Leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have recommitted to partnership and collaboration in “common mission” that focuses on three key areas of ministry together: evangelism, poverty and healing and reconciliation.
The agreement was hammered out during an April 17-19 consultation at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary here. “Through our shared mission,” the group’s statement reads, “we offer a prophetic word to forces within the Church and in the world that divide the Body of Christ and human communities.”
The seeds for the consultation were planted at last summer’s 220th General Assembly in Pittsburgh, General Assembly Moderator Neal Presa told the Presbyterian News Service in an exclusive April 19 interview.
“A PCK delegation came to our Assembly and we sent a delegation to their 100th anniversary celebration last fall,” he said. “We wanted to discern steps going forward in our second 100 years together.”
The consultation served its purpose, said Presbyterian World Mission Director Hunter Farrell. “Our hope for collaboration in mission that has been lacking for a time,” he said, “has certainly been renewed here. As PC(USA) delegates, we are excited that the Spirit is moving us forward. Our PCK partners have introduced several new ideas and it is certainly our sense that we feel the same way in the PC(USA).
The three-fold structure of the agreement certainly resonates with PCK leaders, said General Secretary Hong Jung Lee. “We believe a multi-lateral ‘web’ of relationships is more effective today than bilateral partnerships,” he told PNS. “Our renewed commitment to gospel-sharing in increasingly multicultural contexts and the opportunity to collaborate on peace and reconciliation efforts is important to both of us.”
To illustrate that importance, the consultation also issued a statement on reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula, where tensions between North and South Korea and the U.S. government have heightened considerably in recent weeks.
In the area of evangelism, the two churches agreed to “support … holistic models … focused on grassroots outreach and discipleship through building life-communities.” The key, they said, is to equip local congregations “through context-appropriate theological education and leadership development,” particularly with women and young adults, in multicultural contexts and by “demonstrating solidarity with the Christian community in North Korea.”
Poverty will be addressed, they said, “through community health evangelism and programs of maternal and child health, community-based development, disaster preparedness” and through global responses that address root causes of poverty, environmental degradation, hunger, war “as the cause of total destruction” and “developing social capital through education.”
Addressing healing and reconciliation begins by “supporting the victims of violence,” the groups statement says. Common mission activities will include empowering women, standing with immigrants and preventing human trafficking, “demonstrating compassion for the disabled” and “embracing victims in post-conflict zones through trauma recovery.”
Consultation participants agreed to create a joint working group that will meet in person or electronically every six months and to hold a joint mission consultation at least every five years.
The full text of the common mission statement:
Common Mission Statement
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church of Korea
Representatives of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), including the moderators of each denomination, the stated clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), the General Secretary of the PCK, and leading staff members in ecumenical relations and mission of each denomination, met April 17-19, 2013, at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, to recommit in partnership and collaboration in seeking visible unity of the body of Christ, and by doing so, through our shared mission, we offer a prophetic word to forces within the Church and in the world that divide the body of Christ and human communities.
In the 21st century we are entering an era that witnesses to unprecedented crises on many levels:
- Human greed and exploitation of national resources has brought about ecological destruction.
- Global warming is now a global reality and causes displacement of many people from their countries of origin.
- Migration that globalization induced is unparalleled in human history; an ever-increasing number of communities are confronted with multicultural realities.
- Economic disparity of rich and poor around the world damages human dignity and victimizes women, children and the marginalized.
- Advances of science and the rule of technocracy without emphasis on the value of human beings accelerate secularization in which people feel alienated from their own sacred origin. Addiction to virtual reality characterizes our popular culture and deteriorates the quality of human relationship.
- Peace is under threat or violated when people seek false security through militarism and nuclearization. Tensions are escalating right now in the Korean Peninsula while the rest of the world waits for resolution, especially for the citizens of North East Asia.
Though the era of colonialism is over, we are still in the grip of a colonial legacy that invites a post-colonial hermeneutics. At the same time we have also inherited the rich legacy of churches that have engaged in a life of celebration and sacrifice for the sake of salvation in Jesus Christ and the growth of the community of faith. Women and men have given their lives to facing the challenges of the day for the last century; and so, today, we build upon that legacy with a renewed commitment to mission together.
Theology and Principles of Mission
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we believe in and trust in the Triune God: the steadfast love and grace of God, the redemptive and reconciling work of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. As churches of the Reformed tradition, we understand ourselves to be part of the larger body of Christ in the world, the ekklesia; we are called, led, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk together with God and with each other in covenant relationship as we participate in missio dei, God’s mission in the world God so loved and loves.
For many years our churches worked with a traditional understanding of mission that understood mission as primarily salvation of the soul, though it often included works of compassion such as education and medical work and the work of justice such as advocacy for the rights of women and Korean human rights in the face of Japanese aggression. We honor the legacy of mission that our ancestors—Korean and American, women and men, lay and clergy—have bequeathed to us. Although their efforts were not perfect, their example inspires us to engage in God’s mission as they did, as faithfully and effectively as possible in the context of their times.
In Scripture we see that Jesus’ ministry was deeply rooted in the context of His people, their sufferings, their longings, their strengths and limitations. We, too, commit ourselves to engaging in God’s mission with deep sensitivity in context by:
- Engaging in mission in the way of Jesus Christ, the One who emptied Himself of power and took on our vulnerability to become the servant of all, especially the poor and marginalized. Jesus welcomed all into a community of healing and reconciliation that transformed body, mind and spirit in a holistic way that our mission must emulate: preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, caring for the poor and oppressed, and laboring for a world that testifies to God’s good intentions of justice, wholeness and peace. In a world of increasing disparity between rich and poor, between the powerful and powerless, our mission must be based on authentic partnership and respectful relationships that ensure that no person is treated as the “object of mission” but all are recognized persons of dignity, created in the image of God and therefore subjects in God’s mission.
- Engaging in mission as justice and peace for life. We live our lives in the eschatological hope of a transformed world, a hope that manifests itself in global discipleship—the prayerful practice of following Jesus Christ in a globalized world where our everyday choices impact the poor and oppressed around the world. In a time when corporate power has grown to eclipse the rights and needs of people, where the impersonal forces of the marketplace decree feast or famine in communities around the world, including in countries of the Global North, the call to justice and peace for life requires a commitment to denounce the powers and principalities of egotism and avarice, to embrace a sustainable lifestyle that respects our neighbors and God’s Creation, and to prophetically advocate for the poor and marginalized.
- Engaging in mission through a methodology of web-working, rather than understanding mission as one-way or bilateral relationships. Web-working links together local congregations and communities to strengthen their capacity to live with food security and peace, without poverty or violence, according to God’s deep desires for humankind.
We understand that significant changes have occurred in the ways in which our denominations engage in God’s global mission—today local congregations are the primary locus of this engagement, yet, paradoxically, a local congregation does not have the linguistic, cultural, spiritual, professional or experiential capacity to engage in mission in distant places in the way our ancestors engaged in long-term relationships deeply rooted in local contexts. We confess that as members of the body of Christ, we need each other: we need the gifts and skills and limitations and human brokenness of our members, together with those of our global partners, to be faithful in God’s mission. Rather than proclaiming a triumphalistic gospel, which can easily be confused with mistaken notions of ethnocentricity or pride of economic or military might, we confess together that mission begins in a posture of humility as we recognize all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ and admit our radical dependence on the leading of the Holy Spirit and our global partners.
We, God’s people of the PCK and the PC(USA), understand common mission tasks in the 21st century context, and collaborate on them as follows:
Sharing the good news of God’s saving grace and love in Jesus Christ is the basis of common mission tasks. We support partners’ holistic models of evangelism focused on grassroots outreach and discipleship through building life-communities. And also we equip the local churches in the world through context-appropriate theological education and leadership development such as:
- Leadership development, especially for the ministry of women
- Demonstrating solidarity with the Christian community in North Korea
- Ecumenical formation through theological education, Christian education, global discipleship training, and congregational engagement
- Learning, developing and collaboration in multicultural ministry and young adult ministry
- Strengthening and developing faithful worshipping communities in the global context
We address diseases of poverty through Community Health Evangelism and programs of maternal and child health, community-based development, disaster preparedness and response in both countries and in a global context. We empower marginalized people through:
- Addressing root causes of poverty, especially the impact on women and children
- Emphasizing ecological issues, especially in relation to water, air, nuclear, land and extractive industries
- Implementing hunger and development tasks in North Korea and the Global South
- Addressing war as the cause of total destruction
- Developing social capital through education
Healing & Reconciliation:
We facilitate justice and peace for life to overcome cultural violence and achieve healing and reconciliation in a context of conflicts. We support the victims of violence by:
- Empowering women and overcoming patriarchy
- Standing with immigrants and working to prevent human trafficking
- Demonstrating compassion for the disabled with empowerment through education
- Cultivating peace culture
- Embracing victims in post-conflict zones through trauma recovery
For these issues we will create a joint working group to communicate with each other through webinars or other methods every six months and will collaborate in web-weaving through mission networking. We will hold a mission consultation every five years and can invite other sister churches and ecumenical organizations for the consultations. Also we will encourage research on our mission history and mission fields.
With the endorsement and blessing of this mission statement through the Presbyterian Mission Agency board and the 221st General Assembly of the PC(USA) and the General Assembly of the PCK, we will live into this statement.