Monday, March 12, 2001

Rev. Sun Myung Moon to stage Oakland revival

March 10, 2001

By Cynthia NelsonCORRESPONDENT

OAKLAND -- A controversial religious leader who was once accused of running a cult is expected to draw 1,000 to 1,500 people to an interdenominational, family values revival Monday.

The "We Will Stand! 2001 Banquet and Revival," featuring the Rev. Sun Myung Moon -- a self-described prophet and messiah -- as the main speaker, is set to begin at 6 p.m. Monday at the Oakland Convention Center.

It will be attended by an interracial group of ministers, activist Mary Ann "Mother" Wright, Nation of Islam leader Keith Muhammad, and a number of pastors from local Church of God in Christ and Missionary Baptist churches, said spokesman Bento Leal.

Oakland is one stop on a 50-state revival tour, sponsored by the American Clergy Leadership Conference. The tour is intended to unite the faith community to "stand against the moral decline of America," organizers said, and to promote racial reconciliation and religious harmony.

Moon has been controversial for his religious operations in this country for more than 30 years.

In 1972, Moon follo-wers set up a headquarters in each of the 48 contiguous states. In the intervening years, Moon's movement has faced accusations of brainwashing, and attempts at deprogramming by angry parents that sparked suits and counter-suits.

Moon's movement is also known for its mass weddings, and arranged marriages between followers who may never have met each other.

Leal, the son of an East Bay Teamster, was among those deprogrammed who then later returned to the group. "That caused some trouble with the family for a while and they still don't like the church, but they love my wife and three kids," he said.

According to newspaper files, Leal sued his parents to protest the deprogramming attempt.

Some members of the local faith community are supportive of Moon's event while others are skeptical.

"If the Lord allows, I will be there," said Wright, know for her local efforts to feed the poor. "... they are just trying to bring all the ministers together. That's all I know about it."

Leal said the group notified at least 1,000 churches in the East Bay of the visit. But a spokesperson for Allen Temple Baptist Church, the largest church in Oakland, said they were unaware of the revival and their pastor, the Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, would not be attending.

Moon's tour has generated support from some nationally known religious leaders, especially strong conservatives. Rev. Jerry Falwell was among the speakers at the national inauguration of the tour in New York City. The tour has been described as the next step to support family values following the Million Family March. Moon's Family Federation for World Peace was a major co-sponsor of that march. Now the Nation of Islam is supporting the "We Will Stand" tour.

The fact that Baptists, Church of God in Christ clergy, Pentecostals and representatives of the Nation of Islam are participating in a joint venture with Moon is a remarkable triumph of shared vision over specific religious differences, religious experts say. The official teaching of Moon's Unification Church includes ideas that would surprise most Christians and Moslems.

According to the church's official website -- www.unification.org -- Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han, are "the first couple to have the complete blessing of God and to bring forth children with no original sin." Official church teaching gives Moon's wife the official title "Bride of the Messiah."

According to the website, in 1992, Moon declared that he and his wife are the "true parents of all humanity."

Through the years, detractors have claimed that Moon's followers would solicit on behalf of known charities and then turn the money over to Moon. In 1978, Project Volunteer, an East Bay food charity run by the Unification Church, was expelled from the charitable food distribution network of Northern California for allegedly giving up to one-half of the food it collected to Moon's followers before distributing the rest to charity.

Moon served time for federal income tax evasion in 1981. When he was released from prison, Falwell called for his pardon.

His supporters believe Moon is controversial in part because he is a successful international business man as well as a religious leader. However, his detractors say it is not always clear where the business ends and the religion begins. His American assets have included newspapers and significant New York real estate.

Tickets to the revival, which includes a dinner, are $20. Reservations can be made by calling Roberta Burson at 644-0789.


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