A trial awaits for a former Methodist pastor in South Korea accused of sympathizing with homosexuality. The pastor had previously been suspended from his duties for two years by his church after blessing gay individuals at a queer festival in August 2019.
Trial for 'Sympathizing with Homosexuality'
Based on a report from UCA News, Rev. Lee Dong-hwan has been prohibited from delivering sermons, providing blessings, and conducting prayers for the Korean Methodist Church (KMC). The decision was made after the reverend sprinkled flower petals on LGBTQ Christians and other attendees at a queer festival in Incheon in 2019. After being banned, Lee filed a lawsuit against the KMC with the Seoul Central District Court, alleging that the church's suspension was invalid. As mentioned, Lee has been prohibited from carrying out his pastoral responsibilities until the church ruling is concluded, following the church law that indicted individuals who are ineligible to serve as pastors. In October of last year, the ban was officially confirmed.
Moreover, Premier Christian News reported that Lee's support for the LGBTQ+ community has persisted despite disciplinary action. He has founded a Christian advocacy group that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights and has continued to perform blessings at queer festivals even during his suspension. In March 2023, Lee was accused by eight members of the KMC of "disparaging the doctrine and the Book of Discipline'' and "slandering the Methodist Church." The KMC indicted him on June 8th for violating its Doctrine and Discipline laws, prohibiting any act showing support or sympathy towards homosexuality.
Lee's Blessing of LGBTQ People at a Festival
As per Vice, in 2019, a Methodist pastor named Lee Dong-hwan caused controversy within his church community. During the Incheon Queer Culture Festival in Seoul, he took to the podium to pray for the festival attendees. Wearing a white robe and a rainbow stole, he showered the crowd with flower petals, referring to them as his friends, much like how Jesus befriended those shunned by society. The church, which considers support for homosexuality to be on par with engaging in drug use or gambling, has accused him of breaking church regulations.
On the other hand, according to the Book of Discipline, which serves as a guide to the doctrines and regulations of the church, homosexuality is deemed "inconsistent with Christian teachings." Recently, the church has banned same-sex marriage and the ordination or appointment of LGBTQ individuals to serve within its ranks. The Korean Methodist Church has reportedly upheld similar principles. A clause was added in 2015 that defined advocacy of homosexuality as misconduct. Lee was found guilty of violating this rule.
Furthermore, after appealing the ruling, the authorities upheld Lee's two-year suspension, handed down in early October. In response to the judgment, the individual, who identifies as a church member, expressed deep shame and sadness. It has been demonstrated that the Methodist Church is a discriminatory and antiquated organization. The Methodist Church, with a membership of almost 13 million globally, is widely recognized for its opposition to the LGBTQ community. Several Methodists, including Lee, are resisting the church's traditional doctrines. Despite facing punishment for his non-traditional beliefs, Lee supports his decision to advocate for the LGBTQ community publicly.