Celebrating diversity in Christ has been a recent focus of many mainline and evangelical denominations. Reflecting this multi-cultural phenomenon, numerous white-majority denominations elected ethnic minority leaders to some of its highest ecclesiastical and executive positions this year.
David Young Hwan Gill, senior pastor at the Concord Baptist Church in Martinez, California, has been one of those key figures that rose above the invisible stained glass ceiling that oft-restricted ethnic minorities in the ministry.
Until June 15 of this year, Rev. Gill served as both the president of the Korean American Southern Baptist Congregations and the vice president of the California Southern Baptist Convention. Immediately after his terms expired, members of the 16-million member Southern Baptist Convention elected Gill as the second vice president to the national office.
Along with president Bobby Welch and vice president Gerald Davidson, Gill became the only non-Anglo member to partake in the executive leadership of the massive evangelical denomination this year.
On July 14, one month after his election, David Gill shared the goals planned for his tenure and the hopes he had as an ethnic-minority leader.
Are you the first Korean-American to be elected to this post?
No; a Korean-American pastor was elected to the same position as second vice president twenty years ago. There was also a Chinese pastor who served the position years ago.
Do you believe having multi-cultural leaders in these seats encourages other minority members to get more involved?
Absolutely. I don’t know if I can say this, but it is a fact that the Southern Baptist Convention needs to have minority ethnic leaders work together, all together. The reason is that there are 5,400 Southern Baptist missionaries in foreign countries currently, and I don’t know if white-Anglo missionaries are readily welcomed in the third world. But somehow, Koreans and other ethnic Americans from America are welcomed in those countries. That is what’s happening, and we need to keep adding ethnic minority Southern Baptist missionaries to go out to those countries. I think my involvement would encourage other ethnic peoples to take part in this work. This is what I want to see happen.
Did your role last year as the vice president of the SBC’s California Convention produce such results?
We have about 200 Korean Southern Baptist churches here in California alone, and I believe my Korean brothers and Anglo brothers were thankful for the position and chance to work and learn from each other.
As I was blessed in participating, I’m sure our Convention in California was blessed by including an ethnic leader. The small contribution I brought was to the meetings I participated in was to share the wishes of other ethnic people.
[Following my tenure] I saw that more Koreans are participating in the churches. I believe we should work together here; not just Koreans, but Chinese and other ethnic leaders as well. We need to bring greater participation, so we could work together.
What is your main role as the second vice president?
The SBC is a big body comprising of 47,000 churches and 18 million church members. There are so many agencies and mission ministries. So the officers, like the president, vice president and second vice president, set the tone and cast a vision, and make sure we stay as one body to carry out the mission given to the church. This mission, of course, is to preach the gospel throughout the world and make disciples of all nations.
The officers will meet with the executive committee three or four times a year. When the executive committee meets, we go there and report to them, as well as listen to them and work with them. The executive committee has members from each state.
Between the officers, we will meet throughout the year, whenever there is a need to meet. We can meet physically, but we can also call and meet through the internet to work together.
Are there any words you would like to share to the Christian public?
We have to obey the mission that has been given to us; this we find in Matthew 28:18-20, where we are told to go and make disciples of all nations for Jesus. This is the mission of our whole convention. We don’t say that officially, but that is what we want to do, and what I personally hope for. We need to stay focused on missions.
Also, since I am a Korean American who has been here fore 30 years, I hope and pray that I could do my part to bring not only Koreans but also other ethnic groups to the convention, so they could all work together. In addition, I hope my participation would encourage a younger and more diverse group to come.