PROK: Synode 2001

The Presbyterian Church in The Republic of Korea

Aus der 86. Synode der PROK, 2001
Jahresbericht

1. A Mature Church
2. A Reconciling Church
3. A Diaconal Church
und dazu eine kurze Statistik
Jahresbericht als pdf

 

May 2001

History

The first Korean Protestant Church was built in 1884 in Hwanghae Province, in what is now North Korea, by a Korean lay-person who had been baptized in Manchuria and had returned to Korea to share the Gospel. Other Koreans baptized by Protestant missionaries in Manchuria also returned home to evangelize. In the early days of Korean Christianity it was the Koreans themselves who began to translate the Scriptures and build churches before missionaries came to Korea from overseas churches. One of the most important accomplishments of the early Protestant Christians was the printing of the New Testament in Hangul, the Korean alphabet which all could read, rather than in the Chinese alphabet which only the elite could read. The early Christians, together with missionaries, also built schools, hospitals and orphanages, and the number of churches grew.

Out of these roots, the Presbyterian Church in Korea was established in 1907. During the long years of Japanese occupation, the Korean church faced many extreme difficulties, including the forceful pressure of the Japanese to worship at Shinto shrines.

In 1953 the Presbyterian Church in Korea experienced another serious challenge, this time centering around theology and methods of biblical study taught at the Chosun Theological Seminary, forerunner of the present Graduate School of Theology of Hanshin University of the PROK. A conflict arose between faculty of the Seminary who held a liberal theology and used the historical critical method of interpretation of the Bible, and authoritarian leaders of the church who held a fundamentalist faith and view of the Bible. When this difference between the two factions became irreconcilable in 1953, the liberal faction formed The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (RROK) as a separate denomination. Thus, although the PROK traces its origin to 1907, we speak of the PROK "new history" as dating from 1953 when it was formed as a separate church. Since 1953 the PROK has continued to develop a liberal theology, taking a prophetic stance in its understanding of the church and its mission in society.

Present Situation of the PROK

A Mature Church

The PROK recognizes the present severe economic and social crisis in Korean society as a crucial opportunity to renew the church and to faithfully answer God's call. While we think that quantitative growth is important, at the same time we believe that the church, whether large or small, must be a true church, respected and loved by our society and people, and that we must therefore integrate our confession of faith and our daily practical living into one unified witness.

The PROK is making a concerted effort to achieve balanced development of the church within the PROK and to strengthen the ties of fellowship and caring that make us one united family. Korean churches which are self-supporting tend to be independent and focussed on their own life and mission, rather than to be in caring fellowship and solidarity with all congregations of the wider church. We want to encourage our congregations to support one another and work together in caring solidarity.

Our endeavours to become a mature church include the following initiatives:

a) The PROK has established a fund to supplement the incomes of ministers of congregations or other mission units which cannot meet the minimum salary requirement for clergy set by the General Assembly. All PROK ministers must contribute one-half of their tithing to this fund. This solidarity-fund is one expression of our unity as one family.

b) As we approach the 50th anniversary of our "new history" as the PROK in the year 2003, the "Year of PROK Jubilee", the. PROK is preparing new blueprints for mission and service for the new era. Revising mission statements and positions defined during the cold-war era, expert committees of the PROK are developing a new "Confession of Faith", new "Book of Orders of Worship", and new "Guidelines for Mission and Social Service". These statements and positions will more truly reflect our commitment to reconciliation, justice and peace.

c) The PROK is deeply committed to ecumenical partnership with churches around the world. We want to widen our ecumenical partnerships and involvements within and beyond Korea. We also want to ensure that our ecumenical co-workers around the world serve in full partnership and cooperation with partner churches in those respective countries. In some cases, for example, the PROK has initiated a mission program to then be adopted by the partner church in that area, while the PROK continues to support the program with finances and personnel which the partner church is unable to provide. In Hungary, for example, a PROK co-worker initiated a mission program with the Romany people which was then adapted by our partner, the Reformed Church in Hungary. In India we encouraged our partner, the Church of South India, to establish a desk at the General Assembly level for mission with the Dalit people, among whom a PROK co-worker is serving. In each case, the project is a mission of that church, supported by the PROK in the ecumenical spirit of mutual respect and sharing. Our ecumenical co-workers can thus be a living bridge strengthening the ties of mutual solidarity.

A Reconciling Church

The problems of Korean society have been made more severe by national division and deep animosity between North and South, and regional and class division within the South. The PROK has actively participated in the movement for reunification and peace on the Korean peninsula, and to eradicate unjust laws and the oppression of human rights in the South. For over 50 years we have worked in mission solidarity with marginalized and vulnerable people. We believe that our mission task is to a) help end the national division between North and South; and b) close the divide and heal the hurt between classes in Korean society.

a) The PROK has taken art active initiative in peace and reunification issues.

We continue to call for legal implementation of the "South-North Basic Agreement" signed in December 1991 by North Korea and South Korea. In order to help our church members understand the Basic Agreement, we published and distributed to all our congregations "A guidebook explaining the Agreement" which includes a theological exposition, enabling church members to use this as a workbook for the peace movement of the church. Together with the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) and other groups, we are demanding the abolition of the National Security Law which is a major obstacle to reconciliation between North and South. Under this anachronistic law, for example, North Korea is regarded as the state enemy, while in the Basic Agreement, North and South have pledged mutual recognition and respect.

Also in cooperation with other churches and NGOs, we are providing humanitarian support to our brothers and sisters in North Korea, including food and medical supplies; we have also, with overseas partner churches as well, sent VCR-equipped television sets to the Korea Christians Federation, for use in house-church worship services.

b) The PROK must help end the division and hurt between regions and classes in South Korean society. The economic crisis which hit Korea in 1997 has brought about severe social instability. Today 1.5 million people are unemployed, and 100,000 homeless people are living on the streets. The number of "irregular" or day labourers has hugely increased, and these live with the constant anxiety of losing even their daily job. The PROK is trying to help reform the social structure to eliminate such devastating factors. Through mission programs and the regular prayers of our congregations, we seek to support our suffering neighbours, focusing particularly on protecting the welfare and human rights of women working in entertainment areas adjacent to the US military bases; and working for justice for foreign migrant workers.

A Diaconal Church

The PROK is expanding and intensifying its engagement in social welfare work as it lives out its mission of Diakonia Dei. Our mission programs carried out by dedicated staff and volunteers in local congregations and centres include:

- shelter, education, counselling, health care and advocacy initiatives for foreign migrant workers;

- shelter, community, education, counselling for troubled and runaway youth; ministry with broken families devastated by the severe economic crisis;

- ** free-lunch and after-school programs for children in need;

- food and other support programs for abandoned seniors;

- ** shelter, food, counselling, for the unemployed and homeless:

- shelter, counselling and other support for women released from prison;

- counselling, support, job-training, advocacy for women in the entertainment areas adjacent to US military bases.

** At the General Assembly level we work t together with other churches and other faiths end NGOs in running food banks for children in need: we have raised funds to give food support to 600,000 children in the past two years. The PROK General Assembly also operates a "House of a New Tomorrow" providing shelter, food, counselling and jab-search assistance to unemployed people.

We are thankful the government provides a welfare system, but it falls far short, and it is our task to play a prophetic role, in challenging the government and helping to improve the system. We denounce end reject globalization which gives rise to an economic order of unlimited competition where the strong devour and cast aside the weak. Through our mission with the vulnerable, including those in agricultural, fishing and mining villages, we work to share God's saving and transforming love and justice with all.

 

PROK Church Statistics

As of December 1999:

Churches: 1,491 congregations
Church members: 325, 983
Ordained ministers: 2,038, including 120 women ministers
Elders: 2,719 including 82 women elders
Presbyteries: 24



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