Unification News for May 2001
Harlem Welcomes Rev. Moon
by Rev. Phillip Schanker
Some 2,800 clergy and faithful packed Harlem’s historic Canaan Baptist Church on Tuesday evening, March 8, 2001 to welcome Reverend and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon and a host of national religious leaders. The visit, at the invitation of New York clergy and hosted by civil rights pioneer Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, celebrated the successful interfaith tour of 52 cities in 52 days entitled "We Will Stand."
Launched by the American Clergy Leadership Conference, a racially and religiously diverse group of prominent clergy from across America, the tour has journeyed to dozens of urban churches in recent weeks. With the theme, "Rebuild the Family, Restore the Community, Renew the Nation and World," the tour emphasizes the need for the faith community to work together beyond race and denomination for the healing and renewal of America. The tour reached over 100,000 people, including 14,000 clergy.
Hundreds of New York area clergy participated in Tuesday’s gathering, including Rev. Charles Kenyatta of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference, First Corinthian Baptist’s Rev. Derrick Porter, Christian Times publisher Rev. Dennis Dillon, Bishop Eric Figueroa of the New Life Tabernacle, and Bishop David Billings of the World Bishops Council. They were joined by prominent national church leaders as well.
How Can Anybody Be Against?
Responding to concerns raised over the rapidly growing coalition, Dr. Walker pointed to the tour’s uplifting theme and underlying purpose to "Rebuild the Family, Restore the Community, and Renew the Nation." "How can anybody be against that?" he asked. Walker praised Rev. Moon’s unchanging emphasis on the "Christian family," and noted his significant worldwide contributions to peace. Addressing the questions of some about the 81 year-old evangelist’s relationship to Christian teaching, he pointed to "The Life and Mission of Jesus Christ," a recently published collection of Rev. Moon’s sermons on Jesus from his 55-year ministry.
Dr. Hycel Taylor, pastor of Evanston, Illinois’ First Baptist Church, professor at Garrett Theological Seminary and former national director of Operation PUSH, acknowledged the skepticism of some who are fearful of Dr. Moon’s revolutionary message. He noted his own careful investigation, and encouraged all present to "try every spirit," maintaining a critical yet open mind. Pointing to Dr. Moon’s efforts to renew the United Nations, his investment in Africa and developing countries around the world, and his global work for family renewal, Taylor echoed Jesus’ own guidance: "you will know them by their fruits."
Rev. Kenyatta, affectionately known to some as the "pope" of Harlem, challenged the clergy to sJer Moon’s clear stand for family renewal and racial reconciliation. Kenyatta testified to the impact of this ministry on the black community and its youth, and called for a new alliance with Father Moon and clergy from all denominations. Bishop er Moon’s clear stand for family renewal and racial reconciliation. Kenyatta testified to the impact of this ministry on the black community and its youth, and called for a new alliance with Father Moon and clergy from all denominations. Bishop J, who oversees a number of Pentecostal churches in Kentucky and the surrounding area, predicted that the 52-city tour, and the racially and religiously diverse movement of clergy it had spawned, would bring a "new pentecost" to America. Johnson’s own interracial church was recently burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan.
Archbishop G. Augustus Stallings of Washington, DC, founder of the Imani Temple African American Catholic Congregation, hailed Rev. Moon as a "prophetic voice" for our times, and addressed the Korean leader’s "messiahship," and his efforts to "complete the work of Jesus Christ." Pointing to Psalm 82, and Jesus’ promise that his followers would do greater works than his own, Stallings extolled the divinity in each person, and explained that each of us should be a messiah (anointed one). "The work of redemption was completed on the cross," he said, "but the work of restoration remains, and in that we must each take up our cross and follow, and do greater things than he."
Following a moving serenade by the Three Sopranos, Rev. Moon ascended the pulpit to a rousing and warm Harlem welcome. He joked and teased with the audience, which by this time filled the aisles, the church hallway, and a downstairs overflow room. Several buses were reportedly turned away due to fire regulations, and a small crowd gathered outside Canaan Baptist on 116th Street, listening to the message over loudspeakers. In a long and strong message on fidelity, family and faith entitled, "God is Our King and True Parent," Moon declared a new age of the unity of righteous people under the absolute authority of God.
"There are still formidable obstacles on the path," Father Moon noted, lively and animated for his 81 years, "in particular racism and religious strife. These stand against the will of God…in fact, the God of love is colorblind," he claimed. "In the spirit world…the only color that exists is the color of true love. God did not create denominations or religious groups…in the spirit world, there are no walls between nations, denominations, or religions. It is a world composed of one huge family." To establish this new era, the preacher noted, all people of faith must follow three immutable laws. First, he explained, do not stain your lineage through sexual immorality and infidelity. Second, he observed, do not infringe upon or violate human rights, which are based upon the equal value of every human being in the eyes of God. Third, do not steal or abuse money or property selfishly, at the expense of others. His direct and challenging words drew strong applause and repeated shouts of "Amen."
At the program’s close, a "Harlem Declaration, signed by all clergy present, was read by Archbishop Stallings and signed by Dr. and Mrs. Moon. It decried the disintegration of the family, and openly challenged the selfish and abusive disenfranchisement of black families through gentrification. Noting the leadership of Rev. Moon and the front line work of heroes like Dr. Walker, the document proclaimed that the walls of racism, sexism, classism, and religious division be torn down to form a unified pro-family movement. The New Life Tabernacle Choir brought everyone to their feet in a rousing and memorable conclusion.
Chicago pastor T.L. Barrett, co-convener of the tour, explained the strong participation and support of black clergy: "The crisis in our community and the violence of our youth is rooted in the breakdown of our families. Father Moon has had a powerful family ministry for years, long before it was popular. Throughout the tour, numbers of clergy acknowledged that Rev. Moon’s message has renewed their own commitment to fidelity and family. Barrett, who pastors the Life Center Church of God in Christ, reconciled with his wife during the tour after 24 years of marriage and 10 years of separation, with the counsel and support of Rev. & Mrs. Moon. "My own family has been healed," Barrett announced, "and my church renewed, because I am standing with a man of God." Several unmarried clergy, including Rev. Stallings, have asked for Moon’s guidance and support in seeking a marriage partner.
Reverend Moon’s relationship with the black community began when thousands of clergy, many of them veterans of the civil rights movement, came to his defense during his controversial tax case in the 1980s. Groups from the National Council of Churches to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference urged the Supreme Court to review the case. Then SCLC President Dr. Joseph Lowery noted, "The personal attacks against him are similar in meanness and bias to those vented historically against Jewish, Christian and Moslem leaders when they were newcomers bringing a minority religion into the community."
Rev. Moon and his Family Federation for World Peace gave strong support to Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Million Family March. At the march last October, the minister called for a "Million Family Movement." In many ways, the "We Will Stand!" tour is fulfilling that call. Moon has long referred to the African-American Christian church as being "prepared by God through suffering," "the leader in the reconciliation process." and the "hope of America’s future."
Broad Interfaith Support
The "We Will Stand Tour began at the Garden of Prayer Cathedral Church of God in Christ in the Bronx on February 25. Among the religious leaders spearheading the initiative are former DC Congressman Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy and Norfolk Virginia’s Dr. Milton Reid, who together with Walker were founding members of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Also traveling and sharing the tour’s pulpit were the Reverend Willie Wilson of the Union Temple Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Billy McCormack, founding board member of the Christian Coalition; National Baptist Convention board member Reverend Leroy Elliot; Rev. Jesse Edwards of the Pentecostals of Philadelphia; and more.
The tour has raised controversy in some quarters. Some demonstrators promoted their own theological views or criticized Rev. Moon’s. Participating clergy were quick to respond, emphasizing the tour’s broad purpose. "This is not about the man, it’s about the mission. We’re not getting caught up in a personality, we’re caught up in a common cause," said Rev. Stallings. Rev. Rufus Oscar Kuma of Providence, R.I. added, "Father Moon is not trying to convert people to his church, only trying to unite various faiths into one community." "None of us will ever agree completely on doctrinal issues," noted Dr. McCormack. "So we must rise above our doctrines and unite upon this one fundamental issue: the rebuilding of the family in the United States of America."
Opposition, in fact, has only strengthened the resolve of tour supporters. Elder Lionel Rush, pastor of Greater Harvest Institutional Church of God in Christ in Indianapolis, added, "I am here to support and honor a world leader who is willing to work across denominational lines to help solve some of the most deadly problems plaguing our communities," he said. Prominent Detroit minister Rev. William Revely pointed out: "Father Moon’s marriages have a 5 percent divorce rate. How can we, who have a 50 percent-plus divorce rate, say we have nothing to learn from him?"
"I love much of what Rev. Moon says about dismantling the forces of bigotry and hate. The man has a tremendous persona," stated Rev. John Hancock in Jackson, Miss. Harlem leader Kenyetta, himself a former bodyguard for Malcolm X, said, "I can identify with Rev. Moon. We both have had the misfortune of being persecuted. I’m glad to see him here because I know how he got here, and I want him to know that his time has come."
A trail of positive media reports has followed each visit, resulting in headlines in major dailies declaring "Diverse Denominations Agree With Moon’s Message on Families," and "Clergy Welcomes Rev. Moon." The tour now moves to the local level in each state, and plans are underway for a major gathering at the Lincoln Memorial later this year. For information, visit the tour Web site at www.wewillstand.org .
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