From Oct. 18 to 24 six pastors met in Grand Rapids, Mich., to complete in-person training that they started months earlier as part of the Korean Institute in Ministry program with the Christian Reformed Church. Led in part by Chris Choe, who became Korean ministry leader with Resonate Global Mission in May, the cohort of pastors spent a day at Calvin Theological Seminary; a day meeting denominational leadership at the Grand Rapids office of the CRC; two days with a historical tour including visiting Pillar Church and Graafschap CRC in Holland, Mich.; and time to worship, relax, and fellowship together after studying Reformed theology and polity online for 14 weeks.
“Koinonia brings closeness with one another,” Choe said, describing the Christian fellowship that the pastors experienced, “building a peer group where they can share their common experience and interest together” as they grow in knowledge about the denomination.
The KIM program, as described by CRC Communications, “is one of several ‘Article 8 procedures’ that make it possible for ordained pastors from other denominations to transfer to the CRCNA. The rules for this are found in Article 8 of the CRC’s Church Order, and the procedures are administered through the candidacy office of the CRC, part of the denomination’s congregational ministries. Candidacy’s Susan LaClear hosted part of this year’s KIM tour. She said what stood out to her was these pastors’ excitement to apply CRC polity and structure and that many weren’t aware of the resources and support available for pastors in the denomination. LaClear also noticed a care and attention for the historical roots of the CRC and that there was a connection and recognition with the immigration story.
This year is the first time the in-person tour has been offered since the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the practice in 2020.
Choe, who was an associate pastor at All Nations Church in Lakeview Terrace, Calif., for 10 years and then served Classis Greater Los Angeles until starting as Resonate’s Korean ministry leader this year, went through the KIM program himself in 2009. At that time it was a 14-day program on campus at what is now Calvin University. Choe recalls long, tiring days, sometimes from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Going forward, he said, “We are leaning toward a hybrid studying system,” similar to the KIM program of 2022, finding it “more suitable for most Korean pastors.”
Connection to Home
Pastor Paul Sungji Baik attended the KIM gathering from Orlando, Fla., where he planted an independent house church, Eldream Church (God’s Dream Church) one year ago. He has spent 25 years in Christian ministry, first in South Korea, ordained as a Kosin pastor after studying Reformed theology at the Kosin Korea Theological Seminary (M.div); then in the U.S. following further studies at Dallas Baptist University. “As a third-generation pastor, I gave my all in whichever ministry I was called into, and the same went for the recent founding of Eldream Church,” Baik said.
Baik is grateful to God to be a part of the growth of a Christ-centered church in Orlando, which has grown from 20 to 80 people in a year. But he said, like any other group, Eldream Church was in need of a bigger community to support an even healthier spiritual and physical growth. He saw the CRC, what he called a sister denomination to the Kosin, as the perfect choice for affiliation. Through the training Pastor Baik has been receiving with the KIM program, he has been able to firmly connect the roots of faithful teachings that Kosin and CRC share, especially through Calvin Seminary. He said, “We (Kosin pastors) have a great friendship with the CRC teachings and ministry because our theology comes from CRC pastors and preachers.”
He intends to affiliate with the CRC through Classis South-East U.S. and was welcomed to their October classis meeting. Having completed the KIM Program, Pastor Baik is now praying for the search and match of a calling church within Classis South-East in order to be invited into the CRC denomination.
Baik said he appreciated the networking part of the KIM tour, both meeting helpful and resourceful people in the denomination such as LaClear, Choe, and the CRC general secretary, Zachary King, and meeting the other Korean pastors in the group. “I met six pastors with lots of passion for God,” Baik said. He was thankful to hear their stories and understand the different situations where they are ministering.
Insuk Rebecca Dunne, who ministers in Tuscon, Ariz., with The Loving Church’s YesU-Care ministry to men who are homeless, said she heard about KIM training through Classis Ko-Am when she was pursuing ordination as a commissioned pastor after the church’s original pastor took a leave of absence. Dunne has been part of The Loving Church’s ministry from the beginning, serving first as a deacon before seminary training at the Southern Assembly of God University, graduating in 2016. She said there have been a lot of changes since 2012 and the blessing of their congregation is to have people in recovery returning to minister to those still living in parks.
“I found that everything that I learned for six to seven months prior to this meeting was summarized in this program and more in a way that I can understand clearly,” Dunne said. She said she felt supported, recognizing that the “CRC is designed in a way that’s trying to help every individual pastor like me, especially through the KIM program.” She said, “It brought me much closer not only to the other pastors but also to the CRC denomination.” Dunne’s church joined the CRC in 2018 as an emerging congregation supported by Phoenix Korean Presbyterian Church in Classis Ko-Am. While the church does not yet have a council, Dunne now plans “to train my church leaders about our CRC denomination education programs,” including studying the Heidelberg Catechism together. “Knowing the root of where I belong is important, I believe. The history of CRC, its faith, and where CRC stands today made me proud to be a part of CRC denomination,” Dunne said.
About the Author
Alissa Vernon is the news editor for The Banner.