Room to speak: Korean-American women in the PCUSA

In 2004, I was the 40th Korean-American clergywoman to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Forty seems a small number when you consider that in 2011, Korean-American clergywomen will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first ordination in their ranks. The road to becoming a Korean-American clergywoman remains hard. Women who seek to be pastors lack community support and mentors and often have trouble obtaining a call to a church.

I was not aware of these difficulties when I felt a call to seminary. I had just met Mary Paik, one of the first Korean-American women to be ordained in the PCUSA, and she was proof to me that anything was possible.

At last summer's PCUSA General Assembly in Minneapolis, Korean-American women were given a historic, if awkward, opportunity to present our particular struggles to the church. Some Korean congregations had organized to form a Korean-language presbytery. Congregations in the PCUSA are typically organized into presbyteries according to geographic region. Korean-speaking congregations had asked to form a presbytery based on language. The plan for a nongeographic presbytery was overwhelmingly ap­proved by an assembly committee.