The Words of the Smalls Family
In the beautiful ballroom of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, over-looking the St. Lawrence River, more than eighty professors of theology, philosophy, and sociology attended this summer's New Ecumenical Research Association (New ERA) seminar on Unification Theology and Lifestyle.
Unlike other New ERA conferences of the past, this one gave scholars an opportunity to hear as well as respond to the entire Unification Principle, which was presented by several lecturers. Almost none of the participants had ever heard Principle lectures before.
David S.C. Kim holding up a newspaper ad on the injustice of Father's case.
Past and future met as historical figures looked down from the hotel walls on the participants, who came from North America, Europe, and Africa to learn of God's path of restoration toward creating the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Participants then listened to the critical responses prepared by their colleagues who had previously read both Outline of the Principle Level 4 and the written lectures prepared by the Unificationists. Most commented favorably on the quality of the lectures and raised questions about areas not covered by the material (for example, whether the suffering of animals when they hunt and kill each other is a result of the human fall).
In the opening speech David S.C. Kim, president of the Unification Theological Seminary, explained, "In the past several years we have developed our presentations on Unification theology so that they would be intellectually stimulating and acceptable to your academic standards yet remain true to the essential teachings of the original Unification texts. There is no need for you to be too nice, too courteous, or too gentle with our Unification lecturers. I recommend that you be intellectually demanding and objectively critical, yet constructive in your responses. In this way you will be properly informed about us, and the Unification movement, which openly claims to hold the keys to world salvation, will be given a proper test!'
Some of the most intense dialogue took place in the small groups, moderated by New ERA board members and past participants. The attending scholars questioned the Unification resource panel on various aspects of Unification teachings and lifestyle, and confronted each other on their own Christian or other interpretations of the same theological and practical issues.
One of the lively discussion groups.
These conversations continued over meals in the hotel and in the local restaurants as everyone explored charming and historic Quebec City with its French cuisine, ancient fortifications, street artists and musicians, and very friendly atmosphere.
Many of the participants took time to visit the Plains of Abraham, just a five- minute walk from the hotel, where the British defeated the French in a historic battle that made Canada a British colony instead of a French one. These plains later saw a battle between the British army and the American soldiers led by Benedict Arnold. Arnold lost this battle, which resulted in Canada remaining a British colony instead of becoming part of the future United States of America. This historic setting helped create a feeling of unity between the past and Father's vision of the future.
After a week of lectures and theological discussions some of the participants shared in a Unification worship service conducted by Shirley Stadelhofer, registrar at the Unification Theological Seminary. The title of her sermon was, "We Must Be Born Again!' After dinner on the final evening Unificationists and guests shared some of their musical talent and a lot of laughter.
By the time the participants left they had become good friends and "relatives," the latest additions to the New ERA family around the world. They had discovered in each other a shared global consciousness and a desire for a better world.