Unification Church Overview

March 17, 2015 · updated February 15, 2022

Fast Facts on Unification Church
Adherents over 1 million (3 million acc. to official sources)
Practices Blessing Ceremony
Texts The Divine Principle (1954) by Rev. Moon.

The Unification Church (officially named the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity) is a new religious movement founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon in Korea in 1954.

The Unification Church is a unique interpretation of Christianity that regards Rev. Moon as the Messiah and believes world peace can be attained through the creation of "true families." It is especially known for its mass weddings and seeking of converts. Both the Unification Church and Moon himself have been the source of controversy in Asia and especially the USA. The movement's followers have been dubbed "Moonies" by critics.


Sun Myung Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea. At the time, Korea was under Japanese rule. Moon was raised in the Presbyterian church, one of many faiths persecuted by the Japanese rulers. The political upheavals caused divisions and new movements in Korean Christianity, including a group known as "spiritualists" who received new revelations from God and looked for a Korean messiah.

Moon says that on Easter morning at the age of 16, he had a vision in which Jesus asked him to complete his unfinished work as messiah, which is to bring the Kingdom of God to mankind and peace on earth. Accepting this call, Moon studied the Bible and other religious teachings and developed his complex doctrines about God, love, sin and the means of salvation.

Moon began to preach his doctrines in Korea in 1946. Two years later he was excommunicated by the Presbyterian Church, and shortly thereafter he was imprisoned and tortured by the North Korean authorities for reasons that are not entirely clear. In 1950 he was released and fled to South Korea, where in 1954 he founded the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC), or the Unification Church.

One of Moon's early converts would come to be tremendously influential in the spread of Unificationism in America. Young Oon Kim, known as Miss Kim, was prone to seeing visions in her youth and came to believe she had a religious role of importance to fulfill in the world. She was especially interested in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (which influenced New Thought), and even reported receiving visits from him in visions.

Miss Kim met Reverend Moon in 1954, converted to Unificationism, and became the first missionary of the Unification Church to the United States. She settled in Eugene, Oregon, in 1959, where she was student at the University of Oregon in order to stay in the United States. She worked to support her expenses and in her spare time proselytized and began translating the Divine Principle into English. She gained a few followers, and the group relocated to San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Sang Ik Choi led the movement in Japan beginning in 1958. He had much success in prosyletizing, especially among high school and college students, and he employed a very systematic approach to gaining converts and then training them in Japan.

Sun Myung Moon built his Korean and Japanese enterprises, which included factories that produced armaments, paint, machinery, and ginseng tea, into a multimillion-dollar empire. In the early 1970s Reverend Moonbegan full-scale missionary operations in the United States. In 1971, he toured America for the third time and was successfully unified the disparate Unification groups.

The 1970s saw the emergence of a national movement in which members lived communally and proselytized heavily. Converts actively worked on fundraising for the Church, primarily through selling candles and flowers on the street. Youth from the counter-culture movement were attracted to the movement in large numbers, and as a result the media and counter-cult organizations began to pay close attention to the group.

In 1973 the Moons moved their headquarters to Tarrytown, N.Y., from which they operated an international network of businesses. Reverend Moon began to get involved with politics, and his strong anti-communist feelings and his willingness to spend his money strategically gained him acceptance into many political circles. Moon give a series of public speeches, including one in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1974 and two in 1976: In Yankee Stadium in New York City, and on the grounds of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., where he spoke on "God's Hope for America."

Moon was an outspoken supporter of Richard Nixon throughout the Watergate scandal, taking out ads on his behalf and holding a rally in Washington. This was based on the principle that God works through designated central figures throughout history, and that America played a crucial central role in the ongoing Providence of God on the world level. It was a disappointment to many in the Unification Church when Nixon resigned.

In 1978, a Congressional subcommittee issued a report that included the results of its investigation into the UC, and into other organizations associated with Moon. Among its other conclusions, the subcommittee's report stated that "Among the goals of the Moon Organization is the establishment of a worldwide government in which the separation of church and state would be abolished and which would be governed by Moon and his followers."

In 1981 the Unification Church's bid for U.S. tax-exempt status as a religious organization was denied when an appellate court ruled that the church's primary purpose was political rather than religious. In 1982 Moon was convicted of tax evasion, sentenced to 18 months in prison, and fined $25,000. He began serving his term in 1984, and some fellow prisoners have written statements describing him as humble, hardworking and joyful. His followers, as well as many non-Unification religious leaders, regarded the trial as religious persecution by the government.

At the same time, Eileen Barker, a sociologist specializing in religion, studied Unification Church members in England. She concluded that the Unification Church did not use brainwashing for conversion and published her findings in the book The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing? (1984).

Having survived this period of intense criticism, the Unification Church emerged in the 1990s with an expansive international program. In 1992, Reverend Moon officially confirmed that he is the Messiah, or the second coming of Jesus Christ as prophesied in the Bible (see Beliefs, below). Members had long believed that this was the case, but it was not officially announced until then. At this time Moon also announced that his successor would be his wife, who is about 20 years his junior.

The influence of the Unification Church is extended by a variety of organizations that embody Moon's ideals, such as the Professor's World Peace Academy and the International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences. In 1994, on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the church, Moon announced the formation of the International Federation for World Peace, which assumed many of the functions formerly performed by the church.

Although the early 1990s was a period of relative stability for the Unification movement, problems arose for the church in Japan following the AUM Shinrikyo incident in 1995, when the country was gripped by anticult hysteria.

The church was also hurt when Nansook Hong left her husband Hyo Jin (son of Rev. and Mrs. Moon) and in 1998 wrote an exposé of life in the Moon family, In the Shadow of the Moons.

This is perhaps the most serious issue facing the Unification Church, since its theology centers on the belief that Moon's children are sinless. But Nansook Hong wrote that Hyo Jin, who grew up in luxurious surroundings and rarely saw his busy parents, was physically and emotionally abusive and addicted to cocaine and pornography.

In March 2004, Reverend Moon was crowned King of Peace, completed with kingly robes and golden crowns, in a building of the U.S. Senate. Afterward the ceremony, Moon made a long speech which included the statements:

"Emperors, kings and presidents... have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent." "The founders of five great religions and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin... and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons." The event, which also gave state and national "crowns of peace," was organized by the Unification Church. The members of the Congress who attended said they were misled about the content of the event . It was reported in very few newspapers other than Moon's Washington Times but was widely reported in Washington blogs and websites.

Today, the church has a presence in more than 100 countries, though exact membership figures are difficult to estimate. The Unification Church says it has 3 million members, but others sources say it is far less, estimating membership at anywhere from 250,000 to just over 1 million.


The main text of the Unification Church is Reverend Moon's book The Divine Principle (1952). His speeches are also considered authoritative. The Christian Bible is highly regarded, but used to a lesser degree.


Reverend Moon's teaching is called the Divine Principle. According to the Church, "The Principle is the result of divine inspiration, prayer, and the study of religious scriptures and of life itself. Many tears and much intense suffering were part of the price of gaining this profound understanding." {dp}

The Divine Principle is based on observations of the creation in order to understand the Creator. Moon observes that everything in nature comes in pairs: male and female, positive and negative charges, arteries and veins, and so on.

This duality of Sung Sang (causal and masculine) and Hyung Sang (resultant and feminine) must come from God because God is the creator of all. God's nature is thus characterized by equal masculine and feminine aspects joined together in perfect harmony. In addition, because humans value love and harmony we can conclude that "Heart" is the essence of God's being.

Heart is the impulse to love and seek an object to love. God feels joy when He can give and receive love with His beloved. God loves each one of us individually, and rejoices when we return His love and multiply it by loving others. {dp} In addition to this inner nature of duality and love, God has an outer nature that Moon calls the Universal Prime Energy. This is what creates, develops and sustains the cosmos.

The purpose of creation and the purpose of life is to experience the joy of love. "In His original ideal, God wanted everyone to be perfected in love, able to give true and unconditional love to every human being and to the creation." This was to happen by Adam and Eve's free will in a three-step process called the "Three Blessings":

    - Becoming perfect, which means to have God's character and be in a "Four Position Foundation" consisting of God, the perfected individual, and the individual's mind and body. - Have an ideal marriage, in which a Four Position Foundation is formed among God, the man, the woman, and their children. This marriage produces perfect and sinless children. - Have dominion over all of creation, creating a Four Position Foundation among God, man, things, and a dominion of love.