Pursuing Witness And Program Relationships

With The Korean Evangelical Church

1990 Church of the Brethren Statement

I. Background

The question of Church of the Brethren program initiatives for Christian witness in the Republic of Korea dates back to the early 1980s with interest and initiatives coming largely out of the Pacific Southwest Conference and related to the emergence there of several Korean Church of the Brethren congregations. In response to these interests and initiatives, consultations were initiated by staff of the World Ministries Commission (WMC) with partners in the Republic of Korea (ROK) to assess possible opportunities for program relationships. Consultations were also pursued with Mennonite leaders in the USA since they had addressed a similar interest and concern within their faith community. The result of the these conversations indicated an encouragement of program relationships with established Korean Protestant denominations and agencies but advising against the establishment of yet another Protestant denomination because of the already severe fragmentation of the Church of Christ in the Republic of Korea. With this counsel and assessment as well as the restricted availability offends for new programs, the WMC chose at that time not to pursue program relationships and commitments in Korea.

Following this decision of the WMC in 1984, however, the interest in relationships and programming in the Republic of Korea persisted. Consideration was again given to the matter and the possible establishment of a part or full time new staff portfolio for Asia, with a primary focus related to Korea. Furthermore, another exploratory visit to the Republic of Korea was planned for the fall of 1986 at the very time that a major financial crisis confronted the General Board requiring almost $1 million in budget reductions and subsequent staff and program reductions. Although this further exploratory visit was postponed, it was undertaken in the spring of 1988 with members bringing a report and recommendations to the October, 1988, WMC meeting. The action of the commission, following the reception of this report, instructed WMC staff to pursue further the conversations which had been initiated during that visit with persons in the Pusan, ROK, area representing the Korean Evangelical Church and the National Council of Churches in Pusan.

As instructed, staff carried out these further conversations with these representatives in August, 1989, and reported to the fall meeting of the WMC indicating keen interest on the part of these panics for the establishment of program relationships with the Church of the Brethren. At this same meeting staff was asked to outline possibilities for a third Korean option which would consider “planting the Church of the Brethren in Korea.” These three options were then detailed and presented to the March, 1990, meeting of the WMC for consideration and action.

II. WMC Action and Recommendation

After considerable discussion and debate the WMC chose to affirm and recommend the option to establish relationships with the Korean Evangelical Church (KEC). Major ingredients influencing this choice were; 1) the pleas from most Korean church leaders that the Church of the Brethren work with established churches in Korea rather than “further fragmenting the Church of Christ there,” 2) the possibility of working mutually with the KEC at all levels of our common church life, and 3) the option seemed to be within realistic financial considerations.

The Korean Evangelical Church (Ki Dok Kyo Tae Han Bok Um Kyo Hoi) was founded- in the 1930’s by a professor of Yonsei University, Dr. Choi Tae Yeoung. It emerged out of a concern for Korean identity and a rejection of what was perceived to be domination on the pan of foreign denominational structures and missionaries. It is a small indigenous church having about 50 congregations largely located in the areas of Pusan, Seoul and Kuns an. The church is actively engaged in the National Council of Churches of Korea and has deep ecumenical commitments. The denomination is also deeply engaged in social witness-peace, justice, human rights, ecological and other concerns. In recent years, while not deserting its solid Korean identity, it has seen the need for more contacts and relationships with communions in other countries and regions for faith sharing and common witness. It is out of this developing interest and believing that our two communions share a common understanding of Christian witness in today’s world, that the KEC has eagerly pursued these conversations and possible relationships.

If the recommendation of the WMC and General Board to establish this partnership or mutual relationship with the KEC is affirmed by the Annual Conference, it is recommended that the next steps in the relationship would be sharing of more information about our various traditions and programs. This would be followed by more serious and concerted discussions in the USA and the ROK by official delegations of the two communions in order to get to know one another and to build confidence and trust and then to move on to mutual program development.

In the initial conversations it was thought that if the two communions are of common mind to develop and share in one another’s life and programs that these might be some of the things we could bring as our offerings to one another:

Korean Evangelical Church …

  • Industrial mission type ministries
  • Ministries to the rural poor
  • Witness and work in nuclear disarmament and ecological concerns
  • Assistance in theological and lay leadership training for planting/developing the church Church of the Brethren…
  • Peace and justice ministries
  • Volunteerism and service ministries
  • Theological training, EFSM, TRIM
  • Passing on the Promise
  • Rural issues, concerns and witness

III. Action of the General Board

With this background and information the World Ministries Commission recommended to the General Board that this partnership or mutual relationship be established between the Korean Evangelical Church and the Church of the Brethren. After consideration and discussion the General Board passed the following motion without dissent and with five abstentions:

“Motion to affirm WMC’s action to pursue witness and program relationships with the Korean Evangelical Church to be passed to Annual Conference through Standing Committee for affirmation.”

Judy Mills Reimer
Donald E. Miller, General Secretary

Action of the 1990 Annual Conference: Glenn Timmons, a Standing Committee member from the Southern Ohio District, presented the recommendations from Standing Committee that the General Board paper PURSUING WITNESS AND PROGRAM RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE KOREAN EVANGELICAL CHURCH be approved. The delegate body adopted the recommendation of Standing Committee.