First no-geographic presbytery established a multicultural milestone.
The inauguration of the Synod’s Korean Presbytery on December 11, 2011, was, in the words of the Moderator, the Rev. DrBrian Brown, “an extremely important occasion in the life of theUnitingChurch”.
The service, held at the Dong San Church, Mays Hill, was attended by Korean community leaders as well as past and present leaders of the church from the Synod and the national Assembly.
In his opening prayers, the Rev. Sang Jin Lee spoke of the new presbytery and the rest of the Uniting Church overcoming cultural and language differences and learning from one another so the church could be united.
The Rev. Ki Soo Jang recalled the history of Korean churches inSydney.
He said the first Korean congregation in the uniting churches began inSydneyin 1974 under the oversight of the Rev. John Brown.
Over 30 years later there are nearly 200 Korean congregations in New South Wales, 23 of which are congregations in the Uniting Church.
Since 1988 the Council of Korean Churches has provided opportunities for Korean ministers across Australia in the Uniting Church and other churches to meet, pray and offer each other support.
Korean churches and leaders struggled for many years to participate in English-speaking presbyteries and relied on the Council of Korean Churches and a Synod Korean Advisory Committee to provide connection with the Uniting Church and each other.
Alternate Korean regulations were approved by the Assembly in 1999 and 2007 to integrate Uniting Church polity with Korean culture and church tradition.
In 2003, Korean congregations and ministers worked with the Board of Mission and Assembly Multicultural Ministry to shape a proposal to establish a Korean Commission.
The proposed Korean Commission would operate bilingually, integrating Korean lay and ordained leaders and other Uniting Church leaders into a decision-making and support structure in the Uniting Church that would bring Korean Churches closer together and grow a deeper sense of their participation in the life of the Uniting Church.
The Korean Commission was established in 2004 with lay and ordained representatives from nine congregations and ministers, representatives from six presbyteries, the Board of Mission, the General Secretary Korean ministers trained at the United Theological College.
Presbyteries delegated their responsibilities for those Korean congregations — except the responsibility for selection of candidates for specified ministries and ordinations — to the Korean Commission through the Synod.
Some responsibilities regarding commencing a congregation and sharing property were shared.
The Commission had a standing committee, a pastoral relations committee, mission committee and second generation committee and was required to have a quota of lay, female and under-40s members at Korean Commission meetings.
A review and extension of the Korean Commission took place in 2007.
In the last seven years the Korean Commission was the fastest growing group in the Synod.
It contributed to Aboriginal and rural ministries in the Synod, Uniting World, bushfire appeals and youth praise and worship events.
It actively participated in Synod meetings and events and encouraged better relationships between Korean and English-speaking congregations.
Mr Jang said the Commission had a number of programs to educate members and leaders about theUnitingChurchand the Basis of Union and developed a thorough process for congregations joining theUnitingChurchthrough the Commission.
Dr Brian Brown preached on “Our Mutual Authority Under Christ”, saying that because trust had prevailed Korean and non-Korean members of the church could say they were “in this together as equals”.
He said, “The step we take together today is in fact the final long stride in a journey that has taken over ten years to complete. And what a joyful step it is!
“Joy is what we feel when a vision becomes a reality.
“Joy is what we feel when hard, committed work bears its fruit.
“Joy is what we feel when we celebrate what it means to be a truly multicultural church.”
He said as he read again the Uniting Church statement about being a multicultural church, certain sentences stood out:
- A multicultural church encourages people from different ethnic backgrounds to take up their life in the church and contribute to that life
- A multicultural church develops policies and processes to assist the full participation of all its members
- A multicultural church reflects equality and partnership in sharing the resources God has given.
“So, today we celebrate an occasion when what we say with the best of intentions equates with what we do in practice.”
He said the new presbytery would face many challenges that would test both faith and patience.
“One of those challenges arises from the fact that some come with a strong traditional cultural ethos. This may vary at some points or to some extent from the ethos of theUnitingChurchthat flows from the founding denominations and has continued to be formed in the crucible of a sometimes turbulent national and global community over the last 34 years.
“There are and will be points of tension that will have to be faced and dealt with.
“In some things you may be assertive; in others you may decide to submit to the process of change.”
Two things would guide the presbytery, he said. One was the authority of Jesus Christ. The other was the trust that underpinned relationships in the Uniting Church in Australia, “a church of which we are justly proud, and whose ethos we highly value”.
Dr Brown said, “Be positive about the church of which we are a part. We have the strongest possible foundation in Jesus Christ.
“We have a sound ethos built on the recognition that we are called to love both God and our neighbour, so our spirituality embraces the call to compassion and justice for all people.”
He said, “We are witness to significant and exciting fresh expressions of mission in the life of our church, clearly obvious in the growth of some of our migrant-ethnic congregations.
“Yes there are areas of struggle and challenge but nothing that cannot be endured and transformed if we are willing to follow God, walk with Jesus, be led by the Spirit, and trust one another on new and risky paths.”
Mr Han Hoon Lee, Deputy Consul General of the Republic of Korea, brought the Consul General’s congratulations and noted it had been 50 years since a Korean diplomatic mission was established in Australia and that there were 150,000 Korean people living in Australia.
Mr Byung Il Kim, President of the Korean Society of Sydney, also expressed his congratulations.
The Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, the church’s national director of multicultural ministry, brought greetings from Uniting Church President the Rev. Alistair Macrae.
Dr Floyd also expressed his disappointment that, 26 years after declaring itself to be a multicultural church, the Uniting Church only had one presbytery outside the Northern Territory that was bilingual.