Summary of 4 Attempts to Reform UBF

Some have told me that if I want to see UBF change, I am going about it the wrong way. I agree.

As I’ve said several times, I am not seeking change or reform of UBF. I seek redemption. I believe UBF should not continue to exist as it is, or as it plans to be as described in the 50th Anniversary material.

Why do I have such an attitude? I think this way because there have been four attempts to reform or change or improve UBF. Each time, the result is a stronger adherence by UBF members to the UBF spiritual heritage.

NOTE: There are a small number of UBF chapters who are in the process of re-founding their ministries. The best example is Westloop UBF in Chicago. To such men and women of God, I simply say Amen!

2012 Summary of UBF Reform Attempts

1. Overview of Attempts to Reform UBF

1.1. First Attempt: 1976

UBF was founded in 1961 in South Korea. In 1976, after the letter of reform sent by seven Korean UBF staff shepherds, UBF was founded in the USA. In just 15 years, UBF had serious issues that needed reformed.

The first reform attempt was by Koreans from Korea UBF.

1.2. Second Attempt: 1989

In 1989, James Kim (Director) of Toledo UBF helped lead another Korean shepherd reform movement, which resulted in the Kim’s family being driven away from UBF with a secret pact.

The second reform attempt was initiated by Koreans from Toledo UBF.

1.3. Third Attempt: 2001

In 2001, Jimmy Rhee of Chicago UBF and other Korean shepherds, missionaries and directors led another Korean shepherd reform movement, citing the same kinds of reform that were needed in 1976 and 1989. The result was the founding of Campus Ministry International (CMI) and another exodus of UBF leaders from places like Toledo UBF (USA), Chicago UBF (USA), Korea UBF and Germany UBF. Even the first UBF USA sheep from Toledo UBF, left UBF at this time and were labeled as enemies.

The third reform attempt was initiated by Koreans from Chicago UBF.

1.4. Fourth Attempt: 2011

In 2011 and the years prior, reform movements were sparked around the world. The notable and most vocal movements were in: Toledo UBF (USA), Penn State UBF (USA), Westloop/Chicago UBF (USA), India UBF, Kiev UBF, Russia UBF and Hong Kong UBF. The result was a mass exodus of dozens of long-time UBF leaders. One result was a large exodus of longtime UBF native (national) leaders. Another result was a large number of UBF leaders (Korean and native/national) who decided to remain as members of UBF in order to initiate new reforms internally.

The fourth attempt was initiated by native (national) UBF leaders around the world.

Based on this pattern, I predict another reform attempt will be made sometime around 2019 unless there is divine intervention.

2. Reasons for this Summary

In 2011, UBF published a 50th Anniversary Book that contained several messages and lectures given at the 50th Anniversary celebrations. This book is the most clearly defined collection of official UBF teachings and plans to date. Because the book mentions nothing about any reform movement, I am prompted by God’s Holy Spirit to document the reform attempts in the UBF history. This is to prevent UBF from re-writing their history so as to leave out the dark side and the violent nature of UBF’s founding.

In 2003, my family was sent to Detroit from Toledo UBF to pioneer a new UBF chapter. The reality is that I was sent to Detroit as obedience training because I failed to demonstrate absolute loyalty and obedience to the director of Toledo UBF. Detroit UBF is no longer in existence.

I am documenting all these things in order to draw public attention to the hidden events that have occurred in UBF the past 50 years, from 1961 to 2011.

3. Positive Results of Reform Attempts

The four reform attempts have had some level of impact on the UBF organization. Although the fundamental teachings and practices of UBF have remained constant the past 50 years, the reform attempts have brought about some positive change.

3.1. First Reform: 1976

– UBF established an American presence, the land of the free. Although Americans seem to be the last in fighting for freedom in UBF, I believe many USA UBF members will lead the way for freedom in the future. If UBF had remained in Korea, such change would likely not have had a chance to flourish.

– UBF stopped, for the most part, the violent training methods that were equivalent to terrorist torture methods.

3.2. Second Reform: 1989

– UBF focused on raising disciples of Jesus as many members were protected from the power struggles at the top of the UBF power structure. The reformers cared deeply about Jesus and the gospel and the students. Therefore, many of the struggles and problems were hidden from members. Although this may be a questionable way to attempt reform, this demonstrates that the Christian values of patience, kindness, forgiveness and goodness have already been implored in the reform movements.

– UBF had a documented history that included the dark side events. James and Rebekah Kim’s long letters have proved to be an invaluable reference.

3.3. Third Reform: 2001

– UBF joined the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA)

– UBF began reaching out to non-UBF sources (NAE, John Armstrong, Scott Moreau)

3.4. Fourth Reform: 2011

– An Ethics & Accountability Committee has been formed.
– Many leaders in UBF left and found healthy churches around the world.
– Many leaders in UBF stayed in order to fight for real change that pleases God.
– UBF senior leaders acknowledge there are “serious problems” that won’t go away.
– A few UBF chapters re-invented themselves, re-founding their ministry on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
– Public awareness was raised around the world through blogging and social media.

4. Overview of Allegations that remain in 2012

Every positive change from the reform movements is tainted by the yeast of legalism, elitism and sectarianism. UBF minds continue to be bound to a Christianized Confucianism. Some of the positive changes were made by UBF either out of panic to prevent problems (such as joining the ECFA to avoid an IRS fine in the US) or as an appeasement to satisfy growing concerns among members (such as the invitation of non-UBF speakers at North American Staff conferences).

The initiatives from Korean UBF during the 50th Anniversary celebrations negate any positive change that has occurred.

Thus, in 2012, several allegations of abuse remain, all of which are similar to the 1976, 1989, 2001 and 2011 calls for reform of similar abuse. I encourage UBF leaders to take these allegations seriously, to investigate them thoroughly and to take swift, public action to ensure such abuse ends in 2012.

These allegations presented in this document are based on my 24 years of UBF lifestyle, the process and struggles that led to my resignation as Director of Detroit UBF and my engaging in over 1,000 dialogues through phone, email, blog, Facebook and in-person coffee shop meetings, in 2011 and 2012, with current leaders and members of UBF as well as former members of UBF. My discussions have been with UBF and non-UBF students, leaders, missionaries, non-UBF pastors and elders, family and friends. I have met with the Toledo UBF council in person in 2012, along with other former Toledo UBF members, to discuss various issues.

I have concluded that UBF can no longer be reformed or changed because many of the same abuses that existed in 1976 have not been addressed in any meaningful way, and still exist in 2012. Furthermore, many of those who helped perpetuate the abuses in 1976 and 2001 are still in leadership positions in UBF. Many have even been promoted to higher positions with greater responsibility.

Because of these continued allegations, all of which tie back to the 1976 allegations, I contend that UBF needs to be re-founded or re-started with new, Biblical principles.

5. 2012 Allegation #1 – Offering Abuses

5.1. Lack of financial accountability in satellite and international chapters

I claim that the 1976 allegations of offering abuse exist in 2012. Although the Chicago UBF headquarters has taken steps toward financial accountability by joining the ECFA and avoiding a large IRS fine, the satellite UBF chapters remain unaccountable. Each UBF staff conference has a morning “financial” session, quickly thrown together and often not in the program. Offering accountability is still left to a small number of people, who try to do a good job, but simply cannot enforce any valid accountability in satellite chapters. Chapters outside Chicago UBF in the USA are left to their own accounting methods, although they are asked to submit a form (yes a single form) to the UBF headquarters on a yearly basis. The typical non-profit accountability methods are not employed in UBF in the US. And who knows what the accounting is like in other countries and especially in Korea?

5.2. Obscure expenses and expenditures

In spite of the ECFA membership, obscure expenses still exist. Random and odd expenses have routinely occurred in my experience the past 24 years. Often, the various UBF committees do not even know exactly where some satellite chapters are! It took many years for my contact information to become correct, even though we’ve had the same address since 2006. I repeatedly gave the same contact info every staff conference since then. Examples of obscure expenses: A UBF director calls the chapter bookkeeper at 4:30 am in the morning demanding cash. A UBF director is offered something called “UBF insurance” for things like car accidents. A student gets a parking ticket while on a UBF conference trip, and UBF pays for the ticket. When proper accounting controls are in place, people feel confident that their offering money will be used as stated. In 2012 in UBF, such confidence does not yet exist.

6. 2012 Allegation #2 – Human Rights Abuses

6.1. Narcissistic Behavior

I claim that the violent acts of the past history in UBF training have been replaced, in America, with narcissistic acts. While there are a few UBF leaders who may indeed have full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), many UBF shepherds display narcissistic behavior.

6.2. Coerced arranged marriage

“Marriage by faith” is an official, documented teaching of UBF. Although there is no longer one man, Lee, arranging marriages, there are many “marriage arrangers” who often use similar political or strategic plans to coerce UBF young people to marry within UBF. As of 2012, wanting to marry someone outside UBF is still grounds for being driven out of UBF. The claim of “no divorce” in UBF is also false. One rather recent arranged marriage in Toledo UBF ended in divorce only months afterward.

6.3. Ignoring the law of the land

I have seen enough first-hand events and have understood the UBF teachings enough to claim that UBF continues to ignore the “law of the land”, no matter which country they go to as missionaries. When I discussed my illegal breaking-and-entering in 1990 with UBF Korean missionaries, they could not decide whether such activity was lawful or unlawful. Their minds are still bound to doing anything and everything for God’s glory, upholding the name of God by illegal means if necessary. This directly contradicts the behavior admonished by Scripture. In 2012, one UBF chapter in Chicago UBF was asked to vacate the home where they had been holding worship services because they had ignored the village zoning laws for places of worship.

6.4. Destruction of Family

I claim that UBF continues to destroy human families in order to bind people to the “UBF family”. One young woman was asked by her UBF shepherd to choose between her parents who left UBF, or the UBF fellowship members as her family. The list of evidences to support my claim are far too many to list here. Any young person who studies the Bible in UBF will eventually discover this most deeply rooted problem in UBF.

7. 2012 Allegation #3 – Non-Biblical Education

7.1. Pavlovian Response Study Methods

As a former Director in UBF and member for 24 years (1987 to 2011), it is very easy for me to see how the claims against Lee can be levied against numerous current UBF leaders and in fact against the official teachings and practices of UBF as an organization. It is even more apparent to me that a core problem in UBF is doctrinal error. The teaching of UBF, and the methods used to perpetuate that teaching, are indeed non-Biblical. This is extremely ironic, given the inordinate amount of time dedicated to Bible study in UBF. But even that is not so ironic to me. It is very easy to see that “Bible study” in UBF is not critical thinking or explorative learning, but is almost exclusively “Pavlovian response technique” and “Bible memorization”. UBF repeatedly trains people to ask certain questions based on certain Bible passages until they can respond in the UBF-ordained manner.

7.2. Dependence on UBF-created material 

UBF continues in 2012 to rely solely on UBF material for teaching. Some UBF members have begun seminary work, but the official teaching methods are strictly bound to Lee-style question sheets and Lee-influenced messages.

The UBF 50th Anniversary book lectures describe plans to create a K-12 UBF school and a UBF university. There are plans to produce UBF Bible research experts. This demonstrates to me that the recent attempts by some UBF leaders to invite non-UBF speakers and to learn from seminary-type teachers are nothing more than appeasements.

8. 2012 Allegation #4 – Teaching a false gospel

In UBF teaching, the Gospel is misused. The Gospel of Jesus is misused because it was presented with little grace and an emphasis on works. Many messages suggested that our works affect God’s love for us. This really created an atmosphere of fear and guilt and lead to many unhealthy families in my opinion. In fact, not long after having children, I found that there was no family that I wanted to emulate. The answer to every question is to work harder, feed more sheep, develop more capacity and everything will be OK. This is so incorrect. There are only so many hours in the day. At some point, you can do no more. This is not a Biblical message. When I focus on what I can do-I am left with guilt, shame, exhaustion, low self-esteem. When I focus on Jesus and His grace, miraculously, I can still work really hard, but, as Jesus promised, the burden is light. This focus damages and controls people. This message diminishes the power of the blood and grace of Christ.

9. 2012 Allegation #5 – Covering up sin and wrongdoing

UBF has a history of covering up the sin of their leaders and saying that it has been dealt with. But there is no transparency or public repentance. There have been serious sexual sins committed by leaders that have been covered up. UBF money has even been used as hush money-this is money that people sacrificially gave to Jesus! This is a ministry living in the darkness and refusing to come into the light of Christ.

This pattern is also seen whenever anyone has any negative thing to say. UBF leaders urge people who bring up negative realities to simply focus on the positive and the grace they have received through the ministry. Also, a story is created to explain why people leave the ministry. Supposedly, one shepherd left because of “his wife’s problems”. Another family supposedly left because they “could not handle the burdens of life”. Supposedly one shepherdess died in her sleep (the reality is she committed suicide). Putting spin on why people leave or why certain chapters are having difficulties only works for so long. Eventually it causes a serious breach of trust. Shortcomings in the ministry and its leaders need to be acknowledged when they arise. Instead, in UBF, truth is sacrificed for the appearance of an honorable organization.

10. 2012 Allegation #6 – No evidence of real change

There is no reason to think that anything will change at any level. The 50th Anniversary mission statement that was on the UBF website was proof of this (It still exists on the Korean website, but not on the USA website). There was no mention of Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, but instead a focus on the traditions of an ungodly organization.

When UBF leaders came to Toledo, they stated, at one point that people simply needed to focus on 1-1 ministry. They obviously think nothing needs to change-people just need more of the same. UBF leaders also have stated that if many families continue to leave, they will just start all over with new students, training them in the same UBF methods that have been in place since 1976. Holding to the traditions of a man made organization is far more important than loving and caring for families that had supported him and the ministry through many years. In UBF, practices are far more important than people. Obedience is more important than love. Honor is more important than truth.

I further contend that whatever change has occurred, has been steeped in deception. For example, two versions of the final, and most important, lecture from the 50th Anniversary Book were published. One was in printed form only for private distribution, and only to certain leaders. The other was in online form for the public to see. The differences are striking, and highly deceptive.



14 thoughts on “Summary of 4 Attempts to Reform UBF

  1. I want to share some clarification from a former UBF member regarding the 2001 movement. The people who know the facts about these events are dead or dying. Please feel free to add or correct facts!

    “In one passage you write that the 2001 movement was initiated by Koreans from Chigao. I’m not sure about that. There were several large movements in Korea, Germany and the US which shared the same goals and communicated with each other, but I’m not sure which one was first. I tend to believe it originated in Korea where they established a “reform committee”. Many chapters in the world followed their example, because these missionaries were sent out by these reform chapters and considered their leaders their shepherds. Other chapters in the world did not follow, because their mother chapter in Korea was hardcore. After all, in UBF people tend to follow their shepherds. The reform movement in the US was a bit special because they contacted the reformers of 1984 to get advice, some of who had already left UBF and were reluctant to participate because they saw little hope.”

    • Hi could you give me your email address so that I can explain about 2001reform and the beginning of CMI ? I am a former UBF korean missionary.

    • Sarah,

      I sent you email privately, but I hope to publish something you have to share. It would be helpful to know more about CMI and how it was formed, especially how it relates to UBF.

  2. “…the invitation of non-UBF speakers at North American Staff conferences.”

    I heard that people in charge of The Well (formerly YDC) were reprimanded for inviting an outside speaker…

    • I don’t know about the planning details behind the Well, anonymous. Perhaps if John Y. is reading this he could comment. I do know that Rand Tucker spoke there.

    • As one who was involved in the planning details of the Well, I would say that it is NOT true that people were “reprimanded” simply for inviting an outside speaker. UBF staff conferences, for instance, invite outside speakers all the time. And yes, honest feedback was given regarding various aspects of the Well conference, as anyone is always welcome to their own honest opinions about speakers, program styles, conference management etc. However, this is not the forum in which I would prefer to discuss the details of what that honest feedback did entail.

      But please note this (for this might come as a surprise for regular readers of Brian’s blogs): we in the planning teams experienced complete support and encouragement from the UBF leadership to not only invite an outside speaker but to follow the Spirit’s leading to organize a different style of conference that we thought would better minister to the needs of those who attended. And I say this only to address the implicit tone that I sensed was underlying anonymous’ question.

      Anonymous, I appreciate the question, but would appreciate it even more if anonymous would kindly share these facts to the original source of that claim. Thank you!

    • Sorry, I wasn’t trying to claim anything. I attended The Well and was very blessed by it. At the same time, there were a few rumors going around about the things that occurred in 2011, and a few people mentioned that some of the senior staff had issues with your invitation of Rand Tucker as a guest speaker.

      I’ve mentioned before that most of my sources are hearsay. People say things before and after service and GBS, between programs at conferences, over lunch, etc. By no means am I claiming that my sources are 100% accurate.

    • JohnY:

      “we in the planning teams experienced complete support and encouragement from the UBF leadership”

      Complete support and encouragement? Really? You imply you had no struggle over this and the senior UBF leaders were so happy to have Rand come and speak and lead a “Spirit-session”. Is this really true? I know that such a blanket statement is not an honest testimony of what happened.

  3. Thanks Anonymous for clarifying that for me. I am glad you were blessed by the Well, and would be happy to talk to you in person about anything related to its planning. I just have a knee-jerk reaction against the general rumor mill in our UBF ministry (and in online cyberspace like this one) because rumors tend to have a divisive effect even though what is communicated might have been honestly shared between individuals. I am a chief sinner in this respect, so just letting you know where I’m coming from. I’m taking a break from blogging for now but feel free to talk to me in person if you have any questions.

  4. This is such a good summary it’s mind-boggling. It reminds me of how stupid I have felt at times for staying in UBF so long.

    Brian, where can we see the two different copies of the final lecture for the 50th anniversary?

    As you have pointed out, if you want to try to bring it down to a bottom line, the real problem with UBF is that in writing everything seems biblical and Christ-centered. But in reality, the mission-driven mindset is totally disconnected from the Spirit of Christ and SPIRIT-DRIVEN ministry and mission and life and leads only to guilt and fear which are not of the Lord.

    • ” But in reality…”

      My point a year ago, exactly! I spent 24 years in UBF… it was like I was always in a fantasy land. The disconnect between perception and the reality (of myself, others, the world) became too much for me to bear. I had to come back to reality. Now I blog for the future, for the next exodus of leaders (in about 2019 or so, I predict). I blog to undo my public defense of UBF in 2004.

    • Well said, Brian! You are not alone. We all lived in a fantasy land for a quite long time before. It was too much to bear cos the disconnect between perception and the reality was very serious. But Thank God we came back to reality.

      I would say the fantasy land an “utopia” which can not exist in reality. In this Utopia, UBF members have to pretend. They have to pretend to be holier than the others. They have to pretend that they really have a shepherd heart. They have to pretend that they love Jesus more than anyone ……

      In this Utopia, UBF members have to imagine. They need to act many many roles and they have to imagine. They need to treat the others as sheep while we treat ourselves as their shepherds. Then they need to imagine that they are really their shepherds, like Moses, David, Jesus, etc. Sometimes they need to imagine that they are David who fight Goliath (Enemy). Sometimes they need to imagine that they are Jesus who rebukes the Pharisees (Enemy). Sometimes they need to imagine that they are Jesus who is very poor and feeds the sheep from dawn till sundown (shepherd heart). Sometimes they need to imagine that the missionaries are Moses and “somebody” are Korah (especially when “rebellion” happens! Who is “somebody”? Let’s find out the answer yourself.) And then, they will pretend to embrace their weakness, pray for their sins, teach them something or even rebuke them, etc.. (Sometimes their imagination is too real that they cannot even distinguish it is real or not. This may cause psychological disorders.)

      However, in reality, they are nothing. They are just pity man who have been fooled for a long time. They need somebody give helping hands and to tell them the truth of the matter although it is not easy for them to accept the fact at the beginning.

      Those who left UBF has came back the reality and he has got rid of UBF’s hireachchy. They can see clearly that UBF is an abusive church and the leaders are just manipulators.