Bishop Dr Robert Solomon re-elected for third term

General Conference: Sep 8-13, Dec 4-5, 2008

BISHOP Dr Bishop Solomon has been re-elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) for a second time. He was first elected Bishop in 2000 for a four-year term and re-elected for a second term in 2004.

This means that he will serve his third and final term as Bishop for the quadrennium 2009 to 2012 as under the Church’s constitution a bishop can only serve three consecutive terms.

He was elected on Dec 4, 2008 during the 9th Session of the General Conference of the MCS at Methodist Centre in Barker Road. He was declared re-elected Bishop on the 44th ballot with 29 votes.

He needed the two-thirds majority of 28 votes out of 42 to win the election.

There was a Re-dedication Service for the Bishop at Barker Road Methodist Church on Dec 5, 2008. The Service was officiated by Bishop Dr Hwa Yung of The Methodist Church in Malaysia. He was assisted by Bishop Amat Tumino, Bishop of The Methodist Church in Indonesia Region 2.

After Bishop Dr Solomon was re-dedicated, Bishop Dr Hwa Yung preached on the topic “A Seed Must Die”, based on the Scripture text from John 12:23-26.

After graduating from the University of Singapore with an MBBS in 1980, Bishop Dr Solomon gave up a lucrative career as a doctor to go into full-time ministry. He obtained his Ph.D in pastoral theology from Edinburgh University in 1993.

A well-sought after speaker, he has given numerous sermons and keynote addresses in international church conferences and seminars in Asian nations, Britain and the United States, among other countries.

He was one of the keynote speakers at the 19th World Methodist Conference in Seoul in July 2006, making him the first Singaporean Methodist leader to have ever given a keynote address at the once-in-five-years conference at which Methodist leaders from all corners of the world attend.

The election of the bishop on Dec 4 was one of the outstanding matters adjourned from the Sept 8-13 session when the 42 delegates – 14 each from the Chinese Annual Conference, Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference and Trinity Annual Conference – failed to elect an Episcopal head for the MCS.

At the close of the half-day Saturday session on Sept 13, Bishop Dr Solomon received 27 votes on the 34th ballot of voting – one vote short of the two-thirds majority of 28 needed to be elected. He had also received 27 votes in three earlier ballots. The session was then adjourned to Dec 4 and 5, as originally scheduled, to take care of all other unfinished business before the Conference, including the election of the bishop.

When voting resumed on the morning of Dec 4, Bishop Dr Solomon received 22 votes – this was the 35th ballot. After several more rounds of voting, there was still a deadlock.

He then expressed his desire to withdraw from the election. At 1.45 pm, he told the Conference:

“This voting has been going on for too long. I wish to step down … for the sake of the Church and honour of our Lord.”

The 40th ballot was taken, and again there was no election.

Voting continued on the 41st ballot. Despite his announcement that he wished to step down, the delegates continued to vote for Bishop Dr Solomon until finally, he received 29 votes on the 44th ballot to be elected for what will be his third and final four-year term as Bishop of the MCS.

He then rose to speak. He said he had been put “in a very difficult position because as you probably know, I will be much more relieved had I not been re-elected”. He had read Scripture, he said, and the Lord had given him a verse, and the only reason why he agreed to the election was that he believed that “God’s will will be declared”.

“This has been a very long process. Please join me to pray as I seek the Lord’s will for the next four years that He will bond us together. I pray that we will work together for the glory of God not only among ourselves but also among Christians in Singapore.

“I ask all of you to please pray for me and my family that I will be faithful to God and fulfil all that God has asked. I thank all who have cast votes for me.”

The Conference session opened with morning worship. Bishop Amat preached on the message entitled “Do not let Satan outwit us”, based on the text from 2 Cor. 2:10-11.

He warned that Satan could outwit us by playing on our differences and our refusal to forgive or pardon, with hatred in our hearts. “We have weaknesses, but others tolerate and forgive us. Others have weaknesses, we too should forgive them, or we will be fooled by Satan to incite against one another and to make us devour one another.

“If we obey God’s commands, people will know that we are His disciples – real Christians who are the light and salt to the world. I pray that in this General Conference, we can carry out God’s command to love one another.”

At the Re-dedication Service on Dec 5, which was attended by about 300 people, Bishop Dr Hwa Yung spoke about two alternatives to ministry and mission. One places the Cross as central in life and mission, the other pushes it to the periphery or makes it secondary at best.

He drew lessons on the Cross and church growth from three case studies for the contemporary church when he spoke on the topic “A Seed Must Die”, based on the text from John 12:23-26. He said: “The Cross is used as the symbol for sacrifice, suffering, simplicity, servanthood, and ultimately dying to self. The first approach insists that it is central to ministry and mission. It governs the way we live as Christians in community and the way we shape our programmes.

“The other may accept the cross as the symbol of faith. But it reinterprets it completely to suit modern conditions and taste.

“One reminds us constantly that we have to place our total dependence on God. The other consciously or unconsciously places our primary dependence on human methods.”

In his greetings after his re-dedication, Bishop Dr Solomon said he accepted his re-election to Episcopal office with some reluctance. “Our calling has various aspects, the inward call, the outward call, and the call from heaven. God’s call is the most important. I accepted because I have been constrained to believe that this is God’s call,” he said.

“I believe that the Church belongs to God. It does not belong to you or to me. God is the Head of the Church.”

He pointed out that the MCS exists and expresses its life at various levels, and in various contexts, and has many faces. One of the most important dimensions is the life and witness that goes on at the level of the local churches.

“We praise God for our local churches and for their vibrant life and witness. In all these levels of the Methodist community, we sometimes forget an important dimension of our life at the church.

We may forget the spiritual dimension – it is very important to remember it.

“In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, we are reminded that in Christ, through His grace and finished work, we are elevated to the heavenly realms. The heavenly realms is a place of rich blessing. The heavenly realms is also a place of spiritual battle.

“God wants us to live to our fullest potential. Whatever hinders us – lack of faith, sin, disunity – let us throw away.”

The Bishop added: “In His High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17, our Lord expressed some key concerns that weighed heavily in His heart. He was concerned about our holiness, our unity and our witness.

“I believe that the Lord, who is now interceding for us in the Father’s presence, continues to be weighed by the same concerns. These are the things the Lord expects us to focus on: Holiness, unity and witness. To the extent to which we focus on these, to the same extent we will be strong as His church.”