The Words of the Gehring Family
John Gehring is presently a Divinity Student at the Unification Theological Seminary, where he serves as the President of its student body.
The Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy recently sponsored two seminars on Unification Theology entitled, "Unification Theology, with Implications for Ecumenism and Social Action." These conferences were the fourth and fifth dealing with this topic, and were held in Freeport, the Bahamas, on February 20-25, and February 27-March 3, respectively. Over three hundred ministers, spouses and concerned laity attended the two conferences. Because of the number of people interested two seminars had to be scheduled. Participants from all over the United States, as well as from several other nations, were present. Also, the fifth conference was the first to have rabbinical representation.
The format of the conferences was very similar to those of the previous three: Divine Principle lectures in the morning, leisure time in the afternoon, and talks on the Unification movement and its social and ecumenical outreach in the evening. (Please see the August 1983 issue of Today's World for more information on the Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy or ICC, the National Council for the Church and Social Action or NCCSA, and the conference format.) Mealtimes were often spent in active conversations, in which views on theology, lifestyle and the Bahamian weather were discussed as people tried to understand the various ways in which we serve and understand God. For many, it was the first interfaith and interracial conference they had ever attended.
These conferences are not just academic seminars; they are channels for reconciliation, restoration and redemptive love. Dr. Richard Quebedeaux elaborated on the topic of restoration, restitution, salvation in his speech which he presented to each of the seminars.
Even though all the participants have dedicated their lives to God, they still carry with them fear, mistrust and often latent prejudices. The barriers of mutual mistrust are familiar to us all. The formula for breaking down those barriers is understood through going Jacob's course. Yet, when we witness the power of redemptive love, it never fails to amaze us. We have many reasons for holding the conferences, but the primary one seems to be to give each person an opportunity to experience rebirth.
When we gathered at the reception on Monday evening and took to sipping the punch, eating appetizers, smiling and talking to new acquaintances, one couldn't help but sense that many were wondering why they had come to this conference. Catholics and Pentecostals, Ph.D.'s, bishops, storefront preachers, black Americans from inner cities, white southerners, civil rights leaders, women's rights activists, hawks and doves -- all brought together, free of charge, with love by Reverend Moon, the controversial Korean Messiah! As you can imagine, people experienced a wide range of emotions as they moved around stiffly, searching for someone or something familiar.
The evening's opening remarks were given by Rev. Debra Stimson of Baltimore, Maryland, whose natural manner and warm greeting put many at ease -- many, but not all, for there were some who think women should never be allowed to be preachers. We sat at round tables with the people who were to be in our discussion groups. First conversation over a delicious meal helped us to create a cordial atmosphere. Light laughter eased some tensions. Carl Hagen gave details about the conference arrangements, met by polite applause. We broke into our smaller discussion groups and travelled to different rooms where we formally introduced ourselves.
On the first morning of lectures, the conference participants heard the "Principle of Creation," and the "Fall of Humankind" lectures. The "Fall of Humankind" lecture always presents more of a challenge to the ministers than the "Principle of Creation" lecture. Yet, the sensitivity of our presentations has increased since we began these seminars last June. Mrs. Sandra Lang, Rev. Michael Beard and Rev. David Hose managed to balance humility, heart, clarity of content and strength of conviction in a masterful manner.
In the evening, Carl Hagen gave a talk about programs sponsored by the International Religious Foundation to introduce participants to our ecumenical movement. Our social movement was first introduced through the film, "People of the Quest," and was later explained more fully by Kevin Brabazon. The family aspect of our movement was presented by the "Unification Wedding" film, which was followed by a presentation by Bruce and Patsy Casino. Many questions clime up after the presentations. For many this was the first exposure to the larger vision of our True Parents. Some were deeply touched and discussed their impressions at length with members over dinner.
The morning of the second day of lectures presented a challenge. Have you ever tried to teach a minister about Jesus? How about 150 ministers, with an average of 10-15 years' experience in the ministry? The two thousand years of Christian history and the two thousand years of combined practical life experience in the audience made teaching the "Mission of Jesus" and "Resurrection" a formidable task. The atmosphere during the lectures was electric; during the participants' question-and-answer period, combustible. Yet the fire of truth managed to burn through many concepts and hit some deep in their hearts. Others whispered, half moaning, "Don't mess with my Jesus." We've touched many an open nerve, yet we know the Messiah came as a doctor, who with truth and love can operate on the hearts of fallen men. Our sensitivity was heightened as we realized the depth of love felt for Jesus by these courageous men and women.
People can often hear what one is saying before it is spoken; it happens so mien at these seminars. People hear our hearts and our spirits saying, "Reverend Moon is the Messiah." People read newspapers and books, but they also read into our perpetual smiles, our steadfast spirits and our bright clear eyes. They receive many messages. They know we have something special. They sense our conclusion before we have concluded.
The lectures on the "History of Restoration" and the "Last Days" validated the intuitions of many people. They talked among themselves, they whispered, they shouted out, and they hoped. They became confused. We answered some of their questions and tried to support them. We sensed the depth of their search and commitment. Their love of Christ echoed in the loud refrains of the daily choral music. Together we were humbled. Soon the Comforter would come, yet we all had to travel a little further.
After our final group discussion on Friday, we met for the last presentation, which was an introduction of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, given by Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak. The room was hushed as the participants, almost as one body, strained to listen to the soft-spoken, evenly paced talk by this early disciple of Rev. Moon. Profound respect for this great minister of the faith was transferred from Rev. Kwak to us all, as he said, "The image that is most memorable to me is of Rev. Moon in prayer position with tears streaming down his face." The heart of Father was exposed; the heart of the Unification Church was exposed; the plea for cooperation was made.
Rev. Kwak pointed to the great commission ahead of us -- to comfort the suffering and longing heart of God and humanity, and to help establish God's Kingdom on this earth. Three major obstacles had to be confronted and overcome for this to be achieved. We were called to overcome the lack of morality and ethics resulting from self-centered love carried to an extreme. We were called to overcome the lack of unity in the Christian world and in the religious world in general. The third, and perhaps the greatest obstacle to the building of God's kingdom, was the persuasive influence and forceful imposition of atheistic communism. We were reminded that genuine tolerance and sincere dialogue must take place if there was to be any hope for the religious community to fulfill its responsibility to God and the world. Rev. Kwak left us with a reminder that Rev. Moon shares much in common with each of us -- especially a deep love of God. Again he encouraged us to make Rev. Moon's vision our own.
On the final evening, we gathered together for feast and song. Something happened during the final night, something that happens on every final night of each conference. Some would call it the presence of the Lord: others would call it the Holy Spirit, or the spirit of Christ. I call it the spirit of the Comforter. The word religion means a "binding together" -- maybe we got a taste of the True Religion. For some it came as a rebirth; to all, a renewal. As each group made their entertainment offering, we found ourselves melting together. One group sang, "We Are One in the Spirit," and the entire "congregation" joined in. Tears dampened cheeks as Patsy Casino dedicated a song to Heung Jin Moon.
We realized that we had been a part of something great, something that reached the essence of what we are all about.
The choir sang song after song in the gospel tradition, improvising where led by the spirit. We grasped each other's hands, we swayed back and forth, we joined in singing, "Allelujiah"! Tears flowed, eyes glistened. The members of the Unification Church gathered to sing a song from Reverend Moon to all present. We joined in "Tongil": "Our cherished hopes are for unity, even our dreams are for unity... "
Father has received untold persecution from Christianity. We know Father was originally to inherit the foundation of Christianity; but because of the Christians' failure to recognize Father, a new foundation had to be built by him, single-handedly. Now Father has received much from God and has built a deep tradition of faith, as well as many substantial programs.
Christianity is struggling in so many ways. America as the representative nation of Christianity is the fruit of two thousand years of Christianity. Some wonder if America and the West can survive because of the rapid degeneration of spiritual and moral values. Only by a revitalization of the spiritual root of America its Judeo-Christian heritage can America be saved.
The Unification Church hopes to bring the spiritual vitality that can revitalize Christianity. It hopes to offer the key to overcoming the three major obstacles standing in the way of the building of God's Kingdom. These recent ministerial conferences are becoming a staging area for the evangelizing of America. In a sense the conferences provide a model for working together, with interfaith, interracial and intercultural sharing. Ecumenical work is an important internal element in building the Kingdom. Social action centered upon goodness should be the result of good ecumenical work. The world's problems, such as hunger, poverty, unemployment, racism and illiteracy, are solvable when we catch the vision and heart of our True Parents and work together.
The NCCSA has mushroomed over the last year. Soon there will be at least one chapter in each state. Substantial programs are developing, which will help fulfill the goal of ending needless suffering in our nation and in the world.
Ministers can catch Father's vision and begin to understand his heart. The realm of True Love, which Father has pioneered, draws people of goodness like magnet. Before, people just did not know who Reverend Moon was; now many are discovering and are being transformed. The word is spreading quickly. In eight months over eight hundred ministers have attended ICC conferences. Sixty have recently offered to have revivals in their churches. One minister, with a congregation of twenty thousand and a TV ministry that reaches millions, is pleading to have Father speak at his church. Many more are considering Father the "ideal minister;" a champion of civil and religious rights.
The Abel element within Christianity is being summoned at this moment to unite with our movement's effort to revitalize Christianity and America. We are entering a new level of the dispensation. The spiritual world is mobilized; our membership is mobilized; churches are opening their doors to be revitalized -- something great is happening.
The restoration of the religious voice can only take place when religious people are seen taking care of all of God's children -- the good and the not-so# good. Godism is being tied to social activities as we reach out to the truly needy. The realms of education, economics and politics should be influenced by the religious voice. Many movements are regaining confidence that spiritual values can change the direction of our nation.
Father has gone Jacob's course. We have been asked to go this course ourselves. When we joined the Church, we gave our lives to God. Since we received the Holy Blessing, we have been asked to sacrifice our families -- thus the IOWC. Father is asking us to sacrifice the Unification Church for the sake of our elder brother in faith, Christianity. On the foundation of sacrificing our church to serve Christianity, we will gain the victory on the worldwide level. Together we will march home to restore Esau, represented on a worldwide level as the communist world. The pattern of victory is now clearer than ever before. We can achieve this quickly if we are attuned to the sensitivities of God's heart and the hearts of those we meet each day.