Archive for January, 2006

Giving up on change

January 26, 2006

(Related: 1, 2, 3)

(Click to view the full-size version. Ok, so the cartoon’s not specifically about UBF, but it’s got a good point. I talk about someone who was abused in UBF 4 months ago and left. Then someone claims that UBF has changed so much in the last 4 months. And so it goes.)


Can Abusive Churches Change?

Those who find themselves in authoritarian churches often remain despite the difficulties because there is an underlying hope that the church can change. Even after they leave they often remain keenly interested in the affairs of the former church because they hope restoration will still occur.

Can abusive churches change? Although with God all things are possible, it is my opinion that it is highly unlikely that this will happen. Although a few have, they are the exceptions.

Why is change in these organizations so difficult? One reason is that change usually begins in the leadership. However, the leadership structure is designed so that the leader [or cabal of leaders] has control over the personnel. Although there may be a board, the individuals on the board are ultimately selected by the authoritarian leader. He selects men and women loyal to him [that cabal again], who do not question him, or hold him accountable. Therefore, he insulates himself from dealing with difficult issues or addressing his unhealthy practices.

Dysfunctional leaders also resist change because it is an admission of failure. In order for a genuine change of heart, leaders must first acknowledge a problem and repent. However, a leader who considers himself “God’s man” or the spokesman for God will rarely humble himself to confess his shortcomings. Spiritual wholeness and renewal cannot be achieved until unhealthy behavior is recognized and dealt with. Unless this behavior is confronted, the likelihood of real change is diminished.

In most cases, the leadership focuses the blame on others. Those who left the church were not committed, were church hoppers, etc. Stephen Arterburn writes, “Anyone who rebels against the system must be personally attacked so people will think the problem is with the person, not the system.” It is often useless to point out flaws because an abusive church lives in a world of denial. Many of the leaders are themselves deceived. Although sincere in their efforts, they may have no idea their leadership style is unhealthy and harmful. They are usually so narcissistic or so focused on some great thing they are doing for God that they don’t notice the wounds they are inflicting on their followers. These leaders often twist Scripture to justify their unhealthy behavior. Most members will go along with this because they assume their pastors know the Bible better than they do.

Lastly, authoritarian churches make every effort to ensure that a good name and image is preserved. Therefore, the leadership often functions in secrecy. Disagreeing members are threatened and told to remain silent or are quietly dismissed.

For these reasons, it is my opinion that it is best to leave an abusive or unhealthy church. Learn to let go [of the hope of change] and let God deal with that group. Only He can bring people to repentance [No doubt about it]. Although painful, leaving an unhealthy church and joining a healthy body of believers will begin the healing process and open new doors of fellowship, worship, and service for you.

Add to these reasons the dynamics of Korean Confucianism in which saving face is more important than anything.

The institutional racism continues

January 17, 2006

(Related: 1)

Again, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, another example of UBF turning back the clock. This time it’s from a UBF X-Mas 2005 report from the University of Illinois at Champaign UBF (now headed by Sam Lee, Jr.):

It is like a pond in front of a house. Whenever a man casts a line, a fish bites it and was caught. The same thing is UIUC sheep (1). Even though there are so many sheep, there is no shepherd to bear them (2). So they pray that many excellent Bible teachers may come there. (3) There are 45,000 students especially pure white people in UIUC.

Rejoicing at the vast expance of “pure white people” to recruit … a white supremacist would be proud, if he didn’t also hate Koreans.

(1) Actually, they’re called people.
(2) No shepherds at all; only UBF has those. Unbearable arrogance.
(3) Only UBF makes these excellent Bible teachers, BTW.

That quote again

January 16, 2006

(Related: 1, 2, 3)

Something about UBF’s institutionalized racism again, appropriate perhaps for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The more you read it, the more disturbing it is. Here’s part of the quote again:

“There was a time when I had all black sheep or Chinese sheep or street sheep. Once Dr. Lee gave me a direction to give away my black [African American] sheep. Reluctantly I did so. Then God gave me 3 NA [white American] boys to study with. Several months ago, Dr. Lee told me to give away my non-student sheep, which meant basically all of them. … When I obeyed his direction from my heart, God granted me 5 new sheep in 2 weeks. These sheep are unfaithful. But God granted me 6 new sheep in the last two weeks, all NA [white American] freshmen …”

You might miss it due to the blatant institutionalized racism that stands out, but there’s also this recurring teaching of Lee and Barry that obedience to a “servant of God” equals “blessing.” There’s also this observation about the apparent teaching of a progression, that the degree of blessing is proportional to the degree of obedience to a “servant of God”:

He created a progression by writing that when he obeyed only reluctantly, he was only blessed a little (3 new sheep), but when he obeyed “from his heart”, he was blessed more (5 new sheep).

The problem here is not only that Mr. Lee’s advice was unbiblical/unethical. It would be even a problem if the advice would have been a good one, because it teaches that the blessing did not happen because he obeyed God or God’s Word or the Holy Spirit, but because he obeyed the advice of Mr. Lee.

Sell everything you have and buy a "bible house"

January 16, 2006

(Related: 1, 2, 3)

Posted elsewhere in 2003:

Author: Joe
Subject: Luke 18:15-30: sell everything you have and buy a BH
In reply to: Brother in Christ ‘s message, “Re: New thread on doctrine” on 09:23:05 10/25/04 Mon

This is how a March 2003 Chicago UBF “message” by Ron Ward began:


Luke 18:15-30
Key Verse: 18:22

“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, `You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'”

… For the last five years [five years? Hmmmm.] we have prayed for a Bible house in Moscow. … Once, we tried to buy a house, giving $50,000 [of offering money] in earnest money [translation: something described by Sam Lee himself earlier as something tantamount to a bribe]. Someone took the money but did not allow us to buy the house. It seemed that we lost $50,000 for nothing. But we offered it as prayer for Russia. [A bribe was our prayer.]
… Our coworkers applied again. Last month they received permission to purchase a building. They signed a contract, paid the sale price and received the keys to the building.

This is how the same “message” ended.

“Today Jesus teaches us how to receive the kingdom of God and inherit eternal life. We must receive Jesus with simple faith like a little child. We must make a clear decision to sell everything, give to the poor and follow Jesus. Then we can enjoy God’s blessing in this life [actually, Jesus only mentioned treasure in heaven here] and eternal life in the world to come. May God help us to do so.”

So in a “message” whose key verse includes Jesus telling the rich young ruler to sell everything he has and give to the poor, the UBF headquarters Sunday “message” begins by rejoicing about UBF buying yet another property around the world. In the rest of this “message,” there is no sign, not one hint of understanding that Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler could possibly apply to UBF.

Also, see Question 12.

Reconciliation without compromise

January 8, 2006

(Related: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

This was posted elsewhere:

I’ll post this as a response to the question posed here: Is reconciliation with UBF possible? Is it desirable? Though I’m borrowing other peoples’ observations, I can hardly speak for everybody, so this is posted as my opinion.

My definition of reconciliation is this: “From my point of view, reconciliation might be being able to acknowledge at some point that UBF can be considered a legitimate Christian church, a part of the Body of Christ. That doesn’t mean that even at that point I would consider joining UBF again; I don’t see that happening ever again.”

In light of that definition, I would have to say that reconciliation with UBF is not possible at this time because it would require me to compromise with grave sins within the UBF system. I do not consider biblical the concept of reconciliation that requires compromise with what are clearly grave sins, a concept of reconciliation in which I promise to be silent about these sins and stop caring about future victims of these sins.

The following are present-day sins in UBF (or major issues or significant problems) as I and others see them:

1. UBF will not acknowledge the sins of Samuel Lee, his clear abuses. In fact, they continue to publicly venerate him during “Founders Day“, in sermons, in symposiums, in Korean newspaper articles, etc. This one man’s theology and personal opinions are still dogmatically adhered to, forming the basis for most of UBF teaching.

2. They continue to coddle another known abuser, Peter Chang, of the Bonn UBF, whose abuses have been acknowledged even by other German UBF leaders and members. (Not only have they coddled him, but they have also recently made him the Director of their European operation. This is a perversion of justice, a corruption of the worst kind, detestable to God. And it is inherent in the current leadership of UBF.)

3. They have made no sincere apology nor compensated for the damage that has been wrought in peoples’ lives during their stay in UBF. Furthermore, in spite of their well-earned negative reputation, they have not made any public acknowledgment of any wrong-doing. UBF continues to point a finger of blame at those who leave UBF on bad terms. A member’s developing concerns about UBF teaching and practice continues to be seen and referred to as “the work of Satan” or “demons,” never as legitimate concerns. Leaving UBF on good terms continues to be a rarity. Leaving UBF continues to be a traumatic experience for many since they are taught and conditioned to equate leaving UBF with leaving God and “mission.”

4. They continue the practice of “marriage by faith,” denying that it amounts to leader-arranged marriage, while they continue to twist scripture to try to justify it. Among married couples, UBF continues to encourage a greater commitment to UBF and its work than a commitment to one’s own spouse, resulting in painful-to-devastating consequences for the marriage when one partner in the marriage reduces his/her commitment to UBF or desires to leave UBF.

5. They continue a system of authoritarian shepherding, stressing strict obedience to human leaders in the areas of one’s time, one’s money, where one lives, one’s relationships, what one does after graduation, one’s marriage partner, etc. The specific, practical limits of what is allowed in UBF’s “training” programs–i.e., how far a “shepherd” can intrude into a “sheep’s” life–are still not mentioned, discussed or taught in UBF. As has been their decades-long habit, they continue to disparage any notion of human rights, rights which might restrict or moderate the totalist nature of UBF “training.” The concerned relatives and friends of people who have been recruited into UBF continue to make themselves known because they notice negative personality changes in these UBF recruits, negative changes brought about largely because of UBF’s strict authoritarian control over their loved ones’ lives.

6. They continue in their patently false teaching of “spiritual order” which brought about leaders like Samuel Lee and Peter Chang, a teaching which rejects leadership accountability, does not permit any sort of dissent, and allows a leader to claim authority to do virtually anything, even going against the Bible’s teaching, in the name of serving “world mission.” The ends-justify-the-means philosophy is alive and well. The specific, practical limits of a leader’s authority are still not mentioned, discussed or taught in UBF. There is apparently still no code of discipline for leaders who abuse their authority. UBF is still controlled by a core group of leaders who are not accountable to core members; there is no concept of democracy.

7. They continue to be a ministry and culture intensely focused on the glorification of man and the organization. UBF’s language in reports, sermons and announcements continues to brim with pride and triumphalism, pride and triumphalism that not only run counter to the spirit of Christ but that also have little basis in reality, since to date, UBF has been largely a failure in its major “mission fields,” North America and Europe. These continued failures do not result in self examination but more of the constant, ridiculous, dispiriting numeric goals that are UBF’s trademark. It follows from their pride and elitism that they continue their exclusivism, internally expressing disdain for mainline churches and Christian groups and also discouraging the pursuit of systematic theological education.

8. They have given no account for what was done with past special offering collections for causes such as the purchase of “Bible houses.” Like many aspects of life in UBF, offering and tithing continues to be compulsory. Yet finances continue to be opaque to most members. UBF continues to place a higher priority on using its fortunes to purchase land and properties than in helping the poor and needy.

9. Based on reports from concerned parents, relatives, friends and current members, UBF continues to exhibit the characteristics of a “high pressure group” or “destructive religious group” or “unhealthy group” which many universities and their campus ministries have warned their students about, characteristics including deceptive recruiting, “staged commitment” leading to ever-increasing pressure, isolation from family and friends, eventual control over a recruit’s life and decisions, focus on guilt and shame, etc. From a Christian perspective, UBF remains, at best, a TACO.

This list is not meant to be seen as complete but as the major unresolved issues that I see as standing in the way of reconciliation as I have defined it. The evidence of other aberrant and false teachings continues to be found in UBF sermons and “mission reports.”

Also see this comment.