Frustrated worshippers hold church service in parking lot

Posted: Wednesday, December 27, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Parishioners of the Korean Presbyterian Church, dressed in their best overcoats, held their Christmas eve services in subzero weather in the church parking lot.

They sang ''Joy to the World'' in their native tongue. And they marched in place, Bibles in hand, trying to stay warm as exhaust from their idling vehicles wafted in the air.

''We bought this church for our people so they could speak their own language,'' said Sun Cha Bennett, frustrated because the trustee suggested the congregation worship at an English-speaking Presbyterian church.

The closure stems from a disagreement between members of the congregation and their pastor, Youl Rhee, about control of church finances and what the role of a pastor should be, according to a letter written by three church elders.

Rhee would not comment on the situation. He was surprised to learn that the congregation had met for worship in the church parking lot. The Presbytery of the Yukon could not be reached for comment.

The congregation wants the pastor to step down, according to Bennett, but Rhee has refused and has turned the trustee, Presbytery of the Yukon, against the congregation.

''We all got fired,'' said Su Hui Stumpf, who is among several who lost their positions as church elders. The chapel was closed Dec. 19.

In a Dec. 20 letter to the congregation, the trustee said entry into the church building could only be authorized by the Presbytery.

''What did we do? We just had an argument with our pastor,'' Bennett said.

In a letter to the Presbytery, three church elders asked that Rhee be removed because they said he is insensitive and power-hungry.

The Presbytery has told the congregation that a special meeting will be held Jan. 2 and an administrative commission would be elected to take over the church.

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