Mission life: THE KUKMIN DAILY

Next WMC President Park Jong-chun: “This is God’s gift to the Korean Methodist Church”

2015-10-26 16:40

Dr. Park Jong-chun (61, photo), president of Methodist Theological University (MTU), was elected the 27th president of the World Methodist Council (WMC). An association of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan, and other related churches in 132 countries, WMC represents 80.5 million Christians. This is the first time for an Asian to become its president. Park’s 5-year term begins from the 21st World Methodist Conference, to be held in September next year in Houston, U.S.A.

On October 21, Kukmin Daily met with President Park at KMC in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul. He opened the conversation by saying, “This year marks the 130th anniversary of the Korean Methodist Church, and God has granted Korea a great gift… My election as WMC president is a marvelous achievement for the Korean Methodist Church, more than being an honor for me personally. I’m fearful and trembling because of the great responsibility.”

“Since I myself am a citizen of a divided country, as WMC President I’d like to focus on the issue of peace and normalization of North Korea-U.S. relations,” Park said. “Peace between South Korea and North Korea is an issue of the Korean peninsula, but at the same time, it is a problem that the world should tackle all together.”

He thinks he was elected WMC president only because of the Korean church. “I don’t think I was chosen for my excellent capability. I believe the WMC paid close attention to other matters: the overall portion of the Korean Methodist Church among world Methodists, the history of the Korean church’s devoted world missions, the contributions of senior pastors and theologians, and so on… All these elements combined to produce a good result. In addition, I see that the Korean church is being asked to take the lead in mission for our neighboring country China.”

President Park shared the projects he will carry out as WMC president. Though more than 10 months remain before his term starts, the blueprint he showed was clear and specific. “I’ll begin my term by producing a ‘pocket book’ containing the core of Methodist faith, and distribute it to all Methodist churches throughout the world. I’ll also proceed with the plan to establish at MTU a World Methodist Evangelism Institute, to play the role of a world mission hub.”

WMC originated from a Methodist conference held in 1881 in London, England. At the time, a movement for global evangelism was getting fired up, centering around England and the U.S. WMC became the core of the world Methodist Church, and for some years the president’s seat was held by pastors or theologians from England or the U.S.

From 1986, however, pastors and theologians from other countries took turns as WMC president. For the past 20 years, the position has been held by pastors from Africa and South America. The current president is Bishop Paulo de Tarso Oliveira Lockmann from Brazil.

“That WMC presidents are from the third world means the axis of the world church has moved from the U.S. and Europe to different continents. The axis of Asian Christianity is obviously Korea. The Korean church must make a new paradigm for mission, empathizing with the people of the third world who are suffering from war and poverty.”

President Park has been involved with WMC for the past nine years. Since 2006, he has chaired the WMC Committee for Theological Education. His activities and leadership in that post led to his winning overwhelming support at the WMC presidential election held last year. Among the four candidates, he got 10 out of the 14 total votes cast by the selecting members. Park expressed his surprise at the result, because he had carried out only a minimal election campaign.

Park was born in Jecheon, Chungcheongbuk-do, and graduated from MTU and Emory University. He has been a professor at MTU since 1986, and was elected its 13th president in June 2012.

Reporter Park Ji Hun (lucidfall@kmib.co.kr), with Yeara Ahn-Park (yap@kmib.co.kr)
Photo by senior reporter Kang Min Seok

Click here for the original article in Korean

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