The Words of the Elder Family

The Supra-Denominational Christian Association and The International Christian Professors Association

Tim Elder
January 1982

The Supra-Denominational Christian Association

In October 1978, five European members and I came to Korea to receive training in the supra-denominational work, under key. Jae Suk Lee (who was recently selected president of the Unification Church in Korea).

The Supra-denominational Christian Association is an ecumenical body of Christians, founded in 1966 with the cooperation of Presbyterian, Methodist and Unification ministers. It seeks to establish a body of faith which transcends the barriers that have long divided Christians. [The prefix supra means beyond, or greater than.]

Korean staff members, mostly older blessed couples, have been carrying on this work for 15 years. This office has a higher concentration of older blessed couples than most others, and we have much to learn from them. Rev. Lee has been the guiding force behind the supra- denominational work for the Unification Church since its inception.

In the beginning, the supra-denominational movement received a great deal of support from Christian ministers; on the first anniversary of the founding, several hundred Christian leaders and ministers showed up. But then a lot of criticism began to appear in the Christian press, accusations that the Unification Church, which supports the movement, is a heretical group. People recognized that the work we were accomplishing was very good, but they could not accept it because of who was doing it. After passing through the initial round of difficulties, the work was able to start anew in 1973.

Our greatest difficulty is still to achieve recognition from the Protestant churches that we are a brother denomination, within the scope of Christianity.

There are five major Protestant denominations in Korea: Methodist, Holiness and three Presbyterian groups. The Presbyterians initially split over whether to affiliate with the World Council of Churches; the Jesus Presbyterians, who did not join the World Council of Churches, further divided into two: one group called the Unified Jesus Presbyterians and the other the United Jesus Presbyterians! All five major Protestant denominations have passed resolutions to expel ministers who associate with the Unification Church, but the resolutions are not always enforced.

When I came to Korea, Dr. Heung Soo Kang, past president of the National Council of Churches in Korea and head of one of the Presbyterian denominations, was leading the Supra- denominational Christian Association. One year ago he retired because of his advanced age, and the position is now open. Actually, he was eventually given an ultimatum by his church to either quit his association with the Unification Church or resign from the ministry.

In the United States as well as here, Christianity expends much energy in internal struggles, one denomination against another. If Christians just engage in battles on an emotional level, no good result can come about; also, there is no personal growth. Therefore, our work is to call people to sit down and talk with each other, to discuss the points they have in common and the points of differences, and to try to work out a way to resolve those differences.

Our work has several aspects:

1. one-to-one contact with ministers and Christian leaders, including inviting them to Principle seminars;

2. banquet programs;

3. financial aid to Christian churches; and

4. distributing publications, including a monthly magazine with a circulation of five to seven thousand, and Weekly Religion, a religious newspaper, published since 1971. The association has also published a number of books, including one by Rev. Lee entitled, On the Movement to Unite Churches.

The main thrust of our work has always been one-to-one contact. Mass meetings are good, but substantial results come mainly from personal contact. People may be unfriendly in the beginning, but when we persevere with a sincere heart, they will often at least receive us.

We work not so much on an intellectual level, but more on an emotional level. Each staff member is assigned to a particular denomination. In the beginning, I contacted Methodist ministers, and now I work with the Jesus Presbyterians. After a while, I gave up trying to make appointments with ministers by...

On November 18, 1980, he addressed 1,200 ministers, and on May 14, 1981, just before Ye Jin Nim's Blessing, he spoke to a banquet for Christian leaders in the Lotte Hotel.

At the beginning of this year, Father set aside a grant of $1.8 million for the Korean Protestant churches. The funds are to be used for evangelism, but we make no judgment on the contents of their applications for funds. However, we do require that in order to receive a grant, a congregation must apply for and accept the money publicly: ministers and representatives of the congregation must sign the application for funds.

In Seoul, there are large, well-established Christian churches; however, many of the churches in the countryside are extremely poor, and ministers receive very little support from their congregations. For them especially, this kind of grant can help so much.

Although Christians are a small minority of the population, Christianity gained recognition and respect among the Korean people because of its active role in the patriotic movement against the Japanese in the early part of this century. Now there is much talk of developing an Asian theology, following the examples of the formation of a black theology and a liberation theology.

The International Christian Professors Associations founded recently in Korea and Japan are another extension of our work with the Christians. These associations deal not with theologians, but with professors who believe in Christ.

Last summer, a Supra- denominational Christian Association was also founded in Japan, and in July we held an Asian Supra-denominational Conference, inviting participants from Japan, Taiwan and Korea. Our goal is to increase the cooperation among East Asian Christians, to discuss common problems and possible solutions.

The International Christian Professors Association

Two new associations have joined the ever-growing family of organizations Father has begun to promote the ideals of the Principle. The International Christian Professors Association has as its stated purpose "to realize God's will on earth by promoting friendly exchanges of dialogue and cultural cooperation among Christian professors, beyond the barriers of nation or denomination."

The founders of the Association gave this explanation of their motivations in beginning this work: "In view of the present world situation, in which the Christian faith is gradually declining and international communism rooted in the philosophy of materialism and atheism becomes increasingly powerful, many sincere Christian professors in Korea and Japan have resolved to take missionary action."

The first Christian Professors Symposium in Seoul on January 14, 1981 drew many concerned people. The guest speaker. Mr. Bo Hi Pak, proposed a plan for church revival beyond the barriers of nation or denomination, in which a united front of Christianity could restrain materialism and promote harmonious and friendly relations and international cultural exchanges between East and West. The participants in that symposium joined to found the International Christian Professors Association Japanese Christian professors have established a sister organization in Japan.

The first conference, held November 6-8, 1981 in Seoul, drew approximately 40 Christian professors from Japan and Korea. Guest speakers from the United States included Dr. Herbert W. Richardson and Dr. Young Oon Kim, both on the staff the Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown.

In contrast with Korean Christianity, Japanese Christianity is less fundamentalist and more intellectual and has never had a significant impact on Japanese society. Most Christian missions have come to standstill in Japan, and many missionaries to Japan became teachers in schools established by churches. However, the Japanese government prohibits giving any religious content to education, and Japanese scholars are under pressure to dedicate themselves only to being scholars, and not to involve themselves in sidelines such as religion. Therefore, an association of Christian professors can give much support to these Japanese scholars who have to work in such an environment.

Our members approach Christian professors along these lines: "Western Christianity is declining; therefore, Christianity needs a new interpretation from the perspective of Asian philosophy and Asian spirituality, rather than the materialistic identity it has taken on in the West." The professors are challenged to do intellectual work linking Christianity to Asian spirituality.

It is felt that the Japanese Christians will be the bridge between Korean Christianity and the West, bearing testimony to the new insights and the great vitality of Christianity in Korea.

Perhaps in the future, this International Christian Professors Association in the East and New ERA in the West can cooperate to achieve their common goals. This association and the more recently established International Christian Students Association will work along with the International Cultural Foundation and other organizations begun by Father to promote peace and understanding among the peoples of the world. 

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