While there is the possibility that the Unification Church may face schisms after the death of founder Sun Myung Moon in September, it appears that the church is headed in the direction of a denominational church, write David Bromley and Alexa Bronner in Nova Religio (November), the journal of new religious movements.
Since its founding, Unificationism has veered between an identity as a movement and a more established church. In 1996 Moon tried to revive the movement origins of Unificationism when he declared that the Unification Church era had ended and inaugurated the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU). While church functions would be retained for members, the thrust of Unificationism would thereafter be to promote family values and a world spiritual community beyond race, ethnicity and creed.
But this movement orientation ignored considerable problems emerging in the Unificationist organization: Moon’s economic conglomerate in Korea had collapsed, his flagship Washington Times continued to be a financial drain, and local and national church groups failed to become self-sustaining due partly to recruiting difficulties. Meanwhile, there are skirmishes among Moon’s children about succession of leadership. His third son, Hyunjin, assumed the vice-presidency of the FFPWU and oversaw the church’s financial enterprises. But as the organization underwent turmoil, Moon’s youngest son, Hyungjin, was appointed head of the FFPWU and steered the group toward a more church-like type of model.
This son and his sister, In-jin Moon, have introduced several innovations, adding a more democratic and inclusive style to the church in Korea (including giving women ministerial roles), which has drawn new members. In the U.S., the church has adopted a megachurch style, using contem-porary worship and stressing practical applications of Unificationist teachings.
At the same time, Hyung-jin has begun teaching a controversial doctrine that more closely equates Moon with Christ’s redemptive work. But while divisions remain among the Moon siblings, Bromley and Blonner conclude that “Unificationism clearly appears headed in a more settled, accommodative direction.”
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