University Bible Fellowship
The University Bible Fellowship (UBF; Korean: 대학생성경읽기선교회) is a college student ministry that originated in South Korea in 1961. UBF is structured as a loose network of chapters on college campuses around the world, bound together by specific ideology called "kingdom of priests and holy nation" (KOPAHN). As of 2014, UBF had 323 chapters, with about 6,000 members worldwide. The UBF international headquarters is in Chicago, IL USA. Each chapter has a chapter director, who in recent years is sometimes called "pastor".
In the USA, UBF was incorporated on November 7th, 1975 in Mississippi, which is Sarah Barry's home state. The following people formed the entity. Not much, if anything, is known about these founders.
- Andrew Westerfield
- PO Box937
- E M Barry
- PO Box216
- John L Hatcher
- PO Box937
Out of 323 chapters, about half (159 to be exact) are nothing more than one family living by themselves near a campus, called a house church in UBF terminology. The other half of the chapters consist of two, three or more families. The largest chapters in the US outside of Chicago are in the Washington D.C. and Los Angeles areas. Day to day management of these satellite chapters is left to the local chapter director normally. The power center chapters, often called HQ or headquarters, generally have a hands-off attitude. Instead of going out to support the satellite chapters, each HQ chapter is seen as sort of a base camp, where members go to be re-charged in their faith. Monetary support is not given to the satellite chapters except in extreme cases. Instead, offering money is sent into the HQ chapters.
UBF is structured as a hierarchy, using a control mechanism called spiritual order by the group. This idea of spiritual order is similar to the classic multi-level marketing strategy of recruiting. UBF might be called a spiritual Ponzi scheme. As such, the structure of the UBF organization is constantly falling apart. Every 10 years or so, the system faces a crisis situation during which time many members leave. Every few years, the shepherds have to start all over with finding a new student as the scheme repeatedly falls apart.
After more than 50 years of existence, a valid question still haunts UBF. Is UBF a church or para-church or what? On some UBF websites and building signs, you will find UBF referring to itself as a church. Many in the group however avoid making such a clear commitment to being a church, even though they celebrate their own Sunday services and collect offerings. Sometimes UBF is called a para-church organization. UBF was comfortable with that term in the early days, but now they typically avoid that term as well. So what is UBF? Is it a church? Is it a para-church? Such lack of organizational identity causes much confusion in the local campus chapters.
UBF is a private community, with students only being allowed inside. Outsiders will typically see a conservative, hyper-evangelical Bible study fellowship with a few strange additions that might be dismissed as being part of Korean culture.