Unification Sermons and Talks
by the Reverends Eby
Lost World Of Unification Studies
January 30, 1999
This morning I was looking again through a number of books -- there are about a dozen of them -- of papers and studies of Unificationism produced from about 1980 through about 1986 or so. Most of these were published by or through the Unification Theological Seminary (sometimes under the imprint of Rose of Sharon Press). These are transcripts of seminars and/or collections of papers written for presentation at Unification sponsored conferences or for inclusion in one of these books.
If it ever turns up here (I posted it but it is very long and may be taking a long time to wend its way through the networks) my essay on theodicy is a product of what a number of UTS students and graduates were involved in, from about 1976 until the mid-1980s.
I was a member of the first UTS class (entered 1975, graduated 1977). Although that first year was very grim (there were no traditions or precedents and we had to make them all up for ourselves; also there was really no one resident at Barrytown who really served as parents for us), it was also very exhilarating. We were aware that we were part of something new and even revolutionary. A new religious movement -- one that thought of itself as messianic and as the last religious movement -- was nevertheless opening its brightest members up to the larger world; it was training them in the thought and religion of that larger world (none of the UTS professors except Young Oon Kim was a member of the Unification Church) and allowing them to speak for it among assemblies of academics and religious leaders from that larger world.
In the early years of UTS -- especially the second year -- there was almost a parade of interesting and first-rate people (e.g. Harvey Cox) coming to visit, to give lectures and seminars, and so on. Sometime early (I forget just when) Herbert Richardson, Darrol Bryant, Richard Quebedeaux, Frank Flinn, and perhaps one or two others began bringing a group of their colleagues to sit down with a group of UTS students for a weekend during which we discussed issues of belief, theology, and religious practice.
Out of that grew the first Summer Seminar on Unification Theology, organized by Darrol Bryant and Richard Quebedeaux, and held in the Virgin Islands July 22-29, 1979. (At almost the last minute the Rev. Moon replaced David Kim, the President of UTS, with Rev. C. H. Kwak as the "elder" head of that seminar. Kwak was/is a more controlling figure than David Kim, but he's also more "regular," i.e. a bit less weird and eccentric.) At that seminar U.C. members -- most of whom were UTS students -- made presentations on Unification theory and doctrine and then there were discussions of it among all the participants.
This expanded and eventually New ERA and the International Religious Foundation grew out of those efforts. All in all, there must have been as many as 50 or more conferences and seminars -- including the so-called international God Conferences -- that grew out of those beginnings.
I myself must have attended as many as 20 or more of these seminars over those years. In many cases we wrote papers for them, and I, for one, was never told by any Unification "leader" or honcho what I should say or put in those papers. We were allowed to do creative theologizing of our own belief and invention. To be sure, nothing especially wild or critical was done -- we were all apologists (in the technical meaning of that term). But it was/is unusual for a religious group to invest so much money and trust in allowing its least-experienced acolytes to speak for it and to expose itself so thoroughly to an always somewhat skeptical and frequently hostile world.
We UTS students and graduates were, I admit, somewhat full of ourselves then, cheeky and a bit arrogant. But, looking back at the lectures, discussions, papers produced at that time, we did quite excellent work. We were learning a lot and we held our own quite well among much more learned and experienced people.
Something happened to bring all this to a stop. I understand that the character of UTS itself changed rather drastically at about the time the third or fourth class was admitted. Some claim that this came about because a number of the UTS grads who were sponsored elsewhere for Ph.D. studies left the church; David Kim felt personally burned and affronted by this, and instituted tight student-team controls among the students. Another factor was that the money for such large international seminars dried up. Additionally, the consultants and non-Unification "helpers" seem to have drifted away, possibly because many of them were "burned" by the Church in some way (often financial). Still another was Rev. Moon's imprisonment in America in 1985 -- this seems to have turned him and his closest associates even more against America and Americans than before. A few years ago, David Kim was replaced as president of UTS and the character of the place is now almost totally different from what it was in the late 1970s. Also, the direction of the Unification Church or movement seems to have changed, from being outward-directed toward ecumenical interchanges with other academics and religious leaders toward concentration on something else (I'm not sure just what that "something else" was/is).
In any case, I look back on that era as an especially productive one, theologically and academically. I do not think anything like it will return. And I don't know if I'd want to participate in it anymore, even if it did so. (I was a most eager participant at the time.)
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