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Friday, April 19, 2024

The first Korean-American book covering 120 years of immigrant church history published

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For the first time in the history of the Korean American community in the United States, a book compiling the history of the Korean immigrant church was published on April 6. The book covers 120 years of Korean American church history.

It was a large-scale compilation project involving pastors, theologians, and historians across denominations. It is a book that church officials have been tirelessly working on for the past year.

According to the KCMUSA (President Park Hee-min), “Over the course of its 120-year history, the organization has collected 1,500 manuscripts and more than 2,000 photographs.”

“The publication of the history of the Korean American church on the 120th anniversary of Korean immigration is of great significance,” said Hee Min Park. “It will not only be a turning point in the new leap and development of the Korean American church in the United States, but also serve as a challenge to focus on the future for the 200th anniversary.”


Rev. Cho Sung-hwan, chairman of the publication committee of the Korean American Church in America, described the publication as “a milestone in the 120th anniversary of Korean immigration to the United States.”

“The descendants of Korean immigrants who arrived on Hawaiian sugar cane plantations 120 years ago are now congressional representatives and prominent figures in their respective fields. Who was behind that? It was the church. Wherever Koreans go, there is a church, and the church has been the prophet, prophetess, shield, and bridgehead of Korean history,” Cho said.

It is no exaggeration to say that the history of Korean Americans in the United States is the history of the Korean American church in the United States, and this history of the Korean American church contains all the footsteps of the immigrant church.

The book is organized into four parts: ▶ Early Korean American Church History (1903-1970), ▶ Korean American Church History as Revival Blossomed and Spread Throughout the United States (1970s-Present), ▶ First Korean American Churches in the 50 States, and ▶ History of Korean American Denominations to which Korean American Churches Belong.

The first part, History of Early Korean American Churches, was compiled by Dr. Hongki Kim, former president of Gamshin University. It details the history of Korean American churches from the founding of Christ United Methodist Church in Hawaii to the independence movement of Korean American churches and the history of the unification movement until the 1960s.

Dr. Kim researched Korean American church history in Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Chicago, visiting church and university libraries and archives.

“The immigrant church, which began when the fate of the nation was at stake, grew and flourished by the grace of God,” said Rev. Jonggi Min, KCMUSA’s associate executive director. “It is by the grace of God that the church became a frontline center for the independence movement, a school that produced national leaders, and a hill to comfort and heal immigrants.”

The second part of the book was written by Dr. Choi, a former reporter for the Korea Times and publisher of Christianity Weekly, and Dr. Lee (World Korean Mission Council). They wrote about the revival of the Korean American church since the 1970s and the immigrant church since the 2000s.

“As the Korean American church spread from Hawaii to all 50 states, it was a challenge to find the first church in each state,” Cho said, “publishing this book was possible thanks to the cooperation of many pastors in the process of finding and contacting churches to interview them.”

The second part also details the history of Korean American Christian media.

The history of Korean American Christianity in the United States (p. 391) states that “although it is not a Christian press, the Korea JoongAng Daily and others have a religion section to report on church news.”

The third part is the history of the first 50 Korean American churches. Pastors who are currently leading the first Korean American churches in each state have summarized the history of each church.

Dr. Junho Park, a professor of intercultural studies at Grace Theological Seminary, said, “Most of the churches I mentioned in the book are the first Korean American churches in each state, but a few have merged or disappeared, so for those, I replaced the churches that were established after the first.”

In the case of California, Rev. Changmin Lee compiled the history of the LA United Methodist Church. Other church histories were written by pastors who currently lead the first Korean American churches in their respective states, including Colorado (Korean Christian Church), Connecticut (Hartford Korean Church), Georgia (Atlanta Korean Church), Illinois (First United Methodist Church of Chicago), Kentucky (Louisville First Baptist Church), Michigan (Detroit Korean Presbyterian Church), and Mississippi (Jackson Korean Church).

In the case of Rev. Lee Chang-min, who wrote the history of the LA United Methodist Church, he said, “In March of 1904, a Korean mission church was established on South Hill Street near downtown LA, which was the first Korean church in North America.” “In 1904, there were about 20 Koreans in LA, nine of whom were staying at the Korean missionary hostel established by Mrs. Florence Sherman,” he said.

The fourth part is the history of Korean American denominations in the Americas.

It includes the history of the Korean Presbyterian Church in America (KPCA), the Korean American Presbyterian Church (KAPC), the Korean American Missionary Conference (KMC), the Korean American Diocese of the Salvation Army, the Korean American Synod of the Lutheran Church in North America, and the Jesus Church USA (JKSCA). It also includes histories of Korean churches in U.S. denominations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the Reformed Church in North America (CRC), the United Methodist Church (UMC), and the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECO), to which many Korean churches belong.

The history of KPCA, one of the largest denominations in the Americas, was written by Dr. Sang-myung Lee (President of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the Americas).

“In December 1975, in Skokie, near Chicago, the presiding officers of each region, including Pastor Kye Yong Kim, Pastor Yang Chi-Kwan, and Pastor Byung Kyu Lee, met to discuss the way forward and resolve major issues,” Dr. Lee wrote. “Then, on August 9 of 1976, 21 presiding officers gathered in Illinois to hold the first historic meeting, the Founding General Assembly of the Americas, and elected Pastor Kye Yong Kim as the founding president.”

KCMUSA will hold a thanksgiving service for the celebration of the book publication on May 9 at 11 a.m. at the Oxford Palace Hotel in Los Angeles.

For more information: (213)365-9188, (213)440-5862

The book consists of 872 pages. There are 1008 photographs. A total of 86 people, including church history scholars, pastors, and denominational officials participated in writing the book. Cho Young-sook, director of the editorial department of the American Korean Church History, said, “For the first time, it contains the history of the Korean church in the United States, so it can be used as a textbook for students studying Korean church history in seminaries and writing related papers.


BY JANG YEOL [support@koreadaily.com]