Can the ministry still be considered a cult?
Kind of a loaded question, isn't it? Even Ron Enroth didn't expressly call UBF a cult in Churches That Abuse. The question should be: Are UBF's practices still sociologically abusive/controlling? Do the NAE and ECFA consider these kinds of questions when admitting groups? Considering that UBF was a member of the NAE from 1996-2003, when gross abuses were happening within the group, the answer would appear to be no.
After UBF's "expulsion" from the NAE in 2003, the message from the NAE was that UBF was removed because of its failure to respond to charges against it. So, then, logically, all UBF had to do was respond. And UBF's response was, "Hey, we've made some (unspecified) mistakes. There were some (unspecified) cultural misunderstandings since we're Korean. No church is perfect. We've changed. The UBF haters are just a vocal minority of former members." They told basically the same thing to a few "noted Christian authors" whom they paid to speak at UBF meetings. A common theme among these UBF endorsers? "What a great audience the UBF leaders and members were. How zealous the members seemed to be." A UBF leader befriended a Wheaton College professor for years; that got the ball rolling for UBF at Wheaton. They got these noted Christian authors to write endorsement statements for them. When Ted Haggard's group at the NAE left unceremoniously, UBF found a new NAE administration that was willing to listen to their response, which was now backed up by these noted Christian authors. The ECFA, with its new church accreditation program in place, was probably eager for churches to join. After all, all it takes is audited financials and a statement of faith. The number of former UBF members that the NAE and ECFA contacted prior to letting UBF in? Zero.
The group of Christian authors that endorsed UBF have had no direct contact with former members of the group. They found a group of people that seems to be particularly insensitive to the stories of former members and who seem willing to take the word of UBF's leaders at face value. One (Harton) chose not to investigate the negative stories of former members because his own experience had been positive. One (Coleman) admits no extensive knowledge of UBF. One (Tucker) has been in the position of an apologist for groups such as Jews for Jesus, Jesus People USA, World Wide Church of God and the Local Church of Witness Lee, so her endorsement is no surprise.
Meanwhile, while UBF collects endorsements and association memberships, it continues to try to publicly whitewash its history and the character of its late founder. Let's take a look at another controversial group like, say, Great Commission International, which is also a member of the NAE, ECFA and other associations. They at least had the decency to issue a public statement of specific past errors
and made some efforts to reach out to people who'd been hurt in GC churches in the past. Former members of GC churches were perhaps skeptical, but at least GC made an effort, and perhaps it has mollified their harshest critics. UBF has made zero effort in these areas and shows no signs of doing so. Their excuse is always, "Nothing we do will be good enough for our critics." Not only are they making zero effort to publicly admit past error or reach out to former members, their leadership is now discussing whether to sue UBF's critics to get criticism of the group off the Internet. (Rick, if you're reading, you might want to take note.)
Back to an earlier question: Are UBF's practices still sociologically abusive/controlling? From the reports of former members, I would say yes, though maybe not to the extreme extent of former years. The evidence suggests that choice of marriage partners continues to be controlled by the leaders as usual. Even one of their endorsers, Harton, admits to seeing this (You really have to wonder at the thought process of these "noted Christian authors"). In recent months, long-time members of the Kiev and Mexico UBF have been expelled for disagreeing with UBF's methods, and their departures have been spun to sound like they left for "spiritual" or "financial" reasons. Departures from UBF continue to be traumatic, suggesting how psychologically dependent members become toward the group.
BTW, I'm the current maintainer of rsqubf.info
, to let you know where I'm coming from.