Telling it to the Church
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
There are many, many things that have happened in my church — some long ago, some recent — that are weighing heavily upon my conscience. They weigh heavily upon me because, as a leader and pastor, I believe that I am supposed to hold my fellow leaders and pastors accountable for what they do and what they fail to do, just as they are supposed to hold me accountable.
In these matters, I believe that I have followed the instructions of Jesus using the channels of communication available to me. On numerous occasions I have communicated my concerns privately to the General Director. I have brought many specific issues to the attention of the North American senior staff. I have been in close communication with the Ethics Commitee. I have exhausted every avenue of private communication that is available.
No, I have not done so perfectly. I have not always spoken to UBF leaders in their preferred style of communication. At times I have been very blunt. At times I have revealed anger and frustration. I have not said things exactly as Jesus would because I am not Jesus. But those of you who know me well can testify that I have made a good faith effort to express these concerns to leaders on numerous occasions. At times, I was led to believe that something meaningful would be done. I patiently waited for something to be done. I waited and waited and waited. But now all the signs that I can see are showing that leaders are not willing to address these concerns in any serious way. Their lack of response tells me that they are just not listening, and that from now on they intend to listen to me even less.
Jesus said, “If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church.” So if you beling to UBF or are a concerned member of the wider church, I will now tell you what I am concerned about.
My concern is that UBF leaders are still unwilling to face the ministry’s history of abusive discipleship practices. These abuses did not just happen once in a while. They were a regular defining feature of UBF as far back as I can remember.
Here is a short list of some of the things I am talking about. I gave this list earlier today in a comment on this website. Comments tend to disappear from view after just a few hours. I don’t want this list to disappear from view. So I’m reposting it now as an article.
These are some of the things that I remember about being in Chicago UBF when SL was directing. These are the some practices that defined UBF style discipleship for me when I entered the ministry. The specific practices and bad theology that justified them were not limited to Chicago, nor have they disappeared. They still persist nearly everywhere that UBF operates in varying ways and degrees. Even if they didn’t persist, we still need to talk about them, because these things have a long lasting impact on individuals and the community as a whole. These experiences have shaped us in ways that we have never understood or admitted,
I will state these things as objectively as I can, without making any value judgments. Then you can judge for yourselves whether they are problematic.
* SL reserved the right to change the name of anyone at any time. He reserved the right to name your children.
* SL reserved the right to tell you to quit your job at a moment’s notice.
* He reserved the right to tell you at any time to change your clothing or hairstyle.
* No one could marry without his specific approval. He chose whom you could marry. The wedding would be at a time and place of his choosing.
* In many cases, the length of time between when he introduced people to each other and told them that they ought to marry and the actual wedding was less than one week.
* When he married couples, he made up the wedding vows and regularly inserted promises that had nothing to do with marriage (such as promising to go as missionaries to Russia etc.). These vows were not agreed upon by the couple ahead of time.
* If you turned down a marriage candidate that he chose for you, you could be severely rebuked and trained for it. One woman who didn’t want to marry a Korean missionary was told by him, “If you say no again, you will go to hell.”
* No one could miss a Monday night meeting or a Friday night meeting or SWS ever. If you missed a meeting without a good excuse (or even if you had an excuse) you would get rebuked and trained.
* SL would often impose quotas on fellowship leaders to bring a certain number of people to SWS and to conferences. Those who failed would be shamed or punished in various ways.
* If SL thought you did not offer enough money at Christmas worship service, he might rebuke you in front of everyone.
* Sometimes he told missionaries and sheperds whose parents were well off to ask their parents for large sums of money.
* When SL rebuked people, he often did so harshly. Many of his comments to people and about people were far more brazen and brutal than the comments that have appeared here on UBFriends. But no one objected to SL’s language because they got used to it. They believed he had a right to speak that way because he was “God’s servant.”
* No one could take a trip or travel outside the Chicago area for any reason without SL’s approval. And if you did travel, you had better be back in town for Sunday worship service, otherwise you would be severely rebuked and trained.
* If you were from another chapter (not Chicago) and you were selected to go on a “journey team” to Korea or elsewhere, you were told to buy an airline ticket to Chicago with an open return date (which was very expensive). The reason for the open return date is that once you were in Chicago, SL reserved the right to keep you there indefinitely for training. You were not allowed to leave Chicago until he told you that you could.
* SL would often prescribe unorthodox diets and medical treatments and in some cases surgical procedures and the doctors and nurses in Chicago UBF would carry them out.
* If you objected to any of these practices, all of the missionaries and shepherds would immediately counsel you to obey SL because he was God’s servant. Failure to obey even in a very small matter could result in Skokie training, monetary fines, public shaming, etc.
I could go on listing many more of these practices.
Perhaps some people will object that I have aired UBF’s dirty laundry on a public website. But this is not UBF’s dirty laundry. These were the standard operating procedures for the fellowship. They happened on a regular basis, and everyone knew about them. There are many, many more scandalous things that I could mention but won’t.
I stand as a witness to the church to tell you that these things actually happened. I am not saying that everything that UBF ever did was bad. I am not saying that all UBF ever did was to abuse people every day. UBF has done many things over the years. And the things I have listed above are a very real part of UBF’s history.
If you witnessed these things too, please say so.
If you think that I’m lying, that I’ve made these things up, please say so.
If you think that this article is just an immature rant and should not be taken seriously, please tell me why.
If you think that these practices are not a problem and that they are consistent with the gospel, please tell me why.
If you think that these practices have no adverse long-term impact on people, please tell me why.
If you think that UBF can just forget about this stuff and go on trying to preach the gospel and raise disciples without acknowledging its history, please tell me why.
If you think that it was wrong for me to write these things on UBFriends, please tell me when and where and how I could have handled these concerns.