James Sanghyun Lee, Candidate for Vice-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

James Sanghyun Lee, Candidate for Vice-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) June 2, 2012

In an attempt to help folks get to know the candidates for Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), I have asked the Moderatorial and Vice-Moderatorial Candidates a few questions. You can find links to all of their responses HERE and you can follow most of the candidates on Twitter HERE. Thanks for taking the time to read their responses and please feel free to share this with friends, leave a comment or ask a question.

James Sanghyun Lee –  Teaching Elder, Trinity Presbytery

A snippet from James’ responses in the 2012 Moderatorial Handbook:

Under his leadership, KCPC has expanded not only its membership and programs, but also its local and overseas missions. Today, the church partners with over 15 missionaries and has completed three construction projects in Mexico and India. Rev. Lee also has involved actively with the spiritual formation of the second generation Korean Americans. Through his coordination, the regional Korean American summer youth camp has grown to a consortium of over 25 youth ministries within the Synod of South Atlantic and Living Waters.

Knowing that being Moderator/Vice-Moderator will require a great deal of time and energy from you and your community, why give in this way to the Presbyterian Church (USA)?

It is the calling. When I was about to respond to my first call as a youth pastor two decades ago, I felt utterly unprepared even with few students, but I was certain that God had a reason. Since that moment, I have experienced God’s grace allowing me to serve in a way I had never imagined. Serving as a Vice-Moderator will require more time and energy, but if an opportunity is given to me, I will serve with the strength God provides. As 1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

Today, the church faces a lot of questions. However, I am not sure whether we should spend our time answering them all. Watching the decline of many mainline denominations, whether they are on a conservative or a progressive spectrum (ASARB, 2010), I wonder whether we are focusing at a correct set of questions. Many issues we have in our church today seem to obstruct us from seeing the global perspective our risen Lord Jesus shared with the first believers. I hope that GA will be able to raise a new set of questions that will initiate open ended dialogues. In our emerging world, whether it is a redeveloped neighborhood in Detroit or a sprawling downtown in Shanghai, the church should find a way to relate to the people who are searching for meaning and purpose in life.

If someone were to ask you, “Why should I bother going to church?” how would you respond?

In our diverse culture, people seem to be cautious of sharing their faith. However, I would still invite people to attend my church and share with them of how the church gives me hope in my life. I believe that sharing personal testimonies plays a key role when it comes to inviting people to church. People may not be ready to come right away, but when their lives are challenged with struggle, they may remember the invitation. I have seen many people who have come to church because of such invitations. An invitation to church is like planting a seed. The one who sows may not see the result, but the seed will grow and bloom when the time comes. After inviting people to the church, I will also continue to pray for them.

Choose one item of business or issue that will be coming up at General Assembly and share your perspective.

One item of business that interest me the most is the recommendation made by GA Special Task Force to Study Racial Ethnic and New Immigrant Church Growth to hold a national consultation to develop strategies and polices to support racial ethnic, multicultural, and new immigrant church growth (Item No. 16-06).

The racial and cultural makeup of our nation has become increasingly diverse and complex. However, our strategy has not changed much. Restaurants like McDonald’s do not open stores catering exclusively for racial ethnic, multicultural, and new immigrant population. Instead they find a way to reach out to diverse racial and cultural makeup of the general population . As a Korean American, I hope to see my children not attending a racial ethnic church, but a church that embraces diversity. Definitely it is a time to reinvestigate a new strategy.

What are a few things that most people would never guess about you: interests, adventures or . . .?

I love cooking. It is a relatively recent discovery of my talent. I love to recreate dishes that I ate in the past. It is a great way to relieve my stress and bring joy to my family and friends.

One adventure I recall from my youth is camping on a remote island in Hong Kong for five days with 3 of my friends. The trip became longer than we had intended. The fishermen who dropped us on the island forgot to pick us up. It became a survival game after we consumed all the food we had. Finding food on an uninhabited island for the remainder of the trip was a struggle. One lesson I learned is the importance of the team work especially in a crisis situation.

WILD CARD: Answer any question you want, one that someone has yet to ask or choose from some that have been asked here:

Seeing as how most of the congregations in the PC(USA) are declining, what leadership can you offer to churches who are trying to turn that around? How are the congregations that you serve doing in that regard?

When I first came to my current church, the church had a clear sign of aging. The median age of the congregation was late 50s. Today with some changes the session made the median age has become early 40s. Two major changes were the emphasis on Christian education and overseas missions. The session took initiative in both areas.

Under the session leadership, we revamped our Sunday school program by realigning adult programs in parallel with the children’s program. Such realignment created a synergistic effect and resulted in a major increase in overall church attendance. Today my church enjoys both the presence of younger families and older members because effective children’s program also attracted their grand parents.

The session decentralized overseas missions to small groups. The number of mission partners increased from 2 to 15. Three construction projects have been completed in Mexico and India. The mission budget increased by 10 times as well. Overseas missions also sparked a need for local outreach programs. From these changes, I witnessed how people can be passionate with the church once their time and effort are focused on the Great Commission.

Thanks again to all of the candidates for being part of this process. While we obviously hold all of the candidates in prayer throughout this process, please be sure to pray for their communities of service, their families and all who are supporting them during this time.

For all of the candidates’ links and responses click HERE or go directly to the individual responses: Susan and JamesRandy and ShamaineRobert and HopeNeal and Tara

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