A History of the Unification Church in Canada: 1965-1991
by Franco Famularo
Chapter Six - The Werner Years [Part 1]
New Leadership -- Outreach Activities -- Financial Activities -- Peripheral Activities—Initial Stages of Decentralization
Although doubtfully intentional, the course of increased centralization of the church in Canada developed through three phases. If Duffy's period represented the initial stage of centralization, Porter's era represented an intensification of the centralized nature of the movement. The period from 1983 till 1988 probably represented the most centralized period since the church's beginning in Canada. It would also prove to be the stage prior to the eventual decentralization of the church. Increased centralization was the result of several reasons; the most important being, the nature, personality and leadership style of the then newly appointed national leaders, Paul and Christel Werner.
Martin and Marion Porter brought a more mature and experienced leadership than their predecessor; the Werners brought with them an even greater wealth of experience than the Porters. Moreover, the church took a low profile approach during the mid-1980s as observed by both insiders and those viewing from the outside. External opposition during the 1980s also changed. There were media reports on an almost regular basis during the period leading up to Rev. Moon's imprisonment in the United States in July 1984. From the mid-1980s onward such negative reporting diminished considerably. In fact, to some, the media appeared disinterested. On the other, hand Unificationists in Canada generally took the approach of ignoring the media altogether. They no longer eagerly granted interviews and basically shunned any requests from the media. Before considering the reasons for increased centralization of the church in Canada and the nature of activities throughout the 1983-1988 period, an introduction to the new leadership follows.
A. New Leadership
The change in leadership took many Unificationists by surprise. Most surprised of all, however, were the two individuals who had just been assigned to a country they had previously lived in, as immigrants, more than twenty years earlier. In an unpublished personal testimony Paul Werner explained:
While attending a Leader's Meeting in August 1983 in Belvedere [Tarrytown, New York] I got the surprise of my life. After being responsible for our shipbuilding and seafood industry in Alabama for almost six years, Father [Rev. Moon] changed my mission and gave me the responsibility for Canada ... This was the first time ever that we didn't start as pioneers ...1
Paul and Christel Werner were among the first Westerners to join the Unification Church and were well known throughout the world-wide Unification community. Paul was born on September 13, 1927 in Labes, Pommern, Germany (presently part of Poland). As the ninth of eleven children, he grew up in a very religious family. His father was a Christian minister and in Paul's words: "Jesus was our daily bread."2 Important influences in Paul's formative development were, among other things, the fact that at an early age he experienced the turbulence of the Hitler era in Germany. At age 16, Paul was drafted into pre-military training and then shortly thereafter into military officer's school.
Paul's life was, as many who lived through the Second World War, heavily influenced by the atrocities of war. For example, at the impressionable age of 17, he witnessed the devastation of the city of Dresden, a German city which was targeted for blanket bombing by Allied forces during the final months of the war in Europe. Since Paul was stationed near Dresden at the time, he was given the task to carry out the dead bodies of thousands of victims and ordered to burn them in order to prevent an epidemic. Upon reflection he said:
For three weeks I carried dead people, women, children and old people, burned beyond recognition, some without limbs, threw them on trucks, drove them to a large plaza and burned them, one hundred at a time ... To hear the cries of the hundreds of injured people was even worse, because many were beyond help. To experience something like this as a teenager made me age overnight.3
But this was not the end of his traumatic experience. He was, after all, on the losing side during the war and was soon captured by American soldiers and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp at Remagen, where hundreds of prisoners died of malnutrition and gastric diseases. He himself almost died on several occasions due to lack of food. Before long, as part of a war reparations agreement, Paul was, in his own words, "sold" along with 700,000 other Germans to the French and remained in France to do forced labor till December, 1948. When he was released, almost four years after the end of the war and told to return to his home in Germany, he found there was no home to go to. His family was scattered throughout the country as refugees and two of his brothers had been killed during the war. Materially, his only possessions were, in his words, "the worn out army clothes he wore, a spoon, and a pair of socks."4
It was shortly after his return to Germany that Paul, at age 21, gave his life to Jesus Christ during a Christian revival meeting. Soon after his conversion, he applied to several seminaries hoping to eventually become a foreign missionary. However, much to his disappointment, he was not accepted; there were no openings available at the seminaries. The years immediately after the war were a very religious time in Germany.
In desperation Paul asked God why he was being prevented from being a missionary, "Why did You let me have this experience in the first place, if You don't want me to be a missionary?" he cried.5 In spite of his being refused entry at seminary, his spiritual hunger persisted. Accordingly, Paul continued to attend Christian meetings practically every night, but before long his spiritual life began to decline. He complained to God saying: "First you let me have this great experience with Jesus, and then You don't want me. I was full of fire to become a missionary for You, but it didn't work out that way."6
In 1950 Paul met a young woman named Christel at a Christian youth meeting whom he subsequently married in 1951. The following year their first son, Klaus, was born. After working for some time in a chemical-metallurgical laboratory, Paul, "in search of a better life," decided to emigrate with his family to Canada in 1953. In Canada, Paul worked as a construction laborer and carpenter until he realized that there were better opportunities in the United States. Thus, he and his family once again emigrated in 1957; settling first in Cleveland, Ohio, and later moving to Sacramento, California in 1961.
In Sacramento the Werner's life took an upswing. After acquiring his real estate license, Paul became a contractor, investor and real estate broker. By early 1963, things were going so well financially that Paul, then thirty-five years of age, was considering an early retirement. It was shortly thereafter that the Werners experienced tremendous change in their lives.
Shortly after attending a farewell party at the IBM office where she worked, Christel, met a former co-worker and member of the Unification Church, Sandy Pinkerton, who explained to her that "Christ was on earth." Christel then conveyed this message to Paul. He concluded that his wife had encountered an anti-Christian sect and accordingly asked his wife to invite her former co-worker to their home so that he could "straighten her out." Pinkerton agreed to visit with some other Unificationists, and before long Paul was seriously considering the possibility that Christ had truly returned. Shortly thereafter a dramatic change took place in the Werners' lives.7 Paul described his personal circumstances when he was confronted with the news that Christ was on earth:
We lived a good Christian life, had our daily prayers on our knees, praying to Jesus, our Savior. I always knew and told my wife, that one of these days I would become a preacher. At that time it was hard to comprehend, living as we did, far removed from such an outspoken religious life of service to God ... I was in the process of building six super-duplexes and several apartment houses. I had to deal with investors, bankers and the like in my daily business life, so I was well occupied with making money, creating a future of wealth for my family ... When I was confronted with the Principle, I knew that accepting the new Messiah meant total sacrifice. It meant giving up everything dear to me, everything I am and have, all my dreams and plans...8
In short, Paul's conversion and the story of how he and his wife, Christel, came to abandon a secure and wealthy lifestyle in order to become missionaries with a then obscure group that claimed that Christ had returned, was a very powerful testimony indeed. Paul and Christel joined the Unification Church in California, in August, 1963.
After a short time, in 1964, Paul and his family moved to Germany where they helped other Unificationists spread the Divine Principle in his native land. In May, 1965 Paul went to Vienna, Austria as the first Unificationist missionary.9 He remained there for exactly four years till May 1969 and established four church centers which consisted of approximately fifty members.10
In March, 1969, Paul and Christel Werner participated in the Marriage Blessing of eight European Couples conducted by Rev. Moon. They were the first "previously married couple" to participate in such a ceremony in Europe.11 Shortly thereafter they were assigned to take responsibility as national leaders of Germany. The Werners remained there till December, 1977, during which time the church grew from a handful of members to more than eight-hundred.12 During the 1970s, the church in Germany was the most vibrant of the entire Western hemisphere superseded only by the movement in the United States. Concurrent with their time as leaders of the German movement, Paul and Christel also worked in leadership roles in the United States during Rev. Moon's 1973-1976 speaking tours.
From December, 1977 until their arrival in Canada in September, 1983 Paul was responsible for developing the Master Marine Shipbuilding and the International Oceanic Enterprises Seafood businesses in Alabama. With little foundation to begin with and through Rev. Moon's support both enterprises eventually became multi-million dollar operations under Paul's management.
At the August, 1983 meeting at Belvedere, Rev. Moon joked that he would send Paul to an underground mission. Paul imagined that he would be sent to some Communist country. It therefore, came as a surprise to him, when he heard later the same day that he had been assigned to Canada. Once in Canada, Paul and Christel, as they asked the Canadian members to call them, expected to remain in Canada for a very short time. It came as an even greater surprise to them that they remained there for more than five years. Nevertheless, equipped with little more than their life experience, Paul and his wife Christel, both of whom were then in their mid-fifties, committed themselves to lead the Canadian church. Their primary task was to help the church grow through an increase of membership. This would prove to be one of their most difficult tasks. Although numerous activities were undertaken during Paul's time in Canada, most members were occupied with two central activities: outreach and the raising of funds. All other activities could be considered peripheral. Outreach consisted of several witnessing conditions, an associate membership drive, outreach to the clergy and pioneer witnessing. Revenue was raised mainly through the MFT and through consistent fundraising drives. Peripheral activities were primarily in the ideological and inter-religious areas, as well as through community service projects. Each of these will treated separately.
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