One of the most successful groups called “cults” that ever recruited on a college campus was the so-called “International Church of Christ” (ICC) founded by Kip McKean.

Kip McKean (left) with 'disciple'McKean, a former campus minister let go by the Houston Memorial church of Christ in 1977, formed a splinter group often called a “cult” by its critics.

Beginning in the late 1970s and through the 1980s around Boston the group grew, and ultimately peaked reportedly at about 200,000 members, mostly recruited at colleges and universities across the United States and eventually around the world.

McKean, a charismatic, controlling and authoritarian leader, contained and manipulated his followers through something he labeled as “discipleship.”

This hierarchical system required that every member of his church, with the notable exception of McKean himself, be assigned to someone called their “discipling partner” to “seek advice” from.

That “advice” influenced such things as decisions about school, dating, family involvement and visits, virtually every aspect of an ICC disciple’s life.

But the ICC discipling system led to serious problems including students dropping out, emotional breakdowns and in some situations suicide.

The organization began to stumble structurally during the late 1990s due to mounting media attention, its accumulated bad press, criticism from former members, increasingly serious complaints from current members and at times even some of its leaders.

All this took its toll, and eventually there were more former members of the ICC than current members. Morevoer, numerous colleges and universities banned the group, which effectively cut the ICC off from its most meaningful source for new recruits.

Former members began to organize and effectively networked through the Internet, speaking out increasingly against ICC practices and McKean, who was once compared to the apostles Peter and Paul.

Ultimately Kip McKean was forced to resign through a series of events and his once loyal subordinates staged something like a “palace coup” toppling the imperious leader and taking over the kingdom he largely created.

But it seems that you can’t keep an old “cult leader” down.

McKean ended up in Oregon and has been attempting something like a “comeback.”

Still able to “fire up” at least some of the old faithful, McKean took over the Portland Church of Christ. This church then became his launching pad for what is now called the “International Christian Church.”

Kip McKean, now in his fifties, but with an ego that apparently requires regular feeding, was once named “…the greatest living treasure that God has given the kingdom on the face of the earth…”

And though the new “ICC” is comparatively quite small, it is growing through an old formula called “church plantings.” This formula consists typically of sending out teams of “disciples” to start up new cell groups in other cities, which then are frequently fed by student recruits from nearby schools.

There are now McKean-dominated groups in Eugene, Chicago, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City.

The old ICC itself continues to decline. According to its own numbers the organization membership has dropped to below 100,000.

In the “old days” growth was touted as proof that “God” was on McKean and the ICC’s side.

Based upon that past claim what can the ICC or its old leader say now given their respective reduced followings?

Perhaps McKean and his old followers blame everything on an “attack of the Devil” and/or the “evils of the world”?

Whatever the rhetoric it’s unlikely that Kip McKean will ever again regain the following he once had during his “glory days” as “the greatest living treasure.”

But the aging and notorious “cult leader” appears still committed to creating continuing cause for concern and at times grief.


only 1 comment untill now

  1. pinakidion @ 2006-11-05 05:55