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The PC(USA)’s Mid Council Ministries director looks at how a connectional church works


The Rev. Jihyun Oh is the guest on the recent ‘A Matter of Faith’ podcast

November 14, 2023

The Rev. Jihyun Oh

If you want to know how and why the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is known as a connectional church, ask the Rev. Jihyun Oh.

That’s precisely the connection Simon Doong and the Rev. Lee Catoe, the hosts of A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast, made last week. Listen to their conversation with Oh, an assistant stated clerk and the director of Mid Council Ministries in the Office of the General Assembly, here.

Noting some people’s perceived disconnect between the national church and local congregations, Catoe and Doong asked Oh, “How can we be better connected, especially in today’s society?”

“We are now in an age of relationship,” Oh said. “There is high value on authenticity and relating,” and the nation is experiencing an epidemic of loneliness, Oh noted.

There are things Presbyterians can do as congregations and as individuals “to participate in God’s mission and ministry in the world,” Oh said. “We think doing that together is better than doing it ourselves. … Being interdependent in order to be more faithful in life and in ministry are the fundamental ways in which we talk about the connectional church.”

“As a denomination we have said, ‘We can have more impact in the world if we can make those decisions together and discern the will of Christ together,’” Oh said. While other faith communities are designed in a more hierarchical structure, “our power is in those mid councils, in presbyteries,” Oh said, citing as an example the way that overtures are introduced by mid councils during General Assembly. “It’s folks saying, ‘This is a really big deal for our community. We want the entire denomination to think about this particular issue and discern what God is telling us to do about it.”

“A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast” with the Rev. Lee Catoe and Simon Doong drops each Thursday.

“Participation is really important in our denomination as part of being that connectional church,” Oh said. “Anybody in a congregation who says, ‘Hey, we really should be thinking about this’ — bring it before your session and then send it on to your presbytery.” That act could lead to a redetermination of “how we’re resourcing certain communities that are being under-resourced” or for the PC(USA) “to give more thought about how we’re engaging with particular communities that have been under-supported or whose voices are not prominent or have been silenced for too long. … People are discerning the movement of the Spirit and saying, ‘I think the whole denomination should think about that.’”

Studies show that “the church [in the U.S.] continues to move to the margins of society,” Oh said. However, “if we can think about the margins having the possibility of being a place where we can look to the center and critique the center, we can meet people and imagine new possibilities that are not possible in the center. Is there a way to embrace the margins?”

But the church is growing in the Southern Hemisphere, Oh said. “They are bringing fresh eyes and some critique to the way we are living the gospel in the U.S. and the ways we think about connection and how we think about the sharing of resources.” A critique from church partners in Eastern Europe “asks us to think about our ties to capitalism and how we think about money and resources. Those critiques can be hard to hear, but some of those values can get in the way of us connecting and listening to people who are part of the communion themselves.”

Oh put in a plug for OGA’s Along the Road podcast series, which features new episodes each Wednesday. “We were thinking about how can we be a connectional church together where more leaders feel empowered and equipped to live out their calling as leaders in the church,” Oh explained. “How do they understand their responsibilities? How are they tending to their spiritual life?” The longer editions, 30 minutes or more, focus on polity, Oh said, while the shorter versions, which are 10-20 minutes each, are devoted to spiritual practices. The creators “took a breather in the summer,” Oh said, but are once again relaunching the series.

New episodes of “A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast” drop every Thursday. Watch previous editions here.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Rev. Jihyun Oh, guest on ‘A Matter of Faith’ podcast

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
James Rissler, President & CEO, Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program
Leslie Rizzo, Production Clerk, Hubbard Press, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)

Let us pray

We pray that these and other efforts throughout our denomination will raise up new disciples of Jesus Christ. May they help to spread the good news of the gospel both near and far. In his holy name we pray. Amen.

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