Episcopal Bishop Accepts "Moonie" Group's Award
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Sun Jan 26 01:20:42 EST 2003
EPISCOPAL BISHOP ACCEPTS "MOONIE" GROUP'S AWARD
By Lee Penn
The Christian Challenge (Washington, DC)
Conflict has arisen within the United Religions Initiative (URI) after
its founder, California Episcopal Bishop William Swing, accepted an
award from an organization started by the founder of the controversial
Unification Church, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
The group in question, the World Association of Non-Governmental
Organizations (WANGO), gave an "Interreligious Cooperation Award" to
Swing and the URI at an October 2002 banquet in Washington. (Non-
Governmental organizations, or NGOs, are private charities and advocacy
groups recognized by the UN.)
The Rev. Sanford Garner, a retired Episcopal priest and a founding
member of the URI in Washington D.C., accepted the award on behalf of
Swing, offering an acceptance speech written by the bishop.
Since 1992, WANGO's founder, Rev. Moon, has declared that he and his
wife are "the Messiah and True Parents of all humanity."
The award has sparked bitter controversy within the URI, despite the
fact that this trendy seven-year-old interfaith movement--which some
critics believe is aimed at producing a one-world religion--has opened
its doors widely to all types of belief systems, including even those
of the neo-pagan or New Age genre. Members of the Unification Church,
and organizations aligned with it, have been active in the URI since
One URI activist expressed "horror and deep disappointment" over the
"Moonie" connection, describing the Unification Church as a cult that
engages in "threats, brainwashing techniques, marriages to pre-arranged
strangers," and lying to outsiders.
URI Executive Director Charles Gibbs said: "I don't believe there as
been as much passion and opposition expressed since we were struggling
to finalize the Purpose statement in 1999."
But Gibbs reiterated the decision of the URI Standing Committee (which
he described as "the equivalent of a Board's Executive Committee") to
have Garner accept the WANGO award on Swing's behalf.
The award reflects a relationship between the URI and the Unification
Church which has grown increasingly friendly in recent years.
In India in 1997, the URI co-sponsored interfaith events with--among
other groups--the Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP),
which was founded by Rev. Moon.
In Mumbai, India, the next year, the URI co-sponsored a "Dialogue on
Conversion from Hindu and Christian Perspectives" with the World
Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), a mainstream interfaith
organization--and, yet again with the IRFWP.
Gibbs also has said that he knows of URI Cooperation Circles (CCs)
which "have valued members who come from the Unification Church."
(Cooperation Circles are the equivalent of local or regional URI
chapters; there are about 200 CCs worldwide.)
Karen Smith, a Unificationist who now works with the Interreligious and
International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP) at the UN, stated that
"some individuals who are now significant in IIFWP did attend some of
the early meetings" of the URI, and that some IIFWP members are also
active in URI Cooperation Circles.
The home page of the IIFWP offers links to "Other Peace Organizations"-
-including the UN, the URI, the Action Coalition for Global Change (a
gathering of "progressive" globalist organizations) and the UN-
sponsored University for Peace in Costa Rica. The home page of the
Religious Youth Service, a youth interfaith service group under the
IIFWP, likewise links to the URI and the North American Interfaith
Network (a mainstream interfaith organization).
WANGO actively supports adoption of the Earth Charter, a radical
environmental code now being considered at the UN. Thus, the Moonies'
entry into the URI appears to be part of a broader-range effort on
their part to shed the conservative, anti-communist image that they
have had in the past, and to appeal to the left as well as to the
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