Unification Church and mainstream Christianity

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The relationship between the Unification Church and mainstream Christianity has been marked by conflict and disagreement, as well as by cooperation at times. The Unification Church was founded by religious leader Sun Myung Moon in South Korea in 1954. Its teachings are based on the Bible, but include new interpretations not found in mainstream Christian tradition.[1] The church spread to most countries of the world in the second half of the twentieth century although with relatively few members. [2] Mainstream Christianity is usually defined as those Christian churches which follow the Nicene Creed and includes the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestant churches. [3][4]


From its beginning the Unification Church has claimed to be Christian and has tried to promote its teachings to mainstream Christian churches and organizations. The Unification Church in South Korea was labeled as heretical by Protestant churches in South Korea, including Moon’s own Presbyterian Church. In the United States the church was rejected by ecumenical organizations as being non-Christian. The main objections against it were theological, especially because of the Unification Church’s addition of material to the Bible and for its rejection of a literal Second Coming of Jesus. [5] Protestant commentators have also criticized Unification Church teachings as being contrary to the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone. [6][7]

In 1974 Moon founded the Unification Theological Seminary, in Barrytown, New York, partly in order to improve relations of the Unification Church with other churches. Professors from other denominations, including a Methodist minister, a Presbyterian, and a Roman Catholic priest, as well as a rabbi, were hired to teach religious studies to the students, who were being trained as leaders in the Unification Church.[8][9][10][11][12]

In 1977, church member Jonathan Wells, who later became well known as the author of the popular Intelligent Design book Icons of Evolution, defended Unification Church theology against what he said were unfair criticisms by the National Council of Churches.[13] That same year Frederick Sontag, a professor of philosophy at Pomona College and a minister in the United Church of Christ,[14] published Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church which gave an overview of the church and urged Christians to take it more seriously.[15][16][17]

In 1982, Moon was imprisoned in the United States after being found guilty by a jury of willfully filing false Federal income tax returns and conspiracy. (See: United States vs. Sun Myung Moon) Unification Church members launched a public-relations campaign. Booklets, letters and videotapes were mailed to approximately 300,000 Christian leaders in the United States. Many of them signed petitions protesting the government's case. [18] Among the American Christian leaders who spoke out in defense of Moon were conservative Jerry Falwell, head of Moral Majority, and liberal Joseph Lowery, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.[19] The American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A, the National Council of Churches, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference filed briefs in support of Moon. [20]

In the 1980s the Unification Church sent thousands of American ministers from other churches on trips to Japan and South Korea to inform them about Unification Church teachings. At least one minister was dismissed by his congregation for taking part.[21] In 1994 the church had about 5,000 members in Russia and came under criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church.[22] In 1997, the Russian government passed a law requiring the Unification Church and other non-Russian religions to register their congregations and submit to tight controls.[23]

In 1995 the Unification Church related organization the Women's Federation for World Peace indirectly contributed $3.5 million to help Baptist Liberty University which at that time was in financial difficulty. This was reported in the United States news media as an example of closer relationships between the Unification Church and conservative Christian congregations.[24]

In 2001, the Unification Church came into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church when Catholic archbishop Emmanuel Milingo and Maria Sung, a 43-year-old Korean acupuncturist, married in a Unification Church Blessing ceremony, presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Moon. Following his marriage the Archbishop was called to the Vatican by Pope John Paul II, where he was asked not to see his wife anymore, and to move to a Capuchin monastery. [25] Sung went on a hunger strike to protest their separation. This attracted much media attention.[26] Milingo is now an advocate of the removal of the requirement for celibacy by priests in the Catholic Church. He is the founder of Married Priests Now!. [27] Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, Jr., also a former Catholic priest, who had founded his own Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation, is also a supporter of the organization. [28]

In 2003 Moon began his "tear down",[29] or "take down the cross"[30] campaign. The campaign was begun in the belief that the cross is a reminder of Jesus' pain and has been a source of division between people of different faiths. The campaign included a burial ceremony for the cross and a crown to be put in its place. The American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), an interfaith group founded by Moon, spearheaded the effort, calling the cross a symbol of oppression and superiority.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains, By U. S. Department of the Army, Published by The Minerva Group, Inc., 2001, ISBN 0-89875-607-3, ISBN 978-0-89875-607-4, page 1–42. Google books listing
  2. ^ Introvigne, Massimo, 2000, The Unification Church Studies in Contemporary Religion, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, ISBN 1-56085-145-7, excerpt
  3. ^ "The Nicene Creed is the profession of the Christian Faith common to the Catholic Church, to all the Eastern Churches separated from Rome, and to most of the Protestant denominations." The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company.[1]
  4. ^ "Christian statement of faith that is the only ecumenical creed because it is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches." Nicene Creed Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.[2]
  5. ^ Unifying or Dividing? Sun Myung Moon and the Origins of the Unification Church George D. Chryssides, University of Wolverhampton, U.K. 2003
  6. ^ Daske, D. and Ashcraft, W. 2005, New Religious Movements, New York: New York University Press, ISBN 0-8147-0702-5 p142
  7. ^ Yamamoto, J. 1995, Unification Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Press, ISBN 0-310-70381-6 p40
  8. ^ Yamamoto, J. I., 1995, Unification Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House ISBN 0-310-70381-6 (Excerpt:)
    "1. The Unification Theological Seminary
    a. The Unification Church has a seminary in Barrytown, New York called The Unification Theological Seminary.
    b. It is used as a theological training center, where members are prepared to be leaders and theologians in the church.
    c. Since many people regard Moon as a cult leader, there is a false impression that this seminary is academically weak.
    d. Moon’s seminary, however, has not only attracted a respectable faculty (many of whom are not members of his church), but it also has graduated many students (who are members of his church) who have been accepted into doctoral programs at institutions such as Harvard and Yale."
  9. ^ Korean Moon: Waxing or Waning Leo Sandon Jr. Theology Today, July 1978, "The Unification Church purchased the estate and now administers a growing seminary where approximately 110 Moonies engage in a two-year curriculum which includes biblical studies, church history, philosophy, theology, religious education, and which leads to a Master of Religious Education degree."
  10. ^ Dialogue with the Moonies Rodney Sawatsky, Theology Today, April 1978. "Only a minority of their teachers are Unification devotees; a Jew teaches Old Testament, a Christian instructs in church history and a Presbyterian lectures in theology, and so on. Typical sectarian fears of the outsider are not found among Moonies; truth is one or at least must become one, and understanding can be delivered even by the uninitiated."
  11. ^ Where have all the Moonies gone? K. Gordon Neufeld, First Things, March 2008, "While I was studying theology, church history, and the Bible—taught by an eclectic faculty that included a rabbi, a Jesuit priest, and a Methodist minister—most of my young coreligionists were standing on street corners in San Francisco, Boston, and Miami urging strangers to attend a vaguely described dinner."
  12. ^ Helm, S. Divine Principle and the Second Advent Christian Century May 11, 1977 "In fact Moon’s adherents differ from previous fringe groups in their quite early and expensive pursuit of respectability, as evidenced by the scientific conventions they have sponsored in England and the U.S. and the seminary they have established in Barrytown, New York, whose faculty is composed not of their own group members but rather of respected Christian scholars."
  13. ^ New Hope for Dialogue with National Council of Churches of Christ, Chris Antal, February, 2000
  14. ^ Frederick E. Sontag dies at 84; Pomona College philosophy professor, Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2009
  15. ^ Who is this Pied Piper of Religion?, St. Petersburg Times, February 4, 1978
  16. ^ Moon: an objective look at his theology, Boca Raton News, 1977-11-25
  17. ^ Sontag, Frederick, Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church, (Abingdon Press, 1977; Korean translation, Pacific Publishing Company, 1981; Japanese translation, Tuttle-Mori Agency, Inc., 1977; German translation, SINUS-Verlag, Krefeld, 1981) ISBN 0-687-40622-6"
  18. ^ The Unification Church Aims a Major Public Relations Effort at Christian Leaders Christianity Today April 19, 1985.
  19. ^ Introvigne, Massimo, 2000, The Unification Church Studies in Contemporary Religion, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, ISBN 1-56085-145-7, excerpt
  20. ^ Raspberry, William, "Did Unpopular Moonie Get a Fair Trial?", Washington Post, April 19, 1984
  21. ^ Clear Lake Journal; Congregation Dismisses Its Minister Over Trip, New York Times, May 25, 1988
  22. ^ A Less Secular Approach, The Saint Petersburg Times, June 7, 2002
  23. ^ Russian unorthodox The Globe and Mail February 8, 2008.
  24. ^ Fisher, Marc (November 23, 1997). "A Church in Flux Is Flush With Cash". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-14.  "Also in 1995, the Women's Federation made another donation that illustrates how Moon supports fellow conservatives. It gave a $3.5 million grant to the Christian Heritage Foundation, which later bought a large portion of Liberty University's debt, rescuing the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Lynchburg, Va., religious school from the brink of bankruptcy."
  25. ^ Archbishop rejects Vatican ultimatum
  26. ^ "The archbishop's wife speaks for herself", National Catholic Reporter August 31, 2001
  27. ^ Archbishop launches married priests movement
  28. ^ Archbishop Milingo: 'Married Priesthood Now'; Healer Missing from Italy Emerges in U.S., Proclaims End to Mandatory Celibacy U.S. Newswire
  29. ^ "Tear down the Cross" Ceremony – Bronx, New York
  30. ^ Quotes from Sun Myung Moon relevant to the May 2003 Pilgrimage to Israel (Take Down the Cross)
  31. ^ Rome and Israel Pilgrim Tour – Burying of the Cross.

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