Turning Points: Ten Defining Moments in the History of the Unification Tradition in America 1959-99

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 3, 1999-2000 - Pages 5-26

Mark A. Noll's Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity offers an intriguing model for assessing the development of the Unification tradition in the United States. What Noll, a widely published Protestant evangelical church historian, essentially does is to survey two millennia of Christian history through the lenses of twelve "critical turning points." He admits this is a "subjective exercise" but suggests that it affords the opportunity "to bring some order into a massively complicated subject."[1]

If Noll is bold enough to encapsulate nearly two thousand years of Christian history within the confines of a dozen decisive turning points, it should not be an insurmountable task to specify ten defining moments in the forty-year history of the Unification Church and Movement in America (1959-99). Yet even this more limited undertaking poses significant challenges. In his account, Noll traverses well-worn paths and has the benefit of hindsight and accumulated perspectives. Hence, he writes confidently of "decisive moments" and critical turning points. The Unification tradition presents an entirely different set of circumstances. As a first generation religious movement, its path is less deeply grooved, and the historical record from which it can draw is only in the earliest stages of development. Therefore, it is more instructive to write of "defining" rather than "decisive" moments. To this end, I have selected events that exerted a formative influence and contributed in fundamental ways to the movement's emerging sense of identity. Second, I have attempted to select events that crystallized previous trends and related occurrences. Finally, I chose those events that provided focus and direction for future development. In each instance, I specify the historical context, rationale for inclusion, and each event's significance not only for developments in America but also for the Unification tradition as a whole.


1. Establishment of HSA-UWC, September 18, 1961

Four missionaries planted the Unification tradition in the United States during the 1960s. Young Oon Kim, a former professor of New Testament and Comparative Religion at Ewha Women's University, Seoul, Korea, arrived on January 4, 1959. David S. C. Kim, a former government official and one of five members with whom Rev. Moon established the Unification Church in 1954, arrived later that year on September 18th. Col. Bo Hi Pak, a military officer and diplomat who served as a military attaché at the Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C., arrived on March 14, 1961. Sang Ik Choi, a former Holiness minister who successfully brought the church to Japan between 1958-64, arrived on November 12, 1965.

Each of the four missionaries created separate organizations as vehicles for their work. Young Oon Kim led a network of "centers" across the country known as the "Unified Family." David S. C. Kim led the "Northwest Family" whose members set up "chapels" and eventually incorporated as United Faith, Inc. Bo Hi Pak, in addition to his missionary outreach, established the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation (KCFF) and Radio of Free Asia (ROFA). Sang Ik "Papasan" Choi set up a plethora of communitarian-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area which culminated in the creation of the International Re-Education Foundation.

The missionaries also published translations or adaptations of Wolli Haesul, later Wolli Kangron, the movement's core doctrinal and sacred text.[2] Young Oon Kim published nine editions of The Divine Principles (later titled The Divine Principle and Its Application) between 1960-72. David Kim published two editions of Individual Preparation for His Coming Kingdom (1964, 1968). Bo Hi Pak published Outline of Study: The Divine Principles (circa. 1964), and Sang Ik Choi published several booklets and two volumes of The Principles of Education, beginning in 1969. In addition, three of the four missionary groups published newsletters that documented their community life and sense of mission. Young Oon Kim's group published the New Age Frontiers (1960-72). David Kim's group published the United Temple Bulletin (1961-72). Choi's group published The Epoch Maker (1969-72) and the Universal Voice (1968-73).

All of these activities were foundational and fed into the movement's subsequent development. In particular, the missionaries established strong emotional bonds with members who joined during this period. Nevertheless, none of the initiatives mentioned above survived. All of the missionary groups have been defunct for nearly thirty years. No missionary translations of the Principle are presently in use or in print, and most of the newsletters have been lost. In fact, few among the movement's current membership and fewer still among the movement's second generation have much awareness of the labors undertaken by these earliest pioneers. However, there was one initiative which not only did survive but which made a lasting contribution and formed the legal basis for the Unification tradition in America. This was the establishment of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity or HSA-UWC on September 18, 1961.

Ironically, HSA-UWC emerged almost by accident and was a source of friction during the 1960s. Young Oon Kim, like all the missionaries, struggled to maintain her legal status in the country. Her primary motivation in establishing HSA-UWC was to stabilize her visa situation. However, she also recognized that for tax exemption purposes and legal protection, it was necessary for her group to be recognized by the government and receive legal status as a religion. There were some hard feelings among the other missionaries about Kim's efforts to establish a national organization, and this was one reason why no unified national movement emerged during the 1960s. Instead, what emerged was a complex set of missionary jurisdictions, competing alliances, rival incorporations and general grievances.

Despite these problems, the filing of papers of incorporation of HSA-UWC on September 18, 1961 was a defining moment in the history of the Unification Church and Movement in America. As noted, it established the legal basis for the tradition and served as a point of reference for the church's interaction with and at certain points protection from the government and wider public. During the 1990s, Rev. Moon announced his intention of dissolving HSA-UWC and replacing it with the Family Federation For World Peace and Unification (FFWPU). However, given the substantial legal and corporate reality associated with HSA-UWC, this proved difficult to implement and the two organizations now exist alongside one another.

The incorporation of HSA-UWC had a significance for the tradition that extended beyond America. Of all the organizational initiatives undertaken during the 1960s, it connected most directly to in Korea, as it used the name under which the church had been organized there in 1954. However, it is noteworthy that legal recognition of HSA-UWC in the United States preceded the legalization of the church in either Korea or Japan and may have provided a model for the movement to attain legal standing in its countries of origin. It also is important to recognize that the decision to incorporate meant that the Unification movement was no longer wholly inspirational and charismatic. Incorporation, and the maintenance of the church's corporate identity, meant that bureaucratic dynamics would have a continuing place in the tradition. In other words, HSA-UWC would be accountable not only to Heaven but to the norms and legalities of its various host societies.


2. Rev. Moon's First and Second World Tours, 1965, 1969

Rev. Moon undertook two world tours during the 1960s. The first was from January through October 1965, and included a nearly five-month stay in the United States (February 12-July 1). Rev. Moon undertook his second world tour in 1969 and spent thirty-nine days in the U.S. between February 4 and March 15. Within the church's tradition, the first world tour is remembered primarily as an occasion for Rev. Moon to bless "holy grounds" throughout the world, including fifty-five in the U.S. He also had audiences with former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the American trance medium Arthur Ford, who included "The Sun Myung Moon Sittings" as a chapter of his book Unknown But Known.[3] The second tour is generally remembered for the Blessing in marriage of forty-three couples worldwide, the first such blessing performed outside of Korea and the first to include couples from the West.

The establishment of holy grounds and the extension of the blessing to senior American couples were important. However, the world tours were defining moments for different reasons. The significance of the first world tour was that it changed the primary focus of the American movement from the West to the East coast. During most of his visit to the United States, Rev. Moon stayed in Washington, D.C. He convened a 21-day training session there, and Washington members began referring to their center as headquarters. This situation, along with Bo Hi Pak's responsibilities for the newly formed KCFF and "The Little Angels" Korean dance troupe which pulled him away from direct involvement with the church, induced Young Oon Kim to relocate from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. She arrived, California HSA-UWC corporation papers in hand, on December 12, 1965. In 1968 she maintained that the "Washington Center serves as the headquarters of our movement as well as the nerve center of the entire Western world."[4]

Shifting its primary focus from the West to the East coast had both symbolic and practical implications for the movement in America. Symbolically, it signaled the tradition's intention to move from the periphery and seek engagement with mainstream culture. The movement had limited resources to effect this during the 1960s. Nevertheless, its determination to do so distinguished it from any number of groups that were content to remain within the more congenial environs of California. Practically, the move led to certain organizational top-heaviness. In 1966, for example, while the movement was very small, HSA headquarters included five newly-created departments: Administration, Publications, Public Relations, Business Enterprises, and Field Operations, plus a full slate of national officers. This looked impressive on paper but had little relation to concrete results, which were minimal. The shift also opened up a fissure within the movement's East and West coast branches. Whereas the East coast branch tended to be formal and bureaucratic, the movement's West coast branch was informal and communal, retaining strongly utopian, even countercultural tendencies.[5]

Rev. Moon's second world tour in 1969 also changed the orientation of the church. Prior to the tour, the focus of the movement in America was almost exclusively religious. The content of Master Speaks, a series of edited, in-house transcriptions of question-and-answer sessions with Rev. Moon taped at various centers across the country in 1965, reflected the strongly spiritual orientation of the membership. However, in 1969, members in the United States heard for the first time about an active student group in Korea and Japan known as the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP). They also learned of the movement-sponsored International Federation For Victory Over Communism (IFVOC) and of numerous businesses. In fact, Rev. Moon spent a significant amount of time during his 39-day stay touring machine shops in New York City.

All of this led the tradition in America to take on characteristics of a social movement. This especially influenced the thrust of Sang Ik Choi's activities in the San Francisco Bay area. However, it also affected Young Oon Kim's Unified Family. Edwin Ang, who led the Berkeley Center at that time, wrote of a "full scale advance along four major lines of attack; through spiritual activities, through business, through education, and through political involvement."[6] Incorporating a social dimension broadened the tradition's appeal and altered its membership profile. During the early 1960s, the movement appealed to older, spiritually-oriented and often spiritually-open seekers. With business, education, and social action initiatives, the movement became more exciting, relevant and appealing to younger people, both students and urban professionals.


3. The Day of Hope Speaking Tours, 1972-74

Rev. Moon conducted four separate "Day of Hope" speaking tours in America between 1972-74: an initial 7-city tour which opened at Lincoln Center in New York City on February 3, 1972 and concluded in Berkeley, California on March 11th; a 21-city tour under the banner "Christianity in Crisis: New Hope" which began at New York's Carnegie Hall on October 1, 1973 and concluded on January 29, 1974 in Los Angeles; a 32-city tour under the theme "The New Future of Christianity" which ran from February to April, 1974; and a concluding 8-city tour which opened at New York's Madison Square Garden on September 18, 1974 and finished in Los Angeles in late December.

There are at least six reasons why the Day of Hope speaking tours were a defining moment for the Unification tradition in America. First, they marked the beginning of a unified national movement. Prior to this, the movement consisted of regional jurisdictions and independent missionary groupings. Although Young Oon Kim claimed to have a national headquarters in Washington, D.C., this was not recognized by David Kim's or Sang Ik Choi's groups. In reality, the American movement was factionalized with disagreements over fundamental issues of organization, strategy and even doctrine. The Day of Hope campaigns were the first undertaking of the entire movement. In many ways, they signified the birth of the Unification Church in America. They played a unitive role parallel to that of the First Great Awakening in American history, which served to knit the disparate colonies together and to solidify a common identity.

Second, the Day of Hope tours indicated the central role Rev. Moon would play in the American movement. He was the only one with enough authority to meld the conflicting missionary groups together. He also provided a central focus and direction. There was still organization, perhaps, even more than before as Rev. Moon instituted state representatives, Itinerant Workers (IWs), mobile unit commanders and the like in addition to existing center directors. However, this was an integrated, task and goal-oriented organization that focused on results.

Third, the Day of Hope tours altered the nature of the movement. Previously, members had been sporadically active and at times rather immobilized. Many held jobs and devoted only off-hours to the movement. The Day of Hope tours changed all this. The Unification Church became an energetic, high-demand, action-oriented movement that required full-time commitment. This stimulated numerical growth. A ready supply of alienated youth disillusioned both with American society and with the counterculture of the 1960s also enhanced membership and solidarity. In July 1973, the Director's Newsletter reported that the number of new members who joined to date was four times that for the same period the previous year. In December 1974, at the close of the Day of Hope era in the United States, HSA-UWC President Neil Salonen reported that from "a handful of members—less than 300" three years previously, the movement had "multiplied ten times, reaching almost three thousand by the end of this month."[7] The Day of Hope tours also spawned new organizations and initiatives. The most important of these were the One World Crusade (OWC)—later the International One World Crusade (IOWC), which fueled the movement's evangelistic advance during the period, and mobile fundraising teams (MFT), which became a major means of financial support.

Fourth, the Day of Hope tours helped catapult the movement into the public limelight. During the 1960s, the movement went unnoticed, and there was the danger of it never becoming noticed if it continued to proceed in the same way. The Day of Hope changed all that. Publicity that the movement garnered wasn't so much due to the content of its tour message, which, apart from the speech on "The New Future of Christianity," was relatively conventional. It rather was due to the movement's aggressiveness. The movement actively sought proclamations of welcome and keys to cities, going straight to government elites. Many of the nation's top scientists were invited to an annual International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS) beginning in 1972. High-profile land purchases in Tarrytown, New York and the financial cost of the Day of Hope Tours that church spokespersons released ($400,000 for the 21-city tour, $200,000 for the 32-city tour, $1,000,000 for the 8-city tour) attracted notice, as did the seemingly ubiquitous presence of members on the streets.

Fifth, the Day of Hope tours contributed to the development of the worldwide movement. Just as with the incorporation of HSA-UWC, this was another "first." Rev. Moon had never spoken publicly in either Korea or Japan. Thus, the birth of the U.S. movement coincided with a new phase in his worldwide ministry. Up to that point, much of the movement's development had been internal. In the United States, through the Day of Hope tours, Rev. Moon began the external, public development of the movement. The tour also demonstrated the power and influence of the U.S. and by extension of the American movement. It was on the foundation of success of the Day of Hope tours in America and the initial receptivity of the general public that Rev. Moon conducted the same tours in Korea and Japan. In other words, success in the U.S. provided credibility and leverage for activities there. Films and testimonies showing acceptance in the U.S. had an important effect on Asian audiences.

Sixth, the Day of Hope tours brought overseas missionaries and money to the U.S. There was a sense that the American movement could not pull off the campaigns on its own. Therefore, Rev. Moon called in significant numbers of Japanese and European members, who would play important roles. The intermingling of foreign and domestic members would become an ongoing feature of the Unification tradition in America. Rev. Moon referred to this as a "new Pilgrim movement." On occasion, there were competitions among different national groupings. At times, cross-cultural misunderstandings and tension among the nationalities during the 1970s and beyond hindered development much as friction among the pioneer missionary groups had done during the 1960s.


4. National Prayer and Fast for the Watergate Crisis, 1973-74

The National Prayer and Fast for the Watergate Crisis added a prophetic dimension to the Unification tradition, i.e., a willingness to risk censure and unpopularity to convey its understanding of God's word. The Day of Hope tours, by and large, sought to establish a common base with the American public. There were some unconventional interpretations of Jesus' mission, but on the whole, members came across as being wholesome Christians. However, to come to the defense of Richard Nixon was almost unthinkable. In this regard, the National Prayer and Fast for the Watergate Crisis was the one action of the Unification Church which won it the undying enmity of the U.S. liberal establishment and made it a lightning rod for negativity. In addition, to speak of God's will in politics or public life was to cross the church-state divide for many Americans. From this point, many began to consider the movement a threat to American society, accusing it of being theocratic or a tool of the KCIA.

This assured that the church would not only be unpopular, but also that it would be scrutinized and investigated. Its position on Watergate led the media to look into all aspects of the movement. This, in turn, led to negative publicity which affected the families of members. Eventually "deprogrammers" exploited their fears and forcefully abducted scores of members, making the church's work much more difficult. Widespread negativity also sparked government agencies and officials to action. The INS denied missionary visas and moved against the church's foreign nationals. New York City denied the church tax-exempt status. Senator Robert Dole (R-Kansas) convened two informal "information" sessions, and Congressman Donald Fraser (D-Minnesota) relentlessly pursued the "Moon Organization" in a U.S. Congressional probe of Korean-American relations. These investigations helped instigate Rev. Moon's indictment on tax evasion charges some years later. Some of these negative results, particularly the kidnapping and "deprogramming" of members, may have occurred anyway since they happened to other movements which did not have the same public profile. Nonetheless, opposition was especially pronounced in the case of the church.

From the movement's standpoint, openness and obedience to God's direction regardless of the inconvenience or consequences was fundamental to its identity. Rev. Moon later stated that he knew Nixon was a flawed leader and probably guilty. Nevertheless, he contended that support of the presidency was in accordance with God's will. Having interrupted the 21-city Day of Hope tour in November 1973, Rev. Moon traveled back to Japan and Korea where, following a period of prayer and meditation, he concluded that "God's command at this crossroads in American history" was to "Forgive, Love and Unite." The movement subsequently launched a forty-day National Prayer and Fast for the Watergate Crisis (NPFWC) on December 1, 1973, and Rev. Moon's "Answer To Watergate" statement appeared in full-page advertisements purchased in leading newspapers throughout the nation, including the New York Times and Washington Post. Members organized vigils, rallies, letter writing, and leafleting in all fifty states to publicize its theme and to obtain signatures of people promising to pray and fast for the Watergate crisis. Some 1,200 pennant-waving, banner-carrying members mobilized to Washington, D.C. for the 1973 Christmas tree lighting, and 610 participated in a three-day fast and vigil on the steps of the Capitol Building at the height of the crisis in late July 1974.

Although its stance on Watergate introduced a prophetic dimension as an ongoing component of the Unification tradition in America, the movement's position on church-state relations is as yet unresolved. Some view the democratic pattern, including the separation of church and state, as being inherently flawed. Others see the U.S. pattern of political polity as being the right model. Therefore, this is a potentially divisive issue within the tradition. There also is the matter of prophetic inspiration. If a prophetic dimension is a permanent legacy of the church tradition, the question of discerning authentic prophecy remains. This has only been a minor problem given the unifying presence of Rev. Moon. However, it could present difficulties in the future unless there is a strong mainstream tradition and clear criteria for determining legitimate prophetic inspiration.


5. Establishment of Unification Theological Seminary, September 20, 1975

The Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) was the first school Rev. Moon established. In this respect, it represented another "first" within the tradition. This, in itself, would not be significant apart from the new direction and commitments it brought. The first of these was a commitment to ecumenical and interreligious engagement.

The core mission of the Unification Church, as the name HSA-UWC indicated, was "the Unification of World Christianity." However, the ability of the church to relate ecumenically to Christian churches was quite limited prior to creation of UTS. Most of Korea's Christian churches rejected the UC as heretical, a position that has not changed until the present. The Day of Hope tours in America made helpful religious contacts, but these were not pursued in any real depth. In short, the unification of world Christianity was something of an ideal. The movement had made little meaningful progress toward its actualization.

In this regard, the establishment of UTS marked a turning point in the UC's ability to relate constructively to the wider religious community. Rev. Moon installed a fully ecumenical faculty, and the Seminary gave birth to a whole range of ecumenical and interfaith organizations. These led to breakthroughs in the area of interreligious harmony and, in some cases, to recognition of Rev. Moon's role and identity.

Apart from this, UTS represented a commitment to self-reflection, research and scholarship, and the beginnings of an intellectual tradition. The church, in general, had limited opportunities to think through issues deeply or to develop ideas about how its teachings related to other faiths. UTS afforded that opportunity and provided the context for the beginning of a theological tradition within the church. Young Oon Kim, in particular, was widely regarded as a resident Unification theologian, and the Seminary was a site for numerous "theologian's conferences." It also generated a substantial corpus of publications that explored Unification Theology.[8] The establishment of UTS indicated that the tradition was willing to tackle contemporary intellectual challenges rather than separate intellectual endeavor from faith or retreat into a ghetto of religious fundamentalism.

The Seminary also represented a commitment to long-term thinking, as well as to educated and indigenous leadership. The Unification movement has been criticized for short-term thinking and planning. However, the establishment of UTS indicated a commitment to the long-term. As Rev. Moon noted, the creation of UTS meant the sacrifice of immediate movement needs. Many of the movement's most elite members left their field positions to study for two or three years and prepare themselves for the needs of long-term ministry. Finally, the Seminary represented a commitment to an educated and indigenous church leadership. This was apparent in Rev. Moon's mandate that the church's leadership be Seminary-educated. Here, the movement seemed to conclude that while educated leadership makes mistakes, uneducated leadership makes more mistakes. For most of its history, UTS also represented Rev. Moon's commitment to develop indigenous American leadership. Given the preponderance of Korean and Japanese leaders in the movement, this has proved to be an elusive goal. Nevertheless, the Seminary has operated in accordance with the norms of American higher education.

Despite these commitments, a certain tension remained between the competing demands of faith and intellectual life. On occasion, just as within the wider Christian tradition, the church was suspicious of the Seminary, and on other occasions the Seminary looked down upon the church. This sort of unhealthy separation insulated the two from one another and hindered the development of a unified and strategic field of vision. This, in turn, detracted from the American movement's ability to attract new membership and, in many cases, to retain the commitment of existing members.


6. Home Church and Ocean Church, 1978-82

All of the turning points considered thus far, though they may have introduced new complexities or problems, represented positive breakthroughs. Even the movement's stance on Watergate, which sparked widespread negativity, resulted from what members regarded as positive obedience to God's will. Home Church and Ocean Church were different in that they were less than successes by the movement's own definition and expectations. Many members worked extremely hard in these undertakings. However, the Home Church and Ocean Church providences represented a failure of the movement to break through at the grassroots level.

Rev. Moon emphasized during the 1970s that the American church needed to gain 30,000 core members to influence society and to provide protection against attack. Initially, he proposed a witnessing strategy whereby each member each month gained one new member. He referred to this as "1-1-1" and expected members to win eighty-four "spiritual children" over seven years. However, even with as strong a rate of numerical growth as there was during the 1970s, few could maintain this pace. The movement as a whole was beginning to have some success with societal elites. It also demonstrated that it could mobilize large numbers for one-time events, as it did for Yankee Stadium and Washington Monument bicentennial observances in 1976. But it lacked the means to sustain their involvement.

Home Church and Ocean Church were strategies undertaken to address these problems and attain the movement's membership goals. They also were a response to public negativity which made street witnessing, high intensity workshops, and the demand for full-time membership more difficult. Rev. Moon spoke at length about these two providences between 1978-82.

The concept of Home Church was simple. Rather than have guests attend successive workshops with the idea of moving them into a center, the approach was to establish home churches and to nurture home members in their own environment. This promised to reduce negativity while at the same time increasing numerical growth. Under such mottos as "Home Church Is My Kingdom of God," members chose or were assigned areas of 360 households to cultivate. Rev. Moon declared that Home Church was the movement's final frontier and destiny.

Many members worked assiduously to set up home churches. In New York City, there were home church associations, home church banquets and even conventions, service projects, and widely-distributed educational materials. Nevertheless, the promise of Home Church was not realized. There were two main reasons for this. First, members, in general, lacked the spiritual maturity and skills necessary to lead large numbers of people. Many were relatively new members themselves and, minus the support structure of center life, did not have the strength to scale the mountain of Home Church. Second, the movement was going in so many directions and undertaking so many new projects that there was a continual drain on personnel. Members were siphoned off to newspaper and media projects which were beginning, to mobile fundraising teams which still were needed for financial support, to the Seminary, to oceanic enterprises, and to work on college campuses. There also was ambivalence about home membership.

Consequently, the movement re-instituted lengthy 120-day training programs in 1981 and afterwards gave up local work entirely in favor of mobile IOWC teams, which became the movement's chief evangelistic outlet during a three year period of "total mobilization" between 1983-85.

Rev. Moon inaugurated Ocean Church on October 1, 1980. Initially, he chose two dozen UTS graduates and sixty members to pioneer twenty-four port cities on the East, West and Gulf coasts of the United States. The vision was for each Ocean Church site to build a foundation of sixty members, at which point they were to order ten fiberglass boats and one large stern trawler from the movement's shipbuilding yards. These boats were to be their churches. Rev. Moon advised Ocean Church pioneers to visit the Coast Guard chief, the police chief and the local mayor. He spoke continually about the depressed state of the American fishing industry and the need for youth to be exposed to the challenges and excitement of sea-going life. He also attempted to kick-start the effort through sponsoring a large-purse "World Tuna Tournament" in Gloucester, Massachusetts and numerous "Ocean Challenge" training programs.

Unfortunately, not unlike the movement's inland efforts, Ocean Church did not meet Rev. Moon's expectation. In 1982, he declared himself "deeply disappointed," and in 1984, he stated that his expectations had been "somewhat betrayed." Boats intended for ocean cities were sitting in storage and he detected a surprising "disillusionment." Some of the problems that undermined the Home Church providence also affected Ocean Church. However, the larger issue was economic. Between 1976-81, the movement purchased shipbuilding yards and fish processing plants in Norfolk, Virginia; Bayou La Batre, Alabama; Gloucester, Massachusetts; and Kodiak, Alaska. During and after this period, it invested significantly more in building several hundred ocean-going vessels and in setting up a distribution network of wholesale and retail fish companies, restaurants, markets and groceries. In reality, the movement's financial undertakings swamped Ocean Church. Ocean Church members were unable to sustain the spiritual emphases and the movement's oceanic enterprises became primarily businesses.

The inability of the Home Church and Ocean Church providences to achieve success at the grassroots level had important ramifications. For one thing, it meant that the movement would have to find alternative means to influence society. This led to a heavy investment in media enterprises, in particular, to the founding of The Washington Times. It also led Rev. Moon to emphasize a "top-down" rather than a "bottom-up" approach. During the 1980s, the movement created a variety of organizations and funded innumerable conferences intended to influence societal elites and opinion-makers. In addition, the lack of a broad membership base left the movement and Rev. Moon vulnerable to attacks from the wider society.


7. The 2075 Couple Madison Square Garden Blessing, July 1, 1982

The 2075 Couple Blessing at Madison Square Garden on July 1, 1982 was the first mass or joint marriage to involve significant numbers of American members, and it changed the character of the movement. Simply put, the Unification Church went from being a movement of primarily single people to married people virtually overnight. The net effect of this was to introduce new complexities into member's lives. These included matters of spousal relationships and the presence of children. Within a surprisingly short period of time, members became concerned about the financial support of their families and education of their children. This, in turn, led to the challenge of balancing family development and church mission.

A large percentage of the American movement, 4150 persons in all, participated in the record-setting wedding. This number eclipsed the previous record of 1800 couples married by Rev. Moon in 1975, which was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest mass wedding in history. Engagement ceremonies of 705 couples in 1979, 843 couples in 1980, and 653 couples in 1982 led up the ceremony. The church attempted to minimize disruptions and integrate newly-formed couples through lengthy engagement periods prior to the ceremony or separation periods afterwards, by setting standards for consummating unions, and by mobilizing one or another of the spouses, usually wives, for witnessing conditions. It also set up twenty-four hour daycare facilities at several locations throughout the country.

Despite these measures, married life and children were a distraction for many. Unification couples understood that they were engrafted into the new humanity through participation in marriage blessings presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Moon. Nevertheless, some rejected their spouses. This precipitated crises of faith and even disaffiliation for previously committed members. However, the vast majority of members accepted their partners. Still, since sixty-three percent of the couples were either inter-racially or cross-culturally mixed, spousal relationships required attention and work that otherwise could have been dedicated to outreach. Other couples who affirmed their Blessing redefined their church commitments. Some took conventional jobs and seemed to take on conventional lives. Therefore, at this stage, the movement tended to see family and mission as competing entities. It did not yet comprehend how Unification families might provide new avenues of entrance into American life, mitigate the movement's more threatening aspects, and lead to substantial numerical growth through high fertility rates and education.

The Unification tradition still struggles with ways to creatively balance family life and religious vocation. Various suggestions and experiments have been tried, such as couples living together and sharing responsibilities. Also, grassroots Unification schools, summer camps, service-learning projects, religious education programs and the like have arisen in many places. Some movement leaders attempt to be family-friendly. Others take a hard line, urging members to sacrifice family time. The tradition as a whole has yet to fully translate its theology of the family into consistent policies and practices.


8. The Danbury Course, 1982-85

The dominant fact that the general public recalls about the Unification Church during the 1980s was the incarceration of Rev. Moon on tax evasion charges. Rev. Moon spent thirteen months at Danbury, Connecticut Correctional Institution in 1984-85. However, the Danbury Course was broader than that. It also included the death of Rev. Moon's second eldest son, Heung Jin Nim, who was highly regarded within the movement, and the many initiatives that flowed out of the course. The episode was a defining moment for the tradition in America because it demonstrated the movement's fundamental attitude and response toward what it understood to be unfair treatment at the hands of its enemies.

The church won a series of court cases in 1982. After several years of struggle, it gained unambiguous legal recognition as a bona fide religion with full tax-emption privileges, public solicitation rights, and access to missionary visas. It also was able to extend civil rights protections to members and successfully press for damages against deprogrammers. However, the church lost the one case that was the most highly publicized, most costly, and that mattered to it the most. The United States v. Sun Myung Moon had an air of inevitability about it. Tax convictions have been a time-honored way to root out undesirables, and although the review process makes this more difficult to do within the American legal system, there has been a tendency for the politically ambitious to go after unpopular figures. In Rev. Moon's case, a letter from U.S. Senator Robert Dole to the IRS Commissioner which called for an audit of the church led to what Carleton Sherwood termed "the most intensive and extensive criminal tax investigation of any religious figure in U.S. history."[9] According to Sherwood, "a squad of IRS agents" took "permanent offices in the Unification Church's downtown New York Offices, while a team of field agents began round-the-clock surveillance of selected church members and their telephones." After two years of investigations, the IRS was not able to find anything that compromised the church's tax-exempt status but turned over to the New York District Attorney's Office "certain anomalies" in Rev. Moon's tax returns for the years 1973-75.

The odd thing about Rev. Moon's case was that it continued to move forward in the face of so many obstacles. First, the audit of Rev. Moon's tax returns for 1973-75 showed a total liability of $7,300, less than the $2,500 per year required by IRS guidelines for criminal prosecution. Second, three career attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department questioned whether there was any liability at all and signed off on a written memorandum that prosecution was not warranted. Third, the prosecuting attorney had to convene three grand juries before gaining the necessary indictments. Fourth, jury members whom the trial judge described as people who "don't read much, don't talk much, and don't know much" had to sift through over 2,000 documentary exhibits and technical argumentation that was glazing over the eyes of even trained legal observers. Fifth, the U.S. Solicitor General and Supreme Court had to ignore briefs from most of the country's mainstream religious groups that maintained in holding funds for the church in his name, Rev. Moon had no tax liability but was exercising an accepted and widely-practiced trustee role known as corporation sole.

In the end, neither Rev. Moon nor the movement was able to stem the governments' determination to gain a conviction. But they could control their own response and thereby set a standard for how the tradition responded to what it took to be unfair and selective prosecution. Rev. Moon's attitude and actions were especially instructive. The government indicted him while he was in Korea, a country with which the U.S. did not have an extradition treaty. Therefore, there was some thought or, perhaps, hope on the part of prosecutors that he would not return. However, Rev. Moon returned publicly and dramatically, convening a large rally outside the Foley Square Courthouse in New York City where he denounced the indictment as an example of religious and racial prejudice and announced his intention of mounting a vigorous defense. Although the government later used his speech to block his defense counsel's motion for a bench trial, Rev. Moon set an important precedent by forthrightly facing his accusers and charges rather than avoiding them.

Another important precedent set by Rev. Moon during the Danbury course was that he was not to be deterred from his commitment to mission. On January 2, 1984, amidst the appeal process, Rev. Moon's second son died at age seventeen as a result of injuries sustained when his car was struck by a tractor-trailer that jack-knifed on an icy stretch of road. As an inmate at Danbury Correctional Facility, Rev. Moon performed a variety of menial tasks in the dining room, setting up for breakfast every day, mopping, wiping tables, etc. However, none of this interfered with his conviction that "the Unification sunrise" was coming to the world. In fact, while under indictment, in trial, during the appeal process and while in prison, Rev. Moon launched numerous initiatives. These included an endowment of $2,000,000 for the creation of a Minorities Alliance International (MAI); massive marriage Blessings for 6,500 couples in Seoul in addition to the 2075 couples in New York; the founding of CAUSA-USA, the Youth Seminar on World Religions, and most importantly, The Washington Times. In addition, he sent a "Letter From Danbury" with videotapes on Unification theology to 300,000 U.S. clergy and religious leaders and donated 250 large trucks to the movement-funded National Council for the Church and Social Action.

The movement and Rev. Moon absorbed some of the worst American society in the 1970s and 1980s could offer: continual derision and harassment, religious kidnapping and deprogramming, investigations from virtually every Federal enforcement agency, discriminatory legislation at local levels of government, indictment, prosecution and imprisonment. Rev. Moon likely would have been deported had it not been for his trial judge's "binding recommendation" to the U.S. Attorney General which concluded that deportation, in addition to the jail sentence he had imposed, would have constituted "excessive punishment." Ironically, in spite of all this, the movement emerged from the Danbury course on more solid ground than it had been before. The reason for this was that American public opinion changed. It wasn't that Rev. Moon and the movement suddenly became chic, lovable, or even acceptable. Rather, a substantial number of influential Americans, including many of a libertarian persuasion, concluded that Rev. Moon had gotten a raw deal. The movement deftly organized some of this sentiment into a series of "Rallies for Religious Freedom" and amicus curiae briefs supporting Rev. Moon's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the spontaneous support that emerged in op-ed pieces was more effective and consequential. More than any other sequence of events, the Danbury course was the fulcrum around which the history of the Unification movement in America turned.


9. Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy, 1985-87; CAUSA Signature Drive, 1986

The movement achieved a number of breakthroughs following the Danbury course. Earlier than most, Rev. Moon realized that communism was tottering toward collapse and committed major portions of the movement's resources in the middle and late 1980s not only toward hastening its demise but also toward development in a post-communist world. The Washington Times, CAUSA USA, the American Leadership Conference (ALC), the American Constitutional Committee (ACC), the American Freedom Coalition (AFC), the World Media Association, the Summit Council for World Peace, and substantial financial investments in China were all important. By 1990, Rev. Moon's strategy of pursuing a "victory over communism" line while at the same time assiduously cultivating contacts within the communist world and pointing out "confusion in the Western system of values" resulted in an invitation to hold several conferences in Moscow and a private audience with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Rev. Moon also achieved breakthroughs in his native Korea, where he committed significant resources during the late 1980s. In 1987 he established the Citizens' Federation for the Unification of the Homeland, and in 1988 the movement sponsored several officially sanctioned cultural events at The Little Angels Performing Arts Center in conjunction with the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Earlier, the Nampyung Moon Clan Tribal Association named Rev. Moon "Tribal Chief," and in 1989 the Korean Root-Finding Association, a national organization of all Korean traditional clans, asked him to be chairman. That same year, the movement gained approval to start a major daily newspaper, the Segye Ilbo, Sung Hwa (later Sun Moon) University, and the movement's Il Hwa Cheon-ma (Heavenly Horse) soccer team won a franchise in Korea's top professional soccer league. Finally, on December 6, 1991, Rev. Moon gained an audience with North Korean Premier Kim Il Sung, marking the first time he had set foot in the land of his birth in four decades.

The Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy (ICC) and the CAUSA Signature Drive were turning points because they underlay many of the breakthroughs noted above. Basically, they represented the first time the American movement had met Rev. Moon's goals for outreach. As such, they gave the American movement confidence to support overseas work. Even before his release from Danbury, Rev. Moon was concerned to connect support he had received from American Christianity to Korea. This was the basis for his request that the American movement send 7,000 U.S. ministers to Japan and Korea. Under the theme, "Rev. Moon and Korea in the Providence of God," the movement feted 64 ministers from 21 denominations in its first ICC from April 10-19, 1985. Between 1985-88, it sponsored 38 separate and increasingly large ICC conferences for 7,069 American clergy and religious leaders. Many participants signed proclamations of support. From the movement's perspective, the ICC providence was an indispensable condition for substantial accomplishments in its homeland.

On September 1, 1986, Rev. Moon launched the CAUSA Signature Drive. The goal was to obtain 10 million signatures, including names and addresses, on a form stating that the signers agreed with CAUSA USA's goals to 1) Affirm a God-centered morality in America; 2) Uphold freedom for all; 3) Educate people about the dangers of atheistic communism. Members and some supporters worked aggressively in all fifty states to complete the drive by Thanksgiving. Afterwards, CAUSA USA sent information to all signers about its work and a monthly publication, The CAUSA Report. Successful completion of the CAUSA Signature Drive, a national outreach project, gave members new confidence. It reinforced the movement's work on the ICCs and led to the establishment of new organizations, such as ALC, ACC, and AFC noted above. AFC weighed in heavily for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and distributed 30 million pieces of educational literature during the 1988 presidential campaign, including highly effective "voter scorecards." In 1990, it staged "Desert Storm" rallies in all fifty states, prompting the PBS series Frontline, in a documentary entitled "The Resurrection of Rev. Moon," to declare him "a force in American politics." Taken together, the ICCs and CAUSA Signature Drive demonstrated that the movement could reach out at the grassroots level, if not yet to gain members, at least to gain supporters and promote civic causes.


10. RFK Stadium and Madison Square Garden Blessings, 1997, 1998

The 1990s was the great era of proclamations for the Unification tradition. In 1992, Rev. Moon considered his foundation secure enough to declare openly that he and Mrs. Moon were "the true parents of all humanity… the Savior, the Lord of the Second Advent, the Messiah."[10] The following year he proclaimed the opening of a whole new historical epoch, the Completed Testament Age. Although details as to the precise nature of the epoch were as yet sketchy, it was understood to involve a fundamental shift in the order of salvation from the individual to the family. The implications of this were momentous. For Rev. Moon, it signaled a radical new beginning for the movement and rendered all previous religious expressions, including that of the Unification Church, obsolete. Although HSA-UWC evidenced a stubborn will to live and successfully resisted its dissolution, the church began to reconfigure itself as a "Family Federation" and launched into efforts to realize a restored and purified Garden of Eden. The gateway to the Completed Testament Age was the Blessing, which was extended far beyond the Unification community during the 1990s. In fact, members routinely referred to the “globalization of the Blessing.”

These developments had a significant impact on the movement in America. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Rev. Moon concentrated his activities almost exclusively in the United States, and it was understood to be at the center of the providence. However, after 1985 he began to shift the focus of his ministry and expectations elsewhere: to Korea, to the former Soviet Union, and to South America. The movement continued to fund The Washington Times and some educational and religious nonprofits. However, rather than breaking new ground, this only extended activities already in place. The only dramatic new initiative was the acquisition of a controlling interest in the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1992. This required a significant monetary investment, was hotly contested, and resurfaced anti-Unification Church sentiment. Still, the cutting edge of the movement's worldwide efforts in the decade after Danbury was not the U.S. At best, the American movement functioned in a supportive role.

This was especially true of the global Blessings. On August 25, 1992, Rev. and Mrs. Moon conducted an International Holy Wedding for 30,000 couples at Seoul Olympic Stadium. It was the centerpiece of the first World Culture and Sports Festival (WCSF). The WCSF was meant to be a culmination of Rev. Moon's worldwide activities and made good on his commitment to sponsor an "Olympics of World Culture" following the conclusion of the Seoul Olympics in 1988. The movement's second WCSF in 1995 was more challenging, since Rev. Moon announced that he would officiate for an International Holy Wedding of 360,000 couples, some 40,000 in person and the rest by satellite transmission from the main venue at Seoul Olympic Stadium. This was the movement's first avowedly open Blessing. Forty-three Muslims and twenty-eight longtime contacts from seven different religious traditions had participated in 1992. However, their presence was not widely publicized. This time, the movement made a public commitment to transcend religious and denominational distinctions, in part because it did not have enough blessing candidates among the membership to meet the goal. As a consequence, the movement headed into uncharted territory.

The American movement did not play a prominent role in the globalization of the Blessing, either in 1992 or 1995. Its role was restricted primarily to working with VIPs, and its Blessing total was not impressive in comparison to the result and "amazing miracles" reported in Africa, Brazil, Taiwan and elsewhere. In terms of leadership, the U.S. movement seemed to be fading. Blessing 97 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. and Blessing 98 at Madison Square Garden in New York were important turning points because they carried the American movement back into the center of the providence. They also empowered the membership in unprecedented ways, transforming many from being followers into spiritual leaders.

As early as 1980, Rev. Moon proclaimed that the era of the leader-centered movement had ended and the member-centered movement had begun. However, it took most members more than a decade-and-a-half to realize the import of this pronouncement. The American movement remained largely hierarchical, and members looked to leaders for direction. The key point about the global Blessings was that members could not wait for leaders in order to meet the astronomical goals that Rev. Moon had set: 39.6 million couples blessed worldwide for RFK Stadium and 120 million couples for Madison Square Garden. They had to become spiritual leaders themselves. Previously, members believed that only Rev. and Mrs. Moon or top leaders could bless couples. During the RFK campaign, they took the Blessing into their own hands and took it to the people directly. In living rooms, on streets, on beaches, in parks, at fairs and other locales, members prayed over couples, distributed holy wine (or grape juice), sprinkled water, repeated vows, took photographs, and, in general, acted as conduits of spiritual blessing.

The biggest external breakthrough, apart from hugely enlarged Blessing totals, was the American movement's success with Christian ministers. Between June and December 1996, the movement sponsored highly successful weekly three-day, expenses-paid "Empowering Christianity through True Family Value Conferences" in Washington, D.C. for more than 4,500 clergy and religious leaders. Movement spokespersons reported that 2,000 U.S. ministers were Blessed in connection with the RFK Stadium event, and more before Madison Square Garden. The movement was able to mobilize a massive 2,000-voice gospel choir from 77 churches for Blessing 98 at Madison Square Garden, and more than 200 churches brought their congregations. Over 120 ministers and 14 busses of parishioners came from Chicago alone.

Taken together, the two Blessings signaled a coming of age and a changing of consciousness. Movement representatives in nations other than Korea were offered the chance to host global Blessings, but only the U.S. did so. Rev. Moon recognized this, and in 1998 designated the U.S. as "elder son" nation to the "parent" nations of Korea and Japan. At one level, this represented a neo-Confucian ordering of internal movement polity. At another level, it may have signified the elevation of a successor nation. From this perspective, if Korea was the first stage rocket booster that got the movement off the ground, and Japan the second stage that powered the movement into orbit, the U.S. was the third stage vehicle to steer the movement to its destination.

Entering its second forty years, it will be up to the American movement to consolidate the tradition, develop forms of governance to empower members worldwide, build on the movement's favorable age and sex ratios, and effectively socialize those born in the faith. Accomplishment of these responsibilities will be essential to ensure continuity and achieve the movement's long-term goals. While it is by no means certain that the American movement is up to these tasks, its first forty years provide ample materials for reflection and resources with which to work.

The period 1959-99 was the era of Rev. Moon's mature and public ministry. During these years, Rev. and Mrs. Moon emerged and carried their ministry worldwide. Their activities in America constituted only a portion of that development, but that portion was immensely important. Rev. Moon rightly saw the U.S. as the key to unlocking the rest of the world, and he concentrated the movement's resources in America during the heart of the 1959-1999 years. In this respect, the turning points and defining moments of the American movement are important not only for understanding the tradition's development in the U.S. but also for appreciating Rev. and Mrs. Moon's mature, public ministry.



[1] Mark Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1997), p. 12.

[2] The history of the movement's core theological and sacred text, variously translated into English as Divine Principle (1973), Outline of the Principle (1980) and Exposition of the Divine Principle (1996) is complex. Also, in October 1997, Rev. Moon began the tradition of Hoon Dok Hae, using passages from his many sermons for reading and learning. Some consider Hoon Dok Hae to have displaced the Divine Principle as a sacred canon. Others see it as a complementary expression of the "Completed Testament Word." For a helpful discussion, see Jin-choon Kim, "A Study of the Formation and History of the Unification Principle," Journal of Unification Studies 2 (1998), pp. 49-69.

[3] Arthur Ford, Unknown But Known (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), pp. 114-23.

[4] Young Oon Kim, "Brightly Beams… Washington Family," New Age Frontiers, January 1968.

[5] In the San Francisco Bay Area, Sang Ik Choi developed a "character educational" method which adapted the Principle to secular, non-theistic audiences and appealed to disaffected youth. His group existed in a state of tension with Young Oon Kim's Unified Family, which maintained a center in Berkeley. See Michael Mickler, A History of the Unification Church in America, 1959-74 (Garland, 1987), pp. 87-128, 166. See also Gary Fleisher, "Discovering and Avoiding Other Followers" in 40 Years in America: An Intimate History of the Unification Movement, 1959-1999, Michael Inglis, ed. (New York: HSA-UWC, 2000), p. 29. Sociologists David Bromley and Anson Shupe maintain that the Unification Movement during the 1960s and 1970s was "bifurcated into two distinct wings," a mainstream East coast tradition and a revisionist, minority West coast branch; see Moonies in America (Sage, 1979), pp. 75-77, 103-106.

[6] Edwin Ang, "Looking Ahead…" New Age Frontiers, June 1970.

[7] Neil Salonen, "Looking Ahead…" New Hope News, December 23, 1974.

[8] See Andrew Wilson, "From the Editor," Journal of Unification Studies 1 (1997), pp. iii-vi, for a partial listing and discussion of these works.

[9] Carleton Sherwood, Inquisition: The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (Regnery Gateway, 1991).

[10] Sun Myung Moon, "Becoming Leaders and Building a World of Peace," speech at the International Culture and Sports Festival, Seoul, Korea, August 24, 1992.