USA REFORM UBF CHAPTERS in the year 2000
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Thank God for the wonderful work that he has done among us for the last 39 years. He has been so gracious to use many co-workers to accomplish campus evangelism and world mission. We give thanks to God the Spirit who has been with us in sending out 1,500 missionaries to 87 countries. At the same time, we believe that the time has come for us to examine 40 years of ministry and recognize our shortcomings and failures caused by our man-centered church structure. It is also time to renew our gospel faith that has been dangerously perverted because one man took the place of the Spirit in the Church.
In order to remain faithful to the God-given task of campus evangelism and world mission in this rapidly changing society, we must solve some serious problems that are a disgrace to God’s glory within UBF. We believe, therefore, that the worldwide reform movement within the UBF ministry that has begun from the Republic of Korea should be considered seriously and implemented swiftly. We can no longer wait but we must change now so that God may use us and we may be a royal priesthood and God’s holy people. The Bible teaches us that as Christians we must grow in God’s holy image in obedience to his words. But in UBF, knowingly and unknowingly, we have been forced to please and obey one man. The spiritual leader should serve the flock of God with humility like Jesus. Over the approximately 40 years of UBF ministry this basic principle of the servantship of Jesus has been gradually forgotten. One leader, Dr. Samuel Lee, has exercised his immense authority over all aspects of the UBF ministry, and the majority of the remaining members have to obey him blindly out of fear that they will be forced out of the church if they do not obey him. Unfortunately, many UBF directors in the U.S. and abroad have adopted this pattern of authoritative leadership practice in the name of training and divine discipline.
We have major concerns that if we ignore this unhealthy way of leadership practice in UBF we are going to facilitate bringing destruction to our ministry and we will all eventually become the victims of Satan instead of growing in God’s image as the servants of Jesus in our times. Therefore, for the purpose of reforming the ministry of God, we in humility and holy fear declare the following:
The Lordship of Jesus Christ
The church of Jesus Christ is built on the confession that Jesus Christ who rose from the dead is the Lord of lords. It means that Christ is the head of the church and all individuals follow him. This confession notwithstanding, in the practical life of UBF Christ’s Lordship is not practiced and human leadership subtly replaces it. Following are examples of such practice:
A. The annual MSU international conference has been tightly planned and controlled by one man, Dr. Lee. As the name indicates, this is an international conference. The conference programs should be organized with input from the UBF ministry in the entire world. But Dr. Lee has determined everything without consulting anyone. This includes the program, schedule, content of each message, and the invitation of guests from overseas. This unfair exercise has generated much frustration and skepticism among many leaders and co-workers about the validity and significance of this annual conference.
B. The staff meeting in the USA has been frequently scheduled without giving an advanced notice. Most chapter directors are lay missionaries. They often have no idea when to expect the staff meeting. The norm is that Dr. Lee decides when we will have the meeting at his convenience. Such a practice makes our lives unnecessarily difficult. We don’t find it to be a test of faith to be invited to a staff meeting with insufficient prior notice. Rather, it actually hurts our witness to the worldly people who generally take their jobs seriously. It also places an unnecessary financial burden on us. For example, some of our co-workers were not notified until three days before the staff meeting in 1999. This short notice meant that they had to pay unnecessarily expensive airfare. Concerning the staff meeting in the fall of 2000, [The chapter director of Ohio UBF] was informed not to come to the meeting at all without receiving any reasonable explanations.
C. [The chapter director of Milwaukee UBF] was initially invited to the U.S. as a possible successor to Samuel Lee. So, [he] gave up a prestigious position in the Korean Military Academy and came to the USA. He was, however, suddenly sent to Milwaukee UBF when he stated to Dr. Lee that Chicago UBF should be changed for the glory of God. We do not have a clue as to why this happened. Presently, many signs point to the possibility that Little Sam, the son of Samuel Lee, will become the successor. Little Sam has served as a messenger for the past two international conferences and delivered a message for the last UBF USA staff meeting. His picture was put in the middle of the UBF calendar with the title, “UBF Associate,” whatever that means. But choosing a successor is not just one man’s affair but the affair of the entire UBF. The effort on Samuel Lee’s part to make his son his successor shows that Dr. Lee regards UBF as his family business. We cannot accept and tolerate this kind of preposterous attitude toward the church of God.
UBF should use offerings to build up God’s work and to nurture God’s people. We know that all the chapters in the USA as well as in 87 nations are sending tithes to Chicago UBF, headquarters of all UBF chapters. Small chapters in the U.S. and the rest of the world with less than 15 Sunday worship service attendents send 80-100% of their offerings to Chicago UBF. Nevertheless, there has been no report on how these offerings are being used. Often some co-workers fall into financial crises, but in UBF they are scarcely taken care of. Furthermore, many missionaries invited to the MSU international conference are supported by their respective Korean chapters or by the Korean UBF headquarters. For the annual world mission report which is held in Korea each USA chapter provides travel expenses for their members who are selected to attend the meeting. It seems unusual, however, that Korea UBF also pays all of Dr. Lee’s expenses as well as giving him the entire collection made through this meeting. He collects much more than his actual expenses incurred at every occasion.
The Community of Love
Each co-worker is a part of the body of Christ. In his New Commandment given to his disciples, Jesus taught them to love one another. It means that each believer proves that he or she is a true disciple of Jesus when he or she obeys this commandment. Therefore, the body of Christ is meant to be a community of love. When we lose this love, we become like a political party, fighting among ourselves and being disgraceful to Jesus. We are deeply concerned about this matter.
A. In Chicago UBF approximately 50 missionaries have left the UBF ministry in large part because of Dr. Samuel Lee’s unfair and unethical treatment of the members. Many of them had been key members for many years. We hear that they regularly meet to support one another. In addition, many American shepherds have also left the ministry. Most of them have genuinely loved the mission-oriented life in UBF. Out of deep pains they are operating a Web site declaring that UBF is a cult. We admit that some of their opinions are indeed skewed and exaggerated. Such an incident can be easily stopped if we sincerely reform ourselves. Their wounds in their hearts also would be healed if we sincerely reform ourselves. We don’t think that those who have left UBF have lost their faith, but that they have done so because of their painful experience with and profound disappointment in Dr. Lee and his corruption that is well covered by his “henchmen”.
B. [Several Korean missionaries] had carried the cross of pioneering American campuses at a time when we wondered whether or not it could happen for Korean missionaries. They worked as chapter directors. They sacrificed their lives in serving the Lord and gave us hope for the ministry in the USA. Now, they are excommunicated from the ministry that they loved so much. Why? Their positive and productive opinions were ignored whenever they raised important issues to reform the UBF ministry. [One Korean man] was a Russian UBF director. Last summer, he rightly criticized Dr. Lee’s self-centered and obstinate behavior and was immediately excommunicated when [someone] snitched it to Dr. Lee. In his dealings with these matters, Samuel Lee completely failed to demonstrate Jesus’ love toward these faithful people. These problems display his lack of spiritual discernment based upon truth. He does not have the courage to love his closest people who speak the truth to him. His narrow and cowardly mind and his practicing his own favoritism instead of practicing the genuine love of Jesus are the very causes that have taken away the love of God from UBF.
C. The UBF newsletter should be published to give thanks to God and glorify him for what he has done for the ministry. But it is misused to praise or condemn certain people. Those who stand with Dr. Lee always receive favorable reports. Their ministry is groundlessly praised and exaggerated in the newsletter. Even when the report is greatly distorted, these people don’t care about what the true state of their ministry is but instead believe what Dr. Lee says about them to be truer than what the facts actually are. Their minds are totally controlled by him. Unfortunately, most ministries, especially those which are not favored by Dr. Lee or small in numbers, are hardly given any recognition. Sometimes the newsletter criticizes some leaders, although they are widely respected by others. We feel ashamed to show this kind of newsletter to American students. This kind of pseudo journalism causes and promotes a judgmental spirit among us, making some proud while driving others into self-doubt. Such unhealthy treatment will make us like the sect of Pharisees who were proud, self-righteous, and always critical of others. The newsletter should encourage hard-working co-workers with compassion and wisdom. It is better to stop publishing newsletters if they continue to be the way they are.
Opportunity of education and spiritual growth
Education is an important investment for raising leaders for the future ministry. Without a proper education it is impossible to make the ministry of Jesus grow. We have long been trained to study the Bible, to follow and imitate Dr. Samuel Lee’s style of Bible study. This approach has given us one way of looking at the Word of God. Such over-simplification of the Word of God has stunted the intellectual ability of young people. Many young people are deeply frustrated from this narrow and outdated study method. But due to the lack of proper education they do not know how to break from this limitation and expand their minds. The Creator God wants us to continually grow spiritually and intellectually so that we may not lose the zeal for mission.
A. At every UBF staff conference, directed by one person, we have to listen to basically the same messages and testimonies over and over. Every staff conference tires us out. It burdens us rather than refreshening us. These kinds of meetings only waste our co-workers’ time, energy, and life. These types of activities do not encourage us. We need to overhaul the entire contents of our staff conferences. It is necessary to invite other respected Christian leaders from outside and hear their voices. In this way, our co-workers can be encouraged, rejuvenated, and strengthened.
B. Some of the UBF staff and co-workers should be financially supported. Some of the directors, after a certain point and when there is justifiable rationale, should be able to fully concentrate on God’s work without their work being restrained because of financial problems. Presently, most directors work as lay missionaries. How can we successfully carry out world mission if we restrain co-workers who are able and dedicated to fully devote themselves to the work of God? It is therefore necessary to spend money to raise up certain people for full-time ministry. We should spend money to send them to seminaries for a better education.
C. Second generation children are the future hope of our ministry. How do we help them to learn faith by which they can face this great and intimidating country? Don’t we need to develop good educational programs to help them? But it seems that the present solution Dr. Lee has for them is, in a word, marriage. So, they are quickly given to marriage while they are still young and without independent faith. It is clear that these marriages are performed in the pretext of protecting them from temptations. But it is more likely that the hidden agenda is to keep them in the UBF ministry. Is there a true guarantee that marriage at such an early age will keep them from temptation? Don’t we see how even married people in UBF fall into temptation and commit sin? These young people are deprived by this strategic marriage of great opportunities to spread their wings in the vast world and find themselves. Another problem in arranging marriage for the second generation is an absence of open discussion with either one who is supposed to marry or the parents of one who is supposed to marry. Therefore, marriage cannot be used as a means for protecting the second generation from temptation or for keeping them as UBF members. If marriage is necessary, it must be done for the glory of God after open communication with the person who is supposed to marry and after full consultation with the parents of one who is supposed to marry. Furthermore, various educational programs need to be developed through which our young growing generation can explore themselves and learn a living knowledge and faith in their lives.
We prayerfully ask Dr. Samuel Lee to make a personal decision. We ask him to seriously consider these problems and give honest answers. And we demand that he make earnest spiritual efforts to rectify these problems. Otherwise, Dr. Lee should hand over the leadership to a better-qualified person whom most UBF leaders approve. We pray for UBF to grow to be a ministry that all people respect as a God-loving and spiritual ministry. We want to feel confident and proud that we are part of this ministry. Thus, the long needed and awaited reform that is taking place in various places should also start in the U.S. right now. Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks to the clouds will not reap (Ecclesiastes 11:4). If we wait for perfect conditions we will never get anything done. The time is now. Thank God for his mercy on each of us.
The Committee of the UBF-USA Reform Movement