BY LINDA RHODES
July 19, 2012 Lake Junaluska, N.C.
The Rev. Dr. Young Jin Cho, superintendent of the Arlington District in the Virginia Conference, was elected the first Korean-American bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction on the 29th ballot, receiving 287 votes out of 432 valid ballots cast.
He was elected after the Rev. Tim McClendon from South Carolina withdrew asking the delegates to vote for Cho. Cho had not led in the voting until the 26th ballot. In fact, during the process, he received as few as 15 votes on a ballot before beginning to climb to the top.
“There are all kinds of resurrection,” he laughed when addressing the conference following his election.
He said that throughout the process, he has been guided by a prayer by Bobby Richardson: Dear God, Your will. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else.
“I’m deeply humbled and honored by this opportunity,” he said. “I want to dedicate my best to the church and to the Kingdom of God.”
Cho, who was endorsed by the Virginia Conference, is known for his deep spirituality and his commitment to church growth and planting new churches.
“I would love for him to come to Virginia as our bishop,” said the Rev. Mark Ogren, former district superintendent and currently director of Congregational Excellence in the Virginia Conference. “No other D.S. has had the vision that he has about starting new churches.”
Cho was born in South Korea and graduated from Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul, Korea, where he received a Th.B. and a Th.M. He came to the United States in 1979 and received an M. Div and D. Min. from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. He was ordained in the East Annual Conference of the Korean Methodist Church in 1977 and transferred to the Virginia Conference in 1983. He was senior pastor of Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington (KUMCGW) in McLean, Va., for 22 years before being appointed superintendent of the Arlington District.
During his tenure at KUMCGW, church worship attendance grew from about 100 to more than 1,000, 276 adults and youths were baptized, and three building projects were completed. The church has grown to be the largest and one of the most vital congregations in the Virginia Conference. KUMCGW also has started two new Korean United Methodist churches in cooperation with the Virginia Conference
As District Superintendent, Cho has focused on developing new faith communities, revitalizing existing churches by transforming clergy leadership and strengthening connectionalism.
Cho has served as president of the Korean Wesley Foundation, president of Partner’s Church Association for the renewal of the Korean United Methodist Church, president of Board of Directors of Durihana, Inc.(mission organization helping North Korean refugees), Virginia Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, Board of Discipleship, Commission on Ethnic Minority Local Church Concerns, 250 Task Force which developed “All Things New” plan, and General Conference delegate in 2008 and 2012. He received the Denman Evangelism Award in 1991.
He and his wife, Kiok, (a deacon in full connection) have two daughters, Grace (husband, Tony, and newborn son, Luke), and Sophia (in Korea); and a son, Chris.
A United Methodist bishop in the United States is elected for life and, although eight years is the standard term for a bishop to serve in an episcopal area, it is not unusual for a bishop to be assigned to one area for 12 years for “missional reasons.”
Bishops are charged by the church’s Book of Discipline to “lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs” of the church and to “guard, transmit, teach and proclaim, corporately and individually, the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and, as they are led and endowed by the Spirit, to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically.”
A jurisdictional conference has the following power and duties:
• To promote the evangelistic, educational, missionary and benevolent interests of the church and to provide for interests and institutions within their boundaries.
• To elect bishops.
• To establish and constitute jurisdictional conference boards as auxiliaries to the general boards of the church.
• To determine the boundaries of annual conferences.
• To make rules and regulations for the administration of the church’s work within the jurisdiction.
• To appoint a committee on appeals.
The United Methodist Church was created in 1968 by a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches. Methodists elected their bishops at one national gathering until 1940, when the jurisdictional system was instituted. Bishops in the EUB church were elected at one national gathering until 1968.
Linda Rhodes is director of communications for the Virginia Annual Conference.