Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of Unification Theological Seminary in Barrytown and New York City, passed away on Sunday, September 2 of pneumonia-related complications at the CheongShim International Medical Center about 60 kilometers east of Seoul. Born in North Pyeongan Province, now part of North Korea, on February 25, 1920, Rev. Moon was the founder of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC) or Unification Church in 1954, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU) in 1994, and the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) in 2005. He was called to religious ministry as a result of a direct experience with Jesus Christ in 1935. His original teachings are published in English as Exposition of the Divine Principle (1996). He was a prolific speaker whose collected sermons fill over 400 volumes.
Rev. Moon founded UTS in 1975 as an institution of higher learning dedicated to “interreligious, interracial and international unity.” This was consistent with his belief that theological studies can only be adequately pursued in relationship to the full range of religious traditions. Rev. Moon continued to support UTS as well as a number of ecumenical and interreligious organizations begun at the Seminary. In 1985, 1990, and 1992, he hosted well-attended Assemblies of the World’s Religions. In 2000, he proposed establishment of an inter-religious council at the United Nations, an idea that was taken up by a number of national delegations and is currently under discussion in the General Assembly. In 2003, he launched the Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI) which in over 35 pilgrimages brought thousands of peace-makers from diverse religions and nationalities to the region.
At the Seminary’s Inaugural Convocation, September 20, 1975, Rev. Moon stated,
Rediscovery of God, establishment of a parental relationship between God and humankind and the resurrection of divine love … are the human conditions required for ultimate peace and happiness. We can turn nowhere but to religion for the great revolution of human consciousness …
The Seminary is not a place or a building; it is people who are equipped with the spirit and ideal of God … We must change our direction from theologies that are deprived of life and spirit and turn to a new theology with a dynamic lifestyle in which God would directly participate.
UTS awarded Rev, and Mrs. Moon doctorate degrees, honoris causa, in 2001. In his Commencement Address, Rev. Moon said,
All religions should be united and make joint efforts for the establishment of one global family. In order to realize this, all existing barriers among races, religions, denominations and nations must be broken down to create one unified world. The Unification Theological Seminary was founded on such an inter-religious, international and interracial ideology.
In his autobiography, As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen (2010), Rev. Moon again noted UTS had been founded on an “interreligious basis” and stated, “When all the religions … were debated, … [practictioners] began to break through the incorrect concepts they had about each other and to better understand each other.” (175)
In 1997 Rev. Moon spoke about the need to establish an undergraduate religious college on the UTS campus. Extensive renovations are underway of the main building in Barrytown in preparation for a college centered on Unificationist values and ideals.
In recent years, Rev. Moon highlighted the unique capacities of women in peace-building and emphasized their leadership in the coming “Pacific Rim Era.” Consonant with this, he appointed his daughter, Rev. In Jin (Tatiana) Moon National Pastor/CEO of the Unification movement in America. Rev. In Jin Moon also serves as Chairperson of the UTS Board of Trustees. Rev. Moon is survived by his wife, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, ten living children and more than fifty grandchildren and great-grand-children. It is expected that Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon will assume responsibility for guiding the international Unification movement.