Friday, August 18, 2006

Kang Won-Yong (강원용)

Yesterday pastor Kang Won-Yong died from complications brought on by the heat of this summer. He lived on this earth 89 years. He was the pastor of Kyungdong Church for many years. Even though he was already pastor emeritus when I arrived in 1996, he continued to preach as often as his health allowed. His gentle power could be seen to be a result of the Spirit working through him. His sermons were powerful and timely, although perhaps a little too political at times - but this was not without reason.

Korea is a country with a very rough modern history. Pastor Kang's early life was shaped by the Japanese invasion of the Korean penninsula. He became a Christian in 1931 and allowed himself to be used by the Holy Spirit as a leader in youth Christian movements and eventually became a respected speaker, attempting to forge a third way between the communism of North Korea and the capitalism of the United States during the formative period after World War II and before the Korean War. Ultimately, the third way was rejected through the strength of U.S. influence and might. It still is the only way forward, though, if there is ever to be the reality of the unification of the Korean people artificially divided by two competing foreign ideologies.

One of the things which warms my heart is that he is well known and respected outside of Christian circles, perhaps more so than within Christian ones. This brings to mind 1Timothy 3.7 which speaks of overseers or bishops, meaning pastors, that they "must be well thought of by outsiders, so that (they) may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."(ESV)

I rejoice in his passing, for he has served the Lord and the Lord's people passionately and truthfully during his time here.

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