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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Missionary Destinations and Diasporic Destiny: Spatiality of Korean/American Evangelism and the Cell Church

  • Author(s): Han, Ju Hui Judy
  • et al.

The existing literature on immigrant Korean Protestant churches in North America typically addresses identity formation and dynamics of assimilation in the context of North American religious pluralism and multiculturalism, particularly focusing on the role of religion in “maintaining ethnicity” and “preserving traditions.” In this literature, the immigrant Korean church is depicted as an ethnic enclave, a bounded territorial enclosure that facilitates adjustment and transition into the mainstream. The argument presented in this paper reconceptualizes the immigrant Korean church as an “extroverted space,” with a profoundly “global sense of place.” First, I examine the articulation of divine destiny and theological conservatism in the production of a missionary designation called the “10/40 Window,” locating Korean and Korean American evangelicals in transnational and transdenominational movements pivoting around the U.S.-South Korea axis. Second, in a case study of an evangelical cell church, which employs multiple strategies to propagate across spatial scales, I underscore the extent to which the cell church reproduces hierarchical and patriarchal regimes of power. Finally, in foregrounding interconnectedness at all spatial scales, as illustrated by the cell church, this paper re-conceptualizes the immigrant Korean church not as an enclosure, but as a power-laden field of both material and metaphorical practices that stretch far beyond the locality.

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