Changes or Just Illusions?

i1I want to suggest all UBFers to consider this piece from an article Control Mechanisms in the ICC and to answer the question: Are changes in UBF real or they are just illusion which serves for keeping UBFers in? I am not claiming they are not real as I don’t really know. I myself just can not consider the changes which are going in my chapter (Kiev UBF) to be real because of the fact that reconciliation with my family has never happened yet. So please read this article about the ICC and ask the question, are the changes real or just illusions?

So, here is the piece:

(Quoted from Control Mechanisms in the ICC)

“The viewpoint generally fostered is that the ICC in general has changed, corrected all wrongs and that any claimed problems are not the way the ICC is any more. If a specific leader is involved, he or she must be seen as having changed unless he or she has lost his position. [When a leader has fallen out of favor, it is permitted to denigrate him or her, provide that his or her misconduct are viewed firmly in the past tense.] It must never be admitted that the ideals of the group are flawed.

Sometimes, particularly on minor issues, a leader will give permission for a problem to be admitted and allow some discussion of possible solutions. This is not a common practice. When it does occur, it will be over something like a group outing or people arriving late to a meeting. But even on such issues, the leader remains firmly in control of what topics may be discussed. An ordinary member will not be given the floor to address serious problems. Similarly, critical matters are not discussed openly, admitted to be current problems, with ordinary members freely offering options for solutions. Members who dare to speak up have been silenced and even ejected from the group.

The only exception to this practice of treating problems in the past tense is to state that the group is not committed enough, not working hard enough, not baptizing enough – this admission must always be couched in terms of the group needing to work harder to achieve its ambitions. Only issues of this type may be considered in the present tense – all others must be viewed as past tense. This exception enhances the control by the ICC leadership by pushing the members to be even more dedicated to following the leaders’ edicts.

This illusion of change helps the member avoid assessing the group. If something bad has happened then it is always in the past, it is time forgive and forget. This very way of thinking allows abuse to continue by preventing open and serious dialog amongst the members. This way of not dealing with problems also grants further power to the leadership by making the only source of change those selfsame leaders. Even leaders have been stifled in their efforts to affect changes, by higher-ranking leaders. Those who have tried have typically been fired and/or kicked out of the ICC.

Previously, anyone who spoke out against Kip’s sins faced serious retribution. Now, his serious offenses are permitted to be mentioned. But the discussions are in the past tense. The problems have to be viewed as being solved. Repentance, forgiveness and love must abound. No demand by ordinary members for serious reform may be made.

Even I, a former member, have received emails from current members to the effect that I am wrong to continue to oppose the ICC since all these problems are supposedly in the past. Since certain apologies have been made, by McKean and other leaders, then everything must be viewed as mistakes of the past. Such views illustrate my point very well: no means exists to admit and address CURRENT problems. They all have to be viewed as being things of the past.

The past tense nature of handling these issues leads to there being no meaningful evaluation of what aspects of the group cause these sorts of problems. Despite the repeated abuses of leadership happening innumerable times, it is all viewed as isolated incidents. The clear pattern of emotional and psychological abuse by leaders on the ordinary members is not taken into consideration. There is no examination into the core beliefs (or lack thereof) that lead to such events. Almost invariably, the view taken is that any problem is just some leaders’ sins and has already been fixed.

This brings me to the point of abusive forgiveness. Forgiveness is a very good thing, but it can be used for abusive purposes. Forgiveness is not just letting something go unaddressed (unless it is a trivial issue such as forgetting to do something you promised). Forgiveness serves to repair a friendship and to promote growth in the relationship. It can be abused by such things as repeatedly doing something, demanding forgiveness each time, but never meaningfully working to change. In that situation, the abuse continues and the relationship cannot grow. This is just what the ICC leadership has done.”


  1. Hi David,

    I am very sorry to hear that reconciliation with your Kyiv UBF chapter has not happened with you.

    For what it is worth, UBF in Chicago has started what I proposed as a “Reconciliation Committee.” This is obviously in its very rudimentary stages while we have countless broken relationships in countless countries and chapters where there is UBF.

    I am personally very serious about this. I have shared with some that reconciliation in UBF is far far more important than just “going fishing to fish new sheep,” while ignoring past unresolved and unaddressed painful issues.

    Personally I hope that UBF’s attempts at reconciliation will be a sincere, genuine and real attempt (albeit imperfect), and not be just an illusion of change or an illusion of reconciliation. If I have any say in this at all, I will do my best to make sure that it is not an illusion.

    I welcome all proposals and suggestions as to how we may even begin to proceed with the reconciliation process with all those who have experienced wounds, trauma, abuses and negative experiences in UBF.

    • @ben: I think to facilitate reconciliation, it is really necessary to bring in a neutral third party. Reconciliation cannot be real or genuine without that because of the long-standing authority gaps between the hurt parties. For instance, I could never meet my former chapter director without the history of the difference in authority constraining our meeting. I would automatically begin to defer to him, and he would automatically begin to act with seniority over me, because that is how we always acted towards each other. Without a intermediary who is external to UBF (e.g. a pastor or other professional who specializes in such situations), I think that it will be very difficult to come to a reconciliation that is not unsatisfactory and unbalanced.

    • +1 Thanks, Josh. What you wrote seems so obvious to “sheep,” but is often a glaring blind spot to those in leadership.

    • Dr. Ben, the Reconciliation Committee sounds like it has the potential to do some good. This is the first time that I have heard about it. Can you give us some details about it or how it came about?

  2. Please note that the listed order is commentary on paragraphs from the quotation:

    1) It is possible for UBF chapters to change, but I have not seen evidence from the UBF administration of a policy that enforces change. Furthermore, when has a chapter director been told that he is no longer a director because of abuses? I once suggested to a missionary who had desire to pioneer that such a director should lose his title, role and status. I was met with disagreement and hostility.

    2) Problems do not seem to be openly discussed in front of juniors unless they are the problem – something is wrong with their growth and development.

    3) In relation to UBF I would describe it like this:
    The course of activity runs in an annual cycle which repeats forever.
    a) Semester begins – intense activities and planning for recruitment
    b) Step up the student testimony meetings for all potential newcomers
    c) Host Bible Academies or Bible Café’s (maybe once a month in some chapters)
    d) Christmas Worship Service
    e) Winter Semester resumes a second push for new recruitment
    f) Student testimony meetings and other activities remain steady
    g) Easter Conference or Retreat
    h) Closing year, usually witnesses a decline in campus activity
    i) Summer preparation for International, National or Local conferences

    Now, this omits that leaders primarily focus on the growing and established students who may take on new responsibilities at any time during this cycle. I would also say that in many cases people are not told to forgive and forget in UBF. They are told to repent of unforgiveness and reminded that it is strictly their problem, in their heart. It is a very different use of language. As for kicking out, I know it happens, but usually most chapters will just leave the decision up to the person (people) and praise them if they stay (and conform) or silently criticize them if they leave (false mourning/grieving).

    4) Exactly like SL, it would appear that no one carries on his methods in way of tradition and heritage. (sarcasm) Ditto.

    5,6) Past tense and covering up. Most often, if someone holds onto a feeling for a long time everyone plays dumb. Apparently, they have been able to move along in life, but something is holding you back. It would not be uncommon for UBFers to accuse the person who raised a past incident of being demon possessed. That being said, it has been possible for even me to discuss past matters with some leaders, but no real conclusion ends up getting made – afterall it is the past.

    7) Forgiveness is a failsafe, because, “Who can argue with forgiveness?” Of course relationships are not mended. In fact, most times I wager that those who stay in UBF “agree to disagree” and demonstrate loyalty in that way. It is insincere and again covers up the real issue at hand.

    To wrap up, I would argue that real change is happening in bigger chapters where there are so many personalities. I would follow that up by also emphasizing how many years that chapter has been in operation. If it is a short time, so much depends upon the director. However, how do you monitor the small chapters? I have heard terrible things about small chapters. In fact some of the examples that I have learned about do not even resemble the UBF that I know. I won’t even begin to discuss Christianity and the Bible. Lastly, this is certainly not exhaustive commentary on my part, just some things that come to mind at the moment.

  3. By the way, does the optical illusion depict Vladimir Lenin?

  4. Thanks, David, for the article. I know the source has a Russian translation (

    About the changes or illusion, I think that ubf leaders don’t care even about an illusion. But thank God I see real change in my life and in the lives of all who left ubf (even through their comments here).

  5. big bear

    Just illusions…Ubf is a master of avoiding real family problems and at avoiding problems in general…in all my years 20 plus I never saw my chater director help anyone outside of Ubf or the needs of others…..I never saw him respect other Christians…..I do not believe he lives before God but wears a mask of a pharisee…..he has never grown….same old ideas and same old ubf cliches…try real repentance….try real change..ubf taught me everything that is wrong with religion…definitely 3rd party

  6. @Vitaly, thank God for you and many others who speak up and whose lives have clearly changed for the better after leaving UBF. But I think that the lives of some who remain in UBF also do change for the better, IN SPITE of UBF. I don’t believe that GRACE discriminates between those who leave and those (like me) who decide to stay in UBF.

  7. big bear, Joshua, are you sure ubf leaders will survive a third party? Can you imagine a ubf director and a third party talking? Will ubf directors allow this to happen? Any third party would destroy ubf at once.

    • @vitaly: It depends on the ubf director. Some won’t tolerate an outsider. Others I think will. The third party isn’t there to declare right versus wrong, but to ensure that reconciliation occurs on a level field between equal members of God’s family. If a ubf director is not willing to condescend in such a way, then truly the reconciliation is impossible.

    • The third party isn’t there to declare right versus wrong, but to ensure that reconciliation occurs on a level field between equal members of God’s family. – See more at:

      I simply can not agree with “equal members of God’s family”. And I am sure that a third party should “declare right versus wrong” otherwise what kind of reconciliation would it be: between right and wrong? Are right and wrong “equal members of God’s family”? Who is right in the big bear’s case, Sibbolet’s, Chris’s, AbNial’s, your, mine, etc? Are we just scattered wrong parties? Or are we united “thanks’ to a common wrong party of ubf?

    • @vitaly: I guess my idea for the role of a third party is not to be an arbitrator, but a mediator; not to decide areas of guilt or innocence, but to ensure that the UBF leaders do not continue to lord over the ex-members when they meet.

      “Equal members of God’s household” — by that I mean that leaders should not pretend that they are not above exUBFers, and they shouldn’t assume any sort of spiritual superiority but enter into a reconciliation process humbly, contritely, and with poverty of spirit.

      “should declare right verses wrong” — this part is absolutely necessary. It actually comes before reconciliation. Truly, it should be a “Truth and Reconciliation Committee”. The truth phase identifies what happened (the truth; no spin) so that true repentance and reconciliation can occur. In my opinion, I think such an honest self-examination is the more unlikely thing to occur in UBF, more unlikely than real reconciliation. UBFers love to feign ignorance and pretend that they are innocent of others’ mistakes, when it is the same unbiblical ideology and works-righteousness system underneath everything. It is uncharacteristic to honestly examine the ministry and its fruit in an unbiased way, except when they want to glorify it.

    • sorry, I mean leaders should not pretend that they are above exUBFers…

    • Joshua, I think that if ubf leaders agree to reconcile with a third party present it would mean that there is something Christian in ubf. Usually cults are very closed especially for third parties. To bring a third party into the dialogue with ubf would mean fo ubf leaders to step into the light. And I am sure they are not ready, not willing and wouldn’t sirvive in the light. As Brian says this site is just a tip of the iceberg of the darkness of ubf. And ubf leaders are not willing to step even into this small ray of light.

  8. big bear

    YES WILL SURVIVE if true repentace but many of the senior leaders should step down and take a year to see their sins and get right with the body of Christ….God will make a way……Nicodemus was changed and saul….must pay restitution for us who endured abuses

  9. Guys, Regarding equality, I love this classic quote by John Stott, which perhaps we UBFers and exUBFers can appreciate: “…it is my firm conviction that there is too much autocracy in the leaders of the Christian community, in defiance of the teaching of Jesus and his apostles, and not enough love and gentleness. Too many behave as if they believed not in the priesthood of all believers but in the papacy of all pastors.” – See more at:

    Someday hopefully all of UBF may appreciate this very practical and relevant quote by Stott.

  10. Changes or illusions in ubf? Only illusions. The changes so far have just been re-arranging the mirrors and keeping the smoke going. The evidence of godly sorrow is no where to be seen among chapter directors and those who rank above them, even after hearing multitudes of abuse testimonies from around the world for 5 decades.

  11. @David Weed. Recently I proposed starting a Reconciliation Committee. Since this is in her infancy, there is really not much to say. But I am optimistic, since reconciliation with exUBFers has never been seriously considered as something crucial, necessary and biblical until perhaps recently.

    I will say what I have been saying which is that reconciliation is at the heart of God and of the Bible. Therefore seeking reconciliation would be far more important than “going fishing and feeding new sheep.” If reconciliation is weak then the health of the church is weak, with suboptimal trust, friendship, partnership, etc. Any new people brought to church, would be to a church whose health is weak and dysfunctional.

    It’s like a family with a few bad kids because of dysfunctional parents. Instead of the parents dealing with their own issues, they decide to have more kids to replace the old bad kids.

    • OK, sorry, the family illustration is perhaps not very good!

    • I’m not sure whether any reconciliation efforts can or should start now. The first step would be that leaders clearly, unmistakenly and publicly admit that they were running a “system” of unbiblical and abusive practices and teachings that was in effect in a similar way to more or less extend in all of UBF, and that they are sorry about both the systems and their individual wrongdoings as part of result of that system. The next step would be thinking or talking about reconciliation. I am very skepical about any reconciliation efforts starting before that has happened, and I personally would not want to be part of them. And enough has been said and written about UBF so that all good-willed leaders can recognize this. And I don’t want to have anything to do with the not-good-willed leaders. Unrepentent sinners should not be tolerated and avoided (1Cor 5,9-11) and unreptentent leaders are even worse.

      The name “truth and reconciliation committee” would be already better. But still – we already discussed this – trying to solve this problem in the old ways (“behind closed doors”, “top down” and “never mind, we think for you”) will not do in this case. It must be a broad discussion in all chapters.

    • +1 agree. I expressed in essence what you say here starting with a genuine apology acknowledging abuses without any self-justification, such as “we didn’t mean it.”