Celebrating Asian American/Pacific Islander History Month in the WNCC: Rev. Dr. In-Yong Lee

May 25, 2023

By: Jim Pyatt, WNCC Archivist & Historian

Rev. Dr. In-Yong Lee

The Rev. Dr. In-Yong Lee is the only female Asian-American clergy person currently serving as a pastor in the WNC Conference. She was born in Inchon, South Korea, and grew up in the country of her birth. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Ewha Women’s University, majoring in English, and her M.Div., Th.M., and Ph.D. from Duke University. Her Ph.D. dissertation is entitled “John Howard Yoder on Christian Nonviolence and the ‘Haustafeln.’” In-Yong was received into the WNC Conference as a Provisional Elder in 2003, and was received into Full Connection and ordained Elder in 2008. As a clergy member of the WNC Conference, she has served the following appointments: 2002-04 So Mang Assistant (High Point); 2003-07 Teaching Fellow, Duke Divinity School; 2007-15 St. Paul’s (Asheville); 2015-19 Cokesbury (Charlotte); 2019-present First (Rutherfordton). In-Yong has served as a member of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry 2012-20, and currently serves on the Conference Council on Finance and Administration. Also she has served on the Conference Council on Campus Ministry and on the Conference Worship Committee. She has also been elected to represent the WNC Conference as a delegate to General Conference in 2012, 2016, and 2020. On top of this, she has been serving on the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters 2012-2024.

In an article published by the UM Foundation (“Pastor Confronts a Cultural Divide in Rutherfordton,” Pastor confronts a cultural divide in Rutherfordton - United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina (umfwnc.org), accessed May 23, 2023), we read: “Rev. Lee brings a unique perspective. Not only is she the first non-white senior pastor in the church’s nearly 200-year history, she’s also the first woman to hold the position. . . . ‘The reception has been excellent,’ Rev. Lee said in a recent interview. ‘I have been supported and loved and affirmed by the congregation all this time.’” She is active in the work of racial healing and reconciliation. Together with her clergy friends in Multidenominational Coalition of Clergy in the Rutherford area, she started the biannual multiracial community worship service “Stronger Together” in July 2022 which meets in a local high school auditorium. It is her local endeavor in line with her work in the WNCC Dismantling Racism Task Force, which is responsible for the Antiracim Ethics Training 2021-2024.

The Rev. Dr. In-Yong Lee is married to Hee-Soo Kim and they have two adult children.

Be sure to read the other biographies written by WNCC Archivist & Historian Jim Pyatt:

Rev. Cher Lue Vang, who translated the Laotian hymn, "Come, All of You," into English for the United Methodist Hymnal.

Rev. Amos Taj, when Rev. Amos Taj became a clergy member of the WNC Conference, he was the only Asian American clergyperson in the WNC Conference.

Rev. Samuel Om, grew up Buddhist before becoming United Methodist in the WNCC in 2004.

Lucy Henderson Owen Robertson, the first president of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the WNC Conference.

Juanita "Nita" Tillman Henderson, the first woman to Chair the WNC Conference Council on Ministries, a position which she held from 1980 to 1988.

Rev. Dr. Nancy Burgis Rankin, the first woman in our conference to serve as Senior Pastor of a church with more than 1000 members.

Roberta Blackwell, served in the Charlotte District were as District Director of Church and Society 1979-84, member of the District Committee on the District Superintendent 1980-93, and as a member of the Charlotte District Trustees 2010-12.

Rev. Dr. Arnetta E. Beverly, the first African-American woman to serve as Director of Nurture and Ethnic Ministries, to serve as a District Superintendent in the WNC Conference, and to serve as a Director of Connectional Ministries in the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

Rev. Dr. James Walter Ferree, Sr., involved in realigning the North Carolina-Virginia Conference into what is now the three separate North Carolina, Western North Carolina, and Virginia Conferences.

Rev. Cecil Harvey Marcellus, Jr., the first African-American elected to the Reidsville City Council, where he served for three full terms and part of a fourth term.

Dr. David Dallas Jones, the president of Bennett College from 1926-1955.

Rev. William Hornbuckle, a Native American ordained Deacon in 1928 and Elder in 1931.

Daphine Strickland, part of the Task Force that led to the organization of Triad Native American Church, the first Native American congregation in our Conference outside of Cherokee.

Thomas Queen, the Director of the Cherokee Mission from 1973 until his death in 1992.

Jeremiah Wolfe, the first Native American to be elected a delegate to General Conference from the WNCC in 1976.

#BeUMC Personal Reflections