Since 1994 there has been an average of 20,000 members a year walking away from the International Churches of Christ / Boston Movement (ICC), an organization which claims to be “God’s modern day movement”, the one and only “true church”. This exodus in just the last 6 years has caused the number of former members to eclipse the number of current members. Add to this the number of members leaving since the inception of the ICC in 1979, and the number of former members more than triples that of current members. In fact, according to statistics quoted by ICC leadership, for every three people who join this organization there are two people leaving. Why is this?
Thousands of former members, many interviewed by various news organizations, claim that numerous legalistic, controlling, and abusive practices run rampant throughout the ICC, beginning with the highest levels of leadership. They also cite charges of favoritism, and hypocrisy on the part of leadership concerning “sacrificial living”. They claim that while most of the membership give sacrificially and live financially sacrificial lives, often feeling pressured by leadership concerning amounts of their weekly giving and contributions, many of those in leadership live just the opposite.
Al Baird, elder and teacher in the LA church, and spokesperson for the ICC, has publicly dismissed these numerous claims as false, uttered by what he calls “disgruntled former members”. Interesting to note that this same tactic is used by many large companies who seek to silence those who bring claims and charges of wrong doing against them. They label those who bring such claims against them as “disgruntled former employees”. Some of these companies have even attempted to discredit these “disgruntled former employees” by character assassination, especially when there is ample evidence to support the claims being made by these former employees. The ICC appears to be guilty of this same practice, causing many current members to ignore or dismiss ample evidence supporting the claims of former members. This article focuses on one such claim by former members and the evidence that supports it.
In September of 1999 the Chicago Church of the ICC purchased a home in the affluent North Shore area of Wilmette, IL. The cost of this home was $400,000. The lead evangelist of the Chicago church, Byron Parson, and his family took up residence shortly thereafter. At first, the knowledge of this purchase was kept from the members of the Chicago church. When the information began to circulate it caused a lot of problems within the membership in Chicago, even to the point of some of the members leaving the ICC. During a church meeting in which former member and Elder, Isaiah Pickett, was being "marked", a term used for the ex-communicating of someone from the fellowship, the purchase of the home in Wilmette was brought into the open. The following is an excerpt from the explanation given to the members by Elder, John Mannel, for the purchase of this $400,000 home.
Where does Scripture teach that to spread the Gospel to an affluent community such as Wilmette a "beachhead" must first be established by the church taking up residence (buying a home) and becoming a part of that affluent community? Where does Scripture teach that you cannot evangelize an affluent community as "transient" people? Most of the evangelizing done during the first Century was by Apostles like Paul and Peter who were very "transient". And to suggest that this affluent area known as the North Shore had "remained dark to the light of God" for no other reason than the ICC had not yet moved into that area, speaks volumes about the ICC stance that they are the one true church and that outside their membership there is no light of God.
After hearing this explanation, some of the members still asked Byron why he was moving to a $400,000 house. He responded that he did not own the house, nor did he have any equity in the house, that he pays rent. One woman even stated:
Needless to say that many people were upset to find out that their hard earned contributions, which they live sacrificially in order to give, were used to buy such a pricey home in an affluent community for the lead evangelist of the Chicago church.
I personally flew to Chicago to see this house. This house, located at 421 Illinois Road, Wilmette, IL 60091, has 4 bedrooms, a new maple kitchen-family room which opens to a deck and private fenced yard in back, central air and furnace, attached 2.5 car garage, a recreation room, and sits on a corner lot. While this is certainly more than comfortable, this home does not appear to me to warrant a $400,000 price tag. Yet it reveals the reality of real estate costs in affluent residential areas. It also reveals the truth about the ICC leadership mindset concerning "image".
But this was not the first time that this kind of purchase had taken place. In the spring of 98 Kip McKean moved into a new home, a roomy condominium in the highly affluent community of Pacific Palisades, California. The condo was purchased by the LA church for $480,000! According to Al Baird it was purchased as a parsonage for the lead evangelist of the LA church (who just happens to be the leader of the movement, Kip McKean). The current market value of this condo, as of July 2000, exceeds $540,000. I wonder how many members of the LA church had knowledge of this purchase before it was aired on national television in an investigative report by the Fox News network? Shortly after the investigative report was aired, the ICC published an article to ICC members, in which Al Baird stated that:
This is true IF you are speaking of real estate in posh, affluent areas such as Pacific Palisades or Brentwood where many celebrities live. But there are many areas of LA where $480,000 is not by any means the norm for real estate. This is quite verifiable by checking real estate publications for the LA and surrounding areas. This statement made by leadership is misleading. I would be curious to find out what percentage of the membership in LA live in affluent areas such as Pacific Palisades, or own homes valued in excess of $480,000. If the leadership of the ICC thought it no big deal to purchase the condo, why did they feel it necessary to publish an article explaining their actions to their own members and down playing the cost of the condo? Oddly, just four years previous to the purchase of this condo, Kip McKean was rebuking those in leadership for the purchasing of houses. During the ICC Manila World Leadership Conference in 1994 Kip McKean stated:
This did not stop many of those in leadership from continuing to purchase homes, several of them within three to four months of the annual collecting of "special contribution" (an amount set by leadership and expected from each member. In recent years it has reached an amount 20 times a person's weekly tithe.) Kip also made mention of people in leadership owning "…2 and sometimes 3 cars…" and evangelists making "…$80,000…" a year. And this was back in 1994 (six years ago). God only knows what some of them are making today.
In the ICC article Al Baird also stated, as did Byron Parson about himself, "the McKeans pay fair-market-value rent." What he did not say is that the McKeans also receive a nice housing allowance with which to pay that rent. According to an ex-leader of the ICC, Rick Bauer, those in leadership receive housing allowances, travel, entertainment, and other allowances which often doubles the total compensation package. So not only did the cost of the condominium come out of the contributions and tithing of the members, so does the housing allowance which pays the rent.
Then there's Steve Johnson, world sector leader of ACES and lead evangelist of the New York City church, who purchased a luxury co-op at 215 W 98th Street on the upper West Side of Manhattan in January of 1990. Being a co-op the price is not listed with the New York County Clerk's Office nor the New York City Department of Finance, only the name of ownership (Steven and Lisa Johnson), the bank involved in the transaction and the amount of co-op shares purchased (408 shares). According to several brokers contacted real estate in that area of the upper West Side, especially for luxury co-ops, is not cheap. What is more disconcerting is that when ICC members asked Steve about the co-op at 215 W 98th Street he claimed that he did not own it.
There is also the World Sector Leader and Lead Evangelist over the Washington DC church, Douglas Arthur. In May of 1997 he purchased a home in McLean, Virginia (1201 Old Stable Road), priced at $470,000. Apart from this being an extremely highly priced home for someone in a group where the leadership harps on "sacrificial living", as a means to gain higher contribution amounts, it was only one of the two homes owned by Douglas Arthur from May 1997 till July 1999. The first (9406 Vernon Drive, Great Falls, Virginia) was purchased in 1993 for $290,000, and was sold in 1999 for $314,500. Very recently, as of the writing of this article, the home at 1201 Old Stable Road was in real estate listings for the sum of $675,000.00. Three separate realtors in the DC area confirmed this information. They also stated that the home is temporarily off the market. I was also told that McLean is very "desirable" and "affluent". In fact, the July 2000 average sales price for homes in Fairfax County, where the town of McLean is located, was $264,874. That is as of July 2000. Douglas Arthur paid much more than that three years ago. Again, as much as the leadership of the ICC harps on living financially sacrificial lives, it appears as though they don't practice what they preach.
It also appears that many of those in ICC leadership choose to live in either very comfortable homes or the more affluent areas of the cities or towns in which the individual churches over which they lead exist. In the majority of these cases the homes were purchased or rented after leadership status was obtained. We are not suggesting that to live in affluent areas or to own homes in excess of $300,000 is a crime, or even a sin. But for the leadership of the ICC to preach "sacrificial living" and "sacrificial giving" to the rank and file members, and expect it from them, while doing the exact opposite is plain old hypocrisy. And that IS a sin.
The following is a list of additional ICC leaders and the homes that they own or rent at the current time. This information was gathered through public records data bases, County Tax Assessors, County Clerks Offices, Land Records Departments, etc. These are listed on the last page of this article. Make note of the year that some of these homes were purchased, as well as the purchase price. Judge for yourselves whether or not the claim of hypocrisy within the leadership of the ICC is supported.
Los Angeles Church
Marty Fuqua (World Sector Leader, Evangelist)
Cory Blackwell (former World Sector Leader, Region Leader)
A few of the details for the Blackwell's home are 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a fireplace, and a pool. It is located in an area known as Lower Ladera Heights and is is described by realtors as "above average" with large custom homes. Recently, Cory Blackwell was removed from leadership, and there are reports that he and his wife are no longer a part of the ICC. But at the time that he was in leadership he purchased his home for $385,000.
Doug Webber (HOPE Worldwide LA)
John Bringardner (World Sector Administrator)
Realtors contacted described the areas that the above four properties are located in as "above average" and even "affluent" with 3 bedroom / 2 bath homes starting at $350,000 + .
Albert Baird (World Sector Leader, Elder, Spokesman for the ICC)
In 1999 the Baird's moved from a rented home in El Segundo, CA that had a
purchase price of $322,500 in 1992. One of the realtors that I spoke with
informed me that as a rule of thumb the monthly rental price of a home is equal
to 1% of the home's purchase value. If this is accurate then the rental price of
the home Al Baird lives in is at least $3,000 a month.
New York City Church
Steve Kinnard (Congregation teacher)
Notice that Steve Johnson, Steve Kinnard and James Brown all purchased homes in the West Nyack / New City area within a 2 year period
This property at 55 Del Rey Drive is owned by a World Sector of the ICC known as ACES, which the New York City church just happens to be a part of.
addition to ACES owning a residential property in Mount Vernon, the
New York City church, which is under the ACES World Sector, also
owns residential property in Mount Vernon at 324 Westchester Ave, Mount
Vernon, NY 10552. This residence was purchased on 7-29-99 for the sum of
$322,000.00. It is unclear as to who actually lives in this house, but the New
York City church owns it.
The above purchase price was calculated from transfer tax paid. According to the Deed the tax paid was $1,448.00. According to the Manhattan County Department of Records, tax is $4.00 per every $1,000.00 of purchase amount.
Scott Green (Lead Evangelist, World Sector Leader)
Thomas Snyder (Assoc Lead Evangelist)
These two homes were purchased in affluent areas in the same month of the same year. Per the stats of the NW Multiple Listing Service the Y-T-D 2000 average price for homes is $1,326,227 for Bellevue and $1,277,720 for Mercer Island. According to realtors contacted, these prices are higher than other areas in King County. Again, it seems that leadership has chosen the more affluent areas in which to live. Is this what the leaders of the ICC consider living sacrificially?
Walter Evans (Lead Evangelist)
Robert (Bob) Gemple (World Sector Leader, Elder)
According to realtors contacted, Radnor is considered an above average area in Delaware County. The average price for a 3-4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home in Radnor Township is $402,989.
Douglas Jacoby (Evangelist, Director of Children's Ministry)
Scott Lipscomb (Assoc Lead Evangelist)
San Diego Church
Guillermo Adame (Geographic Sector Leader, Lead Evangelist)
Steven Smith (Geographic Sector Administrator)
These two homes are located in an area known as University City, which one realtor referred to as "moderately affluent" with the median price "above the average for San Diego County". I also found a residential property located at 6146 Wolfstar Ct, San Diego, CA 92122 apparently owned by the San Diego Church of Christ. That is the name on the title deed. The person living there is Cory W. Charles. It was purchased on 9-09-99 for $419,000.00.
Gordon Ferguson (Elder, Evangelist, Teacher)
Wyndham Shaw (Elder, Evangelist)
Jimmy Rogers (Evangelist, Geographic Sector Leader, Super Region
Kevin McDaniel (Evangelist, Super Region Leader)
Daniel Bathon (World Sector Administrator, Deacon)
Clegg Dyson (Deacon, Director of Children's ministry)
According to realtors contacted, Lexington is considered an "affluent community" with a school system that is one of the best in the state.
Dallas / Ft Worth church
Gordon (Nick) Young (Lead Evangelist, Geographic Sector Leader)
Barry Baker (Assoc Lead Evangelist, Region Leader)
The subdivision that 3911 Walnut Grove Ln is located in is called Hunters Creek. The average sale price for the same size house is about $199,000, which, according to realtors, is in the "above average" sales price for the Carrollton market. The subdivision that 3310 Pecan Meadow is located in is called Villages of Valley Creek. According to realtors contacted, the sale price for that house was near the "top of the Garland Market" and, neighborhood-wise, "in the upper ranges of sales prices".
San Francisco church
Russ Ewell (lead Evangelist)
Dave Weager (Elder, Evangelist)
So far I have been unable to locate the street addresses as they are not listed. According to realtors, though, San Mateo County is one of the more affluent areas in northern California. And Los Gatos, according to realtors, is "above average" for the Bay area. Los Gatos is a very upscale city located in Santa Clara County. According to the Los Gatos home page, in March 2000 the median sales price for a home was $865,000 and the average sales price was $1,252,558, while the median price of a home for the entire County of Santa Clara in July 2000 was only $547,000. Los Gatos is considered expensive, but very nice with Victorian style homes. One realtor even described Los Gatos as "a wonderful, sought-after town where most people would love to live."
I also found a residential property located at 1498 Swordfish St, Foster City, CA. 94404 that is apparently owned by the San Francisco Church of Christ. At least, that is the name on the title deed. It was purchased on June 6, 1997 for $498,000.00. The assessed value is currently $527,718.00.
Richard Runge (Lead Evangelist)
John Lusk (Lead Evangelist, Geographic Sector Leader)
Preston (Howard P) Shepherd (Region Leader)
The Saint Andrews home is in the Coral Creek Ranch subdivision of Louisville. It is a neighborhood of very nice homes adjacent to Coral Creek golf course; not considered by realtors to be highly affluent, but "certainly well above average". The home on Lark Sparrow is in a hugely popular area of south Denver called Highlands Ranch. According to realtors contacted, it is "probably the single most popular subdivision in the Denver Metro area" and "a very affluent community". Also according to realtors, both addresses are homes currently priced in the $300,000 range, while the current average price for homes in Denver is between $210,000 and 215,000.
Joe (Joseph R) Silipo (Evangelist)
This home is located in McDowell Mountain Ranch subdivision, a very nice and newer area of northern Scottsdale with mountain views and nice parks. The Scottsdale area is considered "affluent" compared to Phoenix. The home itself was only built in 1997, so it was purchased as a new home.
Samuel Laing (Lead Evangelist)
According to realtors this home is located in one of the newest sections of the Silverton subdivision and, in terms of home pricing, the homes in this area are generally considered to be "above average". In fact, Cary, in general, has more affluent neighborhoods than surrounding cities in Wake County".
Douglas Lambert (Lead Evangelist)
Douglas Lambert lives in the area known as Green Hills. According to realtors in Nashville this is an "affluent" area near Green Hills Mall. It is one of several areas that people tend to flock to. It is one of the three most popular areas and is definitely in great demand. According to realtors the current average cost of a home in the Nashville area is estimated at between $125,000 and $150,000. The cost of the home that Douglas Lambert lives in was above today's current average even seven years ago.
Andrew Giambarba (Lead Evangelist, Geographic Sector Leader)
Terry Folker (Evangelist)
According to realtors, 4301 SW 101st Ave is currently being offered for rent for $2,300/month
Arthur C Colson ( ? )
I included the above three addresses even though the prices did not seem that high compared to most of the others listed in this article. However, for the area in which they are located these homes are in the above average range. As one realtor stated, "It is interesting that you selected areas that have large properties. Land tends to be getting to become a premium and most Broward homes do not have such large lots. The areas you selected are the exception." Another realtor stated, "I can tell you that Plantation Acres is considered an 'affluent' area and is a highly desirable address in Broward County. Royal Palm Estates is also very nice, but doesn't carry the same 'prestige' as Plantation Acres."
Stacy Vaughn (Lead Evangelist)
According to a realtor in Greenville, locals refer to the downtown section where East Earl Street is located as "The North Main Area", and yes, it is considered "affluent".
Steve Tetrault (Evangelist)
Barry Beaty (Evangelist)
These two addresses are not really in the Greater Hartford area. They are located in Fairfield County, which, according to realtors contacted, has a "much higher selling price on average than the Hartford area." Realtors stated that the average for home sales in the Hartford area is in the mid $150's depending on which town you are interested in. 51 Rifle Road was said to be near the Fairfield University and "a very nice address in Fairfield."
I realize that there are some members of the ICC who will read this article and say to themselves, "So the leadership live in nice houses or nice areas, so what? This is God's way of blessing them. They deserve this for leading God's people." I wonder if these members really stop to think about what they are saying? Do these members really believe that God would bless those in leadership with lifestyles that totally contradict the very thing they preach to others? Are those people in leadership exempt from what they teach and expect from the rank and file members?
The men who led the first century church led by example. They were servant leaders. Ask yourself if any of the apostles would've preached "sacrificial living" to the multitudes, yet would've chosen pricey homes or affluent areas for themselves. More to the point, would Jesus have done so? Ask yourself if any of the apostles were so concerned about "image" that these men of God would have lived in disregard of the very words they spoke? More to the point, would Jesus have done so? Ask yourself if these apostles would have attempted to convince themselves and others that in order to reach the affluent, they, as leaders, would have to live like the affluent? More to the point, would Jesus have done so? And, finally, ask yourself if these apostles would have used the contributions and tithes of the people who were living "sacrificially" in order to have done so? More to the point, would Jesus have done so?
*current estimated market values were obtained from various realtors and from
The following is a list of sources used to obtain the real estate information supplied in this article.
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