Open Letter to UBF General Director

Sent to the General Director.

December 13th, 2012

Abraham Kim, General Director
University Bible Fellowship
Chicago, IL USA

Dear Abraham,

We are now in the 2012 Advent season, just before Christmas. As I ponder the amazing life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I am moved to share this public letter. Why do I write publicly? The reason is clear: over the past 50 years, many members of UBF and former members of UBF have raised questions, issues, concerns and allegations about the ministry you now oversee. Many attempts have been made to follow Jesus’ direction on handling matters of concern in private. The result has been overwhelming silence, minor changes now and then and an increase in the effort of those who remain in UBF leadership to deny and dismiss the concerns.

So today I write openly, after resigning my position of Director of Detroit UBF in the summer of 2011. I write today in hopes of realizing what my friend James Kim wrote in his open letter in 1994: “I wanted to build a better UBF.”

I’d like to begin by drawing your attention to some prior open letters sent to UBF leadership, and to share with you some numbers.

Prior Open Letters

In 1976, some senior Korean leaders in UBF wrote their open letter:

In 2007, a former Korean leader in UBF wrote an open letter:

In 2011, a current American UBF leader in UBF wrote an open letter:

Numbers:  11,153 vs 3

First of all I would like to point out 3 positive events that have occurred in the past 2 years since I left UBF. “The Well” ministry has made significant improvements to the traditional UBF ministry. I fully support this initiative. “Westloop Church” has become what I call “redeemed UBF”. I have worshiped with them and visited three times recently. “The Ethics Committee” work with John Armstrong has been an extraordinary step in the right direction. Listening to Mr. Armstrong and connecting with the larger body of Christ is essential for any ministry to be healthy.

Even though UBF ministry has taken those three steps forward, I want to point out the huge load of burden that UBF carries. In total, there are at least 11,153 reasons for concern. I would like for you to notice the following:

159 – There are 159 testimonies of pain, sorrow, agony and abuse written by former UBF members and published on this blog:  These testimonies have been published already for many years. They form the primary public record of UBF.

13 – Since I left UBF, there have been 13 UBF leaders (fellowship leaders or director level) who have reached out to me to share their concerns and issues with UBF ministry.

103 – I counted up all the people who had left Toledo UBF (my prior UBF chapter where I spent 16 years as a member and fellowship leader). If you count men, women and children, 103 people left Toledo UBF with a problematic departure over the course of 21 years, from 1990 to 2011. I know all of them. Many are still friends with me. None of them left on good terms, though some have since reconciled at least partially. Some won’t discuss UBF any longer. Others have written UBF ministry out of their life story because of the pain.

5,269 – According to Google Analytics, there have been 5,269 “unique visitors” on my blog over the past 1 and half years. This means 5,269 unique computing devices viewed at least one page on my blog. It is safe to say that several thousand people from around the world are interested in reading my criticism of UBF minsitry. The top 10 countries of people reading my blog are from the countries with the largest UBF chapters, such as the USA, Germany, Canada and South Korea.

220 – So far, I have published over 200 articles on this blog, I have shared my personal journey as I left UBF, my thoughts on what could be changed, and various thoughts that came to mind as I struggled to make sense of my 24 years in UBF ministry.

503 – Not only are a lot of people interested in reading my articles, the content generated over 500 comments. Several people are very interested in discussing the issues and topics I raise here.

206 – My blog is not the only public discussion website. The website published over 200 articles as well. That website is far more friendly to UBF and presents more robust articles than mine.

4,680 – The 206 articles on invoked over 4,000 comments. Many of those commenting are current UBF members and leaders. This is evidence that the topics covered on that website are highly important to UBF members, many of whom are willing to openly discuss the topics.

Two Demands

In light of my own struggle with leaving UBF ministry and the mountain of evidence above, I submit the two demands below to you for UBF ministry. I have given much thought and prayer to this. I have read all of the evidence above for myself. For many years now, I have been discussing UBF matters with dozens of former and current UBF members from places such as the USA, Germany, Russia, China and Ukraine. I have had well over 3,000 email conversations regarding problems, abuses, issues and changes. I have had in-person meetings and discussions with John Armstrong. I have read several heartbreaking emails from former UBF members who continue to reach out to me– people who are struggling with things like depression, anxiety and the burden of guilt left over from their time in UBF. Several former members are seeking psychological counselling or have considered such counselling. And most importantly, I have discussed these things with my wife.

I have attempted to express my feelings through several songs. If you listen to these songs, or at least read the lyrics from my point of view, you may begin to understand the range of emotions behind this open letter.

I have become convinced the following two issues are at the core of the present “crisis” facing UBF– the crisis of members leaving. I use the word “crisis” because that is what your 50th Anniversary Book describes in the last lecture.

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”.

Is the work of God primarily about denial and authority? Can UBF ministry continue without facing the facts? Will UBF ministry be effective by continuing to enforce permanent shepherd/sheep relationships? Might the work of God be done through friendship?

If you are willing to consider these thoughts, I would be happy to meet in public or in private to discuss my further thoughts on how UBF might find a way to become a healthy Christian ministry. I would welcome your public or private response to this letter.

Sincerely with hope,

Brian Karcher

6 thoughts on “Open Letter to UBF General Director

  1. Well done. Let’s see if Abraham Kim will respond in any way. I myself sent a long public letter to Sarah Barry in 2003, in the name of many ex members all over the world whose questions I had collected. I sent the letter via email from Germany to her and also asked some leaders to relay my letter to her, and in addition I sent the letter also by registered snail mail to her official address with reply advice, so I know it arrived, but until today I got no response whatsoever.

    • I think that people like you and I will continue to be dismissed for many more years because we are just “bitter, wounded, weak and rebellious” :)

      I don’t expect an answer. Any reply to my open letter would be a big surprise. Or like the Russians experienced recently, I would expect an answer like “ignore the past, just praise God. Just give glory to God and move on.”

      But, as you know, our message of repentance and call to honesty is essential. I’m not going away, nor is this blog. The outcry for justice is being heard. Even though we are dismissed, I take comfort in knowing we are invoking many, many conversations inside the UBF walls. I have peace knowing that the bondage of UBF shepherding is breaking and the Spirit is on the move– the seeds of freedom, grace, truth and hope sown through each reform movement are now growing.

      And one final note: I want to publicly thank you, Chris, and your wife for all you’ve done in these matters! Your voice is important.

    • Chris, Abraham Kim replied kindly, as did several people so far. It seems more people in UBF are not in denial as much as in the past, though some certainly are still.

  2. ubf people love numbers. But they don’t usually understand that numbers are results, and that numbers follow what you do; numbers do not lead you.

    So here are some updates on numbers that followed this open letter. In the one and a half years since publishing this open letter, here are how the numbers fell:

    On my blog:
    — 220 articles grew to 306, an increase of 39%
    — 503 comments grew to 591, an increase of 18%

    The discussions have moved to
    –206 articles is now 471, an increase of 129%
    –4,680 comments is now 14,520, an increase of 210%

    The numbers that followed my open letter tell the storyline of “significant online discussions” regarding the unhealthy ubf movement.

    Never underestimate what one guy with a blog can do!

  3. Brian, your various stats, including ubf’s money stats over the years, are truly quite interesting and fascinating, especially for a longstanding ubfer like myself (34 years and counting)! How do you even remember to keep track of them, amidst all the busyness and complexities of life?

  4. It is easy Ben, since I am writing my 3rd book about my journey of recovery from ubf heritage and lifestyle. I’m nearing the completion of that 3rd book, btw. Plus, what else would you expect from me, being the #1 vocal critic of ubf?