Controversy over father-to-son mega-church succesion

The patrimonial transition in the religious organisation sparked controversy in Protestant community and civil society. With some 100,000 members, the Myungsung Church is one of the largest Presbyterian Churches in the world. The founder's son will now be able to take over the congregation in 2021.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Korean Presbyterian Church (PCK-TongHap) today issued an order approving the father-to-son (pictured) succession in one of its mega-church affiliates, a move that is likely to fuel a heated debate on hereditary leadership in South Korea’s Protestant churches.

With around 100,000 members, the Myungsung Church is one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the world.

The community, founded in 1980, has been at the centre of controversy ever since its founder, Rev Kim Sam-hwan, named his eldest son, Rev Kim Ha-na, to succeed him in 2017.

The decision spraked protests and criticisms amond South Korean Protestants and civil society groups opposed to a patrimonial transition in a religious organisation.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute, the PCK-TongHap decided to let Rev Kim Ha-na lead the Myungsung Church in Seoul in early 2021.

The resolution came on the last day of a four-day general meeting held in Pohang, a port city along the country's east coast. In the meantime, the mega-church will name a caretaker leader to guide before the end of next year.

In order to reach the agreement, Myungsung Church will partially uphold a previous ruling by a PCK-TongHap court, against which it had launched an appeal.

Last month, the committee set up to resolve the dispute had cancelled the succession because it violated the status of the congregation, which prohibits father-to-son succession in the event of retirement.

The mega-church opposed the ruling and called for a retrial, noting that the young Kim took charge of the church two years after his father retired. According to the Myungsung Church, his inauguration does not violate the constitution thanks to this interval.