Dr. Alexander Jun, the newly elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), hopes his term will be one that contributes to continuing the denomination’s steps towards greater inclusion, diversity, and racial reconciliation.
“I hope that my time as moderator will be marked by a spirit of inclusivity, both in ethnic identity and diversity of thought, and that we would be reminded that, at the end of the day, we are one big family,” said Jun, 48. “The things that unite us as a denomination far outweigh the things that seem to divide us.”
Jun’s election as the moderator of the 45th General Assembly was a historic moment for the denomination, as it marked the election of the first Asian moderator in the history of the PCA, which has almost only seen white moderators since its establishment.
It also comes a year after the PCA hosted a panel on racial reconciliation during its 44th General Assembly, during which it also approved an overture that apologized for the denomination’s past racial sins and formed a Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation Study Committee. Since then, the committee has studied the PCA’s current situation in regards to racial reconciliation, and how it can continue the work of greater inclusion and diversity.
Jun doesn’t take the significance of his election lightly. In fact, as someone who would prefer not to be in the spotlight, he said he feels pressure that his actions and the legacy that he leaves behind may affect the opinion of some toward Asian Americans.
Yet, he said he is coming into the position feeling “tremendous honor,” and with a sense of calling. With experience being the first or only Asian American in various settings previous to this position, and having grappled with his identity as a Korean American growing up, Jun said he feels that perhaps God had “been preparing [him] for that kind of scrutiny.”
“I feel a lot of pressure, but it’s not new to me in the General Assembly,” he added. “In one sense, I feel that God has prepared me my whole life for that.”
The conservative PCA denomination, which began in 1973, has a significant population of Korean churches and pastors (also called teaching elders in the PCA). Out of 4,630 total teaching elders in the denomination, 606 of them are ethnically Korean, according to statistics provided by the PCA in 2016. More than 200 of the 1,861 churches in the PCA are Korean churches, and nine of the PCA’s 82 presbyteries are Korean. Jun himself has been involved in the Korean Southwest Orange County Presbytery in his capacity as a ruling elder at New Life Mission Church.
As a moderator, Jun oversaw the 45th General Assembly, the denomination’s national gathering and highest decision-making body, when it gathered in Greensboro, NC from June 12 to 16. He remains the moderator until the 46th General Assembly, and until then, he will contribute to setting direction for the denomination. As the current moderator, Jun also chairs the PCA’s Cooperative Ministries Committee (CMC), which consists of presidents and coordinators of the various agencies and committees in the PCA who meet on a regular basis to discuss various denominational issues. Moderators also stay on the CMC for five years after their term.
Jun also served on the PCA’s Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation Study Committee, and applauded the denomination’s recent steps in ensuring greater inclusion of those from different ethnic backgrounds – but he added that racial reconciliation must be considered a continuous journey, rather than a destination that has already been reached.
“The danger is, for some people, they might think this is the end,” Jun said. “We’ve apologized, they’ve acknowledged it, that’s it. But I would argue that that’s the beginning, not the end.”
But Jun also hopes his election would serve as a challenge and encouragement to those of ethnic minority groups in the denomination to take more initiative and become more engaged in denominational affairs. Their participation is just as important to that journey towards greater diversity, he said.
“There’s something to be said about simply being present,” said Jun. “I would encourage any local church member to simply go to the congregational meetings at their church, if anything but to just vote.”
Jun currently serves as a professor at Azusa Pacific University, teaching classes on diversity and social justice in higher education. He is also a senior research scholar at the Pullias Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at the University of Southern California (USC), where he also was an associate professor of higher education for seven years. He has bachelor’s degrees from USC in political science and psychology; a master’s degree in counseling from the California State University, Los Angeles; and a doctoral degree in education administration and policy from USC. Jun was also involved in the parachurch Korean American Campus Mission (KCM) during his undergraduate years at USC.