Oct. 8, 2008 Update -- Please note:
This entry on University Bible Fellowship (UBF) -- as shown below the blue line -- is in need of updating. Doing so is on our lengthy to-do list, and we do not know when we get around to it.
That said, the primary update of note is that on March 18, 2008, the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) voted to re-admit the UBF as a member.
Since early May, 2008, we have received emails from a number of UBF members pointing out this fact. Some also point to a handful of endorsements the UBF has received, as well as to its membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Most of the emails make clear that membership in the NAE -- and, to a lesser extend, in the ECFA -- is seen as a stamp of approval for the UBF.
We do take such memberships into consideration, but they do not weigh heavily in our evaluations of groups. Many organizations are ill-equipped to deal with issues surrounding high-demand organizations and cult-like groups. They tend to base their determinations almost entirely on whether or not a movement's Statement of Faith passes their standard of orthodoxy.
Unfortunately, often a group's Statement of Faith does not quite describe what it actually teaches in word and/or in practice. In other words, a church, movement or organization can have a Statement of Faith that is theologically sound -- and yet teach doctrines ranging from aberrant to heretical and/or engage in practices that are sociologically abusive.
Therefore when it comes to University Bible Fellowship, our concerns regarding the organization have not been deminished as a result of the movement's reacceptance by the NAE.
In fact, we consider the group's authoritarian, high-demand nature to be evidence of a faulty understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- and of the Bible's teachings regarding disciples of Jesus.
We do not accept the notion that much of UBF's cult-like ideas regarding authority, submission, obedience and discipline can simply be explained by the group's Korean influences. It is not Korean culture that should influence a Christian's walk with Jesus. Rather, it should be the other way around.
In short, we have seen nothing that suggests University Bible Fellowship's teachings and practices should not -- at the very least -- be cause of concern for Christians. In our opinion, the UBF is an unhealthy organization whose teachings and practices provide a breeding ground for spiritual elitism and abuse
Theologically, we consider the University Bible Fellowship to be at best an aberrant
movement. In Christian theology, aberrant means, "Off-center or in error in some important way, such that the doctrine or practice should be rejected and those who accept it held to be sinning, even though they may very well be Christian." [source]
Our advice to Christians is not to get involved with the University Bible Fellowship.
National Association of Evangelicals terminates UBF membership
Until recently (beginning of April, 2004), The University Bible Fellowship described itself as follows:
The University Bible Fellowship is an international evangelical student organization with emphasis on world mission. UBF is a member in good standing with the National Association of Evangelicals(NAE).
That statement has been adjusted to read as follows:
The University Bible Fellowship is an international evangelical student organization with emphasis on world mission.
The reason for the change is that the National Association of Evangelicals
(NAE) has revoked the group's membership:
The National Association of Evangelicals
(NAE) Executive Committee has voted to terminate the membership of the University Bible Fellowship (UBF), which had been a member of the NAE since 1995. In late 2003, the NAE began an investigation into allegations of cultic and aberrant UBF teachings and practices, around the time that an online petition was begun, requesting that the NAE revoke UBF's membership. The online petition can be found at http://www.petitiononline.com/ubfnae03/petition.html
Source: Email feedback to Apologetics Index, Apr. 2, 2004 (on file)
The petition reads as follows:
To: The National Association of Evangelicals
We, the undersigned, call on the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) to revoke the membership of the University Bible Fellowship (UBF) which has been a member organization of the NAE since 1995. We former members of the UBF and concerned relatives, friends and others feel compelled to inform you of the true nature of the UBF. Many pages can and have been written relating peoples' negative personal experiences in the UBF organization. However, we will merely point out certain facts and observations that have been made and reported about the UBF by neutral parties, the press and experts who deal with the problem of abusive churches and cults, both here and abroad.
- In his book, Churches That Abuse, (Zondervan, 1992) Christian sociologist Ron Enroth devotes a chapter (chapter 5 - "Manipulation and Control: Abusive Churches Use Fear, Guilt and Threats") to describe the spiritual abuse of an American college student in the Chicago headquarters of the UBF.
- Joachim Keden, pastor and former cult expert of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland (Germany), classified the UBF as a cult-like group. Pastor Keden described the UBF's cultic practices and teachings in an article included in the book Sogenannte Jugendsekten und die okkulte Welle (So-Called Youth Cults and the Occult Wave) published by Aussaat Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 1989, p. 132-146. The translated text of this article can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/keden1989.en.htm.
- Andrew Schäfer, the current cult commissioner of the Protestant Church in Rhineland describes the UBF as a cult-like group. Mr. Schäfer also devotes an entire chapter to describe the UBF in his recently published book, Im Labyrinth der Seelenfänger (In the Maze of the Soul Catchers),
- In August 1991, in its monthly publication, the Documentation Service of the German Protestant Centre for Religious and Ideological Issues (EZW) published a 4-page report titled "Erfahrungen mit der University Bible Fellowship (UBF): Persönlicher Bericht einer Mutter" ("Experiences with the University Bible Fellowship (UBF): Personal Report by a Mother"). The report is basically the personal memoranda of the mother of a UBF recruit who first accompanied her daughter into the UBF and then helped her daughter to leave the group. The translated text of this report can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/mdezw1991.en.htm.
- The UBF is described as a cult on pp. 97-111 of the book Sekten - Die neuen Heilsbringer (Cults - the New Bringers of Salvation), A Handbook, by Heide-Marie Cammans, Düsseldorf, Germany 1998. The translated text of this report can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/cammans1998.en.htm.
- The Wellspring Retreat & Resource Center (wellspringretreat.org), a Christian residential treatment facility for recovering cult victims, reports that it has treated former members of the UBF who showed signs of having been psychologically damaged by their time in the group.
- The American Family Foundation (www.csj.org) in its publication Cult Observer has characterized the UBF as a cultic group.
- In September 1986, the UBF was banned from the campus of the University of Winnipeg in Canada for cult-like activities. The banning of the UBF became front page news in the Winnipeg Free Press, the newspaper with the largest circulation in the city of Winnipeg and one of the largest and most respected newspapers in Western Canada. The text of the two Winnipeg Free Press articles published on October 25, 1986 can be read on-line: lead article, followup article.
- In February 1991, The Silhouette, the student newspaper of McMaster University (Ontario), published a brief story headlined "Cult Banned" about the 1991 banning of the UBF from another Canadian university, the University of Manitoba for cult-like activities. The text of this report can be read at http://www.geocities.com/escapeubf/outside_material/SILHOUETTE.htm.
- In December 1993, the UIC News, a weekly publication of the University of Illinois at Chicago, published an article headlined "UIC worries about cult recruitment; three cases this fall." The article dealt mainly with the UBF's activities on the UIC campus. The text of this article can be read at http://rsqubf.fortunecity.net/documents/external/uicnews1993.html
- In September 1999, the Ilmenau University News, a publication of the Ilmenau Technical University in Germany, published a brief titled "HRK Warns of Cult." The brief reported that the chairman of the Conference of College Rectors (HRK) in Germany sent a written warning to all German colleges to beware of the cult-like group UBF, appealing to the colleges to refuse any support or recognition to the UBF and to apply their authority where necessary to restrict the UBF's campus activities. The translated text of this brief can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/hrk1999.en.htm.
- In June 2000, the Guardian Unlimited, an on-line British daily newspaper published an article headlined "Cult Following" in which the UBF is mentioned alongside the Unification Church and the International Church of Christ as a cult-like group that targets college students for recruitment. The text of this article can be read at http://www.geocities.com/escapeubf/outside_material/Guardian.htm.
- In December 2001, the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, a weekly student newspaper of the Johns Hopkins University, published an article headlined "Cult-like Evangelist Group Targeted Recent JHU Undergrads." The article dealt solely with the UBF's aberrant teachings and practices. This article can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/jhu2001.en.htm
- In May 2002, the Syracuse Daily Orange, the student newspaper of Syracuse University, published an article headlined "For Christ's Sake: Cult-like Groups Pose Potential Threat To College Students." The article names the UBF alongside the International Church of Christ, the Unification Church and Lyndon LaRouche as a cult-like group that targets college students for recruitment. The text of this article can be read at http://rsqubf.fortunecity.net/documents/external/syracuse-do2002.html
- The UBF has been been forbidden to do street recruiting of new members within the Chicago campuses of Loyola University and DePaul University after UBF recruiters were arrested on these campuses in the late 1990s for the undue harassment of students.
- On February 27, 1994, the CBS television news affiliate in Chicago broadcast an investigative report about the UBF during its primetime news broadcast. This report focused on allegations of cult-like activities in the Chicago headquarters of the UBF.
- On May 5, 1997, the NBC television news affiliate in Chicago also broadcast an investigative report about the UBF during its primetime news broadcast. This report focused on allegations of cult-like activities in the Triton University chapter of the UBF in the Chicago suburbs. The transcript of this broadcast report can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/nbc5triton1997.en.htm.
- From 1985 to 1987, the Bonner General-Anzeiger, a daily newspaper that serves the city of Bonn, Germany, published a series of articles about cult recruitment at the University of Bonn. The translated headlines of these articles are: "Cults: Not Recognizable For Everyone" (8/28/85), "Information About Student Cults -- Loss of Mental Autonomy" (12/16/86), "Loss Of Emotional And Spiritual Self-Determination Threatens The Newly Recruited Members Of Youth Cults" (12/18/86), "Trends Among Youth Offer Opportunities For Cults -- Cult Expert Informs Regional School Committee" (3/12/87), and "It Often Starts With An Invitation To Tea -- University Bible Fellowship Recruits Particularly Vulnerable Students." In all these articles, the UBF is prominently mentioned as a cult-like group which targets college students and teenagers. The translated text of this series of articles can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/ga198508.en.htm.
- From August-October 2002, the Bonner General-Anzeiger published another series of articles, this time dealing solely with allegations of cultic activities and abuses in the Bonn chapter of the UBF. The translated headlines of these articles are: "He Has A Position Of Totalitarian Power" (8/23/02), "Children Thankful For Beatings" (8/30/02), " 'Be Unobtrusive And Don't Draw Negative Attention Anymore' " (10/8/02). The translated text of this series of articles can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/ga200208.en.htm.
- On August 24 and October 7, 2002, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a respected national newspaper with the largest circulation in Germany, also published articles about allegations of cultic activities in the Bonn chapter of the UBF. The translated headlines of these articles are: " 'Bible Friends' Allegedly Abused Children -- Public Prosecutor's Office In Bonn Investigates The Leader Of The 'University Bible Fellowship' " (8/24/02), "Unto Surrender -- The 'University Bible Fellowship' Allegedly Turned Members Into Automatons" (8/24/02), and " 'Bible Friends' Go Into Hiding" (10/7/02). Summaries of these articles can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/sz200208.en.htm.
- In September 2002, in its Press Service No. 101 of 09/04/2002, the German evangelical news agency IDEA (www.idea.de) published a report titled "Bonn: Investigation of 'University Bible Fellowship.' " The report covered the public investigation into allegations of cultic abuse in the Bonn chapter of the UBF. The report also covered the negative view of the UBF among mainstream evangelical organizations and churches in Germany. A summary of this report can be read at http://ubf-info.de/ext/idea200209.en.htm.
We believe that these neutral party observations about the UBF, as well as the many reports in the Christian and secular press about the UBF, constitute evidence
of the true nature of this group. We also believe that these neutral party observations and reports are evidence that the UBF's problems are systemic
and not isolated to a few individuals or chapters (churches). Though the UBF's public statements of doctrine may appear to be sound, and though the UBF's spokespersons may profess to hold to orthodox-sounding Christian beliefs, there is no question based on the evidence
, that the UBF's extra-biblical teachings and practices have caused undeniable harm and brought disrepute to the faith. Yet, in spite of all this, the UBF's leadership has consistently rejected calls for change from within and without to this day. The UBF's being allowed to use the names of mainstream evangelical Christian institutions such as the National Association of Evangelicals to give themselves the appearance of legitimacy will only reduce
the likelihood that the UBF's leadership will see the need for change. We do not believe that the UBF, in its current state, is a group that the NAE should be associated with.
Therefore, we strongly urge the National Association of Evangelicals to revoke the UBF's membership.
However, former members and several cult experts note that the group is very authoritarian
. Some compare the movement's teachings and practices to those of the International Church of Christ
, a cult of Christianity
], who has written extensively on cults, cited the fellowship in his 1992 book, "Churches that Abuse
"Based on my knowledge of them in the early 1990s, I would not want to call them a cult
outright," he said. "But I would say they are ... potentially spiritually abusive."
Though the fellowship boasts chapters in dozens of countries, its practices have been criticized by students and officials at colleges such as UIC and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
In 1993, UIC News, a publication of the school's media relations department, ran a story about University Bible Fellowship's presence on campus headlined, "UIC worries about cult recruitment."
A Johns Hopkins chaplain also raised concerns about the group in 2001 in a student newspaper.
The University of Winnipeg has banned the group from the college since the 1980s, said university spokeswoman Catherine Unruh.
"After we received a number of complaints from students saying the members had attempted to recruit them, it was decided the action should be taken to make them leave the campus and ask them to stay off," Unruh said.
The group has raised eyebrows among others in the cult awareness community.
Phillip Arnn, a senior researcher for the Watchman Fellowship
, a cult watchdog group in Arlington, Texas, did not go so far as to call University Bible Fellowship a cult
. But he did say the group is known for authoritarian rules.
"It's not so much their theology as their internal organization that is controversial," Arnn said. "They control who you date, how many hours you should spend recruiting other members. It's a very controlling environment."
Don Veinot, president of Lombard-based Midwest Christian Outreach
, a Christian think tank, had similar views of the fellowship.
"A group may well be theologically sound, but sociologically abusive," he said. "UBF would fit that category. There is authoritarian manipulation, and that can become enormously abusive as it goes along."
Veinot added, though, that a fine line can sometimes separate manipulation from spiritual guidance.
"You could have a mainstream pastor that acts in a cult-like way, but it doesn't make the religion a cult," he said. "As people understand the nature of abuse, they elect to leave one church and go to a church more spiritually healthy for them."
The UBF (“University Bibel Fellowship”) is a little bit difficult to characterize, because hardly anything comparable exists. One might say that it is a centrally organized, international, fundamental-evangelistical ministry and mission movement, which targets on university students only. UBF itself uses the term “world campus mission” for that.
This mission proceeds basically from South Korea, from where (according to it’s own statements from 1999) already about 1500 UBF missionaries have been sent out into 87 countries in the world. There the “missionaries” work as leaders or coworkers in local ministries established by themselves in university cities and try to raise native coworkers (“shepherds”). However, in many cities there are only a handful of members in the local UBF ministries. The mission focuses peculiarly on the both “Christian” countries USA and Germany, where some more and larger local UBF ministries exists.
Characteristic for the UBF is a violent authoritarism with a hierarchical system of leaders and “shepherd/sheep”-relationships. Authority is not only exercised in spiritual questions, but extends likewise on the private life of the members and their personal decisions such as choice of spouse, place to live, university study and job. Two of the special methods of UBF are the so called “1:1 bible study” (a “shepherd” teaching a “sheep”) and the writing and sharing of testimonies (“sogams”) on bible passages with reference to the personal life of faith of the respective writer. Both has to be carried out weekly by every member of UBF. Required is also the attendance at different meetings and events performed by UBF, especially the attendance at the UBF Sunday worship services without exception. Regarding it’s teaching, UBF leaders claim to be evangelistic and accept the bible as highest authority, and indeed UBF seems to be focused a lot on the bible. However, the bible is only studied very superficially and one-sided, and in the end the teachings and traditions of UBF and the instructions of it’s leaders are taken far more serious as the bible itself. Officially teaching “justification by faith”, nevertheless in UBF rules performance-oriented pressure, feelings of guilt, and people tend to believe they are saved by works (in the sense of UBF). Target of UBF are solely students, but the coworkers (“missionaries” and “shepherds”) have mostly finished their study and working as employees. The financial maintenance of the church premises, the salary of the leaders and all other expenses are settled by the financial offering of the members (“tithing”), who are supposed to give at least one tenths of their income to UBF every month. Most ordinary members of UBF live very devoted and sacrificially. Money not used in the local ministries is sent to the “headquarter”, acting as a kind of “black hole” for offering moneys (contrary to ordinary mission organizations which send moneys from the headquarter to the local ministries, in UBF it is just the outher way round). There is no proper financial statement of accounts, no supervision, controlling or anything, so nobody knows exactly how much money has accumulated there over the decades and for what or whom it has been used. There are reports of moneys amounting to several million dollars, and this is not unlikely. Already in 1976 the leader of UBF had been charged of misappropriating money. Administration and disposition of the moneys have been laying, like all other decisions, solely in the hands of the leader, Samuel C. Lee. Though claiming to be a Christian organization, there is no social engagement in UBF, and offering moneys are never used for relief work with only extremely rare exceptions. UBF also tries to avoid any contact and cooperation with other churches and ministries.
There have been several internal and external attempts at reforming the organization. One such movement is now called, "Campus Ministry International."
See articles referred to in the Petition