So… I grew up in a cult…

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Being authentic is extremely important to me… now. This wasn’t always true, well maybe it has always been true, but I pushed the real part of me back and put on a front, a mask, with a big cheesy smile plastered right in the middle. This is how I survived, although I certainly wasn’t living. I have talked about the “church” *cough* cult *cough* I grew up in ( http://healthymama.net/?p=38 ) and how badly it screwed me up. Thinking back, I don’t know when I knew there was something wrong, but I think I was born questioning and pushing boundaries. Not every “Kingdom Kid” (that’s what they called us, the kids who grew up in The International Church of Christ “ICOC”) is as scarred as I am, and some were burned far deeply than I was. I am just the vocal one. A lot of the Kingdom Kids have let it go, they are “over it”, some still believe in god, some found other churches, and others completely turned away from any form of religion… and a few have been completely deluded and brainwashed and have been baptized, became “disciples” (basically a hoity toity way of saying you are a Christian, because that’s how Jesus refers to his followers, the term “Christian” was only used a few times in The Bible.) devoted their lives to “evangelizing” (recruiting) the “world” (everyone who is not already a disciple). Many of whom have also cut off their families, and friends unless they are part of ICOC or ICC ( International Christian Churches, the relatively new faction, an offshoot of the original church, led by Kip McKean , who was asked to step down from leadership, so he started a whole new church, and recruited a lot of the disciples from ICOC in a time where the church was very weak thanks to a lot of very shady going-ons.). I even know families who are divided between the two churches… and “The World”. The saddest thing for me is to see these adult Kingdom Kids, my would be, once upon a time brothers and sisters, and to experience their judgments and feel that complete disconnect. I wonder if they went back, or stayed because they need to feel a part of something. ICOC really was a huge family in it’s prime. I grew up in those rooms, in the bowels of The Shrine Auditorium every other week, and then sitting in those red cushioned chairs during huge church conferences. I was there the night we rented out The Rose Bowl, and the monumental night we filled The Staples Center (this was when the church had to come together to address Henry Kriete’s letter to the ICOC http://www.tolc.org/kriete.htm ) I went on “vacation” to “Shake n’ Bake” (an annual retreat to Palm Springs were we had marathon church services and classes) I went to summer camp Kingdom Kids from all over California, for as long as I can remember. These people were my family, some are still my best friends. I got married about 3 months ago, and I had 9 bridesmaids, 6 of them were Kingdom Kids, and all 6 of them have as little to do with ICOC/ICC as possible… this is difficult as 3 of them have family that are leaders or are just active in one or the other church. As you can see, I have maintained relationships from ICOC, and to be honest, I am thankful for the church for giving me such amazing friendships, and teaching me how to be a friend, how to forgive, and instilling an integrity in me I may have otherwise never found.

My wedding, all my beautiful bridesmaids, and my hubby
My wedding, all my beautiful bridesmaids, and my hubby

Unfortunately, this integrity, and ability to make deep lasting friendships came at a huge cost. For years I didn’t know myself because I was not allowed to be myself. I was taught to be a model Christian, and was brainwashed into following not The Bible, but my leaders to a fault. The problem with following people is they all have their own ideas on what you should say, think, feel and do. And they didn’t give you the option to make your own decision, they flat out told us. And they were wrong. I know many of them came into the church with their hearts in the right place, but over time things got really fucked up. We were not really allowed to be ourselves, and were forced to live a “Fake it til you make it” mentality. I knew that I had to put on a smiling face, and hug everyone I saw and met, even if I felt uncomfortable, even if I didn’t want to be touched, especially by strangers, my job was to make everyone around me comfortable, at the expense of my own comfort. This was the beginning of me ignoring my intuition, and second guessing myself… the beginning of me not being true to myself, when I began willingly putting myself in situations that were not healthy because I was TOLD to. I did not have the option to say “no” when I was asked by my “discipler” (kind of like a sponsor in AA, or a mentor) or a leader to do something, I was rebuked if I didn’t follow their directions or advice. We were not given the chance to think for ourselves, and if we did, and we spoke our thoughts, we were rebuked, belittled and shamed. There were really dumb rules, like, if a fellow kingdom kid asked you out on a date, you had to say yes, even if you didn’t want to. They said dating was about building friendships, but we all knew better, and certainly knew what a date was, and whether we wanted to date someone or not, and that did not help me as a young adult when it was time to say no…

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I had a particularly rough time because my dad is not only sober, but he has worked in rehabs my entire life! So I had the strictness of church, AND the strictness of “The Program” (in Alcoholics Anonymous there is a book they call The Big Book, not to be confused with The Bible, but equally as important when you are an addict, and it has a 12 Step Program that you follow to help you to stay clean.) I think the fact that my dad had already been in the Program, when he found the church, a church that prided itself on many of the same things that AA does, you see, ICOC may not have  12 Steps, but we did have The First Principles, which were mandatory studies that you had to go through in order to get baptized into ICOC, some of them were really intense, like “Light and Darkness” where you confess all of your sins. Even if you are only 12 and you have yet to sin for real. You literally catalog your sins, as many as you remember, (focusing specifically on sexual “sins” because the church seemed to have an obsession with sex, although they preached purity, they had people share during communion, and more often then not they chose people with a history of promiscuity and they would tell the entire congregation, and cry, and feel totally “ashamed”.) don’t worry, they give you guidelines, so you don’t miss anything, and then you apologize to whomever requires an apology. In AA there is a step where you basically do the same, and make amends to anyone you have hurt. There are a lot of similarities between the two, but a few of the main similarities is having a sponsor (discipler), a fallible, human who is there to keep you accountable, and help you when you struggle with anything that can lead you to “sinning” or in AA’s case, using. Another is the importance of fellowship, in AA you are encouraged to go to as many meetings as you can make it to, and surround yourself with other people who are in Program, ICOC encouraged us to go to church, midweek, or Bible study several days a week, and discourages maintaining relationships with people who are not part of the church, unless you are converting them, of course. So, as you can see, this environment made perfect sense for my dad. But if you are not in Program then the church was probably a little extreme. I grew up kind of meshing the 2 groups into one, kind of like some kids have the confusion between Santa Clause and God, well that was me, I thought that drinking alcohol was a sin, and was confused when I saw my friend’s parents drink a glass of wine at dinner. No one ever really explained anything reasonably to me, all I was ever told were absolutes, I lived in a world that was black and white. It was either, be good, or go to Hell. We were not Catholic, but the guilt trips were laid on thick! To further my confusion, my dad and step mom were perfect examples of what a Christian should be, they held Bible Studies in our home, never swore, or used god’s name in vain, they were never late to church, or missed a service, they were consistent and very strict, they “Shared their faith” (invited strangers to church). All things that you might expect in a Christian home. My friend’s from school, had parents who were very lenient, and although they went to youth groups, my church told me those other churches were not “real” churches, so all my friends were going to Hell, even though they were not “bad”, but, you know, I saw their dad drink a beer, so….

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I still have a really hard time when I talk to people who claim Christianity, but don’t follow The Bible, you have to understand, I was brain washed, I grew up believing that you lived your religion, and you put it before anything else. So, forgive me if I roll my eyes when you tell me that you only go to church on Christmas eve and Easter… when I grew up, we went to church unless we were vomiting, and we went 3 days a week! I had to go door to door inviting people to church (humiliating), I was not allowed to wear spaghetti straps, and my family prayed before every meal. I talk to people who are “Christians” but they live with their boyfriend… and these same people hate homosexuals for no other reason than they think The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. I knew people who were basically forced to get a divorce because their spouse didn’t go to the church, and “You can’t be yolked to an unbeliever”. This church was a mess, a hypocritical mess! But I still don’t think you’re a Christian if you don’t follow the rules in The Bible. Yeah, I’m still confused my my strong feelings.

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Some of the kids may have had it harder, as they were not born into the ICOC, their lives were flipped upside down when their parents took the (baptismal) plunge. Some of these kids flat our refused to have anything to do with ICOC, and were dragged to events sometimes because parents were considered to be in sin if their whole families were not part of the church. This was a particular issue when us Kingdom Kids were in middle school and high school, we may have been the perfect kids before, and as such we helped our parents climb the spiritual ladder to leadership status, but once we began rebelling, it was our parents who had to take responsibility, and eventually, lost their status, and in some cases their jobs if they were part of the ministry. But don’t worry, the church was really good at “fixing” problems. When a minister’s daughter ran off with some guy she met on the internet, the church kept it really hush-hush and moved the entire family to another region to continue leading. Another time, an Elder’s son confessed to basically pretending to be a disciple (as we all did on some level or another) and from my understanding wanted out of the church, he was given a secret baptism so his family could maintain their status, and so his discipler, the leader of the Teen Ministry didn’t look bad. When I was 15, not long after I was baptized, I broke down and tried to “Fall Away” (leave the church), I was really close with our regions minister’s daughter, so her mom took me out for coffee and bribed me to stay, and when I agreed it was never spoken of again. What did that teach us?  That secrecy is OK as long as it was the church’s idea? That the church will cover for you if you’re valuable enough? That the church really only cares about their numbers, and how much were were tithing.

 

I don’t think I ever really believed in god, I think I was told what to believe, and told not to think, and for a while I just went with it. But when I was 11 I started questioning, and I never stopped. I was told over and over that the I was not good enough, that my personality was too flirty, but if I turned off, and shut down, I was told that I was being selfish and having a pity party, and needed to be “out of myself”. I left the church when I was 16, (my family was actually black listed) and was struggling badly with an eating disorder. I went to rehab, which is where I started to discover myself (fitting, as the company was called Center For Discovery). this was the first safe place I had ever been, I was allowed to tell the truth, say what I felt and thought and I wasn’t told I was wrong, in fact, the opposite, I was totally nurtured for the first time in my life, my lack of faith in god was not ignored, it was validated.

The years following rehab were growing and learning years, they were some of the hardest years, but during that time, little by little, I started to shake off the fake me, even if people didn’t like it. I started standing up for what I believed, even if it completely contradicted what you believe. I finally found my voice, the voice that said, “Don’t touch me.” When he put his hands on me, the voice that stood behind my sister when she came out, and has not stopped fighting for equality. The voice that told the truth when I was miserable and pregnant and hated life, and has continued telling women that pregnancy and motherhood is not all rainbows and unicorns. This voice speaks up when something is not right, and sometimes blows up when I am angry… If I had not found my voice, I would still be stuck in a miserable, lonely relationship, far away from everyone I love, not living, surviving.

I am thankful for my upbringing in The ICOC because I feel that it opened my eyes to how fallible people really are, that right and wrong is not black and white, that there is a gray area, and it’s something inside you that tells you if it’s OK. We have a conscience for a reason and I don’t need a book or a person to tell me how to live. I am so comfortable with doing what feels right to me, and saying no when I need to, validating myself when no one else will, because that’s a life lesson we all need to learn… if we are unhappy we are giving someone else control, someone else is calling the shots, maybe it’s not your church, maybe it’s your mom? Whomever it is, it’s not their life, and I am giving you my blessing to stand up for yourself, and follow your heart and TAKE BACK YOUR LIFE.

*I am not encouraging you to tell everyone in your life to fuck off, I am encouraging you to find yourself and follow your heart, not someone else’s plan for your life.*

****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.

 

43 thoughts on “So… I grew up in a cult…”

  1. Touching to the core. Was raised catholic. I call myaelf a recovering catholic. Have not turned from God but from the church itself.

    This truly moved me justine!!!!
    I Love you girl

  2. I was born into the ICOC (in Hampton Roads, VA) and left October of 2012 and it breaks my heart to think back on things that I once thought “made sense” or I “deserved” or that I just wasn’t “as spiritual” as people and really it was controlling, manipulative, disgusting behavior. I have quite a few close friends who I’ve been able to sit down with who’ve also left the church and it seems no coincidence to me that we all struggle from some for of mental health issue after being raised in the church. I really appreciated this. I actually have pictures of me at the Krietes house in Virginia Beach, my brother was best friends with their son (all of this before the letter of course), it’s strange to think how much can change in just months.

      1. Wow, there is just so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. I guess before I go in I should say that I’m an Atheist and I’ve been going to ICOC for about 4 years now. I do because they’re great people that follow what they believe zealously and Ive made some of my best friends in the church and It’s total bullshit to call them a cult for baptizing people and following what they believe. In the Bible it just says that you have to become a disciple by being baptized to go to Heaven, it’s pretty straight forward. Now if you’ve read the Bible at all you would know that.

        Just to be clear, I’m not advocating everything the ICOC church does because I haven’t been to every ICOC church out there. Obviously everyone has their problems and this doesn’t exclude the church. I’ve been to the church out in Austin, New York, and now the Virginia Beach region and for the most part they’re nice people. There is the occasional fanatic that gets on your case for not studying the Bible every so often, but that’s only because he/ she just wants you to be saved

        Barely anyone ever pressured me into studying the Bible, getting baptized, etc, even when I told them I wasnt a Christian. I don’t know anything about the California church and how they were ” obsessed with sex” but maybe it could’ve been that your fellow church goers had immorality issues that were very prominent in the church. I believe the reason that have your problems is that you wouldn’t admit that you weren’t a Christian and the ACTUAL Christians had a problem with how you were living a double-life as a “devout Christian” and living in the secular world.

        And another thing I have to say is that drinking alcohol isn’t a sin, over-indulging and getting shit-faced is. Any substance that obscures your way of thinking is of a corrupt nature.
        Shit even Jesus drank wine.

        1. u had a very different experience that the majority…I know a woman who has never met her son in law or grandkids…family estrangement is the game ….how loving is that? It.is a nasty cult

          1. Very nasty! I am often sent emails from family members of “disciples” who are desperately trying to creat relationships with loved ones who have been sucked into the cult.

    1. I have went to the hampton roads church of Christ and have just recently left. I am now reading the King James Version on my own and discovering Christ and true Christianity for myself. What is this letter that I keep hearing of ?

      1. John, the Henry Kriete letter is really long, but I’m going to post his website so you can read the letter, and also see the aftermath– the fall out. I can only speak for LA, but the after this letter circulated we had a HUGE meeting at the Staples Center (I was only 16 and hadn’t heard of the letter until this meeting) I’m pretty sure that’s when they addressed that there had been a letter, we were all welcomed to read it, and they asked Kip to step down. (again, I was a kid and had no idea what all this meant) After that our sector became emptier and emptier, and my parent’s were torn apart, some of their closest friends were leaving, choosing smaller “factions” or different churches altogether. My parent’s tested out a few and ultimately left and were “marked”. This letter opened a lot of people’s eyes to what was really going on in the ICOC. People had been turning a blind eye for a long time… http://www.tolc.org/kriete.htm

  3. I notice that the reveal.org refers to Kip McKeon as the current leader, with a small note that as of 2002 he has stepped down and the new leader has not been named. Is there a reason this information has not been updated in 12 years?

    1. The church is no longer structured with a single leader at its head. This was identified as a problem after the 2002 break down and later repentance of church leadership.

      1. The church is still very flawed, while I know there is not only one leader, the leadership is still unhealthy. I receive emails weekly from members who are trying to leave, from family members who who have been disconnected from their loved ones because the ICOC still encourages their members to commit fully to the church (not god) and members give their lives to the point that they can no longer relate to their own families, they do not have time or energy to be a part of anything that is not church related, and are so isolated that they have no where to go when they are ready to escape. These posts may be focused more on the past, but I assure you the abuse continues. There are serious problems within this organization.

  4. Hey healthy mama, I just wanted to leave some thoughts with you. I have been a part of the church for some time, even before the letter. I remember some of the antics that you are referring to, but did not experience the mind control tactics and drama that you are referring to. But I do know that some of the brother and sisters that had been around for a while, were very fired up and extreme about sin and doing Gods work and in their ignorance may have taken things too far, ( just like the Catholic Church doesn’t allow priest to marry, and now you have guys taking out their sexual frustrations by molesting children). When you take things out of context, the by product is never good. I had a different experience in the church, specially after the letter a lot of people realized that you can’t control people and make them love God, everyone has free will to live and have the to will obey the scriptures or to let their sinful nature overcome them, which is what the daily struggle is about, But ultimately the bible is the bible. if your are a true follower/ disciple/ Christian, term that came later and it was used as a derogatory term to refer to those who imitated Christ, you have to do what God says. How hard you go after it is based in your own convictions. Jesus said “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (‭Mark‬ ‭3‬:‭33-35‬ NIV) do you think Jesus would stop his ministry if his mother Mary and family members did not believe in what he was doing? Well they actually thought he was crazy, but he pressed on because he loved God and wanted to be obedient. Again, I am sorry that you were not loved and cared for by the people that were around you, but that is not what I have seen and that is not what my family and I are about. Jesus also said ” Love your neighbor like your self” second greatest commandment, that’s what is all about. This is not meat to be argumentative, but informative, God wants his church unified, not at war with each other. God has a plan for each one of us, we just have to let him lead and help others along the way.
    Sincerely
    Elliot.

      1. It also says that few are chosen in the Bible.

        I am sure the devil has a lot to do with the confusion you have about the church family, God, & the Bible. If you aren’t a child of God , you are a child of the devil.

        Repent & be baptized hun.

        All love, no h8.

          1. I was a member of the ICOC in the same Sector of the same Region with Healthymama and I know what I know – and that her experiences are accurate and not blown out of proportion. I was a married adult and left the church when our kids were 5 because we did not want them growing up in such a hypocritical, judgmental, legalistic, “spiritual” culture. I had even been a regional singles leader and was in the church for 16 years! My 15 year old twins are getting baptized this weekend and I’m so grateful that they were NOT raised to be spiritually condescending, self righteous gossips. It’s insulting to my soul knowing this type of behavior still goes on. Maybe not in as obvious ways, but the cult culture is live and well in the ICOC and their off shoots. I suggest to everyone in and out of the church to read “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” and see if it rings true to you.

  5. Thanks for your story. I joined the ICOC in Hampton Roads, VA as a single adult female in 2002 and was trapped for 5 years before I walked away in 2007. As an adult my experiences were pretty much the same. I had to seek advice from my discipler prior to any major decisions I made in my life and was often told I was being defiant and too independent by not involving my discipler in my decisions. I was told that I should not be living alone that I needed to let another single sister move in with me to help hold me accountable to my sins and to make sure that I was living by God’s standards. The final straw was when I was when I refused to go out on a date with a brother and I was rebuked for not being encouraging. I thought I had made some great friends through the church but when I walked away all but three stopped talking to me and those three are still good friends to this day. After leaving the church I struggled with my faith and have finally got to a point where I do not feel like I am just attending church because the Bible says I should but because I want to. I recently returned to the Hampton Roads area and visited the church with a friend and one of the sisters from before recognized me and asked me if I wanted to start studying the Bible again and rejoin the church. I could not get out of there fast enough.

    I finally found a church that I enjoy but I am still weary of joining one of the groups at the church due to my experience with with the ICOC.

    1. Interesting
      I’ve been going to the ICOC church in va beach region for the past couple of years and it doesn’t seem as bad as you make it out to be.
      Just be straight up, say no and tell them that you ask God for forgiveness.

  6. I’ve stopped going since before Thanksgiving get 2014. Blaming on illness, work and school. I’ve been bombarded with “love” texts and “we’re worried about your spiritual health” texts. Even “using” my husband’s name against me regarding what he mentioned in passing. I don’t trust them. They may have “changed” a little since Kip McLean left bUT not alot. A ton of hierarchy and bombarding with either love bombing or guiltily you. The “discipling” on what you should do, work, go to school or live is nuts. And , heaven forbid you’re rebuked for not taking their “advice”. God hasn’t rained money down on us to pay for the roof over my head, we both have to work and I’m furthering my education. Apparently it’s all sin since we went agains advice. It’s a crazy mess, the “kingdom kids” are rude. The teens have snubbed my teens because my teens don’t want to study.

    1. Wow, there is just so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. I guess before I go in I should say that I’m an Atheist and I’ve been going to ICOC for about 4 years now. I do because they’re great people that follow what they believe zealously and Ive made some of my best friends in the church and It’s total bullshit to call them a cult for baptizing people and following what they believe. In the Bible it just says that you have to become a disciple by being baptized to go to Heaven, it’s pretty straight forward. Now if you’ve read the Bible at all you would know that.

      Just to be clear, I’m not advocating everything the ICOC church does because I haven’t been to every ICOC church out there. Obviously everyone has their problems and this doesn’t exclude the church. I’ve been to the church out in Austin, New York, and now the Virginia Beach region and for the most part they’re nice people. There is the occasional fanatic that gets on your case for not studying the Bible every so often, but that’s only because he/ she just wants you to be saved

      Barely anyone ever pressured me into studying the Bible, getting baptized, etc, even when I told them I wasnt a Christian. I don’t know anything about the California church and how they were ” obsessed with sex” but maybe it could’ve been that your fellow church goers had immorality issues that were very prominent in the church. I believe the reason that have your problems is that you wouldn’t admit that you weren’t a Christian and the ACTUAL Christians had a problem with how you were living a double-life as a “devout Christian” and living in the secular world.

      And another thing I have to say is that drinking alcohol isn’t a sin, over-indulging and getting shit-faced is. Any substance that obscures your way of thinking is of a corrupt nature.
      Shit even Jesus drank wine.

      1. I don’t call ICOC a cult because they baptize people, it is a cult because they brain wash people. I am happy you are able to come and go in various regions… that’s not the way it typically works. In fact, there is usually a shit ton of control. Why no one seems to bother with you, as an atheist… I can’t fathom. IF you read my blogs, you’d see that many people have been abused by members– leaders in the ICOC. I was a kingdom kid, meaning I grew up in ICOC, soooo the chances of me “not being a real christian” is absurd, as I was a CHILD. I certainly wasn’t living a double life, either as I was much too busy going to church 3-4 times a week. Also, I have no problem with alcohol and I don’t believe in god, anyways. ICOC helped… I have read the bible, ALL OF IT, and it proved to me that there is no god, as did the abuse and lies and hypocrisy, of course.

    2. I don’t know where your from but I’m a fucking atheist and they accepted me in Austin nyc and va beach so maybe it’s not you and your kids not wanting to study but maybe it’s more of an attitude thing, like maybe you a your kids are assholes. Just accept it if it’s true. I would know because I’m an asshole.
      Good luck and I hope you start to see straight. Bye

      1. Yeah, there’s so much wrong with your response to her comment because you are contradicting yourself.

        To be an atheist in the Hampton Roads Church… trust me… they aren’t “Accepting” of you. My parents lead in HRC and I know what is said behind closed doors, at leader’s meetings, who is studying, who isn’t, all the details of peoples’ lives and I’m almost POSITIVE they are confused by the double life you lead. Why would you even go to church if you are an atheist? Why do you even believe in sin if you are an atheist? Oh and HRC might not be as “obsessed with sex” as you think, but trust me there are plenty of groups that meet for substance abuse, sexual support groups etc. It seems to me that you attacking someone for not going to a church because they believe it to a cult is so baffling and counter-productive. If you are the atheist you say you are, why are you wasting your time going to church? There are plenty of other religious or non-religious groups out there that are practicing what they preach. I know for sure that everyone at the end of the day, in HRC believes that you are going to hell (Whether you believe in hell or not) since you claim to be an atheist and you’re not a disciple. It makes no sense that you would even attend a church so consistently to begin with. If anything it’s insulting to members of the church that you attend but with no real practice behind it. It’s cruel to get peoples’ hopes up (and I know that you are) there are so many people in that church that are probably confused as to why you go, but so many that are probably praying for you to turn from atheism and study the Bible. You have to know that from sitting through the sermons.

        I know full well, Mike, Terrie, Ed, Deb, Phil, Ayana, none of them are “cool with you” being an atheist. It paints the wrong picture of what the church is and stands for and I know without a doubt that you’ve most likely been talked about behind closed doors.

        Good luck to you though. I suggest you find a healthier outlet for a group of people living the life they lead… like say…maybe an atheist group or … a non religious hobby.

  7. Is this church now called “Hampton Roads Church?” It sounds like a church my sister goes to, with the disciples and that…sounds like they brainwash considering all the crap I hear from her.

  8. Like many others, I confirm that what Healthymamma wrote is Like many others, I confirm that what Healthymamma wrote is correct. I was baptized in the church while in college. I only attended for 1 1/2 years, but that was enough to damage me for life. Campus ministry is notorious for being especially intense and the most hardcore ICOC ministry.

    I was ultimately kicked out of the church because I didn’t want a disciplier. I was accused of being “divisive” and asked to leave. This was before the Kriete letter. After the letter, I returned and was “restored” to the church because I thought things were different. They are a little different, but I believe at it’s core ICOC is real Christianity. IMHO, you won’t find another group on earth that knows and lives the bible more literally than the ICOC/ICC.

    I am still a member, but I want to leave, but I have too much invested at this point, it is not possible. Someone wrote about the mental and psychological issues members face. I am dealing with those issues now. It is hard since I’m still a member.

    Always doubting yourself, wondering if you should follow your heart or if your “heart is deceitful above all things, who can understand it?” Worried about going to eternal damnation…the pressure to stay in the fold, to evangelize, share our faith, make disciples, “be open” during d-times, to “never give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing,”

    (Most of the time I don’t want to talk to you, leave me alone, thank you, but that would be sin to say that, instead I smile and talk about how my quiet times are going)…on and on…the constant pressure to do more for God…every sermon is about how we need to do more and how sinful we are…on and on…those who were part of the church can relate…

    Sorry for the rant, but just found your page and been keeping this bottled up inside…

    Kwan

  9. After reading your post, I can certainly see why you left the church. I, myself, became a member of the ICOC almost 17 years ago, becoming a part of the church branched in Westwrn Massachusetts, which was at the tail end of when all of that crap was going on with the church. I was even told I could not move to Connecticut to get married because it is the wife that must move because the man leads the family therefore must stay put and also that it would lessen the numbers of the church. My wife told me the horror stories of what she had to put up with with the church. I even saw how it brainwashed her in that she had that guilty mindset where if she felt she had to make every service no matter how tired or sick she was. I, myself, was told not to read at anything negative about the church because it was “spiritual pornography.” I thought that some people of the church, be they in the ministry or laypeople, were bossy to the point f being overbearing. But that was then. That was when Kip McKean ruled the church with an iron fist even though the church was not supposed to be run that way. Kip McKean even hid his children leave the church! Still, he wanted to be the “leader.” The guy, as I got to know him better, was a TOTAL control freak!!! He also is as arrogant a person as I think I will ever know Too! When he got removed from the ICOC ministry, he had the audacity to create a church in Portland, Oregon that was run like an ICOC church but wasn’t part of it. Upon finding this out, I said to myself that it wouldn’t take long for the members of the congregation of this church to see how maniacal this guy was and boot him out the door. I was right. After Henry Kriete’s letter, the best thing that ever happened to the church was when they kicked his ass to the curb! Gradually after the big apology from the church head-honchos, I did see the church improve. This is why I stayed. One thing about being a Polack is my breed is known to have a who,e lot of stubborn in them. So, if I didn’t see eye-to-eye in regards to something, I’d speak up. I’ve had the fire and brimstone rath come down on me and still had to put up with stuff that I thought was bullshit but I just remembered that their hearts were in the right place even though I thought their heads weren’t. At the same time, I was shown where my head truly wasn’t in the right place. Those who showed me this were actually right and I was actually wrong. There was a time I did something because I felt it was better to do it than put up with the bullshit afterwards. In some cases, that which I felt forced to do I wound up feeling was a good thing afterwards, not every time but, on occasion, yes. At least, as of right now, I have the luxury of having the time on my hands to research stuff which is what I have done with the ICOC compared to other “religions”. (I put the word “religions” in quotation marks because I hate the word.), any “religion” can have cult-like symptoms and be considered a cult because some of it is do as I say and only what I say. I saw that as a Roman Catholic and going to parochial school for years after transferring from a public school. I took my share of physical abuse from the nuns because when I was there they felt that they had the authority to slap and rap students if they felt they weren’t obeying them. Hypocracy has been exposed in many churches too. I assume all churches have had their share of hyporicy in one form or another but since I don’t factually know that for certain then I can only state this as an assumption. Only God is perfect. However, I have yet to find a church that is humble enough to try and fix their mistakes to the best of their abilities as the ICOC does now. The Roman Catholic faith is so arrogantly prideful and so stuck in tradition that it has proven come back to haunt them with catastrophically with many of the pediophilliac cases that finally put the priests engaged in this behind bars where they belong after the families of the victims had the nerve to come forward after being threatened by the Roman Catholic leaders not to do so and with the Roman Catholic leaders doing anything and everything they could to cover this terrible scandal up. To me there are three types of people who do not belong on this planet we call earth: pedophiles, racists and rapists. What the Roman Catholic Church was involved in with this is far worse than anything that the ICOC has done. When I was part of an ICOC church for Hartford, Connecticut, the head minister at the time mentioned in a sermon he gave that if he could find a better church then he would immediately leave the ICOC for it. I would too, in a heartbeat. I had the leader of a Bible study group or discipling group or whatever it’s called who, to this day, is still a close and personal friend of mine, once read to me a scripture that he used to tell me why I shouldn’t be looking at that so-called “spiritual pornography.” He’s been involved with the church longer than I have so was deeper into it when all that do-as-I-say bullshit was going on. I had mentioned to him that, perhaps, there is a reason as to why these former ICOC members are saying what they are about the church and that by reading it something could be learned from it so that the church could fix itself. After the Henry Kriete’s letter came out, the apologies were given by the head honchos and Kip McKean was let go, I asked him if, in retrospect, had the members of the church adhered to the negative commentary about it instead of labeling it as “spiritual pornography” and ignoring it would the church have been better off then. He told me that I was right, the members of the church should have paid attention to it and not ignored it because if it had it would have been better off a whole lot sooner. Pride can be quite lethal. It breeds stubbornness which is equally as dangerous since it can block the rational part of the brain from even seeing, let alone doing the right thing. From there mistakes, catastrophic ones in some cases, occur and can dig deeper into a bad situation and make it into a terrible one. This wound can fester and cause total chaos and then destruction. The ICOC finally saw the error of their ways. Before they did a lot of people felt the need to leave because of the way they were treated. I find absolutely no fault in their doing that and don’t in the least blame them for doing it. However, when used properly, the Bible is a wonderful instrument. It is, above all else, a guidebook. When it is used as such it is a beautiful thing. I am speaking from experience. Since I read and studied it through and put into practice what it said my life was in a different place. It was filled with many questions that weren’t getting any answers and without the answers I felt were needed, I was making many mistakes. Now, no. It is when the Bible is used as a rule book when problems occur. That was what happened with the ICOC. The Bible states the need to forgive. I wholeheartedly believe in this. Regardless of what it is, I choose to forgive. I remember once when I was working for my father and uncle (They’re brothers.) in their liquor store, two little girls came in practically simultaneously, one through the front door and the other through the back side door. Upon seeing each other they gleefully said each other’s names and ran to each other and gave each other a great big hug. We are born into this world to love. These little girls were great examples of this. How people as they get older forget how to love unconditionally only shows how a lack of forgiveness will make a person forget how to love. That, of course, is when contempt will occur and life becomes shitty. Before I listen to anyone about anything, I listen to the Bible. With an open heart comes an open heart and the combination of the two make the Bible so easy to comprehend and, as such, putting it into practice is easy to do. I still see the ICOC righting their wrongs. Sure there will be the occasional confrontation but that’s when you look beneath the surface and see if they are at least heart-felt with the situation. If he or she are then I know he or she means well even if they aren’t doing well at that time. That, too, I learned through the Bible. As long as the ICOC, as a whole, continues to fix things from the past and continue uses to fix what needs to be fixed in the present and future. If they don’t then I will no longer be a part of them. It’s as simple as that. I know you went through a really tough time when you were a part of the ICOC when all that bullshit was happening. I know, too, what it can do because I see how it effected my wife. She even admits now that the church had brainwashed her in some ways. At first, when I told her this, she wouldn’t agree. Now, however, she does. Like me, she forgave. I’m not telling you what you yourself should do. I am only suggesting that you keep the Bible in your heart so that it will be I your head.
    Through it life will be better. No church on this planet can do that because no church in this planet can do what it does. I just pray that, if not right away, then someday, you will see that.

  10. I can totally relate to your story and know EXACTLY ALL what you are talking about, been there done that felt all what you’ve felt. I only wish i could of left as young as you did.

    i am a former member who left around 2003. i was recruited at age 16 (was in it for 13yrs of my youth-gone). i lived with world sector leaders as a nanny (i didn’t want to be one but it was like u should, why wouldn’t u, you’ll be more spiritual if u did kind of brainwashing), well the reason i wanted to reach out is because I’ve been trying to get my story out. something happened to me in 1999 while in SF that took so many years to understand fully. since i was so naive when i entered the church, i didn’t understand. but basically i wanted to let u know that Kip was planning to have a “super church” way back in 1999 and Portland was planned from back then. He wanted to know better techniques his world sector leaders came up with to create his “super church”. One of his “winners” was Russ Ewell from the SF ICOC, now known as BACC. Portland was led by Ewell. So an agreement and deal was made to take over Portland and “trained leaders” were to join Kip from Russ Ewell. (but of coarse this was under the table). The reason i know this is because i worked for the church office in SF. and one day i needed a laptop but the IT gave me Russ’ old laptop and forgot to delete the files. i thought the folder was all sermons but one was a letter to kip. and when Russ found out i had the laptop, quickly he checked and saw i had read it and then a few weeks later i was accused of pornography, (which came out of the blue..i didn’t look at any pornography…but once i clicked on swing dance music from the 50s on my personal computer and IT said it was a sex site) so immediately i was fired and kicked out of his home. but later i realized its because that letter had plans for the “super” church and also info about how the world sector leaders were to submit ideas and techniques on better “leader making ways” etc etc. which included “selecting prideful people” and then “humbling them to be maluable like clay for the potter” so that they can be “obedient”. So basically I was character assassinated. and even when i left SF, they called the church in the area i was at and told them i was an impure addict to porn etc etc. in the meanwhile i was a virgin who never did any sexual activity nor even looked at porn, young and naive. but in case i were to ever tell any stories about what i knew, i had to be discredited. my youth was taken away by this church and my mind controlled and my career disrupted and my self worth broken. its a horrible deceitful system of religion led by criminals and hypocrites. Russ was a rapist of teens and kip with homosexual tendencies. the sin study is based on Alcoholics Annonymous tactics by confessing every detail of sin to not do it again etc etc. Plus the mainland church of christ began by Alexander Campbell has always had branches of cults from cults to more cults since the 1820s. The reason it’ll always keep going is because the set of scriptures that are used in their studies are selected from a “political manipulation techniques” since the Bible itself has gone through so many translations/countries/political systems, etc. that it can be used easily for manipulation tactics. (Even Hitler used the Bible to manipulate his masses). The Bible is only one tiny piece of a puzzle of who Jesus really was, even theres a scripture that says the amount of Books about Jesus are too many to count. (paraphrasing). Anyway it took me ten years to understand what i went through in my youth in this church and ten more years to understand what spirituality is. We are eternal beings and this life here on earth is only a tiny spec. Eternity is a loooonnnnggg time. Knowing the creator of this universe will be in all eternity so whether or not we learn it in this lifetime doesn’t mean its the end of learning.

  11. I am not sure if this site is still monitored but just found it when I decided to see if the ICOC was still around. After reading these comments and the feelings from others it gave me a little relief or justification for my decision to leave LA area in the 90’s. I won’t hash out old happenings or feelings but I will say this. When I first started going to the Church it felt like home but it was short lived. I had only come to know Christ shortly before being invited to the Church. So as my faith and studies of the Bible grew it gave me more questions than answers about what we were doing or sharing with others. I was often shut down harshly when I had questions during my discipleship time or the questions were skirted around by pulling scripture out of context. When I left it was the most intense and evil thing I have ever witnessed. I was in college at the time and went through multiple days of campus leadership members for the area visiting me and barraging me with scripture, praying and telling me they loved me and didn’t want me to go to Hell. Anyway on the final day I was visited by the main area campus leader within the area. He did most of the talking this day and after a couple hours or more, with this guy telling me he cared and loved me as a brother … I just said if this is true, then why have been to many of the same area functions as you and you have never said one word to me, not even after I was babtized. I basically said one last time I am leaving and nothing will change my mind. The group basically all stood up, the main guy looked at me a said well you are going to hell and something to the matter of … He/we had done everything they could and it is basically my problem. Well long story … these interactions have basically left a lasting impression even to this day with Religion, Church and trusting the members as being genuine. Since this encounter with ICOC I continue to search for the so called perfect Church but always struggle with trust which prevents me from wanting to open up or let Christian members close. This usually resulted with me leaving or just being a body in a chair on Sunday. Well thanks for the site and allowing me to ramble and I wish the best for the many others that went through the same type of thing and hope they have found peace.

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