Monday, November 4, 2013

Bishop Jeremiah Jungchan Park: Why I am a United Methodist

Once a Methodist, a Methodist forever. That’s how I was born and raised. My father was a Methodist pastor in Korea and I was a Methodist before I was born. My Christian identity has never been separated from my identity as a Methodist in Korea and now a United Methodist in the U.S. it will never be.

I am a United Methodist because I affirm the spirituality, theology, practice, and tradition of Methodism. I wholeheartedly embrace the evangelistic zeal for making disciples of Jesus Christ and the missional passion for transforming the world. I believe in a healthy balance of personal holiness and public and corporate witness to social holiness, holding the two in harmony and tension. I believe in discipleship as a process. No one has arrived. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, everyone is on a journey of faith with God and with one another. All of us are encouraged and challenged to continue to grow, expand, and change in the understanding and practice of discipleship. I also believe in the connectional nature of the church. We are better together for ministry and are stronger together for mission. Together we can be more and do more as a church. I highly value the big tent image of the church. No one way of being or doing the church is perfect. There’s always room for all God’s people to be a part of our church.

I once expressed the vision of my church in these words: A truly inclusive, diverse, evangelistic, missional, healthy, and growing church, where people are accepted and affirmed as God’s children of sacred worth, confirmed and convicted as disciples of Jesus Christ, and commissioned and sent as ministers and missionaries of the Gospel.  I am a United Methodist because I believe that I have the best chance to be a part of the church of my dream in the United Methodist Church than in any other church. The world is facing ever-increasing diversity, demographic change, societal illness, conflict, humanitarian needs, and environmental crisis. Real and significant opportunities for life-changing and community-transforming mission and ministry are being created for such a time as this. I am a United Methodist because I believe that the United Methodist Church has the best means to make a difference in the world. God is not finished with our church yet.

Let me add an intensely personal reason why I am a United Methodist. It’s “grace”. I experience the width, the length, the height, and the depth of grace in the most incredible way through my journey as a United Methodist. I started my journey as a United Methodist when I immigrated to the USA 36 years ago. As the Resident Bishop of the Harrisburg Area, I now live in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, some 50 miles away from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is the birthplace of Korean Methodism. A young man named Henry G. Appenzeller, who was nurtured in a Methodist church in that place came to Korea in 1885 as the first missionary sent from the church now known as the United Methodist Church. Some 128 years later, there are over 5,000 Methodist churches with some 1.5 million Methodists in Korea. Here I am, a product of the Korean Methodist Church and a first generation immigrant, now serving as a United Methodist Bishop near the place where it all started. This amazing grace grabbed me only because I am a United Methodist. Why am I a United Methodist? What happened to me could only happen in the United Methodist Church. “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1Corinthians 15:10a). Being a United Methodist is an essential part of what I am, a swimmer in the sea of grace.




Bishop Jeremiah J. Park was elected to the episcopacy in 2004 and is currently serving in the Harrisburg Area after serving 8 years with the New York Area.  He became President of the General Commission on Archives and History in September 2012.  He has served as DS and Council Director for the Northern/Greater New Jersey Annual Conference as well as the associate director of the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry of the NEJ.