He Blessed LGBTQ People at a Festival. Now He’s No Longer a Pastor.

A Methodist church in South Korea has upheld its decision to suspend the pastor for two years for offering a prayer for an LGBTQ crowd.
south korea, lgbtq, pastor, methodist, church, festival, queer, same-sex
Donning a white robe and rainbow stole, Methodist pastor Lee Dong-hwan blessed a crowd at an LGBTQ festival, actions his church has now suspended him over. Photo: Courtesy of Incheon Queer Culture Festival Committee

A South Korean church has upheld its decision to punish a pastor for blessing a crowd at an LGBTQ festival.

Methodist pastor Lee Dong-hwan angered his church in 2019 when he got atop a podium during the Incheon Queer Culture Festival in Seoul to offer a prayer for the attendees. He donned a white robe and rainbow stole as he threw flower petals onto the crowd, whom he described as his friends just as “Jesus was friends with people who were abandoned by society.”

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But his church, which views supporting homosexuality as a vice comparable with taking drugs or gambling, claimed he violated church rules.

It handed him a two-year suspension in early October and on Thursday upheld the move after Lee appealed the ruling.

“As a member of the church, I am deeply ashamed and saddened, he said of the judgement.

“Through the process of this trial, the Methodist Church has proven exactly how much of a discriminative and outdated group it is.”

With nearly 13 million members around the world, the Methodist Church is notorious for its stance against the LGBTQ community

In the Book of Discipline, which outlines the church’s doctrines and laws, homosexuality is described as “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The church bans same-sex marriage and LGBTQ people from being ordained or getting appointed to serve the church. 

The Korean denomination of the Methodist Church has observed similar values. In 2015, it added a clause that defined advocacy of homosexuality as a misconduct, the rule which Lee was found guilty of violating.

But some Methodists, like Lee, are fighting back against the church’s centuries-old teachings. Though Lee has been punished for his unorthodox beliefs, he doesn’t regret his decision to openly support the LBGTQ community.

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“We believe that in God’s love, in that great and wonderful plan, the church will surely change for the better, and will not give up inclusiveness, hospitality and tolerant dialogue in the face of hate,” he said in a Facebook post. 

Other Methodist pastors and members have similarly taken a stand. 

In 2021, the Methodist Church in the UK voted to allow same-sex marriage, making it the largest religious domination in Britain to permit such unions. The United States has also seen a rupture among Methodists, who are divided over whether they allow the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.

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