Those of you who know me personally are aware that I’m on staff at a Korean immigrant church. I lead the English speaking adult congregation as well as help oversee all our student ministries. The next few (or a bunch of) posts will be about navigating the culture, theology, and politics in serving at an Evangelical and culturally Confucian institution. I’m going to be as naked and vulnerable as possible, so readers can dive deep into my processes (obviously a work in progress) and gain whatever insight they can from my journey. Let’s start at the climax of my journey with Shalom (which could have been the beginning and the end) and work down from there.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from one of the associate pastors at my church. He told me a parent (or more than one) recently found my Facebook page and was deeply disturbed by the content. I had made references to being an atheist, seemed to mock God and Christianity multiple times, made way too many sex jokes, and worst of all, affirmed homosexuality. This parent was so disturbed, they scrolled about a year or so down my feed and printed sections of my Facebook page to give it to the pastor. The news also started spreading amongst other parents. The pastor wanted an explanation, so I gave a bunch of ambiguous answers since I didn’t want to talk about it over the phone. Caring for my wellbeing, he advised me to talk to our senior pastor right away before he found out from someone else. That way, he can protect me and prevent more drama from happening.
After I hung up the phone, I knew it was time to resign. My time at Shalom was coming to an abrupt end. What’s funny is, I had already intended on resigning from pastoral staff in the near future. I was to step down sometime in 2018 after they found a full-time pastor to lead the EM (they have been looking since July), serve as a volunteer to help the transition process for six months or so, and finally leave to start a Progressive, Asian American, and LGBTQI+ affirming church plant. My original plan was foiled. It was sad, but the timing seemed to align with other things going on in my life. I decided to take it as a sign from the universe that it was time to go.
The next day, I submitted my resignation letter.
As I mentioned earlier, the story is multi-layered and ongoing. Over the next weeks, and possibly months, I will go deeper into all this and post updates. In the meantime, you can read my resignation letter below. I hope this will give readers an inside look into my faith journey and encourage others in whatever stage they’re in.
For those of you
Struggling with faith
You’re not alone
Now, without further ado. My Resignation Letter:
Dear Pastor Kim,
As you heard last night, there has been some controversy regarding my social media handle. Before we meet in person, I wanted to give you an overview explaining some of the issues that have been brought up to me, along with my faith journey the last few years.
There have been three major accusations brought up, and I will go over them one by one.
Sex with Angels
Here’s the original quote from January:
“My Elementary Pastor asked me to sub for her for tomorrow's Bible study. They've been on a series going through the Old Testament chapter by chapter. Tomorrow's text is Genesis 6. I get to teach about angels having sex with humans and theologically justified mass genocide.”
Obviously, this was a theological joke that only seminary students and theology nerds would understand. I would never teach something like this to our kids. I fully admit and take responsibility for the fact that it was irresponsible on my end. I should be more careful. I apologize for the confusion and harm it may have caused to the parents and those who read it.
Again, here’s the original text from April:
Years ago, I told myself I would never work in Children's Ministry. The universe had something else in mind. From September-October, in the middle of my season as an atheist pastor pretending to believe in God, I was appointed to serve in my church's elementary ministry as the interim pastor until we found our permanent one. The two months didn't bring me back to faith, but it did lead me to fall back in love with The Church.
The experience took me out of my comfort zone and pushed every social boundary imaginable. I had zero experience in Children's Ministry, knew nothing about child development, I didn't even know how to properly interact with kids. I wouldn't consider myself an expert today, but I think I've come a long way.
The opportunity to work with kids has by far been the biggest blessing and most significant growth experience of the 2016-2017 school year. Even though I'm no longer officially working in the department, I still get to hang out with these kids every week. Excited for another year of fun and learning!
This post was actually a follow up to a post I shared two months prior. It was me being vulnerable and sharing my journey in the last few years, losing faith and finding it once again. This post was specifically to share how working with children reignited my sense of awe and wonder, and how it helped bring me back to falling in love with God once again. Here’s the first post from a few months before In February:
The last year has, by far, been the rockiest season of my spiritual journey. The year before(the end 2014), my dad passed away, I stepped down from church I had really grown to love because I had huge disagreements with the senior pastor over what it meant to be an ethical church, and months later reluctantly planted a new church in order to keep nurturing the ones who chose leave with me. I really didn’t want to leave, and I knew my decision to leave would completely split the church, which it did, but I had to. The next week, I heard nobody showed up to service except for the pastor, his wife, his kids, and a few other family members. I felt terrible doing it, but I knew I had to. Prior to my departure, my team(really some of my best friends) and I were invited by a church in the area to work with them and join their spiritual family. We were ecstatic because we knew the senior leaders for years, and we had so much love and respect for them. We met regularly for two months, just dreaming about what we want God to do in our city. At the end, they rescinded the offer, and we were left to search for another home. For about a month or two, we traveled around like nomads, visiting well-known churches all over LA, seeing what else God is doing in the greater LA area, but mostly because we had nowhere to go. After a few people suggesting it, we decided to just go independent and start our own church. Shortly after, a friend of my dad, who happened to be a pastor caught wind of it, contacted us, and offered to take us under their umbrella, pay our church plant’s rent, and have us run as a satellite EM ministry of the church. We then started getting confirmation from dozens of people, which included encouragement, offers to help, and even prophetic words, that this was exactly what God wanted us to do. The entire time, I took risks in ministry and chose to keep fighting for healing in my city because I really trusted in God’s plan, and I was confident I was doing his will. Every step of the way, I had hundreds of people encourage me and tell me they were so proud and excited for what God was doing in and through me. This is where things started going south.
About a year into planting our church, my faith started to drift. Nothing in the church was working out and we were shrinking rapidly as members move to different cities, leaders got burned out, and people began to lose interest. In addition to that, I was getting even more disillusioned with Christians around me and started gravitating more towards eastern understandings of faith. I started getting super jaded with the church and regretted my entire 3 years as a pastor and 6 years as a parachurch leader. I realized God wasn’t going to take care of me and I needed to figure things out for myself, especially financially. That led me to apply to churches to escape from my situation. In May, I got in touch with the Shalom Church, BS’d my interview when we discussed my theological, acting like I still believed in Evangelical doctrines, and got hired right away. I thoroughly enjoyed and still do enjoy my time at the church.
What I hoped was, through the church, I would find my faith again. It did the opposite. Though I empathized with the sincerity of the people there, it reinforced why I had become so disillusioned with Christianity. After a few months, I pretty much stopped believing in God. After facing disappointment after disappointment, I was done with God. I still went through the motions when it came to teaching people about God. Though I had stopped believing in God, I was still in love with the story of Jesus, and believed his radical message of inclusion, humility, social justice, etc. I was still determined to live as a follower of this Jewish Rabbi even if I didn’t believe in his “father”, so I hid in and pretended to believe in God and thoroughly tricked myself. I used excuses like “I believe in the God of Quantum physics” or “Einstein’s God” or even used philosophical terms like “ground of being” and statements by theologians from the Radical Theology like “God doesn’t exist. God Insists’”. I didn’t really use these terms in the way they meant, but I did it to describe that fact that this “god” wasn’t personal. There was no meta-narrative, there was no plan, and God definitely didn’t answer prayers. Of course, I kept most of it a secret. I kept going through the motions. I continued to love on people, I prayed with people, I taught people about the message of Jesus, I preached every week, and I even gave dead on accurate prophetic words to people (which was really because I’m a 2 on the Enneagram and I can analyze people like none other). I did all this, but I didn’t believe anything supernatural was actually happening. I just wanted to lead others to health and wholeness, and if Christianity provided that, then great!
My atheism climaxed in December when I decided to call it quits and apply to a bunch of jobs. I was going to work as a police officer, help people, and blog for a living. I had a plan, unlike the God I only pretended to believe in. I was going to have a job that not only pays well but also has an amazing pension. I became super financially literate and learned to save money, then opened three different brokerage accounts to invest my money. I combined what I learned online about investing with my understanding in philosophy and anthropology and I’m doing really well. I’m up 30-40 percent on my investments since I started in October.
Anyway, this was my escape from ministry. I would no longer have to suffer the guilt of lying to my entire congregation as I preached “the word of God”. I would have slowly slipped out and left the vocational ministry world forever, while still living a life of purpose helping people. Did I mention I would also be a hell of a lot more datable because I wasn’t going to be a pastor anymore? Life was going to be good. I no longer needed the charity of well-meaning church folks, and I definitely didn’t need to depend on some deity.
I don’t really understand what happened, but after a conversation with a friend on Saturday, something clicked. I was just on my typical rant about God, but this time, it was different. I impulsively told her to disregard all the crazy stuff I say like, “God and I are divorced and the church is our kid we share custody over”. I said I trusted God and started mentioning the why I did. And for some reason, I meant it as I said it. After dropping her off at home, I forgot about the conversation.
The next day(yesterday), after church, I was really bothered by all this. I don’t know why, but I started believing in God again. And that wasn’t a good thing. My defenses had now come down, but that meant I had a lot of questions to deal with. All the beef I had with God not had to be brought to the surface because I now believed he was real. I was restless, so I drove around for a few hours late into the night processing this and cursing God for abandoning me. I didn’t want to believe in God. I hated him. I wanted to get back to my comfort zone of just being a closet secular humanist who is inspired by the Jesus story. But now, I couldn’t. I eventually went home and was somehow able to fall asleep.
Now, here I am. This is my reality. I can’t escape. I wanted to publicly share all this because I’m sick of hiding. I want to be my full authentic self in front of everyone, even if it means career suicide. I’m still the same Kevin everyone remembers. Even when I an atheist, I love people and believed in the message of Jesus the same or even more than I did as a theist. And now, as a guy who started believing in God again, I still do.
So…. What does all this mean for me? I don’t know. For now, I dropping all my applications to the police department. I’m staying in school, and I’m not quitting my church (Doesn’t mean they won’t fire me if they catch wind of this). All I know is that my next few month is going to focus on reconciling and re-cultivating my relationship with God. I need to detox from my cynicism. I also need to wrestle with God and the scriptures, because I’ve never been so disgusted by passages like Psalm 139, which is a favorite for millions of Christians. There’s a lot of work to do.
With that, I’m now even more determined to work on my blog and common cause community. The HowtoKillGod.com site and online will be a space for people to find refuge in their doubts and theological exploration. I’ll be writing (at least) weekly posts and provide content for learn and grow in their journey. We’ll also be having monthly gatherings in the South Bay for doubters, prodigals, and heretics to meet and realize they’re not alone. This will eventually develop into more large scale events where all this will be presented through performing arts. I realize I have to do this even if it kills me. Even though I’m sure I’m no longer an atheist, I could never go back to the Christianity I grew up in. I believe in Evolution, I’m fully affirming of same-sex relationships, and I believe the table is much bigger than we realize.
Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m still struggling, processing, growing, and re-reading Love Does to purge the cynicism out of me even though it hurts like hell. Anyone interested in joining me?
So with that, no, I am not an atheist. The last nine months have been a time of restoration and re-ignition of my passion for Jesus, the gospel, and the church. But as you can see, my faith has radically changed since seven years ago when I began my process of deconstruction, which leads me to the final accusation.
There was a picture of me around June where it had a rainbow cover. And yes, the accusations for this is at least partially correct. After seven years of searching the scriptures, walking with God, reading philosophy and science, and most important of all, building genuine friendships with those who identify as LGBTQI+, I have come to the conclusion that same-sex relationships and other queer issues are perfectly legitimate in the eyes of God. I know that this view is extremely unpopular within Evangelicalism, and I already suffered plenty of persecution from friends, ministry partners, and former mentor because of it. All in all, I’ve come to realize that it’s a life or death issue for those on the inside. Let me explain. About 45-50 percent of homeless youth are queer. This is a staggering number. While only about 10 percent of the general population are LQBTQI+, it looks like millions of queer children are getting rejected by their families and faith communities and living in the streets. In addition to this, LGBTQI+ teens who are rejected by their families and churches are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those who are accepted. These are just statistics. From these and so much more, I’ve come to realize that in the public sphere, it would be a sin for me not to stand up for my queer brothers, sisters, and friends. From today, I will no longer compromise on being affirming.
I knew this day would eventually come when the church figured out I do not theologically align with Shalom and the majority of the Korean immigrant church. With that, this letter is my official letter of resignation.
I am submitting this sooner than later for the good of the Shalom family. I know that some of this terrifies many of the parents, and I do not want to see anyone leave the church because of me. Shalom is my village, my family, and my home, but I understand I must depart for the health of our community.
In conclusion, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve at Shalom, learn from you, and meet so many amazing people. Shalom will always be a place of amazing memories where I once again fell in love with the church, rediscovered awe and wonder through children, and reignited my relationship with God. I will never forget my experiences here and will always be grateful. My hope is that I too am not remembered for my controversial beliefs, but my commitment to loving God’s people and my loyalty to this community we both call home.
Saying all this, I want you and our elder board to know that I am willing to comply with whatever is necessary. If the best decision is for me to depart right way, I fully understand and honor that decision. If our church leadership needs time to process before accepting my resignation, that is fine. Feel free to take all the time you need. All in all, I promise I have zero negative memories with Shalom and will never slander the church, and will always stand up to defend the integrity and legitimacy of our family, and honor you and our elders as my spiritual fathers.
Your Spiritual Son, Kevin Kang