Unification News for July 2003

UTS 27th Commencement Address

This was given on June 28, 2003 at UTS.

A seminary is a servant institution to the church and society. The church leads the seminary, but the church leadership comes from the seminary. Hence the seminary is the spiritual and intellectual root of the church and through it the entire society. The leadership the seminary produces determines the effectiveness of the church in fulfilling its mission.

And how are we carrying out this important task? The Unification Church, in founding the Unification Theological Seminary, followed a traditional, standard model. We take students out of the world into a pure, untainted environment, teach them to be holy, and send them back into the world. Not only that: we take students out of the church and bring them into a different environment, called a school. It is ironic that a radical movement would create such a conventional seminary.

This conventional model presupposes that the leaders are a higher class than the regular members. Yes, maybe you are a prophet, priest and king, but the validation of this has come from the members. Our Founder speaks perceptively about the mistakes made by most new leaders when they arrive in their new church. New leaders, he said, "never contact the pioneers to find out the situation of each member and get advice on how to guide them. In other words, without even inquiring into background information about their life of faith, the succeeding leaders each took the casual attitude that he was used to and gave orders on his whims, saying, ‘You should do it this way and do that that way.’ Accordingly, since some stranger suddenly appeared and played the role of a master, they feel that he is not agreeable.

"Because a new leader goes to this region with public authority, …he uses the excuse that he wants to solidify the system, and employs dominating methods based on his own concepts. If you act this way, you will lose all the members. You won’t be able to fulfill the responsibility of inheriting form the predecessor. Until now, all regional leaders made this mistake. You should not order members around when you have not even made all the plans about the heartistic and internal things and inherits them, or when you have not even created the environment for the members to voluntarily request that orders be given, more so when they do not desire nor understand the changes you want to make.

"A new leader should be receiving criticisms from the members at least for the first three months. You should not tell members to do this or do that according to your own opinion while members are still observing you. …Because the leader behaved in this way, they felt disappointed. Even worse, the new leader disappointed them further, instead of resolving their dissatisfaction, embracing and caring for them, providing solutions to their difficulties, or giving them hope for the future that will give them power to move on. When this happens, members simply have no choice but to fall away." (The Way of the Spiritual Leader, Ch 4, Sec 1.4.4 [New York: Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, 1998])

Thus our Founder clarifies the mission of the spiritual leader: to resolve members’ dissatisfactions, embrace and care for them, provide solutions to their difficulties, and give them hope for the future and power to move on. This is the way of the servant leader. I believe that our core mission at UTS is to create such servant leaders. That in itself should be taken seriously. Our core mission is not to own and manage property, gain accreditation, or teach any particular subjects. It is to create servant leaders, leaders who can transform lives, empower marriages, nurture our youth, grow the church and build community with other churches. How are we doing? Are we going about our task in the best possible way? Where can we improve?

I think there is always room for improvement, and that we might consider another model, one with which many churches find greater success. I would call it an integrative model, in which the school and church share the same location, and education emphasizes hands-on practice, apprenticeship and mentoring.

Conclusions drawn by sociologist Donald Miller in his 1998 study of the "new paradigm" churches that emerged in southern California a generation ago are of vital importance here. "The centers of energy and creativity in this decade lie at the local, not the national, level, and that will probably hold true in the twenty-first century. The really innovative ideas for reshaping the church will come from people working in the trenches, addressing the needs of people in their churches and communities, not from denominational officials. Therefore, I believe that denominations would be well served by radically decentralizing their organizational structures -- abandoning central offices and locating themselves in local churches, especially those flagship churches that are demonstrating leadership.

"I all think that seminaries need to be radically restructured, allowing more theological education to be done in the local churches. Let clergy who want a graduate education go to a major university and study philosophy, church history, or theology. Seminaries, in contrast, should be professional schools where people are mentored and taught while they serve within a local congregation." (Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millennium [Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998])

The Founder exemplified this model personally as he came here so often, bringing, as it were, the church into the seminary. And he sent the seminarians into the church for the Yankee Stadium and Washington Monument crusades in New York and Washington. But long term what we need is more than crusades and carp fishing, but solid, deep-rooted health and growth of the local church. In that setting, we become leaders by being leaders, by serving right here. In that way we go beyond and even break our concepts about leadership, right here in Red Hook.

How does the servant leader build the church? We do so by helping each member discover their gift for ministry and equipping and empowering them to exercise it. This is "gifts-based ministry, based upon the belief that each person has a gift from God. The leader is able to help the believer discover and release their gift. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:12, the leader’s mission is "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

You each have a gift, something irreplaceable that makes you who you are to God. For me, this is the essential charm of Harry Potter. He is a boy who discovers his gift. He was drifting through a hum-drum "muggle" life until he discovered his true identity as a wizard. This opened him to a magical world. Discovering your gift opens you to a magical world, a meaningful world. You are drifting through a hum-drum life until you discover your true identity as a pastor, a counselor, a teacher, a leader, a church builder.

Whenever I can I speak to seminarians about gifts and I encourage them to discover their gift, their calling, their talent and passion that evokes their heart and zeal. You each have a gift that makes you great.

Most of us do not appreciate the power we have. We are too scared, or shy, or obnoxious, arrogant or obtuse to really become the person God created us to be. Your mission as a chosen person is shaped by five factors: your cultural inheritance, your ancestral lineage, your innate character, the experiences and education you had as you grew up, and God’s plan for your life. (See Exposition of the Divine Principle, Part 1, Ch 6, Sec 3) Finally add the most important element of all: yourself.

You have power greater than God does to determine your future. You have power greater than Satan to control your life. There will be setbacks, but keep going! Release your gift. Become the person you dream of being. If you are not sure, then throw yourself upon God and let Him carry you. If you are sure, then let God throw Himself upon you, and carry Him with you.

Everything you studied here, you will remember. It will come to you when you need it. Thomas Jefferson’s glory came not in school, but when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln’s glory came not in school, but when he wrote the Gettysburg Address. Martin Luther King’s glory came not at school, but when he wrote, "I Have a Dream." But none of them could have written those documents if they did not have an education. They would never have been able to pen a great message if they had not read many speeches, and written many poor, difficult, student level attempts.

As a student you have learned to discipline your mind as you have made many attempts at writing great messages. To be great, you have to learn how to deny a good deal of your own thinking. Most of writing is re-writing, is throwing out what you’ve written and striving to improve it. You have worked hard. The result is not this diploma. The result is what you achieve from now on. The value of UTS is judged not by what happens here, but by what happens out there, in the church and in the world, as a result of you.

Don’t worry about UTS. If you prosper, UTS will prosper. If you bear fruit, UTS will reap with abundance. As you serve, UTS is serving. As you teach, UTS is teaching. As you lead, UTS is leading.

You are UTS; not this building, not these windows and banners, not the books and curricula, but you!

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