An order of the Korean Presbyterian Church on Thursday practically approved the father-to-son succession by a megachurch affiliated with the order, a move expected to fuel the heated debate over hereditary leadership in Korean Protestant churches.
Myungsung Church, one of the biggest Presbyterian churches in the world with a membership of 100,000, has been at the center of controversy in South Korea since its founder Rev. Kim Sam-hwan named his eldest son, Rev. Kim Ha-na, to succeed him in 2017. The senior Kim retired from the pastorship in 2015.
The move has sparked growing protest and opposition in the Protestant community and civil society, which criticize the patrimonial transition in a religious organization.
To settle the conflict, the Presbyterian Church of Korea-Tonghap decided to allow Rev. Kim Ha-na to take over the leadership of Myungsung Church in Seoul from the beginning of 2021.
The decision was made on the last day of the order's four-day general meeting held in the eastern port city of Pohang.
Myungsung Church, under the decision, has to name an interim pastor to lead the church until the end of next year.
Myungsung partially upheld a PCK-Tonghap court's latest ruling last month, which denied the succession for violating its constitution banning nepotism-based succession in case of retirement, to reach the settlement, according to a PCK-Tonghap committee tasked with tackling the conflict.
The church has strongly opposed the ruling and applied for a retrial. It claims that the junior Kim took the helm of Myungsung Church two years after his father's retirement and that his inauguration does not violate the constitution due to the two-year gap.
"Our decision seems to exceed the constitution," Rev. Kim Tae-young, chairman of PCK-Tonghap, said. "We reached an agreement in spite of criticism." (Yonhap)