Hundreds of Korean Anglicans gathered in the Cathedral of Saints Mary and Nicholas Thursday afternoon, May 22, to witness the consecration of the Rev. Paul Keun Sang Kim as the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Seoul.
Kim, 55, is known for his passionate efforts concerning peace, democratization, and reunification in Korea. He will succeed the Most Rev. Francis Kyong-Jo Park after he retires in January 2009. (Park is nearing completion of a two-year term as Presiding Bishop. The next synod will be June 24.)
Seoul is the oldest and largest of the three dioceses of the ACK. It has approximately 20,000 registered members, 66 congregations and 30 social service centers. There are 117 active clergy (another 22 retired). Of these, 60 lead worshiping communities and the rest serve at the social centers and Sungkonghoe (Anglican) University. By the end of May, another six priests and three deacons will be ordained.
Elected at the diocesan synod January 25, 2008, Kim has been a priest of the diocese since 1980, serving as cathedral dean 1996-2000, diocesan secretary 2000-2004, and chief of the welfare center for the disabled in Guri city from 2004 until the present.
An active ecumenist, he has been a member of the executive committee of the National Council of Churches of Korea since 1994, and vice president since 2004. For the past six years he has headed the NCCK's reunification committee.
He was chair of the executive committee that planned the Towards Peace in Korea (TOPIK) conference in November 2007 that included a delegation of Anglican Communion leaders to North Korea. The TOPIK effort continues and will be highlighted at the Lambeth Conference in July.
Kim has been dedicated to friendship, understanding and cooperation between the Anglican Church of Korea and the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Church in Japan) since he first attended a joint ACK-NSKK mission seminar in Japan in 1984. He was honored at the consecration by the attendance of more than 40 representatives of the NSKK, including 10 bishops led by the primate, the Most Rev. Nathaniel Uematsu, attending the consecration.
Other international guests included Bishop David Lai of Taiwan; Bishop Albert Vun of Sabah; the Rev. Canon Peter Koon, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Hong Kong; Brother Christopher John, general secretary of the Society of St. Francis; and representatives from the Anglican Church in Australia and the Church Mission Society in England.
From the United States, invitees included Episcopal Church Center staff -- Peter Ng, program officer for Asia and the Pacific; Margaret Larom, program officer for international justice and peacemaking; and Kirsten Laursen Muth, Asia/Pacific director for Episcopal Relief and Development -- as well as the Rev. Aidan Koh, chaplain of St. James School in Los Angeles and chair of Episcopal Asiamerican Ministries in that diocese, representing the Korean Convocation of EAM. Also present was the Rev. Dr. John Kater, retired professor of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, who is teaching at Sungkonghoe University this semester.
Two days of festivities marked Kim's consecration. On May 22, numerous floral displays lined the entrance to the historic cathedral just off the main plaza, and arriving communicants signed guest books laid out on tables. Dozens of women, each attired in the traditional hanbok, a floor-length elegant silk dress, stood ready to escort guests to their seats. A young woman seated on the floor of the chancel played soothing music on the haegeum, an ancient two-stringed harp.
Then, the mood changed with a trumpet's blare -- a wild thrilling sound emanating from another traditional instrument, the taepyongso horn used as a call to battle and win the victory. A lengthy procession of bishops and clergy, choir and lay leaders of the Anglican Church of Korea, came up the aisle of the light-filled cathedral. In the front row were the bishop-elect's wife, Theresa, two daughters, Jane and Esther, and his 93-year-old mother. The two-hour service was led by Park and the sermon, based on "Be faithful unto death" (Revelations 2:8-11), was given by the Rt. Rev. Lee Chun Hwan, first bishop of the Seoul diocese.
Congratulatory speeches were delivered by Uematsu of the NSKK; the Rev. Kwon Oh Sung, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Korea; the Rt. Rev. Kim Hee Joong, chair of the Korean Roman Catholic Church's Committee for Christian Unity; and Mr. Bang Sang Hoon, president of The Chosun Ilbo, the newspaper group headquartered near the cathedral.
Representing the Episcopal Church, Ng read a letter sent by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. "I gladly send my congratulations," she wrote, "joining my voice with representatives of the Anglican Communion in asking God to bless you in this new phase of ministry. I pray that the coming years will be marked by a deepening of the relations that exist between the Anglican Church of Korea and the Episcopal Church.
"My recent visit to the ACK as part of the TOPIK conference was a wonderful opportunity to see how an internationally shared, peace-filled vision can inspire the transformation of the world," she said in her letter.
Several hundred guests attended a celebratory dinner that evening at the Seoul Plaza Hotel, and many more speeches, some very moving, testified to the close-knit nature of the Anglican Church of Korea. Bishop Matthew Chung, former presiding bishop of the ACK, described how, when he was penniless and had nowhere to live, Kim's parents took him in and supported him for years. As he rose from priest to bishop, he described how much it meant to him to see Kim join the priesthood, and then today, to be able to participate in his ordination to the episcopate. (Another bishop, Simon Kim, gave his pectoral cross and bishop's ring to Paul Kim as testimony to their long relationship. He will retire June 21 as the president of Sungkonghoe University.)
A highlight of the evening was entertainment by the Clergy Men's Choir, a chorale of eight priests of the Seoul diocese. During their rendition of "Morning Dew," the new bishop leaped to join them, singing with passion the song from his "student protest days" that is the emotional equivalent of "We Shall Overcome" from America's civil rights era. Later, the delegation from Japan reciprocated with singing led by Uematsu.
On the day after the consecration, Park met with staff from the Episcopal Church Center to discuss follow-up efforts to the TOPIK peace conference. In the morning, details of a nutrition program for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers in North Korea that will be supported by ERD were finalized with Laursen Muth. In the afternoon, Ng and Larom were presented with Park's ongoing vision for world Anglican cooperation toward "Peace, Reliance, Sharing and Reconciliation," not only on the Korean peninsula but in North East Asia generally.
The TOPIK office is led by the Rev. Joachim Kim, who has been working closely with the Lambeth Design Team on a series of events geared to raise awareness of ACK's mission while all the bishops are gathered at Canterbury for this summer's Lambeth Conference.
On July 20 at 8 p.m., there will be a peace concert, "Sing Together Towards Peace in the World." Forty members of Korea's Mother's Union Choir are paying their own way to England in order to lead this event, which will be illustrated with a documentary about the history of the Korean peninsula, and pictures of some of the 50 Anglican churches that once existed in what is now North Korea.
On July 21, at 7:10 a.m. under the university big top, the Korean bishops will lead a special morning worship for Korean Unification and Peace in North East Asia.
On July 22, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., there will be a special session on "Efforts and Roles of the World Anglican Communion towards Korean Unification and Peace in North East Asia." Church leaders who participated in the TOPIK conference last November -- including Jefferts Schori, Uematsu, Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong, and Archbishop Roger Herft of Australia -- have been invited to speak, along with members of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network which has had a long commitment to the effort.
Beyond the Lambeth efforts, the TOPIK office is planning multicultural education and peace training activities, including annual seminars on North Korea and regular visits to Mt. Guemgang, Gaesung, Pyongyang, and Mt. Baekdu. In addition, the TOPIK team will attempt to resolve the critical situation of minorities who escaped from their country for political and economic reasons and now live in South Korea. Assisting the stable settlement of women, who generally are the most impoverished and often are sexually abused, will be a high priority.
Kim, who hosted a dinner for his U.S. guests at the end of his first day as coadjutor, shared his vision for expanding the global ministries of the Korean church. High on his list are the immigrants from many nations who now are living, or trying to make a living, in Korea today -- and on the Korean expatriates around the world who need pastoral care by the Anglican and Episcopal churches in the countries where they find themselves.
He will attend the Episcopal Asiamerican Ministries consultation in Taiwan early in June and will visit both the U.S. and Canada in late August/early September, hoping to begin discussions on these needs. Having spent several years in Toronto, Canada, as priest in charge of a Korean congregation 1991-1995, he has an abiding interest in the challenges that the church's life in diaspora holds.