Overture on Hanmi Presbytery dissolution garners much discussion around multiculturalism and cultural proficiency

IMG_5411.JPG-1On the heels of discussion and vote on the Mid Council Commission II report the committee moved the recommendation to dissolve Hanmi Presbytery on the morning of Friday June 20th. Emotions were still running high when the recommendation from 05-07 on Hanmi’s dissolution was passed by a vote of 63-4 with following comment:

The Assembly Committee on Mid Council Issues (5) gives thanks for and celebrates the historic and ongoing witness of the churches of Hanmi Presbytery and their important role in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We regret that the recent work of the Administrative Commission has not been successful in resolving long-standing concerns, and we share the grief, the disappointment, and the loss with the congregations, the presbytery, the Administrative Commission, and the synod that this action has been taken.

We look forward to discovering new ways of welcoming the Korean congregations into the life of the Synod and presbyteries, to the greater ministry of the church of the future. We recommend this action, aware that it presents the presbyteries with an important opportunity to welcome the congregations and gratefully to receive their contributions to the life and ministry of the PC(USA).

Numerous commissioners spoke both for and against the motion. Mid Council committee members spoke about the various issues they heard about the Hanmi administrative commission had dealt with these last almost fifteen years.

TI0A4264Yet, a ruling elder from Eastern Korean Presbytery spoke to the loss of space necessary for cultural identity formation especially for younger generations. Similarly, Hannah Kim, a Korean American YAAD from Korean Atlanta presbytery, shared remorse at the loss of an important body for so many Korean congregations. “I grew up in the Korean church, and being Korean is as important to my identity as being a Christian. I understand myself as not only a Christian but a Korean Christian.”

Many of the sentiments echoed what was raised in the committee meeting, as Maryann McKibben Dana, a Teaching Elder commissioner from National Capital Presbytery said: “I support the committee’s decision to dissolve the presbytery and welcome Korean congregations into their respective geographic presbyteries. I am concerned, however, with how that message might be communicated to these churches.”

Many on social media called for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to take this as a season for geographic presbyteries to do the serious work of creating a welcoming space for all. This means at the very least having language translation available for their meetings and at the most requiring everyone to be trained in cultural intelligence and sensibilities. The racial dynamics and issues within the church continue to be pressing and cause major divisions. After the passage of 05-02 where the Synod of Boriquen in Puerto Rico will remain impervious to the synod boundary changes Pastor Moon Gil Cho, Presbytery Executive for Midwest Hanmi, and a Korean pastor questioned “how this synod was protected and the presbytery was so quickly discarded by the assembly?” More comments came out questioning the need for the wider church to work towards collaborative work and concrete strategies that deal with the persistent issues of racism, sexism, and classism.

McKibben Dana said, “In our small group conversations we talked a lot about the cultural complexities at play, and what may look like a top-down decision, but that’s hard to express in a motion. It was the right decision; ultimately I hope the parties involved will communicate it in a sensitive way.”

In the afternoon plenary on Friday a commissioner from Hanmi Presbytery spoke to the assembly sharing gracious words of thanksgiving for the last thirty years of support. At the end of his speech the body rose to extended applause also expressing gratitude.