Unification News for June 2000

Why Unification Theological Seminary?

Tyler Hendricks
June 2000

To my beloved readers, I apologize for my absence from these pages over the past issues. I have a new mission and with it has come a readjustment of priorities. Capping it off, I’m not present down the hall from the Unification News office, and am therefore not reminded of the deadline on a daily basis. And our editor, Mr. Lewis, is not one to pursue a delinquent contributor.

In any case, I am now serving now as the President of the Unification Theological Seminary, having received this appointed on April 23 of this year and taken office formally on May 3. Since then I have delved into the why’s and wherefore’s of the Seminary. After all, I must answer to myself, what am I doing here? What is Father’s purpose for this institution? How can UTS serve God in the new millennium?

In this pursuit, I have researched the Founder’s speeches given from the school’s early days. It has been a fascinating exploration. There is continuity and change in his vision and expectations. It seems to me that the school has gone through a path of development, together with our church in America, and may is situated in the same position it was in at its inception twenty-five years ago. I was at the school at that time, and sadly was able to catch but a small part of this vision. I pray to God that I may be able to take in hand a greater portion of it, and with me, the school and larger Christianity may understand this dispensation of God.

Part of the reason western people such as I have difficulty grasping True Father is the fact that his vision is so huge. We have been conditioned to disbelieve in Santa Claus and Superman. We shot holes through "Father Knows Best." The phrase "freedom, justice, and the American way" became an object of satire. We can cast great visions for the economy or environment, but when it comes to personal virtue, heroism, or righteous nations, we roll our eyes.

But True Father believes in heroes, in the idea of one man saving the world. For him, it is not Hollywood hype. In fact, it is why we are placed on this earth. With this understanding, please set aside your skepticism, even if it is heavier than mine. I dedicate this article to the UTS alumni. If you check carefully, there is a method to Father’s madness. It is a profound method that we, that ANYONE, can employ today. Most of the citations are from a speech given January 2, 1977. They all refer to the early days of the Seminary, back when the library was in a basketball court.

Educate Teachers

"You will have to be the teachers and counselors to the ministers of the established churches and their theologians and scholars. Also, you have to teach and train the politicians who don't know how to prevent the flood of communism. Also, you have to educate the conventional educators, scholars and teachers and professors by your own effort." This is a big statement, seemingly overreaching. How did True Father intend for the seminary graduates to accomplish this?

Father hired professors from all branches of Christianity. Father asked them, "compare your belief, your church, your denomination, your religion, with our Unification Theology, Unification Thought and Divine Principle, and write something." He asked them to bring others from their own denominations to do the same. Then he created conferences in which the professors could share their findings.

True Father’s hopes for the outcome were high. "By the way of intensive studies and scholastic work, the conclusion will be clear: Unification Theology and Unification thought is far better than their own. So, a comparative study of their thought with the Unification view will clarify all these things and our professors will become experts on the Unification system and movement."

His expectations were fueled by observation that these professors were aware of their own church’s decline, and would be desperate for a way to solve their dilemma. "Because they are thinkers, they know what the decline of Christianity is. Even their own religion, their own denomination, is sinking. So, they are thinking, where do we find a remedy, a recipe to rescue us? But they know, very soon, that the radical, constructive forces of Unification Theology and Unification Thought are what they must study." As a result, "the entirety of the contemporary Protestant churches will become sympathetic and will be coming to us."

Their affection and respect would accrue to the Seminary graduates, whom they would invite to teach at their institutions. "They'll think they would like to have you, by the 1980s. Other institutes, seminaries, schools or universities will like to have their staff and faculty from among the Unification Theological Seminary graduates. So, all the large cathedrals and denominational churches will welcome you; they will like to have UTS graduates."

Thereby, an active relationship between the Seminary and all branches of Christianity would ensue. "Very soon this place will be connected to the worldwide scholarly community, so these people will want to come closer to us. They will be naturally concerned about you, they will like to have you in their own big churches, denominations and seminaries."

Curriculum Design

This, True Father explained, was why the curriculum of UTS was quite conventional. Nonetheless, even within our conventional course work, our students were thinking along Unification lines, and bringing new vitality to standard teachings. Therefore they were attractive to the other churches. "Actually, from the practical point of view, all the other, outside seminarians have a similar education, but they don't know how to revitalize their churches. They know how you Unificationists are doing under the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, so they are thinking that if they hire you and they get help from you, their church will grow, while others cannot do this kind of thing. So, your value is great."

By this continual exchange, the Unification Theological Seminary was to have become the hub of a network of thriving churches. "Father is planning for this place to become the world head office. From here, he will set up the system vertically and horizontally we will cover the whole area and bring unity and academic accomplishment in every religious realm. This is our Father's plan."

He called students to focus as teams of ten or four on one particular church or another, and narrow their focus even to one influential leader within that tradition. We were to have intensively studied that person’s work, not just for the intellectual knowledge, but in order to develop a personal relationship with the individual. "These people have been writing books all their life. You have a library here. Study them; this is wonderful, you will have an individual correspondence. Make connections on a continuous basis. … Raise questions. They will answer back, because, if anybody says to them, 'you are wonderful scholars, you wrote wonderful things I have been reading as a student,' or whatever, they will be listening to you. … For the sake of the relationship between scholars and students, they must respond to you."

True Father expected our scholarship to be impeccable, not just pro forma. In fact, by dint of our Divine Principle perspective, we would be able to offer objective analysis and constructive criticism that would be recognized as pushing forward the academic discussion. Again, they would welcome our findings as being for their benefit. "If you are objective and see the good points, the bad points, the middle points and you have a synthesizing force, you will later be invited to hold lectures about their denomination and how to develop it and give it vitality. You will become the teachers, because you know more than they do. They only have their own denomination. You have the Unification theology and comparative studies; you are knowledgeable Seminary graduates. So, you will be invited as their lecturers."

It is crucial to recognize Father’s emphasis upon responsible study and appreciation of the other’s viewpoint. We were to "see the good points, the bad points, the middle points." We were to acknowledge the truth of the teachings of all denominations, as well as the weaknesses, and work with them to build on the strengths and overcome the weak points. This defined the mission of UTS as an "interfaith seminary."

"From this year 1977, a mission of UTS is given by our True Parents. An interfaith team of professors should be formed here at the Seminary, with your help. … Our spirit, Rev. Moon's spirit of unification is to be interfaith oriented, not discriminating against other people. This will be the real meaning of the interfaith theological seminary."

Beyond The Bastions

The final result was to have been the revival of Christianity in America. "Then you will challenge the Lutheran professor, why don't we give a revival to the Lutheran denomination? We'll help you! Your denomination, Methodism, is sinking down, your Baptist Church is in trouble, we will give you the solution, let us do that. ... They don't necessarily have to be big shots; we can even use them as lecturers or instructors from the Lutheran denomination, those who are very smart. Then, we have an association with them, and send them back to their own denomination with us. We give something to them. Instead of denying their denomination, let them stay as they are. We give more good things to them, to develop their denomination."

Father put forth the vision outlined above on the day after God’s Day of 1977, at the Seminary. All citations are from that speech. He elaborated upon the vision on May 2, 1978. He emphasized the continuity of our curriculum with traditional curricula in order to bridge the gap between our church and other churches. UTS was be a school in which a rabbi, priest, Orthodox layman, Baptist minister, Reformed minister and so forth would work collegially. This was a model for the future of religion. If we could do it, anyone could do it—anyone, that is, who thought beyond their own walls. Father created a working model. He did it, and we did it.

"That is why we have a curriculum similar to the other seminaries. [It is the] same thing, there is nothing different. If we have different curriculum, they would shake their head. They don’t want to be there. Because it is the same, the professors keep coming. Later we can expand the curriculum, of course. There is nothing different. The reason we have inter-religious concerns in our seminary is to end the denominationalism in Christianity and the religious fighting among the different religions. By showing our peacefully working together here as an example, automatically they will say, ‘Oh, look at the Unification Theological Seminary, even though they are of different denominations, they are working together, that is an example.’ They will learn, and automatically they will stop fighting among the denominations."

Even then, Father envisioned this unification to extend beyond Christianity into Islam. In discussing this, Father touched upon an even more radical idea: that Seminary graduates would become authentic members of other faiths. He dealt with the conflict of conscience a member would feel in devoting themselves to another tradition, but assures his forgiveness knowing that you are called to that special mission and that even God would accept it for the sake of the eventual unity of religions.

"So you will not only go to the Unification Church, you will go to Islam, because you are equipped with all this while you are here. [This is] interfaith. You may think, ‘how in the world can I as a [Unificationist] scholar go to Islam,’ but Father will forgive you. Father will pray to God, ‘this guy has a special mission, I send him.’ If you did that by your own self, your conscience would bother you, so you come to Father and Heavenly Father must accept it."

Our presence within other faiths would stimulate their appreciation of their own faith, their ability to come to terms with the limitations of their faith, and their willingness on that basis to congregate with people of other faiths.

"Think of it. Free people from [being Unificationist] graduates to go to the Buddhist temple, think of it. The whole denomination of Buddhism will become united. You will stimulate Buddhist monks and theologians to study more their own theology, because they have a weak point. … Then when ever graduation comes, all peculiar gowns or rituals [will be] coming in with Buddhists with their shaved heads and Muslims with their own costumes and Greek Orthodox with big crowns, Baptists will come with beards, just think of it. An assembly of all the different kind of costumes, different denominations, different religions will appear."

In this assembly (an interesting premonition of the gatherings that took place in 1985, 1990 and on), a virtual new religious community would come into being, including "Baptists with beards," a probable reference to our then-church history professor, Warren Lewis. There would be an awakening as the religious practitioners recognized their community and the reality of the peace they would experience together under the "umbrella of Unification." "The world religions will draw the conclusion that the ideal religion must be like Unification religion. That means they are automatically under the umbrella of Unification." Thus, the goal of Unification would be taught without converting anyone to the Unification Church per se, and maintaining complete respect for others’ traditions and values.

A few weeks after the May 2 speech, in his commencement address, True Father stated the conclusion that "You are not graduates from a denominational seminary with a denominational theology." He connected this vision for the world’s religions to the mission of Christianity and America: "I want all of you to be holders of the banner of spiritual revolution in order to reform the corruption in Christendom. Awaken the American public to reassume their heavenly responsibility, be good examples for others, and fulfill your mission as righteous men who will save a free world from destruction, who will realize ‘One World Under God.’"

For those who are considering undertaking studies at UTS, or returning to complete your M.R.E. or move onto an M.Div., direct inquiries to Ms. Tessa Hodson, Admission Office, Unification Theological Seminary, 30 Seminary Drive, Barrytown, New York, 12507. We do distance learning. Phone 845-752-3015, or e-mail admisuts@valstar.net.

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