Korean Delegates Share Synod Experiences
As Synod 2022 met in June to work through three years of agenda materials including weighty matters about human sexuality, the assembly included 11 Korean participants. They share here about what it was like for them to actively participate in this important gathering.
Nine Korean delegates, an ethnic adviser, and a young adult representative joined the deliberations of Synod 2022:
• Classis Grand Rapids North - Rev. Moon Bae Kim
• Classis Hanmi - Rev. Sang Myeun Moon
• Classis Ko-Am - Rev. Sungjin Kim, Rev. Daniel Lee, Mrs. Soon Ok Lee
• Classis Lake Erie - Rev. John Park
• Classis Northcentral Iowa - Rev. Seongjun Kim
• Classis Hudson - Rev. KwangBae Lee
• Classis B.C. North-West - Rev. Samuel Lee
• Ethnic adviser - Rev. Hyung-Jun Kim
• Young adult representative - Daniel Choi
Along with all the other delegates, advisers, and young adult representatives, they put in long days, read the agenda in advance, participated in advisory committees, and engaged in plenary debate. Everyone involved felt the pressure of Synod 2022 on their shoulders.
However, this group faced the additional challenge of a language barrier as they participated in the weeklong gathering with their English-speaking counterparts.
Although synod has been offering interpretation services for Korean-speaking and Spanish-speaking delegates for many years, it is not always easy for non-English speakers to follow the meeting in real time, because discussions are often dotted with technical terms and move along at a very fast pace.
In fact, as Synod 2022 delegates engaged in sometimes heated discussions on the issue of human sexuality, some people who were watching the webcast online tweeted to urge delegates to speak more slowly. When the Synod 2022 vice president, Derek Buikema, was made aware of this request, he reminded delegates of the need to speak at a pace with which the interpreters could keep up and translate effectively.
Another challenge for Korean delegates to Synod 2022 was the absence of a Korean Ministry leader. In many previous years, Charles Kim, Korean Ministry leader for Resonate Global Mission, had been present throughout synod. He would assist Korean delegates along the way, explaining procedures and summarizing conversations so that they could participate more effectively. Kim left his position in 2021, and that role was not yet filled by the time synod met.
Despite these challenges, Korean delegates showed a high level of participation and engagement with the proceedings. When the interpreter, at times, could not keep up with the speed of the meeting, Korean delegates who understood English helped their Korean-speaking colleagues who were seated near them.
Rev. Hyung-Jun Kim, who attended from Canada as an ethnic adviser, read a statement on behalf of the Korean Council reflecting the position of Korean churches on issues related to human sexuality.
Catheryn Jo, who recently moved from Resonate’s Korean Ministry department to a position with Synodical Services, helped the interpreter team translate the advisory committees' reports and delivered the agenda through the Korean delegate chat room, in addition to her other duties on the floor.
Rev. Moonbae Kim, a senior Korean pastor who ministers in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area, made an extra effort to explain the background behind various issues and invited Korean delegates to fellowship together when synod was not in session.
The weeklong gathering was also a learning opportunity for the Korean delegates. Each of the 49 classes of the CRCNA appoints one minister, one elder, one deacon, and one other officebearer to attend synod in order to discuss and decide on important matters of the denomination. For Korean delegates who were unfamiliar with this meeting culture, the experience left an impression.
In a post-synod evaluation one delegate replied, “It was very impressive to see the delegates discussing each agenda item seriously in humility and orderliness.”
“It was beneficial to learn about the operations and the decision-making process in the CRCNA,” another delegate said, “I learned from all of the delegates. I found that they were devoted and obedient to God and had great respect for each other. I was moved. It was a great reminder that ‘whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord [Col. 3:23].’”
Another delegate shared, “It was a place where we could see how it is possible that the precious traditions of the CRCNA have been passed down over the years. I learned how to express opinions, coordinate, and consider each other amid differences of opinion on tough topics. It also gave me a personal reflection on how I have been unaware of this good CRC tradition and culture as a member of the CRCNA.”
Participating in Synod 2022, Korean-speaking delegates representing their congregations and classes appreciated the opportunity to engage in the decisions and concerns of the denomination, and to join in prayer together as one body. And as they return to serve in their home areas and congregations, they are sharing with others about their experiences and keeping conversations going in their respective communities.