Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > 2010 > September > Archive
Korean clergywomen transcend barriers

 
Translate

5:00 P.M. EST Sept. 15, 2010

Korean clergywomen of The United Methodist Church gather during the August 2010 Convocation of Asian American United Methodists in New Jersey. A UMNS photo by Ju-Yeon (Julie) Jeon.
Korean clergywomen of The United Methodist Church gather during the August 2010 Convocation of Asian American United Methodists in New Jersey. A UMNS photo by Ju-Yeon (Julie) Jeon. View in Photo Gallery

The Rev. Myungim Kim anticipates the day when a Korean clergywoman will become a United Methodist bishop.

Until that time, she is doing her part to raise awareness about the "sacrifice and courage" these clergywomen demonstrate day-to-day in their ministries.

Many of their stories are chronicled in a new book, "The Holy Seed of Calling: Korean-American Clergywomen's Journey Toward Ordination."

Thirty clergywomen's stories are shared in the book. Its publication celebrates the 25th anniversary of the association, which began with a gathering of 30 women — including six ordained clergywomen. Today there are 130 Korean-American clergywomen in the denomination.

"One common thread you'll hear is the courage it took for these women to leave their home countries and come to America to preach the gospel," said Kim, president of the National Association of Korean-American United Methodist Clergywomen.

Voices of hope

The Rev. Seung-Eun Grace Lee was not aware that women could become pastors. Then one day as she walked outdoors, she heard "beautiful singing" and traced the music to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.

"I walked inside, and I saw a woman leading a service," the 57-year-old Lee said. "I had never seen such a thing. Usually, the pastor is a man. I spoke to the school, and they told me I could come study."

Before she had a chance, she was struck by a car and endured a long recuperation. Eventually, she graduated and today serves Community United Methodist Church in Desert Hot Springs, Calif.

"Every Korean clergywoman has an amazing story to tell about how God called them into ministry," she said. "I don't know all the stories. I can't wait to get the book and read about them."

Stories of Korean clergywomen are chronicled in a new book, “The Holy Seed of Calling: Korean-American Clergywomen's Journeys Toward Ordination.” Photo courtesy of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Stories of Korean clergywomen are chronicled in a new book, “The Holy Seed of Calling: Korean-American Clergywomen's Journeys Toward Ordination.” Photo courtesy of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Transcending cultural barriers

While the book focuses on the spiritual journeys of the clergywomen, in interviews they also discuss the cultural and gender obstacles they are still trying to cross.

"Koreans are used to a male-dominated culture. Many people prefer a male pastor," said the Rev. Michelle Mee-Hye Kim, an associate with the Korean United Methodist Church in McLean, Va.

In the Korean United Methodist Church, clergywomen are usually only assigned as associate pastors, they said.

When assigned to predominantly non-Korean congregations, they are typically given small congregations to lead, the women said. That limits their income and opportunities.

But there are no limits, the women said, on God’s plans for their ministries.

Giving thanks

In her essay, the Rev. Kyeong-Ah Woo wrote about living as a "non-white, unmarried Korean woman and pastor" in the United States. Today, she is married, pregnant and serving Burlington United Methodist Church in the Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference.

"I just got married, and now a baby is on the way. God is really full of surprises," said the 41-year-old Woo, who fell in love with a Presbyterian with a Korean background.

"I don't want people to throw me a baby shower, but I think they will," she said. "Because of my cultural background, I'm having to learn it's OK to be a care receiver as well as the caregiver."

At age 6, Woo became the first member of her family to attend a Christian church in Korea. When she was a young adult, The United Methodist Church chose Woo to participate in mission leadership opportunities in the United States.

She worked in California, New Jersey and Alabama doing everything from helping older adults to working with mentally challenged individuals.

"I grew in my faith and gained confidence," she said. "It was a great awakening. I'm so grateful for all the opportunities God has provided. Even though I grew up in a different culture, I appreciate that we are all one big community of faith."

*Susan Hogan is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Comments will be moderated. Please see our Comment Policy for more information.
Comment Policy
Add a Comment

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW