by Lucas Mboya
To all the current and former members of the Boston Movement, 17th July 1997
- The First Few Years
- The Doubts Begin
- The New Testament and Tithing
- Questioning Authority
- Going to the Press
- The Leaders Slander those who Left
- Demanding an Accounting
- Purging the Dissidents
- The Long-Delayed AGM
Having spent six years in the International Churches of Christ (ICC) a.k.a “The Boston Movement,” I can honestly say that I’m glad to be out. Never again shall I join a sectarian church or religious grouping or commit myself to any man made rules and regulations for which I can find no scriptural bearing.
I was baptised into Christ in the Nairobi Christian Church (NCC) in early February of 1991, along with my wife Sigrid, who was my girlfriend at the time. We were baptised on the same day. This was after I had studied the bible on and off for about a year with Tom Ziegler, currently ICC administrator for Africa, and Jim Brown, now an evangelist in the New York Church of Christ. I believed both to be men of integrity. I am not so sure about that now.
My first few years in the Nairobi Church, were full of rewarding memorable and challenging experiences. I got a lot of help and direction from many brothers and sisters and found I could finally make consistent changes in my life.
Most impressive about the NCC then, (early nineties) was their apparent commitment to the scriptures. That, more than anything else, was what prompted me to believe that I was in the right place.
Being better educated than most of the members, and particularly coming from a wealthier background, I found myself rising up quickly in the hierarchy with more recognition and responsibility. In rapid succession, I became a Bible Talk leader, and then Zone leader. It was often bandied about that I would end up on staff of the church some day. I even accompanied the staff once, (my wife was on staff for two years), on a holiday retreat to the coastal town of Mombasa. This was while a Nigerian named Richard Alawaye was the lead evangelist of the Nairobi church. Though with the benefit of hindsight, the fact that I could provide a car for the 1,000km round-trip may have had a lot to do with that as well.
I will endeavour to keep my observations as brief as possible, and concern myself only with the main events which have brought the Nairobi Christian Church to a grinding halt. I will do my best to be accurate, and what I discuss can be confirmed by checking with former and current members. As I don’t remember dates very well, I will do my best to give an approximation where possible.
As far back as 1994 when my wife was still on staff, I already began to have misgivings about some of the things I was witness to in the church.
I noticed a kind of duplicity and falseness among members. A people-pleasing attitude that, in my opinion, led to all kinds of malpractices, manipulations and abuses. In particular I felt that the system of taking statistics, (how many people one had met, studied the Bible with and brought to church etc.), very disturbing. What I noticed was that people in my Bible Talk group as well as elsewhere in church were increasingly unhappy. They seemed to live on hype and not reality. I noticed this throughout the church.
This was especially evident when the church met for mid-week service on Thursday nights and weekly service on Sunday mornings. It seemed to take more and more hype to get the congregation “fired up”. What I mean is that Richard and his staff had to “pump up” the gathering half the time, there was such a serious lack of self motivation. Something was definitely wrong somewhere. I was determined to find out what. After much discussion, bible study and meditation, I arrived at a highly disturbing conclusion, that it was the statistics taking which was a major problem area. I believe that first, they are unbiblical and second, only succeed in making Christians legalistic. I never found any instance in the bible of Jesus asking his disciples for stats or any of the apostles or disciples asking for stats from others.
This situation was ongoing and a source of struggle in my conscience. Yet I continued quietly to read and pray about it. I realized that love and acceptance as practised in the church were conditional and based on one’s statistical performance which nullifies God’s grace.
I concluded that the leadership of the entire movement (ICC) was more concerned with numbers than with people like tiny Cogs in a big wheel. I thought to myself that a lot of Kip McKean’s security must come from the stats he received. The church became more and more an exercise in proving ourselves better than others (one upsmanship).
I remember broaching the subjects (stats, legalism) with Richard in 1996 after he came back from South Africa after almost a year’s absence. He had gone to receive more spiritual training under Mike Taliaferro who currently leads the whole of the African region of the ICC. When we talked I remember being quite vague for fear of sounding too critical. Incidentally Richard used to disciple me until, nearing the time he went to South Africa in 1995, he stopped because I think he found me too unwilling to accept his advice in certain areas and especially since I was very blunt about what I thought. “Discipling” in ICC jargon means spiritual guidance. Thus a discipler is supposed to be a spiritual mentor.
One incident I think actually triggered the whole sequence of events leading to the breaking down of the church, was an argument about tithing that Richard and I had. Before being posted to South Africa to lead all ICC churches in Africa, Taliaferro served in Nairobi as the lead evangelist. When the church was registered, in November 1992, we were legally able to take up contribution for the first time. I remember very clearly at one Sunday service at the Nairobi Railway club, Mike saying that in this movement, (the ICC) the leaders urged disciples to give 10% of their income as was done in the Old Testament under the old law. He actually said that one didn’t need to start at 10% but encouraged the congregation to aim for that. He said and I quote, “Guys, it’s not biblical,” meaning that it was the policy of the church, not a biblical requirement. Paul in 2 Cor. 9v7 (NIV) to me set out the principle that I see echoed throughout the scripture. That in giving, the decision must be the givers, and that nobody should be compelled by anything other than his own heart.
I recall a member of staff in urging the church to give, (Nairobi has always been low on finances). saying that the Bible commanded it. He quoted from Malachi 3v 9:10 (Old Testament, old law). Later I talked with this brother, Rayola Osanya, and he agreed that he had actually taken it out of context. On a separate occasion I remember asking him Rayola, whether he had ever given in to things that he did not agree with purely out of fear of leaders and the consequences of disobeying them. His answer was yes.
The truth is I was also a victim of that same sin, (fear of man), but decided at that point to start speaking the truth regardless of what the issue was or whether I would be termed “critical” and “prideful.”
Richard and I met soon after that, (he still discipled me then), and I asked him to correct a wrong understanding that I thought the church in general had which was that, giving 10% was a New Testament command. You can imagine my astonishment when he said it was. He told me to study it out, which I did and duly replied that it was not in my opinion a New Testament command.
He then told me that Mathew 5:20, which says your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees (The fact that some Pharisees gave a tithe (10%) of their income (Luke 18:12)) meant that it was a command for me to do the same to be more righteous than the Pharisees!
I was now way beyond astonished, I was horrified and frightened! Never in my life had I seen scripture more blatantly twisted and used out of context! I will not bother to raise all the doctrinal questions that arise from such warped reasoning suffice to say that I was in total disagreement.
I made it clear to him through another staff member Joseph Owade, (who subsequently took over discipling me), that I would not give 10% but would give what my heart prompted me to. I actually based my giving on 10% but was opposed to someone saying that it was a New Testament command for me to do it which I believe is incorrect. I also decided to do a study on my own to show that there was nothing wrong with tithing but, that nobody had the right to force one to do so. I then shared the conclusions of my study with other brothers. Not one of them objected. A number of them felt that though my study was doctrinally correct, I should just agree with Richard as the lead evangelist. I refused.
My feeling was that it would go against my conscience to give in to what I did not believe in. I felt, too, that to agree to that would lead in future to others and myself agreeing to all sorts of things that were either genuinely wrong or that I did not believe in.
I spent many hours in discussion with Joseph Owade who led the church for a while in Richard’s absence in 1995. I found that he, and quite a few others, also shared the same sentiments about a number of issues including the tithing and statistics.
Joseph tried very hard to get the church away from legalism, (it was very legalistic), by teaching a lot about grace and not focusing on stats. The mood definitely improved though the stats got “worse.” Needless to say he was replaced before Richard returned by John Kilaha, who had been leading the Eldoret church. The Eldoret church is an off-shoot of the Nairobi one. It was till then Nairobi’s only successful planting. In Joseph’s words, Richard (who was in South Africa) was “not happy” with the church’s performance and wanted someone more “controllable” leading it.
When Richard returned in early 1996, we talked a few times about the developing crisis and it became clear to him that I still felt strongly about the tithing issue and as well as being opposed to the taking of stats. I also brought up the issue of slander for which he had given me two warnings, though I did not believe I was actually slandering. I believe that to slander one must have malicious intent. Meaning slander is more the motive behind speaking about someone to others than what you say (1 Peter 3:16). If, for instance as happened, I talked to Gitau Ng’ang’a (who I discipled at one time) about the tithing and told him that I felt Richard was wrong in trying to compel me to accept his understanding of it, that, to me, would not constitute slander, but to Richard it was and I got a warning for it.
Little did I know that the tables would soon be turned and Gitau Ng’ang’a and his wife, who my wife and I were discipling, would soon be asked to go on staff and disciple us. I remember Richard telling me that if I did not become humble, I would end up being discipled by people I baptised. This in NCC was considered somewhat disgraceful. It was done more to embarrass, humiliate and hence coerce me into agreeing with his point of view. It did not work.
After being discipled by Joseph, I was given a new discipling partner, another member of staff by the name of Richard Ahenda who is now an associate evangelist in the Nairobi Church. Our discipling times were so dull and monotonous, that I remember him one day asking me how I was doing, and me replying “bad,” when he asked me why, I told him that it was because the only thing we had in common was discipling times, I was not his friend and neither was he mine. I earned a trip to Richard Alawaye’s house for that. After that incident Gitau Ng’ang’a began to disciple me.
Gitau and I immediately ran into problems. It seemed that everything we discussed had to be “passed on” to Richard. He did not seem to have an opinion on anything! Richard seemed to be his conscience! I knew it was just fear — he could not agree with me on anything we talked about because he was afraid Richard would see it some other way, and he did not want to be opposed to him in anything.
My wife and I walked out on one of our discipling times with him once because he started ranting about my “pride.” This was unrelated to anything we had discussed that evening and I knew he had been ordered to do so by Richard. I felt it was a waste of time.
In our previous discipling time, a week earlier, I had questioned him as to why he and some other members of staff had in a ridiculously short time acquired very unnatural American accents in their speech, yet they had never left the country. Richard, having lived in America for a number of years, has an American accent. I think by this point it had become clear to the leaders in the church that I was a “trouble maker” and according to them, “prideful” and “divisive”, etc. Members or ex-members of the ICC can relate.
I continued to be vocal about everything I saw or understood to be wrong. In the meantime, I continued to meet with, study the bible and baptise people. I made sure however, that I taught them that they had to have their own opinion, conscience and understand the bible for themselves. We (my wife and I) became great friends with those in the Nairobi central zone and, in particular, members of my Bible Talk who (though I was not a Bible Talk leader) still met and fellowshipped in my house.
I shared with them all that was going on, and of my own accord stopped asking them for stats and told them to just do their best before God.
In December 1996, after a Sunday service, Richard summoned my wife and I as well as his wife and two witnesses, Anita Mtwaiti and John Kilaha, Women’s Ministry leader and evangelist, respectively. He said, and I quote, “Brother I have had enough of you. You are prideful and divisive and if you are not going to tithe then I will take your name off the membership roll.” I told him to take it off.
Later one of the witnesses, Anita Mtwaiti, when confronted by Joseph and asked whether it was correct to “disfellowship” someone for refusing to tithe, agreed that it was not. She professed not to have known what was going on when she was called as a witness. Joseph asked John the same question and he just beat around the bush — though trying to defend Richard, he could not find any Scriptural basis for his argument. He then said it was church policy.
Later in the week, Joseph called Mike in South Africa to ask him what justification Richard had for taking such action. Mike told Joseph that he had been informed (by Richard) that I had refused to contribute, which was a lie. I had only refused to let him or anyone else determine how much.
Later the same week I went to the midweek service, and both my wife and I were asked by Anita and John respectively whether we had agreed to give 10%. We said no and were subsequently asked why we had come. That was the last time we went to church.
Richard, meanwhile, left to Nigeria for a Christmas vacation the same Sunday he told me to leave. Little did he know that he had left a storm brewing in his wake. When he returned in January, he realized that his action had not gone down well with a sizable part of the congregation and he hastily called a meeting of all my friends to explain his actions. Here again he lied by saying that he had not disfellowshipped me because of refusing to tithe, but because I was divisive. They asked him what constituted divisiveness and to produce a witness to testify as to how I had been “divisive” and he could not. He then said that I was divisive because I was teaching something contrary to what he taught.
The meeting of about twenty friends became so heated that a brother, Timothy Oruya, who was later asked to leave, had to restrain some brothers who were on the verge of physically confronting Richard. That group now became “targeted” members by the leaders, and over the next few months most of them were disfellowshipped for one reason or another.
I had decided that I was not going to give up the relationships I had with brothers and sisters, but would leave it to them to decide whether they wanted anything to do with me.
The leaders had already started telling people to avoid me and in particular those who were my friends. To publicly expose what was going on in the church and how people were being harassed and bullied, I went to the press and told them all that was going on, as did a few other brothers. When articles about the church started to appear in the press, I acquired a nickname “enemy of God” and the leaders redoubled their efforts to get people to stay away from me mostly in vain. They told those who worked for me in my company and at home to quit or they would be thrown out of the church. In any case I had never tried to convince any brothers or sisters who were my employees (6 in total) to agree with me in anything I did or said. I left it entirely up to them to decide for themselves. Two left my employment and two stayed. Two had left before I was disfellowshipped.
I continued to talk to the press and, after finding the church constitution (a document they tried in vain to prevent others and myself from obtaining), I pointed out that they had failed to have their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in January as the law stated. I also pointed out that, since its inception, the church accounts and statements had never been offered for scrutiny to the congregation at an AGM (another illegality in Kenyan law).
I did this because I felt that when church leaders become habitual and compulsive liars, then financially too they become suspect. I found it unfair that Richard and his wife Sarah, on one hand, earned a reputed Kshs:168,000/= (US$3000) monthly pay package (a phenomenal amount by Kenyan standards), and were living in one of the most affluent areas in Nairobi, when on the other hand, the majority of the congregation were earning an average of Kshs:5000 (US$90) a month. Yet he was pressuring them to give a tenth of their income when even basic health care is unaffordable for most. It was also very sad to see that Richard, to the best of my knowledge, had never ventured into the poor areas of Nairobi, like Kibera, Mathare, Dandora, Lunga Lunga and Kawangware, where a large percentage of the church reside, to meet and spend time with them.
I think its fine to be eating well, but when you live in luxury at the expense of brothers and sisters, regardless of whether the money comes from the pockets of Christians in New York or Nairobi it is morally untenable. It is wrong. Richard often argues that his pay comes straight from the New York church of Christ so it “ain’t nobody business” how much he earns, yet he insists on knowing individual church members incomes!
I continued to come to services but would sit outside or come when the service was over to talk to people and fellowship for months after I was disfellowshipped.
The leaders did not know what to make of this. I think they had expected me to stay away out of embarrassment or something. Once or twice they threatened me by saying they would call the police and get a court order, both of which I knew were not possible as I had committed no crime and was freely associating with my friends. Other disciples who had been disfellowshipped also adopted the same habit and continued to fellowship with those still in the church, which made the leaders look very foolish.
A lot of lies and accusations were told about those who had left. One that particularly hurt my wife and I was told by Richard himself. When in conversation with a brother (name withheld), Richard said, “I bet you by now Lucas has made Agatha pregnant.” Agatha happened to be a very close friend of my wife and mine for many years and those close to us knew for a fact that nothing of the sort had happened. I think Richard said that with the express intention of maligning me, knowing this innuendo would spread and since Agatha and I were close, most would have no way of knowing whether it was true or not.
If he were challenged today to prove whether there was any truth in that statement which he made to sound like an opinion, he would be unable to provide any evidence. I wonder how he would like if I started a rumour that he had made a sister pregnant!
Richard and other ICC leaders, of course, believe that one can only be saved in the ICC ,and that those who leave or are disfellowshipped automatically become “food for the devil.” I am sure Richard expected, and he had told people as much, that I would quickly degenerate into all kinds of sin. As time went by and the theory was beginning to look misplaced, he took it upon himself to “jump-start” it with this malicious rumour. That, by the way, was not the only one they started about myself and other disciples who had left.
Anyway, more and more people were being harassed and intimidated. A brother called Joe Mwangi, following the church constitution guidelines, talked with disciples about calling a special meeting to discuss the problems in the church, as no AGM had been held up to May 1997. He also spoke to an evangelist, John Kilaha. Thirty one disciples signed (one more than the constitution required). Joe then personally delivered the letter to Richard on a Saturday evening. Richard agreed to the meeting in principle but said he needed to be briefed on the agenda first. Another lie.
By Thursday of the following week Mike Taliaferro (from Johannesburg) and Jim Brown (from New York) flew into Nairobi and both addressed the congregation. Those who had signed the petition were labeled cowards, liars, etc., in front of the entire church. Some of them later were pressured into deleting their names from the letter. Others were told that their names did not count as they had been disfellowshipped weeks before, but had not yet been told.
Later the same night, Joe was asked by Mike Taliaferro what he thought of the message. He replied that it was pointless to waste air fare coming all the way from South Africa and America to call the brothers and sisters names without first meeting them to find out what was amiss. Joe was asked to leave, as were most of those who signed the letter.
It is interesting to note that during the service, Mike said that there was a “certain” brother who was disfellowhipped by Richard for refusing to tithe and that Richard was wrong. Of course he did not mention my name. Richard also apologised during the service for all he had done wrong to “anyone.”
From this point, end of May 1997, the church stopped meeting publicly and continued to meet only in the neighbourhoods in an apparent attempt to stop disciples from discussing what had been going on. This move was also taken to prevent those who had been “disfellowshipped” from meeting with other disciples. They had long since learnt that they could not prevent disciples (in the church), from talking with those outside (who had been expelled) and could not stop those outside from coming to church to wait for the others. The leaders told the church that they were meeting in the neighbourhoods so that members would be able to spend more time together and build better friendships.
At this point the leaders began a systematic purge of all those who they suspected of being in association with or close to me. Somehow Richard had managed to convince the leaders that all the problems in church were directly or indirectly caused by me.
A common question in disciplining times was “how has this Lukie (Lucas) issue affected you?” That one question determined the fate of a lot of people. The truth is that most people had come to realize themselves that there were severe problems in the church.
I was led by a brother to find a lot of articles on the Internet about the church that showed incredible similarities between what was going on in Nairobi and other ICC churches, the Indianapolis church of Christ break-up in 1994 in particular. These I made sure I distributed, as did a number of other disciples who were equally determined to get people to realize that there was a lot going on in ICC — things that they knew nothing about and that leaders were doing their best to cover up.
The church leaders then expressly forbade the reading of any material off the Internet about the church. Fire-and-brimstone “thunder sermons” were preached on the subject. I came to the conclusion that an unwritten ICC policy on the Internet was in effect worldwide.
Of course, this only served to arouse curiosity among the disciples as to what Internet (A relatively new technology in Kenya) was and how this information which seemed so threatening to the church leadership could be obtained.
The pitch of Richard’s “thunder sermons” became increasingly shrill and threatening. I think the other staff members did not understand what all the fuss was about. They seemed to be paralyzed by fear and indecision. They too were forbidden to read the material. This brought to light some double standards being practiced by the leadership. Firstly, Richard on a number of occasions from the Pulpit called the Internet material “garbage” and “spiritual pornography.” One wonders whether he had read any of it. If so then he reads “garbage” and “spiritual pornography”! If not, then apart from hearsay how did he learn that it was “garbage” and “spiritual pornography”?
He then said that those in possession of the articles should burn them yet he urged anyone who wanted to read them to come to his house since he had them there and they could read whatever they wanted! Why didn’t he burn what he had, if he had anything? Thirdly, he implies then that he could read what other disciples could not. In essence what would “sway” other disciples from the faith, would not sway him! How did he determine that? Did he then become the conscience of the rest of the church? If so, then the God-given free will for disciples to make personal decisions based on their own examination was usurped.
It was also evident that some disciples who were reading the articles were being “tolerated”, since others who did not agree to stop reading and burn the articles were disfellowshipped immediately.
We found out that the church was going to have its AGM on the 26th June 1997 and duly went to Charter hall, the regular venue, to ask if we could participate. An effort in futility we knew, but only for the record. We knew that nobody had received letters of dismissal from the church and so according to the constitution we were all still members.
Richard was presented at charter hall with a letter from our lawyers (a group of brothers including myself) telling him to allow us in or face legal action. He refused. We had decided to take legal action because the hypocrisy in the church had rendered it unaccountable and the amount of psychological damage they had caused in disciples lives was enough in our opinion to warrant such action. I personally would not consider it “loving my neighbour as myself” to have not done all I could to expose what was going on.
We also felt that it was time the ICC leaders learnt that if they failed completely to be accountable, (both spiritually and ethically), then we would use the available means including court action to force them to do so. Somehow the leaders seemed to think that they could get away with anything and we decided that they needed to learn that that was not the case.
To date the church is still meeting in neighbourhoods after receiving a lot of negative publicity in the press after the June 26th meeting. I might add that, at the AGM, the police were called to prevent us from entering the hall. Nobody was violent and there were no incidents. The police were especially baffled when we told them that the church was having its AGM and had barred us from entering. They had been told that it was a private fund raising function. Chances are if they had known it was a church AGM, they would not have agreed to come, as meetings of that nature are open to all members. One wonders who told them it was a fund raising. They then stood aside and said they would only interfere if any squabbles broke out.
The fact that Richard went to the extent of calling for the police to me indicates that he and the ICC leadership have so deluded themselves that they actually feel they are under siege. They have completely missed the point. They are not under attack, but are simply being asked to come clean for once on their own shortcomings and lack of accountability. It is time, I believe, for those in the ICC to understand and accept that lying, malice, slander, distortion of facts, people pleasing, intimidation and coercion have actually become the order of the day.
In total over 100 people were asked to leave in the months between January and July 1997 and possibly the same number have left of their own accord since December 1996. The church is still meeting in the neighbourhoods.
My prayer is that I will completely forgive the leaders of the Nairobi Christian Church for their mistreatment of my wife, myself and other disciples. I pray that one day they will come to realize how deluded they have become and will forgive me, the “enemy of God.”
As for Kip McKean, who seems to model himself on Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F Kennedy (I have noticed this from books and documents I have read), let him understand that it is not enough to crave the recognition that these men had without having their hearts.
ICC leaders seem to thrive on recognition, yet recognition for the sake of it is pointless, and only leads those who pursue that course into more and more controversy. You will be recognized for your character, not for your desire to be recognized.
Those who want to be respected will only be when they learn to respect others. People who think themselves superior to others will consistently find that they cannot and will not be respected.
To me this is what the ICC leadership seems to be all about — a group of desperados out to gain recognition as champions of men and God’s chosen, yet failing to see that they are more deluded than they can comprehend.
I hope Kip McKean is wise enough to realize that his Empire is dying, and it’s screaming.
I am greatly indebted to the following — Steven Wookey (When a Church becomes a Cult), Flavil Yeakley ( The Discipling Dilemma), Jerry Jones (What the Boston Movement Teaches), as well as Sue Condon for The Emperors New Clothes and Rick Bauer for his Responding to the Boston Movement. Special thanks to my wonderful wife Sigrid and son Lee, who stood by me through all this mayhem. I would like to acknowledge Agatha Kimanani for being a faithful friend, Jeff Omwela for editing my numerous mistakes, Joseph Owade for his thoughtful advice, Catherine Kimani for her patience in typing this article, and the brothers and sisters of the Nairobi church who refused to compromise their integrity and stood for the truth.
I am also thankful to Carl Ketcherside for his series on the Internet, beginning with Twisted Scriptures, and Cecil Hook for his series, including Free in Christ.
I think that through this material God himself gave me the strength, fortitude and courage to stand up to a system that is abusive and warped, and I believe to be a cult. The other brothers and sisters who left or were forced out of the Nairobi Christian church, too, were inspired and encouraged by this material.
P.O Box 29856
©1997 by Lucas Mboya. All rights reserved. Republished with permission. This article was first published on REVEAL‘s website.