The International Churches of Christ, an evangelical group known for its strict and controversial teachings, is in a state of decline and fragmentation due to a crisis in its leadership.
The Boston Globe (May 17) reports that the group, once boasting a membership of 135,000 members worldwide, is facing massive defections and financial problems after its charismatic leader Thomas “Kip” McKean stepped down from leadership. McKean resigned after his daughter defected from the church, which was in accord with a church rule that leaders should step down if their children leave the movement.
The movement has suffered strains for years, often concerning authoritarian leadership over members’ personal lives and aggressive recruiting techniques, especially on college campuses where it was labeled a cult. McKean;s resignation ignited a firestorm of demands for reform, including a widely circulated letter from one leader citing the church with “coercive giving,”. violations of personal liberties and inflating its growth rate. Dozens of other leaders have apologized for their actions and the central governing body has been dissolved, basically making each congregation self-standing.
That, along with large scale firings and a cut back in missions fund makes the future of the church uncertain.