Reflections on the Korean experience


Having visited the Korean Presbyterian Church General Assemblies its now time to begin to reflect on the experience and write from time to time about the differences and also what can be shared cross-culturally for the benefit of both our churches and also the world church. One very interesting area of empowerment I've notice is the role that has been given to the theological students. Over the past few days they have acted as our hosts, sitting with us from time to time at meals and befriending us during any periods of downtime. This opportunity to meet with overseas guests has been included as part of the theological curriculum for their second year Divinity students. I visited one of the Youngnam Seminary and was astounded at the high proportion of young people in attendance this would by in contrast with the numbers we would have in training for ministry. I've also discovered that there has been a sharp decline in the membership of many of the protestant denominations here in Korea. The days of thousands of people going off to prayer mountains early in the mornings, before work , seems to be attracting fewer people. This change I'm told has come about because initially people after the war in the mid 50s embraced western lifestyles along with these lifestyles they adopted Christianity as being part of the whole westernisation of their culture. The question many sociologist and theologians are asking is, was the rapid growth of the church in the 60s and 70s built upon cultural identity rather than true religious experience? I guess it is a hard one to truly analyse the motives of past generations. One thing is certain they have appeared in the past to be devoted to their faith and to the ritual of prayer. This is a comment that could also be said of Christians in Scotland 100 years ago when they set out to evangelise the world from the 1910 Missionary Conference. Here in Korea perhaps a more immediate response to this recent church decline could be attributed to the phenomenal rise of consumerism and growing prosperity that has left people more inclined to want the latest iPhone than want to attend church. In saying that Martha has just reminded me that I will be preaching to a congregation of over 1000 people this morning. So while we talk of decline, there are still huge numbers attending church. What is happening from talking to people, is a discontent with a church that has focused too much on the work ethic. Presbyterians are often perceived as the Christian community that makes demands but doesn't make space for people to be. ( read the sermon I preached on Sunday 23 September) All interesting insights reminders to all of us that faith and politics can be so easily misrepresented when Christian politicians emphasise their faith in a multi faith society. Don't get me wrong I believe we have a duty to share our faith but we must do it respectfully. We also have a duty to listen to and respect people of other faiths. It is in the listening to others that we can begin to understand and find the connecting points and see where God is at work in others. When opportunities arise for dialogue it is essential to take these opportunities. From what I can understand people saying to me here, there has been a wide spread belief that Presbyterians have not alway been sympathetic to those outside their cycle of faith beliefs. If this is the case then it helps me to understand some of the prayers I heard in he General Assembly this week, as the church was repenting of past sins of omission. Personally I have been impressed by the sincerity of all the people I have met this week and even more encouraged by their over all theme for the year " The Least of These" Perhaps it is such signs of repentance are the touching places for all of us as we think of our own personal failures. While I would say there are many differences between both churches, in other ways all this is not unfamiliar to us in the Church of Scotland. We simply encountered these issues 30 years ago. Our challenges continues to ask, how do we engage with our changing society and remain faithful to the Gospel? Now doubt we'll come back this again and again. Since the Assemblies have now concluded we have been spending more time with the students. Yesterday they took us on a sight seeing tour which eventually included the National Museum of Korea. What an interesting place to visit. The building itself is worthy of the art it houses. Korea has had a long history dating back thousands of years. Before Korea was invaded by the Japanese in 1910 it had an unbroken line of more than 100 kings stretching back over two thousand years. Over the past years, archeological digs have revealed, burial mounds, yielding literally thousands of golden relics. We were able to view many of these relics today in the Museum. All this reminds us that Korea has a long history, and no doubt Koreans Christians have ti find Korean solutions to all these question. Our job as members of the word church is to uphold each other in prayer.

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Posted By: Reflections on the Korean experience | IRENIC   On: 24 Sep 2012   At: 9:15pm

[...] Reflections on the Korean experience September 24, 2012By Albert Bogle, i-talker, Sept.23, [...]

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