Theological Developments in the FFWPU since the Death of Rev. Moon

Journal of Unification Studies Vol. 19, 2018 - Pages 1 - 22

This paper is adapted, with permission, from the author's paper with the same title published in Acta Comparada, Subsidia VI, FVG, Faculty for Comparative Study of Religions and Humanism, Antwerp (2017).

This paper discusses Mrs. Hak-ja Han Moon’s effort to assert her leadership and put her particular stamp on the Unification movement. Known as “True Mother,” she is emerging as an institution builder, in contrast to her husband the visionary. If one likens Rev. Sun Myung Moon to Joseph Smith, then perhaps Mrs. Moon can be viewed as the movement’s Brigham Young.

She has faced opposition, because while both Rev. and Mrs. Moon have the theological status of True Parents, in practice members of the Unification Church made Rev. Moon, whom they regard as the Lord of the Second Advent, the focus of their devotion. There had been little reckoning with the prospect of his passing, or how they would regard the leadership of his widow, who today is regarded the remaining True Parent on earth.


The Question of Succession

At the time of Rev. Moon’s death in 2012, many members expected that Mrs. Moon would merely lead from behind while training a designated male heir to take over leadership of the movement. Rev. Moon had made the issue of finding a suitable heir a matter of serious concern during the previous decade. But those efforts were unsuccessful.

The eldest son, Hyo-jin Moon, declined the position due to past overindulgence, which contributed to his early death from heart failure in 2008. Ironically, because he returned repentant as a prodigal son, he now occupies a place of honor among the True Children, as their biological children are called. Representing him, his widow and second wife Yeon-ah Moon has a major position in the church.

The next living son, Hyun-jin (Preston) Moon, had for some time been regarded as the heir apparent, but that same year Rev. Moon appointed Hyung-jin (Sean) Moon, his youngest son, president of FFWPU, and in January 2009 he and his wife stood before Rev. and Mrs. Moon wearing crowns in an apparent investiture ceremony. That event was outcome of a rift that began when Hyun-jin, who had responsibility for many of the movement’s international activities, sought to forcibly take control of the American and Brazilian churches amid a dispute with his brother Kook-jin (Justin) Moon.[1] When Rev. Moon heard of it, he asked Hyun-jin to temporarily cease his activities and stay with him for a year; but he refused. After the appointment of Hyung-jin as the heir, Hyun-jin broke from the Family Federation to form a rival organization.

Hyung-jin continued as president of FFWPU until early 2013, when he had a falling out with Mrs. Moon and moved to Pennsylvania. After Rev. Moon’s funeral Mrs. Moon had given him a temporary assignment in the United States. Shortly afterwards she dismissed Kook-jin from his positions as head of the Tongil Group of church-related businesses and the Segye Ilbo newspaper over a financial dispute, and Kook-jin returned to America where he headed a successful firearms company. When Hyung-jin returned to Korea, he quarreled with his mother over this and other matters, and ended up following his brother Kook-jin to America. At first, he claimed it was for a period of quiet reflection, but within a year, with the support of his brother he set up a rival church.

Thus, while few members of FFWPU had anticipated that Mrs. Moon would take the reins of leadership for an extended period, after the sons designated as heirs refused to work with her, most members ended up gravitating to her. They were willing to accept Mrs. Moon’s authority after her husband’s passing because it fit with the church’s core teaching that Rev. and Mrs. Moon stand side-by-side in the capacity of True Parents. Moreover, they accepted that Mrs. Moon knew her late husband’s heart and mind best, having lived with him for 52 years. Hence, amid the turmoil of transition, the faithful leadership could rally the members to Mrs. Moon with slogan “We attend True Parents as one!”

To decisively settle the question of succession, Mrs. Moon moved swiftly to draft the “Cheon Il Guk Constitution,” promulgated on February 12, 2014 (the first anniversary of Foundation Day, 1.13 by the lunar calendar). It set up a Supreme Council of 13 members, consisting of elders and those of her children who are loyal to True Parents. Members of the Supreme Council, in turn, preside over five governing bodies: executive, legislative, judicial, finance and public information.

While the constitution has yet to be implemented fully, the Supreme Council was filled and began to meet almost immediately. The current chairperson is Sun-jin Moon, the Moons’ fourth daughter; other council members from the Moon family include Yeon-ah Moon (Hyo-jin Moon’s widow), Hoon-sook (Julia) Pak (Heung-jin Moon’s widow), and Insup Park, Sun-jin Moon’s husband. The structure of the Supreme Council sets placeholders for numerous members of the Moon family to be seated in the future, creating a corporate leadership combining blood relatives with faithful church elders. Thus, it incorporates the Moon lineage into a stable corporate structure. If in the future, either before or after Mrs. Moon’s passing, there is reconciliation with either of the Moon sons, they could easily be seated on the Supreme Council.


supreme council members

Supreme Council members, February 22, 2016


The Cheon Il Guk Era

A second context for understanding the contemporary theological develop ments in the church is temporal. Rev. Moon saw God’s providence the last decade of his life as opening into a new era, which he called the “Cheon Il Guk Era.” He considered it the time to begin instituting God’s original ideal, and to transition from the labors of restoration to a future where the focus is to build God’s kingdom. The arrival of the Cheon Il Guk Era gave cause for the numerous theological and liturgical innovations that began before Rev. Moon’s passing and continued under Mrs. Moon.

Cheon Il Guk is an abbreviation for Cheonju Tongil Pyeonghwa Guk, The Nation of Peace and Unity of Heaven and Earth; in Christian terms it is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. While Unification theology considers the Old Testament Age, the New Testament Age, and the Completed Testament Age (1992-2001)[2] to be periods in the providence of restoration, the Cheon Il Guk Era that began in 2001 is the time to begin setting up the structure of God’s Kingdom.

“In this era,” said Rev. Moon, “we will no longer be ensnared by the principles of restoration through indemnity.”[3] Traditionally church life had been about making indemnity conditions for restoration, but henceforth members were to devote themselves to setting up the ideal by living according to the Principle of Creation. The church and its membership have only just begun to reckon with this change.

Michael Mickler, who calls Rev. Moon “an irrepressible liturgical innovator,”[4] enumerated the theological and liturgical innovations that he began at the start of the Cheon Il Guk Era: a new “heavenly calendar” in 2010, Memorial Festivals of Ascension and Unity begun in 2010, setting up the “Eight Textbooks” in 2012, publication of his autobiography in 2009, and more. From this perspective, Mrs. Moon’s innovations simply continue the path of development that her husband began previously, and they are appropriate for this new time.

The Cheon Il Guk Era was inaugurated on January 13, 2001 with the Enthronement Ceremony of God’s Kingship; this came on the heels of Lucifer’s surrender on March 21, 1999. The theological concept is that once Lucifer, the angel who at the Fall had usurped God’s throne, returned to his original position of a servant, God would recover His throne and begin ruling over heaven and earth.

After the Enthronement Ceremony, Rev. and Mrs. Moon launched a 12-year course to complete preparations for Cheon Il Guk, which was slated to begin on Foundation Day, January 13, 2013 by the lunar calendar. Events proceeded at dizzying speed. On April 27, 2002 they officiated at a Marriage Blessing of 144,000 Christian leaders, representing the 144,000 prophesied in Rev. 14:2 who would attend Christ at his Second Coming. On July 4, 2002 came publication of the “Cloud of Witnesses,” messages from the spirit world by 120 biblical figures and Christian saints testifying to Rev. Moon as the Messiah; these were followed by similar testimonies by ascended Buddhists, Confucians, Muslims, American presidents, and Communist leaders.

What was proclaimed in heaven had to be proclaimed on earth; this began with “The Enthronement of the Cosmic True Parent and the True Parents of Heaven and Earth as the King and Queen of the Blessed Families in Peace and Unity” on February 6, 2003, attended by numerous dignitaries and thousands of Unificationists. Then came ceremonies to crown them king of kings. These began with a ceremony in Jerusalem on December 22, 2003 to crown Jesus the king of Israel—the position he would have attained had the Jewish people of his time received him. Next, in 2004 at govern ment buildings in Washington, D.C. and Seoul, Korea, sitting congressmen crowned True Parents as the earthly representatives of God’s kingship.

These coronations led up to the Entrance Ceremony for the Cheon Jeong Gung Palace on June 6, 2005, where Rev. and Mrs. Moon, wearing crowns and carrying a royal scepter, declared the basic laws of the Cheon Il Guk nation and presided over the establishment of the national flag, flower, anthem, and other accoutrements of state. As Solomon’s Temple signified the permanence of the Davidic kingdom in Israel, this palace high on a mountain overlooking Cheong Pyeong Lake signified the establishment of Cheon Il Guk on solid ground.


entrance to palace 1entrance to palace 2

Entrance Ceremony to the Cheon Jeong Gung Palace, June 6, 2005. Note the four thrones; the two larger ones in the back are the thrones of God as Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.

All seemed to be going according to plan until Rev. Moon’s health declined and he passed on September 3, 2012. Yet Mrs. Moon pressed on undeterred, and led the celebration of Foundation Day as scheduled on February 22, 2013. Most members chalked this up to her credit and recognized her sincere devotion to God’s providence.

A final point about this term, Cheon Il Guk. Rev. Moon explains it as a world-nation based on the concept of two becoming one: man and woman, spirit world and physical world, religion and politics.

Cheon Il Guk, a nation where two people become one! With two people joined together as one, religion and politics will become one as well. When these two become one, Cheon Il Guk will be fully realized.[5]

This point is more apparent when viewed in Chinese characters, 天一國. The first character means “heaven,” but it can be dissected into “two” 二 plus “person” ㅅ, and the second character is 一, “one.” Its meaning is “two people become one,” referring to the unity of husband and wife. Thus, the unity of Rev. Moon and Mrs. Moon as True Parents is the basis for the heavenly nation. For a faithful Unificationist, this is again reason to stand with her and regard those who reject her as going backwards.


The Cheon Il Guk Scriptures

The change of the era is one reason Mrs. Moon could set out to create the “Cheon Il Guk Scriptures,” as their title denotes. In the decade leading up to Foundation Day, Rev. Moon stated that he was leaving behind “eight textbooks” as his legacy.[6] Among them was Cheon Seong Gyeong (2006), an anthology drawn from some 500 volumes of his speeches delivered over a 48-year period from 1956-2003 and organized by theme.[7] Mrs. Moon set out to revise Cheon Seong Gyeong. She also commissioned two new anthologies of Rev. Moon’s words, Pyeong Hwa Gyeong (Peace Scripture) and Chambumo Gyeong (True Parents’ Scripture). She said it was necessary to refine and polish what was “not organized and good order”:

Father’s words currently are not organized in good order. This greatly concerns me. Compare them to a gemstone. No matter how precious a gemstone is, it will not shine unless it is cut, shaped and polished. Father’s words are like the gemstone of all gemstones, but they are like a gemstone that has not been cut and polished. If I were to leave it the way it is now, who will cut it, shape it and polish it? No one else but I can do it. (Jan. 7, 2013)[8]

This matter became point of controversy, as both Hyun-jin Moon and Hyung-jin Moon condemned the new scriptures as a serious deviation from their father’s intentions. Their adherents cite passages from Rev. Moon calling on leaders “not to tamper” with the Cheon Seong Gyeong. For example:

If you’ve read it five times, then don’t criticize it and don’t touch it! Sun Jo Hwang, do you understand?! “Yes.” Just because you are the head of the History Compilation Committee and even if you were to memorize all the records of all the historical events, you still don’t have the authority to modify [the content]. Until I look at it and explain it, then there’s a reason why I’m leaving it the way it is. (vol. 477-187, Nov. 26, 2004)

The word Cheon Seong Gyeong is a very dreadful word. Any person, a third person, regardless of how great they may be, even if they have several Nobel prizes under their belt, nobody can touch [or change] the Cheon Seong Gyeong. That’s why new denominations will not arise. We are preparing for that. You never know; maybe I’ll announce part two from Spirit World. (vol. 447-83, Apr. 30, 2004)[9]

Yet proof-texting Rev. Moon’s words in support of one’s opinion is a hazardous enterprise, because he said different things on different occasions. We can find other passages in which he called for additional work to improve the Cheon Seong Gyeong and even add additional volumes, which adherents of the Family Federation cite in response:

The first volume of Cheon Seong Gyeong has been issued. Based on the first, second and third volume, we must then add contents of the encyclopedia and ensure that all preparations are made so that everything can be concluded by January 13, 2013. (vol. 611-282, May 17, 2009).

Cheon Seong Gyeong has been compiled based on 400 volumes of my sermons which make up only one third of 1,200 volumes. The Cheon Seong Gyeong contents have been extracted from only one third of published volumes. Two or three times more contents must be published. (vol. 599-110, Oct. 10, 2008).[10]

Nevertheless, the key issue here is not one of divining Rev. Moon’s intent. It is really a dispute over Mrs. Moon’s authority as True Mother. Those who object to her altering the Cheon Seong Gyeong regard her position as that of a follower, holding that only Rev. Moon is the Messiah. Mrs. Moon may be the “bride of Christ,” but she is not a Messiah in her own right. Or, they use the church’s theology of husband and wife as subject and object partners to adduce that her role was simply to follow her husband—and remains so even after he has passed away. Hence, they argue, it is an illegitimate overreach for her to alter Christ’s words once he had fixed them for all eternity.

FFWPU members, on the other hand, accept Mrs. Moon’s self-understanding that she herself is the True Parent, a messianic figure on par with her husband. As such, she has full authority, equal to that of her husband, to shape their joint legacy. That is why she stated, “No one else but I can do it.” In this light, the fight over the new Cheon Il Guk scriptures makes sense, since it was a test of Mrs. Moon’s messianic authority at her first opportunity to exert it over a matter of consequence.

Even aside from the issue of authority, I believe that it was reasonable for Mrs. Moon to see the Cheon Seong Gyeong, even the Eight Textbooks as a whole, as only a half-finished concept and not a corpus that would stand the test of time. Consider that the Eight Textbooks are a motley collection, ranging from a huge 600+ volume corpus of Rev. Moon’s speeches that is still being assembled, to the single speech “Owner of Peace and Owner of Lineage,” and even “Family Pledge” that can be written on a single page. Peace Messages, another of the eight, includes speeches from different occasions that have large portions built from identical paragraphs. The first Cheon Seong Gyeong also contains numerous duplications, because it is an amalgam of 16 booklets developed in Japan with overlapping content. Further, it does not include material from speeches beyond March 2003, leaving out the entire last decade of Rev. Moon’s teachings.

In assembling the three Cheon Il Guk Scriptures—Cheon Seong Gyeong (2014), Pyeong Hwa Gyeong and Chambumo Gyeong, Mrs. Moon displayed growing confidence to assert her messianic authority, as co-revelator of the Word. No doubt Rev. Moon encouraged her in this regard, as their last worldwide public speaking tour in 2010-11 was titled, “Cosmic Assembly for the Settlement of the True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humankind Who, as God’s Embodiment, Proclaim the Word.” Not only do the three volumes, totaling over 4,800 pages, contain many more extracts from Rev. Moon’s speeches than the first Cheon Seong Gyeong, they also include extracts from Mrs. Moon’s speeches. Thus, Cheon Seong Gyeong includes 43 excerpts from her speeches given in the months following her husband’s passing.[11] Pyeong Hwa Gyeong includes the full text of 16 of her speeches among its 168 public addresses. Chambumo Gyeong, which delineates the course of True Parents’ life and ministry, covers not only Rev. Moon’s life but also Mrs. Moon’s, with excerpts from her speeches wherever appropriate. In short, it is a scriptural portrayal of the True Parents—Rev. and Mrs. Moon together.


Status of Exposition of the Divine Principle

Exposition of the Divine Principle is still the core instructional text of the Unification Movement, and Rev. Moon included it in his list of eight textbooks. Its systematic nature makes it well suited for the FFWPU’s educational programs, and it is still in wide use. Yet it is not one of the three Cheon Il Guk Scriptures,[12] and I anticipate that over time it will become theologically subordinate to them.

The reason is that its focus is the Second Coming of Christ, as evident in the concluding chapter, which details the time, manner and place of his coming. It does not directly testify to True Parents; it mentions the term “True Parents” barely a dozen times, mainly in the Christology chapter.[13] True Parents is inclusive of True Mother, while the Second Coming of Christ is not. This makes it less than ideally suited for the Unification movement during this period when True Mother is leading it.

That Exposition is incomplete was well known in the church. As an evangelical work aimed at outreach to Christians, its teachings are necessarily introductory. They mainly focus on the Christian expectation of the Second Coming of Christ. Rev. Moon said,

There are so many things that I need to make public, but I have decided to do so only at the right time. Exposition of the Divine Principle is not all I have to say… [it] does not speak of me. What Exposition of the Divine Principle explains is only things up until Jesus. It focuses on Jesus. And yet you think that the only thing you need to place importance on is Exposition of the Divine Principle.[14]

My own research bears this out, as I have been working for the past decade to understand Wolli Wonbon, Rev. Moon’s handwritten manuscript of the Principle from 1951. The focus of Wolli Wonbon is not the Lord of the Second Advent but True Parents—the original human ancestors that Adam and Eve were supposed to become had they not fallen. They are the goal of God’s providence, whom Jesus could not restore due to his untimely death and whom the Lord of the Second Advent comes to restore. From the perspective of Wolli Wonbon this is the most essential point of the Principle. It is also the viewpoint of Mrs. Moon’s Cheon Il Guk Scriptures. Yet, that teaching is hard to find in Exposition of the Divine Principle.

To overcome this limitation, the church regularly held 21-day and 40-day workshops for instruction in advanced topics beyond Exposition. Unfortunately, after the mid-90s these workshops became infrequent, which created the hazard that members would fall back on Exposition as their primary source of knowledge of Rev. Moon’s teachings, even though it is incomplete.

At one time members had the expectation that before he died Rev. Moon would write a “gold book” that would replace the existing “black book.” Apparently, the Cheon Il Guk Era was the appropriate time for this to happen, but instead of writing a new version of Divine Principle himself, Rev. Moon authorized a disciple to develop and present the “Original Substance of the Divine Principle” (OSDP) at workshops in 2011-2012.[15]

What is the origin of the universe

An OSDP slide illustrating how human beings embody God through conjugal union

The term “Original Substance” refers to the True Parents themselves as the original embodiments of the Word. With its teaching that True Parents are the fundamental duality of God as masculine and feminine made manifest in the world, OSDP anticipated the shift from Exposition’s focus on the Messiah and Lord of the Second Advent to the Cheon Il Guk Scriptures’ focus on True Parents. However, OSDP fell short of being a thoroughgoing rewrite of Exposition, and despite great effort to promote these workshops, they did not prove to be convincing or even particularly inspirational. OSDP’s shortcomings may have encouraged Mrs. Moon to move on to the new educational format that she chose—the three Cheon Il Guk scriptures.


Naming God Heavenly Parent

On January 7, 2013, in the run-up to Foundation Day, Mrs. Moon declared that henceforth Unificationists should refer to God not as Heavenly Father but as Heavenly Parent (in the singular).[16] The theology of God as dual-gendered Parent is based on God become manifest on earth in the persons of True Parents. It speaks to the equality of True Father and True Mother’s positions that had been secured for the Cheon Il Guk era.

In an article that I wrote in support of this innovation,[17] I argue that the term Heavenly Parent, meaning that the one God is Heavenly Mother as well as Heavenly Father,[18] was already an established feature of Rev. Moon’s theology. As evidence, I cite the teaching of Exposition that “God… has the dual characteristics of yang and yin in perfect harmony,”[19] and passages in the first Cheon Seong Gyeong that link God the “vertical Parent” with True Parents, the human “horizontal parents”:

God has the qualities of both masculinity and femininity. That is why He[20] is called the Subject with dual characteristics.… The invisible Parent is causal, the visible parents resultant. In the position of parents, God the invisible Parent and these visible parents [True Parents] are to become one based on love. The latter are the horizontal parents and the former the vertical Parent.[21]

I also pointed out that Rev. Moon’s Wolli Wonbon (1951) speaks of God as both God the Father and God the Mother, and laments Christianity’s recognition of only the male side of divinity:

We must know why throughout human history people have related to God only as our Father and not as our Mother. We… have not even considered that the fundamental meaning of God is as our Parent—our Father and Mother. How can we even fathom the pain and bitterness of God the Father, who has had to face such children? Human beings have endured all manner of suffering throughout history, yet still they do not grasp this fundamental issue, which is at the root of their difficulties. What a tragedy!

God must be inaugurated as the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Only then can we begin the ideal family as God’s children.[22]

This last statement was enacted ritually on January 13, 2001 in the Enthronement Ceremony for God’s Kingship. It began with a procession in which Rev. and Mrs. Moon wearing crowns followed behind attendants carrying two crowns and robes, one for Heavenly Father one for Heavenly Mother. Likewise, the entrance ceremony to the Cheon Jeong Goon Palace featured a configuration of four thrones, two in front for True Father and True Mother and two behind them for God as Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They demonstrate in ritual form Rev. Moon’s Christological teaching that links Heavenly Parent and True Parents.

entrance procession
Entrance procession at the Enthronement Ceremony for God’s Kingship, January 13, 2001.

In this light, we can view Mrs. Moon’s proclamation that God should be addressed as Heavenly Parent as bringing the church’s everyday liturgy in line with the liturgy of its big events and with its theology. She also revised the language of the Family Pledge to reflect this liturgical change.

Nevertheless, Unificationists were still praying to God as “Heavenly Father,” so when Mrs. Moon announced that they should address God as “Heavenly Parent,” it created controversy. Many objected to what they saw as an unwarranted tinkering with time-honored tradition, even as others welcomed it as a step away from a sexist view of God.

Even today, not all FFWPU members completely accept this innovation. Some open their prayers with “Heavenly Parent,” but as they go on they revert to saying “Heavenly Father.” The Holy Songs in FFWPU’s hymnal still address God as the Father—and as is well known, hymns are the heart of worship.[23] FFWPU churches also include Christian praise music in their worship services. This means that the God who is the two-gendered Heavenly Parent in theology is not yet fully made present in the church’s worship.

For those in FFWPU who embrace this change, especially women, it opens new doors in their spiritual life. As they pray and relate to the Mother-aspect of Heavenly Parent, they deepen their relationship to God by connecting with Her newly-accessible feminine energies.[24]

Addressing God as Heavenly Father was appropriate during the age of restoration, when Rev. Moon was continuing Jesus’ mission to indemnify and clear away the obstacles to establishing God’s kingdom. Both Jesus and Rev. Moon were manifesting God as male leaders. But in the new era of Cheon Il Guk—when “two become one” and Rev. and Mrs. Moon stand together as to manifest God as True Parents, God may rightly be called Heavenly Parent.

In my view, moving beyond the time-worn concept of God as a male Heavenly Father had to happen sometime. Perhaps Rev. Moon always intended leave it to Mrs. Moon, who theologically speaking is the embodiment of God’s feminine side. Certainly for Mrs. Moon—and by extension for all women, knowing God as Heavenly Parent opens the door for her unity with the divine in ways that would not be possible if she could relate only to a masculine God.


The Only-Begotten Daughter

A second theological development is Mrs. Moon’s declaration that she is God’s “only-begotten Daughter.” In a similar vein, she states that she was born sinless from a specially prepared lineage. She has made this point repeatedly ever the second anniversary of Rev. Moon’s passing.

hak ja han moonFor members who regard Mrs. Moon less for her own merit than from her marriage to the Lord of the Second Advent, these words are challenging. Their object of devotion and source of inspiration was Rev. Moon, but here is Mrs. Moon proclaiming herself a divinely-appointed leader in her own right.
Why does Mrs. Moon make this declaration? My under standing is that during the 52 years she was married to Rev. Moon, she could rely on being objective to her husband, who was, after all, the Second Coming of Christ. But after his death, she found it necessary to declare that she also stands on her own foundation. The title “only-begotten Daughter” serves this purpose.

If she did not stake her own ground, if she only relied on Rev. Moon’s authority, she would be vulnerable to challenges from others who believe it unseemly for a woman to lead, or who fancy themselves more knowledgeable than she about Rev. Moon’s teachings. Moreover, this self-understanding gives her strength to overcome the many trials that she has been encountering ever since the mantle of leadership fell on her shoulders.

This self-understanding is rooted in Mrs. Moon’s own life experience from an early age. When she was born, her mother Hong Soon-ae had a dream in which her former pastor came to her and told her told to raise the child with special care because she was not her own but God’s daughter.[25] When she was six, an elder in the spiritualist church she was attending gave her a special blessing, saying, “You will surely be Heaven’s bride.”[26]

Why, as a church theologian, do I take it as my duty to defend Mrs. Moon’s statement that she is the only-begotten Daughter?[27]

First, it is on Rev. Moon’s authority, who affirmed her to be so with statements such as,

“At his return Jesus, as God’s only-begotten Son, must receive God’s only-begotten daughter…. Otherwise, the fundamental problems in heaven and on earth will never be solved. God has dual characteristics, and He can dwell only where the Son and Daughter are one.” (Jan. 8, 1989)

“Jesus must return to meet God’s only-begotten Daughter, who can totally receive God’s first love. That is why the Lord at his Second Advent must celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb… This man who completely receives God’s first love must marry a woman who completely receives God’s first love, and they must start a family together, thus restoring the positions of unfallen Adam and Eve.” (Feb. 17, 1971)[28]

Second, I am not about to gainsay Mrs. Moon’s experiences with God and the course that she walks, where I have no doubt God has been with her every step of the way.

Third, I know Rev. Moon regarded the work of the spiritualist churches of which Mrs. Moon, her mother and her grandmother were devoted members to be an essential foundation for the providence for the Second Advent. He made great efforts, even risking his life, to connect them to his ministry. One can say that God gave him Mrs. Moon as their fruit. Hence, it is entirely plausible to me that she was born the only-begotten Daughter on the foundation of their devotion.

Fourth, I honor the fact that Mrs. Moon has steadfastly fulfilled the difficult responsibility of her position. At the time of her marriage, she endured the gossip and backbiting of women jealous that they were not the one chosen to be Rev. Moon’s bride. Being married to the Messiah was no bed of roses; for example, she completed several grueling world tours, including one in 1992 when she courageously testified to God before an audience of communists in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.[29] Currently she is dealing with the heartache of betrayal from within her own family.

Fifth, because Rev. Moon officially recognized her as the victorious True Mother, announcing in 1999 that she “had fulfilled the mission of a true child, true wife and True Parent.”[30] He also recognized her authority as comparable to his own, saying, “When she is alone, she represents True Parents… I am the first founder of the church and Mother is the second founder of the church.”[31] “I have been on the right side of God, but now I have set up Mother on the left side of God.”[32] He declared her accomplishment a “cosmic victory.”[33]

This speaks to the question of Rev. Moon’s first wife, when people ask whether she might have been similarly predestined to be the only-begotten Daughter. Even if she had been so designated, Divine Principle’s theory of Predestination states that while a person may be prepared and called for a position, to be justified and glorified as such they must fulfill the responsibility to which they were called.[34] His first wife did not.


Sinless Birth

As mentioned above, besides asserting that she is the only-begotten Daughter, Mrs. Moon declares that she was born without original sin. There is theological rationale for this, because the Holy Wedding in 1960, which inaugurated the True Parents, needed to join a man and woman in an equal position. Since the Holy Wedding was intended solve the problem of original sin, both the bridegroom and the bride had to be in the position of Adam and Eve prior to the Fall, namely, without original sin. Further, since it was through Eve that sin came into the world, the young Hak-ja Han as the new Eve had a crucial role for resolving sin. Were she not in that sinless position, how could the offspring of her union with Rev. Moon be without sin?

Mrs. Moon caused even more consternation among some church elders when she declared that she was born sinless while Rev. Moon was not. Yet, that statement was not to belittle him, but rather to highlight the added difficulties in her course as a woman. Rev. Moon inherited the condition of being without original sin from Jesus; hence, he did not need to be born without it. Mrs. Moon had no one to inherit from, so she needed to be born with that condition and carry it from birth to her wedding day. This meant she had to go through a difficult and rigorous childhood to pioneer that path, whereas Rev. Moon could have a normal childhood until age 15 when he met Jesus and inherited Jesus’ sinless foundation.

Mrs. Moon’s childhood was certainly rigorous; as a young girl she was constantly told to steer clear of the world and devote herself to the will of God. Raised in the absence of her father, her grandmother repeatedly told her, “Your father is Heavenly Father.” From four years old, she prayed and bowed to God alongside her mother.[35] In her middle school years, her mother strictly educated her, and when she went off to high school she had to keep herself secluded, to protect the special purity that she was told she carried.[36]

Beliefs about original sin are ultimately unprovable. To get some perspective, I recall that as a seminarian in the 1970s we would discuss whether Rev. Moon was born without original sin or whether received that condition as an inheritance from Jesus. Church elders had varying opinions. For example, Dr. Sang Hun Lee, author of Unification Thought, taught that it was an inheritance from Jesus, just as Mrs. Moon teaches today.

Yet in those days, the issue was purely academic. It made no difference to our faith, which was based on our actual experiences with the man. Yet now, when Mrs. Moon brings up the issue of her sinless birth, some members take offense. One could opine that it points to the double standard operating in the church’s patriarchal culture. But to be charitable, it is also a function of members’ lack of personal religious experiences with Mrs. Moon of the sort that they had with the charismatic Rev. Moon. This leads to the question: to manifest God’s presence, must one be a charismatic leader?


Opening the Age of Women

I have argued elsewhere that God pushes Mrs. Moon proclaim her value as the only-begotten Daughter because she needs to be victorious in carrying the cross of womankind.[37] At the Fall, the woman Eve led the man Adam to ruin. This led to the widespread view that no woman is worthy to be the leader of men. As a result, traditional cultures always put men on top, while women were valued mainly as helpers and as bearers of sons to continue the family line.

To make matters worse, this patriarchal attitude belittling women was inscribed in scripture. Scripture does not value women as much as men. We search in vain to find the names of Noah’s wife, Lot’s wife, or Adam and Eve’s daughters. The important central figures in the Bible—Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, were men. An angel stayed the hand of Abraham when he was about to slay Isaac, but there was none to stay the hand of Jephthah when he offered his daughter as a human sacrifice (Judg. 11:34-40).

Actually, patriarchy was well suited for the era of restoration, where the main purpose was to defeat Satan, a male being. With Eve a double sinner, women did not have the condition to do it. The protocols of restoration put men in charge of that task. They practiced male methodologies such as sacrifice, separation and subjugation. Christianity teaches that the way to salvation is to unite with the male Messiah. Rev. Moon took a small step forward when while leading the providential work he placed Mrs. Moon alongside him, not keeping her in his shadow.

Mrs. Moon’s elevation to sole leadership of FFWPU accords with Rev. Moon’s declaration of the beginning of the Age of Women.[38] That the world has entered such an age is evident from the dramatic cultural shifts of our time, with women rising up to claim their original rights. Still, the FFWPU has been slow to change, especially in Asia where women are only rarely elevated to leadership. Mrs. Moon carries that cross, as patriarchal attitudes persist.

Recognizing the role of women in the work of God should be a feature of the Cheon Il Guk era, when people can live according to the Principle of Creation. That principle, explained in the first chapter of Part One of Exposition of the Divine Principle, speaks of harmonious balance between masculinity and femininity that manifests the duality of God who is Heavenly Father-Mother. It teaches the ideal unity of husband, wife and children centered on God’s love as expressed by both genders. This is quite different than the paradigms of restoration explained in Part Two of Exposition, where male central figures from Noah to Abraham and Jesus led the providence by undertaking indemnity courses of great sacrifice. Accordingly, Mrs. Moon is putting more emphasis on children’s education, promoting godly families through the Blessing, and families doing activities to build up their “tribes.” We can see a gradual shift from a restoration-centered mindset to a creation-centered mindset.

Mrs. Moon has also been moving the church in this direction liturgically. In the calendar of FFWPU holy days, she is deemphasizing those that mark milestones in the providence of restoration such as Parents’ Day, Children’s Day and God’s Day. Instead, she is lifting up the week of True Parents’ Birthday (encompassing Foundation Day, which takes place 7 days later), the anniversary of True Parents’ Holy Wedding in 1960, and the anniversary of True Father’s Seonghwa.[39] They mark, pertaining to True Parents, the natural milestones of human life—birth, marriage and death—that encompass the Principle of Creation.
According to the Principle of Creation, families manifest the structure of a four-position foundation—God, husband, wife and children—such that any of the four positions can take the subject role to the other three. Sometimes God takes the lead, but at other times it can be the husband, the wife or a child. Now Mrs. Moon, because she is on earth, is taking the subject role, while Rev. Moon in heaven is playing the supporting role. I believe he is proud of his beloved wife on earth and is working to see her succeed.


Future Prospects for the FFWPU

Mrs. Moon has made it her mission to clean up all the loose ends that remained after Rev. Moon’s passing in 2012. Before he died, he had already completed the fundamental task for which he was called: to establish the foundation for a world without the Fall where God is sovereign over all. He had hoped to see the substantiation of that world on earth, specifically the “restoration of a nation” and the reunification of North and South Korea. At the time of his passing, many members were disheartened by the fact that these external goals had not been accomplished. Not Mrs. Moon; she fought through her grief and took up the torch to continue the struggle.

Mrs. Moon has called the FFWPU to make an all-out effort to achieve these goals by the year 2020, the 100th anniversary of Rev. Moon’s birth. Today the membership is striving to fulfill her instructions, spreading the marriage Blessing in “strategic nations” where prospects for national-level buy-in to the Unificationist project are brightest. She anticipates an event in 2020, possibly in North Korea, which will enable her to declare before God that True Parents have completed their missions on earth. At the same time, she is actively recruiting second and third-generation members in their 20s and 30s for leadership positions, in order to assure the survival of the FFWPU for decades to come.

In pushing forward single-mindedly to fulfill the goals that her husband had set and she had worked alongside him to fulfill, Mrs. Moon remains true to her position as True Parent. As she advances with that clear purpose, the conflicts with her biological children Hyun-jin and Hyung-jin are but peripheral concerns. The groups of members that support them are insignificant compared to the entire population of Unificationists. Whether and when these children return to the fold is up to them. If they do return, I believe she will welcome them, because she is their mother. Meanwhile, she has enough on her plate as she works to seal her husband’s legacy and her legacy as joint victors in God’s providence and founders of a new religion that will prosper into the future.



[1] Rev. Moon had appointed his second daughter In-jin (Tatiana) Moon to lead the American church, but Hyun-jin sought to curb her authority and take control of the Board of Directors. In that struggle, she had the support of Kook-jin and Hyung-jin. When the matter was finally brought to Rev. Moon, he supported In-jin and directed Hyun-jin to cease his international work. See Michael L. Mickler, “The Great Jubilee Years 2007-08: A Transition Period in Unification Movement History,” Journal of Unification Studies 16 (2015): 147-184

[2] According to Rev. Moon, the Completed Testament Age should have begun in 1952, at the close of the New Testament Age. However, after Christianity rejected him, he spent 40 years to restore the Old Testament and New Testament Ages before the Completed Testament Age could actually begin, in 1992. See “True Parents and the Completed Testament Age,” in True Family and World Peace (New York: FFWPU, 2000), p. 40.; and Chambumo Gyeong (Seoul: FFWPU, 2015), p. 631

[3] Sun Myung Moon, “Coronation for the Realm of Liberation for God, the King of Kings,” January 15, 2009. SunMyungMoon-090115.htm

[4] Michael L. Mickler, “Continuity and Innovation: The Last Years of Rev. Moon’s Ministry, 2009-2012,” Journal of Unification Studies 15 (2014): 35

[5] Cheong Seong Gyeong (Seoul: FFWPU, 2014), p. 1265

[6] Mickler, “Continuity and Innovation,” pp. 28-29.

[7] The other seven are, 1) The Sermons of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, 2) Exposition of the Divine Principle, 3) “The Family Pledge,” 4) Pyeong Hwa Shin Gyeong (Peace Messages), 5) True Families—Gateway to Heaven, 6) “Owner of Peace and Owner of Lineage,” and 7) World Scripture. See Mickler, “Continuity and Innovation,” p. 29; Pyeong Hwa Gyeong (Seoul: FFWPU, 2014), pp. 970-971

[8] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 1498

[9] Hyun Jin Moon, a/k/a Blessed Family Committee to protect True Father’s Cheon Seong Gyeong and Pyeong Hwa Shin Gyeong (BFC-PCP), “Difficulties with Changing the Cheon Il Guk Scripture Ignoring True Father’s Eight Great Textbooks,” p. 4.

[10] Kyeong Seuk Lu, “A Proper Understanding of the Revised Version of the Cheon Seong Gyeong,” May 7, 2013

[11] Pp. 1357-68

[12] One of two of the eight textbooks entirely left out of Mrs. Moon’s corpus; the other is World Scripture and the Teachings of Sun Myung Moon (2007), of which the author was the primary editor.

[13] Exposition of the Divine Principle (New York: HSA-UWC, 1996), pp. 170-172

[14] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 424

[15] Mickler, “Continuity and Innovation,” p. 32

[16] Douglas Burton and Lymha Kim, “Hak Ja Han: Address God as ‘Heavenly Parents,’ FFWPU website, January 8, 2013., accessed May 22, 2015. Korean often does not distinguish between singular and plural, leaving it open whether to translate haneul bumo as Heavenly Parent or Heavenly Parents. After several months of deliberation, FFWPU officially decided to use the singular, Heavenly Parent.

[17] Andrew Wilson, “Rev. Moon’s Early Teaching on God as Heavenly Parent,” Journal of Unification Studies 16 (2015), pp. 1-25

[18] In Korean, the word “parent” (부모) is composed of the words “father” (부) and “mother” (모).

[19] Exposition, p. 18

[20] The Korean language does not employ pronouns that distinguish gender, so the use of “He,” “His,” and “Himself” as pronouns for God is an artifact of translation into English, which has yet to develop a vocabulary adequate to the task of representing God who is both masculine and feminine. Although this translation conventionally signifies God the Creator by the masculine singular pronoun “He,” it should not be taken as imputing that God’s gender is masculine. 

[21] Cheon Seong Gyeong (2006), p. 1728.

[22] Wolli Wonbon, ms. page 278, in Wilson, Journal of Unification Studies 16 (2015), pp. 15-16. Translation by Hee Hun Standard and the author.

[23] Most were composed prior to the Holy Wedding in 1960 or are traditional Christian hymns. See “History of the Holy Songs of the Unification Church,” Blessed Family Department USA, 2007. Kobayashi-070716.pdf, accessed April 16, 2015

[24] See Kathleen Burton, “The Royal Road to Original Design: Divine Principle Post-Foundation Day and the Questions to be Asking,” Applied Unificationism, May 1, 2017. Accessed May 3, 2017

[25] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 191

[26] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 144

[27] Andrew Wilson, “A Principle Viewpoint on the Only Begotten Daughter,” Applied Unificationism, February 13, 2017. 2017/02/13/a-principle-viewpoint-on-the-only-begotten-daughter-part-i

[28] Chambumo Gyeong, pp. 33-37.

[29] Chambumo Gyeong, pp. 1417-18

[30] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 1421

[31] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 1420

[32] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 1422

[33] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 1423

[34] Exposition, pp. 159-160.

[35] Chambumo Gyeong, pp. 191-194.

[36] Chambumo Gyeong, p. 196-97.

[37] Andrew Wilson, “Providential Necessity of the Only Begotten Daughter,” Applied Unificationism, February 20, 2017. providential-necessity-of-the-only-begotten-daughter/.

[38] Sun Myung Moon, “The Coming of the Age of Women,” April 10, 1992. Pyeong Hwa Gyeong, pp. 881-884

[39] Seonghwa means “holy ascension”; it denotes either the funeral or, as in this case, the day of decease, of anyone who is qualified to ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven in the spirit world.