Separation does not always mean subtraction. In fact, for the Korea Anabaptist Center in South Korea, dividing from Connexus, the English-language institute that it added in 2004, is actually being viewed as a multiplication for both.
To cut expenses, both moved from the headquarters in Seoul to separate offices in different cities. KAC is now in ChunCheon City, northeast of Seoul, and Connexus is in DeokSo, a suburb of Seoul.
“It’s mainly due to the financial crisis that had many complicated causes,” says Kyong-Jung Kim, KAC’s director. “It was too much for us to remain in the city of Seoul’s downtown area.”
KAC’s staff consists of Kyong-Jung and Erv and Marian Wiens, who are volunteer workers on behalf of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Mission Network. Connexus reduced its staff from five to two teachers.
Kyong-Jung also says he sees the change as more like children growing up and leaving their home, rather than a divorce.
“The parents respect what their children are doing, and children still honor their parents,” Kyong-Jung says. “Even though they (Connexus) have their own entity and own finances and programs, still we see a big KAC family.”
In August 2011, a few months shy of KAC’s 10th anniversary on Nov. 5, leaders decided to separate KAC and Connexus. KAC is a resource center on Anabaptist teachings for individuals and churches. It was established in 2001, after Korean leaders of Jesus Village Church invited Mennonite workers from Canada to share Anabaptist theology and practice.
As KAC’s library developed, the idea to create an English-language institute arose, in part, as a way to generate funding for KAC. Connexus is an educational community “emphasizing cross-cultural understanding through communication and exchange.”
Young people—many of whom were alumni from Mennonite colleges and universities—were recruited to teach English, creating a bond among Koreans, Canadians and Americans. But as other English institutes formed in Seoul, revenue and enrollment at Connexus declined.
Throughout Korea, the desire for Anabaptist understanding of faith is great among Koreans who reject the religion of prosperity and materialism emphasized in the megachurches of the country, the Wienses say.
KAC has increased understanding of Anabaptism in South Korea, which just a few decades ago, was considered heresy, Kyong-Jung says.
“Peace, even though it is a very essential concept, many Korean Christians see it as an absence of war, no physical fighting, or it’s calmness within yourself, or peace with God,” Kyong-Jung says. “Korean Christians don’t have the same understanding for what Anabaptists see as shalom, a way of living with humanity and with creation. Sometimes churches don’t want to talk about it because it brings in politics.”
Jesus Village Church and Grace and Peace Mennonite Church are the two officially Anabaptist congregations in South Korea, with about 130 members (including children) between them. Many individuals at other churches identify with Anabaptism, though. KAC will work more directly with congregations, while Connexus will continue to focus on English training.
KAC has a new locally run board and revived ties with Jesus Village Church—close to KAC. The church has provided financial support, helped with office renovations and spiritual support through intercessory prayer as well.
The Wienses say they are assured and excited, not only about the future of KAC and Connexus but for themselves. They plan to return to Canada in the spring, when their assignment ends, and are looking forward to spending more time with their six grown children and seven grandchildren.
“We are sort of waiting to see what God is doing,” says Marian Wiens, a retired family therapist who helped the KAC and Connexus staffs work through the emotional split.”
Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA, leads, mobilizes and equips the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Media may contact Andrew Clouse at email@example.com, 574-523-3024 or 866-866-2872, ext. 23024.