When Kip McKean resigned as the British leader of the Boston Movement or International Churches of Christ (ICC), as they are better known, last autumn, there was much speculation as to whether changes would take place in the movement or not.
Kip McKean had run the church with a rule of authority that in the end led to his downfall. He had taught that no one could be a leader if their children left the ICC and that’s just what his daughter did.
Farah Stockman reported in the Boston Globe in May this year,
“McKean let his children know that their successes were ammunition in his war for the Lord.
“‘I’m convinced,’ McKean told followers in Washington, D.C., in 2000, ‘that when a teen falls away [from the church] … there are some sinful dynamics in that family, and that family, that mom and dad, need to repent.’
“But Olivia had just left for Harvard University, and she was already tasting the freedom of life away from home. For a while, she attended the Boston Church of Christ and even gave dynamic speeches to crowds of hundreds. Although the church paid for her discipler, a young woman from Los Angeles, to move to Cambridge with her to guide her spiritual growth, by January 2001, Olivia stopped coming to church and told her friends she no longer wanted to be a member.
“‘She finally just stood up and said, “I’m sick of the whole thing; I’m leaving,”‘ said one former church leader who knew her personally. Her father ‘was pretty brokenhearted.'”
It was also McKean who preached that ICC was the only true church. Thousands had to be rebaptised into the ICC because, even baptism by immersion in another church, was not sufficient. Even members of the mainline Church of Christ that they had split from, let alone other churches, were not truly saved.
Such preaching has over the years taken its toll and it is estimated that currently there are 130,000 members worldwide which is way down from the claimed high of 185,000.
The teachings and early developments of ICC are found in the other articles on this site, this article seeks to answer the question of whether recent events have made any meaningful changes and discover whether we are dealing with a different group today than we did when our first article was written.
An interesting issue arises from McKean’s resignation letter. He begins,
“Truly the Lord has blessed his modern day movement as His gospel has produced true churches of disciples in nearly 170 nations over the past 23 years”
This particular phrase and further, on in the letter where he calls the movement, ‘the Kingdom’, shows that he still believes that this movement is the Lord’s modern day movement to the exclusion of others.
The letter also indicates that he feels that he is personally at fault but that the movement as a whole needs little change to the way it has been going.
However there are a number of former members that have written on the Reveal web site that feel it is not enough. One man standing down does not alter the dominant leadership that has been the characteristic of this movement. Even though he has apologised for his attitude, have those on whose shoulders the work has fallen the same attitude as McKean?
Former member Keith Stump begins his article,
“The nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” carries a warning that if someone puts himself in too high an exalted position, then when he stumbles, he may find that there is no way for him to recover. Over the years, it has been applied to many people and institutions. It now can be applied to Kip McKean, and, just possibly, to the ICC itself… What is evident is that Kip’s interpretation of Christianity has such impossible standards that even he couldn’t live up to them. He spent years denouncing certain things – denigrating leaders to whom such things happened – only to have those same things happen to him. Once this issue become known, Kip had such a self-imposed disgrace that there was no way for him to save face. He fell off the lofty perch that he created for himself, only to find that he couldn’t regain his power. It is not clear to me whether his yes-men even tried to restore him. There has been speculation that the other top leaders wanted him gone because of his dictatorial nature – but I do not know whether that is true.”
He goes on to show that over the years McKean has hurt many people and there has never been any specific apology for this. This seems to be a legacy, that if change is really to be effected, will need to be dealt with in true repentance.
For instance former member Kyle Degge on the Reveal Web Site writes:
“I charge the top leaders of the ICC Movement with:
“Mishandling and distorting (“twisting”) the Scriptures and their meanings, with great consistency and persistence, to reinforce their biased doctrines.
“Systematically and deliberately misrepresenting themselves and many of their ends (i.e., goals and purposes) to both grassroots members and outsiders.
“Offering what’s called “unconditional love” for a price (i.e., thorough compliance of the would-be “convert”), amounting, in net effect, to spiritual “prostitution.”
” As a result of the practice of marketing this conditional “love,” painting and promoting a practical picture of God as a Cosmic Pimp.” (This is strong language, but they have done all they have done, including much abusive behavior, with the bold assertion that God has sent them out to do it. How would you express that in an “unvarnished” way?)
“Distorting many facts of their history to dishonestly inflate and embellish their all-important image (another name for this is revisionism, and most tyrants and scoundrels in history have practiced it).
“Damaging, or even destroying, the relationships of family, marriage, and friendship with shocking regularity.
“Maliciously attacking the character and reputation of any “critics” who dare to take persistent stands even to question them, not to mention oppose them.
“Maliciously denying the legitimacy and reality of other devoted Christians and churches.
“Generally exploiting and manipulating people in these ways on a consistent, worldwide basis. (In other words, they may not all be the same in degree, but they are in kind.) And finally,
“Refusing almost all repeated, sincere attempts, for many years, to establish reasonable dialogue re ‘mistakes’ that have supposedly been made (and continue to be made) by ICC leaders.”
As far as moving forward, it seems, at the moment, that it is business as usual. Within hours of the resignation the world sector leaders group,that McKean was head of, was disbanded and a new system where a “Unity Meeting” is held twice a year with representatives from each of the 9 sectors coming together for fellowship and planning.
The statement put out by the new leadership informed us,
“The responsibility of the Unity Meeting and conference would be to make sure that we remain cooperative and unified while we continue the task of evangelizing our various sectors of the world.”
In other words there would still be a central leadership from Los Angeles that would filter its way through to every ICC church worldwide.
Stump goes on in his article to show how, the will and dominance of this leadership is even shown in the new statement of moving ahead.
“In that same announcement, I saw other forms of control being exerted. One of them I have discussed in ‘Control Mechanisms in the ICC’. The technique is to repress discussion of existing problems (even to the point of ‘disfellowshipping’ and ‘marking’ those who bring the matters up). Only after a problem supposedly has been addressed and corrected, may the members discuss it… As evidence, let me cite the passages in the reorganization announcement geared to make it look like any problem is a matter of the past, to be forgiven and forgotten (he then goes on to cite 10 relevant passages).”
The problems are not confined to USA; Britain also is going through a major crisis as an open letter dated February 2003 from Henry Kriete shows. Kriete is still a member of ICC in Britain.
“As many of you know, in London we are in the midst of a spiritual upheaval. I would even call it a crisis or an unravelling. Please continue in your prayers for us. The London and UK churches have had an incredible history and as a movement we owe them much. Unfortunately, over the years, because of harshness and legalism and systemic problems I will soon identify, the churches have suffered dearly.”
The future of the church is still clearly in the balance and the article by Christianity Today, June 2003, which takes up the Kriete letter, seems to sum up the current situation.
“‘Boston Movement’ Apologizes
Open letter prompts leaders of controversial church to promise reform.
By John W. Kennedy – posted 06/04/2003
“A London leader’s 39-page confessional open letter detailing abuses in the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) has further shaken a movement that has been controversial since its beginning 24 years ago. Whether the movement, an offshoot of the mainline Churches of Christ and known for its aggressive campus recruiting, is unravelling or reforming is hard to say.
“The February 2 letter followed the resignation of founder Kip McKean in November (CT, March 2003, p. 26). Evangelist Henry Kriete, an influential leader in the Boston Movement (the informal name of the ICOC) in six countries and ten churches, wrote the letter. Kriete said the ICOC’s viability was at stake. He said leaders have engaged in financial mismanagement, legalism, dishonest statistical reporting, and abusive teachings, and have ignored critics.”
Unravelling or reforming seems to be the question; we will need to wait to find out the answer.