Rev. Lee Dong-hwan, a pastor suspended from the Korean Methodist Church (KMC) for two years, is now facing further disciplinary action for his involvement in blessing LGBTQ+ individuals at a pride festival.
The incident took place in August 2019 during a queer festival held in Incheon, South Korea. Rev. Lee’s participation in the LGBTQ+ blessing ceremony has been deemed a violation of the KMC’s rules, leading to his trial in a denominational tribunal.
The tribunal found Rev. Lee guilty of “sympathizing with homosexuality” and subsequently imposed a two-year ban on him from preaching, giving blessings, and holding prayer meetings. Dissatisfied with the verdict, Rev. Lee contested his suspension and has now filed a lawsuit against the KMC.
Despite the disciplinary measures and ongoing legal proceedings, Rev. Lee has remained steadfast in his support for the LGBTQ+ community. He went on to establish a “pro-gay” Christian advocacy group and continued to perform blessings at queer festivals throughout his suspension. His unwavering commitment to the cause has earned him both praise and criticism from various quarters.
In March 2023, eight members of the KMC lodged a complaint against Rev. Lee, accusing him of “disparaging the doctrine and the Book of Discipline” and “slandering the Methodist Church.” This complaint added fuel to the already contentious situation surrounding Rev. Lee’s actions.
On June 8th, the KMC reached a decision to indict Rev. Lee for violating its Doctrine and Discipline laws, specifically the prohibition on “an act in favor of or sympathy with homosexuality.” As a result, Rev. Lee has been barred from further service in the KMC until a final ruling is reached.
In a recent interview with Weekly Kyunghyang magazine, Rev. Lee defended his actions by arguing that the phrase “agreeing or sympathizing with” in the Book of Discipline is vague, and he believes he did not violate the article in question. He emphasized the need for a more inclusive interpretation of Christian teachings, stating that his actions were driven by compassion and a desire to support marginalized members of society.
This case has ignited a broader debate within the Korean Methodist Church regarding its stance on LGBTQ+ issues. While some members view Rev. Lee’s actions as a challenge to established doctrine, others see it as an opportunity for the church to evolve and embrace greater acceptance and understanding.
The outcome of Rev. Lee’s trial and subsequent legal proceedings will undoubtedly have significant implications for the KMC and its stance on LGBTQ+ rights. It remains to be seen whether the church will adopt a more progressive position or reinforce its traditional teachings.