Kip McKean; the founder of what was once the most rapidly growing group called a “cult” in the United States has resigned as its leader. McKean’s “International Church of Christ” grew from only a handful of devoted followers in the late 70s, to more than 100,000 within “170 nations,” according to its former head.

The ICC began 23 years ago and was once known as the “Boston Church of Christ” or “Boston Movement.” McKean started the group shortly after he was let go as a campus minister by the Houston Memorial church of Christ. The church ceased to support McKean largely for the same “sins” he now freely admits to. But more importantly due to the doctrines he taught.

In a resignation announcement now widely circulated through the Internet McKean admitted that his “biggest sin is arrogance.” He also said he “fostered an environment where people were afraid to speak up.”

But perhaps the most compelling reason for his resignation can be attributed to McKean’s admitted but unspecified “sins” that “surfaced” within his family, culminating in concern about their “spiritual condition.”

Interestingly, this is not the first time a leader of the movement has stepped down due to unspecified “sins.” The first such scandal was Chuck Lucas of the Cossraods church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida, who was McKean’s mentor.

Marty Wooten a leader of the ICC church in Los Angeles once claimed that there was “no greater discipler, disciple, brother, husband, father, leader, and friend than Kip McKean.” Wooten was apparently wrong. And according to recent reports he has also left leadership.

Steve Johnson another admirer of McKean once stated, “With eyes wide open I’m following Kip McKean; Consciously, Intentionally.” Johnson seems to have followed his idol out the door. Reports say he has left a key ICC leadership slot in New York.

In what looks increasingly like a “palace coup” many top ICC leaders closely associated with McKean appear to be moving on with their maker.

The ICC teaches a controversial form of “discipleship” that requires every member to have a “discipleship partner” selected for them by the group. This system has been criticized as an extreme means of controlling people. Former members have compared it to “brainwashing.”

Research once done with the cooperation of the Boston church seems to indicate that such criticism was true. That research and subsequent analysis was published in the seminal book regarding the movement titled “The Discipling Dilemma” by Flavil Yeakley.

Yeakley demonstrated that the group’s members did more than “follow the leader,” they actually were largely cloning him. Through “discipleship” training they mimicked personality traits of Kip McKean.

Perhaps this is what McKean meant when in 1992 he said, “Your church is going to be just like you.”

Scott Green an ardent disciple demonstrated this in 1988 when he said, “I want to be able to imitate Kip McKean. I want to preach like him. I want to think like him. I want to talk like him.”

The ICC essentially claims exclusivity as the “Kingdom of God.” The implicit understanding amongst its members is that they alone are “true disciples” and therefore “Christians.” Others outside their system are most often seen as “lost” and without salvation.

The ICC has historically been a totalitarian regime with power concentrated at the top of a hierarchical pyramid. McKean was known by the singular title of “World Evangelist.”

Now it seems a small tight knit group of men at the top, led by McKean’s former right hand man and frequent apologist Al Baird, has assumed power. And the demise of some of Kip’s most devoted sycophants can be seen as simply a consolidation of control by the new leadership.

It appears McKean and his family will be generously provided for despite their “spiritual condition.” Al Baird announced that the former “World Evangelist” has moved “into a full-time ministry role with the South Region of the Los Angeles church.”

It is unclear how McKean will continue to maintain his relatively lavish lifestyle, which has included a $500,000 condo in an exclusive gated community within Pacific Palisades owned by the church, expensive schools for his children and other perks.

Does Kip have a “golden parachute” like many exiting corporate CEOs? Or did he put away a substantial stash like some of Enron’s old execs? Maybe his old pal Al knows? Full and meaningful financial disclosure of all compensation paid to leadership has never been the policy of the ICC.

It is unlikely that the ICC will now fade away. Kip did build a “kingdom” and the remaining royalty at the top have a vested interest in continuing it.

Al Baird is also likely to continue Kip’s doctrinal legacy of “discipleship,” despite its problems. And it is unlikely that any significant democratic reforms, which would bring greater accountability to the organization, will be implemented anytime soon. No one should readily expect meaningful financial transparency from the ICC either, through its recent regime change.

It seems Kip McKean once again made a rather interesting observation in a 1992 leadership conference when he said, “I know this is either a total reflection of this man’s life, or he has lived such an atrocious life before the Lord, that this is a rejection of his life…your church is going to be just like you.” Little did he know then that he would actually later appear to have been speaking prophetically and to many definitively–about both himself and the ICC.

Kip McKean was once proclaimed as “The greatest living treasure that God has given the kingdom on the face of the earth,” now he seems little more than a former king who either abdicated or was deposed.

But the “reflection of this man’s life,” his “kingdom,” goes on. And what defines some kingdoms best, is that they are often ruled by despots.


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