How to leave UBF?

Google Analytics is an handy tool to have. The feedback from the statistics generated by this free tool are most helpful. The stats give a good idea of how many people read this blog, where they are from and how often they return. Another piece of feedback is that I can see what Google search terms where used to find this blog. In other words, I can get a decent idea of what people are looking for, and if they found their answers on my blog.

As I was reviewing the Google search terms yesterday, one term stood out. It was actually a question someone had typed into Google: How to leave UBF? This inspired me to post today’s article. I believe Scott Moreau of Wheaton College was correct in his suggestion for UBF to “publicly discuss their administration problems”. This is a nice and politically correct way of saying UBF needs open, honest and group communication.

The question of to stay or not to stay? has been discussed on another blog. In fact it is the number one discussion in terms of number of views and comments.

So here is my initiation of a public discussion of the question “How do I leave UBF?” I kick off the discussion by presenting a historical overview of how people have left in the past 50 years. This is of utmost importance because when you decide to leave UBF, you often feel like you are alone, as if no one else has left UBF. You can rest assured that many thousands of people have indeed left UBF, and continue to leave even today in 2011.

1. The deprogrammer way of leaving: In order to properly answer a question like this, it is important to understand the historical background. The fact is, people and organizations are constantly changing. And if we don’t acknowledge history, we are, of course, bound to repeat it.

UBF began in 1961, in South Korea. When Korean missionaries were first sent to America, Germany and Canada and other countries in the 1970’s, cult-watching groups immediately picked up on their practices as unusual and strange. Some have explained this as Korean culture and the clash between Eastern and Western ideals and value systems. This does go a long way in understanding UBF. Nonetheless, the first reaction to UBF was strong. Groups like CAN (Cult Awareness Network) actually kidnapped people in UBF and tried to “deprogram” them. It is unknown to me how often this happened to UBF Bible students, but I know it did happen. Thankfully, this organization went bankrupt. Almost everyone acknowledges this was the wrong approach Biblically, emotionally and psychologically, and illegally, to leaving groups like UBF.

2. The traumatic way of leaving: Although the deprogrammer approach subsided quickly, leaving UBF has historically been traumatic. There are literally hundreds of testimonies to this fact. A few have kept their Christain faith; many have shipwrecked their faith in their attempts to leave UBF. And tragically, there are reports (from Germany) that some have committed suicide after their leaving, due to the overwhelming madness of the response from UBF leaders. In my eyewitness observation and personal experience, nearly all of this trauma, pain, bitterness, anger, frustration, confusion and depression is attributed to one thing: the hard-hearted mindset of UBF leaders.

To a UBF leader, discipline and army-like devotion and loyalty are paramount. Leaving UBF is not an option and not acceptable to them. In their minds, it is not a question anyone should be asking; it is equated to losing your faith and disobeying God. The Korean ideas of shunning and shaming have traditionally been used to coerce people to stay, to come back, or to leave in silence. (In my case those tactics were used to get me to leave quietly…but as you can see that did not work.)

When you want to leave UBF, you need to understand this mindset. UBF leaders will say many nice words and may claim you can freely leave. In their actions, they will make it as difficult to leave as possible. At best, they will claim you are a “lesser Christian” and leaving the “green berets of Christianity” or going to a “luke-warm church” (if you found another church).

As Scott Moreau pointed out, these “turn-the-table” tactics, which attempt to place all the blame and fault on the person leaving, will lead to “vocal enemies” and explosive exit testimonies when shame and guilt tactics are used in America and in the West.

3. The pact of silence way of leaving: As I pointed out in a post earlier, some have left UBF with a large sum of money or other mutually beneficial terms. My good friend James Kim left this way. This might be called the “agree-to-disagree” way of leaving UBF, if the leaving happens to be amicable.

Although money may not always be involved, this “pact method” is currently the preferred way of leaving UBF by UBF leaders. Most people I know who left UBF (about 103 people from about 22 families–all from one chapter) did so with some sort of agreement to remain silent about any issues that caused them to leave. Some have had a final Sunday service or final meeting in which UBF leaders prayed with the people leaving. But then after the people leave, often the UBF director tells UBF members the person left because of one of two reasons: “They don’t like Korean culture” or “They have inter-personal problems and just can’t get along with so-and-so.”

4. The vocal/public way of leaving: This is how I describe my leaving UBF: the vocal way. All I really wanted for the past 8 years is constructive dialogue about UBF issues and past “dark side” history. My reasons for leaving explain this in more detail. Leaving this way gave me and my family time to transition into a new, healthy Christian church.

Most of the questions I raised were a means of buying time so that we could do this in a healthy way. UBF leaders constantly demanded a quick resolution, except when they took time out to form a new council. Most of the time, UBF leaders just wanted me to go away so they could get back to “serving Jesus” or “student ministry”. To them, my family’s leaving was a distraction to their work.

Reconciling quickly would have had a destructive effect on my mind and heart. So I kept the dialogue open for 4 months. This enabled me to rekindle my faith (which had become stagnant), as well as to find out who I could trust (lack of trust was a key issue). Keeping the dialogue going was difficult, but opened the door to nearly 500 email discussions, several hours of in person meetings and several phone calls. To do this required a huge investment of time, effort and money. I took over 4 full days off work (without pay), made three trips to Toledo (70 miles away) and spent many hours in prayer and reflection.

Expressing my thoughts on this blog and to some extent on, helped me keep my sanity and provided psychological stability. Meeting in person with many friends helped me (and our family) to have emotional stability. Most importantly, the vocal method of leaving allowed all UBF leaders to hear my story firsthand (via emails and blogs) so that no one could turn the tables and claim I was just leaving out of “bitterness toward one leader” or out of a “dislike for Koreans”. My blog demonstrates these things are not true.

If you are considering leaving UBF, I won’t advise you either way. I only advise you to focus on facts and think for yourself. Please know that you are not alone. Understand that the burden of proof is on UBF leaders, not on you. It is not your fault. You are not required to feel guilty for leaving for any reason.

And finally, you are not required to give any reason for leaving a church other than, “I don’t want to stay.”

9 thoughts on “How to leave UBF?

  1. I like your final statement best of all. We live in a free country, where freedom of religion is a God given right. We do not owe anyone anywhere an explanation of why we chose to leave a church. We need only to search our hearts and listen to the Holy Spirit. We then can freely say I DON’T WANT TO STAY. THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE.

  2. When I left UBF I published my reasons shortly on forum. But actually almost no one in UBF was really knowing the reason. So recently I decided to publish my full testimony on about all of this because I felt that if it will not be exposed and captured for history – there was no much sense in all that struggling.

  3. Mary, yes in America we are free because of the blood shed by American soldiers. I see no reason to denounce that freedom for the sake of obedience or loyalty to some other set of ideals. As someone pointed out to me many years ago, “freedom means freedom. We do not need to redefine it or spiritualize it.”

    Andrew, I’m glad to read your Russian blog (though it takes me a lot longer to read :).

  4. Most people leave UBF silently. This is because at the time when they are leaving, they just *begin* to see the problems, and still feel a lot of guilt. Some months after leaving UBF, when they had time to think and read about the issues, and discuss with other dropouts, they would have much more self-esteem and be able to express the reasons much better.

    That’s another good reason to have information on UBF in the Internet, so that at least in retrospect, people can make some sense to what happened and not feel guilt-tripped for the rest of their lives.

  5. Brian, I think I need to take up the cudgels for CAN and the “deprogrammers” here, and clarify some things.

    First, you need to understand the time when the CAN and the deprogrammers were active. This was the time of the big cults Moon, Bhagwan, Jonestown and also the time of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement. Many parents suddenly lost their kids to these cults and were stumped and desperate. They would do anything to get their kids out of these cults.

    There was not much experience at that time on how to do the exit counseling properly, and in fact it’s not so easy if your kid is kept away from you, maybe even living in a closed compound where you don’t have a chance to even speak with them. The only viable solution seemed to “kidnap” them and try to talk some sense into them during a limited period of time, e.g. a weekend. I’m sure some of the deprogrammers did not handle this very well, and maybe some did it only for the money. But not all deprogrammers were bad people, and over time they learned and refrained from their “brute force” method of the early days.

    Also, the CAN (cult awareness network) did not engage in the deprogramming directly, they mainly collected information, and helped establish contact to exit counselors and deprogrammers. There never was an organized “deprogrammer” organization as UBF tried to make you believe. These deprogrammers were private businesses, some of them good, some not so good, nobody controlled them. I think that’s how America works – anybody can claim he’s a plumber or deprogrammer, no formal education is needed.

    How the CAN went bankrupt is an amazing story. They soon became the enemy of Scientology, who went to war against them. First, as they usually do, it was a propaganda war, defaming the director of the CAN, Ms. Kisser. I remember how Samuel Lee relayed that misinformation to the UBF members, with his own twists, like claiming Ms. Kisser was a strip dancer. You can read such things in old UBF newsletters. It was all lies, spread by Scientology, and then twisted even more by Samuel Lee. Then Scientology used one case of a “failed” deprogramming (meanwhile, the deprogrammed person and his mother see it differently), their lawyers constructed a connection between the deprogrammer and CAN, and drove them into bankruptcy with a lawsuit. As you know, Scientology has much money and the best lawyers. They knew how to handle such things. CAN had much less money and support as you may think, they had no chance against Scientology.

    But that was not all. The epitome of chutzpah was that after the bankruptcy, Scientology managed to buy CAN and all of its assets, and now operates CAN. I.e. people who were asking for information on cults now were consulted by Scientology staff! So there is no reason to be happy that CAN went bankcrupt. CAN had also collected a lot of valuable information about many cults, including UBF. Now all of this information is lost in the hands of Scientology.

    In UBF they told you a very twisted and one-sided story about deprogramming and the CAN, you should start to see it more differentiated.

    You can read about this all on the Wikipedia ( and on the website of Rick Ross who I think was the deprogrammer who Scientology sued ( Of course you need to take everything with a grain of salt. Scientology is known to manipulate Wikipedia articles, and Rick Ross is certainly also biased in this case, but I tend to believe him anyway, knowing full well how Scientology operates.

  6. Chris, very interesting reaction by Scientology. The number of twists to these groups is just mind-boggling! Thank you for the good info.

    rsqubf, thanks for the update. Donna’s story is helpful to understand things.

  7. Man, I had another e-mail address that I switched when I was in U.B.F., because I had trouble accessing it and now I have access and I just found a freaking set of bizarre E-mails I never read from my former ‘Missionary’…