No Sure Try, This!

Shortly after the Australian government decided that the issue of marriage equality would be put to a non-binding postal plebiscite, the Global Moderator (Interim) of Metropolitan Community Churches, the Rev Elder Rachelle Brown, posted on Facebook that this was a ‘step forward’.

Well, yes, I can see that. I also know that polling in Australia indicates a majority of the population are in favor of marriage equality, considerably so. The latest poll to come in[1] indicates that 70% of those planning to vote in the plebiscite intend to vote ‘Yes’ in answer to the question ‘Should same-sex couples be allowed to marry?’ Apparently, this is a relief for the ‘Yes’ campaign after seeing and earlier poll indicating that support for ‘Yes’ was beginning to slip.

The scare was in, though, and even these numbers, in my opinion, are no cause for complacency or for the ‘Yes’ side to think they have this ‘in the bag’. I’ve seen enough political campaigns in my life to see that one event, one quote, one perceived slip can change the momentum considerably.

And make no mistake – this question of human rights has been transformed into a political campaign. That in itself is troubling enough. It creates the misguided idea that ‘rights’ are something which are granted by the majority population to minorities. I get enough of that flawed thinking here in the country where I live, South Korea, where the remnants of neo-Confucian philosophy are still strong enough that the patronage of seniors to juniors, the dominance of men over women, and the expectation of reciprocity between friends are very real forces. This mindset is inevitably linked to the appalling rates of violence in male-female relationships[2], and the strong collusion between politicians and business empires, as well as politicians and their associates, which led to the impeachment of the president of this country earlier this year.

I’ve been a follower of politics from a very young age, so I can remember a number of events from campaigns in my native Canada which have reversed the trends in political campaigns:

  • The leader of the Progressive-Conservative Party of Canada, Robert Stanfield, threw around a football during an airplane refueling stop. It was the picture of the pass he dropped that made the front pages on Canadian newspapers the next morning. That picture didn’t help his election campaign, and his second-party leader status was weakened[3].
  • In 1980, the province of Québec held its first sovereignty referendum. The ‘No’ campaign, standing against sovereignty, was running a boring campaign, and some polls suggested the ‘Yes’ side could win. Then, Lise Payette, a minister in the Parti Québecois, compared women who supported a Québec fully inside Canada to Yvette, a cartoon character of the past who represented the stereotypical demure, deferent, obedient girl. Many women in Québec protested against this, and the ‘Yes’ side went to a resounding defeat[4].
  • In 1992, the government of Canada negotiated with the provinces to amend the Constitution so that Quebec would be included (its government had not agreed to the repatriated Constitution in 1982). The resulting ‘Charlottetown Accord’ was put to a referendum in the autumn. At the beginning of the campaign, the Acord was popular in English Canada, with a statistical dead-heat in Québec. However, steady opposition from separatist leaders in Québec and the Reform Party in Western Canada, not to mention the desire of many Canadian voters to stick to the then-unpopular Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, led to its defeat.
  • In 1995, there was another referendum in Quebec. After a lackluster beginning for the pro-sovereignty camp, a change of leadership, as well as an apparent complacency on the part of federalists, led to a ‘No’ result with a difference of only one percent.

Those are only my own recollections of a few events from my own country. I’m sure you can think of many from your own. The point is that any one event can lead to a sudden shift in momentum in any political campaign – and now Australia is in the middle of one.

There have already been events which could have been that ‘tipping point’, and it’s accurate to say that no side is completely innocent:

  • One poster that has been distributed by ‘No’ campaigners has made a series of wildly inaccurate claims that the majority of children who have same-sex parents suffer abuse[5];
  • A group of campaigners for the ‘No’ side were confronted by counter-protestors at the University of Sydney, and things apparently became very tense[6];
  • A comedian openly mused about what it would be like to ‘hate-f**k’[7] opponents of marriage equality as a form of revenge[8].

None of these are forms of discourse I’d consider particularly helpful in this debate.

things:

  • People are allowed to disagree with the concept of same-sex marriage. Australia, like any other nation which allows freedom of expression, allows people to disagree on different issues. It seems to me that the appropriate response is to challenge the positions of these people, especially on religious grounds: ‘Why should your interpretation of your religion be given the privilege of denying civil rights to members of this society?’
  • Assume nothing. As noted above, momentum can shift at any time. The ‘Yes’ campaign needs to be calm and dispassionate (not un-passionate), yet relentless in its work to make sure the majority of Australians are convinced of the rightness of their cause, and that they send in their mail-in ballots.

To coin a term using rugby terminology, it’s no sure try, this. A constant, sustained effort will be needed to ensure this plebiscite is successful in guaranteeing marriage equality. But as I wrote earlier, why is this being decided through popular vote, anyway? Aren’t rights rights?!

[1] Reported in Brook, B (2017, 12 September) New same-sex marriage poll a relief for yes campaign. In news.com.au [online]. Retrieved 16 September 2017 from http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/gay-marriage/new-samesex-marriage-poll-a-relief-for-yes-campaign/news-story/20e7f8adf655f7346420080dd6ac609d.

[2] Kim, D S (2017, 17 August) 8 in 10 Korean men admit abuse of girlfriend. In Korea Herald [online]. Retrieved 20 August 2017 from http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170817000805.

[3] (2004 2 June/2017). An unforgettable fumble for Robert Stanfield. In CBC Digital Archives [online]. Retrieved 16 September 2017 from http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/an-unforgettable-fumble-for-robert-stanfield.

[4] (2013) 1980 Referendum. In Canada History [online]. Retrieved 16 September 2017 from http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/an-unforgettable-fumble-for-robert-stanfield.

[5] Sparkes, D (2017, 29 August (updated)). Same-sex marriage advocates say anti-LGBTI poster inaccurate, distressing. In ABC News [online]. Retrieved 1 September 2017 from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-21/advocates-slam-anti-lgbti-poster-on-melbourne-street/8828566.

[6] Heated scenes at the University of Sydney over same-sex marriage (2017, September 14). In news.com.au [online]. Retrieved 15 September 2017 from http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/gay-marriage/heated-scenes-at-the-university-of-sydney-over-samesex-marriage/news-story/310c30b97385e4a582c0443318e19c9c.

[7] If you’re unaware of what that is, it’s having sex without someone you dislike, often containing roughness, name-calling, and immediately kicking them out of your bed afterwards.

[8] Coalition MPs lash out at ‘vile’ tweet by same-sex marriage advocate (2017, 11 September). In news.com.au [online]. Retrieved 18 September 2017 from http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/gay-marriage/coalition-mps-lash-out-at-vile-tweet-by-samesex-marriage-advocate/news-story/9aa68a1b5dd19bd9e29015bae099d80c.

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Doubling Down!

How interesting.

I didn’t realize that the term ‘double down’ has its origins in card gambling, specifically blackjack. If you ‘double down’ in a game of blackjack, you decide to double your bet after looking at your cards; however, you have to agree to take one more card. Considering the rapidity with which cards are dealt at a blackjack table, one has to make the decision to double down pretty quickly. I remember Bill Cosby’s complaint about playing blackjack in Las Vegas – ‘you don’t have time to wish on your cards!’

‘5, 8, that’s 13 – ok, 7 or 8, 7 or 8’

’10!’

‘What do you mean 10?! You take that card back!’

Knowing that, though, makes it much easier to comprehend the more modern definition we associate with it – strengthening or re-iterating one’s belief in or commitment to something, especially something that may be dubious or suspect.

If you’ve been following my rough translations of the news articles documenting the harassment of the Rev Lim Borah by eight church denominations in South Korea[1], you’ll know that the committee charged with carrying out the harassment produced its report saying that the Rev Lim is guilty of heresy and of attacking orthodox churches & theology.

Ever since then, the conservative Presbyterian church in Korea which started all this nonsense (The GAPCK, or as I affectionately call them, the ‘Jesus Presbyterians!’) have decided to allow a proposal for an amendment to their Constitution which allows local church pastors to deny baptism to sexual minorities and to evict church members who are identified as sexual minorities from their congregations. Now, I don’t know how a pastor would be able to discern the sexual orientation or gender identity of a babe-in-arms being brought for baptism by its parents, but I suppose Chongshin University Seminary (the flagship university for the ‘Jesus Presbyterians(!)’) would probably be able to include the appropriate training for this!

Of course, many of you are familiar with the ‘doubling down’ done by the 45th President of the United States, who couldn’t just condemn the violence in Charlottesville, but had to go ‘off script’ and add in that the violence happened ‘on many sides’. This was followed three days later by his defense of the white supremacist marchers, saying there were ‘many fine people’ among them, and creating false equivalencies between the fascists and what has become known as the ‘antifa’ (by the way, if you think that a ‘radical left’ has become a violent equivalent of the ‘alt-right’ which must be discredited, read this[2]).

To add to this, I just read this morning ‘the Nashville Statement’, a statement which came out of a conference sponsored by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. It claims to the a definitive ‘Christian’ statement on sexuality which states what it claims are the appropriate ‘Biblical’ stances on sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, and relationships. Article Ten is of unique interest to me as an LGBT+ ally:

Article 10

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.[3]

Well, I do declare! Even holding an opinion is a reason to be condemned as being ‘anti-Christian’. I feel a heresy trial coming on (Bring it! I dare ya! Bring it!)!

Now, what causes people to take these types of actions, to make these types of statements? I’ve concluded that most people do not take any type of action, or make any kind of statement, unless they believe that they have the protection – of law, force, opinion, or whatever – to do so.

Donald Trump has the force of his financial empire and his ego. He also has the authority of being the head of state of the US, an authority gained by eking out an electoral college victory in a presidential election he lost by over 3 million votes. I believe that authority has fed his ego, and that he lives with megalomania, if not some other more drastic mental illness. There is no doubt that his policies, statements, and actions, have given ‘cover’ to all those who may have harbored racist or fascist sentiments but have hesitated from expressing them for fear of retribution. I shudder to think that it’s only the law that is keeping the U.S. away from allowing lynching to be an acceptable social practice![4]

However, be it here in Korea or in the U.S., I get the sense that these are both ‘double downs’ from old guards that think – or worse, know – that their time in a dominant position in society are growing short. You look at any public poll these days, and the 45th President has approval numbers which are nothing short of dismal for a president at this early stage of their term.

As for the GAPCK[5], they’ve just commissioned a public survey which has indicated that around three-quarters of Koreans may view Protestantism in a negative light.[6] Moreover, on a hot-button issue of homosexuality, over half of respondents indicated they were either sympathetic to or not concerned about the issue.[7] We can add to that the most recent results of a poll conducted by Gallup Korea, which indicated that, while there is still considerable opposition among older Koreans to same-sex marriage, 90% of those surveyed agreed that sexual minorities should enjoy equality in employment opportunities, and 81% believed a person should not be dismissed from their position due to sexual orientation.[8] It’s very clear that the beliefs they treasure are beginning to not be reflected in the opinions of the Korean body politic.

But what is their reaction? If the results of the conference they held to address the issues surrounding this survey are any indication, they simply can’t deal with it. The ‘expert speaker’ brought into the conference at least tried to broach subjects like the challenges of artificial intelligence to questions of identity, and humility in evangelism – but the bigwig pastors they brought in to speak could not even address that! All they could offer was ideas about new church development (smaller churches, this time), attacking ‘neo-Marxism/materialist socialism’ (whatever that is!) and ‘the homosexual issue’, and engaging in Bible tests, prayer meetings, and revival rallies – ‘spiritual reproduction’, it was called.[9] They simply ‘doubled down’ and called for more of that ‘old-time religion’.

I smell fear. Among both white racists in the US scared of losing their privilege, and religious conservatives sensing that their traditional answers to the questions of life, the universe, and everything (including sexuality) are not satisfying people anymore, they’re simply asserting their old ideas with more fervor and sometimes more ferocity. They are peddlers of old wine, trying to force it into new wineskins. It’s only going to end up blowing up in their faces – that’s if the 45th President doesn’t try to start a war with North Korea and end up getting us all blown up!

 

[1] No, I’m not going to dignify it anymore by referring to their name for this, a ‘heresy investigation’. It’s harassment, plain and simple. Don’t understand why? Please read my blog posts entitled ‘An Evolving Train Wreck and Debacle’.

[2] Rimel, L (2017, Aug 23). My “Nonviolent” Stance Was Met With Heavily Armed Men. In Radical Discipleship: A Joint Project of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries and Word & World [online]. Accessed 24 August 2017 at https://radicaldiscipleship.net/2017/08/23/my-nonviolent-stance-was-met-with-heavily-armed-men/.

[3] CBMW/The Ethics and Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Nashville Statement [online]. Accessed 30 August 2017 at https://cbmw.org/nashville-statement.

[4] Refer to Cornell College (2017) ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Visit to Cornell College: An Address by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa, October 15, 1962’ [online]. Accessed 20 August 2017 at

[5] I gotta give that other moniker a break, as much as I like it!

[6] Choi, S H (2017, Aug 17) ’75.3% of Koreans mistrust Protestantism, confidence should be restored through “finances”’ (Korean original: 국민 75.3% 개신교 불신, 신뢰 회복 방안은 ‘돈’). Newsnjoy [online’. Accessed 19 August 2017 at http://www.newsnjoy.or.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=212600.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ock, H J (2017, Jun 8) 6 in 10 Koreans oppose same-sex marriage. Korea Herald [online]

[9] Choi, S H (2017 Aug 8) The Thoughts of Pastors So Kwang-seok  and Oh Jung Hyun on the “4th Industrial Revolution” (Korean original: ‘4차 산업혁명’ 시대, 소강석·오정현 목사 생각은). Newsnjoy [online]. Accessed 20 August 2017 at http://www.newsnjoy.or.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=212630.

An Evolving Train Wreck and Debacle, Pt. 6 : Aren’t You Folks Telegraphing This Just A Bit?

As I noted before, things have proceeded with some speed in this evolving psychodrama, even to the point where I’ve decided that it’s time for me to take some action on this (you’ll see more below). However, I’ve skipped the events surrounding the 18th Korea Queer Culture Festival – which I will be writing on, I promise(!) – to get to the next important installment.

As you will read, the joint witch-hunti – er, excuse, joint heresy investigation committee (the first one does sound more appropriate, doesn’t it?) met to conduct their ‘investigat’tion’ (if you can call it that!). Strange, though – they saw fit to issue this report to a news service which was likely favorable to them (the Kookmin Daily, a conservative news service) but didn’t send it to others, like Newsnjoy, where most of my articles have come from, or to the Rev Borah Lim herself! What’s that all about?! Playing to the gallery? Preaching to the choir? Gathering the wagons? I guess you can figure that out!

Anyway, here’s my rough translation:

Pastor Borah Lim – A False Theology of Salvation

A heresy investigation committee of 8 major denominations meet on the 20th to determine the heresy of Pastor Lim

Posted 2017.07.21/Last amended 2017.07.27

On the 20th, the joint heresy investigation committee, made up of representatives of eight Korean church denominations, met at the headquarters of Korean Christian Methodist Church (Sejong University) in Jongno-gu, Seoul to examine the heresy of the Rev Lim Borah.

The chairmen are planning to report at the end of each denomination’s synod meeting in September as soon as the joint heresy investigation is over.

On this day, five Presbyterian Churches of Korea (GAPCK – Hap Dong, TongHap, Daesin, Kosin, Hapsin), as well as the Methodist Church of Korea, the Evangelical Holiness Church of Korea, and the Korea Baptist Convention, who make up the heresy investigation committee, pointed out that Pastor Lim is promoting a wrong theology and soteriology[1]. They also determined she makes anti-biblical claims which defend an incorrect family system, and is attacking orthodox churches and theology.

They said, “Pastor Lim asserts that homosexuality is biblical because God mistakenly puts a variety of sexual identities on humanity, and that the Bible does not forbid homosexuality.”

They added, ‘She argues that homosexuality is not the cause of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, since the prohibition is not against homosexuality but improper sex’; consequently, ‘she argues that claiming homosexuality is sinful is the product of a society centered on heterosexuality’.

JHIC

On the 20th, the joint heresy investigation committee, made up of representatives of eight Korean church denominations, met at the headquarters of Korean Christian Methodist Church (Sejong University) in Jongno-gu, Seoul to examine the heresy of the Rev Lim Borah. (Photo from the Kookmin Daily)

 

The members of the heresy investigation committee analyzed the problems of soteriology and an incorrect family system, and took the position that they posed problems with the Pastor Lim’s criticism of orthodox churches and theology.

The members of the committee said ‘Pastor Lim insists on a pluralistic soteriology by distorting God’s word about sin and judgment’ and that ‘Justifying a same-sex marriage family system justifies the wrong family system, and this is a concern that it will develop into a logic that justifies not discriminating against polygamy or incest.’

They added ‘Pastor Lim criticizes the orthodox Christian stance against homosexuality as being based on a literal interpretation of the Bible and that its understanding of human rights is superficial, ignorant, and based on prejudice’; thus ‘She argues that the orthodox church is distorting the Gospel and should repent.’

The committee stated ‘Because of this heresy, Pastor Lim is encouraging homosexuality and is participating in queer festivals to pray for and bless homosexuals, rather than calling on them to repent and return.’

If the report of the joint heresy investigation committee is adopted, the Assemblies of God Korea (excluding the Full Gospel Church, Youido) will also confirm the heresy of the Rev Lim.

The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea Association of Women Pastors (PROK-AWP), of which Pastor Lim is a member, issued a statement on the 3rd, saying, ‘Pastor Lim has been a pastor who has worked hard to build up the family, church, and society properly’, and urged a halt to the heresy investigation, ‘Do not automatically brand the expression of one’s freedom of conscience and one’s love for the weak as heresy.’

Reporter: Baek Sang-hyun

The original article can be found at http://news.kmib.co.kr/article/view.asp?arcid=0011630280&code=61221111&sid1=mis

A Final Request:

I hope that you share my sense of disgust at the actions instigated by the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (GAPCK). This denomination has decided, on their own volition, to subject a minister of another denomination, over whom they have no disciplinary or pastoral authority, to an investigation for doctrinal error, over an issue on which many Christians disagree, but which is not a central doctrine of the Christian faith.

However, the GAPCK has convinced the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK – the TongHap Church) to be part of this endeavor. This denomination is part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). In Article IV of the WCRC Constitution (Values), it clearly states:

The World Communion of Reformed Churches in its order and actions is called to respect, defend, and advance the dignity of every person. In Jesus Christ all human differences must lose their power to divide. No one shall be disadvantaged for, among other reasons, race, ethnicity, or gender, and no individual or church may claim or exercise dominance over another. (my emphasis)

As I read it (at least), the GAPCK, through instigating these actions, is encouraging churches to exercise dominion over other churches. Therefore, it is appropriate and necessary that international pressure be brought to bear on the GAPCK.

With this in mind, I have posted a petition on the petition website, change.org. It has already gained many signatures, for which I’m grateful. However, if you have not seen it yet, I would ask you to take a look and consider signing it. You can find it at:

https://www.change.org/p/the-world-communion-of-reformed-churches-stop-the-harassment-of-the-rev-borah-lim

Thank you.

[1] Soteriology is one’s theology of salvation – how one is ‘saved’, so to speak.

An Evolving Train Wreck and Debacle, Pt. 5.: The Strength of Women

My publishing of these article translations is picking up apace, mainly because there have been recent developments on the ground which deserve your attention, Gentle Reader. Nonetheless, I do believe it’s also important to put this process in the order of its chronological development. Therefore, the latest instalment.

 

I made a mistake when I originally put this translation out into the online world, so I express my gratitude to the person who corrected me on this, and gratitude for the chance to publish this correction. This statement of support came from the Association of Women Pastors within the Presbyterian Church of Korea. As often happens, it’s the women who ‘cut to the chase’ and name the real issues which need addressing in many of these more conservative churches.

 

What was it I heard Peter Seeger say in an interview for Democracy Now? ‘It’s women, working together with children, who will bring change’. Yep. Please read on:

 

The Investigation of the Rev Lim Bora Should Stop Immediately

National Women Pastors’ Association makes statement of declaration

Lee Eun-hye, Reporter, NewsnJoy, 2017.07.04

The Presbyterian Church of Korea Association of Women Pastors (Kim Song Hee, chair), issued a statement on July 3 calling for the investigation of heresy aimed at the Rev Imbora, a pastor of the same denomination, to be stopped.

On June 16,the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (GPACK, Kim Sun-kyu, Moderator), said they would investigate the Rev Lim Bora for heresy because she advocates homosexual human rights and is preparing to publish the Queer Bible Commentary. Other Korean churches also agreed with the GAPCK. On June 27, they said they would join the investigation of the Rev Lim Bora for heresy.

The statement of the PROK-AWP was addressed to the chairperson of the committee who opened the heresy investigation. It said that before ordering the investigation of ministers from other denominations for ‘heresy’, the other churches should concentrate first on investigating sex crimes within their own ranks. The statement read, ‘They do not recognize the ordination of women but continue anachronistic sexist discrimination, so it is recommended that the ministers of these joint denominations first look at the beams in their own eyes before looking for the specks of dust in other people’s eyes.’

Here is the full statement:

We Urge You to Stop the Investigation of the Rev Lim Bora for Heresy Immediately!

‘…(may Christ) dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Recently, the General Assembly of Korean Presbyterian Churches (GAPCK) sent a letter to a pastor of our denomination, the Rev Lim Bora, entitled ‘Request for information on heretical thought research’. We must deeply lament that you are investigating the Rev Lim Bora for heresy based on the issues of protection of sexual minority human rights and a translation of the Queer Bible Commentary by a committee of the Presbyterian Church. In the past, we remember that when medieval churches were shaken by famine, pests, etc., many women were forced to confess to being witches and burned for sacrifice. Stop this modern witch hunt.

We cannot help asking what kind of qualifications the GAPCK has to carry out this investigation and whether it is a proper focus of its ministry. Theological interpretation and ethical value judgments require dialogue and discussion. You should not drive a unilateral witch hunt. In 1952, the church condemned the Rev Kim Jae-joon for heresy, but in 2016, the TongHap church withdrew its judgment  and asked for reconciliation in brotherhood. Yet, at this time. At the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the GAPCK is in a position to declare a pastor a heretic. If there is a problem with her, it is clear that it is our duty to investigate in our denomination, and not to be investigated by other denominations.

First, solve sexual violence and sexual harassment problems in your denomination.

Recently, the chair of the joint investigating committee closed the investigation of a former pastor who has been convicted in court for sexual harassment. Was that it? You have misinterpreted the words ‘women should keep quiet in the church’ and continue sexually discriminatory and anachronistic statements such as ‘pad-wearing women cannot stand in the pulpit’, and you do not accept the ordination of women. Stop trying to clean up the crimes of your own pastors, stop discriminating against women, and stop condemning suffering neighbors.

Before the heresy investigation, the GAPCK should deeply recognize the love of Jesus Christ and look to see if there is a limit to the love of Christ. Jesus loved the Pharisees in spite of the suffering wrought by their despair and discrimination, and even took the cross for all sinners. We are Christians who strive to preach the love of God according to Jesus Christ. Churches and pastors should strive to love all.

Should we reject those who are bound to the Lord’s love and come to Church? Should we be ignorant of our neighbors and their families who are suffering from social despair and discrimination, and instead be pointing at and condemning sinners? Can minorities and their families not be Christians and share the fellowship of the church community? We confess that it is the call of the pastor to live as a good Samaritan who reaches out to their suffering neighbors.

The Rev Lm Bora is a woman pastor who has worked hard to build up the family, the church, and society properly. Being with suffering neighbors and the marginalized is a difficult thing to suffer, but she is devoted to this in accordance with her faith and conscience. We have trusted and supported her love for God and her love for the weak through knowing her faithful pastoral ministry and life.

To the GAPCK, we say, do not unilaterally push the freedom of faith, conscience, and love for the weak into the realm of heresy. We urge once more to cease immediately the investigation for heresy of our co-worker, Bora.

2017.07.03

The Presbyterian Church of Korea Association of Women Pastors

 

The original can be found at http://www.newsnjoy.or.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=211937

An Evolving Train Wreck and Debacle, Pt. 4, or: Just What the @#$%&! Is This All About?!

I realize that some may be surprised if not offended by my use of a expletive, even a censored one, in my blog post. It’s not my intention to offend, I assure you.

Yet, this whole ‘investigation’ has been a rather offensive enterprise. As you will read in my rough English translation of this article, there did not seem to be unanimity among leaders of the eight denominations involved in this investigation as to what it was all about.

In the days ahead, I intend to continue publishing these rough translations a little more frequently, because things have picked up apace surrounding this issue, and the original investigating body, the GAPCK (or as I affectionately call them, ‘the JESUS Presbyterians!’), have taken even more extreme stands, and are seeking to bring in bigger groups.

So, without further ado, here you go:

‘We have not come to the conclusion of the heresy “investigation” concerning the Rev Lim Bora’

What is the idea of these 8 denominations?

Reporter Lee Yong-pil (posted 2017.06.30 16:34)

newsnjoy 20170630 1

A major denomination decided to investigate the Rev. Lim Bora (left) for heresy. Although it was reported that Lim’s homosexual advocacy was a problem, the results of the interviews were different. (Choi Seung-hyun, NewsnJoy)

‘It does not matter if you are homosexual or not. However, this person is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PROK). God has said that not only is homosexuality a sin, but also to defend homosexuals and to take actions like translating the Queer Bible Commentary (QBC). This is serious. It must be clearly identified whether the Rev Lim Bora is a heretic or not.’ – The Rev Kim Jeong-nam, Moderator, General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (GPACK)

If a pastor works for minority rights, they may well be branded a heretic. Eight Christian denominations (the HapDong, DongHap, Kosin, Hapsin, and Daesin Presbyterian churches, the Methodist Church of Korea, the Evangelical Holiness Church of Korea, and the Korean Baptist Church of Korea), have jointly gathered information. It is not yet a full-fledged investigation, but if you listen to the Rev Kim Jeong-nam, moderator of the GAPCK, Rev. Im Bora is already a ‘heretic’.

The investigation of the Rev Lim’s purported heresy has been conducted by the Rev Kim Seong-kyu, chair of Korea’s largest denomination. The Rev Jin Yong-sik, chair of the joint Tribunal, has said, ‘”It is a doctrinal and biblical problem that the pastor is carries out a support movement for homosexuals and is translating the Queer Bible Commentary.’ The leaders of the other denominations also imply that Minister Lee’s homosexual advocacy is to be taken seriously.

How accurate are the Rev Jin’s claims? Newsnjoy contacted the leaders of each denomination on June 30th. The opinions of all denominational leaders except of the Methodist Council were heard. Aside from the opinion the it is necessary to investigate the Rev Lim, there was no unanimity among these leaders.

‘If she were not a pastor she would not have been investigated; if only one denomination had investigated, it would have been attacked’

newsnjoy 20170630 2

‘The main leader of the denomination has entered the heresy investigation of the Rev Lim Bora. This is because the Rev Lim has participated in homosexual advocacy and translated the Queer Bible Commentary’ (pictures are not related to article contents) (Choi Yu-ri, Newsnjoy)

The Rev Kim Jeong-man, moderator of the Presbyterian Church (Daesin) strongly condemned the Rev Lim Bora. He said, ‘A pastor who advocates homosexuality does not believe in God. (The leaders of the eight denominations involved) decided to deal with it.’ He also explained the reason for co-ordinating the heresy investigation. He added, ‘Although she belongs to another denomination, we take the matter of protecting members of the Korean church seriously. If only one denomination investigates, it can be attacked. If the eight denominations stand side by side, they will also accept the decision.’

If the Rev Kim had been an ordinary citizen, he added, there would have been no need for investigation. However, he said ‘A pastor, as servant of God and preacher, should speak God’s word correctly. Defending homosexuality is problematic. A conclusion has not yet been reached, but it can be seen through here words and actions that she is a heretic.’

The opinion was also expressed that it is impossible to compromise on the issue of homosexuality without creating other problems.  Yoo Young-kwon, moderator of the Hap-sin Presbyterian Church, said, ‘Homosexuality is not a matter of personal taste. To God it is the most terrible crime. In this matter, the Korean church should never relent.’

On the issue of why the eight denominations are working together, the Rev Yoo said, ‘If only one denomination investigates, it can be pushed to one side. When several denominations investigate together, it is possible to reduce bias and to make an objective evaluation.’ Unlike the Rev Kim Jeong-man, however, he said, ‘I do not know what the results will be.’

The Rev Yoo added, ‘I personally think that Christianity can be more compassionate and loving toward homosexuals than any other group. We need to find ways to help with homosexuality, not through agreement and consensus, but through human dignity.’

Not all the leaders’ ideas were the same. There were leaders who had not been able to sort out their positions yet. The Rev Seo Seong-gyu, leader of the Presbyterian Church (TongHap) briefly commented, ‘I have not considered this specific matter yet. It remains to be seen.’ The Rev Yoon Hyung-joon, leader of the Presbyterian Church (Kosin) responded, ‘I did not attend the meeting on the 27th. I will answer after I have thought and studied the matter, but I have no comment now.’ The leader of the Baptist church, the Rev Han Myung-kook, also said, ‘I do not know because I did not attend the meeting on that day.’

There are also some voices concerned about these eight denominations. ‘Homosexuality is a different issue from heresy’, said the Rev Kim Cheol-won, past leader of the Evangelical Holiness church, who finished his term in May of this year.

Opinions vary, but the eight denominations will continue in their investigation of the Rev Lim Bora. The Rev Kim Jeong-man said he will proceed with the hearing in July.

Although the Joint Committee of the GAPCK instigated the controversy of the investigation concerning the Rev Lim Bora, the general secretary of the denomination did not seem to be aware of this. Kim Sung-kyu, chairperson of the Joint Committee, who attended the meeting on June 29th, said, ‘I do not know about this issue because I have not received reports from the Ethics Committee.’

In answer to the criticism that the chair of the Ethics Committee is in charge of judging this case, he briefly said, ‘Individual ethics investigations and investigations of heresy over homosexuality are different matters.’ When asked whether there was a conflict with the denominations over the investigation of heresy, he replied, ‘Homosexuality should not be a source of friction between denominations.’

newsnjoy 20170630 3

The Rev Kim Jae-kyu, General Secretary of the GAPCK, was not aware of the investigation. (Lee Yong-pil, Newsnjoy)

Translated from the original at: http://www.newsnjoy.or.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=211873

An Evolving Train Wreck and Debacle, Pt.3: Battle Lines Drawn

I realize you might think it inappropriate to use conflict- and war-driven imagery for the latest installment in this series, but I tell ya, it sure feels like war sometimes…

Fortunately, this article for which I’m providing a rough English translation described the first sign of public support showing for the Rev Dr Lim Bora in the wake of the decision by the GPACK to ‘investigate her’ for ‘heresy’. It came from a group of ministers of Korean heritage working in my original spiritual home, the United Church of Canada. Funnily enough, at the time when the United Church of Canada originally admitted that it was possible for gay and lesbian person to make it through the process to ordination, a Korea-Canadian (the Rev Sang-chul Lee) was Moderator at the time – interesting coincidence, that!

Anyway, I hope you read on and – well, not enjoy, but have some sense of satisfaction from being informed.

Joint statement, ministers of the United Church of Canada: ‘Stop the heresy investigation’

Criticism of the heresy investigation of the Rev Lim Bora: ‘Arrogant witch-hunting behavior’

Reporter Lee Yong-pil (posted 2017.06.26 17:44)

UCC ministers issue statement denouncing joint denominational action (Seon Hyun/NewsnJoy)

Ministers of the United Church of Canada strongly criticized the ethics committee of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (chair, the Rev Jin Yong-sik) for its investigation of the Rev Lim Bora (Sumdol Hyanglin Presbyterian Church) for heresy.

In a joint statement, 16 United Church of Canada ministers stated ‘It is arrogant witch-hunting behavior to investigate the Rev Lim’ and urged that the investigation cease immediately. In their June 25th statement, ‘The Christian position on sexual minorities should be established through theological reflection on the deeply spiritual Gospel of life and love, as well as through consistent, valid interpretation of the Bible and modern medical, psychological, and sociological knowledge of human sexuality. It cannot be forced through accusations of heresy.’

Through this opportunity, they hope that the Korean church and seminaries will investigate the issue of sexual minorities in more depth. The ministers stated, ‘We will work with the Rev Lim Bora, who works on behalf of minorities who suffer from discrimination and abuse.’

 

A statement from 16 ministers in the United Church of Canada who are worried about the heresy investigation of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (GAPCK) in connection with Rev. Lim Bora (Presbyterian Church of Korea – PROK)

We are ministers of different Christian backgrounds who are ministering in Korean-heritage congregations in the United Church of Canada. As a result of a long debate and theological reflection that began in the 1970s, the 32nd General Council of the United Church of Canada, held in 1988, passed a resolution that any Christian – regardless of sexual orientation – was able to become a member, as well as a minster, of the church.

Although the denominational interest in and acceptance of sexual minorities has faced controversy and resistance within and outside the denomination, it has become a major missionary asset of the United Church of Canada. In face of the reality that many people are desperate and try to commit suicide because of the discrimination against and abhorrence of sexual minority which still exists even in Canadian society, where same-sex marriage is legalized, and because of the internal conflict through is inflicted on people by this, we have concluded that, although we have a variety of Biblical interpretations, positions, and approaches, we are open-minded to learn from, communicate with, and pray for those who need pastoral care.

Having witnessed the actions of the General Assembly of Korean Presbyterian Churches in Korea (GAPCK), in response to the work of the Rev. Lim Bora (PROK) to publish a translation in Korean of the Queer Bible Commentary, to investigate her for heresy, which was already published in English, we cannot help but express great concern over this arrogant witch-hunting behavior, which goes well beyond a difference in theological views. The Christian position on sexual minorities is built on a theological interpretation of deep meditation on the gospel of life and love, as well as a consistent and valid interpretation of the Bible and modern medical, psychological, and sociological knowledge of human sexuality; it cannot be forced by one-sided accusations of heresy and intimidation.

Therefore, we demand that this so-called ‘heresy investigation investigation’ of the interdenominational joint heresy committee for the Rev Lim Bora be stopped immediately. We hope that this will be an opportunity to encourage further reflection and mature debate in each denomination and seminary in Korea.

Finally, we pledge to work with all sexual minorities who suffer hatred and discrimination, and the Rev Lim Bora, whose work has a prophetic shout in the wilderness that witnesses to the love and grace of God toward all, to invite reflection and change in the church, and to pray for glad tidings of comfort and hope for sexual minorities.

Dated: 25 June 2017

 

Original article in Korean can be found at: http://www.newsnjoy.or.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=211795

An Evolving Train Wreck and Debacle, Pt.2 – Or, ‘Witch Hunting Likes Company(?)’

It appears the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (GAPCK) didn’t feel secure enough in its position as the largest Protestant denomination in Korea to investigate the minister of another denomination over which it had no pastoral authority – so they decided to call in a little help! Here’s a translation of an article from another news service which describes that move!

‘Pastor’s Homosexual Advocacy, Heresy Problem’[1],[2]

Eight Churches Cooperate on Heresy Inestigation of Pastor Lim Bora

Reporter: Beom Yong-su (2017.06.27)

newspower

Eight churches have agreed to cooperate with the investigation on the homosexual advocacy activities of the Rev. LIm Bora.

Representative of these eight churches (Methodist, Evangelical Holiness, Baptist, Presbyterian (Daeshin), Presbyterian (Donghap), Presbyterian (Hapdong), Presbyterian (Hapsin), Presbyterian (Kosin)[3]) met in the General Assembly offices on June 27th to share information on the homosexual advocacy activities of the Rev Lim Bora, and decided to cooperate in a heresy investigation.

Recently, the Rev Lim received a letter notifying her of a heresy investigation from the Ethics Committee of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (GPACK)[4].

The Rev Lim has participated in the Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF), and has recently participated in the publication of the Queer Bible Commentary (QBC).

The eight denominational representatives said, ‘Since this pastor is proceeding with homosexual issues in a doctrinal way, we are conducting this investigation of heresy to protect the members and pastors in our denominations, regardless of where they belong’.

The Rev Jung Yong-sik, Moderator of the GPACK, said, ‘In addition to publishing the Queer Bible Commentary, Pastor Lim Bora as a Protestant pastor has been a homosexual advocate for the past tweo years.’

Jin added, ‘Even if she does not respond to this inquiry, we have data on her homosexual advocacy activities’…The next joint meeting of the eight denominations will be held in July.

[1] Original article: 범영수 (2017, 27 June). “목사의 동성애 옹호, 이단문제 해당”. NewsPower [online]. Accessed 29 June 2017 from http://m.newspower.co.kr/a.html?uid=34481&section=sc4&section2.

[2] As with other articles, I take responsibility for any errors in translation.

[3] My note: there are almost 100 Presbyterian denominations in the Republic of Korea(!).

[4] My note: this is the Presbyterian Church (Hapdong).

An Evolving Train Wreck and Debacle, Pt. 1

That’s all I can call it.

Over the past month or so, I have been watching a spectacle unfold here in Korea which is both laughable and rage-inducing. A minster of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Rev Dr Lim Bora, a tireless worker for LGBT rights and the inclusion of sexual minorities in the church, has been subjected to an investigation for heresy by another denomination, the General Council of Presbyterian Churches in Korea. They have also managed to gather around seven other denominations, Reformed and other, to take part in this nonsense!

This has been taking place with the 18th Korea Queer Culture Festival (KQCF – Seoul’s Pride Festival and Parade) as its backdrop. There’s a certain irony, but also a certain appropriateness, to the juxtaposition to all this. Just as Korea’s sexual minorities have been gathering together to celebrate their continued life and love; just as this nation has emerged from a collective nightmare to parallel Watergate; just as a shift in public attitudes appears to be emerging (see my previous entry, ‘We’re An Issue’, for musings on that[1]); a conservative Christian force (CCF) seeks to use an antiquated church procedure, traditionally mean to deal with errors of doctrine, to target someone who appears to symbolize all that they don’t like concerning everything that’s been going down recently!

I’ve been following this silliness as it’s transpired and evolved. I’ve been doing rough English translations of the articles which have been published on this, partly for my own information, partly to test the quality of the AI algorithms in Google Translate (they’re getting a lot better for Korean to English!), and partly to keep the hangulistically-challenged community in Korea (of whom I’m one!) informed of what’s happening.

I believe the time has now come, though, to let as much of the whole wide world (the οἰκουμένη, oikouménē) know what’s going on. This should be named for the shameless nonsense that it is. Therefore, I’m going to be posting the translations I’ve been doing as a series of blog posts. Read on – yet, be aware that reading may induce rage and uncontrollable impulses to smash computers, tablets, or smartphones. Reader discretion is advised!

I take full responsibility for whatever errors in translation there may be, and request your forgiveness and forbearance. However, the need to bring this to the wider world takes precedence.

I am grateful and indebted to the progressive Korean Christian news service Newsnjoy[2] for their ongoing coverage of these events. They remind me of the work of the great church journalists of Canada, like Al Forrest, Hugh McCullum, and Tom Harpur. May their work be blessed and prosper.

GAPCK investigating Pastor for Heresy due to Promoting Sexual Minority Rights[3]

Lee Dae-jae, “Homosexuality is affecting our denomination”

Lee Yong-pil Posted 2017 June 16, 17:44:59

The Rev Dr Lim Bora, leading the celebration of the Eucharist at the Korea Queer Culture Festival last year (photo above). A Heresy Committee has begun investigating the pro-homosexual activities of Pastor Lim. (Newsnjoy/Choi Seung-hyun)

The General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (Moderator, Kim Seon-gyu) is investigating the Rev Lim Bo-ra (Sumdol Presbyterian Church) of the Presbyterian Church in Korea (Kwon Oh-ryun, Moderator) for heresy through its Heresy Investigation Committee (co-chairs, Lee Dae-wi and Jin Yong-sik).

The GAPCK received a petition to investigate the heresy of Pastor Lim at its 101st General Assembly last September. The investigation was requested in relation to the publication of the Queer Bible Commentary[4]. On June 15, Lee Dae-wi sent a letter to Pastor Lim, entitled ‘A request for information on research related to heretical thought’.

The official letter read, ‘I have been charged by the 101st General Assembly to investigate you and your organization for heresy. Any books and other materials issued so far (sermons, newspaper articles, audio and video recordings, etc) and any revisions to them are to be sent by registered mail by June 23rd. If you do not reply, we inform that you will be judged on the basis of the data we have acquired.’ At the bottom of the letter were the names of the joint chairs of the GAPCK Moderator, Kim Seon-gyu, and Jin Yong-sik, chair of the investigating committee.

NewsnJoy called Jin Yong-sik, chair of the investigating committee, on June 16th to hear the details of this story.

Pastor Jin said he was investigating when the proposal came in, and asked Pastor Lim for a copy of the Queer Bible Commentary. Asked if there was any connection between ‘queerness’ and heresy, he said, ‘Homosexuality is affecting our denomination. We oppose homosexuality. The Bible prohibits homosexuality.’

Asked if it would be appropriate to investigate a minister in another denomination, he answered, ‘It is reasonable.’ He said, ‘We are questioning homosexual activity, and the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PROK) is not in favor of homosexuality. We cannot help but investigate as long as this appeal stands.’

The Rev Lim Bora, who is being investigated for her theology, is in a position to respond positively. Rev Lim said, ‘I don’t know why I have to answer this. I will speak about the unfairness of the actions of the GAPCK and its General Assembly. I hope there will be an opportunity to discuss the Queer Bible Commentary.’

[1] https://myhueintherainbow.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/were-an-issue/

[2] www.newsnjoy.or.kr

[3] Korean original – 이용필 (2016.06.16) 예장합동, 성소수자 인권 증진 목사 이단성 조사, Newsnjoy [online]. Accessed 2017 June 17 from http://www.newsnjoy.or.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=211598.

[4] Please note – this is a Korean translation of the Queer Bible Commentary (2006 – D Guest, M West, T Bohache (eds.), London: SCM Press).

‘Embrace Your Heresy!’ – An Open Letter to My Friend and Colleague, the Rev Lim Bora

Hello, Bora.

My congregation, Open Doors Metropolitan Community Church, has asked me to write you to convey our official support for you while you are undergoing an investigation for heresy from the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Korea (GAPCK).[1]

We are shocked and horrified by the prospect of this denomination investigating you, the pastor of another Christian denomination (the Presbyterian Church in Korea (PROK)), for doctrinal violations, especially since the investigating denomination has no supervisory authority over you! To add to the sense of horror and outrage, the GAPCK is now enlisting the resources of seven other denominations in carrying out this investigation.[2] Your supposed ‘heresy’? Advocating for sexual minorities for the past two years, and publishing the Queer Bible Commentary into Korean![3]

Well, on one level, their investigation on the basis of your ‘advocacy’ activities over the last two years is actually laughable. Anyone who knows you is quite aware that you have been advocating for sexual minorities for a lot longer than two years! This in itself shows just how amateur their investigation is.

More importantly, though, we find it outrageous that these denominations are now engaging in what is little more that ‘ecclesiastical harassment’, a rank abuse of power for the sake of troubling who holds theological views they disagree with. Why stop there? Why not investigate any Christian with whom they disagree? In going after you, they have opened Pandora’s Box. It would be interesting to see how they would react if they themselves were to be investigated for ‘overstepping the limits of ecclesiastical authority’ (I actually think a good case could be made for this!).

I’m sure you are aware that we see the charge of heresy as being completely without merit. For one thing, the GAPCK is elevating an ethical issue, one which is not addressed in any of the Reformed confessions of faith, to the level of a doctrinal ‘litmus test’. There are a growing number of Biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors, including those within evangelical circles, who are concluding that there is no conflict between being a Christian and being gay, lesbian, transgender, transsexual, queer, intersex, asexual, or any other sexual minority. If they go after you, they’re going to have go after a lot of Christians. Are they going to go after Brian McLaren? Matthew Vines? Tony Campolo? Bishop T D Jakes? Where will it stop? Heck, maybe I should ask them to investigate me!

 

However – what would you do if the ‘worst’ were to happen? What if this ‘kangaroo court’, as it is likely to do, declares that you are guilty of heresy? Now, in asking this question, I freely admit that I don’t know whether there will be any ramifications for things like your status within the PROK, your home denomination, or for things like pension or health insurance benefits.

 

I’d like to suggest that you embrace your ‘heretic’ status! Now you might be wondering, ‘Why in the world would I want to take on the title of “heretic”? I want to have the respect of this society, so that I can have influence within it?’ Well, that might be a worthy goal, but remember who we follow. We follow someone who was executed by the state for sedition, a scandalous end for a scandalous crime. The one we follow consistently advocated for those who were on the outside, and when the time came, he willingly became one of those outside what is acceptable in society. Remember, as well, the advice of the Apostle Paul: ‘God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.’ (I Corinthians 1:27-29).

 

Therefore, I’d like to ask, ‘Why stop at the QBC?’ Why not start a project for translating the Our Whole Lives, the sexuality education resource from the Unitarian Universalists and the United Church of Christ? As you know, I always say this country doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality – it has a problem with human sexuality! This would be a great opportunity to introduce a truly progressive theology of sexuality to this country, a chance to get people here, both inside the church and outside, to openly talk about sexuality in an honest way, to discuss what sexuality is and what it’s meant to be.

 

I know you’d like to be respected by your peers in church and society – all of us would like that. However, if it is your calling to poke and prod the church into a more honest exploration around that, maybe it’s time to embrace your ‘heresy’, and your role as a ‘heretic’. Yes, you may lose some things, but you may gain things which are even more valuable.

 

In the meantime, please be assured that we at ODMCC stand shoulder to shoulder with you, and you have our constant support in our thoughts and our prayers.

 

Peace and blessings from your colleague and friend,

 

Craig

[1] Lee, Y P (2017, 16 June). GAPCK investigating Pastor for Heresy due to Promoting Sexual Minority Rights (예장합동, 성소수자 인권 증진 목사 이단성 조사). Newsnjoy [online]. Accessed 18 June 2017 from http://www.newsnjoy.or.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=211598.

[2] Beom, Y S (2017, 27 June). ‘Pastor’s Homosexual Advocacy, Heresy Problem’ (“목사의 동성애 옹호, 이단문제 해당”). News Power [online]. Acessed 29 June 2017 from http://m.newspower.co.kr/a.html?uid=34481&section=sc4&section2.

[3] Kim, R E (2017, 18 June). ‘The theological basis that a minority should not be condemned’ (‘성소수자가 정죄되지 않을 신학적 근거’, 이야기하고 알려야). The Ecumenian [online]. Accessed 19 June 2017 from http://www.ecumenian.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=15189.

‘We’re An Issue!’

That doesn’t sound like very much of a positive statement for the LGBT+ community, does it?

Being ‘an issue’ sounds more like being ‘an inconvenience’, ‘a disturbance’, or ‘a pain in the ass’.

However, with the impeachment of Park Geun-hye for being in cahoots with Choi Soon-sil, daughter of a pastor/religious huckster who held great sway over the ex-president in the aftermath of her mother’s death at the hands of an assassin who was actually aiming for her father[1], there has been a sea change in Korean politics. The momentum of the impeachment movement, with its peaceful and non-violent yet resolute and firm call for change, has resulted in the election of a former human rights lawyer, Moon Jae-in, a leading figure in the ‘Minjoo Party’ (a better translation of their Korean name might be ‘The Party for Greater Democracy’), as the new President[2]. He has already made changes which could be termed as being ‘a breath of fresh air’ in Korean society. He has eagerly joined in the singing of songs from the 1980s protest era of Korea[3]; he is taking measures to encourage people to take their full rights to vacation time[4], and is continuing the fight to reduce the maximum hours that people can be forced to work under the law[5]; he is turning off coal-fired power plants to improve air quality in this nation[6]; he is exploring ways to re-start positive relations with North Korea, even in these tense, unpredictable times[7]. I’ve been in this continent a long time, and I sense something similar to the shift in attitudes which emerged when Kim Dae-jung was elected President of this country some twenty years ago.

Something else has happened, too. For the first time in recent Korean political history, the human rights of sexual minorities has become an issue that is being seriously talked about. Mind you, the way it occurred isn’t really that inspiring. It happened during the fourth presidential debate on national television[8]. The candidate of the conservative Liberty Korea Party, Hong Jun-pyo, raised the question directly to candidate Moon during the debate, basically asking, ‘Do you approve of or oppose homosexuality?’ Moon’s initial answer was along the lines of ‘I oppose it, personally, but I don’t think they should be discriminated against.’ The didn’t satisfy candidate Hong, who pressed Moon again with the same basic question, to which Moon replied, ‘I oppose it.’

Fortunately, it wasn’t left there. Candidate Sim Sang-jung of the Justice Party jumped in and advocated strongly for the full implementation of a non-discrimination law which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, saying ‘Homosexuality is not something you approve or disapprove of. It’s a person’s identity…I believe human rights and freedoms of sexual minorities should be respected.’[9] This was to be expected, fortunately, as the Justice Party is a truly progressive political party, albeit a minority one, in the Republic of Korea. Hong Jun-pyo of Liberty Korea (one of the party fragments left over in the wake of  Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the collapse of the conservative coalition) has come out very strongly against including LGBT+ persons in any non-discrimination law. In fact, he has been downright reactionary, saying that homosexuals are responsible for the spread of AIDS – absolute nonsense![10] He would, no doubt, be pleased with the sentence passed against a captain in the ROK Army, and with the witch hunt being carried out by the Chief of Staff of the ROK Army! (Homosexual behavior is still a punishable offense in the Military Code of Justice here)[11]

However, many were disappointed in the apparent stance taken by candidate, now President, Moon. There are a series of mixed signals which people are rightly confused by in this case. As a member of the liberal camp in Korea, he has been part of the struggle to increase human rights in this country. Nonetheless, he is also a Roman Catholic, through which he may have felt some pressure to declare his personal opposition to homosexuality. He was also asked the direct question in the debate twice – he had the opportunity to declare a nuanced position, but he almost seemed to meekly say, ‘I oppose it’.

This has disappointed and angered many in the LGBT+ community in South Korea. This anger led to direct protest against Mr Moon by LGBT activists while he was campaigning at the National Assembly (see refrences above). The activists were arrested for protesting on the grounds of the National Assembly, but their point was made. And with this, after occasional bits of attention, the LGBT+ communities have become a ‘live’ political issue in South Korea.

This feels different from past times, when attempts were made to include the LGBT+ community in anti-discrimination laws, or when sex education became a ‘hot topic’. It seems that now, South Korean society has come to realize that LGBT+ groups in South Korea are ‘here’, and they’re not going to ‘go away’. The question on all sides is: how will we react to this ‘new normal’? I have heard rumblings in the LGBT+ communities of Korea – many spoke resolutely that they did not vote for him, and would continue to take an adversarial stance toward the sitting government. In fact, the theme for this year’s Korea Queer Culture Festival (our Pride festival and parade) is ‘There Is No Tomorrow – We Demand Our Rights Now!’ Yes, pretty adversarial.

Now, I understand why people are upset. President Moon had a chance to clarify his stance on LGBT+ issues, and had a chance to take a very clear anti-discrimination stance – but he didn’t. He also decided to attend a forum in March sponsored by a conservative Christian organization in which he made a clear statement against marriage equality (mind, so did the others, with the exception of Sim Sang-Jung)[12]. These are not good signs. He showed a clear proclivity in the presidential campaign to make statements on controversial issues that would ‘get him elected’. Now, this is perhaps an occupational hazard for all politicians, but even is he does harbor some sentiments which are favorable to the LGBT+ community, President Moon has painted himself in a corner that he’ll probably find very difficult to get out of. The sexual minorities of this country have every right and responsibility to call the new President out on this and ask him, ‘Is the CCF minority, as vocal and well-heeled as it is, a minority you want to associate yourself with?’ He needs to be reminded of his past as a campaigner for human rights, and he needs to be pressured to not turn his back on his legacy.

But…I’ve got some questions for the LGBT+ community and its allies, as well.

Would we feel better with a social conservative president, like Hong Jun-Pyo, in the presidency? Mr Hong has been wearing his ignorance on HIV/AIDS and his homophobia on his sleeve. Would we feel better with someone like this in the presidency? If a reader honestly feels this way, by all means, respond and comment – to adapt the words of the Bard, ‘They who know better how to tame a shrew, so let them speak. ‘Tis charity to show!’[13]

Yes, it would be crystal clear who our adversary was. It would also be crystal clear that the LGBT+ community would be in for more years of repression, obstruction, and stonewalling in its efforts to gain legal recognition. Is that the situation we’d prefer? At least now, we have someone who is at least open to a more progressive stance on human rights – isn’t this a preferable situation to be in?

To add to this, there is a shift happening in Korean thinking, if the latest poll numbers are to be believed. A recent poll conducted here in Korea pointed to at least one possible trend. Yes, it showed the majority of the population appear to still stand against marriage equality[14]; that this trend clearly shows a generational gap between those under 40 and those over; and that Koreans still seem to be hung up on the idea that homosexuality is due to psycho-social factors (*shakes head in disbelief).

Nonetheless, a resounding majority – eighty to ninety percent(!) – of the people surveyed clearly indicated that they do not believe gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against in employment. This is a significant shift in thinking. This is an opportunity for sexual minorities in this country to make headway in securing their rights. This is an opportunity for them to remind President Moon of his human rights pedigree, and to let him know that he now has the chance to build on that legacy. Again, I understand that there is impatience and distrust in this community and its allies, but as with the struggle in the West, there will be a need for direct action and protest, AS WELL AS for calm, disciplined dialogue with the President and other political leaders.

Yes, there is still a battle for rights which needs to be waged. However, there are signs that an opportunity exists to make gains among both the political leadership and the population in general. Although, as a foreigner, I’m on ‘the outside looking in’, I will support this ongoing battle in any way I can. I simply hope that the LGBT+ community will not rely only on demonstrations and marches, but also on dialogue and engagement. There seems to be a crack in the door towards dialogue – let’s open it further. We now have the opportunity to be more than ‘an issue’!

[1] McCurry, J (2017, 10 Mar), Park Geun-hye: South Korean court removes president over scandal. The Guardian [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/10/south-korea-president-park-geun-hye-constitutional-court-impeachment.

[2] Lee, S Y, (2017, 10 May), In landslide victory, Moon Jae-in elected president. the hankyoreh [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 ffrom http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/794136.html.

[3] Kim, C (2017, 18 May) South Korea’s Moon joins protest song at commemoration in nod to liberal values. Reuters [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-politics-liberals-idUSKCN18E0BZ.

[4] Choi, H Y (2017, May 23) Moon’s day-off sends out message: Work Less, Play More. The Korea Times [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/common/vpage-pt.asp?categorycode=356&newsidx=229792.

[5] Eom, D S (2017, May 10) At a glance: Moon’s pump-priming, labor reform, anti-corruption plans. The Korea Times [online], Retrieved 10 June 2017 from http://m.koreatimes.co.kr/pad/news/view.jsp?req_newsidx=229022.

[6] Kim, D S (2017, 15 May) Moon Jae-in orders shutdown of old coal-fired power plants. The Korea Herald [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170515000815.

[7] Hincks, J (2017, 17 May). South Korea’s New President Moon Jae-in Is Sending Envoys to the Main Players in the North Korea Crisis. Time [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from http://time.com/4780140/moon-jae-in-south-korea-envoys/.

[8] The Associated Press. (2017, 26 April). South Korea’s presidential frontrunner angers LGBT activists in televised debate. In ABC: ABC News [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-26/south-koreas-presidential-frontrunner-angers-lgbt-activists/8474332.

[9] Ock, H J (2017, May 8). [Election 2017] Gay rights neglected on Korea campaign trail. The Korea Herald [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170426000830.

[10] Eom, D S, Park S S (2017, 26 April). Homosexuality = AIDS? Conservative candidate blasted for ‘hate speech’ against homosexuals. The Korea Herald [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2017/04/356_228350.html.

[11] Choe, S H (2017, 26 April). South Korea Military Is Accused of Cracking Down on Gay Soldiers. The New York Times [online]. Retrieved 10 June 2017 from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/26/world/asia/south-korea-mlitary-anti-gay-campaign.html?_r=0.

[12] Park, S J (2017, 24 Apr), Presidential candidates evasive on issue of LGBT rights. The hankyoreh [online]. Retrieved 13 June 2017 from http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/791990.html.

[13] Adapted from Shakespeare, W, The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV, scene i.

[14] Ock, H J (2017, 8 June) 6 in 10 Koreans oppose same-sex marriage. The Korea Herald [online]. Retrieved 13 June 2017 from http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170608000827.