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Korean Council marks 40th anniversary

The 41st annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America was held June 13-15 at the historic Berendo Street Baptist Church, the first Southern Baptist church in the United States to worship in a Korean context. Photo by Don Biadog

LOS ANGELES – Celebration surrounded the historic 41st annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America.

Highlighted by intense prayer, worship and preaching, the event took place June 13-15 at Berendo Street Baptist Church in Koreatown, in conjunction with the 2022 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in nearby Anaheim.

Traditional Korean food, typically provided by the host church, is an important part of each annual meeting of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America. Photo by Don Biadog

“We are returning to the same church where we started, to celebrate 40 years of ministry as we celebrate our 41st annual meeting,” Executive Director James Kang told Baptist Press. “We give thanks to God for this.”

In 1957, Berendo Street Baptist Church – in the process of changing its name to Saenuri (New Community in English) –was the first Southern Baptist church in the United States to worship in a Korean context.

“Jesus: The Center of It All” was the theme, in keeping with the Korean Council’s tradition of using the same theme as that of the SBC annual meeting. More than 1,000 attended, including perhaps 80 children and youth, who had their own age-graded activities until they performed together at the Wednesday evening service.

Monday evening’s guest speaker was Byeong Rack Choi, pastor of Kangman Central Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in Seoul, South Korea. Compressed for time Monday, Choi elaborated Wednesday evening on his topic of stoking the fires of revival.

“Speaking from Genesis 26:18, Choi emphasized the importance of digging the wells of revival that had been dug in the past,” Kang told BP. “Just as Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, we need to dig the wells of revival our spiritual fathers dug in the past.”

Newly elected officers of the Council of Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America are (left to right) Recording Secretary Chun Kuk Oh, Executive Director James Kang, President Heong Boo Lee, Vice President Nak Cho and Treasurer Jeong Heo. Photo by Don Biadog

Tuesday afternoon’s empty schedule provided an opportunity for Koreans to attend the SBC annual meeting’s session in which votes were cast for president. But because of delays in the SBC’s meeting, more than 200 Koreans were unable to cast their votes before they had to return to their own meeting. Berendo Street Baptist is an hour’s drive or more – depending on traffic, sometimes much more – from the Anaheim Convention Center where the SBC’s meeting was taking place.

Vance Pitman spoke during the Tuesday evening session, which focused on missions. Pitman, president of the North American Mission Board’s Send Network, preached from Acts 1:1-14 on “World Changers.”

The disciples’ faith produced obedience, he said. They had a passion for unity; and a desperation for prayer. “There is no power in prayer,” Pittman said. “But there is power in whom we pray to.”

All business matters were allocated to Wednesday. The Korean Council’s fiscal year runs May 1 through April 30, and a simple majority is all that’s needed to pass a motion.

Reports were given by various departments within the Korean Council – home missions, foreign missions, education and more. The seminary committee reported statistics related to the SBC’s six seminaries: Gateway Seminary has 80 Korean students and two full-time professors; Midwestern, 674 students and 7 professors; New Orleans, 159 students and 2 professors; Southeastern, 27 students and no Korean professors; Southern, 50 and none; Southwestern, 270 and 2.

Approximately 80 children and youth were among the more than 1,000 attendees at the 2022 annual meeting of the Korean Council. Photo by Don Biadog

In his executive director’s report, Kang discussed how the Korean Council has adapted the SBC’s Vision 2025, such as the Korean Council’s goal of sending out 70 international missionaries and planting 30 churches. The Korean Council published the 40th Anniversary of KCSBCA History in Korean and gave each registered messenger a copy.

As part of its ministry to member churches, the Korean Council produced, provided and shipped at no cost a year’s worth of high-quality bulletins for churches as a way of helping struggling churches get past the trauma of the recent pandemic.

“Bulletins are important resource for Korean church members,” Kang said. “They like to share them, maybe at a restaurant, so they need to be good quality.” So far, 45 churches have taken that offer, the executive director said.

The Korean Council also paid for and had professionally designed websites developed for churches forced to enter the digital age but who didn’t have the expertise or money to build websites themselves, Kang reported.

Unrelated to the 40th anniversary celebration, Kang noted, Korean Southern Baptist Churches in America sent more than $258,000 to help with Ukraine relief and refugee efforts last month.

The money came from the Fellowship group’s 970 churches.

“That wasn’t part of the celebration,” Kang said. “That was in response to a need.”

Motions followed Kang’s report. After passionate debate on both sides, a motion to allow 12 Atlanta-area churches to form a separate Korean Baptist association passed with one more vote than was needed for a majority vote. The issue revolved around the use of the word “elder,” which some said was perfectly acceptable and others, that it wasn’t biblical and shouldn’t be used in a Baptist context.

Another motion, passed unanimously, was to accept the gift of 60 acres in Texas for a “prayer mountain” if it is donated as anticipated in the next year or more to the Korean Council.

A $1,256,000 budget for 2022-23 was approved. The budget is an increase of $224,000 from the 2021-22 budget. Income, however, exceeded the budget by $579,710, though that amount included $258,770 for Ukraine needs.

Out of all income in 2021-22, 48 percent was allocated for foreign missions; 20 percent for compassion ministry expenditures, including $258,770 for Ukraine, and 14 percent for home missions.

The Korean Council has two missionaries who have been working in Ukraine for 30 years. They received 60 percent of the money. Ten couples from the Korean Baptist Convention in South Korea have gone to help with refugees on the border countries near Ukraine. They received 20 percent of the money. NAMB’s Send Relief received the remaining 20 percent.

Haeng Boo Lee, pastor of Korean Unity Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., was elected president in a six-vote lead over Young Ha Kim, pastor of Shalom Mission Baptist Church in Anaheim, Calif.. Lee garnered 168 votes; Kim, 162.

Nak “Joseph” Cho was elected vice president by acclamation. He is pastor of Tidewater Korean Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Va., and chairman of the Korean Council’s Overseas Mission Board.

Jeong Heo was elected treasurer. He is pastor of Hanmaum International Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.

Chun Kuk Oh was elected recording secretary. He is pastor of Arizona New Light Baptist Church in Phoenix. Phil Sang Han was elected auditor. He is pastor of Antioch Korean Baptist Church in Flushing, N.Y.

“It is always a blessing when we can gather together and celebrate what God is doing among us,” Kang said. “It was an added blessing this year to meet at Berendo Street Baptist Church and reflect on the many blessings we have received from Him over the last 40 years.”

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  • Karen Willoughby