Moon to address revival at W. Baltimore church

Organizers say tour promotes family values

March 23, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

To forge ties with Baltimore's black churches, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon plans to speak here next week at a Baptist church, part of a 51-day, 50-state whistle-stop tour of the country.

Moon, 81, the leader of the Unification Church, has declared himself the Messiah come to unite all religions. His mass weddings and church members' proselytizing have led some to call his church a cult.

But the Rev. Willie Ray, longtime anti-violence crusader and organizer of Thursday's We Will Stand revival, scheduled for 6 p.m. at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in West Baltimore, is embracing the Korean-born leader.

"If you really hear him, he's a theologian," Ray said after a news conference to announce the revival yesterday at the United Missionary Baptist Convention headquarters in West Baltimore.

"He has a theology about how he sees God. Jesse Jackson has a theology. Louis Farrakhan has a theology. He's just a Korean with a theology. He recognizes Jesus Christ as lord, and he recognizes God as his father."

Phillip D. Schanker, former pastor of a Washington church and national media coordinator for the revival, said many Christians "have a misunderstanding that Reverend Moon thinks he is Jesus. This tour will give us an opportunity to have Jesus in the center and clarify that misunderstanding."

Organizers describe We Will Stand as a national interfaith revival to encourage strong family values. Moon will "inspire the Baltimore people, and I think they're going to embrace him," Ray said. "This is going to be the start of a movement."

The tour is part of an effort by the American Clergy Leadership Conference, a Unification Church affiliate, to build an interfaith and interracial religious coalition. It was a co-sponsor, along with Nation of Islam leader Farrakhan, of last year's Million Family March.

Moon's tour was conceived at the ACLC's first national convention in December in Chicago. The first event, on Feb. 25 at New York's Garden of Prayer Church of God in Christ, attracted more than 3,500 people, organizers said.

The tour had been fairly free from contention until Wednesday night's stop in Detroit. Two Baptist pastors objected when they were incorrectly listed as event sponsors and went on television to encourage people to stay away.

Seven other black ministers representing Baptist, Methodist and the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ congregations attended the news conference yesterday. Other religious leaders appeared to be leery of endorsing the revival but did not condemn it.

"I think some good can come out of it. I think Willie Ray's intentions are good. But I don't know what ... Moon's intentions are," said the Rev. H. Walden Wilson II, pastor of East Baltimore's Israel Baptist Church.

The Rev. Gregory B. Perkins, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the region's largest coalition of black clergy, agreed with the aim of the revival but said attending is not on his calendar.

"The alliance is obviously for family and has been. We are for principles of morality that we obviously believe from a Christian-Judeo perspective," he said. "The alliance as an organization has not tied on as yet, but we're definitely not in opposition to it because honestly I haven't had a chance to look at it."

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