[Disclaimers: In this article I will discuss the general beliefs of Presbyterianism and the systematic structure of the Presbyterian church as a whole. The history of the Presbyterian church and specific branches of it will be saved for a future article.]
You may be wondering why this particular comparison? It is because Sara Barry and Chang Woo Lee both went to a Presbyterian seminary school from their native countries. Barry made about 2 dozen mission reports to the Presbyterian church before she and Lee broke off from it completely: https://ubfdeclassified.blogspot.com/
Here is a very basic definition of Presbyterianism:
“a form of Protestant Church government in which the church is administered locally by the minister with a group of elected elders of equal rank, and regionally and nationally by representative courts of ministers and elders.” Source: https://www.google.com/search?q=presbyterianism+definition&rlz=1C1RNVH_enUS580US581&oq=presbyterianism&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.11295j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
That definition just talks about the general systematic structure of the Presbyterian church. Let’s go into depth shall we?
Here is a synthesized elaboration of the Presbyterian church system structure:
“Elders are chosen by the people. Together with ministers of the Word and Sacrament, they exercise leadership, government, and discipline and have responsibilities for the life of a particular church as well as the church at large, including ecumenical relationships. They shall serve faithfully as members of the session. When elected commissioners to higher governing bodies, elders participate and vote with the same authority as ministers of the Word and Sacrament, and they are eligible for any office.
The body of elders elected to govern a particular congregation is called a session. They are elected by the congregation and in one sense are representatives of the other members of the congregation. On the other hand, their primary charge is to seek to discover and represent the will of Christ as they govern. Presbyterian elders are both elected and ordained. Through ordination they are officially set apart for service. They retain their ordination beyond their term in office. Ministers who serve the congregation are also part of the session. The session is the smallest, most local governing body. The other governing bodies are presbyteries, which are composed of several churches; synods, which are composed of several presbyteries; and the General Assembly, which represents the entire denomination. Elders and ministers who serve on these governing bodies are also called presbyters.” Source: http://www.fpcbillings.org/about-us/what-we-believe.html
“Majority Rule: When Presbyterians have a policy or an action to consider, they pray, they talk, and then they vote. In fact, Presbyterians probably take more votes than any other religious group. They believe that the Holy Spirit lives in individuals but works through the community. Because of this lay and clergy votes count the same.” Source: http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/presbyterians-protestant-beliefs-christians/2015/04/02/id/635819/
The Presbyterian Church had a more democratic system for the church higher ups were elected by “the people” through voting and not just by one person’s decision. In addition to this members are treated as equals and there is accountability for the pastor.
Here is a synthesize of Presbyterian theology/doctrine:
Doctrine: Presbyterianism is historically a “confessional” type tradition. Confessional churches express their faith in the form of “confessions of faith.” In confessional churches, theology is not solely an individual matter. While individuals are encouraged to understand scripture, and may challenge the current institutional understanding, theology is carried out by the community as a whole. It is this community understanding of theology that is expressed in confessions.
Sacraments: Presbyterians traditionally have held the worship position that there are only two sacraments: Baptism and Communion. Presbyterians baptize infants as well as unbaptized adults by sprinkling or pouring water, rather than immersion. Infants are baptized on the biblical belief that because Hebrew infants were circumcised in order to show that they were part of the covenant community, infants of believing parents should likewise be baptized. The ritual of communion, also known as partaking of the Lord’s Supper, is based on the belief that Christ is present in the bread and wine through the Holy Spirit.
To be sure, this Brief Statement of Faith speaks to the basic elements of Christian faith, from a Presbyterian perspective, but what do Presbyterians believe about many additional items not specifically mentioned in the statement? What do Presbyterians believe about abortion, euthanasia, violence in the media, human sexuality, and global economics?
Well, when it comes to most of these issues, the simple truth is that Presbyterians believe many things. We are politically, economically, and theologically diverse. The diversity of the Presbyterian Church is quite remarkable, and it exists not by accident, but by design. There are two reasons for this breadth of conviction, and both are clearly articulated in our denomination’s Book of Order.
First, we affirm that Jesus Christ alone is head of the church.
“All power in heaven and earth is given to Jesus Christ by Almighty God, who raised Christ from the dead and set him above all rule and authority, all power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. God has put all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and has made Christ Head of the church, which is his body.
In all things, it is Christ’s will that we seek to guide and govern the church. In many cases, the will of Christ is quite clear to us, because we have so much of his teaching faithfully preserved in the pages of the New Testament. In some cases, however, the Bible can’t provide the kind of unequivocal guidance we might want. Faithful Christians, in good conscience, will interpret the Scriptures in different ways. When this happens, the church has a profound choice. It can either be divided or it can be diverse. A divided church is one which polarizes over a ‘hot’ issue with each side claiming the Scriptures as supporting their side. The two factions will eventually divide, and go their respective ways. A diverse church is one which maintains the Lordship of Jesus over His church, and seeks to maintain open dialogue as both sides communicate their convictions and beliefs, subject to the authority of God’s Word.
This brings us to the second reason for our tremendous diversity-the right of private judgment-which is also part of our Book of Order.
“God alone is lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.
What is unique about the Presbyterian Church?
Presbyterians are distinctive in two major ways: they adhere to a pattern of religious thought known as Reformed theology and a form of government that stresses the active, representational leadership of both ministers and church members.
Theology is a way of thinking about God and God’s relation to the world. Reformed theology evolved during the 16th century religious movement known as the Protestant Reformation. It emphasizes God’s supremacy over everything and humanity’s chief purpose as being to glorify and enjoy God forever.
In its confessions, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) expresses the faith of the Reformed tradition. Central to this tradition is the affirmation of the majesty, holiness, and providence of God who creates, sustains, rules, and redeems the world in the freedom of sovereign righteousness and love. Related to this central affirmation of God’s sovereignty are other great themes of the Reformed tradition:
–The election of the people of God for service as well as for salvation;
–Covenant life marked by a disciplined concern for order in the church according to the scriptures;
–A faithful stewardship that shuns ostentation and seeks proper use of the gifts of God’s creation;
–The recognition of the human tendency to idolatry and tyranny, which calls the people of God to work for the transformation of society by seeking Justice and living in obedience to the Word of God.
UBFism/Leeism is different. It is composed of the following elements:
UBF Doctrine — “hyper evangelical Christianized Confucianism”
UBF often appears to be a right-wing Evangelical Christian missionary sending organization from Korea, if you look at it from the outside only. This is simply a layer of holy paint covering a highly addictive and highly damaging new religion. Under the evangelical holy paint, you will discover extreme hyper-devotion to UBFism and its leaders which exceeds reason. You will also discover a corrupted Confucian value system. Confucius had much wisdom for the world, but UBF has combined these Eastern religious values with extreme Old Testament based Christian ideas to create a toxic religion that has a sweet, addictive taste. Here is an example:
Here is a quote from Confucianism:
“Filial piety is the root of all virtue. Of all the actions of man, there are none greater than those of filial piety.” At the time of Confucius, filial piety meant for the son to love and revere his parents, aid them in comfort, bring them happiness, keep the family name honored, and and to be a success in life. There was, to some degree, a negative consequence to filial piety. This was the obligation of sons to live after marriage under the same roof with the father and to give him childlike obedience as long as he lived. Also, the will of the parents was superior to the
extent that if the son’s wife failed to make them happy, he was under an obligation to divorce her regardless of how he felt. Neither did sons disagree with their father. If they did, the father was to beat the son until blood is shed and the son was not to show any resistance.”
Now let’s look at an excerpt from another one of Lee’s messages:
“3. Spiritual order in the family and
These verses tell about an incident that reveals the weakness of Noah the man of faith. We are tempted to leave this story out, but the Bible writer put it in because it teaches an important truth. Man is a social being; every society must have orderly relationships in order to function properly. The family is the first social unit–the building block of society. The spiritual order which should exist in society and in the family is very precious; it is necessary to man’s peaceful and
fruitful life on the earth. This spiritual order was violated by
Noah’s youngest son, Ham, in an incident which seems ridiculous and
insignificant–and seems to be Noah’s fault. Noah drank too much wine and got drunk. His youngest son saw him uncovered and made fun of his father. The older 2 sons, however, covered their father, showing him great respect–even though he revealed his human weakness. When the basic lines of authority and respect among people break down, the result is moral anarchy
and devastating corruption of society. So this was no small event.”
Did you notice how the quote from Confucius and the excerpt from Lee’s message sound awfully familiar? Reference: http://ubfriends.net/message-review-el-camino-ubf-shepherds-church-follow-up/
Basically what Lee did was throw some theology and Confucianism in a pot and slapped the label “Jesus” on it to make it look genuine but in reality it is deceptive.
UBF Dogma — “kingdom of priests and holy nation” (KOPAHN)
Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. UBF declares several principles as being unchangeable. Obedience training often ensues after a sheep or shepherd questions these dogmatic statements. I summarize the UBF dogma as “KOPAHN”. They believe the whole of the Bible is contained in this idea that God is forming a new kingdom and a new nation, and that UBF is the sole agent of this new kingdom. They often parade world flags at their conferences. They claim their special UBF shepherd training is the best world-class training anyone can receive.
UBF Insider Language — “sheep-talk”
Any visitor to UBF quickly notices an odd language. Words like “shepherd”, “sheep” and “Abraham of Faith” end up being incorporated into young student’s vocabulary. In recent years, UBF leaders have tried to adopt more typical Christian words like “pastor” and “elders”. But even these new words cannot change the “sheep-talk” which is deeply embedded in most members’ minds. UBF also likes to invent new acronyms, like “SBC” or “HNW” or “CME”. This odd vocabulary creates a feeling of being “on the inside” and giving one the sense that he or she has access to privileged information. To understand UBF people, you need to understand their insider language. Here is the list of UBF’s insider language: http://wiki.ubfriends.net/index.php?title=Glossary_of_UBF_Terminology
UBF Lifestyle — “worldly monasticism”
UBF people have committed atrocious sins, such as pressuring young women to get abortions for the glory of God. On the surface however, most UBF people look spotless. They are squeaky clean and live a monk-like lifestyle. Some longtime leaders have a very rich life, but their riches are typically hidden so they can create a facade of a poor, sacrificial life. UBF teaches something called “self-supporting ministry”. They encourage members to live in two worlds–to give up much time, money and possessions like a monk and at the same time, get a good-paying job and excel in their worldly endeavors. All this is kept in check by loyalty. If you are loyal to UBFism and its leaders, and if you present a “humble” appearance, you can earn much honor and respect in UBF circles.
UBF Persuasion — “anointed sacrificialism”
How does UBF persuade young adults to join their cause? Why are some students persuaded to devote their lives to UBFism for 5 or 10 or even 20 years? The root of such persuasion is in what I call anointed sacrificialism. They persuade people to feel “anointed” by God–specially appointed for the purpose of being campus shepherds. UBFism often appeals to students who are at a low point in their lives. UBFism gives them a purpose, and that purpose appears noble and pure at first. In the end, students almost always find out that the noble UBF purpose is nothing more than preserving the UBF system. In the end, UBF people care little for actually sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. They care far more about persuading people to join them and live the UBF lifestyle.
UBF Shepherd Training Model — “hamster wheel”
The training model in UBF is passed on verbally, for the most part. There are some actual training documents, but these are few and far between. The documentation that does exist confirms the idea of a hamster wheel training model. In other words, the UBF training has no end point. Once you reach a certain level, you just start all over again, being re-birthed again and again. Because of this, most UBF members have a difficult time maturing into adulthood. They may be 60 years old, but have the social interaction skills of a teenager. They often have a frozen, age-regressed self stuck in time–the time they first began UBFism in their college years. Here is a declassified powerpoint that visualizes this very well [skip to slide #8: http://dupage-ubf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/fishing_outreach_1.pptx also http://ubfriends.net/restunleashed/category/ubfism-discipleship-model/index.html
UBF Spiritual Heritage — “Lee-ism”
Chang Woo Lee died in 2002, but leaves an undeniable mark on UBFism. Some call this mark “lee-UBF” or “Lee-ism”. The spiritual heritage left by Lee has become a new religion at the heart of UBF. Sometimes there is a two-headed nature of UBF chapters, where some chapters stick closely to Lee’s 8 or 12 slogans (sometimes the 12 slogans are combined to 8 slogans). Other chapters will stray from Lee’s slogans but are still steeped in the other parts of UBFism. These slogans are often abused and new definitions are made up on the fly because concrete definitions, as of 2016, are still not documented and explained. Here is Leeism in more detail: http://ubfriends.net/restunleashed/category/ubfism-the-12-point-heritage/index.html
UBF Strategy — “Three Kingdoms”
Anyone brave enough to interact with UBF will need to understand the UBF strategy. This took me a long time to figure out. The closest strategy I can find is in the Chinese folklore tale of the Three Kingdoms. I often heard senior UBF Koreans speak highly of this folklore. I once heard Chang Woo Lee share his admiration of these stories. The strategies in Three Kingdoms is remarkably similar to what I personally experienced in my interactions at UBF.
UBF Value System — “Barry-ism”
The other co-founder of UBF, Sarah Barry, leaves an unmistakable mark on UBF as well. She is often the other side of the two-headed nature of UBF. In 2011, UBF Korea seemed to take steps to write Barry out of their history, claiming in their celebration material that Chang Woo Lee is the sole founder of UBF. Still Sarah’s influence and persuasion is massive in UBF circles. I spent many hours interacting with Sarah Barry. If there is anything Christian at UBF, I attribute it to her influence. Her values however are deeply flawed and deserve critical analysis.
Commentary: What Lee did was basically did was stole some elements from the Presbyterian church such as the statement of faith and confession of faith then mixed his own Confucius philosophy with a slap of a label Jesus. In this way Lee tried to make UBF look like a Christian organization when in reality it is a personality/theology cult that coerces and manipulates members to follow man-made traditions such as testimony writings as though they are God’s commands legalistically.
On top of that Lee made a hierarchial system in which is completely void of democracy and leaves no room for one to practice their constitutional and human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of the press. And the worst part is it leaves Lee on top of the pyramid with absolute power that corrupted him absolutely with no way to have accountability of him or any chapter director for that matter.