The year began and ended with a dance, but along the way the Unification Church romped. For the first time ever, hundreds of ministers and hundreds of their closest followers heard and signaled their agreement with the full spectrum of the teachings of the church; breakthroughs were made in the publicity war to publicize the deprograming issue, the re-christened STF, now GPA, caught a bevy of newspaper stories; the Launch Pad, an elaborate experiment to redefine the church’s community building got off to a promising start; approximately 250 new members joined the church nationwide.
Evangelical Outreach to Clergy
In response to Father Sun Myung Moon’s calling for 3,000 clergy to undergo the Original Substance of the Divine Principle (OSDP) program by the middle of December, six OSDP conferences have since been successfully organized and completed. The 172 clergy who embarked upon the pilgrimage to South Korea in September were instructed to choose 12 of their clergy and to educate them through the OSDP conferences as their disciples. Turning away historical precedent, Father Moon allowed several of the conferences to be taught in English as opposed to in Korean with an English translation. Young adults from the Generation Peace Academy were also present at the conferences as an interfaith choir, which according to Vice President Rev. Cotter, was “on fire” and “blew away the pastors.”
The location and dates of the six OSDP workshops are:
- October 16-19 at the Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.
- October 21-26 at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
- November 6-9 at the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.
- November 14-17 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
- November 28-December 1 at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, NJ.
- December 14-17 at the Hilton Chicago Hotel in Chicago, IL.
The War of Ideas in Media
After two years of fitful efforts to draw media attention to the scandal of abduction in Japan, the topic was aired in the Washington Times on July 13, 2011 after a team of Unificationists held a religious-freedom symposium there that drew a dozen representatives of persecuted religions. In September several survivors of deprogramming got radio time on the John Flowers Show in Poughkeepsie, New York. In following months, Ms. Ichiko Sudo, the coordinator of the victim group, became a talk-show host herself. Also in September Unificationists got respectful coverage of their beliefs through interviews on KNPR in Las Vegas.
Yet, the big breakthrough came through the unsolicited initiative of a second-generation student leader in Atlanta. Seijin Tranberg, the student body president at Georgia Gwinnet College, and Joshua Wildman of the San Francisco Bay area, also a second-generation Unificationist, are pedaling for social justice this winter in what they call a “Tour De Cause” bicycle challenge aimed at bringing attention to the issue of faith-breaking in Japan. The tour began from Tranberg’s hometown in Atlanta, Georgia on December 15, 2011 and will end in Los Angeles in January, 2012.
Tranberg and Wildman are undertaking the 2,300 mile cycle tour under the banner of “Faith, Family and Freedom” to protest religious persecution of minority religions everywhere and Unification Church members in Japan in particular. On Jan. 2, 2012 five TV stations covered the Faith, Freedom and Family rally at City Hall in Dallas. The release of a report from the respected European NGO, Human Rights without Frontiers, on Dec. 31, 2012, promises to bring more publicity in coming weeks.
STF Morphs into Generation Peace Academy
Under the guidance of Rev. In Jin Moon, the Special Task Force (STF) program was renamed Generation Peace Academy (GPA) and drastically remodeled to follow a tripartite module system. The three modules include the fundraising-training module, which focuses on character building and experiencing the heart of God, the leadership module, which takes place at the Lovin’ Life Learning Center, and the international service module, which allows the GPA trainees to work in underprivileged countries.
“This year has by far a record number of applicants,” said Roland Platt, director of GPA. “We actually anticipated a few years back that the number of applicants would decrease, based on the demographics. But despite this, last year we had a record number of applicants for its time – 111 first-years – and this year set an even higher record at 122. [Rev. In Jin Moon] is the one who transformed STF to what it is now, she’s the reason we have so many applicants now, and that the numbers are only going to go up.” Media training of GPA leaders resulted in community-newspaper stories in seven cities following public-service trips of GPA members to Caribbean countries in November.
Lovin’ Life introduced the Launch Pad on April 10, 2011, a complete package of ministry materials and guidance for nurturing small groups arranged by Heather Thalheimer, the director of the Ministry Department at Lovin’ Life Ministries, and her team. The Launch Pad has five different categories of “Inspire, Empower, Connect, Contribute and Inherit” and was used as a resource for strengthening a sense of national community through 10-week long programs.
In the Launch Pad plan, members are encouraged to choose, or to start their own group in an area that interests them. Set to last at 10 weeks at a time, “Growth” groups are designed around a curriculum teaching something new, and “Affinity” groups are interest-based and more focused on building relationships.
“By placing groups on a quarter system, members can feel that they can accomplish and complete something versus feeling that they will make an indefinite commitment with no end result or gratification,” wrote Pastor Mike Lamson from Columbus, Ohio.
“This never happened before in Unification Church history,” said one mother in Chicago. “It was a good idea to give us motivation to contribute our time and heart to do something for the church. I am so grateful to Rev. In Jin Moon for this idea.”