Member Church Feature: Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK)

by Council for World Mission

The name of our Church is the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK). We are the oldest denomination in the history of Korean Christianity, observing the doctrine of the Presbyterian Church, the Apostle’s Creed, 12 Articles of Korean Presbyterian Confession of Faith and the Westminster Catechism and Confession of Faith. Our Church operates seven theological seminaries throughout the country (the most numerous of any denominations in Korea), producing hundreds of ministers and missionaries yearly that serve the Korean Church and the world. There are 8,989 congregations with 67 regionally divided Presbyteries in the PCK.

As the history of Korea is marked by foreign invasions and internal divisions, one of the main concerns of the PCK is the work of healing and reconciliation. We are a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and its 10th assembly was held in Busan in 2013. We are also a member of ecumenical institutes such as the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), and are working together as a member of missional bodies of the Council of World Mission (CWM), the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS) and the Mission 21.

Brief History

The Presbyterian Church of Korea is based in Seoul, South Korea. However, its inception took place in Hwanghae Province, current North Korea. There, Sang-Ryun Suh founded the first Protestant church of Korea, the Sorae Church in 1884. In the same year, Mr. Horace N. Allen from the Presbyterian Church of North America arrived in Korea and started medical ministry. Rev. Horace G. Underwood came to Korea the next year to carry out his mission work, which was the beginning of the Presbyterian Mission in Korea. In 1901 the Pyong-Yang Theological Seminary (which is currently the Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary, PUTS) was established, and its first seven graduates were ordained as the first Korean pastors at the Daehan Presbytery in 1907.

The General Assembly of the PCK was established on September 1, 1912 under the name of “The Chosun Presbyterian Church.” In 1934, the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Presbyterian Church was celebrated. Soon after the liberation from Japanese Occupation, the General Assembly experienced divisions of the “Koshin” group in 1951, “Kijang” group in 1953 and the “Hapdong” group in 1959 due to issues such as the forced Japanese shrine worship and related theological disputes, and the General Assembly re-identified itself since then with the current name, “The Presbyterian Church of Korea”, as the “Tonghap” group.

In 1998, the 83rd General Assembly adopted a new statement on policy – “For the Glory of God, towards the Life Community in which All Creations Live Together in Harmony,” establishing the foundation of the long-term direction and policy of the PCK. Our largest seminary, the PUTS is operated under the motto of “Pietas et Scientia,” the famous phrase of Calvin which can be translated as “Piety and Scholarship.” Indeed the hope of the PCK is to reveal the glory of God as all of His creation living together in harmony.

Members of the PCK regularly attend the CWM’s Training in Mission (TIM) Programme. Also, two of our missionaries are sent to Great Britain and New Zealand through the CWM. CWM and the PCK have been continuously sharing people and resources, and the PCK has active partnership with several CWM member churches.

Mission Programmes/ Ministries of the Church

There are about six general areas of ministry in the PCK – National Mission Ministry, Worldwide Mission Ministry, Education and Resourcing Ministry, Social Service Ministry, Military Mission Ministry, and Rural Mission Ministry.

It also consists of thirteen committees, such as Mission Committee for the Unification of North & South Korea, the Theological Education Committee, and Counter Pseudo-Religion Committee.

Being mostly a secular country, there is still a large tension between the claims of the Church and that of the secular world. In this regard, Christian Education is a struggle in itself amid clash of values. In support of this challenge, the Education and Resourcing Ministry is responsible for researching policies concerning all Christian education and developing publication of teaching resources and educational materials. It supports the publication of various teaching materials and books for Sunday schools, and holds meetings, seminars and workshops regarding Christian Education. The PCK publication is very popular among the member churches, and one can find that throughout the retreat seasons (summer and winter), large portions of PCK congregations end the season with a united topic and resolution provided by the PCK Education and Resourcing Ministry.

Korea is not only secular, but also a warring country. The Korean War has never really stopped (only agreed on armistice), and the threat from the North is continuously belligerent. Hence, South Korea currently operates nearly 600,000 soldiers in the military. The Military Mission Ministry is responsible for the policy-making of mission programs in military camps, training of its professional mission co-workers and supporting the various mission programs for soldiers. Due to such efforts, the military is the largest mission front in Korea. Every year hundreds, even thousands of soldiers get newly baptized in the camp churches. The challenge is for them to keep and renew their faith even after they return to the society.

Affiliated Foundations of PCK include General Assembly Pension Foundation, which takes charge of matters related to the old-age pension which supports the ministers in their retirement, Kidokgongbo (PCK Newspaper), the weekly Christian newspaper, the Siloam Welfare Center for the Visually Disabled, and the Ocean Medical Mission, founded to spread the Gospel to the non-Christians of aboriginal tribes in foreign countries and to the islanders in Korea through its medical mission activities and healing ministries while promoting health conditions, preventing illnesses and developing educational and social welfare programs in its mission fields.

A group photo of trainees of PCK missionaries. The Department of Worldwide Mission Ministry of the PCK organizes a total of 3 training sessions for about 35 new missionary families, and 2 continued education sessions for about 20 missionary families. Trainers are mostly PCK senior missionaries.

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