At least half of the Korean members of the Christian Reformed Church in California are leaving the denomination. On September 13 five Korean CRC congregations and one independent Presbyterian church met at Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles to form the Presbytery of Los Angeles of the Korean Reformed Presbyterian Church in America. Rev. Young Ik Byun of Bethel Presbyterian (formerly West Bethel CRC) was elected moderator.The following Christian Reformed congregations also sent representatives: Bethel Korean of Chino; Evergreen Korean of Los Angeles; Los Angeles Korean, and Orange Donsang of Orange County. The five churches have a combined membership of 2,200.
In addition the Independent Mission Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles, pastored by Rev. Sang Hu Chung, has joined the Los Angeles Presbytery. Independent Presbyterian has 1,300 members. The new court has a total of 3,500 members.
The Presbytery of Northern Los Angeles will be formed Oct. 4. Valley Korean e Re with 715 members will act as the organizing church. According to Dr. John E. Kim, six other Korean churches currently within the Christian Reformed Church, are committed to joining this Presbytery.
Two other presbyteries will be formed in the next four weeks. The first will be the Presbytery of San Francisco, led by East Bay Korean with 414 members. The second will be a presbytery encompassing Korean churches outside of California. Rev. Seung Jai Kang of the Korean CRC in Kalamazoo is responsible for this presbytery.
Following the organization of the presbyteries, the denomination will hold its first General Synod on Oct. 18 in Los Angeles.
By any standards the majority of the Koreans in the CRC have left or are leaving the denomination. The six congregations which are organizing the two presbyteries in Los Angeles add up to 2,973 members.
The total membership of Korean churches in the Los Angeles region is 5,483. Even without the six unnamed congregations committed to the classis of North Los Angeles, the six seceders already have 54. percent of the membership. Add the Independent Mission Presbyterian Church and the two presbyteries are 50 percent larger than the whole remaining Korean Christian Reformed presence in Southern California.
These figures are relevant in light of the Sept. 27, 1993 issue of The Banner which denies a large scale exodus by the Koreans. Following a visit to Los Angeles on Aug. 31, denominational General Secretary Leonard Hofman claims only five or six of the “dozens of congregations” are leaving. The CRC has about 30 Korean churches in and around Los Angeles. But the five or six leaving contain the majority of the members.
In a reaction to The Banner article, Dr. John E. Kim, the organizing force behind the secession, said that he was “so disappointed when I read the article.” Kim says that the denomination is distorting the real picture by playing “number games.” He points out that the majority of the membership is leaving, even if a majority of the congregations have not yet left. Dr. Kim also underlines the fact that “we are in the process of leaving.” He counts at least 15 ministers who intend to leave the CRC.
Dr. Kim also expressed his disappointment about the remarks made by Rev. John Choi, Korean Ministries coordinator for the CRC in Southern California. In The Banner article Choi is quoted as saying that Kim deliberately misinformed the Korean churches about what is happening in the CRC, in particular, on the issue of homosexuality. Said John E. Kim: “I did not say the denomination endorses homosexuality. I told my people that CRC minister Jim Lucas declared himself to be a homosexual. The denomination has done nothing to remove him. That offends me so much.”
John E. Kim says that he is not seeing “sporadic events” in the CRC. “I am seeing the whole picture.” The theological climate has changed since the 1960s. But he says, “The denomination has changed so quickly.”
John Choi was not available for comment.