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Pastor expelled for blessing LGBTQ+ couples continues fight

March 15, 2024 - 11:55 By Yoon Min-sik
Lee Dong-hwan (center, front-row) speaks during a press conference on March 4 in Jongno-gu, Seoul, protesting the decision by the Methodist Church of Korea to expel him for blessing same-sex couples. (Yonhap)

Lee Dong-hwan, the pastor who was recently expelled by the Methodist Church of Korea for blessing same-sex couples, is now turning to the secular court in his continued battle for reinstatement.

The 43-year-old is planning to file legal charges against the Methodist Church's decision after its tribunal confirmed his disfellowship last week.

"I did not launch the fight for reinstatement so that I can regain my title as a Methodist pastor. I'm (going to the court) because I did not want to leave a bad precedent among the protestants," he said during a public event in Mapo-gu, Seoul, on Tuesday.

Some 90 people attended the event hosted by local rights groups to support Lee, who was ousted by the church for blessing sexual minorities, including a same-sex couple at the Incheon Queer Culture Festival in 2019.

"I oppose all forms of stigma, contempt, discrimination and exclusion against sexual minorities and social minorities in this country," he said when he blessed the couple. Lee blessed couples of sexual minorities three more times after that event, and publicly bashed Christian churches in Korea for what he called contempt against sexual minorities.

The Methodist Church of Korea bans any actions advocating or sympathizing with homosexuality, based on Article 3 of its canon law.

"It was ultimately my hospitality toward sexual minorities that led to my expulsion from the church. ... The adverse effects of this decision on Korean churches will be greater and more persistent than meets the eye," he said in Tuesday's event, saying that disdain toward sexual minorities within the church cannot be seen separately from human rights issues in South Korean society.

"They profess to 'love' (LGBTQ+ individuals) while spewing hatred in the name of God. That kind of twisted love cannot simply be dismissed as an internal religious matter," he said. "I wish to win the legal fight, so I can show the church that society should not accept its decision to expel me."

Lee's expulsion has been met with opposition from some Christians here as well. The human rights center of the National Council of Churches in Korea, which has relatively progressive views compared to other Christian groups in the country, decried Lee's expulsion, calling it "hate in the name of religion."

"Rev. Lee is a faithful Christian who carries out the love and teachings of Christ. ... He led the way in 'loving thy neighbors' as Jesus taught us," the center said in its statement earlier this week, urging the Methodist Church to withdraw its decision.