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Pastor of ‘world’s biggest congregation’ retires

Rev David Yonggi Cho
Pentecostal preacher, the Rev David Yonggi Cho, who claimed to have the world’s biggest Christian congregation of more than 800 000 people, has retired following 50 years of ministry, a senior member of his church has said in South Korea.

The church is a Pentecostal congregation of the Assemblies of God in Yoido Island in Seoul, Korea. The building holds about 25 000 people for one service and people arrive hours before a service to secure a place.

"We celebrated the 50th anniversary of Yoido Full Gospel Church and the 50th anniversary of Dr Cho’s ministry at the Olympic Main Stadium in Seoul on 9 May," Marylin Dorsing, advisor of the David Cho Evangelistic Mission, told Ecumenical News International.

The Revival Times Japan, a Pentecostal weekly newspaper, reported that, at the end of the anniversary celebration in the Seoul stadium, Cho said, "For the past 50 years, I have been able to fight a holy war solely thanks to the Holy Spirit, the Helper."

Born in 1936 in Korea’s Southern Kyung-sam Province, Cho studied at the Full Gospel Bible College in Seoul, and he became the senior pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in 1958. His official Web site says that during his childhood Cho was greatly influenced by Buddhism, Confucianism and he engaged in eastern studies.

Due to the rapid growth of the number of people attending services, Cho’s first church later became a tent church before moving to Seodaemun Church in 1961 and the present site in 1973.

During his years as a minister Cho has on occasions been accused by some other Christians of promoting teachings based on syncretism or attempting to reconcile contradictory beliefs that incorporate Buddhism and the Occult. When he failed to retire as expected in 2006 some Christian groups tried to pin alleged financial irregularities on the charismatic pastor.

The church says it has been recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the church with the largest congregation in the world, with its members numbering more than 800 000. Of South Korea’s 49 million people, about 26 percent are Christians, most of whom are Protestants.

Photo : Rev David Yonggi Cho