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Committee votes to recommend dissolution of nongeographic Korean-American presbytery

June 16, 2014

Despite pleas to give the Presbytery of Hanmi more time to solve its many issues, the Mid Councils Issues Committee of the 221st General Assembly (2014) voted overwhelmingly Monday to recommend that the Korean-American nongeographic presbytery be dissolved.

The committee voted 63-4 to approve the request from the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii. While an administrative commission has been working with the presbytery for about 15 years, the overture cited a number of problems remaining within the presbytery:

  • Hanmi presbytery “generally lacks trust in the work of its committees,” which do not have manuals of operation or agreed-upon presbytery policies.
  • The presbytery “is radically polarized to a point where its day-to-day functioning is dependent upon which side has more numbers in votes at any particular meeting.”
  • The presbytery “generally truly lacks comprehension of, and the avoidance of, conflict-of-interest; in fact, this concept has no translation in the Korean language.”
  • The administrative commission found polity and procedures being neglected “and often disregarded under the guise of cultural differences and convenience.”
  • Since its inception, Hanmi presbytery “has repeatedly been in conflict with those who held the role of stated clerk or acting stated clerk.…Presbytery meetings often run long and become contentious due (in addition to the radical polarization) to the lack of skills in the leadership who are running a meeting.”
  • The presbytery lacks financial viability. Many congregations have not paid any per capita for years.

Still, pastors in Hanmi asked for more time.

“If Hanmi no longer exists, where can our voice be heard?” asked David Won, Hanmi’s acting stated clerk. “We can be a viable presbytery if you give us two more years.”

John Moon, a Hanmi pastor, began by speaking first in Korean, then in Spanish, before finishing in English. He said the lack of understanding among many of the people in the committee room is of what his parishioners go through every day living in the United States.

“We will respect and honor your decision, although we do not believe it is the best way,” he said. “We plead with you, can’t we just have a little more time?”

Because the committee approved the recommendation with more than 75 percent of the vote, it could first considered on Wednesday afternoon under a new rule placing all such overwhelming votes on a consent agenda, meaning there would be no further discussion. However, any one commissioner could request it pulled from the agenda, moving consideration to later in the Assembly.

If the Assembly adopts the committee’s recommendation, a new administrative commission will be formed to oversee the transfer of Hanmi congregations and pastors to geographic presbyteries, or to supervise what’s called gracious dismissal to another Reformed body for Hanmi churches that can’t meet, or refuse to meet, geographic presbytery criteria. The work would be completed by December 31.

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