Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

The pursuit of reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula

By Thomas Kemper*

The following reflection focuses on the 2018 Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula, an event hosted by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia, Nov. 9-11. The United Methodist Church, the Korean Methodist Church, the World Methodist Council and the World Council of Churches were represented in the gathering. Featured speakers included former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Ambassador James Laney, a United Methodist minister, former missionary in Korea and former president of Emory University.

It was an amazing three days, not only because of the inspiration we received from President Jimmy Carter and Ambassador James T. Laney, who had been central to defusing the nuclear crisis in 1994, but also because of what the gathering produced. We concluded the roundtable on Sunday, Nov. 11, with a clear plan – an Atlanta Statement, which has been announced in Korean and English. The statement outlines ways in which the church can further engage, directly and meaningfully, in the peace process. More than a few of the civic and church leaders at the roundtable encouraged a greater and stronger role for the church in working to encourage our national leaders.

The roundtable brought together the global Methodist family and produced an extraordinary new energy for working together, which had been our original intent.
This is a testThomas Kemper, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, welcomes delegates to the Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula in Atlanta. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE, UMNS.

However, because of its timing, responding to the Inter-Korean events this year and the shift in relations between North Korea and the United States, the event attracted not only Korean Methodists but also top leaders of other Korean denominations and the international ecumenical peace movement, led by the World Council of Churches, plus several key nongovernmental organizations involved in peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

45850254421_561f8974cb_o.jpgDelegates and guests join hands in song during the Roundtable for Peace on the Korean Peninsula in Atlanta. Front row, from left are: Chang-Seek Yang, Aiyoung Choi and Marilyn Weingartner. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE, UMNS.

I want to make it clear that the roundtable invited the top church leaders of the Korean Christian Federation from Pyongyang, North Korea, to attend the event in Atlanta. However, their participation was prevented by the present U.S. travel ban. This was unfortunate and deeply disappointing. Their presence could have undoubtedly played an important part in fostering the new relations among peoples that was so warmly touted in the Singapore Statement of this past June.

*Thomas Kemper is the general secretary of Global Ministries.