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Excommunicated Korean pastor sues Methodist Church

Lee Dong-hwan was disciplined over his blessing of same-sex couples at a LGBTQ festival
Anti-gay activists hold a rally in Seoul on July 16, 2022.  Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Korea.

Anti-gay activists hold a rally in Seoul on July 16, 2022.  Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Korea. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 26, 2024 08:36 AM GMT
Updated: March 26, 2024 09:33 AM GMT

An excommunicated Methodist pastor in South Korea has filed a lawsuit to invalidate disciplinary action taken against him for blessing same-sex couples.

At a press conference, Pastor Lee Dong-hwan said he had filed a "lawsuit for confirmation of invalidation of discipline" at the Seoul Central District Court on March 26, Yonhap News Agency reported.

"I hope that the reinstatement trial will send a clear message to the Korean[Methodist] Church, which is inciting hatred and discrimination,” in the country, Lee said.

He claimed that Korean society “will not stand idly by while Protestantism is the biggest obstacle to human rights in Korea.”

Members of the Joint Action Committee supporting Lee among others were present at the press conference.

Lee had sprinkled flower petals on LGBTQ Christians and others attending a festival in Incheon in August 2019 which led to him receiving a ban from the Church authorities, the Korea Herald reported.

He is banned from preaching sermons, giving blessings, and holding prayers on behalf of the Korean Methodist Church.

In June 2023, a six-person judicial committee of the Gyeonggi province branch of the Church unanimously indicted Lee for violating three articles of the Book of Discipline — a collection of the Church’s laws — including one that bans “agreeing or sympathizing with homosexuality.”

The Methodist Church law stipulates that those indicted cannot serve as pastors.

Eight pastors and elders of the Church had filed a complaint against Lee, saying Lee led a blessing ceremony at a queer festival in Incheon in December 2020 and participated in the Seoul queer festival in June 2021 and July 2022, the Korea Herald reported.

He was suspended for two years for his actions on Oct. 20, 2022, by a Church committee, Yonhap reported.

Members of the Joint Action Committee condemned the Methodist Church for its conservative views on sexual orientation.

"Pastor Lee's hospitality ministry and blessings are not a sin,” the group said.

“But rather, it is the presiding bishop who is caught up in a narrow-minded perspective and is injecting a minority-hating sentiment into Korean society," the group alleged.

The Methodist Church in South Korea has 1.2 million followers under its wing with 6,700 churches in and outside the country and 1,300 missionaries, according to its website, AFP reported.

Nearly a quarter of South Korea's population of 51 million are Christian and the religious community holds significant political sway, with many evangelicals staunchly opposing gay rights.

Same-sex marriage is not recognized in South Korea, social pressure keeps many people from being open about their sexuality, and Seoul's annual Pride celebration attracts vicious Christian-led opposition, AFP reported.

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