May 3, 2004
By Jackie Campbell*
(UMNS) — The first Korean-American bishop in the United Methodist
Church emphasized the importance of racial and ethnic churches in
spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
|The Africa University Choir sings during General Conference 2004. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose.|
Hae-Jong Kim preached at the May 3 morning worship service of the
denomination’s top legislative assembly, General Conference. Kim leads
the church’s Pittsburgh Area.
one’s ethnic and racial identity is so important to one’s well-being,”
the bishop said. “That’s why it’s so important that racial and ethnic
churches are there –– because people find their identity in their
likened ethnic churches to the early church in Antioch, which he said
first was made up only of Jews, but later encompassed Gentiles and
spurred the growth of Christianity.
“Antioch is the mother of all missionary churches,” Kim said.
immigrant and ethnic mission churches help people find their identity
and become rooted in Christianity, they find wings to reach out and
spread the gospel, he said. As younger generations take over, the
congregations often become inclusive, multicultural Christian
communities like the church in Antioch.
“The Antioch church was a church of roots, but it began to give wings to the people,” he explained.
|Edward Bach plays with the Market Street Brass during morning worship. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.|
bishop noted that the United Methodist Church also has roots in an
ethnic church, the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which initially
was made up of German congregations.
survived the Korean War as a refugee with his mother, brother and two
sisters, and he worked as a U.S. Army chaplain’s interpreter to support
his family after his father died. During that time, his mother converted
to Christianity and offered her four children to God.
coming to the United States, Kim was ordained in the United Methodist
Church, served as a pastor in New Jersey and was the first
Korean-American elected a bishop. His brother, the Rev. Joon Urn
Kim, is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Flushing, N.Y., a
large Korean-American congregation whose choir sang during the worship
bishop acknowledged that U.S. military forces that helped liberate
South Korea during the Korean War are one of the reasons “that we have
hope on the Korean peninsula today.”
of roots can promote an identity crisis in individuals, he noted. He’s
particularly concerned with helping adopted Korean children in the
United States to get to know their roots, he said.
|Choristers from Flushing, N.Y., sing during General Conference 2004. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.|
the bishop said, “Sometimes there is a danger in going back to the
roots. Fundamentalists go back to the Old Testament roots and stay
noted, “Christ gave us an identity ... beyond a national identity. The
roots of the cross reach to heaven,” he said. “We have not only ethnic
or national roots, but roots to God.”
Our roots give us wings; “we mount up with wings like eagles,” he added.
Conference, too, brings United Methodists back to their Wesleyan roots
and gives them wings to reach out, he said. “It is where we come to
energize ... to give us power to go into the world to serve God.”
*Campbell is a staff writer for the United Methodist Church’s Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference.
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