International Churches of Christ
Classification Christian restorationist[1] , Christian fundamentalism
Orientation New Testament, Evangelical [2] [3]
Polity Congregationalist
Geographical area global (159 nations)
Founder Kip McKean
Branched from Churches of Christ
Separations Kip McKean's movement "City of Angels ICC"
Congregations 543 (2005)
Members 95,751 (2005)
ICoC official statistics[4]

New Religious Movements[5]

The International Churches of Christ (typically abbreviated to ICOC) is a body of autonomous,[6] non-denominational,[7] religiously conservative, and racially integrated[8] Christian congregations, an offshoot from the Mainline Churches of Christ.[9] Sometimes called the Boston Movement because of its early ties to the Boston Church of Christ,[10][11] it is a controversial [12] restorationist Church which branched from the mainline Churches of Christ in the late 1980s under the leadership of Kip McKean.[13] The ICOC regards the New Testament of the Bible as the supreme authority on doctrine, ecclesiastical structure, and moral beliefs — while acknowledging the historical accuracy and divine inspiration of the non-binding Old Testament — and thus claim the distinction of being "pre-denominational". Members of the International Churches of Christ generally emphasize their intent to simply be part of the original church established by Jesus Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, which became evident on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2.

Once the fastest-growing Christian movement in the United States,[14] membership has dwindled since the unceremonious departure of McKean in 2002 and subsequent internal turmoil, with total membership falling 23% between 2002 and 2004. Even so, the ICOC still boasts nearly 100,000 members in 160 nations around the world.[4] Its once assertive recruitment methods, high commitment expectations of members, and retaining the use of "discipling" partnerships have caused some researchers, observers, and ex-members between 1996 and 2001 to label the organization a cult, in the broader sense of a psychologically abusive environment,[15][16][17][18] and it has been sanctioned or banned by 39 college campuses and the country of France.[19][20] Historically church officials have been unapologetic for their energetic evangelism, believing this to be the duty of all true Christians, but have renounced any allegations of impropriety as unfounded.[15][21] In recent years a faction has emerged within the global movement which acknowledges these critiques and advocates reform — a process already undertaken by many congregations, some of which have seceded, others which have remained affiliated with the ICOC but revised their policies.[22][23] Many local churches have become entirely autonomous after the recent disbandment of the central leadership, and today it is difficult to make any generalizations about the organization collectively.

The Churches emphasize the use of only the New Testament to find doctrine, ecclesiastical structure, and moral beliefs, while maintaining that the Old Testament, the only Testament recognized in Judaism, is also the Word of God, is historically accurate, and that its principles remain true and beneficial, but that its laws are not binding under the new covenant in Christ unless otherwise taught in the New Testament.

According to many who have left the International Churches of Christ, led by Al Baird and Kip Mckean, the International Churches of Christ is a cult. [24]



The roots of the International Churches of Christ lay in the American Restoration movement of the nineteenth-century. This movement seeks a return to first-century Christianity in holding the Bible as the source of church authority. However by the 1860s, some felt that the movement had become polluted by the institution of missionary societies and use of musical instruments in church. A schism developed, and the Mainline adopted a sub-theology separate from the Churches of Christ in 1906 with some 160,000 adherents, growing to 1.2 million by the end of the century.

The a cappella Churches of Christ membership numbers approximately 2,000,000 in over 40,000 individual congregations worldwide.[25]

In 1967, Chuck Lucas — minister of the 14th Street Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida (later renamed the Crossroads Church of Christ) — instituted a new project known as Campus Advance (based on principles borrowed from the Campus Crusade and the Shepherding Movement). Centered on the University of Florida, this program called for a strong evangelical outreach and an intimate religious atmosphere in the form of soul talks and prayer partners. Soul talks were held in student residences and involved prayer and sharing overseen by a leader who delegated authority over group members. Prayer partners referred to the practice of pairing a new Christian with an older guide for personal assistance and direction. Both procedures led to "in-depth involvement of each member in one another's lives", and critics accused Lucas of fostering cultism.[26]



In 1972 (the fifth year of the Campus Advance program), the Crossroads Church recruited a young freshman at the University of Florida named Thomas 'Kip' McKean. The son of an admiral, McKean was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is purportedly named after his ancestor Thomas McKean (a signer of the Declaration of Independence).[27] McKean completed his degree program while training at Crossroads and afterward served as campus minister at several other mainline Churches of Christ locations. In 1979 he was offered the position of pulpit and campus minister at a struggling Boston-area congregation called the Lexington Church of Christ. Under McKean's hegemony the church — renamed to 'Boston Church of Christ' — witnessed rapid growth from 30 members at the time of his arrival to 3,000 in just two years.

McKean believed that the true measure of a church's value was its growth rate, and that the Churches of Christ and other ecclesiastic institutions were too lethargic in this area. Chronicler Russell Paden explains:

While [McKean and his followers] would probably concede that there are false religions that experience growth, they would contend that a true church of God must be experiencing growth.[26]
Once among the fastest-growing religious movements in the country, expansion of the mainline Churches of Christ had stagnated by 1970. McKean sought to reverse this.[28]


At the start of the 1980s, Kip McKean came up with the doctrine of "vision for the world", which required the establishment of 'pillar churches' in key metropolitan centers to spread the faith globally. With this in mind, he oversaw the establishment of sister churches in Chicago and London in 1982, and in New York one year later.

The Boston church sent mission teams to Chicago and London in 1981, and New York shortly thereafter. The term "International Churches of Christ" was applied to the movement by the Mainline Churches of Christ during the 1980s, as it was characterized both by ICOC church plantings and 'reconstructions' of the mainline in the United States and elsewhere. The movement took on a more centralized structure[specify] after Kip McKean assumed leadership of the Los Angeles church in the late 1980s. In 2000, the ICOC announced the completion of its six-year initiative to establish a church in every country with a population over 100,000.[29][30] Two years later, membership peaked at 135,046 in more than 540 congregations across the globe.[4] The Los Angeles church rapidly evolved into a "superchurch" that attracted thousands of members.[31] This centralized structure lasted until 2002, when McKean resigned from his leadership role, and was furthered by a letter written by then-London church leader Henry Kriete pointing out shortcomings of the ICOC. Since 2003, the International Churches of Christ have no formally recognized headquarters, councils, centralized structure, or hierarchical church government, but many of them still maintain close ties with each other. Some have sought reunification with mainline churches. And, in recent years, McKean has formed another offshoot[vague] movement in Portland, Oregon, which is referred to as "International Christian Churches"[32] to distinguish it from the ICOC.

With a strong consistent emphasis on evangelism and church-spreading — a process termed planting — membership skyrocketed, reaching 42,855 in 130 congregations by 1993 (including 15,800 members in 58 congregations overseas). Boston and New York remained the two key centers, each boasting an average Sunday morning attendance of over 5,000 parishioners.[26]


In 1990, Kip McKean moved from Boston to head the Los Angeles Church of Christ. Los Angeles quickly became the new central authority for the growing movement. By the official website church had 135,039 members in 434 congregations by January 2003. Currently, the total membership of International Churches of Christ is around 96,000.[33]

The Indianapolis Church of Christ

This section requires more specific details, and independent references to confirm their accuracy.

The first major challenge of the International Churches of Christ leadership occurred in 1994, when Ed Powers, evangelist for the Indianapolis Church of Christ, openly questioned several of the more controversial aspects of the International Churches of Christ, including mandated giving and the exclusivity doctrine of salvation. The Indianapolis Church of Christ was surpassing 1,000 in attendance at that time and was a major congregation in the Midwest region of the United States. In a special meeting of the congregation, Ed Powers challenged several of the International Churches of Christ-enforced practices which he identified as quenching the joy and spiritual health of the members of the congregation. Upon learning of this special meeting, leaders from across the United States, including Kip McKean, flew into Indianapolis and effectively split the church. As a result, there were now two congregations in Indianapolis: the newly formed Indianapolis International Church of Christ and the now-estranged and renamed Circle City Church. Ed Powers later retired from the ministry of the Circle City Church. Mike Kwasniewski currently oversees the Indianapolis International Church of Christ.

In early 2001, some of the World Sector Leaders (regional evangelists directing geographic areas of churches) began to question the effectiveness of the present leadership structure as well as the qualifications of Kip and Elena McKean to continue in their global leadership role. By September, the issue had reached a head in which the majority of World Sector Leaders agreed that significant changes were necessary. In November 2001, the McKeans announced that they were stepping down from leading the Los Angeles Church of Christ in order to take a sabbatical for an unspecified amount of time in order to focus on "marriage and family issues". All of the McKeans' adult children had disassociated themselves from the movement and though this was not the only issue for the sabbatical, it was a visible 'thorn' in Kip McKean's side.

At this time, the International Churches of Christ administration, under the leadership of Andy Fleming (a former missionary to Scandinavia and the Soviet Union), began to formulate a plan for a massive reduction in the overhead of the worldwide organization. The goal of this administrative plan was to refocus the resources of the local congregations on building up their own ministries as well as guaranteeing continued goodwill in future missions contributions. By the end of 2002, the overhead had been reduced by 67%, and Fleming resigned as the Chairman of the Board.

McKean's Resignation

In November 2002, the McKeans announced their resignations from their roles as World Mission Evangelist, Women's Ministry Leader and Leader of the World Sector Leaders.[34] The World Sector Leaders also announced the disintegration of their leadership group with the suggestion that a new representative leadership group including evangelists, elders and teachers, be formed with an initial meeting in May 2003. McKean himself attributes the resignation to his daughter's decision to leave the ICOC,[when?] which "along with my leadership sins of arrogance, and not protecting the weak, caused uncertainty in my leadership among some of the World Sector Leaders."[28][35] Later in 2002 the remaining central leadership was officially dissolved at the 2002 'Los Angeles Unity Meeting'.[35]


What followed was a period of increased sovereignty among local churches, what McKean called:

reactionary 'new vision' of autonomous congregations, consensus leadership with no lead evangelists, the elimination of structured outreach (Bible Talks) and the elimination of discipleship partners.
Many in leadership positions issued public apologies for their participation in authoritative abuses, and some resigned or were asked to leave. By 2004, Boston, Atlanta, and New York had lost over 30% of their members, and some entire congregations severed their ties with the ICOC.[36]

Local fellowships varied in their reactions to the power vacuum. ICOC Chronicler Chris Lee asserts that three factions emerged, still extant today: a conservative group which seeks a return to the former, authoritarian structure; a moderate group that, "while they recognize that reform is necessary, feel that the current rate of reform is sufficient"; and a reformist group which advocates radical restructuring.[22] The latter group is exemplified by Henry Kriete of the London Church of Christ, who penned an influential[37] 2003 letter criticizing the "four systemic evils … [of] our corrupted hierarchy, [namely] our obsession with numbers, our shameful arrogance … [and] our seduction by mammon."[23]

According to the 2004 International Leadership Conference of affiliated churches, the ICOC no longer exists as an organization with a headquarters, structure, or hierarchy where a single church is set up over any other churches; it exists today in a diverse and decentralized state.[38] Some churches have drastically changed their practices (and, in some cases, their names); others carry on in the traditional ICOC fashion of assertive evangelism [39] and total immersion[22].

Portland Discipling Movement

In 2003, Kip McKean was invited to return to Oregon's failing Portland International Church of Christ, no longer affiliated with the ICOC; he preached his first sermon on July 23 to a congregation of some 60–70 parishioners. Six months later, membership had doubled, and by mid-2005 an average of 425 coreligionists visited the church every Sunday.[35]

Its subsequent revitalization and the continuing uncertainty within the ICOC movement prompted other congregations to break from the ICOC and rejoin with McKean.[28] This new movement, currently numbering twenty congregations in eight nations, has been termed the 'Portland Movement' or 'International Christian Churches';[40][41] it comprises an estimated 800 members.[42]

Bolstered by his recent successes, McKean set his sights on establishing a Portland Movement church in his former capital city of Los Angeles. In preparation, he dispatched an anonymous email in October 2006 to Angelino ICOC members, deceptively inviting them to a 'bible talk' session where he attempted to recruit them to the Portland Movement. This came to the attention of ICOC leaders who responded with a letter advising members to avoid contact with McKean's new organization.[43] Four months later, McKean led a 'mission team' of 42 Portland-area parishioners to Los Angeles where they joined with 28 local supporters who had begun a new LA church seven months prior. The new group is now called the City of Angels International Christian Church. The movement continues to focus heavily on recruiting from area campuses. In its first calendar year it has had 101 baptisms and 29 restoration and has sent out a mission team to New York City.[44]

In August 2008, the Portland church broke away from McKean's "new movement" and "extended the hand of fellowship" to the ICOC.[45] A group of 13 local supporters continued their support of the ICC and began the Portland International Christian Church in September 2008. In the first 8 months, they have seen 22 baptisms, 14 people restored and 35 of the 260 members of the former Portland church have joined them. This group has reached 76 members and have an average attendance of 160.

Church organization and services

The ICOC directly administers or partners with over a dozen organizations. Some function as appendages of the church, others are entirely unrelated in their mission and activities. Of these, the largest and most well-known is HOPE, a charitable foundation run by ICOC which serves as the primary beneficiary of the church's charitable donations (though it is funded through other sources as well). Founded in London in 1986, HOPE moved to a global scale the following year.[30] It sponsored the largest ever blood drives to be held in Brazil and Mexico in 1994, and opened an orphanage in Hong Kong the same year.

Congregational leadership

Church government is congregational, rather than denominational. Elders in some cases, or where there are not elders, evangelists, with the assistance of leading men of the congregation, are seen as the spiritual leaders of the congregation.


The evangelist, also known as preacher, or minister, prepares and delivers sermons, teaches Bible classes, performs weddings, and sometimes performs baptisms. The baptismal rite, however, is not restricted to ministers. This position is typically paid, to allow the evangelist to disentangle himself from secular employment and focus on studies. For most congregations the evangelist leads the local church in much the same way as most fundamentalist church pastors. He is often assisted by groups of men that have been elected by the local congregation or appointed by the evangelist. In many cases, church elders from what were formally regarded as 'pillar churches' act as advisers to the smaller congregations.

Congregational autonomy

Church leadership is congregational rather than denominational. The International Churches of Christ have no formally recognized headquarters, councils, or hierarchical church government. Rather, the independent congregations are a network[46] with each congregation participating at its own discretion in various means of service and fellowship with other congregations.[47][48][49]

HOPE Worldwide

HOPE worldwide is an international charity that delivers community-based services to the poor and needy.[50] Today the organization operates on every inhabited continent and reaches more than 1,000,000 people each year.

Chemical Recovery Ministry

The goal of the Chemical Recovery Ministry is to help the addict have a hope and a future.[51]

Other affiliated organizations

The following companies and institutions are informally operated or managed by the ICOC:

  • Athens Institute of Ministry[52]
  • Baltic Nordic Missions Alliance
  • European Bible School
  • Florida Missions Council
  • (Does not work at the moment)
  • Illumination Publishers International (IPI) — Christian writing and audio teaching[53]
  • International Missions Society, Inc. (IMS)[54]
  • KNN/Disciples, a production of Kingdom News Network (KNN) — non-profit religious corporation in Illinois[55]
  • Taiwan Mission Adventure
  • Upside Down — official monthly publication

  • Discipleship Publications International — official ICOC publishing company, primarily prints spiritual literature[56]

Institutional Description


Members hold to the biblical and historical belief that the church was founded by Jesus Christ, and that its doctrines and practices were established long before these other traditions, movements, structures, councils, et cetera. Members also do not typically consider themselves to be members of a denomination, but prefer to simply be known as Christians (in contrast to, for example, a Catholic Christian, a Presbyterian Christian, a Baptist Christian, et cetera.), with no other religious title needed or preferred. Thus, a collective group of Christians is a church of Christ. However they refer to one another as Disciples most often. (This stems from the New Testament where followers of Christ were called Disciples before Christians.)

Belief and practice

The ICOC teaches that:

  • People are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus.
  • Every individual Christian is called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.[57]
  • Every disciple must be baptized by being fully immersed under water to be saved. (Acts 2:38)

In many[vague] ways, the belief-system and rituals of the International Churches of Christ are comparable to other American evangelical traditions. Members believe in the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Trinity, and the Second Coming. [58][opinion needs balancing] McKean explains, "[We are] very fundamental in our following of the Bible, so we have convictions that are narrower than some groups about what it means to be a Christian. We don't apologize for our beliefs."[cite this quote]

Like the Mainline Churches of Christ, the ICOC recognizes the Bible as the sole source of ecumenical authority and extrapolates from this position that there should only be a single, unified Christian denomination, though goes a step further to argue that there should only be one church per city or town. Both organizations accept the Nicene Creed and the necessity of baptism by immersion for spiritual salvation; neither allows infant or childhood baptism (one must first reach the "age of accountability").[59] The ICOC teaches that only those "baptized as a disciple" will receive salvation.

The ICOC does not affirm the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, original sin, the perseverance of saints, predestination; it does acknowledge incarnation, atonement, eternal conscious punishment, the final judgment, and amillennialism. Its view on Ephesians 2:8-9, or works-based salvation, is somewhat more complex: though ostensibly denying works-based salvation, in practice "works of faith" (as in baptism) are deemed requisites of salvation.[60]

Discipling Relationships

The Discipling relationships are based on the following scriptures; Ecclesiates 4:9-12; Proverbs 11:25; Proberbs 27:17; Hebrews 10:25; James 5:16

Modern disciples

Disciples are student-followers of Jesus Christ.


Sunday Worship

Prior to the building’s demolition in 1998, the Massachusetts congregation held Sunday services in the Boston Garden stadium.[26]

Sunday morning prayer involves singing, praying, preaching, and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. One unique element in ICOC tradition is the lack of established church buildings. Congregations meet in rented spaces: hotel conference rooms, schools, public auditoriums, conference centers, small stadiums, or rented halls, depending on the number of parishioners; the location may vary from month to month.[17][61][62] Though the church is not static, neither is it "ad hoc" — the leased locale is often furnished with an elaborate stage and sound-system.[61] Parishioners are proud of these unrooted tabernacles, negatively referring to traditional churches as "religious".[63] "From an organizational standpoint, it's a great idea", observes Boston University Chaplain Bob Thornburg. "They put very little money into buildings…You put your money into people who get more people."[61]

Bible Talks

Bible Talk small groups of disciples that meet usually once a week. They can meet almost anywhere, including college dormitories, restaurants, and members' houses. Bible Talks, or 'Family Groups', are designed so that disciples can read the Bible together and build relationships with others in the church. All are encouraged to invite guests as a way for the guest to be introduced to the Church in a more informal setting.[64]


The practice of discipling is one of the central — and most controversial — elements of the ICOC methodology. Members believe that this practice is based upon and encouraged by biblical passages.

I believe it is biblical for us to imitate the relationship Jesus had with the apostles and the relationships they had with one another. For example, the apostles had a student/teacher or younger brother/older brother relationship with Jesus. They also had adult/adult relationships with each other. Jesus paired the apostles for the mission. (Matthew 10) Both types of relationships are essential to lead people to maturity. Another text that demonstrates the student/teacher relationship is in Titus 2 where the older women are to train the younger women.
— Kip McKean[65]

All new members are assigned a discipler to facilitate one-on-one training and interaction. One of the first steps in becoming a member is meeting with one or more members, who may end up being in a discipling relationship with the new member, for a comprehensive confessional. The new recruit is encouraged to confess his or her sins as defined by various biblical passages, especially those listed in Galatians chapter 5. The confessor is often encouraged to record these confessions privately on a so-called 'sin list' as a means to help the recruit to realize the impact of sin in their life. Some former members have claimed these sin lists were used to break reluctant prospective recruits, and as a form of control on members.[21][66] However, many current ICOC members say that this is false. Disciples do share their own testimonies with those who are studying the Bible, and then encourage the potential new member to verbally confess the sins he or she has committed. However, many people do find it more constructive to write out the sins they have committed, which are not given to church leaders. Furthermore, ICOC members do not believe one sin to be worse than another, and, therefore, do not just focus on sins of any particular nature.

One of the most criticized aspects of discipling is the degree of control possessed by the discipler. They are tasked with monitoring the spiritual growth of their apprentices, and some members say the partnership was more like having a good friend than anything else.[13] The practice has been labelled by detractors as "dictatorial" because the discipler may also supervise the secular daily activities of their subordinates and sometimes give 'advice' which involves severing family ties, breaking off relationships, or dropping out of school programs.[15][67]

Political Hierarchy

X ICOCtriangle

The hierarchal structure of the ICoC at the time of McKean’s resignation, indicating which positions were salaried.

By 1988 the budding Boston Movement had congregations in more than eight cities across the globe, and Kip McKean found that running the organization single-handedly had become unwieldy. He selected a handful of men that he had personally trained and assigned each a number of churches in a geographic region, naming them 'World Sector Leaders' and giving himself the title 'Leader of the World Sector Leaders' in perpetuity. In 1994, the subservient position of Geographic Sector Leaders was added.[30]

The leader of each congregation is referred to as an Evangelist, and the Evangelists at in the several 'pillar churches' outrank the others. Larger churches may have an Assistant Evangelist or some number of elders – older, married men with at least one baptized child.

Since each city has a single church, its membership may be large and geographically disperse; if so, it was divided into regions and then sectors of perhaps a few small suburban communities, overseen by Region Leaders and Sector Leaders (known collectively as Zone Leaders).[improper synthesis?] The Sector Leader was usually[who?] the lowest-tier salaried official, with those below him being volunteers only.[64]

This governing system attracted criticism as overly-authoritarian,[13] but the ICOC denies this charge. "It’s not a dictatorship," said Al Baird, former ICOC spokesperson; "It’s a theocracy, with God on top."[65]

This distinct structure, which defined the Internation Church of Christ's polity for most of its existence, may no longer accurately represent its actual functioning: in the years following McKean's resignation, the central leadership was shaken and largely disbanded, and local churches have become increasingly autonomous. Some no longer report to the Los Angeles headquarters, others have ceased to collect Special Missions Contribution for the central administration. Local opinion of Kip McKean varies, with some congregations still (unofficially) supporting him and others condemning the man and his past influence on the organization, often with veracity.[64]

Controversy and Criticism

Since its inception, the International Christian Churches have drawn criticism from school officials, members' families, and former parishioners. The primary sources of complaint are the exacting recruitment techniques and the pressure placed both on recruiter and recruitee; that is, the high commitment expected of members in terms of time and money, and resulting social isolation. Some churches within the International Churches of Christ practice exclusivism and separate themselves from the majority of Christendom. Whether an individual congregation separated itself from other churches or not, one of the key doctrines of the International Churches of Christ has been the "One True Church" doctrine (recognizing only repentant disciples who are baptized as part of the true church). The International Churches of Christ teaches that a person is saved by grace through a personal faith and the power of God at the point of repentance and baptism by immersion, and that once baptized, you are added to God's heavenly kingdom, and to the church here on earth.

The International Churches of Christ have been surrounded by controversy over the years; media sources from Christianity Today (an evangelical periodical) to town newspapers to popular magazines (such as Rolling Stone) have included articles about members and by former members. There have been TV exposés such as "Believe It or Else" on ABC's 20/20, on 10/15/1993.

Since the 2003 breakup of the centralized leadership; some congregations have made many reforms, while others have maintained former practices. Some current members admit that alleged abuses did happen prior to 2003, but maintain that such practices have since been reformed or discontinued.

Much of the criticism has focused on:

One true church

The ICOC’s stance on being “the one true church” has been one of much controversy and confusion both inside and outside of the ICOC. While the ICOC has never had an official doctrine on the subject, one has often been assumed from the doctrines it does hold.

Specifically, the ICOC holds that the bible teaches the existence of a single universal church. While this may be controversial, it is a view held by most religious groups. One implication of this doctrine is that, while Christians may separate themselves into different, disunified churches (as opposed to just geographically separated congregations), it is not actually biblical to do so, and so such separations are not likely to take place between groups of Christians being obedient to the Bible. And so there is controversy over who exactly is part of "the universal church" and who is not.

In addition, the ICOC knowingly holds minority views on conversion and salvation. Again, this is common among both Christian and non-Christian religious groups. Since, practically speaking, there are unlikely to arise many saved persons within a religious group that doesn’t believe, teach, or practice ‘correctly’ with regard to salvation, and since contradicting views on salvation cannot be simultaneously correct, it logically follows that anyone who knowingly holds a minority view on the subject must assume the majority of people (and groups) to be generally unsaved. This is the source of most of the animosity and controversy that surrounds the ICOC with regard to this subject. But this is also the ubiquitous controversy amongst most major religious groups.

The common misconception with regard to the ICOC is that, as with most major religions, this must equate to a doctrine of wholesale condemnation of all individuals and congregations outside of the ICOC organization. Such a doctrine does not logically follow, because a minority view is not necessarily a unique view, but the distinction has apparently been unclear (or unimportant) to many. This misconception of ICOC doctrine by those outside of it has often been bolstered by affirming misconceptions and confusion of many within.

This view while popular during the time of Mcean's leadership it has been done away with in most if not all of the congregations affiliated with the ICOC since Mcean's resignation.

Elitist beliefs

While many Christians do believe that Jesus is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," and that most churches outside of the Roman Catholic Church do not hold that they have a monopoly to that truth, the International Churches of Christ has often held that its members have an exclusive insight into salvation, and that one has to hold their set of beliefs and interpretations to be considered a Christian. Moreover, while many Christian churches outside of the International Churches of Christ hold a conviction that Christians should only marry Christians, if one applies the previous belief (that the members of the International Churches of Christ are the only Christians) then one cannot date nor marry outside the International Churches of Christ.

Since other churches and groups have what the International Churches of Christ considers mistaken belief, they are not considered true churches. The only viable practice is to convert those from outside of the International Churches of Christ to become members.

High commitment expectations for members

Though a self-admittedly immersive organization (which leaders say more closely duplicates the type of religiosity advocated by the Bible), some have argued the ICOC goes too far. Former convert Sarah Cope-Faulkner recounts, "I attended 20 meetings a week and became estranged from my family and friends. I was up at 4am for Bible study, and I spent all my time trying to please everyone."[68] A psychological survey of several dozen former parishioners found that almost three-quarters were told that going home to be with family, or spending time with non-members, could cause Satan to get a foothold on them; an equal number were advised to move out of present living situations to be more proximal to coreligionists. The ICOC advised that worshipers spend no more than two weeks at a time with family members.

The ICOC bases the above findings on the following scriptures; Acts 2:42-47; Luke 14:25-27; Mark 10:17-22 These scriptures imply to be a true disciple of Christ, one must give up everything one has.

Personality changes

It has been documented that ICOC members tend to shift towards personality type 'ESFJ' (one of sixteen possible types) once joining the church. McKean has suggested that this simply indicates Jesus was of this personality type. The response to McKean was that one cannot apply a personality test to divinity; God, having no psychological weaknesses, would have full strength in all dimensions of personality.[69]

Cultural, philosophical and doctrinal changes

Since late 2002/early 2003, many of the International Churches of Christ have gone in different directions. Some have chosen to stay with the distinctive International Churches of Christ characteristics and practices, whereas some have pursued reformation. Results of each course of action vary from church to church; some thrive having chosen to utilize a reformed or progressive approach, while others stagnate with traditional International Churches of Christ methodology.

As of 2005 there are three (sometimes overlapping) groups within the International Churches of Christ. There are those who have held firmly to what has traditionally distinguished the International Churches of Christ: discipling, Bible Talks (small groups), baptism and evangelism. Other churches are gravitating toward Evangelicalism and Protestantism.

The Circle City Church (formerly the Indianapolis Church of Christ) is now an independent and non-denominational congregation, but has made several overtures to open dialog with the now largely independent congregations of the International Churches of Christ, including the Indianapolis International Church of Christ congregation.

ICOC and Churches of Christ relations

As part of the cultural, philosophical and doctrinal changes within the former International Churches of Christ (pre-2002), efforts are being made by some Progressive International Churches of Christ members to also reconcile with mainstream Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. In March 2004, Abilene Christian University (affiliated with the mainline Churches of Christ) held the "Faithful Conversations" dialog between members of the Church of Christ and International Churches of Christ. Those involved were able to apologize and initiate an environment conducive to building bridges. A few leaders of the Church of Christ apologized for use of the word "cult" in reference to the International Churches of Christ. The International Churches of Christ leaders apologized for alienating the Churches of Christ and implying they were not Christians. Although a better atmosphere for cooperation and understanding was generated, there are still fundamental differences within the fellowship. Early 2005 saw a second set of dialogs with greater promise for both sides helping one another.

Harding University (affiliated with the mainline Churches of Christ) is contemplating a distance learning program geared toward those ministers who were trained in the International Churches of Christ.[70]

ICOC plan for United Cooperation

The most recent development is the effort to rebuild and restructure the overall leadership organization for the entire International Churches of Christ. Solicitations for governing structures and methods of inter-congregational relationships were requested by November 1, 2005,[71] with the goal of completing a final proposal by February 1, 2006.[72] This effort is seen to have a purpose only to reorganize and coordinate missionary efforts across independent organizations by the now authority-phobic churches, many of whom can trace their roots back to their old egalitarian Church of Christ days, where a major ongoing issue was opposition at almost any cost to any sort or organized, centralized "missionary society". Yet, attitudes vary from church to church as to how much authority, if any at all, the new leadership structure should possess. It seems only a small band of churches welcome the old style back, while many prefer, and wait, for a "new improved" version that could provide an overall vision for this group of churches. According to, an independent International Churches of Christ survey group,[73] the membership of International Churches of Christ in 2005 is 92,474, which declined 12.5% from 2004.[74]

As of May 15, 2006 a total of 343 Churches agreed to and committed to the Plan for United Cooperation.[75]

Plan for United Cooperation document

Within the ICOC, there is a current push to have churches sign up for the so-called "Unity Plan". This plan is in no way connected to the churches deciding to follow Kip McKean's teachings."[76]

See also


  1. Restoration - Signs of Restoring Health in ICOC - Friday, 29 September 2006
  2. Association of Religion Data Archives
  3. "Religious Affiliations, 2000". U.S. Membership Report. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-11. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Data and Analysis". ICOC Info. International Churches of Christ. 2006 April. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  5. Justin Cooke (2001 April 23). "International Churches of Christ, a.k.a. Boston Church of Christ". New Religious Movements. University of Virginia. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  6. Restoration - ICOC Church Autonomy
  7. New York City Church of Christ 'About us'
  8. "Restructuring religion and the new Los Angeles mosaic: An ethnography of the Los Angeles Church of Christ", Stanczak, Gregory Charles, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2001,
  9. Central Auckland Church of Christ "About us", about the ICOC
  10. Author explores past experiences with "Boston Movement"
  11. Boston Church of Christ "About Us"
  12. Thomas A. Jones In Search of a City, An autobiographical perspective on a remarkable but controversial movement 2007
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Davis, Blair J. (1999 March). "The Love Bombers". Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  14. Schroedel, Jenny (1999 March 18). "Controversial Group Recruiting on Campus". University of Portland Beacon. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Fox Files. Fox, 1999 January 21.
  16. [|Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.] (2001 November 7). "An Investigation of a Reputedly Psychologically Abusive Group That Targets College Students". Cultic Studies Review. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Qin Wang (1996 April 25). International Churches of Christ. 
  18. see lists of books, video programs, and news articles concerning the International Churches of Christ.
  19. Kleiner, Carolyn (2000 March 13). "A Push Becomes a Shove". US News & World Report. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  20. Randall, Colin (2006 August 17). "Family Battle Between France and Canada". Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 "Believe It Or Else". abc2020. ABC. 1993 December. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Lee, Chris (2005 September). "Three Major Factions". Reveal. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Kriete, Henry (2003 February 2). "Honest to God". Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  24. The Rick A. Ross Institute evidence that the International Churches of Christ is indeed a cult.
  25. Churches of Christ Zip Statistical Summary
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Paden, Russell (July 1995). "The Boston Church of Christ". in Timothy Miller. America's Alternative Religions. Albany: State University of New York Press. pp. 133–36. ISBN 978-0-7914-2397-4. Retrieved 2007-08-07. 
  27. Autobiography of Kip McKean
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 "Biography of Kip McKean". 2007 January 23. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  29. McKean, Kip (1994 February 4). "Evangelization Proclamation" (PDF). International Churches of Christ. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 "Brief History of the ICOC". 2007 May 6. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  31. LA Church About Us
  32. Kip McKean Starts The International Christian Churches
  33. The most recent 2005 statistics for church membership
  34. Kip McKean Resignation Letter Wednesday, November 06, 2002
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 McKean, Kip (2005 Aug.21). "The Portland Story". Portland International Church of Christ. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  36. Greeson, Timothy (2005). "ICOC Update 2005: Is the Threat Resurfacing?". New Covenant Publications. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  37. A Christian community falters - Loss of leader, governing body hurts group formed in Boston
  38. The Truth Finally Comes Out: International Church of Christ
  39. 2008 ICMC Report: "We're Back"
  40. CyberEvangelist (2007 February 26). "Church Directory". City of Angels International Christian Church. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  41. Disciples Today Editorial Advisory Board, Roger Lamb (publisher) (2006 December 1). "Kip McKean Starts The International Christian Churches" ([dead link]December 1&as_yhi=2006 December 1&btnG=Search Scholar search). Disciples Today. 
  42. "International Christian Churches". Steven Alan Hassan's Freedom of Mind Center. 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  43. The LA Leadership Group (the elders and region evangelists of the LA Church of Christ) (2006 October 6). "To: The Ministry Staff and Small Group Leaders of the LA Church of Christ" (pdf). Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  44. McKean, Kip & Elana (2007 April 7). "Heartfelt Letter from Los Angeles: by Kip and Elena McKean". Eugene International Church of Christ. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  45. "Portland Breaks with McKean. Extends the Hand of Fellowship to the ICOC". Retrieved 2008-08-29. 
  46. News and connections for the Co-operation Churches of the International Churches of Christ
  47. Restoration
  48. Central Auckland Church of Christ "Whilst there is no central leadership functioning anymore"
  49. "SCOC is an autonomous congregation, with historical links to the International Churches of Christ (ICOC)."
  50. HOPE Worldwide
  51. Chemical Recovery Ministry
  52. affiliated Organizations
  53. IPI
  54. IMS
  55. us
  56. -about DPI
  57. Nashville church - What We Believe
  58. "What is the International Church of Christ?". Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. 2003. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  59. Shadrach's Furnace
  60. "International Churches of Christ Doctrinal Positions". RESOURCE. 1998 September 16. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  61. 61.0 61.1 61.2 David Frey (1999 July). "The Fear of God: Critics Call Thriving Nashville Church a Cult". InReview Online. 
  62. Pam Martin (2001 April 27). "Church or Cult?". WSB-TV Action News 2. 
  63. Steven E. Rauch (1994). "International Church of Christ". Christian News & Views. 
  64. 64.0 64.1 64.2 "The Organization of the International Churches of Christ, prior to the Henry Kriete Letter, 2003". Reveal. 2006 Jan. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  65. 65.0 65.1 Ostling, Richard N. (1992 May 18). "Keepers of the Flock". Time. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  66. "A Church of Christ Or Cult of Cash". New York Daily News. 2000 October. Retrieved 2007-07-12. 
  67. Gordon, Seth (1989 October). "Disciples; doctrine-Obey, bear fruit, be happy". The Tech 109 (44). 
  68. Wallis, Lynne (1 October 2003). "Let us Prey". The Guardian (UK). 
  69. Yeakley, F. (Ed.). (1988). The Disciplining Dilemma. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company. p 19.
  70. The "Church of Christ" and the International Churches of Christ
  71. Prayer and Fasting Requested for Unity and Cooperation on November 1
  72. Questions and Answers Related to the 2006 Plan for United Cooperation
  73. about us
  74. ICOC Plan for United Cooperation.
  75. List of Churches agreed to and committed to the Plan for United Cooperation.
  76. Plan for United Cooperation document

Template:Restoration Movementet:Rahvusvahelised Kristuse Kogudusedlt:Kristaus bažnyčia hu:Krisztus Nemzetközi Egyházai no:International Churches of Christ sv:Kristi Församling

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.