Darkness at New York UBF

dWhen we received the “Utmost Respect” letter at ubfriends, a good discussion about making apologies followed. Joe asked a great question in this discussion, “Apologize for what?” As several people pointed out, if we don’t know the “for what”, we are not really moving forward in a healthy manner. Recently I was involved in some discussions that highlight the “for what” better than anything I’ve experienced so far. I ask your prayers and thoughts for this matter.

A Duty to Pray for hurting parts of the Body

1 Corinthians 12 has been a huge part of my recovery from pain suffered while in the body of Christ. Paul’s words in chapter 12 came to mind again this week as I heard about some horrible abuses going on in a ubf chapter. We are one body in Christ. This sentence stands out to me: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored,all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV

If one chapter of a church is hurting, should not the entire church care about it? Should not we who are members of the Body pray for hurting people in the Body? This week, New York UBF is hurting. Please pray for them.

A Courageous Blog Post about Light

I recently pointed readers to a blog series that began expressing the pain and exposing the abuse at New York ubf. Here is that link. Like me in Toledo ubf, my friends in New York left the ministry and decided to “blog out” their pain and difficulties. The link is now gone.

Threats and More Pain

The chapter leaders at New York ubf have been pressuring my friends to shut down this ubfriends website. When the abuses came to light, my friends were additionally threatened with vague scare tactics such as “watch your family members lives” and other threats meant to instill fear and to silence their words. My friend removed his blog posts due to these threats.

Please pray for these friends and the New York UBF chapter. This incident exemplifies the “apologize for what” very well. I hope you can see that far more than an apology is needed. Repentance is required.

Oh and to any ubf leader who wants to make threats, make them to me. In the infamous words of Ben Toh, I can only say “Go ahead. Make my day.”


  1. It is sad and shocking beyond words that anyone who calls themselves “Christian” can ever justify using threats (of murder and killing) against a fellow brother or sister in Christ.

    Worse than the death threats is when the church leadership refuses to take any definitive steps against such ungodly behavior.

    I’m not sure if people can see this facebook thread with all the comments (even though the blog was removed), but here it is: https://www.facebook.com/joseph.l.schafer.5/posts/10152655585381981?comment_id=10152665602771981&offset=0&total_comments=62&notif_t=share_reply

  2. btw, the infamous words are by Clint Eastwood, aka, Dirty Harry, my Hollywood hero.

    Since I’ve “mellowed out,” some of my friends at church say that I have become soft. So then my line (with the biggest smile possible) becomes, “If you think I’ve become soft……..try me.”

    Some people think that’s really funny. But someone said, “Dr. Ben, that’s so scary!” Personally, I think it’s funny.

  3. Darren Gruett

    Like Ben, I too am shocked and saddened to hear this. Making threats like that could also border on being a criminal offense. Whatever happened to the “above reproach” standard for church leadership?

    • Joe Schafer

      I’m not sure that threats are coming from church leadership. But the story told by Carlos includes very sad details of how he was marginalized by church leaders and members when he called out what going on around him: molestation of girls and women, drug use and drug dealing. Apparently, leaders did play a role in covering those things up. They minimized those problems and made Carlos the issue. If you can still read the FB thread, you will see this going on in real time.

    • Joe Schafer

      A careful reading of Carlos’ story would reveal this. Unfortunately that story has been taken down from his website.

    • Darren Gruett

      Joe, thanks for clarifying that. Based on that, I suppose it’s even more sad that when he went to the people he should have been able to trust they treated him badly, as if he was the problem.

    • Sorry to say, but the one that points out any problem BECOMES THE PROBLEM.

  4. I just read this timely article about domestic violence and the church. Even though it pertains to abused spouses in the church, I think there’s a lot we can glean about the role of law enforcement and the church in responding to abuse and other crimes. Here’s one quote from the article:

    “If a man fails in his God-given role and abuses his wife, she should make two calls, one right after the other. First, she should call the police. The civic ruler, Paul says, acts as an “avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4, ESV). When churches teach otherwise, they not only fail to provide psychological and emotional care, they also fail theologically. Divine vengeance cries out to be exercised against evil. We must not restrain what God has loosed.”


    • +1 Great article. Thanks, Jen. “People who abuse others merit punishment from both state and church. Too often, church leaders haven’t engaged either of these methods of justice.”

      “Spiritual anonymity is the close friend of sin. Fighting a culture of abuse means fighting a culture of anonymity.”

      The sad sad story of many a church is in trying to keep such abuses “hush, hush” (in order to “protect” the church). This only continues to perpetuate the abuse, and excuse the abuser. How long is this going to go on?

  5. An apology should never be for appeasement, pacification or patronizing, in which case it is not really an apology. An apology must be for specific offenses.

    So then, if the offender really doesn’t think that they did anything wrong (even if repeatedly told and blogged about!), then they can never really apologize.

  6. And here’s another good quote from the article:

    “We see in this dual response to evil how much God hates it. People who abuse others merit punishment from both state and church. Too often, church leaders haven’t engaged either of these methods of justice. Women suffer in silence, and the church may sweep evil under the rug. God intends to deal justice to the wrongdoer in two ways, but the person suffering abuse too often ends up without any justice at all.

    To correct this pattern, elders must know and shepherd church members. Spiritual anonymity is the close friend of sin. Church membership is its dread foe. Fighting a culture of abuse means fighting a culture of anonymity”

    • Gosh, Jen, we both posted the same quotes almost simultaneously! I just added: The sad sad story of many a church is in trying to keep such abuses “hush, hush” (in order to “protect” the church). This only continues to perpetuate the abuse, and excuse the abuser. How long is this going to go on? – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/17/darkness-at-new-york-ubf/#comment-16532

    • “Fighting a culture of abuse means fighting a culture of anonymity”

      BINGO! That explains what I’ve been doing since 2003 (the time when I technically left ubf). I bided my time, tried to defend my ubf-soaked viewpoints and eventually resigned in 2011 in protest, using the most visible manner I could think of.

  7. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Brian, great questions put forth. “If one chapter of a church is hurting, should not the entire church care about it? Should not we who are members of the Body pray for hurting people in the Body?” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/17/darkness-at-new-york-ubf/#sthash.JL6ahCc3.dpuf

    I’ve seen and experienced two issues:

    1. Hurt is covered up. How much do local members of a chapter know about the hurt and issues going on in other chapters? You surely won’t find anything written about it on ubf.org. I don’t know of directors / staff who willingly talk about it publicly to ask for prayers.

    2. After issues and hurt are exposed, people do not have or know of a way to practically get involved and help, beyond prayer. This has been used as an excuse, at times innocently, and at other times dismissively and apathetically. “How can I do anything with what is happening in a chapter so far away?” “I was not involved, so I cannot say anything.” “We don’t know all the facts.” “Let’s trust the leaders.” “Should I be involved in all chapter issues then?” “I should be humble and not make a judgment.” “Should we be concerned about all church issues then? How about the Catholic church? Is it our concern?”

    I’ve heard all of those responses. I hope the ethics committee has already been involved. As in the article Jespinola shared, the abuse only perpetuates (and is evidenced in UBF history) when these things are hidden. You can read about some things here, but ubfriends has been labeled a “hell” that people should avoid. To those in UBF who read here, you can see what the church is doing. I used to also excuse my way out of dealing with the issues. For example, “LA UBF is far away and in many ways separate from the issues of UBF clusters in the midwest and east coast.” Finally, I had to ask myself and answer: Is it okay for this to continue? I lost confidence in the church and what I had been doing. I had to change my mind and ways.

    1 Corinthians 12 gets to a critical point in all of this: love for one another, a love that goes beyond honoring and keeping “order” for seniors.

  8. Good points Charles. In regard to the Ethics and Accountability committee and department (yes there are TWO groups at ubf), those are worthless and might as well be called the “shut up and go away” committee and the “we are always right” department.

    I submitted two things to that committee and have not heard a single thing back officially from the committee. Maybe if I wait 5 decades? Don’t count on it. I did hear back from one committee member personally (not acting as the committee) to assure me I would soon hear something and that the committee was “very busy” with a “hot issue”. I stopped counting the weeks and months that have passed by from my 2 submissions.

    In any case, I want to publicly announce our new community, since there may be more fallout from NY or other chapters.

    If anyone wants to dialogue about ubf issues privately or needs help understanding the cultic nature of ubf, join my new private community website. Instead of trying to do exit counseling by myself, I will be directly people who contact me to this new community of friends:


  9. Joe Schafer

    Charles wrote:

    “1. Hurt is covered up. How much do local members of a chapter know about the hurt and issues going on in other chapters? – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/17/darkness-at-new-york-ubf/#comment-16535

    Sometimes they don’t even care about hurtful things that happen in their own chapters.

    Here is an interesting account by IK of what happened when RW asked him about problems at Downey. IK minimized the problems and dodged responsibility, even when he was asked by the UBF North American Coordinator.

    “During the snack fellowship, Pastor Ron Ward approached me and asked, “Missionary isaac, I heard Downey UBF did terrible things to the three people. What happened?” I asked him, “What do you mean?” He said, “It sounds too horrible for me to say it. I am wondering how this could happen? Do you know?” I said, “Like any closely knit society, in UBF, a rumor spreads at the speed of light, and when the news reaches the other side, it becomes a monster.” Then Pastor Ron said, “You are right. But, still I am wondering how that happened.” So I said, “Apparently people with young energy had many good ideas, so they met together to share different ideas on the way to serve the Lord, and obviously not all of them were in agreement. I was not in the meetings; I understand Missionary John Kwon chaired the meetings, so you may wish to talk to him.” “Okay”, he said.”

    This is not hearsay. This is what IK published on his own public website.


    • Joe Schafer

      Charles, if you were present at those meetings mentioned by IK, I would love to hear your account of what happened there.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Joe, yes, I was asked by JK to be present at some of the “larger” group meeting with those involved–and I was there. I was a member of the planning committee (we met to plan out conference, disciple programs, and other group events), a fellowship leader and involved in many other areas at that time. I can share what I know, as I best I can, hopefully, truthfully and gracefully.

      I hope this won’t overshadow the article re: NY.

      Actually, there were many meetings, some just two people, some three, and some up to eight or nine people, I believe. The events that led up to what RW is referring to (It was reported that Downey had kicked three 2nd gens out [I don’t like using that term, but will use it here for clarity]) span about a year, from summer 2011 to summer 2012.

      As the exchange between IK and RW above show, there were sadly a lot of misunderstandings that just made the whole thing a terrible mess for everyone.

      First, I can address IK’s words which you quoted. I understand your impression of his words here (I’m not sure if you had any conversation with him about the events that might have influenced that further). It does sound evasive, but I don’t think for reasons of avoiding responsibility. You must understand that an issue came up that most of the people in Downey knew about. You quoted IK to demonstrate a case where people in the chapter do not know about hurt, but in this case many, many people were aware of what was going on. What IK says here are true. A rumor did become more than what it was as it spread through UBFland. RW doesn’t even ask IK if the events are true, but simply how they could have happened. He even has already made a judgment about them. Some younger people did have ideas and energy that were not met with agreement from leaders in the chapter, IK was not present at any of the meetings (as much as I know), and JK was the chair and final decision on the matter. IK was in the middle. Many in the chapter accused him of nepotism because his son was one of “the three” referenced. Some outside the chapter accused him of not caring for his son and the other 2nd gens. He also wanted to make things right with his own, as he confessed to some of us American leaders how he had wronged his son by ignoring him throughout much of his childhood. IK once told us (I suppose it was around that time) that the most important thing he wanted us to learn from him was to not neglect your children. Also, by this time many of the responsibilities of being director were already passed to JK at this time as IK was transitioning out (albeit unofficially and without notice to the rest of the chapter).

      Backstory. In 2011, three 2nd gens wanted to form a new fellowship (group activity time, not the kind of ownership/fellowship that is prevalent in UBF). They went to IK first and it was approved. IK asked the rest of the leaders in the chapter to support them. We did. The first “phase”, as the 2nd gens called it, took place that semester and many people were happy with it. Around the end of the first phase and into the 2nd phase, many concerns from other missionaries and shepherds in the chapter began to arise. The three had not been UBF shepherds who shepherded or discipled people in the traditional UBF sense. This was a concern for others because all of the attending students were fished by others, and not the three. Some thought it was risky. The fellowship also turned into a teaching platform that some felt was used to throw rocks at the ministry and people supporting them. Unpleasant critiques of the leadership of the chapter were given in front of the students. One student stopped talking to their shepherd and joining the main SWS altogether. There were concerns of calvinistic apologetics being taught. Dating was an issue. Lack of commitment from the three was a stated concern (because it was known that at least one of them was going to be moving away soon to get married). Eventually, the fellowship meetings turned into a competing SWS, happening at the same time and inviting the students away from the main worship service. So, people went to IK, JK, and then it went to the planning committee. The new fellowship that was made was turning into something different that not everyone was in agreement on. Private meetings escalated to three larger meetings of which I attended. The three were present at those meetings; a total of about eight people were in attendance. In those meetings, we took turns listening to each other, going around the table, and then giving feedback to each other. Sadly, although much was said, I believe little was heard and it finished with people being hurt, distanced, and misunderstood. There were a lot of assumptions and accusations from both sides that clouded our judgments and hearts. The three asked for permission to let them do whatever they want without leaders getting in the way. The committee asked that the three also come under oversight as other programs in the chapter do, mostly because it’s good to be accountable to each other and also because people were concerned for their Bible students. Finally, without coming to agreement, the new fellowship disbanded and the three moved away.

      I was surprised to hear the next day, after that last larger meeting, that news had already spread outside of Downey that the three had been kicked out. They may have, understandably, felt pushed out, but they were not kicked out. In fact, after the last large meeting, we didn’t know the final outcome. JK was going to assess the situation according to our discussions and then make a judgment. In the end, JK agreed to let their fellowship continue and he would also join so that other church members feel like there is some oversight and not just privilege for 2nd gens. A few more fellowship meetings happened after that time, but then it was disbanded and people moved away.

      Looking back, I have my own share of biases that surely influenced my judgments in ways that I think were not good and which also prevented me from listening and understanding the three better. I’m sorry for that. It wasn’t fair to them and I put myself in the position that I am right and then moved on. But I think we all did.

      I shared some of the concerns from the chapter members. Here are some of the concerns I gleaned from the three during those later meetings: messages were all about mission, they were being mistreated because they were 2nd gens, the chapter was “dead” and it wasn’t welcoming to new people. Although, my impression was that this was largely directed towards the Korean leadership, and not so much inclusive of the American leaders. It was difficult on the part of the American leadership because: 1) some of these are issues we were also trying to address, but got lumped in with the problem; 2) to a degree we felt the three were actually getting special treatment because they were 2nd gens (no American student could have done what they did in forming a fellowship and teaching other people’s bible students); and 3) we failed at approaching their issues properly and working together.

      This was a messy write up and my biases probably show through. I’m not trying to defend, excuse or vilify anyone, IK, myself or the three. I am very unhappy that things turned out as they did. These events were actually on my mind recently. Thanks to your mentioning it, I finally reached out to the three today and I hope we can be reconciled.

      Feel free to ask me questions in order to clarify anything.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks so much for this detailed reply. There is a lot here to process. Your explanations sound very fair and charitable.

  10. Charles, my head is spinning. And now I remember yet another reason why I am so glad to be away from ubf. My workplace is far superior and healthy.

  11. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    It’s unfortunate that the link is gone. (You can still find the posts via google cache.) In discussing the NY blog posts with people off-line, questions of the veracity of the story keep coming up, with UBF getting the benefit of the doubt before considering the repeated patterns of abuse and cover up found in the post. I don’t know how long people can keep dismissing ex-members stories that are so similar throughout the decades and across geographic regions.

    The removal of the posts reminded me of the great efforts UBF has gone through to remove “anti-UBF” web materials. I heard in private and public how the efforts were progressing through the years. Of course, Chris and Brian know very well about it. At staff conferences, the web committee would report on search rankings and how anti material was pushed to the 2nd page of results, and so on. There was even mention once of how efforts were going until they found out that a senior missionary’s son was involved, so efforts were scaled back. All of that energy used to suppress people’s stories instead of listening to them. Let people not doubt that UBF has in the past taken much action against online publishing of “anti-UBF” materials.

    • Joe Schafer

      There are many who have suggested or told me that placing this material on UBFfriends, FB or other publicly accessible venues is not appropriate.

      My take: This stuff is being talked about regardless. Whenever another scandal comes up, the UBF rumor mills shift into hyperdrive. Ideas that leaders want to broadcast travel like wildfire. Rest assured, the missionaries are talking about this to inform all the people that they want, in the way that they want. Does anyone ever go to them and tell them that they mustn’t do this? No, they don’t.

      So when people tell me, “You shouldn’t broadcast this on the internet,” what they are really saying is: “You must allow this information to be given out only by ubf leaders, only to the people they want, only in the way that they want, and other people must not be told, or they must hear about this only through rumor and back channels.”

    • Mark Mederich


  12. Joe Schafer

    Here is a quote from a recent Sunday message.

    How should we carry out this ministry? Look at verse 2. “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” The gospel ministry is not like the worldly business or political campaign. It is a non-profit ministry. There should be no shameful secret agenda, no distortion, and no deception. Honesty, transparency, purity, and straight talk are the backbone of the gospel ministry.


    When I read that, I gasped.

    The director of that chapter is one of the main reasons why I had to stop participating in UBF. For almost three years, I pleaded with him to allow us to discuss some issues that were tearing at the fabric of our community. I wanted to have a discussion among the leaders of the midAtlantic chapters. But again and again he shut the conversation down before it could even start. I went to him privately on several occasions but nothing changed, it only got worse. His message to me and everyone else was “Stop talking about this and go back to Bible study and campus evangelism.” This guy sent emails warning me to stop talking to members of his chapter (people I have known for 30 years) and saying that all communication must go through him. I brought these to the attention of headquarters and the Ethics Committee and begged the General Director to do something. Nothing happened. I asked for a meeting in the presence of witnesses to deal with these problems and got no response. (Even after all this, people were saying that I wasn’t following correct biblical procedures for conflict resolution!) The solution that he proposed to the GD was to split the midAtlantic region into multiple regions so he wouldn’t have to deal with me anymore.

    It is likely that this is one of the leaders who secretly conspired to have me banned from speaking at The Well. No one spoke to me or to the leaders of The Well sbout this; it was all done behind closed doors. And when the GD decided to allow me to speak at The Well anyway, this guy quickly decided to hold a retreat of his own at the same time to prevent any of his members from going to the Well. This guy has spread a great deal of rumor and innuendo about me.

    Oh, and I almost forgot. He authored the first draft of the “Guidelines for UBF Chapter Directors” which laid out biblical principles for conflict resolution.

    I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

    • Joe Schafer

      Oh, and this too. He was also chair of the UBF Unity Committee. The committee never met. He wrote a report on behalf of the committee that was published in the 2012 UBF Newsletter. He put my name on the report even though I never saw it. If I had, I would have strongly objected because (aside from the broken English) I found the content highly offensive.

      The report began: “Praise God for declaring what is to be in 2011. God quieted all critical people to UBF so that UBF may be used as God’s instrument for the world mission.” That report is still on line, and it still has my name on it. (pp 35-36)


      So ironic, because all year I had been warning ubf leaders that the ministry was fragmenting, and the only way to work toward unity was to listen carefully to the criticism, not to ignore or silence the critics.

    • The irony. You’re right, nobody could make this up even in their wildest dreams.

      The UBF newsletters have been filled with lies and disinformation from the beginning, it’s a tradition Samuel Lee has established. Just yesterday I gave the example of the lady that became a brainwashed vegetable after leaving UBF according to Samuel Lee. Not to speak of the falsified photos. And they even let people pay for reading these distortions of the truth.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      “We commend ourselves”

    • Joe Schafer

      Oh, yeah, and this too. This man is one of the small group of leaders who is handpicking the next GD. Those meetings have been going on and the decision will be finalized soon. I wonder how many ubf members or even chapter directors are aware of this. Transparency indeed.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Whenever I would press for info about GD selection, candidates, transperancy, it always came back to, basically, “ultimately God chooses the leader of his ministry, so we don’t need to know all the info or get involved. God will do what is best. Trust in God.” It’s amazing how many buy into this. My trust in God cannot be linked to letting people whatever they want in this way. No, thanks.

      Ask members what the GD even does. Many do not know although they pray for him to lead the ministry each week at their worship service.

    • “God will do what is best. Trust in God.”


      “ubf will do what is best. Trust in ubf.”

      The ubf echelon is made up of about 15 Koreans. They do what they want.

      Oh and mark my words: PH will be your next GD, if not this time, next time.

  13. “…the small group of leaders who is handpicking the next GD. Those meetings have been going on and the decision will be finalized soon. I wonder how many ubf members or even chapter directors are aware of this. Transparency indeed.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/17/darkness-at-new-york-ubf/#comment-16568

    Indeed. My small, miniscule hope is that when the next GD is announced the headline won’t be “God appointed the new GD” (as happened previously), but instead say “A committee appointed the new GD and it was approved by the members,” or something like that.

    The unfortunate mindset of some in the UBF hierarchy is still deeply entrenched and indisputably top down, such that whatever the privileged few at the top decide is equivalent to God’s decree and will to be imposed on all and everyone else in UBF, like it or not. This, in my opinion, will continue to cause more and more young people and mid-tier people to leave UBF.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, how dare you. It is not the role of UBF leaders to discern God’s will. It is their role to announce God’s will.

  14. Transparency would be for all GD candidates to post an article here on ubfriends answering our questions for the next general director.

  15. It must be GD election time! Another vandal blanked out the Wikipedia page on ubf.

    Cowardly vandalism again on ubf Wikipedia entry

    How long with these silly games go on? Why don’t ubf leaders simply talk to us and address the abuse instead of trying to eliminate negative material on the internet?

    Of course we all know why.

  16. Joe Schafer

    Ben, all joking aside: If they truly believe that they are acting on God’s behalf, then they should just go ahead and announce as they have in the past: “God has chosen XXX as the next General Director.” Why strive to be politically correct? It’s more honest and transparent this way.

    But the irony is that they no longer treat the GD as the Lord’s Anointed. The power of his office has significantly eroded. There are many hardliners who feel that, because they are older and have more seniority than the current GD, they don’t have to listen to him. In many respects, it is the previous GD who is still calling the shots. No matter who becomes the next GD, that won’t change. The organization is fracturing, morale is low, and no one is articulating a compelling vision for what the enterprise is about or why it should continue. And the continued failure to enact clear policies and procedures for handling ethical failure and abuse has left the organization more exposed and vulnerable to legal action than ever before. Whoever the next GD is, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      “God has chosen XXX as the next General Director.” Joe, this is literally what is being said at the local level regarding GD’s past and present and all leaders in their hierarchy. I was told this several times and it became a why I should be quiet and stop presenting issues. This came not just from the chapter director but many members. It’s disturbing.

    • Joe Schafer

      I think the exact words that appeared on the UBF website in 2011 were “God chose Abraham T Kim…” I can’t find the article now; maybe someone removed it. But here it is on a mirror site.


    • I’ve been told the same thing, Charles and indeed it is disturbing. UBF excels at silencing the questions of critical thinkers within its organization and simultaneously convincing its members that too much thinking is akin to sinful calculating or being cynical. One major reason why people just give up or leave is due to the fact that so many decisions are made based on the whims of senior leaders rather than sound logic. This will cause the organization to become more and more unhealthy and to eventually implode.

    • Mark Mederich

      prayer topic is for God’s guidance in
      selection of GD but is incongruous if already humanly chosen;

      anyway what’s sad in life situations like this is people tend to ‘row’ the boat on regardless of increasing rapids & even right over the waterfall, rather than adjust course or double back..i guess life can make us more afraid of unknown change than come with correcting our course than with impending harm on keeping on keeping on

  17. It’s interesting, the thing that really opened my eyes to all of this (and yes, anyone who’s reading this, I have seen elements of everything in all the above in the chapter where I have grown up and served) was in listening to June Hunt and Hope for the Heart on Radio.

    Joe, you may remember my question, “How do you deal with differences between native shepherds and missionaries” which received a rousing cheer of laughter as if it were ridiculous. Amazingly, only Joe and the former director of Toledo actually apologized to me. Everyone laughed and looked past the issue at the National Staff Conference. That told me something was more wrong than I thought. That’s when I was actually really struggling to stay afloat from day to day and heard Hope for the Heart on the radio. I found a lot of discernment regarding anger, blindness and control. I began to long for more understanding of the gospel and the Christian life and in my sermons I began to focus more on that than on the 12+12+KoPHN+120+1,0000,000.

    It all comes down to whether we’re really leaving control of our lives in the hands of people, or our own hands, or really trusting God and doing what is right. It’s scary that so many UBF leaders at the national and international level use the same words but turn it to believing in UBF. I’m sorry to hear that RW seemed to have been trying to find out what was going on and didn’t get to the heart of it.

    Another thought, coming back to the Apologies idea, is that most UBF missionaries are incapable of an apology.

    All I need to hear is, “I’m very sorry this all happened. It was definitely not what I intended. Our ministry needs God’s help. If you would serve God in trying to help us keep God’s grace and calling, I would be very thankful.”

    THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN and even if I did hear it I’m not sure I could set myself to it.

    You CANT apologize to someone and say, “We have to forgive each other, let’s have a clean slate” when YOU have WRONGED them. Apology and forgiveness must be asked for unconditionally, without any offer to make up or pay, because you can’t. Otherwise it’s not forgiveness, but dependence.

    Actually, a missionary once suggested me to go to seminary and study and use my gifts to help UBF, but the more I prayed and read books by Danaher and Bonhoeffer and , the more I was convinced that something is deeply and fundamentally wrong. Actually, I’m thinking about doing that kind of study, if God wills, but I am definitely not in the place to do it all pretend-like. Like Paul said, serve where you are, don’t worry about doing everything you don’t do now that you’re a Christian. Which means, I think, trust God and let him be God.

    • Joe Schafer

      MattC, I remember that panel discussion well. There are some interesting backstories about it that I will share when I get a chance.

      “Why don’t you go to seminary and then use your gifts to serve UBF?”

      What this means: “Go to seminary and then come back and help ubf continue to do exactly what it is doing, using your degree credentials to improve the organization’s legitimacy and reputation.”

      What this does not mean: “Go to seminary and then come back and help us to make meaningful changes and improvements.”

      I didn’t go to seminary, but beginning in 2009 I bought armloads of good-quality Christian books with real theological content. I read voraciously on all kinds of topics. Then I began to share with ubf staff what I was learning and made some concrete (and, in retrospect, very mild) suggestions about how we could improve our ministry practice. As soon as I did, the s–t hit the fan. Senior staff members got very upset. Some rebuked me by email. Others (notably JL, IK, PH) called backroom meetings about how to handle the Joe Schafer problem. Word spread like wildfire: “Joe Schafer has become proud and difficult.” Actually, they had always known that I was proud because I had gone to MIT and Harvard and because I never experienced the hardcore dehumanizing training under SL that the full-time staff had gone through. But when I also became difficult, the ubf rumor mills started to churn.

      “He’s gettin’ above his raisin’.”

      In the hills of Kentucky and the backwoods of Appalachia, they have a colorful way of describing someone who leaves home to get an education and then comes back and tries to engage the community again. They say, “He’s gettin’ above his raisin’.” Translation: “He forgot where he came from. He goes off to some fancy-pants college and now he thinks he can come back and tell us what to do. He thinks he knows somethin’ but he don’t know nothin’. Let’s go and whoop his ass!”

      These attitudes (which are rooted in pride and inferiority complex) are pervasive in some parts of Appalachia and are a major reason why bright young people never try to get an college education; they have seen what happens to people who actually do.

      So ubf leaders might tell you, “Go to seminary and then come back and help ubf.” But they don’t actually want help, because they think they are doing just fine. And they don’t want you gettin’ above your raisin.’ They just want someone with credentials to give them legitimacy. And if you learn something in seminary that would actually be useful, they prefer that you shut up and keep it to yourself.

    • Joe Schafer

      A useful piece of information: When I started to make suggestions in 2010 on how to improve ubf practices, there were two members of the senior staff who reacted very positively to my suggestions and were very supportive of me. One was MY of Boston. The other was DB of New York. I deeply appreciate that and will always remember that. Despite the unfortunate events that have recently come to light in New York, my hope and prayer is that DB will take the right path through this mess, the path of honesty and humility, and emerge with a concrete sense of how to lead NY into healthier forms of Christian community.

    • Joe, I’d love to hear the background of course.

      As far as I can tell, some forward thinking people realized dialogue was needed, other (less forward thinking) people thought it harmless, and hilarity ensued.

      Of course, let me know if I missed anything.

      It revealed the need for real “training” involving intercultural/crosscultural understanding and communication techniques.

      And the fact that all the training people received missed one critical point — how to apologize.

      Lol the best point anyone came up with was, “Disagree, then go home and pray, and God will bring you together.” However, as we all know, this may sometimes appear to be the case but can justify those in power ignoring sincere issues.

      The sad part is that no one from my chapter even mentioned it ^_^ made me really feel like part of the group.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      What this means: “Go to seminary and then come back and help ubf continue to do exactly what it is doing, using your degree credentials to improve the organization’s legitimacy and reputation.” What this does not mean: “Go to seminary and then come back and help us to make meaningful changes and improvements.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/17/darkness-at-new-york-ubf/#sthash.u8R3m4K9.dpuf This is implied in the Chapter Guidelines, at least the June ’14 version I read.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      “Disagree, then go home and pray, and God will bring you together.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/17/darkness-at-new-york-ubf/#comment-16675

      Matt, I wasn’t at that session, but not surprised it’s the best response. There’s a lot of making God a scapegoat going on. Matthew 5:23-24 comes to mind. Leave your gift and go be reconciled. It’s our part to do, not God’s. It was also a critique of Israel (see all of Hosea 6).

  18. And actually, enough of my life has been blazoned across the sky as a confirmation of God’s work in this ministry, and I don’t want to be used to give false testimony any more.

  19. Thanks also to Bento for linking to a facebook comment thread, you’re quite savvy for the interwebs!

    • Someone once told me that my name is clearly spelled out in the Bible. See if you can find it in these four verses—Lk 4:39; 13:11; Jn 20:5, 11.

  20. “Why don’t you go to seminary and then use your gifts to serve UBF?” What this means: “Go to seminary and then come back and help ubf continue to do exactly what it is doing, using your degree credentials to improve the organization’s legitimacy and reputation.” What this does not mean: “Go to seminary and then come back and help us to make meaningful changes and improvements.”
    – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/17/darkness-at-new-york-ubf/#comment-16595

    The UBF hierarchy has kept insisting that they are changing…but slowly, which to a degree is true. But the bigger issue is the inner motivation for the (very slow) change. It is usually not to truly change but to primarily appease those who are asking for change, while clinging ever so avidly to the “core values,” which are not really values but methods.

    But an even bigger issue is the absolute refusal or simply inability of some/many of the older leaders (the “ancestors” of UBF) to welcome any change that does not originate from them. I think you could call this pride.

    When I read Joe’s proposal for changes about 5 years ago, my immediate thought was that if his proposals were welcomed even a little bit, UBF could reverse course. But by refusing to examine any of Joe’s very reasonable proposals, it has led to massive exoduses from UBF from through the world over the last few years, including from Korea, the motherland.

    Since I still regard UBF as the church God put me in, this is extremely disheartening. Maybe God wants me to experience a small miniscule version of what Jeremiah experienced, for he had to live through his nation go down the tube and into the sewer.

    • Joe, Could you share again some of your proposals? They might actually be followed in some of the smaller chapters that have less to little politics.

    • Oh yeah, me dummy, I forgot to mention that the sole singular primary predominant reason so many people are leaving UBF is not because of UBF but BECAUSE OF UBFRIENDS!!! (…which AHEM I started…just to keep perpetuating the infamy.)

    • Mark Mederich

      I’m sure friends is not so powerful to groundlessly influence people to leave, however it may groundedly (is that a word:)speed up an inevitable process of awareness & consequent desire for better, or exodus if necessary..

    • Joe Schafer

      I’d be happy to share my ideas with anyone who is interested.

      I could offer suggestions, but won’t tell them what to do. Even better, I could share with them some of the things I’ve been learning from Christians outside of ubf; they could chew on it and draw their own conclusions and recommendations.

      But let’s follow the advice of Washington UBF where it was preached, “Honesty, transparency, purity, and straight talk are the backbone of the gospel ministry.” No, these ideas must not be whispered in dark, secret places. We must do this out in the open, because that is what the Bible commands.

      Anyone from UBF may invite me into their chapters to make presentations. But the presentations must not be held in secret; they must be open to everyone of all ages. And Sharon has to come too, because she knows as much or more about these things as I do. After a presentation, I will stop talking and anyone who is present may speak their minds. Someone who can serve as a moderator (maybe Bento) will facilitate the discussion. Here are the presentations I could make.

      1. Relating to people who don’t agree with you
      (Listening for Dummies)
      2. What is the gospel and how does one preach it?
      (Evangelism for Dummies)
      3. Whys and hows of Christian liturgy
      (Worship for Dummies)
      4. Who’s Afraid of relativism, evolution, Biblical historical criticism, and so on?
      (Postmodernism for Dummies)
      5. A vision for Christian community from Ephesians 2
      (Fellowship for Dummies)
      6. Introduction to the theology of missions
      (Missiology for Dummies)
      7. How do we know what we know, and why does it matter?
      (Epistemology for Dummies)
      8. What is church, and why do we need it?
      (Ecclesiology for Dummies)
      9. In what sense is Scripture authoritative, and how should we approach it?
      (Bible for Dummies)
      10. Beyond Daily Bread: devotional exercises for individuals and groups
      (Spiritual Formation for Dummies)

      When I say “Dummies” I would definitely include myself, because I am the chief dummy. I would not place myself in a position of pretending that I know the answers. I certainly would not try to stand up the way that ubf trained me to speak like an authoritative messenger who has no actual expertise or authority. I would be a “cloud seeder,” throwing fistfulls of ideas up into the air and then get out of the way to let the storms brew and watch the rain fall.

    • Joe Schafer

      And a few more:

      11. Our true home ain’t heaven
      (Eschatology for Dummies)
      12. Full-bodied spirituality
      (Sex for Dummies)

      Can anyone lend me a bulletproof vest?

    • As a perpetual dummy, I love them dummy topics! Anytime you’re in Chicago, you’re most welcome to do a presentation at WL, which WILL be OPEN to ALL.

    • Joe Schafer

      Next time I plant a church (probably never but who knows) I’ll put up a black & yellow sign and call it Church for Dummies

    • Joe Schafer

      and my speaker’s fee at West Loop must consist of one Al’s Italian Beef sandwich w/ hot peppers

    • And we definitely must throw in some Polish sausage from the store of your choice. The store from the last place that I remember buying them from closed down, I think.

    • “…and my speaker’s fee at West Loop must consist of one Al’s Italian Beef sandwich w/ hot peppers” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/17/darkness-at-new-york-ubf/#comment-16619

      Sadly, those sandwiches are not what they used to be :( must have been the recession, idk.

    • Joe Schafer


  21. Joe Schafer

    For Ruthie’s wedding we got kielbasa from Bobak’s on the south side. Now I’m learning to make my own.

  22. We know there are and have been serious abuses at NYUBF, some worthy of police intervention. And yet ubf people just gloss over the sins committed, pretending they never happened.

    Why is this? One reason is because the ubf KOPAHN theology includes a strong vein of what is known as “covering theology”. This is a serious flaw that enables leaders to be abusers. The forgiveness of sin does not mean you will always escape the consequences of sin in this life. If you do wrong, you should expect consequences.

    Check out the last Sunday NYUBF Sunday lecture. This is rooted in classic covering theology teaching, and deeply harmful to the Body of Christ. This lecture describes the “gospel” that is at the heart of covering theology:

    “Mostly, people may want to forget because they don’t necessarily want to forgive. God not only forgives our sins but he also does not remember them. This is amazing.

    Why might some people want to keep secrets? It’s because it’s too embarrassing to expose. Most of all, they don’t believe their deep secrets will be forgiven. They are afraid to expose their secrets because they don’t really believe that they will be forgiven. So we don’t want to expose our secrets to others, not even to our close friend or spouse. But God knows all our secrets, so we cannot hide anything from Him. And even though God knows everything about us, he does not remember them. It does not affect his love toward us. He will still love us. He won’t love us less. His love will never change. That’s the grace of forgiveness of sins.”

    source: 2-22-2015 NYUBF Sunday Lecture

    The end of the lecture seals the point with more flawed and un-Christlike teaching:

    “Holding grudges, criticizing, blaming, hiding, ignoring and covering up will not heal our soul. Only the power of forgiveness can. That’s why Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven!” Accusation is demonic and forgiveness is divine. Destruction is demonic and redemption is divine. Jesus has the authority both to forgive sins and heal the sick. Jesus took all the blame and paid the cost through his own life. He didn’t retaliate those who accused him. One of his last words on the cross is “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Forgiveness and healing come from God through Jesus Christ. Where there is forgiveness, there is the kingdom of heaven. Praise Jesus the Son of God who has authority to forgive sins and heal all paralysis.”

    If you want to know more about covering theology, this is the best website I’ve found yet: Why Covering Theology is false

    Covering Theology 101 – from the shepherding movement

  23. Something is wrong when churches protect perpetrators and marginalize victims. In recent months, we’ve seen a bit of the underbelly of covering up sexual abuse, demanding victims forgive and forget instantly for the sake of the poor offenders whose lives might be ruined if they were found out.

    Cover up that exalts the “ministry” or a ministry leader over the well being of one who has been sinned against does not represent the Jesus I follow.
    – See more at: http://boz.religionnews.com/2015/07/10/when-the-church-prefers-perpetrators/#sthash.BLpOnz79.dYBOUIN2.dpuf

    • Great article, Anon., and highly relevant even with Korean culture involved in our case.

      Just a quick update to this NY situation: Yes, the NYPD and NYSVU wer notified.

      Another great quote from that article:

      “The Church does far better when it acknowledges its sin, living fearlessly and honestly, than when it prefers to show a pretty, unadulterated face to the world. Unfortunately, we have become so enamored with the ministries we have built, forgetting that God Himself builds His Church (and thinking it weighs on our shoulders), that we have lived in depraved fear, preferring the words of perpetrators over the words of those abused. We wrongly believe that we are in the business of reputation management. – See more at: http://boz.religionnews.com/2015/07/10/when-the-church-prefers-perpetrators/#sthash.BLpOnz79.OvncQfve.dpuf

  24. Churches that have dealt with sexual abuse in a way that reveals glimpses of Jesus: http://boz.religionnews.com/2015/09/18/glimpses-of-jesus-in-the-darkness-of-abuse/