Math may not be the Rev. Tong Kyun-Kim's specialty, but the statistical imbalance that has confronted him for too long has multiplied his determination to promote progressive Christianity in the Korean community of New York City.
"I believe that our multi-faith service last December is a steppingstone to positive change amid Korean conservative Protestant churches," said Kim, pastor of The Least of These Church.
UCC Local Church Ministries has provided funding for the church while Judson Memorial Church has birthed The Least of These –– just one example of how UCC national and local settings work as one to plant and grow churches.
"There are over 500 Korean immigrant churches in New York and New Jersey, but 99 percent of them are fundamentalist –– they are especially exclusive to 'other religions,'" said Kim. "Even they believe Catholic as an 'other' religion."
So last Dec. 18, Kim brought together members of the community and Korean churches, as well as Buddhist monks, Won Buddhist (Korean Indigenous Buddhism) monks, a Catholic priest and a Protestant pastor to set a precedent at a gathering titled "The Christmas Service with Korean Neighbor Religions."
"We had a wonderful and beautiful experience at this multi-faith service," said Kim. "My church sincerely respects our neighbors' religions and faith. We believe in learning from each other so that we can enrich our faiths, and ultimately strive to work in solidarity with neighbor religions to help people who are suffering, and realize peace and justice in our society."
Kim forecasts the blowing winds of interfaith change to continue steadily, indefinitely. "We have already started to plan and have promised each other that we will visit to celebrate the special day of each religion – Buddha's birthday (May 27), the Day of Won Buddhism (April 29), Christmas, etc. – continuously throughout the coming years," he said.
Kim said the interfaith group is forming committees, including one for a young-adult interfaith association, to build its presence in New York and New Jersey.
"Theologically, politically and culturally, a church needs to be built for progressive Koreans/Christians who seek to engage in social justice and the liberation movement," said Kim.
"We, as one of the laborers, the poor, the middle class, youth, students and the intellectuals, believe that 'the least of these' are the people who are suffering and marginalized, exploited and oppressed in this capitalistic society and imperialistic world; the racial or sexual minorities," said Kim. "We believe that 'the least of these' can be the subjective people to build the kingdom of God. We seek to participate in building of God's kingdom as a Christian and as a community. Therefore, we call ourselves 'The Least of These Church.' (Matthew 25: 44-45)"
To learn more about The Least of These Church email Rev. Tong Kyun-Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.