A Korean pastor’s group in California has raised the question of whether racial discrimination is behind a presbytery’s refusal to dismiss a Korean church from the Presbyterian Church (USA).
More than a year ago, on March 23, 2014, Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church (GSPC)—one of the largest PCUSA Korean congregations in Calif., —voted by 91 percent to leave the PCUSA. Out of the 817 votes submitted, 738 voted to leave and 74 voted to stay. The vote also gave approval to the terms negotiated for dismissal with the presbytery including the congregation paying $635,000 to the presbytery for its property.
San Gabriel Presbytery’s gracious dismissal policy states that if 75 percent –or more – of the congregation votes to be dismissed from the PCUSA to another Reformed body, then the presbytery would vote on the dismissal request at its following meeting.
Fourteen months later, San Gabriel Presbytery has not finalized the dismissal, even though the church followed the presbytery’s dismissal policy and met all of its requirements.
In a May 21 letter (Korean translation here), the Korean Pastors Association of Eastern Region of LA declared that it was “confounded by PCUSA’s unwillingness to comply with the very policy that it officially adopted.”
Calling the current impasse “truly disappointing,” the letter continued that the Pastor’s Association is “very concerned and worried over whether the Administrative Commission of San Gabriel Presbytery has unintentionally caused, fostered or condoned dissension and conflicts by inexplicably delaying its implementation of the Policy and the finalization of GSPC’s severance from PCUSA.”
Drawing comparisons between the congregation’s vote on dismissal and the recent vote by PCUSA presbyteries on same sex marriage, the letter made the point that “If the decision by the vote of an overwhelming majority of GSPC’s congregation is not respected because of a vociferous minority, then PCUSA’s decision to accept homosexuals will not be respected and followed. Both the decision of a majority of PCUSA members and the decision of a majority of GSPC members must be respected and followed. Otherwise, the credibility and integrity of PCUSA and the Administrative Commission will be seriously questioned, and the seed of distrust and anger will be planted.”
The letter was clear: “If GSPC’s decision must be revisited and reconsidered because of the vociferous objection of the minority, then PCUSA’s decision must also be revisited and reconsidered.”
The Pastor’s Association stated that it respected the process followed at arriving at the PCUSA’s decision on homosexual ordination and its decision on marriage, and likewise, requested that the AC respect the church’s overwhelming vote to be dismissed.
Stating that many other churches have – in accordance to the presbytery’s dismissal policy – been able to leave the PCUSA, the letter drew attention to the fact during the same time frame and under the same policy, Korean churches are having difficulties “creating doubts and bitter feelings in the hearts of our members.”
“Unfortunately, we are being forced to conclude that this is about discrimination toward Korean-American churches and that double standard does, in fact, exist in this matter.”
“If PCUSA truly considers local Korean-American churches and pastors as your own brothers and sisters in Christ, we sincerely ask for PCUSA’s full attention and support so that our Christian brothers and sisters will no longer suffer pain and no longer be disappointed.
The Korean Pastor’s Association of Eastern Region of LA consists of more than 30 churches and 50 pastors from Korean-American churches. Good Shepherd is an active member of the association, along with its pastor, Tae Hyung Ko.
The presbytery reported that it has accepted Rev. Tae-Hyung Ko’s letter of renunciation of the jurisdiction of the PCUSA dated March 29, 2015, effective May 11, 2015. Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church of Rowland Heights, Calif., has been approved for membership in ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.
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