Ibid. 69 “McKean Steps Down,” 1. Stanley 17 The announced sabbatical and the departure of key leaders from the movement barely scratched the surface of the ICOC’s problems. In early 2002 the ICOC posted on their official website70 statistics from 1999-2001 that for every five new baptisms of the Church they were loosing 4.1 members.71 83,928 church members left the ICOC during this three year period.72 What further complicated things were statistics that revealed much of their annual growth came from the inside when “Kingdom Kids” were baptized and members who had “fallen away” from the movement were restored.73 In 2001, almost half of the ICOC’s growth came from these restorations.74 Without the inclusion of these restorations and the baptisms of Kingdom Kids, the ICOC would have shrunk in 2001.75 This statistical bombshell left many disheartened. The ICOC had always stated that they were a “multiplying movement,” but statistics showed that they were barely multiplying. Some Churches which had in the past experienced great growth began shrinking. The New York City Church lost 191 members in 2001. The Dallas/Fort Worth Church lost 248. The largest loss was 472 in the Chicago Church, the ICOC’s first church plant.76 In September of 2001 the ICOC claimed that the LA Church had become the movements first 10,000 member church. By December they were back down to 70 RightCyberUp suggests that possibly these statistics were intended for leaders only but were accidentally accessible to all. After these statistics became public on Delphi, ICOC’s online discussion forum, the statistics were removed from the ICOC’s official website. 71 “The Revolving Door: The ICC by the Numbers,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://www.rightcyberup.org/news/numbers.html>, [25 April 2003]. 72 Ibid. 73 Ibid. 74 Ibid. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid. Stanley 18 9,369.77 Statistics also indicated that several of the churches they had planted as a result of the Evangelization Proclamation had only 1 or no members left.78 In November of 2002, when Kip and Elena were expected to return to their regular ministry activities, McKean instead announced his resignation. Kip claimed that he had been arrogant, had neglected discipling for his own life and had shut people off from him through his anger. McKean said that these sins had effected his family and his church. “I have so severely failed God and His movement,” McKean wrote. “I have decided to resign from my role as World Missions Evangelists and leader of the world sector leaders.”79 McKean’s resignation announcement came during the “ICOC Unity Conference” in LA. At the conference, attendees also decided to abolish the World Sector Leaders group which had served as second in command under McKean. After 36 hours of delegation, a transition team decided to implement a new leadership structure. Instead of one person leading a World Sector, the Sectors would be led by teams. Representative from these teams would meet once a year and every team member would meet later in the same year. This new structure would allow more people to share the leadership.80 “This refreshing, new emphasis on teamwork and consensus will reduce our dependence on any one individual and place the emphasis on God and the leadership of His Spirit,” said the official statement from the November Unity Conference.81 Al Baird, the ICOC’s main media spokesperson, told Christianity Today that these new changes in the ICOC 77 Ibid. 78 Ibid. 79 “McKean Resignation.” 80 “ICOC Unity Conference,” Internet on-line, Available from, <www.icoc.org/icocmain/Documents/11_02/Unity_announcement.htm>, [19 March 2003]. 81 Ibid. Stanley 19 leadership are “not over doctrinal issues but over growth issues.”82 The official statement from the Unity Conference stated, “The numeric and geographic growth in the kingdom had outstripped the spiritual ability of this small group of men and women to supply the leadership necessary to sustain healthy church growth.”83 It is obvious from this and Baird’s statements that the 1999-2001 statistics greatly troubled the ICOC leaders. The most amazing changes in the ICOC have occurred after McKean’s resignation and the abolition of the World Sector Leaders. In February 2003, Henry Kriete, an Evangelist in the London Church of Christ and a highly respected teacher in the movement since 1981, wrote an open letter to the ICOC entitled “Honest to God” which he made available to all ICOC members through the internet.84 In this open letter, Kriete identified “Four Systemic85 Evils” which he claimed were the main issues, instead of a new leadership structure, that needed to be addressed in the ICOC. The four evils Kriete mentioned are as follows: 1. Our Corrupted Hierarchy 2. Our Obsession With Numbers 3. Our Shameful Arrogance 4. Our Seduction By Money86 Notice the close similarities between Kriete’s list of four and Power’s list of four. Kriete also listed forty “Wide Scale Problems and Concerns along with these “Four Systemic Evils.”87 Several of the forty are: 82 Callahan, “Boston Founder Quits.” 83 “ICOC Unity.” 84 “Henry Kriete Letter Rocks ICC,” Internet on-line, Available from, <www.rightcyber.org/neews/kriete.html> [23 April 2003]. 85 Kriete defines systemic as “Of, pertaining to, or affecting the whole body.” Henry Kriete, “Honest to God,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://www.upcyberdown.com/GV/NEEM/CH/geneva/French/Messages/honesttogod.htm>, [29 April 2003]. 86 Ibid. 87 Ibid. Stanley 20 We have had well over a quarter million men and women leave our churches. Sadly, although the so called LA unity/governance conference was no doubt sincere and had great intentions—it has once again failed to address our real problems right now—our systemic evils. Kip’s resignation letter, although sincere, is not enough. The teaching and belief that we are, or ever have been, the “One True Church.” This statement is patently arrogant, and necessarily offensive. Coercive giving is practiced, wide-scale. The concept of discipleship partners as presently practiced in most of our churches has failed. The genius of local autonomy, and the many forms of local church government provided in the New Testament, must once again be explored and embraced. Local church autonomy is biblical. Kriete’s letter criticizes the same things that the mainline Churches of Christ and many others have criticized about the movement for years. Henry Kriete is the first person from inside the ICOC to produce such a scathing review. Given the way the ICOC treated Ed Powers and others who spoke out against the movement, one would expect for Kriete and those who agreed with him to be marked and forced out of the ICOC. This, however has yet to happen. Instead Kriete’s letter has sparked a revival in the ICOC. Because of recent leadership structures, the ICOC does not have the authority it once had to “mark” critics. Even what authority it does have is being undermined by Kriete and other leader’s claims of abuse. There seems to be no major attempt of the ICOC to silence Kriete and stop the spread of his letter. UpCyberDown, the ICOC’s official website, has even posted the letter on their website. Other key leaders have written letters of their own which support Kriete’s letter and list their own concerns, yet criticize Kriete’s widespread distrubution of his letter.88 Marty Wooten, long time respected ICOC evangelist, said concerning Kriete’s not following the 88 Jacoby, Douglas, “Douglas Jacoby—Response to Henry’s Letter,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://sd.ucd.net/GV/USSW/US/CA/SD/Studies/2003Letters/20030203JacobyResponse.htm>, [25 April 2003]. Stanley 21 “proper communicative channels,” “Have not these ‘proper’ channels been ineffective for some time now?”89 He also compared Kriete’s letter to Martin Luther’s 95 thesis.90 The most amazing result of Kriete’s letter is the response local congregations are having towards it. Several major Churches in the US have issued apologies. The most important of these apologizes is the one from the LA Church. In their apology, they apologized for staff arrogance, the weakening of other churches in order to grow theirs,91 the use of harsh and compelling tactics to get people to give, the authoritarian approach to discipling, the false teaching of the ICOC as the One True Church and several other things.92 Some churches have gone beyond apologies and began to discontinue some of the problems that Kriete mentioned in his letter. Dave Anderson, of RightCyberUp, said in a Christianity Today interview, “A few [ICOC congregations] have even discontinued one-on-one discipling partners, which is like McDonald’s franchise suddenly dropping the Big Mac.”93 An example of the local church reform which is taking place in many ICOC Churches is seen in a posting on the Boston Church of Christ website. In it they announce: 89 Wooten, Marty, “Response to Henry’s Letter,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://sd.ucd.net/GV/USSW/US/CA/SD/Studies/2003Letters/20030301WootenResponse.htm>, [25 April 2003]. 90 Ibid. 91 They claimed that they had diverted funds from other Churches in order to grow the LA Church. An apology from the South Florida Church admits that some of their special missions contributions “were being used for ministries and special projects within the Los Angeles Church.” “South Florida Church of Christ Apology Letter,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://www.southfloridachurch.org/sfcc_apology.htm>, [25 April 2003]. 92 “Los Angeles Church of Christ Apology Letter,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://www.upcyberdown.org/GV/LA/2003/02/24/LA_Apology_Letter.htm>, [25 April 2003]. 93 Callahan, “Boston Founder Quits.” Stanley 22 Throughout the Boston Church today, lessons will be taught about the role of elders in the New Testament church…After serious consideration of our past and current practices in light of these scriptures, the evangelists, elders and teachers of the Boston Church wish to commend to the congregation those seven men who have been recognized by you as elders. It is our desire that these men should function henceforth as the over-seeing body of our congregation.94 The members were asked to determine who of these men were scripturally qualified to serve as an Elder. Those chosen by the church will be “Recognized before the entire congregation at the May 4 service.”95 Until this time, ICOC church elders were still under many other leaders in the chain of command. This announcement makes the Boston Church elders the chief authority in the Boston Church. Future Reforms The reforms taking place in the ICOC are happening every week. The ICOC’s discussion forum DELPHI is filled with reports from ICOC members relaying the things that are happening in their local congregations. It appears that the leadership structure decided upon at the LA Unity Conference will end up being unsuccessful. Local Churches are taking matters into their own hands. Reports are being made of ICOC Churches declaring autonomy,96 ending the Discipleship Partners program and the Bible Talks and in one case a report of the church members of a local church firing their entire staff and seeking to appoint their own staff.97 Since these events are new, official documentation is not available as of yet. These reports and rumors do signal that change is happening. The future of the ICOC is “blowing with the winds of change.” The 94 “A Small Step, A Giant Leap: Overseen by the Elders,” Internet on-line, Available from, <http://www.upcyberdown.org/GV/NEEM/US/MA/Boston/about/articles/doc_publish041103elders.htm>, [23 April 2003]. 95 Ibid. As of the writing of this paper, this meeting has yet to occur. 96 There is an undocumented report on Delphi that the Cincinnati Church of Christ has declared itself autonomous. 97 The church mentioned is the Atlanta Church of Christ. A former member gave this report which he heard from friends who were connected with the Atlanta Church. Stanley 23 outcome of recent events is unsure but the ICOC will never be the same again. God appears to be moving what McKean and others have called “God’s Movement” through a time of reforming and refining that will hopefully produce a golden Church that will become a valuable partner in the Kingdom of God.
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