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Presbytery of New York City celebrates another milestone

Ruling Elder Terri Youn installed as body’s first female Asian American moderator

by Jim Nedelka | Special to the Presbyterian News Service

Photo of a portion of the New York City skyline by Jonas Brief via Unsplash

NEW YORK — “I stand honored by your trust, inspired by your charge.”

With these words Ruling Elder Terri Youn opened the stated meeting of the Presbytery of New York City shortly after 9 o’clock on Saturday morning, March 6, commencing her one-year term as the body’s moderator, the first female Asian American elected to serve in this position.

Youn, like her parents a member of Bedford Park Presbyterian Church in the Bronx, was formally installed by her immediate predecessor, Ruling Elder Frances Thom, herself a record-setter, who led the new moderator through the installation questions  and then presented her with the presbytery’s traditional handcrafted Moderator’s Stole.

With COVID-19 protocols still front and center, and having as she said, “survived the first-ever virtual General Assembly last year,” Youn was right at home as the meeting Zoomed along — that is, until her wi-fi crashed about an hour into the proceedings. When her circuit didn’t come back up within a reasonable amount of time, the Rev. Robert L. Brashear, the body’s moderator-elect, picked up the baton and carried the meeting to its conclusion about two hours later.

Youn, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, served as the presbytery’s moderator-elect during 2020. She thanked “my family, who is overjoyed and supportive in my new role as the moderator and so are my friends and church.”

Terri Youn

Following the meeting, Youn, a former education columnist for The Korea Times, discussed why her new role is so groundbreaking.

“Culturally, Koreans do not usually choose to promote an unmarried female as an ordained deacon,” Youn said, “let alone an unmarried female as an ordained ruling elder.”

In an email, Youn praised the strong support of her fellow Bedford Park congregants.

“I am the first female clerk of session, the first female (elder) commissioner of the church and the first female minister of music at Bedford Park,” she wrote. “Because our church has been on the progressive side, I was able to break the glass ceiling of the traditional Korean-American church established by the first-generation immigrants.”

At the presbytery level, she has chaired the General Cabinet and been a member of the Commission on Ministry, Committee on Representation, Personnel Committee and Vital Congregations.

When not engaged in ecclesiastical activities, Youn, who’s president of TL Youn LLC, serves as director of the SEED Learning Center located in the New York City suburb of Hartsdale, New York.

Youn said she is “a bit surprised by how early” this role presented itself to her.

“My father and mother always encouraged me to ‘go to the presbytery’ because they felt that I ‘will find a place there,’” Youn said.

“I feel special,” she told presbytery commissioners, “because you have embraced me as a friend and a sister in Christ.”

JIm Nedelka, the elder commissioner to the Presbytery of New York City from Avenue Church NYC, endowed by Jan Hus Presbyterian Church, has been contributing pieces to the Presbyterian News Service since 2008.

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