Wiley Drake, recently elected as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention has been involved in several events hosted by Sun-Myung Moon and the Unification Church. Although Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., publicly apologized in 2001 for his involvement, he continued to participate in Unification Church events.
The Unification Church was founded by Moon, who claims that he and his wife are “the Messiah” and the “True Parents of humankind” through whom “all humankind can be restored.” Moon is referred to by his followers as “Father” or “True Father,” and his wife is called the “True Mother.”
Drake said in an interview that in his “first go-around” with the Unification Church he was “a little bit … misled.”
Drake explained that his involvement began when he first attended a Christian businessmen seminar in Washington, D. C. The event was sponsored by the Moon-owned Washington Times, but did not mention Moon’s involvement. Although he knew of Moon’s connection, Drake continued to attend events sponsored by the Washington Times.
Additionally, Drake explained that he attended events connected with the Unification Church due to his involvement with the Presidential Prayer Team and the Congressional Prayer Conference. Drake said that both organizations wanted to be ecumenical in order to bring people of all faiths together to pray.
“The Unification Church … wanted to be involved,” Drake explained. “And they were involved.”
In January of 2001, controversy erupted when several Southern Baptist leaders attended an event sponsored by Moon. At the event Moon spoke and attendees were given Unification Church materials. Drake said he attended because it was an event celebrating the George W. Bush’s presidential inauguration.
Other Southern Baptists present included then-SBC President James Merritt, Executive Committee President and Chief Executive Officer Morris H. Chapman, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land, Paul Pressler, former SBC President Ed Young, and future SBC President Jack Graham.
Several of the Southern Baptist leaders later said they would not have attended the event if they had known Moon was involved.
Drake felt such comments by Southern Baptist leaders were “really disingenuous simply because if they didn’t know that the Washington Times was tied by the ‘Moonies,’ they just are, you know, not in the real world.”
In April of 2001, Drake publicly apologized to Southern Baptists who were “offended or confused” by his involvement with the Unification Church-sponsored interfaith events.
“Under no circumstances does my affiliation with any religious organization or any religious leader endorse or give my approval of their beliefs,” Drake wrote at the time. “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 added that he had “asked that my name be removed from any publication emanating from Sun Myung Moon or the Unification Church in the future.”
When asked when his involvement with the Unification Church ended, Drake responded, “In all honesty I cannot answer that question with any kind of definitive answer.” He added that it ended with his public apology.
After the apology, Drake was listed as part of the invitation committee for the “We Will Stand” events held throughout 2001. He was also listed as part of the invitation committee for an April 27, 2002 “Interreligious and International 144,000 Clergy Couples Blessing” event. Drake said he was not involved, but that the Unification Church continued to list him on event invitations even though he asked that they remove his name.
“Why did it continue to seem that I was continuing to be associated with that,” Drake responded. “I was not, at least intentionally.”
However, despite Drake’s apology and assertion that his involvement ended, he gave the invocation during at least three Unification Church events following his apology.
Drake offered the invocation at an Oct. 27, 2001, “We Stand in Oneness Interfaith Prayer Breakfast” sponsored by the Unification Church. The November 2001 issue of Unification News, the church’s newspaper, reports that the event’s keynote speech was about “True Parentism and Interreligious Unity.”
The December 2001 issue of Unification News reports Drake gave the invocation at a Nov. 30, 2001, event that was billed as part of the “True Mother’s Speaking Tour.”
Drake also offered the invocation at a Feb. 2, 2002, Unification Church “prayer breakfast.” The February 2002 issue of the Unification News includes a picture of Drake speaking at the event. The article speaks of the praise given at the event to the “True Mother” and the “True Parents.”
The article also describes Drake as “a golden sea watch recipient and Ambassador of Peace.” Drake explained that he attended a Unification Church trip to Korea for which he was given the gold watch and an award for being an “Ambassador of Peace.” Drake said he did not remember if the trip “was before or after my apology.” Neither designation was used to describe Drake at the 2001 events.
When asked about these three events, Drake admitted that he may have been involved after his apology. However, he contended it was not more than one event.
“Did I do an invocation or benediction after my apology,” Drake responded. “That could have happened. But if I did it was only once, I think, to the best of my ability to remember.”
Drake added that he “did not want to alienate Presidential Prayer Team or other people by refusing anything. I simply did what I would call a slow withdrawal.”
Drake stressed that he has “severed all ties with them because of the obvious problems it could cause for us.”
He said he thinks the Unification Church has quit using his name on invitations. He also reiterated that he was sorry for offending Southern Baptists, especially Korean Baptists, and he hoped they had forgiven him.
Drake, perhaps one of the most vocal individuals at SBC annual meetings, has introduced numerous resolutions and motions over the past several years, including the resolution to boycott Disney. At the 2004 annual meeting Drake spoke in favor of the SBC withdrawing from the Baptist World Alliance.
“My reason for being against the Baptist World Alliance was not because I did not want to be ecumenical,” Drake explained when asked to reconcile this position with his ecumenical efforts. “I can still be and am still ecumenically involved individually with the Baptist World Alliance.”
He added, “However, their stand for baby-killing and their stand for approving sodomy as a lifestyle was something we could not be ecumenical over.”
Drake explained that while he still fellowshipped with people within the BWA, he did not think SBC Cooperative Program money should go to them because “some of that money would help kill babies and some would help promote sodomy as a lifestyle.”
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.