Kukmin Daily Newsletter (Issue 35)

Kukmin Daily Newsletter
Issue 35
September 11, 2020

Greetings from Seoul!
Autumn has suddenly come, bringing the third change of seasons since the start of COVID-19. This issue reports on two surveys that reflect changes brought to the church by the epidemic, and the denominations’ dilemma over how to hold their annual fall general assemblies. The epidemic weighs us all down, economically and psychologically as well as physically. Nonetheless, our hope is that we will discern God’s providence in the midst of this troubled time.

73% of Christians say “COVID-19 prevention takes priority” over gatherings

Amid the continuing spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, the results of a recent survey show that a majority of Protestant Christians in Korea think the government’s call for self-restraint of religious gatherings is not a violation of religious freedom. 35.5% of respondents considered it a violation.

Christian Institute for the Study of Justice and Development (CISJD) commissioned JI&COM Research to carry out an online panel survey of 1,000 Protestants during July 21~29. Because the survey was done several weeks before the COVID-19 surge in Seoul due to the Gwanghwamun rally, its showing of a highly positive response to government measures did not reflect the current situation, in which in-person worship and gatherings are banned.

CISJD said, “The higher the level of the respondent’s position in the church, the higher was the rate of reply ‘I consider it a violation of religious freedom’ (non-holders of church positions - 29.9%, mid-level church workers - 39.0%, higher-level post-holders - 49.9%)… Among those who identified themselves as politically conservative, a majority said they did not think the measures taken by the central and local governments were justifiable.”

87.9% of the respondents viewed the COVID-19 situation in Korea as serious. Just 9.9% thought it was not serious.

Asked which was more urgent, revitalization of the economy or preventive measures against the virus, 73.2% chose preventive measures as the first priority. Asked about the measures taken by their own churches, with multiple responses allowed, respondents named mask wearing during worship services (83.9%%), distanced seating (81.9%), and temperature checks upon entry (77.0%).

54% of church members want “face-to-face worship”... 70% miss regular fellowship

Research shows that more than half of Protestants attending online worship since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic are satisfied with the experience. At the same time, the limits of online worship are revealed clearly by the 70% response given to “meetings and fellowship” as the elements most lacking online.

The Protestant research organization Cheongeoram ARMC conducted an online opinion survey from August 20~26, asking 805 Protestants including church pastors and members about changes in their faith life since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, and their level of satisfaction with online worship services.

Source: Cheongeoram ARMC

Source: Cheongeoram ARMC

Source: Cheongeoram ARMC

Cheongeoram ARMC Team Leader Park Hyeon-cheol said, “The Korean churches are positively accepting online worship as a continuing state of affairs, and now it’s time to seriously consider ways of supplying the missing elements.”

Meet directly for September general assembly? Denominations worry.

Following the government’s upgrade of social distancing to level 2.5 in the metropolitan area, in order to slow down the spread of COVID-19, major denominations are worried about how to hold their regular general assemblies.

Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) Tonghap decided at its officers’ meeting on August 26 to hold its September 21~22 general assembly online, rather than proceed with the original plan for a full gathering at Dorim Church in Seoul. Instead, the decision was made to hold only the vice moderator’s election and the farewell/inaugural ceremony at the church, and to broadcast the proceedings live to 30 regions nationwide.

PCK Hapdong, whose general assembly is scheduled for the same dates at Sae Eden Church in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do, held an officers’ meeting on the 31st to discuss the idea of going ahead with a “gathering assembly,” but reserved judgment. General Secretary Choi U-sik said, “We discussed a variety of ideas… We will make the final decision after considering all possible options during the time that remains before the assembly.”

There are big worries also for the Methodist Church, which must hold elections at all of its conferences nationwide. On October 12, its 10,000 electors will choose conference directors and leaders in 11 regions of the country, with 400~1,200 electors expected to visit each polling place. On October 29~30, the Methodist Church will also hold its general assembly. An official at denominational headquarters said, “The upgraded precautionary level for COVID-19 makes it impossible to gather in person, so immediate measures are needed.”

박여라 영문에디터 yap@kmib.co.kr


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