Seattle pastor selected as new Bread president

Rev. Eugene Cho at a reception following his selection as Bread's new president. Lacey Johnson for Bread for the World.

By Jennifer Gonzalez and Chris Ford

Rev. Eugene Cho—an Evangelical pastor, humanitarian, and author from Seattle, Washington—will become the next president of Bread for the World on July 1.

“I take on this calling with enormous respect and gratitude,” Cho said.  “Though it will be arduous, ending hunger is possible within our lifetime. I am eager to begin this new journey and I urge Christians everywhere to join us.” 

Cho will succeed Rev. David Beckmann who announced last year that he would retire from Bread in June 2020. Beckmann has served as president since 1991. He plans to continue his work as a thought leader on hunger, faith, and politics.

Beckmann said he was delighted that Bread’s board of directors chose Cho. “Rev. Cho has the vision and insight to achieve a world without hunger,” Beckmann said. “I have no doubt that Eugene and Bread will be instrumental in making it happen.”

Cho was elected president by a unanimous vote of Bread’s full board on March 9. “Eugene is a passionate advocate for justice who can build on Bread’s strengths and will powerfully connect faith and action to help bring the end of hunger,” said John Carr, chair of Bread’s board of directors.

A pastor at heart, Cho, 49, plans to lean into that aspect of his professional background as he takes over the leadership at Bread this summer.

“Bread for the World isn’t a political organization. It engages in the political process. But it’s a Christian advocacy organization,” Cho said. “Being a pastor of a church is an incredible reminder of the “why” we do what we do. I want to make sure Bread never forgets its ‘why.’”

Cho comes to Bread with an impressive collection of accomplishments. He is the founder and visionary of One Day’s Wages – a grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty. He is also the founder and former senior pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, Washington.

He also established the Q Café, a coffeeshop and music venue, which closed due to relocation in 2015.

Cho is an ordained minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Covenant Church. He received his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and was the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award.

He was honored as one of 50 Everyday American Heroes and the Frederick Douglass 200.

Last week, Cho released his second book, Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics. The book urges readers to stop vilifying those they disagree with, especially the vulnerable, and asks Christians to follow Jesus and reflect His teachings.

Cho’s first book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?, challenges Christians to put their faith to work in action for justice.

“It was clear that Eugene would be an excellent fit at Bread for the World,” said Sandra Joireman, chair of Bread’s leadership committee. “His work with One Day’s Wages demonstrates his concern about poverty and commitment to the dignity of all people. His experience and background are a great fit for Bread.”

Sitting in one of Bread’s conference rooms, Cho said he never imagined he would be working in the nation’s Capital and leading a nonprofit with a mission to end hunger. He said he is “humbled” by the experience.

But in some way it may have been preordained. He said his own parents who were born in what is now called North Korea experienced “deep, deep hunger.”

He recalls hearing stories of grass being pulled up to eat, to satisfy hunger pangs. “For me, this is not just a calling. It’s not just theological. It’s very personal as well.”

Jennifer Gonzalez is Bread’s managing editor. Chris Ford is deputy director for strategic communications and campaigns at Bread.

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