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Creating a culture of call among young people in the Korean American community

HiRho Park
June 2, 2015

How can The United Methodist Church (UMC) assist Korean American young clergy candidates for ordained ministry? Twenty-four young Korean American candidates—most in their 20s and 30s— that have started the candidacy certification process for ordained ministry in the UMC gathered from all around the U.S. to explore this question at a seminar entitled “The United Methodist Korean American Seminarian Information and Mentoring Session for the Ordination Process” in Chicago, Illinois, May 18–20, 2015.

Wonho Kim, a student at Candler School of Theology, said of the event, “This was what I needed. I not only learned about the denomination in a deeper way but more importantly it was a time for me to confirm my calling to ordained ministry in the UMC.” 

The seminar, hosted by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the Korean Ministry Plan of the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), aimed to provide participants guidance in five areas:

  • Pertinent information about the process of ordination in the UMC
  • General understanding of the structure and system of the UMC
  • Information about different ministry tracks
  • An opportunity for advancing pastoral leadership for congregational development
  • A network of support among peers and with Korean American leaders of the UMC. 

Participant Eunice Kim said, “I wish all of Korean American friends at the Drew Theological Seminary would have attended this seminar.  It was very helpful for those who just started the candidacy process.” 

Gi-il Lee of Wesley Theological Seminary added, “It was a time for learning about ministries of the UMC from the heart not just learning about them intellectually. My heart was warmed by all the presenters whose passion of responding to their calling was so obvious.”

Other speakers included the Rev. Meg Lassiat, director of Candidacy, Mentoring and Conference Relations at GBHEM; the Rev. Paul Chang, executive director of the Korean Ministry Plan at GBGM; the Rev. Young-Mee Park, district superintendent in the Northern Illinois Conference; the Rev. Ouk-Yean Kim Jeung, senior pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights; and the Rev. Henry HeonYoung Whang, senior pastor at the Korean United Methodist Church of South Suburban Chicago.

Dr. Hanna Ka, a candidate for ordained ministry who earned a doctoral degree from Boston University School of Theology, said, “This seminar was unique in a sense that it was relevant to Korean American candidates since it was focused on both American and Korean American contexts. It was different than all other information sessions that I have attended in the past.”

The 2012 General Conference called for GBHEM to work toward increasing the number of young clergy. In addition to administering the Young Clergy Initiative fund, a program that has distributed 75 grants totaling $5.5 million for creative projects to build the ranks of young clergy in the UMC, GBHEM has also assisted racial-ethnic United Methodist seminarians by providing opportunities for them to learn about the ordination process in their original language.

Park is director of Clergy Lifelong Learning, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.