by Keith Stump
The nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty carries a warning that if someone puts himself in too high an exalted position, then when he stumbles, he may find that there is no way for him to recover. Over the years, it has been applied to many people and institutions. It now can be applied to Kip McKean, and, just possibly, to the ICC itself.
Recently, much to the surprise of both ICC members and critics alike, Kip McKean resigned from his position. He has taken a much less significant role. Furthermore, the ICC leaders have released a less-than-clear statement about "disbanding" the World Sectors group. There are reports of individual congregations making independent choices such as allowing members to choose their discipleship partners (now given new titles such as prayer partners or gospel partners). What are we to make of these changes?
There has been speculation on the behind-the-scenes events that led to Kips resignation. I have confirmed that some of the speculation is true; however, I do not care to go into that. What is evident is that Kip's interpretation of Christianity has such impossible standards that even he couldn't live up to them. He spent years denouncing certain things denigrating leaders to whom such things happened only to have those same things happen to him. Once this issue become known, Kip had such a self-imposed disgrace that there was no way for him to save face. He fell off the lofty perch that he created for himself, only to find that he couldnt regain his power. It is not clear to me whether his yes-men even tried to restore him. There has been speculation that the other top leaders wanted him gone because of his dictatorial nature but I do not know whether that is true.
Kip is Humpty Dumpty, which, I think, may be the reason behind his resignation rather than any real remorse. I read Kip's apology. It seemed strained. I did not see any specifics just broad, vague categories. I have no idea whether it is the case, but the letter looked like he had been pressured into writing it. I saw no sincerity in it. All that I saw was self-pity over the consequences of his actions rather than the actions themselves. Other than mentioning his family situation, was there any actual contrition in his letter? No, not in my viewpoint.
Did Kips alleged apology contain even one admission of guilt to someone that had wronged? Did he specify a single person that he brutalized? Was anything said about Ed Powers, who many years ago had said that Kip had gone too far in numerical issues and other demands? For making that statement, Kip split the Indianapolis ICC congregation and marked Ed Powers. Did Kip renounce that act? No, he did not. This is but one of many people who have suffered under Kips zeal to be the dictator of all Christianity. Kip has said, in so many words, that questioning him was divisive and was grumbling against God himself. Those who dared to express beliefs contrary to McKean were ostracized. Has Kip renounced the marking of any of the people who dared to stand up to his dictatorial edicts? Not to my knowledge.
Perhaps one might say that I should give him the benefit of a doubt. No, I won't. I have very little doubt in the matter. Kip has hurt countless people. He must make amends. He must do what he can to undo the harm. I have zero expectation that he will do this. For this reason, I reject his apology.
I do not share the optimism that some now have that the ICC will put all its sins behind it. The cornerstone, to me, of the failure of the ICC is the attitude that whatever the leaders decide to do or perceive to be true, somehow comes from God. Would not a more Christian attitude be to say that the leaders have decided to do this or that, and, hopefully God will bless the efforts? I see no indication that this change in perspective has occurred, at least with the central leadership.
Like some large businesses, the central ICC leaderships concept of fixing problems seems to be to draw up new org charts, change the titles, shuffle the leaders, and make superficial changes. Somehow, new leadership structures are taken to be the way to resolve all problems. And like those large businesses, nothing of substance is done to handle the core problems.
Let me review the reorganization announcement released on the same day as Kips alleged apology (http://www.upcyberdown.org/icocmain/Documents/11_02/unity_announcement.htm). By my way of counting, there were seven references (one indirect) to the actions of the leaders being the actions of God. This is manipulative because, in the view of a Christian, the actions of God may not be questioned. Here are said statements:
Perhaps some may view these statements as giving God proper glory. That is not the way that I see them. What I see is an attempt, in light the uncertainty over Kips resignation and disgrace, for the remaining high-ranking leaders to retain control by convincing the members that God is directly running things. This diverts attention and scrutiny away from these leaders. They want the ICC faithful to believe that the new way of doing things is directly from God, and, therefore, not subject to evaluation or debate. This perpetuates the same type of control whatever the leaders decide to do is from God, questioning their actions is grumbling against God himself. Fear not, God is in control, pay no attention to the men behind the curtain.
In that same announcement, I saw other forms of control being exerted. One of them I have discussed in Control Mechanisms in the ICC. The technique is to repress discussion of existing problems (even to the point of disfellowshipping and marking those who bring the matters up). Only after a problem supposedly has been addressed and corrected, may the members discuss it. Any admitted problems are allegedly things of the past. Therefore, serious issues are never allowed to be addressed by ordinary members nor lower-level leaders. There remains no way for open dialog to occur amongst the membership. Let us not forget that merely addressing these sorts of problems caused the leaders to disfellowship and mark the entire portion of the Indianapolis congregation that wouldnt recant and switch to the new ICC church.
As evidence, let me cite the passages in the reorganization announcement geared to make it look like any problem is a matter of the past, to be forgiven and forgotten.
Notice the buzzword, unity, which was used 10 times in the article. In ICC parlance, the word is not the coming together of believers in common cause. No, it means being silent and accepting whatever the leaders decide.
In the reorganization announcement, reading between the lines, I observed a great deal of fear. There appears to be a subtext wherein the authors are showing that they believe that the whole central leadership structure could destabilize. They seem aware that local congregations and individual members could release their frustrations and not be ready to be as controlled as they were previously. To allay this problem, there is a strong message issued that, despite Kips sins, the leadership was designed by God both in the past and in the present.
Early indications show that some congregations are making individual choices. Since there isnt an heir-apparent for Kip McKean, the leadership structure is very much up in the air. Some local leaders are using this as an opportunity to make changes that they wish. It may take a year or two for things to settle down. Once that happens, I believe that the upper-echelon leaders will begin trying to regain control. Further, I anticipate that they will use the excuse that the local congregations have gone astray and need to be pulled back onto the straight and narrow. Naturally, the high-ranking leaders will be the ones to do the job. I think that these leaders will succeed in many cases. However, I think it will be a long time before anyone will be able to wield the kind of control that Kip had.
Let us return to the topic of the above-mentioned article. The rather ridiculous image of love and forgiveness going on at the Unity Meeting, whether true or not, was clearly designed to tell the membership that all has been repented of and must be forgiven and forgotten. In other words, the image suggests that there may be no real consideration of the sins of the leaders, nor for anyone to ask for amends to be made. No, all of the sins are in the past. It is time to move on. The message rings loudly in this announcement, grievances are a thing of the past, they will not be addressed.
If I know the ICC, there will be a short period wherein the members will be allowed to discuss these past problems even to state how wrong Kip McKean has been. Soon thereafter, however, the cry for unity (unity = sycophantic silence) will go out. The voices will be silenced. Discussion will end. The new leadership structure must be viewed as having solved all past problems. For the congregations whose leaders are exerting some level of independence, I suspect that the discussion will be more broad-based perhaps talking about how other leaders joined in Kips sins.
What is not very likely to happen is for members to be allowed to redress grievances with local leaders. If a member got hurt, too bad: asking the wrongdoing leader to make amends is bitterness or divisiveness. These problems will be said to be in the past, caused by Kip. For a member to admit that he or she has been hurt and remains unresolved will be viewed as sin.
Kip McKean has become Humpty Dumpty: the ICC dictator has fallen. It appears that the dictatorship will now be in the hands of a committee or a conference. (Although, I rather suspect that the real decisions will be made by a handful of top leaders, if they can manage to reclaim control of the local congregations.) What does that matter? Have the real problems even been mentioned, let alone renounced?
Whether a dictatorship is by a council or a single leader, the result is the same the lives of the average members will be at the direction of leaders. They will still have to do as they are told. The ordinary members voices will not be heeded. As long as the ICC maintains its interpretation of discipling, leadership and submission, the abuse and domination over the common member will remain. It is at the individual level where most of the damage is done. Everyone having discipling partners (whatever they wind up being called and no matter who chooses them) inevitably results in members being dictated to by people incompetent to instruct in given matters. Discipling is inherently harmful because it robs people of the hallmark of adulthood the ability to make choices and live with the consequences. It is one thing to get advice on a hard issue, it is quite another to be discipled. Getting advice allows the choice to be truly in the hands of the individual, whereas being discipled means that the choice is made, in whole or in part, by someone else. The former is being Biblically humble, the latter is being controlled by others.
There exists no possible way to fix discipling nor the ICC-style authority/submission. No amount of experimenting with supposedly new ways of doing these things will resolve the problems. Obviously, there are ways to reduce the harm done, but not to solve the core problems. The only way to stop the harm is to renounce discipling and ICC-style authority/submission entirely.
The problems with the ICC are deep. A mere reorganization of the leadership structure is not what is needed. Massive reform, including the resignation of all of Kips former lieutenants (whatever their title might be at the moment), is what is required. Has this occurred? Will it happen? I very much doubt that.
Therefore, all I see is a turning of the page to Chapter 3 of the same old story . control, control and more control. Chapter 1 was Chuck Lucas. Chapter 2 was Kip McKean. Chapter 3 is whatever comes next. Whether the ICC remains a single entity, or becomes hundreds of distinct groups, makes little difference as long as the average member is discipled. Being discipled is being controlled. I see no evidence that such a practice has been or will be renounced. I certainly hope that I am wrong, but I think the chances are minimal that the ICC will stop controlling its members.
I think that the very most that will happen is that splinter groups might form. There is some evidence of this beginning already. There are reports of various local congregations instituting changes that are not universal. As I am not a prophet, I cannot say what will become of all this. I rather suspect that the central leadership, whatever it chooses to call itself, will not be able to hold on to the power that Kip once wielded. However, after a few years, I suspect that the same old control mechanisms, possibly renamed and repackaged, will be used to reassert the much of the control of the central leadership.
Does the weakening of the central leadership mean that all problems are solved? Not even remotely. Overall, it is not the nature of higher level leaders relationships that hurts the average member. The main damage comes from low-level leaders, such as discipleship partners and Bible Talk leaders (whatever they wind up being called). Hopefully, some congregations will renounce the authority/discipling practices that do so much damage. I do not anticipate global changes of this sort. The ICC may adjust the way these things are done, but as long as the practice exists in any form, then damage will be done.
Until such a time as the ICC renounces discipling, the lives of the ordinary members will remain the same: under control of the leaders.
You can also read Keith's article Control Mechanisms in the ICC on the REVEAL website.
©2003 by Keith Stump <AntiICCKeith@juno.com>. All rights reserved.
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