1976 UBF Reform Letter: Non-Biblical Education

As I continue to read the 1976 Korean UBF reform letter, I can clearly see a pattern. In the past, before Samuel Lee died in 2002, the allegations were against Samuel Lee himself. UBF leaders today, in 2012, would like everyone to quietly sweep all UBF problems under the rug, and let the allegations die with Samuel Lee in his grave. In that way, the good things Samuel Lee did can be spun into a “guiding spirit” that can infiltrate the UBF population (that is a paraphrase of some statements in the UBF 50th Anniversary book).

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 exploritive 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.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

1976 Allegation #4 – Non-Biblical Education Methods

Forced Repentance

CLAIM: The 1976 claim was that Samuel Lee ordered a missionary candidate to put red pepper in his eyes and bang his head on a wall to demonstrate his repentance. The letter also claims many more physical abuses, but does not name them.

FACTS: The forced repentance is well-known in UBF and well-documented. In the book “Churches that abuse“, a statement is recorded: “Preparation for Summer Conference [in UBF] usually reached fever pitch the three weeks prior to the event. It was during these times that extensive spiritual manipulation and indoctrination occurred. Lee would meet nightly with all the UBF staff, accusing some of “playing Satan,” and actually saying that he had prayed they would die if they did not repent.”

COMMENT: The 1976 Korean shepherds said it best: “Missionaries who experienced inhumane training have bitter and askew hearts. We can not bear it any longer. Isn’t repentance originated by the Holy Spirit?”

Forced testimony sharing

CLAIM: The 1976 letter acknowledges that testimony sharing can be used as a good educational method through which we can accept God’s word into our hearts. The claim is that Samuel Lee abuse this method, forcing shepherds to confess their sin so that he could give them some kind of suffering or penance, and so that he would know their weak points.

FACTS: UBF teaches a “shape up or ship out” attitude.

COMMENT: Coercion is a major contradiction of Jesus’ teaching methods. Such forcing of testimonies is a form of BITE control.

Personal (Lee) philosphy

CLAIM: The 1976 letter claims that the essence of Christianity is Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection, and that this essence was tainted by Lee’s overstressing of Genesis Bible study. The claim was that this resulted in Bible study methods that were not those of Apostle Paul or of Jesus. They further claim that Lee’s personal philosophy was infused into messages and Bible materials in a way that blocked free and creative thinking, and as such, hindered the faith of students.

FACTS: Nearly all the question sheets and messages used for UBF Bible study are heavily influenced directly (almost verbatim) from Samuel Lee’s material. Some recent effort has been made to create new material, but such effort is simply a rewording of Lee’s material at best.

COMMENT: 24 years of UBF study and UBF life clearly demonstrates to me that Lee’s philosophy is very much alive. If you don’t believe me, then read the UBF 50th Anniversary book. A precious few leaders in UBF in 2012 have begun to question the Genesis-based philosophy that permeates UBF.

Inhumane training

CLAIM: The 1976 claim was that Samuel Lee was absorbed with all kinds of training, to the point of becoming proud, thinking himself to be the best trainer in the world. They claim that Lee’s training was spiritual, mental, emotional and physical abuse, using harsh language, beatings and torture. The claim was that this resulted in all UBF shepherds becoming nearly identical and also universally feeling horror, guilt, shame and self-accusation.

FACTS: The UBF motto is declared on their UBF history page: “We are soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ. By correctly handling the word of God, we want to establish a Christian view of life.  We are soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the sake of Bible Korea and World Mission, we participate in the sufferings of Christ voluntarily.” Such soldier mentality was not accidental. Thinking and living like “holy soldiers” gives rise to submitting to inhumane suffering as training.

UBF further admits to training shepherds in Korea to be “pillar-like”… “But from 1967 we trained students and raised them up as messengers. Through this training, student leaders grew to be independent Bible teachers. Even after graduation, they continued to study the Bible and struggled to live according to the word of God and later grew to be pillar-like shepherds in each UBF center.”

COMMENT: Again the 1976 Korean shepherds have the most appropriate comment: “You are proud that you are the best trainer in the world. We have been proud that we have wonderful trainer like you. What are the fruits of your training for the last 10 years? You were proud that you chose us from the best intellectuals. We tried our best to accept your training. But according to you, we turned out to be useless. Is there any problem in your training?”


3 thoughts on “1976 UBF Reform Letter: Non-Biblical Education

  1. I noticed that the 2000/2002 exodus of leaders (some formed the CMI group) is also mentioned in the UBF history page:

    “During the last two years, some members left UBF and formed another group. Because of this, we have had to reconsider seriously who we are, what we are doing, and what we ought to do. Forty years have passed since UBF began. The times have changed a lot. We are challenged to rethink our mission and methods as we seek to serve the students in this present generation. As we face this challenge, we need to find a clear direction for our ministry. We must maintain our identity and remember what God has done and is doing in our midst. We can find the identity of our ministry and have a sense of history if we prayerfully review what God has done in our midst.”

    In 2012, about 10 years after the above statements were written, UBF again faces a crisis of many leaders leaving from around the world and especially in one of the flagship UBF USA chapters, Toledo UBF. Instead of going back to what Lee did, UBF should admit their failure and stop the non-Biblical teachings and methods. Otherwise, the exodus of leaders will keep occurring every decade and perhaps even more quickly.

  2. Excellent points on this topic.
    When Samuel C. Lee was alive, he thrived on “soldier training” to “raise up 560 American shepherds to serve students on American campuses.”

    His training was rather bizarre at best. First, he was delighted to participate in the “soldier training” process by dressing up in full American soldier army fatigues including boots, hat, etc. He owned an older American army jeep and had a student drive him around like he was an army general. If a student received “driving training”, it was regarded as a big honor! LOL……..

    I recall several evenings when he would invite only males to watch American war movies; The Dirty Dozen being one of Sam’s favorites because it portrayed criminals being redeemed to serve together on a mission. He would serve popcorn, and give a big speel after the video. I was able to know this because I was living with Sarah Barry in the Northwest Chicago Center. As I recall there were at least 35-40 in attendance for these events. The next day was usually crazy because one missionary was told to go outside for some perceived offense and stand in a baby pool full of freezing cold H20. Mind you this was in the fall and the weather in Chicago was cold most days at that time. Then I would hear of guys having to wash each others feet, cook for each other, clean other peoples apartments…….I could go on, but the point was that the underlings, American and Korean were at Samuel C. Lee’s beck and call. I want to ask all folks who read this blog; have you ever heard of any other REAL church requesting members to behave in this manner, not to mention was there any lasting effect or benefit from these “training” events?????

    The way I see it, to date, there are still missionaries praying to raise up Americans to serve, but they are very short on the 560#. POINT- How has the past 30+ years of UBF in America served American students? Let’s see: many “marriages by faith” and many who have fled, entire families have run screaming from the false teachings and false core principles of an organization who has delighted in brainwashing American kids to turn over all of their humble resources and talents to a guy and his snarky family (and buddies) Let’s not forget that these kids give everything to the “greater good”. Meaning that “Little Sarah” and her siblings and mother never worry about jobs, food, paying the bills or feeding the kids. They just take from the bank whatever they need, while the tithing students are freaking out, how to pay for classes, books, housing….and then they have to endure “sogam” training, meeting training, “feeding sheep” training, cutting off normal family relationship training, marriage training, weight loss training, “sweet home dream” training, prayer training, “fishing” training, job training, tithing training, serving others training, music and dance training, and of course world mission training, Daily Bread training, weekly meeting training, on and on and on …..

    NEVER in my 53 years of life experience have I encountered at any other “church”, the draining, heartless existance that came from attempting to “serve” others while as core member of UBF, Toledo chapter. The big catch there was (speaking only for myself) even though myself and most other devoted Toledo members gave 110%, there was no true joy of the Holy Spirit, no real life fullfillment, only more struggles due to no effort ever being enough. No visible lasting joy from Sunday messages, or God’s Word; because the bottom line was false teachings were the root of twisting the precious message of the TRUTH of the Plan of Salvation. Salvation through works is death, futile, pointless existance! Salvation does not come from submission to a Korean “missionary” or an American “shepherd”. Salvation comes ONLY from the Grace and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    Brian, as you and the fellas continue to expose the darkness of UBF, may Heavenly Fahter continue to arm you with courage, honesty, humbleness and righteous anger over the misdeeds and callous justifications for dreadful sins brought to bear on the innocent and blind students who think they are on the right path by following the UBF “leaders”. God Bless your efforts.

    • Thank you for sharing Desiree. It is amazing to me that you remember so vividly the past events. That testifies to how intense the events really were.

      Most people probably don’t realize that you were in Toledo UBF, and that you lived with James and Rebekah Kim. Your observations are invaluable. I hope they can be documented here. Your words provide tremendous insight into the facts of UBF history.