By a wide margin Friday, 529-44 (92-8 percent), commissioners at the 221st General Assembly (2014) dissolved the nongeographic Hanmi Presbytery, a Korean-American presbytery.
The vote of 529-44, or 92-8 percent, adopted a recommendation from the Assembly Committee on Mid Council Issues Committee.
Doska Ross, executive and stated clerk for the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii, said an administrative commission has been in place 15 years trying to work through problems of conflict and power struggles within Hanmi Presbytery. “It is time to bring the many gifts of these Korean-Americans into the larger body,” she said. “They are passionate, spirited and spiritual people with many gifts we can all benefit from.”
But Ruling Elder Commissioner Hu-Nam Nam of Eastern Korean Presbytery said, “This is like abandoning our child. … This is not walking together with our sisters and brothers. Where will they go?”
Mark Hong of Presbytery of Los Ranchos, the overture advocate for the proposed dissolution, said of the denomination’s 369 Korean-speaking congregations, 240, or 65 percent, are in geographic presbyteries.
“They are vibrant, they are doing their business and they are doing it well,” he said.
After the vote, General Assembly Moderator Heath Rada asked commissioners to “rise in appreciation and love for our sisters and brothers in Hanmi Presbytery.”
Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons said during a prayer that although the decision to dissolve the presbytery brings pain and many questions, “we trust that the same spirit that has brought us to this place will lead us forward.”
Reached by telephone, Sun Bai Kim, the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s associate for Korean ministries, called the decision very sad “and only half the truth.”
While Hamni Presbytery churches will be transferred, not every presbytery “knows how to handle Korean churches.” Many of the Korean churches in geographic congregations are doing well, he said, but some congregations – particularly smaller ones – don’t want to be transferred to geographic presbyteries.
“I hope the presbyteries will be responsible as they receive the Korean congregations,” he said. “I have been working in the PC(USA) for 30 years, and I know the situation in many presbyteries. We have been sowing seeds for 30 years now, and this is a very sad story.”
He encouraged presbyteries receiving Hanmi churches to “embrace them, comfort them and give them hope.”
Following the lunch break, Teaching Elder Commissioner David Won from Hanmi Presbytery told commissioners that it won’t be easy to interact with people of different cultures as Hanmi churches enter the geographical presbyteries in which they are situated.
“We hope we will use this opportunity to abide in hope,” he said. “Please pray for us in our journey of transition.”
The assembly responded with a standing ovation and prolonged applause.