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A Church at a Crucial Stage

Date: Friday, June 27, 1980
Section: RUN OF PAPER
Page: ?
By James L. Franklin Globe Staff

Recent purchases of property in Gloucester by the Unification Church mark a crucial stage in development for the small but highly publicized organization led by Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

The purchases expand the fishing business of the controversial Korea-based church and give it a major new conference and training center in Massachusetts.

The church, officially called the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, was founded in 1954 in South Korea by Rev. Moon, now 60, the son of converts to the Presbyterian Church. He had been preaching about the Divine Principle since 1946, which he said he received in a revelation from Jesus on Easter morning 1936, but it was not until 1954 that attempts were made to spread the beliefs outside Korea, first to Japan.

In 1959 the church was established in the United States. It remained a small group until Rev. Moon moved to the United States in 1971, eventually establishing headquarters in New York City.

National membership now stands at 10,000 full-time members and 40,000 associate members, church officials say, compared to 7000 full and 28,000 part-time members in 1978. But Steven Hassan – founder of Ex-Moon Inc., an organization of former Unification Church members – says there are only 4000 to 4500 full-time members and 500 associates.

Critics like Hassan say there is evidence of considerable turnover in membership. But church officials say the church now has many longer term members who are marrying and need regular employment to support their families.

That fits the theology of the Unification Church, even though its organizational and financial strength so far appears to be built on the intensive involvement of its young, single members, usually deployed in the field for weeks at a time in “mobile fund-raising teams,” selling candy, flowers or trinkets door to door or on the street, earning as much as $300 a day.

“The Unification Church wants to bring about a moral revolution in America,” said Mose Durst, an English professor at a small California college who recently moved from leading the church’s West Coast branch to become its national president. “To do so we need men and women of virtue in family units to build up home churches, the place where God dwells.”

Members are taught in the “Divine Principle,” a book written by Rev. Moon, that Jesus of Nazareth did not complete his work of saving the human race because he died before he could marry and form a “perfect family.” They believe that salvation is being completed by Rev. Moon, whom they acknowledge as messiah – although they do so reluctantly to outsiders.

Most other churches reject the Unification Church as non-Christian.

Also drawing fire are the church’s recruiting tactics, labeled as deceptive by critics, and business activities that allegedly have violated US tax, immigration and banking laws. Among the most serious of these charges was a 1978 report by a US House subcommittee headed by then Rep. Donald Fraser (D- Minn.) asserting that the goal of the church is “the establishment of a worldwide government in which the separation of church and state would be abolished and which would be governed by Moon and his followers.”

Church officials have denied both the specific charges and the larger motive imputed to them.

Durst, their new American president, said the “whole purpose of establishing these material foundations and business enterprises is to support members who now have families . . . (and) to quickly develop the kinds of businesses that members can identify with and respect, rather than the kind of charitable fund-raising we have been doing, which is often regarded as a scam.”

The church has now refocused its financial plans by investing in businesses, especially fishing and shipbuilding, that can employ church members who will give large amounts of their earnings to Rev. Moon’s movement, Durst acknowledged.

Durst described the church’s investment in the small shipbuilding firm of Master Marine in Alabama (the largest vessel it has built is 120 feet long, he said) as an example of investment in small, floundering companies “where we can make a contribution by our members’ diligence and hard work.”

Aidan Barry, New England director for the church, said the recent purchase of a Gloucester restaurant was incidental to the purchase of a marina sought by the church’s fishing business. But he said he understood that a seafood restaurant will be operated at that site, part of the development of the church’s nationwide fish distribution business, both wholesale and retail.

Barry said the retreat house the church bought in Gloucester will be used not only for worship but, after renovations now under way are completed, for conferences for “professional people who want to know more about our church . . . and theologians and graduate students and clergymen.” Eventually, he said, Gloucester should become a national conference center for the Unification Church.

FRANKL;06/25,10:32 ANNMAC;06/30,10 B08008273

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