SEOUL, Sep. 2 (Korea Bizwire) —Amid the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Korea, controversy is heating up over the government’s ban on in-person religious gatherings at churches.
Some religious leaders, particularly those who are Protestant Christians with a conservative political ideology, are insisting that banning religious gatherings is a violation of the right to worship.
They claim that religious worship should be made on a face-to-face basis within churches. The question is on what grounds?
Kim Geun-joo, a professor at Christian Research Nehemiah, said, “Such claims have no grounds in the Bible”, adding, “Meeting God is always on a non-face-to-face basis.”
Kim, whose research has focused on the Old Testament, noted, “Given that God is invisible and Christians thus far have met him on a non-face-to-face basis, it’s meaningless to claim that religious worship should be made on a face-to-face basis within the churches.”
He added, “We should learn lessons from the apostle Paul who sent letters to churches and Christians in remote locations. In today’s COVID-19 era, we need to encourage each other through online tools such as Kakao Talk and email, while trying to find a way not to be isolated.”
Son Bong-ho, a professor at Kosin University, stressed, “Some people insist that only face-to-face religious gatherings represent ‘real’ worship. Such claims, however, have no grounds in the Bible. Also, we have no tradition like that.”
He added, “Christians should keep in mind that if even a single person dies from the coronavirus spread through face-to-face religious gathering, it’s like committing the crime of murder – even if it’s unintentional.”
What opinion do Catholics, the denomination which has the closest ties to the Protestant Church, have about their masses, a worship culture similar to the Protestant Church’s field worship?
Ahn Bong-hwan, a priest of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, said, “The duty of the Lord’s Day should be observed but on special occasions when religious duties overlap with common good, we put the priority on following the government’s disinfection guidelines under the principle of pursuing common interests.”
He noted, “The Vatican delivered instruction to the Catholic churches all around the world to follow the state’s disinfection guidelines as a way to overcome the COVID-19 crisis. All of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference around the world are following the Vatican’s instructions.”
J. S. Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)