Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Pastor in battle with church over misconduct and abuse claims

David Ock-Youn Jang denies any wrongdoing. Photo / Richard Robinson
David Ock-Youn Jang denies any wrongdoing. Photo / Richard Robinson

A senior pastor who founded the Korean Presbyterian Church of Auckland will be struck off the ministerial roll after an internal church investigation found him guilty of sexual misconduct and abuse.

Reverend David Ock-Youn Jang has been found guilty by the Auckland Presbytery Complaints Hearing Committee for "gross impropriety on three representative charges which relate to sexual misconduct, and physical, verbal and emotional abuse against a single complainant".

He denies any wrongdoing and says he has the backing of his congregation to stay.

The complainant is a woman who is linked to the Presbyterian church, the third largest Christian denomination in New Zealand.

Some details of the complaint and judgment cannot be reported for legal reasons.

In a statement, the church said Mr Jang would be formally deposed this Sunday and "will no longer be able to refer to himself as a Presbyterian minister".

"The congregation will be notified of Rev Jang being deposed ... [they have] been aware of the situation concerning Rev Jang since September 2006."

After the release of the committee's findings, Northern Presbytery clerk Alex Robinson said: "This man has fallen well short of the standards expected of a minister in the Presbyterian Church and we're shocked and saddened by what has happened.

"We are working within the boundaries of the law to expedite Jang's removal from his ministerial office, and are also taking steps to ensure that he will not be able to practise as a minister in any other countries or for any other denominations."

Mr Robinson said restrictions had been put in place to limit Mr Jang's ministry since the church was first informed of the complaints in 2006.

"We've taken steps to keep the congregation safe while the matter was being considered by the church courts, including advising the congregation in September 2006 that serious charges of misconduct have been laid against their minister."

But Mr Jang told the Herald he had the backing of his congregation to remain as senior pastor and the parish council was seeking an appeal through the church's general assembly.

Mr Jang was ordained as a minister by the Presbyterian Church of Korea in 1975 and founded the first Korean Presbyterian Church in New Zealand when he moved here in 1989.

Mr Jang is also president of the Southern Cross Christian TV and has a weekly evangelism programme on a local Korean television station.

Mr Jang said: "I am prepared to go, but my congregation wants me to stay." He said that since 2011 he had been practising as a minister of the Korean Presbyterian Church Abroad and did not consider himself to be under the jurisdiction of the local Presbyterian order.

Shane Shin, a parish council member and church elder of the Henderson church, said the senior pastor had "the backing of his entire flock".

"We feel the judgment against him is unfair, and the parish council is doing all we can to see how we can keep him here as our spiritual leader," Mr Shin said.

About 200 signed a petition to have him reinstated in 2008 after he was stood down because of the investigation.

Mr Jang's son, Nathan, who is the congregation's spokesman, said there were major concerns over how the church had conducted its investigations and hearing. "The entire congregation does not accept the guilty findings of the church on Rev Jang," said Nathan Jang.

- NZ Herald

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