Journal of Unification Studies Volume VIII - 2007

An Interfaith Movement and Its Seminary

Tyler O. Hendricks

At its October 8, 2006, Retreat, the Board of Trustees of UTS stated with one voice that the primary mission of the school is inter-religious peace building. “UTS’s founding vision was to bring about inter-religious harmony,” said Trustee Allen Ostroff. “This vision is a rich and unaccomplished dream that is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.” Karen Smith elaborated, “UTS could be the place where people are trained to be on intervention teams that go in and address critical issues.” Dr. Hugh Spurgin spoke in the same vein: “We think of our graduates as bringing peace on every level based on theological understanding and religious experience,” he said, “peace in families, peace in schools, peace in neighborhoods, peace in offices, whether of government or business, peace in the broadcasting industry, peace in music… Our graduates are peace ambassadors with theological training for how to bring about peace among diverse people.”[1]

By this, the Trustees took the school back to its founding statement of purpose (1975):

The Seminary seeks to promote interfaith, interracial and international unity not only through the formal course work, but also through the diversity of the student body and faculty, which stimulates interfaith dialog and inter-cultural-interracial understanding… [Graduates] will be able to dialog with believers and non-believers, and to design and conduct educational programs and conferences using learning theory, group process and administrative procedure.

A professor’s reminiscences reveal how this purpose took shape: “One day, a student came to see me,” recounts Dr. Warren Lewis, then-professor of Church History, “a student I knew to have been Reverend Moon’s chauffeur. The student told me that he had been talking to the Reverend, and in Reverend Moon’s eyes, I must have a lot of free time as a professor, so why don’t I use my free time to unite the world’s religions?”[2]

Responding to the Founder’s suggestion, Dr. Lewis invited some of his friends and colleagues to an all-expenses paid weekend at the seminary to discuss theology with the seminarians. The scholars were stimulated by student interest in fundamental questions of creation, fall and redemption, and their idealism for fulfilling an ideal society.[3] This gave rise to a series of conferences that grew into the New Ecumenical Research Association (New ERA). The seminary housed this inter-religious mission for several years through New ERA’s lineal descendants, incorporated as the International Religious Foundation (IRF). These included the Conference on God: The Contemporary Discussion (a.k.a. the God Conference), the Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy, the Council for the World’s Religions, the Youth Seminar on the World’s Religions, and the Assembly of the World’s Religions.

The crucial point here is that the interfaith mission did not integrate with the life of the school. The student body did not diversify, despite the intention indicated in the statement of the school’s purpose, and an interfaith mission did not combine easily with the esprit of a religiously homogeneous seminary. The Founder’s call to Professor Lewis, after all, had to do with the professor’s hours when he was not doing his seminary tasks.

At the end of 1985, IRF moved out and the seminary adopted a denominational set of purposes in its charter. The purposes majored in leadership in the Unification Church, promotion of the Unification worldview and creating a community reflecting Unification thought and life, with a call to inter-religious work, albeit “in the spirit of Unificationism.” This change of direction did not result from State Education Department pressure that UTS look like a more conventional seminary, according to then-Vice President Edwin Ang. Rather, it was an internal decision based on a consensus as to what the Unification Church wanted (or needed). The school curtailed the frequent hosting of guest speakers from other schools. Newly minted Unificationist PhDs replaced the professors from other faiths. The seminary planted churches in seven cities in the mid-Hudson area. The second president made obedience to Father Moon’s placement the sine qua non of graduation-worthiness. Three non-Unificationist participants in the Religious Youth Service matriculated at Barrytown in the early 1990s; none of them graduated. So the question arises: if the seminary could not create an interfaith program acceptable to people of diverse faiths then, what must change in order to accomplish it now?

A Seminary for an Interfaith Movement

When I arrived as the third President in 2000, I viewed the school’s mission indeed to produce Unification Church leaders, but with a twist that opened the door to developing a diverse student body. The twist was that the pastoral skills that are necessary for excellence as a Unification Church leader are the same as for the leader of any church. In terms of skills, all pastors, rabbis, imams and priests belong to the same profession and UTS can teach anyone those skills. This philosophy, backed by generous scholarship support, has enabled the seminary to attract a diverse student body at its Extension Center. On that foundation, the school now is considering a return to the original vision of creating at Barrytown a religiously pluralistic community of teaching, learning, serving and spiritual formation.

This has always been an inspiring vision, but before reveling in it one must take into account that a seminary, like any school, is part of a larger environment. Seminaries in particular are embedded within a network of spiritual communities. One thing these communities, or congregations, do is hire seminary graduates to be their leaders. A seminary can expand only as far as its sponsoring religious community can expand. Therefore the creation of a viable interfaith seminary cannot happen except within a movement of healthy spiritual communities dedicated to an interfaith vision.[4] A seminary aligned with a society of authentic inter-religious communities would be an interfaith school. Call it “Interfaith Unification Theological Seminary,” or “iUTS.”

If the Unification movement could generate successful local interfaith communities that grow and multiply, then an iUTS could prepare the leadership for them. At the same time, an iUTS could proactively initiate the process by creating leaders who would establish such communities. This is well worth discussing, because it would address an agenda that is most pressing on the world stage -- that of creating peace among religions. This is the vision: a seminary creating and providing the leadership for a network of local inter-religious communities. Let us call these entities, “local peace communities” (LPC). It is the shape of such a movement that I intend to describe in this essay.

The terms on which the realization of this vision hangs are three in number. First, UTS must amplify its public recognition as an ecumenical institution of excellence on the foundation of educational professionalism. Public recognition, in particular accreditation, is necessary for the school to attract and successfully place students from across the spectrum of religions and the larger professional world. Just as important: public recognition provides access to people working for the same goals through existing organizations, and ultimately the wherewithal to exert beneficial influence on public policy. The school is making progress in this direction, and will continue to do so within the bounds of the Unification movement’s ability to operate professionally. This writer assumes a trend toward professionalism will continue to build within the movement. While this is not a topic discussed at length in this essay, it is important to note that what I am setting forth requires of the Unification movement a sustained shift toward a professional approach in planning and implementation.

The next two matters are more difficult. One, to generate the energy, creativity and market-worthiness necessary to jump from a denominational to an interfaith identity, the Unification movement needs to shed its hierarchical, old-line denominational characteristics and shift into a flat organizational style. I refer to this new style as “populist.” The shift from denominational to populist styles is the subject of the next section of the essay. Two, the success of the populist style results from its ability to unleash the energy of the members, the people. This style has proven effective for groups that emphasize adherence to an historical spirituality entrenched in the culture. However, it has not been effective for binding people together beyond traditions in new and unconventional settings, including people of other faiths. Local inter-religious work, to my knowledge, consists either of councils of representatives of various churches and faith bodies, or of groups gathered around a visionary leader. In neither case do we see much growth. In the essay’s third section I outline what is, I admit, a theoretical construct of what a populist interfaith community, a local peace community, might look like, based on ideas presented by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). It is a vision for, if you will, a multi-faith mega-church, a cross-cultural cell church. It is supposed to be big, like a peace Pentecost, an interfaith apocalypse!

In the conclusion of the essay I draw out implications for the core mission of an iUTS.

Populism and the Future of the Unificationist Community

Is there a market for an interfaith seminary? Does this market provide placements? Where will the graduates work? What is the value of the degree? These are crucial questions for UTS to answer. Seminary health depends on the value of the degree, reflected both in the availability of positions or a fervent and coherent faith and skill set that empowers pioneers to plant communities. A healthy movement prepares entrepreneurs and produces jobs. A healthy seminary cannot exist outside of a healthy and coherent spiritual movement.

I believe that a healthy movement can come through adopting the populist model. I will argue here that the populist model is advocated by Unification theology, the Divine Principle, and by the Founder in his formulation of “church” life, which is ultimately the dissolution of just about every traditional ecclesiology into generic family and social holiness. It is embodied in the “home church” or, currently, the “Hoondok Family Church” idea. First, I need to explain what I mean by a “populist” model in distinction to the traditional denominational model and how the Unification movement presently exemplifies denominational characteristics. Then I will discuss how the movement can shift from the denominational to populist styles.

The Unification Denomination

Father Moon drove a stake in the ground when he established UTS on the traditional mainstream model. By so doing, he told the society that his movement, which to that point was a collection of communal houses, was to look like a mainstream liberal Protestant denomination. Whether he intended it or not, his movement has maintained this vision for thirty years. Table 1 sets forth salient characteristics of the denominational style, in contrast to what I am calling the populist style. I set it forth in order to draw attention to the denominational character of the Unification movement in America. This exercise also should provide a sense of direction for the movement and its seminary.[5]

The landscape is not this simple, of course, but the purpose of ideal types is to draw out distinctions. Choosing between one and the other, which of the two ideal types does the Unification movement resemble? Clearly, it is the denominational. Sociologist of religion Don Miller describes the status of such mainline denominations in America: “Their message is ambiguous, lacking authority, and their worship is anemic. Furthermore, they are mired in organizational structures that deaden vision as people gather endlessly in committee meetings.”[6] The Unification Church in America suffers from adopting this form of Christianity. If and as the movement leadership develops spiritual momentum, I believe that the movement’s culture and structure will shift in a populist direction.

Table 1: Ideal Types for Churches


Mainstream Traditional

New Paradigm Populist


Seminary graduates with an M.Div. degree

Preachers and organizers educated informally in the local churches and Bible schools


Always a church building

Often an alternative to the traditional church building, such as a former grocery store, warehouse, theater, storefront, house, rented space in a public school, etc.


Mandatory, based on infant baptism

Voluntary, based on believer’s baptism

Target market

Members by birth, committed to the denomination

Seekers searching for spiritual experience and accountability to a community


Social causes and traditional programs

To save people

Worship and liturgy

Formulaic, theologically-generated, by the book, liturgical, traditional music

Innovative, flexible, aspires to move the emotions through praise and worship, contemporary art forms and relevant messages


Spiritual experiences are not expected

Open to spiritual healing, prophesy, prayer


Pastor, Board, committees, tradition- and headquarters sensitive

Pastor, team approach, small groups, market-sensitive

View toward other faiths

Ecumenical: God is working through everyone

Evangelical: God is here; we are called to save you


Loose, few if any guidelines

Strict guidelines, marriage and family centered


Governed by a multi-level national hierarchy

Flat; empowerment of local leadership


Parish system

Free church -- with no parish lines




Worship music

Organ, hymns

Electric guitar, bass and drums, praise songs

Selection of leaders

Appointment based on formal education

Entrepreneurial, based on spiritual call

Core value




Inclusive: one size fits all

Exclusive: niche designed

Results of the Mainstream Model: The Seminary is a Cemetery and the Church Suffers

The mainstream denominational model seminary stresses and tends to ignore the unique needs and resources of local communities. Headquarters-driven programs distract from local ministry, skew the preaching of the saving Word and remove resources from local hands. For example, Tom Bandy, Senior Editor of NETResults, a church leadership bulletin out of Lubbock, Texas, writes “Everywhere I go, mainstream church leaders who have read Rich Warren’s cutting-edge book [The Purpose-Driven Church] say, ‘But we can’t do that… it won’t fit our denominational polity!’” These words introduced an article by a Presbyterian pastor that sought to convince other mainstream pastors of the legitimacy of the new paradigm, populist approach of Rich Warren.[7]

The perception emerges that the national leadership of the mainstream churches is out of touch and that the seminaries send people with agendas incomprehensible to local folks. Over the last generation, mainstream denominational headquarters opened up to pro-Marxist, feminist, gay, divorce-friendly agendas somewhat removed from the wants, needs and interests of most local churches. They operated on a World War II-generation culture in which the top command knows best, and structure in which orders come from above. Seminary education is guided by PhD-holding academics whose connection with the life of the laity is trumped by theology and, often, ideology. From the viewpoint of producing leaders who can generate large-scale church growth, mainstream seminaries have indeed turned into cemeteries. In Presbyterian Carey’s words, “Few graduating seminarians know how to plant the gospel seeds that yield personal commitments to Jesus, not can they nurture a convert’s budding faith.”[8]

In the meantime, American society has provided an environment for the development of innovative religious institutions out of the grassroots. Miller writes, “Historians and sociologists of religion widely acknowledge a substantial restructuring among American religious institutions.” The contemporary culture, unlike the post-World War II generation, values on-the-ground leadership.

Consider the values of baby boomers. They don’t like bureaucratic structure, and the mainline churches are monuments of rites and organizational rules… ‘Brand’ loyalty has very little meaning to most boomers; the fact that they were raised Methodist or Episcopalian does not determine where they choose to go to church. Second, tradition is more often a negative than a positive word… Third, boomers want to be involved in running and managing their own organizations rather than entrusting decisions to someone at the top… Fourth, boomers tend to be local in their interests and fail to see the value of remote denominational organizations that are spending millions of dollars on issues outside their own community (especially if much of this money is dispensed in bureaucrats’ salaries).[9]

Thus, Miller argues, the new paradigm churches fit with the values of the contemporary culture, and this helps explain their popularity and growth. The fact that the Unification Church adopted much of the old mainstream model, by Miller’s analysis, would help explain its failure to win this generation. And, although effective structure does not engender success automatically, the lack of an effective structure can suffocate the vision, creativity and teamwork that might bring success. Having a great car does not insure victory in a race, but having a dysfunctional car pretty much does insure failure. The lesson: shifting to a populist model will bring health and growth to the Unification movement.

How Churches Shift to the Populist Model: Flatten the Organization and Focus on Spiritual Experience

Miller cites business analyst Peter Drucker on the shift to the populist model: “What is clearly not functional as we enter the next century is a religious organizational form that is pyramidal in structure, deriving authority from the top and delivering answers and policies to those at the bottom.” He goes on to state, “Post-capitalist society has to be decentralized. Its organizations must be able to make fast decisions, based on closeness to performance, closeness to the market, closeness to technology, closeness to the changes in society.”

How do traditional churches apply this principle? “If the mainline churches are going to regain their leadership,” Miller writes, “they must do two things that the new paradigm [populist] churches already have mastered: first, they must give the ministry back to the people, which implies creating a much flatter organizational structure; and, second, they must become vehicles for people to access the sacred in profound and life-changing ways.” [10]

Building on Miller’s analysis, I believe that a mainline denomination can take a number of concrete steps to abet a shift to the populist model. One, “radically decentralize organizational structures, abandoning central offices and locating themselves in local churches, especially those flagship churches that are demonstrating leadership.”[11] By downsizing denominational headquarters, churches cut overhead, reduce bureaucratic processes and, most importantly, put their most valuable resource -- their people -- on the frontline. It is usually not at the headquarters or the seminary that encounter with God, program creativity, real ministry and, as a result, church growth happen. These things happen on the frontline, the local church.

Two, put young leaders in positions of responsibility and allow them to spin off experimental ministries. I can mention churches such as SpiritGarage, a Lutheran spin-off in Minneapolis; the Community of Joy, another Lutheran church in Arizona; or the Willow Creek Community Church, which grew out of a Dutch Reformed congregation. The Saddleback Community Church could be considered a spin-off Southern Baptist group, as they never identified themselves as Southern Baptist. It is the same story with The Journey Church, a Southern Baptist ministry in mid-Manhattan. Can you imagine a congregation growing in that urban center with the name “Southern Baptist”? The founders use a name that is comprehensible to its target market. To grow, Christians in America are shaking off the bureaucratic overlays, and the wise headquarters are allowing them to do so.

Three, empower existing clergy to give up control to the members. This is most critical; it is called “gifts-based ministry.” To carry it out, Miller recommends some simple steps. Clergy should abolish at least 80 percent of the committee meetings, thereby freeing up people to join small group home fellowships. Empower pastoral care, evangelism, and cross-generational bonding in the small groups, which are led and organized by laypeople. Help members discover their own spiritual gifts and apply them in the church setting -- thereby reshaping the church. “Mirroring democratic values, [populist churches] encourage members to initiate new programs and projects, which thus reflect the members’ own needs and interests. Indeed, so long as these programs fit the values of the congregation, enormous latitude is granted in what ministries are started and how they evolve.” [12] Within the core principles and goals of the faith, let the members, not the headquarters, shape the local church.

Four, reconsider the process of leadership preparation. Miller states that the mainstream should “radically restructure seminaries, allowing more theological education to be done in the local churches… Seminaries should be professional schools where people are mentored and taught while they serve within a local congregation.” In this context, an isolated seminary is not necessarily the best way to prepare leaders. There are other methods: in-house apprenticeship, intensive workshops, training programs and Bible colleges. Some churches do well without seminaries. Miller, himself an Episcopalian, recommends that if they want to succeed in the 21st century, the American mainstream denominations would do well to close their seminaries as stand-alone institutions and move leadership preparation in-house.[13]

The Divine Principle calls for a Populist Church

What we observe in growing churches is strikingly similar to the spiritual community life advocated in the Divine Principle, the history of the Unification Church, and current ideas set forth by its Founder.

In its analysis of the late medieval Catholic Church and Protestant Reformation, the Unification movement extols the populist model: a flat organization focused on spiritual experience. The Founder provided a theological subtext for this in a speech he recently delivered throughout the world, when he said, “The first human ancestors, Adam and Eve, call God ‘Father.’ Should their children call Him ‘Grandfather’? They too should call Him ‘Father.’ Why is this so? From the viewpoint of God, the vertical center, all object partners of love are equal.”[14] Thus he identified his movement as Protestant, not Catholic, in ecclesiology. It is not a movement with a priesthood. From this perspective, let us glance at the Divine Principle treatment of the Protestant Reformation. “After the Protestant Reformation, the way was open for people to freely seek God through their own reading of the Bible, without the mediation of the priesthood. People were no longer subjected to the authority of others in their religious life, but could freely seek their own path of faith.”[15]

The Divine Principle points out that in order for the people to freely seek God, the social environment, including dysfunctional religious rites and bureaucracy, had to change. “The people… rebelled against the ritualism and rules of the church which were constraining their free devotion. They fought against the stratified feudal system and papal authority which deprived them of autonomy.”[16]

The analysis is not a simple celebration of the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant movement led to a conflict between the magisterial reformers and the free-church radicals. The magisterial side, the Lutheran and Calvinist state churches, dominated northern Europe and the Rhineland. They maintained the “only one church” point of view, with the church and state united. In that system, all people are legally required to attend the church according to location. Tithing is a tax. The church parishes and political boundaries are the same. Baptism was tantamount to citizenship in the state and so happened at birth; membership in the church was involuntary.

The Protestant mainstream, the Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, as well as Roman Catholic and Orthodox bodies maintain this approach. Each operates a system of parishes, districts and regions. They conduct infant baptism. The Divine Principle praise of Protestantism is not for this state church style; it clearly calls for the other side, the free church approach. The Divine Principle exalts the house church movement of Pietism, the parish-busting neighborhood movement of John Wesley, the strongly anti-establishment church leadership of George Fox, the new age spiritualism of Swedenborg, and the freedom of the spirit that characterized the Great Awakenings.[17]

The Unification Church Started on a Populist Model

Few young, visionary church leaders attempt to transform the old bureaucratic denominational wine-skins. Instead they abandon the old wine-skins and make new ones. “What makes this reformation radical,” Miller writes, “is that the hope of reforming existing denominational churches has largely been abandoned. Instead, the leaders of these new paradigm churches are starting new movements, unbounded by denominational bureaucracy and the restraint of tradition -- except the model of first-century Christianity.”[18] Father Moon himself is a prime exemplar of Miller’s observation. He broke away from established churches in Korea when they clung to their traditions and hierarchies. He established a model that resembled first-century Christianity. It exemplified the two characteristics of successful post-modern religious movements. One, it was a flat organization allowing local ownership, not controlled by the western missionaries. Father Moon (then called “Teacher”) dressed in casual clothes, took members into the mountains for retreats and recreation, planted rice with members and slept and ate with members. As do all emerging spiritual movements, the group developed its own music, with songs written by the local members. According to Rev. Zin Moon Kim, in the 1960s Father Moon resisted his clergy’s pleading for the construction of church buildings. Two, the church focused on imparting spiritual experience by emphasizing prayer, fasting, street preaching and so forth.

The Hoondok Family Church is a Populist Model

Today, Father Moon is flattening the Unification spiritual environment, declaring the end of traditional religion and of the Unification Church itself. Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak, head of the Universal Peace Federation, calls the membership to create a spiritual movement with no hierarchy. The movement is to consist of a network of hubs in a pluralistic society without parish lines. Rev. Kwak put it this way: “The era of the providence of restoration centered on religion and church rituals has passed… everyone is in the position where they can receive True Father [Moon] on an equal footing.”[19] Elaborating on the meaning of this, he wrote, “The community of heart, rather than a community formed based on formality and organization, is the ultimate purpose, and it is only in the community of heart that the eternal ideal and happiness can be brought to fruition.” Here Rev. Kwak is stating that there will be no religious bureaucracy or formal organization.

He calls for a flat, informal structure:

We should… be connected through the Internet or other means of communication… Those carrying out the work of tribal messiahs are the church leaders… The mission of tribal messiahs… is to bless from 36 couples to 430 couples at the very least. Those who have fulfilled this mission will be considered to be church leaders. Next, church leaders are professional social activists… who should guide the society and citizens from a broader sense than [do] ministers… True Father announced that he would deal directly with those blessed families that hold Hoon Dok Hae meetings and not recognize the church system in the middle.”[20]

Thus the Unification spiritual communities require no hierarchy, but are to be a network of locally-generated hubs, each of equal authority. Since any number of “Tribal Messiahs” may live in a given geographical area, this is a pluralistic religious society without parish lines.

The spiritual community is described as pursuing manifold activities through members’ spiritual gifts. Father Moon speaks clearly about a shift to local and family ownership of the spiritual mission. He has set forth the vision of the disintegration of the organized church into what the UPF refers to as the “sphere of life.”[21] In his 2007 instructions to the world Unification movement leaders on February 26, 2007, in Korea, Rev. Kwak did not even use the word “church” (at least in the English translations).

Taken together these open the question of how to structure community life. Rev. Kwak further directed, “Hoondok Family Churches in the town, village and district [should] be able to operate independently.”[22] In fact, the goal is not even establishing what would be recognized as traditional churches: “True Father wants Hoon Dok Hae, rather than the… church, to be generalized and universalized. In essence, rather than promoting… churches, the words of True Father should resound in every village and community. Centering on Hoon Dok Hae, a new community of heart movement and regional community movement should arise.”[23] Members have been granted, at least in this explanation of the Founder’s constructive theology, the right and responsibility to decide their own community life, their own way of organizing religiously. Hyung Jin Moon, youngest son of the Founder, stated that there are Muslim Unificationists, Buddhist Unificationists, Christian Unificationists, and so forth.[24]

To summarize, the Unification Church and UTS have maintained the dysfunctional mainstream denominational style. Ironically, the Divine Principle criticizes this style and prefers the populist style. Father Moon began his church on a populist model, and Rev. Kwak is calling for a shift to a populist model at this time. This means to flatten the organization and seek spiritual experience based on direct experience of God through gathering to read and learn God’s Word. This is the model of growing churches and it augurs the most prosperous future for the movement and seminary.

From here, I will draw a vision for the ideal of a populist style local community as an environment of inter-religious peace. I envision this community as a “local peace community,” an exemplification of the populist model. It is a vision for local church life based upon the work of the Universal Peace Federation.[25] It would be to prepare leaders for such that an iUTS would make its unique contribution.

Peace-building: Finding God-centered Symbols for the Interfaith Community

We live in a culture in which the expression of spirituality is assuming new forms. In this wide-open culture, the creation of interfaith communities is conceivable. The Founder’s stated goal is not to convert people to a church, but to dissolve his church -- and ultimately every religion -- into a family-centered society. He closed the Unification Church formally in 1996. In 2005 he declared that the world has entered “the era after the coming of heaven.” This new form of spiritual community life is Father Moon’s eschatological model for the Unification movement. I argue that it will be -- should be -- interfaith in nature.

To accomplish this, Unificationists face a delicate transition. First, Unificationists need to professionalize their ministry. Second, they need to adopt the populist model. This is to flatten the organizational structure and give the ministry to the people. Third, Unificationists need to expand their circle of concern to include people of all religions and create community beyond religious lines. I consider this decentralization eschatological because it implements the Founder’s declaration of the end of religion, beginning with his own. I assert that all three tasks can be accomplished at the same time and can mutually reinforce each other.

The Local Peace Community is a Populist Model

I suggest the idea of the local peace community (LPC) informed by a framework of principles provided by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF). The UPF calls for the creation of “peace councils.” The “peace councils” of the UPF “support and supplement peace efforts in a comprehensive way, from families to religions, from local grass roots organizations to transnational NGOs, from interfaith councils to the United Nations.” The peace councils serve on local, national and global levels, following one set of guidelines.[26] What I am suggesting is this: The Unificationist goal is not to be another church on the block. It is rather to allow principled spirituality and practice to sustain an inter-religious effort. It is to bring local interfaith community life into being. This is a move from a local peace council to a local peace community.

According to Miller, the growth of new Protestant churches “can be attributed to their ability to communicate the sacred in profound and life-changing ways and to embody this experience in postmodern organizational structures.” The creative, constructive step I want to argue for is that a Local Peace Council can adapt “postmodern organizational structures” -- i.e., populism -- to build inter-religious community. The path of the Unification Church should serve as a model of a faith tradition by setting aside its own particular identity, as it calls others to do the same.

The Blessing and Peace Building as Universal Symbols

The populist shift is not a matter of content, but a matter of form. In Marshall McLuhan’s words, the medium is the message. Miller states that not just Christians, but people of all faiths, need to refashion the way they express their faith in order to succeed today. As Miller states, “Churches, temples, and mosques that do not constantly ‘resymbolize’ their message eventually die; in contrast, groups that have the foresight to encapsulate their message in contemporary symbols and forms not only have the potential to survive, but sometimes grow at remarkable rates.”[27] The “resymbolization” itself sends a message, just as the maintenance of centuries- or decades-old symbols and traditions sends a message.

The UPF provides start toward a “resymbolization” of the values affirmed by all religions in a common language. The UPF “core commitments” present the values of a LPC as inclusiveness, spirituality, family, peace building and environmental awareness. UPF’s “core values and principles” focus on God-centeredness, human freedom, responsibility and accountability, love and joy, commitment to bridging barriers in order to restore relationship and partnership, public benefit, sexual purity, and viewing life on earth from the perspective of eternity. Likewise, each LPC’s mission would be to bring individuals, families and organizations of all kinds[28] to enjoy peace in vibrant community under God, celebrating shared values, faith, love and obedience to the divine will and personal conscience.

Each LPC would hammer such ideals into a mission statement. The leadership’s mandate is to guide and inspire members’ gifts-based personal ministry, which is the real life of the community. This is to be something new, birthed in the new community itself. The populist model is created by the local community from its own resources. Following the populist model, each would work toward having regular public worship once the community foundation, a plan for youth education, and some form of small group ministry are set.

A Shared Struggle to Achieve Common Causes

I propose that unity among faith bodies comes by recognizing common causes that draw upon the ethical imperatives drawn forth from shared values. My thinking is influenced by Peter Kreeft’s Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenism and the Culture War [29] and Dinesh D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.[30] Kreeft argues that all religions can join in community by virtue of their shared struggle to achieve common ideals built around family-based morality. My suggested rubrics for values and practices that cross religious lines are spirituality, family and service. Other terms may serve as well or better, but for the sake of elucidation I will utilize these here.

Spirituality for Peace:

In Miller’s view, people “expect direct access to power and to the sacred, and therefore mainline church leaders need to radically rethink how to engender experience of the sacred.” He decries “the sterile intellectuality of mainstream worship” and suggests ways “to break down the dichotomy between mind and body in worship,” such as silent retreats, spiritual coaching, fasting, and spiritual exercises.

In terms of spiritual values, the UPF sets forth a number of terms common to all faiths. These include repentance, forgiveness, respect, cooperation with the good, seeking the path of reconciliation, beginning with self-reflection, checking one’s own attitude, heart and alignment with God, promotion of change, cultivation of the heart of a parent or compassionate elder sibling, seeking of ways to understand, and a commitment to be the initiator of dialogue.

The leader’s task is to lead individuals of all faiths to self-reflect. The “how” is left to local creativity. Every religious tradition has resources to bring these spiritual practices to flower in a pluralistic setting. In sharing, mingling, Buddhist zazen, Sufi dancing, autochthonous vision questing, Jesuit spiritual exercises, the Muslim Ramadan and daily prayer, and so forth, one would envision many textures of shared spirituality emerging. The Unificationist Hoon Dok Hae would be called to serve this purpose of spiritual growth, with its recommendation of daily family spiritual practice at home. After all, Divine Principle teaches that the truth is not contained in a book of scripture; it is a way of life.[31]

Family for Peace:

Sexuality and the family is the matrix of humankind’s and religion’s most pervasive and powerful set of universal values. All of the public issues Kreeft identifies as uniting religions have to do with sexuality and the family. This is where secularism and traditional religion in general part ways; it is the frontline in the culture war. Sexual purity and preservation of the family is a common ground for all religions. In addition, strong families with faithful marriages build healthy communities. If Unificationists can help local Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims strengthen their marriages, families and transmission of values to the next generation, community will appear. If we can come together to celebrate each other’s marriages, births, deaths and passages in life, community will appear.

The LPC spiritual leader helps people to have great marriages and families beyond religious, racial or national identity. Christians in America are developing something called “family church,” which exemplifies this post-modern move back to organic family life. Ben Freudenberg, a leader of this movement, summarizes its principles: “Parents are the primary [religious] educators in the [community], and the family is the God-ordained institution for building faith in young people and for passing faith on from one generation to the next.”[32] He calls for “a church that works to get involved in what parents are doing for their kids at home… We need to do fewer ministry activities at church and more at home… [and] open up space in families’ lives to give them more time for home activities… I’m convinced we must shift from a church-centered, home-supported ministry model to a home-centered, church-supported ministry model.”[33] Would any traditional Unificationist, Jew, Sikh or Shintoist disagree?

The family resonates with all traditions. To lift up traditional marriage and family life is to move against the mainstream Protestant model and back (or, forward) toward the family life common to Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and other communities, as well as to the Protestant world prior to the twentieth century. The UPF vision enjoins community and household worship. “The inculcation of strong, loving family life” is a “core objective.” Family traditions inform worship and, in turn, traditions strengthen and bring joy in the family setting. Empowering sexual purity, marriage and family is an important contribution of Unification teachings. After all, the family is understood to be the core purpose of God’s creative act and the instrument that brings the greatest joy to God and human beings: “What do you think is God’s ultimate purpose for creating human beings?” asks Father Moon. “Simply put, it is to experience joy through relating with ideal families filled with true love.”[34] The essence of the restoration of humanity is brought through the Blessing of marriage. This Blessing also serves as a venue for peace, through the encouragement and support for interracial, international and inter-religious marriages.

Service for Peace: Empowerment of individuals to engage in personal ministry is critical to any spiritual community. In the LPC vision, personal ministry would be informed by the broad UPF vision for peace. The UPF’s list of “Core Objectives” translated into LPC settings would lead to service-based goals:

1. The creation of a culture of peace locally;

2. Inter-religious cooperation, with the intent to establish substantial, sustainable, local institutional embodiment;

3. Partnership between local government, religious bodies and the citizenry and their organizations;

4. Greater participation in governance;

5. Prevention of conflict from happening and resolution of conflict that is taking place;

6. The institutionalization of local peace education; and

7. Economic development in harmony with the environment and provision of relief to those in need.

These need to be translated into local service and civic initiatives that unite people -- especially youth -- of all traditions, through the arts, service projects, dialogue, and so forth. We can translate the UPF’s global call for “Programs and Activities” into local settings as well.

Worship for Peace:

Perhaps the most important and most challenging task for the LPC is to create shared public worship. Worship involves elements that divide religions -- liturgies, sacraments, music, rites and rituals rooted in and dedicated to the transmission of distinctive scriptures and historical dogmas that are literally set in stone. The hope to break down the liturgical barriers, according to Miller, lies with getting young people involved. Miller’s comments on the empowerment of mainstream worship in Protestant churches are helpful here. “Some radical restructuring of liturgy may be needed. People must have time to enter into the deep recesses of the human spirit, assisted by the right type of music and… liturgy.” How? “Mainline churches need to begin to experiment with worship styles and music and communicate to a new generation of young people.”[35] Miller goes on to encourage worship leadership being handed over to the next generation.

The form of LPC worship is left up to the local leadership. How would we conceive worship in a local peace community? One approach would view an LPC as a meta-community whose members have “separate but equal” private traditions. The church leadership in America articulated this as an approach in the late 1990s, but it did not generate any multi-faith spiritual life within the Unificationist community. Yet in the Islamic world it has been in place for 1,400 years with reference to the Peoples of the Book.

Another approach is to strive to develop a common worship tradition. While a very challenging task, I believe that in the long run it is in fact the Unificationist ideal and offers the most potential for success. It also is consistent with the Founder’s explicit hopes.[36] Common worship would begin with the traditional definition of worship as public gathering in which the Word is spoken and the sacraments (holy things, words and acts) shared. In the Unification context, this means that the Word and Blessing are given, as in recent speaking tours, but the community would welcome the sacraments and rites of all its constituent members in whatever proportion or form they like. Appropriate to worship within the UPF framework is teaching and preaching aimed at enriching the family, neighborhood and community and enabling people to cross traditional boundaries and share in the other’s spiritual life.

The key is inspired preaching and teaching that connects people of all faiths to God in community and empowers them for family and service. Worship would welcome all sacraments and rites to express the Word and Blessing. Another key is youth leadership: “The services need to be led by young men and women whose lives have been transformed by their experience of the sacred. The future of the mainline churches depends on raising up leaders from the next generation.”[37] The youth represent the future. Miller calls for youth worship leadership as the method for mainstream churches to effect a turnaround: “Indeed, if the mainline church is going to survive, it will need to spawn new churches led by a new generation of young people, and these youth (even as adults) may choose to meet in entirely different types of worship spaces and may organize their churches in radically different ways from those of their parents and grandparents.”[38] In other words, let the Buddhist, Christian, Unificationist, Muslim, Jewish etc. youth work out the shared worship. Be prepared to be amazed.

Conclusion: The UTS “Hedgehog Concept”

Jim Collins has developed a method to focus an organization’s mission. He calls it “the hedgehog concept,” with the notion that the hedgehog doesn’t have a big skill set but the one thing it does insures its success against a variety of competitors. The “hedgehog concept” is found at the intersection of three circles: one, what one is passionate about; two, what one can be the best in the world at; and three, what drives one’s economic engine or, for non-profits, the resource engine.[39]

For the first circle, this essay asserts that UTS is passionate about family and spiritual community -- transcending race, religion and nationality. Call it “one family under God.” For the second, it can be the best in the world at creating leadership for such families and communities. The third circle, the resource engine, is challenging, and Steven Covey’s work on Collins’ third circle tells us why. Covey restates “driving the economic / resource engine” as “meeting a need.” The need UTS meets, as presented in this paper, is the need for inter-religious peace leadership in local communities. The bad news is that not many in the world recognize a need for inter-religious community. This is a limitation of present-day culture. For the short-term, one leader, Father Moon, and his cadre of followers recognize the need on the basis of prophetic vision and are willing to support UTS at a loss. The seminary needs to go beyond the short-term answer to sustainability. The good news is that the culture is changing rapidly. UTS and the UPF seek to stimulate this change. It is better that the world recognize the need for inter-religious peace through common sense than through the exhaustion of endless war.

The UTS core mission, or “hedgehog concept” by this argument, is to prepare spiritual leaders of local peace communities. To accomplish this, UTS will help the Unification Movement transition from a mainstream denominational model to a populist peace community model. In tandem with a revolution at UTS, there needs to be a revolution in the entire Unification Movement. It will lead to the point at which the “blessed central families” devolve ownership of the dream of “one family under God” to people of all faiths. It will lead to the point at which Unificationists love the enemy more than their own children, and love the stranger more than the friend.

We are left with the question raised at the beginning of this essay: if UTS could not accomplish this goal thirty years ago, what makes people believe it can accomplish it now? The answer, as I have argued in this paper, is that the reason for the past failure was the denominational character of the Unification Movement and its seminary. As a small upstart movement adopting a denominational structure, the movement created walls between itself and the larger society and at the same time ceased growing from within. The movement will grow through populism -- flattening its organization and focusing on spiritual experience. This growth will take place in local peace communities that will serve the purposes of peace through a broad spirituality that embraces and affirms people of all faith backgrounds. So the steps critical to the success of an iUTS are one, the Unification Movement’s shift to a populist structure and two, the movement’s ability to take these populist communities beyond the boundaries of Unificationist particularism through interfaith inclusiveness. In these transformations, an interfaith UTS, properly conceived, can play an important role.


[1] Retreat of the UTS Board of Trustees, October 8, 2006, author’s notes.

[2] Conversation with the author, 2000 or 2001.

[3] See, for example, M. Darrol Bryant and Susan Hodges, Exploring Unification Theology (Barrytown, NY: Unification Theological Seminary, 1978). For a volume representing the culmination of this phase of Unificationist interfaith endeavors, see M. Darrol Bryant, John Maniatis and Tyler Hendricks, Assembly of the World’s Religions 1985: Spiritual Unity and the Future of the Earth (New York: International Religious Foundation, 1986).

[4] The other route is for the seminary graduates to obtain positions outside the parent church. This may be the outcome in the present case; nonetheless this paper presents an argument for the viability of the parent church becoming an “interfaith” community that can provide employment for graduates of an interfaith seminary.

[5] Christians themselves, with cell churches, independent Bible churches, beach baptisms, rock bands, and use of coffee shops, warehouses and theaters, are abandoning the traditional church model. See inter alia, Leonard Sweet, ed., Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives (Zondervan Emergent/YS, 2003) with contributors Andy Crouch, Brian D. McLaren, Erwin Raphael McManus, Michael Horton, Frederica Matthewes-Green. See also Brian D. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/ Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/ Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN (Zondervan, 2004).

[6] Don Miller, The Reinvention of American Protestantism (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996).

[7] Michael T. Carey, “Mainstreaming the Purpose-Driven Church,” NETResults, May, 2001, pp. 12-14

[8] Ibid.

[9] Miller, p. 17.

[10] Ibid., pp. 17, 187.

[11] Ibid., p. 188.

[12] Miller, pp. 187-188. I am utilizing Miller extensively because of the clarity and focus of his analysis. The points he is making represent what appears to me to be a general consensus of church growth scholars.

[13] Ibid., p. 188.

[14] Sun Myung Moon, “The True Owners in Establishing the Kingdom of Peace and Unity in Heaven and on Earth,” Seoul, April 10, 2006.

[15] Exposition of the Divine Principle [EDP] (New York: HSA-UWC, 1996), p. 341.

[16] Ibid., p. 352. The text elaborates: “They protested the medieval view that faith required unquestioning obedience to the dictates of the Church in all areas of life, which denied them the right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience based on their own reading of the Bible. They also questioned the otherworldly and ascetic monastic ideal which devalued the natural world, science and the practical affairs of life.”

[17] “The Reformation spawned philosophies and religious teachings which developed a multi-dimensional view of life seeking to realize the God-given, original nature of human beings… The Abel type view of life… opposed the prevailing influence of rationalism in religion and stressed the importance of religious zeal and the inner life. They valued mystical experience over doctrines and rituals… Pietism, Methodism, Quakerism and communication with the spirit world… in these diverse ways, the Abel-type view of life was maturing to form the democratic world of today.” (EDP, 356-7) In contrast, Luther receives scant praise and Calvin is criticized over predestination.

[18] Miller., p. 11.

[19] Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak, “2005 Korean Agenda and Cheon Il Guk Realization Campaign,” The Vision and Mission of Cheon Il Guk (Seoul: Inter-religious and International Federation for World Peace, 2005), p. 61. We are thus liberated from required ritual and are free to create or adopt ritual according to setting.

[20] Ibid., pp. 61-64 passim.

[21] Kwak, op. cit. p. 89-92. Kwak elaborates, “The church and FFWPU is the basis which allows Cheon Il Guk to settle in our daily lives. Through the church and FFWPU where life flourishes, and which is our motive and prime power, internally we provide education, pray and give blessing, and after that we must be fulfilling the duty of creating new community of heart, and Hoondok Family Churches.” Kwak’s distinction between this as the “sphere of life” and organizational activities as “the public sector” begs examination, as it seems to relegate spiritual life out of the public square and into the private sphere.

[22] Kwak, op., cit., p. 113.

[23] Ibid., p. 61.

[24] Chun Hwa Dang workshops at UTS, 2005.

[25] This content is derived from a 20-page long exposition of the mission, core values, methodology, programs and structure of the UPF, published in the fall of 2006, entitled “Universal Peace Federation” and from an undated 8-page booklet entitled “Ambassadors for Peace Handbook,” also published by UPF.

[26] “Universal Peace Federation: Peace Council Guidelines,” Tarrytown, NY: UPF, n.d.

[27] Miller, pp. 8-9, 11, 18.

[28] The text enumerates “all kinds” as “religious and spiritual, cultural, economic, educational, civic and governmental.”

[29] (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996) Kreeft refers to this as “a war of all religions against none… Nothing unites like a common enemy and a common emergency… [God] has now allowed Satan to let loose upon the world a worldwide spiritual war, which by attacking not one religion but all religions is now uniting God-loving Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Protestants (and even Jews and Muslims) more powerfully than anything else in history has ever done… What theological and ecclesiastical solutions will emerge from this new situation and this new alliance? No one can tell… Practice is leading theory.” (26-28).

[30] Dinesh D’Souza, The Enemy at Home (New York: Doubleday, 2007).

[31] See World Scripture and the Teachings of Sun Myung Moon (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2007) for a Unificationist contribution to this task.

[32] Freudenberg, The Family Friendly Church (Loveland, CO: Group, 1998), p. 10.

[33] Ibid., pp. 19, 21, 28.

>[34] Sun Myung Moon, “God’s Ideal Family and the Kingdom of the Peaceful, Ideal World,” 2006.

[35] Miller, p. 187.

[36] “I will… hold worship services transcending all denominations. After this, I will go to spirit world. I will go there after completing that trans-denominational worship.” (Sun Myung Moon, 1991.1.13; Cheon Seong Gyeong, pp. 291-2) In this speech Father Moon referred to the universe of Christian denominations. Assuming that the same would apply to the realm of all religions, I posed this question to Dr. Peter Kim, Moon’s chief assistant: “Here Father is referring to Christian denominations (Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, etc.). Can we say that Father now is committed to holding worship services transcending all religions (i.e. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.)? My feeling is that the answer is YES, but I want to check with you.” I received in response, “Dear Dr. Hendricks, My answer to your question is "YES" too. Peter Kim.”

[37] Miller, pp. 188-190.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t (New York: HarperCollins, 2001) and Good to Great in the Social Sector (New York: HarperCollins, 2005). 

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