FRESNO, Calif. (BP)–A California pastor has asked for forgiveness for causing other Southern Baptists to be “offended or confused” by his involvement with an interfaith group sponsored by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, released a written statement April 16 clarifying his involvement with the United Federation of Churches. Literature from the group describes the UFC as “a group of ministers and churches uniting together to create programs to empower church families and communities.”
One such program featured a “reconciliation ceremony” March 15 at a Los Angeles hotel. That event included a keynote address by Moon, founder and leader of the Unification Church.
“Under no circumstances does my affiliation with any religious organization or any religious leader endorse or give my approval of their beliefs,” Drake said in the statement he provided to the California Southern Baptist newsjournal.
In the statement, Drake acknowledged “my involvement with Rev. Moon of the Unification Church, certain Jewish leaders, Muslim, and Mormon leaders as well as leaders from other religions that are very different from my own.” He noted his participation in a “Congressional Pastors Prayer Conference” in September 2000 helped to promote such associations.
“In my duties to God, and to the Congress of the United States, I have met with and been associated with leaders from a wide religious background. I am a follower of Jesus and use the Holy Bible as my guide and authority,” Drake declared.
“Before, during and after this meeting in September of 2000, I have been working with men and women of all faiths and beliefs” to accomplish several purposes, Drake explained. The statement listed three purposes: restoring the family, rebuilding the community, and renewing the nation.
Baptist opposition to Drake’s involvement with the Unification Church-sponsored group began stirring in February, when his name appeared on a UFC letter inviting pastors to attend the March 15 “Interfaith Reconciliation Bridge-Crossing” event. Drake was named first on the list of “invitational committee” members under a heading that stated, “We Will Stand Together.”
Other names in the list included the imam (spiritual leader) of the Orange County Islamic Center, leaders from organizations including the American Leadership Conference and the True Family Values Ministry, and pastors of various churches including Baptist, Church of God in Christ, Methodist, Apostolic and Church of God.
“I received probably 30-35 phone calls or e-mails about it,” said Doyle Braden, Orange County Southern Baptist Association director of missions. Many of those contacts, including some from other states, expressed particular concern about Baptists openly uniting with non-Christian groups, Braden said.
At one point, Braden met with a group of Korean Baptist pastors from Orange County “who were very disturbed” by the appearance of Southern Baptist support for Moon, considered a cult leader by many evangelical Christians.
“It was very disruptive to several of our pastors and we just felt that he [Drake] needed to make some kind of a clarification statement,” Braden said.
Braden subsequently met twice with Drake and other Baptist pastors who voiced strong objections to Drake’s high-profile involvement with the UFC programs. As a result of those meetings, Drake agreed to clarify his position and drafted a statement that initially was circulated among Orange County Baptist pastors.
Drake said in the statement he has “asked that my name be removed from any publication emanating from Sun Myung Moon or the Unification Church in the future.”
The Buena Park pastor also asked forgiveness from those he had offended.
“Since my associations, meetings, or relationships have caused churches and some members, especially our Korean brothers, to be offended or confused, I ask that you please forgive me,” Drake wrote.
Braden told the California Southern Baptist Drake’s statement was well received by other Orange County Baptist leaders.
“We are pleased with the response that he has given because we have known that he does not in any way believe or endorse Moon [despite] the earlier appearance that he was in fact endorsing the position of Rev. Moon,” Braden said.