Money is King
Kip's church is, as far as I can tell, much more focused on money than the church in the Bible. Minister compensation, while not as exorbitant as in some denominations known for pastors in giant mansions and brand-new sports cars, is a far cry from the vow of poverty of the original church or even that of nuns in the modern Catholic church. (Here is a longer post with my observations about minister compensation in Kip's churches).
In my meetings with Kip to discuss the abuses suffered under VGSr's leadership, I got the definite and distinct feeling that the main concern on Kip's mind was how much...
this problem was going to cost him. He was not concerned about any wrongdoing on his employee's part, which he seemed to view as an impossibility. The concern of a lawsuit was floated in front of me and that Kip wanted to avoid one. Kip gave me the impression that he thought I could be soothed with money. This is an impression that I do not believe that I did anything at all to suggest. The vibe I got from Kip was, if he gives me some money, everything that happened will be all better. Not that I would necessarily be really owed any repayment, but since he and the church were such good people, he would bend over backwards to try to accommodate me.
My problem was not, and was never, the money. If my problem were the money, I never would have freely donated tens of thousands of dollars to the church. My problem was the deceit, theft, and threatening atmosphere created by the leader in question. Those issues seemed to be secondary to Kip, or more likely, he saw them as figments of my overactive imagination.
While Kip had the church write a check for the van expense, he did not offer to pay back any of the other $2,000+ dollars that VGSr had taken from me, or encourage VGSr to pay it back. VGSr mentioned that I had forgiven him the debt, which is true. At one point, while still under the specter of his threats and influence, and already being certain that I would never be repaid, and wishing to find some way to close the unhappy chapter of history, I told him not to worry about paying me back. So while it would be nice for him or the church to voluntarily offer to make amends, I unfortunately opened my mouth in a weak and frustrated moment and gave them the excuse for why not to make things right. So that one was my bad.
I also should mention that I was a member of the City of Angels church for over one full year leading up to the Part III of my story openly stating my lack of belief in the Bible and the basic tenets of the church. I stuck around for several reasons, such as friendships, community, and force of habit. I even continued giving my contribution in full and was allowed to continue leading groups, direct songs at meetings, and preach messages. I shared my lack of belief with VGSr and other leaders. VGSr dismissed it. But the day I stopped giving my contribution, over one year later, the church was suddenly very concerned about my spiritual well-being. They sent VGSr to confront me about it in a meeting described in Part III of my story, where VGSr first threatened to try to destroy my family.
I guess as long as you are giving enough money, they are happy to have you around.
(I'll be writing another post about money and how the church worked through the years to wring out every last penny from me that it could.)
Old Boys Network
It appeared, during the course of our meeting, that Kip never entertained the thought that VGSr could have been guilty of what I accused him. As soon as I started to talk and told Kip that VGSr had embezzled money from me, he interrupted me, cut me off and told me that that was impossible. He knew VGSr much too well to believe that a fine, upstanding minister of his could be guilty of anything of the sort. Without wanting to bother hearing any details, Kip assured me that it was all a misunderstanding, with the root of the problem mostly caused by my lack of openness and hard feelings that I had harbored against VGSr.
Kip protected VGSr and subtly (and not-so-subtly) tried to place the blame back on me. I definitely got the feeling like Kip had VGSr's back, no matter what I said.
Of course, any doubt of that would soon be erased when VGSr later threatened to try to destroy my family, and then Kip repeated those same threats, to my face, twice.
Is The "New" Church So Much Better Than The "Old" Church?
I moved thousands of miles to be part of Kip's ministry when he was getting started back up in Portland, Oregon, then went on mission teams two times for Kip: once to build the first "stepping out" ministry in his new movement - Phoenix, and again to help build the foundation of the new flagship, the City of Angels church in Los Angeles. I loved Kip, his ideas, and his methodology. But wouldn't you know, threatening the sanctity of my family somehow took him off of my "good guys" list and put him irrevocably on my "bad guys who have threatened to try to destroy my family" list. Sorry Kip.
Kip makes a big fuss about how the International Christian Church he founded is so much different and better than the International Church of Christ that he founded. After spending many years in churches of both types, I'll venture that the new church is not so much better than the old one. In fact, it is a rather...
In all, the church becomes a very dangerous place if you don't fall in line. Have you ever been in a church or any other type of organization where they threaten to try to destroy your family if you want to move away? I sure hope not.