My “Worst” Infuriation

frustratedI had previously shared about my “worst” sin and my “worst” humiliation. In keeping with my predisposition toward making sweeping generalizations and extreme statements, this is my “worst” infuriation: “Implying that people are spineless idiots, because they cannot resist my strong overpowering personality.” (Warning: This is a rant and rave. So stop reading further if you do not want to become infuriated!)

My concession is that I am a strong type A “Dirty Harry” person. My infuriating trait is that “if you challenge me, you just lost.” You can imagine how this would especially infuriate my dear wife who has me in her hair 24/7! UBF taught me very well to rejoice in suffering for Christ, justice and righteousness (1 Pet 4:13), to fight the good fight of faith (2 Tim 4:7), and to be faithful even to the point of death (Rev 2:10). For this, I am forever indebted to UBF’s militant fighting spirit. But I think that to imply that others simply cannot resist my will is quite ludicrous. Is it not an obvious fact that I could not and will likely never be able to influence those who accuse me of bending some others to my will?

On more than one occasion, different people said that those who joined West Loop (WL) UBF were simply coerced by me. It implied that they had no will power or decision making ability of their own. Or when some decision is made, the sentiment was that it was my decision, which I imposed on the collective majority at WL. When WL began in 2008, it was said that I was not wise in “choosing” people to join me at WL because the people I “choose” were not those who could prosper the ministry. This implied that WL people had no power or will to choose for themselves (because I choose them), and that they were not productive or fruitful people who can grow a church. Wow! Were some of my dearest friends just thrown under the bus?

Can you understand why this is my “worst” infuriation? What might yours be?


  1. Thanks for sharing these “worsts” Ben! I appreciate the abuse you have taken from others, in order to allow God’s transformation work of the Spirit to grow. And I think it is healthy to air out our frustrations.

    I think that the source of your problems is not because of your tyranny, but because of my heretical curse :) In my experience and firsthand observation (having visited WL a few times), WL is an awesome, Spirit-inspired, bible-rooted, welcoming Christian fellowship! I would join WL in a heartbeat, even though you still carry the ubf name.

    So it is clear to me that since Hereticman approves of your ministry, you are now cursed ;)

    • Is Hereticman now your new nick name? Thank God that you are a fun loving hereticman!

    • Yes, but I am a happy hereticman :) I’ve been told this so many times after surrendering to grace and found the abundant, all-surpassing joy of Jesus.

    • But of course the possibility exists that you are such a dictator, Ben, that you’ve somehow persuaded me to become a heretic, thereby causing yourself to be cursed….

      [Seriously I did hear a rumor that you caused me to leave ubf! That is absurd actually because I didn’t get to know you until after I left ubf.]

    • Wow! I even get credit for causing you to leave UBF. God is too good and too funny!

    • You’re such a troublemaker…

      And come to think of it: I’m going to call an hour-long meeting with the elders at the next conference to discuss how poisonous and rebellious this website has become. And I’m explicitly going to recommend removing all links to here.

    • Oh wait, that already happened. Never mind.

  2. My worst infuriation is Christians who claim the gospel is “repent of your sins” and then condemn other sinners while saying they themselves are ok because they “try to repent of sins” and don’t have any “gross outward sin.”

    My other worst infuriation is certain ubf directors who seem to get away with absolute power, control and manipulation all the while preaching absurd, horrific and disgusting teachings such as dogs peeing on telephone poles. And the fact that no one questions such things!

  3. Here is a topic to write about (That I don’t want to publicly post). It involves my greatest infuriation. We are a closed system. We pat each other on the back for those who bolster our closed system and kindly wish people to leave who don’t bolster it.

    What I am growing to appreciate about WL ministry is that you are not afraid to interface with other systems and allow them to morph the fellowship, trusting in the Holy Spirit’s work. WL is always interested in hearing about new works of God.

  4. Those who are led in a certain other way, other than campus mission with the UBF program are considered “sick and with a problem, and who need healing.” This is what is reported:

    “Missionary Mataibai family in PNG built the Rainbow Christian School from kindergarten to 4th grade and they conduct the students. They also serve Sunday Worship Service with students and their parents.. For some time, it became difficult to serve the UBF campus mission in the University of PNG but thankfully by God’s grace they have been healed and got over the problem. In 2013, they are planning to come to Tokyo and we pray for them to recover their campus mission.”

    Maybe God was leading them in a certain direction. Are we calling following God’s leading (in anyway other than campus mission) “a sickness”? Is this getting close to blaspheming the work of the Holy Spirit?

    • Hi Anon,

      Thanks for sharing. Yes it is common for ubf directors to see anyone who stops doing campus mission as “sick” or “unhealthy”. So you can imagine how they view me and other former members :)

      This is yet another example of the ubf “orientation”. When a ubf director asks you to have “more understanding”, that is code language for “come back to your senses and start doing campus mission again with tears!”

      But still, I would not say this is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but close. This is certainly bad pneumatology. I think on the Scriptural scale of hindering the Holy Spirit (resist, quench, grieve, insult, blaspheme) this would be insulting the Spirit, per Hebrews 10:29. (i.e. level 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, not that any level is good…)

    • So yes, I am saying that this ubf report is insulting the Spirit of grace.

      ubf did the same in my case. They insulted the Holy Spirit by telling me I should “restore my mission as before” (exact words just a couple months ago).

    • Slight correction: The exact words emailed to me on 1/31/2013 were: “[I] pray that God may heal your wounds and restore a missionary vision you and Mary had before.”

      This is b——t. After all that happened, there is not even one iota of concern about what the Spirit might be leading my family to do? We are “sick” now because we don’t have the ubf missionary vision we once had?!?

    • After leaving ubf, you have to be prepared for things like this that make you want to say, now your messing with the wrong person and don’t underestimate the things I will do.

      But because of hope that the crazy train might stop and maybe we could learn to love instead of to hate, you can always stand back up.

    • If you want to know what invokes fury in the minds of ex-ubf members, here is probably the best example, taken from ubf’s own words:

      “For some time, it became difficult to serve the UBF campus mission in the University of PNG but thankfully by God’s grace they have been healed and got over the problem. In 2013, they are planning to come to Tokyo and we pray for them to recover their campus mission.”


      “Nogi Abraham shepherd was chosen as the West Japan director for the Japanese shepherd leadership but after two years, it became very difficult. Moses Hong of Ganazawa UBF director then took the lead. Ganazawa and Gifu chapters were built as a house church and they contained the space for serving the church near the campus and also started brand new.”


      “As a second gen, he didn’t feel any problems in his life; he studied the bible and gave a worship service every week. But through the message he realized that he was in the same position as Joshua who succeeded to Moses. He decided to follow his parents and start a new life. From the second semester, he led praise in the CBF and JBF ministry, and he worked for a shepherd in the church.”

      Here we can see the following “red flag” cult ideas presented by these short statements:

      1. In the ubf culture, people who are not able to promote ubf enough are said to be difficult or to have difficulty in their mission.
      [cult flag: improper and/or excessive placement of guilt]

      2. In the ubf mind, grace means getting over a problem by your own means or with the help of some special power.
      [cult flag: redefining Christian terms]

      3. In the KOPHN worldview, people who are difficult need to make a trip to a “power center” to recover their mission.
      [cult flag: removing people from their friends and family/isolation]

      4. In the ubf children (“2nd gens”), we see an insistence on carrying on the ubf heritage, protecting them in a bubble and then binding their lives to ubf activity as the solution to their identity crisis when they leave that bubble.
      [cult flag: providing a new identity that becomes the solution to perceived, and usually false, life problems]

      These public reports from ubf themselves demonstrate cultic activity in their culture, mind, worldview and children.

      And all you “native” shepherds and shepherdesses out there: make no mistake, ubf directors intend to pass on ubf to Korean 2nd gens, not to you.

  5. Here’s a question for anyone: What is a ubf member?

    2013 member’s meeting

    After 24 years in ubf, becoming a house church and a director, I have no idea what a “member” really is, other than it is some elite, invitation-only status for the most loyal to ubf heritage.

    • Very funny report. “Sh. Jim Rarick opened the meeting by reminding members of the purpose of the meeting.” So it seems even these elite members were not sure about what a members meeting is. “Then Dr. James Kim delivered a message.” Ah! Member’s meetings are for listening to messages! But, look, a historical innovation: “This year’s meeting featured a new question/answer component in which members could raise questions and we could have an open discussion. It was popular, but due to time constraints we were unable discuss every question that was raised.” Unfortunately, because the message was so long, they had no time to answer questions. Members need to wait for another year.

      Unfortunately, while the attendants of the meeting were reminded of the purpose of the meeting, the readers of the report are left in the dark what a member and a members’ meeting is. The report also doesn’t mention any of the questions raised and discussed in the historical “question/answer component”.

    • Well I suppose Chris, that if sitting on folding chairs for 20+ hours each week makes you a marine of Christianity, then we should expect the “marines of the marines” to be sitting on chairs as well.

      Oh wait, I notice the members get special padded chairs. Probably well deserved after putting in so many years of faithful chair-sitting.

      And of course the special “secret service” members would be listening to high-class, world-quality messages. Certainly the CME content was part of one of the lectures (Cult Mandated Exclusivity training).

    • Still my many-year question remains unanswered:

      > What is a ubf member?

      Surely James Kim knows?

  6. Hey fellas, I’m finding the “mocking” attitude here a little off-putting for a site devoted to making friends with each other. It scares away folks who would like to engage in the discussion on a variety of issues, but who don’t feel safe to do so because they don’t want to be the object of mocking and “online mob lynching”. I read everything you guys write and I appreciate your honesty on all topics. But sometimes it goes overboard and even I am afraid to comment out of fear I will get slammed for calling things as I see it. And I would consider myself a brave UBFriends contributor, I think. It is Lent – can we “fast” from these type of friendship-inhibiting comments for a bit?

    Just a personal plea…alternatively, Joe’s Lent article is worth reading and meditating and discussing.

    But apparently, I’ve fallen on hard times. Because alas, my article with Gerardo R is no longer the most viewed article. Talk about a “lust for power” that has been sorely frustrated.

    • Hey John, yea Ben’s article knocked my article out of the most commented list :(

      And John, if we had ubf people here engaging in honest discussions, we would not be mocking anything. That is what we seek, but it any comment from ubf is rare. But how much “mock free” time do ubf people need before they will engage in honest discussion?

      Honestly, ubf people have already declared this medium to be “not good”, so they won’t discuss our issues publicly. Yes James K. appears to be the appointed spokesman, but that hasn’t really helped.

      Cults have to get used to mockery. We’ve exhausted civil means, charitable means and yet we’ve all demonstrated we can switch gears quickly and still engage in meaningful discourse. But ubf offers us former members two reconciliation options, which are pacification actually: conform or be silent. I reject both.

      The bottom line is like Ben often says: “ubf trained me too well”. Is my conscience bothered by anything I’ve blogged about? No. Was I mocking ubf at times? Absolutely. Will I express myself honestly as my true “self”? Absolutely, and with a soldier spirit!

      Here’s a challenge for a ubf director (and I’m being serious): You give up ubf for Lent, I will give up blogging for Lent.

      …And JohnY, that does not apply to you, nor anyone else in redeemed ubf such as Ben or Joe :)

  7. Maybe we took Abraham Kim too seriously when he recently claimed “we are the marines that engage in the battle at the frontlines.” This sounded as if such tough guys would not be afraid of a bit mockery. But everybody is vulnerable, I know. Sorry for forgetting about that.

    It will help if people like you are asking the serious questions in a tone that does not sound like mockery. It’s hard for people like Brian and me to speak without sounding sarcastic after all we know and experienced, and looking back on years of what we now feel like wasted lifetime, allowing others to mess with our souls and control our lives, and after years of not gettings answers and evasion of any real talk.

    It will not bring us forward if we retract to innocious, seemingly “edifying” things. Lent is a season of repentance. Repentance for real, painful things. It’s not a season for lamenting about hurt feelings. Let’s get real.

    Another thing. Be assured that the people who engage in serious discussion are not mocked. The people sitting on the high horses and never answer questions are usually those who are mocked. Btw, I’m lucky that in my country it is allowed to mock even the highest representatives of the state, and that it is actually practiced. It’s usually a sign of a healthy culture. Don’t be too afraid of it. A completely mocking-less zone would be paradise, but we’re not living there, yet.

    • When I re-read my own comment, I found that it may sound to some as if maybe the UBF critics are those who “lament about hurt feelings” and those who should “get real” and just forget what happened. But what we are lamenting here is much more than “hurt feelings”. We are talking about spiritual abuse here, and what’s so serious about spiritual abuse is that it not just hurts feelings, but it goes much deeper and hurts lives and souls. If I mock sombody on this forum, maybe I can hurt somebody’s feeling. But controlling and manipulating people over years, messing with their private lives, marriage, children, career, time, money, energy, friends, relationships and most of all deep convictions, making them dependent, making them believe you’re a visible representative of God, alternating flattery and guilt-tripping, sending them from heaven to hell and back again, numbing their conscience and ability to think on their own, touching deep down to their souls and playing with it like a toy. That’s so much more than just “hurt feelings.” We’re not lamenting about little things here.

    • Good points Chris. When ubf stops mocking us former members, I may consider toning it down a bit…

  8. Joe Schafer

    My article on Lent was not meant to spiritualize away the real issues and problems we face. I posted the prayer of St Ephrem because I found it to be illuminating and convicting.

    This might be a good time to review our Commenting Policy:

    On a few rare occasions, we have removed some comments that were clearly in violation. But we don’t want to do this unless absolutely necessary. There is a fine line between healthy criticism and unhealthy conflict. Intelligent people will often disagree about who is crossing the line and when. I think it is best for those who write articles and comments here to practice self evaluation and self restraint. When in doubt, it’s usually better to err on the side of being gentle and generous toward others — both in how we express ourselves and in how we interpret what others have written. I think it is best to pay attention and listen carefully to what other people are saying, even if (or especially if) you disagree with what they are saying or how they are saying it.

    It takes no effort at all to digest material that you already agree with. But it is very hard to absorb material that you don’t want to hear. The road of self-affirmation is easier than the road of self-denial. Jesus is calling us to the latter.

    “Great Spirit, save me from judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

  9. JohnY, here’s something else to consider. If we were just third party observers who happened to visit ubf once or twice, I would agree with you. I would say we would have no right to speak the way we sometimes do here.

    But we are not casual acquaintances with ubf people. We gave our lives for ubf mission. We loved ubf and deeply wanted to serve God and advance Jesus’ kingdom. We have many good memories of our time in ubf.

    This is why hearing the 2013 new year’s ubf messages hurt us so much.

    But we are being healed and for whatever reason part of the healing for some of us is messy blogging. I believe such messy blogging is actually helping some silent readers here.

    • Ok. Understood all. I’m not trying to judge anyone. And I guess if I had more understanding of your situations, I wouldn’t write comments like this because I haven’t been wearing your same shoes. Nevertheless, sometimes can’t someone like me also express how I feel on this site–don’t I have my own shoes as well? Does anyone want to try to understand my shoes as well? If so, I don’t like it when people mock my friends. Period. Maybe your comments weren’t intended that way so if so, disregard my comment.

      Please note: I am John Y. I am not UBF. Please interact with me as John Y who has personal feelings on matters too. Sometimes my heart breaks over the painful things you guys went through in UBF. Sometimes my heart breaks over the painful comments you make about UBF people who also happen to be my friends.

      If someone wrote a comment that seemed to be mocking my friend Brian Karcher, I would like to think that I would stand up and hold that person accountable. As far as I can tell, I haven’t read anything on UBFriends that seemed to be mocking either of you. I don’t know who Chris is but if he were my friend, I would like to think I would do the same for Chris. So Chris, let’s be friends.

      That is all I wanted to say. I want to engage in this site more. I often find myself wanting to comment, and then say, “Nah. I’d get slammed. Forget it.” Maybe I just need to be thick-skinned. Or maybe I need to trust the participants more on this discussion and let them be who they are.

      I would like more UBF people to engage each other on this site. All I’m asking is to be sensitive to that fact if you want more people to engage you all on this site. Once my sister and my pastor is able to actively blog on this site, then I know it has become safe place to do so.

      We’ll get there. So keep the dialogue going.

    • As always, I appreciate your honesty JohnY. Ok for the sake of Lent I’ll be more mindful of my comments here.

      You mentioned something that is highly intriguing to me: “Once my sister and my pastor is able to actively blog on this site…”

      So what would it take for your sister and pastor to be able to actively blog here? What kind of interaction are you expecting?

    • Thanks Brian. Also, one day I want to hear offline about what Dr. Ben seemed to be alluding to–about the mocking and threats you have received by UBF members. Note to public: That is completely unacceptable. Whoever is doing that, stop.

    • Hey John, just to clarify Ben’s illusion… I’ve not been mocked or mistreated by ubf people for at least 1 year :) In fact I mostly receive silence.

      I did receive two “threats” over the Christmas break, but honestly they are harmless and nothing serious, just childish rants similar to my own rants.

      However, I have felt mocked many times after reading UBF lectures and new year’s messages.

    • Joe Schafer

      JohnY, thanks for coming back to this website and participating again. Like you, I have been trying to remain in the ministry without ignoring or minimizing the very real and important issues that Brian, Chris, and many others have been speaking about. That is an awkward and uncomfortable position to be in. You are guaranteed to get slammed from all angles. But I believe this is what God has called me to do. There’s no way that I know of to make it easier.

    • Just to clarify: I am not mocked, and usually UBFers do not mock other people. Sometimes critics are threatened, and often they are denounced internally, making members believe that dropouts or critics are bad guys, so that nobody wants to talk with them. They might say “you’re unspiritual and if you continue to be critical, you go to hell”, or “I know somebody who did not obey the top leader, and then he had an horrible accident”, people who make web sites may also get legal threats from UBF lawyers. Threatened and denounced? Yes. Ignored and forgotten? Yes. But mocked? No, usually not. I say usually, because Samuel Lee also called ex members “crazy dogs”, “witch doctors” or “brainwashed vegetable”, or mocked their physique by resembling them to a “globe”. These are all quotes from official writings of Samuel Lee. I don’t want to imagine what he said inofficially. But I think that’s not the norm in UBF. For instance, I can’t remember that my chapter leader mocked people in such ways. And anyway, if mocking was all that happened, we would not care so much.

      John, do you need to become thick-skinned? No! Absolutely not! Be sensitive! What I am missing though is sensitivity for the real issues which are so obvious. What made me furious (to come back to the title of this article) is the callousness and indifference of many UBF members towards injustice, spiritual abuse of people, and all these serious grievances that have been brought forward ad nauseam. I hope and trust you’re not indifferent to these things.

    • Joe Schafer

      I know JohnY quite well, and he is not indifferent to these things.

  10. If I were to arbitrarily make a dichotomy based on recent comments, it would be John and Joe on one side, and Chris and Brian on the other. As I read the comments, both sides make excellent points.

    I think that we can all be agreed that love should be the underlying motivating factor. But even our love is fallen and tainted by all kinds of modifying factors even as Christians.

    If we do commit sins on this site (and surely we do), we tend to commit the sin of older brothers, such as judging others, and not being able to love others by giving them the benefit of the doubt to the end. This is surely an apt description of myself.

    So, yes, perhaps no one on this site mocks Chris and Brian. But I am pretty sure they have enough comments to fill many blogs for many years, if they were to share how they were “mocked” by their “former” UBF friends and leaders.

    Still, yes, perhaps we can all “tone down the rhetoric,” especially myself, even if I do not think my rhetoric is “that bad.” See, I’m committing older brother sins again!

    “Great Spirit, save me from judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

    • Good points Ben. It seems to me that we need a “ubf member only” discussion, which always ends up happening anyway. I know that is not Jesus’ way, but I’m not sure there is another way.

      Anyway, I’m glad this site has sparked many conversations around the world, even if people hate me or consider me Hereticman (which I am).

      I’m not so concerned about people talking with me, I’m just glad they are now talking to each other in ubf in many places.

      Just a note to our readers, often we former members don’t have to mock ubf. We just need share ubf’s own material. For example, why would you title a lecture as “Hardcore 1:1”? Didn’t anyone realize this sounds like ubf is in the porn business?

      I wonder if anyone can put a positive spin on these official teachings? I’m not making these up!

      1. The success of UBF comes from a great strategy (slide 6).

      2. The UBF lifestyle is an endless cycle of work (slide 8).

      3. UBF fishing is done in order to keep the UBF workforce young and dynamic (slide 15).

      4. One purpose of UBF fishing is to reproduce 2 UBF people, derived from a woman’s average number of children (slide 17).

      5. Another purpose of UBF fishing is to hand down the UBF ministry to children of UBF people (slide 18).

      6. The odds are against UBF fishing being fruitful (slide 40).

      7. UBF fishing is intended to make a good impression and break down emotional defenses (slide 47).

      8. UBF fishing is an exercise in ruling situations (slide 52).

    • Seriously, check this out for yourself:

      UBF Lecture 101

      Is this not ubf official teaching? If someone wants to have a serious discussion, let’s discuss official ubf teching. Do you agree with this teaching? What parts don’t sit well with you? How would a Christian react to such material? Is this Christian teaching? Why or why not? I think we need a new article here called “Harcore 1:1 Content”.

      If someone has an honest, intellectual, heartfelt react to this teaching, I really, really want to know. And I promise, and publicly swear, not to slam anyone who shares something without the words “Praise God for making ubf a kingdom of priests”…

  11. I was wondering….If a person accepts Jesus in UBF and accepts God’s call to campus mission, is it reasonable to think that the person and his/her family should not deviate from that mission, with its one type of mission style, for the next 60 years of their lives?

    Is it not unreasonable because God may want us to do something else with our lives and our families?

  12. Sharon Schafer

    These days God is challenging both my desire to fight and demand justice, and my desire to keep quiet in a kind of “holy” isolation above all the mess. Isn’t there a third way?

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, but it’s hard. It’s the way of the cross.

    • Sharon, you’ve articulate my struggle in the past. In fact, all 24 years I struggled with these two desires. Always I chose holy isolation.

      Joe, indeed, you are correct. The way of the cross is exactly the conclusion I came to in January 2011. I didn’t know where the cross would lead me or how it would affect me. But I chose to allow myself to be crucified, instead of hiding in isolation and instead of demanding justice. That first phone call I received was the first nail. And at that moment, when the nails were driven in, the Spirit illuminated my heart and mind and soul like never before. The Spirit has led me on a journey since then that I don’t fully understand. But I will continue to follow Him.

      I don’t recommend anyone imitating me or taking direction from me. But I do urge all of us to come to the cross and find out what path God has for us.

  13. So to me, it matters not how we answer the question “To stay or not to stay?”. The questions in my mind have been: Am I willing to be crucified for the sake of justice and love and friendship? Am I willing to come face to face with the cross Jesus has prepared for me?

    Am I willing to surrender to grace? Am I willing to kneel before my Lord as my true, vulnerable self and let the world see who I really am? Am I willing to obey the voice of God? Do I have faith to rest in Jesus and go into the unknown adventure? Can I express my honest thoughts, embrace my humanity and seek unity through one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one hope, one gospel?

    Do I have the courage to let my friends and mentors and those I love drive the nails of crucifixion into my soul? Can I let the mission and worldview I love so much be shattered into pieces so that God can create a beautiful mosaic that reveals His majesty and His glory?

  14. Sharon Schafer

    Brian, I do believe that you have a deeper understanding of the cross, that something positive is going on in your life. I hear your love for Jesus and even for UBF. You desire purity and gospel truth. I hear that. But I also hear a desire to tear down and destroy what is wrong and unjust. Perhaps you even feel that this is love. In some way I believe it is. But love also requires hope and protection, protection even for those we disagree with.

    • Yes, Sharon, you’ve seen me correctly. I don’t view my desire to tear down and destroy as “love”. It is not love. I see such desire as a desire to tear down and destroy what is wrong and unjust.

    • Joe Schafer

      This discussion reminds me of what Newbigin wrote about liberation theology:

    • So, really, how should we deal with our “desire to tear down and destroy what is wrong and unjust”? I often have such feeligns, and if not for UBF, this world and the daily news give me much more opportunity for growing such desires. But I know that these are dangerous feelings. They seem to be good, but they can border with not so pure feelings and sins like the wish to take revenge, to judge over others and play God, to cover and relativize my own sins by looking at the seemingly larger sins of others. And if I would ever be successful in destroying some wrong and unjust things, I would immediately become proud. On the other hand, it is good if we hate what is evil and that we ware not silent about evil things, even if we are sinners ourselves. How can be keep the balance? We could take Jesus as an example, but this is also dangerous, because well, we are not Jesus. He was sinless, he was able to look into the hearts of people, he was able to judge righteously. All things that we are missing. Btw, I see a similar struggle in the prayer of many psalmists, so it seems we’re not alone with our feeligns. See for instance Psalm 139:19-24. Sure, we try hard to not hate evil people themselves, but only the evil things they do, but it’s a similar struggle anyway.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris, I wish that the questions you’ve raised had simple answers, but I haven’t found any yet.

  15. formershep

    Hello everyone. First, this is a general comment about former ubf members’ ‘”attitudes” and second, forgive my anonymity. I’m just not ready yet to express myself publicly.
    I would like to try to shed light on why former members come across as being very angry. The reason is because we are honestly angry. Why angry? I would like to give a long quote from a classic book that I believe ALL people should read in their lives, and it especially applies to ubf. The book is called “Boundaries” by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend (both Christians). The quote is long, but please READ CAREFULLY. [there] is a misunderstanding of emotions in general, and anger specifically. Emotions, or feelings, have a function. They tell us something. They are a signal.
    “Here are some of the things our ‘negative’ emotions tell us. Fear tells us to move away from danger, to be careful.Sadness tells us we lost something–a relationship, an opportunity, an idea. Anger is also a signal. Like fear, angry signals danger. However, rather than urging us to withdraw, angry is sign that we need to move forward to confront a threat….

  16. formershep

    I’m sorry I wasn’t finished. It crashed on me. Teh quote was taken from p.116.
    The quote goes on and on. My point is that it is natural for someone whose emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual boundaries to have been violated to feel anger and really angry.
    When I first left ubf I have a great feeling of freedom and release. I was so happy that I didn’t have anything to do, because I was always ‘doing’. After that initial happiness came depression and then anger. I was angry that I let people have that much control over my life. I was angry for many things. My soul had been violated. I decided to seek professional help from a Christian counselor, which has made all the difference.
    The purpose of posting here is for current ubf and former members to understand themselves and each other, if possible. Personally, I my family and I are moving forward by God’s grace. I hope that everyone would read the book because it has changed my life for in a big way. Thanks.

    • Dr. Cloud’s thinking has helped me too, formershep. I agree very much: we need emotions. I am finding that emotions can indeed “grow back” after being cut out of my life. I am very concerned however, that my conscience is not growing back. I cut out my conscience in ubf, and I find now that I react without conscience oftentimes. Maybe conscience just grows back more slowly than or after emotions?

      My wife and I are also receiving unofficial counseling at our new church. My wife has had some more formal sessions. One thing one of our new pastors told my wife is this: “Don’t believe the lie.” He was referring to the ubf teaching that we must sacrifice everything about ourselves and anything we like, we must kill.

      I’m really glad to hear your awareness to need and go to counseling. All 4 Christian pastors I’ve shared my story with raised the question of being in a cult and needing counseling. I find that we need marriage counseling and basic emotion-restoring counseling. Thank you for sharing honestly.

    • Spot on, formershep. It is fair to say that UBF is notorious for overstepping boundaries of people, and this is causing so much anger when people finally regocnize this. Btw, I believe the anger is mostly about ourselves, our own foolishness for allowing this to happen, to let others overstep our boundaries, to open them the doors to our hearts and souls and let them take control of our lives and mess with it at will. But do you think the problem ends with leaving, healing our souls from this abuse and getting over it? I don’t think so. Personally, I feel that I’m also responsible for helping others to not make the same mistakes, to put up warning sings so that other people do not fall into the same trap I have fallen into. I feel to only be happy to have escaped a hidden trap and not care about the next one who could stumble into it would be egoistic. So I think it’s important that ex members speak up. That’s a big part of my motivation to write here and I hope people understand that. If our writing sometimes sounds like mockery, it only reflects our helplesness and frustration about the ongoing denial and unwillingness to admit and address the obvious issues. Of course, not everybody thinks like that. For instance, my wife prefers to just forget about everything. She does not understand why I still comment on UBF websites and expresses her frustration by just ignoring UBF and telling me that any further time spent with thinking or talking about UBF is wasted life time. It seems people are different, but everybody needs to do what he considers to be the right thing.

  17. Joe Schafer

    Thank you, formershep. God bless you.

    BTW, it looks like an excellent book.

    • Joe, perhaps you are just expressing your hopelessness or frustration, and I’m sure you are sincere… but “God bless you” isn’t a helpful reaction to former members. These days “God bless you” invokes fury in my soul.

      Anyway, here is a more complete list of recovery, which I find fits me quite well:

      Stages of healing

      1. Acknowledging that abuse occurred
      Admitting it – no more denial
      Acknowledging the impacts on you & your life
      Dealing with the emotions & memories
      Accepting yourself & your reactions as normal
      Learning to trust your self & your intuition

      2. Making the decision to heal
      Choosing hope over resignation or despair
      Making an active commitment to change
      Putting aside other demands and allowing time to experience emotions, to think about the issues, and to get the necessary help & support
      Allowing the painful emotions to come up and release – dealing with the chaotic nature of this on your day to day life
      Finding support – from yourself & others

      3. Talking to others about the abuse Breaking the silence
      Reducing shame & guilt by acknowledging out loud that you were abused & it wasn’t your fault
      Choosing who to tell, what you want from them & dealing with their reactions

      4. Placing responsibility where it belongs Recognising the abuse was the abuser’s fault, not yours – you are not to blame at all. You were a child
      You are not to blame if you went along with it – the abuser had power over you & you didn’t have all the information to decide objectively – you were a child
      In the case of sexual abuse, you are not to blame if your body was aroused – it’s a normal bodily response. You’re not to blame if you felt positive feelings of intimacy with the abuser – they may have been nice & loving to you when others weren’t
      Any problems that arose within the family as a result of the abuse were not your fault
      Identify & understand how you were tricked, bribed, threatened or coerced by the abuser – you were used & abused
      You are strong though – you have survived. You can heal & create the life you want!

      5. Dealing with the loss and sadness Feeling grief over – what happened to you, your loss of innocence & childhood, the loss of trust, sadness that the relationships weren’t the way you would have liked them to be, sadness over the impact of the abuse on you throughout your life
      If you get depressed, get help to move through it
      Feel all these feelings, talk to safe people about them, release the emotion – the intensity will pass

      6. Expressing anger Feeling anger over what happened
      Expressing anger towards the abuser & others involved, rather than at yourself (This is done in safe & constructive ways in private, not necessarily with the actual people involved)
      Letting go of the need for retaliation
      Building self assertion & strength

      7. Working through the difficulties caused by the abuse Working through difficult physical, social, emotional & behavioural problems
      Working through unhelpful beliefs about oneself, about abuse or about life in general

      8. Building a future Accepting the abuse happened & it is part of the past
      Development of self acceptance & self respect
      Acknowledging the wisdom & strengths you’ve gained from surviving the abuse
      Overcoming residual feelings of vulnerability & lack of confidence
      Dealing with fear & planning ways to take care of yourself in different situations
      Setting goals & taking steps to create the life you want
      Feeling more in control of your life

    • Joe Schafer

      Sorry, I meant it with gratitude. I am truly grateful that formershep came to this website and contributed such heartfelt and useful comments. I now realize that “God bless you” can sound condescending, but I have nothing but respect for this person.

  18. Thanks, formershep.

    Perhaps, if UBF people understood the three stages you went through and “walked in your moccasins,” they might love, instead of mock, caricature, feel betrayed, threaten, etc. The stages are probably quite common, I think:

    1) Happy (that I’m finally free/liberated, and out of bondage to UBF “law.”).

    2) Depressed (that I may have “wasted” so many formative years of my Christian life).

    3) Angry (that I allowed people to take control of my life in the name of shepherding and shepherd heart, etc.)

    In my opinion, I think that those who are imbued with UBF paradigms and framework (for many decades), have NO IDEA what exUBFers truly feel like when they leave. Then they themselves go through stage 2 and 3:

    2) Depressed (because they lost a sheep).

    3) Angry (because they lost their “honor” from losing their sheep).

    Unfortunately, I do not think that they get to experience the first stage of happiness.

    “Great Spirit, save me from judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

  19. Good suggestion formershep!

    Here is an intro to Dr. Cloud’s boundaries:

    • And there are numerous documented examples of ubf teaching the opposite: Shepherds must cross people’s boundaries! Shepherds must “get in the boat” of people’s lives!

      I say NO. Shepherds must enter through the gate, not climbing over the wall, and only when allowed in!

    • This is very helpful too:

    • So as I compare ubf directors to the new pastors I’ve, I notice a STARK difference:

      Directors climbed over all my boundaries, smashing through my walls, taking ownership of my life, jamming out commands at every conversation, day in and day out, forcing their way into my head to “live” with me even when they weren’t around, demanding that I conform to ubf ways.

      The pastors I know now don’t do that. They wait outside my boundaries, waiting for me to come out and share something and patiently responding with questions and thoughts, only giving advice that would turn me toward God and giving God glory.

    • Brian, isn’t the way how UBF broke into the house of James Kim a very vivid image for what UBF does with the souls of people? I remember a similar incident, when a UBF missionary came into my private room and pushed me out of my bed when I did not want to come to a UBF Sunday service. All this shows the disrespect for boundaries of people, for their privacy.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris, it’s worth mentioning that the notion of acceptable boundaries is very different in Korean and Western cultures. I’m not saying that what the missionary did to you was ok. But it might help to understand that in the Korean culture, sharp boundaries are not placed around individuals, but around groups of people (e.g., extended families). Dr Horace Underwood talks about this.

    • Indeed it is Chris. Breaking into someone’s house also crosses legal boundaries.

      Joe, I think we do need to understand the various differences in cultural boundaries. That is helpful to a point.

    • Joe Schafer

      Fully agreed. It is helpful only to a point.

  20. formershep

    Thank you, Brian for summarizing Boundaries for everyone with the video. And thank you Ben for summarizing the “grieving process”, which is what one experiences in a very real way when they leave ubf. One thing from the video I would like to highlight are the words “Responsibility” and “Choice” The first thing leaving ubf taught me was the power or personal responsibility and choice. We were not allowed and didn’t permit ourselves to make autonomous decisions about both big and little things. Even though we have been married for a few years, leaving ubf was the first real decision we ever made as a couple! As children of God made in our Father’s image, we have the gift of responsibility and choice. God also gave us a brain and the ability to think critically. However, in ubf, we had given up that gift of God. And I take personal responsibility for that. I do not own the spiritual abuse but I own my compliance to it. I believe that is the healthy and mature thing to do and the only way to be healed and move forward.

    • Wow formershep, you articulated this quite profoundly! I hope you keep sharing, as you appear to have much to bring to the table (and I love the free counseling :)

      For our family, I made the decision to leave ubf, and my wife didn’t leave right away. But that process opened up discussion. For the first time we began discussing things as husband and wife. Through those discussions, I found out that in reality, my wife left ubf a long time ago! Like many, she had just been keeping up appearances without really believing various teachings.

      Our first authentic decision together as husband and wife came about 18 years after our wedding: We decided to accept the invitation to attend Grace Community’s VantagePoint cohort group. Making this decision together was so fulfilling!

    • Thanks formershep for your contribution to this conversation. What you are saying resonates very deeply with me and my family’s situation. I’m happy to see that you are digesting what you went through and allowing God to teach you through it in new ways.

      I second your encouragement for readers to read “Boundaries” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. As I read pieces of it, I found myself under such conviction for violating others boundaries and allowing my own boundaries to be violated. It has transformed my thinking about how I should interact with people, including my children, coworkers, employer, and Christian brothers and sisters. As I consider God’s character, I realize that He is the ultimate boundary-keeper. He gave us boundaries and respects our own boundaries. Jesus is a good shepherd who goes ahead of the sheep to lead them to God and does not force their way into their lives to control them. May all of us learn more and more the example of Jesus.

    • So hereticman has a question for bibleman:

      Was Jesus perhaps thinking about “entering a person’s life/heart/mind/soul” in John 10:1-5? Should we be able to identify a legitimate shepherd by the way they approach our boundaries?

    • Joe Schafer

      Bibleman thinks that is probably not what Jesus had in mind by “the gate.” The gate is probably the cross. Nevertheless, it might be a reasonable interpretation, because passages of Scripture may have multiple meanings.

  21. A major problem that I see in the way we/I have studied the Bible in UBF is that we put ourselves in the position of the protagonist. In Jn 10:1ff, we put ourselves in Jesus’ moccasins, and then some shepherds/leaders inadvertently think that they/we have Jesus’ right as shepherd over our sheep.

    In my opinion, all kinds of bad theologies, bad application, abuses and violation of other people’s boundaries happen as a result.

    Instead of “seeing” Jesus primarily as our Savior and Lord, we functionally see him primarily as our example and model to imitate, and then to impose on others. This is not entirely wrong, but it fails to present the Gospel as forefront and foremost in the way I/UBF has taught the Bible.

  22. Thanks bibleman, and Ben. Indeed, if Jesus is speaking of the cross (and I think He is there in John 10), we probably don’t want to minimize that message by talking about other things.

    And Ben, yes I see my bad habit of still trying to project myself and other into the bible passages. I still do that, even though I project myself differently than before :)

    This reminds me of seeing Scripture for the narratives about Jesus and not jumping too quickly into an application.

  23. This morning we had a meteorite coming from the sky. There was some panic for nobody knew what that was. I wonder how it will look like when God’s “worst infuriation” comes )) Yes, God is great! This was just a small event.
    In two minutes after the light there were many bangs and many windows were broken. About 400 people were injured.

  24. A bang…

  25. My previous comment “is awaiting moderation”, and “a bang” appeared at once…

  26. I am putting the first comment once more…

    This morning we had a meteorite coming from the sky. There was some panic for nobody knew what that was. I wonder how it will look like when God’s “worst infuriation” comes )) Yes, God is great! This was just a small event.

    In two minutes after the light there were many bangs and many windows were broken. About 400 people were injured.

  27. And one more…

  28. This is Russian channel 1 news

  29. When Benedict quits as pope, God sends a lightning ( but when Vitaliy quits as UBF sheperd, God sends meteorites ;-)

  30. Do I have to say “I told you so”? :)) Sorry, couldn’t resist the sarcasm and self-righteous jab.

    But seriously, I hope you and your family are safe Vitaly! Not sure where you are located exactly.

  31. Related to my previous comment on 2/12/13, I believe that we must celebrate, support, encourage, come along side, and advertise, new works of God among us and allow God to transform us instead of being afraid, scared, resistant, angry, threatened, fatalistic and oppressive towards new works of God in our midst.

    And may I add, we must not call new works of God sicknesses that need healing, nor be afraid of being changed by them. We need to learn how to relate with the greater Christian world and interact, trusting in the Spirit to lead.

    • Joe Schafer

      Anon, thank you. I’m sorry that I ignored your earlier comment. I don’t know what all other UBFriends readers would say (especially the silent readers) but from my perspective you are “preaching to the choir.”

      For quite a while, I’ve sensed that God was calling my family and the other families at Penn State to a ministry that was broader than 1:1 Bible study and traditional UBF-style discipleship. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to belong to his church. There is no authentic Christian discipleship apart from the church. (For an excellent discussion on this, see Frank Viola’s new article: ) Because God’s mission for the church is broader than 1:1 Bible study, we need to be open to those broader possibilities as well. But as we investigated them, we received disapproving comments from other UBF leaders. They would say, “It’s ok that you are doing that, but make sure not to lose YOUR POINT.” We all knew what that meant. I meant, “You are free to explore other things as long as you do them in your spare time after you master twelve (or however many) books of the Bible and raise twelve (or however many) disciples in the UBF mold.” After hearing those comments for years, we began to simply go ahead and do what we believed God was calling us to do without looking for approval from ministry leaders. For example, I began to invest significant time in reading and studying topics in theology, church history, and so on. And I invested a lot of time in developing this website. I did those things because I really believe God has called me to do them. I believe this with far more conviction than I ever had about God’s supposed calling for me to be a 1:1 Bible teacher simply by default because I was in UBF.

      My heart was very heavy when I read those words from the Japan mission report about Matthew Bai being “sick” because he wasn’t concentrating on campus ministry. I know Matthew Bai and spent significant time with him in Papua New Guinea eight years ago. As a native of PNG, he understands how that society works. It’s a society with very severe social and economic and political problems. He believed that the way to really help people in that environment was to focus not on university students, but on preschool and early childhood education. He is a godly man with a God-given vision and love for his people. I wish that missionaries would listen to him and learn from him instead of merely trying to teach him and mold him into an idealized version of themselves.

  32. Btw, the pictures of the crater look impressive but are fake or old. It seems only small fragments reached the earth and fell into the Tshebarkul sea. Coincidentally, and asteroid will fly by closely this evening. You can watch it live at Not sure who is responsible for that again. Maybe Brian and I for writing too many mocking comments.

  33. Sharon Schafer

    Here is a picture of a third way from the book What We Believe and Why.

    The Hebrew word of for friend is haver, the plural is haverim. Here is how friendship is practiced in the study of the Talmud.

    The men in yeshiva are studying together in pairs: Each is a haver – beloved friend – to the other, and they search the Scriptures, and the commentaries on the Scriptures, and they debate, listen, consider, respond, stretch, reply, in great detail – and with more biblical and Talmudic references and connections than you can imagine! One takes one side. His haver takes the other, It is intense. Sparks fly!

    It would seem that they try to exhaust the issue, and each other. And then often the rosh – the head rabbi of the yeshiva – will tell them to switch sides. They have to argue the other side’s case!

    What is remarkable about this is that for the most part, the specifics of each side of a particular issue(and there may be more than two “sides”), is of long-standing – hundreds if not thousands of years.
    No winner!!

    Couldn’t we learn a lot from practicing this?! Aren’t most of our comments on this website at least expressing a desire and hope for this?

    • Yes, good point Sharon. I think we could learn a lot from Jewish debate! They also know how to vibrantly debate and at the end, to leave two or more ideas on the table with no clear “winner”, and they both marvel at the wonder of that idea.

      That does describe my mindset in blogging a great deal: I’m not here to “win” but to spark conversation (both online and offline). I’m here to marvel at the magnificent gospel.

    • “… will tell them to switch sides. They have to argue the other side’s case!” Good idea. But the first step would be to recognize that things can have two sides. In my UBF Bible studies things were always clear. There were no two sides. There was no discussion. It was all about “accepting” the predetermined UBF interpretation of the passage. Discussing and arguing was seen as something negative, as opposed to accepting and obeying out of “faith”. Also, UBF bible study exclusively focused on the Bible passage. We did not discuss or question which consequences this should have for e.g. our life in the church, e.g. we never discussed about whether the church should have a pastor, whether it should have elders, what is the relationship between mission and church etc. etc. All these things, how church structures should look like were predetermined and could not be discussed or questioned.

  34. Thank you Joe for introducing the fascinating essay by the respected American who spent all of his life in Korea as a missionary and an educator. His name is so famous that all Koreans know his family name because his grandfather built one of the best universities in Korea century’s ago. His conclusion is very significant when we try to understand each others’ culture. (Koreans vs Americans). This essay helped me to understand many problems among us better. This also taught me to understand each other really takes a long time in reality.(sigh)

    “—In a small country and a small society where human relationships are extremely important, more important than structural and official relationships, where the whole world works by the old boy network, it is not so surprising that loyalty is the top value. Looking at it another way, we should ask just what is the relationship between, for instance, father and son. If you ask a Korean what one value summarizes the correct relationship between the pairs of the Five Relationships in Confucianism, the answer will be some version of “loyalty.” If you ask a Korean what one word expresses the most important ideal in Korean culture, the way “love” is often considered the ultimate ideal in Western culture, the answer will be “loyalty.”—

    Korea is said to be the most homogeneous nation on the face of the earth. Among South Korea’s 48 million people, the largest, in fact the only, resident minority group is the 10,000 Chinese. They are scattered around the country – Korea is the only country in Asia without a Chinatown. Only one out of every 4800 people is from an ethnically different group. One of the greatest assets of Korean society is its homogeneity – all one language, one culture, one race, one nation, allowing mass education, communication, and understanding within the boundaries of the country. One of the greatest liabilities of Korean society is its homogeneity – no experience of diversity, no openness to difference, sometimes a bit of racism and xenophobia thrown in, with these negative points not merely a sad reality which exists despite inclusive ideals, as in the U.S., but part of an ideology of purity and uniqueness and exceptionalism which is reinforced by government, education, media, and family.—

    All these characteristics from all these sections fit together – hierarchy, personalized loyalty, group orientation, nationalism, and heredity – to produce a cultural group that has survived a long time. Korean culture is changing, but slowly, and these characteristics will not disappear in our lifetimes. As we try to understand Koreans, so they also try to understand us. Maybe we can use the opportunities now open for those of us in international education, Koreans and Americans, to meet each other in the middle.”

    • James, I understand all these things. I have for many, many years. I love kimchee even. In fact, I became Korean for all intensive purposes.

      What reasons do you have for thinking that more understanding of Korean culture would help move ex-ubf and ubf toward reconciliation?

    • Well here is my answer to my own question, since I expect James will continue ignoring the many questions asked of him here. James, is there any chance you could respond to some of our questions? Or is it that you haven’t seen our questions?

      Understanding Korean culture won’t help reconciliation. What should I say? Oh all those strange teachings are just cultural differences? There are indeed problems in ubf related to Korean culture, but there are also problems in ubf related to American, Chineses and Russian culture.

      It is the cult in culture that is the root problem. We’ve already stated this ad nauseum, but it was *Koreans* in *Korea* who first raised problems with ubf.

      Understanding culture is merely another ubf tactic to distract from discussing the real issues.

    • Brian, I think it is unfair to say that this suggestion to understand our differences is “merely a tactic” to avoid real issues. It has been and continues to be and essential part of the process of reconciliation which will certainly be a long and winding road.

    • Still my original question remains: Why is understanding Korean culture an “essential part of the process of reconciliation”? Are Russians, Chinese, Ukranians, Canadians, Mexicans, Argentinians, Africans all supposed to “understand” Koreans as well?

      This is all bass-ackwards. Missionaries are supposed to understand and adopt foreign culture. So I say Korean missionaries to America (and just how odd is that?) should first attempt to understand Americans, and by “understand” I mean a deeper understanding than “eat Big Macs” and condemn “lazy, smelly, ungrateful” people.

    • But Brian’s question is legitimate, and I just wanted to ask the same: Why are we expected to understand the culture of the missionaries, and not the missionaries to understand our culture? Isn’t this really upside-down? I do not think it is the right mindset of a missionary to expect native people to meet them “in the middle”. In my view, a missionary who demands this has failed his job.

      Nevertheless, of course, we all try to understand Korean culture, and are willing to understand it even more. But this one point should not be forgotten in the discussion.

      Sharon, maybe the word “tactic” is a bit too harsh here, but intended or not, it’s a red herring if you tey to explain all problems as “cultural misunderstandings”. Yes, all these problems have to do with culture, and are sometimes amplified by Korean culture, but that is not the crucial thing. Otherwise why have all the reform attempts been started by Koreans? It only shows the seriousness of the issues when they “revolted” despite the fact that they were raised up to be always loyal and cover up problems. On the other hand, why do we find very similar problems in American groups like the ICOC (see for instance) if these things are caused by Korean culture only?

    • Cultural note to Korean ubf missionaries: Don’t tick off a German.

  35. So to me, the issue here is not “Koreans vs. Americans” but “ubf vs. Christianity”.

    As a computer scientist, I’ve had to interact with many cultures the past 25 years, Indian, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Pakistan, etc. Yes it is challenging. But such challenges are nothing like dealing with ubf.

    What we need to be talking about and examining is the *ubf* culture. Let’s examine the ubf teaching material, ubf lectures, ubf mission reports. Then we can see ubf culture (which transcends even Korean culture) in light of Christianity.

    Yes I know Christianity is going through changes, as it does continually. But the broad-stroke, basic doctrines of Christianity are rather sound, and soundly rooted in the bible. In light if these fundamental doctrines, ubf’s own material, publicly available, demonstrate the problems that ubf needs to address.

    It’s not so “difficult” or time-consuming to understand.

  36. Thanks, James, for being a senior UBF statesman who is willing to participate on this “taboo” website that should be avoided, according to some. Even if Brian says that you are not answering his questions, yet it is encouraging that you participate.

    I read Underwood’s article some years back, and it was a Eureka moment of sorts, where I said, “Wow, that’s why UBF is the way it is.” It was enlightening.

    It especially explained why virtually “every” UBF chapter in 80 countries is virtually “homogenous.” Without a doubt, UBF has adopted Korean culture into every UBF chapter, regardless of what country it is in. This is an explanation, not a criticism.

    Regarding answering questions, in my opinion, it is just plain unusual and uncomfortable and unfamiliar for an older Korean person (Christian or non-Christian) to answer to any younger person period! Even if and when they do answer, it will be on their terms and according to their terms. This again is an explanation, not a criticism.

    For sure understanding must be a two way street. Nonetheless, I concur with Brian in that the initiative in seeking understanding must come “from the top,” i.e. from the missionary, just as God incarnated (humbled) Himself.

    Therefore, it should primarily be the missionary who should seek to understand the culture of the indigenous person. If the missionary wants the indigenous person to understand the culture of the missionary, then in my opinion, I would have to say that it is a form of imperialism and domination, which is the very opposite of Christianity.

    • Ben, I agree with you. However, in your last paragraph I would change the word “understand” with the word “adopt” or “conform to” or something like that. As James said, the gospel calls us to seek mutual understanding.

  37. Hi Ben thank you for your thoughtful comment. I am FOR mutual understanding. Understanding comes from mutual love and respect and listening to each other. Regardless of cultural, racial, intellectual differences among us (whatever it may be), I believe we should humbly listen to what Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:2,3. This was given as an imperative. Of course it is easier said than done and we will fail many times. But at least it gives us direction (Make every effort–). There is no quick answer to the problems we have among us in my opinion. I wish I have quick answer to fix the problem, but honestly I don’t. But I am optimistic, trusting His own leading and guidance of his body. (I am not a spokesman, this is my personal opinion) You may freely, respectfully disagree with me.

    • “Understanding comes from mutual love and respect and listening to each other.”

      > So…. wouldn’t listening to each other require some answers to questions? Even if those answers are just opinions, dialogue requires questions and answers. Oh wait. I’m sorry, not if the person is an ex-ubf member. Then we can just ignore the questions.

  38. Yes, Sharon, I do like the word “adopt,” “conform to.”

    For one, it would be very hard for me to adopt and conform to a culture where I am not able to question my elder. Or after I pose a question, I do not receive a “straight” answer.

    Likewise, it would be hard, if not impossible for our missionaries to adopt and conform to other cultures that are more informal, less structured, and may be seemingly more “laid back.” If our missionaries do adopt and conform to American culture, they should NEVER EVER say “proud Americans,” or “lazy Americans.” It would be the same as an American missionary going to Korea and saying, “You wife-beating Koreans.”

    That is why the Incarnation of Christ that led to him bleeding and dying is the way to love other cultures, instead of judging them based on our own cultural experiences and preferences.

  39. James or any ubf member:

    Here is a list of questions. Maybe we could understand each other better if you would share your thoughts? Chris already asked more than once. So did I.

    And James, you are the President of UBF. How can you not be their spokesman?

    What is the “worst infuriation” of an ex-ubf member? Silence.

    1. What is the definition and qualifications to be a UBF Member Shepherd?

    2. Can the problems really be explained away as cultural or time related misunderstandings, when even senior members living in the same Korean culture and time of the 1970s found the practices of Samuel Lee abusive?

    3. Were the questions and issues addressed by the reformers of 1976, 1984 and 2001 legitimate or was it just unfounded slandering?

    4. Was it ok to solve the problem by denouncing these people as rebels, ignoring what they had to say, and expelling them?

    • Just for the records, questions 2-4 are still waiting for an answer.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris, from my perspective, the answers to 2 and 4 are clearly No and No. I believe that many leaders (at least those in the United States) would, if you pressed them in private, give the same answers as I have. Getting them to speak openly about this is a big challenge, but a necessary one.

    • Some leaders cannot say so in public or online because their most treasured “core value” is loyalty, as James Kim shared. To do so, would be to sell out their fellow missionaries whom they love and perhaps would even defend unto death, on the basis of their collective nationalistic sentiment.

      We in the west might perhaps have some difficulty in grasping this. Yet, I believe it needs to be done because any Christian’s core value must be loyalty to Christ first and foremost. “Do you love me more than these?” (Jn 21:15a)

  40. Brian, Chris, you ask tough questions where it is hard/impossible to answer without implicating oneself.

    Since I have been in UBF since 1980, I think I am the 2nd longest UBF person who participates on UBFriends, next to James who surpasses me by a decade and a half–at least. Correct me on this if I am wrong. So after 33 years in UBF, these are my incomplete attempts at some answers.

    * Yes, silence is horrible. That is why I would personally like to do my best to respond to any and every question.

    * I do not really know how to answer question 1 comprehensively. I think that a consistent regular tither to UBF would qualify. Of course, UBF’s statement of faith is that we believe the Apostle’s Creed.

    * The short answer to question 2 should be No, it cannot.

    * Regarding question 3, I remember reading some of the issues addressed more than 10 years ago, and I summarily dismissed them as “Satan’s jealousy.” Today, as I read them again, it would seem to me that some/much of it is legitimate. But for any loyal committed UBF person to read it, it would be like being bludgeoned and sledge-hammered without ceasing, which would make it very, very difficult to read. It may be like reading about your own dear brother or sister whom you love being clobbered by hearing only bad and horrible things, while you know that your siblings also have a lovely aspect to them.

    * Question 4 is easy: Without a doubt UBF should not and should never have denounced anyone who left/leaves UBF. Though it is easy for me to say so today, I myself denounced those who left during my 1st two decades in UBF.

    These are surely my short, incomplete, and very likely unsatisfactory answers. Though I fail again and again, I do wish from my heart to love those who left UBF, and also to love those who are still in UBF.

    It is tough! So I might plead for some leniency and some slack on both sides. But then again, I’m supposed to be a “spiritual Dirty Harry.” So, I think I can handle not being treated with kid gloves. So, “Go ahead, make my day!”

    • “Brian, Chris, you ask tough questions where it is hard/impossible to answer without implicating oneself.”

      > Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts Ben. That is all I ask. Because I know you somewhat, I could already guess at your answers. But thanks for expressing them anyway. Just the fact that you are willing to break the silence means volumes to me. It is why I consider WL Church to be redeemed. And yes they are hard questions, but the “marines of Christianity” should be able to take such hard questions, right?

      “I do not really know how to answer question 1 comprehensively. I think that a consistent regular tither to UBF would qualify. Of course, UBF’s statement of faith is that we believe the Apostle’s Creed.”

      > Ben, you misunderstood my question. Was I a member of ubf? Sure. But was I a Member? No. In my chapter, only 2 people were Members. Member Shepherds are those who attend the Member’s meeting, traditionally held two weeks before the first Staff meeting of the year. I would like to know what those qualifications are. After 24 years in ubf, I feel that I deserve this answer. There are many kinds of shepherds in ubf, after the sheep level: Shepherd, Fellowship Shepherd, Staff Shepherd, Member Shepherd and Director Shepherd. People can say, well it doesn’t really matter. It does matter to me. Why does ubf need a class structure? Why a semi-secret “Members Meeting”? I know in the past SLee would hand pick who was actually a Member Shepherd.

      “But for any loyal committed UBF person to read it, it would be like being bludgeoned and sledge-hammered without ceasing, which would make it very, very difficult to read. It may be like reading about your own dear brother or sister whom you love being clobbered by hearing only bad and horrible things, while you know that your siblings also have a lovely aspect to them.”

      > Indeed. But who created such an abusive environment? The committed UBF persons! The reform letters and my letters and blogs seem harsh and brutal. They are, but not because of me or the reformers. Such letters are brutal because the letters are mirrors! We are simply reflecting back the reality to you! But ubf must look in the mirror some day.

      “These are surely my short, incomplete, and very likely unsatisfactory answers. Though I fail again and again, I do wish from my heart to love those who left UBF, and also to love those who are still in UBF.”

      > Thank you very, very much Ben. How could any one person give anything but incomplete answers? We former members don’t expect perfection. We long for messy, honest, real passion!!

  41. As I am reading this thread and your answers, Ben, I think that the only option comes to mind: №3. To leave. (I think that it comes not only to my mind). Why seeking any hope for ubf? Your answers show that dialogue with ubf is not likely or possible.
    And about “understanding” and intercultural communication. My opinion is that no native needs close international communication and “understanding” at all. A local church should not be international. Joe has already spoken on that (e1 evangelism and who sacrifices more: sheep or shepherd). A foreigner may happen to come to a local church, but he may never happen to be a leader/pastor in the church. Surely he will try to “understand” and adopt, but is there need for local people to adopt for the sake of the newcomer?. In ubf foreigners are the leaders, and they don’t want even to answer questions. Well, that is something very strange and unhealthy. (I once told a story that a completely new sheep came to our sws in ubf and the director read his message as usual. after the program the sheep told me, “You are doing good things. You are preaching not only to Russians but also to foreigners and even allow one of them to teach!”. He wouldn’t understand if I told him that the messanger was our director and commander-in-chief. It is impossible to understand and ubf demand it.) I left ubf. And all the natives left ubf here in our city. we are together, we study the Bible together, we communicate, we are Christains. We don’t feel and can’t see any need to “understand” and to “submit” to a korean king/director or to a strange organization in order to become “better” Christians or “marine” Christians. I don’t think that there is need even in a dialogue or answers. ubf is trying to keep its own unity. But it is based on submission to a strange “ubf culture” and cult-like leaders. this culture is foreign even for koreans. That’s why more and more ubf people will come to the option №3. And to enlarge the “ubf workforce” will be more and more difficult if possible. (btw my teacher once told me how to remember the spelling of the word “difficult”. “ff” are like a king and a queen. Two “i”s are like guards on both sides. Then comes “cult”. He said that it is very difficult to be under kings, in a cult.))

    • “Your answers show that dialogue with ubf is not likely or possible.”

      > I would say the silence of 99% of ubf members and directors in person and online is what shows dialogue with ubf is not possible.

      “And about “understanding” and intercultural communication. My opinion is that no native needs close international communication and “understanding” at all.”

      > I think you expressed a key Christian missionary principle: let the natives lead, because it is their ministry. A missionary who follows Christ’s example would never establish themselves as kings or lords, demanding obedience of the natives. Perhaps some ubf missionaries should try to evangelize some remote part of Africa, and see if they will bow down so humbly?

      “I left ubf. And all the natives left ubf here in our city. we are together, we study the Bible together, we communicate, we are Christains.”

      > Are you hearing this, ubf directors? I thought a certain someone reconciled Russia ubf so well?

      “We don’t feel and can’t see any need to “understand” and to “submit” to a korean king/director or to a strange organization in order to become “better” Christians or “marine” Christians.”

      > Amen for that. I just realize an odd contradiction in ubf. They claim to be marines and holy soldiers, but what is the primary action of a ubf man or woman? Sitting in chairs! One shepherd began to complain about sitting so much. Later he wrote in his testimony that he “repented” and now accepted his chair as his cross.

      “btw my teacher once told me how to remember the spelling of the word “difficult”. “ff” are like a king and a queen. Two “i”s are like guards on both sides. Then comes “cult”. He said that it is very difficult to be under kings, in a cult.”

      > Thanks Vitaly, I needed that humor!

  42. Ben, thank you for your answer. I agree everything with you.
    Brian, I can explain about member’s meeting a little bit. Around 1977, UBF registered as a Corporation entity in the State of Mississippi. In order to comply the government requirement, we made a by-law and had annual corporate members’ meeting mainly from Chicago chapter. Initially it was about 20 members. It was mainly prayer meeting, reviewing the work of God in the previous year, reviewing financial report. We ended the meeting with united prayer. The following is the part of the by-law related with members (corporate)

    2.1 Qualification of Members. The corporation members of the University Bible Fellowship shall be Christians who confess the Apostles’ Creed and who believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God, the only rule of faith and practice, and who concur in the purpose of this corporation to propagate the Gospel of Jesus to all people of the world, especially to college students and teenagers, through the study and teaching of the
    2.2 Election of Members. Qualified persons may be elected as corporation members of the University Bible Fellowship at the annual meeting of members, by nomination from the floor and a majority affirmative vote of those present. The Board of Elders may also elect members on a temporary basis, but such persons must be approved at the next meeting of members.

    Chicago being a headquarters of UBF, most of initial members are from Chicago. It was around 20 people. Later we gradually added members from big chapters like New York, Washington, LA. Then gradually added medium size chapters including Canada. Now we have about 60 people. What do we do? After message we hear various committee report (Education committee, North America coordinator’s report, GD’s report, Young generation report, Medical mission report, CBF, Daily Bread report etc.) including the North America financial report, and find new direction for the year. One general rule is that chapter directors cannot be elected to be members. It is a kind of check and balance system. I don’t know this answer is satisfactory to your question.

    • Thanks James for posting this. I have a copy of the ubf by-laws, and yes I read those statements before.

      But those statements are vague and don’t establish anything different form normal ubf meetings. The only real difference from a ubf weekly meeting is scale, and special nomination, which in my chapter came only from the chapter director. So I guess my chapter director was a staff/director member and we only had 1 “corporation member”.

      So why have such “corporation members”, other than to satisfy legal demands of proving to be a corporation? And why would ubf want to be a corporation? I thought ubf was a non-profit church?

    • Now that I re-read the by-laws, I think this section answers my questions:

      3.7 Powers and Rights of Members. Members of the corporation in good standing have the power to:

      (a) Elect elders, president, vice-president, recording secretary of the corporation at the annual meeting of members.

      (b) Approve or disapprove, upon nomination of the general director, local chapter directors and treasurers, central treasurers, world mission/finance director, daily bread directors, and USA/Canada coordinator.

      (c) Remove from office any elder, officer, or chapter director for good and sufficient cause, at a regular or special meeting.

      (d) Hear, consider, and approve or disapprove reports of the board of elders of the corporation.

      (e) At a regularly constituted meeting, modify, suspend, or veto any decision of the board of elders, by a majority vote of all members present.

      (f) Hear and act as final arbiter in any dispute between or concerning the elders, chapter directors, officers or individual members.

    • Thanks for trying to answer the first of Brian’s four questions, James. That was helpful.

      Most German UBF chapters are registered as “Verein” (association) in order to get benefits like tax exemption. (Germans are known as “Vereinsmeier”, they like their sports club or carnival or rabbitkeeper association – a church as a “Verein” is somewhat awkward though). Such associations need a members’ meeting at least once a year. So in order to conform to the law, we really had such a meeting in our German UBF chapter every year. But it was only a formal thing, usually done very quickly on New Year’s Eve in a harmonic atmosphere, and nobody took it serious. The Abraham of faith was always “elected” univocally as association president (i.e. the director suggested him as president, and of course nobody ever disagreed, since it had no real meaning anyway, and since nobody would ever disagree with the director anyway). Nothing was discussed at such meetings, no questions were ever asked. Participants were all shepherds and missionaries of the chapter.

      A guess in America it’s similar, it is only a pro forma thing. But one notable difference that is confusing (not only for Brian), in America the chapters are not registered individually, bot form a corporation (right?) and instead of a real members’ meeting there is are meeting of hand-picked representatives of members only. This makes it even more of a farce. When such hand-picked loyal member have to listen to sermons and reports until they are tired, when open discourse is never practiced or encouraged through the year, and harmony and obedience is considered to be the highest goal, and even the introductory sermon preaches unity based on John 17, when the underlying culture does not allow to question superiors, do you really expect that there would be ever a single vote against a decision of the leaders, or even a disapproval of any report? Much less a majority vote. To expect a real check-and-balances effect from such a meeting would be foolish. James, since you understand Korean culture and UBF, you should know best. UBF works very differently from a German rabbitkeeper association, since it is not only based on Korean culture, but leaders are considered to be shepherds and authorities in a “spiritual order” which has to be kept by all means, which is not the case in any ordinary association. It would be completely alien to any UBFer to question any of their decisions or reports, even publicly in front of the other members, in such a meeting.

      My suggestions for the future: 1. Label it properly as “Members Representatives’ Meeting” not “Members meeting”. 2. In all reports, make it fully clear what the purpose of the meeting is and how these representatives are chosen. 3. Send reports to the participants before the meeting, instead forcing people to listen to them at the meeting, so that they can read them beforehand (many have long travel time that could be used for reading anyway) so that they have more time to discuss and socialize at the actual meeting. Do not allow that there is not enough time to answer questions any more. 3. Throughout the year, practice discourse in all internal meetings. 4. After the meeting, publish a real protocol. All members should know for instance, which questions were asked at the meeting, and which answers were given, and which questions were not answered; which decisions have been approved, which people have been elected, which directions has been found, and how they has been found. In short: Make things transparent.

  43. Boundaries is a great book. I too recommend it

  44. Joe Schafer

    It’s a fine Saturday morning here in central Pennsylvania. No meteorites or lightning strikes to report. Sharon and I are sitting here at Starbucks, enjoying a post-Valentine’s Day coffee date. We did our Lenten scripture readings from Daily Office together. Our daughter Ruthie is coming in from Boston for a weeklong visit, and we are excited to see her. God is good. Life is good.

    We have a few reactions to the discussions above. Here is our 2×2=4 cents’ worth.

    Regarding the Members’ meeting: This year, we were invited to send a representative from Penn State to serve on the board of members. For practical and family reasons, we were not able to send anyone this year. But we are thankful to James Kim for the invitation and his efforts to include new members who are more representative of UBF in North America. This is a positive sign. We also like Chris’ suggestion to leave as much time as possible for open discussion. In recent years, we have been frustrated because, while many people in UBF leadership positions do (at least verbally) acknowledge the desperate need for open communication and discussion at national meetings, such discussions usually gets cut short; the brief time together gets filled up with messages, reports, and so on, leaving only a few minutes for discussion. Given the nature and seriousness of the issues faced by ubf at this time, it’s going to be necessary to suspend the business-as-usual activities as much as possible to devote maximal time to passionate, messy, open dialogue, exposing the conflicts within the community that lie poorly buried just below the surface, to listen to painful truths about ourselves and then seek God’s face through repentance and prayer. The reports and other business matter can be distributed and read by members ahead of time so that the precious time together doesn’t get squandered. Outside of ubf, I’ve served on many professional committees, review panels and advisory boards. In all cases, the necessary subject matter was distributed to panel members ahead of time in electronic form so that the face time together wouldn’t be squandered. As Brian has frequently pointed out, sitting down in a chair for long periods of time listening to presentations is not an effective way to build community, especially in western contexts.

    Regarding diversity in the church: Sharon and I both believe that God’s vision for the church does involve diversity visbily expressed and respected at the local level. Through some of the books that we’ve been reading lately (for example, A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight), and through various happenings in our lives and ministry, we’re coming to understand that unity-in-diversity is an essential outcome of the gospel. In these postmodern times, the Spirit of God seems to be pressing everyone on all sides to stop wasting so much energy reinforcing their own narrow boundaries and draw near to one another by drawing closer to Christ. We think that God’s vision for the church does include
    * diversity of ethnicity and culture
    * diversity of spiritual gifts
    * diversity of doctrinal understandings on non-essential matters.
    Ideally, this diversity should be evident *within* local congregations, not *between* local congregations. Because when you have to live in close contact and friendship with people who are very different from you, that’s where you really begin to understand and experience God’s love. It’s uncomfortable, painful, and messy, but very necessary if we are to grow in God’s grace and witness to the world.

  45. Ditto!!!!! to Chris and Joe. But, but, but…..

    I cannot but think of all the “practical” reasons, responses, excuses, reactions, rationales, as to why such a simple suggestion of spending quality face time together in mutual interaction so virtually IMPOSSIBLE. It has not happened in 50 years of UBF history, especially in “top-down” run staff conferences, national conferences, international conferences, or even the recent annual member’s meeting in Chicago.

    (James, would you do a survey and get the honest opinion of all 44 people or so who attended the member’s meeting, preferably from those under 50 years old. I’ve already heard from at least 3 people who attended who were not happy with it. I shall spare the detailed comments on this public space.)

    I’m not being funny here. I’m not being critical. I’m being real. It is the single major reason why I will likely not attend the upcoming staff conference. It is still agenda-driven, and agenda-heavy. Any interaction “on the side” will seemingly just be “tolerated” in order to appease those who need such interaction to discuss the “inconsequentials.” OK, I’m being funny here. Sorry.

    • “It has not happened in 50 years of UBF history…”

      But it did just happen, correct? I have heard good things about The Well. I think if ubf has any chance of staying in existence longer than SVM (which ubf is loosely patterned after), ubf would do well to stay at “The Well”.

      Still, the Well is not an effort to reconcile ubf and ex-ubf, but it is a huge step toward reconciliation within ubf. Perhaps that has to happen first.

    • Yup, the Well is not a proto-typical “top-down” run UBF conference, thanks to John Yoon.

    • And even though JohnY cringes every time he sees my name on email or this blog, I *love* what he has been doing!

    • Actually, JohnY regards you as his friend. He knows, I believe, that cringing once in a while may be a good thing. I believe I am speaking accurately on his behalf.

    • Yep, I know John is a friend! I’ve had coffee with him even.

      [Note to our silent readers: being someone’s friend does not mean they mutually agree with you or that you support what they are doing. John and I are clear that we are friends, but we don’t fully agree with each other’s approaches.]

    • I don’t know who John Yoon is but I hear the Well was a blessing not because of one person, but because of the young leaders who all cooperated to put it together. :)


      Cringing is part of friendship. Amen. Thank you all for the kind words above.

  46. Joe, regarding diversity, I think that’s something where UBF could shine and where UBF as an international organization has much potential. Actually I liked very much to be together with people from a very different culture. Whenever the “spiritual order” issue was not in the way, it was a great experience. If UBF would embrace diversity and the differences between the cultures and members and really be willing to learn from each other, and not try to dominantly impose UBF/Korean culture on everyone, and to suppress diversity as “ungodly individualism”, it would be wonderful. There were many moments of real fellowship, and I think when God looked down and saw us Germans and Koreans play soccer together or eat Kimchee or Spaetzle, he smiled. Not sure what he thought about the official sogam meetings, and praying for numbers sessions, though. Probably he was not there because they were too boring.

    • Chris, God was sitting on His chair (I mean throne) during sogam meetings… and so was Jesus, at his right hand. The throne of God is the “chair of chairs” :)

      [I’m not really being facetious here; I was in an actual bible study once where the leader told us that even God sits on his chair a lot!]

    • Wow, I just inadvertently reminded myself of why I was so overwhelmed by emotion during our new pastor’s sermon on Acts 7.

      Acts 7:56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

      Oh how liberating this verse was and still is! Just before Stephen died at the hands of religious leaders, he saw Jesus STANDING! Our pastor’s point was that Jesus is up and moving, and working toward reconciliation in the hearts of people.

      I see now that I shed so many tears that day last year during this Acts 7 sermon because I always subconsciously imagined Jesus just sitting on His throne.

  47. You put it so well, Chris. I have thoroughly enjoyed our missionaries’ genuine warmth and hospitality to feed me liberally, since eating is one of my (Chinese) joys of life.

    The problem as you put it (spiritual order) is that it has taken 50 years for some older missionaries to realize that you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT relate to people based on hierarchy, seniority, superiority, etc.

    Many missionaries “painfully” realize this when their own children will not take this “keep spiritual order” way of relating to people.

    Older missionaries who primarily regard and relate to younger people as subordinates will become an increasingly isolated and irrelevant breed of people. Again, I am not criticizing. I am simply making a statement, which I believe is absolutely true.

    God, who is in the highest heavens, condescended Himself to be “below us.” Then how can any Christian leader who regards juniors as subordinates ever amount to anything significant or spiritual?

    • Here’s an idea that I think would facilitate reconciliation: create a 2 hour workshop at a ubf staff conference (or other conference) called “Q&A with a Former UBF Member”.

      If our friend JA would moderate such a panel, I would gladly participate (in the panel, not in the conference itself).

  48. Joe Schafer

    Ben, you wrote, “It has not happened in 50 years of UBF history.”

    About 3-1/2 years ago, I attended a senior staff retreat in Delaware. For one whole day, we engaged in open discussion among ourselves and with the current and past General Directors. It lasted just one day, but it was a helpful start.

    And a few months ago, we attended another brief retreat in Maryland. About half the time was devoted to ceremonial and business matters. But there were a couple of hours of discussion that touched on these uncomfortable issues.

    My sense is that the older leaders are split on this issue of open discussion. Some recognize the need and want it to continue, and others want it to stop or to get over with it as soon as possible and would like to throw up roadblocks to keep it from happening.

  49. Yeah, you’re right, Joe. Perhaps, I am simply sensing that those who want the “uncomfortable dialogue” to stop and just keep on business as usual, might prevail, since that has been so for the most part of half a century.

    Surely, only God can truly change the tide, where open dialogue becomes the norm, rather than something that feels like pulling teeth, and something we have to exhaustively fight for every single time.

  50. Chris, thank you for your positive and constructive comments/ suggestions. I really appreciate it. (I did not expect that would come from you, sorry!) You understood the problem correctly and your suggestion of number 3 and 3 are excellent. In fact after the member’s meeting we had elder’s weekly prayer meeting and discussed about member’s meeting feedback. Majority agreed that we needed more time to discuss and cut the committee report time. Actually before the meeting we collected all the data and member’s key verses and published in three volume of books that amounted to about 400 pages. The meeting lasted four and a half hours. As you recommended we want to shorten the committee report meeting and have more time for Q and A. (this was the first time we included Q and A in our program) Things are changing but very slowly and gradually. Please continue to pray for us.
    Joe, thank you for your wonderful comments. We had a great time in Chasapeake bay senior staff retreat/ discussion last year. It was a new beginning and it worked very well. I wish we have more frequent meetings like this one in the future. It was good that Sharon could join with us and participate in the discussion. I appreciate that. We have so much intellectual mam power in UBF and we need brain storms among us from time to tiime and use it positively for the glory of God.

    • James, thanks for the warm response of my suggestions, though I could not even properly count to 5.

      It is good to hear that things are changing. But it is not so good to hear that things are changing very slowly and gradually only. As I have often explained, my main issue with this “gradual reform” paradigm is that it shows that people haven’t understood that the problems at hand are very serious and that spiritual abuse is a sin. If a Christian recognizes he is committing a sin, should he rather make gradual changes or should he actually make radical change? Let me quote a UBF lecture: “What is true repentance? True repentance brings a radical transformation in one’s life.” If people don’t want to make a radical change, this indicates that they haven’t understood that what they are doing is seriously wrong. That’s what worries me. There are both horrible individual wrongdoings of leaders in the past (like those mentioned in the 1976 letter) and systemic issues in the core teachings and practices of UBF (particularly everything that has to do with “spiritual order” and personal shepherding) which have caused and facilitated these wrongdoings. Real change can only start when people are willing to admit the mistakes and sins of the past, and willing to question even their core traditions, founder legends and “achievements” which they are so proud of, if they are unhealthy and not in line with the gospel. The good thing is that once this “small” step is made, not only real change will follow, but also real reconciliation. And there will be a guarantee that the same mistakes will not be repeated. If mistakes are never really admitted, there is no such guarantee.

      Btw, I like your term “mam power”. You’re right, UBF needs more women to speak up and also comment here. Unfortunately, most of them including my dear wife are too shy. In the meetings in our chapter, all the women missionaries sat in one corner of the table and never said anything on their own initiative. But when only men have the say, bad things happen (a picture speaks more than words:

    • If you look in the 2nd row right above Kim Jong-Un’s head, you actually see exactly two women. Surprise!

    • Right, Ben, if you look carefully, you will find some women here, too: (hint: this is how a UBF members’ meeting should not look like).

    • There was 1 woman behind the speaker and several others in a crowd of several thousand men. But the UBF member’s meeting had 20-30% women among 44 people, I’m guessing, perhaps similar or less at staff conferences.

      But the elder’s meeting and weekly staff meeting are all men, which might be the influence of partly Presbyterian male only elders (maybe), and partly/mainly Korean male dominance. Sorry for more of my messy reasons/explanations.

    • The role of women in UBF is very unclear anyway. On the one hand, UBF promotes a literal understanding of the Bible, according to which women should not be allowed to teach or even speak in the church (1Tim 2:12, 1Cor 14:35), and in fact they only have men as chapter leaders and nearly always men as messengers and presiders, but on the other hand, they allow female shepherds and missionaries to teach the Bible, and Sarah Barry to be the general director. I think this is very inconsistent. Either you take the Bible literally, then there should be no female teachers or leaders, and no exception, or you think the Bible must not be understood literally and female leaders are ok today, but then why only Sarah Barry? There is no official teaching of UBF about what is allowed for women and what not, they just do how they like best and nobody questions it or analyzes whether it’s right in light of the Bible. Nobody seems to wonder why things are handled differently than demanded very explicitly in the Bible. Of course this inconsistency is not the biggest issue of UBF, but it shows a dilemma in UBF’s dealing with the Bible.

    • I am not stating what you do not already know, but Mother Barry is the “exception to the rule” because she is the co-founder of UBF.

      Also, even if wives may not be the visible leader of various UBF chapters, it is frequently shared that some wives of UBF chapter leaders hold absolute sway in their own chapters, and they instill “fear and trembling” in all junior members of their respective chapter.

    • Yea, don’t tick off a Korean woman :) That might be the last thing you ever do…

      But seriously, the role of woman is a big issue that needs many blogs to discuss. As you might guess, hereticman is an egalitarian.

      As a ubf fellowship leader, I often took a lot of flack for allowing women to lead bible studies and give messages. I even trained some women to be conference messengers.

    • So in regard to Korean culture, I am willing to meet half way. I am at the “50 yard” line. But I will no longer cross that line and go all the way, becoming Korean.

      In ubf, I always crossed the half-way line. This video expresses my frustration in dealing with Korean culture. What options are there?

    • How do you find these hilarious, yet true to life, videos?

    • Being a heretic opens your eyes to see so many things…

    • Joe Schafer

      Hereticman is an egalitarian. What about Bibleman?

      Well, the Bible clearly says that wives should obey their husbands. So yesterday, I commanded my wife not to submit to me anymore. Let’s see how that works out.

  51. Joe Schafer

    Thannk you Ben and James.

    I too was glad that Sharon came to the Chesapeake retreat. Her presence there, along with Deborah Ward, Liz Hembekides, Christy Toh and other women was invaluable. (Kathy Vucekovich was greatly missed. I look forward to her participation too.)

    Another barrier to open communication that I have sensed is the feeling that, unless we are devoting a significant portion of our retreat and staff meeting time to group Bible study and/or listening to messages and/or testimony writing, that God will not be pleased with us. Bible study is great. But it is possible to study the Bible too much. In the sense that Bible study can be a means of retreat into familiar, comfortable and superficial interaction. If Jesus were physically present at our next staff meeting, I don’t think he would be telling us to go back to the Bible and study it more diligently. I think he would say, “Put your Bibles down for a while and talk to one another and really listen to one another. Listen to the voice of my Spirit speaking through one another, even in the midst of everyone’s sinfulness.”

    Even at that Chesapeake retreat, only a handful ofthe 50+ people who were present actually contributed to the discussion. Why? I don’t know for sure. People have various reasons for remaining silent. That poem that Sharon linked to yesterday, the one about passion versus perfection, is really making me think. It’s quite possible that many of our longtime members and leaders are reluctant to open their mouths for fear of saying something that is less than perfect. Perhaps they are afraid of expressing negative emotion that would reflect complaint, anger, doubt, fear, and other things that we would rather not show one another. I hope that we can learn to trust one another enough to blurt out things in a very honest and imperfect way, then extending grace to one another, so that greater trust may develop. I see this happening on UBFriends, especially during the last 2-3 days, and it is gratifying.

  52. My guess (I hope I’m wrong) is that the majority of the old guard will continue to remain silent. Why? These are my reasons:

    1) A lack of familiarity with the English language. Since Korean is their primary language they would not likely be able to communicate in English as well as native English speakers would. This is just pure, plain, simple fact, nothing more.

    2) An open discussion levels the playing field, which is anathema to Korean culture. My guess is that this subtle subjective reason may be the predominant reason. Silence may be their silent protest that they do not like nor approve of it.

    3) A dislike/unfamiliarity with an open forum. Most older traditional missionaries embraced a UBF where the leader directed and the rest “just obeyed.” An open dialogue challenges that authoritarian and hierarchical model, which has been UBF’s predominant paradigm and framework. When the 1976 and 1990 “rebellion” occurred (by their own countrymen), up to 1/3rd of UBF left or were “cast out.”

    4) A “misunderstanding” of the Trinity as a STRUCTURED ORDER of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rather than a RELATIONAL EQUALITY of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Please feel free to fully critique my “miserable mean messy” reasons.

    • Here is my messy reaction, Ben:

      “1) A lack of familiarity with the English language. Since Korean is their primary language they would not likely be able to communicate in English as well as native English speakers would. This is just pure, plain, simple fact, nothing more.”

      > I call bs on this. How many years have some of the old guard been in America? 30 years? 40 years? And they still talk like babies? I used to think like this. Oh missionary so-and-so is just so helpless, so I need to help him. This happened on many occasions, I was directed to help the English of many Korean missionaries in ubf. Guess what? They knew English quite well. Even the old guard can speak quite well. They hide behind “language problem” far too often. I’ve seen some of the emails of the old guard. They speak and understand just fine, at least in America. [The English training I was supposed to be giving was not for the Korean missionary, but training for me to learn how to train.]

      “2) An open discussion levels the playing field, which is anathema to Korean culture. My guess is that this subtle subjective reason may be the predominant reason. Silence may be their silent protest that they do not like nor approve of it.”

      > The old guard is hardly silent! They speak SO much to each other, by email, by phone! And there are certain networks of people who are indeed a level playing field. What they are doing is shunning ex-members, based on Jesus who remained silent. The old guard did this in their interaction with the NAE, who called their bluff and kicked them out. God only knows why the NAE let them back in after this.

      “3) An dislike and unfamiliarity with an open forum. Most older traditional missionaries grew up in UBF where the leader directed and the rest “just obeyed.” An open dialogue challenges that authoritarian and hierarchical model, which has been UBF’s only paradigm and framework. When the 1976 and 1990 “rebellion” occurred, up to 1/3rd of UBF left or were cast out.”

      > Fair enough.

      “4) A “misunderstanding” of the Trinity as a STRUCTURED ORDER of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, rather than a RELATIONAL EQUALITY of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

      > Misunderstanding the Trinity is not the problem for most of the old guard, Ben. Rejection of the Trinity is the problem. The 50th Anniversary Book is proof that the old guard rejects the Trinity, views the Holy Spirit as their enemy, accepts some sort of magical spirit power, and believes in a dualistic god of “Father” and “Jesus”, and Jesus always submits to the Father in their mind. This can be proven by examining the ubf lectures as well.

  53. Thanks, Brian. For whatever reason, I like your messy reaction to my messy reasons, for it made me chuckle. As Joe said, the interactions the last few days have been messily encouraging!

  54. While I think that these messy discussions are playing an essential part, I agree with Chris who said that nothing short of profound repentance is called for. Dialogue is good. And it will be even better as more people are involved. But what is absolutely necessary is a corporate change of heart that only God can bring about. Whether he will do so slowly, quickly or not at all, I just don’t know. In the meantime, I’m enjoying this messy, honest, even heretical discussion!

  55. I hear you, Sharon. Some people NEVER want UBF to change, EVER. They are alive and well, and pull the strings behind the curtain to try to make sure nothing changes.

    Some others, wish that UBF changed YESTERDAY. So anything short of this comes across as excuses, pacifying others, playing games, bolstering egos, etc.

    For sure, we, especially I, don’t know what the heck I am doing. But I am going to keep on doing until God and the Spirit does whatever He wishes (Ps 115:3; 135:6; Jn 3:8). Only Jesus alone can build His church (Mt 16:18).

    • And oh yes, God can also tear it down, as He did with Israel during the time of Jeremiah.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing either. But I am convinced of this: God has called me to participate in these difficult, awkward discussions and bear the resulting criticism that comes from many sides, because — as messy as it now looks — I can see no other road to reconciliation and unity.

      Yes, some people claim that UBF should have changed A LONG TIME AGO. And others say that UBF should NEVER, EVER change. But as you know I’m a very moderate person. Therefore I will say that UBF ought to change TODAY (2Co 6:2). And because I’m quite patient and gracious, I will even settle for TOMORROW, or perhaps even THIS MONTH.

    • Joe Schafer

      For those of you who don’t know me well: that last comment was meant as a joke. Of course, I am in no position to demand that anyone have a change of heart within my preferred time schedule. But it is my best guess that, if change does not happen soon, the consequences will be dire.

    • David Bychkov

      reading comments like this I feel pity that I already have left UBF. :)

    • Joe Schafer

      We feel sorry about that too.

  56. I like your jokes, Joe. Please keep them up. We need some levity on this very messy site!

    I fully agree with your last statement. But I have honestly heard more frequently from not a few people the EXACT OPPOSITE statement that if change happens too soon in UBF, the consequences will be dire!

  57. Thank you for your comments. in my view, Asian culture is more like “unity in uniformity” (vs “unity in diversity”). From young age (middle school, high school) students all wear same uniforms and hat like military uniform. The education system in Asia is also different from Western countries. From elementary school to college all lectures are given by teachers/professors one-sidedly. Every students write down what they said in their notebook. Also this is a good way to get good grades.(Teachers in Asian countries are highly respected unlike America) Discussion or debate are almost non-existent. That’s why many Asian students are very poor in debate and creativity. On the other hand, I see many American students are well trained from their young age to raise questions/voices in the classroom and actively participate in discussion/debate. I can see all you guys are good examples. I am amazed at your excellency in expressing your ideas freely, logically.

    In the Korean Parliament, sometimes many congressmen from different parties just cannot debate coolly, logically. When they have different opinions, many of them just get upset and go out to the front podium and fist fight each other, raising voices, saying bad words each other. In other word, angry emotions come out first ahead of logical explanation. The cultural norm is that if you agree with me, you are my friend, but if you do not agree with me, you are my enemy. When I came to America as a training medical doctor, I saw medical doctors freely share different ideas in a very cordial/ respectful way. I learned from them a phrase, “I respectfully disagree with you.” There is no such phrase in Korea.

    Another problem is as Dr Underwood mentioned in his essay, loyalty is virtue,( not loyal is immoral) more important than honesty. In the hierarchical society like Korea they find where they are in their pecking order and see “Noonchi” of their superiors and keep their mouth shut. In other word, they are afraid of expressing different ideas from their superiors. These problems are not just UBF problem, but it is same in all Asian culture which was influenced by Confucius.

    That’s why sometimes it is so difficult to understand each other. But it is OK because in God we can have unity in diversity. Jesus who is the Creator God came down to this earth and mingled with people who are soooo different from him and accepted/ welcomed them just as they are.

    • “But it is OK because in God we can have unity in diversity.” Amen to that. If you look at creation, on the different kinds of galaxies, stars and planets (every planet in our solar system is very different from the other), the million of different species of insects, all the animals and plants which are so different, and then humans which are all unique down to their fingerprints, then there is no way than to admit that God just loves diversity. If we fail to see that and try to make people uniform, I don’t see how we could make God happy.

    • Joe Schafer

      I love these latest comments.

      Unity-in-diversity is not just found in creation; it is a feature of God himself.

      About ten years ago, Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias visited Penn State University and gave wonderful talks to faculty and staff and then to students. During one of the question-and-answer periods, he started to talk about the university (unity-in-diversity) as a picture of the community of God. He said, “There is unity and diversity in the community of the Trinity.” I hope and pray that UBF will display this as well. After all, the “U” in “UBF” means university, not uniformity.

    • James, thank you for sharing this excellent description of Korean culture. It is helpful to understand.

      What I hope our Korean brothers and sisters would understand is that Chris and I (and others) are not disparaging Koran culture or hoping that Koreans become Germans or Americans. We are criticizing and exposing based on Christian ideas. Of course we are doing so with our own cultural bias. But that is a good thing.

      As an American who spent 24 years in ubf, I feel that my culture was fully suppressed and that I was demanded to become Korean in order to become holy and pleasing to God.

      I think we all need to strive for a Christian community that goes beyond our own cultures. I have found Koreans and Americans have a HUGE opportunity to do that. But it takes a bit more flexibility from the Korean side of things.

    • It’s amazing to contrast the rapid industrial development and innovativeness of South Korea (just one example with the incredible backwardness of North Korea ( Yet, both countries are rooted in the same Confucian culture. It would be good to see reform in UBF develop in the same pace as in South Korea, not stagnant as in North Korea.

  58. Thank you James for explaining a bit more about Korean culture.

    When you say that “these problems are not just UBF problem, but it is same in all Asian culture which was influenced by Confucius.” this gives me some hope because it seems you’re really rating this as a problem. We don’t need to be fatalistic about problems. We can overcome problems. Aren’t UBFers famous for overcoming any kind of problem (I mean this honestly)? But I also observed that many Koreans in UBF do not see Confucianism as a problem, they see it rather as a problem that they have become “tainted” with western rational logic and the spirit of discussion, and they sometimes even “repent” of that. They seem to think that Confucianism is the cherry on the cake of Christianity, or maybe sometimes even the other way around, Christianity is the cherry on top of the cake of Confucianism. It would be an important first step if UBF leaders recognize and admit that such thinking is a problem.

    Just to be clear: Confucianism is not all bad, it has many good teachings, and loyalty is a real virtue, but the problem is when you start to mix these teachings with Christian teachings and set the wrong priorities. Do we agree in this? We must put love and truth above everything else. The Bible says “God is love” and “the spirit is the truth”. Just read the first verses of 3 John – it’s all about living and walking in the truth, not about being loyal.

    I also think it’s too fatalistic and insulting if we insinuate that Koreans can’t argue logically and cannot make drastic moves or challenge authorities. What I admire about Koreans is that they can adapt very quickly to adverse conditions, learn new things very quickly, and can make radical moves in their lives if they are determined. To leave Korea and work as a missionary without being paid and without knowing the language and culture at all and without knowing whether they will find a job is a good example. We all marvel and acknowledge this courage and decidedness. And I believe many did this against the advice and wish of their parents. I.e. they were principally able to ignore Confucian traditions. All members, including the now stubborn and hardened leaders, once had this flexibility and willingness to live according to the truth. If you look into Korean history, there are also events like the 5.18 uprising which show that Koreans are not principally unable to stand up against authorities.

    Recognizing the problems in many UBF practices and teachings is not only a problem of logical thinking. These problems have also manifested in many staggering grievances like those reported in the 1976 letter. When reading about such things, you don’t need much logical thinking to understand that there are problems, but you need a heart. And I think if anything, Koreans have big hearts. They really should be able to understand.

    • Good summary Chris. I say “ditto”.

      “What I admire about Koreans is that they can adapt very quickly to adverse conditions, learn new things very quickly, and can make radical moves in their lives if they are determined.”

      Indeed. South Korea just recently elected a woman president. Even the USA has not done that yet. And Psy has gone global, beating everyone in youtube views.

      Perhaps Koreans have the potential to be even more progressive and open and radical than Americans?

      Or perhaps the Korean missionaries living foreign countries missed out on the cultural revolution occurring in South Korea?

  59. “They seem to think that Confucianism is the cherry on the cake of Christianity, or maybe sometimes even the other way around, Christianity is the cherry on top of the cake of Confucianism.”
    Chris, you are absolutely right. Jesus is above all human culture. Thank you again for your positive and constructive comment.

  60. Thanks, guys. Being a man reputed for making sweeping generalizations and extreme statements, let me make another one: These recent comments and interactions are the best UBFriends have ever had!

    Thanks, James, for not being silent, and for being willing to dialogue on this “rogue” site. Without your willingness to do so, the vision of Joe for UBFriends might have never seen the light of day.

    I love Chris’ comments extolling the strengths and virtues of Koreans. I have known them and seen their beauty since the day I stepped into UBF in 1980. I have said to many people that no matter how much I strongly disagree with certain things in UBF, I will have no hesitation to entrust my life and the lives of my children to my Korean brethren.

    I also love Joe’s statement of what U in UBF does and does not stand for.

    Wow. Today, by the grace of God, may be a good Sabbath day.

  61. I had a thought: If you look at the top 5 commented articles, don’t you think it coincides with among the top 5 “problems” UBF people have, that until recently, “no one would talk about”?

    1) Leave UBF or stay.

    2) Cultish behavior.

    3) Marriage issues.

    4) Frustration (that cannot be addressed).

    5) Let’s talk! (Oh no, let’s not…)

    • Yes, Ben exactly my thought for quite some time now. That’s why I say it is not so difficult for a ubf director to know the problems of ubf, they are obvious and the world already knows about them via the internet.

      Of course, we know it is indeed difficult for a ubf director to acknowledge and address these problems. We need to understand that this is the hardest thing ever for them to do, and in fact, to do such things does require God’s redemptive intervention. I became convinced that Jesus Himself must intervene for reconciliation to happen.

      [I think there will be a lot of donkeys who see God’s angel and suddenly begin speaking. And there probably will be a lot of horses who see blinding lights soon too…]

    • For what it’s worth, the Passion of Christ movie sparked a turning point for me sometime in 2010, moving me to eventually resign as a UBF Director.

      This movie is always on my mind as I blog. Surely Jesus was a heretic at the end of his life to the eyes of the ordinary Jews and the Jewish leaders.

      Seeing Jesus smile at the criminal on the cross was the specific moment that melted my heart and sparked my multi-year transformational journey.

      Paradise was born in my heart at that time because just before watching this I felt I had failed as a UBF Director and had little reason to live:

    • Wow. Whenever I check my Google reader and I see 100 unread blog postings, more often than not 75% are from UBFriends!

      I just wanted to say that John Y was very encouraged by this recent respectful dialogue.

      Keep it up everyone!

  62. Thank you Ben for coming to my house for chatting together with Chicago elders. (Alan, Daniel and Augustine.) For more than three hours we chatted many subjects HOTly (Honest, Open, Transparent with Love). We talked and laughed so much non stop until 10:30 PM. We had to stop because it was getting late. (I think Ben talked about 50 percent and the rest of us talked 50 percent.) We all agreed that we wanted to have this kind of meeting more often and agreed to meet again after Ben’s returning from Philippine short term mission trip. Next time I will serve another delicious sushi and more.

    • Good to see such meetings happen. I hope more will join. It’s really time for these kind of talks. If something really matters to us, we do not get tired. Of course now we’re all getting old and our passion and energy is dwindling. But I remember when I was young I often talked and discussed about philosophy or science with my friends the whole night until early in the morning, and still went to work/university the next day.

    • Yes, I too am glad for such meetings. But this is a snapshot of what I observed all 2 decades in ubf: The shepherds and missionaries rejoice and eat kimchee together while the sheep wallow in fear and anger and frustration over the excessive intrusion into their lives.

      Shepherds who are free from abusive control then feel so good about themselves and about ubf ministry, wondering why sheep don’t rejoice, why they are not so thankful. It is nothing new; it is the same pattern as always, just with different people.

    • Thanks, James, as you know, if I did not follow UBFriends commenting policy, I may have talked 99% of the time!

      Yeah, Chris, when we have such “open” meetings, I could have gone on for several hours more.

      Without a doubt, Brian, “sheep” must also join in such open dialogue and communication. That would be the only way for “top down” domination to cease, and for true servanthood and diversity to begin among us.

    • Good point Ben: “sheep” must also join in such open dialogue and communication.

      What day it would be when ex-ubf people are also allowed into such open dialogue!

  63. After the “table fellowship” Ben sent me e-mail.
    “Thanks, brothers, that we could meet and chat freely. Thanks, James, for your gracious and open-hearted hospitality. I was so happy to see Joan and John. If all our UBF meetings and gatherings are free flowing like this, I will never miss any meeting! God willing, I may meet up with you again after May when I return from Manila.” Jesus had many table fellowship and it was very fruitful ministry. Thanks Chris for your comment. I have not met you personally, but I want to meet with you someday when the opportunity comes.

    • Thanks, James,

      Do you think that it is possible for UBF to begin to have all our elders meetings, member’s meeting, weekly fellowship meetings, staff meetings with such a free flowing dialogue, open-heartedness, and exchange in love and diversity?

      I ask this question because our UBF meetings have a flow of “order” coming from the oldest senior leader/missionary imposing themselves through their stories, announcements, jokes, prayer topics onto everyone else who really has “no choice” but to agree and accept what he says. This, I think, is what Brian is sharing, which has “crushed the spirit” of many, sooner or later.

      Perhaps, the elder’s meeting under your stewardship is beginning to have such open dialogue.

      * Perhaps, you might freely share with your fellow elders on Tue evening the spirit of our happy meeting at your house on Sun, and ask the input of Daniel, Augustine and Alan.

      * Perhaps, you might want to suggest to the General Director, to UBF staff and fellowship leaders to have such open-hearted “official” UBF meetings at EVERY meeting.

      * Perhaps, next year’s annual member’s meeting may have such an “open” forum.

      Then, as I have said, if all UBF meetings becomes like the meeting we had, I will never ever miss any UBF meetings, ever!

    • This is another reason why a paradigm of “spiritual order” in which the leaders are supposed to have spiritual authority over others and are special “servants of God” is a bad thing. When they are considered to be people who are closer to God than others, or even “mediators” to God, and are superior to others, open dialog is completely ruled out. When people tried to talk about or with Samuel Lee, they were told “do not touch God’s anointed” 12 years ago. He was sacrosanct. When such a spirit exists, open dialog is impossible.

      Nor can open dialog happen when the chapter director has the power to kick members out of the church, arrange or not arrange or postpone or cancel their marriage, or shame and blame member s in front of the others in meetings. There are many things that are interlocking here. All the practices and teachings of UBF establish an unhealthy alliance where all parts reinforce each others and make it difficult to change things without making a fundamental paradigm shift. For us, who already have released ourselves from our “self-incurred tutelage” (as Kant would say), it is easy to talk freely. But, as Brian already pointed out, for the sheep it is very difficult, as they have to fear the power of the authorities. That’s another reason why older members are obliged to really push things forward, because only they really can do it. Also, the 2nd gens should push more, as they have a jester’s license since their parents will not kick them out or declare them as “children of the devil” so easily.

    • James,

      You wrote: “Thanks Chris for your comment. I have not met you personally, but I want to meet with you someday when the opportunity comes.”

      ubf ought to fly Chris and his family on an all-expenses paid vacation (i.e. no ubf meetings) in America, including a stop in Chicago, so all the leaders could apologize in person, given the abuse he has endured.

    • Hi James,

      Since you will be in Kyiv, Ukraine, a meeting of sorts can perhaps be arranged. Perhaps even a phone call. Small gestures of love, I believe, can go a long way.

    • Well, perhaps, Ben. Chris is in Germany (as far as I know). But meeting our friend David Bychov in Ukraine would be a great idea! Not sure how far Vitaly is from Ukraine…

    • Please no, I don’t need or want any special apology. I believe others have experienced much worse spiritual abuse, including many many Korean members who never spoke a word about it and only suffered silently, broken families etc. What I want to see is only that UBF finally admits both the concrete cases of spiritual abuse and other sins commited by the founder and those who tried to copy him, and the fact that this abuse is a systemic issue inherent in the bundle of practices and teachings introduced by the founder and currently still hailed as UBF’s “spiritual heritage”. Once this is understood and admitted, a general apology to all current and former members would be natural, and healing and reconciliation would be the result. Those who make such a step, if they do it really honestly and consequently, would earn a lot of respect, quite contrary to their fears that they would lose face.

    • Agreed, Chris. Perhaps the advantage of a personal meeting would be to articulate in person what you have been stating quite clearly online, which as you know some UBF people cannot endure hearing, and will continue to refuse to hear it.

      God became flesh/man to reach us. Thus, meeting in person or talking in person changes/improves the dynamic of communication, rather than just in email/cyberspace.

    • Ben, yes, but on the other hand it would only strengthen the wrong impression that it is a problem that UBF has with me and not a problem that UBF has with its own past and its own theology, and that my problems are worse than all the things which have been written down in hundreds of testimonies of ex members already and all those which have not been written down. Unfortunately, UBF has passed up the chance to speak with these people when they left, and passed the chance to speak with the reformers when the issues were burning. Now, most of these people are disillusioned, tired and burned out and don’t want to talk any more. Many are not even alive any more. Wonderful people like James Kim from Toledo and Peter Chang from Columbus, after much hesitation, took time to discuss things in 2001 after they already had been away from UBF for many years, just to experience another disappointment. There are only a few who still talk like me, but I guess none of them is really eager to spend even more time with this. My wife is already angry about me when I “waste my time” writing so much here on the Internet. We feel we have wasted too much of our precious life time with UBF already and much more must happen to make us change our minds. Real change must and will come from inside when the members are willing to really demand it, and leaders are willing to really repent, ideally both. Those who have eyes to see can see already (the current problems and read about the problems of the past).

    • This is an excellent point Chris, “…it would only strengthen the wrong impression that it is a problem that UBF has with me and not a problem that UBF has with its own past and its own theology…”

      This is at the heart of the ubf/ex-ubf miscommunication. ubf people keep talking about the “inter-personal” problems between ubf people and people who left. People who left keep talking about the problems between ubf ideology/heritage/image/history and current ubf members, and also their own recovery from such ideology,etc.

      So I really wish ubf people would consider the reality that even if all inter-personal conflicts were fully resolved, there is still a problem, the same problem in fact that causes the exodus of leaders every few years. And let’s say I was best friends with all ubf people. I would still never return to such a controlling system.

      In other words, people are not the problem; the religious machine called ubf is the problem. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ubf directors have diagrammed the ubf machine several times.

  64. Just want to remind everyone that the pain keeps flowing. Two more ubf members reached out to me over the weekend, expressing their pain over excessive manipulation of their lives by ubf shepherds.

    I sincerely hope that such kumbaya moments as above may lead to the opening of the eyes of all of us to see the facts of abuse and release the bonds of shepherd/sheep relationships. Such things do not require a meeting with every person individually.

    • I hear you Brian. Let’s not forget how much many are struggling and need genuine friendship.

    • I will rejoice only when I see that ubf missionaries and shepherds are strengthening the weak or healing the sick or binding up the injured, when they have brought back the strays and searched for the lost, and have stopped ruling the “sheep” harshly and brutally.

  65. I would love to talk philosophy and science with you, Chris. I still have energy for that, though I’m starting to get arthritis.

  66. What’s with all the “old people” talk? I’m in my ’40s and have more energy and passion than ever!

    What have ubf members and former members thanked me for the most these last 2 years? For listening without giving commands or advice! I’ve listened to so many stories of pain and abuse, and gave no advice. I only shared briefly some of my experiences and principles. And I have an enormous amount of energy from God to keep on listening… and blogging.

  67. Over a decade ago, a Bible student said to me as I was attempting to respond to him sharing his agonies and frustration: “Dr. Ben, I did not call you to ask you to tell me what to do. I called you so that you would listen to what I have to say.”


    • 20 years ago such a statement would have earned that person dead-dog training of some sort. Glad to see progress!

      And the fact that this person felt they could say such a thing to you Ben demonstrates that even a decade ago you were much more willing to discuss issues and problems than most other ubf leaders.

  68. A succinct conclusion to an article:

    “Does God allow his people to express anger? Yes, he does. But only under these circumstances: You are reacting against actual sin, you are more concerned with the offense against God than the offense against yourself, and you are expressing your anger in ways consistent with Christian character. And as we can all testify, this kind of righteous anger is difficult and rare.”