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Korean Presbyterian churches take deeper dive into Matthew 25 invitation

‘They all go together — evangelism, poverty and racism’

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

the Rev. Moongil Cho

LOUISVILLE — Since the Matthew 25 vision was introduced at the 222nd General Assembly (2016) and adopted at the 223rd General Assembly (2018), the Judgment of the Nations has provided the biblical foundation to urge the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.

Today almost 800 congregations, 37% of presbyteries, 56% of synods and nearly 40 other organizations affiliated with the PC(USA) have accepted the Matthew 25 invitation.

These numbers include every practically every entity of the denomination, including Korean Presbyterians. To date there are 10 Korean churches and three Korean-American presbyteries that have already accepted the Matthew 25 invitation.

The mission of the Korean Intercultural Congregational Support ministry is to inspire, equip, and connect Korean congregations in the PC(USA). Today there are 350 Korean congregations with nearly 50,000 active members. Korean congregations are in 15 synods and 120 presbyteries throughout the country. there is a strong presence along both coasts.

“I feel it is important for the Korean community to be aware of Matthew 25 and its three very important components, so I not only wrote a letter to Korean pastors and presbyters but I decided to hold a webinar to share the mission of Matthew 25 with the Korean churches,” said Moongil Cho, Associate for Korean Intercultural Congregational Support.

Cho says another reason for reaching out to the Korean churches was to help raise awareness of the issues facing the support of mission co-workers. “The Presbyterian Giving Catalog was recently published in Korean. Because of COVID-19 many churches cannot send funding for mission co-workers, which could be troublesome for mission. I thought this is very appropriate time for the Korean churches to participate through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog,” he said.

“Participating in Matthew 25 and giving through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog gives Koreans who are a part of the PC(USA) a sense of ownership,” Cho said. “It helps each member who participates in Presbyterian giving and Matthew 25 really get engaged with mission and with local people and local ministry.”

There were 60 Korean churches that participated in the February webinar. Cho says the participation and response by the churches was phenomenal. “This effort is being expanded to reach the entire Korean Presbyterian community,” said Cho. “They were very excited about Matthew 25 and giving. Of course, the churches will need to go back to their sessions for approval before going through the process.”

The webinar was recorded and a link to the meeting was sent to all Korean churches.

When asked what he would like to see happen because of the webinar, Cho said, “It is my hope is that the important Matthew 25 invitation and mission is embraced by the Korean church. I believe there are a lot of things that Korean churches can contribute. This is also an educational moment for the Korean churches.  They know that there is poverty, they know there’s racism, but they don’t know the details. So, it is important for Korean congregations to get engaged, to learn more and then participate in addressing these issues.”

With recent attacks on Asian Americans, the topic of racism has become more top of mind for many Americans. “We thought it [racism] was an issue between whites and Blacks, but it is no longer,” said Cho.  “We are deeply involved. We need to work together. This issue with racism is much deeper than a lot of Koreans thought. So as we get more diverse, it becomes a real issue — not only for Koreans, but for all racial communities in the USA.”

As the Matthew 25 invitation relates to eradicating systemic poverty, Cho says that while the U.S. is home to a number of wealthy Koreans, there are a lot of poor Korean people as well. He says the Korean community is also recognizing the depths of systemic and structural poverty in this country. “For example, a lot of people, a lot of Koreans, do not know if you go to a certain area of a town or city, there are no good grocery stores where you can buy fresh produce,” he said. “So, this is a learning opportunity for many Koreans.”

Cho says Koreans are somewhat isolated because of their culture and language. He recalled a book that he read some time ago titled “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” helped him to better understand this cultural dynamic and the isolation. He says as generations change, when young Koreans marry, they marry not only white people, but Blacks and Hispanics. “We are mixed,” said Cho. He says that because of these relationships, Koreans are becoming much more aware of racial and poverty issues.

“Not only are Koreans isolated, but we are insulated,” said Cho. “This is not on purpose, but because of our lifestyle and because of the conveniences we have in our communities.  We have started realizing that racism is a big issue, and we need to act right now. We can’t wait any longer.”

Because the Presbyterian Korean church is known for strong evangelism and church growth, Cho says it didn’t realize the critically important issues of racism and poverty. “But I want to remind people, they all go together — evangelism, poverty and racism,” said Cho. “They’re all connected. And this that’s why Jesus said what he said in Matthew 25.”

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