Zion Christian Mission Center, the Biblical theological institution of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, held a graduation ceremony for the Mission Center’s Class #113 at Daegu Stadium on November 20th, 2022. A total of 106,186 people graduated on this day, making it the world’s largest graduation from a theological education institution.
For safety reasons, the number of people participating in the graduation ceremony in South Korea was limited to 80,000 people. About 300,000 people in total attended the ceremony, and participants were represented in both online and offline groups. The event was made available on YouTube Live broadcasts in nine languages.
In light of recent concerns, this graduation ceremony was carefully planned and thoroughly prepared to prevent any safety issues. A representative of Shincheonji Church of Jesus said, “While preparing for this event, safety was considered first…and second…and third.” They added, “We created a cooperative network with the local government to ensure sanitation, safety, traffic, and order. We also operated a control room for monitoring the event with the police, fire department, Daegu-si, and Suseong-gu Office safety officials.”
In addition, “the church itself allocated a total of 14,000 appointed safety personnel to maintain order inside and outside the venue, and ensured that participants entered and left the venue over a period of four hours to prevent overcrowding.” he said. “About 180 medical staff and four ambulances are also on standby in case of an accident.” All church safety personnel were given emergency rescue training and all graduates completed watching emergency rescue videos prior to the event. “We would like to emphasize that this graduation ceremony was especially safety-oriented,” the church representative explained.
The event consisted of two parts, an opening ceremony and a graduation ceremony. The first ceremony consisted of a worship service, congratulatory speeches, congratulatory messages, representative prayers, and commemorative speeches by Chairman Lee Man-Hee. The second ceremony included a congratulatory performance, a congratulatory speech by Tan Young-jin (The head of the Zion Christian Mission Center), the giving of a certificate of completion, a tassel turning, an award ceremony, a testimony from graduates, and a special final performance.
Among this year’s class #113 graduates, a total of 522 pastors (including 37 Korean pastors and 485 pastors overseas) completed the seminary program. The number of participating pastors has increased significantly as compared to past years. This increase in pastoral participation is closely related to Zion Christian Mission Center’s new online class environment that was created due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An environment where students could take classes without being exposed to others was created, and thus the number of pastors and seminaries increased rapidly. The two graduate representatives who shared their acceptance speeches on this day are also pastors.
The fact that pastors who joined the Introductory, Intermediate, and Revelation (Advanced) courses were able to participate in education online without being exposed to other people during the COVID-19 pandemic is the reason for the increase in the number of pastors studying at Zion Christian Mission Center.
Heo Jung-wook, a Korean student representative who shared his testimony at the graduation ceremony, is a current pastor who has been leading his congregation for a decade. After 20 years of ministry, he said, “I learned traditional theology in seminary, but I didn’t know much about Revelation. I had only taught easy words to the saints, and did not share difficult teachings. I repent that I was a sinner who added and subtracted from the word of God,” he shared further, “I put down all my possessions and came forward to the truth. Here I learned the true theology that leads me to heaven, not the teachings of mankind. I thank God for giving me a chance to live”.
D. Jackson, an overseas student representative, is also an Indian pastor that graduated in this ceremony. Jackson changed the name of his previous seminary to ‘Hepto Zion Christian Mission Center” after signing an MOU and receiving the online Bible course from Shincheonji Church of Jesus in October of last year. Currently, 294 members of his church – including a pastor in charge of two affiliated branch churches – have completed the entire Zion Christian Mission Center seminary course and they are listed as among this year’s graduating class.
In addition to the theology training of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the church has also focused on positively contributing to the revitalization of the local economy and coexistence with local residents. This has been accomplished in large part by holding the first large-scale in-person event in Daegu since the COVID-19 pandemic began. All possible expenditures, including transportation, accommodation, and meals for over 100,000 people were made in the region to help local residents.
After the Itaewon disaster, there was great deliberation as to whether or not to proceed with the graduation ceremony. Ultimately, rather than abandon the mutually beneficial event, it was decided to continue with the ceremony and focus on safety as much as possible. This event was carefully conducted utilizing professional expertise on hosting large-scale domestic and foreign events.