University Bible Fellowship

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The University Bible Fellowship (UBF; Korean: 대학생성경읽기선교회) is an Evangelistic non-denominational Christian organization that originated in South Korea in 1961. It was founded through a partnership between a Korean, the late Samuel Chang-Woo Lee, and an American Presbyterian missionary who was sent to South Korea, Sarah Barry. UBF has headquarters in Chicago and Seoul. UBF is present at many campuses from American Ivy league schools to small community colleges. The organization's stated goal is student evangelism.[1] Some outside observers and former members describe the group as cult-like, excessively controlling, spiritually damaging and/or abusive.[2][3][4][5]


The UBF movement began in 1961.[6] An American college student named Sarah Barry had become a Christian and decided to go to Korea as a missionary soon after the Korean War ended. In Korea Barry met Samuel Chang-Woo Lee, who had been studying in a Presbyterian seminary in Seoul. They shared a common goal to "purify Christianity in Korea and find a new vision and hope for Korean intellectuals."[6] They gathered about 80 students from Chun Nam and Chosun Universities to study the English Bible in the Christian Student Center in Kwangju, Korea. Soon thousands of young Korean men and women gathered to study. From the beginning of the ministry, UBF emphasized sending missionaries to the world. In 1964, UBF sent a college graduate named Han-ok Kim to Cheju Island.[6] This marked the beginning of one of the largest Korean missionary sending movements. As of 2006, UBF had sent 1,463 self-supporting missionaries to more than 80 countries.[7]

Barry was appointed General Director in 2002, following the death of Lee, and served until 2006. When Barry resigned, John Jun, formerly the Korean UBF director, assumed the duties of international general director. Under Jun's leadership, the ministry began working more closely with major Christian organizations in various countries.[citation needed]

Beliefs and characteristics[edit]

UBF began as a parachurch organization. In time, the ministry became a church and began having Sunday worship services. UBF is conservative evangelical in doctrine and conservative in Korean values of leadership and mentorship.[8] UBF believes that God is the creator of heaven and earth and all things. They affirm the Apostles' Creed and believe that the Bible is the word of God.[9] They also believe in the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and that they must send out Missionaries to all nations. They invite students and others to study the Bible "inductively from the point of view of the Bible writers." Bible study in the ministry is primarily carried out on a "one-to-one" basis. The ministry also has small group Bible studies and weekly fellowship meetings.[10] They seek to lead those who study the Bible with them to a "saving knowledge" of Jesus Christ, and to help them to grow as disciples of Jesus.[11]

One of the main goals of the ministry is to evangelize college students based on the Great Commission. UBF trains ordinary people who have a desire to study and teach the Bible and do missionary work. The organization has a "medical mission" - Bethesda Mission Hospital in Uganda.[12]


University Bible Fellowship is a member of several Christian organizations including the Evangelical Council For Financial Accountability[13][14] and was accepted to membership in the National Association of Evangelicals in March 2008.[15] The ministry has formed partnerships with over twenty missionary and relief organizations, such as the Midwest University and the Evangelical Missiological Society.[16]


Reactions to University Bible Fellowship have varied between two extremes. A reporter for the University of Maryland, College Park campus newspaper described the local chapter as " organization that has students polarized. While some student members have grave concerns about the church, many members love it."[17][18]

In May 2006, Christianity Today magazine published a reader's letter that referred to UBF as a cult; after investigation in July 2006, the magazine published a correction in which the reader retracted the accusation.[19][20]

Some observers and former participants characterize UBF's practices as authoritarian, abusive, and/or cult-like, as members are encouraged to cut ties with friends and family and submit to the demands of chapter leaders.[21][22][23][24] These concerns have arisen at Canadian and German universities as well as in the United States.[25][26][27][28][29]

Some universities have restricted UBF's on-campus recruiting efforts, such as University of Illinois,[24] University of Winnipeg,[30] University of Guelph, University of Manitoba,[28][31] and DePaul University.[32]

UBF is used as one of the case studies in the book Churches That Abuse, published in 1991 by Dr. Ronald Enroth about Christian churches and organizations he perceives as "spiritually abusive" and the effects these groups can have on their members.

As of 2012, UBF continues to be on the lists of several cult-watching groups in the United States, such as the Apologetics Index,[33] the Rick Ross Institute,[34] the New England Institute of Religious Research,[35] the Apologetics Research Center[36][37] and the Cult Information Services of Northeast Ohio, Inc.[38] UBF is also listed on the Freedom of Mind website.[39] In China, UBF is on the examination list of CGNER (Concern Group on Newly Emerged Religions).[40]


  1. ^ UBF World Mission
  2. ^ Cult Information Services of Northeast Ohio, Inc
  3. ^ Concern Group on Newly Emerged Religions (CGNER)
  4. ^ NEIRR
  5. ^ ARC Apologetics Resource Center
  6. ^ a b c Jun Ki Chung, "The University Bible Fellowship: A Forty-Year Retrospective Evaluation", Missiology: An International Review, Vol. XXXI, No.4, October 2003, pp. 474-85
  7. ^ Korea Research Institute for Missions 2006
  8. ^ University Bible Fellowship (UBF) - About UBF
  9. ^ UBF Statement of Belief
  10. ^ UBF Brochure
  11. ^ UBF Charter, MS, Sec. of State, #2649, bk. 221, pg 524
  12. ^ UBF Bethesda Mission Hospital in Uganda
  13. ^ "UBF page on ECFA website". 
  14. ^ Memberships
  15. ^ "NAE Letter of Acceptance". 
  16. ^ UBF Associations
  17. ^ Kelly Wilson, "Fellowship or Foe", DiamondBack Online, 28 June 2007, accessed 2008-08-08
  18. ^ Grad Student Finds Redemption
  19. ^ Christianity Today, July 2006
  20. ^ Christianity Today, July 2006 Correction
  21. ^ Carmen Greco, Jr., "Cult Worries Surround Bible Group", Daily Herald (Chicago), 21 July 2003
  22. ^ Ronald Enroth, Churches That Abuse, Zondervan, 1992
  23. ^ Lindsay Saxe, "Cult-like evangelist group targeted recent JHU undergrads" The Johns Hopkins Newsletter, 7 December 2001
  24. ^ a b Daniel Buckman, "UIC worries about cult recruitment; three cases this fall", UIC News, 12/1/93
  25. ^ Greg Reage, "Shepherds no band of simple country folk", The Manitoban, VOL. LXXVIII No.9, PAGE 5, October 3, 1990
  26. ^ Wendy Stephenson, "Cult personality draws people to Fellowship: Ex-Cult Member Still Feels Fear", The Winnipeg Sun, Vol. 10, No.90, Tuesday, April 17, 1990, page 5
  27. ^ Dagmar Blesel, "Er hat eine totalitäre Machtstellung" ("He has a totalitarian power position"), Bonner General-Anzeiger (daily newspaper in Bonn, Germany), 8/23/2002
  28. ^ a b Hayward, Paul (1990-09-05). "They Can Turn Your Mind Upside Down, Vol. LXXVIII, No.5". The Manitoban (Winnipeg, Canada: Manitoban Newspaper Publications Corporation). pp. 12–13. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  29. ^ Katzenstein, Jeff (2003-03-07). "Religious cults: A dangerous alternative". The Johns Hopkins News-Letter (Baltimore, Maryland). Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  30. ^ Winnipeg Free Press, Vol. 114., No. 322, page 1, Oct. 25 1986
  31. ^ The Silhouette (the student newspaper of McMaster University), February 7, 1991 (Vol. 61, No.22) Page 11
  32. ^ WBNS-TV, March 2, 2005
  33. ^ Apologetics Index
  34. ^ [1]
  35. ^ NEIRR
  36. ^ ARC 1
  37. ^ ARC 2
  38. ^ Cult Information Services of Northeast Ohio, Inc
  39. ^ Freedom of Mind
  40. ^ Concern Group on Newly Emerged Religions (CGNER)

External links[edit]