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Korean American Methodist leaders hold summit


The first-ever Korean American United Methodist summit opens a session with prayer. The event in Englewood, N.J., brought together church leaders from
across the United States. UMNS photos by Keihwan Ryoo.

A UMNS Report by Kathy L. Gilbert*
April 11, 2007

In the first meeting of its kind, leaders of the Korean American United Methodist community gathered to share celebrations and challenges and develop a vision to renew and embolden their ministry in the United States.

The March 18-20 summit in Englewood, N.J., brought together 32 church, annual conference, district, general agency staff, Korean American caucus, seminary and laity leaders. Bishops Hee-Soo Jung and Jeremiah Park led the event.


The Korean American United Methodist community has much to share including a strong mission and passion for disciple-making, says Bishop Hee-Soo Jung. 

Organized by the United Methodist Council on Korean-American Ministries, t he gathering was designed "to empower us, to give us strength and resources to work toward the future," according to Jung.

"We believe our church will continually grow and lead the turnaround movement in our denomination."

There are approximately 60,000 Korean American United Methodists, with 310 churches in 40 states, according to the Rev. Keihwan Ryoo, editor of United Methodists in Service, a Korean-language magazine published by United Methodist Communications. Korean American Methodism celebrated its centennial in 2003.

Visioning doesn't happen in a vacuum, said the Rev. Youngsook C. Kang, describing the importance of the summit.

Kang, of the Rocky Mountain Annual (regional) Conference, is the first Korean woman to serve as district superintendent. "I maintain hope that a new future will be created where justice is reality and the weak are made strong," she said.

Participants hope this first meeting leads to more connections in the community.

"There were plenty of disappointments and celebrations within the Korean United Methodist community," said Yooeui Sohn, a lay leader from Korean Church of Atlanta, Duluth, Ga. "To bring them up and to find how well they were shared by the fellow Korean United Methodists impressed me. It is a beginning that can go a long distance."

Jung said the Korean American United Methodist community has much to share including a strong mission and passion for disciple-making. "The general church may learn from Korean United Methodist community about our commitment to the global mission in places such as Russia, Mexico, SouthEast Asia, Central Asia and all other regions," he said.

“We believe our church will continually grow and lead the turnaround movement in our denomination.”
–Bishop Hee-Soo Jung

The Korean American community is enthusiastic about planting new missions in many former communist areas in partnership with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, Jung said.

The Rev. Paul H. Chang, executive director of the Council on Korean-American Ministries, identified the community's greatest challenges as growing and revitalizing Korean American congregations, dealing with the issue of changing identity for the Korean American United Methodist community and developing more English-speaking, next-generation churches.

"For me, one of the greatest challenges for the Korean American church is recruitment and development of pastoral leadership who can minister in the English-speaking context or multi-cultural context," said Kang.

"Without such leadership development, the growth of the first-generation-oriented Korean American Church in the present may cease to occur. Certainly it is a great challenge to provide connections to English-speaking generations who feel disconnected with the first-generation churches."

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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