California Methodists Hold Protest After UMC Terminates Three Korean Pastors

Protesters at the United Methodist Church California-Pacific Conference
A screenshot of the protesters as they defend the three theologically conservative Korean pastors. |

Approximately 50 protesters marched against Bishop Grant Hagiya of the United Methodist Church California-Pacific Conference. Protesters accused him of bullying three Korean-American pastors who do not share his view, a report says.

The Christian Post reports that the Rev. Jonathan Lee of the San Diego Korean United Methodist Church, the Rev. Jae Duk Lew of the Valley Korean United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Nak In Kim of the Bell Memorial United Methodist Church have all been terminated from their appointments as senior pastors of their respective congregations.

The Korean United Methodist Church Laity Network, the Cal-Pac Korean Church Caucus, and other organizations, according to UM News, have accused Hagiya of deliberately "targeting the three pastors" because of their conservative views and ties. They argue that throughout the appointment process, he neglected to consult with the pastors and their congregations.

The United Methodist Church has been debating whether or not to revise its biblically based position on marriage and sexuality. Similarly, the denomination has been split for years on how accommodating of LGBTQ individuals it should be.

"The bishop believed they were being 'disloyal' to him, so he just withdrew them from their churches," said Rev. Glen Haworth, president of the California-Pacific chapter of the theologically conservative Wesleyan Covenant Association. He was also present during the Saturday protest.

"They serve thriving, vibrant congregations that are doing significant ministry. There was no purpose to removing them except to further the bishop's own agenda," he added.

"We are planning further demonstrations, as well as a potential boycott of the Episcopal Fund in the denomination from which bishops are paid," Haworth continued after explaining that Bishop Hagiya is Japanese-American, and that the Japanese have a long history of discriminatory attacks against Koreans.

Saturday's protest "went extremely well," said Haworth and added that the private security protecting the UMC headquarters even praised them for their civility.

Bishop Hagiya, on the other hand, said that pursuant to United Methodist policy, he is unable to disclose the reason for his decision.

However, he emphasized that the "Book of Discipline directives on consultation" were observed, and he denied having any "theological or political" motivation for reassigning the pastors, whose terms are due to end on June 30.

"I care and our cabinet cares deeply about every church. Our only perspective is about the welfare of the church," Hagiya said.

The Conference's Korean Caucus has launched an online petition calling for an explanation from the bishop for "causing frustration and harm inflicted on the Korean church due to this situation."

Helena Kim, the co-chairwoman of the Korean Caucus of the California-Pacific Conference, told CP that she believes "Hagiya is abusing his authority as a bishop to essentially harm the pastors' ministry, their credibility [and] the three churches."

Consequently, the pastors and their congregations "have taken a legal action by jointly filing a complaint with the UMC Judicial Committee against bishop Hagiya and his superintendents," said Kim.

The Cal-Pac Korean Laity Network has drafted a resolution that condemns the bishop's unlawful acts. The resolution has reportedly been signed by around 3,000 individuals.