Are stealing, murder and extortion crimes? Or are they sins?
These questions might seem incongruous for a news report to begin with, but they have created ripples in rebel-controlled Christian Nagaland. They have, in fact, pitted a state baptized by American missionaries against Korean “biblical encroachers”.
Two pastors of the South Korea-based Good News Mission (GNM) – Ock Soo Park and Kim Sae Yoon – apparently rubbed the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) the wrong way prior to its four-day Bible Crusade that began in Dimapur on October 26.
GNM was invited by the Withee Bible College near this commercial hub of Nagaland. What the NBCC and affiliate bodies were GNM pamphlets saying stealing, murder and other illegal activities were crimes. NBCC and affiliates categorize them as sins that can be atoned through confessions.
The GNM was also against paying tithes, which is one tenth of annual produce or earnings taken as a tax for the support of the church and clergy.
Irked, the NBCC and others including Nagaland Theological Colleges Association panned GNM and cautioned that “whosoever brings this sort of unsound biblical teaching shall be held responsible for any consequence of doctrinal crisis in churches.”
GNM was also labeled a heretic body, and pressure from church leaders in Nagaland forced it to shift its crusade from the Ao Baptist Church to the Dimapur Stadium.
To make matters worse, the militant National Socialist Council of Nagaland – its credo is ‘Nagaland for Christ’ – backed NBCC and maintained that the Korean pastors’ teachings “are a complete deviation from Biblical truths”.
The Korean pastors dismissed the accusations of heresy as baseless and a result of distorted information and misinterpretations. “There is nothing un-Christian with our belief. Tithes in South Korea, for instance, were not audited and whenever members asked for accounts from pastors, they were excommunicated. We don’t agree with all the corrupt and wrong practices of the church, which exert pressure through sermons for tithes and offerings,” said Ock Soo.
Despite opposition, the GNM crusade elicited a strong response with over 500 people attending the sermons every day.