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[Newsmaker] Church finalizes punishment on pastor for blessing LGBT people

Rev. Lee suspended from duties for two years for offering his blessing at a queer festival in 2019

Oct. 21, 2022 - 16:40 By Yoon Min-sik
Rev. Lee Dong-hwan (left) awaits a decision of the Korean Methodist Church court on his appeal against a two-year suspension handed down on him for blessing LGBT people at an event in 2019, at the church's headquarters in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The Korean Methodist Church’s court on Thursday upheld its earlier decision to suspend a pastor from his duties for two years for blessing sexual minorities in 2019.

“According to the creed of the Methodist Church, praying in front of sexual minorities can be seen as advocating or agreeing with their actions,” the court said, on why it decided to deny the appeal made by Rev. Lee Dong-hwan, the 42-year-old pastor of Glory Jeil Church in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.

The decision was not unanimous as two of the six members of the court committee voted in favor of Rep. Lee. Four, however, voted to hold his suspension.

Lee was accused by the church authorities of advocating gay relationship after he gave his blessing to the participants of the Incheon Queer Culture Festival in 2019.

“We have witnessed the 'mechanism of hatred' accumulated by the Korean church,” Rev. Lee said after the trial on Thursday.

“Through process of this trial, the Methodist Church have proven exactly how much of a discriminative and outdated group it is. ... As a member of the church, I am deeply ashamed and saddened (by the ruling.)”


Supporters of by Rev. Lee Dong-hwan hold a press conference in front of the Korean Methodist Church’s headquarters in Seoul on Thursday, decrying the church’s decision to suspend Lee from his duties for two years. (Yonhap)

The Korean Methodist Church has maintained a strong position against homosexuality. In 2015, it added a clause to its law that defined advocacy of homosexuality as misconduct, with Lee's suspension being the first application of the clause.

As of now, there is no universal position representing all Methodists on the issue of homosexuality, with practices and policies varying for each group. There are some, like the British Methodists, who permit ministers to bless same-sex marriages; last year, it was decided that John Wesley's New Room, the world's oldest Methodist building will be available for LGBT weddings.