By Tyler Hendricks, Ecclesiastical Endorser, Unification Church of America
Most growing churches possess an evangelical mission and congregational polity (self-governance). Churches that are not growing tend to be those with hierarchical structures. For this and other reasons, our churches today should adopt an evangelical mission and congregational polity. But, it behooves me to note exceptions: churches that are growing with centralized structure, specifically the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why should our churches not adopt a vertical model like theirs?
Let me briefly describe their model. They strongly promote evangelism. They have an assimilation system and excellent evangelical and educational material provided by the central office. Their worship services are standardized. Almost all their leadership is unpaid. They are family-friendly and teach a high standard of morality. Advancement in the hierarchy is by appointment.
What’s good about this model is the culture of evangelism, clear membership standards, excellent evangelical material, lay ownership, ministry by volunteers, family friendliness and high moral expectations.
There are two obvious discontinuities with our Unification Church system: we have seminaries and paid clergy; they do not. But those points are not essential. What is essentially wrong with their model is that it is sectarian. They have embedded their message and sacrament into their organization, and admit of no salvation outside their organization. The Unification Church could easily follow this path, but that would be a betrayal of Rev. Moon’s vision. For that reason, I would reject their model.
The salvation of the Second Advent, the Holy Marriage Blessing, transcends our sect. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t welcome people to join the Unification Church. May it grow and prosper! But one need not join the Unification Church in order to receive the salvation of the Second Advent, although you need to be part of some faith community. The salvation we offer is an in-breaking of God comparable to that of Jesus Christ, for which every faith tradition is a preparation and which every faith community can house.