The Atlanta-based global ministries board of the United Methodist Church has opened an office in Seoul, South Korea, with the purpose of working to reduce tensions on the peninsula by partnering with other organizations rather than trying to proselytize.
Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the church’s global ministries, said in a news release that the Seoul office is to represent all of Asia and includes a staff of 10 with seven based in Seoul and the remaining three in the church’s offices in Atlanta, New York and Nanjing, China.
“The office is for the whole of Asia,” Dr. Kemper added. “But, being in Korea, we are also very aware of the tensions in this part of the world…so we commit ourselves also to work for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.”
The office also is to develop ties with Asian Christians, including those in China, with the anticipation that independent Methodist churches will emerge throughout the region as in Cambodia where Methodists have joined with members of the United Methodist Church from Singapore, Korea and China to grow the church.
The Seoul office is near to where the first Methodist missionaries to Korea began working in the 1880s, starting schools and health care ministries. Bishop Myung Gu Jun, presiding bishop of the Korean Methodist Church, welcomed Dr. Kemper and other members of the board during an opening ceremony in March.
“We as the Korean Methodist Church welcome you with open arms and look forward to working in partnership with you,” he said.
The office opening is the latest international initiative of the church, which dedicated a regional office in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last year and has plans to to open a regional office in French-speaking Africa in 2018 or 2019.
The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries moved its headquarters to Atlanta last year from Riverside Drive in New York to benefit from lower costs and a desire to expand internationally.
In Atlanta it has partnered with Grace United Methodist Church on the corner of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Charles Allen Drive to provide office space for a staff of 180 including those working for Global Ministries and and the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Global Health.
Dr. Kemper has been heading the mission agency’s “From Everywhere to Everywhere” approach through its new Center for Mission Innovation. Three hundred fifty Methodist missionaries serve in 60 countries.
The United Methodist Church recently received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum certification for its building renovation on Ponce de Leon.This is the highest possible recognition for environmental sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The designation was achieved specifically for the repurposing of a 29,000-square foot north building, which dates back to 1957.
The facility houses most of the Global Ministries’ programs offices, including those addressing disaster relief and development in the United States and overseas, global health, and missionary services.
To learn more about the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, click here.