2, 2001, MONDAY, FINAL EDITION
Come To Hear Rev. Moon's Call For Unification
Whether he's the leader of a cult or merely a relatively new religious movement, Rev. Sun Myung Moon brought to Memphis Sunday his newest campaign to break down walls among races and church denominations.
Nearly 400 people almost filled Greater Hope Baptist Church in Orange Mound Sunday afternoon to hear the 81-year-old leader of Unification Church.
The Tennessee appearance marked the 35th state visited by Moon on a 50-state tour called "We Will Stand!" Churches of urban clergy across the nation have been primary hosts to the tour.
The campaign's mission is to rebuild the family, restore the community and renew the nation, said Rev. Michael Jenkins, president of the organization Moon founded called Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.
In an adaptation of Christianity, Moon's ideal is to unify all races and nationalities through mixed marriages.
Moon was born in what is now North Korea and founded the Unification Church in 1954.
Look up the church in the World Book Encyclopedia, and it refers readers to its Cult section.
Moon, who moved to the United States in the early 1970s, served a prison sentence for tax evasion from July 1984 to August 1985.
But Moon's church has claimed to be a victim of persistent persecution.
During a press conference Sunday, Jenkins and about a dozen local and visiting clergy focused their remarks on bringing together all Christian denominations and races.
Among the ministers joining Jenkins for the press conference were Rev. B. C. Brooks, pastor of Praise of Zion Baptist Church, Rev. William Duke Allen, Praise of Zion's associate pastor, Rev. Carolyn Bibbs, founder of Creative Life Inc., Rev. James Bingham of James Bingham Ministries, Bishop R. L. Fidler, and Minister Anthony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam.
Asked if the ministers were followers or supporters of Moon, Allen responded, We're not all followers of Rev. Moon, but rather supporters of his call for unity and building stronger families and communities.
Sunday's event started with a free lunch of fried chicken, fruit, punch, cookies and cakes in the church gym. Children played on an inflated moon walk. Outside, the Christian rock band Proto played.
Among the press conference speakers was an uncomfortable-looking state Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis).
Later, he called The Commercial Appeal saying his presence at the Moon event resulted from a miscommunication.
He thought he was asked to come because of his support for family legislation this year that establishes a Fatherhood Commission. The panel will study the state's role in making more men be responsible fathers.
But what I walked into was the establishment of the Unification Church or something, DeBerry said. You know we're not going to be calling anybody Father Moon.
I tried to sit through it 5 or 10 minutes, and it got worse and worse.
DeBerry said he walked out. DeBerry said he isn't criticizing Moon, but added that Moon's movement is not my thing.
Bailey Jr.: 529-2388