UPLAND, Calif. (Mennonite Mission Network) – From the seeds of shared stories, the Korean Anabaptist Fellowship was born. From November 19-21, 2009, Korean Anabaptist pastors and leaders met together to share stories and ideas from their ministry.
“The most valuable part of this gathering was having the opportunity to meet and to hear the story of each Korean leader who confesses that they are Anabaptist. It is interesting to hear how they try to live out the Anabaptist confession in a Korean context,” said Hyung-Jin Kim, a student at Fuller Theological Seminary
in Pasadena, Calif.
The idea for this gathering was developed by Hyun Hur, pastor of Church for Others in Temple City, Calif. Hur wanted to provide a space where congregational leaders who identify as Anabaptists could come together to fellowship and build supportive relationships. Korean Anabaptist leaders often feel like they are working alone within a strong Reformed Christian context within Korean communities, or among Anabaptist communities that don’t understand Korean culture and background.
“This meeting was important in order to contextualize Anabaptist faith and practice in Korean Christianity, which is so strongly oriented to Reformed theology and tradition,” said James Rhee, pastor of Stephens City (Va.) Korean Mennonite Church.
Leaders came from the United States, South Korea and Canada and were hosted by Mountain View Mennonite Church in Upland, Calif. This was the first official international meeting of Korean Anabaptists.
Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference
, Mennonite Church USA’s Intercultural Relations team and Mennonite Church Canada Witness
provided funds to help subsidize travel and meeting costs. Kuaying Teng, denominational minister for Asian ministries and a Mennonite Mission Network staff member, helped Hur contact Korean leaders connected with Mennonite Mission Network.
The first day of the gathering was spent getting to know each other and watching and discussing several documentary films about North Korea. During the following days, leaders took turns telling stories and sharing Anabaptist resources that have been translated into Korean, like congregational liturgical resources from each ministry and Palmer Becker’s Missio Dei booklet, “What is an Anabaptist Christian?”
Leaders also discussed challenges and needs their churches and organizations are facing.
“While the number of Korean Anabaptist churches is growing and its network is expanding, we need to have more clear communication structures, because all of us come from different backgrounds with faith practices. It is most important to hold to the unity of the body of Christ,” said Kyong-Jung Kim, administrator of the Korean Anabaptist Center in Seoul.
At the end of the gathering, the group named themselves the Korean Anabaptist Fellowship and made plans to gather together again with the Korea Anabaptist Fellowship in Canada (KAFC) at the June 29 – July 3, 2010 Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Calgary, Alberta. The KAFC has met annually in conjunction with the Mennonite Church Canada assembly since 2007. The combined group plans to gather annually and to stay in touch throughout the year via e-mail.
“Together we celebrated the birth of people who seek to follow Jesus in the Anabaptist way of faith and practice and also in the Korean context,” said Kim. “We promised to hold each other in solidarity.”