This was originally posted in the Office of Theology and Worship blog on November 30, 2010 by Kevin Park.
On Korean Language Presbyteries at the 219th General Assembly
The highlight of this year’s 219th General Assembly in Minneapolis (July 2-10), for me happened on Thursday morning, July 8. The GA Assembly Committee on Middle Governing Body Issues proposed a motion for a formation of a fifth Korean Language Presbytery as requested by ten Korean PC(USA) churches in the Synod of the South Atlantic. The motion was supposed to pass without much controversy especially because the details had been discussed in the Committee on Middle Governing Body Issues and the Committee overwhelmingly supported the motion. But three young Korean American 1.5 and 2nd generation women clergy delegates spoke against the motion and the motion was overwhelmingly defeated. You can watch the video – go to Thursday morning, Session 5 – Part 9, starting from 01:09. Of the three women minister delegates (Theresa Cho, Yena Hwang, Irene Pak), somehow, Irene Pak’s comments are missing in the video.
The three minister delegates articulated at least three reasons against the motion. First, Korean language presbyteries traditionally do not value the leadership of women, especially second generation women pastoral leadership. Second, Korean language presbyteries do not include second generation pastor leaders, both male and female, especially those who do not speak Korean. And third, Korean language presbyteries are not sufficiently accountable to the larger church. The presentations were clear, compelling, and powerful. The outcome of the motion was a stunning defeat of what was at work for more than two years.
When I heard about what had happened I knew that this would create a bombshell of a controversy, especially within the Korean American PC(USA) community. My first thoughts and feelings were of marvel and respect for the women pastors who spoke out so prophetically and eloquently without regards to whatever consequences they may face. Then I wondered how the different generations of Korean Americans will handle what had happened. On the one hand, given a culture that is deeply rooted in Confucian norms the first generation had “lost face” in the most public venue of the denomination. On the other hand, the women had spoken out on some long standing issues that needed to be addressed that would resonate strongly with many first and second generation clergy and church leaders in the Korean churches. I also sensed almost immediately that how we deal with this issue, not only within the Korean PC(USA) community but within the wider church will have important consequences on our diversity vision of Growing Christ’s Church Deep and Wide: “Welcome everyone. Learn from others. Reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of God’s peoples in the world.” Theologically, there was a plethora of issues to be explored: theology of generations, theology of diversity for the whole church and also within marginal communities, theology of language, theology of power, feminist and womanist theologies …
As a response I had the privilege of organizing and convening a Pastor Theologian Consultation sponsored by the Office of Theology and Worship that invited the three women pastors who spoke on the GA floor and ten other Korean American pastors and seminary professors who represented generations (1st, 1.5, 2nd) and gender. We gathered in Colorado Springs on Oct. 20-22 and had a very intense and productive theological discussion. I cannot share everything in a single blog so I will write a series of blogs on reflections surrounding the many theological issues raised in the Pastor Theologian Consultation. Teresa Cho, who is a regular blogger, has posted an excellent blog.
I welcome and encourage you to participate in this discussion by responding to this and the subsequent blogs on this topic.