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Korean-English Fellowship Forms

New ethnic group seeks to mobilize second generation, English-speaking leaders.
The U.S. Assemblies of God has authorized the formation of the Korean-English Fellowship (KEF), primarily as a vehicle for second-generation Koreans to gain leadership opportunities in churches.

The U.S. AG already has two Korean districts, comprised of 117 largely Korean-language congregations. Many of the churches are led by senior pastors who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s from South Korea. The new fellowship is made up of subsequent generations.

“The Korean-English Fellowship will recruit and mobilize second-generation Korean-American pastors in the U.S.,” says Joshua I. Kang, president of the group. “They’ve grown up speaking English, been educated in the U.S., have multicultural experience, know how to adapt to different cultures, and have spiritual fervency of the Korean church. God wants to mobilize this particular people group.”

Kang is senior pastor of Full Gospel Las Vegas Church, which holds services in both English and Korean for 600 regular attendees.

While second generation Koreans have risen to prominent ranks in mainstream workplaces, Kang, 52, contends many haven’t assumed similar roles in church leadership because first generation pastors are reluctant to pass the baton. It’s a tension other ethnic minority groups — in the AG as well as the evangelical church overall — are experiencing.

“First generation pastors need to know that second generation pastors are capable of big and important responsibilities in churches,” says Kang, who arrived in the U.S. at the age of 9 with his immigrating parents. “The time has come for change. We believe Korean-Americans have a crucial role to play in completing the Great Commission.”

Saehee Duran, lead pastor of Life360 Intercultural Campus in Springfield, Missouri, is KEF’s new vice president.

“We don’t want to lose potential leaders because of a lack of connections they feel with the first generation,” says Duran, who first came to the U.S. at the age of 15. “The fellowship will help develop second and third generation leaders who may not really understand the first generation Korean culture.”

Unlike many of her contemporaries, the 34-year-old Duran speaks both English and Korean fluently. Duran is like many of her American-born peers in being more diverse than their Korean-born parents. Her Hispanic husband, Damon, is co-lead pastor at Life360, which is a multiethnic congregation.

“We’re not trying to build another Korean district,” Duran says of KEF. “We’re trying to build a multicultural fellowship.” Duran also is discipleship ministry coordinator at the AG national office.

The two AG Korean districts fully supported the formation of the Korean-English Fellowship, which has become the 23rd distinct language/ethnic fellowship group in the U.S. AG. Fifteen churches in 15 states successfully petitioned the Executive Presbytery for recognition as an ethnic fellowship. The number of adherents in Korean district churches, 21,536, is little changed from a decade ago.

“This is not a language fellowship, it is an ethnic fellowship,” says Scott Temple, director of the AG Office of Ethnic Relations. “It is for ethnic Koreans who are English speakers.”

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.