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REVEAL: About the ICC

The Organization of the International Churches of Christ, prior to the Henry Kriete Letter, 2003

The ICC had a complex and highly hierarchical organizational structure, unusually so for a relatively new and small religious group. There are many layers of leadership, similar to a pyramid or the Roman Catholic Church.

ICC Organization Chart

The ICC has a pyramid-shaped, hierarchical structure of authority. At the top was Kip McKean, the World Missions Evangelist, and his wife Elena Garcia-McKean, who served as Women's Ministry Leader for the group as a whole. As of November of 2002, the Mckeans resigned from their leadership positions due to family and marriage issues. Under the position of World Missions Evangelist are the eight World Sector leaders and four non-geographic functions at an equivalent level -- Media and Law, The Net, Administration and Teaching, and HOPE Worldwide. HOPE Worldwide is the charitable arm of the ICC.

Each World Sector is divided into several Geographic Sectors, with their Geographic Sector Leaders, who are also usually the Evangelist and Women's Ministry Leader at the church in the largest city in the Geographic Sector.

Local ICC congregations take their name from their town or city, most commonly followed by "Church of Christ" or "Christian Church", and occasionally by "Church of Christ Jesus" (proper title), "Church, Inc." (proper title), "International Church of Christ" (proper title), "International Christian Church" (proper title), "disciples of Christ" (usually not a proper title -- the "Disciples of Christ", the proper title, also have roots from the American Restoration Churches of Christ, but are not associated with the International Churches of Christ at this time), "Christian Fellowship", or even just "Church" or "The Church".

Examples include: The Boston Church of Christ (also known as "Boston" or "the Boston Church"), the New York Church of Christ (or New York International Church of Christ), the Wichita Church of Christ Jesus.

The United Churches of Christ (background: Congregationalism/Protestantism -- generally UCC churches are liberal Protestant) and the Disciples of Christ (background: American Restoration Churches of Christ, aka Mainline Churches of Christ) have no association nor connection with the International Churches of Christ.

The ICC provided a directory of ICC-affiliate churches on its website (now defunct). This directory does not list all ICC-affiliate churches, but may be useful nonetheless to verify that a particular church is an ICC affilate church.

Since the ICC believes that church unity means there can only be one church per city, there never are two churches in the same city both of which are affiliated with the ICC. This does not mean that the local ICC affiliate church always meets as one group in one location, though -- the local church will usually meet in a number of different locations at different times during the week. Large urban churches will also meet in several locations on Sunday.

Local ICC affiliates usually meet in rented halls, conference rooms, and (when large enough) convention centers for mass Sunday worship services, rather than buying a building. During the week members meet in smaller groups, called "House Churches" or "Family Groups" (or "discipling groups"), and in even smaller groups called "Bible Talks". Bible Talks, in particular, can meet almost anywhere -- in a college dormitory room, a restaurant, a community center, or someone's home.

Bible Talks are central to the ICC's evangelism strategy. They are small Bible study groups of from six to fifteen members, each of whom tries to bring at least one guest weekly. The Bible talks are promoted as informal sharing between Christians, and non-denominational, but in fact are carefully structured to persuade the visitors that they are not Christian and need to convert according to the ICC's teachings in order to be saved.

Inside of each individual congregation, there are Region Leaders responsible for different geographical areas in the city or metropolitan area served by the local church. Sector Leaders are responsible for smaller areas, encompassing perhaps a couple of suburb towns. This ends the group of paid ministry positions -- the people at Zone Leader level and above are usually on the church staff and paid by the church. Those below this level usually work at an outside job and volunteer their services.

House Church leaders, recently renamed Family Group Leaders, report to the Zone Leaders, and are responsible for a group of thirty to fifty adults in their area. Bible Talk Leaders (BTLs) report to House Church leaders, and are responsible for groups of around ten disciples (members). The BTL is an extremely important influence on the average disciple, or rank and file member.

Under the Bible Talk Leaders are individual disciplers, older members responsible for one to three younger members. "Older" is a relative term -- some converts have become disciplers of newer converts after as little as two months in the organization. A rank and file member's discipler is the single strongest influence in his or her life.

In addition to all this, there are separate ministries for specific college campuses, local HOPE organizations, entertainment and sports professionals, women married to non-members, and other special needs in large, urban congregations. In the last few years, AME (Arts, Media, and Entertainment) ministries have spread like wildfire through the ICC. These ministries are geared towards professionals in the arts, media, and sports areas. The ICC views such individuals as "sharp" -- that is, intelligent, articulate, and capable of attracting others to join. For that reason, it recruits heavily among them, and treats disciples with this background somewhat better than average disciples.

The majority of the positions listed above also have formally recognized assistants -- Bible Talk Leaders have Bible Talk Assistants, Evangelists have Assistant Evangelists, etc. ICC churches also have elders. Elders are older, married men with at least one baptized child who sometimes exercise considerable influence in the congregation or ICC as a whole, but who are subordinate to the Evangelist. One of the ICC's most influential teachers, Gordon Ferguson, is an elder in the Boston Church of Christ.

Many churches also have paid interns on staff, usually members being trained for full-time ministry.

The vast majority of leadership roles in the ICC are held, not by individuals, but by leadership couples. In ICC literature, and particularly in any organization chart produced by the group, you will notice that couples are always referred to by both their names, with the man's name coming first. (For example, "Kip & Elena McKean" or "Marty & Chris Fuqua.") Women can be leaders only over other women; the ICC holds that the Bible forbids women to lead men.

At the level of the local congregation, there are some differences in structure depending on the size of the congregation and population of the area it serves. In a small congregation, there may only be three levels of leadership -- the evangelist; a second level which combines the roles of Region, Zone, and House Church leaders; and the members. In the huge Los Angeles Church of Christ, the home church of the ICC, there are extra levels of leadership to handle the several thousand members scattered over several hundred square miles.

Congregations in other parts of the world may also have a slightly different leadership structure. In the Helsinki Church of Christ in Helsinki, Finland, for example, there are just an Evangelist, two Region leaders, and the membership. The membership in Helsinki is split into three ministries -- married, singles, and students. This simpler structure is probably mirrored in other non-US ICC congregations.

The local Evangelist in the ICC can largely structure things as he wishes, as long as his church is growing numerically, his contribution to the world ICC organization is sufficiently high, and none of his members are causing problems for the ICC as a whole.

Finally, the ICC frequently creates new roles and renames the old ones, so don't be too confused if you hear of a position not mentioned here.

Jan 2006 update:

Since the ICC has been fragmenting, most of the city-churches now have been operating in an autonomous (self-governing) mode, e.g., Wichita does not report to LA, and Seattle deals with its own finances and issues. Some of the churches have not been collecting Special Missions Contribution (although some have made some kind of effort to collect such). It is becoming more apparent that there are some who have taken a stand against Kip McKean, and there are some who have aligned with Kip McKean, even if informally or unofficially. Some of the churches have renamed themselves from the "International Church(es) of Christ" to the "International Christian Church".

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