VOL. LXXVIII No.9, PAGE 5
October 3, 1990
“Shepherds no band of simple country folk”
This piece on the University Bible Fellowship is the first in a two part series.
By Greg Reage
The University of Manitoba has recently followed the actions of the University of Winnipeg several years ago. It has banned a group of Korean shepherds from its campus. Far from being a band of simple country folk gently tending their flock, these shepherds are froma peculiar religious group called the University Bible Fellowship (UBF). The ban on this group shows that among all the social and cultural organizations, politcial and religious ideologies, an activist approach is sometimes needed by the administration of the universities. The universities’ actions are favorable, for an examination of the UBF shows that the ban will serve the interests of learning and the well-being of students.
The UBF is an insular, fundamentalist group that stresses obedience, divine selection and imminent end of the world (“forget about this world, which will soon perish” – although the end of the world doesn’t seem to stop them from collecting such a mere thing as money from members.) Their literature states that they are an “evangelical” group but in reality, they are completely sectarian. The name itself is deceptive: as for “university”, they are not affiliated with any university nor do they university students have any role in running the group; as for “bible”, their studies focus on intense indoctrination and one sided dogma; and as for “fellowship”, there is no sense of fellowship with people who have left the fold and they stridently avoid association with other established religious groups.
Once in a while, they’ll change their name to the Campus Bible Fellowship or speak of campus evangelism, or refer to Presbyterian missionary Sarah Barry. Sarah Barry and Samuel Lee co-founded the UBF in South Korea. These two now operate out of Chicago (reportedly having left Korea over claims of abuse of authority); they are called “man of God” and “woman of God” by UBF. It is never stated whether Sarah Barry still is recognized by the Presbyterian Church, although her members treat her as though she has a messianic role in Chicago.
The Korean shepherds came to Winnipeg in the early ’80’s and set up their missionary centre at 386 Sherbrook. The shepherds engaged in daily trips to the U of W to proselytize students in the library, cafeteria and hallways as part of their fishing for sin-sick dying souls (their terminology.) The UBF was banned from the U of W in ’86 and coincidently in ’87 the members moved en masse to Fort Garry/Fort Richmond–conveniently close to the U of M. They now have their missionary centre at 3 Emory Road.
The shepherds start out with conversation to a potential recruit–a lone figure at the bus stop, someone studying at a carrel, or a young adult walking alone. The shepherdss work a question about bible study into a conversation and ask for the potential recruit’s name, address and phone number. They will certainly call on you if you don’t call on them.
The UBF program begins innocently–reading the Book of Genesis chapter-by-chapter. After each chapter is a question sheet to answer and a “sogam” top write. “Sogam” is a Korean word referring to testimony-writing in which recruits are pressed to confess their sins and problems. The shepherds are basically obsessed by the propoganda–they talk about their dogma in chanting, repitious style. Shepherds like to point out similarities between themselves and the recruit, give meals at the missionary centre and hear about worries or sin-sickness (again, their terminolgy.)
As the lessons of Genesis progress, the UBF tries to draw the recruit into more activities-Sunday worship, daily (evening)study, early morning study, Christmas/Easter play, summer bible conferences and something call a “love symposium”. Eventually, commitment is expected from personal decisions-limiting one’s sleep to five hours per day, filling in all free time with UBF activities and moving in with only UBF roommates.