During the 1980s the Boston Church of Christ led by Kip McKean, later known as the International Church of Christ, was accused of using "cult tactics"

News Summary of a Boston Globe article/January 31, 2006

By Rick Ross

In 1988 Wellesley College senior Karen Gray was grateful that she was "deprogrammed" and escaped the "Boston Church of Christ" (BCC) later called the "International Church of Christ."

Former members and critics have denounced the organization and say it is a "cult" that uses "mind control" to control and keep its members.

The church was once one of the fastest-growing religious groups in New England. In 1988 after ten years, it had grown from dozen or so members in Lexington, Massachusetts to 3,600 packing into Boston Garden every Sunday.

Despite its critics BCC managed to double in size every two or three years. And it planted new churches in Buenos Aires and Johannesburg.

But some insisted that the church represented a potential mental health hazard.

Boston University barred the BCC from recruiting and Northeastern took similar action due to complaints from students about harassment.

At Harvard University, Rev. Larry Hill explained, "A student comes into your office and complains that she doesn't feel comfortable about going back to her dorm room because she's being continually bothered by members of the [BCC] to come to a bible study and she doesn't want to."

Critics say that BBB frequently recruits the lonely and vulnerable, drawing them in through seeming unconditional love often called "love bombing."

Subsequently though the new recruit's life become more regimented as every member is assigned to what is called a "discipling partner" that monitors the member.

New recruits then frequently move in with other church members.

The net result is often increasing isolation from old friends and family with little time for anything outside of the church. Members then become recruiters, pressured to evangelize others.

Some critics charge there are even quotas set regarding the number of new recruits expected to be brought in.

"They are told that if they have a negative thought it's Satan controlling their mind," said one former Boston-based deprogrammer.

Al Baird a BCC spokesman admitted, "We do call for a radical lifestyle."

Members attend Sunday services, weekly bible-studies and prayer sessions and spend so-called "quiet time" in "reflection" and are expected to meet on a regular basis with their discipleship partner.

The BCC should not be confused with established independent churches of Christ, nor with the United Church of Christ, also known as the Congregational Church.

BCC unlike those churches has a history that goes back only to the 1970s in Gainesville, Florida. There a man named Chuck Lucas started using its controversial "discipling method."

Later Kip McKean, a college student discipled by Lucas eventually became a campus minister in Illinois, but was let go by the Houston Memorial Church of Christ that sponsored him.

In 1979 McKean came to Lexington and eventually took over a Church of Christ there, which later became the BCC. He would then lead the organization as it experienced its phenomenal growth.

F.H. (Buddy) Martin, was an evangelist for the Cape Cod Church of Christ during the 1980s. He had considerable experience dealing with the damaged disciples of McKean's church.

"If they were not damaging people spiritually, psychologically and emotionally, I would be 100 percent behind what they are doing," he told the Boston Globe.

Martin said he received 30 to 35 calls some weeks from "people who are really hurting" due to the influence of the BCC. Martin spent most of his time while in Cape Cod dealing with problems related to the BCC. He was part of a network that counseled current and former members.

Paul Chan, a Harvard student once considered joining the BCC said its recruiters at dormitories don't always completely explain what they are doing. He described their approach as ''a very manipulative way to try to form relationships with freshmen."

Baird acknowledged, ''occasionally an ambitious young person will get rambunctious," blaming BCC members individually rather than accepting responsibility for their behavior.

Critics and former members emphasized that the members that recruit for the BCC believe in what they're doing and are seem sincere.

One member told the Boston Globe he appreciated the discipleship practices of the church saying, "I know if I do something displeasing to God, they will let me know about it. It takes a real friend to do that."

But Karen Gray, the Wellesley student said that she was a prime target for recruitment.

A fellow student asked her to a meeting and she wanted the attention and a sense of community and would not have left without deprogramming. Only then did she realize how much of her individuality and personality she had given up.

Gray said her discipleship partner told her how much time she should spend on schoolwork, Bible study and evangelizing and how much money she should give. And that he only slept four hours a night. There was also pressure to recruit constantly and little privacy. She said church leaders even had to approve dating practices.

"You have no privacy of thought or deed, Everything's public and can be manipulated. People have been really hurt and mistreated because so much authority is going to people who probably shouldn't have it," Gray told the Boston Globe.

According to the Boston Globe report by the time Gray finally left the group she had lost the ability to make her own decisions. She said, "I didn't know what I believed anymore. I had to reevaluate everything."

Note: This summary was based upon an article first published by the Boston Globe on March 20, 1988 titled "Allegations of cult tactics don't halt church's rise" by Richard Kindleberger

Copyright © 2006 Rick Ross.

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