Churches of Christ: A Comparative Essay

The Churches of Christ: A Comparative Essay


Over the past ten years there has been much controversy in the Christian and
secular media about the International Churches of Christ (ICC), and the United
(or mainline) Church of Christ (CoC). This controversy has stemmed from the
ICC's misuse of funds, doctrinal problems, member abuse, and mind-control. The
differences between the CoC and the ICC are important for Christians know and
understand.

The CoC began in 1957 when these four groups merged The Congregational Churches,
The Christian Church, The Evangelical Synod of North America, and The Reformed
Church in the United States. These churches had firm Protestant roots in
England, Germany, Sweden, and the United States, totaling over 49 years in their
own traditions and fellowship. On June 25, of 1957, the four churches held a
synod meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, to commit more fully to unity, liberty,
freedom in Christ, and the evangelism of the world. These groups, under the
head of the Uniting General Synod, became the United Churches of Christ. Today
the CoC has over two thousand registered churches in the world.

By 1979, the roots of the CoC were firmly in place. It was then that Chuck
Lucas, a pastor at the Gainesville Church of Christ (mainline), met a young
college student, Kip McKean, and began discipling him. Kip was a bright student
and showed great potential for leadership in the church. However, something in
the discipling process went wrong. Kip was expelled from the Gainesville church
later that year for reasons dealing with departure from the CoC doctrine,
manipulative attitude, unclear motivation, and controlling of other's lives.
Kip and his wife Elena moved to Boston and started a small church that grew
rapidly from thirty to over three hundred disciples in two months. Kip (who, by
this time, proclaimed himself as "God's man for God's mission") then declared in
his Evangelism Proclamation speech in 1981 that disciples of his Boston church
would be sent out to start sister churches in London, Chicago, New York, Toronto,
Providence, Johannesburg, Paris, Stockholm, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Bombay,
Cairo, and throughout the United States by the year of 1985. His success with
this goal led him to present another Evangelism Proclamation in 1990 that said
that every city in the world with a population of over 75,000 will have a sister
church by the year 2000. Today the ICC is in over seventy two countries, with a
recorded attendance (as of January 1997) of 920,000 people. It is important to
note that the ICC's current "fall-away (members who leave the church) rate" is
1:3 (that is, for every one person baptized into the ICC, three leave). Due to
this growth and departure from the CoC doctrine, the controversy between the CoC
and the ICC has picked up great momentum.

The doctrinal and traditional beliefs (i.e., baptism necessary for salvation,
acapella worship) of the two groups are based upon the same principals. However,
the International Churches of Christ and leader Kip McKean, have taken these
foundational Church of Christ beliefs and distorted them into a cult-like system.
The leadership setup of the International Churches of Christ differs highly
from the mainline CoC in that the ICC has a higherarchy setup closely resembling
a multi-level marketing system where every disciple is responsible to report to
someone in higher authority, eventually leading to Kip McKean. The cultish
behaviors include the ICC's highly enforced beliefs that the International
Churches of Christ is the only body of believers in the world, thus having a
monopoly on salvation, the ICC is the only "Kingdom of God", negating of
previous salvation experiences and baptisms, one on one discipling, the
confessions of all sins to the discipler, mind control tactics, spiritual abuse
of members, financial misrepresentation, compulsory tithing, and the act of
leaving the ICC is to fall away from God negating the ICC's salvation and
baptism experience. It is because of these practices the ICC is banned on over
forty-five college campuses including Oxford, Berkeley, M.I.T., Yale, Harvard,
and Duke. The mainline CoC encourages regular business meetings and the check
and balance system of their leaders, while the ICC has one closed business
meeting per year, and takes any questions of the higher echelons of leadership
as a threat to the ICC's stability. Unquestionably, the ICC is lacking in
fundamental CoC and Christian validity.

The validity of the controversy between the ICC and the CoC is perceivable, and
the CoC vehemently denies any ties to their antagonists the International
Churches of Christ. The controversy has led to numerous reports in newspapers
including The New York Times, The Wichita Eagle, The Chicago Sun, and the
Milwaukee Sentinel, as well as television coverage on 20/20, A Current Affair,
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