Queen of the Damned (Recovering from Cult Life)

When I posted my last two blogs about my experience in the ICOC (http://healthymama.net/?p=356 and http://healthymama.net/?p=38), I did not expect the backlash… although it amused me… Nor did I expect to have so many emails from former Kingdom Kids and ex ICOC members saying “THANK YOU!” To be honest I didn’t expect this particular blog to be read 133 times in one day, or 100 + times every following day for a week or so. That has never happened before, and I wrote them for my own benefit, I felt like I needed to. As I read through the stories and emails my mom called me “Queen of the Damned” I am a huge Anne Rice fan, so I was flattered, but upon considering what she meant, the title rang true. We are the damned, at least according to “The Church” and as far as I am concerned, they damned us. Some people who are members of at least one of the churches have forbidden their members from reading these blogs, they called them lies. I’m afraid I have news for you: First, I don’t have any reason to lie, secondly, if you continue reading you will see that this has not only been MY pain, so many others where hurt like me, WORSE than me. Saying I am lying is only giving me more incentive to keep writing. If you REALLY thought I was lying, you wouldn’t be afraid of your congregation reading this. You would not be worried that what I say may ring true… Maybe instead you would see my pain and you would take a good hard look at your church and make damn sure that you do not do it again. Look at me and see YOUR children. See every Kingdom Kid that turned their back on these churches, NOT because we were “godless sinners”, but because we were broken, over and over again. Remember when you split apart my family because I had a voice, because I didn’t conform. I am not the only one. Dozens of people have shared their stories with me, and a few have asked me to share their stories here. To be their voice.

Something so empowering happened as I read the messages, former Kingdom Kids telling me how they thought they were the only ones who felt the way I do, that they couldn’t talk to anyone because no one else understands. Here are just a few responses I have had so far:

***I am keeping these relatively anonymous, even the current and former ICOC/ICC leaders and regions will be kept private in this post, some of the things you will read are still happening***

“So I just read your blog and it kinda really touched home for me. … and honestly I want to thank you for you voice because I was in the early stages of being completely sober and I was starting to find myself when I was found by this new church ICC (Kip’s) and I was actually happy before I started going and now I just feel like everything I do is wrong. I can’t say no again, they make me feel guilty when I do. My clothes are “bad” all this bullshit. I cant speak up and its honestly the same shit like when was in the teens all over again….. I’ve been trying to fall away and its so crazy because apart of me still believes its black and white, heaven or hel …. and I don’t even know if I believe or if I just feel the guilt… I feel obligated to be there because they tell me that’s what God says. They want me to get a divorce, they told me to fast and pray about it. I thought the Bible says divorce is wrong? Our leader gave me a curfew. If I miss “one meeting of the body” they say I am in sin, and I’m in sin if I can’t tithe and they want to know everything I do with my money. When I noticed some shady shit I talked about it and they told me I was in sin! But they look the other way! They prey on college students, they want them to quit school or their jobs if it interferes with 3-4 church meetings a week, but we still have to tithe. And they don’t want me to spend time with my friends who are not in the church! If I had not read your blog, I don’t know what I would do, but now I see that it is wrong, and I felt it in my stomach that this place is bad.”

“Growing up a Kingdom kid was hell for Me Just like most of us. .. In my experience not only did I not have a voice I was going through my own battle … not knowing it I was suffering from bipolar disorder … Always being told everything I was doing was wrong, that my feelings condemned me to hell and feeling ashamed for the way I felt. It drove me crazy, I mean really crazy …. I am choosing not to go in to detail about my childhood due to the fact I dont want to re-live it at this time. Being a kingdom kid drove me to a life of doubt confusion, I couldn’t trust anyone. Now as an adult, found myself lost and still holding on to my teachings from when I belonged to the ICOC still living with the fear of going to hell because of the life I live so when I ran in to an old friend I wanted to believe that this new found church (Kips church ICC) was different… It’s not different, Teen, it’s worse. They are obsessed with tithe and have a double standard. When I confronted my leaders on sin that I saw, I was told that it’s not my place to say anything. I eventually went directly to Kip Mc Kean, and do you know what he said? That my leader is Mexican, and has a different style of teaching, and etiquette, and because he is my leader I need to respect and submit to him. He knows there are problems in the (*blank*), Region but he’s choosing not to do shit about it! I felt like I was back in a nightmare. No one will listen to me, it’s like I’m the only one that sees people sleeping around, dressing inappropriately, and being two-faced hypocrites. The same people that I have seen living double lives are the same people who told me that I was in sin for liking the link you posted of your blog, which speaks the truth, that I better take it down because I am going to hell and I am making these poor kids who are dropping out of college because they are being brainwashed, struggle. They are struggling because they know it’s true, too!”

Reading these words my heart sank. It confirmed rumors I had heard about the new church, and poured salt on my already very open wounds. Everything she said rang so true to me, because it’s nothing I had not heard before. If I wasn’t the victim, then someone else I knew had been through it. As a teen when I would bring up inconsistencies between The Bible and the church’s rules, or at least the Teen Ministry’s rules, I was told that I was in sin, that I was causing dissention. I was told not to ask questions. Looking back I see that these “leaders” did not have the answers, so they preferred that we didn’t think.

“I just read your blog…I FUCKIN LOVE IT!!! No truer words have ever been spoken. I have to put it all down too! As the acid from those years still eats away at my soul. Thank you Justine…everyone should know the truth and you are, if not the best one of the best people to speak on it. Speak on it…forever! They fucked me up good too! Anyways, thanks for opening up those old wounds, I guess I need to mend em up a little better this time, lol.”

A common theme, I “opened old wounds”. I know. As I wrote I cried. Just because it’s easy to say, doesn’t mean it doesn’t pour salt on my own wounds. I have established in previous blogs that I process out loud… does this count? I think it has taken this long for me to realize that SOMEONE has to talk about it, and who better than me? Let’s heal together.

“Thanks for sharing, Justine! I’ve suppressed so much of it- if not all of it. Reading your posts brings back so many (bad) memories! It was so suffocating, forced and controlling. I’ve made it my goal to never feel that way again, or subject my children to anything that would make them feel that way.”

Over the years as I have run into ex members of ICOC and grown up Kingdom Kids, and many have since become parents, most of them have expressed concern over raising their own children the way Kingdom Kids were raised. A lot of the teen leaders at the time didn’t have kids, so they didn’t think twice about what they were telling us, but when they began having children of their own, they realized that it wasn’t OK. As a parent myself, and a former Kingdom Kid, I have to say it does help me, even the slightest bit to hear these apologies, to be validated.

Dating in the church was a very strange situation, I’ll let my friend tell her experience:

“There is so much I can say about my experiences with that “church”, but I’m going to talk about my horrible “love” story. Let’s see I must of been 13, not baptized yet when I met this boy at a pre-teen/teen event, I fell for him instantly. It would be a few years before we both went through the intense process of the study of “kip’s notebook” and then getting baptized, but after we were both disciples, we were allowed, and encouraged to go on “dates”. I didn’t just go on dates with him of course, I had to say yes to any “brother” that wanted to go on a date with me whether I wanted to or not. Finally, he works on becoming my boyfriend, which means he proved that he was godly enough to date, and lead spiritually. He asked me out on New Years Eve in a room full of friends and teen leaders. Once we are officially boyfriend and girlfriend it was like a dream come true, a dream that would turn into a nightmare. I cannot express how happy I was. I was so in-love with this kid, I can’t even think of the right words to explain how in love I was, everyone that was around knows how I felt about him. The two of us became lab rats that were put on pedestals in a bazaar cult universe. Not much changed in our relationship once we were official, except I no longer had to go on dates with other brothers, (woo hoo!), and we held hands. We never even kissed! I didn’t care at the time, I was just happy and in love. But when I say we were lab rats, this is what I mean: We were each told, separately of course, to wait to kiss until the other kissed first, completely eliminating kissing all together. In fact once at a wedding he kissed my cheek (my effin cheek!) while saying goodbye, then was rebuked by a leader waiting outside. Example of being on a pedestal: once we were dating, we became like teen royalty. We lead prayers together. I had to start speaking at teen events more, which I hated, and I’m not a public speaker! It was like they were turning us into the example they wanted everyone else to follow, but we just had to do what we were told. If we deviated at all, we were rebuked. Even so, I was happy, I was the only one in our region with a boyfriend, and I really thought this was forever… then the “church” rips out my hearts and puts it in a blender and makes me flick the on switch! Long story short they made me break up with a kid I had been in love with for years just to hide the real story… We still are unaware of the true story, I know he had gotten himself in some sort of trouble with the police…. I didn’t find out till a few years later that he hadn’t cheating on me, however, they told me that he had been cheating and then acted like I had a choice on whether to break up with him, or not. Obviously, I had to… they didn’t actually give us real choices. We either obey, or we get rebuked.

I made the decision to “fall away” shortly after, not because of my broken heart, but because I got a job and was so excited to give a tithe and when I gave my hard earned money I was asked for my pay-stub… Because of course god wants to make sure I calculated my 10% right, before taxes! Leaving was so eye opening and heart breaking at the same time. My dad acted like he respected my decision then later came into my room, threw a bible at me and told me “I’m a dog who eats his own vomit!”  Even my discipler (whom I loved) turned her back on me, I remember her asking me if I had been having sex. Like, I must be having sex if I don’t want to be a part of this madness anymore. Here I am alone, my family is shunning me, I just ended it with a boy who I loved so much, I hadn’t seen any of my friends in a couple months (I was not allowed to have friendships outside the church, so once I left I had no friends) and the person I look up to, now thinks I’m all of a sudden sexually active (with the boy I was just told was cheating on me and had to break up with) just because I fell away.  To say the least that was a lot for my sixteen year old self to deal with.”

I remember this happening, I was friends with them, close friends with both of them, and I remember how confusing and eventually painful it was for both of them. After she was forced to break up with him, she was forbidden to speak with him. She wasn’t able to ask him what happened, she was left to wonder, and be hurt, for years. Luckily they did reconnect years later, they were finally able to dissect what they had been through, and recover.

“This is freakin amazing! There were so many things I didn’t know how to put into words because I was so young! And the fact that when I tried to speak no one would listen because there was so much secrecy I don’t think anyone knew how to REALLY deal with issues. I know from the “brainwashing” it took me years to be able to communicate with my mom and family about the sexual abuse I encountered there as well as many other things. The worst part about it is that when I was at pierce college I ran into a “church club” that I thought would be fun to join and it was icoc run! Like wth? I ran out as soon as I could. It was like the freakin twilight zone.”

This particular message requires an explanation, while I knew some of the things that went on in the ICOC were bad, some of us were molested:

“My mom started attending the LACC after a guy saw her attempting to read The Bible and invited her to a bible study. She seemed super excited to go since she was looking for God. I was about 3 years old. That’s when I pretty much started going to the LACC, enrolled in all the children’s activities, camps and classes my mom could get me and my siblings in. Now, when I was a little girl I had extreme nightmares and would see creatures. I suffered extreme paranoia and anxiety. Whenever I would tell my class leaders at LACC they looked at me like I was crazy! They tried to hush me from “influencing the other kids” as well as talking to my mom about the things I would say as it if were a behavioral problem. From that point on I learned to keep things to myself. It always seemed as if you weren’t supposed to talk about your problems. When you tried to get help you were shunned or rebuked. This became a problem when I was 12 years old. I went through puberty quickly and my mom thought it was a good idea to move me up to the “teen ministry”. A family came over for bible study one night with a 14 year old boy who was interested in me. From this point on I was pushed to go out and spend time with him and whenever he called I was told to answer, be nice, and tell him that I loved him! It was ridiculous. After about 6 months of us being together he verbally and emotionally abused me, cheated on me with multiple others girls and I was still told I was treating him disrespectfully. We dated on and off for 2 years. I tried to speak about it, but no one wanted to hear. After that ended multiple guys in the teen ministry tried to “talk to me” while making it seem (to the leaders) as if they were trying to be brothers to me and watch out for me. Two of these guys were 18 years old and I was still in Jr High. One of them sexually abused me for months and then disappeared out of nowhere. I was so used to being quiet I never even told any of the leaders. They didn’t seem to want to know; I was just another number in the congregation. The numbers only mattered to them when you were quiet and didn’t make waves. I never did, but they pretty much excommunicated my sister and my dad. They had questions, they lived life how they wanted to. I remember the teen ministry having teen bible studies at my families house and whispering to my mom that I was allowed to participate but my sister could not and that my dad couldn’t come downstairs. That was nonsensical! How can you ask to use our home for a bible study and request half my family to not be present? LACC divided my family, they forced me into relationships of abuse that make it difficult for me now to communicate properly in a loving relationship. I’ve read the bible more than once and large part of their actions and teachings are not supported in there at all. I did not feel love there, community, peace, or comfort. They made up rules as they saw fit and destroyed my life along the way. If it wasn’t for the loving people I have in my life now that actually try to be Christ like I would have killed myself, because the majority of my life up to 2 years after I left that church I was severely suicidal with no self esteem.”

It hurts me because this young lady is like a sister to me, and I am so sad to know these things were happening, and that she didn’t feel like she could be honest, because from the time she was little, she was shushed when she spoke her truths. I do find it interesting that Christian churches tend to blow off the idea of seeing spirits or demons, even though these things supposedly happened often in The Bible. It is so important to bring children up in a loving and safe environment, and when you are a part of these churches, they do become your family, they say “It takes a village to raise a child”, well this village fucked up quite a few children. I know as a fact that this girl’s mother knew her children saw “things” ghosts of some sort, I know because she herself suffered from the same thing when she was younger, one of the reasons she is so spiritual now, to protect herself and her family from this curse. I also know that her older sister saw them too. How wrong that she wasn’t validated from such a young age, what does that teach children? That adults are not to be trusted. That no one cares. Who cares if these Kid’s Kingdom teachers didn’t believe in spirits? Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Speaking of which, let’s address the molestation, you didn’t see it? Well no kidding, these things happen behind closed doors, in whispers. Who’s job was it to protect her? Well, her parents thought that YOU were, her parents TRUSTED YOU.

She was not the only child who was molested while our families devoted their lives to the ICOC:

“All I had ever known was ICOC. Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Bible studies at my house, bibles on the bedside tables; this was my life and I trusted it fully. I had no reason not too. I loved being a kingdom kid… until I started to think for myself. Keep in mind I left the church when drugs became more important. (Age 12) Before that I was protected from a lot of what was going on behind the scenes. There are two examples that come to the forefront of my mind when I think about past pain. I was a kingdom kid that had the will to be the best for God. I prayed all the time. I was taught not to make a wish on shooting stars but say a prayer instead. I was pure at this point and the only prayer I had was for my mom to repent and come back to the church. I did not what her to die and go to Hell. I would lay awake at night wondering if I was going to hell. I knew my mom would if we all died today but would I also? I started lying at a very young age. I had too. My babysitter’s daughter on a daily basis was molesting me. I was 5. She was 7 or 8. She was a kingdom kid too. At age 7 I was again molested by a babysitter while in the care of ICOC members. I couldn’t tell a soul. I was 7. I had no idea what was being done to me. Trust that I know now and no longer shame myself for it (no thanks to the church.)

By age 11 I wanted to study the bible. All of my friends were going into the teen ministry and I was in the pre-teens. I did not care how old I was, I knew the difference between right and wrong and I wanted to do the right thing. That was enough for me. Apparently it was not enough for ICOC. I was 12 when the church assigned me a discipleship partner. I couldn’t wait to get started on the studies! I wanted to be baptized so bad! The night of my first study I couldn’t wait. I paced the floor waiting for my disciple to pick me up. We were going to go to Starbucks. I had my bible and my notebook ready to go. We sat down and I began to open my journal to write down my first set of directions when she stopped me. She spent the next hour telling me that I was not in any condition to be a disciple. She suggested that I work very hard on loosing weight because God does not save the gluttonous. I was to fat to be a disciple in ICOC. With every word she spoke a crack formed around my spirituality. I was the first time that I stopped believing. I stayed in the church for another year but never attempted to become a part of it. In 2000 the church put on a Christmas performance put on by the kingdom kids. I had no interest in performing but we were all encouraged to try out for vocals. I sat in the back with my feet up doodling in a notebook when my name was called. Up to this point, you only sang in front of the church if you were a leaders kid or a professional. My name was called so I put down my notebook and made my way to the front of the auditorium. I took a deep breath and began with the first stanza of Silent Night. The room went silent. As I finished I looked up and saw a room full of wide eyes and jaws on the floor. It felt good to be recognized for doing something well not doing something wrong. The coordinators huddled in a circle and began assigning kids to each roll. As they read off the lead vocals I hardly paid attention until my name was called to be the lead vocalist for the angels. I would sing an entire song solo in front of our congregation as well as the Santa Barbara ministry. I was ecstatic! This sounds like a success story right? Well, there is no happy ending to this tale. Minutes later I was pulled aside and told that I would not be allowed to perform in front of the congregation because (get this) I was not baptized. Seriously? Seriously. They gave the roll to another girl that was about my age. She was baptized… and… wait for it, at least 100 lbs heavier that I was. Oh the irony. Needless to say I was done. I haven’t held onto this pain… I just covered it up with alcohol and drugs for years. I am now 25 years old and 4 years sober. I haven’t been a part of ICOC for 13 years. My life is pretty fucking great. Turns out I can be a good person and not go to hell even if I am not a skinny bitch disciple. Cheers!”

This is yet another example of molestation, bullying, and disrespect. Where Jesus teaches to be like the children, ICOC treated children as second class citizens, and pawns in a numbers game. Worse, still, being baptized was the carrot they dangled over our heads so that we could do things we otherwise were not allowed, be it dating, a “disciples only slumber party”, a part in the holiday play, or even the ability to move up to the “Teen” group with your friends. An example of children having no choice but to trust the church because it was all we knew, and as you can see some of us were put in very unsafe situations. I myself have blocked out some of the horrors, and have been reminded throughout the years, I have heard stories of abuse my sister and I suffered, but I don’t remember. I supposed it’s the only way for me to maintain my sanity. As you can see, some were bullied more than others, but I think we were all victims of power-hungry self-righteous  zealous sinners.

When I was in the teen ministry I went on a date with a boy, and he touched me inappropriately, I told my discipler, and she talked to the leaders (great job on her part) although, I was taken in the back after church with the boy, and he denied it, so they called me a liar. Actually, worse, they said that it must have been an accident, and he obviously would never do that. So either I was a liar or I was crazy, but whatever the case HE did nothing wrong. I felt pressured to agree, because I knew where they stood already. I also knew better than to talk about those things ever again. As I grew up, I knew better than to tell someone when I was uncomfortable, I was taught from these things (and many other similar situations) that I shouldn’t rock the boat, and that MY feelings are invalid. I mean, I felt like I couldn’t say “no” because I had already been taught that my personality, and my body ask for this kind of attention. So if I were to say no to a drunk guy at a party, and he gets offended because something I had done had led him on, I am the one at fault. What is this? Some kind of Republican idea of deserved rape? I end up looking like a slut because either, I’m a slut if I sleep with this guy, or I’ve led him on and risk getting raped, which I clearly deserved for having a “flirtatious” (I call it friendly) personality.

One of my friends, a former Kingdom Kid, told me that one of the (current!) leader’s son’s has been sleeping his way through the Teen Ministry, in case you’re wondering, he is an adult (divorced), and these girls are under age. And, yes the leaders know… and they actively fix the problem by removing the girls. Because, obviously the leader’s son is not the problem…. What is going on here? Why are these things happening in a supposedly safe place? Are you rethinking sending your kids to the Friday Night Event? Or Summer Camp? Knowing these things I would not feel comfortable allowing my daughters to be in a situation like this. I don’t know how to fix problems like sexual abuse, but I do know, if these girls felt like they could say something, they would have. As it happens, they don’t feel like they can.

One of the my friend’s and current members of the ICOC has reminded me that it’s not “The Church” that is at fault, it’s people who made mistakes. Yes, I agree, but I also feel that the church should take responsibility for putting inappropriate people in leadership. A few years ago I ran into a former teen leader who supposedly had a crush on me while I was a teen (this is bothersome, considering he was in his thirties, and I was in the teens until I was 16.) At the time, I was 18 or 19, and he came on to me… We hooked up, I think in my brain it was an “eff you” to ICOC, but about a year later, I come to find out he has been restored into Kip’s church , and in the same text message thread, he asked for a picture of my boobs. He obviously repented. It was understandable for a former member to treat me like a piece of ass, but a current “disciple”??? I can’t even get over it. He has friend requested me on Facebook, multiple times, and I just can’t say yes, he is a hypocrite, and what’s worse is he is a current leader. Again, I know this isn’t the churches “fault” but still, if you claim a title in this church, you represent it. So is it fair for either church to be upset with me fo telling my story, or anyone else’s? Nope, think of this as insight, take a look at your members, pay attention to your children. On that note, I would like to share a poem my little sister wrote when she was a teen, who, by the way was told she was “too fat” to study the bible, in my opinion she dodged a bullet.

“I lose

When I say, “No”

My heart can’t go

To watch you see

What isn’t even me

To know I’m lost

And think you’re not

To play this game

But know the end

While I descend

I cheat and lie

But don’t know why

I contradict

To love myself

So take your pick

I’m lost and know it

But can’t control it

I’m right and show it

So don’t blow it

I lose

Whenever I turn around

I lose

Whenever I see a frown

I lose

To know that I’m not “it”

I lose

To know the truth I live

We don’t deserve the life we get

So enjoy it ’cause it’ll be gone before ya know it

It’s not worth it to me

To try and be somthin’ I’m not

I want to see. but God has a plot

To seek and save the lost

Well, guess what… I’m not!

I know the truth will set me free

So leave me alone and let me be

I’ll come around if it’s his plan

It might take a while

So just hold my hand

I live by feeling

Emotion is ruling

The tears are flowing

To see what I’m missing

To hate how I’m feeling

So I will try

To love the One that always loves me

I lose now,but not at my peak

You will see that I will win

Happiness is my goal

So don’t be a fool

Help me please…”

As children we were expected to be perfect, we were trained, guilted and pruned to become what the church thought we should be. Instead of being nurtured and encouraged. If my sister at age 11 felt like she just couldn’t win, imagine how every other kid felt. It’s no wonder that we all rebelled. And it’s amazing to see that we have each come into our own, and became amazing resilient adults, who stand up for our children the way the church never did.

****If you are reading this because you have had a similar experience, have history with the ICOC/ICC, or you need help leaving, I am going to post some resources here for you. Free to email me at isahealthymama@yahoo.com or find my “recovery page” on facebook www.facebook.com/icocrecovery Here are a few blogs and websites from people who have left the ICOC/ICC and have shared their experiences and knowledge:

http://www.reveal.org/ <— This page has the truth about the ICOC.
http://www.spiritualpornography.com/ <— Don’t worry, it’s totally appropriate, she named it Spiritual Pornography because that’s what Kip McKean called it when you read anything negative about the church. They post information it might be harder to find, such as Kip’s (supposed) resignation, and letters written to the church.

http://henrykriete.com/ <— Here you can read what REALLY happened with Henry Kriete and his family.
http://ministeriolatino.blogspot.com/ <—- Here you can read a blog from a former member of Kip’s current church (City of Angels International Church of Christ). He has written actually experiences between himself and Kip, AND other “leaders”. A very interesting read. He came across my blog and actually recognized someone I had written about (I kept it confidential).
http://www.tolc.org/ <—- Here you can read Henry Kriete’s letter and other letters written to the church. You can also click “debate” and you will be transferred to http://forums.delphiforums.com/n/main.asp?webtag=ICCdiscussion&nav=start&prettyurl=%2FICCdiscussion%2Fstart where you can interact with current and former members.



39 thoughts on “Queen of the Damned (Recovering from Cult Life)”

  1. I really enjoyed your post. I had very similar experiences as many of the rest of these fellow people have had. It was hard growing up in this church. I don’t regret leaving, I’m grateful my parents fell away. The church destroyed my trust in every thing I was every taught.

    I was the girl people pretended to be friends with. More than likely because their parents possibly forced them when I thought these people really liked me. It was hard knowing that the older friends I had stopped talking to me at some point and then my friends my own age were held back in the preteens group.
    I had an eating disorder. I was the fat girl. You can’t be fat. People don’t like fat. The boys and the girls don’t want to be friends with the ugly girl which is what I was told people said about me.
    I was forced to be around people who were forced to like me when that was all I had wanted.
    I had been molested for years and slowly was eating away my depression. I was dirty and used and needed to do more things at church volunteer and have more quiet times and pray the molestation away.
    I was embarrassed revealing my sins and being scared into having a baptism.
    Being 26 now and being diagnosed with severe panic disorder with agoraphobia and PTSD I struggled for a long time trying to accept myself after being belittled and lied too for so many years.

    It was wasted years of my life. I feel sorry for everyone who suffered at the wrath of this church. I hurt inside for everyone even of they don’t like me or not because I cared for these people.

    1. Bri, I am so sorry… having known you for so long I am sorry to say, yet again, I had no idea. We were all so good at hiding the truth because we were shamed for it. I confess back then it was hard for me to see beyond myself, I was a self centered brat. But I can say with my whole heart that Gaby and I loved you. Did you tell anyone about what was happening to you?

    2. When I started reading your posts one jumped out – the “Mexican” leader that the writer had a problem with. Please tell that reader that I know exactly who she is writing about, Vic Sr, because I had the exact same situation, seeing the incredibly shady s*** going on, over and over and over. I also went directly to Kip McKean, who completely shut me down and would not even entertain the possibility that Vic Sr could be doing anything wrong. Kip ended up actually threatening me and telling me that he would have people step in to try to destroy my family (you can read the whole story, along with many other traumatizing details, on ministeriolatino.blogspot.com). I am saddened that Victor is still in a position of power to continue abusing more and more people. But the abuse is condoned from the highest leadership in the church (Kip McKean) so we can’t expect that it will change. But know that the abuse is real, and continuing, and also that I feel your pain.

  2. I repressed so many memories from that church. It became easier to forget things. I told people but I was brushed off for so long. The abuse never stopped.
    Honestly I never saw any of you as a self centered brat. I can hardly remember the type I person I was. All I know is I loved all of you I looked up to all of you. I still do. I mean we were forced to hide we were. I wish I would have known I wish they wouldn’t have made things so hush hush to silence us.
    It’s sad. It’s disgusting an disturbing to do to people. They turned people against each other. Whether the things we were ever told were true or not we may never know. It really was intense to read everything. Only because it was all so familiar as if I could remember every single one of those moments people recalled.
    I have tried to find everyone over and over again. I like to check in and see where people are in their life. I think we all benifited from escaping the church one way or another.

    I have learned to be a better person away from the church. To not be judgemental on anyone, to be selfless because I care for people and to love unconditionally. The love given to us it was so fake that all I needed was real love but lost myself tryin to find it for so long until one day everything clicked.

    I know I’m kind of all over the place with this response. I’m a mix of emotions. Obviously like I said I think about ALL of you all the time. It’s just a shame they did this to so many people.

    1. Bri, I agree, we have come out of the ICOC with a real understanding of what love it, because we saw so much fakeness. I think we have had to learn a lot the hard way, and trust has been difficult, bc we couldn’t trust the people we should have been able to. We even hid truths from out friends because we didn’t know if we could trust each other.

      It was hard to write this one, bc it’s not just me, I felt everyone’s pain, and all I wanted to do was hug you all, I wanted to go back in time and tell us we were gonna be OK, and it wasn’t gonna last forever, and we are important! We were treated like sub-humans, less than, never good enough. It’s sickening.

      You have come so far, and you have found yourself, and maybe without this we wouldn’t be the most loving and forgiving people on the planet LOL have you ever noticed that? that we seem to have a ridiculous tolerance level for people treating us like shit?

  3. I totally agree with you. I have a huge tolerance for it now haha.

    I can only imagine how hard it was to write. It honestly is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. The honesty and the pure unfiltered feelings people have. It’s publish worthy. I mean you have more than just your own personal experiences but so many of our experiences.

    We were more like toys. An army of puppets. Seeing responses fr people I know and seeing the shit that people went through is heartbreaking. I could never let my children suffer like this or anyone’s child.

    I am glad we all made it through one way or another. It is scary to think ICOC still going. It’s sad people try to silence you. Don’t let them. Keep spreading this word. I bet there are many more who are to afraid to come forward.

  4. Just a tad bit off topic, but did you know that Anne Rice is a christian and she has had it up to ~here~ with church? There is a facebook status of hers in Anne Graham Lotz’ book , “Wounded by God’s People”

  5. Honestly I am so far removed from the insanity of the ICOC that I had no idea people still lived like that. You know that we left the church when the girls were 4 because we did not want to raise them as “Kingdom Kids”? I had lived through all kinds of spiritual manipulation (I was baptized in 1991) and I was not going to let my kids be raised to believe that they would never be good enough, could never give enough, or ever measure up to the standards that narcissistic humans had inflicted upon the members of the church. I was called rebellious all the time after they were born because I REFUSED to not tuck them into their own beds at night and would not carry them all over the place for studies and meetings and nonsense. I am so sorry that you went through hell. I feel like though I spent almost 15 years in the church, I came away unscathed because – BY THE GRACE OF GOD – I just stopped believing the lie. I am happy, joyous and free and no one can EVER tell me that I am not right with my God. Did you ever read the book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” best book ever…. I read it, left the church and never looked back. I love who you are, precious one…. xoxox

    1. Woah… This is really recent.. Was Kip McKean still leading at that time or had Kip already moved onto ICC?
      I’m a current member of Greater Long Beach Church of Christ.
      I heard things were absolutely horrible when Kip was around.
      But Idk. I feel like things seem to be better now.
      I’ve enjoyed my past 2 years here.
      If I’ve ever felt bad about myself it was because I am naturally a perfectionist and grew up with low self-esteem due to familial issues. But I feel the way God has used the people in this church has really helped build up my self-esteem and I see myself as someone who is really worthy of great things and a beautiful life.
      Perhaps the dynamic has changed dramatically?
      Idk. But I’m so sorry you all had to go through this 🙁 I feel so sad that things ever got that bad.
      So many people were hurt! I hope God has healed your wounds.
      I hope you all still believe in God! He loves you!! Don’t let human mistakes take that truth away from you! 🙁

      1. Jen, I appreciate your feedback, and I am happy that you are doing well, and you have not experienced the heartache so many other’s have. Yes some of the things I have written about are recent, I don’t know a lot about what has happened lately as I left long ago, however, I still hear horror stories about the International Church of Christ, as well as International Christian Churches. A lot of ugliness is hidden from the “flock”. Be mindful aware, I believe these churches to be dangerous, they teach false doctrine, and are controlling… I do hope I am wrong. Out of curiosity, are you married? Dating? What’s that like these days?

        1. Yeah. I can see how things would be hidden. Personally, I’ve stayed away from leadership which is where I hear the most horrible stuff has happened in the past. But it’s mainly because I still have a lot of self-confidence issues to work out. But God is getting there 🙂 but honestly I’m more interested in taking on a leadership role in the world to bring people to Christ through 🙂 I’m not going to get much done for building up the kingdom of God if I’m locked up in the church all the time haha. The people in need are OUT there.

          As far as doctrine. Yeah. I’m in the midst of discovery in that. A dear friend of mine is leaving soon to the Calvinist doctrine and well I support him completely. He is just seeking the truth and I know that journey will take him to many places 🙂 so as long as he finds that truth, I totally support him. Idk how others would feel about my outright support of him, but I’ve talked to a few brothers and sisters and they support my supporting him and support him too, which is cool. We trust his heart 🙂 He’s always been on a full-blown mission to get it right. Which is awesome.

          And I’m similar to him in that way. Doctrine has always been one of those things that I struggled with here. Not cuz I don’t think baptism is necessary for salvation or all that. I think that’s accurate, it was just bugging me that we don’t all as a family make EVERY EFFORT to add to our love as Jesus showed us to love.

          But amen. At that time I was just having issues with grace and it was causing me to be critical of people who were simply human and weren’t nor would they ever be perfect, me included. I learned to look at my life and my actions first before I went around pointing out other people’s flaws (Matthew 7:3-4). So its been a wondering growing experience! I still have a long way to go in growing in my love though, but it’s exciting.

          But yes sorry back to the whole discovery thing, I’ve been studying out the Calvinist doctrine and I find it too fitting to ignore, but of course I want to make an absolutely informed decision if I were to join another church, so I’m still a way’s off from leaving if I do.

          But no. I’m not dating. I’ve been single for the last 3 years just about. The longest I went single before becoming a disciple was probably like 5 months hahaha. It was always boyfriend after boyfriend, never having time to learn about myself or grow into my own being, because of all the security I had placed in men. But in the last 3 months God has done wonders in freeing me from my bondage to my security in men and I’ve grown in my security in Christ 🙂 I feel like a whole new woman. It’s such a beautiful feeling :’)

          I am interested in one of the brothers from the singles ministry (I’m currently in campus, looking to transition to singles). He has persevered through so much in his life and his being rooted in God and the love of Christ is just vibrant! He treats all the sisters so well and he is so selfless and such a good friend. This guy would do anything for his friends or anyone in need, really. He’s sooo good with kids and youth. I definitely would not mind building a life with someone like that. So I’m not dating, but perhaps God will bless me with that privilege soon ;D

          But I do have many a friend who is dating and everyone is pretty open about their struggles in the relationship. Its kinda cool to be on the outside of things seeing how they are growing and being molded from these relationships. Any relationship with any human isn’t going to be smooth sailing, especially ones with romantic interest thrown in the mix. I’ve had my fair share of heart ache from that here, but again it helps you grow. You become stronger, more wise, more aware of the baggage you bring into relationships and you learn to drop it and become new again every time. Its cool. Hurts!! but its good.

          But yeah. You know I trust that if I’m not in the right place God will move me along to the right place when the time is right. He will use many things to prepare us for what he really has in store for us. If this is just a stepping stone, amen. But the friendships God has blessed me with here are priceless! :’)
          Aaaaah! Makes me cry just thinking about it. Haha.

          But yeah. Enough about me. Lol how are YOU nowadays? 🙂 much better I hope!

  6. So there’s an update 🙂 After a lot of biblical research between a group of friends and I, we’ve realized that yes.. Icoc does teach false doctrine, 3 of us, me included are planning on leaving soon. There other 2 or 3 probably will follow after.

    1. Jen, as I read your comment from a few weeks ago I did not really know how to respond because reading it sounded exactly like something ANY ICOC member would say and it really hit a nerve. I never want to be rude, especially about one’s beliefs but I do not think ICOC is a healthy place. I’m so glad you studied your bible and I encourage you to continue doing so. Find the truth, not the false doctrines on the ICOC. Please share my story. Other’s need to know. If you need help leaving, I can direct you to exit counselors. Cheers to FREEDOM!

      1. I’m sorry! Didn’t mean to stir up any past hurt. I can still honestly tell you that I’m leaving without bitterness. I’ve told a few friends in the church already and they’re all supportive and thinks its great I’m going after the truth at all costs. A few of them are looking into all of it themselves. We don’t feel pressured to stay 🙂 we’re going to check out other fellowships soon. If anyone on here still prays please pray that God does lead us to a biblically founded and sound fellowship 🙂 thank you!! 😀 I’ll miss everyone though 🙁

    2. Hi.. I came across this site and read stories here. Can you share what false doctrine does ICOC is teaching. I’m with ICOC since 1997 and yes a lot has happened in the past. Apologies, resignations and changes have been done as deemed appropriate. I still believed God’s Holy Spirit is working so that the church is being disciplined as necessary. Some who fell away are now being restored back. Please give repentance a chance..

      1. No, Most if not all that have so called “fallen away” (I say left the Cult), have NOt come back. Who would? It’s not God’s Church anyway.

  7. I was recruited into the ICOC campus ministry several years ago. At first, I loved the “church.” Everyone was so nice and made me feel welcomed. I attended service on Sunday and did a bible study once a week with campus girls. Then I started realizing whatever I did was never good enough! If I wasn’t at every service, meeting, study, or party/retreat, I was told I wasn’t being serious about becoming a christian. I would also receive 10 or more calls/texts from members asking where I was if I wasn’t there! At the time I was a student and worked part-time. If I wasn’t at work or class, I needed to study/write papers. The NYC ICOC did not understand this! I would get lectures from members about how my classes and grades were NOT that important.

    Despite seeing all these red flags, I still wanted to be part of this church. I was told if I wasn’t baptized into the ICOC, I was going to hell. When I asked to be baptized, they said NO! They said I wasn’t ready! It’s like they think they are God themselves in deciding who gets baptized! After a while and tons of studies, I was allowed to be baptized.

    Shorty after I was baptized, I decided to leave the ICOC. I couldn’t handle all the pressure. I wasn’t allowed to be friends or date outside of the church. After you are baptized, you are assigned basically a mentor to watch your every move!

    I realized the ICOC didn’t really believe in saved by grace. They added the work of baptism. They argue the thief on the cross might how been baptized or that God bent the commend for him!

    When I left, I lost my salvation according to them!

    Even though its been almost 4 years, the thought of the ICOC still bothers me! I have thoughts “what if the ICOC is right?” “what if I’ll go to hell because I don’t belong t the ICOC?”

    1. No, if you believed on Christ and Him alone for salvation, apart from works, then you are saved. The ICoC is wrong, and the people in it are unsaved. But if you trust in Christ YOU are.

  8. we don’t go to hell for not being part of the icoc… so sad how much icoc/icc leaders have distorted the truth of God’s word and tainted it, so slightly, yet so drastically! And so many have left these groups only to be totally decimated by the mere thought of any kind of standard, or rules. Grace only, faith only, belief only doctrines become so attractive to these recovering souls, looking for truth, still, without all the bad rules. Yet, the evil one has a field day of field days here, the ultimate victory for evil would be this: to get people to think that radical religion is a bunch of man made rules… And well, if that’s religion, then I want nothing to do with it…and we walk away completely from God and the bible and truth all together! “freedom in Chris” reigns, religion, with no street signs, side walks or guidelines. I’ve come to understand that God does exist, truly, and he does have amazing rules to live by and they are nothing like the icc/icoc rules, WOW what great news!!!
    However, they are still his laws, God is still the King, and we are His people, and we will do well to follow his laws (Matthew 7:21-23 is perhaps the best passage that describes the icc/icoc to a tee…)
    I hope to discuss further some day, I only briefly read through your blog posts.. Thank you for bearing your soul. But, let me encourage you (if I can still use that phrase! lol) to keep seeking truth from the bible, from the History of God’s people, the 1st century church, the apostles and their disciples – who were closest to the source (Jesus) and how they lived and what Holy living is. I have gone from the deepest parts of the church out to the darkest parts of sin in the past 38 years, and I can say with authority, God is alive, the bible is His perfect word and we will do well and be blessed to follow Him with passion and vigor like never before. For the Love of God and His Kingdom –

  9. It brings me to tears reading all the terrible experiences the kids had to go through in this icoc church, it seems the same for all victims worldwide. I am glad i left the manila church as soon as i discovered the cult culture of the group, i protected my kids from brainwashing and abuse, like forcing them to go on Sunday service, midweek and the endless meetings and studies or “spent time”, for “lifting up” & worshipping leaders and calling them “awesome”, for the demand for exact calculated tithes and “special contribution”, from force “fruitfulness” to satisfy the “stats”, from a bad and heretical theology called “first principle studies”, from the “super dooper mega ballistic fully committed sold out shitty disciple” titles, and from the damnation of “critical” members “marked” as fall aways”, and that annoying insincere feedback to lift ego that sound like this ” you are awesome brother”, an the endless “guilt tripping”. Does it not sound weirdly familiar? I thank God for saving me from all this nonsense. My prayers for all the victims.

  10. I’m trying to recover from these people right now. I prayed for years for a community of believers who were loving, accepting, and willing to study the Bible with me. They seemed to be an answered prayer. Sometimes I think I have the gift of discernment because my first encounter with them was at house church that they had on my college campus. I had found out about them when I was searching for organizations and they popped up. The Bible talk leader invited me to house church. I really had a feeling that something was wrong but I ignored it because they seemed so nice and loving. I had tried 2 different churches before this one but one was too big and the other basically made me feel bad that my hair was cut short like a boy’s (which I couldn’t help btw. I have eczema and the weave that I used for my braids broke me out. When I took the braids out my hair fell out so I had no choice but to cut it.)

    These people really seemed like an answered prayer. I had MANY red flags that I ignored because I thought I was just being sensitive. I can make it very hard to let people get to know me. So I thought, “Well since God finally answered my prayer I’ll actually be myself.” I should’ve trusted my gut. I had a bad feeling about the leader and his wife in the beginning that I ignored b/c everyone else spoke highly of them. One of the girls in my bible study group came across as fake to me from the VERY beginning. But she was the “most loving” to me so I thought I was just being too guarded. I didn’t agree with the sin list but I did it anyway for the sake of having community. But I knew that after the sin list came the cross study and we didn’t do that. The fake woman that I mentioned earlier said that we were going to do a study on sexual impurity and some other things that I later realized were on my sin list. I was annoyed and I didn’t do any more studies after that.

    I went home for Christmas and decided to research the Scriptures they used to see if they were used in proper context. They weren’t. I feel betrayed and utterly stupid. I talked with a guy who goes to that church to see if he agreed with everything they said and surprisingly he said he doesn’t. However, he said he won’t leave because he feels God has him there for a reason. I left. And after I left, the same people who were nice and constantly declaring how they “love” me and how awesome I am act completely different. All of that was fake and I’m mad. I’m mad at them. Mad at myself. Mad at God. I don’t even see the point in trying anymore. What hurts the most is that I PRAYED for years to meet people like them…or who I thought they were. And when it seemed like God was finally giving me what I wanted, he snatched it away.

    The crazy thing is, I’ve thought about going back numerous times between January and today just to feel loved again. But I have to remind myself that they never loved me in the first place. I’d be cheating myself. I don’t even know what real love is.

    1. As of recent in their “Good News Emails” , it was announced that Kip Mckean will be stepping down as leader of the City of Angels Church next year.

      Thank you God

          1. Yes I noticed that… although the rumors had started before this. And I’m not convinced that Kip is going to keep his head down. He’s much too power hungry.

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