The Words of the Cooper Family

Leadership decisions in Europe

Simon Cooper
January 22, 2013

Recently in our movement in Europe there has been a lot of discussion about leadership decisions. There has been a sense that we lack clear processes that can help to keep us all out of trouble.

Today we heard that the director of our movement here in Europe [Yong Cheol Song] will be moving on to a new post in Japan. At the same time a new person [Yong Shik An] has been appointed to fill the vacant position here in Europe. I am looking forward to thanking Rev Song for all the good experiences I have had working with him. I have had many, all be it one or two difficult ones too. I am also looking forward to find out about the vision the new Rev An has for Europe now he has the top job in our European movement.

Of course I have seen the World Mission Department emails before when they report about other leadership changes, but this time, perhaps because it was regarding the place where I live, it struck me at how minimalist the email was. Nothing was said about the reasons why Rev Song had been asked to move from his job in Europe and take on a role in Japan, and nothing was said about why Rev An was chosen to replace him here. (this in stark contrast to the very lengthy memo explaining the most recent name change for our international movement…)

Surely Rev An must have been chosen for a reason, for certain abilities or strengthens that he possesses? Is it assumed that the local membership aren't interested in who represents them. Are leaders meant to represent the membership?

It did also cross my mind that this would have been an opportunity to open the gate to a wider group of potential candidates for this all important post. How is the decision made? Who is consulted? What is the process? Is there one? ….Don't you wonder?

Another thing came to my mind: that this might have been a moment to entertain the possibility of actually having a European take a shot at the job. Of course not just because they are European, but because they might also be qualified. The movement in Europe has not grown for 25 years or so in terms of membership, and through all that time the top leadership has always been from South East Asia. Was the following discussed: that if one of the main goals of our movement is to be successful at evangelizing and sharing the message of the Principle, it might help to have someone who gets the local culture, and can communicate to the values that count for Europeans?

Most successful evangelists have always managed to bridge the cultural gap between the believer and the non-believer. They have not waited for people to cross the ravine and join them, but have bravely gone over and made themselves culturally relevant. They have known how to communicate their message effectively and resonate with their audience. Surely a European might be worth trying out since the recent continental directors in Europe have struggled to overcome this challenge. When will we realize that people are not going to join our movement if we only offer them Confucianist culture?

But going back to the process. It seems that we currently only change things when they go seriously wrong. In the USA it took a major and very damaging scandal for an element of democracy or representative leadership to be introduced into our movement's culture. Just months after that taking place across the Atlantic, there is a change in Europe, but no consultation with the local leadership of what would be a good way of finding the best person to replace the departing Rev Song.

In the conference call I was on when the news was announced, it was met by a silence …as many things often are on conference calls, and then we moved on to another agenda point.

It just feels a bit weird.

I have heard Rev An is a good man, which is good news. And I am sure he has lots of good qualities, as do lots of people I know. But being responsible for a movement with thousands of members across a continent? you would hope that there was a transparent process, some explanation, even a concern that the European membership will really care about this change, what with them being owners of their movement. You would hope there was a job description or a set of criteria that we all were aware of. Otherwise like with most jobs where things are vague, people start shooting in the dark, and they rarely hit the target.

It could possibly be argued that whoever you put into a leadership role at a senior level in this movement is almost bound to not really succeed because they are not given an effective structure to work with in.

But here is the reality check. Better not to grumble to one another if we don't have the balls to do something about it. We can carry on letting things 'happen' to us, or we can remember what our teaching says about being owners of God's will, and request that leadership decisions are given a process, that the process engages the membership, and that the voice of the membership is heard, so that the membership are actually in a position to work together meaningfully with whoever ends up taking on the heavy mantle of leadership.

If True Parents are who you believe them to be, wouldn't you write to True Mother, our founder's wife, (or at least the World Mission Department which sends out communication on her behalf) to say that we need to be more involved as Europeans in what goes on over here in terms of how we are lead? If when you pray you can and are meant to say what you feel to God, then wouldn't it also be good to be honest with True Parents?

It is better than doing nothing and not caring. I just want to ask the different national leaders in Europe to also consider how they can responsibly respond to this new change, in light of the last 20 years of relative stagnation.

Recently in our local church we had our AGM and we proposed setting up a church council. I almost made the mistake of setting up the electoral system myself, but then realized that as the pastor I shouldn't be making those decisions subjectively and unilaterally. We set up a standing committee to research and propose the best format for managing the process.

Why don't the national leaders take this opportunity to suggest something to our new European director, regarding the setting up of a structure and process, similar to the one that has recently been established in the USA, but with its own European character? National leaders and others in positions of authority – Take this moment to introduce a new dynamic into our movement here that might engage the intelligent, and creative membership that we have.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures."

William Shakespeare. 

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