GAPYEONG, South Korea — The Unification Church is strongly positioned to preserve and expand both its global spiritual outreach and its commercial holdings as tens of thousands of believers gather to say a final goodbye to founder Rev. Sun Myung Moon, two top church officials said in interviews here this week.
Acknowledging the religious movement founded in 1954 faces an unprecedented time of transition, the officials said Rev. Moon left clear lines of authority, both on the theological and business side, well before his death at a church-run complex here Sept. 2 of complications from pneumonia.
After an extended 13-day mourning period, the reverend’s funeral will be held Saturday at the full-sized sports and cultural center recently constructed on the church’s Cheongpyeong Holy Ground campus in the hills northeast of the capital of Seoul.
Representatives from the church’s 12 regions and the 194 countries in which it operates are set to attend a Sept. 17 gathering two days after the ceremony in Gapyeong to hear from Hak Ja Han, Rev. Moon’s wife of 52 years and possibly from Rev. Hyung-jin Moon, the founder’s 33-year-old youngest son and spiritual successor, who has been the church’s top religious director since 2008.
Another of the Rev. Moon’s sons, 42-year-old Rev. Kook Jin Moon, has been tapped to head the Tongil Group, the South Korean business collective that oversees the church’s commercial interests in North and South Korea, the United States and around the world, including hotels, carmakers, real estate and the media group that includes The Washington Times.
The main legacy of Rev. Moon’s work “has been inherited by his wife,” Ho-yeul Ahn, general manager for the Tongil Group and the designated spokesman for Hyung-jin Moon, said through a translator. “Mrs. Moon will now be fully filling Rev. Moon’s shoes.”
Unification Church adherents have “almost entirely agreed to this type of structure and personnel,” he added.
Mr. Ahn said the church’s new spiritual leader, who was born in the United States and has earned degrees from Harvard and Harvard Divinity School, shares his father’s work ethic and devotional discipline, church insiders say.
Press accounts here reported that members of the mourning party of Hyun Jin “Preston” Moon, the founder’s third eldest son who has clashed with other family members about the church’s financial interests, were blocked from attending the wake earlier this week to pay their respects to Rev. Moon. The group reportedly sang and prayed outside the site before leaving without incident.
In a statement released through his Global Peace Foundation this week, Preston Moon laid the blame for divisions in the family over the future of the church on his brothers, announcing he would not attend Saturday’s memorial service because it will “try to legitimate an idea of [Rev. Moon‘s] legacy that has nothing to do with the principles he lived by.”
“I am now walking a separate path and have no part in any support ‘succession struggle’ within the Unification movement,” he added. “… I shall continue to use the resources available to me to further that work.”
A new era
Of the church’s transitional period, Mr. Ahn noted that the real growth of Christianity in its earliest days came after the death of Jesus on the cross, when a new generation of followers rose to spread his teachings.
“It grew as a faith much more quickly than when he was on the earth teaching and praying. Jesus’ ministry became a spiritual phenomenon only after his teaching mission was fully completed,” Mr. Ahn said.View Entire Story
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Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.
At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...
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