Rev. Dr. Heecheon Jeon
District Superintendent of the Riverview Park District
I would like to begin with my deepest respect and gratitude for leaders like you for your faithfulness and resilience in such a time as this. We are living in a critical time as the United Methodist Church. While we acknowledge the theological divisions on human sexuality in our worldwide denomination, I truly believe that we may come together as the body of Christ to live out the same mission of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I hope that as I humbly share my own spiritual journey in this public sphere, it might help understand how my theological conviction has been evolved and how an integration of diversity and differences has nurtured an authentic relationship with one another. In a nutshell, my faith journey with God has been grown out of a tapestry of many traditions and cultural confluences that I am belonging to.
I grew up in a Presbyterian family in South Korea. Some of my families are traditional and conservative, some are more socially progressive, and others are theologically progressive as well. Those diverse perspectives have nurtured my soul with open-mindedness, from which I could learn a profound understanding of humanity. When I was ten, there was a democratization protest for which so many innocent lives were lost in my hometown, Gwangju, in 1980. This was a watershed moment in my life. It changed my worldview, my faith, and my commitment as a Christian. Later on, it grew into my passion for “Minjung” (People) Liberation theological movement for those marginalized people in Korea and in the world. Finally, I joined the United Methodist Church in 2004, because I fell in love with John Wesley’s wholeness spirituality and his vision for the worldwide church: “I look upon the world as my parish.” I believe that Wesley’s vision was inspired by his courageous love of God and of all people on the margins throughout his life.
One of my guiding scriptures is Luke 4:18-19:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The ministry to the poor, liberation to the oppressed and embracing all people with love are the foundation of my missional identity. I wholeheartedly embody the prophetic voices of Isaiah and Jesus. That led me to being deeply committed to the progressive journey to fulfilling Jesus’ liberating mission for the marginalized. Like Jesus, I embrace all people beyond race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, or any isms. Like Jesus who clarifies the core value of all the laws to fulfill the Law, I am committed to following the footsteps of Jesus Christ to live out God’s Justice and Love (1John 4). Therefore, no matter what may happen in the future, I will continue to wholeheartedly support the full inclusion of LGBTQIA and of any marginalized groups (especially, the differently-abled, immigrants and refugees, women and BIPOC). I am also committed to developing principled leaders to transform the world by acknowledging individual differences, creating a space for a sense of belonging and intentional engagement of all, making sure everyone has an opportunity to flourish and grow, and removing barriers—both real and imagined.
I humbly invite us to walk with God for justice and love, and let us sing together a song by Shirley Erena Murray: “For everyone born, a place at the table.” I hope this is a story of our beloved United Methodist people who always love God wholeheartedly, courageously, fearlessly and love all people without biases and prejudices and privileges.
Read the previous Leading Now personal reflections here.