Baptism and ABCNJ’s Korean Churches


[label style="info" icon="comment"]Note[/label] [lead]This article was submitted by Rev. Joshua Pyon – Senior Pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church in Teaneck, NJ[/lead]


At the 2014 ABCNJ Korean Pastors Christmas dinner, our Executive Minister, Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, asked me about baptism in our Korean churches.

The Korean Bible translates the word Baptism as "SeRye." It means sprinkling, not as Baptist understanding of baptism, immersion. So, all Korean churches, including Roman Catholic, use this word SeRye. But Baptist churches in Korea use another word, "ChimRye" which corresponds to the biblical meaning of Baptism. So, whenever Korean Baptists in Korea read the word "Baptism" in the Bible, they pronounce the word ChimRye" instead of SeRye. This has now become a tradition and one of the marks of identity for Korean Baptist churches.

Here in Teaneck, I have taught my church members about the difference between the SeRye and ChimRye and the importance of ChimRye Baptism. My church uses only the word ChimRye when we read the Korean Bible.

Sometimes I meet Korean leaders in the United States who say SeRye when referring to baptism, even while visiting my church. This can make my church members feel uncomfortable or confused because some of them come from other denominations, such as Presbyterian or Methodist. So I think that American Baptist Korean churches need to clearly teach people the meaning and importance of Baptism by immersion, to strengthen our Baptist identity.

When Korea was ruled by Japan from 1910-1945, the Japanese government demanded that all Korean Churches worship according to the principles of Shintoism. All Korean denominations, including Catholic, obeyed the Japanese edict, except for the Baptist denomination, which rejected it. Baptists refused to worship idols. In 1944, the Japanese government disbanded the Korean Baptist denomination by force and imprisoned over 30 Korean Baptist pastors. Many of them died in prison. This is an important part of Korean Baptist heritage and history