Utmost Love and Respect

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 1.32.16 PM[Admin note: This is a letter recently sent to the ubfriends admins from a UBF leader. He wanted to share his letter to the UBF elders and also with those who left UBF. The author is still in UBF. He loves UBF very much not in spite of many problems but because of them. The letter is entitled: “Utmost Love and Respect for the Brides of Christ”. As admins here, we are encouraged by this letter and see it as a positive contribution to the issues we have been discussing here. Please read and share your reactions and thoughts.]


Last time I had an argument with my wife, I was confident I was right and she was wrong. I had been wrong many times before. But I was sure this time I was right. And I felt I had right to raise my voice and correct her. Unfortunately, she did not think so and went to the bedroom and closed the door behind her and lied down and did not speak for a long time. I remained upset for sometime but then began to feel sorry for her and went to her and said, “I am sorry.” This type of incident has repeatedly happened for the last 33 years of our marriage. I am thankful that God has always given me strength and sense that I was able to say, “I am sorry” each time. It has always been I who said first, “I am sorry.” I have never demanded or wanted her to say, “I am sorry.” Just one time in our long 33 years of marriage, she actually said to me, “I am sorry.” I felt so sorry that she had to say that. I told her, “This will be the last time you ever say to me, ‘I am sorry.’

It is God’s grace to me that he has always given me strength to say, “I am sorry” first and not demand my wife to say, “I am sorry” to me. I am not sure how it began. It probably has something to do with the fact sometime in our marriage I began to have a keen sense how terrible I was as a husband and father and it often brought me to tears. I was only twenty four when I married my wife. I was really only a boy when I married her. And I had very few social skills. I was awkward. I never cared to understand others’ feelings especially women’s. I had four brothers and no sisters. I had a very few friends, if any, and definitely no girlfriends (It’s not that I never tried to get one but I was never successful.) until our marriage. I made numerous senseless mistakes as a husband. At the beginning of my missionary life I worked so zealously and sometimes worked at the UBF center until very late, 3 or 4 am in the morning. I remember more than once I did not carry my apartment key but rang the bell and woke up my wife to open the door for me (I don’t recollect how long and often I continued doing this terrible thing). As it was, my wife was already suffering from a lack of sleep because our first child wouldn’t sleep during the night and she had to go to work as a nurse 7am in the morning. There is a long list of incidents that show how terrible I was as a husband. And I won’t list them all. But my point is that I was a bad husband and by God’s grace I realized it. And since then it became natural I first say, “I am sorry.” I believe this one thing—saying first, “I am sorry,” has helped our marriage.

Somehow I believe the gospel of Jesus’ cross has something to do with ability to say, “I am sorry.” The cross of Jesus enables us to say, “God, I am sorry. I was wrong.” It’s not only that we say to God, “I am sorry.” Recently it occurred to me that when God sent his Son to die on the cross he might be in a sense saying to us, “I am sorry.” “My child, I am sorry you suffer in your sins.” “I am sorry you are addicted to that bad habit. You suffer too much.” I am not sure if this makes sense. But this thought gave me freedom and peace in my heart. I see a church member and she is not doing too well spiritually. I cannot do too much for her. I think to myself, “Young lady, you are suffering in your situation. I am sorry I am very limited in what I can do for you.” I can feel guilty about my inadequacy. But I can be still connected to her because I put the cross of Jesus between her and me. I walk down the street in my economically depressed neighborhood. There are so many problems in this neighborhood and the university I am ministering to. I feel so inadequate in ministering to people here. “O God, I am so weak and ineffective in reaching out to them with the gospel and with any help they need.” Only the cross of Jesus comforts me in my sense of inadequacy. Through the cross of Jesus I am still connected to these people for whom I am not doing too much at present.

At my UBF chapter we don’t have a cross hanging on any wall. Once I thought about putting up a beautiful cross on the front wall of the sanctuary. But having a cross on the wall won’t really help us much unless we as a church really live a life that reflects the cross of Jesus. “O God, we as a church are not doing too well. We are not doing well to the university students or the needy people in our neighborhood. Yet they are not strangers to us. We don’t hope that they will see us as indifferent strangers. The only thing connects between them and us is the cross of Jesus.” We don’t have a cross of Jesus hanging on a wall in our church. But we really have to live a life that reflects the cross of Jesus.

God has given me grace to have sense to say to my wife, “I am sorry,” whenever I realized that I made her sad or difficult in any ways. That has helped our marriage. How much more a church the body of Christ should say to one of our members, “We are sorry,” if we offended her or him in any way. They are the brides of Christ, whom he purchased with His precious blood. I am sad and heartbroken to offend my bride. How much more we should be if we offended the brides of Christ. Have we UBF offended or abused any of our members spiritually for the last 50 years of history? Are there signs that we have done? If there are, we as church must be ready to say, “We are sorry” and offer sincere apology to those who have been affected and find ways to rectify our mistakes and wrongdoings.

24 comments

  1. Let me be the first to publicly say that I accept this apology from this ubf leader. (I hope our readers know that accepting an apology does not equate to becoming silent or shutting down this blog.)

    This is the heart of the matter for me as a former ubf leader who donated about a quarter century of my time and resources to the ubf cause:

    “Have we UBF offended or abused any of our members spiritually for the last 50 years of history? Are there signs that we have done? If there are, we as church must be ready to say, “We are sorry” and offer sincere apology to those who have been affected and find ways to rectify our mistakes and wrongdoings.”

  2. Thanks UBF leader. It reminds me of a blog I wrote a couple of years ago about saying, “I’m so sorry”: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/04/16/saying-im-sorry/

  3. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    As a husband and father who has wronged his family time and again, I share an understanding, appreciation, and practice of saying first for the sake of making things right in the family (although I did question my wife once why she never said sorry to me!). I’ve also done this as a minister in the church. But it is in that point that I don’t understand the ending of the letter. Please help me to understand because I might be misunderstanding–I feel like I’m missing something.

    He asks, “Have we UBF offended or abused any of our members spiritually for the last 50 years of history? Are there signs that we have done?” The answer to these questions can be found in many discussions on this website. But the author doesn’t say, “Yes, we UBF, have done so,” or even say, “Maybe we have done so. Let us listen earnestly those who say they are hurt.”

    He then says, “If so…we as a church must be ready to say, ‘We are sorry.’ ” I agree. But I feel like I’m left waiting for him to say, “Yes, we have done so,” and then, “Sorry.” The ending is not so much an apology but what *should* be done *if* wrongs were actually done.

    This person has chosen to remain anonymous. Honestly, I don’t think it’s a helpful way to get the church to admit wrongs and say sorry. Of course, he can’t shoulder the responsibility all on him–I don’t think anyone expects that. However, it is a first step to having the church come forward in an honest and open way to acknowledge what has been done, to say sorry and so begin reconciling. Should we just say we should say sorry as a first step without admitting wrongs?

    This is grating because I find it evasive. I honestly think the person who wrote this letter is sincere, but it’s lacking to hit what may be intended.

    Before I left UBF I had a couple conversations with UBF HQ in Chicago. I was asked to keep the correspondences private and to not share publicly. So, I’ll not reveal names or quote directly. I was asked, “What can we do towards reconciliation?” My reply was along the lines of what this person wrote here in his letter, “To admit wrongs and to say sorry, as a first step.” If real faces don’t come forward to admit wrongs, who will follow their example or accept their words? It would be difficult. People will continue doing wrong, in thinking that they were doing right, because their teachers and leaders never said otherwise.

    The reply I received from Chicago HQ was, silence from some, and another said, “Yes, leaders should be humble and apologize. Yes, people should be free and not bound by shepherds, etc. However, if someone else wants to apologize they can do so, but not me. I will just trust God” (paraphrasing). It was extremely disappointing. It came off as evasive and proud. I had respected these leaders so much, but they weren’t willing to come forward and acknowledge the abuse. I didn’t bother to reply further. I knew that others had received the same kind of evasive responses in the past, so I wasn’t going to waste my time.

    Are UBF leaders really unsure if people have been hurt? Are leaders really lacking in finding evidence to the abuse? Where is the apology? Where is the confession? Let’s just come forward and say it, and stop beating around the bush. (I know that there are many “leaders” in UBF. Some, especially at the local level, really are unaware of what has happened and is still going on for the very reason that it all gets covered up and buried and never mentioned, not even apologies. But this is not directed at them.)

    To the author of this letter, if I have misunderstood or misconstrued your words, I offer my apologies in advance. I hope there can be open communication. I don’t understand your decision to remain anonymous. I’m not looking for an apology for personal injuries. But I think, as you mentioned, it is time for UBF to come forward and acknowledge wrongs and abuses and hurt and to say sorry for the sake of those hurt and so that people in the future will not continued to be hurt in the same ways and the cycle of abuse will end.

    • Charles, I think you raise some valid questions and you’ve read the letter well. As we all know, this is going to take time… I wanted to point out that this letter was also sent privately to the ubf echelon (hence the nature of the wording I suppose).

      So the fact that this letter is shared publicly and voluntarily is rather astounding to me. The bottom line is that no apology will heal us. Our recovery depends not on what the ubf ministry does or doesn’t do. But every once in a while, something like this letter provides a noteworthy drop of acceptance. I for one will take it.

  4. forestsfailyou
    forestsfailyou

    I like this article. It is one of the better one’s I have read on here.

  5. I have mixed feelings about this letter.

    On the one side, I appretiate it. As Brian said, the fact that he shared it publicly and on his own initiative is remarkable.

    On the other side, Charles has already mentioned several problems here. If the sender is an UBF leader, he should speak publicly.

    Also, in the first half of the letter he explains how he decided generally to say sorry even when he was right and there was no necessity to say sorry. So this immediately devalues any of his apologies for wrongdoing of UBF because you can’t know whether he really admits that UBF has done anything wrong. And then, in the second half of the letter he confirms this by putting question marks behind the clearly documented abuse of UBF “Have we UBF offended or abused any of our members …? Are there signs that we have done? If there are, …” How is the existence of this site and the dozens of testimonies and three reform movements not a sign that abuse has happened? Why need to make this a question?

    Another problematic issue is that his biggest worry seems to be that he or UBF is “not *doing* enough” for the students. But that’s not our complaint. Our complaint is that UBF *is doing too much*, is authoritarian overstepping its bounds. Whenever I heard an apology (rarely happened, but I give an example in a separate comment), it was always more or less patronizing, and basically saying “we’re sorry we did not love you *enough*.”

    • Mark Mederich

      Beautiful scenic photo at the top:)
      Reading this I felt sad ’cause it accidentally reveals the real core issue of laboring so hard to be someone or do something, that we create a false world like a video game of trying to win a battle & gain acclaim. We miss opportunity to be ourselves & do simple helpful good things. We lose creativity & mutual inspiration.

    • So here the example from my time in UBF to illustrate the kind of apology I do not want to see:

      It happened when I was only 1 or 2 years in UBF and they put increasing pressure on me to take part in *all* of the UBF activities. One day when I had attended a meeting at the UBF center, they asked me to stay longer to attend yet another fellowship meeting. I declined, because I had other obligations at the university. Then they started to talk at me how important that meeting was and how I needed to obey. Particularly one missionary started to harass me, and when I finally stood up and left without giving in to the pressure, he followed me to the door and wanted to beat or kick me. When he saw that I still wasn’t intimidated, but in the mood to fight back, he released his aggression against my bicycle, kicking it until a wheel was completely damaged. So I told him, “that was it, I leave UBF.” When I came back from university, another missionary already called me to say that he was sorry and it was a misunderstanding and I should come back to UBF. I demanded an apology and that he repaired my bike. In fact, he did this.
      However, the apology was really strange. At first, it looked like a normal apology. But as soon as I had accepted it, shook hands and agreed to stay in UBF, the tone changed and became patronizing again. He asked that we pray together, and in that prayer, he mainly prayed about me, my weakness, etc. I had a similar feeling when reading this letter. I felt he just said sorry, not because he felt he did something wrong, but because I was “only a sheep” too weak to understand his love and obey his commands, and needed to be treated with forbearance. In his prayer, he still was clearly the shepherd, and I was the sheep – he did not pray with the understanding that we were both equal brothers in Christ. I had the presentiment that he did not want to apologize, but just to appease me and wait until I would be even more brainwashed and accept their commands and training without protest (by presentiment turned out to be legitimate). Real apology can only happen when the Korean “missionaries” give up their condescending hierarchical attitude and start to see others as brothers and sisters. It may be helpful, but is not necessary to see others as “brides of Christ” (and not really a Biblical picture, where the church itself is considered the bride of Christ), it suffices to step down from the shepherd/director pedestal and seriously and honestly see others on eye level as brothers and sisters in Christ.
      Another suggestion: Don’t be too quick to apologize. If you have difficulties to understand what abuse is, join us to have a discussion about spiritual abuse. If you still ask the question “Are there signs that we have done abuse/offense?” then let’s first discuss this question together. Let’s read the historical documents, starting with the 1976 letter, let’s read some of the testimonies together. Let’s just share some facts about what happened in UBF that have not been reported on official UBF websites or mission reports. Yes, it will be negative, it will be unpleasant, and it will be much, because these testimonies have been piled up and nobody in UBF every looked at them. You must be willing to hear us and take your time to work through these documents. Without you having looked at the facts and taken time for this, we cannot discuss these issues and seriously talk about apology.

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      Chris this comment may be out of place, but your story reminded me recently of an even in the Capoeira group I am in. Last October there was an event hosted by a local group in St. Louis at Wash U. This group invited many groups including my own group and another St. Louis group. In capoeira the goal is to catch people with kicks, but most of the time you stop just short, so you verify you hit them. In capoeira you also don’t beat up people who are much less experienced. Nevertheless there was one guy from a St. Louis group that was really rough with the newer students. And so when I went to play him I was not easy, and at one point I kicked, he chose not to dodge, and I hit him fairly hard in the ribs. Instead of acknowledging that he had been fairly bested, and also just did not do what he should have- he resorted to grabbing me around the waist a few moments later. This is not “against the rules” (there are strictly speaking no rules in capoeira) but is excessively disrespectful and an obvious cheap shot. This made me so made I stood up and punched him in the face. Immediatly the host ended and told me to leave. So I complied, but then his friend came up running after me. After hitting him too (having his buddies run at me without saying anything gave me the wrong idea), he told me to come back. When I came back he apologized and all seemed well. Nevertheless, the next day I heard that this guy contacted my school to complain to my leader, who just sorta told him that he got what he deserved and he would have done the same thing. Last week I was invited to go another one of their events, and even though he apologized, I just don’t feel like participating in that anymore with them. Maybe this isn’t parallel, but your apology story reminded me of that.

  6. Good points Chris. I feel similar in that this apology is not the kind that I don’t want, so that is good. It’s also not really the kind of apology I really seek. The apology does begin to capture your thought– “we were both equal brothers in Christ.”– in that I hear tones of accepting us former members as Christians. I wish the apology had made that point more clea. This could be much better if the apology explicitly stated people like me are not satan’s agents (ok yes I know it is hard to tell sometimes but still…)

    For me, this is my 3rd apology letter from ubf leaders. The first two were horrible and amounted to aggrandized fantasy intended to silence me or appease me or stroke my ego by repeating my own words back to me in the apology.

    This 3rd apology is different, and a good step, but much more is needed.

  7. “Real apology can only happen when the Korean “missionaries” give up their condescending hierarchical attitude and start to see others as brothers and sisters. …(and) step down from the shepherd/director pedestal and seriously and honestly see others on eye level as brothers and sisters in Christ.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/14/utmost-love-and-respect/#comment-16504

    As I’ve began to state recently, unless those in the UBF hierarchy are willing to humbly have an ongoing equitable dialogue, nothing will significantly or seriously change.

    I understand that this is tough, if not humanly impossible for some of the older leaders, because as missionaries, they have always led from the top as “directors.” They have acted and felt as though they were the top/main leaders and benefactors who should not be questioned or challenged, while everyone else are regarded by some of them as the recipients of their endless sacrifice, love and generosity.

    Until such an attitude or mindset changes, we can just talk and blog until the cows come home, or until Christ comes again, whichever comes first. Of course, with God all things are possible!

    • “as though they were the top/main leaders and benefactors who should not be questioned or challenged”

      And as if their position gives them immunity from sin. We have discussed this already in different context recently, outside of UBF. It’s this spiritual brazenness of claiming that because you “do something for God”, God is automatically on your side and everything you do is justified, or at least better than what other “ungodly” people do.

      The “spiritual helper syndrome” of UBF is also shining through this apology. While I acknowledge and appretiate the will to help other people they don’t even know (and I see this as a good side of UBF), there is the danger that it harms both the helper by feeding their pride and ego, and the helped by making them dependent, and this creates a vicious circle of unhealthy codependency. Real breakthrough and healthy change can only happen if they allow the roles to be flipped, and let us help them by pointing out the abuse and problems.

  8. A definition of love is to give up control to the person who is loved, and to allow the person loved to affect and influence you. This is perhaps best exemplified in a marriage. I know that if I truly love my wife, I will let her influence, affect and change me, even if I really don’t want to be changed.

    By this definition of love, some shepherds and missionaries do not really love their sheep, because they seem to be primarily interested in changing them (in the name of shepherding them and training them), rather than to allow themselves to be changed by them, or to truly listen to them.

    I think I can fairly confidently say that almost all of the problems in UBF comes down to the UBF hierarchy basically refusing to listen to the hundreds of people (or likely more) who have been articulating and saying the same thing as said in UBFriends (since 2011) as has been said over and over again since the first reform movement of 1976.

    That’s already almost 40 years ago. Is it now time for UBF to hear and genuinely respond with a response other than deafening silence?

    • Glad to see you writing about this point so clearly, Ben.

      By their action some missionaries showed that they do not care about and love the people they call their sheep. Other missionaries actually try to love their sheep and think they do, but because the UBF system has warped their understanding of love, they still fail to really love them. It’s time for UBF to start learning what “love” really means. For this to happen, UBF leaders must accept the attitude of a learner, not of a teacher. This hurts their pride. In end effect, the barrier that we are hitting is always pride. In my view, it’s an organization that has been founded and split from the regular Presbyterian church out of pride and is still feeding itself from the same pride since then. Yes, there were some good ideas and reasons to have a fellowship separate from the church, but pride is the “little leaven” that has gone rampant and has spoiled UBF from the top to the bottom.

  9. “Glad to see you writing about this point so clearly, Ben.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/14/utmost-love-and-respect/#sthash.T5lFicJN.dpuf

    I have never deviated from “this point.” But the fact that such hierarchical authoritarian abuses and sins occur, does not always negate that good has also come forth from UBF, which I myself and countless others have experienced, which I know is an “unpopular point” on this website.

    A significant problem with UBF is that she only wants to talk about the good (ad nauseum), and at the same time negate, ignore, dismiss, deny, or often refuse to address the bad.

  10. Joe Schafer

    I welcome this article for what it is.

    It is not an apology to ex-members of UBF. Rather, it is a signal to UBF leaders that the author wants them to start addressing the question. The target audience is UBF leaders, not the people who regularly comment on UBFriends.

    Like others, I wish that the author had not sounded so wishy-washy at the end. Why put a question mark on whether there are “signs” of abuse? Of course there are signs. To borrow a saying that Samuel Lee used in his messages: A person who asks whether there are signs of abuse is like someone who puts his hands over his eyes and questions whether there is a sky.

    And I wish that the author could explain why he is choosing to remain anonymous. I wish he could honestly say what he is afraid of, what he thinks would happen to him if he were to make his identity known, and then explain what those fears tell us about the leaders of ubf and the culture of the organization.

    Nevertheless, it is an important move in the right direction. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

  11. Joe Schafer

    When I’m having a conflict with my wife, the most difficult task is not saying “I’m sorry.”

    The hardest part comes right after that, when she looks at me and says (with or without words): “For what?”

    How I respond at that moment will determine whether my apology brings healing or causes more damage.

    If at that moment I can put into words some of the hurt that she feels, if I can demonstrate that I really do empathize and am trying to see myself from her point of view, if I can (in a manner of speaking) step into her shoes, take her side and advocate for her against myself, then the battle has been won. Not the battle against her, but the battle against myself, the battle against my own stubbornness and ignorance and immaturity and pride.

    But if I were to say, “I’m sorry that you think there may be signs that I potentially may have done something wrong,” then it would have been better for me to keep my mouth shut.

    An apology that is premature or insincere or lacking in understanding/empathy can be worse than no apology at all.

    I’m not saying that the author of this article is being insincere.

    What I’m saying is: This is only the beginning, and the hard part has yet to come.

    • “The hardest part comes right after that, when she looks at me and says (with or without words): “For what?” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/14/utmost-love-and-respect/#comment-16513

      +100000

    • I once wrote a detailed letter to a leader about some of the negative things that I’ve experienced in the ministry and I also highlighted my general concerns about the ministry’s unhealthy practices. We eventually met in person and they simply said, “I’m sorry.” Then I asked, “for what?” They were immediately taken aback and caught off guard as if they didn’t expect me to ask for details. And they replied that they were apologizing for everything that I had written in the letter. It was obvious that they hadn’t really done any soul searching or critical thinking about what I wrote; they just wanted to give me a canned apology so as to appease me and so that they could get on with the business of doing more ministry. In my opinion, while some may seem general apologies as a healthy start (and I know that the letter in the article is not that), they seem extremely condescending and patronizing to me now.

    • So even though the canned Toledo ubf apology letter has some better wording, it comes across as deeply condescending and patronizing. I was offended by the lies in the letter such as the claim that details had not been shared with the leaders there.

      Toledo ubf canned apology letter

      So if anyone abused by ubf is waiting for an apology letter, just copy the Toledo ubf letter and email it to yourself. You will get it quicker that way.

    • Oh and if anyone didn’t notice, the apology letter from Toledo ubf came to me almost 3 YEARS too late.

  12. forestsfailyou
    forestsfailyou

    Maybe I cannot understand, but it seems like everyone is being extremely harsh on the guy. Maybe his apology isn’t perfect, but it’s a major step in the right direction. I get that for a lot of leaders they are deeply entrenched in a ministry where to speak out publicly means alienating family members, friends, and their community. I also understand there are a lot of leaders who are basically beyond help, morally conditioned and brainwashed so that to argue with them is pointless. Our reaction to the later should be to warn others so they cannot be harmed, we should be pointed in our discussion and depictions of that group. But to the former I feel that taking toning down the criticism will do more good. Don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t be silent. But when I read this I feel like the person really wants to love former members. This is opposite of the usual alienation, don’t to talk to them point that I have personally witnessed.

  13. Gajanan Nial
    Gajanan Nial

    I appreciate this leader’s attempt. But I think before apologizing he and most other ubf leaders with similar thoughts and views sincerely need much help.
    First, pls try to be a good husband to your wife. Stop saying sorry. Do something radical—which is called repentance—turning to the opposite and stop doing what was being done previously and rather do something that brings true healing and makes space for peace and inner growth not just for you but for your wife and children as well. For example, change your priority from staying awake till 3am for the sake of mission to respecting your wife and spend time with her in the night. Since you are talking about the Bridal paradigm, please do not remain in a shallow idea of what it is, go deeper until your heart is moved to be intimate with the Lord. If you learn real intimacy with wife, you will love greater intimacy with Jesus, and intimacy is a good thing because it produces fruit—both physical and spiritual. That is exactly what ubf wants.
    Second, stop playing Bridegroom/Jesus/Father-God card. You need healing and help more than those who left ubf do. I say this because those who left, they did so because in a way their eyes were opened. Most of them are now doing much better in their life, family, mission and jobs than many of you so called leaders do. You do not even know what are your problems and in a sense blind. Under this blindness do not try to play the role of Bridegroom feeling sorry about the Bride or the Father feeling sorry about the children. You are equally part of the corporate the Bride and sons and daughters –nothing more and nothing less than any other Christians. So, if at all He is, God is sorry for you in the first place.
    Third, stop talking about the cross. It sounds religious, boring and shallow. Jesus did not leave the cross to solve our conflicts and problems. Invite Jesus himself to the table—he is very much alive and well. Recognize the Holy Spirit. Do not take His place in ministering “students”, or even the “rebels” whom you tend to apologize. All your efforts and empires are already falling apart because He has been shut outside of your ministry.
    I have addressed my comment to the writer of the article but when I say “you” it is not just meant for this single individual but to the entire leadership of ubf.