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This week’s entry, while typical in approach, finds us branching out ever so slightly from our normal topic selection. A few months ago, a reader and friend of the blog mentioned hearing that the actress and model Andie MacDowell (1958-) was affiliated with the International Churches of Christ at some point in the past. The ICOC broke away from Churches of Christ during the late 1980s and early 1990s for reasons far too complex to go into here (the division features prominently in my dissertation), but the two groups share a common connection to the Stone-Campbell Movement and a fair bit of theology as well.
Before we investigate whether or not MacDowell had some sort of connection with the ICOC, we should give a bit more detail on her background. MacDowell originally came to fame based on her starring role in Steven Soderbergh’s 1989 film sex, lies, and videotape. She appeared in several popular films throughout the 1990s, including Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral. MacDowell has continued her modeling work throughout the last three decades, and she was recently acclaimed for her performance in the 2017 film Love After Love.
A number of places online link MacDowell with the ICOC, though none offers any evidence in support of the assertion. For instance, AmIAnnoying, a website which exists solely to allow visitors to vote on whether or not various public figures are annoying, lists “She joined ‘The New York City Church of Christ’ a cult religious group (1998)” as a reason that MacDowell might be, well, annoying. (1) The congregation (not to be confused with the Manhattan Church of Christ) was certainly an ICOC congregation, but again, the site doesn’t provide any evidence that MacDowell ever joined the group.
Similarly, the Talk Page (behind-the-scenes discussion) of the Wikipedia page for the ICOC has been the subject of some debate over MacDowell’s supposed connection to the church. At one point, she was apparently listed in the “Notable Members” section on the page; however, a later contributor removed her from the list, saying that “Andie MacDowell was never in the ICOC.” (2)
One last piece of evidence–or perhaps non-evidence–seems reasonable to include here. The best scholarly overview of ICOC history, C. Foster Stanback’s Into All Nations: A History of the International Churches of Christ, includes a brief discussion of the ICOC’s celebrity-focused ministry. As Stanback notes, ICOC headquarters were located in Los Angeles, California, in no small part because founder Kip McKean wanted his church to be based in a prominent, visible location. Stanback writes that
The AMS ministry grew considerably in L.A.—from a handful of individuals to about 800 by the mid 1990s. Although no well-known actors were ever converted, numerous stories were circulated about how Christians had shared their faith or studied the Bible with famous stars such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Sydney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Christian Slater, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson. Jennifer Lopez even attended church on several occasions. (3)
While Stanback’s emphasis in this section is specifically on the Los Angeles congregation’s outreach efforts, MacDowell’s absence from the list is notable, particularly since her fame was at its peak in the mid-1990s. In conclusion, then, the MacDowell-ICOC link is plausible (she was supposedly a member of the New York congregation, not the Los Angeles one), but without any credible evidence, that’s as far as we can safely tread at this point.
Thanks for reading, and check back in a couple of weeks as we begin a new series of themed posts here at the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog!
(1) “Andie MacDowell,” AmIAnnoying, accessed August 12, 2018, http://www.amiannoying.com/(S(ic2s0ncghazsxnzu1h0i04lf))/view.aspx?ID=807.
(2) “Talk: International Churches of Christ / Archive 2,” Wikipedia, accessed August 12, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3AInternational_Churches_of_Christ%2FArchive_2.
(3) C. Foster Stanback, Into All Nations: A History of the International Churches of Christ (Newton Upper Falls, MA: Illumination Publishers International, 2005), 112.