Rev. Dr. In Suk Hong Peebles (MDiv ’92, DMin ’21) has just been appointed by United Methodist Bishop Julius Trimble to Superintendent of the Southeast District of the Indiana United Methodist Church, the next step in a long and dedicated service to the church.
Peebles grew up in Korea, the daughter of Presbyterian parents, whose father had broken away from what she described as the “Korean Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist tradition” that he inherited. Growing up, her family was especially invested in their local church, which played an important role in the life of their community.
After receiving a BA in English and Literature from Woosuk University in South Korea, Peebles came to the United States in 1983. As she was settling into her new home, a group of Korean United Methodist Women welcomed her with kimchi, rice cakes, and other Korean food. Grateful for their hospitality and generosity, she also accepted their invitation to church, which marked the beginning of her journey with the United Methodist Church.
In 1985, Peebles began working with Korean pastors on church building projects through the General Board of Global Ministries, which is the worldwide mission, relief, and development agency of The United Methodist Church. Involved in various aspects of this work – from participating in zoning meetings and meeting with architects and building inspectors to working with contractors and subcontractors – Peebles oversaw the construction of seven churches from start to finish: one in Indianapolis, two in Ohio, two in Kentucky, one in Tennessee, and one in Georgia.
People would frequently notice and comment on her many “gifts and graces” for ministry, encouraging her to pursue some form of church leadership. However, she explained, “I was reluctant to enter into ministry at first due to my own personal insecurity that I was not smart enough.” Further, she said, “I did not want to face the social obstacles: gender, ethnicity, language, and culture.” After what she described as “a change in her spiritual life,” she became convinced that God was calling her to ministry, which, in 1989, she decided to pursue.
As an MDiv student at CTS, she had found “what I wanted to do with my life,” but seminary education proved challenging. “Studying Christian theology, church history, and the nuts and bolts of ecclesiastical structure and congregational life all in English was difficult for me. However, I endured and earned my MDiv in 1992.” About her time as an MDiv student, she said,
I was surrounded by wonderful staff and great professors. It was only by the grace of God and encouragements from the CTS faculty and staff that I was able to complete the MDiv. My gratitude goes to CTS staff and especially to professors Gerry Janzen, Joe Jones, Charles Ashanin, Ron Allen, Marti Steussy, Keith Watkins, and Clark Williamson, who all made huge impacts on my life and enabled me to get my two feet into ministry. Many professors went extra miles with their patience and encouragement. All in all, I loved everything about CTS from the architectural beauty, the layout of the building, and the people who worked there. Many of the students at the time enjoyed the surrounding campus as well, the canal, the gardens on the Butler campus. The students prayed, sang, and preached in that beautiful sun-soaked chapel, everyone partaking of the spiritual and academic water. CTS was and still is one of my best friends.
Peebles served congregations in Clarksville, Montgomery County, Vermilion County, and Hamilton County before being appointed to Greenwood UMC where she has served since 2011. Over the years, she has occupied many different leadership positions within the Indiana United Methodist Church, including service on many Annual Conference Boards and Committees. For twenty-one years, she also served in the United States Air Force Reserve (Air National Guard) as chaplain, retiring in 2019 as a lieutenant colonel. She said, “I came from a war-torn country and connected with many veterans from WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. There were so many untold stories, pains, and trauma among them, especially among the Korean War and Vietnam War veterans, who opened up their hearts to me because of my background. When an opportunity presented itself to join, I accepted the challenge and joined.”
After decades of parish ministry and military chaplaincy, she felt compelled to return to CTS to pursue further studies. Back on campus, she met new faculty members and reconnected with others she had known during her MDiv. Peebles just recently earned her DMin, writing her dissertation on “Food, Hospitality, and Faith Based Community Soup Kitchen,” a study of Shepherd’s Table soup kitchen at Greenwood UMC that feeds nearly 100 people weekly. Looking back at her recent experience, she is especially appreciative of her DMin advisor, Prof. Amy Lindeman Allen, and Dave Stout, Library Manager for Writing, Research, and Digital Scholarship, for their “wisdom and patience.” Grateful for the support of so many staff and faculty, she said, “Through them, I was able to drink what CTS has to offer, and the waters are sweet.”
Looking ahead to her new appointment, she said, “I have had so many ministry opportunities and countless people helping me along the way, with their guidance, wisdom, challenges, and encouragement and love. I took advantage of opportunities and mentors who taught me the wisdom of life and the nuts and bolts of what ministry is all about. I don’t have a grand scheme or plan for ministry. What I can offer is integrity in a relational system we call Church. I think of the Church in terms of systems. People are connected both in and outside of church, community, and the wider network of people. I know my roles and help people understand their roles wherever they are.”
CTS celebrates Rev. Dr. Peebles on her recent appointment to District Superintendent, the affirmation of her leadership that it conveys, and the promise of her leadership to come.
Learn more about the MDiv and DMin degrees at CTS.