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Bishop Kim resigns episcopacy following complaint

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Bishop Hae-Jong Kim
Aug. 30, 2005

By United Methodist News Service

United Methodist Bishop Hae-Jong Kim, who retired in 2004, has resigned effective Sept. 1 as part of the resolution of a complaint filed against him.

Bishop Peter D. Weaver, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, announced the resignation Aug. 30 in a statement that did not specify details of the complaint against Kim. The complaint was filed last January and processed in accordance with the United Methodist Book of Discipline.

“A just resolution to the complaint has been agreed to on the part of all parties,” said Weaver, who leads the denomination’s Boston Area. “Bishop Kim has resigned from the episcopacy for personal reasons, effective Sept. 1, 2005.”

In an interview after the statement was issued, Weaver said he could not discuss the details of the resolution. “The Discipline calls for confidentiality around those matters,” he said. “It was a part of that just resolution that confidentiality would be maintained.”

Kim could not be reached for comment Aug. 30.

Though Kim has resigned from the episcopacy, he retains his clergy credentials. His clergy membership will return to the denomination’s Greater New Jersey Annual (regional) Conference, Weaver said.

Kim resides in Madison, N.J., and had been teaching at United Methodist-related Drew Theological Seminary there. His contract with the school has expired and he will not be continuing in his role there.

Kim became the United Methodist Church’s first Korean bishop when he was elected in 1992. The denomination now has two active Korean bishops, both men elected in 2004.

The only other United Methodist bishop known to have resigned from the episcopacy was James Armstrong in 1983. Then leader of the Indiana Area and president of the National Council of Churches, he cited personal problems and was reported as acknowledging that his marriage had been imperiled.

Weaver called the situation involving Kim “painful and difficult.” “The Council of Bishops earnestly prays for the welfare of the parties involved,” he said.

The supervisory response team that worked on the just resolution included two members of the Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops and two people from the jurisdiction’s episcopacy committee, he said.

Asked about the importance of transparency in such a situation, Weaver said, “There are a number of values that we hold together. One is honesty and transparency. I think we also hold the value of concern for further hurt that might be inflicted upon people. Confidentiality really in my view is an exercise of love. It’s not an exercise to try to withhold things from other people. It’s meant to be a loving gesture when agreed to by all parties that helps the healing process.”

Weaver said Kim “has been in communication with the Council of Bishops and has circulated his views about this matter. … He has expressed his sorrow over the matters related to the complaint, and he is hoping for the prayers and caring and love of the church.”

Bishop Thomas Bickerton, who succeeded Kim as leader of the Pittsburgh Area in 2004, wrote a letter to church members in his conference asking that they pray for Kim and his wife, Wha-Sei, as well as for others who have been hurt, the Korean community and the church as a whole. Bickerton said he couldn’t comment on the complaint, but he told church members that, to his knowledge, none of the issues involved with the complaint was related to Kim’s ministry as bishop of the area.

Kim “brought much to the church and our connections” through his gifts, said Bishop Jane Middleton, president of the Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops and leader of the Harrisburg (Pa.) Area. She said he has told her he wants to continue serving God in whatever way he can as an elder.

Kim was born in Seoul, Korea, in 1935 and became a Christian during the Korean War. He received the call to ministry at age 17, while working as an interpreter for a U.S. Marine chaplain. He attended Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul and went on to earn his master of divinity degree from the Methodist Theological School in Ohio in 1964. He received a doctorate from Drew in 1984.

Beginning his pastoral ministry in 1964, Kim served churches around the former Northern New Jersey Annual Conference. He helped develop many Korean-American United Methodist churches in New Jersey.

He became the first Korean-American district superintendent of the United Methodist Church in 1984 and was elected bishop eight years later. He was assigned to the New York West Area, comprising the Western New York and North Central New York conferences. He became bishop of the Pittsburgh Area in 2000.

Before becoming bishop, Kim served as a General Conference delegate multiple times. He also was a director of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries from 1980 to 1988, and was president of the National Association of Korean-American United Methodist Churches and the Council of Korean Churches of Greater New York.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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