Well, the church leaderships are responding to Kip, to the LA proposal or both toghether. So far, only one has signed onto the LA proposal (more on that later.) I must say, overall I am encouraged. What I feared might become a landslide into the past does not seem to be materializing. Some snippets:
In response to Kip:
As a result of Kip’s divisive behavior, conversations and writings, he was warned last year at the Chicago leadership conference by a group of mature elders and evangelists. Kip committed to changes, but his actions indicate that he is not serious about working respectfully together with others. Most recently, he preached and distributed an article and posted the same on the Portland church Web site. The article in effect calls on churches to either agree to accept Portland’s direction or to realize that Kip and others from Portland will call out members from these churches to join with them. Kip’s actions are divisive and arrogant and must be opposed.
Unfortunately, in “The Portland Story,” our brother Kip, in seeking to “call out” disciples to an ostensibly higher level of commitment, engaged in several serious and inappropriate kinds of unwholesome criticism and comment: mischaracterizing our church history in a way that disparages many of our most experienced churches and regional church leaderships; making matters of opinion into binding doctrine (that is, passing judgment on disputable matters Romans 14:1); disparaging the very real weaknesses of sister churches and their leaderships in a way that is disrespectful and undermining to their reputations with the people they are struggling to shepherd; and insinuating that many or most of our church leaderships worldwide have melodramatically “trapped” true disciples behind walls of lukewarm-ness.
We appeal in particular to the Portland leadership group to consider and act on these observations carefully and thoroughly. We do believe that the Portland church is a zealous, happy place, but we implore them to make remedy and apologize for behavior affecting disciples beyond Portland’s borders—for disrespecting, judging, for condescension, for one-size-fits-all demeaning words, for ignoring Matthew 18 protocols in specific church situations, and to renounce reckless accusations and opinions foisted as doctrines.
In that event, we would welcome them “to be on the team,” with the Northwest family of churches and leadership fellowships. If not, then we wish them well, pray for them, but are both sad yet content to part company for the present time and move in a very different direction for our own church’s missions and maturity.
Obviously, we are all concerned about churches growing and each disciple in every church being a disciple according to the Bible’s definition. But unfortunately, we in most older, larger churches find ourselves trying to help bring order out of the chaos that we believe resulted from faulty building principles in the first place. Taking the biblical premises in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, the fires of testing showed what sort of materials were used in the foundation of our building, and this biblical principle should make it abundantly clear that the building of the past 20+ years under Kip’s leadership was clearly faulty. It is pretty difficult to hear Kip state or imply that those of us who are trying to pick up the pieces of a devastated movement are somehow unaware or unconcerned about its condition and helping it to recover.
At any rate, the brothers who met with Kip at Chicago last year expressed in no uncertain terms that he would have to cease such disrespectful and divisive statements, or unity with him would be impossible. It was clearly a warning.
We are adding our voices of concern to those of others in calling for Kip’s repentance of his divisive approaches, and for Portland church members who are actively recruiting members from other churches to cease and desist. … We are desirous of seeking a forged type of unity based on relationships of mutual respect and agape love.
In addition, Disciples Today, the closest thing to a ‘official’ ICOC web site, initially printed, then removed, Kip’s Portland Story. They explain why here (subscrition required.) In a quote from the article on ICOCinfo, it was in part because:
The article clearly calls for disrespect, rebellion and division among God’s people — far beyond the boundaries of boldly challenging God’s people to be righteous.
In response to both LA & Kip:
From Orlando (via ICOCnews):
The purpose of this statment is two-fold: 1) To let you know that your elders & staff believe that creating an organization to promote unity through stated standards of behavior or beliefs may, in fact, cause more disunity than it promotes; and, 2) To restate our commitment to be a grace-motivated, purpose-driven church led by a local leadership. Though our feelings are strong, we do no want to be reactionary but want to gather as many facts as possible so as to lead you forward in a powerful but humble way.
From St. Louis:
First, Kip McKean unveiled a plan he has regarding other churches within our fellowship. … While we do appreciate any desire to help struggling churches, and understand that Jesus deserves our total, “sold-out” commitment, this plan seems to promote more competition and division than it does respect and unity. We have all had enough of that in the past. Here in St. Louis, we have no desire to be a part of such an endeavor.
Also the leadership of the Los Angeles Church of Christ has made a unity proposal of its own last week. In it there was a list of unified beliefs, unified practices and an appeal for unified worldwide leadership. … We greatly respect the desire of those brothers to do something that would hopefully draw God’s people together. However, at this point, we do not desire to sign such a proposal, fearing it may limit true unity rather than promote it. We do not feel that a centralized leadership group or a narrow view of “unified practices” should be the foundation or requirement for unity amongst our churches. Rather, it should be simply our common commitment to honor, obey and serve Christ.
From San Diego:
Many of you are aware of the controversy being stirred up over the last few weeks by an article on the Portland, Oregon [website entitled], “The Portland Story” in which Kip McKean unveils his plan to call out of our churches a remnant of what he considers to be committed disciples. Although we are committed to making disciples here in San Diego as well, it saddens us to say that his divisive statements are clearly doing more harm than good, and we are absolutely opposed to having anything to do with it here in the San Diego Church of Christ.
A separate issue that has come up recently which also deserves our attention is a call by the Los Angeles Church of Christ to a new brotherhood structure … While we applaud our brothers’ efforts at unity, we are very reluctant to pursue it by means of structure and accountability since the tendency of human nature is to become more and more legislative and controlling, and we have no intention of ever being a part of something like that again.
The SanDiego article is a little different in that it spends little time going over why they aren’t signing up, instead refering to the Boston, St. Louis, Phoenix and Atlanta articles for more detail. Instead, they take this opportunity to explain where they are going:
Through the trials and difficulties of recent years, God is calling us to mature in our Christ-likeness more than ever before. Among other things, we are learning how to be committed without being legalistic, how to be unified without being coercive, how to be connected without being codependent, how to be generous without being irresponsible, how to be nurturing without being sentimental, how to be honest without being hurtful, how to be forgiving without being superficial, how to be evangelistic and serving without losing a sense of boundary and balance, and how to take care of our own without being overly provincial.
There are also individual responses to the LA proposal from a member of the LA church and an Elder in Atlanta, both against the proposal.
I must say that I am encouraged by these responses. Please go read them in their entirety if you have time, particularly the San Diego article, as there is much more to them then the snippets tell, including acknowledgements of the good Kip has done over the years in individual lives and the role he played in building out fellowship of churches. Many, if not most, in the ICOC owe something of their conversion to Kip and his vision, if only because that vision made the existance of their church possible. There is little debate that the execution of his vision came at a high price for many, however. While I’m happy about the way these churches have responded, I am still sad it had to happen at all. Of course, a few churches denouncing these things doesn’t end it. In fact, in the 2.5 years since the HKL, this is the second such unity proposal from LA and it seems pretty clear that the rebuke of prominent church leaders has not had an effect on Kip …
Not surprisingly, Kip has wholeheartedly endorsed and signed onto the LA proposal, revelaing that he was one of those consulted on it’s contents. In the same article, he comments on the growing voices expressing concern about his recent writings, and The Portland Story in particular. Rather than taking their concerns to heart and looking at his own sins, he seems to take their criticism as evidence God’s plans and Satan’s attacks. It’s a hallmark if the former ICOC that events that are percieved as negative are attributed to God’s discipline or Satan’s attack, while what is good is man’s doing.
In direct reponse to those criticisms, he only says this:
Last week I received a phone call from my friend Mike Taliaferro. He asked several pointed questions concerning my article “The Portland Story.” I realize from that conversation what I wrote could be misunderstood by even my friends. To give Mike a background for my thoughts, I shared with Mike about all the calls from weak, hurting disciples received weekly. We simply want to help these wounded souls as well as to be arm-in-arm with all who desire revival in our churches and to see the world evangelized.
Leaderships of large and prominent churches in our movement condemn his plan and rebuke his sin, and his response is to point the finger back at their ‘misunderstanding’, without a clarification of how it was misunderstood. And much like the LA proposal Q&A, Kip distills his demand for submission to his vision of ‘church health’ to “We simply want to help.” It all depends on what your definistion of ‘help’ is.
Kip is a dreamer and a zealot, potentially good things when not blinded by pride. Imagine what good could be done with that visionary, zealous energy if channeled, not into a bigger, grander ‘movement’, but into empowering individual people to rise above their own humanity, and using their gifts, whatever they may be, to God’s glory.
Though this isn’t likely the end of it all, I still feel as tough I should feel ancouraged, but I do not. Our churches have spent the last week or so caught up in this little tempest, and we will likely have to continue to deal with it for days, maybe weeks to come. It’s an unfortunate distraction to the business of leading our people.