News Articles

Discord ends in compromise at Korean Council meeting

WHEATON, Ill. (BP)–The good news was financial; the bad news was discord for the first time at the annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America, which met June 19-22 at Wheaton College.

It was the 25th annual gathering of the Korean Council, and it included videotaped congratulatory messages from Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, and from Wanda Lee, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union. Approximately 600 people attended the meeting.

A seven-person delegation from Korea, including the chairman of the Korean Baptist Convention and president of the Korean Baptist Theological Seminary, attended the June 19 celebration service and presented an envelope filled with $20,000 in U.S. dollars from the Korean Baptist Convention to Gulf Coast Korean pastors affected by last year’s hurricanes.

The congregation showed its appreciation as President Ki Tak Kim fanned the bills for all to see. Kim is pastor of Korean Baptist Church of Sonoma County, Calif.

During a 15-hour business session June 21 (including two short meal breaks), Executive Director Tae Hwan “Timothy” Park announced that SBC Korean Churches in America had gathered more than $72,000 to help with hurricane relief efforts. Park recently retired as church planting strategist for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

Among other meeting highlights:

— Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, spoke about the Acts 1:8 Challenge. In an hour-long presentation, which he had translated into a paper document for non-English speakers, Adams showed how Jesus’ final command — “go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the world” — meshed with the organization of the SBC.

— Eight women from the Korean Council’s national Woman’s Missionary Union board explained how, with its age-level organizations, WMU could help pastors and churches focus on missions. Angela Kim of Houston, Texas, chairs the Korean WMU. A dozen women across the nation are translating WMU materials into Korean, Kim said.

“Hopefully our leadership and materials will grow together,” Kim said. “We hope to have Korean women in WMU in all state conventions.”

But the discord, which had been brewing since the 2005 annual meeting of the Korean Council, muted the good news and overshadowed the “Happy Families” theme, which included a husband and wife team from Korea who talked about how changing their marriage from a typical Korean patriarchial style to a companionship style brought great happiness to their family.

The discordant issue: the election last year of Park as the Korean Council’s only paid worker.

Park was one of four candidates last year; he garnered 70 percent of the votes. But some people –- including the previous executive director, Chi Choon Lee -– believed it was not a valid election because according to that faction’s interpretation of the constitution and bylaws, Park did not meet the requirements: he was over 65 and his ministry was as a language consultant for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, rather than as a pastor.

These concerns were raised at the time of election, but the 2005 president -– who interprets the constitution and bylaws differently –- ruled that Park was to remain a candidate. That compounded the problem, because the 2005 president was Manpoong “Dennis” Kim of Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, Md. Some alleged that Kim had bent the rules for another person from Maryland.

Several e-mails over the last year fueled the controversy. Lee did not turn over official documents, financial information, equipment or furniture to Park -– not so much as a desk in the Korean Council’s new headquarters in Dallas, Park said.

Lee told Baptist Press he did not turn over anything because he would not be a part to anything illegal.

Park, a first-generation immigrant, told Baptist Press that he reeled from the ugly talk and rejection, so unlike the Korean reverence of leaders, but that he didn’t know what God wanted him to do. He said he wanted to quit and his wife wanted him to quit, but he had been elected and because he had not heard from God, determined that his responsibility was to honor the vote of the people.

Such discord is anathema to Korean people, several people said. None of the people who were asked wanted to be interviewed for the record because of their respect for all the people involved. The discord reflected a clash of cultures, with some people fearing the political power of an American-style “good old boy” system, observers said.

Several people also said the constitution and bylaws were confusing and open to interpretation.

To prepare for the tumultuous meeting he knew the 2006 annual session would be, President Ki Tak Kim read three books on how to lead meetings, he said at one point. He juxtaposed American and Korean styles of parliamentary procedure in order to give all who wanted to speak a time at the microphone.

At one point President Kim banished one speaker from the room for disruption of the proceedings. However, when he saw him back in the hall a couple of hours later, the president said, “You’re not supposed to be in here, but since you are, please come and lead us in a prayer for lunch,” according to translator Eunice Kim.

Several people commented on the grace with which President Kim led the meeting, a grace that honored and respected all who had a wish to speak. Ultimately, that grace prevailed and unity was restored through compromise.

Former Executive Secretary Lee announced that he came to see the need to include love in his position. He agreed after talking privately with Park to drop his objection to Park, and others followed suit.

Park agreed to resign after one more year, at the midway point in his term.

“I was almost in tears,” said one observer who asked not to be named because he did not want to seem to favor any one person. “Pastor Park is a big man. He was elected to a four-year term and most people here were happy for him to continue, but to sow peace, he will leave in one year.”

With the issue of the executive director settled, officers for the 2006-07 term were elected: Seung Bin Park, pastor of Korean Baptist Church in Memphis, was elected president; Shin Ki Baik, pastor of New Way Korean Baptist Church in Atlanta, was elected first vice president; Bok K. Leu, pastor of Korean Memorial Baptist Church of Killeen, Texas, was elected second vice president; and Chong Oh Aum, pastor of Korean Baptist Church in Germantown, Tenn., was elected secretary.

The 2006 annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America also included recognition of:

— pioneers in establishing work in the U.S. with Koreans.

— pastors who served in one church at least 20 years.

— Korean missionaries at the annual meeting who are among more than 200 Koreans serving through the SBC’s International Mission Board.
Translation provided by Eunice Lim.