The Unification Church is a new religious movement founded by Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon. Members are found throughout the world, with the largest number living in South Korea or Japan. Church membership is estimated to be several hundred thousand. The church and its members own, operate, and subsidize organizations and projects involved in political, cultural, commercial, media, educational, and other activities. The church, its members and supporters as well as other related organizations are sometimes referred to as the “Unification Movement“.
Unification Church members believe that Jesus appeared to Mun Yong-myong (his birth name) when Rev. Moon was 16 and asked him to accomplish the work left unfinished after his crucifixion. After a period of prayer and consideration, Rev. Moon accepted the mission, later changing his name to Mun Son-myong (Sun Myung Moon).
The beginnings of the church’s official teachings, the Divine Principle, first saw written form as Wolli Wonbon in 1946. (The second, expanded version, Wolli Hesol, or Explanation of the Divine Principle, was not published until 1957; for a more complete account, see Divine Principle.) Sun Myung Moon preached in northern Korea after the end of World War II and was imprisoned by the communist regime in North Korea in 1946. He was released from prison, along with many other North Koreans, with the advance of American and United Nations forces during the Korean War and built his first church from mud and cardboard boxes as a refugee in Pusan.
On May 1, 1954 Rev. Moon formally founded his organization in Seoul, calling it “The Holy Spirit(ual) Association for the Unification of World Christianity.” The name alludes to Rev. Moon’s stated intention for his organization to be a unifying force for all Christian denominations. The phrase “Holy Spirit Association” has the sense in the original Korean of “Heavenly Spirits” and not the “Holy Spirit” of Christianity. “Unification” has political as well as religious connotations, in keeping with the church’s teaching that restoration must be complete, both spiritual and physical. The church expanded rapidly in South Korea and by the end of 1955 had 30 church centres throughout the nation.
In 1954 David (Sang Chul) Kim was sent as the first missionary to Britain. He studied in Swansea (University of Wales), and taught spiritual groups.
In 1958, Rev. Moon sent missionaries to Japan, and in 1959, to America. Rev. Moon himself moved to the United States in 1971, although he remained a citizen of the Republic of Korea.
The early church
On July 14th 1965 Rev Moon was met by the first six church members in the UK and also sir Anthony Brooke, a well-known spiritualist. During his visit he established a Holy Ground in Kensington Gardens.
In 1967 Doris Walder (now Orme) was sent from Rome to London to take charge of the first dozen or so members who were remarkable for being almost entirely women, and coming from commonwealth countries.
On March 20th 1969 Rev and Mrs Moon visited Britain again, this time having meetings with small groups of people and interviewing several candidates for the forthcoming European marriage Blessing of eight couples in Essen, Germany.
In 1970 A farm-house was rented just north of Reading and became the church headquarters. Some missionaries were sent for a time from Britain to the Middle East, namely, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and also to Malta and Cyprus, but the missions did not turn out to be permanent. British members also went to join Global Teams in the mid-1970’s, campaigning in Korea and Japan
In February 1972 Rev. Moon visited Britain and spoke at the Friends’ (Quakers) Meeting House on Euston Road, London. He also asked for a mobile outreach team to be established. This gave the inspiration for “Samson Team”. An aged furniture lorry (pantechnicon) was brought for £300, equipped with two decks, and painted on both sides with a bold design, and the British Movement began to grow apace.
In 1973 Rev. Moon asked for 120 European members to come to help in USA, among them, 30 from Britain. Several of these British members became state-leaders in USA, and a few, subsequently, became world missionaries in Zambia, Tanzania, Trinidad and Australia.
In 1974 after the fourth visit by Rev. and Mrs. Moon, a holy ground was established in a farm outside Swindon that had recently been donated to the Church. The holy ground consisted of oak saplings planted in the shape of a cross, symbolising the Christian foundation in England. Later that year a singing group (New Life Singers) was formed with members from various European countries, which made a tour of England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, and a witnessing team accompanied them.
In the 1970s Rev. Moon gave a series of public speeches in the United States including one in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1974 and two in 1976: In Yankee Stadium in New York City, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., where Rev. Moon spoke on “God’s Hope for America” to around 300,000 people.
In November 1974, Rev and Mrs. Moon returned to London for the fifth time, to attend the 3rd International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (ICUS) in the Royal Lancaster Hotel, just a few hundred yards from the Holy Ground in Kensington Gardens. The conference was under the chairmanship of Lord Adrian, former Master of Trinity and Vice-President of Cambridge University.
In summer, 1975, Lancaster Gate Nos. 43/44 was purchased from the Norwegian Government and became the new Church Headquarters. And in October 1975, Rev. and Mrs. Moon came to London to visit the new headquarters.
In this year the church established a wide international footing as missionaries were sent by Rev. Moon from the United States, Japan and Germany to 120 countries around the world.
In summer, 1977, Rev. Moon asked for 150 European members to come to Britain. Pioneers were sent out to refill mission areas in Britain which had become vacant, and establish new missions.
On May 13th, 1978, Rev Moon returned to London (for the seventh time) with his eldest daughter Ye Jin Nim, and conducted the 118 Couples marriage Blessing in Lancaster Gate on the 21st. Immediately afterwards he summoned a major crusade in Britain, to which several hundreds of European members came, as well as a contingent from Japan and a group of seminarians from Barrytown, USA : about 700 members in total.
Court proceedings were begun by the then national church director against the Daily Mail, claiming personal libel by reason of a string of articles that the newspaper had published during Rev. Moon’s visit, which had repeated mainly exaggerated stories from the US media. The case concluded in crushing defeat three years later which badly affected the public’s perception of the church. For several years, the church’s charitable status was suspended, and notice was given to Rev. Moon that he would not be permitted to enter Britain in the future. However, in 1988, the Attorney General dropped his opposition to the reinstatement of charitable status, with the costs of the action being awarded against the government.
In 1982 Rev. Moon was convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy in United States federal court and was sentenced 18 months in federal prison. American journalist Carlton Sherwood said “The Unification Church, its leaders and followers were and continue to be the victims of the worst kind of religious prejudice and racial bigotry this country has witnessed in over a century.” (see Inquisition (below) for a complete analysis of this his sixth and final imprisonment).
In the 1980s the Unification Church sent thousands of American ministers from other churches on trips to Japan and South Korea to inform them about Unification Church teachings. At least one minister was dismissed by his congregation for taking part.
In the January 1983 the British Movement was led by Masatoshi Abe, a leading member from the Japanese movement, who in his ten years as national director raised the spiritual stature of the Movement after it slumped somewhat due to so much media and government opposition. During his tenure, the Movement’s projects were more organised and members became more active.
At the end of 1984, the CAUSA (“cause”) movement was established in the UK to promote a critique and counter-proposal to Marxism-Leninism. The movement sent delegates to a prophetic conference organised by the Professors World Peace Academy (PWPA – another project of the Unification Movement) in August 1985 in Geneva, and attended by 200 academics and experts who came to debate the theme “The situation in the world after the fall of the communist empire.”
With the fall of the Soviet empire in December 1991, the CAUSA movement became inactive, and the emphasis of the movement shifted to the decline of religion and family values in the West.
In 1991, following a long struggle, the Immigration Tribunal ordered the government to allow Rev. Moon entry to the UK. By the end of the year, the British Embassy in New York wrote to Rev. Moon informing him that he was free to come to Britain at any time.
In 1991 Rev. Moon announced that church members should return to their hometowns in order to undertake apostolic work there. Massimo Introvigne, who has studied the Unification Church and other new religious movements, has said that this confirmed that full-time membership was no longer considered crucial.
Starting in the 1990s the international Unification Church expanded its operations into Russia and other formerly communist nations. Rev. Moon’s wife, Hak Ja Han, made a radio broadcast to the nation from the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. In 1994 the church had about 5,000 members in Russia and came under criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1997, the Russian government passed a law requiring the Unification Church and other non-Russian religions to register their congregations and submit to tight controls. Starting in 1992 the church established business ties with still communist North Korea and owns an automobile manufacturer (Pyeonghwa Motors), a hotel, and other properties there. In 2007 it founded a “World Peace Center” in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital city.
Women’s Federation for World Peace
On November 13, 1992, more than fourteen years after leaving Great Britain, Mrs. Moon arrived at Heathrow Airport from Berlin on the second leg of her eight city European speaking tour as President of the Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP). That night she stayed in Livingstone House in Kent, a mansion built for the famous Scottish missionary David Livingstone that had been purchased by the Movement in 1978, and which is used as an education and conference centre.
The WFWP has since become active in the UK with branches in over 10 British cities. See the UK website and international website. It is an NGO in general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN.On November 6, 1993, Mrs. Moon returned to Britain in the course of her 40-nation world speaking tour. This time the Royal Lancaster Hotel – site of the ICUS conference nineteen years earlier – was the venue for her speech, entitled “True Parents and the Completed Testament Age.’ In this speech, the messianic mission of the Rev. and Mrs. Moon was clearly proclaimed to the British public for the first time.
Mrs. Moon was introduced to the audience of over 1,200 guests, including many notable diplomats, ministers and academics, by Dr. Ursula King, the well known Anglican theologian and professor.
In October 1995, when an application was made for Rev. Moon to enter the country, the then Home Secretary (Michael Howard) decided that the presence of Rev. Moon in this country would “not be conducive to the public good”, despite the Immigration Tribunal‘s ruling in 1991. After considerable legal proceedings lasting from 2001, during which the Government refined its reason for exclusion as being that his presence in this country would not be conducive to the public good “on grounds of public order” – only to abandon it when the police refuted any such suggestion in their evidence. Finally after considerable political pressure was applied from some of the UK’s most distinguished Faith leaders, the then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, revoked the exclusion against Reverend Moon on Oct 25th 2005.
Family Federation for World Peace and Unification
On July 1st 1996 the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) was inaugurated in the USA.
British activities focussed initially from the end of 1996 on FFWPU projects with an emphasis on Interfaith and Intercultural reconciliation work, Service projects and work with Family values and Youth.
A great deal of interfaith work was also done from 1996 under the auspices of the IIFWP which was later to become the Universal Peace Federation (see the UK web site and international website); work was carried out over 12 or so years to create relationships with key interfaith leaders and politicians, and with the media.
Mrs. Moon visited Britain again on 16 May 1999, as part of her 82 city, 6 continent World Tour, where she spoke at the New Connaught Rooms, London.
In May 2000 Mrs Moon spoke again in London, Birmingham and Edinburgh, again as part of a wider world tour.
In 2003 Rev. Moon began his “tear down”, or “take down the cross” campaign. The campaign was begun in the belief that the cross is a reminder of Jesus’ pain and has been a source of division between people of different faiths. The campaign included a burial ceremony for the cross and a crown to be put in its place. The American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC), an interfaith group founded by Rev. Moon, spearheaded the effort, calling the cross a symbol of oppression and superiority.
Middle East Peace Initiative
The Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) was instigated in 2003, in the heat of violence of the second Intifada, by offering a range of programs from interfaith pilgrimages to fact-finding tours, leadership consultations, and grass-roots encounters. Visiting the historic and holy sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, participants gain a first-hand understanding of the history and spirituality of the Abrahamic faiths.
Universal Peace Federation
Rev. Moon came to the UK for the eighth time after a long period of absence as part of a world tour on Nov 5th 2005, when he inaugurated the UK Universal Peace Federation.
In April 2008, Sun Myung Moon, then 88 years old, appointed his youngest son, Hyung Jin Moon, to be the new leader of the Unification Church and the world-wide Unification Movement. However due to schisms in the church after Rev Moon’s death, he formed his own church, and Mrs. Moon continued to lead the church.
In January 2009, Unification Church missionary Elizaveta Drenicheva was sentenced to two years in jail in Kazakhstan for “propagating harmful religious teachings.” She was freed and allowed to leave the country after international human rights organizations expressed their concern over her case.
From August 29 -31 2010 Hyung Jin Moon visited the UK with his wife, Yeon Ah, as part of a world tour to re-emphasise the church roots of the Movement and encourage members to outreach and develop stronger church communities.
Rev. Moon visited the UK for the ninth time, accompanied by some of his close family. They stayed from May 9th to the 12th 2011 as part of the European leg of a world tour covering eight countries, including Turkey.
Sun Myung Moon passed to the spirit world on August 3rd 2012, and continues his work for God’s Providence.
Starting in the 1960s the Unification Church was the subject of a number of books published in the United States and the United Kingdom, both scholarly and popular. Among the better-known are: The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? (1984) by British sociologist Dr. Eileen Barker, Inquisition : The Persecution and Prosecution of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (1991) by American journalist Carlton Sherwood, and in 2009 Rev. Moon’s own autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen, was published in South Korea and then in the United States.