Ethnic Background: Korean
Conference: California Nevada
Probationary Date: 06/19/1999
Full Membership Date: 06/22/2002
Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 4
Ph.D. in Religion (Early Christianity), Claremont Graduate University (CA), 2004.
M.T.S., Duke University Divinity School (NC), 1995.
M.Th., Methodist Theological Seminary (Seoul, Korea), 1993.
B.A., Seoul National University (Seoul, Korea), 1989.
District Superintendent, El Camino Real District, California-Nevada Conference, 2020-Present
Co-Coordinator, Western Jurisdiction Korean Ministry Council, 2020-Present
President, Trinity Mission International, 2018-Present
Member, Korean Resources Development Team, Discipleship Ministries, 2015-Present
Convener, Congregational Development MFA and Member of the Core Team, California-Nevada Conference, 2018-2020
Senior Pastor, Korean United Methodist Church of Santa Clara Valley (San Jose, CA), 2010-2020
Member, Western Jurisdiction Korean Ministry Council, 2013-2020
Chair, Conference Committee on Ethnic Ministries and Outreach, California-Nevada Conference, 2014-2017
Member, Mission Alignment Taskforce, California-Nevada Conference, 2010-2012
Senior Pastor, Van Nuys United Methodist Church (Van Nuys, CA), 2008-2010
Member, Board of Ordained Ministry, California-Pacific Conference, 2007-2010
Member, Council on Korean Ministry, California-Pacific Conference, 2004-2010
Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church (Reseda, CA), 2005-2008
Member, Council on Finance and Administration, California-Pacific Conference, 2004-2007
Senior Pastor, Christ United Methodist Church (Santa Maria, CA), 2000-2005
Assistant/Associate Pastor, Van Nuys Korean United Methodist Church (Van Nuys, CA), 1998-2000
Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
President, Association of Korean Churches in San Jose, CA, 2013-2014
Member and officer, Association of Korean Churches in San Jose, CA, 2010-2020
Other Relevant Experience:
Adjunct Professor, San Francisco Theological Seminary (Pasadena Campus, CA), 2008
Adjunct/Assistant Professor of Church History, Methodist Theological Seminary in America (Los Angeles, CA), 1997-2010
Books published through Discipleship Ministries:
Trinity Bible Studies, 10 vols (2017-2021)
A Manual of Christian Denominations: Denominational Identity (2016)
A Manual of The United Methodist Church: Our Identity, History, Structure, Doctrine, and Practice (2015)
Why are you being called to the episcopacy at this time? What is it that you especially bring to the role of bishop with the current challenges facing our denomination and the Western Jurisdiction right now?
Just like a call to ordained ministry, I believe a call to the episcopacy comes from God and also needs confirmation from the church. For some time, my clergy friends have suggested to me about the possibility that I may someday become a bishop, but I have never seriously thought of it, as I have been truly fulfilled by decades of serving the church in a pastoral role. However, the painful realities that we face now as a jurisdiction and as a denomination have challenged me to open my heart and seriously consider what God may be calling me to do. So here I am, putting myself into the discernment and election process, trusting that God speaks through the collective voice of the delegation.
I believe a critical role of a bishop is promoting God’s (rather than his/her own) vision and agenda, which in most cases are those of the people in the pews. A bishop is not one who should know every detail and control everything, but rather one who helps discern the vision for the church and directs nourishment towards it, ultimately developing a healthy ecosystem where all walks of life can flourish. All this can be achieved only when a bishop wholeheartedly supports and values deep collaboration with the many talented leaders who are already among us.
Recently, a struggle over the issue of gender equality has come to a head with the looming departure of traditionalists, including many ethnic constituents, from the United Methodist Church. In this critical time as a denomination, I believe the college of bishops is called, more than ever, to work as a team to help our Western Jurisdiction and denomination form a new collective vision for the future. Although I am an immigrant and from the margins, I am open-minded and would provide unique and empathetic perspectives to the college of bishops.
My dream for the United Methodist Church is that we actively love those who are different from us, as well as make ourselves fully relevant to people outside of the church and their unique life journeys. This means that we should be far more inclusive and diverse. Specifically in the case of predominantly white churches, this means younger and more ethnically and culturally diverse congregations, which better reflect the population mix outside our church doors. In the case of ethnic churches, this means congregations growing to be inclusive and supportive of all persons and communities in ministry. If elected bishop, I expect to serve with the spirit of collaboration and full inclusion.
Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
The last two years have widened and deepened my understanding of what it takes to be a healthy vibrant church.
As a district superintendent, I had opportunities during this pandemic to closely look into the life of each individual church. What has amazed me is how resilient and adaptive our churches were when facing the many difficult challenges created by the pandemic. Most churches were able to locate and utilize untapped resources of the laity to develop digital worship capabilities and let their ministries continue onwards, even better than before.
In fact, the last two years have confirmed for me one important truth about the church: a healthy growing church is always capable of connecting with “the other,” i.e., the next generation, the outer community, the marginalized, and those with diverse ethnic backgrounds. I would call this capacity a humbleness to listen. If we are truly humble enough to listen to God, and to those God calls us to serve and meet their needs, we will deepen connections with them in a meaningful way and add new people to make us a stronger and more vibrant church.
The last two years have also re-oriented my view of church property. During the pandemic, I observed a sharp decline in those struggling churches that had long failed to be led by a strong vision for ministry (and had only sustained themselves by renting out their facilities). For churches that value property more than ministry, the property is unfortunately no longer a blessing but a curse, as property is a blessing only when it is led and energized by a healthy vision.
Then what are we to do with those dying churches with property? Once these churches are supported in finding a new vision for the future – whether it be a vision to revitalize themselves, start a new church, or become a legacy congregation and transition their property to another growing congregation – the property begins to be a blessing. In fact, I have during this pandemic helped one white congregation in my district with forming a vision to reach out to the local Latino population in San Jose and hand over their expensive property to a growing Hispanic congregation. Property with a healthy vision opens up opportunities to save souls to Christ.
My prayer is that we will create such a healthy system in our conference(s) that values vision over property so that we may fulfill our God-given mission as a church.
Endorser: Mandy Choi
Relationship to Candidate: Former member, Lay Elder, and UMW president
I am Mandy Choi, Lay Elder of the Korean United Methodist Church of Santa Clara Valley in San Jose, California. I wholeheartedly recommend my former pastor Rev. Samuel Hong as an episcopal leader in the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.
In my capacity as Korean UMW president at a local church, Annual Conference, and now the national level, I have witnessed Rev. Hong’s special heart for supporting women leadership both locally and nationally. Thanks to his careful and strategic leadership, he helped my church discern and uplift me as Lay Elder, and I was the first woman elected to this leadership position. Moreover, Rev. Hong has always encouraged the whole congregation to bless those women who go beyond their local level and serve the general church.
Another notable quality of Rev. Hong is his intentional invitation for collective vision and shared leadership. He does not believe in a one-man show. This leadership quality has helped his associates and staff collaborate in harmony and make the best team. By witnessing their leaders working in this way, church members have served in ministry teams and have experienced healthy church growth. I believe this spirit of collaboration makes Rev. Hong a most-needed episcopal leader at this time.
Endorser: Linda D. Caldwell
Relationship to Candidate: Clergy Colleague, Former DCM
I am Rev. Linda D. Caldwell a retired Elder in the California-Nevada Conference. I served as Director of Connectional Ministry for the conference and on the Western Jurisdiction Korean Mission Council. I am honored to endorse Rev. Samuel Hong as an episcopal candidate in the Western Jurisdiction.
In 2010 Rev. Hong served on a taskforce that redesigned the structure of the ministries in the conference and served as the vice chair and then the chair for the new Conference Committee on Ethnic Ministries and Outreach. He brought a diverse group of leaders together and generated an atmosphere of trust and confidence in a shared voice and vision for mission.
The WJ Korean Mission Council has a long history in the Jurisdiction. Serving together on the council I was impressed with the easy way Rev. Hong offered his insights, leadership, and experience. He was able to bring together multiple points of view and enable us to work together to strengthen the mission we shared.
I think that it is essential for Episcopal Leadership in our jurisdiction to work together creatively and collaboratively. I believe that Rev. Hong has demonstrated leadership skills and values needed to develop such a collaborative spirit in the jurisdiction.
Endorser: Vietnamese National Caucus of the United Methodist Church
Relationship to Candidate:
We, the Vietnamese National Caucus of the United Methodist Church, would like to humbly endorse Rev. Samuel Hong as a candidate for the episcopacy in the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.
As a first-generation immigrant himself, Rev. Hong understands the challenges that ethnic communities face each day. However, rather than stopping at mere understanding, he actively supports the vision of immigrants and refugees leading our denomination. With these new perspectives and renewed energy, we can dream together for the collective future God desires for us.
We highlight that Rev. Hong’s grand vision is best embodied through his development of an intentional discipleship system for local churches across geographic, linguistic, and cultural barriers. With his extensive academic background and pastoral and teaching experience, Rev. Hong created Korean Trinity Bible Studies, a five-year/ten-semester program based on Wesleyan theology, which is now published in ten books by Discipleship Ministries. We join his prayers that Trinity Bible Studies will be translated into Vietnamese and other languages, helping raise many faithful Wesleyan leaders worldwide. We believe Rev. Hong’s vision for discipleship and mission qualifies him as a good member of the college of bishops.