'An opportunity and a privilege'

'An opportunity and a privilege'

March 11, 2016

“I was shocked,” admits Rev. Heecheon Jeon, who was recently appointed Superintendent for the Central District of the Iowa Conference. “I was shocked and I was a little bit scared, somehow. Because I never, never imagined that it would come to me at this point.”

Click here to listen to the conversation with Rev. Jeon

Rev. Jeon had only been with his current congregation, Mt. Vernon UMC, for about a year when he got the news from Bishop Trimble of his new position, but there was still something of a grieving process as he prepared to leave them. “They are one of the most beloved communities that I have been in,” he says. “But I think through that process I gradually realized that this call has been made by many and many prayers. So I fully trust God and God’s timing as Bishop [Trimble] made that call for us and for me.”

Rev. Jeon’s family includes his wife, Ann, and his daughter, Sonia, who is a high school senior. “This is a really major change for me and for my family also, so I talked to my wife and my daughter about this. They are very used to transitions over the years,” he says, noting that they have become accustomed to adapting to change and are excited about this new chapter in their lives. But he also acknowledges that there is some nervousness. “Even though the future is promised, it’s still unrevealed. And that gives us some anxiety also.”

A Ph.D. and a published author, Rev. Jeon is a learned man who views his academic background as a part of his intellectual DNA. “Although, when looking at the congregation, I intentionally use very plain language,” he explains. “But I think, for the most part, I try to challenge the people in the pews thinking, and thinking deeper and further and wider. Ministry is not just caring for the congregation, it’s also equipping and discipling those in the pew to go further into the world, which is changing rapidly.”

In his new role as Superintendent, Rev. Jeon wants to continue being very intentional in a community full of difference. “One of the first words that Bishop Trimble shared with me during the first meeting was ‘diversity’. Central District is the most diverse district in our Annual Conference,” he asserts. “When I look at pastors and I look at the churches and I look at the people in the congregations, I think that we are able to celebrate the diversity and differences among us.”

“Also, at the same time,” he continues, “we are able to respect those differences so that as we think about the ministry and mission of the church, church is not a homogeneous community. It is heterogeneous, it is the diverse community of faith.”

Originally from South Korea, Rev. Jeon is contributing to this increasing diversity. “My family and I are simply different people from most of the people in Iowa. Maybe we are bringing some new spirit and new culture and new value into a new location like Central District,” he says, hoping it will be a two-way street. “The mutual respect among us, that helps us to understand each other. Sometimes it is a scary thing, it is a fearful thing, it is not comfortable. We have to get out of the comfort zone to welcome the differences. But I do have a confidence that people in the Central District will be able to celebrate the differences that we, my family and I, are willing to share.”

For now, Rev. Jeon confesses, “I am overwhelmed … And I am amazed also.” In talking to the bishop and other superintendents as he prepares for his new position, he can see the responsibilities are great. “Wow, this is sacred task!” he exclaims. “What a great opportunity and honor and privilege that I have to be a part of this journey.”