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In an 2004 statement (updated in 2005), REVEAL -- a website set up by former members in order to provide research on the movement -- reported on the major upheavals and changes the ICOC experienced during the previous few years. (For instance, founder Kip McKean - who was responsible for much of the biblically erroneous and abusive nature of the ICOC - stepped down and then returned to 'ministry.' McKean and his wife took over the Portland Church of Christ and soon again attempted to exert authority over the other ICOC churches. At present he is no longer involved with the ICOC, but leads a new movement, the International Christian Churches.)
In Febr. 2003, Henry Kriete - a leader in the London Church of Christ - released a paper titled, Honest to God. It was critical of many ICOC practices.
In response, three major factions formed:
2) There is a moderate group that, while they recognize that reform is necessary, feel that the current rate of reform is sufficient and believe that the abuses will be taken care of, eventually. They do not feel that they need to go to the perceived 'extreme' measures of the reformist group, to be radical about reform.
3) There is a conservative or traditionalist group, that feel that Kriete's letter and other criticisms (even positive ones) are just being used by the enemies of the ICC in trying to tear it down, and that the ICC has become 'soft' and 'weak'. They want to return to the glory days of old, when things were more black-and-white and definitive (for instance, mandatory disciplers telling people what to do). This group is divided however; some want a return of a high power, Kip, but others do not want Kip to return. Read UpCyberDown and you'll see many of these comments.
The movement has cleaned up its act somewhat, but it remains troublesome.
The ICOC claims to teach that a person is saved by grace through faith -- but it also insists that salvation occurs at the moment a person is baptized, and in fact teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation. [See these resources on Baptism]
While it has given up its cult-like, heavy-handed control over its followers, the movement continues to be hyper-zealous.
Thomas ''Kip'' McKean, its charismatic founder, has stepped down. Its world governing body has dissolved and dozens of local church leaders have resigned or been fired, in part because churches can no longer afford to pay their salaries.
Behind the story of a teetering church empire is the tale of the autocratic visionary who built it and his independent-minded daughter, now a Harvard senior, whose decision to leave the church sparked turmoil in the already troubled group.
''It caused her father to have to step aside and it caused the group to reexamine itself,'' said Michelle Campbell, executive director of REVEAL, a nonprofit organization that provides information and support to former members of the church. ''It was sort of inevitable that Kip would fall. The standards he set, no one could meet. Not his children, not even himself. The very thing that he created came back and bit him.''
While the ICC proclaims itself to be "God's modern-day movement," Christian apologists and countercult experts consider it to be a cult of Christianity (theologically). In addition, the ICC includes many of the sociological characteristics of a cult:
Among other things, this movement
The movement's churches generally take on the name of the place in which they are located, e.g.: Boston Church of Christ, Los Angeles Church of Christ, London Church of Christ, Gemeente van Christus te Amsterdam, etcetera. This is an example of the ICC's exclusivistic and elitists attitude. Considering itself to be the only true Christian church, the movement implicitly teaches that there should only be one church per city. It reluctantly allows for other churches only if those churches are in complete agreement with ICC theology and practice.
Explicitly, this movement taught that unless you are part of the ICC, you are not saved. Hear, for example, John Causy: "Everyone needs to be a member of this church if they're going to go to heaven" (November 1996 sermon. 290K wave file.)
Janine Marnien, for one, felt intense pressure to join the ICOC. In 1998, the then freshman was on her way across the University of Southern California campus, when a beaming young woman stepped in her path and invited her to a nondenominational church service–and wouldn't take no for an answer. Countless calls, compliments, and invitations later, Marnien was a full-fledged convert, attending almost daily Bible studies, services, and social activities–and forcefully recruiting other students as well. In addition to giving of her time, she was also required to donate a tenth of her income–about 30 percent of each meager work-study paycheck. ''I just didn't realize what I had gotten into,'' says Marnien, now a junior. ''That is, until my discipler told me I couldn't go home for my father's birthday.''
A zealous group, to be sure, but is it a cult? ''We're no more a cult than Jesus was a cult,'' says Al Baird, spokesperson for the ICOC, which, he insists, does not condone harassment and is merely an evangelical church out to ''share Jesus with everybody.'' University of Virginia sociology Prof. Jeffrey Hadden, who has studied religious movements for over 30 years, agrees. ''Every new religion experiences a high level of tension with society because its beliefs and ways are unfamiliar. But most, if they survive, we come to accept as part of the religious landscape.'' He cites Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Christian Scientists as examples.
Still, experts say the label has nothing to do with radical beliefs and everything to do with behavior. Each of the estimated 3,000 cults in this country has a unique ideology, but they all share certain worrisome traits (box). Students are particularly easy prey. ''They are in transition from the culture of their parents, which leaves them somewhat uncertain and anxious,'' explains Marc Galanter, a professor of psychiatry and the author of Cults: Faith, Healing, and Coercion. ''Cults provide answers.''
Though McKean is not regarded as a charismatic guru, the group uses other common cult tactics, such as "disciplers" who shepherd the thoughts and movements of new members and conduct marathon Bible study sessions that isolate prospective members from friends, family, school, and work.
In 1993, Free Minds examined the Minneapolis-St. Paul Church of Christ and deemed it a cult because of the deception it employs to attract members.
The Church's tendency to minimize the importance of the individual is another one of the Church's cult-like attributions, Enroth said.
The ICC has been banned from more than 30 college campuses in the USA [Source]
Note that members of the ICC often do not reveal their connection to the ICC when recruiting. On- and off campus ministries may go by a variety of names.
These links include references to archived material:2
Abusive churches such as the Boston Church Movement and others use thought reform as a standard element in their program of recruitment. The key to their success is the ability to keep the subject unaware of being manipulated and controlled.
A biblical analysis on the subject of Confession (the confessing of sins) as taught by the International Churches of Christ (ICC). The ICC teaches that the confessing of one’s sins to another person, a person which the leadership has assigned as a “discipling partner”, is an ordinary and expected part of the Christian life. During the time I spent in this movement, one was expected to call his or her “discipling partner” on a daily basis and discuss how one’s day was spent, how many people one had invited to church or Bible talk, how many phone numbers one had obtained, and what were the sins one had committed that day.
Today the ICOC is a diverse fellowship of congregations. Theologically they share the common heritage of Restoration churches and the ICOC. The movement remains devoted to world evangelism and the conviction of practicing open, honest discipleship. Basic practices such as the use of authority, the method of discipleship and motivational methods have been examined, and in many cases radically changed.
Despite suffering several years of loss and little fruit, the International Churches have begun to grow again. From 2005-2008, over one hundred new churches were planted. Today's ICOC congregations reflect both their heritage from the former Crossroads and Boston Movements and the present leadership's renewed convictions. They remain relatively unique and differ from typical mainstream Church of Christ culture and practice and other Restoration churches in their approach to cooperation, discipleship, pluralism, women, music, transparency and campus ministry.
The author then goes on to describe each of the areas mentioned. The paper does not deal with the ICOC's theology, which remains unbiblical in its rejection of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith (and instead adding its own teaching, which is that people are only saved if and when they have been baptized).
Thousands of former members, many interviewed by various news organizations, claim that numerous legalistic, controlling, and abusive practices run rampant throughout the ICC, beginning with the highest levels of leadership. They also cite charges of favoritism, and hypocrisy on the part of leadership concerning “sacrificial living”. They claim that while most of the membership give sacrificially and live financially sacrificial lives, often feeling pressured by leadership concerning amounts of their weekly giving and contributions, many of those in leadership live just the opposite.
Whether or not leaders of the International Churches of Christ (ICC) maintain records of members' sins, and the confidentiality of these confessions, has generated heated discussion and attracted the attention of the media on the North American continent. From 1993 to 1994, several television investigative reporters questioned church leaders about this subject during their research on the ICC. Transcribed segments of interviews regarding the "Sin Lists," a copy of correspondence concerning these lists sent by Rick Bauer to Al Baird, Chief Spokesperson, Elder, and World Sector Leader for the International Churches of Christ, background information, and a scriptural examination of the ICC's practice of confession of sin are presented through this site.
Numerous college and university administrators have temporarily or permanently banned campus organizations associated with the International Churches of Christ (ICC). In some instances, these groups have been denied registration as campus organizations. Also, the National Union of Students (United Kingdom) has advised student unions throughout the U.K. to refuse recognition to ICC affiliated organizations, and distributed publications warning students of "destructive cults." Many ICC members claim such actions represent persecution. Critics contend these decisions were made in response to violations of university policies and/or the ICC's recruiting practices. Copies of correspondence regarding warnings and action taken against this organization can be found at several online locations:
Theologically, the International Church of Christ holds to the basic tenets of Protestant evangelicalism, but with two very important exceptions. First, the group is exclusivist, claiming that the church is meant to be united in one association, divided only by geography. It teaches that any church that remains outside of this unified system, i.e., not under the ICOC’s leadership, is not a part of the “true church.” Such claims of exclusivity should raise a red flag. Any church or denomination that claims to be the “one true church” and that all others are false churches is itself teaching falsehood.
The International Churches of Christ also departs from biblical teaching in its teaching of baptismal regeneration, the belief that baptism is required for salvation. The ICOC believes that anyone who is not baptized is not saved and must be “evangelized” and brought into the church. Further, the ICOC teaches that baptism under the auspices of the ICOC is the only baptism that can save. No other baptism will do. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that salvation is by grace through faith, apart from works (Ephesians 2:8–9)—including the work of baptism.
Other problems with ICOC theology include their rejection of eternal security and their amillennial perspective of the end times.
Most conservative Bible scholars would agree that tithing is Scriptural. But the International Churches of Christ (ICC, “Boston Movement”) goes way beyond this in what is expected of their members concerning their finances. While there is nothing wrong with letting a need be known or asking for contributions, the way in which the ICC has demanded the so-called “special contribution” has often resulted in disciples being pressured or coerced in their giving.
Note: At Apologetics Index we believe that, under the New Testament, tithing is a voluntary practice.
Chances are the reader will pick up this book because they have been a member of the International Church of Christ, or they have know someone who belongs to this movement. If they are currently members, this book will challenge them as a professing Christian to examine the claims in this book and compare them to the Bible. It is the prayer of the author that they will abandon this movement and come to the proper understanding of salvation. Is the ICC a cult? The answer is undeniably, "yes." The ICC itself admits that it is a cult in an attempt to downplay reality...
Dave Anderson, the author of this analyis, went through those studies himself in the early 1990s. A week before the New York Church of Christ had scheduled his baptism, Dave realized that something was seriously wrong and refused to continue the process. The REVEAL website has said that this is by far the most frequently accessed document in the theology section of its "Online Library", and one of the most popular on the site.
7. Our conversion begins with belief in Jesus as God's Son, and in his death and resurrection from the dead. Subsequent steps must include unmistakable repentance of sin, embracing discipleship, and confession that "Jesus is Lord." Finally, we become Christians at the miracle of rebirth with our immersion in water for the forgiveness of our sins and the promise that God will give us the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20.31, Luke 14.25-33, Acts 2.38-41, Rom 10.9, Titus 3.3-5).
On the surface he appeared even-handed, but a tour of the site made it clear that Mr. Engler minimized ICOC problems. In the Usenet newsgroup about the ICOC he misrepresented Ronald Enroth's writings regarding the ICOC, and called Mr. Enroth names. At the time Mr. Engler figured the International Churches of Christ had some problems in the past, but insisted that the ICOC was not a cult. His participation in the (unmoderated) newsgroup was welcomed by some and decried by others. The latter believed Engler was among the ICOC disciples assigned to counter criticism of the church. On this, Engler states -- a suggestion Engler denied, saying he was not 'sent' by the church. Engler wrote, "I attempt to be an agent of change in the ICOC on things I believe need to change. I defend things that I think should be defended."
In May, 2004, Engler and his wife formally ended their membership in the church. Engler says that since leaving the church he has not concerned himself too much with that movement, and declares that he does not want to be an "ICC watchdog." His and his wife's letters of resignation, as well as articles written before their departure from the ICOC, are available on the website.
The website now focuses on understanding negative church and spiritual experiences. Note that the site still includes material that teaches salvation occurs at baptism -- an unbiblical notion.
McKean and other leaders in his former fellowship, the International Churches of Christ (ICOC), and the leaders in McKean’s new sold-out movement the International Christian Churches (ICC) preach and teach that looking up information about the church was akin to viewing pornography. They called it spiritual pornography.
Sometimes the archived version linked to becomes unavailable as well. In that case, try to find another version by using the timeline at the top of each Internet Archive page. ↩
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