Acts Ministries International, a denomination consisting of 13 churches in the U.S. and overseas, convened from August 4 to 6 for a leadership summit at Church of Southland, located in Anaheim, CA.
The denomination has churches located all across the U.S., including in New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Some churches are more multi-ethnic and diverse in age than others, but most AMI churches tend to be younger with college students and young families, and all AMI churches have lead pastors who are Asian American.
AMI holds three major gatherings triennially, following the pattern of first holding a national gathering of lead pastors of AMI churches; then hosting the AMI Leadership Summit; and finally, convening at the AMI General Conference.
This year's leadership summit drew about 500 leaders not only from the AMI churches in the U.S., but also from affiliated churches overseas, including from East Asia.
"There's a lot of differences that we can focus on," said Young Kim, the lead pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia, during the final day of the summit. "But we need to focus on Jesus, who has united us for one purpose."
"My hope is that as we get bigger, we would be even more unified; and that as we reach even more nations, that we would be even more unified," Kim said.
Acts Ministries International (AMI), which was launched in 2002, is slightly different from other denominations in that there is less of a focus on formal structure or doctrine, and more of a focus on relationship and accountability, according to John Choi, the director of operations at Church of Southland. AMI does ordain pastors and the AMI churches consolidate resources for mission efforts and church planting.
"AMI is much more relationship-based," said Choi, who also explained that lead pastors also hold conference calls on a monthly basis. "We all believe in the core things -- the essential beliefs -- but there are also things we agree to disagree upon, like women ordination."
"We envision AMI to be more than a denomination or an association," the AMI website states. "It is a community of churches seeking to model the spirituality, vision, and partnership exemplified in the book of Acts."
There is structure in certain aspects, however. For instance, two pastors, who are called 'trans-local team leaders,' serve as leaders of AMI: Keith Park, the lead pastor of Church of Southland, and Young Kim, the lead pastor of Grace Covenant Church. For pastors to be ordained, they must be recommended by their lead pastor for licensure, after which they go through an interview process. After they are licensed, they can become ordained anywhere from three to five years thereafter. Churches that want to become a part of AMI must undergo a 'discovery period,' which lasts from one to two years, during which AMI leaders gauge whether the church would be a good fit with AMI and whether the church emphasizes the core values that AMI does, such as church planting and missions.
Meanwhile, this year's leadership summit focused on the theme, "Grow Together, Grow Healthy," and had sessions discussing personal growth, relational growth, and kingdom building. Representatives from each church in AMI also took turns throughout the three-day summit to share updates from the past year and prayer requests for the near future.
Two pastors, Shan Gian and David Son, were also licensed during this year's leadership summit. Both have been serving at Symphony Church located in Boston, MA.