Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Henry Kriete, Is the ICOC a cult?

Henry Kriete stated his current belief to that question this past weekend in NYC. Following is a transcription of his belief, with some introduction, from the Saturday afternoon meeting with the New York Christian church.



I'm not a spokesperson. I know a little bit of what’s going on. I’m just trying to get my own life together and get help where I can. Trying to work my salvation with fear & trembling. And I’ll do the best I can here. I may change my answers a week from now (laughter), no I’m serious – I am in major transition right now.

I’m getting emails like, do you think the ICOC is a cult? I’m getting all of them. And you know it’s some things like “I waver,” some are like “yeah,” some are “I don’t think so,” some are “I don’t want to have anything to do with it anymore because I fear I would be endorsing,” I don’t believe with all my heart and feel that they are trying.” I’m just in one of those places. So I’m going to go ahead and start with the most emotionally loaded question, Do you believe the ICOC is a cult?


Let me explain – well I wrote a little letter to Heather. I don’t know who Heather is. Is she here yet? Maybe she isn’t. But she asked me that question. And I’ll tell you where I’m at right now, okay. Not to be evasive, number 1 – if you were a cult leader, it’s very hard to see you say - like saying to a fish in the water, do you swim in the water? No? Agree, yeah! It’s a word you don’t find in the NT. But a word you do find is “sect,” false prophet, arrogance, leaders losing connection with the head, douse, God is putting out the church, you find that stuff.

Here’s how I would answer that. I think – you got a big meeting to help me out here – I think [there are in the ICC?], these are systemic sins. And they’re a struggling group. But I also believe that it did affect the different churches and leaders to various degrees. Everybody was affected. There are some leaders I would now say, man they are Cult Leaders. And [in contrast] there are some places I’ve been like in India, some places in Africa, Harrisburg, Virginia, and more, but not a lot. We’ve never been told this is what you have to preach, but there’s a controlling nature, which you know, there’s a culture of deceit, which you know about, there’s abuse, totalitarianism, to different degrees.

I would say that the ICOC is a sect with a lot of very cult-like tendencies, especially some places. I would never be commanded, “This is what you’ve got to preach and teach.” I can’t ever remember ever being given that – “this is what you have to preach and teach,” in terms of theology, in terms of [prejudice?]. But the culture of control that you know about –invasiveness, money, bad theology – that’s prevalent as all of us know. But I think the ICOC was infested, infected, with abberational theology.

The one I am burdened with, that I struggle with all the time is, “Are there any brothers and sisters there?” Sure. You guys became Christians in the ICOC. And I go, no matter how lukewarm in [Thessalonica?] or worldly they were in Corinth or legalistic in Galatia, the converts themselves must be going “well, Amen, through all this junk – I’ve found Christ. Why it’s so difficult for me ( and you don’t think it should be difficult) is,
I truly believe with all my heart that there is only one true church. Not like “we’re the true church” not that way, but there is one body, one church. And, like it or not, accept it or not, admit or not, if you’re a Christian, you’re a part of it. Among that family there’s aberrations, there’s wickedness. It’s like you have a family with 13 kids. One becomes a murderer, one’s a teacher, one’s a banker, one’s this, one’s a cult leader. These are your kids!

And this is my struggle right now, it really is. Because people want me to just absolutely, “you cannot associate with the ICOC anymore, in any way, shape or form.” I’m just not there yet. I know some of you are - “I am done, period!” But I feel like there are Christians.

And I think there are leaders that are completely unrepented. I think New York is a fiasco, and I support your decision, I respect it. In other places, I feel there are Christians…. There are some churches I think still guilty that have renounced the ICOC. You know what I mean? But it’s like, let’s say in Vancouver – we didn’t sign an affiliation agreement. In fact, if we did, I would have been gone. I will no longer be a part of that. The leader has declared his intents to the ICOC to go to Dallas. No one is over us, the money is not going nowhere.

Some people don’t think that’s enough. I mean that’s – now what they should they do in Vancouver, what if the whole church is really trying to change? I think some are doing it. I think Salt Lake. Others, no. I wouldn’t go to San Francisco and I certainly done with that. I think the ICOC is abberational, is just severely lacking repentance. Those who have light and don’t act on them, you’re under the curse of God. But I do think people have to work out their own salvation in fear and trembling.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, October 27, 2003

Henry Kriete in NYC
Kriete came to NYC to preach. He also did some Q&A sessions, which you can see posted on the NYCOC forum.

HK in NYCOC: Q&A session (first question posted below)

Post your response to HK Q&A session here.

Henry Kriete Q&A session in NYC

Here is the scoop on the question & answer session that Henry gave to a small meeting this weekend in Manhattan. These are the same questions he gave to the service on Sunday. At the smaller meeting, he answered these questions on the fly, and don't think he skipped any. I saw. I asked hard questions and he did answer them. He emphasized that he is not a spokesperson for the ICOC. He also said that since he is very conflicted, his answers could change. "I am in a major transition," he said.
Before these sessions, Henry did a sermon as well, and it was mainly all scriptures about Jesus. No recruiting or evangelization ICCisms.

I have the recordings of his answers, but for now I'll paraphrase his answers from my notes. I'm at work so this will consist of a few posts... I am closing this thread to responses. Please see the Response folder to post responses. Thanks.
Q: Is the ICOC a cult?
A: That is an emotionally loaded question for me. Is Heather here? (LOL) I don't want to be evasive, but - if you were a cult leader... LOL... you don't find the word cult in the Bible, but you do find "sect," "arrogance," etc. The ICOC is a Sect with cult-like tendencies. I would say that some of the ICOC leaders ARE cult leaders. Others are not.

Also, I was never given mandates, "You must preach this or that." But we cannot deny that we had a culture of control. Invasiveness. Bad theology. Abberational theology.

I do believe there's ONE body, one church. But NOT the "One True Church" ICOC-style. If you are a Christian, you are part of the body. You are united to the body.

But for the record: I am DONE with the ICOC, and have cut ALL affiliation with it. (Later he states that Vancouver church refused to sign an affiliation agreement with the ICOC.)

[additional notes:]
I'm here to support you. The stonewalling with the finances... What happened in NYC is a tragedy. I respect your decision to leave the church. "Henry Kriete's Question & Answer Session"

Labels: , , ,

Friday, October 24, 2003

Will the Leaders Ever Understand How Cruel They Were?

You reap what you sow. A response to a former WML who wrote about returning to the secular world.

This is one of the most powerful posts I've read: about a leader who writes about her realizations, about returning to a normal working life and learning how "privileged," and Cruel, her life was as an ICOC minister. It was not the sacrifice that she believed it was.

I wonder how many of these leaders now, among those who are scrambling to keep their salaries and benefits, who are crushed with their own self pity over what has "happened," can ever come to a full understanding of the "sins," the injustice, the evil they had ultimately perpetrated.

I really believe these people live the grand delusion. I was talking with a friend who said that Summer McKean had a "nervous breakdown." Some members had accused her of racism (my friend said she believed Summer to be more elitist, than racist). Well, no wonder. The woman had been raised to believe this illusory, insane life was right, was good, was sacrificial. People who have never had a "pre-ICC" life, and fully embraced the church's system - how lost! A person who was cruel, who deserves all the enemies in the world. How dare she have any pity for herself. I sure would not want to be in her shoes. But how can you deny the injustice in her life as well?

It takes a person with incredibly strong character, backbone, and conscience - not in the ICC way but in the truest way - to resist this brainwashing and do what is right. Even more when you are raised in the church. Obviously Summer did not have this. I admire the fact that Olivia had the backbone to eventually leave, though I know it was difficult for her.

I have to say, so many people lose in this situation. The leaders who are still comfortable do not suffer now, but I am certain their reward for their cruelty - the wrath of "God" or whoever it is - is not finished, is coming to them, and I do not feel any pity for them. "Why Leaders Must Get Out"

The original post:

Letter from long-time annonymous former staff person:

As background in case you don't know me - I was baptized in XXX in
l9XX, moved to XXX on the mission team in XX, worked as a XXXX for XXX, then went into the ministry at XX years old. My husband and I married in XX, and we moved wherever we were asked (more times than I can count), and sold everything to move Overseas for XX years before returning to the U.S. and coming to back to U.S.

We resigned from the ministry after over many years. I felt so much pressure to produce numbers, look a certain way, dress a certain way, have a beautiful home, make the stage at church beautiful, have beautiful people singing on stage, etc. - in short, a lot of emphasis on all the wrong things, but I didn't realize it at the time.

Having been in the ministry for a long time, and now having worked in
secular jobs for over XX years, I feel I have a unique perspective. I had no idea while I was in the ministry how out of touch I was with what "real" or "normal" (for lack of a better word) lives were.

I don't think anyone who has been in the ministry for years, especially if they went into the ministry straight out of college and never worked, can really grasp this until you've experienced it. I cannot emphasize enough to not underestimate how difficult it is to change the way you have thought when you have been in the ministry for years & years.

I hadn't taught in the Sunday school program since l983, although I had counselled (and corrected and rebuked) people on their attitudes about teaching. I had no idea what it was like when Wednesday night classes ran late, and what it was like to try to pick up the pieces of 2 tired children on Thursday morning at 6:45 trying to get them to school.

After only my first week working at the Medical Center as a XX for 12 hour shifts, the realization hit me how demanding I had thought my schedule was when I was on staff - now every day was much more intense than that staff meeting Tuesday as I went to work, tried to cook dinner before I left in the morning, arranged childcare for my children, etc. I was used to always being right, always having my opinion be the right one, telling people what to do all day long, and thinking I always knew better.

After resigning, it was the best thing that ever happened to us to stay where we had led (not go somewhere else, and certainly not to go somewhere else and accept another ministry job! that certainly wouldn't fit the definition of resignation) and learn the MANY lessons that we needed to learn. It was humbling and difficult to be on the other side of the pulpit, but you get a different, and very valuable view from there.

It's hard to explain the mindset that occurs when you have been in the
ministry for a long time. I really thought that being in the ministry was the only thing worth doing, that only the "best" people could do it, and so I looked down on everyone else for not being "sharp" enough to be in the ministry.

I was used to always being right, making judgements about big, little and totally unimportant things and expecting the people around me to do things my way, always having people help me with my responsibilities in life, being able to delegate anything I didn't want to do, having babysitters always readily available, using people to get my goals accomplished and make me look good (although at the time I thought it was sincere and best for them), etc. The pride and arrogance were overwhelming.

It has taken years to understand that no one else in the church has this carte blanche lifestyle. (We could sure use some of those babysitters now!!)

Recently, a couple we are close to came to us asking for a short term loan to be able to buy their child glasses. The husband has a full time job and a masters degree and the wife works part time. It hit me this is how most of the middle class in the United States lives - one thing goes wrong (a broken transmission, needing new glasses, an unexpected medical bill) and you are unable to meet your financial obligations. When you're in the ministry, all of your needs are met: medical insurance (even co-pays), mileage allowances for travel, expense account allowances for housing and entertainment, and so you are shielded from this kind of financial pressure.

So we asked people to be sacrificial, when really we weren't experiencing any real kind of financial sacrifice ourselves, as all of our needs were always met.

Myself, as well as all of the "old-timers" who have been in the ministry for years, have built a crumbling mess. It has not been easy to "fix" me (especially my thinking) and even after 4 years out of the ministry, I'm still not "fixed" because I have been trained in elitism, arrogance, harshness, judgementalism, and pride.

I am extremely concerned about the rushing stampede to hire Sam Laing to come to Athens. It is obvious the many strengths that Sam and Geri have to offer - their marriage, family, counselling ability, etc. But, from my viewpoint after having been in the ministry for over 1/3 of my life, having had 32 years in the ministry is not a plus, but a serious minus.

I have nothing against Sam & Geri Laing, but I have seen the mindset, priviledges, lifestyle and thought process that a leader on his "level" or "tier" in the ICOC system has been steeped in. I also believe many of these mindsets will not even be obvious to Sam for a long time, because we have been thoroughly indoctrinated in that way of thinking.

I believe that Sam is sincere in wanting to repent and that the Triangle church in many ways wasn't as oppressive or controlling as some of the ICOC churches have been, yet it will take time, and many painful conversations, to learn a new way of thinking and dealing with people. Leaving a church after resigning to come somewhere else without staying and learning the lessons there is a red flag to me too. I don't even think it is possible to know what those lessons might even be except with the passing of time.

I haven't seen any evidence of repentance, or even openness, about finances or leaders lifestyles. And although it hasn't been said, I wonder if this rush to hire the Laings has a lot to do with when their severance package expires. I don't want the church to make any huge decisions rashly and without everyone feeling great about the decisions, especially because of money issues. "Why Leaders Must Get Out"

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, October 20, 2003

Fall of the Paris Church

They've officially shut their doors...

[ So Paris church of Christ is gone too? Sounds like ICOC is crumbling in many countries. ]

Yes. Sorry for the short, apocalyptic sentence.

It was the first thought I had when I got back from the association meeting, I had some tears also because I was hoping for that to happend since 6 months (the HK letter). It's symbolic for us and the dissolution might help christians to "turn the page" (it's a french expression, hope you understand).

Yesterday, we vote the dissolution of the Paris Church of Christ (PCC). For more details :

We used to be about 550 members but only 100 members were here to vote, most of the others were to much hurt about what happend in the PCC.
Between the 100 members, 66% vote YES, 34% vote NO for the dissolution.
But if you take in account the hundreds who left the church services, you imagine that it's not 66% but around 90% that don't want to here about the PCC anymore (but the most still want to love God).

In Paris, things happend very sadly, very bad. Since HK letter, evangelists tried to express their sorry and compassion but it did not reach the heart of the christians. There were so less expression of deep sorrows and compassion from the staff that some disciples decide to handle the direction of the church, leaded by an ex-evangelist who was fast to understand what happend, and call evangelistes to repent. But other mature brothers tried to stop him affraid of a new Kip McKean with his standard of repentance. Satan worked a lot in this mess, a lot of bad thoughts one to each other and a explosion happend. 2/3 of the christians didn't want to come anymore, disgusedt with how the things where going on. Christians were giving less and less for the contribution, we had to fire all the evangelist one by one but it looks like more a hunt than a lay off, truely saying. Finaly, the main evangelists left Paris to return to their cities where they used to live, or always wanted to live. It looks like thief going away with our contributions or asking for politicum asylum, living the PCC association with debt (hopefully the boston christians gave contribution to help us, thank you ! a letter should come from Paris to tell you). We don't know where to begin, where to go, what to think.

Randy McKean sayed he was ready to come to express his heart only if we invite him. I think it's to soon for us to see boston leader to come.
We have been so much under hierarchical dominated authority. What about Boston (who planted the PCC), did leaders had true sorrows and compassion toward the christians ? are the most christians behind them ? is the church led by elders or evangelists ?

Everybody sinned and today, no leader had been able to show the best attitude to have in this situation here in Paris.

Forgive us God. Ghooosty "Paris Church of Christ"

News about the Dallas Leadership Conference

Better late than never! To be posted in the next day or so... Stay tuned.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Confession of a Former ICOC Evangelist

This is a truly amazing testimonial by Gustavo Sassano of the Buenos Aires, Argentina church. He was a full-time ministry leader for almost 13 years (March 1989 to November 2001).

My name is Gustavo Sassano, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was a full-time ministry leader in the International Church of Christ (ICOC) for almost 13 years, from March 1989 to November 2001. I am sharing my story because I want to tell people about the destructive practices that I committed and false doctrines that I taught when I was a leader in the church. I want to confess my sins and educate people about the danger of the organization that I believe is a cult. This is my story.
I was converted in 1988 (recruited) when I was 23 years old in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was studying Law in the university of Buenos Aires. A friend of mine, who was working with me, invited me to a Bible discussion. It took me seven months to get baptized. I was an idealistic person. I wanted to change the world, and I thought I had found that possibility through Jesus. I was innocent at that time. I entered in the ministry only five months after my conversion. I didn’t finish the university because at that time in the ICOC, you had to choose between the university or the ministry. I decided to enter the ministry. I was ignorant. I’m ignorant today too!!! I ate my bible every day. I dreamed a lot about conquering the world for Christ. I didn’t know that I was advancing a cult.

I was a missionary to Chile in 1990. Ten months after the missionary team arrived to Chile, the lead evangelist, Andrew Giambarba had to return to Argentina and I became the leader of the mission in Chile. I was so young and ignorant to occupy that position. I was so stupid, arrogant and prideful. I preached like I was the big thing. How wrong I was. I spent a lot of time shouting, ordering, and criticizing other religions and other christians.

I got married with Claudia in 1990 in Chile. I had to marry her in Chile. Only my mother came to my wedding. That was so bad. I received a lot of letters of my family criticizing my decision to do the wedding in Chile instead of Argentina. It was something radical to do that. It was a common ICOC thing. Being radical and stupid at the same time.

I went to Mexico in 1992 to live there. The "church" in Mexico was growing a lot. At that time if you want to grow “spiritually” (It means growing in the ICOC system) you had to be in the ICOC of Mexico. There I learned the worst teachings and techniques. The lead evangelist was Phil Lamb and after him, Peter Garcia. For example, I learned in Mexico how to make people feel bad about their lives when they didn’t follow the ICOC rules. I learned there how to put pressure into people. The purpose of every staff meeting was to make everybody or someone in particular feel bad (the staff referred to these meetings as "Breaking sessions") It was so common to hear shouting in the staff meeting, making the staff feel bad about their ministry, until some of them cried. Not a joke, that was real.

We started to talk a lot about statistics. Kip McKean, founder of the ICOC and Los Angeles church was applying those statistics and we started to do the same. Statistics about how many people every member brought. I remember very well how bad many in the staff felt about taking so many numbers. The lead evangelist measured all our lives with the statistics. That was the only way to measure a leader. It was so awful. Obviously, we couldn’t complain. Some did and they were treated so badly. We started to get angry every time the statistics were bad. I shouted at my leaders meetings, I shouted to people in my zone of the church and I did everything possible to change and to have better statistics. Everyone around me behaved in the same way. I think that at that time I lost my love for God and the people and I started to look for success in the ministry. Every staff meeting, the lead evangelist made us feel bad about something in our lives, with statistics in his hand.

I learned how to control every person's life. We called it discipleship. Now, for me, it was control. We spread the sins of many rank and file members in our leaders meetings. Nobody had a private life, nobody.

In addition to the breaking sessions, we would have more casual staff meetings. During those more relaxed meetings, the men smoked cigars, drank tequila (a lot) and we talked about the most stupid and offensive things. We always were talking about the sins of people in the church, leaders or rank and file members. Gossip was the first thing in our mouth. Those times were so common. When a goal was achieved, such as meeting a monthly baptism quota, we went to the most expensive restaurant in the city. Man, we ate like lions. We spend too much money. A person in Mexico could live for one month with the money that I spent on my dinner. I feel ashamed about it now, because we used contribution money to pay for these expensive dinners.

The pressure to get the special contribution was so heavy. I received a lot of pressure from above to collect special contribution. Because of this, I put heavy pressure on the disciples who were in my ministry to give money for special contribution. The leaders, including me, made everybody feel guilty if they didn’t come up with the money to give.

The time I spent in Mexico was the worst in terms of learning the worst of the ICOC “ministry”: pressure, guilt, a lot of statistics, shouting, ordering and so on. The worst thing was the breaking session. If a member, or leader, or staff member was not “doing well spiritually”, we met with him/her. I said we, because we were 3 to 5 against the weak member or leader. We told him/her a lot of things, shouted if necessary, humiliated him, sometimes in front of his wife/her husband, until the person was broken (meaning that they cried and agreed to do whatever the breakers thought that person should do).They did that with me several times. I did that many, many times. We learned from the example of our lead evangelist and his wife, how to break someone. We did the same every time we could. They did that to me every time they could. People cried in their breaking sessions. My wife and I cried many times.

When I returned to Argentina in 1994, I brought all the things that I learned in Mexico with me. I started to lead the ICOC in Argentina. I applied the techniques and teachings I learned to my ministry in Buenos Aires. It was a nightmare!! I think that now. At that time, I felt good about what I was doing. My “ministry” began to grow, and I felt pride. How shameful!! But after a while, people began to get tired. The ICOC schedule was killing people. Every week, we had three church meetings (bible talk, midweek and Sunday service) one discipleship time (an encounter between a member and his assigned “teacher in the faith”), plus daily evangelism and every day contact with someone, like phone calls to others members, to report our evangelism, people to bring to church on Sunday, plus a lot of studies with non-members. Our week was full of activities. Someone could hardly ever visit his family.

One time we told people to put Mondays aside to get together with their families. What a stupid command! Only one day for the family! I was living only 10 minutes from my parents and I visited them only once in a regular week. I feel so bad. My family suffered a lot. One time, while I was single, my mom got mad about my schedule in the church. A doctor had to come to our house to calm her down. It was an extreme experience. I will never forget that day. And I used that experience to tell everybody that our family will persecute us for being “Christians”. But my mother was not persecuting me. She was just so upset about the way the church schedule was hurting my relationship with my family. Today I strongly believe that the ICOC destroys family relationships. Members take a lot of distance of their parents and become very judgmental about their lives. I’m so sorry about how deeply I hurt my parents during my time in the ICOC.

With so many activities, many people began to complain. I accused them of not being committed enough. I shouted at them. I tried to kick them out of the church because they were not committed enough. We used to do that a lot. It was a common practice, to throw people out from church because they were “rebels” against the system or not “fruitful”, meaning they did not bring new people to church. I have talked with many ex-members and members about these episodes. They feel bad about those times. Imagine if you had to sit down with a leader in a room, and he started to ask you a lot of questions about your life. After that, if he found that you weren’t a good disciple, he could throw you out of church or give you some time to prove that you were a good disciple. Awful! Many people were thrown away. I hear that before I returned to Argentina, the staff threw away a lot of members.

I committed a lot of sins against God and the people in the church with my anger and pride and pressure. I am so ashamed right now. I caused a lot of damage with my bad temper. One time I shouted to my secretary and I threw away all the things she had in her hands. I fired her for stupid reasons and in a bad, bad way. I’m so sorry about that. I was known for my bad temper and pride. Once I struck a wall in the middle of staff meeting, I almost struck one person there. I saw many of these episodes of shouting, striking things in many places and situations. I did the same.

The ministry in Argentina started to decline. Many people started to leave the church. They had reasons to do that. There were a lot of complaints from the rank and file about my bad leadership. At that time I fought with everyone to protect me. I hurt many.

In March 1999 I went to Brazil with my wife and my two daughters for six months to “recover spiritually”. It was another awful experience. They were doing a lot of statistics, in some meetings up to eleven pages!! Every action was recorded. For example, we had to take note of every daily quiet time that every member had weekly. It was a nightmare. They were losing thousands of members a year and they needed to recruit a lot more to keep growing the cult. And when they achieved goals, we did the same as we did in Mexico: expensive restaurants, a lot of alcohol and “unfit-for-rank-and-file-members-jokes”.

I lost the leadership of the Buenos Aires church in 1999 because of my bad temper and bad statistics. The church in BA was not growing. John Porter, GSL in our world sector, took me out of leadership. He was mad because he had to put one of his leaders in Brazil to lead in Argentina. He said that all was my fault. He talked with me with his angry eyes and voice. In the ICOC, letting leaders go to other places to lead was not a good idea. All church leaders wanted to keep their leaders in their area of influence so as to make sure that these leaders would contribute to their growth. I decided to stay in Buenos Aires because I wanted to show everybody there that I was totally committed to repentance. It was common practice in the ICOC that when a leader was taken away, it was “better for him” and the church that he went to another church to recover. I decided to stay.

John Reus took my place in the leadership in Argentina. But he stayed only six months and then Martin and Carmen Bentley came to lead Argentina in January 2001. At first, I thought that they would be mature leadership for Argentina. But I found Martin to be the most hard and close-minded person I had ever met. I said to myself so many times that year: “I don’t want to be like him. I don’t want to have 30 years in the faith with a mind so closed.”

He was the ICOC system in person. He represented the system in a very common and harmful way: the “stealth” way. Gentle in the outside but a different person inside. He came to Argentina to represent the ICOC. To rescue Argentina from the division. In L.A, they didn't want another division in the ICOC. I found that most leaders in the ICOC were that way, one thing in the outside, but another very different thing in the inside. "Their words drip honey but their hearts are set on war". My wife told me that many times. She was tired of this behaviour in the upper leadership. My wife said "behind the smiling face is a stab you will receive as soon as you turn around".

Martin Bentley started to preach the “Only True Church” doctrine from the very first message. He preached that we were the only people saved in Argentina. He said in many sermons “when God sees Argentina, He only find his sons in this room.” Many people in the church began to leave because of this teaching. Many didn’t believe that we were the only true church anymore. They started to talk about it with other members and to denounce this false doctrine.

The staff started to mark people. They marked one ex staff member, because he didn’t believe in the One True Church doctrine anymore. After that Martin Bentley, the lead evangelist, started to mark a lot of people for the same reason. And many others, members and ex-members, seven or eight in one day, only because they began to criticize the ICOC. The criticism was always about the OTC doctrine, the contribution and the lifestyle of the staff. The other leaders started to think that I was a traitor to the ICOC cause because I began to tell the staff that we had to stop markings. One time I had an encounter with an ex-member that the staff marked. She talked with me about the ICOC being a cult. I mentioned to the staff and they didn’t like that I had that conversation with her. They considered her and many ex-members enemies.

I began to read a lot of books from other Christians and preachers with an open mind, such as Lucado, Hybels, Yancey, Palau, and many others. They opened my eyes. I learned about grace, love, tolerance. I started to believe in my heart that they were my brothers. I realized that we in the church were like the Pharisees in the Bible. We were leaders without grace, leaders with hard hearts, without love in our hearts. In spite of what I was learning, I was still following the ICOC rules. I had faith that the ICOC could change. When I talked with the leadership about the mistakes and sins of the ICOC, they always told me the same: “Things will change. Just wait.” I believed that. I wanted that. That is the main reason why I didn’t leave the ICOC before. But in my heart, I was a coward. I wanted to innovate and change, but not to lose my job. I knew that they didn't want to listen to me.

Around this time, I began to listen to a lot of the critics on the internet. I criticized them a lot. I sent horrible emails to them and to ex-members. But in my heart, my doubts started to grow. I’m so thankful to Reveal, to the ICC Discussion forum, and to many other websites, because they made me think. I didn’t want to. It was like a war between my horrible pride and the truth. I didn’t want to believe that it all was a big, big mistake. My life was a mistake. I threw away 15 years of my life in a big lie. It wasn’t easy to swallow. I know about my good intentions to seek and to serve God, but these are not excuses to make so many mistakes and sins.

I began to listen to some friends who had left the ICOC. They told me that the ICOC was a cult. I began to read a lot about it. I couldn’t believe that the ICOC was a cult, but I had so many proofs about it. I read a lot, I thought a lot. I fought with myself and with old friends. They told me the truth about the ICOC. I’m thankful to all of them for their patience and love. Some of them were patient and some of them didn’t want to talk with me anymore. I understand them now. I have hurt them a lot. I deserve their silence and distance. I was a bad, bad person.

I began to see things in the ICOC from another point of view. I was sitting there listening to other leaders preach the same every time. What boring sermons!! I started to understand why people were feeling bad about themselves. The messages were always about something that we didn’t do well or something that we need to do, like evangelism (I don’t consider it evangelism now. It is recruiting).

I started to hate statistics. We had a lot of statistics! We collected statistics regarding visitors for Sunday services, visitors for bible talks, possible visitors for Sunday service, people studying the Bible, quiet times, discipleship times, contribution, and daily evangelism sometimes. It was a lot of information to ask every member. I realized that statistics made people feel bad. WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE A CHURCH NOT A COMPANY. But I began to think that the ICOC wasn’t a church. It was a company. One time, a friend of mine who came to my home saw the ICOC statistics and he gave me a hard speech about the wrong of statistics in the ICOC and the useless and damaging way that we had to ask and read the statistics. He told me that we were a company instead of a church. And worst than a company, because he told me that no one in a company asks for statistics in that way and never weekly statistics because no one can evaluate something in such short time. One of my friends in the ICOC who left the cult, told me the same thing. He hated the statistics and he saw the damage that we were doing to people. I didn’t listen to him. I have big regrets about that. I apologized to him for this and many things that I committed against him.

I began to hate the special contribution too. It was a lot of pressure and now I was feeling that pressure.

I began to listen to all leaders in the ICOC, in a different way, and I began to understand a lot all the false doctrines and teachings. The KNN and the DPI books made me realize that the ICOC was wrong on a lot of topics. They were writing so many lies and stupid and non-biblical things. Rules, and more rules. Always making people feel guilty. Pride and more pride about our achievements and the McKean family's achievements. The McKeans were the Super family. It was so disgusting. I couldn’t it believe anymore. One time my lead evangelist, married to Elena McKean's sister, told me about Kip: “He never listens to anybody. It is always his way only.” I knew that this guy, Kip, wasn´t who all leaders were talking about. I started to read again Revolution Through Restoration 1 and 2, and the preachings in my church, and I began to discover the truth and the mistakes.

This a list of things that I began to not believe anymore at that time and why.

• We were the only true church on Earth. I couldn’t believe this anymore. I began to doubt that we were a church and I started to think that we were a cult. This kind of teaching was so common in cults.
• We were the only people saved on Earth. No way! I started to see other Christians like my brothers in Christ. I have no right to condemn other people. I got tired to send people to hell because they were not members of the ICOC. I have many regrets in this area. Many left the ICOC thinking that they were going to hell. They suffered a lot because of that. We called them fall-aways. I’m so sorry about that. I have talked with some of them, they told me that they felt so bad at that time and it took time to recover.
• If someone is not discipled by other disciple, (hierarchical system) you were not a Christian and you were not saved. The discipleship one over one caused a lot of damage in the ICOC members. Many became people who never thought for themselves anymore. This is one my bigger regrets, because I know many that have stopped thinking for themselves. The damage in this area is bigger than most of icoc members and ex-members, including me, can measure. We told people what to do, when to do it and how to do it. We controlled every area of their lives. We asked married people when the last time they had sex was and we were asking these kind of questions all the time to married people. We decided who would marry whom and when. That was disgusting. A lot of rules in dating. People were discouraged to date who they really wanted. We, in the staff, talked a lot about who should marry whom. We arranged many dates. We would prevent a member with leadership potential to date with another member, because he/she was not good for the leadership.
• Disciple=Christian=Saved. That was a big lie. We had to baptize only people who went though all the ICOC studies. That was the conclusion Kip taught every time that I listened to him in every meeting or conference. For me it was something like Pharisee=ICOC member=Saved.
• Kingdom of God = The church. I didn’t believe that anymore. The ICOC taught this false idea to use Matthew 6:33 to push people to put first the ICOC.
• Special contribution was taught every time in every meeting. It was all about money. People in my church were tired of giving and giving 15 or 16 times their weekly contribution every year.
• If you have not baptized someone personally in the last year, then you are a bad leader or you are a lost member. I began to realize that John 15, a scripture that the ICOC used to teach that we have to be fruitful by bringing people to church, was applied in a wrong way. In John 15, Jesus was talking about the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, patience, etc.
• Church autonomy. I did not agree with following the Los Angeles Church, the “Super Church” that all of us in the ICOC had to follow and obey. I didn’t want to obey Kip McKean or any leader outside my church. I didn’t want to follow the church in Brazil, our church above us in Argentina. That was subversive thinking in the ICOC.
• Bringing visitors every week to church meetings. We weren’t saving people. We were recruiting people. We invited them to a service. It was not common to talk about Jesus. All was about “the wonderful” ICOC. The studies tried to conform people to the ICOC not to Jesus.
• Not miss any church meeting. But we have a lot of meetings! I saw that it wasn’t right to ask to people to follow the ICOC schedule. It was made for people in the ministry, not for rank and file members with a jobs and family.
• Lifestyle of the leadership. All of us leaders were earning a lot of money and all of us were living in nice houses or apartments. We were paid Health Insurance. We ate in restaurants (expensive ones sometimes) with other people and we got reimbursement, the same with gas. We went to conferences and we stayed at the best rooms in the nicest hotels. In those conferences we went to eat every day in a different fancy restaurant. I was earning $US 3400 a month in Argentina, plus Health Insurance, about $US 300. I know that my leaders above were making $US $7000 to $10,000 a month plus many reimbursements.
• The lack of preparation in the lives of the people in the staff. The staff in the ICOC was not prepared to lead churches. I started to lead a church with two years in the faith, without any professional training and with a marriage of only two months. It was stupid to put me in the leadership. It was a nightmare to me and to the people in the church. Many churches in Latin America are being led right now by young leaders without any knowledge about the ministry. They are right now leading churches, giving sermons, without preparation. They will destroy people’s lives. The ICOC is making the same mistakes all over again. They will never learn. We, the staff, were giving a lot of advice to people in every area, but without any real knowledge. All of it was our ideas. I gave a lot of stupid advice. I discipled marriages older than mine, I gave advice about how to raise kids when I didn’t have any! I couldn’t support anymore my lack of preparation. And I looked around in the leadership and I couldn’t find anyone with real and deep preparation. WSL and GSL alike didn’t have any preparation. Their teachings were so empty. Everything in the ICOC was improvisation. We played with people’s lives. Most of the leaders know how to run the ICOC system, but they don’t know anything about REAL ministry. I listened to hundred boring sermons, empty messages.
• The control of outside information. Typical cultic practice. We couldn’t read any criticism or talk with critics. We called any criticism in the internet "spiritual pornography." I learned that this technique was so common in cults. I decided that I will read all that I found against the ICOC. When we marked people from the pulpit for being critics, we couldn’t talk with them. Many families were destroyed by this. In Buenos Aires, the Henry Kriete letter was not allowed to be read. The lead evangelist in Argentina Flavio Uribe, who is making thousands of dollars a month for leading a geographical sector (a leader from Colombia said that He is making $US 10,000 dollars a month. I hope this is not true. Or perhaps, not true anymore), said that he didn’t want to read Henry Kriete's letter. Many in the Argentina church followed him in that idea. He called a meeting for all members in the church in Buenos Aires. He wanted all members to confess their sins. He explained that the problem was not the HK letter and all the false doctrines but the sin in the member’s lives. Many decided not to go to that meeting. They said to me that they didn’t want to be manipulated again. They wanted the truth. More than a hundred have left the church since that time because they wanted to read the letter and make real changes to the church. Now there are 80 or fewer members, when Argentina had almost 300 in 1999.
• Complaints about weight. I listened to many messages and comments about our weight. Kip McKean said one time that we, the staff, were disgusting because many of us were overweight. It was very common that if someone was overweight, the staff didn’t let him to participate in leadership, or singing or serving. It was pure discrimination.

In the middle of 2001, when I started to realize all the false teachings and bad practices of the church, I began to have a lot of trouble sleeping. I was awake until 4 or 5 in the morning. I had no peace in my life and I knew that I had betrayed my best friends in the ICOC (I will explain better that later) and God, preaching that the ICOC was the only true church (OTC doctrine) and we were the only saved people on Earth, for so many years.

I didn't want to do anything in the ministry because I started to think that all was a big mistake. I was hating the staff meetings. The staff meeting was always the same. Boring, and full of ICOC techniques. I was tired of all that.

I had already lost most of my friends. They left because of the OTC doctrine and many other things, such as the pressure to give contribution and the special contribution, etc. I missed a lot my friends but, at that time, I was very hard with them. I was defending the church in front of them but in my heart I was believing the same things that they were exposing. I feel very bad about that. Sometimes I want to travel in time to change so many things. Why did I do that to my friends? Why did I hurt them? I miss the people who don't want to talk with me anymore. Sometimes I have dreams/nightmares with them. I’m so sorry. I destroyed so many lives. They have the right to not want to talk with me anymore. I deserve that.

And when I remembered my life as an evangelist, I found it horrible. I was an easily angered person, I learned how to put pressure in people's lives and I was living for statistics. It was an awful time. I hurt many. I was a big and horrible example of a cult leader. Nobody wanted to talk with me. All people were afraid to talk with me because of my bad temper. I was prideful, arrogant and not a gentle person. I was like a general, all the time giving orders. I saw the church like an army. I tried sometimes to raise a big family in the church, but I always followed the orders from above: getting more baptisms, filling the statistics forms, executing the plans from above.

I didn't leave the ministry, they fired me in November 2001. They told me that the reason was that my zone, the marrieds, was not baptizing enough people. But the real reason was that I told the lead evangelist Martin Bentley that I will never believe or preach the OTC again in my life. I told him that I prefer to sell food in the street rather than to preach the OTC again. In the past, I was a coward and I was trying to keep my job. But one day I couldn't keep my mouth closed anymore. Less than a month after that conversation I was fired.

When I got fired, Martin Bentley told me that the church would not to pay my severance if I began to criticize the ICOC. Those words shocked me. I couldn’t believe my ears. It was one of the worst things that happened to me. 15 years in the ICOC, 14 in the ministry, and they treated me like a demon. But now I understand that they did to me the same that I did to others. I was receiving the same that I gave to others. But it was a horrible experience. I deserved it.

I called the World Sector Leader, Peter Garcia. I thought that he would understand my points. But he insulted me about “losing my convictions” about the OTC doctrine. He believed that we were the only true church. He treated me very badly. Since then most members in the ICOC of Argentina began to criticize me a lot, calling me bitter and many other things. I heard that at that time, after I moved to Miami, from the pulpit the staff began to say that I was weak with sin in my life and almost losing my faith and falling away.

I was convinced that we weren't the only church and that there were a lot of Christians everywhere. I couldn’t accept anymore that singles have to marry only ICOC people. When I talked with singles I began to feel that something was very wrong. I began to suffer when I saw them - a guilty feeling. I was leaving church (cult) meetings to go to my home with my wife and daughters but the singles were leaving alone, without any hope about finding a soul mate. I couldn’t support that anymore. They were staying singles for years, 13, 15 or more years. All because of an arrogant and stupid teaching that I taught, the OTC doctrine.

The OTC doctrine was dead in my mind and in my heart. I knew that a lot of people were suffering because so many false doctrines and the lack of grace. I was the teacher of all that crap. I was a cult leader. I was like the devil, making my brothers feel guilty about their faults every time I could. I was preaching against God, because He is a merciful God. I was preaching against my brothers and sisters in other churches. Now I feel bad about that. Sometimes, when I go to a Christian Bookstore near my home, I feel bad when I look at the others Christians there. They don’t know what I was. But I know, and that makes me feel bad.

After I got fired, I began to open my heart. I told the lead evangelist too that we needed to move from our houses because they were so expensive to rent. The lead evangelist was paying more than $US 2000 and in Argentina that is a lot of money. I was paying $US 700 at that time for my apartment and that was so expensive!! We were living an easy life with money from the people.

I have to say that Jaime De Anda, elder of our World Sector helped me when I got fired. He apologized for the things that Martin Bentley did to me and my wife. (By the way the Bentley’s have never apologized to us for what they did to us). My best friend and former GSL Andrew Giambarba and his wife Mariana helped us a lot. We always will have a debt of love with them. They invited us to Miami to stay there in the middle of our pain. The South Florida Church helped us a lot, and I’m thankful with a lot of people there like the elders, our evangelist and women’s leader during our time there, Ralph and Aileen Ojeda, and many couples that gave us their hearts and their financial help. We are so thankful to all of them. I love them and miss them a lot. But it is obviously difficult to maintain the friendship because many of them are still members, and I don’t agree with how the elders and the Porter’s are running the ICOC there and how they treated Andrew because he quit. That was a shame.

I left the ICOC this year. It was a long process. The Henry Kriete letter gave me a lot of reasons to leave because it validated a lot of my doubts and concerns. I was so happy when I first read it. But I don’t agree with him staying in the ICOC. I can’t accept it. It's his decision, but I don’t agree. At that time, when HK letter was out, I had hope that things would change. How stupid I was. The ICOC upper leadership, WSL and many GSL, didn’t want to be radical. They didn’t want to make real and deep changes. They wanted to protect their jobs. They are sending their children to school and universities. They can’t stop running the ICOC. Here in Argentina every staff leader is sending their children to private schools. It costs a lot of money that they will not get in other jobs. They want to control people’s lives. I can’t believe that they are preaching, teaching and attending conferences. They must resign and stop attending the ICOC and look for different jobs. It’s hard to accept that someone like Kip McKean, ICOC founder, after all damage that he has caused, is leading a church. It shows me that they are not getting what happened with the ICOC. They can’t accept it. I talked with many leaders in many places. They just don’t get it. I know that it is difficult to realize what I was, a cult leader. It’s a hard truth. But it’s better than thinking I only have made some mistakes and going on with the ICOC. Many in the ICOC are in denial. I was there, I can understand. I believe that the ICOC leaders need to pay for their sins in the ministry with a real repentance. I don’t know any ICOC leader who has shown real and deep repentance. They don’t feel the heavy burden that they deserve to feel. Leaders in the ICOC believe that God called them to preach, but after all that I saw in the ICOC, I believe that God is calling all of them to work in a regular job!!!

The last thing that gave me the strength to leave was that I saw my best friend Andrew Giambarba fighting the upper leadership to get things right in the ICOC. But they didn’t listen to him. Instead of that, they persecuted him and criticized him a lot. It was so bad. I know him, very well, and I know the nightmare that he went through. He quit his job, and he was a Geographic Sector Leader (GSL), married and with three kids. I know that he shares my feelings about our lives in the ICOC. He feels, like me, extremely guilty about the lives that have been so hurt by this un-godly system.

I have come to the conclusion after my experiences in the ICOC that the ICOC is a cult. It’s my opinion that it is not a church but a cult. The amount of damage in so many members' lives and the number of people that have left the ICOC through the years show me that I was in a dangerous system. I have talked with many ex-members in Argentina and other places and the pain they went through is incalculable. It’s difficult to listen to so many people wounded and not to ask myself "Why did I become part of this group? Why did I hurt so many lives? Why didn’t I leave earlier?" It’s difficult to realize what I did with my life this last 15 years.

Now, I fight with my guilt every day. It's so hard to realize how many people I have hurt. I was a cult leader, which is my definition about my life in the ICOC. I was a coward, I was a bad leader. I have had many bad days when I didn’t want to get up of my bed.

Most of my good friends are outside the ICOC now. I have some in the ICOC, I love them and I’m trying to understand their decision to stay inside.

I have a job, thank God, but I don't know how to do anything else!! I was in the ministry since I was 23. I never pursued my plan to become a lawyer because I left university to enter the ministry.

At least now I feel free of all ICOC man-made chains. That is the best thing that has happened in my life. The future is uncertain, but who knows? Better things are ahead I think. I have my wife, my two daughters, and I’m close to my parents.

I have to say thanks to Nicole of the ICC discussion forum. She gave me the idea to write my story and she made the corrections to my english. Thanks Nicole!!. And I have to give thanks to Andrew for correct other mistakes in my writing and encourage me during my bad days. Thanks to all ex-members in the ICC discussion forum for your hard fight. "Confession of a Former ICOC Evangelist"

Labels: , , , , , ,