Sunny Ahn

Ethnic Background: Asian American (Korean)

Conference: California Pacific

Probationary Date: 06/18/2000

Full Membership Date: 06/22/2002

Number of Eligible Quadrenniums: 4

I started my undergraduate studies, majoring in education at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). However, the 1994 Northridge earthquake diverted the course of my study from finishing my undergraduate study at CSUN because the school campus was so severely damaged. Due to safety reasons, the school was unsure when the classes I needed to take for graduation would be offered. So, I transferred to International Christian University and graduated with a B.A. in Christian Education. This was the beginning of my theological education.

I went to San Francisco Theological Seminary and obtained a Master of Divinity degree. I have a Doctor of Ministry degree in Biblical Preaching and Church Leadership as a Beeson Scholar with full scholarship at Asbury Theological Seminary. My dissertation thesis was “Clergywomen with Spiritual Authority.” I have a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Capella University (MBA in Nonprofit Management). I have finished all my Ph.D. coursework in Business Administration, specializing in Organizational Leadership at Northcentral University. My thesis is” Adaptive Leadership in Times of Crisis: A Qualitative Multi-Case Study of Pastors Serving Local Churches in the California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.” Currently (09-01-2022), I am working on Chapter 4 of my dissertation, analyzing the collected data.

I have been trained for:
• The Natural Church Development (NCD) Program;
• The Institute of Congregational Development of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference;
• JusticePeace Center for Mediation and Conflict Transformation of The United Methodist Church;
• Lombard Mennonite Peace Center Mediation Training;
• Multiethnic Church Ministries Training;
• Ambassador of Hope Training at Share Hope International to fight against Sex Trafficking;
• The Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation of The United Methodist Church;
• The Advocate/Counsel Training of The United Methodist Church;
• The California-Pacific Annual Conference Coach Training;
• Digital Church Planting Training;
• “Normalizing Next” Training; and
• American Sign Language (ASL) Certificate Program at Gallaudet University.

Ministry Experience:
Before my ordination in 2000, I was a Christian Education Coordinator/Director (전도사) at Woodland Hills Korean UMC for 10 years (1990-2000). During that time, I wrote a Children’s Crusade curriculum called “Kumbaya Crusade” endorsed by Rev. Billy Graham, and the Billy Graham Organization sponsored this program. This program was also sponsored by the LAUSD, the LAPD, 7-Eleven, the Ecumenical Association of Korean Churches in LA County, and the Child Evangelism Fellowship.

After the ordination, I was appointed to:
• The United Methodist Church of Westlake Village (Cal-Pac, July 2000-June 2005),
• Northridge United Methodist church (Cal-Pac, July 2004-June 2005),
• Toluca Lake United Methodist Church (Cal-Pac, July 2005-June 2008)
• La Canada United Methodist Church (Cal-Pac, July 2008-December 2010),
• Our Redeemer’s United Methodist Church (NIC, January 2011-June 2014),
• San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church (Cal-Nev, July 2014-June 2016), and
• Kona United Methodist Church (Cal-Pac, July 2016-Present).

I have also involved in God’s ministry beyond my appointed local churches such as:
• Executive Secretary of Commission on Ethnic Ministry in Cal-Pac;
• Santa Barbara District Committee on Planning & Strategy;
• JusticePeace Center for Mediation and Conflict Transformation of The UMC;
• planning with others the national training event for members of Committees on Investigation;
• Assistant Counsel for the Church;
• the National Association of Korean American United Methodist Clergywomen (NAKAUMC; Executive Director 2011-2013; Vice-President 2013-2015; President 2015-2017);
• Member of the Superintendence Committee of Elgin District in NIC;
• Executive Member of National Korean Ministry Plan of The UMC;
• Member of Cal-Nev Human Trafficking Taskforce;
• Executive Secretary of the Asian American and Pacific Islander United Methodist Clergywomen Association (AAPIC);
• Member of Cal-Pac Administrative Review Committee; and
• Member of Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry.;
• Hui Leader of Hawaii; and
• Ordination Candidacy Mentor.

As a voice of NAKAUMC, I attended the 2016 World Methodist Conference, the 2016 General Conference, and the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. To build a bridge amid the escalated tension within the UMC, I created the 2018 OHANA Conference to bring NAKAUMC & AAPIC together; attended the 30th Eurasia Consultation held in Uzhgorod, Ukraine, in 2019, and joined the 2020 Cambodia Mission. I participated in the Western Jurisdiction Fresh United Methodism Summit 2019 to be a contributor to reshaping the mission/vision of the Western Jurisdiction of The UMC. During COVID, I noticed the neglect of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing siblings in ministry. So, I started the Deaf Ministry in 2020. Two weeks after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, I provided the platform for Rev. Oleg Starodubets & Rev. Dr. Yulia Starodubets in Ukraine to make their voice.

Community and Ecumenical Involvement:
• Ambassador of Hope at Share Hope International to fight against Sex Trafficking;
• Member of National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), Sigma Alpha Pi;
• Member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP);
• Member of the International Society of Female Professionals (ISFP);
• Member of Hawaii Island Coalition Against Human Trafficking;
• Member of Kona Ecumenical Ministers’ Association;
• Member of Big Island Deaf Club;
• Member of Kona HULA Ministry Team;
• Spiritual caregiver of Hawaii Country Council;
• Member of the West Hawaii Going Home Consortium;
• West Hawaii Blue Zone Project Team;
• Hawaii Habitat for Humanity volunteer; and
• Partner with the Hospice of Kona.

Other Relevant Experience:
• Wrote in 1997 a Children’s Crusade curriculum called “Kumbaya Crusade,” endorsed by Rev. Billy Graham & led “Kumbaya Crusade” in 1998;
• Wrote an article titled “The Nurturing Process of God’s Dream” in the Book “The Holy Seed of Calling: Korean-American Clergywomen’s Journeys toward Ordination,” published in 2010 by the National Association of Korean American United Methodist Clergywomen;
• Led the 2016 Holy Land Trip;
• Led a workshop in Korean titled “성(性)에 대한 행정학적 접근 (Administration of Human Sexuality)” at the 2017 Korean American Leadership Conference;
• Keynote Speaker on “글로컬 영성 (Glocal Spirituality)” at the 2017 5-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation in Korea;
• Wrote an article in Korean titled “소수자 차별의 원인과 대안 (The Causes & Alternatives of the Minority Discrimination)” in the Book “Leadership Is Disciples 2018,” published by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church;
• Led the 2018 Mission Pilgrimage to Korea and was the primary translator; and
• Taught “Methodism” at Mongolian Methodist Church in Mongolia, sponsored by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church in 2019.

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?
The question “Why are you being called to the episcopacy at this time?” reminds me of the often-asked question when I was in the 2003 Beeson program at Asbury Theological Seminary with twelve clergymen from various denominations. I was the only woman, the only person of color, and the only single person in the program. I was asked often, “Why are women being called to be in ministry?” So, I wrote my dissertation on “Clergywomen with Spiritual Authority,” telling people academically to ask God, who has called women into ministry by giving them spiritual authority. The call to ministry is from God, and we, the servants of God, are to respond to the call. We, the women in ministry, are the ones who have responded to God’s call with our “Yes.”

So, I would respond to the question, “Why are you being called to the episcopacy at this time?” similarly. I don’t know why God has called me to the episcopacy at this time. But I know that I am to be faithful to God as a servant of Christ. Therefore, I respond to the call with my “Yes” by offering myself just as I am—a Korean-American-Clergy-Woman who loves God and God’s people, particularly The UMC. I believe God desires to utilize who I am to help God’s people remember the past, celebrate the present, and envision the future together as a community of faith. I see that our denomination’s current challenges are the symptoms of not remembering who we are and whose we are, which causes us to limit the celebration of God’s blessings we have received and hinders us from envisioning the future. So, I offer myself to be a catalyst to reclaim The UMC for Christ again. Why me? It’s because I am who I am.

Describe how the last two years have affected your ministry.
The last two years of God’s ministry under my leadership have been the most challenging yet blessed ones. First, I would say that it has been challenged primarily because of internal and external crises. The challenge within The UMC worsened after the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, which affected my assigned local congregation with fear and uncertainty. In addition, the global COVID-19 pandemic shut down the church facilities and did not allow physical in-person gatherings.

I had to be adaptive and creative immediately because of the urgency the crises brought me. I had to move quickly to learn new skills/ideas, apply, and adjust while studying the context and hearing the people in the context without compromising who we are and whose we are as a community of faith. I outsourced the ministry by partnering with other organizations in the community. Thankfully, the lay leadership team of the church moved quickly with me to secure the life of the church. Within a week, all ministries of the church were offered online, then hybrid as the COVID situation gets easy on us. We’ve simplified the ministry by focusing on the mission/vision of the church framed with the theology of grace which has united the church missionally.

I would also say that the last two years have been a blessing because, through our online ministries, we were able to offer the ministry to those people who are not resident in our local community, such as those people in Ukraine, Haiti, Africa, and many parts in America. We also reached out to deaf people. The mission field got enlarged over the last two years. The church is not just surviving and thriving. The crisis has become an opportunity as we see, think, and respond in new ways.

Endorser: Joyce Brady

Relationship to Candidate: Member of Kona United Methodist Church

My name is Joyce Brady, a member of Kona United Methodist Church (KUMC). I have known Rev. Dr. Sunny Ahn for the past six years while she mentored me serving as the Worship Team Leader and English Language Ministry Lay Leader.

I’ve witnessed Rev. Dr. Ahn’s passion, leadership qualities, and management skills that will serve her well as a Bishop. Six years ago, she brought new life to KUMC. She designed a visioning process, empowering/equipping the congregants of our multicultural church. This process continues as laity partners with Rev. Dr. Ahn, stimulating growth and community outreach in innovative ministries.

Rev. Dr. Ahn is proactive and sensitive to needs of her “flock” and beyond. When the pandemic threatened, she responded immediately bringing the gospel to the congregation by learning, then training laity to apply technology to worship including radio, live and recorded broadcasts, and in-person services. Sensing an unmet need, she created a nationally recognized “Deaf Friendly” online worship service.

Her leadership style is relational—partnering, empowering, and collaboration. Her excellent administrative/organizational skills are evidenced in her initiative, creativity, problem-solving, and tenacity. She boldly lives her faith, advocating the mission/vision of KUMC! I endorse her as a candidate for the episcopacy.

Endorser: Alena Uhamaka

Relationship to Candidate: Colleague and Friend

I am Rev. Alena Uhamaka, a Pacific Islander serving as Senior Pastor at Hilo UMC and the Vice-President of the Asian American and Pacific Islander United Methodist Clergywomen Association (AAPIC). I endorse Rev. Dr. Sunny Ahn to be a candidate for bishop in The UMC because I can attest to her skills and leadership qualities as her colleague and friend for over 20 years.

If I were to summarize who Rev. Dr. Ahn is, I would say that she is a creative, fun-loving person who knows how to live her life fully and lead God’s ministry joyfully. Wherever she is, there is always laughter and creativity. Her joyful, energetic presence is contagious and disarms those people around her quickly. She is a person whose knowledge, enthusiasm, and joyful spirit cause others to be more friendly, positive, enthusiastic, and empathetic. I testify that she has been a catalyst for bringing harmony to a group of unrested issues. I have experienced this personally on many occasions, especially through the 2018 Ohana Conference she created and executed with the leadership team of AAPIC. I eye-witnessed this at her current church, Kona UMC, as she unified her multicultural church missionally. I endorse her wholeheartedly.

Endorser: Paul H. Chang

Relationship to Candidate: Colleague and Friend

I am Rev. Paul H. Chang, the Executive Director of the Korean Ministry Plan at Global Ministries. As Rev. Dr. Sunny Ahn’s colleague and close friend for over 15 years, I endorse her as an excellent candidate for the episcopacy of The UMC, especially for the Western Jurisdiction, because I can attest to her leadership qualities.

In all she does, Rev. Dr. Ahn is connectional, collaborative, inclusive, and justice-oriented. She is gifted in many areas, such as conflict management skills and academic research on leadership. She also has excellent potential to grow in the role of a Bishop leading the whole church into the future. She values the history and beliefs of the Wesleyan Movement and its legacy, especially that of combining personal piety and social holiness; if elected, she would be one of our future leaders who can lead the struggling UMC into a better future. She has, more importantly, the heart of a pastor, a requirement of being a Bishop in the Book of Discipline, caring for the clergy and laity of the church. I trust and respect Rev. Dr. Ahn as clergy and a faithful Wesleyan so much that I would have her as my Bishop.

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