The Korea Herald


Pastor faces discipline again for blessing LGBTQ people

By Kim So-hyun

Published : June 20, 2023 - 15:40

    • Link copied

Rev. Lee Dong-hwan (from Rev. Lee's Facebook page) Rev. Lee Dong-hwan (from Rev. Lee's Facebook page)

Rev. Lee Dong-hwan, who was suspended from duties for two years by the Korean Methodist Church for blessing gay people at a queer festival, is facing trial again for “sympathizing with homosexuality.”

Lee had been barred from preaching sermons, giving blessings and holding prayers on behalf of the Korean Methodist Church for sprinkling flower petals on LGBTQ Christians and others attending a queer festival in Incheon in August 2019. The KMC is affiliated with the US-based United Methodist Church, and has 1.2 million members across 6,659 churches nationwide as of 2021.

Lee filed a lawsuit against the KMC with the Seoul Central District Court, claiming that the church’s suspension which was finalized in October last year was invalid.

While that litigation has made little progress due to the lack of response from the church, the church has again set the stage for another trial to further punish Lee, saying the pastor has continued to support LGBTQ people despite the disciplinary measures.

On June 8, 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 KMC's laws -- including one that bans “agreeing or sympathizing with homosexuality.”

As the church law stipulates that those indicted cannot serve as pastors, Lee is barred from performing his duties until at least the church ruling is finalized.

The indictment came as eight pastors and elders of the KMC filed a complaint against Lee in March, pointing to the fact that Lee led a blessing ceremony again at a queer festival in Incheon in December 2020, and participated in the Seoul queer festival in June 2021 and July 2022.

They also mentioned that Lee founded a Christian advocacy group for sexual minorities called “Q&A,” calling it “pro-gay.”

“Not only has Rev. Lee attended a number of queer festivals, but he has also disparaged the doctrine and the Book of Discipline, slandered the Methodist Church, and created a pro-gay group,” those who filed the complaint said, adding that he has disrupted the order of the church as a result.

They also accused Lee of “entrapping the Methodist Church and spreading vile propaganda against it” by criticizing it in a forum or media interviews. Lee has publicly said that the church was going down due to its own internal moral problems, and instead of reflecting on its faults, has set homosexuality as its enemy.

Lee confirmed that he did in fact make those statements, and told Weekly Kyunghyang magazine that he was expressing what many have already said about the KMC.

In the interview, Lee insisted that the phrase “agreeing or sympathizing with” in the Book of Discipline is vague, and that he did not violate the article.