Davind Yonggi Cho, Emeritus Pastor at Yoido Full Gospel Church, expressed dismay on Sunday over elders who demanded Cho’s family and close aides step down from posts at the church’s affiliated charity, the Sharing Love and Happiness Foundation.
The charity unit is a non-profit organization that the church established in May 2008, timed with the resignation of Cho as pastor of the church and the appointment of Lee Young-hoon as his successor.
Davind Yonggi Cho, Emeritus Pastor at Yoido Full Gospel Church (Yoido Full Gospel Church)
Exterior of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Yeouido, Seoul (Yoido Full Gospel Church)
At that time, Cho and his family agreed with church elders to minimize their roles at the church and other affiliated bodies such as the Korean daily Kookmin Ilbo and Hansei University in Gunpo, Gyeonggi Province. Cho agreed that after retiring from the church, he would focus only on charity work.
However, his family has not loosened its grip on the church until recently. Cho’s wife Kim Sung-hye and Cho’s aide elder Kim Chang-dae were appointed as co-directors of the charity in a June meeting of the board of directors, under the approval of Cho, serving as chairman. Cho’s eldest son Hee-jun was also appointed executive secretary of the charity.
In protest, more than 700 of the 807 elders at the church signed a petition demanding Cho’s family leave the posts, saying the 50 billion won ($46.7 million) that church members had donated for Sharing Love and Happiness Foundation should be under the control of Cho, not his family.
“I feel dumbfounded when people say Cho Yong-gi and his family are trying to steal money from the foundation, while we’re actually trying to help the poor and the hungry,” Cho said in his sermon on Sunday.
“My wife or my children may not be saints or great men. But they’re not thieves and I won’t let them become thieves.”
He dismissed rumors that he is considering setting up another church because the elders are trying to oust his family.
“I set up this church with my blood, tears and sweat and have devoted 50 years to this church. I wouldn’t steal church money, unless I go insane,” he said.
The church spokesman Kim Han-su said Cho’s remarks can be interpreted as his emphasizing the need for a transparent operation of Sharing Love and Happiness Foundation.
He also said that because church members donated 50 billion won to set up the charity unit, its chairman of directors should be Cho.
“Our top priority is to protect the church and pastor Cho. Separating Cho’s family from major posts of the church is, in the end, a way of protecting both Cho and his family,” Kim said, adding that Cho’s family has been “hurting” the church.
Kim said that the church will deliver the collected signatures to pastor Lee and Cho. If the two do not accept the demand, the church will submit an appeal to related government agencies including the Ministry of Health and Welfare and take additional steps, he said.
By Kim Yoon-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)