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Korean-American pastors revoked from the denomination for opposing same-sex marriage

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Korean-American Methodists stage a protest rally at the California Pacific Conference meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Los Angeles on June 17, demanding the United Methodist Church to rescind its decision to revoke their pastors. [Courtesy of the Korean United Methodist Church Laity Network].
The United Methodist Church (UMC), the largest Methodist denomination in the United States, is facing mounting criticism over allegations of unfair sanctions against Korean-American Methodist churches.

Korean-American Methodists are taking a hard line against the UMC, stating that they may pursue legal action.

Pastors Byungok Shin of Los Feliz United Methodist Church and Hyunjoong Kang of Torrance Korean United Methodist Church were recently notified by the UMC of their dismissal and revocation from the denomination, according to the Korean United Methodist Church Laity Network of Western Jurisdiction. The UMC’s decision came after both churches voted to leave the denomination in response to the UMC’s policy of accepting same-sex marriages.

Unlike other denominations, the UMC’s bishops have the authority to hire and dismiss pastors. This decision effectively means the end of tenure for the pastors.

“The Korean churches legally voted to leave the UMC according to the UMC Book of Discipline, but the denomination made a retaliatory decision against them,” said Seongju An, an elder in the Laity Network. “Moreover, the notification was made unilaterally without any consultation process with the churches, so the UMC violated the procedures set forth in the Book of Discipline.”

The California Pacific UMC has not made any comment on this matter.

The Korean United Methodist Church Laity Network, a group of Methodist laypersons, released a statement on June 20, demanding the immediate rescission of the threatening decision against the Korean-American community. They stated their intention to respond legally to the situation.

On June 17, over 100 Korean-American Methodists protested at a UMC California Pacific Conference meeting in the Los Angeles area, demanding that the denomination rescind its decision. Members of over 10 Korean-American Methodist churches, including Bell Memorial United Methodist Church, Van Nuys United Methodist Church, and Wilshire United Methodist Church, which are all part of the Korean United Methodist Church, joined the protest to condemn the denomination’s decision.

“The UMC California Pacific Conference should rescind its punitive decision against the Korean-American community,” said Elder Jungkwan Choi. “Currently, the UMC General Conference has established a policy that allows for amicable separation from the church for those who oppose the same-sex marriage policy, but the California Conference’s decision is an unfair use of personnel rights as a means of retaliatory descipline.”

The UMC California Pacific Conference has been placing unreasonable demands on churches seeking to leave the denomination, unlike other regional conferences.

According to the UMC, churches that depart from the denomination in response to its same-sex marriage policy must pay 50 percent of the value of their property, including church buildings, in order to leave. Korean-American Methodists argue that this requirement is punitive and makes it nearly impossible to leave.

“Other conferences typically set it at 10 percent or even zero percent in the Southeastern Jurisdiction, but only the California Pacific Conference is imposing such an unreasonable rule,” An said. “We even invited the California Pacific Conference bishop and property management committee to a public discussion, but we did not receive any response.”

The UMC also caused controversy in 2021 when three Korean-American Methodist pastors in Southern California were notified of transfer to other churches for “disagreeing with the direction of the California Pacific Conference” on the same-sex marriage policy.

BY YEOL JANG    [support@koreadaily.com]