[Editorial] The shameful reality of South Korean Protestant megachurches

The Myungsung Church in the Myeongil neighborhood of Seoul

The southeast Seoul presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, one of South Korea’s largest Protestant orders, approved a motion on Oct. 24 to invite Rev. Kim Ha-na of Myungsung Church, located in the Myeongil neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangdong district, to take over as head pastor. This marks the end of the order’s legal procedures to have the position of head pastor for the megachurch of Myungsung pass from founder Kim Sam-hwan to his son.

Protestant groups have blasted this hereditary succession of the head pastorship as a symbol of corruption, an attempt to privatize all the money and power acquired by the church and keep them within the family rather than sharing them with those less fortunate. It is especially infuriating to see this succession happening at Myungsung, which never before ranked alongside scandal-plagued megachurches like Yoido Full Gospel Church or SaRang Community Church.

The presbytery’s vote to approve the plan flies in the face of a resolution banning hereditary succession practices, which was adopted in 2013 by the general assembly that serves as PCK’s chief organization. The group Christian Ethics Movement immediately released a statement claiming it was “illegal and invalid to sabotage the selection of Kim Su-won, who was supposed to assume the position of chairperson by presbytery law, and to arbitrarily pass the invitation for Rev. Kim Ha-na of Myungsung Church with many presbytery members absent and only those representing Myungsung Church remaining.”

At a joint meeting in March, Myungsung Church passed an irregular succession plan merging it with Kim Ha-na’s New Song Myungsung Church to sidestep the anti-inheritance law. The only conclusion to be reached from this is that Kim Sam-hwan and his champions were focused solely on the succession, regardless of existing laws or procedures.

Rev. Kim Dong-ho, head of the group Alliance against Church Inheritance, called on like-minded people to “resist offline rather than raging on social media” and “unite in erasing the shame of ‘God’s justice’ being trampled in broad daylight.”

Kim Sam-hwan has portrayed himself as the “face of South Korean Protestantism,” serving not only as head of the leading Protestant order with the PCK but also as chairman of the National Council of Churches in Korea and representative chairman for the World Council of Churches general assembly. It’s heartbreaking to see such a figure embodying the shameful state of South Korean churches. Is the hereditary succession at Myungsung Church – which comes on the eve of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his criticism of church corruption on Oct. 31 – an attempt to kindle the flames of new religious reforms? The selfish secular reality of South Korean Protestantism is sad to witness.

Source: [Editorial] The shameful reality of South Korean Protestant megachurches : Editorial & Opinion : News : The Hankyoreh (hani.co.kr)

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