Photo: Pastor Lim Bo-ra. Credit: Sumdol Presbyterian Church.
Pastor Lim Bo-ra 임보라 목사, senior pastor of the Sumdol Presbyterian Church 섬돌향린교회 in the Mapo-gu 마포구 district of Seoul, passed away on February 3. Lim was one of the handful of South Korean pastors who advocated in favor of LGBTQ+ rights, leading a church that served as a haven for gay Christians.
Lim was born in 1968, and received her master’s degree in divinity in 1995 from Hanshin University 한신대학교, a Christian university renowned for its progressive theology and participation in the democracy movement during the dictatorship era. Lim traced the beginning of her activism to 2003, when 18-year-old writer and queer rights activist Yuk U-dang 육우당 committed suicide. Christian groups had targeted Yuk, a devout Catholic, for bullying and harassment because of his sexual identity and faith. Yuk’s death, which pushed the rights of queer teenagers into public discourse, became a landmark event in South Korea’s gay rights movement.
Lim quickly emerged as the face of Christians who promoted tolerance of South Korea’s LGBTQ+ community. In 2017, Lim oversaw the translation and publication of the Queer Bible Commentary, a 2015 compendium of scholarly articles on gender, sexuality and Biblical studies. In response, the Response Committee Against Heresy and Pseudoreligion 이단사이비대책위원회, a joint committee of South Korea’s ten largest Protestant denominations, declared Lim a heretic.