Chicago UBF: An open letter
This was an open letter sent to Chicago UBF and UBF HQ back in 2003. Even though this was sent back in 2003 the majority of the content is still relevant to this day. Ex-members and Current members have sent other open letters the most recently in 2001 during the 4th crisis. It is unknown (to UBInformed) if any surviving copies still exist. The commentary in () was made by my friend in Germany whom left UBF back in 2001:
16 Public Questions to Sarah Barry by Former UBF Members
(This is a letter which has been sent to the current UBF topmost leader, Sarah Barry, by the operator of this website in the name of many former UBF members by certified mail on January 28, 2003. According to the return receipt, Miss Barry received the letter on February 4, 2003. When after a month there was no answer, the letter was resent by email to Sarah Barry and the Chicago UBF webmaster and one week later once again to twelve official contact addresses given on UBF web pages with the request for forwarding. There never was any reaction to any of these letters, let alone any answer to the questions asked in the letter. This proves that Sarah Barry as a leader of UBF maintains the same arrogant and autocratic behavior as her predecessor Samuel Lee, who also was completely unaccountable and ignored any kind of critical enquiries. Even members who had given their hearts, time and money for the organization for years and decades are not even considered worthy of a short answer.)
Sarah Barry University Bible Fellowship (UBF) 6558 N. Artesian Avenue Chicago, IL 60645 USA
January 27, 2003
Dear Sarah Barry,
We who write this are former members of UBF, who not only spent years or decades in UBF, but dedicated our time, money, youth, heart, soul and heart’s blood for the UBF ministry. We are all very sorry that we had to leave UBF because our consciences did not allow us to stay in UBF any longer after we recognized the wrong elements in many of UBF’s teachings and practices and because of the refusal to even speak about the problems and questions raised by many members.
In this letter we want to ask you a few questions and expect you to answer us honestly before God whom you claim to be accountable to. Though reading this letter and answering every question might require some time and be a little bit cumbersome for you, we will not accept the excuse that you cannot answer for lack of time, just as lack of time is not an acceptable excuse for UBF members. We have been forced to write and listen to thousands of written testimonies called “sogams” in UBF, spending thousands of hours according to the UBF agenda. And we have been forced to write answers to thousands of questions on UBF “questionnaires” before and during Bible studies, in spite of the fact that we were busy with university study, job or family. In Bonn UBF it is considered a rebellion to write a sogam of only 11 instead of 20 pages, as one UBF missionary seriously claimed. You know how much UBF members are expected to write every week. So we can expect you to take a little time and effort to give us a detailed written answer to all of our questions now. We do not expect you to complete such an exercise every week; we only expect an honest and complete answer, finally, now after all these years. We are raising very fundamental questions, so instead of following the weekly UBF routine, you should take a break and consider the past and the problems we mention and about other grievances that you know much better than we do since you were involved in UBF at a top level position from the beginning. Please try to answer these questions honestly before God.
Let us add that we are not members of the “Reform UBF” or “R-group” as Samuel Lee liked to call it in order to write off any criticism as a “rebellion” and the work of divisive political groups. The existence of reformed off-shoots of UBF and the question of whether they are actually better than UBF do not concern us so much as the continued existence and seriousness of the problems in “mainstream” UBF where we have spent a large part of our most precious time in life. Keeping that in mind, please do not try to distract from the problems of UBF by pointing out possible problems in the “Reform UBF.” The failures of Reform UBF do not prove that UBF is in the truth, but rather the opposite, that it is very difficult for anything good to come out of an authoritarian and unbiblical system such as UBF. The first step in redeeming UBF would be for you and fellow leaders to value the Word of God, truth, justice and honesty more than your own ideas, doctrines, opinions, organization, traditions, nationalism, loyalty, personal bonds and the “spiritual heritage of Samuel Lee.” In order to come back to the truth, UBF must repent of many things done in the past. We all experienced that one of the greatest problems of UBF is its inability and unwillingness to act upon the truth and repent, even showing disdain for the truth in favor of UBF ideology. That Reform UBF is still largely tainted by the same UBF poison is only additional proof of how pervasive and widespread this attitude is in UBF. The root problems lie in the root organization, and we are addressing these root problems here.
Let us also add that we do not believe these problems are restricted to certain leaders of UBF, but we found they are present in the entire UBF around the world. Though we retrospectively recognize that most of the wrong teachings and practices were caused by the wrong ideas of one man, Samuel Lee, the problem is not simply solved with another leader in his place. Since he built an organization which was based and focused on his ideas, and since he “trained” the top leaders to accept his ideas, the problems were not isolated to him, but spread into the whole ministry. Most of his wrong teachings and practices are also not new and unique in UBF, but have emerged in various forms in many heretic groups and cults throughout history.
Many believed that you were somewhat different and not influenced by his wrong ideas, but from your actions – and even more from what you have refrained from doing – we recognized that you were deeply affected by those wrong ideas, too. That is the reason why we are writing this letter. We also remember that last week was your seventy second birthday, and it is now one year since you were made the general director of UBF. We hope that this will be an occasion for you to reconsider what you have done in UBF and the directions in which your life and UBF have developed, and we would like to see you make real positive changes in your life and in UBF based on the truth and before the Holy God.
Most of us have had the experience that UBF replies to criticism by attacking and blaming the critic. The person wanting to discuss these matters or seeking to redress these problems becomes the problem, in our experience. Our motives are questioned or said to be “unspiritual” or “unthankful” and we are slandered inside UBF in order to deter members from speaking with us. Let us assure you that we are aware that we might have many failures and problems. But we did not cause these problems we are addressing here, and have been unaware of many of them while being in UBF, because certain things are covered up very well in UBF, and it took time for us to find out all the unspoken rules and mechanisms of authority abuse which made us finally leave. However you as a leader are responsible and have been aware of these problems all the time. The information flow in UBF always went from the bottom to the top, and the top leaders knew very well what was going on. So it is your responsibility to answer these questions, and you are not in a position to attack and blame those who are asking these questions. Even if some of the people criticizing UBF may have their own problems or have wrong motives, the grievous problems that are intrinsic to UBF still exist and cannot be washed away by attacking and blaming the critics. Let us assure you that we do not write this letter because we hate you or wish you ill but because we love you and the UBF members who have gone astray through a wrong kind of zeal. We want you to recognize and admit your failures and the failures of the entire organization. Only honest answers and true repentance will bring healing to your soul and to the entire UBF organization, and only honesty and repentance can be the basis for any reconciliation with God and others. We cannot respect you now for the reasons stated in this letter, but if we receive an honest answer to every question in this letter and find that you really care for the truth and repent for the unbiblical teachings and practices as a leader of UBF, we assure you that we will respect you, and you will really set a wonderful Christian example for those in UBF, whose top leaders have proved thus far to be completely unrepentant. By such an example you would leave a far better influence and heritage than you could through thousands of UBF-style Bible studies.
Do you know why King David is considered an exemplary man in the Bible, a man after the heart of the Almighty? It is not because he was blameless. Quite to the contrary, the Bible mentions his really detestable sin. But David was a man after God’s heart because he regretted his sin and repented from his whole heart. He did not want to keep any sin hidden in his heart, trusting in the mercy of God, and he valued the truth and wanted to live only in the truth, as he said in Psalm 26: “Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind, for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.” He knew what John wrote about God in his first letter: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” Why do you harden your heart in your old age, abiding in your position of denial and self-righteousness? New life will only flourish if you take the step of faith and come into the light, trusting in the mercy and forgiveness of God. Such a step by you and other top leaders is the only way that UBF will leave a positive influence in the 21st century after leaving not much more than a bad taste in the last century.
We want to come back to our concrete questions now. As you know, Samuel Lee called those who raised legitimate questions “crazy dogs” (for instance, in his New Year’s letter of 2001), and when some respected leaders of Korean UBF visited Samuel Lee in Chicago in January of 2001, beseeching him to discuss the problems, he refused any dialog, stating that God would punish him if he did anything wrong. Samuel Lee obviously believed that he did not need to be accountable to people, not even to the members of his ministry, which was one of the above-mentioned wrong ideas that he espoused. Another reason why we are writing this letter is to determine whether you are so completely different in this regard, whether you are willing to answer any question directly and completely, as some UBF members have claimed. Dear Sarah Barry, will you answer our questions? As mentioned above, we were long-time members of the ministry that you are leading and sacrificed much for your ministry and would still be in your ministry if not for the unaccountable attitude of the leadership which forced us to leave. Secondly, from talking with many other members and former members of UBF, we know that they have exactly the same questions. Would you please give an answer to all these people who really deserve an answer? And third, the Body of Christ has many parts but is one body. All the individual pieces are joined to each other, i.e. connected and dependent upon each other and, therefore, accountable to each other. We know that leaders from other churches and congregations in the Body of Christ around the world are asking the same questions. You have been a member of the Presbyterian church which emphasizes the need to have a broader connection to the Body of Christ. The local church, including the pastor, should be accountable to other churches and their elders. Would you answer them? Here are our questions:
1.Our first question is the question the one we have already mentioned. What do you think about the accountability of leadership towards the members of a ministry and to the whole Body of Christ? What means do you think should exist for members to ask questions and discuss serious problems with the leadership of the ministry? What do you think should be the proper way to deal with the sins of leaders, after two or three members have testified about such grievances? How can the procedure that Jesus told us to follow in the church in Matthew 18:15-17 be applied to your ministry, especially in the case of leaders? Besides the questions raised in this letter, there are many more questions and criticisms about the teachings and practices of UBF which need to be discussed in detail. How can such problems ever be discussed in UBF? Don’t you think UBF should have a habit of answering queries and doubts, raised by members or non-members concerning debatable practices and doctrines of UBF? Why not enter into a debate to set the record straight? Why is UBF closing its eyes like a little child and pretending it is dark and no other will see? There are also many more concrete stories of spiritual abuse, misappropriation of offering money and other grievances which have to be addressed. What would be a proper way to do this in your opinion? What will UBF do in order to apologize to the many people that it has hurt and abused spiritually during its existence?
2.What concept of leadership in the church do you have? Until now, UBF implemented the concept and practice of authoritarian, one-man leadership and the so-called “spiritual order” put up by personal (“one-to-one”) “shepherding”. Do you think this is a biblical principle of leadership, and can you justify it biblically? Can you disprove the concept of “biblical eldership” as explained, for example, in the book by Alexander Strauch, which is completely different from the UBF leadership principle? The New Testament mentions plurality of leadership in congregations through elders and deacons. Though in some UBF chapters a “board of elders” exists as a formality, in reality, all decisions are made by the chapter leader alone. Deacons, the only other biblical type of ministers besides the elders, do not even exist as a formality in UBF. In case you want to defend the UBF concept of “spiritual order,” it should be well-defined, and you should be able to give us an organizational chart displaying the “spiritual order” of UBF. Please explain to us what this “spiritual order” in UBF is exactly and who defines this order. UBF has also implemented a “spiritual order” of local chapters and their respective headquarters. The same questions apply to this hierarchy of local chapters, starting with the question of whether it is biblical or not. What authority do UBF headquarters have over the chapters under them? Could you explain the circumstances of the dismissal of UBF leaders such as James Kim (Toledo), Augustine Song (Moscow) or Abraham Lee (Cologne, former European director)? Could you explain the circumstances of the excommunication of many reform-minded members of UBF on October 5, 2001 and January 31, 2002 by the leadership in Korea, which is supposed to be under your leadership according to UBF’s “spiritual order?”
3. UBF is a ministry that implements a concept known as “shepherding” (also known as “discipling”). This concept includes the concept of “covering,” i.e. the assumption that every Christian needs a personal “shepherd,” (except the person at the top of the hierarchy of “spiritual order,” i.e. Samuel Lee and now you), another Christian who can function as his or her “spiritual covering,” who is supposed to be not only a trainer and guardian, but even a “visible representative of God,” demanding absolute obedience to the “directions” given, even regarding personal matters such as marriage. Do you think this concept of “one-to-one” (or rather “one-over-one”) “shepherding” is a biblical principle, and can you justify it biblically? Are you aware of the history of the past shepherding/discipling movement in the USA in the 60s and 70s and its disastrous effects and failure? Do you know about the phenomenon of spiritual abuse which eventually emerged and grew in every group that applied the principles of the “shepherding/discipling” movement? Did you ever notice that UBF started at around the same time as those “shepherding” ministries and developed the same kind of problems around the same time, as evidenced by the letter written by seven senior UBF shepherds in 1976? Did you notice that while Samuel Lee and you branded those shepherds as “rebels,” the “Five shepherds of Fort Lauderdale” repented, after they had been confronted with similar problems resulting from their teaching? Did you never hear that they renounced the principles of personal “shepherding,” and this form of “shepherding” is no longer practiced by most of those who formerly espoused it? Are you aware of the history of many groups which applied these principles of personal “shepherding” and proved that they always led to the same results of spiritual abuse and misappropriation of money as we have also seen clearly in UBF? Most of the groups which did not reform themselves have perished or have become infamous as cults. Did you ever study the history and failures of such groups which resemble UBF, such as the above mentioned “Christian Growth Ministries” movement of the “Fort Lauderdale Five” or other groups such as the “Crossroads” movement, the “International Churches of Christ,” Herbert Armstrong’s “Worldwide Church of God,” “Maranatha Campus Ministries” or “Christian World Liberation Front?” Why do you think that authoritarianism and personal “shepherding” failed in all of these groups? Could it be that there is a problem inherent in this concept, or is UBF the only group which could successfully implement these ideas without any negative effects?
One more personal question on your role in the “spiritual order” of UBF: In the 1991 UBF newsletter, Samuel Lee wrote that in the beginning you doubted whether he could speak properly or was future leadership material. This offended him so much that he decided to make you his personal secretary in 10 years, and he brags that this had been done exactly in 10 years and he became the leader and you were his associate. According to the UBF ideology, everybody has to be subordinated to a personal shepherd. Who was the shepherd of Samuel Lee? If you were the shepherd of Samuel Lee in the beginning, who allowed him to break the “spiritual order” and become “general director” instead of you and then treat his shepherd as a personal secretary? If you considered yourself to be his shepherd until the end, then why did you allow him to break the spiritual order and allow him to commit all the mistakes and evils? In his New Year’s letter 2001, Samuel Lee wrote: “Because I do not have a shepherd, I accepted the Apostle Paul as my shepherd and I made his epistles my text book, and this is how I have grown until now.” Why was Samuel Lee able to “grow” so much without accepting a personal shepherd as everybody else in UBF is supposed to do? Maybe we would all grow much more if we rejected our UBF shepherds and instead accepted the Apostle Paul as our shepherd as Samuel Lee suggests? Another question is why we should focus on a UBF shepherd or even Apostle Paul so much when we already have a personal shepherd, the Good Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, Jesus? Whom did you “accept as your shepherd,” if we may ask? Can you explain to us why you and Samuel Lee are not subject to the “spiritual order” and personal shepherding? And how the two of you could grow without any training by a UBF shepherd and without being subject to the whole program that an average UBF member is subject to even while dealing with life necessities such as paying the mortgage?
4. How do you believe that members of your church should marry? We all know that in UBF the only accepted way to marry is by arrangement by leaders. Not accepting the time of marriage and choice of marriage partner chosen by the leader is regarded as unspiritual, unthankful or even disobedient. Members who decide to marry not based on the proposed time and choice of the leaders are generally forced to leave UBF. To give only one of countless examples, Kaleb Hong, European UBF director, refused to allow two members of Heidelberg UBF to marry in 2000, although they felt they were lead to marry by the Holy Spirit after careful consideration and prayer, and they were forced to leave the ministry. They had to marry in another church and are now faithfully serving there. Members are discouraged to even think about marriage and to just wait for the decision of the leader concerning their marriage, a decision which is often made arbitrarily and leads to many unhappy or even broken marriages. Some had to marry when they were much too young and immature, some had to wait much too long, being taught that they had no say in this matter at all. Do you believe that the principle of arranged marriages, which is euphemistically called “marriage by faith” in UBF, is a biblical principle and even the only biblical way to marry? Sometimes people were told to marry with very little prior notice, even one week, before the marriage and were expected to agree with the leader’s choice of their marriage partner. In other cases, engagements were arranged by leaders, but the “engaged” couple were not even allowed to spend time together, and often such engagements were canceled by the leaders because one of the partners was not considered “spiritual enough” or “disobedient.” We want to know your position regarding these practices and a clear statement of practices describing how marriages are handled in UBF and how this is justified.
5. As explained above, the practice of marriage by arrangement has led to many unhappy or broken marriages in UBF. Of course, many UBF members understood that it was their own responsibility if they accepted such a marriage, and God helped them to establish happy families despite the strange way the leaders set those marriages up. But in many cases where members married, not because they really agreed with the practice but merely because they were taught to be obedient to a leader and trust in the choice of the leader as the representative of God, things went wrong in the marriage. Also, even after the marriage, leaders tried to interfere in the marriage, not accepting the biblical teaching that the husband is the “head” of the wife, and Christ is the head of the husband, but instead, applying the UBF “spiritual order” that the leader is the “head” of both husband and wife. The leaders especially interfere in the marriage when one of the partners becomes critical of UBF. This has led to conflicts between marriage partners and even the destruction of marriages that may have started well. This situation led to an even greater grievance against UBF, namely the fact that leaders even told married UBF members to divorce their spouses who were critical of UBF, and to remarry a more loyal member. We are aware of more than a dozen such cases among current and former UBF members in the Chicago chapter alone. The vast majority of these cases of divorce occurred because UBF leaders considered members’ continued involvement in UBF more important than keeping their marriages together. You are no doubt well aware of this problem and have even given your approval to some of the divorces and remarriages tacitly or even officially. Divorces and remarriages seem to be common thread among those who were favored and extolled as “spiritual giants” by Samuel Lee including the “shepherd” who is delivering the Sunday messages in the Chicago UBF chapter. Another example is the “shepherd” who is delivering the Sunday messages in the European UBF headquarters, Heidelberg. There are also many missionaries who were divorced and remarried in UBF. For some strange reason, you were considered to be a kind of moral authority in giving your blessing to those divorces and remarriages. UBF members believed that if you declared that a marriage was “annulled,” it was not really a divorce. How could you allow such things to happen? You claim that UBF obeys the Bible as the absolute guideline. You know that Jesus said in the Bible, “What God has joined together, let man not separate.” and “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.” How can you claim that you stick to the Bible and fight against “liberalism” on the one hand and on the other hand encourage people to divorce and remarry only because one of the partners in the marriage wanted to leave UBF?
6. After it had become normal for UBF to interfere in the private matters of families and decisions about engagements, marriages and divorces, it was only a small step for UBF to even begin interfering in the family by telling married couples when and how many children they should have and how much time to spend with them and how to educate them. Do you believe that church leaders should interfere in such matters of family? The most despicable example of this type of interference was Samuel Lee ordering female missionaries to abort their children as reported in several cases. Though of course these missionaries do not want to speak about those shameful events, at least one of those cases is fairly well documented and testified to by former UBF leaders and by the brother of one of the aborted children. Also, several UBF leaders do not even care to deny that these ordered abortions happened, but instead, try to justify these sins by downplaying the sin of abortion. This is even worse than a desperate woman who decides to have her child aborted because she does not see a future for the child because we are talking about a “spiritual” leader counseling a subordinate member to do so! In the case mentioned above, the presumed reason for the ordered abortion was that the marriage of that woman missionary was broken (her husband could not stand UBF and left; also see problem of divorces mentioned above), and Samuel Lee did not want the child of the former husband who had left UBF to be born. Another reason for ordering abortions was that members should be more focused on mission than on their children. Recently a member of the Nam-San UBF chapter in Seoul, Korea reported that his wife had been forced to abort two children by the wife of the chapter director, Daniel Lee. This member learned about this from his wife after some years and left UBF because of this spiritual abuse. How much do you know about these cases of ordered abortions? What did you do to investigate these occurrences and allegations? What is your own moral position on abortion?
Regarding the allegations of forced abortions, here is a personal note written by Desiree Sautter-Ray, a former member of Toledo UBF: “Dear Sarah Barry; I am sending you this note, because I have been disturbed by this issue for many years. Way back in the early 1980’s you and I sat at your kitchen table, and had our first ‘get to know each other’ discussion. The first question out of your mouth to me was ,‘Did you have an abortion?’ and ‘Why did you do this?’. I will never forget the look of pure anger on your face, even though I stated to you that your information was incorrect. I guess I just want to hear from you why it was so important to listen to false witness about me and make a judgment before you heard the truth. I want to hear from you how you could support Samuel Lee’s direction for some Korean UBF women to follow through with abortions and give up their children for the sake of serving their ‘mission’. I want to know how you sleep at night knowing that your silence on this issue has killed the innocents and stricken their families with grief and shame. I find it odd that you could look me in the face and express concern, for something I never did or would ever have considered, and yet, behind the backs of all who respected you, (and your so called ‘Christian’ beliefs) you would support murder. Just so you get the full picture here. Remember the facts. I was heavily involved in UBF for most of my youth. I paid the ultimate price. I lost my health and my ability to ever bear children. It has taken me years to overcome my emotions about this issue. Over the years, I have often reflected back on the time I spent with you. You may or may not recognize how naive people were to your charms. I want to know how you live with yourself, knowing full well that your influence has caused so much sadness.”
7. As you know, many German UBF members testified against the authoritarian leadership of Peter Chang in Bonn UBF, testifying about many extreme cases of spiritual abuse. The members who testified about this abuse were earnest and devoted long-time members of UBF. Furthermore, the public prosecution department of Bonn is investigating reports of neglected and beaten children in Bonn UBF, reports filed by kindergarten teachers, neighbors and former Bonn UBF members. Abraham Lee, the former director of the German UBF, was reluctant to believe the early complaints filed by some former Bonn UBF missionaries. Kaleb Hong, in turn, called everything a “slandering campaign” against Peter Chang at that time. But when several other credible members of Bonn UBF independently confirmed the accusations against Peter Chang, even Abraham Lee and Kaleb Hong admitted that the accusations were justified and that the leadership of Peter Chang could not be accepted, and they asked Samuel Lee to intervene. However, as you know, Samuel Lee did not intervene, but demonstratively stood on the side of Peter Chang, making him the main speaker at the ISU conference in 2001 and writing a letter praising Peter Chang to all German directors. When they saw that Samuel Lee would side with Peter Chang, Abraham Lee and Kaleb Hong changed their position and are now coworking with Peter Chang again though nothing changed in Bonn UBF, and Peter Chang did not repent and did not make any statement of apology to the persons affected. Do you believe that the problem of the leadership in Bonn UBF was handled correctly? What will you do about Peter Chang and Bonn UBF since these problems are still unsolved? Concerning the German UBF, as you know, the three controversial leaders (Abraham Lee, Kaleb Hong and Peter Chang) divided the German UBF in 2000, dismissing the grievances and legitimate questions brought forth by the other German UBF directors, even before the problems of Bonn UBF became known. Why did you allow this to happen? Did you ever speak with those dissenting German UBF directors who served UBF for decades? Could you explain why Kaleb Hong was made the European UBF director instead of Abraham Lee? In which way is Kaleb Hong better suited? Could you ask Kaleb Hong why he denied that a plan for him to replace Abraham Lee existed in October 2001, when Samuel Lee had already written a letter to him about this in September 2001, as we later found out? Many members of Heidelberg UBF and leaders of other German UBF chapters experienced that Kaleb Hong is a liar, an opportunist speaking according to the situation, and that his guiding principle is “loyalty to UBF and the spiritual heritage of Samuel Lee” rather than biblical principles and the truth. Do you believe, as so many members of UBF do, that lying is allowed if it serves the agenda or mission of UBF? We often experienced that UBF leaders act according to the motto, “the ends justify the means.” Do you believe that this can be the motto of a Bible-believing Christian?
8. As explained above, when the principles of personal “shepherding” are applied, they automatically lead to spiritual abuse because of the sinfulness of men. In UBF, this spiritual abuse got out of hand in the 1970s when Samuel Lee had gained more and more power and presumed to “train” members using inhumane methods. When a group of senior shepherds raised strong objections to elements of Samuel Lee’s leadership in the 1976 open letter, it should have been a time for UBF to think about the issues they raised, have open discussions, solve these problems and repent for sinful behaviors. However, instead of admitting that there were serious problems, Samuel Lee incited the junior shepherds against the senior shepherds, labeling their objections a “rebellion.” You know very well that these objections were justified to a great extent. If you had taken a stand in 1976 and worked to make Samuel Lee repent or to dismiss him (as he should have been), would UBF be in better, worse or the same shape it is in today? Why did you choose to side with Samuel Lee at that time, working to preserve his position and authority and even helping him to evacuate to the United States? Why do you refer to the 1976 event as a “rebellion” in your written history of UBF? What qualified Samuel Lee in your eyes as a “servant of God?” Do you think Samuel Lee was obedient to Jesus’ emphatic teachings on humility in those who would lead the Church? Where did you get the idea that one man should be given absolute, unchecked authority over virtually every facet of a ministry and its members?
9. It has been alleged that you knew of the plan to physically assault Jose Park (former husband of Rebekah Yoon) in the basement of the Chicago Center, and that you even physically took part (using a baseball bat) in the beating which landed Mr. Park in the hospital for weeks. Did you have prior knowledge of or approve of or take part in the assault on Jose Park? It was said that this beating was the “Korean” way of dealing with a problem with Mr. Park. Do you believe that this beating was the “Christian” way of dealing with a problem? Amy Young reported that you punched a member of your church in the mouth two times in your office. There have been other reports of members who have been beaten in the course of Samuel Lee’s “trainings,” not only in the 70s in Korea, but even later in America. Do you believe that premeditated violence by a church’s leaders against one of its members is ever justified?
10.Why do you and why did Samuel Lee need to have personal bank accounts in the Bank of Benoit, Mississippi? What other UBF bank accounts reside in the Bank of Benoit? Could you explain to us why UBF was registered by you as a Corporation located in Benoit, Mississippi by the Mississippi Secretary of State Business Services? Benoit, Mississippi, your hometown, is 670 miles from Chicago, the UBF headquarters. It has a population of around 640. There is no UBF chapter there or anywhere near there. Who are Andrew Westerfield of Cleveland, E. M. Barry of Benoit, John L. Hatcher of Cleveland who are registered as the officers and directors of the UBF Corporation? None of us has ever heard of these persons in UBF. Why does the name of Samuel Lee not appear on the registration forms, and why did you sign using the title “Director” in 1997 when Samuel Lee was the official director?
11. UBF members were often told stories about horrible things that would happen to them if they disobeyed UBF leaders or left UBF. These stories were normally told in the “announcements” after the Sunday messages or during one-to-one Bible studies, but sometimes Samuel Lee would even include them in his official written Sunday messages. Here is one example of many, from the sermon titled “The Triumphal Entry” delivered on a Sunday in April 1999: “To obey God or not to obey God’s word determines our fate. There were three medical doctors. They came as UBF missionaries to Chicago. But when their commander arrived, they all ran away so as not to suffer in doing the work of God. The leader was unhappy about them and did not bless them. Then soon one of the doctors, who was an anesthesiologist, overdosed a patient for an operation and the patient died. So he lost his medical doctor’s license. Now he is running a grocery store very poorly. Another one, influenced by American relativism, cursed the servant of God. Then he left UBF. After several years, he was in a severe car accident. His body was totally crushed and his hands and feet were paralyzed. The third one got a proper job. But he has rheumatism in his right leg and in his left hand. He suffers day and night. All these events happened when they took God’s word lightly. This is to say that when we obey God’s word, God blesses us; when we disobey, God does not bless us.” In this passage Samuel Lee taught two things, namely that obeying God and God’s word was the same as obeying him (he was called “the Servant of God” in UBF and even called himself the “commander” of UBF members here), and second, that obeying him would automatically lead to blessings, whereas not obeying him and leaving UBF would have horrible consequences. As you know, this practice of phobic indoctrination is applied only by cults and one of the many reasons for people to call UBF a cult. What do you think about such practices? What did you do when you heard such things spoken by Samuel Lee in his messages and announcements? When such disgusting passages in the Chicago UBF Sunday messages were mentioned and commented on the Internet, the only reaction of UBF was to change the password of the chicago.ubf.org message archive. Do you think it is a good practice for a Christian ministry to password protect its Sunday messages? Did you ever hear that Martin Luther, John Wesley, Billy Graham or any other evangelical preacher had to hide their messages from the public? Should not Sunday messages be free to everyone and contain nothing a Christian would be ashamed of? By the way, Chicago is not the only chapter which is hiding its messages in password-protected sections of web pages. We also noticed that Bonn UBF closed its web site, www.ubf-bonn.de, for more than a year after Peter Chang was criticized. If you try to access this web site now, you will be immediately prompted for a password when accessing this page which is given as the official Bonn UBF homepage on www.ubf-home.de. Since UBF claims to be a worldwide campus ministry we would expect UBF to be one step ahead of others in using the Internet to evangelize students all over the world and to foster communication between the members of UBF spread throughout the world. But the few UBF web sites are only in Korean, have little content or are password-protected or even contain misinformation. For instance, though the chicago.ubf.org homepage states that Dr. Samuel Lee “went to heaven” more than one year ago, his name at “6558 N. Artesian Avenue” is still given as the contact person, while the bottom line of the page claims that it was updated this month. Outsiders would not even know that you have been the boss of UBF for more than one year. The principles of UBF such as shepherding, arranged marriages, “spiritual order,” tithing, etc. are nowhere explained on UBF Internet pages so that newcomers to your organization have to learn “the hard way.” Cologne UBF is claiming on their web site that UBF is coworking with the evangelical alliance in Germany, which is not true. Because of the problems mentioned above and the exclusive attitude of UBF, neither the German evangelical alliance (EAD) nor the German Student Mission (SMD) nor any other Christian organization in Germany is coworking with UBF. Why don’t we get any truthful, relevant or open information about UBF on the Internet? How long will UBF play the game of duck and cover like an underground terrorist organization?
12. In 1997, there was a worldwide collection of money in the UBF for North Korea. Most of us gave hundreds or thousands of dollars. How much was collected altogether, and how was it sent to North Korea? Earlier, there was also a worldwide collection of money for the Moscow Bible house, and we also gave generously knowing a lot of money would be needed. A lot of money must have been collected. There were also collections for Russia on several other occasions such as Christmas worship services. It should be easy to buy a house with so much money in a poor country like Russia. However, we never heard that a Bible house was bought, and Moscow UBF had to meet in their own houses for many years instead. Instead, we heard something about an aborted attempt to bribe Russian officials. Again, how much money was collected altogether in the first offering for a Russian Bible house? What has been done with that money? What other collections have been made for Russia and how much was collected? What was done with that money? Why was no Bible house bought for Moscow UBF until today? We recently heard that Moscow UBF is planning to finally buy a building. Which money will be used to buy this building now? Why have UBF members never been informed how much was collected and what has been done with the money? In his New Year’s letter of 2001, Samuel Lee wrote: “When UBF began, we sought to use 50% of our material gifts for world mission, 25% for relief work and 25% to take care of the flock of God. This was our UBF direction and this was our conscience. But there were many times when it was very difficult to keep this principle. But even though it was difficult, I kept this principle no matter what.” Could you please define concretely what the three mentioned areas for the spending of offering money are? It there is no clear definition, this cannot be called a principle which is “difficult to keep.” Can you prove and explain how this principle has been kept through all the years since UBF began? Can you explain how and when and on which foundation this principle, which none of us had heard of before, has been defined and give evidence that this principle has been followed and applied over all these years? In the same letter, Samuel Lee wrote about the offering money sent by missionaries as their tithe: “This precious money has never been touched. It is all saved. I know very well how much the missionaries on the front line suffer from poverty. I know the deep meaning of the offerings that they have made. Only God can use this money. My conscience does not allow me to touch it. When the time comes, and the government allows it, this money can be used to purchase a center in Russia.” How much is the money Samuel Lee is speaking of here? How does this saving of money go together with the principle mentioned above? What is meant by “Only God can use this money?” Why should this money be used to buy a center in Russia when there has already been a special collection (actually several collections) for that purpose?
13. On April 12, 2002, you wrote a letter to several coworkers proposing to create a UBF retirement fund for missionaries with the money that was accumulated through years of offerings, which according to Samuel Lee “only God can use” and was meant to buy buildings in Russia or Africa. We have several questions regarding that letter. In this letter you praise Samuel Lee by writing: “Praise God who for using Dr. Lee as a faithful steward of UBF, both spiritually and materially. After he went to heaven we found that he left UBF in good condition financially, especially in the UBF Central account. This account grew through tithes of chapters through the years. It grew because Dr. Lee did not use this money, but regarded as precious blood money of missionaries.” You claim that you “found” that “he left UBF in good condition financially,” which means nothing more than that you found a lot of money in the bank accounts, and you carefully avoided mentioning how much money was found. Just how much money was found? Second, who is the “we” in this sentence: “...we found that he left UBF in good condition financially...”? Does “we” refer to you and other top leaders of UBF? Does this mean that you only found out recently how much money there was and never knew before? Did then only Samuel Lee know about the financial state of UBF? Third, why do you propose saving offering money in a bank instead of using it? What did the early Christians do with their money and properties? Did they pile it up in bank accounts? Why did you praise Samuel Lee for saving up money in a bank instead of using it? You started this letter with the Bible verse from Luke 19:13 and justified the saving of money in a bank with this Bible passage, the Parable of the Ten Minas, comparing Samuel Lee with the good and faithful servant. Do you really believe that this Bible passage is talking about how a Christian should use money and suggesting that we save it in bank accounts? You claim to be a Bible teacher, but you abuse this passage which has a spiritual meaning, in order to legitimatize the handling of money by Samuel Lee. This shows us that you have lost your interest in actually learning from the Bible, but only use passages which look appropriate to justify everything that UBF is doing. On other occasions, such as Samuel Lee’s chartering a plane to impress his guests, you might justify the squandering of money with other passages such as Mary pouring out the jar of expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Is this the way we should apply the Bible? Again, do you really believe that the Bible recommends that we pile up money in bank accounts? And again, do you really believe this is the teaching of the Parable of the Ten Minas? Besides this outrageous abuse of the Bible, we have several other questions about this letter. If you believe that building a retirement fund is a good idea, why did UBF not do this from the beginnings of its missionary program? Why did you not organize a proper retirement fund from the beginning instead of proposing now to use general offering moneys for that purpose? You wrote that you want to use this fund for members who have been in UBF for more than 30 years. Why not for members who served for less than 30 years? You wrote that you receive money from the Presbyterian church though you served as a Presbyterian missionary for only 20 years or so. According to your own rule, you would have received nothing. Even worse, you want to give a retirement pension only to those who are “still members in good standing of a UBF chapter.” Again, since you are not a member of the Presbyterian church and presumably not even in good standing with them, you would have received nothing. So why do you believe that the rules you propose are legitimate? Do not those members who served 20 or 29 or 30 or 40 years in UBF and are now in Reform UBF chapters or other churches need a retirement pension just as much as the others? Have they not sacrificed their lives just as much as the others? Was not a portion of the offering money in UBF accounts collected from many of those members who have now left UBF according to the dictates of their conscience? You also wrote that money should be given to those in need. How do you define need? Who will decide who is in need and who is not? In spite of the fact that UBF has plenty of money laid up for many years, you continue Samuel Lee’s practice of pressing Chicago UBF elders for special offerings and collections. Again, how much money does UBF have, and more importantly, how much money is enough? Also, how does the “financially good condition” of UBF jibe with the oft-cited claim by Samuel Lee that UBF is a “manger ministry?”
14. Though we, along with most other ordinary UBF members, never cared much about money issues, we could not ignore the many strange occurrences and practices concerning the handling of offering money in UBF. We will not go into much detail in this letter but just mention it as an aside. We do not believe that the handling of money is a minor matter which should be left unchecked in the hands of the leaders. Jesus asked, “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” Many questions on the principles and practices of the UBF tithing system and detailed follow-up questions could be asked, but we will ask only some basic questions here. From your recent claim that you “found” that Samuel Lee “left UBF in good condition financially” (see question 13) it is evident that UBF has not had internal or external audits of its books even though its headquarters is handling millions of dollars collected from its members and from the public for allegedly Christian mission purposes, and only Samuel Lee knew the true financial situation of UBF and had access to all bank accounts. Do you believe that a spiritual leader who is supposed to focus on teaching the Word of God should be a financial manager at the same time? Do you believe that such amounts of offering money given in good faith should be handled without periodic independent audits? You wrote you discovered through an audit in early 2002 that Samuel Lee “left UBF in good condition financially.” If such an audit was conducted, were are the results of the audit published for viewing by the membership? Are the complete audit results available for review by members and former members? Going further, are you willing to make public the contents of all Chicago UBF ledger books detailing all spending by Samuel Lee and the flow of offering money in UBF back to the late 1970s?
15. About three years ago Samuel Lee encouraged UBF members to call you by the title “(Reverend) Mother” Sarah Barry, and after his death this seems to have become an official title for you to be used in conference programs, etc. Do you think it is appropriate for a Christian leader to be called a spiritual “Father,” as Samuel Lee was regarded and called by all the Korean UBF missionaries? Do you think it is appropriate for you to be called “Mother Barry?” Why do you think Jesus told his disciples, “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.”? Is it good for UBF leaders to grow fat with pride through the constant praise, flattery and “thankfulness” of people? Do you think it is good to address brothers and sisters in the ministry using the titles “missionary” or “shepherd?” Did you ever notice that the New Testament Christians did not use such titles in the Bible and that they addressed each other only by “brother” or “sister”, even the Apostles? Why then do you think this should be done in UBF? Do you believe, by the way, that the Bible encourages women to be leaders? Why do you think that God lamented in Isa 3:12 that women ruled over his people, and why were the leaders of the New Testament Church only men?
16. From early UBF history up to the present, in almost every UBF chapter a detailed weekly report is written on how many one-to-one Bible studies members made, how many attended the Sunday Worship Service, the names of the attendants, how much offering money was collected, etc. These reports are then sent to the headquarters. What is done with these reports? You should be able to give us detailed statistics about the number of members, the net growth, the amount of offering money collected, etc. Why did UBF never publish any of these indicators to the membership at large? Would you please provide us with these numbers? You prayed for many things which were not even remotely fulfilled, such as 10,000 UBF Bible teachers for America by the year 2000. Why do you think your prayer topics were not fulfilled? Did you ever think about the possibility that it was because God did not like the motives of UBF leaders, motives such as pride, ambition, vanity, arrogance, enforcement of a belief in righteousness through works, self praise and love of money? One explanation for prayer topics which are not fulfilled can be found in James 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.”
Those are our questions, questions that we hope can be answered by someone who has been at the top of UBF since its beginnings and who probably has knowledge of even more grievous things that have followed from unbiblical, authoritarian and unaccountable leadership. We hope that you will view these questions not as an “attack,” as you and your predecessor consistently did in the past, but as an opportunity, an opportunity to repent, an opportunity to bring yourself and UBF back into the truth in the remaining time that you have before you (and all of us) must stand before Christ’s judgment seat. It is said that after you assumed leadership of UBF as general director, you announced, “Let’s go back to the Bible.” This raises so many other questions, but we will stop here and conclude by encouraging you to lead UBF back to Jesus’ radical calling in the Bible, not merely in the area of missions but in all other areas of the ministry in which Jesus’ teachings and commands have been largely neglected or ignored.
Sincerely, concerned former members of UBF
P.S. This is an open letter. For practical reasons this list of questions was compiled by the web servant of ubf-info.de from the input of many former UBF members through personal talks, emails, and discussion forums on the Internet. He is sending this letter in the name of many former members and also in the name of other people affected by UBF, people such as parents who have been alienated from their children by UBF, concerned Christians in other ministries, and even current UBF members who are too intimidated to speak up in the atmosphere of UBF described above. To make sure that you receive this letter, it is being sent to you by registered mail.
In regards to #10 this is the bank of benoit that they were referring to: