The Korea Methodist Church gave Rev. Lee Dong-hwan a two-year suspension for giving a blessing to s*xual minorities at a queer festival.
According to reports, the judicial committee of the Korea Methodist Church’s Gyeonggi Province branch ruled Thursday to suspend Lee from his position as a pastor at a Methodist church in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, for the next two years, effective immediately.
The report also stated that the ruling would also bar Lee from making sermons, giving blessings and holding prayers as a pastor on behalf of the Methodist Church.
The pastor has been on trial for a couple of months on charges of violating church doctrine against any action supporting or agreeing to gamble, drug use or homos*xuality.” Church members who violate the doctrine are subject to suspension, dismissal or ex-communication.
This is the first time the church will ever put someone on trial for giving blessings to the LGBTQ community. The Screening Committee of the Korea Methodist Church, which accused the pastor of breaching the rule, had sought his dismissal.
Rev. Lee participated in the Queer Culture Festival held in Incheon on Aug. 31, 2019, and presided over a blessing ceremony where he and two others sprinkled flower petals on LGBTQ Christians and other attendees at the event.
During a trial hearing, Rev. Kim Moon-jo, one of the presiding members of the judicial committee, said Lee‘s participation in the festival already qualified as a violation.
The church also said the fact that the pastor wore a rainbow-coloured stole during the festival should be seen as a show of his agreement and support of the LGBTQ community.
However, the World Methodist Council, the head association of Methodist churches in the world of which Korea is also registered with, has not made any official stance on sexuality, leaving the discussion open to its member churches.
The pastor,s attorney said the pastor did not explicitly agree or support homos*xuality during the event but only said prayers and gave blessings.
His supporters have denounced the Korea Methodist Church and say that it is radically interpreting its doctrine to penalize Lee for his beliefs and philosophies instead of his actions. Pastors must always prioritize loving others and sharing their faith rather than favouring certain groups, they argue.