|Rev. Lee Dong-hwan gives a prayer of blessing for the LGBTQ community at the queer festival in Incheon in this Aug. 31, file photo. Korea Times file|
By Park Ji-won
The Korean Methodist Church has suspended Rev. Lee Dong-hwan for two years for holding a "blessing ceremony" at a queer festival in August last year, during which he gave a blessing to the LGBTQ community and scattered flower petals.
In a secular hearing held in Yongin City, Thursday, the judicial committee of the Gyeonggi Province branch of the Korea Methodist Church ruled against the pastor, saying "Participation in the queer festival and the blessing itself can be seen as an approval of homosexuality."
According to the "regulations" of the Korean Methodist Church, any act seen as supporting homosexuality is considered breaking the tenets of the church.
Lee vowed to appeal to a higher authority after the ruling.
The hearing came after Lee was accused of violating church dogma by approving of homosexuality through the blessing.
"It feels terrible to witness the reality of the Korean Methodist Church and the Korean Church…. But I want to seek hope in the Church that I belong to. That's why I decided to appeal," Lee said.
Homosexuality has been a hot topic in the Korean Christian community in recent months as the liberal Justice Party has launched a political campaign to promote the passing of an anti-discrimination bill which aims to ban any types of discrimination including that on the basis of sexual orientation. Many Protestant churches and lawmakers have been battling over the proposed legislation for years, with the former claiming it encourages homosexuality.
The Catholic Church recently showed its support for the creation of the anti-discrimination law but also made it clear this doesn't mean it backs same-sex marriage or the existence of genders other than male and female. Buddhist communities also have largely supported the passage of the bill.
Meanwhile, the National Council of Churches Korea (NCCK), a liberal group of Protestant churches, criticized the committee's ruling against Lee in a statement saying, "The key message of the Bible and the calling of pastors is to love, bless and join hands with those who are excluded (from society) as they are precious and resemble God. Rev. Lee Dong-hwan only did his job."