A History of the Unification Church in Canada: 1965-1991
by Franco Famularo
This is the first extensive historical study of the Unification Church in Canada from its earliest beginnings until 1991. As a history it is intended to provide some essential information about the most significant issues, occurrences, members, and transformative developments in the Canadian Unification Church. However, historical studies are not simply a recording of events. The writing of history depends greatly on the perspective of the observer and therefore can be a very contentious endeavor. Undeniably, diverse views exist about virtually any topic. The eyewitness account of the same event by two distinct individuals will more than likely produce dissimilar interpretations.
Authors must choose from available sources, what themes, events, and individuals, to highlight and must also decide what not to include. They must often select which people should be featured at the expense of others. The author's perspective colors his work; and this study is not different. Accordingly, it is unlikely that all parties concerned, participants or readers, will be satisfied with one account. Consequently, the study of history requires the examination of multiple accounts in order to form an enlightened opinion.
The Unification Church is a relatively new movement. Its founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, along with most of his early disciples are still alive. Since its inception after the Second World War, it has made headlines in numerous newspaper articles and has attracted myriad reports worldwide on radio and television. In addition, countless articles in journals and a multitude of books have been published about the Unification Church.
Although the origins of the Unification Church can be traced to the mid-1940s in Korea, it was not until 1954 that Rev. Moon officially founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC). HSA-UWC is the formal name of the Unification Church. In less than forty years, from that remote Asian peninsula, the Unification Church has spread worldwide and until currently there exists a Unificationist presence in more than one hundred fifty countries. The Canadian branch of the Unification Church, it should be noted, was among the earliest missions established. An attempt to found the Unification Church in Canada was made in October 1965; however a permanent mission was not established until June 1968 when two American women began missionary activities in Toronto. The Unification Church has since spread throughout Canada. Before discussing the Unification Church in Canada some background information is provided.
A. Rev. Moon and the International Unification Church
Rev. Moon was born in a farming village of Pyungan Buk-do in the north western part of Korea in 1920. His parents converted to a Presbyterian form of Christianity when he was ten years old. According to Rev. Moon's testimony, Jesus appeared to him while he was deep in prayer at the age of fifteen. In that vision, Jesus asked him to continue the work which he had begun on earth nearly 2,000 years before. It was then that Rev. Moon was awakened to his mission as a religious leader and was challenged to take up the task of working toward the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.1
According to church literature, Rev. Moon then spent the years until the end of World War II, studying the Bible and other religious teachings and in prayer, in order to unravel the mysteries of life and human history. At the same time, he continued his education in Korea and later in Japan where he studied electrical engineering at Waseda University in Tokyo. As the Second World War came to an end, Rev. Moon was associated with an underground movement for the liberation of Korea from the oppression of Japanese imperialism. Political involvement led to his arrest and imprisonment at the hands of Japanese military police.2 The end of the war also brought the cessation of Japanese occupation.
By 1945, Rev. Moon had organized the teachings which became known as the Divine Principle, and began his public ministry.3 Divine Principle consists of essentially three components: "The Principles of Creation"; "The Fall of Humankind"; and "The Principles of Restoration", and are contained in the principal text of the Unification Church which in Korean is called Wol-li Kang-ron. According to Rev. Moon, the Divine Principle is God's new revelation.
Church literature explains that initially, Rev. Moon contacted other Christians in Korea and offered to work with them. Because he was rejected by Korean ministers and American missionaries, Rev. Moon concluded that he would have to walk the path of a pioneer. Although he began his work in Seoul, he later traveled to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, in 1946. His ministry in Pyongyang consisted of continuous lectures in a small house about God and his new interpretation of the Bible.
At the time North Korea was controlled by communist authorities who were generally anti-religious. Eventually, Rev. Moon was arrested and imprisoned and charged with being a spy from South Korea and was tortured until believed dead. Some members of his congregation found him and helped him to recover. Shortly thereafter, regardless of the communist threat, Rev. Moon resumed his religious ministry. In February 1948, he was again arrested and eventually sentenced to a communist forced labor camp at Hungnam, on the East Coast of Korea. He remained there for almost three years. In October 1950 Rev. Moon was liberated by the United Nations forces. He then made his way to Pusan in South Korea and by early 1951 recommenced his ministry.
In May 1954, HSA-UWC was officially founded in Seoul, Korea, and by 1957 missions had spread to thirty Korean cities and towns. Later, Unificationist missions were established in other countries: Japan in 1958; the United States in 1959; various European countries beginning with Germany in 1963; and by 1975 missionary activities had begun in approximately one hundred twenty countries.4
In 1960, Rev. Moon married Hak Ja Han. They now have thirteen children and over twenty grandchildren. Rev. and Mrs. Moon have since 1960 officiated at a series of Church weddings of their followers. The weddings are referred to as "Blessings," and form the central sacrament of the Unification Church.5
Rev. Moon toured more than forty countries in 1965, visited Japan in 1967 and did another world tour in 1969. Beginning in December 1971, Rev. Moon concentrated his efforts in the United States. Between 1972-74 he conducted speaking tours of seven, twenty-one, thirty-two and eight major American cities in all fifty states. Major speeches were given at Madison Square Garden on September 18, 1974, at Yankee Stadium on June 1, 1976, and at the Washington Monument on September 18, 1976.
In 1975, Rev. Moon conducted a speaking tour of Japan and Korea. Also in the same year, he sent a trio of missionaries from Japan, the United States and Germany to over 90 countries. Since that time there has been a Unificationist presence in over 120 nations.
Unificationist activities, mostly founded or inspired by Rev. Moon, cover a wide spectrum of human activity in such areas as inter-religious work, education, culture, ideological activities, relief work, media, and business. Some of these projects are: The International One World Crusade (IOWC), Ocean Church, The International Religious Foundation (IRF), Council of the World's Religions (CWR), The International Cultural Foundation (ICF), The International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS), Professors World Peace Academy (PWPA), International Federation for Victory Over Communism (VOC), Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP), International Relief Friendship Foundation (IRFF), International Clergy United for Social Action (ICUSA), News World Communications Inc., The Washington Times, The Little Angels Performing Arts Center, Universal Ballet Company, Il Hwa, International Oceanic Enterprises, and Saeilo Machinery.6 This of course, is only a partial list of Unificationist endeavors and each project, according to Unificationists, is rooted in Rev. Moon's vision for a better world.
It is well known that Rev. Moon and the Unification Church, especially since the mid-1970s, received a generally negative reaction from the public and were the subject of much controversy. Although, in the early 1970s Rev. Moon's work was initially greeted with some form of receptivity in the United States, as the movement grew, public response in the form of media attacks, government investigations, and court cases, was generally negative. There were, during the 1970s and 1980s, numerous scholarly appraisals of Rev. Moon and the Unification Church which, for the most part, presented a more balanced view. Academic works, however, did not gain a wide circulation.
Detractors viewed the Unification Church as an evil "cult." In their estimation the religious nature of the organization was questionable. Rev. Moon was characterized not as a religious leader, but as a manipulative and politically oriented industrialist who was scheming toward global conquest, and all projects of the Unification movement were viewed as front organizations. It was alleged that Unificationists used deceptive recruiting practices and through "mind control" techniques were brainwashing young people to join the Unification Church. It was asserted that religious conversion played no part in the Unificationist experience. The media repeated such allegations in thousands of articles, radio and television reports. Parents of members were encouraged to sponsor the kidnappings and "deprogrammings" of their adult children by those referred to as "anti-cultists." Supposedly, members of the Unification Church were in need of being rescued because they had not made an informed decision to join.
In addition, there were a number of government investigations of Rev. Moon and the Unification Church in the United States and other countries. There were numerous court cases that dealt with such issues as political affiliation, charitable status, zoning laws and taxable income. Rev. Moon was himself investigated on allegations of tax fraud and after a lengthy trial was eventually incarcerated in the United States in 1984. The prosecution and imprisonment of Rev. Moon led many religious and political leaders to support the religious rights of Rev. Moon. His court case became the subject of much debate especially over the issue of religious liberty.
In spite of the opposition toward the Unification Church and the incarceration of Rev. Moon which ended in August 1985, the Unification Church movement continued to grow in many fields. By the early 1990s, due to the fall of communism, the church expanded its activities into former communist countries. Also significant was the increasingly public role of Mrs. Moon as of 1991. Through the establishment of the Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP), Mrs. Moon conducted world wide speaking tours between 1991-93.
The story of the Unification Church is not over. Rev. Moon continues to be its charismatic leader and Mrs. Moon has undertaken an increasingly public role. The world-wide activities of the Unification Church continue to expand. This study however, focuses on the Canadian branch of the international Unification movement. Because of the specific focus on a small segment of a wider community of believers, the nature of this study is addressed.
B. Nature of This Study
This study is primarily an historical reconstruction of the activities of the Unification Church in Canada. It consists of three major sections which are: The Pioneer Stage, 1965-74; Attempts at Centralization, 1974-88; and Decentralization, 1989-91. This treatment will emphasize its growth and sociological influences upon the Unificationist faith community in Canada for the period 1965-91.
The establishment, growth, continued presence, and unique character of the Canadian branch of the church was directly and indirectly influenced by countless factors. For example, the direct intervention of Rev. Moon as spiritual founder and charismatic leader of the Unification Church is unquestionably significant. In addition, physical proximity to the United States where Rev. Moon focused the greater portion of Unificationism's resources since the 1970s, should not be overlooked. Furthermore, the influx of Canadians, who joined the Unification Church while travelling abroad, has also contributed to sustained growth in Canada. Other contributing elements include, the religious climate of Canada, the views of both supportive and antagonist outsiders, and the influence of distinct leading personalities within the Unification Church of Canada. These are but a few of the factors, along with the efforts of Unificationists in Canada, which have facilitated the Canadian Unification Church's continued survival.
Undoubtedly, non-Unificationists see the Unification Church in Canada differently from the members. Non-Unificationist views, for the most part, are to be found in newspaper accounts, magazine and journal articles, radio and television reports, films, as well as in some scholarly works. It is interesting to note that the mass media created the impression throughout the 1970s and 1980s that the Unification Church in Canada was making tremendous inroads. This was largely the result of sensational stories about the Unification Church that gained wide circulation in the print and electronic media. Because of such reports one author commented that "the average Canadian could be excused for having the thought that carefully disguised 'cult' members were lurking everywhere, ready to kidnap and brainwash just about any unsuspecting person."7 A comparison of public perception of the Unification Church in Canada during the 1970s and 1980s with the view of Unificationists themselves might be helpful. This work will therefore also seek to integrate the views of so called "outsiders".
Indisputably, this historical account of the Unification Church in Canada is not complete. There are numerous gaps due to a lack of data. Certain individuals are emphasized more than others and activities in some cities appear more prominently than others. Some members of the Unification Church kept records such as diaries, letters, brochures and the like; others did not. Consequently, it is important to consider the validity of the sources.
C. Validity of Sources
This work is essentially based on primary sources not previously utilized. For the most part these are church related materials such as diaries, letters, pamphlets, brochures, internal church reports and other church related literature that are either unpublished or not easily accessible. Some church materials related to the Canadian church can be located in the Unification Church of Canada archives in Toronto and at Roseneath, Ontario, at the Unification Church of America National Headquarters in New York City, the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, New York, and the author's files.
Articles found in Unificationist literature such as, New Age Frontiers, Way of the World, United Temple Bulletin, Today's World, and Unification News, all published in the United States, provide reports by Canadian Unificationists on the subject matter. Unfortunately, there was no sustained periodical for the church in Canada throughout the 1965-91 period. Reports by Unificationists on the activities of the Unification Church are usually uncritical. Because the Unification Church in Canada was hardly known by the public during the period prior to the mid-1970s, church related literature are the only available sources.
On the other hand, when media reports offered by non-Unificationists are consulted, they are usually highly critical and sometimes express outright hostility. Especially from 1974 onward numerous print and electronic media reports are available. Forming a balanced view from such negative sources alone is obviously implausible.
Another source is the author's participation and observation. Indeed, the author compiled a "Chronology of the Unification Movement in Canada" for the period 1965-91, which is based on interviews, letters of members, diaries, internal church reports, brochures and the like. For the period from 1983 onward, the chronology, in a sense, served as a church diary of events.
This treatment seeks to utilize all available sources in order to provide the most accurate account possible. It also makes use of interviews conducted by the author. Future works might be able to uncover material not presently obtainable which will render a more complete view.
D. About the Author
The author was born in Lachine, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, Canada, of Italian immigrant parents. In October 1975, he joined the Unification Church in Montreal and was active with the Canadian branch of the church until April 1977. From the spring of 1977 until December 1982 the author was engaged in outreach activities in Germany and Great Britain. Since returning to Canada he participated in the activities of the Unification Church primarily in Toronto and Montreal from January 1983 until the present. From 1984 until 1991 the author served in a leadership role in the Canadian Unification Church and at Rev. Moon's personal request has been attending the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown, New York, since January 1992. He has, however, maintained residence in Toronto and more recently in his hometown of Montreal.
There is little doubt that the author's bias is to be considered throughout this work. It is his firm view, however, that it is simply impossible to be completely objective. Although this study is fundamentally an academic project and will provide extensive documentation, the author's beliefs and convictions as well as his sentiments toward numerous individuals portrayed in this treatment will affect the work.
The author is a Unificationist who has over the years sought to practice the way of life taught by Rev. Moon. Being a Unificationist provides some advantages in gathering information. For example, fellow Unificationists are more inclined to share their story with a friendly party. Also access to internal church materials is easier. On the other hand, the author's association with the church undoubtedly colors this account. Since both church and non-church material will be utilized throughout this study a mediating view will be sought throughout this work. Why, then, would a Unificationist write a history of the Unification Church?
E. Significance and Objectives of this Study
This chronicle should help future generations to better understand the development and history of Unificationism in the twentieth century. It is the author's hope that this study will motivate other students of Unificationism to seriously undertake reconstructing the history of the Unification Church worldwide. Since Rev. Moon and many of his early disciples are still living, it is clearly the best time to at least collect all necessary materials and begin the writing process. Some historians might disagree with this view, but there are some factors which should not be overlooked.
For example, it is still possible to interview the original and founding members. They are living witnesses to significant events and are often most familiar with important documents pertaining to the Unification Church. This became a serious issue for the author, when during the course of doing initial research for this project, one of the first pioneer missionaries of the Unification Church in Canada, Linna Miller Rapkins, died on July 21, 1993. It had been his intention to interview her.
For New Testament scholars, as we know, the most debated questions have been: 1) "What was the historical Jesus really like, and what did he in fact say?" and 2) "What was the nature of the growth and development of the early Christian Church?" Since reliable documentation is limited, biblical scholars have written multitudinous speculative volumes. The views of some scholars have, in certain cases, caused confusion among the faithful, and in some extreme situations, led to strife and even bloodshed. Undeniably, religious sentiment is not only skin deep.
Surely, if a detailed written history of the development of the early Christian church in such places as Corinth, Galatia or Jerusalem existed, it would be for Christian scholars an enormously treasured document. The fact is that we do not possess such documents. Likewise, future students of Unificationism might consider accounts of the early developments of the Unification Church with high esteem, especially those that adhere to the Unificationist faith. This study is observant of such possibilities.
Unificationists believe that Rev. and Mrs. Moon are the True Parents of all humankind, the Messiah or Lord of the Second Advent.8 In the view of Unificationists, Rev. and Mrs. Moon are in the position to fulfill the hope of all the world's major religions, be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Confucianism, to name but a few. Because of the possibilities presented by Rev. Moon's role, his visits to Canada are treated with much detail.
Unificationists view the Divine Principle, the essential teachings of Rev. Moon, as the Completed Testament. It is for them a new revelation from God for the modern age, which provides solutions to the world's most fundamental problems. Moreover, Unificationists see themselves as being part of a worldwide Messianic movement, which has the purpose of transforming this world into the Kingdom of God on Earth - the Ideal World of Love, Beauty, Truth, Harmony, Peace and Goodness.
This account, nevertheless, is not intended to serve as an apologetic for Unificationist faith and practice. It simply aspires to provide, as accurately as possible, an historical account of Unificationism's first quarter-century in Canada, while always being mindful of the background, the convictions and the views of Unificationists. It is a story of the lives of real people and their efforts to spread their message to the people of Canada.
1. The Healing of the World: An Introduction to the Life and Teachings of Sun Myung Moon. New York: HSA-UWC. 1994. pp. 4-6. (hereafter Healing of the World)
2. Yoshihiko Masuda. Moral Vision and Practice in the Unification Movement. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. 1987. p. 5.
3. Ibid. Two texts, both written by Hyo Won Eu (first president of the Unification Church in Korea until 1970), have been used as the official doctrine of the Unification Church. In Korean they were published as Wol-li Hae-sul [Explanation of The Principle] Seoul, Korea: Segye Kidokyo Tongil Shillyong Hyophwe, 1957 (untranslated) and Wol-li Kang-ron [Discourse on The Principle] Seoul, Korea: Segye Kidokyo Tongil Shillyong Hyophwe, 1966; published in English as Divine Principle Washington, DC: HSA-UWC. 1973.) Outline of the Principle: Level 4. New York: HSA-UWC. 1980. p. xviii.
4. Healing of the World. pp. 19-22.
5. According to Unification belief "The Blessing" refers to the ceremony in which a man and woman are engrafted into the lineage of the messiah as a married couple. Unificationists believe that the messiah are Reverend and Mrs. Moon who are referred to as True Parents. The Blessing is a ceremony of rebirth and the starting point for that couple to establish a true family and to change their lineage from Satan's to God's dominion. The first "Blessing" ceremony for 3 couples was conducted in 1960. Since that time numerous other ceremonies have been taken place such as: 36 Couples (1961), 72 (1962), 124 (1963), 430 (1968), 43 (1969), 777 (1970), 1800 (1975), 118 (1978) 2100 (1982), 6,000 (1982), 6500 (1988), 1275 (1989) 138 (1989) and 30,000 couples in 1992. (There were also many other smaller ceremonies as well).
6. People Serving People: The Projects of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Movement. New York: HSA-UWC. 1985. also New Vision for World Peace. New York: HSA-UWC. 1988.
7. Reginald Bibby. Fragmented Gods: The Poverty and Potential of Religion in Canada. Toronto. Stoddart. 1987, 1990. p. 37.
8. Reverend Sun Myung Moon. "The Reappearance of the True Parents and the Ideal Family." Today's World. September 1992. HSA-UWC. New York. p. 6
Although Unificationists have generally believed that Reverend Moon was fulfilling the role of the Messiah or Lord of the Second Advent prior to 1992 the declarations during July and August of 1992 were Reverend Moon's first public pronouncements. In the above speech initially delivered July 6,7,8 and 9, 1992 at Chungju, Pusan, Kwanju and Seoul respectively Reverend Moon said the following:
"... God chose me to be the Messiah, and during this time He has been performing His work of salvation. I have fulfilled my mission as the Lord of the Second Advent, Savior and the True Parent. I am proclaiming this in this place because the time has come to do so. Those who accept this will be blessed."
Reverend Moon declared a similar message to a gathering of former heads of state, religious leaders, academics and others on August 24, 1992 in Seoul Korea. He said referring to his July declaration: "...There I declared that my wife, Women's Federation for World Peace President Hak Ja Han Moon, and I are the True Parents of all humanity. I declared that we are the Savior, the Lord of the Second Advent, the Messiah." (Reverend Sun Myung Moon. "Becoming the Leaders in Building a World of Peace." Today's World. October/November 1992. p. 7.)
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