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Korean Baptists celebrate 42nd meeting

New officers of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America were elected at the group's meeting June 12-15 at Ridgecrest, North Carolina. (Submitted photo)

BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C. (BP) – In a break from its usual practice, the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America met for its annual meeting June 12-15 at Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, rather than in the same city as the SBC annual meeting.

Known informally as the Korean Council, the Fellowship leaders determined its annual meeting needed to stay in North Carolina, where the SBC originally planned to meet this year.

“When SBC decided to change the location of its meeting from Charlotte, North Carolina, to New Orleans, we were unable to adjust our plans accordingly,” Executive Director James Kang told Baptist Press. “We ultimately chose to host our 42nd annual meeting at Ridgecrest Conference Center. 

“We really missed the SBC annual meeting,” Kang continued. “We were really concerned about things happening in the SBC this year. We wanted to be there and give our voices.”

Just as at the SBC’s annual meeting, there were different thoughts among Korean pastors about the disfellowshipping of three churches, but for his opinion, Kang said, “In spite of differences, I am saddened to witness Saddleback Church’s departure from the SBC.

The 2023 Korean Council’s annual meeting gathered, as usual, with the theme of the SBC’s annual meeting: “Serving the Lord, Serving Others.” 

In a first-ever break from the tradition of providing Korean meals and snacks throughout each of the four days of the gathering, attendees feasted on American fare provided by the Ridgecrest staff.

Guest speakers included Young Min Paik, president of Korea Baptist Theological Seminary in Daejeon, South Korea; James Linton, president of Wellspring of Life, a North Carolina-based ministry that drills water wells in North Korea; and Alex Sands, 2022 second vice president of the SBC and founding pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Simpsonville, S.C. 

Perhaps the biggest news coming out of the reporting times for the Korean Council’s ministry departments was the recent agreement with Lifeway Christian Resources.

“We have a contract with Lifeway to manage all the Korean translation of the Exploring Bible series of Sunday School materials,” Kang said. “It used to be Lifeway handling everything, but now they have given a contract to our Council to translate and publish the Korean version. 

“We decided since we are doing this, to use better paper, better binding and design better for Korean churches,” the executive director explained. “Our council will offer it free for fall semester in our churches. We will take up all the charges. Hopefully, this will motivate many churches to use it and revitalize their Sunday Schools. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of our Korean churches have experienced a decline in spiritual morale. Our hope is that revitalizing our Sunday School will help our churches back to being vitalized churches.”

One of seven breakout sessions was titled “Growing churches through Sunday School.” Others included a history of Korean Baptist churches; an overview of the Bible through “Big Pictures;” effective ways to Bible memorization; local church missions strategy; IMB partnerships; and “Friends of North Korea,” a ministry based out of North Carolina.

On Tuesday afternoon, typically without sessions so members can participate in the SBC annual meeting, Koreans were instead offered a variety of sight-seeing options, such as a tour of the Biltmore estate in Asheville, Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove near Asheville, and Chimney Rock State Park, about 25 miles southeast of Ridgecrest.

“The location was great,” Kang said, “Ridgecrest is a beautiful retreat center with a rich spiritual heritage. All the speakers emphasized the importance of renewal, and serving others through God’s love. We were blessed with excellent speakers, an ideal setting, perfect 70-degree weather, and a serene atmosphere to nurture our spirituality. It truly felt like a retreat, rather than just a gathering.”

With no controversy, the business sessions Wednesday were completed with three hours to spare.

A $1.9 million budget was approved. This includes $700,000 for international missions and $150,000 for church planting and church revitalization in the United States.

In his executive director’s report, Kang said the Korean Council is continuing with its Vision 2027 goals, which include sending out 70 Korean missionaries, starting 30 churches across the United States, and revitalizing churches by encouraging pastors to take a fresh look at the benefit of strong Sunday Schools for adults as well as children. 

“We must do our part to reach every city, every nation, every person with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Kang said. “This is the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20.”

Each officer was elected without opposition: President Joseph Cho, pastor of Tidewater Korean Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. First Vice-President Young Ha Kim, pastor of Shalom Mission Baptist Church in Orange County, California; and Second Vice-President Tae Doo Kim, pastor of Vision Korean Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Re-elected were Treasurer Jeong Heo, pastor of Hanmaum International Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas; and Recording Secretary Chun Kuk Oh, pastor of Arizona New Light Baptist Church in Phoenix. 

As an extra cause for celebration, Kang announced the 1,000 churches across the SBC that worship in a Korean context raised more than $550,000 as of June 10 for victims of the February 6, 2023, earthquake that devastated Turkey near the Syrian border.

Korean individuals and churches responded generously to the plight of Turkey and its Syrian refugees suffering from a 7.8 earthquake and thousands of aftershocks earlier this year, which killed more than 46,000 people.

The money the Koreans gave, in addition to their regular missions giving, was parceled out either as designated by the donor, or in thirds, to the SBC’s Send Relief, to a combined ProtestantChurches Foundation in Turkey, and to Last Call, a ministry working among Syrian refugees in Turkey.

As of May 2022, the Korean Council had sent more than $258,000 to help with Ukraine relief and refugee efforts.

“Our people are compassionate to help people who are in need,” Kang said. “Not only is it a biblical mandate, but Koreans have also experienced crises and received help when in need.”

The 2024 annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America is to take place in Indianapolis during the time of the SBC annual meeting.