by Amy Haight, Orlando Church of Christ member
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Thank you for all you have done to spread the gospel throughout the world. I am a 13-year member of the Orlando church. I wanted to write you to address something thats been on my heart since I read the apology letter written by the leaders of the L.A. church.
While Im very excited and thankful that many godly changes are being made in L.A., I was surprised that the L.A. apology letter was only addressed to the members of the L.A. church, and not to any of the other churches influenced by the leadership in L.A. Our churches may be acting more autonomously now in an effort to dismantle an unbiblical hierarchy structure. But we cannot ignore the fact that all the churches in the ICOC have been directly influenced for many years by the top leadership of the ICOC, many of whom are currently living in L.A., who were at the top of a pyramid structure under which the entire movement (not just one church) was operating until very recently. The teachings and practices coming down from the top of this pyramid have almost completely shaped all the ICOC churches worldwide to be what they are today.
Therefore, it is logically only fair, right and loving for the former top leadership to extend their apologies to the movement as a whole, since they led it as a whole. Otherwise, these leaders will be shirking the responsibility they need to take for the sinful and hurtful things which have occurred in all the churches as a direct result of the unbiblical or extra-biblical teachings and direction they espoused and enforced. (I want to make it clear that I am not questioning any motives behind the teachings and direction given; we teach in our Word study that religious leaders can be sincere but wrong, and that is what I believe to be the case here. I have to take responsibility for my own sincere but wrong actions during this time as well!)
This also applies to the kingdom teachers and other leaders who influenced the movements doctrine, practices and way of thinking by supporting these teachings through media (books, magazines, and tapes) published by DPI and others. The non-biblical teachings that are still found in many disciples homes via these materials need to be specified, clarified and renounced in writing by our teachers, and made available for all to read. I am hopeful that this is already in progress.
It is imperative for the First Principles bible study series to be re-vamped and/or the false doctrines contained in it renounced in a way that every disciple is made aware of the changes to the series. I say this because many in our church are still using these studies in their entirety with non-Christians, while others are confused and dont know what to study with people. Besides the pyramid leadership structure, this study series was the main reason many of the systemic evils spread through our churches through the false doctrines it contains, and these doctrines will continue to perpetuate themselves if every disciple in every church is not taught a new way of studying with people. This can be done locally, obviously, but every church leader needs to have the urgency and conviction to do so which would most effectively be sparked by a formal statement or document from the kingdom teachers and/or other knowledgeable brothers.
I am reluctant to bring this up, but as the acknowledged leader and most influential shaper of the entire movement for 22 of its 24 years, it is crucial for the apology to be extended by Kip McKean and not just current leaders. His resignation letter when stepping down did not include apologies to former members, or a renunciation of the teachings or practices which are now being eradicated (hopefully) from the movement. The first sentence of his letter in fact seemed to enforce them. If he is not in a position spiritually to apologize on a much larger scale, this needs to be made known as well. It is hard to say this about him because while much damage was done, much good was also done in bringing many, many people to Christ because of his vision of world evangelism. And I, for one, will always be grateful for that. But now is the time for all of us to have the attitude of Paul, who said, No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27).
One of our critics websites, RightCyberUp, has said:
thus far, the central theme of the ICC's new era seems to be decentralization, not reform. Some localized, positive change is undoubtedly resulting from decentralization, but the need for sweeping, movement-wide reforms has not yet been met. as of yet, senior ICC leadership has not announced a single initiative for change across the movement . [There are] some major things that have not as yet been publicly renounced by senior leadership and therefore might not change.
While I dont agree with everything said on that site, I believe they make a very good point here; its one that I have been concerned with myself (prior to reading that editorial), as have other disciples Ive talked to recently. Right now it seems that individual churches are at very different stages in weeding out the man-made teachings and practices. This can very easily lead to more confusion and a rapid breaking down of unity. I believe that if a universal apology letter addressed to all the churches (and, just as importantly, to all those who have left the ICOC) was to be written from all those who until just now were leading the entire movement, this would help a great deal in bringing each individual church, smallest to largest, to the same depth of repentance as is happening in L.A., Boston, and other former pillar churches, and possibly even to restore many who have left, or at least give them a measure of resolution in their hearts.
To truly bring resolution and healing to all the churches, and to restore credibility to our movement in the eyes of the world, we must completely acknowledge the damage that has been done, not only in its depth but in its breadth. There must be a much more widespread apology forand a clear and detailed renunciation ofthe teachings and practices fostered in our movement which were unbiblical and damaging.
With love and respect in Christ,
March 6, 2003
©2003 by Amy Haight. All rights reserved.
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