What Happened in Toledo UBF – Part 3

wRecently I shared a two-part article about what was happening in Toledo UBF. In part 1, I shared how the Toledo UBF members tore down the old center building that James Kim had built and how 7 families, 38 people, 282 years of committment from American leaders was lost in a short time period. In part 2, I shared several thoughtful, heartfelt and restrained responses from my friends who left the ministry around the same time my family did. This week Toledo UBF finally responded. A generic form letter was sent to several of those people who had shared in my “part 2” article. We each got the same letter. Here is my public reaction.

We were wrong

As a few of us former members discussed this letter, we concluded the best part was the “we were wrong” part. So I’ll start with their list of 11 admissions of wrongdoing. I must caution any excitement since those who are admitting this are the American leaders. Only two Koreans were listed on the letter. We can only conclude that the other Koreans in Toledo UBF do not admit these wrongdoings. Still, here are the admissions in the letter.











A Disengenious Form Letter

The one word we came up with for this form letter is “disingenuous“, which is an adjective meaning “not truly honest or sincere; giving the false appearance of being honest or sincere”.  Why disingenuous? Well for starters, they misspelled my name. They didn’t remember our addresses. They did not take 10 seconds and sign the paper with a pen and instead just typed some names at the bottom. Some names were glaringly left out of the letter, communicating clearly that the Koreans do not agree with the letter. The timing is horrible, coming almost 3 years too late. They sent the form letters immediately after yet another leader family in Toledo UBF left for many of the same reasons shared in my “part 2” article. And most importantly, the letter was all about them and what they are doing and what they have done and how much better they are now. Hint: An apology is not about you.

And the following statements did not help matters…

“You once participated”





So we “once participated”? Yea, once upon a time and long ago (like about 3 years ago) we gave our sweat, blood and tears to live and breathe ubf ministry for over two decades. And the changes you mention? I already know about those changes. In fact, I may know more about the “change” in Toledo UBF and ubf worldwide than you do. We former members actually know a lot more information than you realize.

“Many who left did not fully share their true concerns and hurts”






Really? We did not share dozens of pages about our true concerns (which you dismissed and did not read carefully)? Do you really want me to create another blog? How many blogs will it take to express to you my true concerns and hurts?

Where is the godly sorrow?




Ok we get it. Toledo UBF is such a Christ-governed church as your letterhead says so boldly. You have so many weaknesses and failures. But you are still a blessing? You are still being used for God’s purpose? The bible clearly teaches that godly sorrow precedes repentance. I only hear flattery, condescension and patronizing.

Apology Accepted

Ok so inspite of my “trauma trigger reaction” from receiving yet another form letter from ubf (didn’t we ubfers always receive form letters every Christmas and New Year’s?), I accept your apology. Why? Because you admit for the first time that you were wrong. Any time you want to meet in person, let me know. [Scratch that. I’ve changed my mind. Just don’t contact me ever again.]

More responses….

So since posting this article I’ve gotten some more responses.

From NM:
“My initial response to the letter of apology is first, that I appreciate the list of unhealthy practices. These show that some listening is taking place. I imagine that this list was not easy to create. I really hope this acknowledgement of unhealthy practices finds its way into practice. Although I thought the list was good, the letter did not make me feel any better. I’m still working my way through that. I think that the biggest reason is two-fold. First, almost every practice on the list was brought up in meetings before the mass exodus a few years ago, but they were dismissed. I personally remember bringing up the fact that the mission statement that came out of Korea basically said that these practices would not change. I knew this would make change difficult in Toledo. Yet, my comments were quickly and summarily dismissed. Second, the letter states, “We care about, love, and appreciate each person who participated in this ministry”. It is hard not to view this as disingenuous since it is written in an unsigned form letter. They did not know people’s addresses. They spelled Brian’s name wrong. And there is the glaring omission of Joan Park’s name. After being in the ministry and being told how much I was loved and appreciated over and over, while being dismissed and marginalized, makes this seem like more of the same.

However, it is possible that I am being completely unfair. I think the letter was an honest attempt to help those still in UBF. For myself, I’m not sure anything would make me feel better about my experience and I think my experience has left me overly critical in some respects. In the end, I think that my overall response is, “How can I respond to ensure that I have no further contact”. I don’t want to re-experience all of these negative feelings. I don’t want to read impersonal form letters. I don’t want to talk to people that use impersonal, “spiritual” language. My time is much better spent with friends who can be authentic, honest, and refuse to cloak meaning in “spiritual-speak”. These are the people and the attitudes that help me grow closer to God in spite of the fact that I find most Christians to be weird and mean.

From an anonymous friend:
-Luke 18:13, UBF people are arrogant Pharisees, they are not humble tax collectors, prostitutes and public sinners.

-The summary of the committee is definately a form letter. It has not removed subsequent members who have also left. It implies that you have been engaged in active communication with Toledo people. However, as I know from your openness, they almost tell you to F*** off – because they don’t want to speak with you. Now that is not open dialogue at all.

-The list of grievances sounds like lip service and insincere acknowledgements from sources such as your blog, ufriends and any other online website where former members can outline problems in UBF.

-Where is the public apology? I can’t see it. Oh, this electronic form letter? Really?! Public apology should be held at a formal meeting in the church with all members (including non-member students) so that the sins are truly open. Moreover, I think such apology calls for a conference or retreat. If you want an apology to be sincere “UBF style” than it absolutely must take three-four days of intense reflection and repentance on what God wants and what UBF has failed to do.

-Many who left didn’t fully share their concerns? Wtf? From what I read through the Toledo stories on ubfriends members were speaking up – but silenced until the system truly failed and something had to be done.

-They are willing to hear from people expressing grievances. They are willing to listen at the discretion and in accordance with the victims demands? Really? This sounds contradictory from realities that I am naively aware of.

-Failures were done in the name of God, but it is okay because by this such people can grow spiritually. It was God’s purpose and they love the former members more and more – yeah, right!

-Remembered and cherished – Shut Up! Shut Up! Shut Up! Don’t come around here no more….Basically, they are love bombing you guys to be quiet.

-Closing with great affection and love – So when are you guys going for coffee? How about a sporting event or concert? Love is shallow and empty – because they would rather….go to campus.

-At least they removed the Ohashi’s from the bottom listing. Maybe above was historical accounting.

-Finally, this is unique to Toledo chapter. It is not a unified apology from Chicago or Korea. It is neither affirmed by the top leadership nor applied so. It is difficult to know the “power” of even such a gesture since it is not coming from Chicago or Korea.Have a good day. I hope my comments don’t further your bad mood, but I had to share what struck me upon re-reading it. Talk soon.


  1. Joe Schafer

    Dear Brain, (sorry, I couldn’t resist),

    I’m glad that you published this. I hope that Toledo leaders have no qualms about making this apology letter public. If “We take responsibility for our past practices…” is real, then in my opinion they ought to fully own this letter by posting it prominently on their website and publishing it as as article on ubf.org.

    Having read the letter, I have two reservations about it.

    First, I didn’t like the way that they tried to list all the mistakes that were made, as if they could fully diagnose what had gone wrong. They are just beginning the process of realizing what went wrong, and yet it sounds as though they already have it all figured out.

    Second, based on what I’ve heard, some who signed the letter didn’t actually agree with its contents; they did it as a concession to those who wanted it, and now they want to consider the matter settled and closed. I hope that everyone realizes that this is not the end of the process but just the beginning.

    Despite these reservations, I’m still glad that they have done this, because it signals an important change in direction. As the Chinese proverb goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

    • Yes Jeo :)

      I appreciate your insight. (And probably I should have used the word “despite” instead of “inspite” as my wife will surely correct me :)

      One of the reasons I felt this letter was condescending was because of what you say: They are dictating the problem, echoing back to me my own words that I and others told them. But the question is: What will they do to correct those 11 things?

      Anyway, as I said, I’ll take this admission of wrongdoing as sincere and accept the apology. Now let’s see what happens next. I’m up for a road trip to Toledo :)

    • Joe Schafer

      I hope we hear from Bento.

  2. Bento has to go see a few patients (to please the wife) and will hopefully chime in later today.

  3. I added two responses I got privately. Both people said they wanted me to post their comments publicly, so I just now added their thoughts into the article.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks for posting the additional comments.

      As I read them, I was reminded of 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

  4. My random thoughts about this apology letter in no particular order are as follows:

    * Thank God that an apology letter was “finally” written after many many decades of authoritarian abuses. I hope that other UBF chapters will take the cue from Toledo UBF. Kudos to you to being the first to apologize.
    * I am glad that a few leaders in Toledo UBF took much time, thought, energy and effort to write the apology letter.
    * I believe that they gave their heart and did their best in writing what they wrote.

    * But when I read the letter I also immediately knew that it would not “feel” like an apology to those who received the apology. In fact, those who received it would not be happy, and might in fact even feel worse than before receiving the apology. The reasons have been clearly elucidated above.
    * I also felt that the Toledo leaders who gave their heart to write the letter (and other UBF sympathizers and loyalists) would be upset at the responses to the apology. I think they really do not know why the apology letter felt insincere, formal, business like and not heart-felt.

    If the UBF leaders are truly apologetic to those they hurt, then even if they get unappreciative responses, they would search their own hearts and be broken even more to figure out why.

    Instead, some UBF leaders might likely become even more upset and critical toward UBFriends and vocal exUBFers which is very very unfortunate. The anger of some UBF leaders would be the evidence that the apology (though an excellent first step) was not truly a genuine apology that really and truly understood those who were hurt, abused, humiliated, disrespected and even dehumanized by UBF leadership.

    When UBF leadership understands my last sentence then a meaningful heart felt apology would indeed bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted.

  5. The trouble with this form letter as apology is very simple to change. In fact, as Ben said, it is an important first step, BUT…

    Each letter should be different according to the time, relationships and reasons for why that person left UBF. All UBF members are required to struggle not once, but many times to write a life testimony (story) revealing their one of a kind sin problem etc…..Therefore, it is not difficult for each letter to be handled personally and carefully. We have such experience of being “personal” when it suits us. Besides that no one just left, they plodded along until they could not take any more. The situation was reversible, but since people left it’s not anymore.

    Moreover, a public apology is something that everyone can witness. You know if America has to apologize for something it means that the president has to make a public televised speech. Similar in any country etc….So, if UBF (or any chapter) makes such apologies it should be open and certainly published online. But I am asking too much as always.

  6. Someone asked me about the Luke 18:13 reference from my friend’s comments… The reference was pointed out because that is the verse quoted on the top of the letter, presumably to indicate that the people sending the letters are like the sinner who repents. But as my friend points out, the letter come across more like the senders are the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable.

  7. namuehling

    Ben, I liked your response. I thought it was objective, gracious and constructive.

  8. namuehling

    Ben, I really appreciate the fact that you deal with a disconnect. You understand that there was a lot of effort put into the letter and yet you also understand that it will not be taken as sincere apology. It seems like the problem is one of mindset? I’m not sure what it is. Quite frankly, I can talk with most anyone in Toledo UBF, love them, feel like they love me, but also feel like there is some communication breakdown. It is as if there is some ideological/theological entrenchment that they cannot abandon. They can’t talk to me as a person and can’t stop using “spiritual speak” (This is my new term for putting spiritual spin on everything that somehow hinders communication as people) I can’t put my finger on it and would love if anyone else has some insight. It seems like this is a good forum for this question.

    • namuehling, I understand perfectly what you mean. After having read many books about cults, I think the problem is that UBF uses techniques known as thought reform or mind control which are able to change the mindset of members very fundamentally. People start to believe that UBF is something special, chosen by God, they start to equate UBF with “God’s ministry” and to believe that UBF was somehow fulfilling God’s plans in a magical way. Really, it’s a kind of magical thinking or “aura of sacred science” as Lifton calls it that put’s everything UBF above normal reasoning. This also allows UBFers to do unethical things, because they believe everything UBF is ethical in itself and higher than any other ethical measuring stick. You can see this for instance in their (ab)use of the verse “If any person asks you why you are taking the donkey, you should say, ‘The Master needs this donkey.'” This altered mindset is like a spell cast over you. It works also the other way around, people fear leaving UBF because they think something bad could happen to them (Samuel Lee very explicitly instilled such fears into people). I know it because I once was under this spell, too. I believed and wanted to believe that UBF is something special, because it made my coworking in UBF something special too. I also believed I had no right to fundamentally challenge anything UBF because I am a sinner but the UBF directors were God’s servants. If you are in this mindset, you can only apologize half-heartedly because you still believe that fundamentally nothing can be wrong with UBF ideology (practice and teaching) and with UBF founders and top leadership. The only thing that could be wrong is that you did something wrong, not that something is fundamentally wrong with UBF ideology. You can see it in this letter where they say “we take responsibility for our past practices.” The problem here is that actually it was not their practices, but practices developed by Samuel Lee that the members imitated, because UBF forces members to comply and do everything like their leaders do, and because they have been told that leaders are “God’s servants” so to be a servant yourself you need to copy what these leaders do. They need to go a step further. Sure, there is personal responsibility with everyone, but the real problem is the evil and hazardous core inherent in UBF ideology, that made UBF leaders usurp God’s place and made everyone a slave of that system instead of free children of God. What they really should ask themselves is why they followed these “bad practices”. Was it their own idea? Or was it a mindset that was forced unto them by cult methods? Once they start to see it and free themselves from this mindset, they will able to apologize and tackle problems appropriately. But obviously they haven’t made this step so far.

    • Nick, I’m glad we discussed this…

      “It is as if there is some ideological/theological entrenchment that they cannot abandon. They can’t talk to me as a person and can’t stop using “spiritual speak” (This is my new term for putting spiritual spin on everything that somehow hinders communication as people) I can’t put my finger on it and would love if anyone else has some insight. It seems like this is a good forum for this question.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/14/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-3/#sthash.72l1RONL.dpuf

      I think what you said in person is correct: the issue is authority. This letter was for them, not for us. It was about what they have done and how they need to move on. They invited anyone to meet who “needs closure”. As we discussed, we former members don’t need closure. The matter was closed years ago for us. That’s why we left in fact.

      We reject any and all authority ubf has in our lives. And this letter just re-opens all those authority issues, and comes across as yet another attempt to get us to submit to their authority. It seems they need us to accept their authority for them to have closure. I do not like all this “us” and “them” talk, but the fact is we won’t acknowledge their authority in any sense. ubf shepherds and missionaries have zero authority of any kind in my book.

    • Very good comment, Chris. I think you expressed some of what bothered Nick and I and others about this letter:

      “Sure, there is personal responsibility with everyone, but the real problem is the evil and hazardous core inherent in UBF ideology, that made UBF leaders usurp God’s place and made everyone a slave of that system instead of free children of God. What they really should ask themselves is why they followed these “bad practices”. Was it their own idea? Or was it a mindset that was forced unto them by cult methods? Once they start to see it and free themselves from this mindset, they will able to apologize and tackle problems appropriately.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/14/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-3/#comment-11492

  9. Joe Schafer

    Nick, you’ve identified something that is very tangible to me as well. You called it “spiritual speak.” Others have called it “God talk.” Not long ago, I ran across a great essay on this topic, but I can’t remember where it was.

    Basically, it’s a manner of talking that allows people to communicate at a superficial, surface level while suppressing or hiding much of their deeper thoughts and emotions. It’s a false religious self that hides the true self. Many religious communities foster this on some level, but in ubf it’s rather extreme.

  10. Nick, you bring up an important question to consider. If I hear you correctly, you are asking “Why is there a disconnect in communication and relationship between ubf members and others, especially former members?” or put another way “Why can’t ubf people talk to me as a person?”

    I started asking those kinds of questions sometime around 2010, when our family hit rock bottom. I had always dismissed this question prior to that time, fearful of becoming a dreaded humanist or falling into that great sin of pragmatic humanism, even to the point of defending the ubf ideology passionately. But as I did so, I noticed I was becoming more and more disconnected from people around me, even my own wife and children.

    The disconnect grew with each bible study, as I wove a narrative for my life based on the bible characters. That is the big mistake of most ubf bible studies: you are taught to put yourself into specific bible passages over and over again until you take on a new identity as “Abraham” or “Isaac” or “Paul” or “Timothy”. Your heart races and angst builds as you desperately look for affirmation of this new “biblical” identity. I believe such bible study, where you try to live out the bible characters in real life, is most dangerous. This thinking leads to all kinds of disconnects.

    I found out recently that my character is wired to be able to handle such cognitive dissonance for extended periods of time, more so than most people. So that helps me understand how I could bear the ubf disconnect for so many years.

    But then one day in 2010 or so, I realized something rather obvious: we are human. Jesus became human. And I surrendered to grace. It was a most joyful moment! I decided to search for the root or source of my disconnected life, and earnestly make every effort to rebuild, repair and restore the relationships around me, starting with my wife. This is still ongoing, but doing such reconciliation work caused the disconnect between me and ubf members to grow even wider. They can’t handle reconciliation work, which is evident by the recent letter in my article.

    Two things helped me recover from the disconnect I had with people around me, and they are the two demands in my open letter to all ubf members.

    1. Admit abuse. Nothing clarifies like clarity. If you want to clarify the confusion around your ubf situation, face the facts that your shepherds and missionaries have committed horrific acts. I’m not saying go on a witch hunt. Just accept this reality. Stop spinning the abuse (physical, psychological, sexual, spiritual, financial, etc) as “for God’s glory”. Spinning abuse as “God’s glory” and “being a blessing” only furthers your disconnect from reality.

    2. Release the bonds. ubf people won’t ever communicate with exubfers until ubf people stop seeing themselves as shepherds. Stop seeing us ex members as having lost or abandoned our calling. We did not abandon our calling, we followed a new calling. Put and end to the shepherding ideologies. NOW. Stop it. Tell all your sheep: You are free. You do not need me to supervise your morality or your obedience.

    • Brian wrote: “They can’t handle reconciliation work, which is evident by the recent letter in my article.”

      Then Brian, why did they send out the letter? Was it three years too late? A lot went on during those three years. A lot has gone on in the past year to get to this point of us now talking about a letter sent out by Toledo UBF recognizing wrongs. They can’t handle reconciliation work any more than I can handle being called out by my wife. It may look ugly, but we are all learning and where we are today is a far different place then where we were three years ago.

    • Mark, when I say “they” I am referring to all the toledo ubf leaders. “They” cannot deal with reconciliation. Certainly “some” in toledo ubf can handle reconciliation, and that’s a good thing.

      But still I do not consider a form letter to be an act toward reconciliation. Why did we all get the same letter? Reconciliation is not “en masse” but personal. Now if the letter had been a personal letter or even a letter that was personally signed, that would have made a world of difference.

      The impersonal form letter makes me feel like Nick.. what can I do to make ubfers stop contacting me? When I first received the letter and we discussed it, I initially felt like this: Treat me as a human being or don’t contact me.

    • “Reconciliation is not “en masse” but personal.”

      I’ll give you that they could have spelled your name correctly, but please, now we are talking about “the letter should have been personalized?!” The letter is not an attempt to reconcile, but rather the beginning of this process. I was in favor of the form letter, not because I felt it was going to reconcile, but because I viewed it as the beginning of this process. God willing, 12 months from now, we will be in a different place, and we will say, it started with that stupid form letter, but thank God for that letter. There have been many ugly steps over the past three years, but they are steps nonetheless.

    • “The letter is not an attempt to reconcile”

      Now that I agree with.

    • Joe Schafer

      Mark, do you know of any plans to make the letter public? Treating people as individuals and pursuing reconciliation as individuals is necessary. But if these leaders actually mean what they say in their letter, then they as a group should fully own what they wrote and share it with the world by posting it prominently and permanently on their website. Yes, that would be painful. Yes, that would bring shame and cause them to lose face. But if they aren’t willing to do that, what does it say about the letter’s authenticity?

    • touché you waskwy wabbit.

    • I don’t know what their plans were Joe.

    • Joe Schafer

      If anyone from Toledo UBF is listening, I think it would be a good idea to publish the letter or a similar statement on your website and also send it to ubf.org to publish there on the “World Mission News.” I say that because, regardless of what anyone thinks of how the letter is worded, the fact that it was written and sent is significant and newsworthy.

  11. Firstly, I really want to honor and commend those in Toledo UBF who pursued to do what was right in writing and sending out this letter. Secondly, I really hope that this letter does not open up old wounds but rather would be seen as a major intentional step by Toledo UBF towards open communication for the purpose of reconciliation. Did some parts of the letter make me cringe somewhat? Yes. For example, I thought that there was an overstatement of the “ongoing communication.” But what I also saw were the words, “unhealthy practices” “skewed theologies” “confess” “publically apologize” “ask for your forgiveness”, and recognition of specific wrong-doings. In this sense, I see a confession of wrongs and an openness to further dialogue. My prayer at the beginning of 2013 was that this dialogue would happen before the end of the year. I thank God that with this letter we are that much closer to that happening. It’s hard to gauge whether people are open to gathering for the sake of reconciliation. Again, my hope is that old wounds not resurface but that face to face dialogue may begin reconciling us, one to another. We are God’s children and it pains me that we cannot speak with one another. I don’t make light of the difficulty of doing so, but the letter invites anyone willing to an open forum for dialogue. Wouldn’t this be step 2? I think speaking face to face removes all of the pre-meditated wording that can make things appear disingenuous. I am not for God-speak, but I can say from my experience over the last year that dialogue in Toledo UBF is becoming more open and honest. People are learning how to share their feelings even if it disagrees with consensus – even if I disagreed with some of it, but at least people are saying what they think instead of saying nothing, which I think is worse. So I ask, would you be willing to participate in such a forum?

    • Thanks for sharing Mark. As I’ve made clear repeatedly for almost 3 years now, yes I am willing to participate in such a forum. I was glad that Toledo ubfers met me once in those 3 years. It was a good start because even THE ancestor of faith in ubf usa attended with me (it was also a great drive with him, since he lives in Michigan not far from me). As I said at that February 2012 meeting, I hope that meeting wasn’t an end but a beginning.

    • then my count is 2. you and me.

  12. Earlier this year, I wrote this article: Saying I’m Sorry. In it, I explained why an apology does not work:

    “…saying “I’m sorry” should be genuine. Once someone said “I’m sorry” to me. But after that “apology” I felt 10 times worse. As I wondered why, I think the reason is that the apology was done dutifully, formally and correctly, but I did not perceive that it was truly genuine and with brokenness of heart. In fact, I felt that the apology was given with reluctance and with defensiveness. Silence and a refusal to apologize would have truly been much preferred than such an “apology.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/04/16/saying-im-sorry/#sthash.wOKpQeVi.dpuf

    I think that this Toledo apology is more genuine than the one I experienced. Yet, the most difficult to express in an apology is a true brokenness of heart for the bad that was done.

    In my opinion, UBF leadership has the hardest time to expresses brokenness, weakness and vulnerability, because for 50 years and counting UBF leadership has always led from the top, calling the shots, dictating directives, and controlling the process. Such an attitude will NEVER EVER WORK with any apology.

    • Leading from the top does not work because God’s leadership is incarnational and by humility and condescension to the very bottom. As long as some UBF leaders want to stay at the top, and talk down to others, good luck!

  13. Joe Schafer

    MarkO wrote:

    I am not for God-speak, but I can say from my experience over the last year that dialogue in Toledo UBF is becoming more open and honest. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/14/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-3/#comment-11434

    I agree with that. As far as I can tell, Toledo UBFers are in the process of becoming more open and honest. And in a limited capacity, some at headquarters are doing so as well. They –actually, I should say “we”, because the condition has long affected me as well — are engaged in a process of becoming more human.

    This doesn’t mean that the organization can be rescued from its downward spiral anytime soon. It doesn’t mean that the community will realize its problems and stop disintegrating and come to a rich understanding of the Christian gospel. But on a personal level, I have seen many signs of people starting to awaken to who they really are. And as they do, they experience rebuke, rejection and marginalization by the community to which they gave so much. It’s been painful to watch this happen over and over to so many people. As they awaken to who they are, the community perceives them as a threat and pushes them out or makes them irrelevant. That process cannot go on forever because, sooner or later, there will be no one left to run the show except the most hardened, unhealthy and unrepentant.

    • “Toledo UBFers are in the process of becoming more open and honest. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/14/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-3/#comment-11442

      That’s good Joe. I just want to say yes I see a similar pattern, yes I accept the 11 admissions in the letter, yes I’m willing to meet in some sort of forum.

      But no, I will not rebuild any kind of friendship with most of them nor just about anyone in ubf. I cannot allow any form of the shepherding ideology back into my live again, nor will I allow shepherding ideology into my family’s life. I must now protect them from such entrapment. And no, I won’t answer anyone who calls me and introduces themselves as “shepherd” or “missionary”. And no I don’t want to talk to bible counselors.

  14. Ben, your words remind me of Acts 8:30-31, “Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” There is certainly a difference in how we speak with one another on this blog and we leaders were conditioned to speak with one another in a ministry setting. I also found myself speaking in a guarded way (more or less). That is why it really requires the time and emotional energy of face to face discussion so that we can hear and see what brokenness, weakness and vulnerability look like as others do it. Again, I know how the apology letter sounds, but if we get too wrapped up in how apologies sound, then truly, my question is what then is the point of all of this. What is the end?

    • For me Mark, it already ended several years ago. I don’t seek closure because the ubf issues are already closed in my mind. As I said in my article above, I accept the apology because of the 11 admissions. So what I’m saying is that my family has been living our own lives, processing our recovery. If ubfers want to talk, fine, I’m open to that but I’m only processing my recovery, not taking initiative any longer.

    • Brian, I totally respect that. I would hope that Toledo UBF takes the next step to set up that forum.

  15. “But if these leaders actually mean what they say in their letter, then they as a group should fully own what they wrote and share it with the world by posting it prominently and permanently on their website.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/14/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-3/#comment-11455

    Joe, now you are getting to the heart of what I’m trying to articulate. If this form letter which claims to be a public apology had been published publicly then I would see it having a better effect. How hard is it to understand that PUBLIC apologies should be sent PUBLICLY. And PRIVATE apologies should be PERSONAL and PRIVATE.

    So by sending me a standard form letter privately, you automatically communicate to me that you are attempting to manipulate the situation for your own causes, whatever that may be.

    So as Joe mentioned elsewhere, it is the actions that speak to me. My family has heard ENOUGH words. Show me the money! Show me some action that communicates love and trust and honesty.

    Because frankly at this point, even a mountain of words from ubf people sound like bullshit to me, that is if bullshit made a sound.

    • Joe Schafer

      Consistency between public persona and private behavior is the definition of integrity.

    • Exactly Joe. And I do agree that least the 11 admissions need to be published on ubf.org and on utchristians.com, if they mean anything at all. If these public admissions (sent privately) are not made public, then my suspicion is correct that this letter is just another attempt to silence me and make other ex members go away.

      So I wonder how the conversations went in the leadership council meetings in Toledo… did they actually say “You know what BrianK needs? He really needs an informal form letter. I bet he and his wife would be so happy to get a letter that informs them of all the good things we’ve been doing. I don’t think he knows what’s happened here in Toledo so we had better tell him. And let’s put Luke 18:13 on the top of the letter to show that we are such humble sinners. I think he would like that verse and if he doesn’t well I guess he really has lost his faith. And since we’ve been talking about this letter for almost 3 years, let’s hurry up and get it out pronto! In fact we must mail this letter tomorrow, and because we must mail this so fast we don’t have time to sign our names. And even though some of our leaders reject this idea, let’s send the letter anyway. I think Brain and Mary won’t mind the fact that some of our leaders completely disagree with this letter. But that’s ok, they’ll come around later. Oh and one more thing, what is their address? Someone needs to find that out right away.”

    • And yes I understand some see a difference between my “public persona” and private behavior. I don’t mind that because I’ve already proven that I will say the same things both privately and publicly. I’ve already met with the ubf GD for a couple hours and told him the same things as I have written on my blog. When I met Augustine S. in Chicago a couple weeks ago, I did not change what I said about myself. I finally have a self-narrative that is consistent both publicly and privately.

    • That is fair. I get the distinction between private and public. But now is the issue whether they post it to their website or if we are able to meet face to face? I just want to reiterate, the letter was a major step forward. I would also like to reiterate Ben’s words, “If the UBF leaders are truly apologetic to those they hurt, then even if they get unappreciative responses, they would search their own hearts and be broken even more to figure out why.”

    • Ben’s words, “If the UBF leaders are truly apologetic to those they hurt, then even if they get unappreciative responses, they would search their own hearts and be broken even more to figure out why.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/14/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-3/#comment-11462

      Yes good point. And likewise, for me and us exubfers, even if the letter contains offensive statements and was not an act that communicates love and trust and honesty, we should search our own hearts and accept the 11 admissions of unhealthy practices.

      In my mind the issue is both the public posting and the face to face meetings (notice the plural meetings), though they shouldn’t be mutually exclusive in my mind. In fact maybe that is a good first topic for in person discussion: What value is there in posting the 11 admissions publicly?

    • Yes Brian. I totally agree. This whole discussion needs to be done in a personal forum. Again, this blog is an important instrument for communication but it cannot replace the need for face to face talk.

    • Yes I agree totally Mark. And by the way, where are the Toledo ubf people? Why doesn’t anyone from toledo ubf post here? I know they are reading because the city of Toledo always shows up in our top 5 or top 10 list of cities when I look at the IP reports of visitors here. That would go a looooong way to actually apologizing to my family.

  16. I thought that this might reflect a good written personal apology for sin from the top leader of a national ministry: http://spiritualsoundingboard.com/2013/10/31/doug-philips-resigns-from-office-of-president-at-vision-forum-discontinues-speaking-engagements/

    • Ben, that is a very interesting situation. Doug P. not only stepped down, but the entire ministry is now closed for “tragic” reasons? Something doesn’t add up there. And I do not like the tone of the “apology”.


    • And no that apology does not represent a “a good written personal apology for sin from the top leader”. That apology represents a well-crafted wording of something serious by a lawyer. Given Doug’s comments on JA’s Facebook wall in the past, as well as Doug’s teachings about patriarchy, I think we are not hearing a major part of this story. But time will tell I guess.

    • Like Brian I also feel that this is not genuine and that the whole story is much more problematic. There is a whole website “Rethinking Vision Forum” exposing the problems of the ministry. Though their teachings are pretty different from those of UBF (according to the website they make family into an idol, while UBF does the opposite by neglecting the family and making campus mission their idol), you see the negative effects of any such aberrant, totalist, intolerant, one-sided, legalistic teachings and practices. Interestingly, all these groups with their completely different practices and teachings claim to “just follow the Bible”.

    • Let me also share my experience with a similar church. We learned about this because a friend of my wife was in that church. It was an aberrant Pentecostal church with roots Russia. They had nothing directly to do with Vision Forum, but had a similar ideology in that they taught that women needed to obey men absolutely. Their favorite verses were Eph 5:22, Kol 3:18 and 1 Tim 2:11-15. They took the part that “women will be saved through childbearing” literally, and every woman tried to bear as many children as possible. 10 children were kind of minimum in that church. They didn’t care about mission because their growth rate by sheer reproduction was higher than UBF could ever dream of. I’m not joking. That church also had something similar to “marriage by faith” and my wife’s friend was married to a man who looked like ok in the beginning, but later turned out to be abusive to hear. He would berate and beat her whenever he was in a bad mood. The problem was, she had nowhere to go with her problems. The elders in the church (all men of course, all believing in patriarchy) supported the man, and the only advice they gave to her was to fully submit, and everything would be fine. The husband was encouraged by getting backup through the church and beat her all the more. One week she fled to our house with her daughter where she hid from her husband for a week. The thing went on for several years, sometimes the man would apologize, but then continue to beat her after a while, until finally one day he struck her so hard that she became unconscious and nearly died. That was the last “straw” that made her file for divorce and enforce a restraining order against him. Obviously that church had created a playground for abusive and suppressive men. Of course I don’t want to claim that all men in that church were that evil, but such people could flourish there and nobody would challenge them. Though the ideology of that church was so different from UBF, I clearly saw the things they had in common: 1) Authoritarian, unaccountable leadership, 2) enforcement of their own distorted interpretation of the Bible, using the Bible as an incontestable legitimation for what they did, 3) constant reinforcement of their ideology through meetings while encapsulating from the outside world, always frying in their own grease. All these things inevitably lead to spiritual abuse harming the life and soul of good people. Even though their teachings and practices may look different, the fundamental problem of such groups is always the same.

      An authoritarian church is an ideal playground and attraction pole for two kinds of people, those who are alpha dogs, narcissists, avid for power, who never feel guilty, and those who are the opposite, with low self-esteem, who are faithful, yet always feel guilty, who cannot make decisions and always seek guidance and affirmation and relief from their feelings of guilt. The first kind of people becomes the leaders, and the second kind becomes the rank and file who happily submit. The church is then their playground where they can live out their personality type in ways they could not do in real life because that extreme kind of authority and submission interfering even into questions of marriage does not exist even in companies with power hungry bosses. Both get what they want: The alpha dogs can bully people around, and the scrupulous people simplify their lives by getting rid of the need for making decisions, they only need to obey and they feel assured they did everything alright. Sounds like a win-win, like these two kinds of people form a kind of symbiosis. But the problem is that each side exacerbates the psychological defects of the other side, creating an unhealthy environment that spoils everyone living in it, instead of helping both sides to grow: The power-hungry kind of people do not learn humility, respect of others, tolerance, and the submissive kind of people do not learn independence, integrity, self-assurance, decision making and daringness.

  17. So here’s something I learned from the Toledo ubf form letter: The amount of beer you need is directly proportional to the amount of koolaid you drank.

  18. Ok after reading this letter again and having more discussions this weekend, I’ve changed my mind. I will not be meeting in person nor do I want to be contacted in any way by any ubf person at any time.

  19. I just thought of another reason why this apology letter did not provide satisfaction, even if the apology was formally accepted by those who received it. I know this because I saw the apology letter.

    The reason is that the name of the primary offender and perpetrator of the 11 unhealthy practices in Toledo UBF is notably absent.

    Shouldn’t it be him who sincerely and humbly apologizes and who takes primary responsibility for the wrongdoings that occurred in Toledo UBF for over two decades?

    • Joe Schafer


      That’s another reason why the letter is so problematic. They say, “We take responsibility for our past practices…” but the one person who is primarily responsible isn’t taking any responsibility.

    • Ben, you know my opinion. The one who you call a primary offender and perpetrator, was in my view the secondary offender and perpetrator. The primary one was the one who put the secondary one in place, replacing the first Toledo UBF director in a mean way because he had started to address fundamental grievances. All what happened is in my view only the logical consequence of neglecting the voice of one kind-hearted and brave man and replacing him with a man after the heart of the general director. Please read the letters of James and Rebekka Kim again to better understand the history of it all. In my view, the names of two perpetrators are notably absent in the letter which should be mentioned.

  20. Brian, Ben, Joe

    I believe that this was not meant to be a personal apology letter, but an apology letter from the church(Toledo UBF) as a whole regarding the past skewed theology/system/practices that we were operating under. This letter was from the “new” leadership taking the time to really dig deeper and see what went wrong and why. I was there for a few heated discussions. Do I believe that they get it? Some do. I believe God is working to(slowly) unbind people’s hearts and minds. I believe in an on going sanctification work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. I believe this letter was a baby step towards reconcilitation.

    Of course i also believe that there should be a personal apology letter from the “old leader” to those that were effected under his leadership, especially since he is still considered a leader in general UBF. But a personal “I am sorry, for what I have done” is personal between those personally affected and the responsible party and God. I dont think that it is the place of the church as a whole.

    There are a few things that are quite confusing to me. As Christians we are called to love one another. But what i find quite disturbing is what Brian just did, he changed his mind about wanting to be contacted or wanting anything to do with reconciliation. This truly baffles my mind. Talk is cheap, just like “God speak” is cheap unless it is genuine and lived out.

    Reconciliation is the most amazing work that happens in humans when God is involved. I believe that this is the heart of God, to bring ugly,broken, tarnished, wounded relationships to a place of peace, a place of forgiveness, a place of healing and restoration. This does not always lead to friendship but a much needed restoration as human beings

    These are just my thoughts for now. For those of you who do not know, Mark and I left Toledo UBF a few weeks ago.

    • “But what i find quite disturbing is what Brian just did, he changed his mind about wanting to be contacted or wanting anything to do with reconciliation.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/14/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-3/#comment-11498

      Hi Martha,

      If you examine the reasons you left Toledo ubf and the broader context of the ubf worldwide situation, you should be able to see why I changed my mind. Yes there is a general call for Christians, but we each must follow God’s voice.

      Although I do accept the 11 admissions as an apology, I reject the rest of the letter and do not consider the letter to be a step toward reconciliation. Ben and Joe and Chris and others have explained why quite well in the comments here.

  21. Thanks for sharing, Martha. For the most part I agree with your comment. Apology and forgiveness is super-tough for all of us basically arrogant human beings, who do not fully comprehend (even if we understand it in our mind) how God could so humbly condescend to us in his incarnation, life, suffering, and death.

    I can’t speak for Brian, but I understand to some degree what he has been through for 24 years (and counting). Yes, I may think it is better for him or anyone else to continually seek out reconciliation no matter the frustration, agony and cost, yet all of us are different. Yet, all of our experiences, and all of our response to those experiences are vastly different.

    Just as certain offending UBF leaders are just simply unable to apologize with genuine brokenness of heart, there are surely those who have been so wounded and humiliated by those abusive leaders that there comes a point where they just do not want to have anything else to do with such BS–which incidentally is not Bible Study (pardon my French!).

    • “I can’t speak for Brian, but I understand to some degree what he has been through for 24 years (and counting).” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/14/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-3/#comment-11509


      I do not speak on behalf of myself only. I am compelled to speak up for the thousands of young people who have been hurt by the abusive practices of shepherding ideology in ubf. And I must speak up for the 20 or so young men and women in ubf who have contacted me asking for help in dealing with their situation within ubf.

      So I understand that my words and actions often come across as strange and confusing. I am representing not only me and my family, but many other people. I will live with the misunderstandings. I won’t stop speaking up for the “sheep” and for families.

      And ultimately I am submitting to the voice of God as He continues to guide me through my role in all this (sorry for the God-speak Nick!). Some of the things I’ve said and done will only make sense in the future and in the broader context of ubf worldwide.

  22. Joe Schafer

    Martha, thanks for your helpful comment.

    I understand that the letter was an organizational step taken by the current leaders on behalf of Toledo UBF. There is such a thing as corporate sin, and organizations have a role in helping to right wrongs.

    And, as you pointed out, individuals need to do the right thing and take the initiative to apologize and reconcile with those whom they have hurt. At the end of the day, all hurts are personal.

    The Toledo letter might prove to be one step along the way to personal reconciliation. As this plays out, perhaps the letter will help to create an environment for the previous pastor to come to terms with what he has done and take responsibility for it.

    And perhaps the current leaders, based on the reactions to the letter that they are receiving, are learning some valuable lessons.

    But if the letter is seen as the final solution — if people say that the matter over and done with, and it’s time to move on — then in my opinion, the letter has accomplished very little.

  23. So apparently Toledo ubf is into Holy Yoga, or maybe they just need to pay rent by leasing out space…


  24. As I continue to read Steve Hassan’s book Freedom of Mind, I find SO many similarities between ubf and Sun Yun Moon’s Unification church. I also find many similarities between ubf and ICoC. For example, this apology letter reads just like the apology letter from Toledo ubf.

    • Joe Schafer

      Reads just like it? I think it’s better.

    • The ICoC letter has parts that do sound better, and leaves out some bs that the Toledo letter adds.

      However, from a former member perspective, both letters “read the same” and come across as essentially “yea we’re bad but we fulfilled the dream.”

      The last sentence would tick me off if I were a former member of ICoc:

      “Through deep forgiveness and repentance, may God shine his Grace upon all of us. Let future members of the Detroit Church of Christ look back and say that the church was a dream fulfilled for its pioneering disciples in 2003.”

      I would be surprised if this letter did any good. It seems to vague to be meaningful. The only real difference I see between the two letters is one uses ICoC-speak and the other ubf-speak.

  25. Wow I never knew about these “What happened in Toledo Posts” till now. I love that you posted their bulk response/click fwd apology lol.

    However #11. on their list should obviously say…


    Toledo UBF…it was only a matter of time. Since they sent these 3 years later, maybe it’s fitting while I’m in town to stop and communicate/share my concerns from 14 years ago, eh?

    • Joe Schafer

      Naw. Just give ’em your address and they can send you the form letter too.

  26. Ben Toh & Brian Karcher, I hope you both read this and if you have a moment in your schedules to respond it would be much appreciated. The reason why I am posting this here is to emphasize the major issue of all former ubf members as well as to respond to UBFers saying this whole thing is like “beating a dead horse”.

    Generally speaking, this article points out the central point of all former UBF people –
    Still to this day, the UBF has shown absolutely no accountability for what it has done, specifically recognized exactly the mistakes that occurred, and how they can be improved or will be improved. What I am saying is that there is nothing genuine about the apologies given out. They sound like Damage control PR during a presidential election.

    Thus, EX Ubers are continually driven because although their wounds will heal, they know this will continue to happen to others.

    These two points/concepts are the only remaining issues. It has nothing to do with pointing fingers or quoting passages etc. It’s about the fact that a lot of negligence was shown by the UBF, people were hurt, yet they still can’t even genuinely and concisely admit their wrong, apologize sincerely, and detail how things will improve.

    That being said, I asked Ben Toh on a previous article about if he responded anywhere online to some of the allegations (that are discussed on many other forums) against him of being an abusive and manipulative leader as well. Obviously I just posted the question so I’m sure he will respond soon. During that time however, I actually found the forums where he responded and I found his responses very interesting and relate able to not only my previous point, but the entire article above.

    These allegations made against Ben Toh are extremely specific and detailed; not to mention pretty gross and horrible. Due to this, I was surprised to find that in all of Ben Toh’s responses he NOT ONCE ever DENIED OR TOOK ACCOUNTABILITY for any of the serious accusations made against him.

    I don’t know Ben Toh personally and I am not trying to attack him. I am however bringing up a very serious topic because although a small example, it embodies as a whole why people still have issue with the UBF.

    Ben Toh, all of your responses were answered with either the
    1) “I don’t remember or recall” but it seems you are really hurt so I’m sorry for anything I’ve done line

    2) Deviated away from the basic question and accusation by quoting bible versus or using the whole “cast not the first stone..” proverb

    I understand you said something along the lines of I don’t exactly remember, but these ARE NOT general & vague accusations against you. These are very specific and Serious claims they are making about you. So serious that a response of I don’t remember makes no sense at all.

    My point is that you literally did exactly what This “Toledo Part 3” article is about. You took no accountability for anything (didn’t even address whether the allegations were true or not), gave a general and vague semi-apology, and completely danced around their simple question and point.

    I’ve noticed you and many others post statements about “beating a dead horse” and why can’t we focus on moving on in love etc.

    Well the answer to your question is very simple. If you just clarify your specific stance on the merit of the accusations, why someone would post them, and show genuine accountability and remorse if you were wrong.

    That is why this UBF stuff is still going on and will forever go on.

    Some of the accusations against you – “spreading rumors of him with prostitutes” or “intentionally trying to cause a divorce between a couple”

    I would imagine that a normal man with basic morals and integrity, let alone a church leader like you, would want to make very clear the validity of these types of serious accusations.

    Responding with “I don’t remember” after being accused of something like that is similar to pleading “No Contest” in court. AKA – I’m guilty but I don’t want to say it or have it documented.

    Faith is important, but so is common sense.

    I am very very interested in your response to these specific allegations and their merit.

    IN reference, here is the link http://johnharmstrong.com/?p=1888

    • Hi Paul,

      In regard to your thoughts on ex-ubf concerns, you are spot-on. It’s been said so many times in so many ways the past 53 years in each of the 4 crisis/reform movements. Here is a quote from my Open Letter to UBF Members in 2012.

      “Demand #1 – Admit abuse.

      Publicly and internally end the denial and admit the reality, facing the fact that UBF shepherding has created an environment that has led to many instances of abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, spiritual abuse and emotional abuse.

      Demand #2 – Release the bonds.

      Publicly and internally announce that all UBF shepherd/sheep relationships are now dissolved– any remaining study relationships are now voluntary, not required of every member, no longer binding for life, secondary to the Holy Spirit’s work, and at the discretion and choice of the “sheep”.”

  27. Paul,

    In regard to Ben, I won’t speak for him but I will vouche that Ben is a changed man. His chapter, West Loop, is one of only 2 ubf chapters that I call “redeemed ubf”.

    Ben has already made several confession statements here, publicly repenting of his sin and making a public confession.

    Since resigning from ubf, I have visited WestLoop church and worshipped with them. Ben and WestLoop has shed the ubf heritage junk and are a Christian ministry.

    I will never trust a ubf person again the rest of my life, but I trust Ben Toh and what has happened at WestLoop church.

  28. Recalling all these events… all I can do is listen to songs like this.

  29. When I watch this video I imagine me as the “walker”, standing in line at a meal at an ISBC. I’d love to just break out of the line like this!

    The Walker

  30. Does someone have a vomit bag?

    Toledo ubf begging for money

    At least they admit the 50% decline in LONG TIME leaders: 22 families have dwindled to 11 families.

    How about those “rich and inspiring” Sunday messages? Those ought to inspire lots of money…

  31. Toledo ubf starts with a quote and ends with a quote. The end quote raises many questions in my mind. “Toledo UBF is a Christ-governed” ??? “Bible-centered”??? “mission-oriented”??? “ministry with a focus on raising disciples… of all ages”??? “that can become godly Christians”??? ” who can in turn be a blessing to others”???

    It seems that 11 families didn’t want to be Christ-governed Bible-centered mission-oriented godly Christians and a blessing to others, even after many “rich and inspiring” Sunday messages.

  32. Mark Mederich

    what didn’t happen in Toledo?:)

  33. Right Vitaly. I even heard one family moved to Detroit and became satan worshippers…

    Mark, the Toledo ubf stories are already forgotten and the things that happened are spun into glory-stories, as we can see in the begging for money letter.