What follows then are some of my reflections as a second-generation Korean-American Presbyterian minister journeying on the margins between two cultures.
Our journey begins with a brief look back at the history of Korean immigration and the development of the Korean-American church.
I not only looked different, but it was also clear that I thought differently from my Caucasian friends.
This created a variety of internal and external challenges as I navigated a journey of what it meant to be a marginalized bicultural person in the predominantly Caucasian world around me.
Presbyterians represent the largest percentage of Protestants at 3 million members. In a study done in 1990, up to 75% of Korean Americans regularly attend Korean immigrant churches here in the U. Furthermore, out of about 70 geographic pres-byteries spread across North America, seven of them are Korean-language specific. As a result, many Korean-American churches (including those in the PCA) are filled with immigrant Korean adults who worship in the Korean language and are led by pastors who primarily speak Korean.
The majority of Korean-American churches was established in the mid-1970s with pastors who, after having received their theo-logical training in Korea, immigrated to the U. Their children, however, are found in other parts of the church building worshipping separately in English.
Named after John Nevius (1829-1893), a missionary in China, this model emphasized the self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing goals of the newly evangelized church.
While not immediately popular in China, this plan-which stressed the self-determination of the local church and her leaders to grow their own church-was quickly espoused by both missionaries and new converts in Korea. and Canada-including the Southern Presbyterian Church in the U. (from which the PCA was formed)-were sending missionaries to Korea.
Some sociologists have even given this startling statistic a name: "the silent exodus." While there are many factors contributing to this departure, several within the context of pastoral leadership are worth mentioning: emphasis of ministry resources in the Korean church primarily for the first generation; resistance by first-generation leaders to share leadership; interpersonal conflicts between first- and second-generation leaders; lack of empowerment for second-generation pastors; lack of training and mentoring for inexperienced second-generation pastors; and scarcity of bilingual Korean-American pastors.
These cultural concerns between first- and second-generation pastoral leaders in the Korean-American church highlight yet another challenge.
With even more intensity, he tried one last time: "Where are you FROM?
" As a second-generation Korean American raised in a Christian home, I was taught from an early age about the importance of demonstrating respect and humility not only to my parents, but also to anyone within the Korean-American community that had the age or position that necessitated it.
I wish I could say it got easier as I traveled from primary school to graduate school, but it didn't.