Moon's U.S. Tour 2001
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, leader of the controversial religious movement best known as the Unification Church, plans to speak at a South Side church next week with the backing of a group of local African-American ministers.
The event Wednesday at Life Center Church of God in Christ on South Indiana is part of Moon's We Will Stand tour, a 50-city revival junket beginning Sunday in New York.
It is a tour to bring the religious communities of all faiths and all doctrines together supporting the ideals of family, marriage and community, the Rev. T.L. Barrett, pastor of Chicago's Life Center, said Thursday.
On the tour, Moon and other clergy preach about family values, sexual purity for teenagers, fidelity in marriage and communities working together for economic resources, said Barrett, whose church is not affiliated with the Unification Church.
This is not a doctrinal proselytizing tour on the part of Rev. Moon, said Barrett, adding that the clergy supporting Moon's tour do not necessarily agree with his theology or doctrine.
We don't all agree about how to get to heaven, he said, But we do all agree on some things that we need to live here before we get to heaven. The Unification Church has been widely reviled by mainstream religious groups as a cult. Based in South Korea, the church is perhaps best known for its mass weddings.
A self-proclaimed messiah, Moon, 81, started the religious movement in 1945 after he says he received a revelation from Jesus Christ.
His group has been plagued by questions about its fund-raising and recruitment techniques. In the 1970s, when many young people joined its ranks, some observers accused the church of practicing brainwashing on new members.
And Moon spent 13 months in prison after he was convicted of tax evasion in a New York federal court.
It was at that time that Moon began to garner the support of black clergy and civil rights groups, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which said the federal government's investigation of the Unification Church amounted to religious persecution.
For more than a decade, the Unification Church has been courting African-American clergy. In September 1995, Moon spoke at the Chicago Marriott to an audience that included several high-profile black clergy, including the Rev. A.I. Dunlap of Mount Olive A.M.E. Church.
In 1997, civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton, a Baptist minister, renewed his marriage vows in a Unification Church ceremony in New York. In 1999, Moon appeared again in Chicago to speak at an interfaith gathering to promote his church's True Family Values Ministry. And last year, the Unification Church was a major sponsor of the Million Family March in Washington, D.C.
The Rev. Connie Crawford Bansa, pastor of Church of the Living God in Englewood, will be traveling with several other ministers on Moon's 50-city tour. She said she became acquainted with the Unification Church during the Democratic National Convention here in 1996.
They all came out and heard our mission statement and worshipped with us strongly speaking out against division, said Crawford Bansa, whose Holiness church is not affiliated with the Unification Church. Rev. Moon was preaching this and living this and teaching this for many many years.
The Rev. Hycel B. Taylor, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Evanston, also has thrown his support behind Moon's We Will Stand tour. In a speech last year before the American Leadership Conference, Taylor explained his association with a religious group many of his colleagues consider a cult.
We must never forget the infamous Jim Jones who, in the name of religion, led 900 devotees -- most of them black -- to commit suicide, Taylor told the conference. Whomever and wherever our people are being enticed and tempted to follow, those of us who are critical thinkers must be present to raise the crucial questions without worry about our own reputations due to association.
As for Rev. Moon, I have studied him well, his theology and his movement, he said. While I will always remain an open-minded skeptic, at this point I find no fault in him.
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, officiate a mass wedding ceremony in 1997 in Washington, D.C. Moon will speak next week at a South Side church.
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