April 21, 2001 Saturday, FINAL EDITION

Lifestyles; Pg. E5

Circle of friends;
Moon's message draws diverse coalition
during U.S. tour

By Eric Burkett
Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage, Alaska

White people are the descendants of the polar bear race, the Korean minister explained through an interpreter. They came out of the north. Their skin is white from living amidst a barren white environment. His audience at the Hotel Captain Cook on April 12 listened
a little nervously, perhaps unsure where the story was going. Asians represent the brown bear race, he continued. Their skin is brown because they were farmers, close to the brown soil. Blacks, he said, descended from black bears, lived in the hot tropics and took their food from the trees. The reason I tell you this, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon explained,
(is) when we think of skin color, there's nothing to be proud of. That sort of attention-grabbing approach is typical of Moon's talks, said the Rev. Gail Paine, a retired Unification Church pastor from Anchorage. Moon, the often controversial leader of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity -- better known as the Unification
Church and, often derisively, as the Moonies -- spoke to an Anchorage crowd of more than 400 people. It was stop No. 47 in a 50-state, 51-day national We Will Stand tour to rebuild the family, restore the community, renew the nation and the world, according to tour literature. Considering he'd been on the road for more than a month and a half, Moon seemed particularly lively, playful even. He was, he noted after polling the audience, the oldest man in the room. What he didn't say was that this appearance in Anchorage -- indeed, the whole tour -- may well be his last.

At 81, Moon isn't the young man who burst onto the world religion stage almost a half-century ago. The Unification Church was founded in 1954 in Seoul, South Korea, not so much as a religion, Paine said, but as an attempt to unite Christians. Moon made his way to the United States in 1971, although missionaries for the new faith had begun to arrive as early as 1959, according to church histories. Despite its long presence in the United States, the church has never been as successful here as it has in other countries, notably Korea and Japan. Critics have accused Moon of claiming to be the Messiah. That's because people don't understand his use of the term, said Rev. Mark Wachstetter of the Crown Point Assembly of God in Chicago, a longtime Moon supporter who introduced him to the
Anchorage audience. 'Messiah' is a Hebrew word that means 'anointed one,' Wachstetter said. Moon is anointed by God to carry on the work of Jesus, just as any pastor is anointed by God. Critics hear just enough and say, 'I don't want to hear any more,' Wachstetter said. Moon uses the term messiah pretty freely, agreed the Rev. Michael Jenkins, a Unification
pastor in Chicago and president of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. But Moon is not saying he's Jesus. One theological distinction often overlooked is that Unificationists don't believe that Jesus is God, according to Paine. Unificationists do, however, believe Jesus is the son of God.

In that context, when Moon refers to himself -- or anyone -- as a messiah, he does not claim to be God. Many former Unification Church members, disenchanted and often angry with the church, claim otherwise, insisting they were taught that Moon is the Messiah, on a level with Jesus. As part of his plan to take over the world, Moon has initiated numerous organizations, reads one anti-Moon Web site. Although they are often established by members, and although church members (in) public often vehemently deny ANY affiliation with the UC, inside the church these organizations are proudly viewed as 'Father's projects'
under Mr. Moon's rule as the Messiah and 'True Parent of Mankind.' To us as members, this was another sign that 'he must be the Messiah.' With only two congregations in the state -- in Anchorage and Kodiak -- the church counts about 500 member families in Alaska, according to Jenkins. Nationwide, he said, there are about 50,000 families. Critics of
the church dispute those numbers, insisting they are much lower. Some say there are only about 5,000 members in the United States. Those critics are probably counting only missionaries, Jenkins said.
Church numbers are based on people who attend services on a regular basis, he said. The church owns International Seafoods of Alaska, a fish-processing plant in Kodiak and one of the community's largest taxpayers. But even the processor has been a source of controversy. In 1995, Moon was served with papers by Bristol Bay fishermen angered by what they alleged was price fixing on the part of Kodiak processors. On the other hand, the plant was also the site of the church's effort to produce a high-protein fish powder that developers hoped could be used to alleviate hunger around the world. In a sense, the church's presence in Kodiak is indicative of its status nationally. Widely derided in its early days as a cult that brainwashed its members and exercised a huge amount of
control over their lives, it has lately found a diverse circle of friends.

Moon's 50-state tour, which ended Monday, attracted supporters ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rev. Billy McCormack, a founder of the right-wing Christian Coalition. Moon also has found allies among blacks. Attracted to his message of racial reconciliation, many black Christians have endorsed the tour. The roster of their denominations
includes the predominantly black Church of God in Christ, with 5.5 million members. Locally, Moon's tour received support from other prominent black Alaskans: Sen. Bettye Davis, D-Anchorage; the Rev. William Greene of Eagle River Missionary Baptist Church; and the Rev. Elgin Jones, founder and director of Kids' Kitchen in Anchorage. Jones, saying he supported the message, not the man, called on the public to give Moon a chance at a press conference before last week's gathering at the Captain Cook. First, let's respect him for what he's trying to do, Jones said. In his work with kids from poor and broken families, Jones said he has been searching for a way to mend dysfunctional families. If Moon can do this for families, I'm impressed. I'm for them.

Reporter Eric Burkett can be reached at eburkett@adn.com. GRAPHIC: Anchorage Daily News The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church, visited Anchorage this month as part of a 50-state, 51-day tour., Photo By Marc Lester