Grace Ji-Sun Kim – God, Women, and the Church

What began as  a personal blogging hiatus, there has been such a positive response to the  to the Guest Blogging Crew, I am making this a regular feature on my blog. It is my intention to expose new/different voices to a larger audience so if you are interested in submitting an idea, please feel fill out this form. This week I am glad to share a post from Rev. Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim about Korean American women in the church. Grace received her M.Div. from Knox College and her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. She is an Associate Professor of Doctrinal Theology and the Director of the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program at Moravian Theological Seminary and the is the author of two books, The Grace of Sophia: A Korean North American Women’s Christology and The Holy Spirit, Chi, and the Other: A Model of Global and Intercultural Pneumatology. Grace was recently ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA).


This land which surpasses beauty, elegance, harmony, and splendor is an attractive vacation destination for many people around the world. Hawaii, a place of warm beaches, palm trees, breathtaking cliffs, and majestic mountains is not a likely spot for a church meeting. But Hawaii is where twenty-one of us gathered for a “Korean Pastor Theologian Consultation PC (USA)” from April 9-13, 2012.

The consultation gathered people engaged in different types of ministries, of different generations, and from different walks of life. We met to discuss, visit, listen to each other’s stories and deepen our own understanding of Koreans and other Asians who traveled to Hawaii to work in the plantations. Through Rev. Mary Paik’s and Dwight Morita’s efforts and hospitality, we were able to visit several Asian (or Asian pastored) churches in Hawaii and hear the stories of the struggles, difficulties and joys of building up and maintaining Hawaiian churches. Listening to their stories, many of us realized how their deep history and rich stories have implications for the Korean immigrant churches on the mainland. The consultation also provided time to share our own personal theological reflections and our struggles of being a member of/ or pastoring in a Korean North American church today.
Some discussions brought out the multi-layered dilemmas, complexities and struggles the Korean immigrant churches are presently experiencing. Issues such as language barriers, intergenerational expectations, gender dynamics, and various forms of ministry engagement came to the forefront.

Among the many topics discussed, it was sexism in all congregations as well as internalized sexism even in each of us, that really caught my attention. Nine participants were women and all of us, except one, are engaged in ministry outside the Korean American church. There are various reasons for women not to engaged in ministry within the Korean American Church but the option to work in the Korean American church should be more readily accessible and available. My personal worry is that there are many female Korean students who enter seminary with hopes of serving the Korean American church but never get the opportunity to do so. There appears to be a lack of interest and desire in the Korean American churches to call women pastors. There is also a lack of retention in keeping women as their pastors.

Sexism is present in our churches as well as in our society. However, it may be even more prominent in our Korean American churches due to Korea’s cultural history, religious background and societal values. As a result, churches will give every excuse not to call a woman as their pastor.  Rev. Unzu Lee states that “churches have to stop blaming culture” for how the Korean American Churches treat their women.  Churches continue to blame Korean cultural, historical and religious heritages as excuses and reasons for how women are treated in the church.  However, Korean American churches need to stop blaming culture and more correctly name this systematic subordination and subjugation of women as sexism.

Korean American churches tend to be conservative.  Their perception of God is that God is masculine and some congregants will publically treat their pastor as “god.” In this manner, we have not come that far from Mary Daly’s reality that “if God is male, than male is God.” If Korean American churches continue to uphold this paradigm and fail to recognize its own sexism, there will be no room for women’s leadership within the church.

Korean American churches cannot continue to blame their history, their Confucian roots and their cultural practices for the way they perceive and treat women. Korean American churches need to reimagine the way we speak, preach and teach about who God is. Korean American churches need to embrace the feminine imagery and language about God which is biblically sound and already incorporated into some dominant mainline churches. We need to reimagine the role of the pastor which can allow room for women’s leadership which is so desperately needed within the Korean American church. If we fail to reinvent our perceptions of women and women’s leadership in the church, we will not only have failed our generation but the next generation of Korean Americans.

This fight against sexism within our Korean American churches is an urgent matter. It does not take just one person, but the entire church to work against sexism. It does not just take the first generation of Korean immigrants, but the second and third generations to work against this as well. It does not just take the leaders but the entire body of Christ to fight against sexism. This fight against eliminating sexism will move toward healing, embracing, and welcoming Korean American women who are doubly marginalized in our society. It is a difficult battle to fight, but an urgent one which requires the entire body of Christ to work toward the “reign of God” which receives all people as equal regardless of class, age, ethnicity, or gender.

Re-posted from

Ryan Kemp-Pappan: Five Graphic Novels Every Pastor Should Read

I love sharing my blogging space with an occasional guest bloggers. It is my intention help share some new/different voices with a larger audience Today’s post is from my friend, Ryan Kemp-Pappan. Ryan is a “LGBTQ Advocate. Minister. Recovering Addict. Friend. Son. Spiritual Director. Social Worker. Artist. Writer. LA Dodger fan. Taco Aficionado. Runner. Aspiring Vegan. Extrovert married to an introvert.” Be sure to connect with Ryan on his BLOG, on TWITTER and on FACEBOOK. Thanks Ryan!

Being a broken, unemployed, and recently married young(er) fella I was super excited to be getting a job that paid me to do stuff I loved to do. I had to read, study scripture, and forge relationships with folks. I even got to watch movies and read comic books again. This last perk was my favorite thing to do as a kid.

I read a lot during the eleven years of undergraduate study and even more as a seminarian. In seminary, I did not once read for fun outside of menus and the occasional left behind newspaper. When I graduated from seminary and got my first call I received vacation and study time and other glorious perks, not to mention a great salary package.

The best part of this salary package was the book allowance. I was able to buy books, all kinds of books! I bought about a hundred books that first year and could not keep up with reading them. I was well purchased and decently read.

The next year I decided to not buy any more books until I had read all the books I bought the previous year. Then a friend of mine named “Funkmaster3000” gave me the challenge of challenges! He challenged me to only read graphic novels for an entire year. I loved comics as a kid and took him up on it.

I read many wonderful books. The range and depth of story that was engaged by graphic novels surprised me. I imagined I would read a lot of “hero” books or weird French books about crime and romance. There was real theology going on in these books and it renewed my faith as I explored it. This is a list of those I feel that every pastor should read.

ONE |  Irredeemable, 8 Volumes by Mark Waid and Peter Krause published by BOOM! Studios.

This is a great story. Imagine if the likes of Superman, the world’s greatest hero, seemingly turned bad over night, this is the story of the Plutonian. Here is part of the foreword by Mark Waid, “No one simply turns evil one day. Villainy isn’t a light switch. The road to darkness is filled with moments of betrayal, of loss, of disappointment, and of superhuman weakness. In the case of the Plutonian, there were sidekicks who sold his secrets. There were friends who preyed too often on his selflessness and enemies who showed him unsettling truths about himself. And those were the good days.”

This is a wonderful engagement of those moments in ones life where goodness conflicts with the nature of human sin. Tackling those “what-if” moments in the safety of a hero’s world allows for many of us to connect, relate and examine the realities within ourselves as we seek to minister for God to others.

TWO | Buddha, 8 Volumes by Osamu Tezuka, published by Vertical

I cannot remember how many times I have recommended this book to someone. This is the single greatest book that I have ever read. I savored every page, every word I read. I did not want it to end. I purposely took almost two months to finish the final volume (8) the first time I read it, as I was not willing to let the story end.

This is the story of Siddhattha Gotama and chronicles his life, as he becomes Buddha. A cast of fictionalized and real characters are developed and explored as very human characteristics are engaged and offered up to the reader to connect with. I enjoyed the direct nature of this encounter with violence, death, sex, and other traditionally taboo topics in my own faith experience. This book opened up my faith and allowed me to explore it through the lens of other wisdom navigated by the genius and daring of Tezuka.

THREE | Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm by Percy Carey and Ronald Wimberly, Published by Vertigo

This was the grittiest story that I read that took place in the United States. It is the story of MF Grimm a popular gangster rapper from the early 90’s. This book was a very real exposure to a life that is far from my own experience. The violence and angry that carried the book was not gratuitous.

I enjoyed this book because it introduced me to my “Other.” It took me out of the comfort zone of my life and offered me a counter to the early 90’s rap world I had lived in Los Angeles. It took my privilege and slapped the shit out of me with it. It forced me to see the humanity, the struggle, and hope for humanity that dwells in the depths of all our hearts. It is a wonderful examination of the dominant culture that shapes the norms used to strengthen injustice and marginalize people.

FOUR | Rex Mundi, Six Volumes by Arvid Nelson, Eric J, and Jeromy Cox published by Dark Horse Books.

I love alternative history stuff. Here is a book that supposes that the Protestant Reformation was smashed and exists only as a terrorist organization as the Catholic Church asserts it totalitarian authority upon the world. Need I say more?

It is a Steam Punkish setting with a dark mystic allure where the authors embellish the story with fake newspapers, maps, and a wonderfully detailed history available on the book website. It is extremely addictive and a fascinating look at the what if’s of the revolution that forged the foundations of my faith community. Easily one of my favorite books ever!

FIVE | The Walking Dead, 16 Volumes by Robert Kirkman Published by Image

Before there was the AMC TV show there was Kirkman’s intense apocalyptic journey through a mobile, living hell. This is one of those books that you will stay up late in to the night to finish. I read the first four volumes in one sitting. The story is very real. It explores humanity in ways we dare not as theologians. The dialogue is witty, honest and it scares the shit out of you. I found myself reading them in broad daylight or in the company of others.

It is one harrowing tale of depravity after another. You are bombarded with all evidence that God has forgotten the fearfully, wonderfully part of creation and has unleashed unimaginable carnage and judgment upon us.

Say good bye to Romero’s slow walking, dim-whit zombies and hello to Kirkman’s honest reflection of humanity in a pivotal era that demands we answer for the corporate sin of capitalism, greed, and the inhumanity we afflict each other with.

SIX-TEN | In case 5 is not enough . . .