Television Reports on the ICC "Sin Lists,"
Confidentiality and Other Documentation


       Whether or not leaders of the International Churches of Christ (ICC) maintain records of members' sins, and the confidentiality of these confessions, has generated heated discussion and attracted the attention of the media on the North American continent. From 1993 to 1994, several television investigative reporters questioned church leaders about this subject during their research on the ICC.
       Transcribed segments of interviews regarding the "Sin Lists," a copy of correspondence concerning these lists sent by Rick Bauer to Al Baird, Chief Spokesperson, Elder, and World Sector Leader for the International Churches of Christ, background information, and a scriptural examination of the ICC's practice of confession of sin are presented through this site.


 WCVB   19 May 1993, "Consumed by the Faith," NewsCenter 5 (WCVB Boston/ABC)
20/20 15 October 1993, "20/20" (ABC)
Letter 26 October 1993, Letter from Rick Bauer to Al Baird
Fifth 15 December 1993, "Fifth Estate," CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.)
Inside 19 May 1994, "Inside Edition," CBS (repeat broadcast on 4 August 1994)
Today? A former member comments on the "sin lists," and, are "sin lists" kept
today?

Segment from the "NewsCenter 5" (WCVB Boston/ABC) Investigative Report
19 May 1993


       Investigative Reporter Jorge Quiroga interviews Gordon Ferguson, Elder and Teacher with the Boston Church of Christ. In the ICC, the office of Teacher is a prestigious one, and very few men have been selected for this position.

Quiroga: Are their (members') confessions confidential?
Ferguson: Yes
Quiroga: Former members uh say that the confidentiality of their confessions was broken
     routinely.
Ferguson: Well, that's not the way we normally do business. I mean, I don't know the
     specifics you're talking about. Or if there are some, I would not say that things like that
     have not occurred, but I do know that our emphasis is on confidentiality because we are
     talking about close relationships.


Excerpt from the "20/20" (ABC) Report on the International Churches of Christ
15 October 1993


       John Stossell interviews Al Baird, Chief Spokesperson, Elder, and Media and Law World Sector Leader for the ICC. As of January 1998, ten men occupy the position of World Sector Leader (WSL) in the movement. WSLs are the first tier of leadership below Kip McKean, World Missions Evangelist, and the undisputed leader of the ICC.

Baird: I teach that they should be kept confidential.
Stossell: Then what about this "sin list" that's passed around?
Baird: I don't know of a sin list that, I mean, show me a sin list that gets passed around
     by the leaders of the church.
Stossell: Okay. (Hands Baird a copy of the "sin list." Members names have been marked
     out.) You haven't seen this?
Baird: I'm not familiar with this. If this exists, This is totally wrong. And if I found out that
     someone did this, this could even be grounds for their dismissal.
Stossell: You haven't seen something like this before?
Baird: I absolutely have not seen this.
Stossell: But we hear stories about people being broken by confrontational interviews;
     their secrets thrown at them until they break. Doesn't happen?
Baird: I would never say something never happens. And when you're dealing with 70,000
     people, it'd be naive to say nothing never happens.
Stossell: It's not common practice to break people?
Baird: But I can tell you it is not what the leadership approves of in doing anything that
     Jesus wouldn't do.

        Would Baird's view of the "sin lists" change if he were to be given proof they
            exist, and informed who is using them?

Letter from Rick Bauer to Al Baird                                                              


Letter reprinted with permission of author, 3 February 1998


26 October 1993
Mr. Al Baird
Los Angeles Church of Christ
3530 Wilshire Boulevard
Suite 1750
Los Angeles, California 90010

Dear Al:

I am writing you this letter to let you follow up on a request made through ABC television. The producers of ABC's "20/20" program said that you were most concerned about the "sin list" that was displayed in the program that aired on October 15th, and that you wanted to obtain a copy. It was my understanding that you already had a copy of this document but I am certainly glad to provide you with another copy to validate its authenticity. Lest there be any further concern about its authenticity, we also have a version with the names of individuals clearly identified. To validate the accuracy of the document, ABC contacted individuals on this list, who in turn verified the accuracy of their sins and uniformly expressed contempt and revulsion for the fact that intimate details of their life had been confessed and that information had been communicated to third parties without their awareness (emphasis added).

Al, I share your apparent shock and revulsion at this document; I too agree that whoever circulated this information deserves to be immediately terminated from the International Churches of Christ organization. Truly, your swift attention to this ministerial discipline would demonstrate that the upper echelons of the group are able to discipline themselves. For this reason I am informing you that this document was originally obtained from the Boston Church of Christ elder/teacher Gordon Ferguson (emphasis added).

(Editor's Note: the remaining two paragraphs of this letter have been omitted from this copy)

Sincerely,

(signed)

Rick Bauer

Enclosures: Confidential Sin List, Boston Church of Christ

CC: Mr. Mark Golden, producer, ABC television; Gordon Ferguson, elder, Boston Church of Christ



        ABC researchers confirmed the authenticity of the "sin lists" prior to airing this
            investigative report. In retrospect, how does this information affect your
            evaluation of Elder and Teacher Gordon Ferguson's replies to Jorge Quiroga?1
            (transcribed excerpt repeated below)

Quiroga: Are their (members') confessions confidential?
Ferguson: Yes
Quiroga: Former members uh say that the confidentiality of their confessions was
     broken routinely.
Ferguson: Well, that's not the way we normally do business. I mean, I don't know the
     specifics you're talking about, or if there are some, I would not say that things
     like that have not occurred, but I do know that our emphasis is on confidentiality
     because we are talking about close relationships.

        Would Ferguson's response have been different if the "sin lists" had been
           authenticated and presented to him during his interview?2


Segment from the "Fifth Estate" Report on the ICC                                                
15 December 1993


       Prior to her interview with Al Baird, interviewer Trish Wood says:  

                     Fifth Estate obtained this document written by a church leader in
                     Boston. It's a secret file full of detailed reports on members
                     (various pages are shown) on how spiritual they are, how prideful,
                     this one has bad attitudes, this one's rebellious, unsubmissive,
                     and there are many secrets, has a lesbian background, abused
                     sexually by her father, pre-marriage abortion.


(Wood holds out several pages of "sin lists.")

Wood: This is dirt on people. How they're performing in recruiting people, what their
     sexual peccadilloes may have been.
Baird: I don't know what you want me to say. I said I don't approve of that.
Wood: Scott Deal (former member and upper-echelon leader in the Toronto church)
     says that this information wasn't always written down, but that it was passed
     around, talked about in order to control them.
Baird: We do not keep lists like that.
Wood: But even if it's not
Baird: I have never seen a list like that.
Wood: But even not written down, he said the information was shared among the
     elders in the church in order to be used against people in breaking sessions.
Baird: I've already told you I don't believe in breaking sessions in the way you're
     talking about.

        Refer to the transcribed segment of the "20/20" interview, and Rick Bauer's letter
            to Al Baird, dated 26 October 1993. Is Al Baird correct in telling the "Fifth
            Estate" interviewer he has "never seen a list like that"?3

        Is Al Baird accountable? Is Gordon Ferguson accountable? To whom?4

        Remember Baird's comments regarding breaking sessions?

            In the "20/20" interview: 
            Stossell: But we hear stories about people being broken by confrontational
            interviews
. Their secrets thrown at them until they break. Doesn't happen?
            Baird: I would never say something never happens. And when you're dealing
            with 70,000 people, it'd be naive to say nothing never happens.
            Stossell: It's not common practice to break people? (emphasis added)
            Baird: But I can tell you it is not what the leadership approves of in doing
            anything that Jesus wouldn't do.

            Is Al Baird evasive in his reply to John Stossell?

            In the "Fifth Estate" interview:
            Wood: But even not written down, he said the information was shared among
            elders in the church in order to be used against people in breaking sessions.
            Baird: I've already told you I don't believe in breaking sessions in the way
            you're talking about
(emphasis added).

            Are there some type of breaking sessions of which Baird approves? 

        After this interview, Rick Bauer wrote a letter regarding the events
            surrounding the "sin lists" and media reports to Kip McKean. Then, in
            November 1993, an attorney representing the ICC claimed the ICC was
            "taking the steps they deem necessary to address this matter." Also, he
            cautioned Bauer against further "'republication'" of these lists as that
            "could expose" him to "potential liability for defamation or invasion of
            the privacy of the church members."5 What was done about the invasion
            of privacy of the members of the Boston Church of Christ?


        To date, there is no evidence that Kip McKean, Al Baird, Gordon Ferguson,
            or any other ICC leader addressing or apologizing for the existence of the
            "sin lists"or breach of confidence.6 In fact, the following "Inside Edition"
            excerpt will show the leaderships' new "spin" on maintaining lists of member' sins.
           


Excerpt from the "Inside Edition" Investigative Report on the ICC                       
19 May 1994


       Matt Meagher interviews Dr. Al Baird, Chief Spokesperson, World Sector Leader, and Elder of the ICC.

Baird: It wasn't circulated. That was a list from one leader to another, and someone
     took the list, and gave it to you . . . . (sound fades out)

(Announcer: Al Baird is an elder in the church and its official spokesman.)

Meagher: The things on this list should have never gone beyond the person, that's discipling . . . .
Baird: That's exactly (pause) That's exact -- the leader of the group. The leader of the
     group must know his people.
Meagher: Oh, so the leader should know my sins?
Baird: No, not all your sins. But he's got to know the sins that you're ongoing basis
     struggling with.


        How has Al Baird's public position on confidentiality changed since the "20/20"
            interview?7

        What could have caused Baird to switch from denouncing these lists as wrong,
            and possibly even grounds for dismissal, to defending them as necessary?8

        Outside of the leaders, how many people would be involved in gathering
            information on all members, and forwarding it up the ranks to the top leadership?
            How many times might members' confidentiality be violated?9

        Consider Baird's various comments regarding members's sins and confidentiality:
                   "We teach confidentiality."
                   "The leader of a group must know his people."
                   "I absolutely keep them confidential."
            What does he really believe?
            Do he seem to be trustworthy?

        Regarding what the ICC leaders should know about those under them. Remember,
            Al Baird said, "No, not all your sins. But he's got to know the sins that you're
            ongoing basis struggling with."


            Then, consider the examples of "sins" which Trish Wood of "Fifth Estate" read
            from the lists: how spiritual they are, how prideful, this one has bad
            attitudes, this one's rebellious, unsubmissive, and here are many secrets,
            has a lesbian background, abused sexually by her father, pre-marriage
            abortion.


            Is being sexually abused by one's father a sin? Besides the examples named
            above, these "sin lists" contain other actual and perceived sins, and information
            such as that listed below. Are these examples of sins that members are
            "ongoing basis struggling with?" Are these even sins?10

"Jewish background"   "black"   "clerical type work"
"weird family background"   "divorced"   "grew up in California"
"Puerto Rican"   "pretty"   "preppy type background"
"parents against the church"   "BTL"   "Asian mindset"
"lots of medical problems"   "from Brazil"   "may be mentally off, skitzo stuff"
"very professional black sister"   "never married"   "does manual labor"
". . . engineer (MIT -- sharp)"   "spacy type"   "but dull and low key as leader"

    
        Are members told their leaders keep tabs on their sins and personal lives,
           and that certain members gather and pass along this information up through the
           chain of command?11  Where is this practice condoned in Scripture?
            
        Of "breaking sessions," Baird told Stossell, "But I can tell you it is not what
            the leadership approves of in doing anything that Jesus wouldn't do." Is keeping
            lists such as these something Jesus would do?

       Some current members have defended the practice of maintaining a record of other
members'sins, and referred to them as "ministry lists." It would be impossible to determine
how widespread this practice is or has been. Within the last two years, at least two former
members, and even a nonmember from different areas of the United States have reported
seeing such lists. After viewing the video excerpts above, they realized exactly what it was
that they had seen.
       One such occasion involved a computerized list which was being compiled by a house
church leader and another member to be forwarded to their leaders. An account of this
instance can be found in the article, Is it Okay If I Know Your Sins?
       Audio clip excerpts of the "20/20" and "Inside Edition" interviews can be heard at iccspeak

[  Top  ]

  1 Lane, Clayton. Question is from notes taken on Lane's now defunct web site concerning
    the ICC Sin Lists.
  2 Ibid.
  3 Ibid.
  4 Ibid.
  5 Taken from copy of correspondence from Michael S. Greco of Hill & Barlow, Boston,
    to Rick Bauer, dated 24 November, 1993.
  6 Lane, Clayton. Ibid.
  7 Ibid.
  8 Ibid.
  9 Ibid.
10 The decision to exclude a scanned copy of one or more of the pages of the
    "sin lists" (with names marked out) on this web site was a difficult one. While the
    lists would further document errors of the ICC leadership, the overriding concern
    was the possibility of compounding the violation already suffered by its members
    whose confidence was breached.

By Joanne Ruhland, 1998.

[  Top  ]

[  Home  ]

[  Books  ]

[  Biblical  ]

[  Secular  ]

[  Videos  ]

[  Sites  ]

[  Articles  ]

[ ICC ]

[  Cults/Abuse ]

Helpful  ]

[  Research  ] [ Quotes ]