Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, Voice of the Martyrs Korea President, authors this special series on Kim Kyo Shin, one of the greatest martyrs in Korean Christian history whose voice needs to be heard today more than ever, by Korea and the world.
Question: What were the problems of the Non-Church Movement by Gyo Sin Kim?
- Rejected established church
- Denied any authorities within the church and ordination
- Refused baptism
- Refused communion
–KPC Ordination Study Guide, 2015
Of the 250 questions in the church history section of the ordination study guide of the Korean Presbyterian Church of America, three—including the “short answer” question noted above—have to do with Kim Kyo Shin. None portray him positively. Indeed, if Kim Kyo Shin is mentioned in Korean church history texts, he is usually presented as a kind of tragic figure: A man of great integrity who loved Korea passionately but whose contributions to Korean Christianity were ultimately limited by what is regarded as his rejection of the Korean church.
But is this an accurate portrayal of Kim Kyo Shin? Should he be remembered as an outsider whose Non-Church Movement was, as Yonsei University professor Seo Jong Min described it, “a form of Korean nationalist Christianity” (Hwang, 2012, 3)? Is there any reason to study his writings today for more than historical curiosity?
Kim Kyo Shin himself wrote, “More than others, we don’t like the term, non-church movement” (Kim, 2012, 196). In fact, his own writings reveal a very different man with a very different goal—and a very different attitude toward the Korean church—than he is remembered for today. Most students of Korean church history would be surprised to learn that Kim Kyo Shin “attended a Presbyterian church, made offerings for the construction expenditure of the church, and accepted invitations to lead revival meetings organised by traditional churches (Hwang, 2012, 105). They might also be surprised to learn that Kim Kyo Shin fully expected to be rejected and misunderstood by the Korean church of his own time but believed that his writings might make sense to the Korean church (or at least Korean Christians) of our time. In the first issue of his Songsuh-Chosun (or “Bible Korea”) magazine published in 1927, he recorded what he believed were God’s words to him:
‘Sungsuh-Chosun’! If you have so much patience, wait for Koreans born after the date your initial issue was published, and talk to them, discuss with them; why shall I heave a sigh of despair just because we are to meet fellow thinkers after a century is passed!” (in Kim, 2012, 214).
This series seeks to consider anew who Kim Kyo Shin really was, what he was trying to accomplish, and whether—in line with his prophecy cited above, nearly one century after he wrote it—he might just now be able to meet fellow thinkers willing to give him a new hearing and put into practice ideas he developed one hundred years ahead of his time.
Next in Part II of this special series on Kim Kyo Shin: Indigenous Christianity or Heretical Christianity: The Only Two Options.
Hwang, S.C. 2012. A theological analysis of the Non-Church Movement in Korea with a special reference to the formation of its spirituality. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham.
Kim, J.C. 2012. Recollection of Kyo-Shin Kim. BibleKorea.net. Accessed November 30, 2015 at http://www.biblekorea.net/articles/Recollection_of_Kyo-shin_Kim.doc
KPCA Ordination Exam. 2015. Korean Church History. Accessed December 2, 2015 at http://www.kpcaep.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Korean_Church_History_Study.pdf